Tinkering around the edges

I was just wondering what the Lord was up to this evening, wondering if maybe he’d like for me to do something different from what I was doing (reading stuff online), like pray, study, or what… when he said, “I’m tinkering around the edges.” Huh?

“When I see a loose thread, I’m pulling it.” Loose thread? What does that mean? I asked.

Some loose threads lead to knots, he said. Knotty problems. Knotty emotions. Knotty headaches and heartaches. So, I’m carefully pulling the loose threads, untangling the knots.

I suddenly visualized knotted muscles, knotted nerves, knotted relationships, and now a gentle scarred hand, painstakingly and patiently untangling those knots, soothing as he goes.

Holy Spirit, Trail Guide

TrailGuideWho are you, Lord? I asked again recently, recalling other times I’d asked him that.

Trail guide, he answered. The Holy Spirit is your trail guide for the journey you’re taking.

Over the next few days, I thought about that. Now and then I asked him why he used that particular title – I don’t find it in the Bible anywhere, I said. At least, not in those words.

Here’s how our back-and-forth conversation and my meditations went, more or less.

About the trail…

A trail is not a paved road. It doesn’t lead through cities or towns. If you’re taking a trail, it’s because you’re not going through civilized country. It may meander, lead uphill sometimes and downhill sometimes.

A trail is for travel. It makes traveling easier through woods or wilderness. It doesn’t destroy the woods or wilderness, only disturbing them a little. More than a rough path and less than a dirt road, a trail is created by the movement of shod feet, assisted by pulling or cutting away brush that may hinder the going.

A trail is to get somewhere, from point A to point B. It has a purpose. It leads to a definite destination. It may not be the shortest way, but with the trail guide it is the surest way.

About the guide…

He has much experience. He is not an amateur. This work is his lifelong employment. He is well able to teach and train believers to prepare, to travel, and to help others along the way.

The trail guide knows the terrain. He knows the starting and ending points, the length of the trail and the time the journey will take. He is knowledgeable of the seasons, the surroundings, the flora and fauna, and what other travelers you may encounter.

The trail guide applies both facts and wisdom. He plans and prepares ahead of time, gathering appropriate clothing, weapons, tools and supplies. He doesn’t take unnecessary gear. He takes the essentials and knows how to make use of them.

He prepares for unforeseen circumstances with well-designed contingency plans. He is able to protect travelers from sickness or injury, warn against danger, fight off predators, and call for reinforcements if needed. He knows when and where to break the journey with times of rest and replenishment for body, soul and spirit.

After considering all that for a while, I asked another question.

How is the Holy Spirit a trail guide? Normal life is not lived in the wild. Normal people have jobs, routines, families, interests and habit patterns. They live in buildings, drive on paved streets and highways – at least here in America.

You’re only looking at the natural world, the Lord said. Your spirit lives in the supernatural. If you could see with your physical eyes what happens in the spiritual realm, it would make more sense to you. Try looking at the world from my vantage point.

Okay, I will try to do that, I answered. And I have been.

Of course the Holy Spirit is much more than the trail guide, I added to myself. I was thinking of Comforter, teacher, empowerer, the one who reminds us of what Jesus said, and who tells us of things to come. I recalled the scriptures in Genesis where the Holy Spirit was involved in creation of the world.

Yes, the Lord answered my unasked question, but everything he is to you can be wrapped up in this descriptive title – Trail Guide. Think some more about that.

And so I am thinking about it. And about just what sort of trail we’re traveling on these days.

As I meditated on all he described, I recalled how the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul in his life. Not just in his missionary work, but in every aspect of his life… the where and when of his birth, his family, Jewish and Roman culture, education as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. His zeal as a persecutor of the church.

The where and when of his encounter with Jesus.

His years of seeming inactivity where zeal had to be refocused, patience instilled and polished. Then his assignment as a church member, evangelist, missionary, pastor. Prisoner.

Not to mention his many travels.

Paul wanted to go places, see people, do things for Jesus. He planned out his own reasonable, logical itinerary. Sometimes his plans weren’t quite right – the Holy Spirit had his own itinerary, his own agenda. He led him to other places, other people, other things to do.

Thinking of all that these last few days, trail guide does seem an appropriate title.

See John 14:26, 16:13; Acts 16:6-10.

Who’s your daddy

My personal journey to know Abba Father, elder brother Jesus, and constant companion Holy Spirit is ongoing, very much a present-tense process. Every day I get to know him a little bit better. Every day he shows me himself  better, and also myself better – ways in which I should and can grow and mature.

He tends to change my thinking, change my agenda and change my itinerary! He always leads me to understand his ways better, and also to understand the ways of others better.

