We come today, to the pool of Bethesda. Here we see something that, by today’s standards—western standards at least—seems bizarre. Our story is in John 5:1-9
This pool—the name means House of Loving Kindness—had five porches surrounding it. Daily, hundreds of lame, sick, blind and paralyzed people gathered here hoping for a miracle.
John tells us the people were waiting for an angel to come down and stir up the water. When the water stirred, the first one in the pool won a free trip to physical health.
Some Bibles mark this angel part as a later addition to the text. It all feels a little superstitious doesn’t it?
Was it really an angel? What it one of God’s? Perhaps a demon? Perhaps some strange sort of witchcraft?
But you know what—Jesus didn’t comment on it. So—I’ve already said too much I suppose.
I'm also struck by Jesus's choice to heal one man this day. So often in the gospels we read the story of Jesus healing them all. For instance, the evening after the Sabbath when He healed Peter’s Mother-In-Law. That night He came out after sunset and healed everyone in the city. But not here at the pool of Loving Kindness. At least it’s not recorded. Again—just one of those things to notice.
Jesus approaches one man.
Why this man? Maybe he was wearing his thirty-eight year perfect attendance pin. Maybe he was the sickest, or most hopeless. More likely (and at least this one is scriptural,) He saw His Father healing this man. (See John 5:19 - just down the page.)
Whatever the reason, Jesus approaches this man who has been sick for some thirty-eight years.
Let’s talk about this interchange for a minute.
Jesus asks him a simple and seemingly obvious question.
He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" - John 5:6
This is a great place to start.
Our churches and gatherings draw a great many folks who never quite get into the water. They sit in church, and sings the songs, but never set their affections on the One Whose name they take. They sit under the sound of good preaching, but the Word of God never finds good soil in their hearts. For these reasons, and other, they bear no fruit.
It’s time to put the question to them, and to ourselves…
Do you wish to get well?
Though to me anyway, the answer seemed obvious—the man actually makes excuses.
The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." - John 5:7
It strikes me that this man’s answer has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus’ question.
I wonder if he was answering the question he had heard a thousand times before—the question he expected this mild-mannered man to ask. The question his family and friends had asked him over and over. Even his pool-side companions would ask him this question. It was the question he could not face.
“Why do you sit here, day after day?”
But that’s not what Jesus asked.
In our last installment we met a man who asked the wrong question. The Royal Official asked Jesus to come to his son’s bedside.
This time Jesus asks the question and the sick man gives the wrong answer.
But there' some good news here. His non-answer didn't drive Jesus away. Jesus opens the healing door for him, no matter how bad his answer was.
Are you thinking, "Jesus didn’t offer healing, He simply healed the man?"
But did He?
He gave the man an imperative—a command.
Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." - John 5:8
What would have happened if this man gave excuses now? Was he healed and didn’t know it, or did the healing take place as he obeyed the Master’s command?
I think sometimes we consider ourselves people of faith all the while sitting at the side of the pool making excuses. Perhaps, like the man, we believe in healing. We believe God does miracles. We believe God wants to save the lost. We know Jesus mends broken hearts. But we sit and make excuses.
But this pool-sitter obeyed!
He got up and took up his bed and walked, and everything changed.
Thirty-eight years of going through the motions, over in an instant.
It’s time to “Get up” friends. It’s time to receive the life God has for us. It's time to step out of our pool-side life and step into a life in the Spirit. Jesus promised a river of living water flowing through us, and we sit beside stagnant waters making excuses. [Tweet This]
I don’t know what God has planned for you, but I know it’s right on the other side of obedience. Think back to the last thing He spoke into your life.
Now, get up and do it!
Lord, would you bring to our memory that last Word. Would you give us opportunity to obey and step into the life to which You’re calling us? I know You have more for us. Give us the courage to get up and walk!
“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” my wife said when she realized Jesus was our only hope.
My son was sick—dying really—and the doctors gave us no hope. They couldn’t even give a name to his malady. He couldn’t keep his food down, and breathing caused such pain it made him shudder. For the last week, he’d had no more than a few cups of milk. He was dying. My little Marcus would leave this life as a twelve-year-old, and leave his mother and me broken.
It came on him suddenly, just three months ago. At first, we thought he had the flu. There were times we thought he would melt from the heat his body produced. Food was harder and harder for him to hold down. The doctors tried everything. I called in doctors from all the neighboring towns. Each one had the same advice. “Try to keep him comfortable.”
