Tag Archives: crowd

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – NOT JESUS!

NOT JESUS!

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:30-34

How did Jesus handle interruptions? Certainly not the way we might have done. Our first thought would have been for ourselves. We might have been irritated by people and would have wanted to escape to carry out our original plan. All we would have wanted to do was to get away from the crowd to rest and have time out alone or with our closest friends.

Not Jesus! He tried to get away from the crowds but they beat Him to it. Why didn’t He simply go somewhere else – somewhere they didn’t anticipate? He didn’t try to dodge them. Instead He welcomed them with a heart of compassion. They had no meaning and no direction in their lives and no-one to lead them. Jesus’ heart was for them, not for Himself. He put their needs above His own.

Is this what He meant when He said that a disciple is someone who denies himself? Self-denial is not just going without to adhere to some sort of rule. I think it means that we choose to put the needs of others above our own, and here is a good example of self-denial from the Master Himself.

I wonder what the disciples felt about this interruption. They were probably looking forward to a day alone with Jesus, relaxing out in the open and enjoying being away from the crowd. They must have felt frustrated, irritated and even fed-up with Jesus. Why did He have to be so accommodating?

What was the difference between Jesus and His disciples? Their first thought was for themselves and their own needs. They were tired. They needed rest. They wanted to be alone. Jesus was also tired but He saw people who needed another kind of rest much more that He needed a day off. These people were struggling under the heavy yoke of religion and legalism and it wasn’t working. They didn’t need more religion. They needed a shepherd to protect and take care of them. That is exactly what He came to do – and He was not about to miss an opportunity like this.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – LET THEM BE, EVEN IN THIS

LET THEM BE, EVEN IN THIS

“No sooner were the words out of His mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the Twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss Him. Jesus said, ‘Judas, you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’

“When those with Him saw what was happening, they said, ‘Master, shall we fight?’ One of them took a swing at the Chief Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.

“Jesus said, ‘Let them be. Even in this.’ Then touching the servant’s ear, He healed him.” Luke 22:47-51.

Picture the scene. A mob, led by Judas, one of Jesus’ followers, moves menacingly towards Jesus, brandishing swords and clubs. Luke does not mention who was in charge. John tells us that there were soldiers and officials from among the crowd, sent by the chief priests to arrest Him.

Instead of slinking away into the darkness among the tress, Jesus steps forward to meet them. Judas has a prearranged signal – ‘the one I kiss’ – to identify Him. A gentle rebuke from Jesus, ‘Judas, you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ does not even touch his hardened heart. How bizarre that Judas would choose a greeting of affection to show the soldiers whom to grab. This was surely an idea straight from Satan whom Luke said had taken possession of him.

The disciples react in a typically human way. “Boys, let’s fight.” Their entire disciple training to be followers of Jesus and to wear the Rabbi’s yoke goes straight out of the window. What happened to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” and, “Turn the other cheek”? They are in no apparent danger. The soldiers are only interested in Jesus.

One of the disciples, the ever-impulsive Peter, lashes out with his sword – slicing off the ear of the one nearest to him. It happens to be Malchus, a high-ranking servant of the high priest. Now there’s going to be trouble! That action immediately involves the disciples and puts them in danger of arrest along with Jesus.

In the midst of the tumult, Jesus keeps His cool and remains who He is, the Son of Man and the Son of God. He stands as God’s representative and does what His Father does – restores the man’s severed ear.

What would Malchus remember of that whole incident when he lay in bed that night? Would he ever forget the face of the man they arrested as a criminal, the man who reattached his ear and miraculously stopped the pain and bleeding, in the middle of His own crisis? Would he ever understand the words and attitude of Jesus – “‘Let them be. Even in this'”? Six simple words in a paraphrase version, but loaded with significance!

Jesus had once informed His opponents, ‘No one takes my life from me. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again. This was given to me by my Father.’ In that statement, He pulls the rug from under His enemies’ feet. They may think that they are in charge but they cannot do a thing to Him without His Father’s permission and His submission.

