Archive for the ‘Matthew 15’ Category

Matthew 15:29-38 – FISH AND CHIPS ON A COLD WINTER’S DAY

Cross = Love.  (Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Cross = Love.
(Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Midday Friday the smell of Fish and Chips wafts in through the adjoining doors as our small group sings the last song. I scan the ancient, lined faces who listen to Words of Life every week in this area of the Shalom Centre and we feel the presence of the Lord as rusty voices give substance to their faith. We ask for Dave’s recovery in hospital and give thanks for the food and then begin the slow, measured and deliberate process of getting to the meal table in the next room. Sunshine washes through the window as I collect the hymn books but the persistent seeping draught under the door leaves no doubt that winter is arriving, and my thoughts, like shadows, flicker in the cold air of another winter long ago.

Jesus leaves Tyre and goes up to Sidon even further into Gentile territory. Before leaving Jewish territory the grass was green (Matthew 14:19). Now the ground is barren; winter has come (Matthew 15:33).

Decapolis. The miraculous events taking place here are lifechanging. Jews among Gentiles, His disciples are learning that these lost, outcast, and needy people are loved by God. Intensive training at the coalface instils in them that the message of the gospel is also for Gentiles. I attend to His words and take notes.

Jesus teaches me about…

AVAILABILITY – He sits down (Matthew 15:29) with those humble enough to see their need. APPROACHABILITY – No one an outcast. He welcomes me. COMPASSION – There are times when I am so NOT “moved with compassion” as Jesus is (Matthew 15:32). Pity maybe, but not compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is committed to lean in and to DO something when pity has been overwhelmed. Jesus doesn’t just have sympathy or empathy. He goes further and meets the needs of the people who come to Him, healing everyone; every kind of sickness and suffering, both physical and spiritual. Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 15:30-31). Lord bring Your healing touch to Dave today.

PROVISION – He waits until I am well and truly hungry, after three days and nothing left to eat. When my resources are not enough. When my humanity is inadequate when faced with the enormity of the need. When I am empty, drained of solutions and concern, and feeling lost. Just when I want to leave work, go home, forget about those in need and be with my family. Let those in need learn to find a way to meet their own needs (Matthew 14:15)! Ever feel this way? That’s when Jesus says to me “I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” (Matthew 15:32 NLT). “How much bread do you have?” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). He is more concerned with what I have in my hand than the enormity of the need.

4000 men! Some of the women and children would have stayed at home but many were there. 8,000 people? 16,000? It’s absurd to seat eight to sixteen thousand people with the view to feeding them with “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). Surely not! “Unsatisfactory, insignificant, insufficient, inadequate, deficient, lacking, not nearly enough!”

THANKFULNESS – Jesus simply tells us to sit down and get ready for a miracle. The blessing is given and Jesus breaks the bread. CO-OPERATION – Jesus invites me to help distribute what He places in my hand. It seems to multiply in my hands as I go. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it, gives it away. The more I distribute the more there is that remains. 7 baskets of provision left over, untouched. Not junk food; fish and chips, but healthy Omega 3 oil bearing fish that only John West chooses (according to the Ad) and barley bread. What would the world look like if we brought what was in our hands to Jesus. Compassion and responsibility would accomplish the extraordinary (Matthew 14:15-21). More than enough!

Jesus, using bread as a symbol of relationship says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever COMES to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever BELIEVES in Me will never be thirsty” John 6:35 (NLT). THE JESUS DIET.

GENEROSITY – Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Jesus says “… pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT) More than enough.

It seems Jesus is deliberately inviting me to look beyond the simple awareness of a need. Jesus is inviting me NOT TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY to accomplish the EXTRAORDINARY in ANY situation. He invites me to be responsive to what God can do through me, to use what I have in my hand. To show COMPASSION and not just pity. To rely on Him to get me through. 

So take what resources you have to God right now and allow Him to use them for His purposes. God’s EXTRAVAGANCE, your CO-OPERATION. Remain in a place where God wants you to be to see His purposes accomplished despite your reservations and your limitations. Be open to a MIRACLE! Never be hungry! Never be thirsty! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Bread of Life. Even better than fish and chips on a cold winter’s day.

