I’m working

Jesus took a lot of flack for the things that he did on the Sabbath day. Those that would seek to destroy him looked for any and every opportunity to see him come to ruin. It is interesting to think how often Jesus was “caught in the act” by the Pharisees. How did they know what he was up to unless they were following him? If Jesus told a man to get up and pick up his mat because he’d been healed, that was considered work? If getting up was considered work, getting dressed was surely work and we don’t read stories of the Pharisees walking around naked on the Sabbath.

It is true that God rested on the seventh day after spending six days creating the universe. He also instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection on Him. Work was to be set aside and the focus of the people was to be on God. The Pharisees, for all their not working, certainly set their focus on something—someone—else.

Let’s work this out, shall we? God created the Sabbath—a day of rest. Jesus is God. Jesus created the Sabbath. Jesus was sent to walk the earth. Jesus did stuff on the Sabbath. Jesus never went against God’s word. So was what Jesus did on the Sabbath to be considered work or not?

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

John 5:17 (NIV)

Well, how does Jesus get around this then? He’s working on a day where no one self-respecting Jew is supposed to work!

God rested on the seventh day from His work of Creation. But Jesus pointed to the continuous work of God as justification for His Sabbath activity. God sustains the universe, begets life, and visits judgments. It is not wrong for His Son to do works of grace and mercy on the Sabbath.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

Just because God rested on the seventh day didn’t mean that His work stopped. God is always working on our behalf, even Sundays (or Saturdays, depending on which day you recognise as the Sabbath). Despite what religious leaders may think, God’s work cannot be put on pause or stopped. Because God’s work is never truly done, Jesus’ work was never done. No matter what we need or when we need it, God is ready and able to fulfill our needs, uninterrupted and without fail. A day of the week can’t stop Him if He’s working.

Read: 2 Kings 9-11, John 5:1-24

Side effects

As much as possible, I avoid the use of prescription medication. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’m one of those people that experience side effects more often and more acutely than most. I can use nearly any list of side effects as a checklist should my health require the use of prescriptions. In most cases, the initial symptom is easier to endure than the side effects of the drug. As a result, I deal with chronic allergies instead of the nosebleeds, cough, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, trouble breathing, and fatigue that come with over-the-counter nasal spray.

Now, I’m a more extreme case than the majority of the population, but most of us, in one way or another, have resigned ourselves to side effects and recovery time. A common cold may last just a few days, but the recovery of it can last a week or more. The same goes for the flu. A couple of days of being sick and medicated can lead to a week or two of recovery. We’re used to the idea. We expect it. And, whether we realise it or not, I think it’s had a dramatic effect on our faith.

“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

Luke 4:35 (NIV)

So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

Luke 4:49 (NIV)

These are just two accounts of many where Jesus performed a miracle. The miracles are incredible, but for now, look at what happened afterward. The demon-possessed man was freed without injury. Simon’s mother-in-law got up and started serving guests. When was the last time you were up and around doing housework the moment your fever broke? Probably never.

Here’s the thing about Jesus. Not only did he heal people, not only did he free them from demons, he did so without side effects. I cannot think of a single miracle in the Bible that required a time of recovery. Even Lazarus, dead for days, simply walked out of his tomb as though nothing had happened.

Our resignation to side effects and recovery time has stifled our faith. We pray just to get better and that’s good enough. But what Jesus has in mind for us is far better than good enough. It’s more than enough.

I think the possessed man would have been glad for a few scrapes and scratches, even a broken bone just to be free. Simon’s mother-in-law probably would have been content just to have a few degrees relief from her burning fever. Jesus didn’t just heal them, he made them whole.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 (NIV)

There are no side effects in Christ. There is no recovery time. When Jesus does something, he gets the job done the first time. That is where our faith should be. You may have heard it said that good enough is the enemy of great. It’s true. We’ve adopted an Eeyore mentality, convincing ourselves that just enough is okay. But it’s not.

The Jesus we follow is the same Jesus who called Simon to cast his nets so they could be brought back up so full they nearly sunk two boats. The Jesus we follow is the same Jesus who first forgave the paralytic, then told him to get up and walk. The Jesus we follow is the same Jesus who not only rose from the grave, but conquered death itself.

So why are we settling for just enough when we serve the God of more than enough?

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV)

Read: Joshua 14-15, Luke 4:33-44 

Give me a sign

Read: Numbers 24-27, Mark 8:11-38

Mark 8-11-12.jpg

It seems a little bit contradictory that Jesus would say this right after performing some of the most spectacular miracles of his ministry. This would be like asking an Olympic gold medalist to repeat their performance to prove they were good enough and have them refuse. The evidence for their athleticism already exists in the form of the gold hanging around their neck. For Jesus, the evidence of the wonders he had done was all around in the form of the thousands of people Jesus had healed, set free, and fed.

By refusing to perform a sign from heaven for the Pharisees on command, does this mean that Jesus didn’t want to do the miraculous anymore? Of course not! He knew that, if the evidence already available to these men wasn’t enough, one more miracle wasn’t going to do the trick.

