Posts Tagged ‘Disciples’

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Shards of Pain © by Ross Cochrane using GetPaint.net

Matthew 20:18-19 – FACING THE FUTURE

The nausea became too much and I found myself looking into a bowl for several times that day. I thought it must be some gastric bug, but it wasn’t. I admit that my prayerlife was focused on myself that day. “Lord, please heal my body! 

The pain started last Saturday, slowly at first and then it cut deep into my lower stomach in an arc with surging intense bursts (and I had been looking forward to a restful weekend).  

No position in bed on Saturday night would give enough opportunity for sleep and by Sunday I was feeling miserable. No Church, even though my son was preaching. I decided to email my boss and let her know I would not be coming in on Monday. 

By Monday with no respite from the pain I was wondering what was going on; a hernia perhaps, a blockage of some sort and my mind even entertained bowel cancer (as you do)?  

My wife drove me to my doctor, Dr. James. After some painful prodding and questioning, he said, I suppose you expected me to give you a script for chemist shop drugs that will give you relief while I spend another day running some tests. But instead, I am sending you to the emergency department at the Seventh Day Adventist hospital with a suspected Appendicitis attack. They will do the tests much more quickly. I am sure it is to do with your appendix.” My day had changed yet again. We went straight to the hospital.  

From the moment I entered triage, I was treated with such respect and care, starting with Tony, the triage nurse and so many others. They encouraged me to ask my questions. From the ward’s person, to the trainee doctor, Kevin, to nursing staff and the surgeon, Dr. Barto, everyone was so understanding and explained each step. Through all this, my wife, Julie, was there to support me.  

The tests were fairly clear. “You will have the operation to take out your offending appendix at around 7 pm”, said the surgeon, Dr. Barto.  

 

The emotional and mental pain begins for Jesus as He turns towards Jerusalem, knowing exactly what He will go through. He gathers His disciples. He describes what will happen. Unlike me, no care and respect is given. He will be betrayed, condemned, mocked, flogged and crucified with no-one to support Him.  

What anguish must have accompanied this disclosure to His closest friends, but even they seem to show Him no understanding. Instead, they vie for authority in the coming Kingdom with no inkling of comprehension of the concept of servanthood.  

 

There was a space at 4 pm and I was wheeled through the corridors to the operating theatre, and for me, the next thing I remember is waking up in the post-op area and wheeled back to a beautiful room on the 9th floor where I felt euphoric from the anaesthetic and the comforting presence of God and my wife.

 

The offending appendix, I discovered, had been gangrenous. I am grateful to God that when I was helpless, there were those who treated me with care and respect and excellence. I woke the next day to the soft rays of a sunrise through my window.  

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I received care and healing and respect. Jesus received contempt and abuse and disdain. I cannot imagine the torment of inflicted pain that would crush my spirit and body to the point of death. He died, surrounded by the severity of hardened soldiers instead of trusted friends to support Him. They spoke of places of authority at His right and left hand but in the end, they ran away.  

He told them He would rise on the 3rd day. How simple that sounds but in rising again He would wrench the very hatred from a world of sinful opposition and give each mocking face an opportunity to find their way to God through Him. He gave respect where there was none, love where there was only derisive laughter.  

He woke, not like me, from a drug-induced euphoria on a hospital bed, but from the dungeons of death and a stone slab, with a startling rush of breath into His lungs, victory clasped like a scepter in His hand.  

The gangrenous sin seeping its poison in the world with its blackened tendrils of death was cut away and thrown into the void, the offending stench replaced with a sweet-smelling incense to those who put their trust in Christ. 

A gangrenous appendix operation fades into insignificance as I take hold of You, my risen Saviour and grasp just a glimpse of what it must have meant for You to share this disclosure to Your disciples. All I can do is be committed to You who knows the path ahead, even through the valley of death, and enjoy the life you have gifted.  

Pastor Ross 

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Matthew 18:1-4 – A FALSE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

“Then His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46, see also Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34)

Perhaps they never grew up. Perhaps as children, they demanded their way and threw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. Now they are still in constant competition and expect “special treatment” because they think they deserve it.

They have tasted that sense of being unique and have been involved in the amazing miracles of Jesus, after all. But their narcissistic sense of entitlement begins to shorten their focus to a few centimetres as they stumble over one another with arrogant disregard. It’s all about me! I am the greatest!

