Worth The Cost?

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Recently, Edvard Munch’s pastel, “The Scream” sold at auction for just under $120 million.  This leaves many inthe art and business world alike asking, “Is it worth it?”  The consensus seems to be no.  For art critics, there are far more memorable works.  None would place the Scream at the top of the list, which is where it is if price is the qualification.  Art critics claim that the Scream is faddish and not likely to maintain its popularity over time.  Investors point out that the chance of a good return on such a high  investment is very slim.  That is the real deciding factor here.  $120 million has been paid, and to answer the question of worth is a matter of the benefit or return that will come on that investment.  In other words, you pay if the benefit is greater than the cost.

Throughout the book of Luke, we are told of the high cost of following Jesus.  At the end of chapter 9, we learn of three men that wanted to follow Jesus only to learn that the cost was too high.  You may very well be surprised at the cost and in light of it have to ask, “is it worth it?”

The Story

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58, NKJV)

This man makes a big claim, to follow Jesus wherever He goes.  This is like us saying, “I surrender my life to Jesus,” or “I have died and now live in Him.”  This man gets a surprising response, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (58)  That is, there is no promise of earthly wealth or comfort.  We tend to make big claims as well, but would we make them if we knew the cost may be our comfort?  Is it worth it?

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60, NKJV)

This man is willing to follow Jesus, but has something else to attend to first.  His father is probably not lying dead in the house waiting to be buried.  In those days, it was common for a man to work for his father then inherit everything when his father passed away.  What the man is saying is let me get things squared away.  Let me get my finances in order.  I just need to work enough so I can serve God.  (sound familiar?  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this, and even said it myself)

The response:  Let the dead bury the dead.  “You go and preach the Kingdom of God.” (60)  In other words, your gospel ministry is the top priority.  So, the decision for this man is, do I trust Jesus enough?  Following Jesus requires that level of trust.

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62, NKJV)

This man says, “I will follow, but…”  There is always something else that we think demands our attention.  For this man it is family.  But for others it could be anything.  Any goal, work; anything that we say, “I would do anything for Jesus, if it wasn’t for…”

The response, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (62)  You cannot be focused on your Gospel ministry and something else.  When someone looks back with a plow, the plow goes off track.  Looking back does nothing for the work they look towards and it spoils the work of the plow.  Putting the hand to the plow and looking back benefits nothing!  If you think you can both follow Jesus and take care of all those other things you are sadly mistaken.  You will probably spoil both.

Where are we in this story?

To many of us, these statements make complete sense.  Why shouldn’t we have comfort?  Why shouldn’t we get things squared away first?  Why shouldn’t we be able to balance Jesus with other important things in our lives?  Yet, Jesus says that the cost of following Him is all these things.

We struggle to grasp that, so instead we substitute cheap religion.  We invest a little time, a little money, avoid a few things in our lives, say a little prayer and call that following Jesus.  Let us be clear:  Jesus set the cost much, much higher.

We must identify this cost and be honest about it.  What comforts can we not do with out?  Is it our standard of living, our security, or our health?  What things do we need to take care of first?  Are we waiting for kids to be grown and out of the house.  Are we waiting to retire?  Are we trying to get things paid off?  Finish this sentence:  I would follow Jesus now, but…”

There is your cost.  Now you must ask, is it worth it?

Another Look At The Story

The cost of following Jesus is everything, but the return is more than you can imagine.  Some will say the cost is too high.  Some will say that this isn’t the cost.  They will settle for cheap religion where the return is just as cheap.  Others will truly surrender all for Jesus only to find that he really does give more than we could possibly imagine both here and in the here after. Luke doesn’t tell us what happened to these men, but we know what happened to some others.  Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8)

Is it worth it?  Yes.  Will you count all as loss?


This is Jesus; Hear Him!

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Have you ever said the wrong thing?  Several years ago, I was on a mission trip to El Salvador.  We were touring a region of the country visiting with several local churches.  One day, we visited the pastor of a church and saw his home.  We saw the fruit trees, the garden, and a few chickens.  Three chickens to be exact.  We left to tour the town with an invitation to return for dinner.