He shows me the world in all its complexities, both natural and spiritual, sometimes taking me behind the scenes to see what is really going on. That is sobering and at times I would prefer to avoid it. Necessary to intercede, he tells me, I’m right here, don’t be afraid.

Every day he is more fascinating to me, more terrifying, more affectionate, more… just more. The following was written years ago, as I tried to explain to puzzled friends my love for Daddy God.

BettyAndDaddyDowntown1944When I was two years old, I knew my daddy, in some ways. I knew him as a photographer, as mama, brother Harold and I were his frequent subjects.

But I didn’t know him as a WW II veteran of the US Army Air Force. I didn’t know him as an airplane pilot or airplane mechanic, small engine repairman or insurance salesman.

I didn’t know him as a brother, uncle or son, or as a husband, son-in-law or brother-in-law. I didn’t know him as a house painter, screen door fixer, lawn mower, or light-bulb replacer.

I didn’t know him as the recovering alcoholic who sponsored other men struggling with that addiction themselves. Or as a banjo player, barbershop quartet singer or ballroom dancer. Yet he was all those things, to other people.

To two-year-old me he was just a marvelous big creature who loved me. He was a smiler. A carrier-on-the-shoulder. A hugger and tickler who got down on the floor and played baby dolls with me, or wound up the wobbly spinning top for me, over, and over, and over.

He let me climb up in his lap when he was trying to read the newspaper, and he’d read the funnies out loud to me. He was a food taster who offered me little bites of his grown-up meals. He was a goofy “mareseatoats” song singer and a “once upon a time” story reader.

Betty and mama, 1944

Betty and mama, 1944

Sometimes he pointed that square box at me and called, “Smile,” which I probably did most of the time. I still have the black and white prints to prove it.

I didn’t really understand the definition of father yet but I knew the word daddy. And I knew my daddy, in all the facets of my two-year-old personal relationship with him, limited though they were.

A few years later I knew my daddy as mama’s best friend, who would dress up in a fancy suit and necktie and go somewhere with her, who herself was dressed up in a frilly dress and high heels. Off they’d go to some place I couldn’t go. Baby sitter time.

He was the chauffeur to any places we went as a family, the bill-payer when we went to the movies or out to eat, the final declarer of the absolutely perfectly decorated Christmas tree, the slow present opener who (like so many other gentleman of his era) used his pocket knife to carefully unstick the scotch tape and avoid tearing or wrinkling up the wrapping paper.

I also knew daddy as occasional nay-sayer and occasional deep thinker. Can I, daddy, can I have that? might result in long moments of deep thought before daddy’s well-meditated “no” answer was forthcoming, complete with reasonable, logical explanation. Only in cases of youngster temper-tantrum threats did he resort to “because I said so,” but if daddy said so, it was so.

In my pre-teen years I got to know daddy as a good tic-tac-toe player, Chinese checker player and monopoly player. I got to hear him play his banjo and sing four-part harmony.

HMotte@SanbornHotel0001Daddy’s camera and tripod were never far away. He took this shot of himself in the lobby of the Sanborn Hotel in downtown Florence, probably during one of those “dress-up” occasions with mama.

I also discovered that mama and daddy weren’t always in perfect agreement – sometimes they had slightly loud discussions, at least that’s what they called them. Not yelling, not arguing, not fighting, but discussing points of view that sometimes clashed. I never listened and therefore I have no clear idea what those differences were all about. It’s probably just as well. (Conflict between them disturbed me greatly, they knew it and so those disagreements usually took place out of my ear-shot.)

In my early teens, I began to know daddy as the family bread-winner who sometimes couldn’t work, who was suffering from service-related heart disease, caused by rheumatic fever contracted during WWII. He died of a heart attack when I was 16 years old.

I never got the chance to know daddy in all the many adult roles other people knew. A few people have shared with me over the years about daddy as their friend. He was a valued friend to many. My mother never really recovered from losing her best friend, lover and husband, and I never really recovered from losing my daddy.

Over the years I have come to realize that daddy was a multi-faceted personality, including a multi-faceted father to my brother and me. I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked, and the opportunity to know him better ended for me in 1960.

But I have another daddy! God the father – Abba, daddy – who I also know, though not as well as I would like. That opportunity is still open to me, and I want to learn more and more about the many facets of Father God’s personality, and my relationship to Him.

Not just know ABOUT him, the way I know about my earthly daddy from relatives and friends, I want to KNOW him. I believe He wants that, too.

