17. Was Martha a Workaholic?

We have a saying, ‘Never judge a book by its cover.’

By this, we mean that what is observed on the outside does not necessarily give a clear picture of what is on the inside. Our passages in this session are about Martha a woman who on the outside was something of a workaholic, but where was her heart?

Read about it in Luke 10:38-41; John 11:1-7,17-27

Photo by Monstera

We look at two incidents in Jesus’ ministry involving Martha to try to see them from another perspective.

MEAL INVITATIONS

Jesus and His disciples did a fair amount of travelling around Galilee. They also made several trips to Jerusalem. On one occasion a teacher of the law offered to become a follower of Jesus. Jesus responded,  “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58 ESV).

So when folk like Matthew and Simon the Pharisee invited them to dinner, that was a very welcome gesture. In addition, there seems to have been a home in Bethany that served as a watering hole for the group as well.

MARTHA THE HOSTESS

In Luke 10 we read, “The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home” (Luke 10:38).

Martha immediately busied herself in the kitchen preparing the meal while her sister Mary settled down near Jesus to hear what he had to share.

Things were getting on top of Martha, yet her sister seemed oblivious to the difficulties. Eventually, she could take it no longer and she stormed into the room, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” (Luke 10:40b)

Jesus’ response was unexpected, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42).

In effect, Jesus said, “Martha your focus at the moment is wrong. Now is not the time to focus on material food but on spiritual food.” Jesus was not accusing her of being unspiritual but that she was missing out on the best. She was opting for second best.

Who can blame her? We all face situations where we opt for what we think is best when we should be checking out what the Lord has to say on the subject.

Are you opting for God's best for your life or going along with what is really second best? Click To Tweet

MARTHA’S CONCERN

The opening verses of John 11 inform us that; “… Lazarus was sick. … So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’” (John 11:1,3).

Having witnessed Jesus’s miracles, Mary and Martha believed Jesus could heal their brother. They knew He loved this family and understood the anxiety of the sisters Yet … “he stayed where he was for two more days” v6.

That seems so uncaring, Why the delay?

       1. Jesus’ life was in danger. Opposition from the religious leaders was growing in intensity. Jesus  and His disciples had withdrawn to an area on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

Bethany, the village of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus was just over 3 km east of Jerusalem, near enough for Jesus and His disciples to be in danger. When two days later Jesus announced “Let us go back to Judea,” His disciples reacted, “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there!”

So Jesus could have sent back the message, ‘Sorry! But our lives are in danger we can’t take the risk.”

  1. Jesus knew what the sisters didn’t know. Jesus’ response to the news was, “This sickness will not end in death … it is for God’s glory.”

He told his disciples two days later “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up. When the disciples failed to grasp what he was saying “He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:14).

TIME SEQUENCE

It seems that Jesus knew that He would be too late. Think about the time sequence:

  • Jesus received the message of Lazarus’ illness.

  • Two days later Jesus said, “Let us go back to Judea.”

  • Yet when they arrived in Bethany, “Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

The distance between the Jordan and Bethany was in the region of 30 km, a journey on foot of a day or more. Simple arithmetic shows that by the time that Jesus received the message Lazarus may have already died.

MARTHA’S FAITH TESTED

When Jesus and His disciples arrived in Bethany, he showed His caring concern for both sisters. But we will focus on Martha.

Martha took the initiative, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him” v20. 

Although practical and down-to-earth, as we have seen, Martha was also a woman of faith. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She sincerely believed that Jesus would have healed her brother, more than that she believed that there was still hope,  “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” ( v21, 22.)

RESURRECTED

“Martha, do you believe that Lazarus will be raised to life?

Martha’s faith seemed to waver, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 

That gave Jesus the opportunity to test whether she really believed in the resurrection. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She responded with a profession of faith, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world” v27.

To the amazement and joy of everyone, Jesus raised Lazarus back to an extended period of life. We too enjoy a period of life here on earth, but through faith in the resurrected Christ, we have more to look forward to—life eternal.

MARTHA THE SERVER

One last thought. In John 12:1,2 we read, “Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death.” A meal had been prepared for Jesus. Martha was doing the serving, and Lazarus himself was there. We once again find Martha serving a meal.

This indicates that Martha’s God-given gift would seem to have been service—In his list of the Motivational Gifts Paul wrote, “If we can serve others, we should serve” (Romans 12:7 CEV). And serve is what Martha did—par excellence.

Jesus really cared. Martha needed to be encouraged in her faith, while her sister Mary needed to be comforted in her sorrow. As Jesus’s representatives, when tragedy strikes we need to come alongside and give whatever support is needed. We also need to remember that people are different and their needs differ. Very often, if we are gifted in one area, we expect the same level of involvement from others. Martha was a server. Mary was not.

Do you know what gift or gifts God has given you for the building up of His Kingdom here on earth? Then concentrate on perfecting them. But don’t expect others to do the same. We need to help and serve one another, but not expect the same standard from others when operating in our gifts.

If you’re not sure, I strongly recommend you look for the book by Don and Katie Fortune,  Discover Your God-Given Gifts. It transformed my life and ministry as well as my wife’s.

Sing along with the choir, praying the words as you go.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

16. Are You a Leaky Christian?

Water is life. One may be able to fast for long periods but one must drink or die of dehydration.

Can you recall when you desperately needed water to quench your thirst?

Pexels – Photo by MART PRODUCTION

The story of the nameless woman at Jacob’s well, who lived in the little village of Sychar in Samaria, is only found in John’s gospel.

