Posts Tagged ‘Humility’

The Holy Grail6

Quest for the Holy Grail © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender and Paint.net

Matthew 20:20-23 – A QUEST FOR THE TRUE HOLY GRAIL 

Simple but beautiful. Filled to the brim. Sought after through the centuries. Desired by the infamous SS and the Catholic Church alike, legends have developed about its whereabouts; is it in the caves of Montsegur, France or hidden somewhere in Oxford England or in a Chapel in Valencia Cathedral in Spain?

We all know that Indiana Jones found it in the caves of Petra and Dan Brown informs us with arrogant certainty, despite his distorted historical evidence, that it was a person, not a cup. He assures us it was not made of the wood of a Carpenter, clay from the earth, or silver and gold with embedded emeralds and precious stones, but of flesh and blood. He could be right in one respect, so let’s begin the quest for the true Holy Grail by reading from an ancient book which gives us clues …

COME, … 

Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, comes to Jesus with her sons. She kneels respectfully to ask a favor” (Matthew 20:20 NLT).

Mark calls her Salome. John calls her Jesus’ mother’s sister. Matthew calls her, the mother of the sons of Zebedee rather than the wife of Zebedee. It’s obvious that Zebedee hasn’t been involved in this favor-seeking exercise and that Salome has raised these sons of thunder by herself. Perhaps Zebedee has died and is no longer in the picture at all.

So James and John are full cousins of Jesus. They feel connected to Jesus by family. They are ambitious, looking for personal reward and special honor, a cup running over with power and prestige, but do they expect success without sacrifice? The Holy Grail comes with an adventure and a price.

 WITH RESPECT …

Salome bows before Jesus as a king, but her understanding is limited to an earthly kingdom and her ambition for her sons crowds out any understanding of the cup for which she asks.

The brothers are willing to let their mother approach Jesus with this request. Do they think that Jesus would favor her more? All three of them have obviously spoken about this in private before coming to Jesus.

 AND ASK … 

“What is your request?” He asks. She replies, “In Your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to You, one on Your right and the other on Your left (Matthew 20:21 NLT).

Perhaps they think they have earned the right of positions of authority when Jesus, as the Messiah, takes up His role as King of Israel. Surely they can drink from the Holy Grail; the cup of power?

After all, James and John (and Peter) were present at the Transfiguration of Jesus and when Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead by Jesus. Surely that counts for something?

Adam Clarke suggests that Salome, James and John were thinking in terms of a new Sanhedrin being formed and they would be the supreme dignities in the great Sanhedrin. The prince of the Sanhedrin (Ha-Nasi) sat in the midst of two rows of senators or elders; on his right hand sat the person termed Ab (the father of the Sanhedrin); and on his left hand the Chacham, or sage. These persons transacted all business in the absence of the president. The authority of this council was at some periods very great, and extended to a multitude of matters both ecclesiastical and civil. These appear to have been the honors which James and John sought. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary.)

It is clear that Salome, James and John are interested in status rather than service, homage rather than humility, recognition rather than reaching out, power rather than God’s purposes, authority over rather than assistance to others. They wanted more to lord it over others than to love others in humble recognition of their worth to God.

 WITH THE RIGHT MOTIVES …

Jesus isn’t willing simply to grant any such request. Neither does He for us, but He gives us opportunity to verbalize what we are thinking in order to correct us and guide more surely towards His purposes so that we ask aright.

Lord, guard what I ask of You. Help me to be discerning.

James 4:3 (NLT) says, ” … you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” 

Indiana Jones learned that penitent man kneels before God, and Salome also kneels respectfully before Jesus. The difference is that her request of power for her sons is not a request of a penitent heart.

Help me not only to submit to You respectfully in my actions but also in my motives.

You encourage me to come, even if I have it wrong, to ask for Your cup, but help me to ask aright.

I want to bring You honor in my life, but it is tinged with sinful attitudes at times. I know I love the praise of others far too much. There are times when I am way out of my depth and let You down because of my pride and selfishness.