Lord, You decide. They don’t realise that their question to Jesus is selfish and demanding. Somehow the world revolves around them and others must meet their needs.

They try to impose their unrealistic expectations upon Jesus with overdramatic flair, willing to bully their way into the kingdom with their manipulative and egotistical mindset. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask Him, vying for His attention and approval at the expense of each other (Matthew 18:1 NLT).

Their voices are raised, and their question is aggressive and demands self-serving endorsement. They will go to any lengths to prove which one is better than the rest. Surely Jesus will pick me and take away the threat of competition.

Each of them expects it will be them, especially Judas, James and John and none of them really expects to have to negotiate or compromise. They each have priority and will be very upset if Jesus doesn’t recognise their greatness. They crave his admiration and want to assert their dominance over the others.

Jesus helps them become less self-absorbed and more self-aware. He challenges their false beliefs in themselves and their false sense of entitlement. He gets them to take their eyes off themselves and include others in their world. He gives them a whole new paradigm by getting them to be open to new ways of thinking.

They have been excessively preoccupied with personal power and prestige and their pride is in danger of destructive mindsets and behaviour. They have a grandiose fantasy of their own success, brilliance and ability. Jesus gives them back their true identity.

Perhaps the disciples and I need to repent of a false sense of entitlement in our thinking. There are lots of nuances to repentance, but this kind of Kingdom demands that we turn around and trust in Christ (Matthew 4:17) because a spiritual kingdom involves coming under the authority of Christ. Our greatness is derived from our response to Him, and not based on our misguided sense of being deserving.

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Judas obviously didn’t take Christ’s teaching on board (John 12:4-6). He did not repent and become a child of God but became one whose thinking aligned more with the devil (John 6:70-71).

I am not entitled to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t deserve it. The invitation Jesus gives me is not about entitlement but about being converted from distorted ways of thinking about greatness, and also to be converted to a new way of life in Christ. The principles for entering the Christian life are the same as those for living it. Repent from your sins and become like little children.

Pastor Ross

 

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Matthew 18:1-2 – I AM THE GREATEST – part 2

“Perhaps it will be Peter? He has the greatest leadership skills of us all. He was on the mountain.”

“No, I don’t think so. Peter is too unpredictable. One minute Jesus is pleased with him for seeing things from heaven’s perspective and gives him the keys to the authority of heaven (Matthew 16:18) and then the next He rebukes him for seeing things from a human point of view and says ‘Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me’ (Matthew 16:23). He’s not the greatest leader. He’s too unstable. Better James or John. They were on the mountain too.”  

“Why ask?” My voice startles them in the shadows of the morning. They didn’t see me here, reading.

“What do you mean?” Who is this guy?

“Why would you ask this question about who is greatest and why argue over it? What prompts you to be talking about being great? Is it your pride or is it your interest in what will happen when Jesus dies or leaves? Are you wondering who will lead you?”

“Who are you?”

“I am just a curious onlooker. But tell me, is your argument about being the greatest prompted by who is spiritual enough to perform miracles or by who would best lead you in overthrowing the Roman government?”

“What are you talking about? Why are you so interested?” Is this guy a Roman spy?

“I’m sitting here reading about your conversation and I’ve got to tell you, it seems a little out there, guys. Random. What’s going on with this ‘Who is the greatest?’ thing? It’s obviously important to you. It’s just that you come across as being so competitive? You seem to raise this topic time and time again” (Matthew 18:3-4; 20:20-28; 23:8-11; Mark. 9:34-37; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24-27).

“You’ve read about us? Where?”

“I’m reading about you now and I need to know if there are degrees of greatness in God’s kingdom? Are you speaking about greatness in the kingdom of God, like having great authority here and now or do you want it in heaven? You seem to assume that there are degrees of greatness (Matthew 18:1). It seems Jesus does too but He looks at it differently.”

“How do you know what Jesus thinks?”

“I’ve been reading ahead, but what I would really like to know is, are you preparing for a takeover of the Roman empire? Do you expect the Messiah to lead you in a revolt? Are you are looking for positions of authority in the new government? Is that the sort of greatness you are after?”

