Archive for July, 2009

The Witnesses

July 31, 2009

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.  There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that His testimony is valid.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.  Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.”  John 5:31-34.

The law states that a man must obtain two to the three witnesses besides himself to support his side of any story.  The Jews knew this and accepted it as par for course—in court.  Yet here Jesus gave them two witnesses they accepted as well as a third evidence as a witness in His miraculous power, and they refused them as insufficient.

Why?  What were they looking for that Jesus didn’t provide?  The common perception and hope of the Messiah for the Jew is cataclysmic change—a complete takeover and Jewish domination of the world.  When Jesus refused to become the conquering hero of the warrior David’s variety, they dismissed Him as nothing but a shooting star or flash in the pan.  The Jews would accept nothing less, in their opinion, than the conquering king.  In their eagerness for the Messiah’s reign they missed Him while looking somewhere else.  Yet what they thought of as less was more because their values were so skewed by human goals and wealth they couldn’t see the truth when it hit them right between the eyes.

It’s a continuous lesson for me to look at the evidence at hand where God works in my life.  Instead of expecting God to work according to my own desires and plans, I’m doing my best to learn His new perspective (which is really the original POV all life was created for) so that I might get in line with what these desires should be.  I’m not good at this anymore than other people but I refuse to give up just because I’m a fallen human being.

The trick to becoming like our Master is to turn our attention to Him in the everything.  It’s easy to say this, isn’t it, but much harder to want to do it, for we have so many things we let get in the way or want to for our own immediate gratification.  I know my saying this makes us sound cheap but the truth is we are…it’s not for nothing God called His people whores to sin.

Jesus used the testimony of three witnesses as it was established by the Law:  1) God the Father through the testimony of Scripture.  2)  John B.  3)  The miracles and teachings.

They dismissed them all.

Human nature hasn’t changed since their time at all.  O, what we focus on might be slightly different in make up but it isn’t really anything all that new.  We must ask ourselves what are we looking for or at so hard we miss the truth about Jesus?  What are we distracted by that can take our eyes off of the reality Christ longs to open to our eyes?

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Our Prototype

July 30, 2009

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.  John 5:30.

What would we be like if our every motive, thought and desire went through this filter?

I confess I am not there yet, for I still like my own way too much.  Jesus, however, though He is God, gave us a living example of what it means to follow God.  I think what trips most of us up is that “not to please myself but Him” part of the sentence because we have such skewed visions of what it means to please God.

When I was young, the missionaries and ministers all made working for the Lord sound a little weird, now I know they’re right to a degree, but wrong by a long shot on the reality of it.  Some take self-denial to mean subtraction of all pleasure where only suffering becomes the norm.  Yet this can grow into a fetish for us because it isn’t God’s way but based on man’s understanding of God.  Not to mention cloisters, monasteries and host of other attempts at holiness which miss the fullness of what God offers those who follow Him.  You see, God made everything we see around us to be good, wholesome and beneficial.  We, in our religious zeal, extract those things which make us stumble and condemn them as sinful, when in reality it’s our own desires and obsessions which cause our downfall.

Food, for instance, is good and wholesome, beneficial and tasty, yet if it becomes an obsession, we grow obese and unhealthy.  Sex is good and wholesome, beneficial, yet used to excess or out of context and all it becomes is pleasure with no relationship to give it any more meaning.

The persecution and trials come from outside our experience in Christ—and because of it.  We don’t have to manufacture these things by beating ourselves up or denying our bodies the natural gifts of God.  Paul claimed all things were good if received in Christ, but he would not allow himself to be mastered by anything.  This, then, is the key to understanding righteousness, I believe.

Jesus said elsewhere,  “Don’t judge or you will be judged; in the same measure that you judge another you will be judge, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.”

Now look at our key text above, what do you notice about judgment?  Humans judge for various reasons but rarely for the sake of pleasing God, and, if they do seek to please Him, they have a skewed grasp on what that means.  Taken in context with John 3:16, 17 we gain a new perspective on what it means to judge others.  If we are going to judge anything, it must be sin not the person, for we cannot make any judgment calls on their eternity, since we are not God and have no real understanding of the outcome.

What we can do, however, is call sin by its right name, stand for the truth and show people that we ourselves are sinners saved by and growing in grace.  The testimony of our own lives changing from glory to glory will resonate with those seeking what they don’t know as yet to be Jesus.

If Jesus was unwilling to do anything outside of God’s input and He was the Son of God, what should we be doing here and now?

A Voice to Wake the Dead

July 30, 2009

“I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.  And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.”  John 5:25-27.