But You invite me to find Your will for my life, things that will make a difference in Your kingdom, neither above or below what You intend for my life, to drink from the cup. Keep me engaged with Your purposes, listening for Your correction and willing to change and grow.

 AND SEEK TO UNDERSTAND …

Salome is the mouthpiece for selfish ambition, but you will notice that Jesus shifts the answer to her sons and to us.

“You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they reply, “we are able!” (Matthew 20:22 NLT).

Here is the Chalice of Christ, the Holy Grail! A bitter cup of suffering, not what I immediately associate with God’s favor, especially if I crave position, power and influence.

Apparently, criminals were at times made to drink poison and assassinations could be made by spiking wine with poison, but this cup of suffering was spiked with the poison of my sin and just as deadly.

This was not a cup of sweet wine offered to Jesus to celebrate His status. But a bitter cup of deep suffering to demonstrate His Servanthood

James and John could not endure such a poisonous potion of suffering due to their arrogance and pride, and it was these very sins, among others, that soured the very cup from which Jesus tasted. It was for their sins and my sins that He would die.

Jesus encourages me not be too quick in saying I am able when I am clearly NOT. He doesn’t simply say “No!” But as He questions me through His Word, He gives me the opportunity to respond, no matter how arrogantly to Him, and then He brings correction and further understanding so that I can adjust the tenor of my prayers according to His purposes.

 AS YOU DRINK …

Jesus tells them, “You will indeed drink from My bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on My right or My left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones He has chosen (Matthew 20:23 NLT).

Jesus is patient, direct. James and John would indeed drink the bitter wine from this Holy Grail. What did He mean? And does He expect me to suffer also?

James will die by the sword. (Acts 12:2). Was the cup for him the cup of martyrdom? Tradition says John was tortured, then banished to the Island of Patmos. Was that his bitter cup? Can I expect a gruesome end on this quest for the Holy Grail?

Click on picture below for the animation

 

Cup of Christ or Cup of Judgment © Images and Animation by Ross Cochrane

 FROM THE CUP OF CHRIST, …

According to Dake, 12 cups are given figurative meaning in the Bible, but I think they can be reduced to perhaps 4. The key cups are of judgment, salvation, suffering, and communion. 

  1. THE CUP OF JUDGMENT ON THE WICKED

Psalm 75:8 (NLT) says, For the Lord holds a cup in His hand that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. HE POURS OUT THE WINE IN JUDGMENT, AND ALL THE WICKED MUST DRINK IT, draining it to the dregs.” 

The Cup of Judgment is eternal death. Romans 6:23 (NLT2) says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2. THE CUP OF SUFFERING ON THE CROSS

Jesus speaks in Matthew 20:22 (NLT) of the bitter CUP OF SUFFERING I am about to drink?” 

It is as if Jesus takes the Cup of Judgment of the wicked from me and gives to me the cup of Eternal Life (Salvation). He drinks my cup of death and I drink His cup of life. 

3. THE CUP OF SALVATION FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE

David says in Psalm 116:13 (NLT), I will lift up the CUP OF SALVATION and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.” 

4. THE CUP OF THE PASSOVER CONFIRMING THE COVENANT 

The Passover cup confirms that I am forgiven. In Matthew 26:27-28 (NLT) Jesus took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is My blood, which CONFIRMS THE COVENANT between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”

How can I or anyone possibly DRINK THE BITTER CUP OF CHRIST? How can anyone really share in the suffering of Christ? 

When Jesus concedes that James and John will suffer also, is He is talking about identifying with His death, just as followers of Christ do each time they celebrate Communion?

Dan Brown almost got it right. The Holy Grail does involve a person; Jesus Christ Himself. The cup represents His death for me. My quest is reached …

 BY DYING TO SELFISH DESIRES, …

Romans 6:6 (NLT) speaks about sharing in the suffering of Christ. “We know that our old sinful selves were CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says MY OLD SELF HAS BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Am I willing to die to my pride daily and give my life in serving Jesus, no matter what the cost? Help me to do so, Lord.

