Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Shock and Awe in Jesus' Hometown

Yes:  That would have been my reaction to the event described in Luke 4: shock that people would behave this way and awe that I was in the center of such a storm.

I:  the one who avoids conflict at any cost.

I:  the one who tries to make everyone happy, basking in the approval of smiling faces and warm relationships.

I: the one who knows the truth and yet will dilute it if I see others reacting negatively.

I:  the one who would have left the synagogue long before it got this ugly.

I:  who thinks I can not only control my reaction but others' responses as well.  In other words, I believe I can control BOTH sides of an interaction and I panic when I cannot do so.

What is the basis of my response to what happened in Jesus' synagogue?  Fear.  What is the basis of Jesus and His response in His hometown synagogue?  Faith.

Miles apart, huh? What does the Word say? "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." (1 John 4:18) 

How did Jesus operate so freely and fearlessly, especially in the face of such hostile opposition? He dwelt in the perfect love of His Father: "And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matt. 3:17) 

This fulfills what Isaiah said about the Son: "Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One, in whom My soul delights. I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations." (Is. 42:1) 

Jesus stood firm in knowing that "The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. And to your amazement, He will show Him even greater works than these.' (John 5:21)

I know what you are thinking:  Yes, of course, that is Jesus we are talking about here. But I am me.  Ugly, codependent, fearful me.  Fearful of being abandoned, rejected and subjected to ridicule and scorn.  

But so was Jesus.  He was abandoned by His disciples at His greatest time of need; He was rejected by His own people, His hometown synagogue being just the beginning of this; and He was ridiculed and scorned as He was dying in excruciating pain and suffering. 

And yet.

And yet, he never lost sight of His Father's love, even when He felt He'd been abandoned by His Father: "From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice...'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'"  (Matt. 27:45-46)

Wait.  How could the Father abandon Jesus if He loved His Son so much?  Because, for that moment, Jesus was fully under the darkness of sin--the sky registered this dramatic moment.  Not His sin--OUR sin.  Every sin, every failure, every evil ever done.  The only thing that sustained Him from giving up hope, was knowing that despite His taking on of our sin, His Father's love held.  The Father never withdrew His love; He withdrew His presence from Jesus until the sacrifice for sin was made.  Jesus was that sacrifice, and like the scapegoat in the Old Testament drive away from the people, Jesus was driven away, as it were, but not forgotten.

So, sweet CoDeWo, how does this apply to you and me? First up, if we are in Christ, we are His son or His daughter: "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Rom. 8:15-17)

So, we are His child, in whom He is well pleased, for we are in Christ.  Covered, cleansed, set free, born anew, adopted, accepted, never abandoned, no sin too great for forgiveness...nothing can separate us from God's love.  

These verses are the CoDeWo's Declaration of Dependence (On God's Unchanging Promises):  

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:31-39)

Wow.  So when we enter our hometown synagogue, and others' hostility triggers our fear and our sense of unworthiness, go and read these verses, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom.  Sometimes this will mean, just like Jesus did, walking out the door and seeking God for the next step.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

CoDeWo Nightmare #1: Jesus in His Hometown

Let’s go in deeper into Jesus’ life and see how He handled people. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you where you could be handling someone differently not based on what you think is right, but looking at how Jesus would do it.  Yes:  this is a WWJD? moment. 

It may sound cliché, but waiting on the Holy Spirit to give you the “how” means you won’t be jumping into a situation without thinking.  Taking a moment to to evaluate what is being asked of us is good for us.  It gives us a chance to breathe and wait on Him—listening for His voice and peace.

For our first CoDeWo Nightmare, we are going to look at Luke 4:14-30.  I want to set the stage first.  Jesus has been baptized by John and was then led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to undergo an ordeal authored by Satan.  Satan, sneering at Jesus’ new found power, wants Him to compromise it and use it for personal glory, not for the Kingdom of His Father.  Once that ordeal is over, Jesus returns to Galilee, “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.” (Luke 4:14)

In the Jordan River, God had ordained and affirmed His beautiful Son; in the desert, Satan mocked that affirmation and sought to undermine Jesus’ ministry before it began, but to no avail.  No Jesus is on His way.  

Jesus goes all over the Galilee region, and teaches in each town’s local synagogue, and He receives “praise by everyone.” (verse 15).  His ministry starts out well.

