When reading the Bible, stories become much more than just stories when you approach them with the three simple questions:
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at John 1:35-50 and look at the seemingly simple story of Jesus calling His disciples.
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said,“Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
With these questions in mind, we realize that these verses -as well as our other devotional readings – can have significant application to our everyday lives!
It’s a day that receives NO recognition.
I don’t know why. I have no explanation. It’s simply a fact.
This holiday (Holy Day) is the third most important date on our calendars. Third only to Christmas and Easter.
And yet, year after year, it comes and it goes with nary a mention. As happened Just l last month!!!
So in this PODCAST, we are going to mention it. What this holiday is. How it came about. What it means to you and me. And why we are the poorer for not observing it.
Get ready to feel affirmed, my friend. Because truth be told, this Holy Day is in reality YOUR day.
Let’s get started by reading Matthew 13:24:
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
Now, on November 1st of each year, a dramatically meaningful day hits our lives – All Saints Day! It’s a day when we celebrate those blessed people whom God has placed in our lives to encourage us and draw us closer to Him. In many ways, it’s a day when we celebrate Paul’s words in Romans 13:7:
7 Pay to all what is owed to them… respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
And it’s on this day when we ought to pay respect to all the saints in our lives. But who are these saints? I’m not talking exclusively about the individuals that the Vatican has declared saintly, but each and every one of those who have chosen to follow Christ.
Who? You? Me? Yes.
Look at Acts 9:32 –
32 Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.
Or consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:7 –
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we read in 1 Corinthians 1:2
2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those consecrated and purified and made holy in Christ Jesus, called to be saints
Did you hear that? Those terms apply equally to us Christ followers today as they did to the church in Corinth 2,000 years ago! In fact, if you look at the Amplified Bible, when it clarifies the word “saints”, it calls them (and us) God’s people – those who call upon and give honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like us!
You are then, by definition, a saint!
Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1:15-16:
This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.
There are actually 104 times that the Bible makes reference to Christ’s followers as saints.
It’s amazing what you learn when you read the Bible. Particularly that the celebration of All Saints Day should not be a day when we celebrate a small group of individuals that the Catholic church has deemed “saintly”, but all of us who call Jesus Lord of our lives!
So, if we are all saints, then we should make an intentional effort to, as Romans 13:7 says, to “Pay to all what is owed to them… respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” and honor and respect the saints you know with the honor and respect that they are due.
Then, we will see more clearly the people around us who Jesus compared to the good seed in a farmer’s field.
Welcome to Parable #1.
That’s right! In this PODCAST, we begin in earnest now to understand Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13.
Oh, you’re in for a treat. Because this first parable, just like the eight that will follow it, speaks directly to our lives at this time, in this place, in our day, today.
This is as personal as it gets.
Jesus now shifts His focus completely, from talking to the crowds of His day, about the many challenges that they faced, to talking directly to us in our day, about the many challenges that we each face today.
I cannot stress enough the absolute importance of understanding these parables. Neither could Jesus, who begins this first parable with the word, “Listen.” And then ends the parable by referencing those of us who do indeed “listen and understand.”
In this podcast, we will do both — listen and understand.
So, lets start off by reading Matthew 13:1-3
Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 2 A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.
I find it very interesting that Jesus begins this portion of His teaching with the word, “Listen!”
Then, in verse nine, when Jesus ends the parable, He closes with these words:
”…Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
He bracketed His first parable, beginning and end, with the word, “Listen”. Which should be no surprise, given the context of the scene: He was surrounded by people who had recently rejected Him: the crowds, the religious leaders, even His own family. Other than His disciples, He was basically surrounded by people who had stopped listening.
Another unique shift in Jesus’ teaching is the tense in which He taught. Prior to the parables, He taught the people in present tense – regarding their lives then. With the parables, He teaches about us in our day. So, when He says, “Anyone with ears to hear…”, He means ANYONE, including US TODAY.
