How Do I Come to Jesus? | Matthew 20:29-34 | 115

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Jesus_heals2
Mat 20:29 As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Mat 20:30 Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Mat 20:31 "Be quiet!" the crowd yelled at them. But they only shouted louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Mat 20:32 When Jesus heard them, He stopped and called, "What do you want Me to do for you?"Mat 20:33 "Lord," they said, "we want to see!" Mat 20:34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed Him. [NLT]

Looking beyond what attracts our attention first?

When I first came to this passage my thoughts went directly to the miracle healing that Jesus did. Amazing! He touches the eyes of the blind men and instantly they could see. However, that just didn't seem to be the whole point of this moment.  I felt drawn to the idea that there was something more in this passage than a miracle. Jesus wanted me to, ironically, "see" something deeper. So, I have been thinking on this passage for the last week and a half, rolling it around in my mind and talking with Jesus about it, and then He gave me more. This is not just about another miracle that Jesus performs but about the question that He asks.

What and Who is the source of life?

Remember, Jesus said...

John 6:35  Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. [NLT]

...and He also said...

John 6:53 Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. [ASV]

...and He finished with this statement so we thick headed people would understand...

John 6:63It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life. [ASV] [emphasis supplied]

So, while I was busy looking at the show of the miracle being done (miracles are important, don't get me wrong) I missed the one thing that Jesus said are "spirit, and are life"...His words. Remembering this helped me to focus on what was most important in this passage; His Words.

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

His Words in this case are a question. Now let's apply this moment to ourselves and ask a few questions in light of this being about His Words.

How do I come to Jesus?

The blind men came to him in some interesting and specific ways.

  • They heard that He was coming; probably they had heard the rumors that He might be the Messiah, and they sought Him out by raising their voices higher than the din of the crowd.
  • They ignored the complaints of the "world" to be quiet and stop disrupting things.
  • They called out to Him.
  • They addressed Him with a statement that showed they understood who He was, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" and it showed their recognition of a need for mercy.

So, how do I come to Jesus? Do I come offering Him something? Do I come saying,

"Look, I really want eternal life, and I hear that I need to change my life to get it. I hear that Your the one that can help me to clean up my act so I can get this eternal life. How 'bout You and I work together to fix me? I'll give up my bad habits, go to church every week and give to charity so You can save me"

Or, do I come to Him like the blind men?

"Lord God, Creator of the Universe and the only One that is Good. Have mercy on me a sinner in need of Your mercy. I recognize that I can in no way fix my own "blindness" and I recognize that You have done it for me already. Teach me to see."

How did Jesus respond to their recognition of Him?

"What do you want Me to do for you?" He responds with a question. Many things about Jesus are shown in this one short statement.

  • He is responding to their plea.
  • He wants them to tell Him what they want. (He must have known but He wants, maybe needs, them to say it.)
  • He gives mercy when it is asked for.
  • His mercy can take the form of healing.
  • He also ignores the "world" to show His mercy.
  • He heals the sick.

What can we conclude from this moment in Jesus' life?

It is our belief and faith in Jesus and His ability to heal us that He responds to directly. The two blind men called Him by His name and title. They addressed Him and asked for His mercy and it was at that moment that Jesus asked them what they wanted. How do we come to Jesus? Do we come in belief of His power and His ability to give us what we want? Or do we deny His power by our very actions; never stepping out above the din of the world. Never taking that step of faith and loudly proclaiming ...

"LORD, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON US!"

Prayer:

Lord in Heaven and Earth, this is my cry today. Have mercy on me! You alone are able. Have mercy and heal my son. This is what I want. Not my will Lord, but Your Will. Amen.

Becoming a Slave | Matthew 20:20-28 | 114

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christmeetingsonsandmotherofzebedee
Mat 20:20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. Mat 20:21"What is your request?" He asked. She replied, "In Your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to You, one on Your right and the other on Your left." Mat 20:22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" Mat 20:23 Jesus told them, "You will indeed drink from My bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on My right or My left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones He has chosen."Mat 20:24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.Mat 20:26But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,Mat 20:27and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.Mat 20:28For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many." [NLT]

We are able!