In Luke 14:25-34 (NLT), Jesus again speaks of me sharing in His suffering. He says, ... if you do not CARRY YOUR OWN CROSS and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple.

In Luke 9:23-26 Jesus said, If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS DAILY, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 

… AND IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST, …

Paul, writing to the Philippians in Philippians 3:8 (NLT), spoke of his own experience, saying Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and BECOME ONE WITH HIM.” 

Jesus used James’ and John’s response as an opportunity to teach them what it means to be on a quest for the Holy Grail: to be a follower of Christ. Servanthood comes before Status. Only then could they understand that sitting in places of power with Christ must be seen from a totally different perspective.

Ephesians 1:20 (NLT) says

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and SEATED HIM IN THE PLACE OF HONOUR AT GOD’S RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS.”

 THEN YOU WILL BE BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE …

Drinking from the Bitter Cup of the Holy Grail (the cup of Christ) is closely associated with being seated in places of honor with Christ. In the light of all that Christ has done for me, Ephesians 2:4-8 (NLT) makes more sense. It says,

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and SEATED US WITH HIM in the heavenly realms because we are UNITED with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are UNITED with Christ Jesus. God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

 AS YOU SERVE THE SERVANT KING.

When Jesus spoke of sharing the cup of His suffering, I think He was referring not only to James being beheaded (Acts 12:2) and John being exiled to Patmos (Revelation 1:9) but he was inviting them and me to share in what led Him to the Cross; His willingness to do whatever it took to see others saved from the power of sin and death.

My quest for the Holy Grail is to be crucified with Christ or united with Christ which means to have His mission no matter what the cost. To serve in its fullest measure. If I identify myself with Christ I will identify with Him in His death and resurrection and sit with Him, united in His Purposes.

Simple but beautiful. Filled to the brim. Who is willing to drink?

John 12:26 (NLT2) says, Anyone who wants to be My disciple must follow Me, because My servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves Me.” 

It is not so much that I have the honor of sitting with You, but that You have humbled Yourself to sit with me. It is not about a quest to find the Holy Grailbut about drinking from the cup of Eternal Life already offered. It’s not about me asking You for favors but about me choosing to serve You. That blows my mind. I am servant to the Servant King.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 32:10-12 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 6

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau. The meeting could be explosive. (see part 1-5).

So how does Jacob prepare for this confrontation? What do you do about it if your actions have caused the conflict?

  1. ADMIT YOUR PART IN THE CONFLICT

unworthy2.jpg

© Unworthy but not worthless. Created by Ross Cochrane.

“I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!” (Genesis 32:10 NLT).

He’s right. He is not worthy. He has lied to his father and cheated his brother. He left the country bankrupt because you can never achieve a worthy end with unworthy means. Finally, he starts to realize that he has lived his life making decisions apart from God. Perhaps he is saying, “Lord I am the younger brother. I didn’t deserve the birthright or blessing on my life because they were obtained through deception and not from Your Hand. They gained me nothing but exile. Despite being as unworthy as I am, when I have trusted You, You have only shown Your love and faithful provision for my life.”

Isaiah 53:6 (NLT) says “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” But now, in the crisis of this moment, Jacob makes himself subservient to God who has been with him in the process of a lifetime. He is unworthy but not worthless. He humbles himself before God just as he humbles himself before Esau. “Servant of all”.

This will test Jacob’s faith and character. Will he have what it takes for God’s promise to be fulfilled with integrity, humility and respect rather than try to gain the blessing from his self-motivated arrogant willfulness?

Recognising that we have a responsibility in owning our part in the conflict is important. Jacob is being real with God and Esau.

  1. BE SPECIFIC IN WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE HAPPEN

Specific3.jpg

© Specific Target. Created by Ross Cochrane.