For a time this concept bothered me—you know, that God the Son would need the permission of the Father.  It seems like an oxymoron to me, or at best a dichotomy of reasoning.  Just look at the logic of it from a human perspective:  Jesus is called the Son of God, yet He can do nothing without the Father’s ok or granting Him power to accomplish it.  It just doesn’t fit what we understand an all powerful being to do.

The word here I’m avoiding is “submit” and Jesus demonstrated the concept perfectly.  He lived a life in full submission to the Father’s will, based on the rules of engagement hammered out before the world began.  That said, submission goes against the grain of everything human reasoning holds as important.  For us, power means might by right of strength to hold it or by gifting, so our command is unquestionable or, at the very least, uncontested successfully.

Yet we see Jesus submitting to the Father’s will, while at the same time claiming He has all power and authority in heaven and earth.  It just sounds like He’s speaking out of both sides of His mouth, or very confused.  A statement like  “By myself I can do nothing…”  leaves us wondering how Jesus could be God at all, for He places Himself within the human limitations.

And in that we find the key.  Philippians 2:5-8 says:  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Do you see the reasoning jumping out at you?  God’s kingdom is based on submission, for in fact God Himself submits to the boundaries He created and which define His very nature.  If we look at the foundation of God’s kingdom as love and submission, the definition of evil becomes clear by stark contrast.  God’s entire being is about submission, evil takes by force that which it wants.  God receives glory because of who He is; evil demands glory by force, even what it has not earned.

God grants His Son power to raise the dead—a power only God owns.  There are two examples in the OT of prophets raising the dead, one is Elijah praying for the widow’s son, the other is Elisha.  Both times the prophets spent time in prayer and supplication, for they had not the power within themselves to raise the boys.  Jesus merely walks up to a dead man’s cot, touches him and the man comes back to life.  This is the difference.

Jesus gives the Jews a present and future proclamation about His ability to raise the dead “…the time is coming and has now come…” indicates first the final resurrection where all the dead are judged, then His earthly ministry culminating in Lazarus.  Though there are many theories and even doctrines surrounding what happens to a person after death, no one really knows but God and those who die.  So whatever wall Jesus voice must penetrate to reach the spirit’s ears must be powerful, unless, of course, He’s simply bringing them all back to consciousness.

Christ came to earth as the most powerful human being ever to walk this planet yet decided before the world began to be like anyone else for thirty years.  In this way no one could ever claim He came loaded with advantages.  Every advantage He had as instilled ability went to serve others.  Never once did Jesus use His supernatural (this is not the right word for His abilities by the way, it’s just the only one most will understand) gifts to serve Himself or better His life, for it all went to serve and bless others.

Jesus speaks as both God and man, which gives Him a voice to wake the dead…not just the physically dead, but those spiritually gone as well.  Where Jesus speaks into a person’s life, there’s always hope.

Who’s to Judge?

July 28, 2009

“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  John 5:22, 23.

What does sit say to you when the Scripture claims that the Father judges no one but leaves it all up to the Son?

Paul calls Jesus the source of reconciliation between God and mankind; at Bethlehem the angels declared,  “…on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Jesus became man to share in the experience of humanity, at the same time, He is God.  Jesus becomes the perfect judge, for He understands God’s perspective and His demand for sinlessness, yet His experience on earth gives Him the ability to grasp the struggle of humanity, the sorrows, lack and inability to stand against our own sin or the enemy of our souls.  Christ is the perfect marriage between God and man; the one being who gets both sides of the argument and can stand between them as arbitrator as well as judge.

Jesus is the goodwill ambassador sent to Earth to bring peace.  His mission isn’t one of condemnation but of reconciliation and hope.  He did no violence to anybody (unless you consider getting rid of the money changers in the Gentile courts a violent act) yet they killed Him.  What does it that tell us about the nature of humanity when they would rather silence the voice of peace than follow it?

There’s a reason why few find the gate to salvation and it rests in this:  God has created mankind upright but they have gone in search of many schemes.  They want anything but Jesus.

Why?

I don’t know all the reasons, but I do know a few.  The top one I’m aware of is they don’t like having to toe His moral mark.  This is not to say people in general don’t like morality in some form, cuz they do.  No, what they want more of though, is a moral standard which fits their own criterion or lifestyle.

God didn’t abdicate responsibility for the universe by giving up the judgment seat to Christ.  What He accomplished, however, is far more clever—a chess master making the ultimate move from which there is no escape.  By using the Son of God and the Son of Man in one person He effectively silenced all detractors.  No one can claim Jesus doesn’t know what it’s like to live in a world of sin, in poverty, temptation on every side, lacking in social standing, or what it feels like to be ostracized, criticized, outcast and finally brutally treated.  He experienced it all. 