Read her story in John 4:1-30,39

BACKGROUND:

In Jesus’ day, Palestine comprised Galilee in the North and Judea in the South. Between the two was the territory of Samaria. From Judea to Galilee,  normally took about 3 days if you walked. However, there was enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans so Jews normally skirted around Samaria taking approximately 6 days.

In 722 BC the King of Assyria captured the northern kingdom of Israel which included Samaria. He took some of the Israelites living there captive to Assyria & brought people from Babylon to live in Samaria. Intermarriage with the Israelites resulted in the orthodox Jews regarding them as an unclean hybrid race.

When the Israelites were released from captivity, the Samaritans offered to help them rebuild their cities and their temple. However, no way would they allow this despised mixed breed race to assist. Instead, the Jews encouraged them to build a temple for themselves on a mountain, Mt Gerizim.

LIVING WATER

In biblical times there were no large dams, their main water supply came from deep underground springs referred to as living water.

Jesus opted on this occasion to take the shorter route to Galilee. He and his disciples stopped at Jacob’s well on the outskirts of the village of Sychar. Jesus sat at the well but sent the disciples to buy food. At about noon a woman arrived.

Generally, the women came to draw water either in the early morning or evening. Having been married to five husbands, this woman was regarded as an adulterous, loose-living woman. But…

  • Perhaps her husbands had all died! The death rate of men was high, due to disease, crime, and war.
  • Maybe, they had divorced her. Divorce was extremely easy for men. A wife could be divorced for going outside with her hair unbound! Or perhaps speaking to any man other than her husband.
  • How often don’t you and I jump to the wrong conclusion because we don’t know all the facts?

Whatever, she was currently living with a man with whom she was not married, so maybe things weren’t all that simple!

The real issue is that this woman felt rejected, thirsty, and lonely and she came across someone  who cared—Jesus.

THIRSTY 

Jews and Samaritans tended to steer clear of one another. Yet this Jewish Rabbi asked her, a Samaritan woman for a drink. “Sir, You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Jesus effectively said to her, “If you knew who I am, you wouldn’t want to talk politics! I can give you Living water.”

She thought Jesus was talking about the fresh water at the very bottom of the well, but Jesus had the water of the Spirit in mind.

Jesus added, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13b, 14) Jesus’ offer sounded great. It would save her having to make those tiresome daily trips to fetch water.

Note that Jesus didn’t condemn her wrong thinking. Instead, he gave her an instruction – ‘Go and fetch your husband.

“Well umm err… I don’t have a husband.”

“You’re right. You’ve had five husbands . . .”

LET’S GET RELIGIOUS

“Sir . . . I can see you’re a prophet!” (Let’s get away from lifestyle, let’s rather talk about worship.)

According to Jews, true worship could only take place at the temple in Jerusalem. However, the Samaritans were not permitted to worship there. Mount Gerizim, was their sacred mountain.  “Rabbi, Tell me which is the correct place to worship God. Jerusalem or Mt Gerizim?”

Jesus responded, You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:22-24)

The woman tried to give the impression that she was religious by speaking about the promised Messiah who would come. Jesus responded, “I who speaks to you am He!”

Woah! That must have rocked the woman back on her heels!

AMAZING NEWS

The disciples returned, and the woman couldn’t wait to tell others. She rushed off to the village, leaving her water jar behind. “Come and see this man who told me everything I ever did! … Could this be the Christ?”

This despised woman was transformed with a glow on her face. Folk who usually gossiped about her accepted her invitation to meet Jesus and, “Many believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” Yet all she did was run back to the village and share what Jesus had done for her.

When Jesus and the disciples departed two days later, the townsfolk told the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said: … now we know that this man is really the Saviour of the World.”

A FULL CUP

The Samaritan woman belonged to a despised race—She may have been a loose-living woman—she certainly was not popular. But she met the Saviour and she was completely transformed. Those who despised her came to accept her testimony.

  1. Has your spiritual cup ever been filled? Or have you perhaps never really established contact with the source of living water—Jesus?
  2. Were you once a fresh bubbling believer but your life today lacks that sparkle?  You’re no longer enjoying your walk with the Lord.
  3. Are you perhaps judgmental like the people of Sychar? Your cup is full of the “right way” to do things. You disapprove of so much that is happening in the church these days.
  4. Or are you faithfully walking with the Lord. You love Him yet you long to be more effective.

Wherever you find yourself today, the same Jesus who offered that woman living water desires to fill you so that you need never thirst again.

The greatest need of the church, and the thing which, above all others, believers ought to seek for with one mind and with their whole heart, is to be filled with the Spirit of God. Andrew Murray Click To Tweet

LEAKY?

No matter how great our experiences with Jesus have been, if we don’t stop to top up, we will eventually run dry.

The late Dwight L Moody was once asked why he urged Christians to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. “Well,” he said, “I need a continual infilling because I leak!”

We are going to end this session with the words of a song Fill my cup Lord, which you may know. Please make it the prayer of your heart.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

15. Following His Example

“A daughter may outgrow your lap but she will never outgrow your heart.” (50 daughter quotes – Inspirational Words of Wisdom)

In our session this week we look at two daughters – a biblical daughter and a modern-day saint.

Mark 5:21-43

Stone image of Mother Teresa – Image by Bharat Patil from Pixabay

Mother Teresa is known worldwide for her good works, but who was she?

  • What is the relationship between Mother Teresa and this session’s reading?

