Awaiting angels…

awaitingangelsAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)

What is it about shepherds

Photo by Sara Branstetter, April 2008. Used with permission.An angel brought an unusual message to a group of shepherds in the night, somewhere near Bethlehem.  They were watching a flock of sheep who were bedded down in a field, not in a stable or sheepcote.  A little history lesson – sheep were allowed in cultivated fields twice a year, after the fields had been harvested and after the poor of the community had gleaned the fields.  Other times they were elsewhere, either in the hilly uncultivated countryside or in the caves that doubled as stables, where feed and water troughs carved from large stones could be seen (otherwise known as mangers).

In any case, these sheep were in the fields with the shepherds watching them.  One minute they were alone in the darkness, the next minute the night sky lit up with a blast of light.  One minute there were only sheep and shepherds, the next minute an angel was standing beside them.   I don’t know about you, but I would have been terrified too and probably think the world was coming to an end.

Then the angel spoke. The first thing he said, as usual, was “fear not.”  Easier to say than to do!  He delivered his message, a lot of other angels showed up to give a loud and glorious “amen” to the message, and then they all left.

There are several points that struck me about this passage from Luke chapter 2.  One, God has a thing about shepherds.  When he plans a turning point in the history of mankind, you might just find a shepherd in there somewhere.  (Abel, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.)

Second, these shepherds knew what the Messiah coming meant.  No long theological lesson was necessary.  Shepherding might be the lowest position on the economic and social ladders of the day, but these were not ignorant men. Jews for many generations had been waiting for this message.

They weren’t foolish, either.  If the angel said the baby Messiah was somewhere in a Bethlehem feed trough – a stable/cave – wrapped up as newborns always are in swaddling clothes, then he was.  Let’s go see him for ourselves, how many chances do you get like this in a lifetime!

And so they did.  Now, the angel didn’t tell them to go visit, but the hint was pretty broad.  There may have been several babies born in the neighborhood that night but only one would be lying in a feed trough.  That made him a cinch to locate.

The third point has to do with sheep.  Bethlehem is where the sheep for the Temple were raised.  Only sheep raised in Bethlehem could be used for sacrificial animals.  The hillside sheep, the cultivated field sheep, the cave/stable sheep – these were Temple  sheep.  Sheep to be killed and offered as sacrifices for sin fed from that “manger,” the feed trough.  What an appropriate place for the baby Messiah’s first cradle.

In the creation account in Genesis 1, when were the sheep created?  On the 6th day, just just before Adam was created.  Why do you suppose that was?  Well, from what I’ve learned about sheep, they require a shepherd to survive.  Sort of like human beings.

Who was the first shepherd?  I asked that question when teaching Sunday School last week and some said Abel.  After all, Genesis says he kept sheep.  And he sacrificed one of his sheep to God.

But who did God give those sheep to in the first place, to look after? Who taught Abel how to be a shepherd?  Adam and Eve were given that responsibility.  From the very creation, God ordained shepherds.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, and Jesus, the Great Shepherd!  There’s a lot about shepherds we can learn from the scriptures.  Father God has a thing about shepherds…

Remember the donkey

DonkeysDiscouraged. Hurt. Angry at God. Disappointed. That’s how I was feeling one morning, after a lot of discouraging things had happened the day before.

And so I had a conversation with the Lord about faith (which I had been studying more about recently).

I told him that it seemed to me faith wasn’t real; that the scriptures about faith weren’t true. The things I had believed in faith when I prayed just were not happening.

I said a lot more than that, of course, but basically I was deciding as I talked that it was pointless for me to pray for anyone or anything, or even go to church any more. What was the point, if what the Bible said would happen when we prayed really DIDN’T happen? If there were no results?

Then Jesus began quietly talking back to me. “Remember the donkey,” he said. “Remember the colt.”

The colt? I began to remember. The week before Passover, on what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus told the disciples to go to a specific place, find a specific donkey and colt, and bring them back to him. (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 20, John 12.)

I visualized that, could almost see the disciples looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders with unasked questions.

What did the disciples think Jesus was up to? Why did he want a donkey? He and they walked everywhere, didn’t they? We know now why he did it, Matthew 21:5-6 says it was so the prophecies would be fulfilled. But did the disciples know that? Whether or not they knew why, they obeyed him. They went and collected the colt.