Thus we have the perfect Judge, Advocate, Defender, Savior and finally, much to His distaste, executioner.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15.

At the Judgment Seat of God no one will be able to say Jesus’ verdict is unfair because He is the marriage of the two—God and Man in one being.

Planting Seeds

July 25, 2009

“For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.  Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these.”  John 5:20.

Ok, I’m not really trying to go verse by verse here but there are a few things that just jump out to me every time I read the text.

 Being a dad now I grasp this text better than I did before…it has to do with the natural tendencies as Jesse’s father more than anything else.  We like to show our sons how to do things, ride bikes, climb trees, swim, fix coffee (or latte in my case), change a tire, climb a mountain, read a book, drive a car, and the list could go on.  Yet the one thing we show them how to do the best without trying is to be a man.  Now I’m not saying we show them good things or do it well, it’s just that imitation comes as naturally as breathing for children and parents, so our kids do their best to be little replicas of us.  Whatever the son sees the father do, he attempts as well.

Jesus is giving us a hint as to how He comes to being who He is—by imitating His Father.  Then He goes on to give them a sign of what that might look like:  “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.”  Which tells us a great deal about what the Savior has in mind for His next move.  He trumps the unbelief of the Jews by actually giving them a litmus test they can run on Him to know whether He’s from God or not, for only God can raise the dead, right?  So can Jesus, which should be a slam dunk sign for the Jews.

But it isn’t.  They didn’t want to believe in some obscure nobody from the back woods of Galilee, they wanted their messiah, the one who came to punish all their enemies and make them rich.

When I was young, the teaching about heaven centered around crowns, new houses, golden streets and a host of other glorious things we focused on to motivate ourselves into serving the Master.  As I grew in a knowledge of the Word, I became aware that the crown offered was a crown of righteousness, the stars or jewels in that crown were the people we brought with us and the streets of gold were under the feet of everyone as common as dirt—an insult by Eastern thought to all man valued (to walk on something meant you conquered it or owned it which made it of little value).  In other words we concentrate on the wrong things today as well.

Jesus told His disciples that anyone who followed Him would do even greater things than He had done, which is quite a statement considering He calmed storms and raised the dead.  So what did He mean?

Well, what was Jesus’ mission to earth?  To bring reconciliation between God and mankind.  Using this as our goal, the greater things than these takes on a new meaning because our focus is on the work of God in the heart, the jewels are the people we bring to the Master, the joy is the gladness we know when a heart is changed by grace.

He imitated the Father, we imitate Him, and those who come to Him through our influence, do so by imitating our example.  Which should give us pause and something to think about, wouldn’t you say?

Metamorphosis

July 24, 2009

Jesus gave them this answer:  “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does.”  John 5:19.

Jesus begins in verse 19 to speak to the arguments they present.  He makes Himself something of a bane in their nostrils by the end of the chapter so we will first take the overview then move on to the specific arguments presented.  From this point on to the end of the chapter they don’t get a word in edgewise.

His argument here seems to be off the subject for the Jews, I’m sure, because Jesus turns the discussion into a family pedigree issue.  It’s normal for a son to imitate a father, it’s as natural as breathing.  Jesus uses this POV to support not only His mission but His methods as well, and what that tells us about God is quite profound.  The Jews, of course, found His point offensive.  They liked their perception of God and resented Him bringing in a new better one.  Look, they might have even liked the God Jesus represented in the flesh, but they had spent so long building up their current doctrine on the Almighty that Jesus’ evidence to the contrary made all that hard work for nothing—simply because they had drawn the wrong conclusion.

His claim to be God’s Son went further than they expected as well because here He gets even more profoundly specific:  He claimed to be imitating His Father, God, which meant to them and to us anyone who wanted then or wants now to know God needs to look at Jesus.

John A made a statement which refuted the gnostics and Nicolatians alike: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

God became man. 

The man born blind had to operate from a completely new paradigm.  The old was gone the new came rushing in.  Every work God does means change–like sloughing off burnt skin makes way for the new skin underneath so we must make way for the healing power of God to change our outlook, performance and habits.  Definitely God meant what He said to Ezekial:  “I will give you a new heart; one made of flesh instead of stone.”  Alive instead of dead.

I’ve told this story before (From Voyage of the Dawntreador):

Eustace became a dragon out of his greed.  He went to sleep with two human sized bracelets on his arms and woke up with those same bracelets cutting into his dragon sized forelegs.