MOTHER TERESA

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (some sources have Agnes) the daughter of a well-off Albanian family, was born on 26th August 1910, in Macedonia. From the age of 12, she knew she would be involved in some form of calling.

She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland. After a year, Agnes transferred to the Sisters of Loreto convent in Darjeeling, India. In 1931 she took her vows as a nun, choosing the name Teresa after Saint Teresa of Avila.

She taught history and geography for 15 years at a high school for girls in Calcutta. However, she was concerned about the amount of poverty in that city. A trip to Darjeeling for a retreat convinced her of her true calling: “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”

She saw a need and sought to alleviate the suffering. In this way, she followed Jesus’ example.

Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Mother Teresa Click To Tweet

COMPASSION

There is one word that conveys Jesus’ attitude towards the needy folk that he encountered here on earth.

When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 NIV).

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14).

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way” (Matthew 15:32).

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him Matthew 20:34).

Jesus had a compassionate love for all those in need. In our reading from Mark 5, Jesus’ compassionate love overflowed in two different types of healing.

HEALING COMPASSION

Jairus’ daughter was critically ill and on the verge of death, when Jairus appealed to Jesus to come and touch her, so she will get well and live. (Mark 5:23b CEV ) Despite being in a people log jam, out of compassion Jesus did not hesitate to make preparations to go along with this distressed father.

But before he was able to make much progress he encountered someone else with a desperate need. In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better she only got worse. ( Ibid. Verses 25,26)

I’m sure that you can identify with this woman. We have all witnessed loved ones getting progressively worse and yet the doctors have been unable to get to the bottom of their health problems and their medical aid has run out.

In faith, this woman reached out believing that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. Her faith was rewarded. At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)

Jesus was not trying to put her on the mat, He wanted to set her free from any feelings of guilt over her secretive action and give her a word of comfort. “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.” (Ibid. Verse 34) Jesus’ compassionate words were far better news than any doctor could have given her.

JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER RESURRECTED

In the meantime,  Jairus’ daughter died. However, Jesus overheard those relaying the news to her father and encouraged him “Don’t worry. Just have faith! (Ibid. Verse 36b)

When He arrived at Jairus’ home Jesus raised his daughter to life again.

What is your area of need today? Why not take to the Lord in prayer believing in faith that our compassionate Lord will meet your need?

PRACTICAL COMPASSION

In 1950 Mother Teresa launched the Mission of Charity—an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the homeless, hungry, handicapped, blind, and lepers. She opened a hospice for the poor, as well as a home for lepers, and orphans. Her major concern was for those people who had become a burden to society and therefore often shunned.

Because we love Jesus we ought to follow His example as Mother Teresa did,  being aware of people’s needs and doing what we believe He would have us do to alleviate those needs.

In closing give the following question prayerful thought and ask the Lord to show you how you can help.

  • Am I eager to meet the needs of the folk who I know are struggling?                                               

During His life here on earth Jesus demonstrated to us the extent of God’s amazing love. In closing focus on the words of this beautiful hymn about the love of God. And as you listen to the words, think of each phrase and what it means to you personally. Then end with a time of giving Him thanks for all this hymn has reminded you of. 

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

14. Brotherly Love

Today, we are going to look at an Old Testament passage, which shows us the effect of a deep Godly compassion for fellow believers. We will follow these thoughts through next week in our next encounter with Jesus

Read the following passage and see what it has to tell us about love.

 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27

Photo by Alena Darmel: pexels.com

BACKGROUND TO BROTHERLY LOVE

Second Samuel chapter one is a record of a song David composed upon the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan in battle. David sang a song in memory of Saul and Jonathan, and he ordered his men to teach the song to everyone in Judah (2 Samuel 1:18).

To better understand this sad song we need a bit of background.

Settled in the Promised Land, for some time the children of Israel were governed by a series of judges. However, the nations around them were ruled by kings so they in effect went out on strike demanding that a king be appointed.

Samuel, who was both priest and judge, reluctantly took the matter to the Lord in prayer. The LORD answered: Samuel, do everything they want you to do. I am really the one they have rejected as their king (1 Samuel 8:7 CEV).

KING SAUL

Therefore, God revealed to Samuel that he was to anoint Saul son of Kish as Israel’s first king.

Initially, Saul was a godly king until, out of fear, he took upon himself the role of priest. Sometime later he disobeyed God’s instruction to “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions ” (1 Samuel 15:3 CEV). Instead, Saul and his army let [King] Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle (Ibid. Verse 9).

Samuel informed King Saul, You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king” (Ibid. Verse 23). The Lord chose David as king, although Saul remained in office for a while.

BROTHERLY LOVE

You are probably aware of the brotherly love that existed between David and Jonathan.  We read, When David came back from fighting Goliath (1 Samuel 17:57), David and Saul’s son Jonathan became best friends (1 Samuel 18:1) and David became one of Saul’s officers ( Ibid. Verse 5).

Jonathan liked David so much that they promised to always be loyal friends. As symbols of his love, Jonathan took off the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David. He also gave him his military clothes, his sword, his bow and arrows, and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3,4 CEV).

David’s success in the battle aroused  Saul’s jealousy. After a particular battle they were welcomed back by the women singing, Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed ten thousand enemies (Ibid. Verse 7)!!

From that time forward, Saul made numerous attempts to assassinate, David forcing him to go into exile. Scripture records how on two occasions David could have taken Saul’s life but his attitude was: Saul was appointed by God to be king and I have no right to dethrone him.

In light of the fact of David’s anointing as Saul’s successor, this is amazing.

