Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Luke 10:38
Do you ever picture yourself in the story of Jesus’s visit with Mary and Martha? Sadly, I can envision my “Martha-ness” too well…
“Sam, kids, Jesus is coming to our house. Can you believe it?! Hurry, we have so much to do. The house is a mess. WE ARE A MESS!” I’m so excited, but a little anxious at the same time.
“Maddie, clean your room. Jake, I told you a million times to put your dirty soccer socks in the washing machine.” My stress level starts to rise.
“What in the world will we eat? Of course, we have nothing but cereal and leftover pizza. Maybe I can whip something up.” My heart is beating faster. I’m starting to panic a bit.
“Sam, we should have done that yard work last weekend. It is a disaster.” Irritation begins to brew.
“Maddie, why haven’t you cleaned the bathroom… and your room is full of clothes. Too late to clean now…just shove it all in your closet…if you can find room in there.” My tone is full of bitterness and sarcasm.
“Jake, are you going to wear that? When was the last time you brushed your hair?” I am yelling now.
“Oh my gosh, he is heeeeere! This is great! But wait… we aren’t ready. Quick, get the door and distract him while I try to finish up. Someone help me in the kitchen. We can at least make some coffee. Kids, remember your manners.” I’m all over the place and freaking out. I don’t even go to the door as I scan the room examining all that is left undone.
To be continued…
Questions: How do you prepare for and welcome guests? Is it a scramble to impress or calm anticipation of sweet fellowship and community?
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
Jesus teaches us what to do when we are wronged by a Christian brother or sister. Repentance and restoration are always the heart of Jesus. Not bitterness, gossiping about it, or trying to ignore it.
Forgiveness isn’t based on others’ actions, but instead on our attitude. It doesn’t always mean reconciliation has to occur. Where reconciliation takes two, forgiveness only takes one. It doesn’t mean approval or acceptance of the wrong done to us. It doesn’t mean we forget. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for the offender. It simply means we free ourselves of the burden of it.
Jesus ends these instructions of addressing wrongs with statements on the power of unified agreement in prayer. Things like, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” And, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Friends, if you are struggling with forgiveness, invite your friends to join you in prayer. Jesus will join you too.
Peter is feeling especially generous when he suggests we forgive someone who sins against us seven times, certainly much more than the traditional norms.
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times,” Jesus responds. Not a literal seventy-seven times, of course, but a lot. And then a lot more than that.
How can we be expected to forgive so freely and so often? Because we have been so extravagantly forgiven. Over and over and over again.
We can forgive much because we have been forgiven much.
Questions: Why is forgiveness SO HARD? How does reflecting on all Jesus has forgiven us for help us to forgive others?
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1
How do you define great? The disciples are still hoping for an earthly political kingdom, more powerful than that of their beloved David. Not only are they looking forward to this kingdom, as friends of Jesus – the king – they want a high-ranking position. They want to be great in Jesus’s kingdom. So they pose a question about who is the greatest in this kingdom.
As is often the case, Jesus’s response is not the one they wanted to hear. He calls a child to himself and sets the child up as the example of the greatest, saying, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Humility is what makes one great in this kingdom. Jesus modeled this by leaving His holy position on the throne in Heaven and being born as a child, humbly living, teaching, serving, healing, and ultimately dying to save us. THIS is greatness in this kingdom.
Humility is the foundation and backdrop for the ministry of Jesus in the Kingdom of God. Humility to strip ourselves of anything that causes us to sin and separate us from God. Humility to suppress our pride and pain and offer forgiveness when we have been deeply wronged. Humility to surrender control to the only One who really is in control. THIS is greatness in His kingdom.
Greatness is not found in social status, wealth, accomplishments, possessions, or earthly power. It is found in humbly submitting to and serving the One who is the greatest.
Questions: How does your idea of “great” differ from what Jesus is teaching? How can we make a mindset shift about what true greatness looks like?
For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20b
The foursome – Peter, James, John & Jesus – come down the mountain following the transfiguration and meet up with the crowd below. A man greets them whose son the disciples were unable to heal. The disciples had been given authority and power to heal by Jesus and they healed many, but this was a stubborn one. Jesus criticizes their lack of faith and instantly heals the boy.
