Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 25

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The Seen and the Unseen.

Our world is full of mysteries, of things we can’t see, of things we don’t know or can’t fully understand. We don’t generally like unknowns, though, so we tend to do what we can to fill in the blanks, to have the information we need to make our decisions, to live our lives.

This is the basic premise of our western philosophy of human reason: we are faced with a world of external and internal mysteries—from forensics to finance, from meteorology to astronomy to astrophysics, from psychology to sociology—and we use our human capacity for reason to solve these mysteries more or less successfully. We do it by using the known to help us explore the unknown; we employ the seen to envision the unseen.

We ought not be surprised to discover, then, that God’s plan for the world from the moment of its conception would include both the seen and the unseen. He Himself is Spirit, invisible to eyes like ours, eyes designed to capture only objects within the physical realm. Yet, His plan involved expressing Himself in human form for roughly thirty-three years—a tiny blip on the map of human history—using that moment of His visible presence to explain the millennia before and after it when His presence has been invisible to human eyes. He expects us to use our God-given aptitude for reason to fill in the blanks so that our lives are congruent with reality—the reality that He still exists, He still inhabits our world even though He is unseen by us just now.

In Chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel we are given a glimpse of how the seen and the unseen are going to cohabit in our world until the time God brings a conclusion to this era.

In this chapter, Jesus tells a parable. He describes a scene, a social panorama of in-group and out-group members, of people today we would call ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The ‘have-not’ individuals are described as wounded and needy people. They are those who are hungry and thirsty, strangers, disenfranchised, impoverished, sick and unfairly imprisoned. The ‘have’ individuals are us, you and me.

Jesus explains that in each of our lives we will rub shoulders with people who, in comparison to us, will be ‘have-nots’. They will have fewer resources than us, fewer social or emotional supports and less financial freedom. They will have suffered under more unjust systems, or they have been more carelessly treated by society as a whole than we have been. How we treat the ‘have-nots’ of our world matters, because Jesus says He sympathizes and identifies with them.

“Whatever you (do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine,” explains Jesus, “you (do) for me.” In fact, caring for others’ needs is both descriptive and prescriptive of accessing a full and eternal relationship with our Creator. Listen:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

This doesn’t negate the need for us to accept Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on behalf of us—that was the purpose of his 33-year sojourn on earth. But having become ‘righteous’ in God’s eyes as followers of Jesus, we must show proof of our faith extending into every part of our lives. We must live out our redeemed lives, giving of ourselves to our unseen Master by serving His precious ‘brothers’, the needy in our world.

We can’t excuse ourselves from reaching out to our needy neighbours, the hurting and hungry world of people around us. We can’t expect amnesty from responsibility stating that Jesus is ‘unseen’ in our generation. Jesus tells us to open our eyes. Loving Him and serving Him by loving and serving the needy go hand in hand. There’s no excuse for being short-sighted, is there?

(Photo Credit: By Nevit Dilmen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3894055)

 

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Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 8

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Authority.

Jesus had finished His thought-provoking Sermon on the Mount. At the end of Matthew chapter seven we’re told that the crowds of people who had come to hear Him “were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority”—in distinct contrast to the weak and waffling speeches they were used to hearing from their religious leaders. They sensed the challenging message of Jesus was more than the charisma of a gifted orator. There was something deeper. His words pierced their hearts, speaking truth and demanding a response from His listeners. They sensed that Jesus not only spoke authoritatively—He embodied authority. Authority like this could get a person into trouble with the ruling establishment, though—the Jewish leaders were not known for being tolerant of any competition, and Rome itself was not about to share its power. This alone was enough to attract more than a few onlookers to follow Jesus. Perhaps this amazing man would use His authority to gain political power. Who would want to miss that?

As Jesus descended the mountain, the crowd following Him began to see what divine authority in action looks like. Not only did Jesus teach unlike anyone else, He displayed power unlike anything they had ever seen. Matthew chapter eight records eight interactions Jesus had as He moved through the lakeside town of Capernaum, crossed the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee by boat, and visited the remote region known as the Gadarenes.

First, Jesus met a social outcast; a man with nerve-numbing, limb-killing leprosy fell at Jesus’ feet asking to be made ‘clean’, a term referring to the complete absence of the disease. “Be clean!” Jesus commanded the outcast’s body—and it obeyed; the man’s nerves, blood vessels, soft tissue, lymphatic system and skin were completely healed and regenerated. Jesus sent the man joyfully on his way to present himself to the religious establishment to have his social banishment revoked.

Then, as Jesus entered the streets of Capernaum a Roman military figure moved purposefully toward Him—a commander of a division of one hundred soldiers. Perhaps the crowd following Jesus wondered if Jesus’ authority would find its match here. But the centurion, like the leper, had come for help. His attendant lay at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering. The centurion asked Jesus to use His authority to “just say the word” that would heal the suffering man without having even seen him. Jesus, delighted at the centurion’s faith, replied, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would,” and the servant was healed at that very hour.

Each interaction is the same. Jesus, confronted by diverse challenges, displays His authority over every aspect of the physical world. The sick and suffering find release from their captivity. Storms are stilled. Madmen find themselves back in their right minds. Nothing confounds or perplexes Jesus.

Why is this? The only plausible answer is that Jesus, through His display of authority over any obstacle or predicament, is earth’s Creator and Redeemer. Placing Himself in situations where God the Father leads Him, He, God the Son, reveals Himself by what He says and what He does. Nothing confounds or defeats the One who has all authority. And when the time was right, Jesus would submit Himself to being hung on an instrument of Roman torture, dying and returning to life, to display an aspect of His authority that has perplexed many: He has authority to take upon Himself the moral debt of every person on this planet; He has authority over death and over life; and those who accept His authority finds themselves recipients of an amazing gift of forgiveness and relationship with God.

What is the take-home message for us living here today? Check out the evidence. Read the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. See if the authority of Jesus doesn’t strike you true. Then do what any sane person ought to do: bow before the author of life, accept His gift of salvation and hope, and draw close to the lover of our souls. As we submit to Jesus daily, we find that Jesus uses His authority to lead us and to bless us, and will continue to do so through eternity.

(Photo Credit: “כפר נחום תצלום אויר” by AVRAM GRAICER – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D7%9B%D7%A4%D7%A8_%D7%A0%D7%97%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%99%D7%A8.jpg#/media/File:%D7%9B%D7%A4%D7%A8_%D7%A0%D7%97%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%99%D7%A8.jpg)