To get free Eustace had to allow Aslan to cut into him, splitting him from neck to groin in order to free him from the dragon skin encasing him.  The process was incredibly painful but in the end Eustace stood beside the lake an adolescent boy again, bloodied by his ordeal, shaking from cold and exposure of raw skin.  Aslan then baptized him in the lake by making him wash off what was left of the dragon’s blood.

Every time we come to a crossroads, God has something new to do in us.  I have come to crossroads myself and had the choice to become bitter, angry and vengeful or obedient to the Spirit of God or full of good fruit.  My head keeps sending me the wrongs done me (notice how many “I” statements are in that thought) and how I am getting a raw deal and deserve more; whereas God shows me how to live like Him and be peaceful and full of light.  Quite some time ago, I wrestled with my thoughts for nearly five hours trying to control them and keep them from the anger filling me up every time God drained it.  I would turn my heart towards Christ and my head would fill with light and breezy gentle love.  Then a flood of angry thoughts and self-defense mechanisms would sneak back in through the cracks until the scene was sullied by muddy reasoning and dark thunder clouds of resentment.

At the end I was compeletly exhausted but the peace, hardwon as it was, filled my soul and I slept full of love for those who accused me falsely and hurt me unnecessarily to my view.  I could pray for them and myself to be good to them, to love them, to show them kindness.

People who claim love to be weak don’t know love.  It is by far the most potent and powerful weapon known to man and the least likely to do hurt or violence to anyone.  It takes more strength I’ve discovered to love, show kindness and mercy, grace and gentleness, than to throw a fist or harsh words in someone’s face.  The amount of determination to bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us, do good to those who dispitefully use us, takes more courage, strength and decisive self-control than I have in my arsenal. 

Jesus came to give us a new heart and mind.  The old ways of thinking weren’t working nor could they save us or bring us peace.  Our strength comes from a different source and our lifestyle conforms to a different beat.  Our hearts go the way of peacemakers and those who have purposely broken themselves on the Rock Christ Jesus so that the might be made complete His way. 

Jesus came in the flesh and experienced the loneliness, the hunger for food, drink, companionship and a host of other things natural to man.  He needed to bath and use the toilet.  Jesus is God but He chose to become man in a time without the conveniences we have today, where disease played havoc over men and lifespans were long if they made it past 50.   His feet got dusty, He felt pain and ached when people rejected Him. His reaction in this passage of Scripture and what follows where He confronts the leaders of the Jews shows a man who hurt for their lack of belief and stubborn determination to kill Him and His message.

And all He ever did was good. 

I have never been completely good in my entire life.  I’m too much the self-preservationist for that; I say things to defend myself against false accusations where my Master would be silent.  I retort to snide remarks or comments in kind with sarcasm of my own.  Jesus wasn’t afraid to stand up for Himself or His message, as we shall see, but He did so in a godly way, a method we could take lessons from.  I want this kind of wisdom, this kind of response to those who misuse my love and kindness.  I don’t want to be like the old me anymore.  I want to be like Jesus.

Is that so much to ask?  Make me like you, Master.

And He sends me pain to show me a taste of the rejection He experiences everyday of the world’s history past, present and future.  He sends me trouble so that I will know what it feels like to have to make choices between one thing and another where the outcomes will hurt someone no matter which way I go.  He sends me grief so I will understand His heart for those who choose to lose Him–who hate and resent Him so much they would rather die than be with Him.  I don’t know the depths and height of the pain my Master went through or goes through, but I know what it feels like to be rejected, looked on with suspicion, ostracized and marginalized, then pushed out of my own home.

Yet Jesus experiences it times a billion or more.  Every person who rejects Him hurts His eternal soul and will be an ache we can never fathom.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

He came to save the whole world but how many will choose to receive it or Him.  How many want Jesus as He is?

…And So It Begins

July 23, 2009

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him.  Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I , too, am working.”  For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.  John 5:16-47

Jesus healed someone on a Sabbath and now the Jews were up in arms about it.  You’d think they would be amazed at the healing itself and the other issues would fade into the background.  I mean, like, come on, did healing happen so very often that they could just blow this off in order to focus on the Sabbath question?

Chapter 5 begins the Jesus’ teachings where He describes Himself to His followers and detractors alike.  Jesus usually used plain logic, though at times He turned mildly cryptic (like String Theory is basic math).  I believe there are good reasons for the obscure style of argument, though, for to say some things too openly in Christ’s day invited censure and public punishment.  Jesus had a mission to accomplish which He needed to finish before they took Him. 