DAVID’S SONG

Given this background, we can understand David’s sense of loss over Jonathan’s death. “Jonathan, I miss you most! I loved you like a brother. You were truly loyal to me, more faithful than a wife to her husband” (2 Samuel 1:26). But for David to include in this tribute song the words, It was easy to love Saul…(Ibid, Verse 23 CEV) to me is truly amazing.

Two important factors are revealed in this passage:

  1. It highlights the pure, brotherly love that David had for Jonathan. And no, this does not mean that theirs was a homosexual relationship, as some claim.
  2. And it displays David’s forgiving love for Saul, despite the hardships he experienced because of Saul’s jealousy.

How sincere and faithful is your love for your fellow believers?

How ready are you to forgive when others deliberately or unconsciously cause you deep heartache?

THE FRUITS OF BROTHERLY LOVE

We may never know the effect our love and friendship can have on someone else’s life. Click To Tweet

Many have come into a relationship with Jesus simply because a Christian showed them friendship and love, perhaps even when they didn’t feel it was deserved.

Jesus said This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other.”( John 13:35 Msg)

Because we love Jesus we ought to be examples of brotherly, forgiving, love.

Andrew Lloyd Webber summed it up in the words of a song

“Love changes everything. Love will never let you be the same.

In closing pray the following prayer, Lord what do you want me to do to demonstrate brotherly love for my fellow believers?

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

13. Make a Choice

 Constantly throughout life, we are called upon to make a choice.

At times we get it right, but other times we make a wrong choice and have to suffer the consequences.

Can you think of a specific occasion when you made a wrong choice with dire consequences?

Image by Tumisu, from pixabay

FAR-REACHING CHOICES

Making a wrong choice can have far-reaching consequences.

  • An unwise choice of friendship could result in being led into unlawful activities.
  • Entering a business partnership with someone who is inclined to be involved in underhand business deals could land you in hot water.
  • Marriage to the wrong person could result in a very unhealthy, unhappy relationship.
  • A wrong career or job choice could cause dissatisfaction, frustration, or missing out on developing your God-given gifts.

Man’s inclination to make wrong choices has its roots right back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve made a wrong choice when they decided to go with Satan’s advice and not observe God’s words of warning. As a consequence, sin was introduced into God’s perfect world. And as a result, the first couple were banished from the beautiful garden of Eden.

In our reading, we are introduced to a man who made a wrong choice. Read in your Bible, or follow along with this link.

Matthew 19: 16-26

RECAP

In this series of messages, we have been looking at people who had an encounter with Jesus which proved to be a life changer for them.

So far we have looked at:

In this session, we meet another unnamed man who made contact with the Messiah. In modern terms, one might call him John Doe.

What do we know about this man?

A CONCERNED MAN

This man had a very similar question to that raised by the lawyer. (Luke 10:25) “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”  (Matthew 19:16b CEV)

Unlike the Sadducees who did not believe in life after death, this man sincerely believed that when this earthly life draws to a close eternal life awaits us. However, he also believed that eternal life was a reward that one received for having lived a good life.

So his question in effect was,” What good things do I need to do to be sure of eternal life?” He was looking to Jesus to provide him with a list of does and don’ts.

Unfortunately, there are many, both outside of, and also in the church, who are relying on living a good life to earn them a place in God’s kingdom.

ETERNAL LIFE

Paul reminds us in Ephesians,

You were saved (for eternal life) by faith in God, . . .This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. (Ephesian 2:8,9 CEV)

Jesus picks up on the man’s use of the word ‘good’. “Why do you ask me about what is good? No one can claim to be good. Don’t you know what the scriptures teach?

“Since the time of our ancestors, all of us have sinned.” (Ezra 9:7)

David the man after the heart of God humbly admitted,

I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born. (Psalm 51:5)

Jesus added, Only God is good. If you want to have eternal life, you must obey his commandments.”

A CLEAN-LIVING MAN

In response to Jesus speaking about obeying the commandments, the man asks a further question. “Which ones?”

“Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother. And love others as much as you love yourself.” (Verses 18,19)

  • How do you score on these commandments?

With total confidence that he has lived a good life the man replied, “I have obeyed all of these. What else must I do?” Not a problem. I sincerely believe I can tick them all off, “What else must I do?”

Did you notice that Jesus had said nothing about the first five commandments which speak about one’s relationship with God?

  • Do not worship any god except me.
  • Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
  • Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love.
  • Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
  • Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. (Exodus 20:3-8)

This concerned clean-living man did not expect what came next, If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower.”

A RICH YOUNG MAN

This is not what he expected or wanted to hear, so we read,  “When the young man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.”

Commenting on this passage F B Meyer wrote, “Youth, with all its fervor and impetuosity, is very beautiful in itself and very dear to Christ. Here youth was combined with station, wealth, and noble character. It is not necessary that all should sell their goods, and distribute the proceeds. . . But it was necessary that the Master should prove to this young man that he was not fulfilling the Commandments quite so perfectly as he had supposed.”

Mark tells us, “When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.” (Mark 10:22)

WRONG CHOICE

The answer that Jesus gave was certainly not what he had expected, but it was what he needed – “Sell everything that you have and give to the poor… Then, come, follow me.”  (Verse 22) 

Rocked back on his heels. He “became very sad…” his wealth had become his god. To be saved and have eternal life he needed to turn his back on his wealth. He was confronted with a choice to change the focus of his life from his possessions to serving Jesus.

