Out of the ordinary

 

Do you ever wonder why Jesus performed certain miracles for certain people? I don’t think it was so much that he was selective about whom he did things for, I think he performed miracles for those who went to the trouble of getting his attention.

Once Jesus’ ministry took off, he was in high demand. People followed him everywhere he went. And, let’s face it, if you knew he was going to feed you, you’d probably show up, too. There were always crowds around him. He healed a lot of people. I’m sure the Gospels only list a small portion of what he really did. But the ones that stand out are those who took the extra effort.

In Luke 18, there’s a blind man. He discovers Jesus is nearby.

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Luke 18:38-39 (NIV)

There was no way this man was going to let Jesus go without getting his miracle. And he did. All his hollering got Jesus attention.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

Luke 18:42 (NIV)

This blind man wasn’t the only one to take extra effort in getting Jesus’ attention. Remember those four crazy friends who tore a hole in a roof to lower their paralysed friend down in front of Jesus (Luke 5:19)? What about the sinful woman who came into the Pharisee’s house and dumped a bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:38)? Or the woman with the issue of blood who crawled through a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8:44)? Then there were the ten lepers who stood at a distance yelling at Jesus to heal them (Luke 17:13).

It seems to me that those who want something from the Lord, really want something, will do whatever it takes to get it. And here we sit and pray a little prayer once and assume it’s not God’s will if it doesn’t happen immediately. Have we really done all we can to get Heaven’s attention? Have we, like the blind man, called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” until he has no other choice but to acknowledge our cry?

Those who received the most from Jesus are the ones who couldn’t care less what society thought of them. They were the ones who shoved social and cultural norms aside and said to themselves, if Jesus is able to do this, I’m going to make sure he does.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t see the signs and wonders we want to see because we’re not really asking for them. What have you done lately to capture Jesus’ attention? Have you done anything unusual or out of the ordinary?

Read: 2 Samuel 4-6, Luke 18:18-43

A response

Read: Numbers 34-36, Mark 10:32-52

Do you ever read a verse or two in the Bible and think, I’ve read this somewhere before… For me, today was one of those days. As I read through the account of blind Bartimaeus in Mark, I was reminded of another passage in scripture. And no, it wasn’t someone else’s account of the same man. It was in Hebrews and it feels like a response to the account in Mark. Let me show you what I found.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1a (NIV)

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd…

Mark 10:46a (NIV)

I understand that Hebrews is referring to all of those great men and women of the faith that have gone before us, but the crowd in Mark also served as witnesses. Some didn’t feel that Bartimaeus deserved Jesus’ attention, but others did.

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Mark 10:48-49 (NIV)

Without these people who encouraged him, Bartimaeus would never have experienced what happened next. The passage wouldn’t even be in the Gospels. How inconsequential would a man calling after Jesus be? I’m sure it happened all the time. But because this beggar was surrounded by those who had already seen or experienced Jesus, we have his story to tell.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and thes in that so easily entangles.

Hebrews 12:1b (NIV)

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Mark 10:50 (NIV)

Throw, throwing, both of these words come from the same root that mean to get away from. The implication is that it wasn’t a slothful trod away from hindrance, but a sudden casting away from that which may entangle a person. It is likely that Bartimaeus would not have been able to jump up had he remained wrapped up in his cloak. But because he didn’t want to lose his chance at speaking with Jesus, he tossed it aside and got away from it.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2a (NIV)

“Rabbi, I want to see.”

Mark 10:51b (NIV)

One translation goes so far to say, “That I may see thee.” Bartimaeus didn’t just want to see, he wanted to see Jesus.

…and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us.

Hebrews 12:1c (NIV)

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:52b (NIV)

Many Christians are under the impression that we must be trailblazers, crashing ahead, clearing a path that has yet to be trod. Never once did Jesus tell his followers to go somewhere he’d never been or do something he’d never done. Bartimaeus got up and followed Jesus. The writer in Hebrews tells us to run the race that’s been marked for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

Jesus already blazed the trail with his suffering. He marked it with his blood. It is through our faith—that begins and ends with Christ—that we see that road before us. And, like Bartimaeus, we must refuse to give in to those who would shut us up or discourage us from receiving that which we’ve been promised, cast away anything that might hold us back, jump up, declare what we want from Jesus, and follow him.