If John A is keeping to a loose timeline of Jesus’ work and teaching, then Jesus began His ministry challenging the system.  After changing water into wine, He cleaned up the Gentile court so the people could worship in peace, brought the Samaritans to a knowledge of His grace using a bitter outcast woman as one of His first evangelists, then healed on a Sabbath.  All these actions took place in His first few months.

So this situation begins with a healing and ends with Him defending Himself.  Jesus purposely reveals His identity in a veiled way–a thin veil at best, because the Jews seemed to get it right away.  His statement about God being His Father angered them because by it He was making Himself equal with God.  There is absolutely no escape from this passage.  Jesus put Himself up on God’s level by calling Himself God’s Son.  Now we can conclude any son is the equal of a father pretty easily, although at birth he may only possess the potential to be so, yet once he’s grown he matches the father in everything.

Whether Jesus’ claim can be refuted or not, no one can say by the text because it is made as a statement of fact.  This “fact” might be disputed by those who disagree with the text and therefore don’t accept Jesus as anything but a good man, teacher and historical figure, but those who study the text and claim to believe it cannot, in all good conscience, do anything but agree and practice that belief.

Notice I did not say it could be refuted but disputed.  To refute a subject or claimed truth one must have firm evidence to the contrary.

Jesus defends His actions by calling on God’s work of sustaining life every microsecond.  He gives His relationship to the Father as a reason for His own work of healing, then presents a poignant argument against the Jews mishandling of the Law.  The Sabbath was made for man to rest and enjoy his Creator and the life he’d been given one day a week without working with it to produce.  God must work to sustain all life–this means He is never able to rest.   So does He break the 4th commandment?  No, the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  It was a gift to man not a universal creed or law; a day to take the boots off and soak one’s feet.  They weren’t created for the day, the day was created for them as a gift.

The Jews made a fatal error here.  Think about it:  If healing a man paralyzed 38 years is what Jesus can do when He’s being nice, what could He do when He’s angry?  If someone has the power to heal the body just by commanding it, I wouldn’t think it wise to mess with him.  Why they thought they could pin Jesus to the ropes I don’t know.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to try to take on a man who could heal an army and keep on fighting, and these guys wanted to kill Him!

As I’ve studied this gospel in the last few years, I’ve begun to catch a glimpse of what religion without God in charge does to people’s minds.  I’m all for religious beliefs and practices but I don’t believe it is the essence of who we are.  We might religiously shower but that doesn’t make us worry about it.  It’s the same with religion of any kind.  We can claim the name of Christ and shout how much we agree with Him, then turn right around and be hateful in our hearts.  Without the heart being different, the words mean nothing to God and ultimately nothing to anyone else.

Why did the Jews react first?  Why didn’t they first try to figure out whether what He said was true and study His claims and Him?  Seeing the miracles would have given me pause to adjust my thinking on any subject.  Like Nicodemus I would be cautious but still seek Him out.  They didn’t.  Jesus signaled a change to everything they knew or trusted.  Since the Babylonian captivity, they were afraid to do anything to anger God, afraid they might lose what they gained back.  They misunderstood their history, though.  How long did God put up with the worst sins a nation calling itself by His name could commit?  Almost a thousand.  If God showed this kind of forbearance when they were at their worst, why would He punish them for being what they should be and little too much to the right?

The lesson of their history was lost on them because they took the wrong lesson from it.  Instead of seeing the grace, mercy and forbearance of God in their history, they saw only judgment, punishment and fear.  Jesus’ mission mystified them because they were so hardened to their agenda, closed to anything but their own efforts to appease God and dedicated to the glory of Israel over the glory of God.  They rejected Him because instead of offering political glory, Jesus demanded their hearts change, and this will be the reason for most people who turn away from the Master.

Misdirected Zeal

July 20, 2009

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed,  “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”  John  5:9b, 10.

 Technically, these guys were correct, the law forbade work of any kind.  Yet when they learned the man had been healed of a disease after 38 years, wouldn’t you think they would have cut him some slack?  They didn’t; in fact they became indignant that the invalid was healed on the Sabbath and began to persecute Jesus.  Why is it that we cling so tightly to our traditions even when given clear evidence to the contrary, then we will punish those who don’t hold to our mistaken ideals?  I’ve known many in the church who have done this to the hurt and discouragement of others.

Jesus is the interpretation of the commandments.  Let me say it another way:  Jesus’ example in the gospels show us how to keep the law.  He makes the law clear, takes away the misinterpretations and holds up a light for how to understand the Word of Truth.