Jesus is again dealing with the problem of self exultation found in the disciples early life with Him. This time he is approached through the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. She is seeking a place of honor in the up-and-coming kingdom for each of her sons. Because they came to Jesus together I would assume that James and John had spoken with their mother prior to this encounter to elicit her help in making this request. James and John implemented this plan in hopes of cementing their position within the "worldly" kingdom that they envisioned was about to be created. Jesus tries to show them the truth when he talks of the sacrifice it will take,

"You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?"

And now, the answer that we hear from all blue blooded legalists.

"We are able!"

We'll do whatever it takes. We'll pay whatever the cost to gain this prize that is being given. So what's wrong with that? They are the ones earning it. They want the reward so much and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, except to realize that they can't do anything to earn it. This doesn't even make sense to them...but it will.

James and John both believed that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the problem was that they completely misunderstood what His Kingdom was really going to be. They saw glory and riches and power and honor. All these things have only ever been earned here on earth. Everything they learned, everything they experienced was changed by the filter of self. Jesus knew that this was their misguided understanding. He had the Father to help Him with saying the right things and doing to right things that would bring the disciples around the "everlasting" way.

I ask myself the question, why didn't He just come out and say,

"Look you fools. How many times do I have to say this. You got it all wrong. I'm not here to defeat the Romans and create a glorified Jewish nation; I'm here to defeat the real problem, sin and satan. And the only way to defeat pride and sin is to do the opposite, show love and humbleness."

This is how I would have tried to deal with this problem. Not Jesus. His ways actually change hearts.

Enduring patience and love

When I look into the loving and wise heart of Jesus I see the amazing wisdom of how He taught them the truth with enduring patience and love. Over and over he leads them to the heart of the matter, and I think as our study of Matthew continues we will find that this lesson, this idea, will come out more until Jesus displays the "Final Answer" on the cross. It seems more and more to be the key issue between Jesus and His followers; so, how do we face this issue today? What must we do to be saved? How do we become first by becoming last? Through slavery.

How to become a slave?

In our world slavery has a completely negative meaning. Here, slavery was never a choice. In God's Kingdom we must come to a point where we "want" to be slaves. Jesus said it,

"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave."

Let's try comparing the difference between a slave of this world and a slave to Jesus and see where that leads us in understanding this concept.

Worldly slave: Does not choose to be a slave but is made one through deceit, force and captivity.

Slave to Jesus: Chooses the slavery and wants to be made into a perfect slave.

Worldly slave: Is forced to the will of his/her master for the master's benefit and pleasure.

Slave to Jesus: Is asked to do his Master's will for the Master's glory. Chooses to do it because he/she loves their Master.

Worldly slave: Is a piece of property to their master.

Slave to Jesus: Is so loved by their Master that He became a slave to prove it to them; even giving His life as a ransom.

Worldly slave: Has no relationship with their master that is not tainted by their master's ability to control them.

Slave to Jesus: Has a relationship with their Master that is based on perfect love and the desire to give of one's self to serve each other.

I think that we could probably add quite a few more analogy's to this list, but let's stop here and have a look. I've noticed three key components. Choice - Love - Relationship.

The worldly slave has each of these components, but they are all tainted by, changed by, sin and selfishness. Choice is taken by force. Love is only for self. Relationship is forced and there only to serve self.

The slave to Jesus has these components also, but they are purified by demonstrations of selflessness. Choice is given freely. Love is for others and not self. Relationship is not forced but desired by both parties.

So, back to our question. How do you become a slave to Jesus? By making the choice to love Him and have a relationship with Him. Surrender to Him and let Him cover you with His robe of righteousness. He did the work, you must make the choice. When you really understand that He did it all, then you will want to be His slave and do anything for Him, because you know that He would do anything for you!

