Monthly Archives: May 2015

Indignation!

INDIGNATION!

When Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.’ (Mark 2: 15-17).

Oh how wrong these guys were! Their perceptions of God were so warped! And of themselves! They conveniently categorised people into “sinners” and “righteous” and, of course, you know which group they fell into. From their point of view, who were the “righteous”? They believed that they were the model of righteousness because they “kept” the law. And their “God” was pleased with them and oh, so displeased with the sinners and tax collectors.

Then Jesus comes along and turns their religion on its head. First He throws demons out and touches lepers. Then He calls all the wrong people to be His disciples. Then He forgives sin as though He were God. Worse still, now He eats with tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees knew what that meant. You just don’t eat with people who come from the wrong side of town. To eat with them meant that they were buddies. They had no issues with each other. How could a man who claimed to be God be buddies with those people?

They didn’t have the guts to tackle Jesus, so they tackled His disciples instead. “Why does He eat with the likes of them? Doesn’t He know how it offends us?’ (implied), as though that were the most important consideration. What did it have to do with them anyway? He was free to eat with anyone He chose and was not answerable to them.

Jesus overheard the question and He was indignant. Before the disciples had a chance to put their foot in their mouths, He answered for Himself. He needed no one to defend Him. He didn’t even need to defend Himself but, to get their thinking straight, He put them in their place. “Who goes to the doctor? The sick or the well? I didn’t come to pat well people on the back. I came to bring healing to sick people. It’s obvious that you guys have got it all wrong. You think there’s nothing wrong with you. These people know they are sick, and I can do something for them, but not for you.”

What kind of a God was He representing? One who condoned the sinful lives of the ‘irreligious” people and condemned the ones who tried so hard to impress Him by their “good” lives? They just did not understand. What people could see about them was far more important than what went on inside. It was okay for them to be full of pride about their own achievements and full of contempt for those who didn’t measure up to their standard.

Jesus smartly put them in their place and, once again they had no answer. Round two: Jesus, one; Pharisees, nil. This was getting embarrassing. They should be learning fast that no one takes Jesus on and wins. If they knew what was good for them, they should have kept their mouths shut and their ears open but, unfortunately for them, the lesson was lost on them . . . again!

Just as much as it was embarrassing for the Pharisees, it was encouraging for the ones they despised. Jesus not only ate with the sinners, a sign that He was very comfortable with them and had nothing against them, but He actually defended what He did. It’s no wonder they flocked after Him. No one else championed them, especially not a prominent rabbi like He was.

Don’t let the lesson be lost on us either. Jesus does not condone sin, but He does not condemn the sinner. Every person, apart from what they do, has value to God because He created us in His image. Jesus came to rescue us from destroying ourselves by following our own way. He came to call sinners away from their old stubborn self-will to follow Him. He is the way to Father and He wants to take us to Him . . . whoever we are.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

A Shocking Invitation!

A SHOCKING INVITATION!

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to Him, and He began to teach them. As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alpheus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:13-14).

What a shock for Matthew alias Levi to hear the words of Jesus, ‘Follow me’! Rabbis just didn’t invite tax collectors to become disciples. That was for the ‘holy’ ones who spent their lives studying and debating all the thorny issues of the Torah, not for tax collectors who spent their time fleecing the local inhabitants for their Roman overlords, and a bit for themselves on the side. Tax collectors definitely did not fit into that category.

What was Jesus thinking? After all, wasn’t He a rabbi with authority? He should have known that the place to go to look for disciples was not the lake where men fished for a living or the tax collector’s booth where “crooked” guys did the dirty work for the Romans. He should have gone for the “respectable” ones who didn’t dirty their hands with dead fish or money.

What Jesus did put a whole new slant on who was eligible to be a disciple. The “acceptable” ones were the ones who gave themselves to the study of the sacred writings. They were supported financially from the offerings of the people. The really shrewd ones got in with the Romans and were paid handsomely for keeping the people in check. It was a good life, particularly because they were held in honour by the common people.

Jesus broke the mould – He coloured in outside the lines. He chose people from the working class who had no qualification to be disciples. He chose a man of questionable character and reputation. Levi! Everyone in the neighbourhood knew where his wealth and his grand home came from. Imagine the contempt of the religious boffins when this motley crew trailed after Him.

What was Jesus doing? Firstly, He was making a bold statement. He was not looking for “worthy” ones but willing ones. He could work with them. Secondly, He was not looking for educated ones but for ignorant ones. He could teach them. Thirdly, He was looking not looking for the “righteous” who didn’t need Him.  He was looking for those who were lost and broken. He could make them new and then send them out with the message of mercy and grace to the rest of the world that was lost and broken.

Just as surprising as Jesus’ invitation was to a despised tax collector, so surprising was his response. It’s almost as though he were waiting for this moment. Nothing stopped him from walking away from his old life without looking back and joining the fishermen who were already attached to Jesus.

