Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

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A Case Study in Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?

Monday’s reading is Luke 17.

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A Cross to Bear

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

“We all have our cross to bear.” I think this statement should be stricken from our communication. At least, it should be the way most people use it. Someone talks about having a tough boss, an old car, a leaky roof, a wayward child, an ongoing illness and then says, “Well, I guess we all have our cross to bear.” Bologna! Bearing the cross doesn’t mean putting up with some hardship in life. Jesus tells the apostles, “I must suffer many things and ultimately be killed.” Following that, He says, “If you want to come after me, pick up your own cross and follow me.” Bearing a cross doesn’t mean facing a difficulty. It means picking up the very implement of your death and carrying it to the place you are going to die. Jesus meant if we are going to be His disciples, we are going to follow in His footsteps. That doesn’t mean simply bowing at the foot of His cross. That means picking up our very own every day. The path to resurrection is through the cross. That is, the only way to actually gain life is first to lose it. Today’s question is not what burdens are we bearing. Today’s question is are we actually bearing our cross or just substituting life’s difficulties for really following Jesus?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 9.

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Fear Not

Today’s reading is Revelation 1.

John sees Jesus walking among the lampstands and falls on his face as though dead. Jesus lays His hand on John and says, “Fear not.” What a great kick off to this book. Obviously, Jesus is addressing John’s fear in the presence His own divinity. However, this is also a summary of the book. Jesus is the first and the last. He is the Living One. He lived, He died, but now He is alive forevermore. And that sets the stage for everything Jesus is going to reveal to John. A lot of things were going to happen to Christians that were pretty frightening. Frightening in the same sense that being unjustly arrested, tried, and crucified is frightening. However, though Jesus died, He was still victorious and is now alive forevermore. In like manner, John has nothing to really fear from anything Rome, Jerusalem, name the enemy of your choice, would do to him because no matter what it looks like, Jesus always wins. Whatever else you get out of reading Revelation this time, get this. Sure, death may be coming. But, for us, even death is the pathway to victory. We have nothing to fear. Praise the Lord?

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 2.

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No King but Caesar

Today’s reading is John 19.

What a long way Israel had traveled. God had wanted them to view Him as king. But in generations past, they had asked for a king like the nations around them had. Now, as Jesus is on trial, they declare that having a king like the nations isn’t enough. They actually want the king of the nations around them. And in so doing, they actually once again reject God as their king. And even worse than simply turning their back on God’s judge, they decide to kill God’s king. Yet, as quickly as we repudiate them, we decide to walk our own path. And in so doing, we say, “I have no king but me.” It’s tough, there is only room on the throne for one. Either we will let Jesus be on the throne while we get on the cross or we will sit on the throne and nail Jesus back to the cross. Which will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 20

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Thomas, the Leader

Today’s reading is John 11.

We’ve all heard of Thomas, the doubter. But have you heard about Thomas, the Leader? I really hate for Thomas that he gets remembered for his lowest recorded moment. Sure, after Jesus’s death, he, like all of the apostles, struggles to believe in the resurrection. Jesus rebuked him and he grew. However, check out Thomas in today’s reading. Here we have Thomas at his high point. The apostles are all afraid that if Jesus travels to Judea, even for His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He’ll be caught and killed. His entire movement will come to nothing. Their last three years will all be wasted. But this time, it is not Peter who steps up first, it is Thomas. “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” Thomas says. And they went. Wow! I get, of course, that Thomas still didn’t understand the nature of Jesus’s mission. I know he was thinking more in lines of a civil rebellion than a spiritual kingdom. I further grasp that this statement is recorded not for us to be amazed at Thomas, but to see the contrast between this expectation and the fact that instead of people dying with Jesus, someone comes back to life because of Jesus. But what Thomas reminds me of here is that I do not have to be identified with my weakest moments. We are all a mix of strengths and weaknesses, moments of doubt and moments of faith. Certainly, Thomas shouldn’t rest on the laurels of this moment, but neither does he have to beat himself up all his life for the weak ones. Instead, he can rest in His Savior Jesus, with whom Thomas did ultimately die and will be ultimately resurrected. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is John 12.

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Why Water to Wine?

Today’s reading is John 2.

Why on earth does John give such primacy to such a seemingly minimal miracle? Why does he treat the water to wine as if it is the first miracle Jesus ever did (though what he actually says is that it was the first in Cana of Galilee)? You would think John would want to pick something more public, something more amazing, something more phenomenal. Almost nobody even knew this miracle took place. So why does John even tell us about it? He doesn’t tell us about it to teach us something about drinking intoxicants. (Honestly, I have a hard time believing Jesus was at a drinking party full of drunk people to whom he gave more intoxicating alcohol.) He doesn’t tell us about this miracle in order to place a stamp of approval on marriage. (As if we needed another stamp of approval other than the one God gave in the beginning.) Nope. This miracle is all about Moses. Rather, it is all about demonstrating Jesus is greater than Moses. What was the first plague/sign God gave through Moses to all of Egypt and Israel? Water turned to blood. As amazing as that was, it was a sign that produced death and misery. Jesus, on the other hand, provides something drinkable and life-sustaining. Jesus is like Moses. But Jesus is not just like Moses, Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Jesus delivers all who believe from the bondage of sin and death. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is John 3.

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