Shout for Joy
We come now to the point where Jesus selects 12 men to go out on what appears to me to be a test mission. We have already met 5 of the 12 so we surmise that Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas the son of James, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot joined the group in much he same way as the others. Tradition tells us that 11 of the 12 were martyred as followers of Christ
That 12 were chosen by Jesus corresponds to the 12 tribes of Israel and represents the fact that there exists a continuity between the Old and New Testaments when it comes to God’s overall plan of salvation. This is strengthened by the fact that the 12 were to go first of all to lost sheep of Israel. They were not to take provisions with them (money, a traveling bag, a spare shirt or extra sandals) because, “The worker deserves his keep” (Matt. 10:10). Housing would be a problem, so Jesus instructs them as follows; “When you come to a town or village, look for someone who is open to the message of the kingdom and stay with them until you leave that town” (v. 11). This seems to us today to be a very reasonable approach, but is out of sync with the more “spiritual approach” that would say, “Just go there and God will take care of everything.” Couple that with the fact that should a town not welcome them, they are to leave and shake the dust of the town off their feet, a way of indicating that the town is now responsible for the gospel not being proclaimed there.
So often in our day the gospel is proclaimed in a sort of apologetic manner. This is what God did for you on the cross and I trust you won’t be offended by my telling it to you this way. By way of contrast, the early church was on a mission to tell the world the wonderful news of Christ’s redemptive death. So, some answer like, “If you would rather not be bothered right now I can always come back tomorrow or whenever it is most convenient for you” DID NOT HAPPEN that way. Instead, they would hear something like, “Listen, here is some really good news! Christ died for your sins and heaven awaits those of you who accept it by faith. Hallelujah! No, I can’t stay a couple of days because there are a lot of people out there who deserve to hear and I’ve been sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to tell them.”
“Salvation is a gift and people are fortunate to hear about it. If some didn’t want to hear, I’m sorry, but there are so many who do, and we need to get to them while there is still time.” I’m not suggesting a cold-hearted approach lacking in compassion, but an awareness of God’s gracious offer and the danger of the wrong kind of humility. May the joy of the Lord so penetrate us as couriers of that message that people will be caught up in the enthusiasm of commitment to the Lord of Lords who offers everything, but just doesn’t have all the time in the world for you to linger unnecessarily before responding.”
Should you ask me, “Do you believe in demons?” I would have to answer you “Yes.” If then you wanted to discuss them at length, I would be hard put to add anything beyond what Scripture has to say about them. The most vivid description is the one of the Gadarene demoniac. He lived out among the tombs and went around stark naked screaming at the top of his lungs. He was a violent man and all attempts by the towns people to bind him in chains failed. I imagine he was typical of all the demon possessed, but I haven’t gone far into the subject so I’m unsure. We do know that Jesus was able to cast out demons and that those that he cured were anxious to spread the news of the Galilean with such remarkable powers.
So let’s accept the biblical position that there are demons, but now we ask why there doesn’t seem to be events in our day like those in scripture. At least, there have not been in my experience. Perhaps it has to with what kind of demonic activity serves Satan’s goals most effectively. How would Jesus go about that task today? Let’s say that one of Satan’s goals was to convince the American church that the very idea of demons belonged to an earlier time that is now behind us for good. Would a naked man walking around at night, cutting himself with sharp stones and crying out be considered demon possessed or just mentally disordered? When you saw a troubled mental disorder like that would you try to get him to a therapist? But if there are demons today, wouldn’t they pursue a better path. Their goal is control and whatever leads to it is considered good. If I were Satan, my plans would be a lot more subtle than just described
There is no doubt that we live in a world that contains, in addition to life as we know it, another kind of life, call it supernatural. Angels do not “stay at home” in heaven, but are free to visit our physical world. Almost every one has an angel story, the story of a visit by an angel to our world for some reason. Mine came in the form of a black assistant in the hospital who showed up in the middle of the night to take my “vitals.” We got to talking and he became very interested in my writing which led to my giving him one of my books. In the inside cover I wrote a note to “Willie”, he told me that’s “ie” not “y.” The warmth of his friendship was remarkable. I had taken three books to the hospital, two for two extraordinary nurses and an extra. In the morning I asked about my black visitor and got a strange blank stare, No one like that worked in the hospital! And the book was no where to be found. God knew I needed a bit of encouragement along the way, Some day I will see Willie again, I am sure,
I believe that it is in the same way that demons touch our life now and then. I have no demon stories and I wouldn’t share them if I did. May God keep us from evil powers in this world and bring us safely though on heaven’s side.
