I followed a familiar pattern as I was looking for the next blog post study for myself; look at resources, look at what I’ve already written in the past and repeatedly pray “show me.” I get a lot of extra reading done in this process and at some point something clicks and I realize I’m ready to begin the next chapter. I’ve spent much time reading and pondering the first two chapters of each New Testament book in the past [The Firsts and Second Chance] so The Third Chapter seems like both an answer to my prayer and a logical choice.
Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
The wilderness is not the setting you’d expect the advancement of a Kingdom to happen. A baptist living a very humble life in the middle of nowhere is not who you’d expect to be part of the fulfillment of an ancient promise. The confession of sin and sacrifice was familiar but there are some unusual things that make this baptism of repentance the direct path to God.
Only that path can establish the multitude of nations that God promised Abraham. Only that direct path can open the heavens “to fulfill all righteousness.” Only that path can provide another baptism mightier than water, and more powerful than devout sacrifices alone can. Only Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, can build a Kingdom of promised purity and true repentance within the hearts of the children of God. Only Jesus!
Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“ ESV
It’s happened again! This one verse just happened to show up twice out-of-the-blue in a week’s time. It’s meant for my heart. It still surprises me to be reminded in such a simple way that the Word of God is meant for that specific purpose. It’s not just accidentally falling into place.
God has a plan for your life:
the right Word at the right time in the right place.
The right Word is COME. That’s all Jesus asks. Don’t clutter it up with anything else like needing a perfect place or time or whether it happens to to feel meaningful right then. The main thing is the choice to come. I know you want to validate your time but if you will just come, Jesus will do that for you.
The right time is NOW. NOW is the word used to draw attention to a particular moment. NOW is the moment when so many of life’s systems seem to have fallen apart. NOW is the moment when our labor is being challenged and redefined. NOW is the moment when hearts understand heavy laden in ways never before imagined. NOW is the moment when so many are behind closed doors. NOW is the moment of availability “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9). NOW is the moment of opportunity “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.(Rev 3:20). NOW is the particular moment to come.
The right place is YOU…”Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)
Jesus simply says “come to me“… that’s the “rest” of the story.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ESV
This morning I was thinking about an article I’d read by Billy Grahama that referenced this verse from Matthew. It was only one part of the big truth the article contained but it was the catalyst that opened my eyes to a new idea about that one last word…”rest.”
It’s such a simple revelation but I think it’s a meaningful one. Life, even a privileged one involves labor. The good life certainly has moments that are heavy laden. We know the Word is a reliable place we come to find rest in Jesus. The daily reading of the Word is a blessing. We plan to read daily and we’re frustrated with ourselves when we don’t do it. We know that devotional time seems to be impacted by…well…everything!
There will be circumstances when your “daily” devotion may fail you but your rest is not dependent on that circumstance. Rest is a relationship with Jesus and His devotion never fails you. THAT dear friend is His perfect provision that overcomes circumstances that interrupt best-laid plans. Jesus’s relationship with you is what makes it possible for you to enjoy the “rest” of your day…today, everyday and forever.
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. [NIV]
Wilderness was no surprise to Jesus. He was there when it was created. He knew ahead of time about the temptations of life; food, immortality and power. I’ve read this passage so many times, but the very first phrase surprised me this time “Jesus was led by the Spirit” into the wilderness. It made me consider that our current wilderness hasn’t surprised Him either.
Jesus’s responses in that wilderness have become an important model for us because we are in a place of vulnerability today. Bread is important but every word that comes from the mouth of God is the food additive that sustains life. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Forget the “birds-eye” view of all you could have…”if only.” Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Temptations yield to that choice and the wilderness can become a protected preserve instead where angels may show up wearing a UPS uniform.
It’s resurrection day! I’m remembering this very special week in Jesus’s life thru the filter of coronavirus today. Holy Week this year began very differently than most of us would have expected. Coronavirus moved us from participation to isolation and gave us a conscious awareness of the reality of our need to be safe.
Our senses have been bombarded all week with grim truths that describe the endless march of a viral enemy beyond our control. But there is another truth that has become the glimmer of “good” hope during this week. It’s hope that reaches beyond the stress of physical distancing, fears for our safety, illness, ventilators, and death…into the future.
The hope of the future of humanity has been revealed through the conscious, sacrificial and persistent service of ordinary people despite personal risk to themselves. That hope is a reality because of this truth; God has intentionally intervened in the hearts of those ordinary people to equip them to surpass even the best of human motives.
people have shown us a Holy
love that saves, in real time,
to make God’s divine
to all of
In the year of our Lord 2020
Jesus Christ lives to be a part of our future and our hope.
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
[Matthew 28:6 NIV]
Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]
Today is Palm Sunday. I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing. We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted. We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation. We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna! There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.
The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!” Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience. Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
John 15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
NRSV Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
NRSV Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us.
NRSV Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
After reading several versions of these passages and looking at commentaries written by people at various levels of prestige from St. Augustine to names I didn’t recognize this is my #1 question. Is Jesus speaking more about people outside the disciple’s experience of faith rather than those in opposition to Jesus? Is Jesus challenging us to check the balance of our focus on the relationship between doctrine and comfort?
Apparently doctrine is an age-old conflict. What if Jesus is speaking of people who operate outside the body of faith as we know it but don’t actually oppose Him? What if Jesus’ emphasis is about “tying up the strong man” with dependence on doctrine, rather than Himself. Can that be what makes the “strong man’s house” vulnerable to plunder? What if these three passages reveal the very words of Jesus that lead us from doctrine to comfort?
That makes sense to me when I read the Mark and Luke versions of this passage. I feel like I can read between the lines of John’s words in Mark. Sure the man is “casting out demons in your name” but how can what he’s doing possibly be OK “because he was not following us”? John’s concern for the corporate integrity of their ministry was real. Jesus matches his assurance to John with the same group-inclusive pronoun, “us.” “Whoever is not against US is for US.”
John’s invested his own life and identity in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew the question of integrity was still very personal to John. John’s own conflict was finding the comfort between doing things the way they “should” be done [doctrine?] and his commitment to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus words from Luke challenged John to move from doctrine to the exclusive assurance of comfort of a personal pronoun, “you.’ “Whoever is not against YOU is for YOU.”
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
It did occur to me I could read through all the second chapters of the New Testament but it wasn’t until the first few inspirational thoughts this morning that “what’s next” became “why not? If those “Firsts” during Lent and Easter were God’s theme to direct my thoughts toward the goal of Easter – renewal – then maybe these second chapters are God’s Second Chance to explore the mystery of how renewal happens. You already know this story so here’s the cliff notes from Matthew 2.
Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem…Magi from the east came…2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”…3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed…8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route…16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
We’ve come from the victory of Easter Sunday only to be reminded of the reality of a worn out, run-down and broken world…then. The magi were powerful men who dedicated themselves to search for the King of the Jews: God’s provision that would renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival. Their desire was to become part of that renewal and worship “that” King. Herod was a powerful king who’s only desire for renewal was to make certain of his own survival as king of the status quo. Fast forward from that star and the dreams that guided them to the worn out, run-down and broken world…now.
There is a definite relationship between desire and survival that can misdirect our continuing need for renewal. Renewal is the lifelong challenge of being dedicated to developing the ability to judge desires and circumstances of our world in accordance with God’s will [discernment]. Discernment is our guide today and it’s God’s provision that will renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival.
Christ is Risen! Lent has reached it’s apex. Thanks to Pastor Carl Franzon for sharing this meaningiful writing from Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE. It’s the ultimate revelation of the truth of Easter. We have a Savior who will not remain buried even by the whims of our humanity and the reality of a broken world.
“Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows. We can bury him in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition. We can bury him in movies and plays and music. We can bury him in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world.”
Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. [NIV]