Stunned silence. He must be a Roman spy.

“Do you know what I mean, like who is going to be the commander of His army, who will have the authority to order all the rest around? I’m just saying this because you need to know that it doesn’t work out like that. The Bible maps it out differently.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, Romans 12:10 (NLT) says ‘Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.’ You don’t exactly appear to be honouring each other by arguing over who will be greatest. A lot of people have judged you over this, and I can’t help defend you if I can’t figure you out. I need to know.”

“I’m sorry but what makes you think that our conversation is any of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business. You see, I know that you will turn the world upside down with your influence. What I read about you today helps to change my life. The Lord is continuing to change me as I am open to what He is saying through you. You really are great, but is it your influence that is the greatness you have in mind or do you just come to understand that later?”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t understand anything you are saying.”

“No, it’s me that doesn’t understand you. It’s this argument you were having just now. Are you genuinely inquiring, and putting forth your preferences about who should succeed Jesus, and getting ready to vote, like a democracy? Are you looking to the frontrunners in a presidential race like Peter, James and John or are you all planning to run for office as well?”

“Democracy? Voting? Frontrunners? Presidential race?”

“You do get it that Jesus is going to die, right? You seem reluctant to talk about it, but are you arguing about who will lead you when this happens? (Matthew 17:22). So tell me, is that what this argument is all about or what?”

Bewilderment. Is he going to murder Jesus?

“Come on guys. Don’t go all quiet on me. I know that Jesus told you that He is going to die. I read it in Mark 9:31-32 (NLT). Jesus told you that ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but three days later He will rise from the dead.’ You remember. You didn’t understand what He was saying, and were afraid to ask Him what He meant.”

“How do you know these things?”

“I’ve been reading about you up until now and also a little ahead. By the way, later, James and John, you are going to request that you have the two highest places in the kingdom, using your Mum as a go-between (Matthew 20:20) and the rest of you will get a little annoyed.”

They look at James and John who look embarrassed. James thinks It sounds like a good idea.

“Come on guys. I just want to know. Be fair. I don’t have a lot of time. I’ve got to go to work, soon. Are you concerned about approval; being acknowledged and admired? Or is it about position, status, prominence, authority and power? Or perhaps it’s wealth?”

“You can’t just presume to read our minds and judge us.”

“I’ve got to tell you, a lot of people think that you are just being selfish and ambitious, proud and competitive and even jealous of each other. In my time, we had this guy called Mohammed Ali. He was a boxer. He used to say, ‘I am the greatest’ and some people pulled him up for bragging and his lack of humility. He would say, ‘It’s not bragging when you can back it up. It’s hard to be humble when you’re this great.”

“Mohammed Ali? I’m sorry, sir, we’ve got to go. The Master is calling us.”

“So He is. Can I catch up with you later?” They do not reply.

Jesus sits down (Mark 9:35 NLT), calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and just as I get ready to close the pages, He invites me as well (and you).

“Before you face the traffic on the way to work,” He says, “I want you to consider something. You have been asking all the wrong questions this morning.”

“But Lord, there is so much speculation about this passage. I just want to get to the facts about what your disciples are thinking when they argue about greatness.”

“None of that is important. Their thoughts are not yours to know. What you need to know is that I have destined you for greatness.”

My heart misses a beat. “Me, Lord. You have got to be kidding?”

“There’s something I want you to think about today, and we will talk more about it when next we meet.”

“Yes, Lord?”

“It is this.” He looks around the whole group. “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” 

As I head towards the door, I know that the traffic will be building up and I need to get going or I’ll be late to work.

“Yes Lord, I will think about this. Thanks. I love You. See you soon.” Giving Him a wave, I look back one last time. He is calling a child into their midst, and then I am immersed into the day.

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Matthew 18:1 – I AM THE GREATEST

“About this time, after they arrive at Capernaum, the disciples come to Jesus and ask, ‘Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:33-35)

Strange, because about this time in Rome they are deciding who is the greatest in a circle crudely marked in a very earthly kingdom.

Some wrap hard leather thongs around their fists and determine to swing with wild abandon until none are left. One smaller man, Archeus adds metal studs to the thongs. As they are led into the Amphitheatre, he is determined to weave and duck the frantic throws and wait to deliver his cutting body blows, scratching and elbowing his way to the finish.

