John 7: If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
One of the big events in Jewish life in this day is the feast of the Tabernacles. Everyone moves outdoors for the event, camping out, and there are special worship activities at the Temple each day. Jesus is here, teaching at the Temple and many believe he’s the Messiah. On this last day, as the priest pours water mixed with wine on the altar Jesus shouts out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus offers to all who will come what’s being symbolized at the altar. What an offer it is. To the weary one who has been worn down by their journey in life he offers himself as the Living Water. To the bruised one who has tried other things that promised satisfaction only to be disappointed and scarred by their effort Jesus calls out “Come to me.” To those hurting, confused, and broken Jesus offers healing, understanding, and wholeness. To you and me Jesus extends the invitation to come and be satisfied.
Take Away: The only one who can really satisfy our lives invites us to come and receive what only he can give us.
When Jesus shows mercy
Luke 18: Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!
On the outskirts of Jericho a poor blind man spends his day listening for the sound of footsteps that he might beg for some loose change from some passing person. On this day, though, voices raised in excitement are drawing near and he begins shouting out the question, “What’s going on?” Finally, someone responds, “Its Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker. He and his disciples are coming this way.” The blind man begins shouting at the top of his voice, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Several tell him to be quiet and the sound of the crowd nearly drowns him out anyway. He shouts all the louder, “Have mercy on me!” Then, a calm, authoritative voice is heard. Jesus is right there in front of him. “What do you want from me?” he asks. The blind man answers, “Master, I want to see again.” “Okay, do it,” Jesus replies. Light, color, and movement flood in as sight is restored. As I read this story, I’m the blind man. Life is empty, desperate, and hopeless. Then, Jesus passes by. In my own words, I shout out “Have mercy on me!” And he does. Thank you, Lord, for your light giving mercy in my life.
Take Away: Its mercy we need and its mercy we receive from the Lord.
Mark 9: Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!
The man is desperate to get help for his son who’s possessed by a demon causing the boy to have dangerous convulsions. He brings him to Jesus, pleading for help. However, Jesus is absent at the time. Some of the disciples, though, have had experience with such things. They’ve been commissioned by Jesus to do exactly what needs to be done. However, in spite of their efforts the condition of the child is unchanged. Just as the father is about to leave Jesus arrives and asks what’s going on. The man explains the need. As the boy is again thrown into a seizure, Jesus asks how long this has been going on and the man answers, adding, “If you can do anything, do it…help us!” Jesus calls the man to faith reminding him that there are no “ifs” in faith. I love the answer of the desperate father. For the sake of his son he’ll banish all the “ifs” and replace them with belief. Then, with transparent honestly, he pleads “Help me with my doubts!” Oh how I identify with this good man. With the hard facts so close at hand he struggles to get a grasp on absolute faith. As he says these words, he has a son trashing about on the ground and, right before him he has Jesus, the Miracle Worker. With every fiber of his being he wants to be doubt free. Apparently, that’s good enough for Jesus. An honest struggle for faith is enough faith for the impossible to happen. As I struggle with the hard realities of life in view of the claims of God’s grace and mercy I’m often like that father. Happily, I’m reminded here that the Lord does, indeed, help us with our doubts. Even a struggling faith has power in God’s eyes.
Take Away: An honest struggle for faith is enough faith for the impossible to happen.
The banquet table of God’s grace
Matthew 8: This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions.
In these early days of our Lord’s public ministry his popularity and reputation soars. He’s not only preaching the greatest message ever heard but he’s also performing miracle after miracle. His name’s on everyone’s lips. In Capernaum a Roman officer comes to ask Jesus to help his servant. This man, a conqueror, impresses us with his humility and his love for his slave. Even more impressive, though, is his faith. When Jesus offers to accompany the Roman to see his slave the Roman suggests that Jesus just give the command, then and there. Jesus is surprised at such a depth of faith from an “outsider.” Later in this same chapter he’ll chastise his Jewish disciples for being afraid in a storm; after all they’re supposed to know more about how God works. This officer, though, surprises Jesus with his simple trust. Not only does Jesus do a “long distance” act of healing, he also comments that this Roman soldier is among the first of what will be a flood of “outsiders” who’ll place their faith in him and be counted among heroes of the faith like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I love this story because it’s about me. You see, that Roman captain might have been one of the first, but I’m one of those who followed his lead. Jesus predicted this and now I’m one of the outsiders who have made their way to that “banquet table of grace.”
Take Away: How blessed to be invited to the banquet table of God’s grace.
Working through grief and loss
Lamentations 1: Judah has gone into exile.
Lamentations, to me, is the book of the Bible most like Job. In Job’s story we find him in a state of misery, lamenting all that has been lost. Lamentations takes us into similar unwelcome territory. The destruction of Jerusalem isn’t a tidy event. There’s a long siege that results in starvation and a descent into barbarism of the worst sort. It’s the mildest of statements to say that things get ugly. Inhumanity and misery rule. Now, Jeremiah, still reeling from it all creates poetry in an effort to describe the remaining sense of loss and grief. While it’s true that their destruction is the result of their own sin the misery of it all is real. In Lamentations the weeping prophet takes us on a walk through the rubble of his beloved Jerusalem. He replays for us the scenes of murder and rape and loss. I confess that I’m not looking forward to spending these few days with Jeremiah. Two things come to mind as I begin this journey. First: loss is a part of the human condition. Even as Job faced it, so does Jeremiah; and so do we. Second: sometimes we’re wise to allow ourselves to embrace this unwelcome aspect of life. We tend to hurry past the bad times; to smile through our tears; to cheer up believing things will get better. It really doesn’t work that way. The route to healing may begin with our taking time to grieve — to lament — all that’s been lost. Like it or not, that’s the path we follow when we walk with the weeping prophet in the book of Lamentations.
Take Away: The route to healing may begin with our taking time to grieve.
Being honest as I read God’s Word
Isaiah 53: Through his bruises we get healed.
Right off, let me say that I believe in divine healing. In fact, I think the Lord has provided physical healing for me. I also believe it is okay to read the Scriptures devotionally. That is, while I think I need to be careful about the context and intent of Scripture when studying, preaching, and teaching that it’s okay for me to read something and draw a more personal meaning out of it. I need to be careful when I do that because I can end up a long distance from where a passage is supposed to take me, but it can also be to my benefit to more freely explore the Word from a devotional point of view. That brings me to this passage. Isaiah is describing the Suffering Servant who will be Jesus. Specifically, he’s talking about how he’ll be abused for our sins. In poetic form he describes that abuse and how it will benefit us. The entire passage is about our salvation: Jesus is beaten to the point of disfigurement, ripped and torn and crushed and bruised for our salvation. When I get to the line about his being bruised for my healing I know that Isaiah hasn’t suddenly changed the subject from Christ suffering to save our souls to his suffering that I might be healed of my health problems. The “healing” he’s talking about is a healing of my broken relationship with God, not healing from cancer or heart problems or diabetes. With all that in mind, I need to remember to read this passage in light of what Isaiah is actually talking about and not want I want him to be talking about. Devotionally, I can connect this to passages like that in the Book of James in which we’re given instructions about praying for the healing of the sick. Realistically, though, I need to be honest in acknowledging that this passage doesn’t teach that Christ’s suffering was so I could be healed of physical infirmities.
Take Away: Christ suffered that our relationship with the Lord, broken by our sin, might be healed.