I’m a Roman, noble by birth. I’m part of Rome’s occupying force here in Galilee. I’m not military. There are many of Rome’s military forces spread over the region, but I’m here to create Roman culture. My counterparts and I come to these satellite conquests and live Roman lives. This way the people of our new territories can see what Roman life looks like. We live in relative luxury when compared to the rest of Capernaum. This luxury includes the servants we brought with us from Rome. I miss my homeland, though, and have wondered more than once if Roman doctors could heal my son.
My butler brought his family with him from Rome when we moved here four years back. They lived together in a suite of rooms in the servants quarters, off the main house. He is my most trusted confidant. I speak with him about things I would not even share with my wife.
Three days back, my butler mentioned that Jesus, the healer, was back in Galilee—in Cana. We had talked about taking my son to him a few weeks ago, but the reports had him in Jerusalem and around Judea. My son was too sick to travel that far. But Cana—Cana is only a few hours from here.
We first heard of this healer a few months back, when my butler took his wife to find him. It was one Saturday night after the Jew’s Sabbath was over, right here in Capernaum. He told me, the next day, there had been dozens of people waiting outside the home where Jesus spent his Sabbath. When He emerged He healed every one of them. Not one person went home without a touch from this healer, including my butler’s wife. She had been suffering from vision loss since he came into my service. In any practical sense, she was blind. But when he came back in that night, there was a ruckus in the servants quarters. I went to see what was going on and found a full-blown party going on. When he saw me, he didn’t even apologize for the noise or seem concerned. He ran over and gave me a hug. His eyes were wet with tears.
“She can see,” he said through his tears.
I looked at her across the room and our eyes met, and she was nodding. It was true. She was completely healed. She could see.
So when he told me Jesus was back in the area, I told him to get my horse and carriage ready. Then I ran to my son’s bedside. I found my wife holding him, tears running down her cheeks.
“What is it?” I asked.
“He’s gone,” she said.
“Dead?” I asked.
“No,” she answered, “but close. He’s not responding to anything anymore.”
“I want to take him to see the healer—up in Cana,” I said.
“He can’t travel. He’ll be dead before you get him in the carriage.” She said.
“But the healer is back in Cana. He can save him, I’m sure of it.” I urged.
“No. I won’t let you take him,” she insisted.
“Well, I’m going anyway,” I told her.
I threw on my cloak and rushed for the door.
“You’re leaving now?” she asked. “It will be nightfall by the time you reach Cana.”
“Look at him,” I said. “He’s at death’s door. I must see this man as soon as possible.”
“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” she finally agreed.
I ran out the door and found the horse and carriage ready for me in front of the house. I briefly explained I was going alone. We separated horse and carriage and saddled him. I was off for Cana.
My last look at my son panicked me. His body seemed limp, his color, gray. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I had to find this healer and all I knew of his whereabouts was Cana.
When I got to the town, I headed toward the magistrates building near the town center. But before I got there, I saw a crowd gathered in the square. In the center was a man who seemed to have everyone’s attention. As I approached I began to understand why. His words drew me like a bee to a blossom. The sound of His voice seemed to exude peace if that’s even possible. After two hours riding in panic, a calm from without began to press its way into my soul.
When the crowd saw the royal insignia on my horse, they made room for me. I dismounted and walked through the assembly to Jesus.
He stood before me in silence.
“My son is at the point of death,” I began. “He may be dead already, but I’m sure if you will come with me to Capernaum, you can make him well.”
Jesus turned from me to address the crowd.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
“Sir,” I almost barked, feeling the panic rising again. I gathered myself and started again, this time with a forced calm. “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.”
The confidence in His tone—in His words—banished my fear and I believed Him. Three words turned my fear—panic—into peace. I turned and headed back toward my horse. I stopped. I realized I hadn't thanked Him. I turned to go back but He had His back facing me, holding another man in the crowd who knelt before Him.
As the evening hurried toward night, I found an inn at the side of the road. I slept well all night long, and that surprised me. I hadn’t slept that well since before my son fell ill.
I started awake, disoriented, forgetting where I was. For a split second, worry pressed upward from the depths. Then I saw my cloak and gear and remembered everything.
Only minutes after I left the inn, my butler and I met in the way.
“Master, master, your son lives!” he was calling as he ran to meet me.
We rejoiced for no short time, and then I asked, “When? When did things change?”
“Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him,” came his answer.