The spectators roar their approval as they enter. Who will be the greatest in this fight to the death, the greatest slave, the greatest trained performer, the most valuable commodity of the day, the one left standing? The marked circle on the floor of the arena will soon be spattered with blood, a brutal ring of death.

There are no rules, other than to stay in the ring. No referee, no rounds, no throwing in the towel. Just a punishing and chaotic series of punching, headbutting, eye-gouging, chokes, and brutally hard throws. If a man goes down or is unconscious for a moment, he will not be shown mercy. There will be no fighters left alive but one, the greatest of all.

After the observances, the fight begins. Archeus does his best to block an opponent’s blows. He desperately wants to run from the ring but the armed gladiators are waiting for such a foolish move. I must be more strategic, slipping, bobbing, countering and angling, finding my targets on the body, weakening my opponents by degrees.

Few are in any way sophisticated with their approach. Their only objective; assaulting their assailants to do serious and permanent bodily harm. Whoever will be greatest will be damaged, but still standing.

Time is embodied in the frenzied Melee of bodies until now only three remain standing. Briefly, they are aware of each other before the two larger men fight. As they struggle with each other, Archeus takes his opportunity to weaken each man with forceful blows to their backs, trying to trip them up, pushing, biting and butting, hitting them with his elbows, and ramming them with his shoulder, striking wildly at times, but he avoids them trying to knee him, kick him or knock him down.

One man succumbs to a massive blow to his head and sinks to the ground. Surprised that he is still alive, Archeus turns to face his final challenge, Gallus, a giant of a man, and he feels the burden of his survival beginning to shift, heavy with fear and sweat. Gallus begins to circle around Archeus, catching his breath. The man he knocked to the ground is regaining consciousness, staggering to his feet and moving unnoticed behind Archeus. Charging towards Archeus, Gallus is screaming as he comes with the anticipation of victory.

Deftly sinking down between his legs, Archeus avoids his blow and hoists the man’s legs with all his strength. The momentum spears Gallus in a high arc towards the ground, but before he does, he crashes heavily into the barely revived man, head to head, with such a violent crunch that it leaves both men unconscious.

There is no prize but a garland, just promoters badgering his owner, and bets on the outcome being finalised. Spectators lose a lot of money gambling over who will be the best fighter of all. None expected it would be Archeus, and he doesn’t recall the acclaim.

Neither does Archeus remember being carried back and laid on a table. A young servant boy is saying “You are the greatest!” as he pours ointment on his wounds, bandages his bleeding hands and washes his face.

“I am not the greatest” he contradicts in an agonising whisper and is greeted with a momentary silence.

“What do you mean you’re not the greatest? You have “Style”. You jabbed your way around the outside, you slugged away at their defences until they were too tired to go on. You are the greatest fighter I have ever seen.”

“I am not the greatest….”

His comment is ignored. “You used strategy and control and method and skill. You were so fast out there.”

“I was only fighting to stay alive.”

“And you did! You got up close and kicked them. You had power and ability out there and waited for the advantage. You were quick and you avoided Dagri’s headlocks. You looked for their mistakes and used it against them.

I couldn’t believe it when you blocked Ansgar and got him off guard and landed that scorching blow to him with your elbow. He didn’t know what happened. Perfect timing. You predicted their punches with the precision of a true gladiator. You are the greatest!”

“You don’t understand…”

“What’s to understand? I saw you out there. You wore them down. They thought you were too small to worry about so they thought they could ignore you. You won without even getting hit. You outmaneuvered them all.”

“I did get hit. I think I have a few broken ribs and ….”

“Did you see Gallus? He had a powerful punch but you weren’t intimidated by his size at all.”

“I was intimidated. I was desperate. I couldn’t get away.”

“But you are fast. I wish I was like you. You are the greatest!”

“I’m not the greatest!” Archeus shouted, “Don’t you see. Brutality doesn’t determine greatness. Being great is not fighting each other to the death. It is letting someone live life to the full. Being the greatest is not some dictatorial tyrant ruling over us. You want to be like me. I want to be like you, boy. If only we could all be like you. The only way to be truly great is to serve others. You are the greatest of all.”