Rebellion or revival

Read: Numbers 16-17, Mark 6:33-56

In today’s reading, we see two very different accounts. Israel has just recently made the decision to not go into the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve scouts that were sent to scope out the land came back saying it’s good, but we can’t overpower the people already living there. We’re better off where we are. So they decide to stay in the desert and are then upset about it! They don’t like the food. They don’t like the dirt. They don’t like their leaders. They don’t like much about their situation, even though they’re in it because of the choices they made.

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will all die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

Numbers 18:12-13 (NIV)

Flash forward to Mark. Jesus has been working with his disciples for some time now. They’ve already been out on missions trips. Crowds find and follow them wherever they go. Even though they’ve seen miracles and have been a part of working miracles, these twelve guys still don’t have it all together. They don’t understand everything that’s happening, but they seem pretty keen on being a part of it. They may question some of Jesus’ methods, but they work, so in the end the go along with him. They’re seeing sick and lame healed, dead raised, and people set free. And they’re in it because of the choices they made.

And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Mark 6:56 (NIV)

Israel lived in fear while Jesus’ followers lived in awe. Israel refused over and over again to obey, yet they still expected the fulfillment of God’s promises. The crowds that followed Jesus chased after him and experienced miracles. Do you see the connection?

Rebellion will never lead to revival.

Israel was a giant flock of lost sheep. God had given them a shepherd, but they didn’t like him. They didn’t want to follow all of the rules. They wanted to have their own way. Instead of walking straight from bondage into bounty, they wandered and they died. Only two men who stepped out of Egypt walked into the promise—because they saw beyond the problem.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Mark 6:34 (NIV)

Here’s another group of lost sheep. But these sheep chose to trust their shepherd and they were greatly rewarded for it.

Rebellion leads to restlessness, while following leads to freedom.

Just…

Read: Numbers 11-13, Mark 5:21-43

Just is a big word. I just need more time. It was just a little. If I could just… A lot of weight can rest on those four letters. Other words associated with it include: nearly, almost, merely, barely, or close. It gives a feeling of reaching. A last effort before giving in to failure.

The latter portion of Mark 5 talks about two people who just.

…because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

Mark 5:28 (NIV)

These words were spoken by a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She’d spent all of her money on doctors and, instead of getting better, only got worse. Her last ditch effort was to just touch Jesus’ clothing.

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 5:36 (NIV)

Just believe? The man’s daughter had been declared dead. What was he supposed to believe? He’d come to Jesus for healing, but to bring his little girl back to life? Already, going to see Jesus would have been his last ditch effort. As a ruler in the synagogue, he would have been a learned man, well-acquainted with the law. He would have known process over promise. Yet here was Jesus very matter-of-factly telling him to just believe.

I think that we too often wait too long to get Jesus’ attention. We believe that we must have all of his attention to get our miracle. Our just is desperate, like the woman. We’re straining and reaching, hoping to get just enough to get by. We have nothing more but that last push. It works, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

But, we have Jesus’ full attention, like the synagogue ruler. Jairus had more of Jesus’ attention than anyone else. It was to his home that Jesus was going to. The just he needed, according to Jesus, was simple. A meh, don’t worry about it, I got this.

You get to pick what you just want to do. Do you just want to reach out and brush the hem, fighting your own battle, pushing against the crowd, crawling toward Jesus? Or to you just want to believe, walking beside Jesus, trusting everything is alright no matter what the facts say?

The good news is, that no matter where you find yourself, both ways work. If you can do nothing more than just touch, that’s okay. Or if you’re in a place where you can just believe, that’s okay, too.

That loud crowd

Read: Leviticus 15-17, Matthew 27:1-31

A crowd is contagious. At the moment, much of the world is currently wrapped up in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Once every four years, I watch winter sports. In the past few days, I have been wrapped up in snowboarding hearing terms like chicken salad, 1440, goofy-footed, McTwist, amplitude, and pretzels. I can talk about the sport like I actually know something about it—which I don’t. But I’m part of the crowd, cheering on anyone wearing a maple leaf whether I’ve heard of them or not. I have jumped on the Olympic bandwagon just like I do every other year.

A couple of thousand years ago, there was another crowd of bandwagoners. Whether they shared the opinion or not, a group of people gathered to shout and, eventually condemn an innocent man to death.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:22-23 (NIV)

I don’t know if the crowd just happened to be there, or if they awaited the annual customary release of a prisoner, or if they’d been paid to be there by members of the Sanhedrin. But they were there. They were loud. And none of them could answer Pilate’s question—at least not loud enough to be heard. They shouted for the sake of making noise and, because they were so loud, anyone who could have been able to speak against them was either drowned out or too afraid to speak out.