Matthew 15:39 (NLT) “Then Jesus sent the people home, and He got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.” 

No time to bask in the glory of a miracle. We move on to the next thing He wants to accomplish in our lives. 

Pastor Ross

PS If this message has helped you, please pass it forward to others and watch it multiply in your hands.

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Matthew 15:21-28 – HOW GREAT FAITH IS AWAKENED

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH Photo by Ross Cochrane

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH
Photo by Ross Cochrane

They don’t want anything to do with her, but she walks into their midst to seek for Him anyway. She pleads with Him above the calls to send her away. He embodies the answers she needs to the prayers that have reached heaven’s corridors. Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) says “But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.” Prayer is a window of hope and He has responded by His presence in this far away place. Accessible. Approachable.

If only her husband would believe? There’s something about a Mother’s love that is willing to find a path to God. But Jesus does not respond.

In the silence of Jesus somehow persistent faith is awakened. Anyone can see that she is faced with total rejection. Yet she stays and persists in asking for help with a heart that is breaking and a faith that lingers. Would mine?

She comes to Him again. She worships Him. Somehow she knows that He is God. She pleads with Him for help. Her persistence is not thwarted by His silence but all the more insistent.

Her daughter is possessed by a demon. Jesus does not ask her how this happened? Canaanites worshiped all kinds of other gods; god’s that defiled and penetrated the mind with their poison.

She calls Him “Lord” and “Son of David”. Surely this descendent of king David will help her? She cries for mercy for her daughter.

And then comes that famous exchange. Jesus finally speaks, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their Master’s table” “Dear woman,” Jesus says to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter is instantly healed. (Matthew 15:26-28 NLT).

He said her faith was great. Her daughter was healed instantly. When my faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. She didn’t have to wait. He didn’t have to go with her. Her master had spoken. She had come under the authority of the Lord of heaven and earth and her daughter was healed.

What does great faith look like? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help (Matthew 15:22). It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation (Matthew 15:23-24). It looks like worship (Matthew 15:25). It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 15:26-27). It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus said it was great faith. It is faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” John 14:13-14 (NLT) says “You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!” 

Jesus awakens that kind of faith as we worship Him. Faith that forces its way through rejection and seeming silence until it can appropriate a miracle. Jesus invites me and you to have such desperate and humble faith as this. 

Pastor Ross

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH - Picture created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net

WOMAN OF GREAT FAITH – Picture created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net

Letter to my wife on Mother’s Day

Dear Julie,

Happy Mother’s day,

I have been reading about the Gentile mother who came to Jesus for help for her daughter. Like you she is a mother who comes to Jesus in humble surrender and worship on behalf of her children.

Like her, you are a Mother who wants to know and worship Jesus. Long before situations arise in our children’s lives you have been seeking the Lord on their behalf. You see prayer is a window of hope and you use it as a woman of faith to speak into impossible circumstances. Spiritual warfare for our children.

Like her, you take action as you come to Jesus for help. And you don’t give up. I admire that about you. Your persistence, despite not seeing answers straight away, despite the sacrifices you have to make and where you seem to hear silence for your efforts. You are not thwarted. You find the way.

Like her you see the favour of God. When faith collides with His favour a miracle takes place. So often your faithfulness sees it’s way through to a miracle.

What does great faith look like in a Mother? At times, it looks like a desperate cry for help for your children. It looks like an unstoppable persistence that refuses to give up when faced with an impossible situation. It looks like worship. It looks like humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. It looks bigger than the circumstance. Jesus says to this mother it was great faith; faith that waits for a miracle (Matthew 15:28).

You are a mother such as this. I am inspired by your faith, by your persistence, by your love for your children, your grandchildren and your respect for your own mother. God bless you on this Mother’s Day, woman of great faith.

Love you,

Ross

Matthew 15:21-28 – WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST?

WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST? (Artwork by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

WAS JESUS A RACIST OR DEMOLITION SPECIALIST?
(Artwork by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Why then did the missionaries who came to speak at our Church when I was young at Wagga Wagga in NSW, Australia, encourage people to commit their lives to go to the uttermost parts of the world? They would even quote Jesus words in the great commission from Matthew 28:19 and preach on the word “GO!” They would quote Acts 1:8 (NLT) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me EVERYWHERE—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

So what is it with Jesus when He says to this Canaanite woman who lives on the edge of Israel’s territory that He is sent only to help Israel? (Matthew 15:24). Why was He sent only to help Israel? What makes them better than us? Is Jesus a racist; rejecting other nations? Did He limit the gospel to Galilee, His home territory? No Gentiles! No Samaritans! No Romans! Only to Jews. Only the familiar; the safe-ground; the Comfort Zone; the Sofa gospel; the selected invitation gospel; only the Jews can come to My party gospel!

Didn’t Jesus know about Acts 1:8 and what about John 3:16 “For God loved THE WORLD so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” This doesn’t paint Jesus a Racist and a Chauvinist so why then is He being so selective concerning the Jews when it comes to this Gentile woman crying out for mercy?

Doesn’t He know about Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT) – “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer JEW OR GENTILE, slave or free, MALE AND FEMALE. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are His heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” According to this, Jesus could never be accused of being a racist or a chauvinist.

What am I to make of this contradiction, Lord? What are you saying to me? If you drive by the Equal Rights verse from Galatians 3 above too quickly you’ll miss it. It speaks about a promise that was once made by God to Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race; all through the Old Testament the Jews are the people God chose to take His message to the nations. 1 Chronicles 16:24 (NLT) says they were to “Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” Psalms 67:2-3 (NLT) says “May Your ways be known throughout the earth, Your saving power among people everywhere. May the nations praise You, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise You.”

The Jews failed to take the message to the nations and became an exclusive club. Because of God’s promises to them Jesus is sent to give them a second chance; to help them concerning the New Covenant message; to enable them to fulfil their redemptive purpose. God honours His promise to Israel and in Matthew 15 Jesus obviates the prejudices of the disciples to bring them to see God’s purpose.

Jesus says His priority is to help first His lost sheep in Israel. He is less interested in equality and much more interested in this Gentile woman receiving and believing the message of the gospel? By His initial silence and a few words to this woman, He is helping His disciples understand that they have a responsibility to share the message of the gospel with the Gentiles. They still don’t get it until Jesus affirms this woman’s great faith and He heals her daughter as requested. This Gentile. This woman. This rejected one finds hope and healing, acceptance and inclusion in the presence of her Saviour.

He honours His promises to me today. His Word is faithful. Thankyou Father for being the God of the second chance when I don’t get it right the first time. Thankyou for making me an heir to the promises you made to Abraham so long ago. Thankyou for reaching out to the very ends of the earth. Thankyou for breaking down the walls of hostility and touching us with Your love.

Ephesians 2:13-14 (NLT) says “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Far from being a racist He is a demolition specialist, breaking down the walls between us and God and the walls we build between each other.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 15:21-28 – A HEART LIKE A DOG 

HEART LIKE A DOG

HEART LIKE A DOG

Poster – “What A Beautiful World It Would Be If People Had Hearts Like Dogs”

Like dogs in a pack they turn on her, bearing their teeth. All round her Rejection’s emissaries are insisting that she stop knocking, seeking and asking. Back off! His disciples want Jesus to send her away. They are bothered. They are embarrassed by this Gentile begging for mercy, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely” (Matthew 15:21-28 NLT).

She is met with silence. Jesus ignores her. Is this a test? Rudeness? Is He a Racist and a Chauvinist? Silent! Ignoring me while Mercy and Compassion are brushed from the table as crumbs? Is he waiting to see what I will do when faced with the dismissive growls of His followers, those who walk with Him and claim they know Him?

The disciples were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees, but are more than willing to send this Gentile away. She is defiled in their eyes like her demonised daughter. The hounds are baying, not realising their own natures resonate more with Pharisaic attitudes than with Jesus. Jesus has already said that it is what issues from the mouth that defiles you, and exposes your heart.

Is Jesus’ silence designed to confront and challenge His disciples with their prejudices? Are they really bothered by a woman in desperate need? Surely He cannot mould a miracle from the smouldering cauldrons of their narrow-mindedness? Is He waiting to test the mettle of any mercy He may find in them? In me?