“What were the results?” the Lord asked me. That required more thinking on my part. Well, there were several levels of results…

  • Jesus got to his destination. (The Temple in Jerusalem)
  • The crowds began praising Jesus. (Shouting Hosanna)
  • The religious leaders got upset. (Seriously plotting)
  • God kept his timetable. (Crucified on Passover)

This journey on the donkey’s back, the praise from the crowd and the upset Pharisees were necessary steps to instigating the crucifixion by the right date – Passover.

Okay, I said to the Lord. So what does that mean for me, for my prayers, my desire to see you DO something when I pray? What does all that have to do with faith at all? He recapped for me what I had just been thinking:

Immediate results – arrived at destination.
Intermediate results – stirred up opposition necessary to fulfill God’s plan.
Final results – God’s plan fulfilled.

So there are short term results, mid-term results, and long term results. Obviously some answers to prayer, God’s plans, may take a really long time to arrive. But they will arrive.

Then I began to consider that faith question, again.

Faith comes to everybody, but not everybody takes it. (Faith comes by hearing, according to Romans 10:17.) Children have to be told something first, in order to have faith, i.e. trust, just as adults do. A child learning to walk, for example.

“Walk to Mama,” we say. “Come on, you can do it!” We can show him how, help him stand up and get his balance, but we can’t walk for him. The child must obey our words and do something that requires trust in the person speaking. He must take that first, perhaps wobbly step, then another.

He can obey or refuse to obey. If he obeys and experiences positive results, i.e. takes a step or two without being hurt, he acquires trust that this will work. That trust leads to another few steps, i.e. more experience in walking, and more experience becomes stronger trust. Faith that yes, he can do it. He can walk. And pretty soon, he is walking, and running.

That process began with hearing words from someone speaking to him, him trusting the one speaking, accepting those words and obeying them. The faith was actually contained in the words of the trustworthy speaker, but it wasn’t forced on the hearer. The hearer was never forced to accept the words as true or trustworthy, he had to make a choice. Choose to believe the person speaking, or not believe the person speaking. And choose, sometimes really often, to keep on believing.

“Remember the donkey,” the Lord said. That was pretty much the end of my conversation with him that morning, but I’ve been thinking more about it since.

Getting answers to some prayers – certain long term results – seems like too much hard work for many of us. Too much painful trouble. Too much stress. Too much time, too much energy, too much disappointment, too much anguish. Too much waiting.

That’s what I was thinking when that familiar voice interrupted my thoughts with a whisper: “Long term results begin with short term results.” I thought some more.

I began to think about the Olympics. About Usain Bolt winning an Olympic gold medal in running… how did that begin? Well, it began with him hearing those first words, “Go for it, you can do it, you can do it.” It began with him believing those words and accepting them as true. Stepping out to obey, to try, to gain experience. To fail sometimes but not quit. To fail sometimes, and succeed sometimes, and eventually win the gold medal.

How long did that process take? How much experience? And how much reinforcement?

Faith comes by hearing, present tense, not having heard, past tense. How many times did a parent, a coach or a team-mate say those words of encouragement to Usain Bolt, “You can do this, you can do it!” And so he did.

The first thing I did after that conversation was to apologize to the Lord, to repent and ask forgiveness for my attitude, and to ask for his help in reinforcing my faith. What I asked him for is stubborn, determined, persistent, persevering, teeth-clenching, gutsy faith. I think that’s what he wants me to have. What he wants all his children to have.

I want to “Remember the donkey” today, and every day, as many days as it takes.

And is there joy?

RejoicingJesusWars. Rumors of wars.

I was reading the Gospel of Luke and had arrived at Chapter 21.

I looked up from the page, thinking how closely today’s news lines up with those verses.

Jesus spoke those words to his disciples, warning them about the tragedy that would befall the people of Jerusalem in a few years (AD 70).

But he was also prophesying about the tragedy that was going to befall peoples of many nations in the following centuries.

The Holy Spirit’s voice interrupted my thoughts. It’s really dark out there, he said. Yes, it is, I agreed.

“Gloom, despair and agony on me?” he added. I nodded yes, recalling the old Hee Haw skit. (https://youtu.be/ZAAKPJEq1Ew)

He went on. Depression. Worry. Anxiety. Fear. Hopelessness. Agony of soul and body. There is such gross violence covering the earth.