“O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 

But You promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count’” (Genesis 32:11-12 NLT).

Jacob gets down to the specifics. He’s learned a lot about God; His promises, His faithful love, not to mention an angelic army. He doesn’t have nearly as much regard for Esau. He fears that he and his family will be massacred.

As God’s diplomat, he has been appointed with letters of accreditation in the form of a promise which enables him to carry out his duties on behalf of the King of kings within the jurisdiction of this land. He is a servant and ambassador for God’s purposes. But right now he is wondering about his diplomatic immunity from Esau’s arrows.

In prayer, Jacob the deceiver reminds God about His promises, and no doubt prayer also had a way of reminding him about the faithfulness of God.

He will need to take proactive steps to restore his credibility with Esau. Not so easy. How can you convince someone to meet with you when you have lost respect in their eyes? (Find out in Part 7, coming soon).

Pastor Ross  

Genesis 32:3-4 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 2

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau. The meeting could be explosive. That’s why Jacob’s short course in diplomacy is worth noting (see part 1).

So how does Jacob prepare for this confrontation? How do you prepare when you are facing a meeting with a sense of dread?

  1. DON’T PROCRASTINATE, PREPARE WELL

 

Time short1.jpg© Hourglass with watch parts. by Ross Cochrane

“Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom” (Genesis 32:3 NLT).

He sends messengers ahead. Why didn’t he go himself? Let’s face it. When death threats have been made, it makes more sense to send neutral parties. They travel to Seir in Edom; the territory of Esau, South of the Dead Sea. Good move Jacob!

Take action now. As so often is the way, help arrives when we get up and do something. Angels came as Jacob “started on his way”. Sometimes we just have to make a choice to move before God comes to meet with us more directly. Mind you, it took Jacob twenty years to get to this point!

Jacob is a wordsmith. He crafts what he wants to say so as not to inflame any residual anger in his confrontation with Esau.

  1. SPEAK WITH RESPECT AND HUMILITY

Respect 7.jpg

© Respect and Humility by Ross Cochrane

“He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban,…” (Genesis 32:4 NLT).

Why does Jacob call Esau his master? Some say Jacob is despising his birthright which gave him rulership of the family, just as Esau had despised it by giving it away. They say Jacob is forsaking his father’s blessing by calling himself Esau’s servant, but give him a break! Isn’t it more likely that he is simply being polite? He is humbly showing respect. It doesn’t hurt to show respect. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Jacob has been away for a long time. This is Esau’s home territory. He wants to enter on Esau’s terms, not just barge in with the arrogance of a fool and provoke hostility. He crafts his message carefully. There are no threats or judgments, just a wisely worded diplomatic message.

This is a picture of servanthood that one day his descendant Jesus would exemplify. Jesus, the servant ruler tells His disciples, Mark 9:35 (NLT) “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

The time inevitably will come in our lives when God teaches us leadership through unpretentious servanthood and diplomacy, rather than insisting on our rights. We cannot know how to lead if we do not ourselves know what it means to submit.

Jacob also teaches us about focus in the midst of conflict (Coming soon, Part 3).

Pastor Ross

Wall of China and Great Pyramid7.jpg

Matthew 18:1-4 – “THE GREATEST” QUALITIES

Matthew 18:1-4 is an invitation to find your true identity but it will mean some rewiring of assumptions about what is great. Greatness is not a wall designed to keep people out. It is not a pyramid to keep people in. The qualities of “the greatest” will include…

SERVANTHOOD

Jesus doesn’t deny authority in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is coming under authority that is important. Luke 22:26-30 (NLT) Jesus says “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves. “You have stayed with  Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

It is not a sense of entitlement but seeking out the best in others that is powerful. No-one can exercise authority without coming under authority. Servanthood is true greatness. He invites us into another person’s world.

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

“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).

Humble enough to turn aside, come and obey when Jesus calls. Greatness involves humble obedience. Humility admits our dependence on Christ and enables us to realise our potential in Him. To enter into Christ’s kingdom realm demands that we become like a child for it is only in doing so that we can become a child of the king.