“It was Jesus!” I said with confidence. "That’s when He spoke the words."
“Words?” he asked.
“Your son lives,” I answered. “Those three words saved Marcus’ life. Three little words. Your son lives.”
We would be a few more hours on the road, but there was no gap in our talk of this fellow, Jesus. My servant told me of the things he had seen in Capernaum, and I told him my story again, and again, and once more.
“Your son lives.” His words resound in my mind.
When we arrived at home, my son greeted me at the end of the walk. He started telling me what happened at home, while I tried to tell him what Jesus had done. In the end, I told my story to everyone in the household. I told my son, my wife, my other children. I called all the servants together and told them to bring their families. I then recounted the miracle for them as well.
All who heard believed in this Healer from Nazareth.
To read the original story, see John 4:46-54.
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2017
If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more like it in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes you, as you read, from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.
Yesterday, we looked at the fact that Jesus is the express image of God and to see God we should look at Jesus. But as I promised, I want to see where Jesus took this truth next as He answered Philip’s request:
Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." - John 14:8
Here is the passage again, with my highlighting:
Again, it would be awesome if you would read this aloud:
Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. ~ John 14:9-21
Jesus, the way to know God
So along with telling the boys how they could see God, how they could get to know God’s character and nature, He was going to take this conversation to another destination.
The first paragraph of His answer basically goes like this. You have seen God because He lives in Me, and you have seen Me, the things I do and the words I say, show you exactly who God is.
And as we saw yesterday in Hebrews 1, He is not just the “good parts version” of the immutable (unchangeable) God, He is the “exact representation of His nature” (from Hebrews 1:3.)
The Other Shoe
After making it clear to the disciples that He was how they were to see God, He explains that in the very same way, they were, and we are, a way for people to see and know God.
Each reason Jesus gives Philip for seeing the Father through Himself, He turns around and explains how they will have the same ability to present or should I say re-present the Father to those they touch.
The same Spirit that was in Christ, “will be in you.” The same works that Christ used to demonstrate the character and nature of the Father, “he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.”
Just as Jesus spoke only what He heard the Father say, His promise to the boys comes down like this:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. - John 14:26
Honestly, this revelation is a bit of a world rocker to me. I can be such a screw up at times. I hurt the people I love on a regular basis because my head is stuck where the sun does not shine, and I am thinking about my agenda, my needs, my…self, and that is NOTHING LIKE GOD.
But THIS is His plan. The master plan, set in place before the foundations, before time, before sin, before life as we know it.
If you are in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ, His idea is that when people see you, they would be looking at the Father. [Boy, that feels downright blasphemous, doesn’t it?] [Click here to tweet it anyway]
OK – let’s not get all arrogant-n-stuff, because we fall, we fail, and that’s on a good day. But the fact is, when men and women look at YOU and ME, because of the new creation, the new heart, the new covenant, God, using His infinite power, gives your circle of influence a glimpse of the Almighty.
When they look at you, they see God, and when they see you fall, and God lift you up, they see their own need for God, their own need for “my Glory and the Lifter of my head.”
I know, crazy, right?
Lord, today, this day, shine through my successes and my failures, so those around me can see You, and are drawn to the Lover of their souls.
Today and tomorrow I'm going to re-air 2 posts from three years ago about the nature of Jesus. I think these two posts will bless you and I pray we would together turn our eyes toward Jesus. Here we go.
Let's dig into Jesus’ answer to Philip’s request:
Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." - John 14:8
Have you been pondering this passage?
Here is what jumps out at me – Now normally I would put all these words in red, this being Another Red Letter Day, but today I am going to paint a just a few words in blue so they stand out.
It would be awesome if you read this out loud (or out quiet) but I want it to be oral. The more faculties you involve the more tuned in you are, so let’s have a faculty party today.
Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that Hemay be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." ~ John 14:9-21
I know, that is kind of a big chunk of scripture for a blog post, but as you can see from what is highlighted, there are some pretty strong ties from top to bottom.
Here is what I saw as I pondered this passage.
There are two (or maybe three) aspects Jesus emphasizes, that He says will enable us to see the Father.
Indwelling, or cohabitation
The first is the fact that, as He says, “I am in the Father.” This He says three times, and two of these are followed with “and the Father is in Me.” He tells Philip and the rest of the disciples that they can know God. They can “see the Father” right before their eyes because Jesus is indwelt by the Father.
The best way for them to see God was to look at Jesus.