Unlike many others we have looked at who had an encounter with Jesus and whose  lifestyle changed dramatically, this concerned rich young man seemingly was less concerned about eternal life than the fortune he had amassed or perhaps inherited,

He was guilty of not observing the most important of the commandments, “Do not worship any god except me.”

THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMAND

A Pharisee who was an expert in the Jewish law once asked Jesus “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:36,37 CEV)

Two weeks ago under the title “Question time“, we noted in response to the lawyer’s question, which was similar to this young man’s question, Jesus responded, “What is written in the Scriptures?

The lawyer responded with those same words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)

The young man certainly could not claim to have observed this command to any degree. His wealth had taken the place reserved for God in his life.

In our modern society, we may not create idols made of wood, stone, metal, etc., to worship. But take a look around. Do you have a statue of Buddha in your home? African ancestral masks? An ornament of a sacred cow bought as a souvenir on holiday? It is surprising what you can pick up unthinkingly. Because you don’t actually worship it, doesn’t make it safe. If it was created as an object of worship, it has no place in a Christian home.

It is also so easy to allow people, friendships, occupations, careers, activities, prospects, and sports, to become the focal point of our lives, leaving very little room for the things of God.

I wonder how many of us can honestly claim that we “Love the Lord your God with all [our] heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)

Is the Lord perhaps speaking to you about something that has been taking His place in your life?

Has He told you to remove it from its position of importance in your life, but you are finding this hard to do?

Close this session by confessing anything you have allowed to take the place in your life which should have been reserved for Jesus. Ask for His forgiveness. And invite the Holy Spirit to help you remove that idol, be it physical or not, from its position of importance.

Why not make a re’-commitment of your life to Jesus by joining in this song I surrender all’.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

12. Déjà vu

Several years back, I came across the word déjà vuas the title of a daily devotion. There was also a movie on TV with the same title. I have to admit. I had no idea what the term meant.

Upon research, I found that déjà vu is a French word meaning, ‘a feeling of having experienced something that is actually happening now’. (Collins Paperback English Dictionary)

  • Have you had a déjà vu experience? Perhaps you visited some place for the first time, yet it was strangely familiar to you as if you had been there before.

Do you remember Simon Peter’s hurtful words? He denied the Lord, not just once but three times! 

After the 3rd time, the rooster crowed. And Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62 GNB) What made it worse was that Jesus overheard those words of denial. (Luke 22:61)

Jesus was crucified soon after, so there was no way Peter could apologize. It was too late. Or was it?

Reading:- John 21:1-19

Read this story in your Bible, or click on the link above.

GO TO GALILEE

Our passage today is all about déjà vu. The reading records the 3rd reported resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples—actually his 4th to Peter. (Luke 24:34)

By this time Peter no longer doubted the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. This fact must have encouraged Peter, yet,  deep within, guilt and shame were eating him up. How could Jesus ever trust him again?

Most of Jesus’s resurrection appearances were around Jerusalem, and Jesus returned to heaven from just outside of Jerusalem. But the women returning from the tomb were told by Jesus,” “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

  • Have you ever wondered about the need for this trip to Galilee?

Those inner feelings of guilt that the disciples had experienced over Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion had to be dealt with. In particular, Peter needed inner healing from that dreadful denial of his Lord.

The disciples went to Galilee but Jesus delayed his appearance. When Jesus didn’t turn up, Peter behaved like many of us do. He couldn’t handle the inactivity, so he decided to go back to the familiar. “I’m going out to fish,” (John 21:3) he announced and six others joined him.

Their venture was a waste of their time. They fished all night, but never even caught a single minnow. That’s when Jesus showed up.

Image by jürgen Scheffler from Pixabay

DEJA VU

As they came closer to the shore, they spotted a man on the beach who called out, “Friends haven’t you any fish? Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (Verses 5,6)

These were experienced fishermen who had been fishing all night! Then this guy comes along and tries to teach them their job! Who is he anyway? Yet, he spoke with an air of authority, so those tired fishermen did as he suggested. And what amazing results! “They were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (Ibid. Verse 6)

This experience is so similar to a previous occasion when the disciples obeyed a similar command, that it must have created a sense of déjà vu. On that previous occasion “…they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (Luke 5:6).

Was Jesus rubbing salt into the wounds of Peter’s failure by re-enacting that previous miracle? Or was there more to it?

TIME FOR A SWIM

The Apostle John registered who the man on the beach was. He told Peter “It is the Lord!” (Ibid. Verse 7)

  • Do you remember a night, also on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus walked across the sea to them? Remember how they thought He was a ghost?

On that occasion when Peter realized it was Jesus, he clambered out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink.

Once again, Peter gets out of the boat to go to Jesus. But notice this time he doesn’t try walking on water! Perhaps he’d learned his lesson. He “jumped into the water(Ibid. Verse 7) and probably swam ashore. I wonder if Peter, as he swam, recalled that previous occasion?

That so often happens, doesn’t it? We launch out in faith. It backfires—we mess up. Next time that situation re-occurs we make no attempt to exercise faith. We don’t want to blow it again. Yet, that very situation may be a God-given opportunity to help us get over our previous failure.

Photo by Malte Luk

A CHARCOAL FIRE.

When the disciples gather on the shore they find “a fire of burning coals…” Several versions speak of “a charcoal fire”. (John 21:9 CEV,GNB,ISV)

There is only one other occasion in the N.T. that mentions a “fire of burning coals” or “charcoal fire”. (John 18:18) At the High Priest’s house, after Jesus’ arrest. Peter’s 2nd and 3rd denials of Jesus took place as he was warming himself in front of a charcoal fire. He was standing at that same charcoal fire when the cock crowed.