Prayer:

Thank You Jesus for making the choice to love us and have a relationship with us. Thank You that You are a God of Love, and Choice, and Relationship. Thank You for justifying me and covering my sins. Forgive me Lord for my rebellious heart. Lead me into slavery. I want to do Your Will. Come into my life today and give me Your Mind...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Lord, I also ask that You would cover my daughter with Your robe of righteousness. Forgive her Lord, and lead her to the foot of the cross. Please also cover my son with your robe of righteousness and help me to find a way to share You with him. Amen.

Philippians 1:11  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. [NLT]

What Does Saying Goodbye Mean to God? | Matthew 20:17-19 | 113

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jesus_talks_to_disciples
Mat 20:17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. Mat 20:18"Listen," He said, "we're going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence Him to die.Mat 20:19Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day He will be raised from the dead."

Why is saying goodbye difficult?

In this passage I see Jesus preparing His disciples for what he knew was coming. He wants to prepare them for an event that they think should never happen - His first goodbye, His death. Jesus had already once before warned them of what was to come, in Matthew 17:22 and now they are starting to worry that this may soon take place. Jesus knows what they are talking about so He takes them aside, away from the other groups of people. They are traveling to Jerusalem, most likely for the Passover, and the roads would have been filled with other travelers. Though they don't seem to know yet exactly what is coming, in Mark 10:32 the disciples are amazed and fearful at the point that Jesus separates them from the crowds . I picture the disciples whispering among themselves discussing strategy or ways they might be able to save Jesus from His enemies. At this point they don't understand that He must die at the hands of the enemy, so Jesus is making sure that they are made aware of exactly what must take place soon.

It is important to note that Jesus was not guessing at what would happen to Him and He didn't know these things from some special revelation that only He had access to - He knew He was about to face mockery, the whip, and ultimately crucifixion because it was written of Him in the scriptures. (see Isaiah 53:1-12 and Daniel 9:26)

A personal goodbye

I recently had to say goodbye, yet again, to a dear friend and brother of many years. Saying goodbye is difficult for anyone. It can be awkward and often neither person knows what to say. When the time came for me to say goodbye to my friend, I struggled with the right words to let him know how much I would miss him and be thinking of him. In the end, I settled on "I'll be praying for you and thinking about you". I knew that chances were I wouldn't be seeing him again for many months.

He, on the other hand, chose statements about how he would be back soon for another visit. He encouraged me to come and visit him where he would soon be living, though it was a great distance to travel. Both of us knew that the actual separation must soon take place because the time for his flight was fast approaching. Neither of us wanted to actually say goodbye. Just before he left, we hugged and expressed words of affection, and then he went his way and I went mine.

Different types of goodbyes

There seem to be a couple of overarching ways of saying goodbye. Both of them could probably be categorized in the sense of how long they take. Personally, I prefer the "ripping band-aid" approach. Don't dilly dally. Don't stretch out the awkwardness. Just say what you feel and then walk away. Others take the long drawn out approach. They say goodbye but then they say it again and again and again. Goodbye's are painful and they have a hard time letting go.

There is no "right" way to say goodbye, in my opinion, because they are not natural. All separations, are painful no matter how we deal with them. A connection that is formed whether it is brief or extensive, must now be broken. Being in the physical presence of another person creates an unseen bond that cannot be replaced by emails, phone calls, video chats or any other means of communication. Being in the presence of a loved one strengthens that bond.

Unsure of what the future holds

One of the painful aspects of saying goodbye to a loved one is that we do not know the future. Being unsure of the future makes goodbye's harder. We do not know what might happen to that person we are now being separated from. Though we don't want to dwell on this fact there is a part of us that must deal with the idea of possibly never seeing that person again. Death is also a reality in our lives.

God knows the future. He uses this knowledge to give us some peace of mind. By studying His Word, we can have assurance of our soon reunion with Him!

How does Jesus say goodbye?

Jesus is first and foremost concerned for His disciples. He wants nothing more than for them to understand what must happen to Him so that they can accept it and have peace of mind, but he understands that they may not be capable of this. To prepare them he explains exactly what will take place so that when these things do happen they will remember His words and receive some level of comfort from them. He gives the "I'll be back" statement when He says, "But on the third day He will be raised from the dead." He seeks to comfort them and prepare them for the soon to come goodbye.