In those moments of desertion and dismissal when disciples snarl and Jesus remains silent, she is faced with a choice to withdraw and keep her dignity, …. but she refuses to go away. Why would the Lord be in Gentile territory if not to help this woman of persistent faith? At what point will I turn away? Will it be the point just before I am to receive the miracle I need?

Jesus does not let her savour the sweetness of any hope, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” Another door shuts in her face, … yet still she knocks. Still she persists. She comes to Him and worships Him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” But Jesus is also persistent. He responds, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Did Jesus just call this woman a DOG?

How would I respond? Would I turn away at this point, insulted and hurt. She isn’t disgusted that He is being insensitive or that she is being discriminated against. She isn’t interested in taking Him before the Anti-Discimination Tribunal. She cares more to seek His compassion than to court these words as offensive.

And in that moment she accepts that in His presence she is a dog, … but not a mangy, mongrel, rabid kind of dog; wild and prowling for garbage. She is a small domesticated persistent pet dog begging at the table for morsels of mercy. Even a discarded scrap from Jesus would be enough. Yes, she is more interested in grace than equality. She replies, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their Master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 NLT).

When Jesus leads her to understand who He is and why He has come, she worships Him, trusts in Him, humbles herself before Him. How do I feel about being a dog in Jesus’ presence? “Dear woman,” Jesus says to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed” (Matthew 15:28 NLT). 

James 4:10 (NLT) says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honour.” 

He cuts across my sensitivities. At the extremities of my despair I come to a sure realisation of who I am in the presence of a holy God and that I really don’t deserve anything from Him. Yet in that place of exposure and despair He extends to me His grace, and mercy falls like lifegiving crumbs from His table to bring healing and wholeness to my world. 

Pastor Ross

 

Matthew 15:12 – THE UNMASKED CRUSADER AND THE SCANDAL OF GRACE

KNOXIE, THE MASKED CRUSADER

KNOXIE, THE MASKED CRUSADER

My wife writes in her blog called life-times-two, “This morning my 2 yr old grandson, Knoxie, came to me and asked for my help. He was trying to put a mask on his face. Knoxie’s toybox has all manner of superhero masks, but this wasn’t one of them. This morning Knox had found a different kind of mask to wear. It was one of those masks you are given on aeroplanes to help you sleep. He had the right idea about placing this mask across his face, but he just couldn’t manage to get the elastic bands over his forehead and positioned around the back of his head. So I bent down and helped out. “There you go!” I said as I stood up. Knoxie turned around, poised to walk off down the hall.

“You can’t walk around with that on Knoxie,” I said, “You’ll bump into something.” “No, Nanny”, was his response as he set off down the hall. It came as no surprise that about 5 seconds later I heard – THUMP! Followed by –  “WAHhhhh….” The Masked Crusader had hit the wall. I found him sitting on the floor in tears, still masked. I picked him up, hugged him and repeated my earlier advice, “Knoxie, you can’t walk around with that mask on. You’ll bump into something.” Taking the mask off his poor little head, I put him down on the floor and looked at the egg that had appeared on his forehead.

Still sniffling, he took the mask out of my hand and attempted to put it back on, once again asking my help. So I obliged, repeating the same warning, with added emphasis. “Now don’t walk around Knoxie or you’ll bump into something again.” “No Nanny,” came the reply, again. Off he went. Before I could stop him he tripped over the pram which was lying in the hall. And this time he cried even louder. One of those I’m seriously hurt cries. I went over and picked him up. My poor little masked crusader cried like his heart would break. He buried his little face (still masked) into my neck and sobbed. I felt his pain. Tears welled up in my own eyes … but I’m rather ashamed to say at this point that the tears flowing from my eyes were not the result of empathy. Rather they were caused by a desperate attempt to stifle an incredibly irresistible urge to laugh hysterically. Heartless grandmother… So funny, yet so sad.” (http://life-times-two.blogspot.com.au/) 

