Jesus’ Timetable

Once again on the boundary of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus received a deaf and mute man. Jesus healed him by placing his fingers in his ears and placing spit on his tongue. Then he declared his ears to be opened so that he could hear and the bonds on his tongue were loosed. Mark’s description of this man’s difficulties is curious. It was as if his tongue had been imprisoned. However even though Jesus had restored the man’s speech, he didn’t want them to go about telling others what had happened; why was that? It seems that Jesus often kept to himself so that he would not become increasingly popular and precipitate the time of his death. In fact, it was Jesus’ popularity when he entered Jerusalem one last time, that motivated the religious leaders to implement their plans to arrest and kill Jesus. It was not that Jesus didn’t care for the people, because he knew that in time his disciples would go out and proclaim the good news and heal the sick. Rather he had come to do what his disciples could not do. He had come to prepare his followers and to give his life as a ransom for many; so he was on a timetable. He had to have sufficient time with those he had appointed as apostles, that is those he would send out to proclaim the kingdom.

Jesus’ actions reveal a different perspective than what we often have. He was patient and stayed focused on his purpose, rather than being distracted by the urgent. At one time he told his brothers that anytime was opportune for them, but not for him (John 7). Jesus knew that his popularity could provoke the people to attempt to proclaim him king, which was not his purpose. He declared as much to Pilate, when Pilate asked him if he was a king. Jesus replied “yes”, but that his kingdom was not of this world. Man always tries to transform this world into God’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom is about transforming the hearts and minds of men.

True Religion

When the Pharisees pointed out the failure of Jesus’ disciples to follow the traditions of the elders, Jesus addressed their hypocrisy that had been previously addressed by Isaiah the prophet, through whom God declared that the people honor him with their lips, but their hearts are far from him. The Pharisees were those who lived outwardly exemplary lives, but inwardly they were filled with anger, jealousy and greed that distanced them from God.

This is the age old problem of humanity and religion. Man tends to create external behaviors to reveal that they are religious and honor God, but their hearts can remain distant from God. Man tells himself that God wants them to live with certain behaviors and practices, but Jesus identified many of those behaviors with the commandments of men, which men substitute for having their hearts transformed by God’s spirit. Jesus taught that true worshipers of God worship in spirit and truth. What does that mean? True followers of Jesus worship him from the inside out. Their hearts are changed because of a transformation of their thinking and their values, which then is seen on the outside in their behavior, through their speech and their relationships with those around them. Jesus taught on a number of occasions that his followers’ loving relationships with one another and even with their enemies would reveal that they belonged to him. At one point Paul declared to the Ephesian church that they should be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving one another, just as in Jesus God had forgiven them. Since we’ve been forgiven so much, our love for Jesus is revealed through the forgiving and compassionate relationships that we have.

Adjusted Thinking

After the disciples returned from preaching and healing in the surrounding villages, Jesus invited them to a deserted location to rest. However, what had been supposed to be a place of rest, became a place of the miraculous. The crowd followed Jesus and the disciples into the deserted place. After teaching the crowd, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away, but he told them to feed the people. They didn’t think they had the resources to accomplish what Jesus told them. So Jesus took what they had, blessed it and gave it to the people, in that way feeding the whole group of 5000 men (plus women and children). In fact, they had more left over than they began with!

This was an amazing demonstration of heavenly provision, utilizing what we have to provide for what we need. The point is that we always have enough, the problem is not in what we have, but what we think about what we have. Jesus demonstrated that the five loaves and two fish, the amount of food the disciples had in their possession, was sufficient to feed the whole crowd of five thousand men. The problem wasn’t in the amount, but in what the disciples thought about the amount. We, like the disciples, look at what we have and compare it to what we need. In that comparison, we often conclude that what we have isn’t enough. Jesus takes what we have and reveals that it is more than enough. Jesus’ action in feeding the five thousand is an invitation for us to change the way we think about our life, what we have and what we need. Over and over, Jesus taught his disciples that our heavenly Father will take care of us, because we are more precious to him than the birds of the air and the grass of the field, therefore we are free to live in peace and focus our energies toward seeking his kingdom and his righteousness.

The Tenacity of Faith

As Jesus was following the synagogue ruler, Jairos, to heal his dying daughter, the crowd pressed in on Jesus. One person in the crowd, a woman, who had suffered from a twelve year long hemorrhage, was convinced that if she touched his clothes she would be healed. When she got close enough, she reached out and touched his clothes; immediately she felt Jesus’ healing power flow into her body and restore her. However, Jesus felt that same power leave and turned to ask who had touched him. Due to the crowd, his disciples were incredulous, because with the crowd pressing in on him, many had touched him, but Jesus kept asking who had touched him. Finally the woman realized that she needed to tell Jesus what she had done. Fearfully, she explained her actions to Jesus.