Yet here is another truth we must resign ourselves to if we are to follow the Master:  Those more zealous for tradition than Jesus will ostracize, criticize and persecute those who conform to the mind of Christ.  There’s absolutely no help for it because those bound to the values of the world mixed with religious information never reconcile with God completely nor with those who do.  A person lacking peace in their own soul resents anyone else who displays it.  I believe from watching the trends in the church over the years every person who runs around correcting others usually isn’t at peace in themselves.

Those who love God live out His mind and rarely feel the need to correct anyone else unless it’s something the Spirit puts on their hearts—even then it’s done with gentleness and care.  There is a place for correcting in righteousness, and in extreme cases a need for disfellowship, but we must be sure of our decisions before we take such steps.  We must also make sure we have tried everything possible to reconcile the situation because the people of God will be peacemakers.

Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature by nurturing a man to health (albeit instantaneously).  His authority extended to the law as well by dent of His power to change the natural order of things caused by sin’s destructive presence.  The Jews who opposed Him ignored His power in order to focus on nitpicking the law.

We need to take this story to heart and use at a warning to be beware of missing the big picture for the sake of picking at the threads.

The Healing Pool

July 18, 2009

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who had was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked Him,  “Do you want to get well?”  John 5:2, 3, 5,6.

What made Jesus choose one man out of so many sick or affected people?  There were plenty of blind, lame, paralyzed, the disabled of all sorts lay or sat around the pool waiting for the water to be stirred.  Because only the lesser manuscripts added the miracle of healing when the water stirred, we have no real idea if the legend held any truth or it was a mystic addition later which drew on written myth.  One thing we do know is that the sick people believed it–or, at least, they wanted to.

One man among many received healing at that moment.  May be later some of the others found their way to Jesus but what would you have thought had you been there waiting for a miracle and one happened right under your nose?  Bitter?  Angry?  My first question would have been, “Why him?  Why did God pass me by and what did I do to be overlooked?”

Yup! That’s human nature for ya’.

Jesus also asked the most seemingly asinine question anybody has ever asked in the history of wise men making quotes from mountaintops and spouting wise words for readers of posterity, “Do you want to get well?”

On second thought, may be it isn’t so foolish after all.  Some people actually like to be sick because it gives them an excuse to fail.  Some like to fail and even program their situations to fail so they don’t have take responsibility for themselves or the outcome.  So Jesus might have realized the man put himself there and wanted to make sure he would be willing to get over his problem.

How do we know this dude put himself there?  By Jesus’ warning at the end of the day in verse 14.  The man must have been either a drinker or ate incredibly rich foods because the only way I can think of someone causing paralysis for 38 years and it being a result of sin is if they have some really bad eating habits or drank alcohol too much.

This guy completely missed Jesus’ point, however, because he thought Christ referred the stirring of the waters instead of an immediate cure.  I wouldn’t doubt his answer displayed his bitterness and irritation with Jesus asking the obvious.  Jesus had learned what He needed to know about the man, so wasted no time asking if the man believed He was the Messiah.  He just told him to pick up his mat and walk.  I like the fact that He commanded the dude to “Get up!”  It almost seems like He was being a bit playfully humerous withthe guy.  As if Jesus said with mischievious grin, “Ah, get up! Take your mat and walk. Go on, get outta’ here before I bop ya’ one on the back side of your head!”

I know Jesus didn’t mean it that way exactly but I do think it kind of tickled His funnyboneto disappear into the crowd after doing something so cool.  Notice the man, without any previous experience with Christ, or exposure for that matter in the record, just obeyed.  Dietrich Bonhofferclaimed this was because Jesus’ divinity showed through His humanity at times and nobody could resist or argue with Him.  The command was not a firm request but a God telling someone to get up and walk.  It’s something we just weren’t born to handle or resist effectively.

In verse 6 we learn that Christ saw him and asked about him. “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time…”  Ya’ know what?  I get the feeling Jesus hadn’t intended on doing any miracles that day because it was Sabbath and He didn’t want to rile the Jews, but the man just awoke His sympathy.  He might have had a little bit of hesitation, demonstrated by the fact that He actually asked the man if he wanted to get well.

Get the Jews confronting the man who had been healed on the Sabbath.  So zealous for the law yet without a clue.  In fact, later we learn they began persecuting Jesus because of this incident.  He healed a man on the Sabbath and they had the audacity to yell foul.  Sometimes I look around me and see the same mentality in those who follow Jesus today.  We build up these “great” ideas for God to adhere to and when He simply ignores us or glances at us knowingly then sidesteps around us, we get our noses bent out of shape and pouting declare we’re not sure we want to follow Him anymore–or tell Him He’s not a nice God because He never gives us anything we want.  (Remember Willy Wonka–the original with Gene Wilder–where the spoiled little girl bawls her dad out.)