Words and Works
The second way they could see God was to look at the things Jesus was saying and doing, His words and works. He actually tells them that if they were not sure what to believe about Jesus’ relationship with God, this indwelling thing, they should believe just because of the works He was doing. He was… – well as Luke tells us:
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38
Jesus, because God was with Him, the Spirit of God dwelling on the inside, did works that demonstrated God, His character, and nature.
We read again in my favorite of all scriptures (I am pretty sure this is the top of my top ten list:)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, - Hebrews 1:1-3
We see here that Jesus is not "like" God, fuzzy around the edges, like what the prophets taught, according to verse 1. Instead, Jesus is the “exact representation of His nature.” He is not a partial image, where He is only depicting "the good parts" of who God is, but Jesus is a complete revelation of God. If you don’t find it in Jesus, it is not in God. Jesus is the complete study guide to God the Father. Jesus is perfect theology. [Tweet This] There is nothing in Jesus that is not in God, and there is nothing in God that is not in Jesus. And God has seen to it that what is recorded in the Word about Jesus is enough of a revelation for us to know the Father.
So my first takeaway is pretty simple. The best way to know God, and what God is like is to look at Jesus, His words and His works. He, Jesus, tells us this repeatedly and these other passages reinforce this idea, that He only ever did what God was doing, or would do, and His words were coming straight from the throne of God.
But Jesus does not stop here. He does not simply say, you want to see God look at Me! He takes it to a place that changes everything.
Come back tomorrow, and we will see as the other shoe drops.
It’s another red-letter day! Let’s take a look at some red letter and see what we can glean.
Come with me to Mark 2:3-12.
Today Jesus actually gives His accusers proof. For much of Him ministry He did not offer any evidence to His skeptics. They pressed Him time and time again for confirmations and signs and He left them wanting. They questioned Him and He gave them more questions and less understanding.
But here in Mark 2 He gives them a reason to believe that He is Messiah, He is:
as Paul puts in Philippians—equal with God
and again Colossians—all the fullness of the Godhead
as the writer to the Hebrews states—the express image of God.
Here’s what’s going on. He’s in the house and there is a crowd as usual. This time there are a bunch of religious folk pressing in to question Him, to put Him to the test.
Luke drops a wonderful nugget into his telling of this story.
…And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. - Luke 5:17 NKJV
We can talk about that another day, but isn’t that wonderful. Even in this room full of skeptics, the power of the Lord was present there to heal them.
Back to the story, there is a paralyzed man with some really good friends. They carry him to Jesus on a stretcher but can’t get through the door. Because of the crowd, they can’t get the stretcher up to Jesus. So what do they do?
They carry their friend up onto the roof, (yikes) break through the roof, rig the stretcher with ropes and lower their friend down in front of Jesus.
Now Jesus sees all this and is clearly confused. (kidding) Obviously the man on the bed needs healing, and as we already noticed, the Lord is ready to go with the power to heal.
But instead of just breaking the tension and healing the man, Jesus scrolls through His options and chooses—provoke.
So many times when Jesus is healing the multitudes we see Him simply touch and bless, but this time He decides a lesson is in order.
It’s time to pull back the veil a little further and let the world see another level of His glory.
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." - Mark 2:5 NASB
Let’s review. The room is full of the religious muckity-mucks and Jesus decides to demonstrate His authority over sin.
It’s time for them to understand that Jesus was not just another pretender come to stir up discontent. Jesus is Messiah, Emanuel, the One promised to rescue and redeem His people. God with us.
It’s time for them to leave their nets, their accounts, their religious garb, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus.
"But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." - Mark 2:10-11 NASB
This man who bursts onto the scene and starts stirring up the rabble is no pretender. He is thereal deal. And the healing He carried proves it.
No false Messiah before Him, and there had been many, moved with compassion through the crowds and brought healing to the nation. Only Jesus.
And He’s the same today.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8 NASB
He’s still in the same business.
"THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." - Luke 4:18-19 NASB
It’s His family business, you know.
Don’t be confused by what the religious folks tell you. Don’t be distracted by all the shiny stuff the World dangles before you.
It’s time to drop your distractions, take up your cross and get after Him.
As Philip told his brother Nathanial in John 1, We’ve found the Messiah…come and see.
While you’re at it—if you’re in His family, it’s time you take up the family business too!
"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8 NASB
Join me in Mark 1 today and let’s think about what Jesus said in these three little words. But first ... a little context.
