With Me

three crosses

Today is the fourth in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.

Today you will be with me in paradise.

When the thief on the right of Jesus’ cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus responded with comforting words that assure the thief on the right that he will be with Christ that day in heaven. This statement from Christ reminds us that a place awaits us in heaven on the day that we die and it awaits us even now because Christ has died on the cross for us to forgive our sins. This scene reminds us that Jesus’ love and forgiveness extend to the most sinful—even to a thief who was sentenced to death, deservedly so, as the thief himself mentions to the other thief on the cross. They justly deserved punishment, he said. So we justly deserve punishment, but Jesus forgives us.

Forsaken

forsaken

Today is the third in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

This plea from Jesus reveals that Jesus truly was alone on the cross. He was abandoned by the Father as well as many of his disciples and followers. This cry shows the pure anguish and pain Jesus endured on the cross. The words come from a psalm which reveals that Jesus was experiencing very human emotions. Psalm 22, from which this comes, ends with very joyous words, which helps us to remember that this sad time will eventually end with everlasting joy. The pronoun my before the word God and the repetition of these words are a way to show the closeness that Jesus had with his Father. The Father is his. The Father is our Father as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

Living Water

water circle

Today is the second in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.

I thirst.

Jesus was thirsty, which reminds us that he is human with very human needs right up to the very end. The need for water reminds us of our need for the waters of Holy Baptism. We need the reminders of water and the Spirit. We are washed clean of our sins every day through water and the Word. We are reminded that Jesus told the woman at the well that he is the Living Water that will never run dry. Jesus is taking on our thirst for everlasting water so that we do not need to be thirsty spiritually again. Jesus’ human thirst for water was not satisfied well—vinegar on a sponge—but his death would satisfy the spiritual thirst of us all forever. To make that clear, the Bible records that after Jesus died, a soldier cut Jesus’ side with a spear, and blood and water poured out.

Forgiveness

crown and hammer

Today marks the beginning of a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

When Jesus prays this prayer on the cross, he is looking upon those who were crucifying him. This is a reminder to us that we are to forgive others even while they are sinning against us. Our forgiveness should be immediate, free and full, not something we wait to do until those who sin against us are remorseful and repent. Our forgiveness also should not be limited to only minor infractions but for the most major injustices.

A Boat in the Storm

When the disciples were with Jesus on the boat and a storm blew in, the disciples turned immediately to Jesus. But Jesus was asleep. “Save us,” they pleaded. But Jesus calmly said, “O you of little faith,” and quietly said to the wind and the waves and the rain, “Be still.” And immediately they were still and the disciples were astonished: “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey them him?”

This story is very much like our lives. We are very much at peace in the boat of our lives with Jesus asleep inside. Then when a storm comes along and rocks the boat of our lives, we panic and we rouse Jesus from slumber, begging him to save us. Jesus, without much fanfare, stills the storm in our lives and renews faith in us. Peace returns to our hearts and Jesus remains to dwell by our sides.

The boat of our lives continues to sail until it reaches the shore of heaven, where we will dwell in perfect harmony in blessed union with Christ and our fellow lifemates giving praise to our God who welcomes us to the eternal banks of glory in paradise.

The storms that come along can be all sorts of things. They can be physical upheavals like sickness and disease, chronic illness or pain. They can be earthly like rainstorms, hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes or other disasters. They can be spiritual turmoil like lack of faith and trust., a loss of reliance on prayer and devotions and a turning away from Scripture for help and strength.

When Jesus tells the wind and waves, “Be still,” he is telling us too, to be still. We are not to get anxious or panic when things start going wrong. The arrival of trouble means that we need to look to God and know that he is who he says he is. “Be still and know that he is God,” Psalm 46:10 says. In our stillness, we know and remember that God is trustworthy, faithful, strong, confident, courageous, comforting, loving, peaceful and caring. These attributes will never change, though the world continues to change all around us. The trouble and turmoil of this world obey the voice of the Lord. We should never think that trouble and turmoil can overcome the power of God in our lives.

