Monthly Archives: August 2012

Jesus, Interrupted.

The next event in Luke 5 is a famous Sunday School story- “Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man,” and is one that many of us know well. Because of that we tend to gloss over the details. I’ll skip over the common applications of the event (the faith of the friends and that Jesus can heal and forgive), and focus on two things that can be quite easy to miss. This post will look at the first of those two things. Here’s the passage:

On one of those days, as [Jesus] was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” Luke 5: 17-26

Jesus is teaching in a house, and it is crowded with Pharisees and teachers of the law from all over the place. And in the middle of his lesson (whatever that may have been), all of a sudden the roof is broken open and a paralyzed man laying on a mat is lowered into the room. And Jesus heals him. But before the man is lowered, Jesus is teaching. He’s teaching, and He’s interrupted by the guy being lowered into the room. Jesus is unfazed and heals the guy.

This same kind of thing happens throughout Jesus’ ministry; over and over again He is going somewhere or saying something and people interrupt Him to be healed. And Jesus heals them. He isn’t upset by their interruption. He doesn’t tell His disciples to show them the door. Instead, He stops what He is doing and heals them. The woman who touches Jesus’ robe is a great example of this, found in Luke 8 and Mark 5.

Personally, most of the time I don’t deal with interruption quite so gracefully. Especially when I am focused on a task, or working towards a goal or deadline. Especially when the interruption involves people asking for my attention, or time, or resources.

But Jesus never lets this bother Him. He put people first, and took the time to answer the interruptions. In fact, in this situation the interruption was divinely appointed. Luke says in v. 17 that “the power of the Lord was with Him to heal.”

It’s easy for all of us, but especially those in ministry, to make people secondary to the vision, to the goal, or to the schedule. But as followers of Christ, and especially those who shepherd, we need to keep people first. To see the interruptions as God-appointed, and to be fully present for those asking our time. This may mean we stop what we are doing and attend to them immediately or it may mean we schedule a time to meet with them later, but it never means that we brush them off, and it doesn’t excuse us from being upset or annoyed by them.

As we keep in step with the Spirit, the more we will come to see God’s hand in the interruptions of life, and feel His promptings to respond in love and power.

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“Come As You Are”

Continuing on with Luke 5, I re-read this today:

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy.And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  Luke 5: 12-16

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There is a ridiculous amount of things in this simple passage to think about, and I guess that I only caught about half of it.

The Leper

One of the things that stood out to me was the fact that the leper did not worry about making himself clean before going to Jesus, and before bowing to Jesus to ask for healing. Not that someone with leprosy really has a choice, I guess. But this story points to an oft-used evangelism trope: you don’t need to clean yourself up before coming to Jesus, but just come as you are. And thankfully, this is true. Christ accepts us ‘as we are,’ or where we’re at, and in fact He is the one who cleans us up, much like He did with the leper (though usually not instantaneously).

And while this is a popular evangelism line, I wonder how much we actually believe it. And even more, how many of us Christians believe it when we come to Christ in prayer? Maybe it’s just me, but for a long time I struggled with lies that I had to clean up my act before I could come to Christ in worship or prayer. “If only I stop this habitual sin” or “I can’t pray while I’m angry” and things like that, I thought. And I suspect that I’m not the only one who acts this way.

For the leper it was impossible for him to ‘clean up his act’ before coming to Jesus. He knew it, everyone knew it. And the same is true for us. We cannot, in our own strength, really clean up our act. We cannot purify our own hearts or minds (though we can work towards it through sanctification). Only Jesus can truly heal us. And until we come to a realization of this, we will never come fully to Jesus. “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” and He wills it. And He will.

Jesus

Something else that jumped out to me was the fact that Jesus touched the leper before He healed him. Here was this dirty man, likely wrapped in rags with decaying flesh underneath, maybe missing a nose or fingers, and Jesus touched him. As he was. And then, after He’d touched him, Jesus healed him. What stands out for me in this is the challenge and example, as I try to live a Christ-like life, to touch the dirty, the untouchable, and the outcast (which lepers were/are). This has two out-workings that I can think of: being willing to shake that beggar’s hand when he stretches it out to me, and being willing to share my life with the person who is chronically depressed. These are specific examples of a general principle: Will I, like Jesus, touch those (either figuratively or literally) that no one else is willing to touch? Will I love like Christ loves, and show it in real, concrete, ways?

It is as we show the love of Christ like this that He can begin healing the broken and setting the captive free; But the touch must happen first, not after. The touch is largely itself the vehicle through which Jesus heals.

At the end of the chapter Luke comments that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” This shows where Jesus received the strength to do all that He did, including touching and healing the leper. We all recognize and know that prayer is essential to live the Christian life, but I wonder how seriously we take it. Just as Jesus depended on God in prayer, how much more do we need to.

May we all be found praying in the desolate places often, coming as we are before God. For then we will see the healing of Christ both in us and through our touch more powerfully, more fully, and more frequently than we can imagine.

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Leaving the Fish Behind…

Well, I haven’t done much on this blog, and for now I’ll leave the zombie thread and come back to it at another point.

This morning I read Luke 5: 1-11, and I noticed a detail which is quite obvious, yet easily missed in the larger story. Here’s the passage:

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
(Luke 5:1-11 ESV)

What I noticed was that, while the first disciples Peter, James and John left everything to follow Jesus, it included leaving behind the two boats full of fish Jesus had just given them. They left behind the gift of Christ in order to go after something better. They left the blessing of Christ to follow Christ.

Catch that? What Christ had just given them, they gave up to follow Him. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve missed out on something better, because I’ve been given a blessing from Christ and immediately sit down to enjoy it, all the while Christ has moved on to something else. 

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