As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.
We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.
As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.
I am not one who has done a lot of sailing or spent much time on a boat. A pontoon or speed boat on a lake is the majority of my experience. I also spent one afternoon during college on a sailboat with a friend. Despite my level of inexperience, I do understand the purpose of and the value for an anchor on a boat.
Anchors are important not only for individuals on boats but also for times in life. While life’s anchors are not physical in nature, they serve the same purpose of keeping one steadfast as the waves of life batters us.
The most reliable life anchor any of us can have is found in our Lord. Ray Boltz wrote a song about the value of this life anchor.
The temperatures are rising outside as we transition from spring into summer. The increase in temperatures have drawn my thoughts toward heat and fire. My thoughts have also been focusing on the upcoming celebration of Pentecost in the Church. In the telling of events which occurred at Pentecost shortly after Jesus returning to the spiritual realms, we see the portrayal of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire on the shoulders of the disciples. Fire plays an important role throughout many Scripture accounts.
Today’s focus passage comes at the end of one of Luke’s stories about the appearances of Jesus post-resurrection. This story is often referred to at the “walk to Emmaus” because two disciples encounter the resurrected Jesus as they walk to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They discuss with Jesus the events of his death without recognizing him. He explains to them how the Hebrew Scriptures indicated these things had to happen. It was not until they reached Emmaus and were breaking bread with the Lord that they realized who they had been talking with during this time. This is where we join the story today.
The idea of their hearts burning within them drew my attention. Having the Lord open the Scriptures to them created this sensation. Clearly a glow or an overpowering sensation overcame the core of their being. This sensation is spiritual and not physical. It is unique and very specific. Imagine a fire burning within a person’s spirit.
This passage links well with all the occurrences of fire throughout the Bible. Whether it be the call of Moses at the “burning bush,” the galvanizing of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith in the furnace, or the telling of tongues of fire on disciple shoulders, the link between the Spirit and fire is clear. What these two disciples experienced as they listened to Jesus was the Spirit changing their hearts and perspectives.
Have you felt the burning of the Spirit in your being? I have had such a sensation at times in my life. The transforming by the Spirit is the basis. Each sensation is different and unique because the reason or need for transformation is different. The reason may be an altering of perspective such as in today’s story. Or maybe the need is to take our words and/or actions from the ordinary to the spiritual. Or possibly the situation calls for a cleansing of ourselves. Whatever the case, we come away recalling the sensation and being transformed. Be open to the sensation and transformation of the Spirit.
This week has made many of us feel as if we have been battered by a storm. The senseless killing of children in Texas which came so closely after the horrific murders of people in Buffalo, make us filled with questions, sadness, and anxiety. These events are a continuing trend in our nation. Add to this the exhaustion brought upon us by the pandemic and months of war in Ukraine. All of these situations combine to make us feel like we are in the midst of a never ending storm. How can we continue to stand?
Jesus has an answer to that question. He tells the crowd listening to him that they are to be like the wise person who built a house on rock. The rock on which we are to build our house is Jesus Christ and his teachings. Jesus taught that love is the answer to combat evil and sin. If we build our lives on the love found in Jesus’s words, we will overcome the sin within us and in the world around us.
Go to the teachings of Jesus and listen. Read the two chapters preceding this one in Matthew’s gospel. Then strive everyday to build your life upon Jesus’s words found in these three chapters.
The passage for today is one which always amazes me when I read it. The concept that by one person telling her story, a whole village is curious about Jesus, and many came to believe even before meeting him, is astonishing. The door of opportunity has been opened because instead of keeping silent, the woman shared her story.
This passage follows the telling of Jesus’s interaction with a woman at the well of Jacob. All of this takes place without any witnesses. It is recorded here only because the writer learned the story from the woman just as the villagers had learned it. If the woman had not shared this story of love and redemption, we would not have known about it.
The words in this passage convict us. When we choose not to share with others our stories regarding Jesus in our lives, we are preventing the possibility of others getting to know Jesus deeper. The Samaritan woman puts forth an example of how we are to share our encounters with the Lord. When we do, amazing results can occur as we read about here.
When going on a trip, I have a tendency to overpack. This tendency may be attributed to my desire to be prepared for whatever may come my way. I pack a complete extra outfit in case I spill on myself or I have to unexpectedly stay for an extra day. Wanting to have the right outfit, I tend to include a casual outfit for each day as well as one dressier outfit in case we go to a fancier restaurant. Naturally, each outfit may require different shoes and different belts. Then there is also the need to have something to wear for just hanging out in the hotel room or the house where I am staying. You can see why I have a habit of overpacking.
Jesus feels that some of his disciples are ready to go out on their own to teach and heal. He sends them in pairs (probably for moral support). His instructions include what they should take along. They are basically to head out with the bare minimum. Leave almost everything behind is Jesus’s direction.
Jesus may have wanted the disciples to learn the value of dependency upon others. Today as I read this passage, I thought of another lesson Jesus may have intended to teach here. Possibly Jesus is teaching the benefit of leaving life’s trappings behind. By not taking so much with them, the disciples had less of a burden to carry as they traveled. They also did not approach a house with a lot of stuff to haul into the house when invited. A freeing could provide a better opportunity to focus on the needs of the ones who the disciples encounter.