His statement also clearly indicates who takes responsibility for His arrest, trial and crucifixion – all those who were implicated in the event. This is a perfect example of God’s sovereignty working together with man’s responsibility. Our little brains will never be able to work out how He did it.

It was God’s plan, devised before the foundation of the world, working perfectly to effect man’s salvation but implemented through man’s wickedness so that God’s glory – His disposition of compassion and mercy, could be put on display. Wow!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – PHARISEE PHONINESS

CHAPTER TWELVE

PHARISEE PHONINESS

“By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was His disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so that you don’t get contaminated with the Pharisees’ yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep yourself hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.'” Luke 12:1-3.

It’s amazing how comfortable Jesus was in the company of tax collectors and ‘sinners’. He ate with them, symbolising that He had no issues with them. He spent time with them in preference to the religious ones. You never read long accusations against them from His mouth and yet…He had so much to say against the Pharisees.

He hated Pharisaical attitudes so much that He spent time warning His disciples against them. ‘Don’t even keep company with people like that,’ He said, “because you will be contaminated with their ‘yeast’.’ Why?

Is it possible that God is far less fazed by the obvious sins that we find so heinous, sins like adultery, lying, stealing, murder, etc., than He is by the two-facedness of the Pharisees? Why did Jesus hate their hypocrisy? The people He hobnobbed with had no need to be told how bad they were. They knew it and they welcomed Him because He accepted them and offered them hope.

A comment I wrote in my Bible long ago says it all. ‘Religion is the most difficult disease to cure because it infects with such self-righteousness that no sense of need remains.’ Isn’t that the difference between the ‘sinners’ and the Pharisees, no sense of need?

Sinners, for example, like Zaccheus, grasped the forgiveness Jesus offered and received new life from Him. The Pharisees covered up their wickedness with a veneer of religion and pursued their greedy lives thinking that no-one knew what was behind their masks.

Jesus warned that the rot could not be covered up forever. Sooner or later they would be found out and exposed for who they really were. Imagine the shame of such exposure, especially because they were supposed to be representatives of God to the people.

God is never fooled by the face we show to the world. I quote from a message from Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding, CA. ‘Jesus loves to offend the mind in order to expose the heart.’ God’s desire is to expose our darkness by turning on the light of His truth. The problem is that, like the Pharisees, we prefer the darkness because our deeds are evil. Our ‘darkness’ infects our world like the Pharisees’ darkness infected theirs.

Instead of scuttling under the rocks like bugs do in the light, Jesus yearns for us to come clean so that we can walk in the light with Him. Our masks may hide our true faces for a while but sooner or later they will slip and then…?

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED

“When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them. A man called from out of the crowd, ‘Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He’s my only child. Suddenly he’s screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black-and-blue before it leaves. I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn’t.'” Luke 9:37-40.

This is strange. Not long before this, the disciples went out on a preaching tour, authorised by Jesus, and were very successful. They did everything He sent them to do including casting out demons. Why were they incapable of evicting this one?

The description of this demon’s vicious activity in the boy seems to indicate that it was a particularly nasty and tenacious spirit that had hold of him. It was not about to give way easily and it made its intentions known. The disciples were obviously intimidated by its resistance and perhaps believed that it was more powerful than they were, and they gave up.

The boy’s father was relieved to see Jesus and wasted no time in pleading for His help. Jesus’ reaction to His disciples’ failure revealed His exasperation with them. They had been with Him long enough to know how to deal with the opposition from the dominion of darkness.

“Jesus said. ’What a generation! No sense of God! No focus in your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here.'” Luke 9:41.

This paraphrase captures the essence of the disciples’ failure and Jesus’ frustration. He perpetually lived in the environment of God’s presence. His God-awareness kept Him from being intimidated by apparently uncontrollable circumstances and enabled Him to restore to wholeness what the evil one used to destroy people. Demons were part of the devil’s arsenal of destructive weapons against people whom they had overpowered but Jesus easily overpowered them because He, not the devil, is Lord.

