Is A Place in The Son for Everyone (e)
Sometimes I daydream
about how it would be to go back and walk the earth with Jesus. What would
it be like to look into his eyes, see his facial expressions as he spoke,
to behold his body language or to lay your head in his bosom at the Last
Supper as John did? Yet, I realize that these things aren't important.
If you walked through a first century crowd in which Jesus was standing
there would nothing about his personal appearance that would demand our
attention. If anything the opposite was true! Isaiah said, "He grew up
before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had
no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that
we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows,
and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he
was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:2-3)
In Matthew chapter nine
we are given a view of Jesus to which no mere portrait could do justice.
It is here that we are put in touch with the heartbeat of God.
And Jesus went about
all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching
the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease
among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with
compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as
sheep having no shepherd.
What a portrait of God!
The New International Bible says that he saw the multitudes as "harassed
and helpless as sheep without a shepherd." How we view people,
the opinions we formulate concerning them and the attitudes we portray
toward them says far more about us than it does about them. These things
say more about who we are and how we live than anything does. As we behold
how Jesus sees the multitudes, we see a clear revelation of him. These
verses teach us what Jesus really saw when he looked at the multitudes.
They tell us all we need to know about Jesus.
In this chapter of Matthew
we not only see what Jesus saw in certain people, but we also see what
they saw in Jesus. We shall see that it is what we see in others that defines
"Take heart, son;
your sins are forgiven."
In Matthew 9 a huge
crowd was endeavoring to see Jesus. The amazing thing is that what each
individual saw was what each individual had made up his or her mind to
see. And it also tells us what Jesus saw in them. What Jesus saw in them
was the defining characteristic of Jesus.
Jesus stepped into
a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him
a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the
paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of
the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!"
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts
in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to
say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has
authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic,
"Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home.
When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God,
who had given such authority to men.
In Mark's account of
this story Jesus is in a house and it is so full that no one could get
in. There were other men with the paralyzed man. They took him upon the
roof and tore the roof off the house to let him down to Jesus. There is
no doubt as to what these men saw in Jesus. They saw him as one that was
willing to help those in need. Yet, the man didn't receive what he expected.
He received something far greater. Jesus said, "Take heart, son; your sins
In this story, we find
ourselves in a different world from our own. In that world it was believed
that one was deformed because of his sins or his parents sins. (John 9:1ff;
Luke 13:1-3) The Talmud said, "the sick man recovers not from his sickness
until (God) has forgiven all his sins." (Nedarim 41a) (Jack Lewis, The
Living Word Commentary, Sweet Publishing Company, Austin Texas. Page 132.)
Sick people were harassed
and rejected by religious folks. Religious people saw them as cursed by
God. You might think about what Job was suffering at the hands of his friends.
They saw his trouble as a curse from God. Sick people were made to feel
guilty for ever being born. You can only wonder at what is going on in
the man's own heart as he is brought to Jesus. No doubt the guilt and rejection
was like a thick fog hanging over his life. Jesus saw the man's deepest
need. Jesus forgave the man. I would like to think that Jesus knew that
this man was so guilt ridden that he would need some kind of proof that
he had been forgiven. So Jesus says, "Get up, take your mat and go home."
"And the man got up and went home."
More than the healing
of the man's body was the cleansing of his heart. He went home with both
a sound body and a heart at peace with God.
Too often what we see
in other people are only the demons in our own eyes! How does one person
see Jesus as the answer to all his problems, and another person see Jesus
as the problem to all his answers? What determines what each person sees?
Is it outward circumstances or a condition of the person's heart? If the
paralytic came to Jesus with the mindset of his world, that is, "the sick
man recovers not from his sickness until (God) has forgiven all his sins,"
then he came to Jesus seeing far more than the Pharisees did. He saw Jesus
as coming from God. He saw in Jesus the power of God. He came to be made
whole. What he saw was the determining factor in what he received.
Why did the Pharisees
only see Jesus as a threat? Why did they come identifying what he did with
Beelzebub, the prince of demons? Why did they come to Jesus only seeing
Ironically, the teachers
of the law began to see Jesus as having power from the prince of demons.
But this only defines them, for they can only see the demons in their own
eyes. Jesus turns their philosophical and religious thought on its head.
In their minds the man is cripple because of his sins. Jesus blows them
out of the water. Jesus forgives the man's sins and then Jesus heals the
man. He gets up and goes home. Jesus has torn their minds apart. If the
man is cripple because of his sins, then there is no greater way for Jesus
to manifest his power over sin than to forgive the man and heal him. They
should have seen Jesus as the one who could remove the paralysis of sin.
But Jesus remained the problem to all their answers.
The crowds saw
something much different. They saw God and praised his almighty
power! "And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they
were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority
to men." (Matthew 9:7-8)
"It is not the healthy
who need a doctor, but the sick."
As Jesus went on from
there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth.
"Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus
was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners"
came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they
asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and
'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, But go and learn what this means:
'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners." Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that
we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered,
"How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The
time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will
fast. "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the
patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do
men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst,
the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new
wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
The fiercest opposition
Jesus experienced did not come from the ordinary people, who either accepted
Him or ignored Him. It came from the religious leaders who saw Him as a
threat. The Pharisees were the well-respected theologians and spiritual
leaders of their day. Today the toughest opposition to Christianity still
comes from the legalism inherent in human religion, and there are plenty
of legalists in our congregations.
Eating with sinners
posed a threat to the Jews. They were afraid that they would break dietary
laws by eating idolatrous food, forbidden foods, untithed foods and blood.
The possibility of contracting ritual impurity led stricter Jews to shun
social contacts with Gentiles. (Acts 11:3; Gal. 2:12) (Jack Lewis, The
Living Word Commentary, Sweet Publishing Company, Austin Texas. Page 134-135.)
The tax collector was
an object of scorn in the first century. They were usually guilty of extortion
(Luke 3:13; 19:8), and collaboration. But this proved that Jesus extended
discipleship to those ordinarily rejected by society.
Jesus called tax collectors
and sinners. Isn't it amazing I am preaching from the book that the "sinful
tax collector" wrote?
"For I have not come
to call the righteous, but sinners."
There was an elder in
the church that was always uncomfortable with certain types of individuals
that attended church. Among those were men who came to church in blue jeans.
He would always make sure they were not called upon to lead in prayer or
serve communion. He was always uncomfortable if a man came to church without
a coat and tie. He had even been known to stand at the backdoor and ridicule
those who didn't meet his dress code. He was especially uncomfortable with
men with ponytails and rings in their ears. What really blew him out of
the water was when visitors would visit wearing a Florida tee shirt, sandals,
shorts, ponytails and rings in their ears.
He really would have
loved for the preacher to change his topic for preaching on such occasions
and tell those people how they ought to dress when they came to church.
The preacher always wondered how those people would feel if he had taken
that course of action.
A fellow walked into
the church where the above elder worshipped. He's got a pony tail, ear
ring, sandals, shorts, but he's hungry. He is fresh out of Alcoholic's
Anonymous, you see he is seeking a Higher Power. You can see the hunger
in his eyes. He hangs on every word you say. You see he is coming because
his life isn't working. He decided to stay to listen to what was being
said in spite of all the harassment and lack of leadership. Initially he
didn't feel very comfortable among all the coats and ties. But he came
anyway. He was too hungry not to. He came with his lovely wife and four
very small children.
After he became a little
more comfortable, the preacher eventually set up a Bible study; the man
and his wife were baptized. He now rotates in leading singing twice each
month. He attends men's meetings to deal with the affairs of the church
and his wife teaches children's Bible class. He is now coming on Wednesday
evening to lead singing.
The really important
part is changed. He has found a cure for his spiritual disease. It was
the Great Physician's remedy that cured him. He knew he needed a doctor.
He desperately needed the best of doctors. As you look at him you see an
enlarged heart for the Lord!!! You see Jesus came to call sinners, the
amazing thing is that he expected sinners to act like sinners. After all,
they are sinners.
I have always wondered
how doctors during the Yellow Fever epidemic went into those patients,
putting their own lives at risk, knowing full well their chances of catching
the disease themselves. If a doctor is so offended by the symptoms of a
person's disease that he will not go near the sick person, he will never
be able to extend to him the cure for the disease.
"Then John's disciples
came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your
disciples do not fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom
mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will
be taken from them; then they will fast.'" (Matthew 9:14-15)
Before you recommend
that someone fast, make sure that they are not already suffering from malnutrition.
They may be starving for mercy; it will do little good to harass the helpless.
Sick people need a doctor to treat and cure the disease. When
the Pharisees fasted they went about with sad faces. But the bridegroom
was present and there was a feast. Those who understand their sin are sad
enough. They are looking for something to feast upon; they are starving.
Jesus didn't come to
patch us up. "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse."
(Matthew 9:16) The beginning of my life touched the end of an era
where the women would gather together and make quilts. Many of the women
would make a quilt to give a child to have when they got married or for
each grandchild when they got married. Many of these quilts were made out
of scraps of material that were left over from making dresses, etc. Some
quilts were made of old worn out clothes. The women would cut the old worn
out clothing into squares or other unique shapes and sew them together
in some sort of patchwork design.
I remember one quilt
in particular that was made from many types of old scrap material. But
almost in the middle of that quilt a piece of unshrunk wool had been sewn
into the pattern along with material that had been washed and shrunk. I
could never figure out who would have sewn in that particular piece of
cloth. It looked out of place. It didn't even fit in with the overall color
scheme. When that quilt was washed, that one piece of unshrunk wool completely
distorted the whole quilt. A quilt that was originally rectangle in shape
with straight sides and square corners was anything but straight and square.
The whole quilt puckered as that one piece of wool pulled everything to
itself. That one piece of wool captured all the minds attention as you
focused on that quilt.
Jesus answered, "How
can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time
will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch
will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men
pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the
wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine
into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
Jesus came to give us
a new life. He didn't come to renovate our lives by helping us get rid
of some of our dysfunctional behavior. New wineskins are required for new
wine. Fermenting grapes give off gases that require room to expand. Once
the skin expands, it loses its elasticity. When you put new wine in old
wineskins already stretched to maximum proportions, the old wineskins burst.
