Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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.

The Good Samaritan

good samaritan

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.

Walking on Water

walking on water

The time when Jesus walked on water points us to our view of our Savior. When the disciples were in a boat during a storm, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They said it was a ghost as first. But Jesus let them know, “It Is I!” We have times in our lives when we don’t recognize Jesus and we think he is something other than he is. We often think of Jesus as some sort of spiritual body floating around in the air, but as Jesus himself would reveal, he has flesh and blood like any other human on earth. He is fully human and fully divine.

When Peter asked to come out onto the water to Jesus, Jesus said, “Come,” and for a time Peter was walking out on the water toward Jesus. This shows that it is the power of Christ within the human body that can make miracles happen. It also shows that this activity is not happening to ghosts. It is happening to real flesh-and-blood people.

But then Peter is distracted by the waves and the wind and the water and starts to sink. This shows that it is focusing on the power of Christ in our lives that keeps us moving forward. Once we look away from Christ, things start to go downhill. Yet even as Peter is sinking, Jesus reaches out his hand to pull Peter out of the water. This shows that even when things are going downhill and we are pulling away from Christ, Christ is still there to pull us toward him and bring us back in union with and in faith in him.

Jesus says to Peter at this moment, “O ye of little faith.” Jesus makes it clear that it is our lack of faith that pulls us away from him. We plead to keep ourselves strong in faith given to us through the Holy Spirit to keep us close and connected to Jesus. After Jesus has rescued Peter, he and Peter board the boat and Jesus stills the storm.

It is a time to recognize that Jesus has come to earth and not just for the individual in danger but for all who are enveloped in the storms of life. Jesus’ stilling of the storm saved thousands.

Water into Wine

water into wine

Jesus tuned water into wine at the wedding of Cana. The Bible says this was the first miracle Jesus performed in his ministry. We may wonder why that is. There are many possible reasons. One is that this miracle enabled the wedding guests to continue celebrating. Another is that it is a foreshadowing of the Lord’s Supper at the end of this ministry. A third reason is that the miracle reveals the transformation of his people through his presence.

Jesus’ mother Mary plays a large role in the events surrounding this miracle. She tells her son, “They have no more wine.” She makes the problem known to Jesus. She recognizes that help is needed and she realizes that it is Jesus who can help to solve the situation. She later tells the servants standing by, “Do whatever he tells you.” She lets these lowly workers know that Jesus is the one they should listen to.

A wedding is a celebration and the wine is a symbol of the celebration. So when the wine is gone, the celebration comes to an end. Mary and Jesus both recognize that this is not a good place to be. Jesus desires that the people there celebrate some more. The marriage feast is a symbol of the feast of heaven, where the Groom, Christ, weds the Bride, the Church. There the feast’s celebration will last forever. In Cana, the celebration continues when Christ provides more wine. In our lives Christ wants us to live in celebration of him and with him. Let us remember this truth as we read this passage.

The wine poured out at the table of the wedding party from the jugs of water was called “the best.” But this best of wine would be overtaken by even better wine at the Lord’s table the night before his death. This wine which the disciples drank was the very blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of all their sins. Like the wine of Cana, the wine at the Lord’s Supper brought celebration, but a deeper celebration that would bring everlasting joy through the removal of sins. The first wine poured at Cana flowed through Christ’s ministry to the Lord’s Supper’s wine. And it is this wine that flows to each one of us when we partake of the bread and wine of Holy Communion in our gathering as God’s people. This very best of wine enters into each one of us through Christ as it did at Cana, but in a richer, more abundant way.

The water that became wine came from 12 jugs. It is these jugs that represent the 12 tribes of Israel, which symbolize the people of God. The change from water into wine, therefore, represents the transformation of God’s people into richer, fuller, more vibrant followers of the Almighty, because of Christ’s presence flowing through us. We are no longer ordinary, normal, average people like plain old water. We are special, chosen, extraordinary people invigorated by the life of Christ within us. We no longer have nothing to do. We have purpose and meaning and a goal—to be with Christ and live for him.

Digital vs. Print Bible

bible

While I have extolled the virtues of digital Bibles on this very blog, there is a mounting backlash against the exclusive use of digital Bibles. In “People of the eBook” in the Spring 2019 CT Pastors Special Issue, author Karen Swallow Prior says, “As our reading becomes more immersed in a digital rather than a print culture, the more we return to some of the qualities of the pre-literate world. We are reading more, but the way we read replicates the effects of the discrete images of stained glass windows more than the sustained, logical, and coherent linearity of a whole book” (50).

Before people had access to the written word of the Bible, parishioners learned about what the Bible said in bits and pieces, most often through the images found in stained glass windows in the church. The same thing seems to be happening when accessing the Bible digitally. We are only getting bits and pieces and we are drawn to imagery on the screen.

Many pastors in response are encouraging deeper engagement with physical Bibles to help to see the whole salvation story and make stronger connections with various parts of the biblical text. This has brought about a growing popularity in printed Bibles that include space in the margins for journaling and notetaking to make these connections within the text. Also, people have come to realize that they like to hold the weight of God’s words in their hands. So while digital Bibles can have their benefits, consider getting reconnected or more connected with your physical Bible to stay connected to the whole story of Jesus and his love.

Humility

humilityIn a recent article in Christianity Today, author Karen Swallow Prior says this about humility:

“The virtue of humility is thought to be the foundation of all other virtues. Humility comes from the same root word as human, one that means earth or ground, the substance of our bodies’ origin and  ultimate decay. To have humility, then, is to understand our origins and our place in the world, to have an accurate sense of who and what we are. Thus, virtuous humility isn’t just a matter of acknowledging our limitations and weaknesses; it is recognizes gifts and strengths, too. Humility is an accurate assessment of oneself in relation to the world and to God” (Prior, Karen Swallow, “The Art of Virtuous Reading,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 37).

No wonder the Bible calls us to be humble. Consider these verses:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).

These verses remind me of that classic acronym for JOY we need to always keep in mind as we set priorities in our lives. We need to always remember that the hierarchy for us as Christians is: Jesus, Others and then Yourself. Prioritizing our lives in this way is the only way for us for find true happiness and joy in its purest sense. Putting Jesus first makes us remember that life is not about us; it is about him. And putting others before ourselves reminds us that life is all about serving those around us with the gifts that God has given us, not just serving ourselves.

Humility is not about putting ourselves down, but seeing that our place is to lift up Christ and others, who, in turn, lift us up. Find joy in being humble this week.