Yes, I said, there is. This conversation was getting really negative. Where was it going? I wondered. There was a brief pause, before he added –

And is there Joy?

Joy?! I wondered. Other scripture passages began to roll through my mind.

There is joy in the presence of the angels when a sinner repents. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NIV)

Count it all joy when you face various temptations. (Temptations to be depressed, anxious, fearful, perhaps). “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)

Ask and receive answers to your prayers, that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)

A man has joy by the response of his lips. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.” (Prov. 15:23)

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

God rejoices! “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17 KJV)

Jesus rejoiced. “Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Luke 10:21 KJV)

Rejoice! Dance, twirl around in glee and happiness, laugh, clap, shout in delight. That’s what that word means, in the original languages. That’s what Jesus did in his spirit, when he rejoiced.

I could suddenly see him doing that. And he said he only did what he saw his Father doing — “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing…” (John 5:19) So, Father God was doing all that also. Rejoicing. Amazing!

The Holy Spirit continued his comments. Thousands upon thousands are coming into the kingdom, being metamorphosed, changed from darkness to light, spiritual death to life, transformed as they believe my word and are born again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17 KJV)

And There Is Joy!

Don’t just see with human eyes. See with Jesus eyes.

How to heal the sick

HowToHealTheSickJesus healed the sick. He commanded the disciples to heal the sick, and to teach  future disciples (us) to do the same.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24; it does not say how, it just says he healed them all. Every sickness and every disease.)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20)

How did Jesus heal the sick?

  • Gospel of Matthew:

Touch / spoken command  8:1-3 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Spoken command  8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Touch  8:14-15 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

Spoken word  9:6-7 “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home.

Faith  9:20-22 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Touch  9:25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the (dead) girl by the hand, and she got up.

Touch / faith  9:29 Then he touched their (two blind men) eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.

Spoken Command  12:13 Then he said to the man (with a shriveled hand), “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Touch of his clothes  14:35-36 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Touch  20:34 Jesus had compassion on them (two blind men) and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

  • Mark:

Touch  1:30-31 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Touch / spoken command  1:41-42 He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Spoken command  2:11-12 To the paralyzed man: “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Spoken command  3:3-5 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” … “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

Touch / spoken command  5:41-42 He took her (the dead girl) by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means Little girl, I say to you, get up!). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.

Touch of his clothes  6:56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Touch / spit / spoken command  7:33-35 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Touch / spit / spoken command  8:23-25 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Faith / spoken command 10:51-52 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man (Bartimaeus) said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

  • Luke:

Touch / spoken command  13:10-13 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Spoken command  17:12-14 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

  • John:

Spoken word  4:46-53 There was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”  The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

Spoken command  5:5-9 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Touch / saliva / spoken command  9:6-7 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man (who was born blind) went and washed, and came home seeing.

How did the disciples / apostles heal the sick?

  • Peter:

Touch / spoken command  Acts 3:6-8 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Spoken command  9:33-34 There (in Lydda) he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up.

Spoken command  9:40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

  • Paul:

Spoken command  14:8-10 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

Touch of his clothes  19:11-12  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Touch  28:8 His (Publius) father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.

Paul’s method of ministering to the sick is not specified in many instances. However,  “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Romans 15:18-19) “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.” (II Cor. 12:12)

Some thoughts:

  • The original disciples did the same sort of things Jesus did, in the same way.
  • What did they not do? They didn’t pray for the sick. They didn’t ask God to do something he had told them to do. Jesus showed them how, healing multitudes of sick people right in front of them. Then he sent them out to do it also.  And not just the original twelve, he sent out 72 others also to “Heal the sick who are there…” (Luke 10:9)
  • One size does not fit all when it comes to healing. They addressed each person individually, specifically – they didn’t treat each one the same as every other one. Some they merely spoke to, some they touched. Some Jesus spit on! Some he just stated, “Your faith has healed you.”
  • Some they told to do something they could not physically do – but they did it.
  • The command Jesus gave those disciples is still in force to today’s disciples.
  • The same Holy Spirit that indwelled them indwelled disciples today, leading them, informing them, instructing them, and empowering them to do the same things, in the same way.