Having brought the son of the widow of Nain back to life, Jesus, got into a boat that evening with his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, a journey of 3 to 4 miles. The crossing could be dangerous in that the lake was some 700 feet below sea level with mountains on the east and west sides with valleys though which the wind could quickly create waves up to 8 feet. Jesus was asleep in the stern resting his head on a sandbag when the storm rose with waves crashing across the deck. The frightened disciples rushed to Jesus calling for help and in their fearful state asked Jesus if he didn’t care that they were going to die. At that point Jesus rose and ordered the wind and waves to cease, which they obeyed and all became calm once again. The disciples shook their heads in amazement.
Sometimes it is interesting to take a real story and let it become an outline for teaching some lesson for life. Let‘s see where this one takes us.
When the disciples decided to cross the lake with Jesus it was like moving into a new period of life itself? The job in one place is over and it is time to explore new possibilities. We have the strong feeling that Jesus would have us accept this challenge and we know that he will be with us. So we leave the place where we were comfortable with the surroundings and head out. The trip to a new place and better opportunities begins well, but it isn’t long before the wind of opposition begins to pick up. Certain obstacles begin to develop in our venture. The wind stirs the waves of life and makes it difficult. We can no longer see where we are going. Other passengers are experiencing the same kind of difficulties. Soon life is at the mercy of the waves of change. We decide to find something that promises stability and hold onto it because everything else is so unsteady.
Where is Jesus? He promised to be with us in times like this, so I can’t understand. The storms of life have really set in now. We aren’t sure where we are and we don’t know what to do about it, We are in the midst of a major problem and can’t find the solution. So finally we go to Jesus. By now we have lost sight of any way through. We accuse him with, ”Don’t you care!” Jesus arises slowly, stands, looks into the storm and simply tells the storm to die. And it does. God is in control after all. Here we are between two jobs and it looks like we had made a really bad mistake. We marvel at why we did’nt take the problem to him sooner.
The lesson is simple.
Don’t be afraid of change
Don‘t stare at life’s problems, do something about them
Trust God completely
Bringing a dead person back to life is no easy task. We don’t know whether of not people in Nazareth knew of the boy’s passing (Nain is only about 6 miles away), but Jesus and his disciples were on their way when they met a funeral procession. A widow had lost her only son, a tragic story. As the procession was passing by, Jesus reached out and placed is hand on the funeral plank although according to Jewish custom that would make him ceremonially unclean. The procession stopped, and the dead copse sat up and began to talk. The mourners were astounded! Dead people don’t come back to life. Tears streamed down the face of the widow as she took her son in her arms. He was her sole source of financial help as well as family. What a day and how marvelous that Jesus did nothing but reach out and touch the passing group as it neared the place of burial.
The account is rich with spiritual insights. Note, for instance, that Jesus was where he was supposed to be and alert to the needs of others. I believe that when he saw a funeral procession he immediately asked his Father how he could be of help. Then as the widow in her sorrow drew near his heart was “moved with compassion” (Luke 7:13). This picture forms a composite sketch of the One we worship. He is wherever there is need and brings a compassionate heart to the scene. He “reaches out” and touches. Here he touches the deceased son of a widow, then the wild waves on the Sea of Galilee, then the Gadarene demoniac who lived among the tombs, then the daughter of Jairus, the woman with a hemorrhage, and finally the two blind men (all in one chapter of Jesus, In His Own Words).
I believe Jesus is still as watchful for need as he was in the days of his incarnation. He is among us now and his eyes are wide open looking for need. But what does he do about today’s deceased son of a widow? How does his compassionate heart move him to answer a problem from a “distance?” That should not be a problem because we who are his followers – who have been touched by his saving grace – are his body and we do whatever he, the head, tells us to do. At least that’s how it should be. What a unique privilege, to work with Jesus fulfilling the “demands” of his compassionate heart. It is almost like traveling with him back then in Galilee. May his concern for the welfare of others transform us into his image.
Most of you know that Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is a much shorter version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Matthew is a teaching gospel and has bought material together from various places for instruction rather than maintaining a strict narrative. Much of his Sermon is found at various places in the gospel of Luke. The only part of Luke’s Sermon not included in Matthew is the section on “The Woes” (Luke 6:24-26) so we will deal with that now.
