Is this the Jesus we wanted? – Matthew 11:2-6

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

John the Baptist was languishing in prison.  Conditions were harsh even for him, a man unaccustomed to comfort.  Further, he was not a criminal, and he knew he didn’t belong there.  Where was that Messiah that was going to set the world right?  Jesus was certainly that very man, wasn’t he?  There was the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove.  He was a relative and John knew him well enough to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the one.  But again, here he was, locked up and no happy ending anywhere in sight.  Who can blame him for asking Jesus for some word of hope or instruction?

The doubts of a saint are vastly different from the doubts of the skeptic.  When we find we don’t have the Jesus we wanted, we need assurance, even if we are determined to believe.  It’s a question of trust.  We can trust someone during difficult times, but still acknowledge that the times are difficult.  Disappointment with God is a real thing.  Our faith may waver, but it will not fail.  Surely, as we wait, God will strengthen our heart.

The skeptic sees things differently.  Difficulties just add to his denials.  She builds a wall of doubt out of bricks inscribed with objections.  Trials are never an acceptable outcome of obedience.  Disobedience can always find its reasons.

The saint knows better.  The narrow gate and the difficult way lead to life.  The rugged cross is something to cherish and something to cling to, while awaiting to exchange it for a crown.  Is this the Jesus we wanted?  No matter, it is the real Jesus.  And he would tell us the same thing he told John: 

“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Resurrection Sunday 2019

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983 – 2017

Jesus’ death on the cross is not the end of the Christian message. The gospel is that Jesus then rose from the dead. Whereas every other life ended in death, Jesus’ death ended in life, and his resurrection is the basis of all Christian confidence.

Resurrection 2019.pdf

Resurrection 2019.mp3

Matthew 9 Verse by Verse

Matt photoChrist’s public ministry moves forward with even more miracles.  He ends with a prayer request for us, to pray for laborers that will help with the spiritual harvest.

Matthew 09.pdf

Matthew 09.mp3

 

Vicarious faith – Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26

Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement.  He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves.  That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith.  If you want, you can read more about it here.

Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life.  Needy people are not always in a position to believe.  They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe.  Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers.  Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter.  She was dead.  In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse.  Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself.  The mourners were no help.  Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus.  But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose.  I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.

Goldilocks zeal – Matthew 8:18-22

Like the famous porridge in the story of Goldilocks, a person’s response to Jesus can be “too hot” or “too cold.”  Let’s take  a look at a couple of examples before we determine what a “just right” response would be. 

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 

This scribe seems to have not thought his commitment through.  His response is too hot, or overzealous, given his level of understanding.  Jesus may made his home in Capernaum, possibly with Simon Peter and family, but the reality of his ministry meant that he didn’t often get back there at night.  At a deeper level, we have to think through where our true home is.  Paul reminds believers that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  If we do not consider this reality, then we may find our commitment to Christ is superficial.  It may not stand the test of time or the rigor of unforeseen trials.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Without going into detail, we can see that he is asking for a delay.  Maybe it would be weeks or months, maybe a year or more.  Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham.  The man grasps  that following Christ involves sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that he is unwilling to make.  Unlike the overzealous scribe, this man is underzealous or too cold.  

A Goldilocks response to Jesus needs to be carefully thought through rather than hasty.  But it also needs to be willing to give whatever is necessary for the cause of Christ.  This world is not our home anyway, so with that in mind, why wait?  A true and thorough cost-counting will reveal that Jesus is worth more than anything or anyone that we might decide to place before him.

 

The easy way out? – Matthew 7:13-14

Toward the end of his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said,

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Wouldn’t it be great if following Jesus was the easiest thing we could do?  Popularity, public approval, material well-being, and an absence of trials and temptations.  Isn’t that the life most of us would like to have?  It turns out a life like that is more likely to lead to destruction.

We can learn a few things from Christ’s first followers.  Neither the Gospels nor the book of Acts, nor the rest of the New Testament gives any evidence that those early believers were getting voted “Most Likely to Succeed” or winning popularity contests of any sort.  They didn’t take the easy way out.  Why should we expect anything different?  

We need to be careful here.  Lack of popularity is no guarantee we are faithfully following Jesus either.  It might just mean we are doing a lot wrong.  

Still, when we try our best to serve God in accordance with his revealed will, we can expect it to bring some difficulty.  We can also expect that quite a few others will decide to go another way — through a wide gate and down an easy path.  Many will take the easy way out.  Look around.  Which gate are you heading going through and which path are you following?  How does it compare with the way of the cross?

Complete Joy – 1 John 1:1-4

Apostle JohnComplete Joy     1 John 1:1-4

The fellowship Christ shares with his Father is now ours to delight in. The result is a fulfilled or completed joy.

1 John 1.1-4.pdf

1 John 1.1-4.mp3