Okay, back to the point.  God is boss.  If He’s not, we’re in trouble.

When I say this, I know I sound arrogant to some who read statements like this as too defined to be wise, but I’m not.  I can’t be because I’m too fallible to have anything to be arrogant about.  I don’t have a great theological education, I’m not famous or smarter than anybody.  I don’t have money, position or anything to recommend me to you, or God, for that matter.

But if I’m gonna’ believe in God, I’m not going to waste my energy being wishywashy.  I might retain some perspective on the probability of it all but I simply put all my eggs in the basket and roll the dice for Jesus.  To me it’s a waste of time to spend my whole life doubting what I believein my heart to be true, miserable with the doubt but too afraid to commit to it or do anything about it.  I came to this point nearly 30 years ago, then again ten years later.  I have days where I want to throw in the towel because life just seems a bust and it hurts too much to follow anymore.

Then I hear the Spirit of God ask,  “Where will you go?”  There isn’t anywhere to go.  I’ve never found a hope more complete or better so why go there?  There’s a Proverb which says,“If you faulter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”  Troubled times reveal our inner determination to hold the line, keep the faith and not surrender to the darkness.

I like the dialogue of the Jews confronting the man:  The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”  

Okay, that wasn’t entirely true. The law didn’t forbid it, the Jewish additions and definitions did.  Remember any Sabbath was held sacrosanct by the Jews not just the one from the 4th commandment so Jesus’ miracle wasn’t necessarily on the 7th day.  He did go to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 

They were so zealous for the law that the leaders missed a greater miracle.  A man was healed!  Forget about all the other stuff, this is more important.  After Jesus found him again and left him with his instructions to clean up his life, the man beelined for the Jews to tell them it was Jesus.  I believe in his mind they would be glad to hear it.  But they weren’t.  Yet I can’t make him guilty of treason here.  I think he couldn’t fathom that anybody would hold his healing against Jesus.

Wouldn’t you have thought that if Jesus could heal on any day, He might be either God’s servant or God Himself?  Wouldn’t it have occured to any of them the miracle took precedence?  It just amazes me there was any negative reaction at all.  “Hello! A miracle took place here, dudes, and you’re going to miss the boat if you don’t get your heads out of your religious backsides!”  Jesus commanded the elements, made the world in six days or so and generally outranked every being in the universe.  If He chose to heal on a Sabbath, it must be okay, wouldn’t you say?  The Ruler makes the rules.

But He didn’t play by the rules of the game they had set up so they hated Him and wanted Him dead.

The question for me always comes to a painful point here:  What would I have done in that time and place?  

What do I do now that cuts the work of God in other people’s lives off at the knees?  Do I know Jesus well enough to recognize His handiwork when it happens?  Or am I just like the Jewish religious elite, blind and deaf to anything He could show me or say?

One thing I’ve noticed, each and every person healed had no question about Jesus.  This tells me that those who consider themselves well fed and supplied will probably look at Jesus as an accessory rather than their Savior–an option in life rather than the only option to life.

The reason I’m so dedicated is not from my ego being stroked or supported but because I know the healing power of God’s love in my life.  I could never write these things, argue any point or hold a position at all were it not for Jesus healing my insides and converting me from emotionally beaten and lacking confidence to where I am today.  Any good another sees in me comes from being exposed to Jesus’ teachings, trusting them, obeying them, wrestling with them for understanding–sometimes it takes a long time for things to sink in, ‘cuz I’m not a fast learner.  I’ve sinned knowingly and still He holds onto me and brought me back from the brink of destruction.

If anyone wants to put me down by saying I need a crutch for my life, you’re absolutely right.  I need Jesus.  Politics doesn’t mean a thing to me because I don’t see politicians or the system really working for the welfare of others rather it’s  just another way to line their own pockets.  Jesus gave til it hurt.  I grant the possibility that He might not be God incarnate, folks, but I will follow this man because I want to be like Him.  

I would rather be like Jesus than anyone else.

Kiss or Run?

July 17, 2009

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.  John 5:1.

John A sets us up again. I mean it’s almost like he has some point he’s trying to make through all these stories and discussions.

His latest point from the last chapter focuses on craving the miraculous versus good ol’ solid truth.  Jesus did two things in the last chapter: 

1) By simply knowing the woman’s heart and life intimately, He changed a whole town.  There were no fireworks, no alters burned up (unless you consider His almost amused response to her “where to worship” argument a burning down the house statement), no one was healed in the town of Sychar on record.  Well, no one was healed physically. 

