Posts Tagged ‘Servanthood’

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

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Matthew 20:17-19 – JESUS, WHAT WAS THE POINT OF DYING FOR ME? 

Matthew 20:17-19 (NLT) says As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. “Listen,” He said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence Him to die. Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. … 

Cross

Reflecting on the Crucifixion – © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Jesus knew that He would be betrayed by friends, Romans and countrymen. Condemned unjustly, He would die a cruel death.   

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) gives an incredible prophecy. It mirrors the words Jesus shared with His disciples about His death. It says, He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. … He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. He was pierced … crushed … beaten … whipped … He exposed Himself to death … He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave. 

I am left with important questions which need to be answered because Isaiah also says that He died for me. 

Jesus, why did You choose to die for me? What did it achieve? What was the point? 

For me, those questions have been answered clearly and consistently throughout the BibleJesus has already responded to me through His Word. He says… 

  1. BECAUSE LOVED YOU AND WANT YOU TO SHARE MY LOVE  

 

Key of Life

Cross = Love. Key of Life – © Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT2) says, He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. 

Romans 5:8 (NLT) says, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” 

2. I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD SAVE YOU 

one-way3

One Way © by Ross Cochrane

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” 

Hebrews 2:10 (NLT) says, “… And it was only right that He should make Jesus, through His suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.”  

Luke 19:10 (NLT) says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” 

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NLT) says, For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” 

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” 

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 

3. TO BREAK THE POWER OF THE DEVIL, SIN AND DEATH  

Wrecking Ball 1

Breaking down the walls © by Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:14 (NLT2) … For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death …”  

Romans 8: 1-2 says, So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

4. TO SET US FREE FROM THE FEAR OF DYING 

 

Hereafter

Hereafter © by Ross Cochrane

 Hebrews 2:15 (NLT) says, “… Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.  

5. TO FORGIVE YOU AND TAKE AWAY YOUR SINS AND THE PENALTY OF YOUR SIN

 

Do we live in a Just World?

JUSTICE AND GRACE © by Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:17 (NLT) continues, “Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.…”  

Romans 3:23-24 (NLT) says, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.” 

Isaiah 53:3-5 (NLT) says, He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. …  

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all …  

1 Peter 2:24 (NLT) says, He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.” 

Ephesians 1:7 (NLT) says, He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” 

6. TO HELP YOU IN TIMES OF SUFFERING AND TESTING  

What happens when my world falls apart

What Happens When my World falls apart? © Ross Cochrane

Hebrews 2:18 (NLT)says, “…Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.”  

7. TO UNITE YOU AND BRING YOU INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH ME 

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us and Wants a Relationship with Us. © by Ross Cochrane

Ephesians 2:13-18 (NLT2) 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. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you ..Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” 

Isaiah 53:11-12 (NLT) says, “… And because of His experience, My righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins. I will give Him the honours of a victorious soldier, because He exposed Himself to death.  

He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” 

8. TO GIVE YOU THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE 

Jesus Loves Me!

Golden Thread on the Gift of Eternal Life © by Ross Cochrane

John 17:1-3 (NLT2) says,  He (God the Father) gives eternal life to each one You have given Him (God the Son)And this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth …”  

9. TO COMPLETE THE PURPOSES GOD GAVE ME TO DO 

Hand of Jesus4

Completing the Work of the Cross © Image by Ross Cochrane

John 17:4-5 (NLT) says, “… (Jesus) brought glory to You (God the Father) here on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, bring Me into the glory We shared before the world began.  

10. TO MODEL THE PRINCIPLES OF SERVANTHOOD 

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership © by Ross Cochrane

Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT2) says, You must 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 and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” 

Pastor Ross 

pain2

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.  

2018-05-02 06.24.48 

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 

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

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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)

 

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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).