“Why could we not cast it out?” the disciples ask. Jesus tells them they must have faith. It is tempting to read this and think we just need to muster up more faith. But Jesus is quick to point out that faith even as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. It isn't more faith...it is faith in the right thing. Faith in Jesus and His power alone. Faith in His purpose and plan and will. With this faith, nothing is impossible.
Sometimes we can get in a rut, going through the motions of what worked before. We can easily slip into putting our faith in a formula and lose sight of the true source of power. We need to come to Jesus. We need to put our faith in Him and His power.
We choose where to put our faith. If we are honest, we often put our faith in other things…things we think are within our “control.” Our sinful nature gravitates toward faith in ourselves. Big faith in our strength or wisdom or resources or past successes may produce little things at best, but even tiny faith in a big God can move mountains.
Question: What do you put your faith in? Really think about it. It is so natural to try to put our faith in ourselves instead of God.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. Mark 9:2-3
A pause on the stifling, constrictive, skin-wrapped humanity, the glory of God peeks through Jesus up on a mountain. It isn’t a reflection of light from another source, but a light within Jesus bursting forth, finally uncontained.
Moses – the recipient of the law -- is there. Elijah – the great prophet – is there. Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets – is there. A beautiful, holy encounter.
Remember roughly 1,400 years earlier Moses died on a mountain overlooking the earthly promised land God didn’t permit him to enter? Now all these years later, Moses is again on a mountaintop, this time with Elijah and Jesus. It doesn’t say what they are talking about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the world-changing events that are about to take place. Events that according to worldly standards would be considered an utter failure, but according to God’s plan are the gateway to redemption; to the true and eternal promised land. Only a short time to go and the glory of Jesus would no longer be squeezed in human flesh; the sacrificial system no longer necessary; the sins of the people washed clean once and for all time; the pathway to righteousness before God in place. Perspective and God’s truth changes everything.
How often do we find ourselves in the mundane, unsettled, tedious wilderness surrounded by grumbling and feeling like a failure because we don't measure up to the world’s definition of success? Perhaps we too need a perspective change. There is so much more than what we see. There is so much God wants to give us and show us; a longer, eternal view. Success is obedience to God. Success is nearness to Him in the middle of the journey. Success is shepherding others to truth. Success is going where and when God tells us to. Success is constant communion with God until the glorious day we see Him face to face.
Question: Where might you need a perspective change today?
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23
High off of correctly calling Jesus the Messiah, Peter must have been feeling pretty special. He nailed it! Until… Jesus begins to tell Peter and the others what will happen to Him…suffering, being killed, rising three days later. Peter steps in. He just can’t help himself. This is the Christ. His friend. Peter wants to take charge and do things the way he thinks they should be done, which doesn’t include suffering and dying, that’s for sure.
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” Jesus responds. Ouch! Jesus’s response to Peter seems pretty harsh at first glance, but this was serious business to Jesus. This is what He came for, and no friend or foe is going to thwart it.
The devil is tricky, and no one knows this more than Jesus. Peter’s intentions weren’t evil. He loved Jesus. He didn’t want Jesus to suffer, or be rejected, or killed. Who can blame him? But this wasn’t God’s plan, and Jesus knew it. He recognizes the devil’s tricks, encouraging us to seek comfort, control, security. Avoid pain at all costs. Jesus couldn’t let this one slide. He had to call Satan out.
Our instinct is to try to fix things, and all too often we lean on our own solutions instead of God. In our fix-it mode, we could be preventing a mighty work of God on the other side. We think we are making things easier, but God isn’t about easy. God is about holy.
Have you ever been fired up for God about something and felt attacked out of nowhere…family, health, relationships, work? When we are earnestly seeking and doing the things of God, the devil works overtime to try to trip us up. We too can utter the words, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Challenge: Follow Jesus’s lead and cry out, “Get behind me, Satan!” when you feel attacked. Just saying these words can change your mindset, allowing you to see these kinds of attacks for what they are and to get back to the things God is calling you to do.