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

The child responded to the call of Christ. “Turn…” Turn like the child turning to listen to Him and come to Him. Become like a little child. Compliant to the things of God in our lives, it will involve being vulnerable enough to trust.

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

With faith, there will always be an element of risk. Children are not conscious of inherent dangers and a child may like showing off, but to come into a group of adults at the request of Jesus shows courage, risk-taking, and faith.

FOCUS ON CHRIST

Focus demands not being distracted by a false sense of entitlement but fixing our attention on what Christ is asking of us. It means a deliberate disassociation with self-centredness. The child made Jesus the centre of his or her attention and in doing so came under His authority.

And the invitation is to come as a Child comes, at the sound of Jesus’ voice, with all our gifts, motivations, abilities, potential, personality, and limited experience, to Jesus. Position depends on responding to His calling. God’s purposes replacing worldly ambition is a powerful influence.

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

Position, power, prestige, fame, wealth and ambition come into perspective under the authority of Christ. Am I motivated by pride or by a desire to submit myself to Christ? The motivation is all important.

Was it pride and covetousness that made them ask this question about who is the greatest? Self-importance and envy get in the way of our calling and position in Christ. It seems they were being contentious about who would lead them, who would be greatest and have the most authority.

Perhaps they were jealous of Peter or John or James. Perhaps it is just political wrangling over the best candidate. Whatever motivated the question, it was not indicative of a childlike faith.

The invitation is clear for those who would find their true identity and purpose.

“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 18:4 NLT)

Matthew 16:20 – HOW TO START A CONVERSATION WITH JESUS

Conversation - Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Conversation – Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Walking into the building that morning (some years ago) a couple we did not know greeted us, engaging with us in conversation easily. How pleasing to go away on holidays and return to be welcomed warmly as guests by perfect strangers. They were quite surprised when I spoke to the crowd that morning. They had no idea that I was the Pastor of the Church they had attended for the last month. It was probably better that way. Sometimes a title can be an impediment.

ICEBREAKERS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus! How do you start a conversation with Jesus? If you were Jesus what would you say? The normal icebreakers are not going to work ….

“Hello, I’m Mark and I’m a mechanic?” 

“Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m the Messiah, Saviour of the world, the Way, Truth and Life, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God, and Light of the world.” 

(Awkward silence) “I see… well, nice meeting You.” 

Perhaps it’s better to let Jesus initiate the conversation. How does Jesus make a memorable first impression? Where do you begin when you are the Saviour of the world and Your purpose for coming is to form genuine trust relationships with others? How can you hope for initial rapport to be created? At least Jesus knows one thing to avoid in starting a conversation…

TITLES AND LABELS

I have read all kinds of reasons why Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT). It’s not that He is unsure of Himself. He’s not shy or embarrassed about who He is. Some say His disciples have a false understanding and He needs more time to teach them what the word Messiah really means. Others say He wants them to wait until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them before sharing who He is. Still others say that it would cause a riot to tell people that He is the Messiah and Jesus wants to avoid confrontation or an uprising. These reasons seem complicated and unnecessary.

The simplest explanation is that Jesus is not interested in titles but in genuine interactions; in starting up a conversation with us where we can get to know Him without any frills. He wants us to come to a knowledge of the truth by meeting us where we are and allowing us to be open with Him. Jesus doesn’t have to try to impress us and He’s not trying to impose Himself on us.

INTEREST AND HUMILITY

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT) gives great advice in starting a conversation. It says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. … take an interest in others, too. … have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had … Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT) Christmas and the Cross remind us about the humility of Christ as He relates to us.

OPENNESS AND TRUST

So when Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT) it seems to me that He invites us to come to understand who He is, as Peter did (Matthew 16:13-19), through personal relationship and openness to God, not simply because of a label giving Him status.

