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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Matthew 15 – Scraps for a Dog

I love when Jesus doesn’t answer questions asked to him. He was asked about why his disciples didn’t keep the tradition of washing their hands before they ate. Jesus could have said that their mommas didn’t raise them right or something. Instead he calls them hypocrites. Honoring your father and mother is the only command with a promise but the Pharisees have apparently neglected their parents and have dedicated their money to God. My assumption is that they are giving more money in a way that makes them look more spiritual when in all reality they are despicable in the eyes of God. Their intent may have actually been good. They were so dedicated to God that they were overlooking their families. Are there any ways in which we become so dedicated to what we think God wants that we end up losing sight of God’s heart and become offensive to him?

Ironically, the disciples come back to Jesus to ask if he realizes that he has offended the Pharisees by what he has said. Why is this ironic? In the chapter before they proclaimed him as the “Son of God” and worshiped him. Now they are coming to him in concern that he has offended the Pharisees. He has set himself in opposition to the Pharisees here and they have missed that he has the authority.

Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander…these things make them unclean and not the washing of hands. There have been different times when we have placed a higher priority on the traditions we keep, ignoring the sin problems in our lives as if the keeping of our practices would save us.

The story of the Canaanite woman makes me scratch my head a bit to be honest. She addresses him as Lord and acknowledges that he is the Son of David. Jesus ignores her cries and when questioned he says that he only came for the lost sheep of Israel. This is baffling to me because we have already had the centurion come to Jesus and his servant was healed. Is it because she is a Canaanite, the historically hated rivals of Israel? She continues to be persistent, kneeling before him begging, and Jesus basically calls her a dog. Instead of being offended by Jesus’ comment she simply says that even the dogs get crumbs from the table. At this, Jesus heals her daughter because of her great faith. These comments and actions from Jesus are very bazar to me and I can’t quite figure it out. What I take away from this story is that we should be persistent like this woman, recognizing that we really are dogs in his presence. Thanks be to God that he does not leave us in this lowly state.

Continuing to scratch my head…we have another situation where there is a multitude of hungry people and the disciples still have no idea how to feed them. Did they forget so quickly? This time Jesus is up on the mountain again and people go to the mountain to find healing from God. Now later in his ministry, the people are invited up to the mountain and they worship God there. This scene is a beautiful reminder that up on the mountain of God we join Jesus and break bread with him. This bread is ever plentiful and in response we worship God because of him.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 14 – Beggars at a Funeral

Can you imagine if you had just learned that a friend of yours had been violently killed and all you wanted was some quiet time to process this and grieve?  And then as soon as your face was visible crowds of beggars swarmed you…how would you react?  What would you do if you were at a funeral and people kept coming up asking you to do them a favor and just help them out a little bit?  Can you imagine wanting just a few quiet minutes and when you give a task to your closest friends, or simply ask them to trust you, all they do is disappoint you?  This is Jesus’ story in Matthew 14.

Time is a tricky thing in the Gospels.  Sometimes we might spend three chapters in a single hour (see the Sermon on the Mount) and then later months might pass between two verses.  At times it’s difficult for us to keep it all straight in our minds, so we often just ignore how time moves in the Gospels.  But in Matthew 14, it’s important for us to realize the chronology.  Now, vs 12 probably constitutes several weeks as the disciples of John the Baptist retrieve his body, bury it, and then travel to find Jesus.  I do think that this shows a change from a few chapters ago when they traveled to ask if Jesus was the one they were waiting for.  Now, they seem to understand that Jesus is part of them and they are part of him and that he needs to be notified.

Anyhow, from vs 13 until the end of the chapter we are told of several events that appear to all take place within a twenty-four hour window.  This is one of the most intense days of Jesus’ entire ministry.  He finds out that John was beheaded and throughout the rest of the chapter he is trying to find a quiet moment every chance he gets.  He wants to pray, to grieve, to process the death of a family member, a colleague, and of the one who came to prepare a way for Jesus as Messiah.  This is a pain-filled moment.