When we think of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm, we often think he is not caring or paying attention to our troubles and turmoil. But the truth is that he is asleep because he is not worried about the trouble and turmoil. He is taking care of them.

One Thing Needful

Mary and Martha of Bethany were good friends of Jesus. They were such good friends of his that they had him over for dinner one night. Think of how many people may have wanted to have Jesus over for dinner at the time, but Jesus chose to spend a meal with Mary and Martha. Think, too, of the meals you have shared with friends. Think of the good times, the laughter, the banter, the witty conversations, the good food. That’s what Mary and Martha were looking forward to in their time with Jesus.

But think too of how nervous you might be if you knew Jesus was coming over for dinner at your house. You would want everything just right and you would want to make sure the house was clean and the meal was cooked to perfection. This is more what Martha was going through in her preparations for Jesus’ arrival. Jesus noticed that this was how Martha was approaching things. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and nervous about many things,” Jesus said. Jesus was scolding Martha. And he is scolding us in the process. He does not want us to be worried and nervous about anything, let alone many things. The truth, though, is that we in our sinful human condition are worriers by nature and nervous by default. Our task is to break out of these sinful habits and do what Christ’s disciples should do.

Mary apparently did what was desired. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. And Jesus praised her for it. He called Mary’s actions “the one thing needful.” Jesus is requesting of us that these be our actions as well.  How do we sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him? We come to him humbly and lowly, and we honor him. That is mirroring the posture of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Reading the Bible and engaging in prayer are ways to listen to Jesus.

Mary is a model for us of how to greet Jesus in our own homes. She is happy that he is with her, just as we should be. Jesus truly is with us in our homes each day and he dines with us at every meal. When we open the pages of the Bible, it is as if we are opening the doors of our home to Jesus. And when we fold our hands in prayer before each meal, it is as if we are pulling up a chair at our tables for him. His presence with us in our homes is a blessing we should never take for granted, but should be excited about. All that we do in our homes should be a gift for the Guest in our home, our good friend, Jesus.

Out of the Tombs

Jesus healed the man who was not in his right mind living naked out by the tombs, cutting himself. When Jesus healed the man, the people saw him dressed, speaking plainly and in his right mind.

The symbolism of being naked is that those who are naked are not protected and not covered by the robe of righteousness from Christ. They are open to the elements and to the evils of the world.

The man is cutting himself, which reveals his dishonor toward his body and his disrespect toward himself.

The fact that the man was not speaking plainly tells us that he was not fully in the Word and was not understanding the Word of God being spoken to him.

Not being in his right mind explains that the devil is taking hold of the mind God has given him. Not being plain in speech makes it clear that God is not in control of the man’s thoughts.

The man when he was healed served as an object lesson in and of himself. This man’s newfound ability to speak, his clothed body, his clear mind and his end to cutting made people realize that Jesus was at work. The man himself spread the word that Jesus had transformed him and that Jesus was his Savior. People came to believe in Jesus because of this man and what they had witnessed happening to him.

10 Lepers

There were 10 men with leprosy who met Jesus on the road, begging for mercy that they might be healed. How bold it was to plead for mercy from Jesus. It shows that they trusted and believed that Jesus could heal them. It also shows courage and strength on Jesus’ part that he was willing to draw close enough to the 10 lepers to hear them and listen to them. It was customary at the time not to interact with lepers and not to get too close to them, lest you become infected. If we are sick and in need of help and healing, we should not be too proud or afraid to ask Jesus for assistance. We should not hold back from requesting his mercy toward us. We should seek help and healing from him alone. Whenever we are sick and in need, our first response should be to go to Jesus. Nothing else gives us the help and healing we need, no matter how frightened we may be.