Knoxie, the Masked Crusader reminds me of a more serious blindness that Jesus confronts in Matthew 15:13-14. The disciples are concerned that the Pharisees (Religious Leaders) are offended by what Jesus is teaching (Matthew 15:12 NLT) but Jesus makes it worse. He says, “They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:13-14 NLT). They have an inevitable destiny with a ditch, and to align myself with them is to align myself with their destiny.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) says “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

John 3:18-21 (NLT) says that to follow Christ is to have 20/20 vision and walk in the light. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s One and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” 

Better to be an Unmasked Crusader. We get our word “scandalised” from the original word translated as “offended”. Are you offended by Jesus like the Pharisees, blinded to the truth of the ditch? The invitation Jesus gives is to be unmasked and to see instead the offence of the Cross. Songwriters Matt Crocker and Joel Houston from our Church home @Hillsong have written these beautiful words,

THE SCANDAL OF GRACE

Grace, what have you done?
Murdered for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in Your blood

Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live…

Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin
The cross has taught me to live
In mercy, my heart now to sing

The day and it’s trouble shall come
I know that Your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Chorus:

Oh to be like You
(To) Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart
 

It’s all because of You Jesus!

Pastor Ross

 

Duck in Oil Spill GrungeImage Created by the Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morgue File and Filter Forge.

Matthew 15:10-11 – POLLUTION

Like a Duck in an Oil Spill...  Image created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net. MorgueFiles and Filter Forge

Like a Duck in an Oil Spill…
Image created by Ross Cochrane with Paint.net. MorgueFiles and Filter Forge

An acrid smell of damp coal lingers in the air and inflames her throat and nostrils, stinging her eyes. Handkerchief over her mouth and nose, she walks through the thick blanketing haze, discarding her third cigarette for the morning on the pavement, leaving it to smoulder unseen by those venturing out in what was to be known as “The Great Smog.” Just another Pea Souper.

The Great Smog, with its sulphur dioxide from chimney smoke and a host of other accumulated airborne pollutants defiled every corner of London in 1952, seeping into the respiratory system and extinguishing the flicker of life from over 12,000 people.

Grateful for some respite, Anna finally reaches her one bedroom apartment, but even as she opens the door the smog seems to invade the atmosphere inside the building with its hazy presence; sinister, dark and cold.

A report like a shotgun sounds as a train rumbles by near her building and she spills some of the precious hoard she is pouring into a glass. Cursing, she skulls the liquor, allowing it to bite the back of her throat. In the Great Smog, percussion caps were activated by the wheels of trains as an audible warning to the driver who was unable to see the signal. She feels like a duck in an oil spill unable to save herself from her own lifestyle.

Noise pollution, air pollution, radioactive pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, visual pollution. She lives in a polluted world.

Anna hesitates for a moment as she sees the small Bible on her desk given to her by a friend. She slowly opens it, only to be confronted by what Jesus speaks about as the greatest polluting influence of all. Personal pollution; the most contaminating force on the planet. He isn’t making a judgment about the contamination of her body and lifestyle by excessive smoking, drinking and drug abuse. He isn’t just speaking about the emotional and physical abuse she has experienced. He isn’t speaking of her poor living conditions. As bad as all these things are. He is speaking about a defiled heart; which expresses itself in defiling words gushing out like oil from a gashed tanker in pristine waters. Our words inevitably expose a heart polluted by our sin.

The Pharisees have polluted the environment for years with their teaching, traditions, and customs, but Jesus shows them that it will ultimately lead them to ruin.

Jesus calls to me in the crowd “… to come and hear. “Listen,” He says, “and try to understand.”” (Matthew 15:10 NLT) Hear Me above the noise pollution; the other voices that clamour for attention. His still, small voice is surprisingly clear. He says, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11 NLT) “… For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34 NLT). Toxins may have a devastating effect on my body, but what is expressed from my heart can have devastating effects on my ability to connect genuinely with God and others. Words won’t break bones, but they will break my relationships.

When Jesus speaks of the defiling nature of words He is not just speaking about openly hostile words; filthy language, critical, deceiving, censoring, harsh, unkind, uncaring words, but essentially any words, including sugar-coated venomous words, that despoil a relationship. “Defile” means “to make common; to make unholy, unclean; to become polluted and despoiled.” Jesus points to the religious leaders and says that it is they who are the pollution mongers. They wash their hands ceremonially while they ooze contaminated invective. It’s not food that defiles, but words that issue from a polluted heart.