I have a sense that Jesus felt sadness at the idea of what must soon come for the same reason that we feel sadness during a goodbye...it means some form of separation with a loved one. Separation is the result of sin. Separation is the negative outcome of pride and sin that God has given everything, done everything, and showed everything to solve. Being with us is His true reward.

Eternal life means so much more to God than giving us the ability to exist for an indefinite amount of time. Even in this we have a tendency to think it's all about us. God is giving us eternal life because it means that we will never ever ever ever ever ever have to say goodbye again. He loves us that much. Imagine loving someone so much that you never want to be apart from them, ever.

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goodbye

Sin causes separation. Think of times when you get irritated with a spouse or a friend and you want to "get away" from them. Isn't it usually because your selfish nature has reared up and sat in the throne of your heart? Maybe if we started to think of sin as a painful separator, we would start to hate it like we should....

Dear reader. Listen to God's call. He wants so much to come back into your life and be with you. Being with you is so important to Him that He was willing to give His Son so that you can be with Him again. He did it all, supplied the means and the escape, so that He would never have to be apart from you again. Can you praise Him for that today?

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

Today I just want to praise You and thank You for being willing to do whatever it takes to restore the bond that was never meant to be broken. Your love amazes me to the core. Change my heart Lord and make me desire unity with You in the same way that You desire it. I love You. Amen.

Paid for Doing Nothing | Matthew 20:1-16 | 112

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workers
Mat 20:1 "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Mat 20:2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. Mat 20:3 "At nine o'clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. Mat 20:4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. Mat 20:5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o'clock he did the same thing. Mat 20:6 "At five o'clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, 'Why haven't you been working today?' Mat 20:7 "They replied, 'Because no one hired us.' "The landowner told them, 'Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.' Mat 20:8 "That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. Mat 20:9 When those hired at five o'clock were paid, each received a full day's wage. Mat 20:10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day's wage. Mat 20:11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, Mat 20:12 'Those people worked only one hour, and yet you've paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.' Mat 20:13 "He answered one of them, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair! Didn't you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Mat 20:14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Mat 20:15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?' Mat 20:16 "So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last." [NLT]

Who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? What will we get?

These are the two questions posed by the disciples that lead to Jesus telling another parable to illustrate who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. We might be tempted to even question the disciples, thinking "what a bunch of blockheads". They still didn't get that the first should be last and the last shall be first? But consider the shift in thinking that is being asked of them. This is a complete 180. Jesus is not only using parables but He is living the truth in front of their eyes. He is eating with sinners and touching the leper. He is loving and caring for the lowly and downtrodden, and rebuking the self righteous. But this is no easy lesson for any of us to learn.

I personally am starting to understand this only on the surface myself. I am amazed at how these parables bring out the concept in such a clear way - but seeing it is not living it. We need to not only learn it as knowledge but we need to allow Jesus to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit and change us into "the last". No small task for sure...

For now, we will move on with tackling this parable. Let's see what happens when we take just one point out of the many made in the story and seek to understand what it means.

In the parable we see that each group of workers receives the same reward. The amount of work that they do has no influence on the size of the reward.

Is this fair? What is our human concept of fairness all about? How many times have you heard these types of statements?

"Everyone must pay their fair share" "You get what you deserve" "You get out of life, what you put into it." "The Lord helps those who help themselves." "I have to do what is best for me." "Equal pay for equal work."

The concept of "fairness" is ingrained in us. As children, when we fought with our siblings, how often did you hear this phrase, "That's not fair!" What was, and is always, the motivating factor in these statements? Self.

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justice

Our system of law is based on fairness

Often we equate fairness with justice. Our system of laws seeks to determine what is just and fair when handing out punishment for crime. For instance, a child molester may receive a lesser sentence than a murderer. A liar may not receive a punishment at all (Think Bill Clinton; actually all politicians) while a thief could go to prison for many years. I know that I am mixing good reward with bad reward but in God's eye's are they different? Listen to the words of Jesus...