2) Jesus basically shows more power by just saying something would be true than all the current healers show by shouting.  With a quiet sentence and a word of rebuke prefacing it, Jesus did the extraordinary without leaving the house.  Healing a boy at a distance may seem like a bigger miracle than actually touching him, but it’s all one and the same to Christ.

In Matthew 8 we see a leper come and kneel for healing. He said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.  Jesus replied, “I will, be clean.”  In that instance, Jesus reached out and touched the man.  Lepers were a taboo in the physical contact department, for if a Jew touched someone with leperosy, they were quarantined 7 days!  A spiritual teacher would never have touched a leper for fear that they might be unclean and unable to perform their duties in the synagogue.  Jesus healed not only the man’s body but his heart and soul by being the first person in probably years who reached out in gentle, loving contact.  The reality is that Jesus could have stood far away and just thought the man clean–I mean all He had to do was picture it in His mind and it would’ve been so.

Jesus’ power offends those who refuse to live His way (Paul addresses this in 1Corinthians 1 & 2).  That’s why we see so many, even within the church, attempt to downplay Christ’s life, the gospel records and generally cast doubt on what Christians say about Him.  Now while I agree Christianity has muddled the stew a bit too much, the basic message remains intact after 2000 years.  I also believe the conservative agenda argument with the liberal ideal really holds no place in the body of believers.  Why should Jesus be liberal or conservative?  He doesn’t need those labels or agendas because He’s right!  And if He doesn’t, then we don’t.

So those who don’t want to change their lifestyle will always play down the miraculous Jesus because it’s just too convincing an argument to refute.  But is it?  The leaders of Israel still crucified Him after watching Him raise Lazareth to life–in fact, they plotted to kill Lazareth too because how do you argue with a walking miracle?

I don’t object to people who disagree with Jesus finding someone else to believe in or a different practice to follow.  What I do object to is anyone who professes know what our only source book teaches and then doing their best to explain it away to fit their agenda.  To me, SDAs, Baptists, Evangelicals, and Pentacostals have all been verrrrry guilty of this bad habit.  When challenged as to their POV on a topic, they explain away verses that disagree with them as unimportant, misread or unclear in meaning.  Now while I agree some passages are subject to interpretation, the basic message of sin, righteousness and salvation remain intact.  Our view of how Jesus will come–i.e. methodology–really doesn’t matter because humans have a habit of missing the point anyway.  An open mind to truth realizes the myths, legends and doctrines that rise up around a subject, so they study the passages that seem obscure to understand the truth.  What we don’t understand, we store away until more light is shed on the the subject or the prophecy comes true so we can recognize it by the clues we’ve been given.

John A presents two types of people which represent most of humanity.  Those who avoid commitment to Christ by dent of argument and grin when they present a good argument which baffles those who oppose them.  Those who won’t believe unless they see fire come down from the sky.  Both have the same problem here.  Both want to believe in God but they want their acknowledgement to the the end of it, and please could not interfere with their lives that much.  The general person who rejects Jesus usually can point to a bad example or two in the Christian circles who misrepresented Him to them.  Well, so what?  All of us have met so called Christians who give us either a shine on or a black eye.  Where do we think sin is gonna’ raise its ugly head the most to defeat Jesus?  Right in the company of believers in order to discourage them.

I will give you what I believe to be the best argument against all arguments against Jesus:  A changed life and attitude.

No one I have ever seen who truly practices the teachings of Jesus, connects with Him on a daily basis, makes themselves vulnerable to others of like mind, remains unhappy or discontent.  In fact, those who follow Jesus intimately have some of the worst trouble I’ve ever seen but they remain solid and joyous overall.  They never claim to be perfect or faultless but there grows in them a way of thinking and being which cannot be refuted.  Once a person connects with eternity, the temporary holds no real threat or priority which can disturb their peace.  The more people trust what we call “truth” in Christ the more they grow to be peaceful in mind and body.

I’ve never seen healthier minded people nor more simply happy contented humans than those who fall into the arms and protection of Jesus’ word.

The man above realized his mistake, took Jesus at His word and headed home to find his son well again.  This quiet miracle saved his life and the life of his whole family.  It also taught him not to look for the sensational.  The woman at the well learned her bitterness would only be overcome by the Lord who loved her.  She became a woman of standing because of Jesus.  Her status in the community changed, as did her lifestyle too, I dare say.  No one remains the same where Jesus really enters the picture as more than just a historical or religious figure.  When we become intimately acquainted with the Lord of all creation, everything shifts.  Our whole world takes on a whole new meaning and lasting purpose.