Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jesus Didn't Respond Based on How People Responded to Him

(From a devotion I led recently...)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are to lead a congregation with a diverse set of ideas and opinions.  This is not a new problem in the history of the Church, of course, and not even new to us.  But it has been on my heart to study this in the Scriptures.

I keep coming back to Jesus.  We need to believe what God says: we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and God’s ambassadors to a spiritually dead world.  We engender community by dying to self, loving others in the grace of God, and following Jesus.  “In this world we are like Jesus.” (1 John 4:17)

How did Jesus handle diverse reactions to his ministry?  Let’s look at three situations where he performed miracles: healing the paralyzed man (Luke 5), restoring a man’s withered right hand (Luke 6), and converting water into wine and healing the sick (John 2).

16 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:16-18

17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Luke 5: 17-26

1 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
 3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

 6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.

 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

 10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Luke 6:1-11

23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
John 2:23-25

In each case we’re told that Jesus knew what they were thinking, what was in their hearts.  Sometimes there was great praise to God (Luke 5) and “people believed in his name” (John 2), and sometimes the miracle engendered hatred (“[they] were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:11). 

Jesus didn’t respond to their response.  Knowing what was in their hearts, their thoughts, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them.” (John 2:24).   He did not need their testimony.  He knows He is Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).  He knows his relationship with the Father. Remember, Jesus did not have the kind of sinful pride we so often do!  He operates out of love (which asks for nothing in return) rather than fear.  Fear and pride go together well.

Jesus’ view of His calling and ministry (and God’s view of our ministry) is independent of how people respond. 

If we’re to be Jesus-like leaders, honoring God, we must operate out of love.  We must build people up, help them mature, engage in difficult conversations, humbly obey Christ, be open and teachable, listen well, serve well, do the right thing irrespective of whether people are praising God or plotting “what to do to” us.   

It may help to take the long view of events.  A trillion years from now (still short of eternity), looking back, what was the right thing to do?

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