When we returned, we all sat outside and had a wonderful, Salvadoran meal of chicken, soup, tortillas, and some fruit.  We ate this mean in the pastor’s yard surrounded by the fruit trees and a couple of chickens.  That’s two chickens.

As we ate, one member of our group said, “I didn’t see a grocery store in the village, I wonder where they went to buy this chicken?”  She then began to prod the translators to as our hosts where they went to buy the chicken for the meal.  Everyone sat quietly, stifling smiles.  Our team member was a little embarrassed to learn that the family did not purchase the chicken.  They butchered their own that afternoon.

We have probably all been in that situation.  We blurt something out without thinking, only to be embarrassed when we do.  It happens.  It happened to the apostle Peter quite a bit and in one case, shows us a little about losing our focus.

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)

Some have said that what happened at that moment was one of the most significant moments in history.  It is as though we have come to the intersection of Heaven and Earth.  There, it was possible to see Jesus in His glory, as we might see Him in Heaven.  Peter would later use this incident as proof that he was not just following a fable, but that Jesus was truly God.  It was here that some realities about who Jesus is became clear.

Seeing Jesus in His glory proved to Peter that Jesus is not just human, but God as well.  He is fully God and fully human.  Further, this moment proved the eternal nature of Jesus.  Jesus often talked of Moses and others from the Old Testament as though He knew them personally.  He claimed that Moses knew of His coming.  Seeing Jesus in His glory at this moment showed that eternal reality.  There He was, speaking with Moses and Elijah in the Heavenly realm.  Finally, as Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah about his coming death in Jerusalem, we realize that His death was a part of the plan; a part of the purpose of Christ.  So, it is at this intersection of Heaven and Earth that we see the humanity and deity of Jesus, the fact that He exists eternally, and that His death was a part of His messianic purpose.

Of course, those things might not have been obvious the exact moment Peter saw them.

32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 33 Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. (Luke 9:32-33)

Peter, who has been napping, suddenly wakes up and does what Peter does best:  he says the wrong thing.  He commits a faux pas; a big one.  He suggests worship for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  This is a mistake that is made throughout history.  He wants to worship what seems good, but that is idolatry.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 36 When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36)

Now, Peter, James, and John stand in the presence of God and get one instruction:  Jesus is the Son: Hear Him!

Make no mistake, what is being said here is that Jesus is set apart from all others.  He is not a creation of the father as you and I are, but rather He is the Son.  He is unique.  There is nothing like Him.  He is not just a teacher or a good example.  He is not just a prophet.  He is the Son of God and as such, we are to follow Him.

Now let us look at this from Peter’s perspective.  Consider ourselves in his place.  Luke seems to make and excuse for him.  He was asleep.  He had just awoke (note: he was awake, so he really is without excuse) and saw something he did not understand.  We have all been there.  We wake up from deep sleep and have to take a moment to know what is going on.

As I read this, I think this explains a lot of our problems as modern Christians.  We are lazy in our walk and spend most of our time napping.  Think of it this way: We taken in much more than we give out.  Just listen to how we talk about worship:  “I didn’t get anything out of that!” “I don’t like that song, I do like that song” “I don’t like that preacher.”  We make everything about ourselves and what we get.  We gorge ourselves spiritually.

Think back to Thanksgiving.  You ate and ate and ate.  You took in and took in until what?  You fell into a turkey coma.  That is what happens to us as Christians.  We take in and take in.   We stuff ourselves and fall into spiritual comas.  Then something happens.  The Spirit speaks.  God moves and suddenly we wake up and miss the point.  Instead we desire the event and we miss the point completely.

Sure, we can go into some advice about staying awake, but the most important thing to note here is the words of the Father:  “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35)  It is as though God is telling us to ignore everything else.  Here is Jesus, follow Him!  Nothing else is good enough.  Nothing is close enough.  Jesus is it!  Listen to Him!

Ultimately, Christian, you must focus on Christ alone.  Several years ago, a popular movement swept through Christianity called “WWJD:  What would Jesus do?”  It was an interesting question and a very weak movement.  It was weak because people became more interested in saying “What would Jesus do” than they did in actually following Jesus.  At some point, we must realize that Jesus is it and follow Him!