Then He goes to His hometown, Nazareth.  Everyone He grew up with lives there.  His family still resides there.  He is that local Boy making good.  He goes to the synagogue on a particular Sabbath.  Why?  The reading of the Scriptures in synagogues then and in synagogues today are cyclic.  Each portion is read at a certain time during the year, so by the year’s end, the Scriptures have been read.  Jesus comes into His hometown synagogue on the day where a specific portion of Isaiah will be read. 

Jesus is handed the scroll containing Isaiah.  He unrolls the scroll to the day's reading, and proceeds to read:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…(Is. 61:1-2)

He rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, and sits down.  It is the custom for the reader to comment on what has been read.  Everyone is looking at Jesus intently.  Why?  They know Him.  They watched Him grow up.  They know His laughter, His moods and His ways.  They walked past his father's shop, and saw Him at work.  They saw Him pack up and walk with His father to other towns to complete jobs.  They knew Him.  Or so they thought.

Jesus proceeds to say, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (verse 21)
The congregants are pleased:  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’” they asked. (verse 22)

They all knew the Scriptures.  They knew what followed Jesus’ reading: 

…and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.
For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed. (Is. 61:2-9)

To those sitting in that synagogue that day, Jesus’ words are refreshing to their souls.  They are  fervent Jews, well aware of God’s restoration of Israel after the devastation wrought by the Babylonians and the captivity that lasted seventy years.  These Jews have no trouble equating their current woeful oppression under the Romans to the words read and unread ones that follow.  

They sit beaming with the knowledge that the Messiah will restore them to their former glory:  the Chosen People of God, with their own kingdom of priests, prophets and kings.

But Jesus knows what they are thinking beyond the obvious parallel to their situation.  He knows that they want miracles—spectacles, entertainment—to distract them from their dreary day to day existence.  But Jesus will not yield to their demands.  Isn’t that what the desert was all about?  There are no shortcuts to winning hearts and minds. 

Jesus now cuts to the heart of the matter:

Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”
‘Truly I tell you,” he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.’ (verses 25-27)

OK.  Big deal.  Jesus gives commentary on these verses—something that is expected by the congregants. But wait a minute!  They erupt in fury.  They mob Him out of the synagogue.  They force Him to the edge of a hill with the rather unfriendly idea of pushing Him off, so they can stone Him.  Blasphemy—the dishonoring of God—demands no less, and this crowd is happy to oblige, for Jesus dishonored God with His words. 

As CoDeWo’s, this scene sets our teeth on edge.  Controversy.  Anger.  Raging conflict.  Really upset people.  Blame.  Shame.  Finger pointing.  Approval to disapproval so fast that even a falling star could not keep up.

What happened? 

As Jesus read the comforting words to the people in Isaiah, they applied the promises to now. God would restore them.  The Romans would receive the vengeance of the Lord, and His Chosen would reign in peace. They hunger for a miracle!  Jesus, with His track record, seems to be a likely candidate for a miracle of nation-changing proportions.  But Jesus has no intention of miraculously bringing about a Roman-free Israel.

Jesus has the gall to apply Isaiah’s words not to Israel alone, but to the Gentiles.  Can’t you just hear them…

  • Yuck.  Those people?  Those disgusting, fornicating, murdering, arrogant Romans and all others who are not the chosen of God like we are!  He's applying the words to them and us!
  • He is saying we are not the only ones upon whom God’s favor will rest!
  • Zion is us, and all the best God has to give belongs to us!  Never the Gentiles!  They never follow God’s law and we do!
  • Who is this guy?  He has calloused hands and is a villager, just like us.  Who does He think He is?
  • Yeah, He’s citing the Scriptures accurately, but so what?  We are chosen and we have plenty of verses to prove it! 

So, Jesus, at the start of His ministry is almost killed by his hometown team.  Just the yelling and mobbing would had me back-peddling faster than a clown on speed.  Yet Jesus says nothing more.  He walks through the crowd and out of town.  No apologies, hand wringing or wanting their approval.  He walks silently away.  

There is a lesson here for us CoDeWo’s.  What is it?  We will explore that in the next installment. 

Forgive me for the long times in between posts.  We just bought a new house and life just got real crazy!  I will try my best to blog more frequently.  Thank you for your understanding and for reading my blog!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Why Do We Try to Out-Jesus Jesus?

Interesting question.  If we have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, and then desire to follow Him with all of our heart, why, over time, do we lose our joy and wonder if we are either really Christians or if we really know how to follow Him?