He who is not convinced of the value of unseen things from a knowledge of the personality and spiritual message of Jesus will be unmoved by the most spectacular miracle.

J. Newton Davies, The Abingdon Commentary

I’m so confused! Do we want miracles or don’t we?

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:17-18 (NIV)

These were some of the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven. I think it’s safe to assume that this message was an important one.

But why are miracles for some people and not for others? Harper’s Bible Dictionary says this:

The miraculous healings and exorcisms, then, were unique personal experiences of the salvation brought by Jesus.

As much as miracles prove the existence of a loving God, they are not for unbelievers, but those who believe. Notice that when Jesus healed someone, he often told them that their faith had made them well. Jesus didn’t heal them to make them believe, he healed them because they believed.

It then begs the question: why isn’t the church as a whole seeing miracles?

Do we really believe?

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.

Square peg

Read: Number 14-15, Mark 6:1-32

You may have heard the term, like fitting a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard you try, those corners are not going to magically round off so that the square peg can fit into a circle. Sometimes, the way we minister is the square peg and those we’re ministering to are the round hole. No matter what you say or how you say it, the message isn’t going to get through. Jesus had some advice for his disciples for such a time as this.

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.

Mark 6:11 (NIV)

As I’ve been turning this verse over in my mind throughout the day, I’ve come to several conclusions.

  1. This is not an excuse to leave when things get difficult. There is a difference between difficult and not being received altogether. Sometimes ministry—our Christian lives—is hard. A lot of the time it’s hard. But that doesn’t mean we’re just supposed to give up. Welcome and comfort are not always equal. My pastor said this morning that complacency is the greatest stifler of the church. When we get all cozy, we do nothing.
  2. Leaving someone or some place that doesn’t welcome you is not giving up. Notice that Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that they had to stay in one place until everyone accepted the Good News. He didn’t expect them to stay in an unwelcome place. He wanted them to be where the Gospel would be received.
  3. The Gospel spreads faster where it is welcome. Our Great Commission as believers is to share the Gospel with every nation. That doesn’t mean we have to start with the hardest ones first. I think Jesus actually wanted his disciples to start with the easy ones. Do you want to know why? More people get saved in the easy ones and the more people who are saved, the more people will get saved. I believe that some of those cities who scoffed at the disciples, after hearing of the miracles that followed them wished they’d have been more welcoming.

Mark 6-12-13.jpg

The disciples went where they were welcome, where they were made to fit. They didn’t stick around as square pegs in a round hole trying to make something work.

If God has told you to be where you are, stay. I don’t want to tell someone that, because something is hard, they should leave. Sometimes God asks us to stick around through very difficult situations and I believe that He can and will work through them.

And I’m also not saying that the path of least resistance is the one we should all be taking. The Bible is full of seemingly contradictory teaching and it is up to us to read through it carefully and depend on the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is right for each of us.

Sometimes that peg will never fit. Sometimes the peg needs to be whittled down to fit. Sometimes the hole need to be chiseled to accommodate. And sometimes, we just need to light it all on fire with the power of the Gospel.

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.

Crumbs

Read: Exodus 1-3, Matthew 15:21-39

You’ve been invited to a feast. The table groans under the weight of the fare. All of your favourite foods are set before you prepared just the way you like it. The aroma wafts its way to your nostrils. Your mouth waters.

At the head of the table, your host gestures for the meal to commence. The person across from you, the one to your right, and the one to your left all dig in. You watch jealously as they consume the extravagant meal. All too soon, the food has been devoured. Your stomach still growls as the plates are cleared. Yours doesn’t even have a spot of gravy marring the shine. The other guests get up and leave the table. You remain seated. Before you is a single crumb. You don’t even know where it came from. You lick your finger and grasp the single morsel bringing it to your parched lips. You close your eyes and savour the small taste you were fortunate enough to have.

By now, I hope you’re thinking how stupid you would be to savour the crumb when you’d been offered the feast.

Jesus came to offer us the feast. We have an invitation to the table. We are honoured guests. But we often act like the dogs waiting beneath the table for the scraps to fall.

In Matthew 15, a Canaanite woman approached Jesus. Her daughter was tormented by a demon and she had heard of Jesus’ ability to heal. Jesus at first refuses saying that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (verse 24).

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

Matthew 15:26 (NIV)

Even after being insulted, the woman persists.

Matthew 15:27

Jesus commends her for her great faith and her daughter was healed at that moment (verse 28). The crumbs Jesus offered her were enough to accomplish all she had asked.

We, having been accepted into the family of God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus, have an open invitation to the table. We are not the dogs, we are the children. If the crumbs are enough for a miracle, what are we settling for that we are content to merely exist? It is long past time that we, the Church, take our seat at the banquet and accept all that has been waiting for us. Healing is for us. Freedom is for us. Prosperity is for us. Provision is for us. Miracles are for us!

Stop settling for crumbs when you can have the whole feast.