While most translations use the word ”woe” I’ve chosen “How sad” in that “woe” suggests something like eternal anguish while context suggests that it has to do with daily life right here and now.
Luke lists four situations in which a person will probably call out, “Woe is me!” The first one is surprising in that it identifies the wealthy as about to suffer because they’ve gotten all the happiness due them (v. 24). “How terrible for you rich people because you’ve already had the easy life and things are about ready to turn." This insight is especially interesting in that wealth gained suddenly (as in a lottery), far from creating happiness does exactly the opposite. So, “How sad that you will receive $2,840 a day for the rest of your life.” Instead of jumping up and down for joy it would be better not to accept the money, or if you do, give it all away.
Then how sad it is that you have had all you want to eat because it can’t continue and you are going to get hungry (v. 25). The NLT creates a picturesque setting with its “What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you.” In the ancient world hunger was often just around the corner. And then there are those “who are laughing now:” How sad because it will all turn into mourning and weeping (v. 25). On the surface, Luke paints a rather strange picture. It portrays as worthy of our sorrow a world of financial plenty, an ample supply of good things to eat, and a happy atmosphere in which to spend the day. Most of us would opt for that. And perhaps that is the problem. One’s attention is riveted on all those things that are ephemeral and provide no lasting joy. There is nothing in wealth, abundance, or entertainment that satisfies the deeper longings of the human heart.
And finally there is that sought after experience of public recognition. Jesus says, “How sad for you when everyone speaks well of you.” How can that be? I’ve never met a person who wasn’t happy with a good coverage in the local newspaper. One usually cuts it out and mounts in somewhere that others can’t help but see it. The down side? “That’s exactly what their fathers did to the false prophets” (v. 26). To be spoken well of by the wrong people is a sure indication of some sort of a scam. No one would object to valid recognition, but beware of recognition in a world like ours.
So thank you Luke for including such good insights into life. It took a second look to see what you had in mind, but upon reflection it is hard to deny the truth of what you say.
In Matthew 7:7-11 we are encouraged to ask, search and find. We ask and God gives, we search and find, we knock and the door is opened. What a beautiful promise. No Maybes, just do it. Then Jesus goes on to explain that should a son ask for bread, his father will not give him a stone. Or should he ask for a fish, he won’t hand him a snake. So “bad as we are,” in this area we act responsibly. And what does that say about God? “How much more will your heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask!” (v. 11). On the one hand, prayer is simple, it is just asking God for what we need. It is designed for those who are unable to live in this world as God intended.
However, prayer is also a profound mystery. How can man who is mortal discuss issues with God who is supernatural? And the answer is, “But we do” whether or not we understand what is happening. There is no other option. Then there is the question as to why we are to tell God what we need when he already knows? Unlike the babblers who “think they will be heard because of their many words,” our Father “knows what we need before we ask him” (Matt. 6:6). Why ask? Because he tells us to. For example: Shall we tell him of a friend who recently had a financial setback? Yes, because he told us to. I believe prayer is as much for the one praying as it is for the one for whom the prayer is offered. Someone said, “Always be ready to step in and help ‘answer’ your own prayer.”
My understanding of prayer is that you can’t offer a poor prayer to God. Anything that brings us to our knees in front of King Jesus is a prayer that’s as good as any prayer ever offered in Westminster Chapel or any other place. That famous preacher who impressed his congregation with an eloquent example of bringing almighty God down from heaven with his plea for divine intervention, prayed no more effectively than the man on the street who cried out in despair, ”Help me, God!” God looks beyond the words to the authenticity of the one praying. No one fools God. He knows when you really do want what you are asking for.
So prayer is our opportunity not to get what we want but what we believe he wants. It is making provision for us to talk with him. Prayer plays a major role in the believers’ daily walk. To neglect it prevents God from doing all he would like to do as well contributing to a serous lack in our spiritual walk.
Almost everyone knows this one verse in the bible: “Don’t judge” (Matt. 7:1). It fits so many situations. It puts both saint and sinner on the same level. I’ve told it before but it makes the point so well that . . . okay, here it is. Travelling on the Champaign flight from Minneapolis to Chicago the tables came down and the stewardess appeared with an ample supply of wine. Not caring for any, I turned my glass upside down. The man next to me enjoyed his first schnapps and asked for another. Then turning to me, a complete stranger, he said, “One thing the bible says, and that’s you’re not supposed to judge.”