Co-dependence is not just behavior.  It is a way to see the world.  If people need me, then every problem in every person I meet is my problem.  I have actually dreaded phone calls in the past; I was certain it was yet another person needing me and depending on me to fix a problem. 

Maybe a good comparison is a firefighter.  You sit at home or you are at work, and the phone rings, a text or email comes through and off you go to fight a fire.  You might even arrive and see the person throwing gasoline on it, but you will still hunker down and help the person, because that’s what following Jesus is all about.  Right?


Let’s open this up with a key scripture about what makes a follower and what does not:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt. 25:31-46)

These verses are our inspiration for serving Jesus for as we serve others, we serve Him.  That is very straightforward.  The “least of these” is a clarion call to us.  Look at the categories:
·         Hungry
·         Thirsty
·         Stranger
·         Needing clothes
·         Sick
·         Prisoner

In all the years I was assisting others, none of them fell into these categories.  Perhaps a sister in law who needed money for my nieces because my brother was spending it all on drugs, but that’s as close as I got.

Look at these for a moment.  These are people who are lacking the bare necessities: food, drink and clothing.  They are helpless for they are sick.  They are the ones who have wandered in, and need a community connection.  They are isolated from the community, for they are prisoners. James will later comment:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law... There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. (James 2:1-9 & 13 NLT)

Makes sense, huh?  We like to associate with people who look and sound like us.  Or, we enjoy hanging out with those we admire: ones with money, status, celebrity.  The poor?  Not so much.  But James reminds us in the words of Jesus to love others as we love ourselves.  Because in the face of others is Jesus Himself.  So, in loving the lowest of the low, we are loving Him. 

The rich do not need the bare necessities of life.  When they are sick or accused of wrong, they have enough money to remedy their situation.  The poor?  No.  Mercy and love are the hallmark of those who follow Jesus.  Otherwise, if we favor the rich and disdain the poor, we are no different in our behavior than the rest of the world.

James goes on to talk about faith without works.  Again, he is being very biblical—you can’t earn salvation but you can certainly demonstrate it by what you do in Jesus’ name:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2:14-18)

As CoDeWo’s, we are always eager to show our faith.  Yes, some spiritual pride gets laced into what we do, and we believe if we don’t help that person, that person will never change. 

Here’s my question after pondering these verses:  Was I helping those who were lacking the bare necessities—food, drink, clothes?  Was I helping those who were sick and needed me to be by their side? Did I make someone new in my church or community feel welcomed?  Did I help by visiting someone who was in prison? 

My answer is mixed.  I saw need and I tried to meet it, but mostly I helped those who could have helped themselves.  I simply took over, making me feel good about all the good deeds I was doing.  Those I helped were appreciative, yes, but they also started acting entitled to my help.  So, I was caught up in feeling needed and yet seeing no way to stop what I was doing. 

In other words, I was trying to out-Jesus Jesus.  I was doing more than He asked for; more than He told me to do; I was on auto-pilot and felt I didn’t need to check in with Him.  I was doing His will!  Following His teaching! 


No.  I never asked Him, “Is this Your will?”  I just assumed it was, for helping others is always His will.


Is it? 

This is where my co-dependence slid over my faith, and melted my faith into unhealthy behavior.  In the oceans, the gigantic plates the continents sit on slide under one another in what are called, “subduction zones.”  The plate sliding under its neighbor gets pushed further and further into the earth, and it goes from hard rock to melted molten rock. 

This is what I think of when I consider my faith back then.  It was pushed under others’ needs and melted into what I thought I needed to be.  I lost myself in those years, and didn’t have the rock-hard faith to say, “No,” or “I will get back to you.”  My guilt and wanting to serve Jesus motivated me to serve unhealthy people in unhealthy ways.  I lost who I was.  I didn’t stay in touch with Jesus but rolled out every morning on a mission.

So, if we follow Jesus, do we know His life intimately enough to really model Him in what we do? 

So, let’s look at Jesus’ life in how He interacted with others.  I will recount His dealings with others per the Word, and then reframe the incident in how I would have done it.  No, comparing my response and Jesus’ response will illuminate where I was.  Remember:  “The Word is a lamp onto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105) 

I need illumination in how I behaved then and how I can truly follow Him now. I was so in the dark back then.  But His Word will give me the alternative to a co-dependent way of seeing life. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...