baptism, Bible promises, called, crowds, decision, discernment, fasting, Father God, Holy Spirit, humility, Kingdom of God, transformation, Trinity, truth

Jesus’ Baptism, Entry #2

“But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 3:15

The Jordan River is quite remarkable. It stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, a distance of 156 miles. In the Bible, it is the scene of several miracles, from the OT we see Joshua who amazingly crossed it to get to the Promised Land to the baptism of Jesus by John.

Believe it or not–the water of the Jordan river is used today for the christening of some royals.

It is commonly believed that it holds significant properties that enable a king or queen to rule over their country.

The baptism of Jesus is of major significance.

I suppose the descent of the Holy Spirit, like a dove (and a voice) establishes Jesus’ future ministry. It seems that what happened there instilled in Jesus the strength for His future. We see the next event will be His temptation by Satan and it really seems that He now has the power to overcome the enemy.

We all need to be touched by God’s Spirit to overcome darkness, and often our baptism becomes the foundation of that which He ‘arranges’ this work. Jesus declared that it would “fulfill all righteousness.” That mystifies me, but it seems to connect with His humanity. He has chosen and decided to connect with people in this special way.

“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of the sinner with Savior.”

 -Max Lucado

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Celebrity Servants? #92

drsunil.com, art by Takla

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8 (context vv. 3-17)

Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, I’m like a fly on-the-wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus, and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?

Jesus made himself a slave (or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it?) Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.

But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments, and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.

He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoy the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other. He showed us a leader in action.

And isn’t making disciples all about loving someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up, when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen; and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.

Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.

There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight?

The Church was never meant to operate like this. That’s what Jesus said. Instead it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege, and the adulation? I know I can’t.

Peter was classic Peter. It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).

Jesus still washes his people. He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.

The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

 John Stott

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Pouring Out Your Oil, #88

“Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

John 12:7-8, (context vv. 1-8)

She came and poured perfumed oil on Jesus feet. She massaged it in with her hair. What she did was out of love, and maybe concern? She knew and understood. Many of us deeply understand with what she did–Mary has become a person that we identify and engage. She is doing what we would have done. (At least we hope.)

That perfume was a concentrate–it was the source for smaller vials. The oil Mary used was undiluted and not weakened in any way. It was not diminished or thinned, it was powerful stuff. What she did was an extremely costly act. Notice that it was a whole pound–and the text states that the entire house was filled with the scent.

When Jesus was being scourged and crucified, the odor of that perfume would’ve been present. That smell was still there, and most likely it sustained, and even encouraged him. Perhaps our acts of love–of sacrifice, of deep worship mean far more than we realize?

But there will always the ones who are practical.

All they see is the incredible waste. Judas had a pragmatic, reasonable and more sensible position. The other 11 felt the same. As they analyzed Mary’s actions all they could see was the terrible waste. There came a point when Judas, who controlled the finances, just had to speak:

“Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (vv. 4-5).

“He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” (v. 6).

So dear one, who was right? The other Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples also felt this way, (Matthew 26:6-13). The general consensus was that Mary was far too excessive. After all, 300 denarii was a lot of money–a denarii was a day’s wage. It was probably more money they had ever seen!

It’s interesting that Mary unbound her hair. That was anathema in Jewish culture. It was the clear evidence of an immoral woman, a prostitute. But yet she did it. Mary did not stop to calculate public reaction. She knew deep down that it was the only thing she could do for him.

What exactly is worship? What part of it do we not understand yet? Does it matter what is in our heart?

It is interesting that was immediately afterward this that Judas Iscariot left, and set up an agreement to betray Jesus.

“Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.”

C.H. Spurgeon

“Redletterstudy is a member of Faithful Bloggers

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Being Short of Stature, #86

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”

Luke 19:5-6, (context, vv. 1-9)

I see no problem with assigning this story to a Sunday school lesson. It’s imaginative, witty and seriously funny. Kids enjoy the story, especially when the teacher decides to use flannelgraphs. If the teacher is any good at all it can verge on the hilarious. I must admit I enjoy it far more than Leviticus or Numbers.