Seeing the fire alongside the sea of Galilee must surely have evoked a sense of déjà vu in Peter. I’m sure Peter had a snapshot in his mind of that previous charcoal fire, and how he had cursed and sworn, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:72,74)

BREAKFAST IS READY

There’s that charcoal fire “with fish on it and some bread. “(John 21:9) Where did the fish come from? Not from the boat, they had only just landed. On at least two previous occasions, Jesus provided a crowd with a meal produced from a small quantity of fish and bread. Once again Jesus provides His disciples with a simple meal of fish and bread.

Why did Jesus reconstruct this sequence of events? —The miraculous catch of fish; The swim to the beach; The charcoal fire; And the meal of fish and bread. All déjà vu events geared to bring Peter’s worst memory to the surface. So that Jesus could help Peter deal with this lingering memory.

But it does not really help to be reminded of the hurt—the damage that’s been done. There needs to be a healing.

Maybe there’s an incident in your life when you let the Lord down. It has caused you deep hurt.  Even now, you remember it. So how does that help? It must be dealt with to bring healing.

RECEIVING HEALING

Jesus deliberately reconstructed a whole series of déjà vu events in order to bring the memory of Peter’s denials to the surface. After breakfast, Jesus singled Peter out and began His healing therapy.

  • How many times did Peter deny Jesus?

So Three times Jesus asks Peter the same question, “…do you truly love me?” (John 21:15,16,17)  Twice Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (Ibid.15,16) The third time Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” (John 21:17 The Message)

Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus. Three times he tells Jesus “I love you.” Click To Tweet

By this threefold challenge not only was Peter assured of his restoration, he was also re-commissioned by Jesus. In effect, Jesus said, “Love me… go and care for those I love.” And to cap it all Peter heard again those wonderful words, he first heard years before alongside that same Galilean Sea, “Follow me!” (John 21:19)

Peter went on to become a faithful and effective leader in the N. T. church. According to tradition, he was crucified like his Lord, but upside down.

BITTER MEMORIES

We’ve all failed our Lord. Like Peter we need the assurance that all is forgiven.

Just as Jesus went to amazing lengths to restore Peter as a disciple and re-instate his calling so too our Lord wants us to be assured of forgiveness and restoration. But until those hurtful memories of your failure are dealt with, you can never be the person that God intends you to be.

As we bring this session to a close go into a time of prayer now. Ask the Holy Spirit to pinpoint those areas where you need inner healing so that you may bring those hurts to Jesus.

Perhaps this message has opened up a deep wound, which needs more than just individual prayer to bring about complete healing. If that’s the case, please seek out a strong Christian whom you trust. Make an appointment to spend time with him or her. Share your pain and together seek healing from the Lord. “Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you”. (Matthew 18:19 New English Translation) God wants to heal those hurtful memories.

No past memory has the right to ruin your life. Click To Tweet

The Lord offers you His assurance, “Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)    I am the Lord that healeth thee.” (Exodus 15:26)

Some memories like that of Peter’s denials are hurtful, but the Lord also provides us with pleasant memories which are a source of encouragement. Listen to this song sung by the late Jim Reeves about those precious memories.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

 

 

 

11. Question Time

Throughout life, we constantly question people and situations. 

A lawyer once asked the most important question that one may ask in life. “Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Please read our passage for this week to get the background for this week’s study.

If you don’t have a Bible handy, read it here: – Luke 10:25-37

LAWYER’S QUESTION

“Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?” “Well what do the scriptures teach,” Jesus responded.

He was a lawyer! He had studied God’s law! Therefore he knew the answer.

“The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’ ”

Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.” (Luke 110:27,28 CEV)

But, like so many lawyers we read of, he tried to define the meaning of the terms used. “Who are my neighbours?” (Verse 29 CEV) 

This second question allowed Jesus to teach an important truth –

You cannot separate your relationship with God from your relationship with people. Click To Tweet

So the lawyer, in true lawyerly fashion, wanted to discuss the question. And so Jesus got down to a practical demonstration of the answer.

Photo by Sangeet Rao

A MAN IN A PIT

A man fell into a pit and discovered he couldn’t climb out.  However, it was alongside a busy road, and several people saw what had happened.

  • A Psychologist tried to help him figure out how he had come to fall in.

  • A Realist asked him if he was absolutely certain he couldn’t climb out.

  • An Optimist tried to cheer him up, “Don’t worry, it could have been worse.”

  • A Pessimist glanced at the sky and warned him there was a storm coming.

  • A Rich man took out his cheque book and offered to buy him a clean set of clothes once he got out of the pit.

  • An Insurance agent asked whether he had taken out accident insurance.

  • A Receiver of Revenue questioned whether his tax assessments were up to date.

  • The local Reporter requested an exclusive on the man’s story entitled, “My experiences in the pit.”

  • A Mathematician took the measurements of the pit in order to work out the exact size of the problem.

  • A Geologist brought his camera to photograph the strata of soil revealed on the sides of the pit.

  • The Town Planner wanted to know whether the plans for the pit had been approved.

  • A Fearful person wouldn’t even go near the pit at any price.

  • A Procrastinator offered to come back the next day to see if the man still needed help.

  • The Social Worker brought him some beef stew and a bottle of water.

However, Jesus came, bent over, reached down, and pulled the man out of the pit.