This came as a shock to those who were close to Him, as we see in verse ten:
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
He answered them:
“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
You see, His teachings up to this point was Old Testament based. But, from here on, He introduces brand new material – messages that the people hadn’t heard before.
So, what exactly did He say? Here is His first parable:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
The problem, at the time, was that no one in that crowd did understand. They understood the concept of a farmer scattering seeds, but not the eternal lessons that applied to them as much as you and I today.
So, Jesus had to explain it for them (and, thankfully, for us, too):
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
In each of these four scenarios, the farmer is the same and the seed is the same. The only difference is the condition of the soils. The seed is the Bible – God’s Word. The farmer is Jesus, and He would pass the baton to His disciples, and they would pass the baton on down to even us. The variable – the condition of the soils – is the condition of our hearts.
Now, at any given moment, each of our hearts is represented by each of these four soils. The good news is that each of the soils are not static. They are fluid. They can change from one to another and even to another or back to the first again. Therefore, this message is not condemning those who have the heart condition of the first three soils, but an encouragement that we can and should all pursue to change our hearts to the fourth soil type.
God uses flawed people to do His work!
One of the most well-known example of this is from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. I give you: Sampson! If you look at the things Sampson was supposed to do and the life that he was supposed to lead, he basically did everything wrong. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING! He breaks his vow as a Nazarite, he hangs out with prostitutes, he compromises his faith and devotions with his relationship with Delilah… and yet, God still used him.
Now, in one sense, this if off-putting. It doesn’t seem fair. Why lead a good live as a Christian if God is going to use such flawed people as much as anybody? But, wait a minute… we are all sinners – all flawed people with sin in our lives – and thank God that He still wants to use us!
So, as we look at the Bible’s various characters – even “heroes” – remember that it’s not really about the people (Sampson, David, Paul, etc.) as much as it’s about God. God is the true Hero of the story!
Also, remember that God is concerned about those that suffer. His compassion comes through in many ways in the Old Testament. I say this because there’s a criticism out there regarding the “God of the Old Testament”. It says that He is a “God of anger”; and the New Testament God is a “God of love”. I believe that this assumption is completely false. A close reading of the Old Testament will show that God is actually a God of compassion throughout the Scriptures, and He is interested in those who suffer. For instance, as you read through the Old Testament law in Exodus and Leviticus, God speaks over and over again about showing compassion to those who are less fortunate in society – specifically three groups of people: foreigners, orphans, and widows. And, He holds us accountable in helping these people in various ways.
Another guideline to remember when reading the Old Testament is that Sin must be dealt with. God is a Holy God and does not take sin lightly. This isn’t because God is a prude or that He has nothing better to do.
Here’s the fact: God hates sin because sin hurts us.
You see, God is jealous for us to be close to Him, but also for us to lead fruitful and abundant lives. When we sin, we lose that fruitfulness or abundance that we otherwise would have, and God hates that because He made us in His image. He would much rather that we live lives that are full of every good thing that He intended for us. Therefore, when sin encroaches on our lives, God takes that very seriously. That’s why, throughout the Old Testament, we see God dealing over and over again with the sin of the Israelites since He desires holiness from them and for them since He is holy and life is best lived in holy communion with Him.
Something else very important to remember whenever you’re reading the Old Testament: God saves by faith. Even in the Old Testament, people were not saved by their works, they were saved by faith in a relationship with God. The Book of Hebrews makes this clear in chapter 11. There are three words that are repeated over and over again: “By faith, (name of Biblical character)”. So, we see such people as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on and so on being in relationship with God by their faith – NOT by their sacrifices or obedience to the law. Therefore, don’t get caught up in the “works measure” of the Old Testament, but instead understand the faith of the various characters that we read about.