Jesus knew that the power of God and the kingdom of God were greater than Satan’s power and in that awareness and environment He ordered demons to leave. The disciples, on the other hand, were yet to live in the mind-set of God’s presence and power. They had not yet grasped His authority them.

“While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness, God’s majestic greatness.” Luke 9:41-42.

This demon was a show-off! He had to have his last fling before he left. But leave he had to, because he knew who had authority over him. In Mark’s version of the story, after this final thrashing, the boy seemed to be dead but Jesus had him up on his feet, healed and delivered, and handed him back to his relieved father.

The disciples were puzzled, according to Mark (Mark 9:28-29). Why did they have no power over this demon? Jesus’ reply is equally puzzling. The implication of His response seems to be that, before they could cast out the demon, they had to spend time in prayer. But that was not practical.

Prayer is essentially not about getting our needs met. Jesus said that that was the Father’s responsibility. Prayer is about developing a God-awareness that places us, like Jesus, in the environment of God’s presence and power.

Circumstances overwhelm us because they are more real to us than God. The more time we spend engaging with God and opening our spirits to His Spirit, the more real He becomes to us in the difficult circumstances of our lives. This is the essence of faith – and the outcome is God’s intervention to bring us a step closer to wholeness.

God is as real and powerful to us as we want Him to be.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE- NOTHING NEW

NOTHING NEW

“The crowd asked him, ‘Then what are we supposed to do?’

“‘If you have two coats, give one away.’ he said. ’Do the same with your food,’ Tax men also came to be baptised and said, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’

“He told them, ‘No more extortion – collect only what is required by law.’

“Soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He told them, ‘No shakedowns, no blackmail – and be content with your rations.'” Luke 3:10-14.

So what was new about John’s message? Why all the excitement? Why did they come from far and near to hear him when everything he told them was written in their Law anyway? Had they slipped so far from the everyday requirements for living the best kind of life that they needed a revival campaign out in the wilderness to bring them back?

It doesn’t say much for their teachers either, does it? They were so busy preening themselves and devising new laws to “protect” their laws that the Law of God was obscured by rules so ridiculous that many of the ordinary people gave up trying. Like all the prophets before him, John’s message was no different, but the reason for his message was far more compelling.

“Repent!” he thundered, “for the kingdom of God is near.” What did that mean? Not the current “turn or burn” message! Not the “Be sorry for your sins and turn to God” insistence. That’s our interpretation of “repent”. “Teshuvah” meant “return” – come back to what you were – before Adam’s crazy, foolish choice – to what God made you to be in the beginning. What was that? Man made in His image to be one with Him.

“The Kingdom of God is near”? How can that be good news? I thought that the good news was that Jesus died for our sins that we can go to heaven when we die. How pathetic if that is the sum total of the good news! The really good news is that God is fixing everything that is broken and restoring everything to what it was before Adam blew it so that He can complete what He began.

Now that’s really good news! It means that we can play a part in restoring what Adam messed up. And Jesus got rid of all the obstacles that prevented us from taking part in the restoration process by paying our debt for us, releasing us from slavery to the destroyer so that we don’t have to be a part of the messing up side, ever again. We’ve changed allegiance and are now on God’s side, His restoration crew, doing things God’s way and in the process bringing heaven to earth like Jesus said.

John was showing them how that would be done. Give, share, be kind, be content, stop being greedy, selfish and self-centred. That would make Messiah’s task much easier if He came to people who were already prepared to receive Him by realising what He had come to do.

The trouble was that they misunderstood His real purpose. Restoration did not mean getting rid of the Romans so that He could rule over David’s kingdom. His plan went much farther back than that. Not get rid of the rule of the Romans – that was slavery on the outside, but get rid of the rule of sin – that was the core of the matter. Change the ruler on the inside. Get self off the throne and reinstall God’s king, Jesus, as rightful ruler of every heart.

When the old selfish, greedy disposition is changed from within, people will change, mothers and fathers will change, children will change, homes will change, families will change, communities will change, society will change, one life at a time. When Jesus returns to take His rightful place on the throne of earth, He will come to an earth where pockets of heaven are already here, practising what He came to complete.

That’s what it’s all about, really!