Knowing God requires
keeping an open mind that is capable of discernment. It is always amazing
how inflexible we can become with such little knowledge. Some said, "A
little learning is a dangerous thing." How true!
In Matthew chapter 13
is revealed Jesus' teaching concerning what the kingdom of heaven is like.
The kingdom is like a mustard a seed, a pearl of great price, a sower sowing
seed on good ground, it is like fishermen casting a net and it is like
leaven that leavens the whole lump. But Matthew concludes Jesus' teaching
on the kingdom of heaven by saying, "Therefore every teacher of the
law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner
of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
When I was a child,
I distinctly remember cleaning out a few storage sheds as we moved from
one place to another. We would sort through the old stuff and discard what
we didn't need anymore. We didn't have much discernment back then about
what was good and bad. We threw away a lot of stuff we now call very expensive
antiques. Somewhere in the shuffle that old puckered quilt got lost, I
wish I had it today, it would make a fabulous object lesson.
Deciding what to keep
and what to get rid of is always a problem. Jesus didn't come to destroy
the Old Testament. (Matthew 5:17) In fact the first century church studied
the Old Testament as the New Testament was in the process of being revealed.
As the New Testament was being revealed they learned what to hold dear
from that old covenant and what to let go. They kept part of that old treasure
and accepted the new that was being revealed. This was essential for them
to find the kingdom of God. "Therefore every teacher of the law who
has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a
house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
Old wineskins and old
garments aren't very flexible. It takes flexibility and an open mind to
hold to the old and accept the new. The danger of an open mind is not the
open mind itself. The danger comes in discerning what to keep and what
to throw away, what is valuable and what is not, between what is important
and what is unimportant, what to bind and what to let go, what is lawful
and what is unlawful and what is negotiable and what is nonnegotiable.
Although all things are lawful, all things are not expedient.
1 Corinthians 6:12
"Everything is permissible
for me"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible
for me"-- but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 10:23
"Everything is permissible"--
but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-- but not
everything is constructive.
The Pharisees had closed
their minds and they were holding on to many of the old thing things. Much
of what they were doing was great. By refusing to let go of some unimportant
things many were prevented from receiving the new life in Christ. The inability
to discern between the old that was absolutely essential and the new that
was absolutely vital to their future led to their destruction. It is the
danger that faces every movement in every age. It is really the choice
of life and death.
The new is always threatening.
Where will it lead? Should we follow? Is this the right road? Will it end
in self-destruction? The questions stretch the powers of discernment. But
God promises wisdom. (James 1:5) It is in the process of meeting
and solving the problems that we continually maintain our identity.
We feel more secure
to just stay where we are. But there is a danger in staying where we are.
We will become brittle and hard. Exercising the powers of discernment becomes
painful to those who wish to feel secure where they are. The trouble with
becoming hard and brittle is that we will begin to harass the world in
an effort to stay where we are. We will lose sight of the needs of the
sick and hungry.
Everyone has biases
and prejudices that color his/her view of issues and events. Our biases
can become blind spots in our ability to appreciate the work that God is
leading us to do. We must always check our motives. Our resistance may
not be based on facts, but on emotions like fear, jealousy, or self- preservation.
Check your actions. Responses must be appropriate and knowledgeable, not
capricious or malicious.
"Leroy Howe, a professor
at Perkins School of Theology, admires the heart and mind of conservative
Christianity. 'The heart of conservative Christianity is a passion for
purity of living, guided by sound beliefs solidly rooted in a rich tradition.
And the mind of conservative Christianity is the faith of our Lord and
Savior, Jesus Christ.' Howe points out, however, that the faith of Christ
was a radical faith that uprooted rather than conserved the standards of
its day. Adherence to that radical faith may require some uprooting of
beliefs we hold dear." ("How to be a conservative Christian without losing
your faith" by Leroy Howe. Circuit Rider, Apr 1994, Vol 18, No 3. Pages
10-11. Via InfoSearch Database)
The Great and Small
Flock to Jesus
When the people understood
that Jesus was merciful rather than demanding they flocked to him. A ruler
came to Jesus saying, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your
hand on her, and she will live." A woman with an issue of blood came to
him saying, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." " Two blind
men followed Jesus calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" A demon
possessed man was brought to Jesus and Jesus drove the demon out. In every
instance those coming to Jesus received that for which they came. They
Jesus went through
all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he
saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and
helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples,
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the
harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
What a wonderful portrait
of Jesus Christ. Even the blind men saw him as the Son of David. Isn't
it amazing that even the blind can see what they have made up their minds
The crowd was amazed
and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."
The Pharisees said,
"It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."
When we decide to see
what Jesus saw, feel what Jesus felt and are willing to do what Jesus did,
then we will see that the "The harvest is plentiful."
We have a choice. We
can choose to harass the world because they are sinners. Or we can choose
to extend mercy in an effort to provide leadership for God's lost sheep.
It would be a great
help if we understood that as we look at people "There is a place in the
Son where there is room for everyone. There is a place where their poor
restless hearts can run."