Finally, remember that God was ALWAYS pointing us to Jesus. We seem to forget about this when we read the Old Testament, but Jesus is there in Scripture from start to finish. In Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve sin and God puts a curse on the devil and men and women because of their sin, God was pointing to Jesus even in that moment. He said to Satan: “You will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head.” God was speaking of Jesus at this point. Also, in Psalm 22, we read about crucifixion – which wasn’t even invented at the time the Psalm was written – and how Jesus would suffer for us. Even when we read that the Israelites had to sacrifice a perfect, spotless lamb each year at the temple, we can see how it points to the sacrifice Jesus made for us once and for all.
There are two Old Testament characters of whom nothing bad is ever said: Daniel and Joseph, and as we look at each of their lives, they profoundly point forward to Jesus through the events that take place in their lives.
The more we understand that God was ALWAYS pointing us to Jesus, the easier it is to see the redemptive pattern that moves forward through the Old Testament, all the way to the cross of the New Testament.
When we last left Saul and his son, Jonathan, the Israelite army was under-manned, out-gunned and full of fear. So much, that the soldiers ran and were hiding behind rocks and in wells. They had lost hope.
This, week, we pick up the story in 1 Samuel 8:
8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.
Now, we’ve talked before about the “rounded characters” of 1 Samuel – Saul being one of the people that we can sympathize with. And if there’s anywhere in the Bible that we can sympathize with the guy, it’s right here. He knew what was needed. He waited for a week for Samuel to arrive. He obeyed the prophet’s instructions. But then he took inventory of everything that he was up against and thought that his current game plan just wasn’t working out for him.
Then he made the dreadful decision to do the wrong thing.
Now, in the Bible, there was another King who found Himself up against insurmountable odds. He prayed and waited and prayed and waited and prayed and waited. And God didn’t show up for Him, either.
And we’ll finish His story in just a bit.
But, getting back to Saul, Saul gave into his fear. He basically reacted out of his “fight or flight” instinct with the false supposition that the outcome of his situation was in his own hands, not God’s.
Don’t we often make the same mistake?
What did Saul do wrong? Well, in the days of the Old Testament, no one but the priests were allowed to sacrifice the burnt offering. Not even the king. This was the law. So, then we see what happens next in verse 10:
10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”
Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”
This is a textbook study of how we justify ourselves, our poor decisions, and our bad behavior.
Firstly, Saul casts the blame on Samuel rather than acknowledging his own impatience, and nothing ever goes right when you slap blame on the man ordained to speak for God. Then he makes excuses based on his own perspective in order to rationalize his decision.
Saul said that he “felt compelled” to make his move when and how he did, even without following God’s instructions.
13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Samuel, just like God, responds to Saul’s actions, not his arguments. And just like Saul, our actions will reveal what we believe and where our hearts really lie.
So, how should we act when we feel like we’re backed up into a corner and it seems as though God isn’t answering our pleas for help.
I have found1 Peter 2:21-23 as a huge help in keeping God’s perspective in times like these:
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
22 He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.
You see, just as I referenced earlier, Saul is being juxtaposed against Israel’s (and the world’s) true and rightful King: Jesus Christ.
There was a night when Jesus was backed into a corner. Where, left to His own human instincts, He probably felt compelled to take action. There was a night when he vehemently prayed that God would take the situation away from Him. And God didn’t answer. But, the end of Jesus’ prayer did not put His own comfort, desires or even safety at the front of the priority list, but God’s will. Jesus performed righteously, where Saul did not. And God’s plan was sufficient.
C.S. Lewis put it this way:
Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” ‘When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.
I think that about sums it up. Saul felt desperate, wedged into a corner. He couldn’t wait for God. Jesus was in a similar situation, followed God’s will and it resulted in our salvation!
In 1 Samuel 11, we see Saul being demonstrated publicly as Israel’s king by defeating the Ammonites, and then in chapter 12, Samuel offers his farewell address to the people of Israel – thus the end of the era of the judges in Israel’s history. Yet, while he no longer stands as a judge over God’s people, he still remains a prophet, speaking on behalf of the Lord.