Are YOU yourself the one who is sick? Then also see: https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/how-to-heal-the-sick-addendum/

Walking on water – what was the point?

jesus-walking-on-water-benjamin-mcphersonConsidering the assignment God gave to Peter and the other apostles, it was imperative that they know and understand some things. First and foremost: Who is Jesus?

Background, Matthew 14

When Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist he went across the Sea of Galilee, headed to a private place. However, the needy crowds went ahead of him by foot and met him when he landed. Moved with compassion, he healed their sick and multiplied food to feed over 5000 of them.

Key event: Walking on the water

Later in the day Jesus compelled the disciples to head back across the lake while he dismissed the crowd. Afterwards he finally went up into the mountain alone to pray. Rowing against the wind and buffeted by unruly waves, the disciples had gone some distance when Jesus walked out to them on the lake. When the disciples saw him they were afraid, fearing it was a ghost.

Jesus told the frightened men “Take courage, don’t be afraid, It is I.” Peter called out, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Now that strikes me as a strange thing to say. Suppose it wasn’t Jesus? Suppose some other entity (maybe the ghost they were afraid of) had said, Come. Would Peter have still stepped out of the boat? Obviously he didn’t automatically recognize that it was Jesus, either by sight or by the sound of his voice…

In any case, Jesus said Come and Peter stepped out of the boat. Walking on the waves he headed to Jesus – until he saw what the wind was doing to the waves. Even more afraid, he began to sink, although with boisterous waves he was probably beginning to sink from the very first step. Up, and down, rising and sinking. Rising and sinking.

“Lord, save me!” He screamed, so Jesus grabbed his hand and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Once they were inside the boat, the wind died down. Hmmm. That would have been even more frightening than seeing a ghost. Storm one moment, no storm the next – and those in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Key question: Who do you say that I am?

Up until that time, who exactly did they think Jesus was? With everything Jesus had done, including just feeding that crowd of over 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, who did they think he was?

Even before that he had healed a man’s withered hand. He had healed the paralyzed man. He had cast out demons and healed everyone who was sick. He had spent a lot of time teaching them, explaining the parables, describing what was going to happen next.

He had performed miracles in their own towns. He had sent them out to do the same things he had been doing, and they did (see Chapter. 10). By now they should have known full well who he was, shouldn’t they? But they didn’t.

In Matthew 16 (and Mark 8) Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” They answered, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.

“But who do YOU say that I am?” Jesus asked them. Peter answered the question, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

What did “the Christ” mean to Peter? According to Jewish tradition and teachings, it meant a natural human being, a man chosen and anointed by God to be the final king of Israel, one who would fulfill the prophesies about the coming Messiah. (See Judaism 01: Mashiach The Messiah http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)

But if that man didn’t fulfill every one of those prophesies, that proved he wasn’t the true Messiah. The Christ would overthrow Rome, ruling and reigning on his own throne as the Son of David. He would be a warrior king, victorious in battle, majestic head of the kingdom of God on earth. “Messiah” did NOT mean a supernatural human being, God himself come in the flesh.

Peter was certain Jesus was the Christ, as he understood the Christ to be. After all, Jesus had been doing the same things prophets Elijah and Elisha had done, so he must surely be the Messiah. He was God’s son, like David was God’s son. Like many mighty warriors and prophets of old, all sons of the Living God.

But then Jesus began to explain about having to be killed and resurrected from the dead. That was NOT in the traditions. NOT in the definitions, the descriptions, the actions of the prophesied Messiah. The real Messiah would certainly not be killed, he would conquer and reign here and now – not die and have to be resurrected from the dead.

No wonder Peter rebuked Jesus. Despite Jesus’ teachings that the kingdom of God would be spiritual and not physical, Peter didn’t understand. The disciples still didn’t know exactly who Jesus was. And so Jesus sharply corrected Peter in front of everyone else. That must have made an indelible impression.

Key event:  The Transfiguration

Soon afterward Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain. His appearance was completely changed, transfigured right in front of them as Moses and Elijah stepped out of heaven to talk with Jesus about his coming death (see Luke Chapter 9).

Peter, James and John were terrified. Not surprising at all! But Peter had to interrupt that conversation – “Let’s make booths for you, and Moses, and Elijah!” he exclaimed.

