Tag Archives: jesus in the gospels

My favorite Jesus Story pt. 2

Healing of the blindThis is part 2

When we left off last, Jesus had placed mud on the man’s eyes, the man washed, and then was healed.  Jesus then disappears from the story for a bit, but don’t worry, he’ll be back.  As we read, the man runs across his neighbors.  His neighbors see him and ask, “Isn’t this the blind guy?” Others answer, “Naw, just looks like him.” (I’m using the John Elkins revised remix translation).  Now take note, the debate is between the neighbors.  No one specifically addresses the blind man until he interjects himself.  This happens throughout the story.  First it happens with the disciples, then the neighbors, then the Jewish leaders.  So this poor man stands around his neighbors and they don’t believe his story.  No one cares about the blind guy.

What should give us pause is that the people who live around this man are unsure if he is even the blind guy.  They are so far disconnected from the plight of the weak that they cannot even recognize a neighbor.  This is the tragedy of the story, that no one cares about the lame guy…  no one that is, except Jesus.  The community of faith has failed to defend the weak and broken among them.  They have allowed this man to beg in the street without ever engaging in the plight.  This is exactly what Ezekiel condemns the Jewish leaders for doing in Ezek. 34 and 36!  The shepherds of Israel have abandoned God’s sheep. In this story, the Lord if fulfilling His promise that He will be the Shepherd.

So, the neighbors take him to the Pharisees and they ask the same questions.  This time there is the added struggle that Jesus decided to heal the man on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is the day of peace and remembrance of God’s work in creation.  So it should not surprise us that God is recreating on the Sabbath.  But it surprises the Jewish leaders.  In the court of the Pharisees, the discussion is not about the blind man’s sin, but about Jesus’ sin. (Of which there is none, by the way.)  The Pharisees don’t care about the man’s story.  In fact, they don’t even believe in it according to verse 18.  So they call his parents and his parents refuse to stand up for him.  No one cares about the blind guy…  not even his parents.

The Pharisees call the blind man again and demand that he reject Jesus as a sinner who could not heal the blind.  This is exactly what people do in our modern world today.  First we deny the validity of the change that happens inside a person, then we challenge the story, then we reject the answer, then we reject Jesus.  No one cares about the person.  We get caught up in the way that things are done, insisting that we know better.  We get caught up in WHEN things are done, insisting that we know better.  We tweek programing thinking that our programming will save people.  We get mad because we think we have the right answers in our programs and works.  In this story Jesus shows us that we should be concerned for the blind guy.  But we are often too busy being right to care about the blind guy.

John 9, My favorite Jesus Story

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “what is your favorite Jesus story?”  (a trick I learned from my older brother Jeff)  I love this question because it tells us a great deal about each other.  It tells me if a person actually reads the Bible or if they just regurgitate stuff their pastor has said.  It tells me if they have certain theological dispositions and tendencies.  It lets me briefly peer into their inner workings and attitudes towards religion, faith, and culture.  I thought today I’d share one of my favorite Jesus stories with you.  It will come in multiple parts, this is part one.

In John 9 there is a man who was born blind begging on the side of the road.  Jesus’ disciples ask, “whose fault is this man’s blindness?  Did he do it or His parents?”  Now, this question indicates a very peculiar understanding of life.  These men believe that bad things happen as a direct result of our individual wickedness.  To be sure, sometimes we suffer consequences of our sin in a dramatic and dire way.  For example, you end up in Jail if you break the law.  You may get sick and not be able to think as clearly if you are enslaved to alcohol or mind altering drugs.  Or you may end up losing jobs and being broke because you cannot overcome some sort of addiction.  Whatever the case, there are certainly consequences for individual sin that sometimes have great ramifications.  But, this is not the case with every trial and infirmity.  This poor blind beggar is simply blind.  Sin exists in the world and as a result death and infirmities plague EVERYONE.  This man is not guilty of being blind.  He simply is blind.  His own guilt is no greater than anyone else’s and he may actually be more righteous than the disciples!