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." - Mark 1:40-41 NASB
Jesus ran into people every day during His ministry years. It is in fact why He came, to seek and to save the lost, to run into people and bring the kingdom of heaven into their lives. No two of the folks He encountered were alike. It was not as though everyone who came to Him for a miracle came with the same level of faith and expectation.
Some knew deep inside that if they could reach Him, they would find healing, like the woman with the issue of blood.
for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." - Matthew 9:21 NASB
Some were not even sure He had any power whatsoever.
"It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" - Mark 9:22 NASB
Some understood He was not limited to proximity, and could heal across the miles like the centurion.
But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. - Matthew 8:8 NASB
So what about this leper we meet in Mark 1? He had a concern I often hear voiced in Evangelical circles. It’s common thought today that Jesus can still heal and does still heal, but it is linked to some sort of whim or fancy or divine fiat. We come to the Lord in prayer asking for healing as though we hoping He’s in a good mood and might just condescend to do us a little favor and heal our loved one.
This phrase only comes up five times in the NASB and three of them are three accounts of this event. One is when Jesus is talking about John the baptist, explaining that he was Elijah who would come. The only other time we hear this phrase is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cries out to the Father:
saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." - Luke 22:42 NASB
Many have adopted this phrase as part of their prayer life.
Here’s the thing.
Jesus answered the question.
He answered this man in no uncertain terms.
He could have simply healed the leper to demonstrate His will without saying a word.
But Jesus—the Word of God—the very Will of God incarnate—the express image of God—Jesus—answered.
I am willing!
And if this doesn’t answer it for you with enough clarity, look at His ministry. He healed all who came to Him. Time after time we see Him heal them all.
The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. - Matthew 4:24 NASB
But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, - Matthew 12:15 NASB
We are not calling out to God for something unclear, or something unprecedented.
Jesus, in the Garden, placed Himself into a circumstance we could never see. He was facing separation from the Father, He was facing the cup of God’s wrath stored up against all our sin and the prospected was horrifying.
This is not our case when the come to the Lord Jesus for our healing. He told us His name is Jehovah Rapha - the Lord our Healer.
I understand that when we are talking about our future James tells us to leave it in the Lord’s hands.
Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." - James 4:15 NASB
But James is not teaching us to pray. He’s talking about our attitude toward life.
Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever, said without hesitation:
As we near the end of Jesus earthly ministry we see a Jesus who looks nothing like our Sunday school image of Him. First He cursed a fig tree for having no fruit.
Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening. - Mark 11:13-14 NASB
Next, He headed down to the temple and wrecked the place.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS'? But you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN." - Mark 11:15-17 NASB
Do you know this Jesus? Can you fathom a Jesus who seems so irrational?
I understand that figs grow before their leaves show up. The fruit grows, then the leaves come to shelter the fruit as it ripens. Jesus found a fig tree with the trappings of fruitful activity—but no fruit.
Then He came to the temple where the religious leaders performed the sacrifices on schedule and the keeping of the law was paramount. It displayed all the trappings of fruitful activity—but no fruit.
How easy it is for us to put on our religious trappings and give the appearance of fruitful activity. When Jesus comes looking for something delicious to eat, something like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, (Gal. 5:22-23) what does He find in us?
Lord, lead me into a lifestyle that satisfies your appetite for the fruit of the Spirit in me.
As I ponder the last days of Jesus’ life, there’s one phrase that gets me every time. Jesus is surrounded by a Roman cohort, the temple big wigs, and his own disciples. Melee breaks out. Swords clash and ears fly (OK - ear flies.)
Jesus looks at Peter and tells him to put away the sword. Then He asks Peter one of the most significant and telling questions of His ministry (and He has asked a lot of questions!)
Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? - Matthew 26:53 NASB
Or as I like to translate it - “Don’t you know I could pray?”
In all of Jesus’ healing ministry one thing is lacking - He never prayed for the sick. He took authority over sickness and disease. There were times when He looked to heaven and thanked His Father for what the He was about to do. But Jesus never made an appeal to heaven in the working of a miracle.
It’s not that He didn’t pray though. The way I understand it from Jesus words, He spent time with the Father daily—went off early and often to pray and be alone with the Father. In His time in communion with Abba, the Father would show Him things Jesus would face that day, or in the future, and Jesus would submit to the Father’s priorities. Every day Jesus answered the call afresh and anew—Here am I, send me!