When we look at the situation from Jesus’ point of view, how could He be so sure that He was choosing the right guys? These men had to live with each other as well as with Him. How could a tax collector jell with fishermen? And there were still others who had to join the group. And they didn’t have a say about who was in and who was out. It was Jesus’ decision, not theirs. They had to put up with each other, like it or not.

Perhaps this was part of Jesus’ strategy. After all, these men were the beginnings of the church, and no one got to choose who would be part of the group of people who made up this new society. All colours, cultures, languages and ethnic groups would be blended together to become one in a mix that had no explanation outside of the grace of God.

Many people can’t even live together in harmony in their own families. How could this variegated group ever hope to live together as one big family? This was part of the miraculous outcome of the gospel – the “good news” that the kingdom of God was among them. It was through the gospel that people’s hearts and focus were changed from self-centredness and greed to selfless service and sacrifice. The Holy Spirit did that.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2: 44-45).

Really! They did that? Amazing!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

Exposed!

EXPOSED!

Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your mat and walk?’ But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So He said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!‘ (Mark 2: 8-12).

What a slap in the face for the religious leaders! Round one; Jesus, one; teachers of the law, nil. They stood on their sterile religious ground, picking Jesus out for doing what He was not supposed to do – forgive sins. He responded by healing a paralysed man. Take that! They were not pleased and happy for the quality of life and dignity that had been restored to the sufferer. They were so angry with Jesus for “blaspheming” that they just did not get the point.

Jesus asked them a question. “Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your mat and walk?’ Of course it was easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” Anyone could say that and get away with it. They could say it if they wanted to, but they didn’t dare. But to say, ‘Get up and walk,” to a man who could not move a finger – well, that was a bit more difficult. They could definitely not say that and get away with it. People would think they were crazy.

But Jesus could, and . . . He did, and . . . the man got up and walked! How about that? They had no answer for that. Jesus said that it would prove one thing, His authority. Forgiveness of sins and healing tied together? It was all part of the same thing – someone had this man in his grip who did things to him that were not of God. There was a usurper in charge who had brought God’s people into slavery but someone had arrived on the scene with authority to evict him.

Exactly! At last God was back, after four hundred silent years, to honour His promise. Messiah was actually here in person to set them free from their worst enemy, the devil. But these religious types were too blind to see it. They were too busy picking holes in Jesus to realise that no ordinary man could do what He did. The common people had more discernment than they had. They celebrated this amazing event even though they might not have understood it.

Obviously the teachers of the law – note their title – had missed something. The “Son of Man”? Who was He? Jesus was not just using a euphemism for “me”. There was something far more significant in the title. Where did it appear in the sacred Scriptures that they were supposed to know? It was used in two different contexts in the Old Testament.

God called Ezekiel “son of man”.  Why? The title emphasized Ezekiel’s fallibility and weakness as a member of the human race. Prophet he might be, but he was also just a man. The authority for his office came from God. He was never to forget that it was God who gave him the message and God who empowered him to deliver it. If he failed to obey God’s instructions, he would be as guilty as the people to whom he was to deliver the message.

In a vision, Daniel, on the other hand, saw a powerful figure approaching the throne of the Ancient of Days. He looked like a “son of man” but “he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him” (Dan. 7: 14a).

How magnificently the title “Son of Man” suited Jesus! Son of man – a weak, ordinary human being, subject to the Father and obedient to Him; Son of Man – God’s appointed Messiah to whom is given authority and sovereign power and who is worshipped by people of all nations.

What a pity they missed it! Their religious bigotry shut their minds to the truth Jesus displayed in the moment. Forgiven! Healed! The kingdom of God had come! But their blindness had exposed their wicked hearts.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

 

The Conflict Begins

THE CONFLICT BEGINS

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to Him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on (Mark 2: 1-4).

Picture the scene. Jesus left Capernaum after a mass healing in the town. A leper had been cleansed but, instead of keeping quiet about it as Jesus had instructed him to do, he became a walking advert for the Healer, forcing Jesus to withdraw from the town. After a few days, when the dust had settled, He returned, only to be mobbed again, this time to hear Him preach. He was in the house – whose house we do not know – and every room was crowded with people who wanted to hear Him.

When a group of men arrived, carrying their paralysed friend on a mat, no one would give way for them. The people were wedged so tightly together in the house that it was impossible for them to make a gap, even if they wanted to. The mat-bearers had only one alternative – the roof. Imagine that! They were so determined to plant their friend under Jesus’ nose that they had no compunction about ripping a hole in the roof to do it.

Flat-roofed houses in the Middle East had balconies which were used to cool off at night. The men quickly carried their burden up the outside staircase, set him down and began to dig up the roof. Imagine the surprise of the people inside when bits of mud and plant debris began to fall from above. They must have wondered what on earth was going on! They soon got out of the way, leaving a cleared space right where Jesus sat.

That was exactly what these men were aiming for. When their friend came down through the roof, lowered on his mat by the four men, he came to rest right at Jesus’ feet.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Mark 2: 5).