THE NEIGHBOUR IN NEED

In our reading, Jesus tells a story of a man in trouble. In His story, Jesus spoke about some uncomfortable realities which incidentally are still problems today—Racial discrimination, Violence, Crime, and Genocide to name a few.

There are several characters in Jesus’ story:- 

The Victim—Jesus calls him a neighbour with a need.

All we know about him is that he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He may have been making a business trip. He might have been on the way to visit family or friends. Perhaps he was returning home after a visit to the temple. We don’t know.

What we do know is that he was mugged. He was the victim of the type of violence of which we are only too aware today. He was robbed of his possessions, beaten up, and left for dead.

Like the man many have needs but, not everyone is the victim of a physical attack. Folk face financial problems, loneliness, heartache, ill health, and a fear of the future, amongst other things.

  • When aware of such needs are you asking the question, “What can I do to help this person out of their pit? Or are you standing by and making comments, like the people in the illustration?

PERPETRATORS

 The Robbers—They saw the victim as someone they could exploit.

  • They did not see him as a human being, created in the image of God.
  • They were not concerned about his well-being.
  • It did not matter to them how he suffered or whether he lived through the experience.
  • Their attitude was, “What’s yours can be ours so we’ll take it.”

Sadly, our world is still full of such people. The media constantly reports on their activities: hijacks, rape, murder, bank heists, muggings, bombings, and the list goes on.

But we can victimize and cause harm in other ways: ridicule, gossip, slander, catty comments, and unkind words. We may never know what harm we do to people with cruel and thoughtless words. We rob them of their self-image, their feelings of worth, and their pride in who they are.

You cannot separate your relationship with God from your relationship with people.

POSSIBLE RESCUERS

The Priest and the Levite

Jericho was a priestly city. The priests and temple staff (Levites) would have traveled that road frequently. They were “religious” people. One would expect them to come to the poor man’s rescue. But, for the priest and the Levite, the man was a nuisance to be avoided.

They probably had sound reasons for passing by on the other side: –

  • They could have suspected a trap set by the robbers. We know all about that in South Africa.
  • They were busy men perhaps with urgent religious duties awaiting their attention in Jericho.
  • They may have come from serving in the temple and felt, “I’ve already done my bit! Let someone else come to his rescue!”
  • The Priest may have thought, “I’ll leave it to the Levite following behind me. He has more time!”
  • By the same token, the Levite may have raised the question, “If the priest didn’t do anything to help why should I?”

A FRIEND INDEED

 The Good Samaritan

Jesus’s Jewish audience, including the lawyer, would have been startled when he chose a Samaritan as the hero of the story. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. The Jews regarded them as the scum of the earth. They called them dogs. A Samaritan was the last person they would expect to help a Jew. Yet Jesus chose him and in the story, he lays aside racial and religious prejudices to help a Jewish victim.

The Samaritan showed his concern in four ways: 

He showed compassion

“He felt sorry for him.” (Verse 33b CEV)

This is the way God feels about you and me. When we show others compassion, we treat them the way God treats us.

He made contact with the injured man

He didn’t just say something encouraging. As far as we know, he didn’t even offer to pray. He got off his donkey, put his plans on hold, and did all he could to help the injured man.

Words are often not enough. Prayer is certainly all-important. But sometimes we need to set aside our plans, get off our high horses, and make contact with people who are hurting.

At personal risk, he cared for the man

He gave him first aid, bathed the wounds with oil, and bandaged them. Then he went the extra mile. He took the man to the inn at his own expense. He did far more than he had to.

THE COST OF CARING

Sometimes our neighbours need more than compassion, and contact. They need us to show caring love in meaningful practical ways.

His helpful action cost him dearly.

  • It cost him time on the road, where he too was vulnerable to attack, and he probably had to overnight at the nearest inn.
  • Comfort. Caring for this man was an inconvenience. He put the man on his donkey, so he had to walk.
  • Financially. He paid the bill and committed himself to further payment should it be necessary.

What did he stand to gain? Nothing! – Except, the joy that comes when we love and serve others without thought of any reward.

I started with an illustration about a lot of different types of people, and their responses to a man in trouble. Let’s add another line to this illustration.

“The readers of this blog went and found a ladder, and helped the man out of the pit.”

Are you aware of someone who is in a pit right now? Someone with a need?

What does the Lord want you to do about it?

Remember? You cannot separate your relationship with God from your relationship with people.

The following song sums up what it means to be a good Samaritan. Servant Song

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

10. A Discourteous Host

                                                                               Photo by Henri Mathieu-Saint-Laurent

Being the host of a special event carries great responsibility.

Read Luke 7:36-50

DINNER INVITATION

Jesus received a dinner invitation from a rather discourteous host— a Pharisee named Simon. Note: This is a different host, woman, and message from the one we looked at last session. In Bible times VIP homes took the form of a hollow square built around an open courtyard. When a Rabbi was invited to a meal, townsfolk could enter the courtyard to listen in on the pearls of wisdom but not partake of the meal.

Three basic courtesies for a guest applied:-

  • The host placed his hands on the guest’s shoulder and gave him the kiss of peace – a mark of respect never omitted when the guest was a distinguished Rabbi.
  • The roads were dusty, and everyone wore sandals, so cool water was always poured over the guest’s feet to cleanse and comfort them.
  • A drop of fragrant oil of roses was placed on the guest’s head.

Yet, none of these was observed.