So we’re not to judge one another. Okay, but what does that word mean? krino, “to make a judgment,” has a broad meaning and relies on context for precision, although in its 54 occurrences in the New Testament it is overwhelmingly negative. I translate today’s passage as follows: “Don’t be sharply critical of others, or God will judge you in the same way” (p. 59). The idea that the verse puts normal evaluation out of bounds can be discarded because elsewhere Jesus counseled, “You will know them by what they do” (Matt. 7:16).
Most judgments are negative and may reflect the condition of the one judging. It appears that “judging” is normally “an unintended exposure of one’s personal failings. To see a questionable characteristic in another often reveals that same fault in oneself. Sometimes I facetiously wonder whether God decided one day to “ease his own load” by allowing those with a judgmental spirit to unmask their own personal faults.
In the section of the Sermon under consideration (Matt. 7:1-5) Jesus lists several reasons why we are not to judge one another. The first is that it determines the way God will judge us. When it comes to setting the terms of our own judgment it would be wise to choose the less severe scale. In the text Jesus creates a rather ludicrous picture of the critic trying to remove a splinter from another person’s eye while having a big log protruding from his own. So the person who freely gives you his negative evaluations of others is both foolish and ridiculous.
It is unfortunate that human nature is essentially incapable of receiving unasked for evaluations from others. In spite of all the negative aspects of judging, the one being judged could learn a lot from the perceptions of others. The average person goes through life aware of their deficiencies but believing that others don’t really see any. Greater progress would result from the candid appraisal by others, but we argue in defense, “I’m better than most.” It takes a unique form of self-reliance to listen with all candor to what others think about you and make adjustments without damaging the friendship.
I’d like to perform a little test on myself. I want to find out why from time to time I worry about something. It shouldn’t be difficult because even in the past day or so I’ve been a bit anxious about an item. So, now I’ll go over there to the mirror, look myself in the eye and try to convince myself that God is not able to handle that thing I’m anxious about. I know what will happen; no matter how big, how complicated, or how difficult it is, I’ll discover that deep down I know that God’s got it in control.
So what’s going on? We have that uneasy feeling that something won’t work out, that we’ll be late, that the check won’t come in time, that . . . and so forth. Where does all that come from? Can’t be from God, that’s for sure. So it must be from someone who likes to keep us on edge. Oh, you mean that guy? Right, the enemy of our soul. The one who made Adam wonder if perhaps God was tricking him about the tree over there. I’m no professional in the field, but I believe that anxiety is one of the major results of our fall in Adam. Left by itself it continues to grow. Each moment of anxiety tends to strengthen its deleterious role in our life.
If that is a fair description of the source of anxiety in life (and I realize there are anxieties that come from chemical imbalance) let’s see what Jesus had to say about the subject. He wasn’t very far into his sermon when it came up. He tells us not to worry about “little things” such as having enough to eat, drink or wear (Matt. 6:25). God, who provides food for the birds and clothing for the fields, will certainly take care of whatever you need. For the unbeliever things like that drain the energy. They have no heavenly father to protect them in the difficult moments of life. They’re on their own, but you are cared for and free to use that time to learn of him and his kingdom here on earth.
“Good theology,” you say, “but I still worry; I’m still anxious no matter how a try to get over it.”
Then perhaps it will help to remind yourself that anxiety is actually a form of “practical atheism.” If God isn’t here to do what he said he would do, then perhaps he’s not here at all. I believe we should take God at his word. When he says, ”I tell you not to worry about such little things as having enough to eat,” that’s what he meant. He’s got it all in control. If you are troubled by what seems to be indifference of God to your problem, take it to him bluntly like Habakkuk who said to God, “So why don’t you do something about this? Evil men are swallowing up the righteous and you stand around and watch!” (1:12, The Message).
The prophet’s words are bold, but they moved God to action and still will if you find you are anxious about something, have prayed and nothing seems to happen. Tell God about it. Remind him of his promise that if we’d take our anxiety to him in prayer that he would see to it that his very own peace, “a peace that transcends human understanding” would stand watch over our hearts and minds” (Phil. 2:6-7).
One of the highlights in Jesus’ ministry to his disciples is what we call The Lord’s prayer. It has served in countless situations where public prayer is appropriate as well as in personal and private settings. But since many are not familiar with its setting as recorded in the gospels, let’s start there.
While Matthew (the teaching gospel) places the prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke provides the actual setting (Luke 11:2-4) One day a disciple of Jesus sees the Lord in prayer and when he finishes, goes to him and asks if he will teach them how to pray. Had Jesus not been praying would we have a Lord’s Prayer today? Good question, but let’s join the disciples and see what he has for us.