This woman displayed tenacity of faith; she was convinced that Jesus could make her well. She didn’t ask, she just reached out and touched his clothes and was made well. This makes her unique. Most others came to Jesus and asked him to heal them, but she reached out and took her healing. Jesus acknowledged her faith; he didn’t rebuke her for not asking. At times desperation pushes people to the point of taking what they need from Jesus/God. What is truly amazing is that Jesus was not offended. Normally if someone takes something that is ours without our asking, our sense of justice desires retribution. This woman took power from Jesus without asking him and he demanded nothing from her. Rather he seemed to honor her bold faith. He told her that her faith had made her well and that she should go in peace. Why would he tell her to go in peace? The woman had been afraid to tell Jesus what she had done. By telling her to go in peace, Jesus addressed her fearful spirit. Even though she had taken the power without asking, Jesus blessed her with peace, so that she was healed in body and in spirit. Once again we see how very different Jesus was (and is) from us. He gives freely even at times when we do not ask, but take from what is his and make it ours. He also addressed not only our physical needs, but blesses us with peace, so that we may enjoy what he has so freely given to us. As always Jesus gives us a model for how we should live and relate to others that contrasts with our normal way of functioning.

The Power of Jesus

Jesus wields such great power that those who observed it were at times filled with great fear. On the occasion when Jesus asked the disciples to take him across the lake in their ship, they encountered a storm which began to overcome the ship with its waves. Meanwhile, Jesus slept in the stern of the ship. When the disciples awoke him, he rebuked the wind and quieted the waves of the sea so that it became calm. Turning to the disciples, he questioned why they had been timid and asked where their faith was. However, what caused the disciples great fear was not Jesus’ correction, but his power over the wind and the sea (Mark 4:41). Even when the apostle John encountered Jesus in Revelation decades later, he fainted at Jesus’ feet like a dead man, because he was overcome at the power of Jesus’ presence. At that time, Jesus told him to stop being afraid (Revelation 1:17).

Although we encounter Jesus as our savior and friend, his powerful presence can be overwhelming, because we have never met anyone who carries such unheard of power just by speaking. Men create powerful weapons and machines, but Jesus has no need for weapons or machines, he merely speaks or walks into a room. Even though our natural reaction may be fear when we see such power, Jesus doesn’t not desire for us to be afraid. When Jesus would see his followers afraid, he would instruct them to stop being afraid, as he did with John in Revelation 1. Human leaders often use fear and intimidation to lead others, because in the short term it is effective in getting results, but is counter-productive in developing relationships. Jesus doesn’t use fear to lead us, rather he inspires us with his power, but also with his compassionate love for us, because Jesus is first and foremost concerned about our relationship with him. Then, out of relationship with Jesus, the best results naturally occur.

How Jesus Views Us

In Mark 3, Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they could not reach him due to the crowd that was all around. Someone informed Jesus that his mother and brothers were there, expecting him to go and greet his family members, but Jesus made a surprising statement. He declared that his mother and brothers were actually anyone who practiced the will of God. Jesus maintained that all those who follow him had the same relationship to him as did his blood relatives. In effect, Jesus maintained a heavenly view of his followers rather than giving priority to his earthly family relationships. In this way, Jesus provides the basis for peace within his kingdom, because their can exist no family rivalries or jealousies, because all have an equal status with Jesus. On earth we see all kinds of examples of rivalries between families, tribes and clans. In some cases it has led to wars. For example the rulers of the British Empire, Germany and Russia in World War I were all cousins, all being grandchildren of Queen Victoria, yet their national and family rivalries plunged the world into war, that was not concluded until the end of World War II. Following Jesus and recognizing his relationship with all of us negates such a possibility, because we have no need to compete for Jesus’ attention.

In John, we see Jesus again illustrating his heavenly view of his family members. Twice when addressing Mary his mother, Jesus called her “woman”, rather than “mother”. What is interesting, is that Jesus addressed two other women in the same exact way! He addressed the Samaritan woman with the same title and again the woman caught in adultery. This does not mean that Jesus loved Mary, his mother, any less, but that he loves all of us who follow him as his immediate family members! That relationship with Jesus and each other provides us to live in peace with one another and celebrate one another, because the foundation for rivalry has been removed.

Jesus Angry?

What made Jesus angry? Many times we get angry when someone hurts us or someone we love is hurt by another. Because of why we tend to get angry some Christians have declared that it is wrong to be angry. However, Jesus also became angry, which indicates that there are times when we should be angry. On a Sabbath, Jesus was again in a synagogue. There present was a man with a deformed hand. The religious leaders were observing Jesus to see if he would heal the man. He posed a question to the leaders, whether it is legal to do good on the sabbath or to do evil, to save a life or to kill. No one answered him. At that moment we read in Mark 3:5 that Jesus was angry at the hardness of their hearts. What made Jesus angry was the lack of compassion that these men had for someone in need. These men valued their interpretation of the rules more than they cared for the needs of an individual. Their attitudes resulted in Jesus’ anger arising. Afterwards these same men went out and plotted against Jesus. Ironically they were alright with plotting to kill someone, but they were not alright with Jesus healing a man in need on the Sabbath.