Still today, there are a lot of people out there making noise for no other reason than to make noise. They like the sound someone is making, so they join in the cacophony. If asked why they make noise, they just get louder.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, where were all the people who had welcomed him into the city just days before? Where were all the people who had been healed and set free? Jesus was not to ineffective in his ministry that there would not have been enough people to speak up for him.

But Jesus was passive. He was quiet. We should emulate him.

Yes, we should be like Jesus. As much as possible, we should strive to be just like him. But this moment, during and after his arrest, was the only time when Jesus was quiet. He knew what he had to do and he had resigned himself to it without putting up a fight. At no other point in his ministry did Jesus ever sit down and keep to himself in the face of lies.

If you know the truth that could set someone free, why not shout it out? Even if the crowd is loud, we should be louder because we know why we shout. The Book that we hold in our hands is not mere platitudes, but it is life. If you would only step out of the shadows and speak up, perhaps another person would find the courage to do the same. And then another. And another. And soon, the crowd proclaiming the truth will be louder than the crowd making noise.

Church, we should never, ever let that loud crowd shame or bully us into keeping quiet.

All of my life in ev’ry season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Brooke Ligertwood, Desert Song

Speak without a sound

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.

Acts 19:32 (NLT)

There are a lot of people in a lot of places making a lot of noise. Like this crowd in Ephesus, they found a cause and joined the fray without even knowing why they were there. It all sounds too familiar. How much noise are we surrounded by? How many people are shouting to make their voice heard over the rest? How much of it really matters?

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvellous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a (NLT)

Isn’t in incredible that the crowd at Ephesus had to shout to be heard and most of them didn’t even know why they were shouting! Yet the heavens are silent in their declaration and their message can be heard across the entire world.

Think about your message today. Consider the volume of your words and actions. Are you adding to the noise or are you making a silent declaration?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 19-21, Acts 19:21-41

Hail to the King!

The next day, news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A huge crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God!
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”

John 12:12-13 (NLT)

All of these people had gathered because they had heard Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. That was great. They heard a great story and got in the moment and publicly praised Jesus. I wonder, though, how many of those same people, several days later, shouted, “Crucify!” Was their praise simply the effects of a mob mentality? Is ours?

When we, as a church, get together on Sundays to praise and worship, God is glorified. We are all encouraged. We get together and great things happen in the presence of God. But how much of that carries over into Monday, Tuesday, and the rest of the week?

God is most certainly interested in our corporate worship. It is an important part of our relationship with Him. But He is also interested in our private devotion—what we do outside of Sunday.

Is our public worship a reflection of our private moments with Him or are we merely going with the flow—affected by the mob, first praising Jesus then accusing him?

Our public worship should not be directed by the crowd around us, but should rather be an extension of our private devotion.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 1-3, John 12:1-19

Pilate project

I don’t like reading the account of Jesus’ death. I find it difficult to take every time I read it. Perhaps that’s a good thing. If I could breeze through the crucifixion of Christ, I don’t believe I would have the right to call myself by his name.

I don’t believe there was a person Jesus came across that did not have, at the very least, the opportunity to change. Even knowing his death was near, Jesus’ ministry was still active. Following his betrayal by Judas, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate—the Roman leader in Jerusalem at the time.

Pilate was a hard and cruel man. Luke 13:1 speaks of how Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. Strike one against Jesus—he was from Galilee. Pilate also had symbols that would offend the Jews imprinted on the coins he sent into circulation. Strike two—Jesus was a Jew. When he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod as Galilee was under his jurisdiction. Pilate and Herod were enemies. Strike three. Pilate’s tenure in Jerusalem ended when he was called back to Rome after massacring a group of Samaritans. He was just plain mean. There was nothing in this situation that would benefit Jesus.

And yet.

Herod could find no fault in Jesus so he sent him back to Pilate. Again, Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime that would merit punishment by death. To try to appease the people, he offered to have Jesus flogged. But that wasn’t enough for the crowd. Three times Pilate told the crowd there was no reason to sentence Jesus to death. Three. That number sounds familiar…

…poetical for the moment when something is finished, completed, and perfected.