In Surveying the New Testament, I have learned that the largest collection of the words of Jesus is found in the book of Matthew.  Matthew wrote five sections of discourse; teachings of Jesus.  I want to challenge you this week to set aside some time to read those five sections.  They are:  Matthew 5-7, Matthew 10, Matthew 13, Matthew 18-20, and Matthew 24-25.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Let us hear Him!

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

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Some years ago, USA Today ran a story of a woman who had just attended a big evangelism crusade.  At the end of the crusade, she went forward just like many others,prayed a prayer, and accepted Jesus into her heart.  She was told that she was saved and she should never doubt that she was saved.  Later, a reporter asked her, “what does it mean to accept Jesus into your heart?”  “I don’t know,” she replied, “But I sure feel good about myself!”

The summer that I graduated seminary, I spent a week as a counselor at our association’s children’s camp.  During one of the services, a little boy came forward in the invitation, and I went to speak with him and pray for him.  I asked the boy why he came forward and he told me that his mother had died and he wanted to pray for her.  I prayed with the little boy and asked God to give him peace and help him through this sad time.  Then he went back to his seat.  Later that night, I was scolded by the camp director for not filling out a decision card for the boy.  I explained that the boy had not made any decision, he just needed to pray about his mom’s passing.  Later, I learned that the camp director filled out a card for the boy.  As far as I know, the boy’s pastor was informed that the boy had accepted Jesus so he baptized him a couple weeks after the camp.

As a youth pastor, I once had a youth group in which every teenager told me they had been saved.  Not a single one could tell me what that meant.

I can go on and on with similar stories.  It seems that people in church tend to make religious statements (like being baptized or accepting Jesus in their heart) without understanding those statements.  Our words seem almost meaningless when we say Jesus is Lord because we rarely stop to consider what that means.

 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ Luke 9:18

Imagine it is early in the morning.  Jesus has been up for a while, spending time in prayer.  As his discipled get up and break camp, they begin to gather around him.  It is one of those moments that it is just them and Jesus.  The crowds haven’t found them yet today.  These are times when Jesus would probably answer their questions and ask them questions designed to get them to think and wonder and learn.

So He asks, “What are the crowds saying about me?  Who do they say that I am?”

So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” Luke 9:19

Apparently the crowds have a lot of opinions as to who Jesus is.  Some think He is John the Baptist.  That seems odd, since Jesus and John the Baptist had been in the same place at the same time once, but we need to see this from the crowd point of view.  John the Baptist had gone from something of an enigma to a local hero on a legendary scale.  John had preached that the Messiah was coming.  John had seemed like a prophet; the kind that had not been around for about 500 years.  Then, John had done something crowds tend to love: He openly criticized an unpopular politician.  Of course, in doing so, he got himself beheaded, but you can imagine how that made the crowds think about him.

It seems a lot of people were enjoying the idea that maybe such a great prophet had come back.  Herod couldn’t keep him down.  For those looking for political salvation, this would be a great story.

Not everyone was into that story though.  Some thought that Jesus was such a great prophet He just might be Elijah.  Now, Elijah (or a prophet like him) was said to come back before the Messiah.  So some think that maybe the ministry of Jesus is letting them know that salvation is just ahead.

Some are not willing to commit.  They think Jesus is a great prophet, like the great prophets we read about in the Old Testament, but not much more than that.

It is interesting to think about what everyone else thinks, but Jesus has a much more important question.

He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Luke 9:20a

Who do you say I am?  Now the question is not just guessing about the crowds, now it is personal.  Not only is it personal, but unlike when you are just in a group of people making guesses, this time there is a right answer and wrong answers.

Who is Jesus?  The disciples probably got very quiet.  You know those tricks you used in school when you tried to make sure the teacher did not see you?  I wonder if the disciples tried a few.  He could be one of these great prophets, but He claims to be more.  He could be making the way for the messiah, but He claims to be the Messiah.  Who is He?

Then Peter has an answer!

“Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:20b

You are the Christ!”  That means Messiah.  Peter is saying, “you are the one!”  This is a bold move of Peter.  Do not think that this is a guess based on everything that Jesus had done.  Jews believed that the Messiah was going to redeem them; save them.  It was safest to wait until this one in process before you decided someone might be the messiah.  Peter very definitively says that Jesus is the Christ!