And as soon as Jesus gets to shore a crowd of people wanting nothing but to be healed, impressed, and fed surrounds him.  And his response: he shows compassion to them.  This is one day that Jesus desires compassion and instead he gives it.  And when the Apostles insist it’s time to shoo away the crowds, Jesus simply instructs his followers to feed them.  Clearly Jesus knows the limitations of their food and funding, but he gives the command.  He expects them to be able to do what he is about to do, but they lack the faith, so Jesus feeds the thousands himself.

Then, off to a quiet place while the Apostles go ahead in a boat.  Later that night Jesus comes walking by on the water.  Most of us know the story of Peter getting out, walking to Jesus, losing faith and focus, and then bring taken back to the boat by Jesus.  “Oh you of little faith…” Jesus says to Peter.  For the second time in twenty four hours, the Apostles demonstrate a lack of faith.  

When Jesus arrives on shore, a crowd awaits him.  This is perhaps one of the best glimpses we have of what a day looks like when you are the Son of God.  What’s most remarkable is that he dealt with every struggle, every disappointment, every request, with nothing but patience and compassion in the midst of his own personal grief.

It’s no surprise that at the end of these twenty four hours “those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.‘”  When we read this chapter, can we possibly respond any other way?

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 13 – The Kingdom of Heaven is like…

I’ve read these parables numerous times and I tried to read them with new eyes this morning, asking what Jesus might be telling the disciples and the early church who did not know the expanse of Christianity that we know today in the Western World.

“The kingdom of heaven is like…” reminds us that Jesus has brought the kingdom of heaven and we are in it. We therefore need to read the parables as talking about the kingdom that is here now and not the one that we often imagine in the sky. One of the undertones I hear throughout all of these parables is “patience.”

In the parable of the weeds and wheat the solution to the problem is, “Let both of them grow together until the harvest” and then they will be separated. There is a fear that if this is done before the harvest some of the wheat will be carried off as well. We are part of the kingdom of heaven and the harvest has not come yet. Is it our responsibility to pull up the weeds? We wait patiently till the time of harvest. While this is a good reminder that we are not to take on the role of God to decide who is weed and who is wheat we are also called to keep one another in check to make sure we are good seed. There is a difference between keeping someone in check and taking on the seat of judgment.

The parable of the mustard seed shows us how the kingdom grows to great size and becomes a place for the birds to nest. We are a people who want quick results. We also have the struggle of looking at this parable through a world that been mostly dominated by Christianity for a long time. What this parable said to the early church, and should be a reminder for us today, is that the growth of the kingdom is slow. Be patient. We judge a lot of our missionaries based on how many conversions they have. When people come back from mission trips they are often quickly asked how many people they converted. We want to see numbers. We want to see results. Be patient. The kingdom will grow.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that is patiently mixed with flour till it is leavened. The yeast will work its way through but it will take time.

It also needs to be pointed out that it is continually pointed out that the kingdom has been placed in the world. While this seems a bit obvious I think it should be a reminder to us that while we are in the world we are to be patient with how the world responds to us and patient with the fact that the world is around us. We stand in contrast to the world and we are not to look like the world. I stopped for a moment to reflect on our current situation in America. The kingdom is not America but in America. We should be patient with the world around us and continually evaluate which soil we think we are from the first parable. We should not assume that we are good soil because we have called ourselves Christians and have accepted the call of Christ. What rocks might we have in our soil? The American dream? Delusions that we must have freedom at all cost? Money? Success?

Jesus follows up with the “Treasure hidden in a field” and the “pearl of great value.” If the kingdom of heaven is like these two things, then when we found it we should react the same way, completely selling out to have it. They sold everything just so they could have the kingdom of heaven. We see the martyrs of the early church allowing their families to be martyred in order to protect the gospel because they know that the kingdom of heaven is worth completely selling out for. The martyrs died horrible deaths and the church found encouragement by those who were completely sold out for Jesus. I think it would be easier to die for Jesus than to give up my but the reality is that they died a martyr’s death because they lived a martyr’s life. We give up the rocks that are in our soil so that we can become good soil. I need to struggle with this one for a while.

