Category: Jesus (Page 1 of 53)

A Thanksgiving Prayer

At the end of Matthew 11, there’s a short little prayer of praise and thanksgiving from Jesus. Two short little sentences. It seems very spontaneous, like it just comes out of nowhere. It’s almost buried in the middle of a whole page of red letters, so it’s easy to miss. When people do studies on the prayers of Jesus, this one never gets mentioned.

But this prayer really doesn’t come out of nowhere. This is a specific setting, a particular time and place for Jesus. There is a reason this prayer is where it is. And it has a lot to teach us.

At the beginning of Matthew 11, John the Baptist has been thrown into prison and he questions the Messiahship of Jesus. Through his own followers, he asks Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” For John, things were worse for him now than before Jesus arrived. John is suffering and King Herod has even more power and control. You’re not getting the job done, Jesus. I’m in trouble for preaching truth and the political powers are getting away with murder. Jesus is misunderstood by John. Everything Jesus is working toward, the whole reason he came, who he is – John doesn’t see it yet.

At the same time, the fishing villages around Galilee where Jesus was raised and where he was now living and teaching, were ignoring him. The synagogue in Capernaum was Jesus’ home church. The text tells us that Jesus did more miracles in Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum than in any other towns. But they were indifferent in their response. Jesus did not matter to them. So our Lord blisters the citizens of those villages, comparing them to Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

Verse 25 says, “At that time…” In the middle of all this. While Jesus was dealing with this. When Jesus was going through this. In this setting. In this time and place in his life. Jesus prayed praise and thanksgiving to God.

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” ~Matthew 11:25-26

Jesus says the wise and the learned don’t get it. He’s using irony in his prayer. I praise you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the smarty-pants and the know-it-alls. What God is doing through Jesus has nothing to do with worldly wisdom or worldly values or worldly knowledge – it comes from above. So those who are entrenched in the pursuits and goals of the world, those who identify with the ways and means of the world – they miss it. Jesus knows that. And he gives thanks to God. Jesus knows that misunderstandings and indifference are not reliable indicators of the presence of the Kingdom of God. And he praises the Lord.

The powerful and unstoppable energies of the Kingdom of God are always moving. Always growing. Always surging. Just beneath the surface. All around us. Huge rivers of prayer and faith and hope and praise and forgiveness and salvation and holiness flow right by us every day. In every single nook and cranny, hidden in the shadows, overlooked in the crowds, drowned out by the noise, it’s there. It’s always there. We just don’t always see it. Or experience it.

So, when Lazarus is in the tomb. When Paul is on a sinking ship. When Peter is confronted near the enemy’s fire. When the Samaritan woman is by herself at the well. When the broken man is living among the dead outside his community. When nobody will help the crippled guy into the healing waters. When Silas is arrested. When the apostle is sent to exile on a prison island. When the crowds are shouting “Crucify him.” When Jesus is hanging on a government cross. Our God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17).

When the doctor gives his diagnosis. When the marriage counselor says, “I’m sorry, but I’ve done all I know how to do.” When the pink slip shows up in your box. When your children have gone off the rails. When your best friends leave your church. When you have been completely misunderstood. When you’ve been hurt by that same person, again. I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Peace,

Allan

No More Muttering

 

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'” ~Luke 15:2

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” ~Luke 19:7

The religious people are pictured in the Gospels as continually muttering. When they see Jesus eating with tax collectors and “sinners,” when they observe him welcoming and socializing with “those people,” they mutter and grumble and complain. They gripe under their breath. Because a religious person would never say these kinds of things out loud.

These are the people we’re welcoming now? These are the people we’re supposed to eat with now? Those people won’t give. Those people don’t even speak English. Their kids are too rowdy. They’re going to mess things up. He just got out of prison. She has HIV. He cusses. She smokes. We have to protect our kids. We need to be careful here. Maybe those people should just go to another church where they’ll be more comfortable.

Hey, these are the very people Jesus came for! These are the very ones Jesus left his glory at the right hand of the Father to die for!

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we don’t ever dare to look down on, to distance from, to make fun of, or to ignore any person created by God, in the image of God, loved by God, and died for by Jesus. Ever! Just like our Lord, we look for them. We go out of our way to welcome them, to love them, to accept them, to come along side them in relationship – all of them. We stop our muttering and we join our God in his salvation mission.

We look. We search. We seek and we save. We’re climbing every hill, we’re turning over every rock, we’re going into the cloudy days and the darkest nights to welcome the outcast, to bring in the marginalized, to help the helpless, to defend the defenseless, and to protect the oppressed.

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Peace,

Allan

Not as Our Sins Deserve

There is no image more enduring in all of Jesus’ parables than that of the father in Luke 15 running down the road to embrace his prodigal son. And as memorable as that part of the story is for us, it must have been doubly striking to Jesus’ audience of Pharisees and teachers of the Law. God’s Law states clearly in Deuteronomy 21 that a rebellious son who brings disgrace to his home and his village must be taken to the city gates and stoned to death.

Yet this father ran to hug him and kiss him. He draped his arms around his son and they walked together to the father’s house. Shocking!

If anybody had attempted to stone this son, they would have hit the father who was embracing him. What a foreshadowing of what Jesus did for us at the cross! The great shepherd guards his sheep. He protects them. He provides for them. And he sacrifices his own safety and reputation and welfare for them.

Had the boy been dealt with according to the Law, there would have been a funeral, not a feast. Praise God, our Father, for his mercy and love and grace!