Hey! That’s not why they came. The man needed healing, not forgiveness. If he wanted forgiveness, they could have taken him to the temple and offered a sacrifice for him. What was wrong with Jesus? Couldn’t He see what the man’s problem was?

Ah, but Jesus saw his heart. His friends thought they knew what he needed but Jesus knew better. Perhaps the condition of his body was merely a symptom of something deep inside, something he had never dared mention to another soul. He had enough hours in every day to think. Perhaps his mind was so locked into his past that he was desperate to stop thinking.

What music the words of Jesus must have been in his ears. Forgiven! He never imagined it possible that he could feel such peace in his heart in an instant after all these years of guilt, shame and regret. Whoever this man was who had pronounced him forgiven, he believed Him; he felt it and it was like being in heaven. Even if he never walked again, it was worth the upheaval he caused to hear that word, “Forgiven!”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (Mark 2: 6-7).

Enter the opposition! It had to happen. Sooner or later Jesus would bump heads with the religious types. They were like the proverbial Gestapo, always around to sniff out anything Jesus might say or do which could be used in evidence against Him. His popularity began to get to them. They were there, not to learn but to spy on Him to see how they could bring Him down.

Forgiven! This stuck in their throats. ‘How can He pronounce a man forgiven, just like that? What about sacrifice? How can He override what the Torah says about sin and sacrifice? This man is a blasphemer. He thinks He is God. He says things He has no right to say. We’ll have to watch Him closely. He’s leading the people astray. He must be crazy.’

We can’t judge them. Yet. After all, they knew nothing about Jesus except that He had amazing powers to heal and evict demons, and they had no idea how He did it.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

He Did Not Listen!

HE DID NOT LISTEN!

A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus was indignant. He reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said, ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. “See you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere (Mark 1: 40-45).

It began with a desperate man and ended with a frustrated Master. All because he did not listen!

A man with leprosy came to Jesus. Leprosy – or an unidentified skin disease which was classified as “leprosy” – was not only a devastating condition because of what it did to the individual physically, but also because of what it did to a person socially and spiritually. The sufferer was doomed to a life of isolation from the family and society and loathing from the rest of the unaffected population. He was “unclean” and therefore untouchable and an outcast.

Any disease or condition that made a person less than perfect, made the sufferer “unclean”, but leprosy was particularly abhorrent because of what it did to the patient. True leprosy attacks the nerve endings, causing the loss of feeling. No feeling, no pain – no pain meant any injury went unnoticed and soon turned into suppurating sores and eventual loss of extremities, leaving the person offensive and deformed.

For this man even to come anywhere near Jesus was risky. He was not permitted to approach people because his condition was infectious. How did he know that Jesus was his lifeline to wholeness and cleanness again? Perhaps he had heard, via the grapevine that there was a rabbi with extraordinary power to heal, moving around in Galilee. To his great delight, Jesus came to his community and he was not going to miss his opportunity.

Only one thing troubled him. He had no doubt that Jesus could heal, but would He want to heal him – a smelly, diseased, deformed outcast? He grabbed his opportunity when Jesus appeared. Falling to the ground before Him, he voiced his misgiving. “If you want to . . .” Jesus was indignant. What gave the man the idea that He would heal some conditions but not others? Did he think that leprosy was one of those sicknesses on His list of “not-to-heal” diseases?

Just to show the man that He was not fazed by what he looked like or smelt like or any of the taboos surrounding his condition, He not only spoke to the man, He also touched him. Jesus, how could you do that? Don’t you know that to touch an unclean person makes you unclean? Not Jesus! He was never contaminated by anyone’s “uncleanness”, not by disease, not by death. He made “unclean” people clean. The poor, sick leper, one minute a pitiful, stinking, offensive outcast, in an instant was transformed by a touch and a word. God’s kingdom had broken through this man’s plight and restored him to wholeness again.

‘Don’t tell anyone,’ Jesus commanded. But how on earth could he keep it a secret? People would recognise him and ask him what happened. Lepers don’t just suddenly shed their leprosy and its terrible consequences like taking off their clothes. But more than that, he just could not shut up. Wouldn’t you tell everyone, even those who didn’t want to listen, what had happened to you? After all, it’s not the kind of everyday thing to be cured of an incurable disease, now is it?

But telling his “good news” did exactly what Jesus did not want him to do. It tied His hands. He became an instant celebrity. People ran after Him for the wrong reasons. Instead of basking in the limelight, He had to retreat and hide, but they still sniffed Him out and swamped Him to fix their problems. He had not come to fix problems. He came to reveal the Father and to show them what life would be like if they returned to God and to obedience to His will.

Jesus was not then and is still not interested now in followers who can get what they want out of Him. He is calling people to follow Him who are so convinced of who He is that they put Him above everyone and everything else to join Him in His mission to make earth where they live a little bit of heaven. Every time we make life better for someone else through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, we are doing what He prayed, “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Don’t you want to be a part of that?

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

 

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

 

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com