I’d like to end with a quick word from Stanley Hauerwas about the parables:

“The parable of the kingdom of heaven makes clear that the kingdom of heaven is not “up there,” but rather is a kingdom that creates time and constitutes a space. The time and space that the kingdom constitutes requires that people exist in time and occupy that space. Jesus teaches us through the parables so that we might be for the world the material reality of the kingdom of heaven, for in Jesus we see and hear what many prophets and righteous people had longed to see and hear. Indeed he is the parable of the Father.”

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 12 – I work on Sundays

Lord of the Sabbath

Ryan tells a story about a time when he was visiting another church and had a pleasant conversation with a lady that went there.  They talked about how he is a minister and many other things and after awhile she said, “You should come back more often.”  Ryan smiled and replied, “I wish I could, but I work on Sundays.”  She sadly shook her head and said, “I hate that jobs require people to work on Sundays.”

Well the necessity of clergy working on the holy day of the week isn’t new.  In fact, in ancient Israel there were always some priests who had to work on the Sabbath.  When you work for God, working on holy days is part of the job description.

So when the Pharisees question Jesus for doing his work and healing on the Sabbath, Jesus points out, “This isn’t new.”  David was King and was able to work on the Sabbath.  The priests work on the Sabbath.  Jesus is now both king and priest of Israel.  Surely he is Lord of the Sabbath.  The implication here is important and shouldn’t be missed.  Jesus implies that he can do what King David did.  He also insinuates that he is doing the work of the priest.  As king he has the authority.  As priest he is doing the holy work of God.  Then, just for extra measure, he points out that even these lousy judgmental Pharisees are willing to show mercy and compassion to a stranded piece of livestock.  The implication here is, “Pharisees care more about livestock than people.  Jesus has better priorities.”

It’s a pretty poignant contrast.  Don’t miss how intense this scene is.  It feels to us like a fairly basic argument about the Sabbath, but it’s clearly more than that.  It’s about Jesus the king.  It’s about Jesus the priest.  It’s about Jesus the compassionate.  The Pharisees are shown to be ignorant jerks.  How serious is all of this?  Matthew tells us that it’s such an important confrontation that the Pharisees leave to go plan how to kill Jesus.  This is about more than the Sabbath.

Other Matters in Matthew 12

Jesus heals out of compassion but gets bothered when they ask for a sign.  He wants to show love and mercy to people, but Jesus doesn’t want God’s power to be turned into a circus side show.  That’s not what he is all about.

Jesus talks about how a person who has a demon cast out must fill the void with something good or else the evil spirit will come back with seven more like it.  This is a very important principle for people looking to get sin out of their life as well.  So often people try to quit some major sin or evil in their life, but they just cut it out and change nothing else.  Unfortunately, this often results in relapse.  Jesus’ advice here is to cut out the evil but start putting good stuff in it’s place.  Fill the void with a relationship with God.  Fill it with God’s Spirit.  Fill it by serving others.  Whatever it takes, take out the bad and put in the good.

Jesus says something about his family being those who follow him and obey him.  But that’s not necessarily disowning his actual mother and brothers.  Certainly there were some odd dynamics with his family (See John 7 and his brothers’ doubt and his sneakily going to the festival), but Jesus is still a good son.  We see this when one of his last thoughts on the cross was for the beloved disciple to take care of his mother.  We see this when later his brothers become leaders in the early church.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 11 – A Message We Don’t Want to Hear

“Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples…” is in Matthew five times in some kind of variation (7:28; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), and seem to act as organizational markers for his readers. Continuing the parallels between Jesus and Moses, this could be Matthew’s was of relating his gospel to the five books of Moses. This isn’t something I have studied in much depth but I ran across the idea in my reading and it intrigued me.