And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one,  Luke 9:21

Just when Peter gets the right answer, Jesus tells them to keep quiet.  That strikes us as odd.  It seems that when you learn something as monumental as this, you want to make it known.  Yet, Jesus tells them not to say anything about it.  Why?  There are many theories as to why, but one I consider is that people did not understand what the Messiah was to do.  Many expected a Moses who would lead them out of bandage, or a Joshua who would reclaim their land, or a David who would establish them as a great nation.  However, the Messiah had to do something completely different.

saying, “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 the third day.’ Luke 9:22

The Messiah had to suffer.  The Messiah had to be rejected.  The Messiah had to die.  The Messiah had to be raised again on the third day.  To say that Jesus is the Christ, would mean to accept these things.

Can you imagine being in this conversation.  I don’t mean in the crowd with the thousands listening to Jesus teaching.  Can you imagine being in that small group, seated around Him as he begins to ask you questions?

And He asks, “who do people say I am?”  Well, people say a lot of things.  Some think Jesus was a great teacher.  Some think He was inspired by God.  Some think He showed a great example with His life.  Some think He is nothing more than a fairy tale.

Then Jesus asks, “Who do YOU say that I am?”  Suddenly, the room gets very quiet.  Apparently Jesus didn’t learn the Sunday School teacher rule that if you call on someone it makes them uncomfortable.  We wonder, what is the right answer?  Suddenly someone get’s it.

“You’re the messiah!  You are the Christ!  You are the son of God!  You are the one that will save us all!”  Hey!  That is it!  That is the right answer!  We all nod in agreement, maybe even say a few ‘amens.’

But then, we have to get quiet again.  “Do not say anything” because there is something you need to know.  If you think Jesus is the Christ then you need to understand that along with that comes suffering, rejection.  It may cost your life, and He will be all you can hope for.  It is one thing to say that Jesus is the Christ or that Jesus is Lord or that you believe in Jesus.  It is another to follow Jesus even at the expense of your own life and say your only hope is Him.

When you declare Jesus as Lord, you are placing your comfort, your reputation, your life, and your hope on Him. That is the choice before us.  We have watered this down because it seemed impossible to accept.  After all, if I have to choose between two things and one of those will mean my life, I don’t make that choice.  When Peter made this statement, other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus said that Peter knew that only because the Holy Spirit told Him.  That is why we should never think of this as an impossible choice.

When the Holy Spirit reveals to you who Jesus is; when you see His love, His greatness, His truth; when you see that your sins were paid at the cross then you realize that there is nothing worth having that could keep you away.  Then when someone says, “but you might suffer,” you say, “ok.”  When you someone says, “but people will not accept you,” you say, “I only care if Jesus accepts me.”  When someone says, “this will mean your life.” You say, “I only want a life with Jesus.”  That is what it means to have your hope in Him.

So today, seek Him.  Ask Him to reveal Himself and when you see Jesus for who He really is, you will say “He is the Christ!” and follow Him with everything you have.

He Is Alive; Believe!

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Today, it is easy to go through the motions of church and Easter.  But let us imagine what it was like that first morning.  There were plenty of things to be done, but everything was turned upside down by one event.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (John 20:1)

It was the first day of the week, and it was time to mourn.  Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows how this would feel.  There was that initial shock and sadness at the time of death, but now a few days later, it is time to mourn.  They were going to prepare the body and mourn.

In order to mourn properly, they needed things to go as planned.  Their main concern was how they would get that big heavy stone moved from the tomb.  However, when they arrive the notice two things.  The stone is already moved, and the body is not there.  Jesus was not in the tomb

This throws everything off.  Now they will have to find the body before they can get on with the process of mourning.

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”(John 20:2)

The women go to get Simon.  They needed to tell the others that something was wrong.  No one knows where the body is.  We do not know what Peter was thinking.  Did he remember that Jesus had promised to raise from the grave?  He may have remembered this and it probably terrified him.  Peter had last seen Jesus as he was telling everyone that he did not know Him.  Now, if it were true that he could rise from the dead, what will that mean for Peter?