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/

Jesus, Antagonizer

Some time ago I started a list of words found in the scriptures to answer for myself the question, what is God like? There are quite a few familiar words and phrases. Good. Holy. Just. Love. Eternal. Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Creator. Provider. Merciful. Healer. Rewarder. Mediator. Fighter. Consuming fire. Jealous. Patient. Savior.

A few were not so familiar: Laugher. Griever. Derider. Songwriter. Singer. Dancer. Reading the gospels again recently, I’ve recognized a side of Jesus not noticed before.

Antagonizer. Instigator. Stirrer-up-of-trouble. And Planner. Plotter. Keeper-of-the-schedule.

Life started out pretty normal for Jesus as a citizen of that culture and time. The oldest of several half-siblings, no doubt he helped raise the younger kids in the house. The child of God-fearing parents, he grew up in a religious environment and learned the scriptures at home and in the synagogue.

Family travel to Jerusalem for feast days meant visits with friends and relatives from other towns. Aunts, uncles and cousins, this was a time for everyone to catch up on news and meet new friends of friend.

From an early age Jesus was busy learning the family trade. Carpenters made many things and repaired many other things. Furniture. Tools. Farm implements. Wagons and wagon wheels. Rooftops for houses. And they didn’t just hang out in the workshop all day, they traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood, calling on customers and tradespeople. Sometimes they delivered items, sometimes they took new orders, and always they were involved with people. Jesus became a familiar sight to the people of Galilee.

In addition to everyday goods, the carpenter and his helper shopped for materials and supplies to use in their own occupation. Perhaps they examined the goods and dickered over prices, and once their business was concluded, perhaps they caught up on political news of the day.

While carpenters created and sold some of their hand-finished products, others they made to order for householders, businessmen, trades and craftsmen. One thing they made was fishing boats. Regular calls on the fishermen along the Sea of Galilee would have been part of their routine. And of course, everyone had to pay taxes on things grown or produced. Regular stop-offs to the tax collector would also be routine.

Apprentice and full-fledged carpenter, by the time he was thirty Jesus was well known to people of all walks of life including the ever-present Roman soldiers, teachers of the law, farmers, fishermen and tax collectors. He was well known, and well liked, by almost everyone.

Then one day he traveled south to keep a life-changing appointment with his cousin John, who was preaching about the kingdom of God, gathering disciples and baptizing converts in the Jordan River.

Jesus eventually headed back to Galilee with several disciples of his own and a very different daily routine. As they walked, Jesus taught them more about the kingdom, with an extra show-and-tell dimension: Miracles. Healings. Casting out of demons. Crowds began to trail along as the amazing news spread; many joined the ranks as they continued north to the shores of Galilee and the City of Capernaum.

This was familiar territory with familiar faces, some of whom had heard about the drastic change in Jesus. The young carpenter was preaching now, attracting followers. What’s going on?

There wasn’t much spare time in this new schedule. Preach repentance. Declare the kingdom of God. Heal, deliver, perform miracles, stir up trouble. Then move on to the next town.

Attracting followers on the one hand, Jesus attracted persecutors on the other. He had to have both — because without the shedding of blood, there’s no remission of sins. He knew the followers who acknowledged him as the Messiah would try to crown him King of Israel.

But he didn’t come to sit on a throne as the conqueror of Caesar. Jesus came to die a bloody, sacrificial death as the conqueror of Sin. Some powerful blood-thirsty enemies would have to be stirred up along the way. When God’s calendar said it was time, Jesus set things in motion.

Luke 4:16-30 describes one of those occasions.

Jesus of Naz synagogueBack home in Nazareth, Jesus attended the synagogue on the sabbath as usual. He was given the scroll of Isaiah and began to read Chapter 61, stopping after only a few verses. So far, so good; everyone thought that was great. All eyes were on him. Jesus has been doing miracles elsewhere, surely he’s come to do miracles here, they thought. They expected him to do something spectacular.

Instead, Jesus insulted their beliefs, insulted their dreams and in their mind proved he was a fake. Messiah sent to the Gentiles? No way! Adulation quickly turned to anger and the religious crowd hustled him out of the synagogue, out of the town. They intended to throw Jesus off a cliff. But it wasn’t his time to die yet, not here and certainly not this way. Vanishing from their view Jesus went on his way. Things had gotten off to a good start.

Criss-crossing the length and breadth of Israel, Samaria, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, Jesus preached and taught, trained disciples and chose apostles. He healed all the sick who came to him including blind men, deaf mutes and lepers, cast out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, changed water into wine and multiplied food. Multitudes left their homes and jobs to follow along wherever he went.

Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law and rulers of the synagogues infiltrated the crowds. Some became believers themselves. Initially curious, the others became furious. Worried and unrepentant, they felt threatened. Their way of life was at stake. Their livelihood was at stake! They plotted to do away with this so-called Messiah. While they worked their plan, Jesus worked his. Time was growing short.

A few more passages about Jesus the antagonizer and instigator:

Mark 2:5-6 – Jesus forgave sins
Mark 2:24 – worked on the Sabbath (picked grain and ate it)
Mark 3:1-5 – healed on the Sabbath
Matthew 9:10-11 – ate with tax collectors and sinners
Matthew 23 – insulted the Pharisees over, and over, and over
John 10:18 – said he had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again
John 18:4-9 – Jesus had to help them arrest him

JesusChasesMoneychangersFromTempleMark 11:11, 15-17 – Jesus looked around at everything going on in the Temple one day, then left for the evening. He returned the next day, methodically fashioned a whip and chased the moneychangers and merchants out of the Temple.

He said, “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”

This was no spur of the moment temper tantrum. It was a deliberate, premeditated event, a necessary part of his plan.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter described that plan: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:22-23 NIV)

God’s plan to conquer Sin had worked, and “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (I Cor. 2:8 NIV)

Hungry on the Sabbath

JesusWheatFieldsFramedJesus and the disciples took a walk one day near grain fields in Galilee. Hungry, the disciples began to pluck raw kernels of grain to munch as they walked along.

I always visualized that scene as just a few men out for a walk somewhere, ambling along minding their own business and passing by a farm. But that’s probably not how it was.

I just looked at that passage more closely in context and a different picture began to develop in my mind’s eye.

Everywhere Jesus went, crowds went. Multitudes went. He had spent a considerable amount of time doing miracles in those crowds, then addressing those people, then more time personally instructing his twelve closest disciples, then more time upbraiding some of the towns he had visited in northern Galilee.

He called them by name – Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum – and criticized them for not believing in him. I’m sure in that crowd of listeners were citizens of those very towns. Still, the crowds followed on.

In those crowds were also Pharisees, religious teachers listening to every word he said. Watching every move he made.

Now out here in the grain field, trudging along with the crowd, they spied the disciples picking heads of grain and eating them. Aha! The Pharisees pounced.

They complained to Jesus, criticizing the actions – not of Jesus – he wasn’t picking grain and eating it. But his disciples were, and they were an easy target. It was all Jesus’ fault, he should have stopped them! (Of course, Jesus could have just created a few loaves and fishes for lunch, but I have a feeling he knew full well the Pharisees were trailing behind. He had something to say to them. Time to stir the pot a little.)

It seems it was the sabbath day, and work is forbidden on the sabbath. Picking grain is work. Unlawful. Jesus, taking responsibility for his disciples’ behavior, calmly pointed out the scriptures.

And summing up, he pointed out something else, too. “The Son of Man is Lord, even of the sabbath day.”

I think this is what he wanted them to hear, to really, really hear. Son of Man: me. By this statement Jesus was clearly claiming to be the Messiah.

Of course, son of man was a common phrase, it could be construed to mean just a human man. But saying it to the Pharisees in this context was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Designed to enrage.

Leading them all on from there, Jesus and the twelve went into town, into THEIR synagogue. Whose synagogue? The Pharisees. Inside was a man with a paralyzed hand, no doubt a regular attender and known to the Pharisees.

They saw Jesus looking at that man and his paralyzed hand, I’m sure. By now they knew Jesus didn’t like to leave sick people sick.

So once again they tried again to trip him up. It was still the sabbath, after all. Is it legal to heal on the sabbath, they asked him? Not that they ever could heal anyone, sabbath or not. If they could, that man would have been healed long ago.

Using good common sense and practical everyday logic, Jesus answered, “It is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” Jesus didn’t touch the crippled man. He didn’t anoint him with oil, he didn’t say “Be healed.” He just told him to do something he couldn’t do, stretch out your hand. He did, and as he did his hand became normal. Wonderful!

Well, that did it. The Pharisees couldn’t have someone showing them up like this, right here in their own synagogue. They went out and held a council against Jesus, to figure out the best way to destroy him.

Of course Jesus knew it. He always knew what they were thinking, what they were plotting. He simply went elsewhere with the disciples. Of course the multitudes went along too, and Jesus continued doing what he did. Healing the sick. All of the sick.

I have an odd question. What were the Pharisees supposed to be doing on the sabbath? Whatever it was, they certainly weren’t doing it, they were trailing Jesus like religious paparazzi.

And all the time not even seeing the signs and wonders, not seeing the miracles, not seeing the multitudes of sick and afflicted being healed. Not seeing the kingdom coming in their midst.

Matthew 12:1-23