Normally you can’t expect miracles to take place in your first interactions with someone new … except when you start a conversation with Jesus.

“So Jesus, I’ve heard a little bit about You. Some people say You are the prophetic voice of our time?” 

“But who do you say that I am?”

Great way to begin! But be warned – starting a conversation with Jesus could end up being a life-changing encounter. I know the traditional rule is that you never start a conversation with people you don’t know well with talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex. The risk of offensiveness is way too high. Jesus however will inevitably address all these issues in our lives and more. He’s not afraid to get to the heart of a conversation about troubled lives, estranged relationships, and even sin and death. But far from being awkward, His initial invitation allows us to get to know Him personally and to keep in touch … for eternity. 

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

 

Part 2 – Genesis 18:1-15 – ENTERTAINING ANGELS?

Entertaining Angels?

Jan and Darryl have always been openly generous people. They make you feel as if they are honoured to have you in their home and nothing is too much trouble for them. Which is just as well because they are our connect group leaders.

Every fortnight people in our Connect Group meet to connect with God and eachother in an authentic way. We talk about life and faith and how to apply the message on Sundays to the everyday situations each of us face during the week. It is the best time.

I noticed Jan and Darryl were hospitable people when we first met them 14 years ago, so I was surprised when we came to their Connect Group that they didn’t RUN OUT TO MEET US in their driveway and BOW TO THE GROUND. They just greeted us warmly and welcomed us in. They didn’t bring water, take off our shoes and WASH OUR FEET or even offer for us to take a shower in their bathroom. They didn’t go down to the local butcher and buy us the BEST CUTS OF MEAT FOR A BARBEQUE. We normally just bring our own supper and share it around. They didn’t BAKE BREAD for us in their breadmaker. WHAT KIND OF HOSPITALITY IS THAT? Abraham would have been shocked!

In Genesis 18:1 (NLT) it says “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.”

When God turns up at Abraham’s Connect Group in Genesis 18:1, all Abraham sees are THREE MEN. Who were these guys? Prophets? Angels? The Trinity in human form? He doesn’t ask them. That would be impolite in Eastern thinking. So what does he do? “he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.” (Must have been quite sprightly for his age. Ever seen a 100 year old man run? I’ve seen one with a walking frame but believe me he wasn’t running. And even bowing low has the risks of a fall and a broken hip.) 

Abraham goes OVERBOARD with hospitality. Darryl and Jan have nothing on Abraham. He calls the leader of the group “LORD” (a common greeting of respect in those times but in this case it could have been THE LORD!) and offers, you guessed it, to WASH THEIR FEET. He gets Sarah to BAKE SOME HOME MADE BREAD, and then KILLS THE BEST CALF in his herd and PREPARES A BARBEQUE. If that wasn’t enough then he WAITS ON THEM like a SERVANT rather than sitting down with them at the meal table! You have got to be kidding! He hasn’t even asked them who they are and what they are doing LOITERING around his tent!

This is HOSPITALITY GONE WILD! And these three “men” just accept it. They just sit around in the shade of a tree, while this old man and his wife go overboard with kindness. Abraham could have simply called his servants to serve these guys, but he does it himself. Even though he was a rich, influential and powerful old man (and old men were respected in his times), yet it is Abraham who shows them great respect and humility. It is getting difficult to pick out the angels in this picture.

What I notice about Abraham is that he is QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and he is AVAILABLE TO SERVE. Sacrifice and servanthood characterise this powerful man who is called a friend of God (James 2:23). I can learn a lot about how to build my RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD and show LOVE TO OTHERS from a man like this, and from people like Jan and Darryl too. Same HUMBLE AND GENUINE welcome.

God bless you Church as we are QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and AVAILABLE TO SERVE, as SACRIFICE AND SERVANTHOOD characterise our lives as we actively choose to SHOW LOVE TO OTHERS. Hebrews 13:2 (NLT) puts it this way

“Don’t forget to show HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS, for some who have done this have ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”

Pastor Ross