Matthew prefaces the prayer itself with a warning against “babbling on and on.” That’s what the uninformed do because they think that God will be impressed with all the words they use. That is unnecessary because God already knows what we need before we ask (Matt. 6:7-8). So the sample prayer given by Jesus is short, only 57 words in the Greek text (even shorter in Luke’s account, 38 words). What does that say? Probably that we don’t have to impress God with our vocabulary in order to get him to answer. Prayer is for the needy and in crucial settings the problem can be stated in very few words.
The prayer consists of two parts: first, we are to honor the One to whom we are praying, and second, we are to ask for the basic things we need for life. It is important that in prayer we begin with our hearts and minds on the wonder of the One to whom we are praying. Although he is our Father, we don’t break into his room with our minds full of what WE need rather than who HE is. The proper attitude for prayer is a strong awareness of the worth of the one to whom we are bringing our requests. It is all a part of “getting over oneself.” The gist of this section is a request is “May life here on earth become like heaven.”
Then the three petitions that follows deal with food, forgiveness and failure. We need the first two and want to escape the third. Now the question arises, ”Is that it?” and the answer is (I think) that the prayer is an outline. We are to pray about the normal things we need to sustain life and that will differ from family to family. He knows when we run out of something and wants us to ask for all and for anything we will be needing.
“But wouldn’t incidentals like that be a waste of his time?”
“Time,” you ask? “Hardly relevant because he “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15)
Obviously we are to ask for forgiveness. Anyone who reflects on their day with the pleasant feeling that in no way have they fallen short of perfection, needs a session with the local therapist, or better yet, just look in the mirror and repeat with me, “I have not sinned in any way today.”
And then we are to pray about the trials of life, that God won’t let us get into a situation where we will fail him. This is a humble recognition of our weakness and the desire to live in deep fellowship with our ever-present and ready to listen Lord. I imagine your prayer will be more than 57 words, but may it be a continuing daily practice. God did not hesitate to answer the disciple’s request and he will not be slow to answer yours.
One thing is for sure, and that is that God loves us.
And by “us” I mean all those who by faith have become his children.
But the Sermon on the Mount takes it one step further; it says that “our
heavenly Father is even-handed in his relationship to all” and that “we
demonstrate to others that we are true sons of our Father in heaven by
loving our enemies” (Matt. 5:43-48).
Somehow I always thought that while God loved his children, his
relationship to the non-believers was not quite the same.
But Jesus says here in the Sermon on the Mount that he makes the sun
rise on both sinners and saints and sends rain on the fields of both the
honest and the dishonest.
Does that mean that God’s love is defined as being fair to all so there
is no discrimination based on one’s relationship to him?
But doesn’t love have an emotional component?
When I say I love my wife and children I mean I feel a certain way
That is not all there is to love but can you say you love a person if
some sort of a warm feeling is missing?
Of course, the word has been so over used that it has almost lost
its primary meaning.
God’s love for the human race displays itself by Jesus going to the
cross for all of us.
I don’t think he had only the disciples and a few more in mind.
It seems to me that love is primarily volitional.
To love God is to comply with what he expects from us.
Now as that relationship develops over the years we may be moved
even to tears at times because we recognize some incident in which
he “loved us” in a special way
I don’t want to reduce love to a decision, but I believe that’s what it is
at its core.
Incidentally, one value of that emphasis is that we can have a relatively
good idea of the strength of our love for God.
If we don’t take time for a week to talk to him in prayer, do we love him?
If we take advantage of a neighbor and get a kick out of our subterfuge,
do we love him?
On the other hand if love were measured by the intensity of our emotions
then there would be no accurate way to determine how much we love him
today as over against the day we accepted him as Savior.
Now the point clears up in connection with loving our enemies as we
love our neighbors.
We wouldn’t cheat a neighbor on a lot line.
Nor would we cheat an enemy just because we don’t get along.
We would love them to the same degree.
That is not difficult to imagine.
We are not expected to have the same emotional relationship.
For God loved the world and did something about it; he died for all.
For _______ (insert your name) loved a troublesome neighbor and
did something about it; he didn’t . . . for instance, take advantage of
a incorrect boundary line that gave him extra yardage.
Yes, I believe that I can love both neighbor and enemy like that.
There is no requirement that I feel a certain way, only that I live
a certain way.
Robert H Mounce