In fact, He had just spent three hours appealing to the Father, and received the resounding “NO” of heaven. He was coming out of the very first prayer He had ever uttered that God denied.
"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." - Matthew 26:39 NASB
Yet this does not change His confidence. He knew that He knew that a single request—one simple petition—would bring all of heaven to His defense.
I don’t pray like that. My heart doesn’t rise up and say, “Don’t you know I could pray?”
But it should.
Why shouldn’t I have the same confidence in my heavenly Father. Why, when faced with seeming impossibility, don’t I look it in the eye and tell that old liar, “Back off! Don’t you know I could pray?”
Lord, from this day, I ask You to forgive my prayerlessness and help me know the Father as You know Him. Grant me the place of prayer. Give me confidence in the power of prayer. Give me the boldness to stand up and say, “Don’t you know I could pray?”
As you know, if you’ve been around Another Red Letter Day long, I love the red letters.
As I puttered through the Christmas Story this season, I ran into the first (chronologically) red lettersin the Bible. The red letters in some editions of the Bible are the words of Jesus. You can read about why I love them so much here. In any case we find these red letters when Jesus was only twelve years of age.
Before His baptism and the inauguration of His ministry.
Before His testing in the wilderness.
Before His Bar Mitzvah, His coming of age.
This is what He says.
And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" - Luke 2:49 NASB
Now I, having grown up with the KJV, remembered it like this—
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? - Luke 2:49 KJV
—and that got me curious about the actual words.
[Standard Disclaimer—I’m not a Greek scholar so I offer only observation about what a couple good reference source say.]
I noticed in the NASB that there was a foot note on this word that the old translation renders as "business." This word “house” could also be “affairs.” The literal translation, according to the NASBs footnote is “I had to be in the things of My Father.”
I love that. Jesus first recorded words were “I have to be in My Father’s stuff.”
As I look at how this “things” word is used, I found Jesus using this word in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4 NASB
In each beatitude we see this pronoun used.
OK—I know—It’s just a pronoun. Everybody uses words like this all the time.
But I like to think of the boy Jesus pondering the scriptures and looking forward to a day when He would come and actually be IN His Father’s stuff—He would dwell within these blessed ones—take up residence in the ones who the Father considers His business—His mansions—His possessions.
To be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to this quasi-Christmas carol, but it shows up in many of those Classic Christmas song mixes.
While we decorated our tree yesterday, we kept the Christmas playlist going, and so it came up a time or two. One of those times I happened to tune in to the words.
Am I the only one who can listen to a song (and even sing along sometimes) and never really pay attention to the words? It happens to me with songs I loved as a kid in the 60’s and 70’s. I listen to them now realize I had no idea what the song was about. So it has ever been with this Christmas classic (or perhaps this is a classic xmas carol.)
Having written last week about King Herod’s deplorable reaction to a potential threat to his throne, I heard old Bing singing about a king getting news of a child’s birth, and actually listened to these words.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
I suppose it could be talking about one of the three kings who saw the star in the east, so maybe I shouldn’t throw any stones here, but the shepherd is mixed into the story. (Not to mention talking sheep and a star with a tail—a commit?)
It was actually written by a couple, Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, under threat of Nuclear war. It was their plea for peace in a time of great turmoil. It has since been recorded by dozens of artists over the years, and fills the shopping malls every Christmas season.
But just for the record, it has nothing to do with the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The king in the true story had a much different reaction to the news of a baby lying in the cold.
Much like the religious leaders thought when the little child grew up and started to threaten their power base.
The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. - Mark 3:6 NASB
This One who was indeed able to bring goodness and light, and to whom we ought to pray for peace, was not embraced by the powers of His day. They wanted to be done with Jesus. He was hunted by Herod, hated by the pharisees, derided by the scribes, entrapped by the lawyers, condemned by the government, scourged at the command of Pilate, mocked by the crowds, and finally crucified by the Romans.
And yet they were not done with Him. Not by a long shot.
Every player in the life of Jesus will again face Him.
Each one of them will bow their knee to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Each one of us will face this Prince of Peace.
He is the One who will reign forever and ever in a kingdom of peace.
You can be part of that kingdom today. You can serve this King and be among those He welcomes home with open arms like the Father of a prodigal.
I pray for peace today, peace between you and the Prince of Peace.
Will you invite Him in today? Will you let His incarnation draw you to His side?
Thanks for coming by. Sorry this was such a ramble.