This story should cause us to pause and examine our own attitudes. How open are we to those in need around us? Are we more concerned about maintaining our rules and regulations than we are about seeing the needs of others addressed? Are we upset with someone who doesn’t follow our rules in order to care for the needs of others? Jesus’ life often provokes us to examine how we live and re-examine our behavior in light of his.

Jesus’ Authority

How do we know that Jesus has the authority to forgive us our faults and infractions? Many consider Jesus to be a great teacher and prophet, but some of us go further and declare him to be the holy son of God and therefore divine. Why is there this difference of opinion? Jesus himself answered the question, when he declared the paralytic’s sins to be forgiven. The theologians of Jesus’ day were appalled that Jesus had made this statement, because they correctly knew that only God has that type of authority. Jesus perceived their thoughts, so he addressed them. What was easier for Jesus to do, to declare the paralytic’s sins forgiven or to tell him to arise, take up his mat and walk home? Then Jesus addressed the theologians’ problem. So that they would know that Jesus had divine authority on earth to forgive sins, he told the man to get up, take up his mat and go. When the man did so, it confirmed what Jesus affirmed, that he had such authority.

Jesus never expects us to believe or trust him merely because he says so; he always backs up what he says with action so that we have a solid reason for trusting what he says to us. Ironically, it takes very little faith to trust Jesus, because he has already given to us evidence to act upon what he says. This is why Jesus told us that anyone who has the faith of a mustard seed, a very small seed, would be able to do unheard of things.

Dealing with Questions

Why did Jesus cry out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)? Why didn’t God ever give Job an explanation for all that had befallen him (Job 38:1-3)? Why didn’t Paul give an answer to his readers as to why God choses some and rejects others (Romans 9:19-20)? In studying Scripture many questions arise. However, I have found Jesus’ cry interesting, because I assumed that Jesus was fully aware of the trial that he would endure and that at some point God would forsake him because of mankind’s sin. Jesus had earlier said that he had come to lay down his life for his friends and that he came to remove the sins of the world. However, his cry indicates that he may not have been aware of all that it would cost him. His sacrifice would cost him his life, of which he was aware, but his cry indicated that he wasn’t aware that it would require his being rejected by God, his Father, as well. Throughout Jesus’ life, he had always addressed God as “Father”, only on the cross having been abandoned and rejected did he address his Father as “God”. I find that very curious. I had never considered the possibility that there were some things that Jesus wasn’t aware of and asked “why?”. When we face difficulties, it is natural to ask why we are going through them, however our response to God is even more important. When God challenged Job, Job repented (Job 42:1-5). After Jesus cried out his question, he submitted his spirit to his Father (Luke 23:46). What gave both of these men the ability to trust God even when they didn’t have an answer to their questions? I suggest that each of these men trusted their relationship with God and Father more than their understanding. Here is the point! If our relationship with God is primarily theological, intellectual and/or philosophical, it will be quite difficult for us to move on without answers to our questions, but if our relationship is based on our knowing God’s character; his kindness and goodness, we can be like Job and Jesus who moved on from their questions and expanded their trust in God. In this Jesus, is our example. We are not to just know truth about God and Jesus, we are to know them as Father, Lord, Savior and friend. As we do, we can still find comfort in our relationship with God and Jesus, even though all our questions may not get the answers we seek.

Living with in the world with a heavenly mindset.

Although the question posed to Jesus about paying taxes was designed to find fault with him, in one sentence Jesus shed light on how his followers are to live in the world. Jesus’ contemporaries chaffed at being ruled by the Romans; paying taxes to Caesar was particularly aggravating to them. However, it was necessary for them to do so without incurring retribution from the Roman government. The question was designed to discredit Jesus. If he said “Yes, pay taxes”, Jesus would be discredited in the eyes of the people, but if he responded “No, you don’t have to pay taxes”, they could accuse him before the Roman governor. Jesus’ response was wise. He requested a coin and asked whose image and inscription were on it. Of course it had Caesar’s image and inscription. Since it was Caesar’s coin, give him what he asks, but at the same time give to God what belongs to God. Implied in Jesus’ response is that we are to give Caesar the money he asks for, but to give to God our heart, our very being. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live in the world, do business in the world, work, pay taxes etc. We are not to live some detached life from the world, but to live in it, but not be of it. We do this by remembering and cultivating a heart that is inclined toward God and his heavenly kingdom being manifested on earth. This was what Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer; “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our purpose in living on earth is not to gain success as the world defines success by acquiring wealth, possessions and fame, but by influencing people to transform the way they live from an earthly perspective to a heavenly one through following Jesus. This was how Jesus lived when he was on earth. His example reveals to us a model for how we our to live during our years on earth.