In Hebrews 7:26 (NASB) Jesus is described as “…holy, innocent, undefiled,” Followers of Christ are invited to be like Jesus. God calls me to be clean, pure, holy, undefiled, spotless, unpolluted. Matthew 5:8 (NIV) says “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

But like a duck in an oil spill, I cannot save myself. The only way I can have a pure heart is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who purifies my heart and washes away my sin. Psalms 51:7 (NLT) says “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” In Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT) God says “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.” A divine exchange.

He takes my oily rags and clothes me in His righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”   

Pastor Ross

 

MATTHEW 15:1-20 – CATCH 22

Catch 22Image created by the author

Catch 22
Image created by the author

The door is open as I knock but the curtain is pulled across. I don’t know what to expect as I walk towards him but find him sitting beside his bed. He looks up with a welcoming smile and says “And who might you be?” As I sit with John he confides with me about his life as a soldier and a decorated officer. He is a respected man who saw the horrors of war. Now he wages a battle with cancer with brave dignity.

We laugh and talk together for some time with easy conversation, though his breathing is laboured. Then, when he knows that I am willing to listen he opens up to me concerning his dilemma. John (not his real name) received a visit from his family yesterday. They took the news of their father’s cancer with pragmatic stoicism, but it has been 3 years and he has lingered until the cancer has spread throughout his body. He is now in palliative care, breathing from only one of his lungs. On finding out that it is now difficult for him to eat, his sons tell their father that it is time for him to give up and accept that he will die. They have had enough. They don’t want to see him suffer, or is it that their inheritance is being eaten up by the cancer too? “Stop eating and fade away! It would be better for all of us. We have a life to live!” The registered nurse is asked to stop his meals but she refuses.

He wants to end the misery his family feels, but fights to hold onto every precious second of life. He cried a little when they left him with the extra weight of this problem and he is not a man who cries. Must he compete between family and eternity, life and love? Caught in a double bind, a false dilemma; forced to choose between two conflicting demands, he is left to question his very existence and becomes increasingly distressed. He is standing in no-mans-land and bullets fly at him from both directions. Is he ready to face God?

In Matthew 15:3, when the Pharisees challenge Jesus about His disciples not practising ceremonial hand washing, Jesus responds by challenging their selfishness and the False Dilemmas they create. He begins by saying, “Why do your rules and traditions contradict what God is asking of you?” What’s the use of a habit, ritual or tradition that actually cuts off my ability to love God and love others?

Jesus says, “For instance, God says, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honour their parents…” (Matthew 15:5 NLT).

It seems even God can be used as an excuse to devalue our parents. Does Jesus agree with the death sentence for not honouring father and mother? So easy for me to misfire my focus with cultural ethics on capital punishment. That’s not the main thrust of what He is trying to say to me. Jesus accepts the extreme gravity of this law without wanting to water it down because it provides stark contrast with giving value to my relationship with my parents? Dishonouring parents by pitting them in competition with God leaves both our lives in peril if it came down to the law. In an age when taking care of our parents is not always valued, Jesus says, “…you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NLT). Our own selfish standards and demands bear a death sentence in so many ways, but especially when we carry them into our relationships.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:7-9 NLT) 

Tears flow down her cheeks and helplessness is written into her expression. My wife looks at me after a phonecall to her parents who live in an aged care facility and who are becoming more and more frail. Her love for God translates into the honour she shows to them. She values them, visits them, cares for them without using God or other selfish demands as an excuse to abandon them. God is not pitted in competition with my responsibilities concerning other relationships.

Matthew 26:39 (NLT) says that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus “…bowed with His face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.”” Jesus faced His own Catch 22, wanting to bring forgiveness and eternal life to us yet understanding that the only way to accomplish this would be to die upon the Cross for our sins. Easter celebrates His victory over such a dilemma. His love and obedience to God the Father led Him to the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead defeated the power of the Catch 22 caused by our sin.