DISCOURTEOUS HOST

In the Middle East, the guests did not sit, but reclined,  on couches, at a low table resting on one elbow with their feet stretched out behind them; during the meal the sandals were removed. Simon was a Pharisee, most Pharisees hated Jesus—Why then had he invited Jesus to his home?

  • Like Nicodemus, Simon could have been a secret disciple. However, his discourtesy towards his “guest” does not indicate a relationship with Jesus.
  • Similarly, it could be that Simon had invited Jesus, intending to try to get evidence against Jesus on behalf of his colleagues. This doesn’t seem likely—Would Jesus’ enemy address Him respectfully as Rabbi or Teacher? (Verse 40)
  • In fact, the most likely answer is that Simon wanted to give the appearance that he was an acquaintance of this popular preacher and miracle worker. So with a rather patronizing attitude, he had invited Jesus to dinner, but out of disdain, he omitted the usual courtesies.

DISTURBING GUEST

Into this setting came a gatecrasher—a prostitute who had quite a reputation in the town. She had probably heard about Jesus. So she joined the crowds that had gathered at Simon’s home. As an unwelcome looker on she stood on the outskirts of the crowd. However,  prompted by an inner voice she ventured into the courtyard. Like all Jewish women, she wore a vial of expensive concentrated perfume around her neck. She generally used it to seduce men.  As she drew closer to Jesus she had an irrepressible desire to pour this costly perfume on Jesus’s feet. But, her emotions got the best of her – the tears began to flow, dropping in large drops onto his feet.  Now his feet were all wet!  So she knelt at his feet close enough to use her hair to dry his feet.

SCANDALOUS

For a Jewish woman to appear in public with her hair unbound was an act of immodesty. On her wedding day, a girl bound up her hair and would never appear in public with it unbound. The fact that this woman loosed her long hair in public showed that she was not concerned about what “the people thought”. Then she kissed his feet. Finally, she humbly poured out the contents of her vial upon His feet, not on His head as a token of submission.

REACTION

It’s not difficult to imagine the reaction of those present – “Can you believe it, this woman is trying to seduce Jesus, in public.  Has she no pride?”  Our human tendency is, to sum up, and judge people by outward appearances, without trying to understand the motivation behind their actions.

  • Instead of loving the undesirable, we usually label them.
  • Instead of caring, we criticize.
  • Instead of coming alongside them, we keep our distance.
  • How would you react if someone like this woman were to gatecrash your special event?

– Frog march her out the door? – Phone the police?

CONSIDERATE MONEY LENDER

Simon was scandalized – that she, of all people, was present and made such a public display of herself. He wasn’t concerned about her motivation—he felt no compassion towards her – he did not see a woman desperately in the need of forgiveness. The very fact that Jesus even allowed this outcast of society to touch him proved to Simon that Jesus was no prophet – a true prophet of God would have recognized this woman for what she was.

Jesus intervened, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”  “Tell me teacher,.,” Simon didn’t anticipate what followed.  Jesus told him a short story about two debtors who owed a moneylender different amounts of money. Neither could repay the debt. The moneylender out of a generous heart decided to cancel both debts, “…which of them will love him more?  Jesus asked. “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled”, was Simon’s response.

HUMBLED HOST

What Simon had lacked in common courtesy this “sinner” had humbly demonstrated through her actions: –

  • Simon had made no provision for his guest’s feet to be washed – she had washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair;
  • Simon had not given his special guest a kiss of peace – she had kissed Jesus’ feet constantly;
  • Simon had not anointed his guest’s head with oil – she had poured out her perfume all over Jesus’ feet.

A Pharisaic attitude like that of Simon shuts us off from God – I’m a good person. Lord, I do not steal, I do not kill, I do not tell lies, I do not commit adultery, and I do not covert. Lord, I live a good clean life.”

Francis of Assisi once said, “There is nowhere a more wretched and more miserable sinner than I.”

The greatest of sins is to be unconscious of one's sin. Click To Tweet

WONDERFUL WORDS

Jesus then spoke the most wonderful words, a sinner could ever hear, “Your sins are forgiven.” Her flowing tears and many kisses showed a real desire to be forgiven – to be different. Her long hair and perfume once used to lure her lovers were used to demonstrate her complete surrender of herself to the Saviour. She was not concerned about what the people thought or even this Pharisee; her one desire was to see the warm,  look of tender compassion in Jesus’s eyes and to hear His wonderful words of forgiveness. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

A hardened criminal in a Japanese prison once picked up a copy of the Bible and began to read the story of the trial of Jesus. He remained unmoved by what he read, until he came to our Lord’s words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.”  He was stabbed to the heart by those words. Later he said, “Through this simple sentence of gracious pardon, I was led into the truth of Christianity.”

BLINDED HOST

Simon only saw an outcast of society who was causing him a great deal of embarrassment. Jesus saw a woman with a deep need – a woman who had led despicable life – but a woman who wanted to be different – a woman in need of salvation. Never judge a man's actions until you know his motives. Click To Tweet The Sioux Indians of the U S A have a prayer, “Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins for two weeks.”

Jesus’ reaction to this woman teaches us not to take things at face value. This next week before passing judgment – Try to understand what motivates a person to do what they do. – Be prepared to make allowances for the fact that you don’t know where others are coming from.  – Look for opportunities to meet the needs of others when they become apparent to you.  – Be constantly open to being used as a channel through which God can bless others.

How we handle the out-of-the-ordinary situations that we encounter in life often reveals just how deeply we are committed to Christ. That outcast of society heard the most wonderful words in all the world. Why not sing along with the choir as they sing about the Wonderful words of life?

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.