Jesus’ instructions to the men is for them to go and show themselves to the priests. The men did as they were told. On their way they were made clean again. Jesus had healed the men. There was excitement and joy. We can image the men cheering and celebrating and running to their homes to enjoy what had happened to them with their relatives and friends. But the actions of one man was to return to Jesus and give him thanks for the miracle of healing he had been blessed with through Christ.

To the shock of everyone, this man was a Samaritan, not of the people of Israel. The Samaritan knew what it felt like to be ostracized and how special it was to be recognized and healed by Jesus since he was an outsider. This Samaritan bowed before Jesus, showing his humility. He did not deserve this goodness toward him from Jesus, he knew. We, too, should show humility and thanksgiving for the great goodness shown to us in Christ’s help and healing of our illnesses and of our sinful condition.

After the Samaritan bowed before Jesus, Jesus asked, “Is the only one to return to give thanks this foreigner?” Jesus acknowledges that this is unusual. How sad and unfortunate for those who did not return to give thanks and receive blessing from Christ. How joyful and fortunate for the Samaritan to return to give thanks and receive blessing from Jesus. Jesus told the Samaritan man, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Jesus made it clear that healing from him gives us the energy to move forward in our work with him. Having faith and trust in him is what motivates us to act. Faith in action would have been a new way of approaching life for the Samaritan man. Instead of pulling away from others because of his disease, he would now be drawing close to others to care for them and love them as Jesus did for him. Instead of living in fear for his life on the outskirts of town, the man would be living in confidence and strength, knowing that Jesus had healed him. For those who did not turn to give thanks, their lives lacked faith. Their healing is not attached to Christ by not returning to give thanks. The joy of new lives is not accompanied by thanksgiving to Jesus and thus is not as fully experienced by the nine that are healed but did not return to Jesus.

The Faith of the Centurion

faith

When Jesus encountered the centurion, it was the centurion who knew what Jesus could do for him. He asked for healing for his sick servant. The centurion understood what it meant to be leader over others. “I say ‘Go’ and they go. I say ‘Come’ and they come.” He knew the power a leader had and obedience a servant under his command had. We learn that Jesus is our supreme leader and we are his servants. It is our duty to obey him. The centurion showed obedience to the Lord, through his words and actions, and the Lord healed the centurion’s servant. The Lord even said, “Not in all of Israel have I found such faith.” This was a shocking statement because the centurion was not a member of the tribes of Israel, God’s people. The centurion was a Roman, an enemy of the people of God. The Romans were rulers over the Israelites. Israel was an occupied nation. What is interesting is that we live as foreigners in a foreign land. We are not citizens of the earth, but citizens of God’s kingdom. What this reminds us of is that followers of Christ are present in the kingdom of God. But there are those like the centurion who honor and respect the Savior and trust his judgment even though he is part of a group that does not believe in him.

The Feeding of the 5000

The feeding of the 5000 is a good example for us of the generosity of Christ. Taking 5 loaves and 2 fish and turning them into enough food to feed 5000 is a clear depiction of how Christ takes the little we have and makes it more than enough for all who are gathered. The Bible says that there were 12 basketsful of leftovers. Again the number 12 is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples to mean all of God’s people and all who follow Jesus.

In one version of the story, the 5 loaves and 2 fish come from the lunch of one little boy. This detail is a reminder to us of our own generosity that feeds into the generosity of Christ and supplies the needs of those in need.

The disciples tell Jesus the situation of the lack of food and are pessimistic about what can be done to solve the problem. But Jesus turns the solving of the situation back on the disciples when he says to them, “You feed them.” Jesus leaves it all up to them and the miracle happens through his power in their hands.

The 5000 who receive the food are men, not including women and children. The disciples are involved in having all these people sit down. One version of the story says they sat down in groups of 1000. There must have been organization in the arrangement of crowd and the distribution of the food. You can imagine the conversation among the people as they sit down together in a certain order that would best facilitate the sharing of the food. There must have been bonds that were begun and built through this process. It is good to remember being a small part of a big assembly is vital to Christ’s overall plan. So play your part well.