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (John 20:3-4)

So Peter runs.  John runs too, and makes a point to tell us that he outran Peter.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. (John 20:6-8)

They go in the tomb.  That’s when they see what is going on.  The body is not there, for sure, but what is there is startling.  The grave clothes are wrapped neatly in its place.  This isn’t the work of someone moving the body.  They would have taken the body still wrapped up.  This is not the work of a grave robber.  Anyone trying to steal the body (as hard as that would be) would not have taken the time to fold the clothes.  It becomes clear:  Jesus is alive.  They see this before them and believe.

For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:9)

Scripture teaches that Jesus must rise from the grave. They did not understand everything yet, but they knew Jesus was alive.  They knew this would change everything.  They would later understand that this was always part of the plan for God’s glory, but now, they just knew that Jesus was alive and that changed everything.

Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. (John 20:10)

They didn’t stay at the empty tomb.  They had to return to their lives, but their lives were never the same again.  No one could have imagined what lay ahead.

Just like Mary, John, and Peter, we have our own expectations.  Many of the concepts of this story have become just an expression for a holiday.  We approach Jesus as though He was just an idea in our head, a wild hope for something else.  When we really take time to consider the death and resurrection of Christ, we react with confusion, some with fear, but face to face with a risen Lord, the reaction is belief.

Since Jesus is alive, believe!  When you hear of resurrection, you may be confused.  When you think of death and meeting Jesus, you may be afraid.  Yet, when you see the reality of a risen Lord, you will believe.  Today, you can go through the motions of celebrating Easter.  You can do the church thing, you can visit family.  And tomorrow you can be the same.  Or, you can come to terms with the fact that Jesus is alive and never be the same again.  See your risen Lord and believe!

It Can’t Be Done!

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I recently heard a pastor talk about his golden retriever.  It is a great breed with a glorious reputation.  The golden retriever is bred to wait by a winter river; to leap into the icy waters and catch game to bring back to its owners.  Now this pastor’s dog never did any such thing.  The instincts were there, however, and each day the dog would go off in the woods and come back with a box turtle.  The pastor said it was always so proud of what it caught, that they didn’t want to tell the poor dog that there is nothing special at all about catching a box turtle.

I begin to think about that.  As a Christian, I meant for great things; miraculous thing; things that will bring glory to the One True God.  Yet, in much of my life I am satisdied doing what is most comfortable; what is easy.  I find my niche and enjoy myself.  There are times when I step out on faith and it is those times where I find myself amazed at the Lord.  It is those times where I feel like Isaiah as he stood in God’s throne room.  Still, when called to step out on a limb, I am likey to worry and say, “I can’t do that!”

10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11)

The twelve returns from being sent out.  They have been healing and casting out demons.  They are amazed at everything they have been able to do.  Jesus takes them aside to deal with them.  This is a normal part of the Christian life.  There are times when we must be out on mission, but we must also regroup.  Jesus would often spend time alone in prayer.  Other times, he would gather just his immediate followers to minister to them and fellowship with them.  Still, other times he would minister to the masses.

As Jesus gathers with His followers, the masses come.  So He begins to teach and to heal.

12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” (Luke 9:12)

The crowds are there and the day is getting long.  A problem presents itself.  There is no food around.  If anyone is going to eat today, they will need to leave and go into the towns.  The idea is simple, let them go and get what they need.  They can always come back later.  However, if they remain, they will probably expect to be provided with some food.  The disciples see the problem and bring a solution:  send them away.

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. (Luke 9:13-14a)

Jesus challenges them with the impossible:  “You give them something to eat”

What?  Now this is crazy.  There are more than 5000 people here.  How is it that Jesus would expect the disciples to feed them.  Forget for a moment that it cannot be done.  Is it even fair that Jesus would expect this?  After all, wasn’t this supposed to be the disciples time to refresh and renew themselves?  This should be a rest for them, and now Jesus is telling them to feed 5000 people.

They point out the obvious.  They have no more than two loaves and two fishes.  That will not feed the crowd.  They would have to go buy food, which for 5000 people would be pretty expensive.  In other words.  This is not possible.  It cannot be done.  The disciples are saying, we cannot do this!  You ask too much!  This is not my job!