So, as we pick up the story in chapter 13, we see Saul beginning to set up his political and military strongholds:
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.
Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.
Now, the fact that they have a standing army of only 3,000 is our first clue that Israel is not a very strong nation, militarily at this time.
Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
Here, we see Saul gathering up even his “reserve soldiers” to join in what he calls a “revolt”, which offers a clue to us that Israel had been in subjugation to the Philistines at the time. As we discussed before, the Philistines definitely had the upper hand on Israel both technologically and militarily. We also see in these verses that it’s not Saul, but his son, Jonathan, who is victorious over the Philistines at Geba. This will be a recurring theme throughout Saul’s reign.
The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore!.
Skipping to the end of the chapter for a bit, we see in verse 19 a paragraph that sets the battle in even clearer context:
There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews. So whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, picks, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith. The charges were as follows: a quarter of an ounce of silver for sharpening a plowshare or a pick, and an eighth of an ounce for sharpening an ax or making the point of an ox goad. So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.
Did you catch that? Not only were the Israelites vastly outnumbered, but Saul and Jonathan were the only ones wielding proper weapons! Anyone in their right mind would have been terrified if they were Saul, but I wonder if he kept in mind a previous Judge who went up against the Philistines as a military underdog. Sampson defeated 1,000 Philistines with nothing but the jawbone of a donkey.
So, with the battle now in context, let’s pick it back up in verse six:
The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.
So, not only was Saul’s army inferior in regards to weapons, chariots, and numbers of soldiers, but now many of the men of his army were deserters! Imagine Israel’s soldiers being so terrified that they were hiding in wells!
But, isn’t it true that many of us run for the hills (or the wells, as it may be) even today when we fear that our culture is on the attack? We separate ourselves from all the “evil” around us, think that if we can just hide and stay away, we can raise our children in peace. But, like the Israelites who hid in the wells, I just don’t think that’s possible. I think there’s a way to affect and influence our culture without believing that we have to be in the majority. I think that there’s a fatal flaw in the thinking that we Christians need to “retake” our nation before we can make a difference. In fact, throughout scripture and history, we see that Christians have always been sent to influence as the world’s salt and light, but not to dominate culture. We are to act as a prophetic voice in our culture, but never as kings in our culture.
Consider Joseph in Egypt, or Daniel in Babylon – people who had tremendous influence, and yet were not the majority or ruling party of the land. They were, and we should be, simply Godly witnesses and influencers of a culture that was markedly different, alien, strange, and even ungodly.
I believe that if we pick up this attitude, we would be humble in our approach to those who consider themselves outside of the Church, it would cause us to be wise yet gentle, and it would cause us to see the culture around us not as enemies, but as people who simply need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Maybe this is a time for the Church in America to be humbled. Maybe it’s a time when we need to reassess the kind of witness that we have created in our culture. Maybe it’s time for us to rethink our strategies on how we are to influence the culture, our government, and our neighborhoods.
In 1 Samuel 8, we transition to the Israeli people’s request for a human king:
As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Now, remember that we discussed this subtheme throughout Samuel of father/son relationships and leadership. Several examples are given, including this one of Samuel and his sons Joel and Abijah, of Godly fathers whose sons don’t obey God’s commands. One generation prior, we saw a similar pattern with Eli and his sons.
4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
This is probably the single saddest sentence in all of 1 Samuel. You see, the people of Israel are driven to this request because they are suffering under injustice from bad judges (Joel and Abijah). Judges that Samuel could have done something about because they were his own sons! It makes me wonder how many things are adversely affected in life because we don’t take the time to disciple, train, or discipline our own children. This needs to be a major focus of our lives!
Now, of course, at some point, our kids are going to grow up, make their own decisions and do whatever they’re going to do, but I can’t escape this theme that when fathers didn’t raise their children as they should have, it put the entire nation of Israel in a bad place, to the point where they were even tempted to want things that God didn’t want for them.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t a bad thing for them to want a human king – in fact it’s written in their constitution (Deuteronomy 17:14-22). But, unlike the kings of their neighboring nations, God intended for the king of Israel to be a fellow servant to and appointed by God. This is a HUGE difference in leadership.