What extra baggage may you be carrying when the Lord sends you? There are times when the trappings of the church should be left behind. For many of us, we have emotional baggage which we carry with us as we journey. Our opinions or judgments may be something we take with us into situations when we are sent. All of these cause our focus to be less on the ones to whom the Lord is sending us, and more on ourselves. Jesus tells us to leave these things behind.
What do you need to leave behind? How can leaving these things behind free you to be more focused on those to whom the Lord sends you? Afterall, do you really need to take anything but Christ where you go on your ministry journey?
How do you make sure that you remember important things? I am a person who is very grateful for technology serving as a memory aid. Alexa helps me keep track of my various shopping lists. Google Calendar syncs with all my electronic devices and laptop so that I remember appointments, birthdays, and anniversaries. Microsoft To Do is on all my electronic devices to assist me in remembering the various tasks which I have each day. While the system is not perfect, i.e., I have to remember to add things to these various platforms, I would be much less successful in remembering things without this technology.
God wants the Israelites to remember the commands, laws, and decrees which they have been given. Like the various methods I use to remember important details, God gives the Israelites a variety of ways to remember. God instructs the people to integrate these guides into every aspect of their lives. They are to talk about them, create visual reminders, and incorporate them into their daily activities.
As the Israelites were instructed to remember God’s guidance, so we too are instructed. The teachings passed down to us through the prophets, Scripture writers, Apostles, faith leaders, and especially Jesus, should infiltrate every aspect of our lives. We should talk regularly about these teachings with our family and fellow believers. We should think about them throughout our daily activities. We should place reminders where we see them on a regular basis. This is how we impress them upon our hearts as God instructed the Israelites to do.
It is always exciting when you go to your mailbox and find an invitation in the stack of mail which you received that day. For some reason, receiving an invitation creates joy in one’s life. Maybe it is because being the recipient communicates that you have value to the sender. An invitation tells you that you are thought of and included. There is also excitement which accompanies an invitation since usually it is connected with some joyful celebration.
The passage today presents an invitation. Particularly, this invitation is to be saved from a sinful life and the consequences of such a life. Instead of making an RSVP like other invitations request, this one makes the request to declare and believe. The believing is done with the heart, or the core of one’s being. The declaring is done with the lips, an outward acknowledgment. What we are asked to declare and believe is “Jesus is Lord.” By fulfilling this request, a guarantee is given that the one doing so will be saved.
Each day, we are invited to call upon the Lord for this guarantee. We have received our invitation to redeem the promise. Each day, we have the opportunity to declare and believe, whether for the first time or as a renewal.
A question that presents a challenge to us at times is, “Why do you do (fill in the blank)?” There are times when our answer to the question is simple and fairly straightforward. However, other times we struggle to answer the question because we struggle to come up with an explanation which satisfies even ourselves. Having the ability to answer this question may prove beneficial to our growth and even to the growth of others. Some occasions lead to great introspection which can develop self awareness. Our answers may open doors to insights and opportunities.
As followers of Christ, we are to emulate the behaviors and actions of our Lord. In reading Scripture, we see Christ was always serving and teaching others. One would certainly describe Jesus’s words and actions as good. If we are working to be an example as our Lord has been, our words and actions should be labeled as good by others. When/if this occurs, it is quite possible that we will be asked why we are doing/saying these things.
In the midst of the discussion in 1 Peter, we encounter the author speaking about explaining ourselves. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This hope is clearly linked to the good being discussed here. The reminder is that the good we do stems from the hope which we have in Jesus Christ. This good is going to cause others to ask questions. We need to be prepared to explain in a gentle and respectful way. What a wonderful opportunity to open others to the love of our Lord.
Many famous leaders and celebrities become concerned about the legacy which they leave after their time in the public spotlight is over or they have died. There is a part of each one of us desiring to be remembered. One of the reasons we erect grave markers is to ensure we are not forgotten. Monuments and memorials of every shape and size are scattered throughout our land, our schools, our churches, and our institutions. We expend a large amount of time and money to remember.
A very poignant moment in Luke’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion is when there is a conversation involving two criminals and Jesus. As the three men hang on crosses, one of them appears to be belligerent and mocks Jesus. The other criminal has a much different view of the situation. He sees Jesut as innocent and undeserving of this cruel punishment. He sees Jesus as who others claim him to be. The man rebukes the other criminal, acknowledges his own guilt, and then makes a request to Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him. The man wished to be remembered by the King of Kings, who he recognizes even as he hangs in agony. Jesus not only promises the man that he will remember him but promises that the man will be with Jesus in the kingdom.
Throughout the gospel recordings of Jesus’s ministry, we encounter Jesus promising the disciples that he would prepare a place for them, they would one day join him where he is, and he would always be with them. The criminal who hung on a cross beside Jesus is unknown to us until we meet him in this passage. There is no mention by Jesus or the man or Luke that this man had been a disciple of Jesus. Yet he receives the same promise that Jesus had made to his followers.
The criminal provides us a lesson and a hope. Observing what the request was from the criminal is important. He did not ask to be released from his punishment. He did not ask for some type of a miracle. The man asked to be remembered. A request that is not unfamiliar to us. Jesus’s response to the man provides us hope. We have not spent years physically walking with Jesus. We have not stood in front of the Lord declaring our commitment to him. We have come to know Jesus at what may be determined as the end of our world understanding. Yet the promise Jesus made to the Apostles, the disciples, and this man on a cross is our promise as well. Jesus promised not to only remember us but that we will be with him in the kingdom as well.