But the fact is, Jesus called his followers to do the impossible.

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 So they all ate and were filled (Luke 9:14b-17a)

Jesus is unfazed by their objections.  He offers no argument, He just continues to tell them what to do.  He acts as though their abilities are not even a factor.  He tells them to prepare the people to eat.  What an interesting moment that must have been.  The people are hungry.  The disciples have no food. Yet, now they have to sit the people down to get ready to feed them.

Then, much to everyone’s surprise, there is food.  Jesus blesses the meal and the disciples begin to pass it around.  There is enough for everyone to eat until they are full.

Jesus commanded his disciples to distribute.  He multiplied the food.

and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. (Luke 9:17b)

Twelve baskets are left over.  In other words, the disciples finish with far more than they started with.  They will not again be able to say, “we only have…”  It always works that way.  When you step out beyond your ability and act in faith, your faith is increased.

Imagine being one of the disciples.  You have a small lunch.  There are 5000 people.  The problem is simple:  There is not enough food to go around.  It is impossible to feed all of these people.  How can it be done?  Well, you can send the people home.  After all, who says you have to feed everyone, right?  Or, maybe, arrangements could be made; food could be purchased.  Then, maybe, you could feed everyone.  This is really the only way that’s going to work.

And we do the same today.  We look out at our city, our country, and our world and we see that many people need to hear the Gospel and feel the love of Christ.  The problem is simple:  you are not the person to do that!  We come up with the same arguments.  We think, its not my responsibility.  We think, maybe something could be done, but as it is, no it is impossible.

Yet, then Jesus says to do it.  When he asked the disciples to feed the people, He did not even consider what they could or could not do.  He just said, “give them something to eat.”  When He told all of his followers to Go and tell; to make disciples of all nations, he did not consider your ability either.

Thus, we struggle with the fact that Jesus seems to call us to do something that we are unable to do.

Jesus will call you beyond your abilities but well within His.  We do not find in the Bible, men and women of faith doing normal things.  We find them doing great things.  We do not look through history and see people that turned the world upside down for the Gospel by doing the same ordinary things that they always did.  Some will confuse faith and foolishness.  They will say it is foolish to do something you know you can’t do.  They are right.  But it is not foolish to follow the Lord into what we know He can do.

What is is that Jesus is calling you to that you know is beyond anything you can do?  Perhaps it is that first step of faith in beginning that relationship. Perhaps it is making your decision public.  Perhaps you have been living a safe Christian life, and you know you are called to much larger things.  You may be saying, “I can’t do that.”  You are right.  But Jesus can do whatever He calls you to do; and that is what counts.

Who Are You Seeking?

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I was once watching a show called Undercover Boss.  The point of the show was that the CEO of a large company would spend a week working entry level jobs within the company without anyone knowing who he was.  Of course this set up for some very funny moments.  For example, one CEO was fired on his first day and told that he just couldn’t cut it in that business.  Many times, you almost felt embarrassed for the people.  They would say things about the corporate office and you just knew that at the end of the show they would find out who they were talking to.  At some point, they would realize that this was not just some new hire, this was the boss; this was their boss’ boss’ boss…or even higher they were talking down to.

I wonder if we aren’t in the same position sometimes.  We talk a lot about Jesus.  We talk about Him in pithy little comments on facebook.  We talk about him with one another.  We toss around His name (maybe even as a swear word).  We come to church and use His name as a half hearted answer.  What I wonder, is do we really understand who He is or do we get confused about who it is we are dealing with?

Herod Antipas (or Herod the Tetrarch) was the third son of Herod the Great and not his father’s first choice as heir.  Upon the death of Herod the Great, Ceaser Augustus divided the kingdom into three areas and put one of Herod’s sons over each.  The son over Judea died before the time of this text and was replaced with a Roman governor.  At times, Herod Antipas was a hero for the Jews.  For example when  Pilate first came to Rome, there was an uproar over the shield that were hung in Jerusalem.  They were idolatrous to the Jews and it was Herod Antipas that came to the rescue and had them removed.  Other times, Herod was not well received at all by the Jews.  First, he built his city of Tiberius over a cemetery making it unclean.  He also married his brother’s wife.  That brought the attention of John the Baptist who preached against it.  Consequently, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him (Luke 9:7a)

  What had he heard?