Why is John worried as to whether or not Jesus is actually the Messiah? John and Jesus are both preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” but we see in 11:20-24 that many have remained unresponsive and unrepentant to their call. John, being faced with failure because of these unrepentant cities understandably sends his disciples to talk to Jesus.

Another interesting look at what John might be thinking when he sends his disciples to Jesus: He is in prison. Which is an interesting place to be for someone who has paved the way for the Messiah. He’s in prison for holding Herod accountable to the law (14:1-11), but when you look at Jesus’ life and actions it is not clear that Jesus, the would be Messiah, and John have the same understanding of the law. John thought it was necessary to fast regularly (9:14-17) but Jesus does not require his disciples to fast. He has also befriended sinners and tax collectors. It could be possible that John has sent his disciples to double check Jesus because Jesus’ behavior might not look to John as measuring up to the repentance that he preached in the wilderness. John is in need of some reassurance.

Jesus then helps the crowds and John understand who John is. John is a prophet, and a very special one at that. No one really liked prophets because they came with a message from God and that usually meant that you were going to have to change something. They didn’t go to the wilderness to hear John say that they were doing well. John didn’t give the par on the back along with encouraging words that they wanted to hear. John, like the prophets before him, challenged the order of the culture they were speaking to and called them to repentance. This never goes quite well with those who are comfortable with their lives.

This proclamation from John is the same message Jesus embodied. The Kingdom is not an ideal of peace that requires the use of violence to bring it about. The Kingdom is in fact Jesus himself, the one who has the power to overcome violence through love. As Christians today, we are called to embody this Kingdom and this message. People who do not have power are eager to join Jesus but those who have power in this world struggle to accept the full message of Christ. We need to be careful not to point the finger at others here. We are Americans and have all the power in the world. How eager are we really to fully embody the Sermon on the Mount? Love your enemies? It’s tough and doesn’t make much sense really.

After pronouncing judgment on the cities that refuse to repent, Jesus then adds insult to injury by thanking God for hiding the secrets of the Kingdom from the wise and the wicked but revealing it to the infants. He then invites his listeners to take his yoke upon them, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” While I believe this to honestly be true, I also look back to the yoke of the Sermon on the Mount and I scratch my head a bit about the “easy” and “light” part.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

My Pinterest Wall of Faith Stuff

So I am borrowing Leah’s computer to do my blogging today.  Not because there is anything wrong with my  computer other than being twenty feet from where I happened to be sitting.  So normally on “Hot Topic Fridays” I try to go through a bunch of my bookmarked news websites and see if there is anything really eye-catching to address.  But since I am on Leah’s computer, I followed her bookmark to Pinterest.  If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it is a predominantly female endeavor to make online bulletin boards of things you like on the internet.

So, I decided to tell you my “Pinterest Wall” of things from the Bible or my own personal spiritual journey.  Since I am not actually on Pinterest and am a guy, this will of course come in the form of a bullet list of things Scriptural and things Spiritual that I love.

(If you are too old for Pinterest and are just lost as to what I am talking about, then you just need to imagine Julie Andrews/Maria singing “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…” and picture me singing it with these things.)