Miles away in Capernaum, Jesus sits down, calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and brings a child into their midst “Whoever wants to be greatest must take the least place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 NLT).

PART 1 – MATTHEW 12:1-3 – JESUS BROKE THE LAW! WHY CAN’T I?

Does Jesus Speed?

Not long ago I witnessed an ACCIDENT. A car ahead of me pulled out of it’s lane into a bus lane and collected the car that had been coming up from behind him in that lane. It left a sizeable dent in each car. Each morning as I travel to the Shalom Centre I see many people use Sydney bus lanes ILLEGALLY. It’s so easy and CONVENIENT to do. The temptation to save time and zip into a bus lane obviously overrides the possibility that a policeman will pull them over at the corner. Living on the EDGE! Is it worth the risk of 3 licence demerit points and $253 fine and progressive $50 fines until it is paid? It’s not! And I should know. But doesn’t Jesus break the law when it’s convenient?

In Matthew 12:1-2 isn’t Jesus just IGNORING parts of the law that He doesn’t like? Is He walking to the EDGE of the law to explore where the BOUNDARIES really are? Is He the kind of person who would drive past a policeman just over the SPEED LIMIT or leave it until the last second to get through the AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT instead of stopping? Or drive in a bus lane?

Matthew 12:1-2 speaks about a time when “…Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were HUNGRY, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, Your disciples are BREAKING THE LAW by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” 

If it was me I would have said something like “What is your problem? Mind your own business! Who made you the Sabbath police?” Besides, the Law of Deuteronomy 23:25 (NLT) says “…when you enter your neighbour’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.” So they weren’t STEALING.

The problem is that the disciples are plucking grain on a SATURDAY. Saturday is the SABBATH, a rest day. Picking grain is viewed as work by the Pharisees even though technically the law only prohibited harvesting grain for PROFIT on the Sabbath. It’s not as if they were driving a Massey Fergusen tractor with a COMBINE HARVESTER on the back and setting up a CUT PRICE SILO SALE for the grain.

Jesus always seems to confront me with my LEGALISM and calls me to think carefully about my responses to God. There’s a difference between obeying God’s law and legalism.

“Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.” (Matthew 12:3 NLT)

So can I break the law everytime it suits me? What about speeding because I’m late to work? I could try explaining to a policeman “Haven’t you heard that when it didn’t suit David to keep the law, he broke it? I have a genuine need, officer. Learn the meaning of the word ‘mercy'” I don’t think that this will go down well and even though it might be a genuine need, it wouldn’t stop me from getting a ticket and perhaps even a psychiatric evaluation.

So what is Jesus saying here? Where does it stop? What’s the point where I am no longer on the boundary but well and truly OVER THE EDGE? Sometimes we view the law as UNNECESSARY simply because in our sinfulness, we don’t want to obey it. That’s NOT what Jesus is advocating!

I don’t believe Jesus is saying that it is OK to DISOBEY THE LAW if you have a genuine need or if others have a genuine need, but I keep reading commentaries that say that genuine need makes it OK for Jesus to break the law!

An AMBULANCE DRIVER will speed legally in order to get someone to hospital, but he is breaking the law if he does it any other time. Same ambulance. Same driver. Same speed. Different purpose. Obeying the law depends on fulfilling the PURPOSE OF THE LAW.

Jesus is saying “The real PURPOSE or SPIRIT OF THE SABBATH LAW allows for MEETING GENUINE NEEDS without disobedience being an issue. You DISOBEY the Sabbath Law when you merely go through a ritual, perform a ceremony and adhere to a regulation. That is not the PURPOSE or spirit of the Sabbath law.”

Did Jesus break the Sabbath or did He show what keeping the Sabbath law was really all about? Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT) “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to ACCOMPLISH THEIR PURPOSE. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the SMALLEST DETAIL of God’s law will disappear until its PURPOSE is achieved. …”But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”  

1 John 5:3 (NLT) says “Loving God means KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, and His commandments are NOT BURDENSOME.”   

Jesus didn’t BREAK THE LAW! He invented it! He lived by it, and fulfilled it perfectly. The Pharisees broke it by not understanding the purpose of the law and by applying it wrongly.

God bless you Church as you “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby FULFILL the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NASB95)

Pastor Ross