Matthew 16:13 – A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH

Making Jesus in our own image

A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH - Image created by Ross Cochrane

A MORE MANAGEABLE MESSIAH – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jesus,

As Your marketing manager I am glad You finally asked the question “Who do others say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13). Finally You are concerned about Your consumer base. Afterall, without people like me, where would You be? Consumer Loyalty is important. You need to control the perception that we have about You if you want to go to the next level? A few points…

GLOBAL SUCCESS

Do You want to accelerate Your success globally; set the pace in a highly competitive world? Do You want to be more powerful and more highly effective? You can only go so far with the things You are saying and doing and I am here to give You some wins on the board.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Firstly, You will need to lose the “I came to do the Father’s will” line. No-one is interested in pleasing their Father in this generation. Half of them don’t have fathers. Leave Your Father out of it. It will only alienate the fans. If You are going to build a fan club, You will need to relate to their way of life. By the way, this “Take up your cross and follow Me” line won’t go down well either. Make it easy for us to follow You. Offer a free lunch instead. You do that well. Customer service.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE, PROFILE AND POPULARITY (The 3 P’s)

I will help You to reinvent Your social image, Your website, revitalise some of Your more popular sayings on Twitter. I’m here to build Your image; give You some style; tweak Your profile page, find the right opportunities, put You out there, pursue fame a little more intentionally. Heal someone famous and watch it go viral on YouTube. I can follow it up by arranging some TV interviews on the morning show, FM radio. We’ll give You, an audition for Australia has Talent or the X-Factor highlighting Your miracles. Do You have the X-Factor? To be honest, no one really cares about Your message unless it is actually entertaining or they are your close friends.

THE BOOK

By the way, You need to consolidate Your popularity by re-editing Your book. It will take a while but, for a fee, I will edit out the things that people don’t like; a smaller, leaner Bible.

THE MOVIE

I’m thinking something like a superhero movie promoting You as someone who intervenes in our human situations and automatically saves us from tragedies, hurts, trials and wrinkles. Bypass the trials and cross straight to the blessings. I’ve got a few good scripts.

Maybe a fishing show on TV. You’ve got a gift. We could sell some merchandise; plastic bank in the shape of a fish etc. And the way You calmed the sea that time we could do a great video on answers to Global Climate change.

You already inspire a lot of people with Your communication gifts. You deserve fame, so please, lose the Servanthood thing. Don’t think so small because You will only encourage others to think small. New mantra – “Assertiveness, not Servanthood.” Maybe a few high-powered “How-to” seminars and hypnosis sessions will fix this.

MESSIAH STATUS

By the way, You are doing the right things by telling us not to tell people who You really are (Matthew 16:20). Telling people You’re the Messiah is not exactly the best way to go viral. Best to withhold a significant amount of the truth until You get a larger profile. And You’ll need to drop the “first shall be last” line. Start using the “Genie in a bottle of blessing” kind of thinking. It’s a lot more popular. Oh, and avoid Nazareth. We don’t want bad press.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Jesus, You really need to tone down what You say about the Pharisees. Just filter Your comments a little more. It doesn’t hurt to tiptoe a little when it comes to political correctness issues, especially when You disagree with what is popular. What I’m saying is be a little more tolerant ie don’t express Your differences against culturally acceptable sins.

POLITICAL ACTIVISM

You’ve got royalty in Your blood since you come from King David’s lineage and he was quite popular, so make the most of it. What is it with Your desire to mix with the social outcasts. We want to get the bad people off the streets; the muggers, the gangs, the drug addicts, not encourage them! That won’t get You any votes, especially with the Pharisees. You have to mix with the right crowd.

John the Baptist was willing to die for what He believed in. Somewhere down the line You could organise a political march against the Romans. If you didn’t talk of Peace all the time You would probably already be a great militant leader. Don’t get me wrong but people are more interested in victory over the Roman terrorists than loving our enemies. World Peace is for Miss Universe campaigns. What’s the use of having absolute power if you can’t use it once in a while to get rid of those we consider to be undesirables.

EXPRESSING YOURSELF

Just follow my basic ideas on how to behave and wait for me to give You the go-ahead. Follow my script and You’ll get there. I’ll save You a lot of trouble in the end. Salvation is at hand if You are willing to factor in what Your consumers want You to be.

Your Faithful Agent

Judas

NOOO! If I allow my human wants and wishes to define my view of Jesus; manipulate the Messiah to be made in my image, then He becomes a product of my imagination rather than who He really is and I will inevitably water down the message of the gospel. I am created in His image, not He in mine. It is me that needs managing by Him, not Him by me. The invitation He gives comes by way of a choice “Who do You say that I am?” If I respond to Him as God then I can surrender to the very purpose for which I was created, in Him. (Romans 8:28-39)

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