  • Psalms.  A college class on Psalms (taught by Dr. Glenn Pemberton) opened my eyes to the power of honest and open prayers to God.  
  • Genesis.  Over the next couple of weeks many of you will be around your families and won’t be able to believe how messed up they are.  Read Genesis.  Your family is normal in comparison.  And if God can use them….
  • Construction type projects.  In ministry, if something is going well you keep doing it.  The only way you are ever done with something is when it fails.  As a minister, that means I need to be able to have projects that I can successfully complete and be proud of.  For me, a home improvement project has a spiritual element.  I also think a God who creates puts in us a desire to create.
  • Friends.  Right now I have some of the best friends of my life.  They are a blessing and anchor for me in more ways than they (and often I) even know.
  • Luke-Acts.  When I read the Gospels, I relate the most to Luke.
  • Counseling.  I love helping people.  Sometimes ministry can feel administrative and stuff.  Counseling is real and it’s with people.  It’s good for me (and hopefully others too).
  • Guyana.  I fell in love with the Guyanese people and telling people Jesus’ story while I was a teenager in Guyana.
  • Joseph.  A few months ago Ryan and I preached on the roller coaster life of Joseph.  It’s one of my favorite stories to tell and I really enjoyed getting to imaginatively explore and retell his story with Ryan.
  • Favorite songs: Thomas’ Song, In Christ Alone, There’s a Stirring, How Deep the Father’s Love
  • Praying with my elders.  I will never forget the times I have seen that group of men get down on their knees (literally) and cry out to God.  I have learned so much from those men.
  • Romans.  I have always felt a strong connection with Paul.  I feel like he wants to rely on his own rationality, intelligence and ability to communicate but realizes that he is incapable of anything without God.  Or maybe I just feel that way myself and place those feelings on Paul so I can better relate to him?
  • My wife and kids.  They teach me about love, forgiveness, patience, love, compassion, joy, happiness, love, sacrifice and God ever day.  They are my greatest blessing.

There.  If you liked this post, please pin it.  Hopefully that is the closest I will ever get to actually using Pinterest.  Maybe share some of your favorite scriptural or spiritual things….

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Hot Topics

 

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Matthew 10 – The Apostles’ First Mission Trip

Jesus Sending Forth Apostles by Duccio Buoninsegna

So Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles to tell people that the Kingdom of God has come near and perform miracles of compassion to those in need.  I think that when we visualize this passage, we imagine the Apostles going out and preaching like we often read about the Apostles or Paul doing in the book of Acts.  However, this is taking place before the cross.  This is taking place before the Feast of Pentecost.  This is before they can offer salvation to anybody.

So if the Apostles aren’t preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified, and if they aren’t going into all these communities making disciples of all people baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins….what in the world are the doing?  What is this trip all about?

They aren’t supposed to take money.  They need to learn how to deal with those who accept them and those who reject them.  They must learn how to live on little and depend on the generosity of others.  They must learn to be bold and learn to show kindness.

When I read this passage, it always seems to me that Jesus’ focus is much more on the messengers than the message or the recipients.  Peter has caught a lot of fish, but not he gets to go preach.  Judas will eventually betray Jesus, but on this day he is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near.  James and John will later ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when he comes into the Kingdom, but today they simply proclaim that Kingdom to strangers.  It’s kinda scary to think about how very little these twelve men understand God’s Kingdom, but they are all proclaiming it in a bunch of cities.

Jesus knows they aren’t ready to turn the world upside down and create thousands of followers.  In fact, if they had suddenly come back with a passionate horde, Jesus certainly would have found some way to care for and then dismiss the crowd.  This mission trip is a training exercise for the twelve men who must be ready to preach on Pentecost.  When Jesus is gone, the entire Kingdom of God will rest on the ability of these men to go into cities, boldly proclaim the Gospel, depend on others’ generosity, deal with rejection, and handle the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through them.

Can you imagine how relieved Jesus must have been when they came back enthusiastic and with reports of success?  If Jesus was going to succeed, it was going to happen through these men.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 9 – Different Kinds of Faith and Different Approaches to Jesus

In Matthew 8, Jesus came down off the mountain and began healing people. People came to him with different levels of faith. Sometimes Jesus went to them. Some are healed whether they ask for it or not. Overall what we see is that Jesus has the authority not only to give the law (Matthew 5-7) but the power to bring about the redemption the world so desperately needs.

In the first healing in chapter 9, it is the faith of the friends who bring the man to Christ. Interestingly, Jesus sees the paralytic and doesn’t heal him but forgives him from his sins. I’ve heard a number of people say that we need to be focused on meeting people’s needs before they will care if we save their soul. I’ve heard other people say that it is their soul that we should be concerned about. I’d like to advocate that redemption is both. We redeem people from their situation physically and spiritually. Jesus focuses on both in this passage and we should not neglect one or the other. Jesus has authority to forgive sins. This IS blasphemy, unless Jesus is the Son of God.