It was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. (Luke 9:7c-8)

Herod is no doubt, hearing all kinds of things that Jesus is saying and doing.

And so, “and he was perplexed” (Luke 9:7b)  He is confused.  He even says “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” (Luke 9:9a)  He is perplexed; he is puzzled.  Who is this man?  Is he a problem he cannot silence?  Is he a prophet to lead the people?  The reality of Jesus has always troubled people.  He wonders who Jesus is, because more than anything He wonders what Jesus will mean to Him.

Herod decides he must see Jesus. “So he sought to see Him.” (Luke 9:9b)  Herod did finally get to see Jesus during His trial.

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. (Luke 23:8)

Apparently, Herod simply wanted to see Jesus do a miracle; a trick.  He wanted to be entertained.  Throughout history, men have sought Jesus only to see what Jesus could do for them.

And what happens when Herod finally does get to see Jesus?

“Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. 11 Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.”  (Luke 23:9-11)

Jesus does not do a miracle, He does not offer proof of who He is, in fact, Jesus does not even speak to Herod.  Why?  We do not know for sure, but we know this:  Jesus does not owe anyone an explanation for Himself.

It is easy to condemn Herod, here.  It seems he only expected Jesus to do a trick.  We look at that and say, “how foolish!”  Did he know who it was he was seeking?  Did he know who it was that was brought in to him?  Yet, Herod is no different here than most people.

We have all heard many things about Jesus.  Some have heard all the stories in the Bible.  We have heard it said that He was God incarnate, that He was God’s only begotten son; that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, showed power and authority over the natural and the supernatural world, died on a cross for our sins, and rose again conquering death.  And we get curious and wonder, what will he do for me?

We face this same dilemma.  We wonder, “who is this?” and we eagerly wait to see how He will perform for us.  Some protest.  They say, no, I just want to see something so that I can believe.  Who would you believe in?  Who is it you are seeking?  Are you seeking a cosmic servant; someone who will perform for you and grant you wishes?  Are you seeking the Lord of all creation?

You must understand that Jesus does not exist for us, but we exist for Him.  I know that many will say, “wait, did not Jesus humble Himself to serve us?”  Yes, but that is what is absolutely amazing!  There is no big deal at all to some sort of cosmic butler serving me. Yet the idea that the creator of all things would stoop down for me…that is incredible!

Sadly, many never grasp that amazing part.  That is why worship seems empty and why we confuse a worship service for entertainment.  If you struggle with the idea of becoming a Christian or if your Christian walk has become dry, it may be that you aren’t grasping what is so amazing.

Yes, you have heard some wonderful things about Jesus.  Yes, you may desire to see these things for yourself and to meet Him and get to the bottom of what this is all about.  Now imagine, that there is no question of “Who is this.”  Rather, the one you want to know more about; the one that you are seeking is the Lord.  You seek nothing less than the one true God who created you, who loves you, who gave Himself for you.  When you realize who it is that you are really seeking, you are blown away by His love.  Worship is no chore, and a life for Him is not dry.  You must understand who He is.

Do Not Fear, Believe

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ImageI recently read the book and then watched the movie, Moneyball.  Its the true story of how the poorest team in baseball managed to have the winningest record in baseball including a 20 game winning streak.  We love stories like that.  We love to see the underdog prove everyone wrong.  We love to see all of our doubts shattered so that we can truly believe that things happen beyond everything we can know.

Many times, we hope for that when we read the Gospels.  We read over and over again accounts of Jesus having power and authority over the natural world, the supernatural world; over everything.  It seems too good to be true.  We want it to be true, but it goes against what we know.  It goes against our common sense.

Can Jesus really give me peace?  Does he really have the power to conquer anything that threatens me?  Can He really heal?  Can He really raise the dead?  Many can follow Jesus as a teacher, a role model, even a religious figure, but truly believing in Him is difficult.

40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. 43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any,”  (Luke 8:40-43)

When Jesus returns, a crowd is waiting for him.  But in this crowd, there are two people.  One is Jarius.  He is a ruler at the local synagogue.  Jarius has a daughter who is sick and dying.  Jarius begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his daughter.  Jesus went when the man asked him to come.