Believe it or not, this applies to our day to day lives, too.
Too often we want what other people have (house, job, perfect marriage) regardless of if it’s what God wants for us at the time. What we NEED is what God wants to give us, but so many times we just see the outward appearance of what we think others have, and we long for it.
But, just like to the Israelites, God is in the habit of showing us our needs, allowing us to take our own path, and then giving us an alternative.
6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”
21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.
Next time, we’ll talk about the type of king that the people want, compared to what God has in mind for them.
Sometimes things really are as simple as they seem. This will certainly be true in this PODCAST, as we discuss together one of Jesus’ most remarkable statements.
Matthew 11:20-24 (NKJV)
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
We could use a whole series of words to describe what Jesus said, all of which begin with the letter “S.”
His message was surprising, as Jesus will say something that sounds totally out of character for Him.
His message was sobering, as His words contain a warning that, as you will hear, went completely unnoticed.
His message was simple; in fact, you could boil down all that He said in this powerful passage to one simple word. One word that truly is the Gospel in miniature.
Leave it to Jesus to take what we make so complicated and turn it into something so simple.
You see, this entire passage hinges on one particular phrase: “…they did not repent.”
If we look to the Old Testament story of Jonah, we see him (eventually) deliver God’s message to the wretched town of Nineveh, and the Ninevites completely repenting and turning from their ways. A dramatic behavioral change, indeed! They turned from their evil ways, turned to God, and their society lasted another 150 years.
Then, if we look at Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, we see a young man who turned away from his father, but then “came to his senses”, repented and came back home to his father with a changed heart and changed behavior.
And what is God’s response to those who repent? Just like in the parable, He runs home, throws his arms around them, and welcomes them home to His kingdom.
You see, repentance is the coin of God’s realm.
And its value is immeasurable.
We, however, tend to add so many pieces to the puzzle on how to find favor with God and be welcomed into His family.
If only we could adhere more closely to the words of John the Baptist:
In those days there appeared John the Baptist, preaching in the Wilderness (Desert) of Judea
2 And saying, Repent (think differently; change your mind, regretting your sins and changing your conduct), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Or, consider Jesus’ words from Matthew 4:17
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
You see, Jesus’ message to the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum should resonate in the hearts of all of us today: repent now, because destruction is coming for those who refuse to choose to think differently, change their minds for the better, regret their sins and change their conduct.
It happened in the no-nothing little town called Nain.
Why there? Why to that woman? What was the point?
And most importantly, as you will learn in the PODCAST, what does this teach us about the nature, character, and heart of God? His heart towards me. More significantly, His heart towards YOU!
First off, let’s look at God’s Word:
16 Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.”
How did the people know that they had been visited by God, Himself?
Well, they understood God’s character, His nature, His heart – what He is like – and recognized what took place in their midst.
And they were terrified. Shaken to the core!
You see, understanding the context of the miracle in Luke 7, including the little town called Nain, will help us understand the character, nature and heart of God, just as the people in the scriptures did.
Firstly, the miracle took place soon after the healing of the Roman centurion’s slave in Capernaum. Jesus then walked (and brought along a huge group of followers) down to the little village of Nain.
But, why Nain?
Location, location, location.
First off, it’s very name, Nain, can be translated to “pleasant” or “charming”. It features 360-degree pleasant views of Mt. Carmel, the hills of Nazareth and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a beautiful place. But, if His boyhood home of Nazareth was a mere six miles away, why take the crowd to Nain?
Because that’s where the widow was.
There was a funeral in Nain, where a widow’s son was being mourned, and Jesus rose him from the dead.
But there had to be several other funerals between Capernaum and Nazareth, so why Nain?
