Showing posts from June, 2024

The Grace of Jesus

The Grace of Christ Luke 23:33-38 “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”               While Jesus was on the cross, the Gospels record Jesus making seven statements.  Each of them was profound and revealed the love and compassion of Christ that led to His willingness to die on the cross.  His first words on the cross, perhaps, are the most surprising and serve to capture the essence of His ministry.  Having just been nailed to the cross to suffer an intense and painful death, Jesus utters His first words that provide us insight into His compassion and grace towards sinners.  To understand the depth of these words, we need to understand the injustice that was performed.  Jesus was not condemned to the cross because of any violation of the law; instead, He was condemned because of the jealousy of the religious leaders who saw His popularity as a threat to their power over the people.  Even Pilot saw through their false claims but feared

The Joy of the Father

The Joy of God Luke 15:11-32 “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one that we can easily identify with, for it speaks of the love of the father in spite of the actions of the son. Even though the son mistreated and abused his father’s generosity, the father's love remained steadfast. The story begins with a selfish son demanding his inheritance even before his father dies. But it was much more than a simple request to be given his inheritance. When the passage states, “So he divided his wealth between them” (vs 12), the implication is that the father did more than give his son a portion of his wealth; his father divided the money essential to his livelihood. Furthermore, in the Jewish society, the son's request was an unforgivable offense, for it was a public statement that he no longer wished to be associated with the family. Yet surprisingly, t

The Basis for Security

Worry and God’s infinite Knowledge Luke 12:22-32 “For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek, but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”               How do we insulate and protect ourselves from the struggles, problems, and fears of this world?   How do we ensure we have what we need to deal with tomorrow's challenges?  These are questions we struggle with daily, for we are continually confronted with our vulnerability to trials and tragedies.  In verses 13-21, Christ denounces the dangers of greed.  However, what drives greed?  What causes us to have an insatiable desire to accumulate more wealth?  Why do we always strive for more money and possessions when we have more than we already need?  Jesus confronts us with this question as He tells of a parable of a rich man obsessed with gathering more treasure.  We often focus on his obsession with wealth and fail to delve deeper and ask why he was

The Value of Nothing

The Infinite Value of Nothing and the Worthlessness of Everything Luke 9:19-27 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and losses or forfeits himself.”               The conversation started innocuous enough.  Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  As we have seen previously, their answer showed their faith and confusion as they tried to understand who Jesus was.  However, in verse 22, we find a more perplexing statement.  Jesus warned them that “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”  This statement doesn’t seem to fit.  How could the one who is the Son of God, the one who owns and sustains the whole universe, the one before whom the angels bow down in humble obedience, suffer and die at the hands of mere humans?  Why would Jesus allow himself to endure such humiliation?  The answer is even more confusing than His: "Who am I?”              

The Majestic King

The Coming Return Mark 13:24-37 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” When Christ first came, he came as a humble servant. We know the story of Christmas well. The story of the King of Kings being born in a manger to a poor family. At His first advent, it was lowly shepherds to whom the message of the angels was given, a message of peace and salvation. A star appeared in the east to guide wise men from the east in search of Christ. It is a story that we identify with. A humble beginning and the story of the one who possesses all power yet identifies with the lowest of society. It resonates with us because it brings Jesus into our world and our level. However, there is a subtle danger that we leave Jesus in the manger. In the manger, Jesus is one with us and part of us; He is one that we can manage and control. In the Gospels, Jesus is safe, one who eats with sinners and loves children.  When we see the description of Christ’s return, we are pr

Who is Jesus

Who is Jesus Mark 9:1-13 “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” Who is Jesus? This is perhaps the most fundamental question of all religions and life itself. In many religions, Jesus is considered to be a great spiritual teacher, even a prophet. One who is from God and instructs us about God. In Islam, Jesus is regarded as one of the great prophets of God, but he is not God himself who comes in the flesh. The Bahai regard Jesus to be one of the many individuals who reflect the attributes of the divine into the human world. Other religions, such as Buddhism, reject the idea that Jesus is God. Even among those identifying themselves as Christian, there are those who see Jesus only as one who comes as a role model who is to be imitated.  As the disciples walked with Jesus, listened to his teaching, and saw his miracles, they also wrestled with the question. They knew he was the Messiah, the appointed one of God, but they struggled to comprehend who he was fully. In the previous verses,

The Power of Christ

The Power Over Death Mark 5:21-43 “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”               Jairus was as desperate as a father could be.  His young daughter (age 12) was facing a terminal illness.  What the illness was, we do not know. What we do know is that she was on the brink of death, and her father was desperate.  Jairus was a leader in the local synagogue, which functioned much like a small church.  While the Temple was the focal point of Jewish worship, local synagogues were places where people would receive instruction and teaching from the Old Testament law. Jairus was one of the individuals who served in the local synagogue.  He was part of the system that was opposing Jesus and saw Jesus as a false prophet.  However, his desperation and concern for his daughter caused him to overcome any reservations he might have had regarding Jesus.  The one thing he knew was that his daughter was dying, and Jesus was able to perform miracles.  Consequently, he came to Jesus with his de