Just moments before, Jesus–who was travelling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, had just healed a blind man (Luke 18:35-43), who was wildly enthusiastic about receiving his sight–a crowd had stopped to watch and wonder. The road was a busy one to begin with, so the clog of people was definitely unusual.

Then there was Zacchaeus, “a head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.” (Luke 19:2-4, Message).

There something funny here. First–he’s so short that he looks for a way to see Jesus. That tells me that he’s a true seeker, and he’s resourceful. Second–he climbs the tree in a robe, which is a bit challenging I suppose. It does seem he’s lacking in the dignity department. But he really doesn’t care what others think of him.

For years I’ve thought about this story. I’ve come to see some things that have blessed me, and I hope they will somehow help you to climb the tree of discipleship.

There are many branches on a sycamore tree, which made it easy to climb. I would suggest something to you. I’d like to think of these as the ways we see Jesus. The different disciplines are attached to a singular trunk, perhaps that’s obvious.

Perhaps that trunk is our prayer life. It seems that each of the list below will have that in common. In all of these branches that make-up our discipleship, prayer is truly our definite beginning point. Below are the branches we can climb out on, but remember, they’re all attached to prayer:

  • Meditation
  • Fasting
  • Fellowship
  • Chastity
  • Submission/Obedience
  • Evangelism
  • Solitude
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence

Let’s be very clear. Zacchaeus climbed the tree only to see Jesus. These disciplines are not the Christian’s life. Zacc. only climbed to see Jesus; he didn’t get attached, or find a comfortable spot up there. He didn’t build a tree fort. He only used the branches to see Jesus.

Fasting, or prayer or meditation are incredibly useful. But they’re only ways that we can see him. There comes a point where we come down to be with Jesus, and have a feast with our Lord. When he calls our name, it’s time to climb down. (Luke 19:5-6).

“I wish there were more of us who did not mind being laughed at if only what we did helped us to see Jesus.”

(Maclaren’s comments)

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What About the Children? #82

 “People were bringing infants to him so that he might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: 

“Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17

There is conflict here–and we can’t ignore it. The disciples seem to see themselves as the unofficial “protecters” of Jesus. I suppose that the sheer immensity of the crowds, and Jesus’ popularity, forced them to act as go-betweens. They believed that they needed to protect Jesus by only letting certain people, with certain needs, get close to him. I believe that their motives were good and proper.

Jesus’ disciples were getting headaches. His ministry was wildly successful by this time–wherever he went massive crowds followed, if not for the teaching and healings, but at least for the spectacle. In a dull and dreary life, the Lord Jesus was their entertainment (this was before MTV and video games).

Celebs often need protection. The president of the United States has the Secret Service–they surround him, and form a barrier. Perhaps this is what the 12 saw as their duty and calling. Only certain people, those who were properly vetted, could get close enough to really meet him.

The disciples had a plan–but it meant restricting access to him. They would set up their perimeter, and only let certain people access Jesus. In theory it was wisdom, but in practice it was really difficult. But disciples would find a way–and, of course, parents would find ways to get around them.

But I’m digressing here.

The real issue here is how we enter his kingdom. Jesus was crystal clear. Only “children” get in. The simple and the unsophisticated are the only ones who are given kingdom passports. They’re the ONLY ones who can enter in–that means the proud theologian, the all together socialite, and the mature elder will only get “citizenship” if they become children again.

“The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.”

Charles Hodge

But what does this really mean? It seems to me that it most definitely ties into Nicodemus’ late night talk with Jesus, John 3, and being “born again.” In chapter 3, Jesus sits down with a sophistically religious man, and rocks his sophisticated world–

“Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (context, vv. 1-13)

We must stay simple, (K.I.S.S.) It’s the enemy who tries to pull us away from that, and into a knotty complexity, and a fairly elaborate theological correctness. But this dear reader, isn’t the way of Jesus, nor is it the way of true maturity. We can understand Nicodemus’ confusion all too well, when we try to enter God’s kingdom without the humbleness of a child.

“Not only did Jesus welcome these little human beings as members of the kingdom of God; He also extolled them as model citizens of the same, because of their capacity to trust and love.”

-Some unknown guy

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