The other person in the crowd is a little woman who has been sick for twelve years.  She has spent her life savings on doctors, but no one has ever been able to help.  This woman believes that if she can so much as just touch the edge of Jesus’ clothes, then she will be healed.

44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.“(Luke 8:44)

Since this woman had this particular sickness, she would have been considered unclean.  For twelve years, she has had to live outside of Jewish society.  She has not been welcome at the temple.  She has not been welcome in social and religious gatherings.  She probably thinks she has absolutely no business speaking to a great rabbi, and if He really were the Messiah, He would not have any business with her.  Yet, she hopes that if she can just touch the edge of his clothes, maybe she will be healed.

She pushes her way through the crowd, and reaches out just to touch, and she does.  Suddenly, she is healed

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him[f] said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” 47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”” (Luke 8:45-48)

She is healed, but at that moment, Jesus stops and asks, “Who touched me?”  What a question.  Everyone is confused, because the crowd has been pushing and shoving and everyone has touched Him.  Jesus knows every touch in a crowd.  He knows when someone is reaching out to Him.  This woman knows that He is talking about her.  She must be terrified.  She has been found out!  She gets on the ground in front of Him.  She knows this was not the proper way to seek the Messiah but it worked.  She explains what happened.  He doesn’t condemn her.  He doesn’t reject her.  He calls her “daughter” as though she belonged to Him and tells her that her faith has made her well.  Jesus offers healing, peace, and a place as one of His own

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.”

50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl..” (Luke 8:49-51)

Suddenly, the tone changes.  Yes this woman has been healed, but they took too long.  They didn’t get to the little girl in time and word comes that she is dead.  Yet, still, Jesus says to believe that she will be well.  Jesus said to believe instead of fear.

52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. ” (Luke 8:52-55)

So they go to the house.  The crowd has to stay behind as only a few go in.  Everyone is already mourning, as is common when someone dies.  Jesus tells everyone not to cry because she is only sleeping.  Everyone laughs at this.  That’s crazy!  But Jesus goes to the child, tells her to arise, and she does.  Yes, Jesus can give life to the dead.

56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.” (Luke 8:56)

In a sharp contrast to “Go and peace” to the woman and “Go and tell” to the demon possessed man, Jesus tells the amazed parents, “Don’t tell anyone.”  Jesus doesn’t send the one’s that don’t have faith.

There were many reactions in this story to Jesus and his ability to heal.  One woman believed completely and received healing, peace, and a place as one of His own.  Jarius reacts with half-hearted belief.  Jesus may be able to heal the sick, but raise the dead?  Even when it happens before his eyes, he can hardly believe it.  Still others did not believe at all.  When Jesus says the girl is not really dead, the crowd of people laugh in disbelief.  The fact is that Jesus is willing and able to do what He says he will do, but we struggle to believe.  It goes against what we think we know.  It goes against what we call common sense.  We struggle to put our faith in Jesus completely.  Like the woman, we want His healing and peace.  We want to be called “son” or “daughter.”  Like Jarius, we may even seek Him to see if he can help, but we only half heartedly think He can.  Sometimes we are like the crowd.  We think we know what really is, and the whole idea of Jesus being able to raise the dead is laughable.

You must believe that the Lord Jesus is willing and able to bring you healing and peace.  The sick woman did and she found so much more than healing.  She found peace; she found a place as one of His own.  Jarius half-heartedly believed.  He believed that maybe Jesus could help his daughter before it was too late.  To Jarius, there were limits as to what Jesus could do.  He could do great things.  He could probably help, but there were limits.  To the crowd, the idea that Jesus could raise the dead was laughable.

What if Jarius had believed like the woman.  What if those with him would have believed.  Certainly no one would have said “don’t bother.”  More would have reached out to touch Him.  More would be around Him, seeking Him in everything.

What if you believed that the Lord Jesus is willing and able to bring youhealing, peace, and make you one of His own?  We all have those limits.  We all have a line where we will follow Jesus only so far, or maybe not at all.  But if we truly believed, those lines would disappear.  Nothing would hold us back and in the end, we would be His, and we would find healing and peace.

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