The Gospel then turns to the calling of Matthew who has to be one of the more despicable people in the community. Matthew is a tax collector. As much as we despise the IRS ourselves, imagine if someone else was ruling us and then got some of our own people to collect taxes from us. Double insult! It doesn’t say why Matthew followed Jesus but there was something about him that made him simply up and leave his position and follow him.

We like to harp on the Pharisees a lot and this is one of those passages where we do that. The Pharisees desired the same thing Jesus did, the redemption of Israel. The Pharisees did everything they could to make themselves and those around them pure so that Israel might be redeemed. In short, they didn’t see themselves as sick. It would be silly to walk up to a doctor and when asked what your ailments were, you responded that you were healthy. In the same way, the Pharisees have no need for Jesus.

The question then comes up about fasting…the dirty F-word in the church. We don’t like talking about this one for fear that we might think we have to do it. Jesus says that his disciples have no need to fast because he is with them. Now is a time for celebration. But, a time is coming when fasting will be needed so that there will be a desire for the bridegroom to return. I just want to leave the thought here that we should have times of fasting so that there would be an ongoing desire for the bridegroom to return to his bride, the church. Fasting brings about this reminder.

One of the synagogue leaders comes to Jesus in great faith. His daughter is dead and he believes Jesus can heal her. You’ve read the story. I find it interesting that Jesus seems to downplay what he is doing and simply says that he’s going to wake her up. While I know that death is often referred to as sleeping this isn’t how people take Jesus’ comments when he makes them.

On his way there, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years shows probably the most profound faith of anyone in these stories (except for maybe the centurion). As a guy, I have no idea what it would be like to have this bleeding for 12 years, but I do know it not only has to be a horrible way to live but also makes her unclean under Levitical law and therefore she has to be outside of the community. In her faith she is restored physically and restored back to the community and now can live again. When was the last time you reached out to Jesus without concern for whether or not he noticed?

It wasn’t till this time reading through this section that I saw humor in Jesus walking past two blind men and they took off after him. This seems like a funny scene to me. Jesus heals them because of their faith but tells them not to tell anyone what happened but in the next section he casts demons out of a person for everyone to see. I honestly don’t know why secrecy is called for in one moment and not in the next.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – We see in this chapter, and in the previous, that people come to Jesus in all kinds of ways and with different levels of faith. Jesus heals them all without discrimination.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 8 – Healing, Exorcisms, and Authority

This chapter does something really important.  Jesus has been baptized, tempted, chosen Apostles, and recently given his huge influential sermon on what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like when Messiah comes.  If you know Jesus, it shouldn’t surprise you that almost everything he said turned the conventional wisdom of the day on its head.  The people expected him to overthrow Rome, but Jesus preached loving enemies.  They wanted wealth and blessing and he preached blessings on the poor and broken-hearted.

So leaving that sermon (on the mount) perhaps its not surprising that Matthew is going to spend a chapter giving Jesus’ credentials.  How can we know that this man has the authority to say the audacious things he has been saying?  Well let’s see…

He heals a leper and then goes on to do something truly remarkable: he heals a Roman Centurion’s servant.  What’s so remarkable about that you say?  Well I will tell you.  First, not many Roman Centurions travel to a Hebrew teacher and plead that he save his servant.  In our context it’s hard to even begin

Yep…this is the image I selected for long distance healing. I have been looking at it for ten minutes and still can’t decide if I am proud or embarrassed.

understanding this level of humility.  The Centurion is serving his servant.  The Roman is begging from a Jew.  He insists that his Roman Centurion home isn’t worthy of the Jew’s presence.  The Roman acknowledges that the God of the Jews is superior to any of the gods of Rome.  Finally, after all of this, he actually has enough faith in both God and Jesus to imply that Jesus can do a long distance healing.  Now stop and think about it.  There’s lots of healings recorded in the Bible, but there are not many that happen from a distance.  And yet Jesus does it without hesitation.  That’s serious power.