Probably because Nain was pretty much the polar opposite of Capernaum. Nain had no strategic, economic, or even Biblical significance – contrasted to Capernaum which was a metropolitan hub of its day.
Another contrast is the fact that while in Capernaum, the centurion sought out Jesus and sent people asking for His help. But in Naim, Jesus Himself sought out the widow who had just lost her only son.
You see, by choosing Naim. By choosing the widow. By choosing the exact context of where, when, to whom, and in front of whom Jesus performed the miracle of raising the boy from the dead, Jesus proved His innocent motivation and left no doubt that His deeds and intentions were pure.
But what about the miracle, itself?
This “raising of the dead” story was recorded only by Luke – Doctor Luke. A guy who knew all about the differences between being dead and “mostly dead”, or alive but sleeping heavily, or just really, really sick.
Jesus’ timing was absolutely (miraculously) perfect to arrive in Nain just as the procession for the young man’s funeral was leaving the village.
Then there’s the miracle:
When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. (Luke 7:13)
There’s Jesus’ motivation. Not money, not power, not P.R. or influence – COMPASSION! And still today, God’s heart still flows with compassion. For you. For me. For all mankind.
“Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
That is a picture of the heart of God towards us all: filled with overflowing, gut-grabbing compassion that acts on our behalf for you and for me. Compassion that is not a noun, but a verb. Compassion that – like the widow – will meet us in our darkest of hours to bring to us the brightest of lights. His love when we are hated, His embrace when we are rejected, His peace when we are stressed out and worried, His comfort when we are tormented, His joy when we are filled with sorrow, His gladness to replace our sadness, His hope when we are hopeless, His life when we just want to die, His fullness when we are empty, and most importantly His presence when we feel so alone.
God has visited His people today.
The question is, do you choose to recognize Him like the people of Nain did, or do you reject Him and His compassion as the people of Nazareth did?
In so many of our past podcasts in our Jesus in HD study, we have examined many of the things that Jesus did.
In this PODCAST, we will take a good long look at something Jesus NEVER did.
WWJND? What Would Jesus NEVER Do? Certainly not this!!! Jesus NEVER did this. When you discover what He never did, you’ll be so eternally grateful that He never did. And never will. Not to you. Not to anyone.
And because He never did this, we love Him, and admire Him, and aspire to be like Him all the more.
You will find this to be so endearing a study that I cannot wait for you to get into it.
Let’s start by looking at what Jesus did right after preaching His Sermon on the Mount:
Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
Now, let’s start off with the premise that true Christ-followers should never stereotype. Christ didn’t do it (as we see in this passage), so therefore we shouldn’t do it. Jesus loved – and continues to love – every individual without any discrimination whatsoever.
You see, Capernaum was somewhat of a metropolitan town in Jesus’ day. It featured a sea wall and promenade with piers and a protective harbor. It was populated mostly by Jews, but included Romans (in particular centurions) and other nearby cultures.
And, speaking of centurions, this one that Jesus encountered – like all the “blood-thirsty Roman occupiers” (sense the Jews’ stereotyping?) – was not a popular man among the Jews.
Likewise, slaves were looked down upon as less than human – merely a tool. In fact, it was written by ancient Romans that the only difference between an ox, a slave and a cart is that a slave had the ability to speak.
Therefore, to see Jesus come into contact with a centurion and his slave, to abandon all cultural norms and typical stereotyping and still love them – this sets an example for all of us today that we should deeply consider.
With Jesus, there are no stereotypes, no profiling of any type, no biases whatsoever. So should it be for us.
Whenever Jesus saw people who were thought to be “less than” by His culture (lepers, Samaritans, adulteresses, etc.), He did not see individuals who should be avoided, but people who were created in God’s image – fully deserving of His love.
Likewise, whenever we – as Christ followers – come into contact with those considered “less than” (you fill in the blanks)… carefully consider how you interact with them. Do you truly follow Christ’s example, or our culture’s?