Today is the second in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
We all are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the Good
Samaritan. We can learn so much from many different angles of the story. The
man who was beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road between
Jerusalem and Jericho must’ve thought no one would come to help him. He must’ve
been surprised when someone eventually stopped to help and then found out that
the person was a Samaritan—from the group of people who were his people’s
enemies, more or less. Being brought to an inn to be cared for and the care
paid for by the Samaritan must’ve been an even bigger surprise for the injured
man. This was unexpected and unusual, to be sure. But this person and this
place brought healing and wellness to the injured man. Have you ever been
helped by someone you did not know when you were in distress? Have you ever
been surprised by the source and site of help when it came? Give thanks to God
for help from unexpected people and places.
The priest and the Levite who walked by the injured man by
the other side of the road represent those of us who are busy with our lives
and not willing to stop to help those we see who are in need. The priest and
Levite are connected to jobs that are religious and related to God, so their
turning away from the injured man is unexpected and unusual as well. The
inaction of the priest and the Levite points us to our own inaction in caring
for those in need. Even though we may appear to be religious and in touch with
God, we can so often pass by those situations and those people who need our
help. We may say we are too tired, our schedules are too tight or others could
take care of the problem.
The Good Samaritan made the effort to stop and help the
injured man. He was not afraid of any differences he had with the man or any
animosity people may have felt toward him because of his heritage. He was not
afraid to touch the injured man. He was not afraid to take extra time to take
the injured man for healing and recovery and to offer extra money to aid the
innkeeper in caring for the injured man. The Good Samaritan helps us to
remember that we are to go the extra mile to care for those who come across our
path and we are to give monetarily of what we have to bless the lives of those
who are poor in spirit and in worldly goods.
The story of the healing of the paralyzed man has many
applications to our lives today. First, we look at the four friends who carried
him. What friends they were! They took the time to carry their friend to
healing. They took their friend to Jesus because they knew Jesus had healing in
his hands. Who are the friends in your life who have carried you? Who have been
there beside you through your suffering? And who have brought you close to
Jesus? Thank God for them today.
The way to Jesus was unusual. The friends carrying the
paralyzed man to Jesus could not go the normal way through the door to the
house where Jesus was. The crowds were crushing in to be near him, to listen to
him preach and to receive healing of their own. But this blocking of the door
did not stop the friends of the paralyzed man. It led them to seek Jesus by
another way—through the roof. They lowered their friend down from above to
place him right in front of Jesus. This process took strength, ingenuity and
creativity. This activity took risk and coordination among them. What ways to
Jesus have been unique and required extra insight and strategy on your part?
Thank God for helping you to see new ways to Jesus and allowing you the power
to follow through on the often unusual paths he puts before us to receive help
from our Savior.
Jesus’ interaction with the paralyzed man is rather
unexpected as well. When the paralyzed man is finally placed before Jesus, the
first thing Jesus does is forgive the man’s sins. Forgiveness is the man’s
greatest need, even more than the healing of his paralysis. Our sins paralyze
us in our faith, stopping us from growth and movement in our spiritual lives.
The removal of our sins through forgiveness in Christ is the only way we can
move forward in following our Savior. Jesus made the benefits of the
forgiveness of sins clear when he was questioned by the Pharisees. When we go
through trials in our lives, we need to remember that it is the blessing of
forgiveness in Christ that is needed most before any physical need.
Yet after providing the forgiveness of sins to the paralyzed
man, Jesus still gifts the man with healing in his body. “Rise, take your mat
and go,” Jesus says. Jesus allows us to arise from our troubles of body and
mind. We are lifted up from being down. We mirror Christ in his resurrection by
rising to new life through him.
When Jesus tells the paralyzed man to take his mat, it is
like he is saying, “Carry away all reminders of the past trials and recognize
the power you now have over those tribulations that once ruled your life.” The
mat represents the bad place the paralyzed man once was in and the carrying of
the mat symbolizes that he is not in that bad place any longer.
Then Jesus tells the paralyzed man, “Go!” This was something
he could not do previously—go forth on his own two feet and walk. “Go!” means
that the man can travel on his own by the power of the Spirit and follow the
path marked out for him by God. “Go!” means that the man is fully healed and
fully ready to move on in Christ.
When healing comes to you, be ready to go as the paralyzed
man was. Be ready to go and spread the news of what God has done for you in
Christ. Be ready to help those who are in trouble by supporting them with your
presence and prayers. Be ready to lead them to Jesus for help and healing. Be
ready to step in the footsteps of Christ and go where he goes and do what he
does. Go in the name of the Lord and be his follower forever.