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
~Psalm 103:10-13

Just Say the Word

“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed.” ~Matthew 8:8

The commander in the Roman army is probably stationed at a garrison just east of Capernaum. He has total control over the one hundred men in his company. He tells them when to come and go. They don’t sneeze without his permission. Not only that, he controls all the Jews in the land the Roman Empire is occupying. With just a word, this commander can order any Tom, Dick, or Larry to carry his backpack or dig a ditch. Or carry the cross of a condemned criminal.

This centurion understands power. And he says to Jesus, “Just say the word.”

Lord, just as easily as I tell Private Ted to clean his shield or mop the floor or drop and give me twenty – that easy! – you just say the word and my servant will be healed. I know that whatever you say, it happens. You just say the word and the forces that have paralyzed my servant will let him go.

“‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.” ~Matthew 8:13

You and I can know in our hearts that there’s no catch with Jesus. There’s no trick. There’s no limit to the goodness of Christ’s intentions or hisĀ  power to carry them out. It’s not like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown the moment he finally commits – never! You can trust God in Christ to fix everything that’s broken in your life and to make right everything that’s gone wrong.

Look at the power of Jesus. He heals this paralyzed servant from a distance. He doesn’t have to touch him, he doesn’t even have to see him. From way downtown! Bang! And it’s so matter of fact. He gave the word. And the servant was healed. Well, yeah.

Jesus, I believe. Just say the word.

The reality in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is that he is almighty, he is powerful, and he alone has both the authority and the power to heal and forgive, to reconcile and protect, to save. He alone also has the great desire. And the boundless love. He willingly went to the cross to make that ultimate reality true for anything and everything that might be broken in your life today.

Jesus, just say the word.

And he did.

In the garden. “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”

From the cross. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

“It is finished.”

Now, there’s a word.

Peace,

Allan

Serve Like Jesus

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants.” ~1 Corinthians 3:5

Around the table on that last night, our Lord Jesus personally washed the feet of his disciples. Then he told them, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12). Our model is the Lord. We serve others in the name and manner of our great high priest. We do our best to imitate Jesus, the Christ, who was always with people, always helping people, always serving people. In the crush of the crowd, in the middle of the multitude – healing, feeding, protecting, encouraging. In the quiet of the one-on-one conversations at night. Weeping at a funeral. Eating with a tax collector. Holding the kids. Dying on a cross.

The Church is not an end in itself. The Church does not exist to make rules, to pass laws, to be in charge, or to glorify itself. The Church does not seek its own power or privilege or comfort. And we’re not just a support group for people who have already been saved. Just like our Lord, the Church is sent into the world not to be served, but to serve. And to give itself up for others.

We know the words of our Savior who said it is more blessed to give than to receive. And we experience the truth of that, and the blessings, when we serve others in love.

Peace,

Allan

The Flesh and Blood Church

You’ll hear people argue that when Jesus called people to follow him, he had something else in mind other than Church. Something spiritual and pure. Non-corporate. Non-institutional. Lofty. Divine. Not of this earth. The Church, as we experience her today, is not what Jesus intended. Christ’s salvation and transformation work is happening somewhere other than at Church.

No. Jesus is a flesh and blood person and his Church is a flesh and blood people.

That’s the beauty and the glory of our salvation: our God didn’t just come to us, he became one of us! That’s God’s salvation plan, that he would put on our flesh and blood. And when Jesus comes, it’s the messy flesh and blood part of it that’s so compelling.

As you read the Gospels, you can almost taste the dust. You can smell the animals. You can hear the people arguing. Jesus is not so much about inspiring concepts and uplifting ideals, he’s about fishing nets and mustard seeds and lost coins and lepers. Our Lord is more about tears and frustration and spit mixed with dirt and sheep and synagogues and sermons and suppers than he is about theological abstracts and disembodied ideas. Jesus is all about weddings and funerals, betrayal and forgiveness, thunderstorms and olive trees. The flesh and blood reality of Jesus as a real human person is in your face in the Bible.

And it’s beautiful! It’s magnificent! We praise God because he became one of us in Jesus Christ. Our eternal salvation is grounded in the fact that Jesus is a flesh and blood person, that he experienced everything you experience, that he knows you intimately and understands completely what you’re going through because he went through it, too. It’s awesome and mysterious and wonderfully glorious! What other God would do that?

Jesus the Christ, the Holy One of God, is a flesh and blood person. So, of course, his Church is a flesh and blood people.

I think churches long to throw off their flesh and blood nature and soar like Superman. Or supersaints. But that’s not going to happen. We’re a body. When people complain about the Church being too preoccupied with money or buildings or doctrine or prestige, when people gripe about the Church being closed-minded or boring, what they’re telling you is that they don’t like that the Church is a body. Bodies sweat. They get sick and require maintenance. Bodies produce weird smells.

But the Church is the Body of Christ. This is the flesh and blood form our risen and reigning Lord has chosen to be present in the world. It never fully meets our expectations; we can become disappointed in Church, or even embarrassed. But this is exactly how our God intends it.

Church is not another civic club or social organization, it’s not a non-profit charity or a spiritual retreat. We are a chosen people, a holy nation, chosen by a holy God to be the Body of Christ. Sometimes it may feel irrelevant or past its prime, but we are the very Body of Christ. This is how our God works for the sake of the world.

Peace,

Allan

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