“Lord, so often You deal with the catch 22’s, selfish habits, behaviours, and self-imposed dilemmas I have established in my life by exposing my false assumptions and beliefs. Forgive me. Correct me. Let nothing get in the way of what You desire for me. Rid me of the false demands I build around my life and leave me with the simplicity of loving Christ and loving others. Thankyou Lord for loving me unselfishly enough to die for my sins, and bringing forgiveness to my life. Help me honour You from my heart and in my actions, words and thoughts as I relate with others today.” 

Pastor Ross

If this article has resonated with you, would you please pass it forward to those whose lives you think may also be touched by Words of Life. Thanks and God bless you.

Matthew 15:1-20 – INFECTION CONTROL! 

Infection Control!

Infection Control!
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I would have been horrified too! I know how essential something as simple as good hygiene can be. An infectious outbreak could end the lives of the elderly and frail in the Aged Care Facility where I work if not for staff taking care to wash their hands and actively minimising the possibility of contamination.

So it’s not surprising that the infection auditors; the Pharisees and teachers of religious law come all the way from Jerusalem to see Jesus (Matthew 15:1-2 NLT). They immediately get upset with the disciples for not washing their hands before a meal? I’ve completed the mandatory training in infection control so I’m with the Pharisees. What! Do you want the feeding of the 4000 to end up being a healing meeting for Gastro Enteritis, Multi Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, Influenza, Whooping Cough, Chicken Pox, Shingles, Fever, Conjunctivitis, Polio, or even leprosy! INFECTIOUS OUTBREAK! Everyone is a possible carrier! That many people in quarantine will be a nightmare! The disciples SHOULD wash their hands!

The Pharisees and Teachers of religious law have had Jesus under surveillance since He arrived, but not personally? They have their own satellite tracking devises and close circuit TV in the form of their spies who watch the activity of Jesus and report back. At the slightest breach of protocol, they race from Jerusalem with sirens blaring to confront Jesus. They want to nail this guy before the infection of faith spreads.

So the Faith Prevention & Control Police (FPCP) arrive on the scene to investigate Jesus and His Work Health and Safety standards (WHS). They come with their sterile plastic gowns, gloves and masks covering their hearts to target Jesus as a threat to religious control, but Jesus confronts them with the infection of their own malice.

Perhaps I don’t want to align myself with the Pharisees afterall. Yes, it would have been a good idea for the disciples to wash their hands because of good hygiene, but the religious leaders themselves have blood on their hands and they pollute others with their vitriolic poison. They try to protect themselves from Jesus by wearing the surgical masks of their outward righteousness but their righteousness is as filthy rags in His presence.

“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6).

Pharisees try to vaccinate themselves with religious laws and traditions, but they fail to realise that they are the carriers of a deadly, resistant virus that has been draining the life from people for years. Jesus has the only cure.

Proverbs 30:12 (NIV) says that there are “those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth;”

I’ve known some Pharisees. At times I’ve been one. Pharisees and religious leaders, like a bad case of the flu often turn up to infect others with their contaminating words, like airborn germs, that cause hearts to fail and faith to falter. With acerbic seeds they come to challenge Jesus but refuse to be challenged or healed themselves. They are ceremoniously clean on the outside, but Jesus exposes the rancorous, festering wounds of their hearts. Faith is an airborne virus itself. Good bacteria. God bacteria. I am not immune to His words and He continues to challenge me with His claims.

All this handwashing. What’s the big deal? Do they have some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder? Do they have a right to demand anything from Jesus? Do I? Or is it that Jesus is demanding something of me? What has the tradition of ceremonial hand washing really got to do with it anyway? Jesus doesn’t buy into my confrontation without pointing out the blaring inconsistencies in choosing to live according to a set of man-made mores.

Psalms 51:2,7 (ESV) cries out “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin… wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” 

Today I refuse to be infected by religion. I take off my antiseptic, sterile masks which I have tried to use against the outbreak of my sin and accept the words of healing grace as Jesus says “You are clean”. He took my sin and disease on the Cross. He conquered death by rising again from the dead. He offers me eternal life. He cleanses my life and gives me a new spirit and responsive heart to God.

Pastor Ross