(N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 1950, p. 384, n. 4)

After denying the crowd’s request three times (someone else had recently denied something three times… [Luke 22:54-62]), Pilate gave in. By waiting as long as he did to sentence Jesus, he went against his own track record. I’m sure that those who brought Jesus to him thought it would be an easy task to convince Pilate to kill a Jew from Galilee.

Having spent just hours in Jesus’ presence, it could be concluded that Pilate was changed. Not only did he go against his own history of violence and cruelty, but he befriended his enemy, Herod.

For the rest of his life, I wonder how much Pilate was haunted by his actions against Jesus that day. Did he think about it often or did he try to wipe it from his memory? Was there any remorse? Did he ever understand the role he played in the greatest plan of all time? Did he know that his command to have Jesus killed would work to finish, complete, and perfect salvation for all?

If God could use even the hardest man to accomplish His will, surely there is hope for the rest of us.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 23:1-26

He’s out of his mind

Does anyone in your family think you nuts? A little bit off? Maybe they wonder why you do the things you do. They don’t understand your faith. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Even Jesus’ family thought he was nuts.

When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.

Mark 3:21 (NLT)

It could very well be that those closest to us, are the furthest from understanding.

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what his mission was an the apostles with him, knew Jesus and trusted in him.

But Jesus’ family, the people who should have been the most understanding, thought he was crazy. When the miracles were so numerous that the crowds surrounding him got so large, Jesus and his disciples were unable to find a place to sleep or even eat, Jesus’ family tried to put a stop to it.

They didn’t see the Son of God, they saw the man who forgot to eat. They didn’t see the miracles, they saw the crowds closing in. They didn’t see salvation, they saw a man pulled in every direction.

The point is this: if we wait until everyone around us fully understands what God has called us to do, we’ll never do it. Read your Bible—rarely, if ever, does God’s way make sense to everyone else and sometimes not even to the person doing it.

This isn’t a message to shun your family and break all ties, but it is a word to you to know the One who has called you. This is why Paul said to Timothy, for I know the one in whom I trust. We don’t have to know the what and the why if we know the Who.

Daily Bible reading: Number 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

Hack a hole

Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

Mark 2:2-4 (NLT)

Have you ever thought about what this would have been like to experience? Not only being in the presence of Jesus and being able to see and hear him teach while among the crowd, but to have been in the room while a part of the roof was being removed.

I don’t know about you, but as a basement-dweller, I am very much aware of the noise above me. I know the room was crowded and probably on the noisy side, but you can’t tell me that no one noticed as chunks of clay began to fall from the ceiling. Soon, a hole appeared. Someone definitely would have noticed that. And, once the original hole appeared, hands and faces would have been seen as they hole continued to grow.

Now, if you’re sitting in church and suddenly a hole appears in the roof, I have a difficult time believing that the service would go on as usual. Surely, even if the pastor didn’t stop teaching, someone would send an usher or security team member out to see what was going on and try to put a stop to it. But no one did.

Jesus allowed these men to continue to hack a hole in the roof of Peter’s house. He allowed bits of clay to rain down onto the heads of the people below. He didn’t command that they stop and a path be made clear so that the men could walk into the house. Jesus allowed the entire situation to play out before first forgiving the sick man and then healing him.

One commentary calls these men the eager group of interrupters. When the crowds were too dense to pass through, they didn’t turn around and go home. When they received glares from the men in the room (who, by that time wore a dusting of clay), they didn’t stop digging. These eager interrupters didn’t stop what they were doing until their friend was able to walk from the home on his own steam.

At what point would you have stopped? When the crowds were too much? When the climb to the roof with an invalid was too difficult? When the clay on the roof was too thick? When the men below gave you the look of death for disrupting their meeting? When Peter gasped at the sight of the giant hole in his roof?

These men had more opportunities than most to give up, yet they did not. But I believe the most important part of this encounter is Jesus allowing it all to happen. He could have made the job easier, yet he did not. These four crazy friends worked for their buddy’s healing. Their faith took action and nothing was going to stop them, not even Jesus.

Like the strength a butterfly gains from escaping its cocoon, I believe that there are also times where the easy way is not the best way. Would the man’s healing and forgiveness held as much value if they’d been able to walk right in?

Just because Jesus allows difficulties, doesn’t mean he is no longer willing to come to our aid. Perhaps he is rooting for us to build our own strength and faith first.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 26-27, Mark 2