And then Jesus goes on to heal some at Peter’s house, including his mother-in-law (if you missed this, stop for a minute and realize that this means that Peter is married.  We don’t know much more than that, but it does mean that at least one of the Apostles was married).  He drives out demons (it should also be mentioned that we have no record of Peter’s mother-in-law being demon possessed, which is too bad because that would have been great for so many really bad preacher jokes).

The Rock in Stormy Waters

The Rock in Stormy Waters

Then, Jesus and the Apostles put out to sea and in a terrifying storm (even to some fishermen), Jesus stands up and simply calms the waves, the wind, the storm.  Jesus has authority to heal, the cast out demons, to calm storms.  He can do it when he’s close and when he’s far away.  He has authority.  So if you are reading Matthew’s Gospel for the first time, you finished the Sermon on the Mount wondering if this guy has any business saying these things he just said and then you are informed in Matthew 8 that Jesus in fact has every authority to do anything, command anything, say anything.

So it doesn’t matter what the cost of discipleship is…get on board (or stay in the storm).

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 7 – Stop Judging! Wait, Did I Just Judge?

I remember reading Matthew 7 early in life and jumping to the conclusion that if the measure we use in judgment against others will therefore be used against us then we should not make any kind of judgments about anything and we’ll all get to heaven based on a lack of measuring rod! Seems logical, right? I’m continually enjoying Hauerwas’ commentary on Matthew and really liked his opening to chapter 7.

“Those formed to live trusting in God’s abundance will not find it odd that Jesus tells us not to judge. Yet no teaching of Jesus seems more paradoxical than his prohibition against judging. Any attempt to avoid judging is defeated by the judgment against those who judge. Moreover, Jesus obviously is in the business of judgment, particularly judgments against the scribes and the Pharisees who “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2). Any attempt to avoid judging seems self-defeating. Yet the paradoxical character of Jesus’ admonition against judging is the result of our attempt to separate Jesus’ teaching from the teacher and the community he has come to establish.”

We, as Christians, have been called to become a disciple of Jesus. This means that we are to learn to see and accept the world as God’s world. We do not need to confuse this with being God. We are not called to be God but to see that world as God does and learn to be a creature of God.

The Sermon on the Mount is broken down into three chapters. Chapter 5 shows us that to be a follower of Jesus we must be a visible alternative to the world. We do things differently from the world. When you look at Christians and then look at the world and don’t see a difference, you know something is wrong. Chapter 6 displays the simple and hidden character of the life to we as disciples are called. Both of these chapters were designed to help us see that we have been called to separate from the community we once belonged and join the community we have been called to in Jesus. The boundaries between those of us who follow Jesus and the rest of the world is unambiguously clear, but permeable nonetheless. Matthew 7 is where Jesus shows us how to negotiate the permeable nature of that boundary.

When we were called into this new community, we were not called to a “higher standard” within this world but a different way of living all together. We live drastically different from the world around us but are we to hold the world to the same standard that we have been given in Christ? I struggle with this to be honest. I want to make sure the world knows that they way they are living is wrong. They need to know this. When someone asks me for my opinion about a situation, or a stance on a subject, I tell them. Judging is a touchy subject right now. The main point I want to get across is that the “standard” we live by, and that we are tempted to judge the world by, has been given to us in Christ and is a completely different way of living from those who are around us. The problem is, we often fail to live out that standard because it is hard. It requires picking up the cross.

As a community of Christians, living in an increasingly critical society, let me put forth a challenge from Matthew 7 this morning. Lets be known by the community surrounding us for how the see us live and less by what they hear us judge. They know what we stand against. Lets now show them the love of Christ from the cross.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized