Jesus cares – Matthew 12:9-14

My thought today is a simple one, but still always relevant: Jesus cares.  This occurred to me while reading the following passage.

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

It seems the observers were more concerned about their questions pertaining to the Sabbath than they were with the poor guy who needed to be healed.  Afterward, the Pharisees who witnessed the healing confirm this by going out and conspiring how to destroy Jesus.  Their additions to or interpretations of the law took priority over helping someone in need.  

Jesus, as we know, was willing to be their victim.  He would not, however, hold back from doing good to the man with the withered hand.  Admittedly the man’s hand was no life-threatening injury.  He may have lived with his problem for years.  During that time, however, his frustration may have grown.  His discouragement may have increased.

We have reason to be encouraged when we see ourselves as someone comparable to the man with this disability,  We cannot do as much good as we would like.  We are not as capable as we often feel we need to be.  Our inadequacy is constantly glaring at us in the mirror and laughing.  And Jesus cares. 

Christ is happy to renew our strength.  He is not too busy nor overly concerned with Sabbath requirements that were mere legal additions or interpretations to begin with.  He cares.  Jesus simply and personally cares.  And he wants us to know that.

A Prayer for Christ’s Rest Prompted by Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Dear Lord Jesus, 

Today I am feeling especially weak in my labors and I sense that I need your rest.  It is not merely a physical rest that I am in need of, but a spiritual rest for my soul.  Help me not to let my burdens get the best of me, but rather help me to share them with you.  Help me to experience your rest, the spiritual rest that only you can give.

I desire to learn from you, Lord Jesus.  Teach me what it is to be gentle and lowly in heart just as you are.  It is precisely in this lowliness that I am reminded I was not meant to bear these burdens alone.  You invite me to serve alongside you.  Just as two oxen were joined by their yoke, I desire to be joined with you.  It is then and only then that I will not be heavy laden in my service.  Again, help me to experience your rest, the rest that only you can give.

Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.  How different this is from the yoke and the burden of the world.  Elsewhere you said that apart from you, we can do nothing.  How true that is, and how clear it is that laboring alone, without you, is foolish.  Please take my work, my labors, my heavy burdens upon yourself and place your yoke upon me.  

Help me, Jesus, to experience the work that is actually rest when I labor together with you.  There is really no other way for me to effectively serve.

Amen.

 

Our worth or his? – Matthew 10:28-33

Jesus said we “are of more value than many sparrow.”  Sometimes we think of this in isolation as a statement of how valuable we are in God’s eyes.  After all, if not even a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from our Father, then we can rest assured that God cares for us too.  

There is nothing absolutely wrong with those thoughts.  Our heavenly Father does care.  He is attentive to the smallest detail of our tiniest trouble.  The big troubles mean even more to him, we can be sure.  But let’s read the verses surrounding the sparrows along with the verses we love.

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Overall, they seem to be about not fearing in the face of opposition.  What if I am tempted to deny Christ?  We need to fear God rather than any human opponent.  We should want Jesus to acknowledge us and know that he will, as long as we acknowledge him first.  Christ is telling us we need to have a public faith.

What Jesus is saying is something like this: “You are valuable to your Father and mine, he cares about your smallest concern, but how valuable are he and I to you?  Would you remain faithful to me even if it costs you something?  Will you fear those who can only kill the body, but not fear God more?”

Let’s remember that if we are “worth more than many sparrow,” then Jesus is worth something far greater still.  He is worth our very lives and even those lives are something akin to the penny paid for sparrows by comparison.  Our worth is derivative; it comes entirely from him.  Christ’s worth is original and derived from any other source.  He can share his worth with all of us and still have infinite value left in himself.

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.

A Prayer for More Faith Prompted by the Centurion in Matthew 8:5-10

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 

Heavenly Father,

I often pray “in Jesus’ name,” but I am not sure I recognize his authority or my own unworthiness to ever have you answer my prayers.  Neither is my heart sufficiently moved by the needs of others.  Give me the faith of this centurion.

Let it start by being willing to ask.  So often I simply fail to pray when I know full well that I am in need of answers from you.

Further, I sometimes retain a hint of my own self-righteousness.  I expect you to do things for me because of who I am or what I have done, or the justness of my cause.  In reality I deserve nothing.  All that I have or ever will have from you is purely of grace.  I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.

I also see that this centurion was praying for his servant.  He was clearly not an arrogant man in his dealings with others.  Considering his rank and position I wonder if it might have been completely acceptable for him to to care very little about this servant’s well-being.  His concern was personal as he transformed his servant’s need into his own. Move me to that kind of intercession.

Finally, there is the matter of Christ’s authority.  I am not certain that I see him as Lord of the universe and Lord of my life as I pray in his name.  Maybe I know these things as facts, but there are too many times when I treat Christ as more of my servant than my Master.  Help me to make this a thing of the past and never treat Christ as anything but the King of kings that he is.

Again, give me the faith of this centurion as I lift up my requests to you.

In Christ my Lord,

Amen.