Scandalous Grace

Scandalous Grace Mark 2:14-17 “And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The religious leaders were shocked and offended.  Jesus was beginning to gain a large following among the ordinary people in the Galilean area but seemed uninterested in interacting with the religious elite.  This was offensive and troubling to them.  Anyone claiming to be a prophet would come first to them to obtain their approval. They were the religious leaders of the people and guardians of the requirements of the law.  Yet Jesus did not spend time interacting with them.  He continued to shun them in favor of the dregs and outcasts of society.  The more he ministered, the more they became offended.   Undoubtedly, they were both surprised and deeply troubled when Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples.  Tax collectors were more than just collectors of taxes; they were colla

The Compassion of Christ

The Compassion of Christ Mark 1:40-45 “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”               The man did the unacceptable, and Jesus did the unthinkable.  As Jesus was traveling through Galilee, a leper violated the social and legal norms by approaching Jesus.  Leprosy was a term that was used to describe a number of different skin diseases.  However, it carried with it more than just the stigma of a physical disease, it was often associated with divine punishment and could only be cured by God (Num. 12:10).  Those who had leprosy were required to “wear torn cloths, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long a she has the infection, he remains unclean.  He must live alone; he must live outside the camp” (Lev. 13:45-46).  It was not simply regarded as an incurable disease; it was a sentence of isolation and rejection. To have leprosy not only destroyed the p

Christ the Judge

Christ the Judge Matthew 25:31-46 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sin on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherds separate the sheep from the goats.”               There are two grave injustices that we find offensive.  The first is when a person has committed a horrendous crime and can go free without consequences, or a rich person, because of their wealth and position, goes unpunished when they have broken the law. The second injustice is when a person uses their position of power to mistreat others and abuse their position of injustice by wrongfully punishing people.  In both cases, we feel a deep sense of injustice and demand that the law be applied equally.              Yet, even as we demand justice on a human level, we want to embrace the idea that Christ will not judge anyone and that everyone will get to heaven regardless of what they ha

The Servant

The Servant Matthew 20:20-34 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”               The word “authority” elicits several different responses.  When we think of authority, we think of power and position. A person in authority exerts control over others. We see this viewpoint described in the Oxford Dictionary, which defines authority as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.  It is a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative sphere.”   Along with this view of power, the word also provokes fear and apprehension in those who see power and authority as abusive, as people abuse their authority for their advantage and gain. For some, those in authority are then to be feared, questioned, and even opposed.   The opposite of authority is the slave, who is dominated and controlled by others.  A slave does not have a will of his/her own but lives

The Power of Jesus

The Infinite Power of Christ Matthew 14:22-31 “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”               The story of Jesus walking on water is one that we first learn about in Sunday School, but it takes a lifetime to genuinely realize its implications. After a strenuous day of ministry, Jesus and the disciples needed a rest, so Jesus instructed the disciples to cross the sea of Galilee and wait for him while He spent time alone in prayer and conversation with His heavenly Father.  Sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., when the disciples were about midway in their crossing, the wind began to blow across the lake to the point that they were having difficulty making headway.  As the disciples were being buffeted by the wind, they suddenly saw a person walking on the water. This appearance of a person walking on the water, along with the severity of the wind, brought fear and agitation among the disciples.               Recognizing their fear, Jesus called out to try to calm their anxiety by

The God who Cares

The Providential Care of Christ Matthew 10:24-29 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”               In an age of uncertainty, fear can easily become a constant companion.  We look at world events, and we become apprehensive about the future.  Yet, the circumstances that confront us daily are even more fearful, adversely affecting us, yet we have no control over them.  We become worried about what tomorrow will bring.  We are anxious about the events that happen outside our control.  We are nervous about decisions that confront us.  A day goes by without fear passing through the mind and gripping the heart.             In verses 16-25, Jesus warned the disciples that they would face persecution and rejection because of their association with Christ.  Jesus was sending the disciples out on their first independent missionary journey.  Working in pairs, they were to go throughout Israel and proclaim the long-awaited arrival of the kingdom of Heaven.  Yet even as He g

The Compassion of Christ

The Compassion of Christ Matthew 9:32-38 ‘Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”               It is easy to become indifferent when we continually see people's suffering.  When people's hardships become normalized, we become complacent and unmoved by their struggles.  It is not that we are harsh or uncaring; it is just that in the busyness of life, we stop seeing the suffering of people around us.  Chapter 9 begins with the complacency of the religious leaders.  In 1-7, Jesus is confronted with a paralytic whose plight was a result of a sinful act that he had done.  When the scribes saw the man, they saw someone who deserved his fate because of his actions.  However, Jesus recognized that the condition of this individual was more than just physical; it was also spiritual.  While the world saw the physical problem, Christ’s understanding penetrated far deeper and saw the person's spiritual