Rev_22:12"Look, I am coming soon, bringing Myreward with Me to repay all people according to their deeds." [NLT]

Now, if we look at this statement by Jesus from the human perspective of fairness and justice what will we want to conclude?

"What and how much I DO affects how much I am paid."

In this thought we have just confirmed all of the fairness statements above. This is our sinful selfish nature displaying itself and we have no problem going there. It took no effort whatsoever to come to that conclusion. I get what I deserve. I should be paid for the work that I do. These thoughts come to my mind as easily as turning on the water at the sink, but Jesus wants us to look at the Kingdom of Heaven from His perspective.

Does the reward change based on the level of the sin?

Let us consider the Holy Law of God's Character, the Ten Commandments. Is the reward for "bearing false witness" (Lying) the same as for "Thou shalt not murder"? The answer is yes. The reward is the same. Death.

Rom_6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. [NLT]

Rom_3:19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. Rom_3:20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. [NLT]

So, if the negative reward is the same for any sin, wouldn't the positive reward for any level of righteousness be the same. Here's a big question...

What happens to our thought process when we put a value on righteousness?

Let me follow that question with an example of what I mean by it.

John goes out and gives 1,000 dollars to a local homeless shelter. He does this because he wants to earn favor in God's eyes. $1,000 dollars is all that he has earned for the month and he is sure that God will look on him favorably for the greatness of his sacrifice. In fact, he believes with all his heart that God will bless him for doing this good deed and he feels that because of the level of sacrifice it represents he will receive an equal or even greater level of reward.

What is John doing? He is earninghis reward. He is seeking to control the amount that he is paid by the Reward Giver because of the level of his sacrifice. He is in essence trying to take control away from the Reward Giver and control it for himself.

Isa 64:6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. [NLT]

So, to answer the original question of what happens when we put a value on righteousness, the answer is that we seek to control it for ourselves. How many times have you heard these types of statements about someone...

"What a nice person." "That person is such a good Christian" "Fred is so generous and kind" "Tom gives more to charity than anyone I know"

Again. By who's standard are those good deeds being measured? By sinful human standards.

Does the reward change based on the level of our righteousness?

Jesus pays the same reward to everyone and that reward is eternal life. There is no greater reward. The standard for receiving it; the price for gaining it was paid by Him. Our good deeds earn us nothing, if we lose the reward earned by Jesus - eternal life. I could spend my whole life working only to help other people, give to the poor, make millions so I could give it all away or any other good deed you can think of, but, if I am not covered by Jesus' righteousness, I will lose eternal life.  As our parable states, He gets to decide how we are paid because it is HIS reward. In His infinite wisdom and mercy He chooses to cover us ALL in the same way. We must choose at some point to work for Him, because of what He accomplished. That is the one thing that they all did in the parable, they all agreed to work for the landowner - Jesus.

Dear Reader. Lean on Jesus. His righteous life is the only righteous life ever lived on this sinful planet that is acceptable to God. Jesus took that sinless life, He gave it on the cross, and He is offering it to you as your life. If you accept His Grace, God sees you as justified and reconciled to Him. Do not lean on your own understanding. Give your life to Him today and ask Him to come into your mind through the Holy Spirit. He will do this because He has promised to.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

Today I PRAISE You for what You accomplished on the cross through Your Son Jesus Christ. By faith I accept that You are willing to see Jesus' life when You look at me. I accept that Jesus did it all and that because of Him and what He did for me I am no longer condemned by my sin. I ask You for the mind of Christ to come into me today through the Holy Spirit. I believe that it has, because You said so.

Rom_5:5  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. [NLT]

Please be with my family and Your church and keep them all safe and well. Be with Barry and Claudia. Keep them safe and help them as they struggle with big choices in their lives. Help them to see and do Your Will. I lift my prayer list up to You this morning, please Lord, I ask for your healing hand in each situation and I trust that Your Will will be done.

Please continue to work with me and change my heart. I love You Lord. Amen.