This time, Jesus didn’t correct Peter; God the Father himself spoke. He made it absolutely clear to them who Jesus is. “This is my beloved Son,” he explained. “Hear him!” (Mark 9:7) Not a suggestion, that was a command. HEAR him. Pay attention to him. Perceive the meaning of what he says. Believe him.

Surely now they realized exactly who Jesus was. Surely now they understood about the kingdom. Right?

Perhaps not. If they had, Peter wouldn’t have attempted a rescue mission. (See  https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/peter-fishing-industry-businessman/

The rest of them wouldn’t have fled for their lives and hidden from Roman soldiers and the Sanhedrin. They wouldn’t have doubted the women who first saw the risen Jesus.

They didn’t truly comprehend until after they saw him for themselves, after the Holy Spirit was poured out and they themselves were inhabited by Creator God.

Sometimes I think the church at large today is too much like the pre-resurrection Peter. Still needing more proof. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is more than willing to provide it.

Down but not out… in the right place at the right time

BowedOverWomanBowed over for 18 years, imagine that. Dirt. Feet. Floor. Street. Sandals. Trash. Maybe a few children’s legs, a few knees, a few steps, a few chairs. But she could mostly see the stuff nobody really wants to see. Dirt.

The blue sky, fluffy clouds, people’s smiles, the beauty of the trees, the glory of the Temple, the rolling hillsides, the things people do want to see, those she couldn’t really see.

And yet on the sabbath day there she was, in the synagogue.

The men and women were separated in the synagogue, the men on one side, the women on the other side. There was supposedly a good reason for that, but whatever the reason, there was the bowed-over woman, in the right place at the right time.

I have a few questions about why she came that day. Was this her usual sabbath ritual? Go to synagogue, pray the prayers, hear the sermon? Hope for a blessing?

Or was it because she knew Jesus would be there, and maybe, just maybe, he would do something special for her?

By the time this occasion happened, Jesus had done many miracles, some in synagogues. He had attracted great crowds, many followers. He had chosen some to be apostles, and they had gone out doing miracles too. Word always got around pretty fast when Jesus was in the vicinity.

I can imagine the news being spread, can’t you? “Hey, did you hear? Jesus is coming this way!” I can visualize the townspeople telling their families, their neighbors.

I can see the news arriving at the home of this bowed-over woman. I can almost hear her thoughts – I’ve got to get there, I’ve got to get where he is, I’ve got to get near him.

When it was known that Jesus was nearby on the sabbath, everyone knew where he’d go – to the synagogue. It was his custom.

If the bowed-over woman always attended that synagogue on the sabbath, she was well known to the leaders. The teachers in charge, the men and women of the area knew her condition. Their hearts should have been full of sympathy and compassion towards her, helping her to get inside and find a good seat, hoping right along with her for a touch from God today.

That was not their attitude, however.

By then, the Jewish leaders had gotten leery of Jesus. He had become a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker, preaching about a Kingdom. Claiming to be God! Dangerous nonsense.

He was stirring up too much attention from the Sanhedrin and maybe even the Romans. Miracles? It was as if the miracles had become invisible, not real, while the potential for a Roman crackdown was very real.

I doubt if the sick, the crippled, the blind, deaf and dumb, demon-possessed worried too much about what the Sanhedrin or the Romans thought. They just knew they had needed help and nobody else had helped them but Jesus. No longer sick! No longer blind! Healed, healthy, whole, they were free. Many also became followers.

And the bowed-over woman? Here’s her story:

He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”

 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”

When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on. (Luke 13:10-17 MSG)

Several things come to mind.

  • The woman was a daughter of Abraham.
  • She was faithful to attend services.
  • She wasn’t just sick, she was bound by Satan.
  • She was not healed by all the sermons and prayers she’d heard in synagogue all those 18 long years.
  • She didn’t need another sermon, she needed deliverance.
  • She believed Jesus could provide what she needed.

And so, when Jesus called her out, she obeyed him. Even though it might have been physically hard or socially embarrassing, even though the Jewish leaders were trying to discredit him, she came forward publicly.

She got the miracle she needed. With a touch from the Lord she was straight and tall, delivered and healed. She gave God the glory.

A lot of “bowed-over” men and women are faithful to go to church every Sunday, but they don’t really expect Jesus to show up. They pretty much get what they expect. (It doesn’t have to be that way…)