To be clear, the true indictment should be laid on the community that surrounds this man.  The question the disciples ask is, “why is he blind.”  The question Jesus would have them ask is, “why is no one doing anything about this?”  Jesus asserts, “This man is blind so that the works of God would be shown.”  Cases of infirmity, sickness, and disease exist so that we can show the love of God to one another and recognize our common need for Christ.  So this story begs the question, where is the community of redeemed believers who follow God?  Why have they not taken care of this one?  Jesus kneels down and heals the man.  In Jesus’ example, we are beckoned to do the same thing for the broken around us.

Read the scene carefully, He doesn’t say a word to the man.  Just puts some mud on his eyes and says, “go wash that off.”  It must have been the weirdest thing that man had ever had happen to him.  I’m a little surprised that there is no record of the blind man’s verbal response.  I imagine that this must have been almost offensive, as Jesus’ healings often seem to be.  (He is always initiating healing with a rather offensive statement.  C.f. Jn 5:6, “do you want to be well?” or Mt. 12:13 to the man with the crumpled hand, “stretch out your hand.”)  I can only imagine what he was thinking, “what do you mean, ‘go wash this off!?’ of course I’m going to wash this off, you just put cold wet mud in my face you big bully!”  And yet, once he has washed it off, he was healed.

We are called to work this mission.  We are called to bind up the broken and take care of those who have shattered souls and lives.  It is in these broken people that we find the love of God is most fruitful.  It is in the broken community gathered around to aid each other that we see the Life Eternal at work.  So, get to work Christian!  Find some broken people and lift them up!

What’s your favorite story?

The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

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Jesus Sculpture

Art has an amazing quality to transcend the limitations of human communication.  I was recently privileged to visit Dallas Baptist University’s campus and was touched by the numerous sculptures and paintings on the campus.  One in particular was Jesus holding a fishing net with a saying written behind him that said, “will you follow me?”  This struck me precisely because Jesus doesn’t ever ask in the Bible.  He states, “Follow me!”  Our Lord doesn’t ask, He simply says, “come on, let’s go!”  (c.f. Mt. 4:19,8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 19:21, and that’s just Matthew.)  A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that Jesus, in the Gospels, never asks people to follow Him.

The sculpture had Jesus holding a fishing net.  Combined with the aforementioned question it was as if Jesus was saying to those passers by, “I’m going fishing whether you come or not.”  It’s not so much a question as much as a statement.  The question simply softens the challenge.  You see, Jesus is working and we are invited to come along and join in the work!  If we don’t go, He is still going.

Jesus was also not dressed to fish.  If you look up any cultural studies of fishing in the first century you will see that men wore very little when they went fishing.  They would be in a hot boat in the middle of a rather isolated area.  So their clothing would fit for comfort.  Probably no shirt, shorts (or that time periods equivalent, and foot ware that would not easily come off.  However, the Jesus in the sculpture had on a complete robe.  You know, just like you always envision Jesus.  Two heavy looking robes and a belt around the first one to hold it closed.  Now, in all honesty, there are probably some errors in our pictures of Jesus, not the least of which is His overwhelmingly Germanic appearance.  But this is neither here nor there.  So, Jesus is fully dressed.  While He is going fishing, His work is completely contrary to what you know.  The implied invitation is that you will join Him on a journey that may not completely make since to you.  Jesus is going fishing in a way that does not fit your logic!  You probably will want to tell Jesus that He is not dressed appropriately for fishing, or He’s not fishing in the right place, or the boat is not cool enough to get fish to come to it, but good luck getting Him to listen!  Peter tried that once remember!? (Luke 5:1-11) Peter argues with Jesus, saying, “we toiled all night and took nothing!”  Remember?  Peter had a design for how fishing was to be done and Jesus contradicted that design.  What saves Peter is the phrase that follows the objection, “But at your word, I will let down the nets.”  Peter may think he knows a better way, but he still obeys.  Which is funny, because Jesus was right not Peter.  Maybe we ought to learn from Peter here?

Finally, the net in Jesus’ hand is wound up in His hands.  He is prepared to go fishing, but you will not see the net unfurled until you go with Him.  Jesus is going fishing… are you going with Him?