Devotional 45: Made to Stumble

Mark 14:27-31  Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night,[a] for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’[b]

28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

***************

Let me set up a scenario for you:

You’re in a dark, cold cell; hungry, tired, and thirsty.

Heavy chains and manacles are on your wrists and ankles.

Vermin nip, flies beset, and you’re shivering.

The cell door opens, and in come the guards again; you see they mean business, again.

Heavy blows that hold nothing back rack your face and body, and once again, the long, cold, shiny blade is laid against your throat, and the spit lands on your cheek as they pull your head up by your hair and use the blade to life you on your toes, and it breaks the skin as you feel your neck start to bleed.

“Renounce Jesus,” they say, and you open your mouth….

**************

The goal is to be like Christ, but as I’ve said before, we’re more like Peter.

Our faith is not entirely based on what we believe of Christ, but also what we believe of ourselves.

How steadfast and faithful we are in our own minds! How unwavering and brave!

When storms come, the Christ image in our minds sets our faces like flint, but on the inside we’ve taken our eyes off Him, and we don’t dare say, “Lord, save me!” because of a moment of fear and doubt, or in the midst of a trial.

We are told over and over again that the Apostles not only didn’t understand, but ultimately they were afraid to question Him on what He meant. (Mark 9:30-32)

In our weakness, we try to repair the torn veil or substitute it by statements of boldness: “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

And then an unbeliever exposes us to the harsh light of our tormentors, and we curse, then hide and weep.

I am thankful that He has compassion, and that He knows me better than myself.

We’re only fooling ourselves, and I am thankful that He forgives a broken heart and contrite spirit.

He later asked Peter three times if he loved Him, one brick of restoration for each one Peter broke apart with his denial.

Do we love Him enough to die, figuratively and literally, that He might not be ashamed of us, deny us to the Father, and command our departure to the outer darkness? Paul admonishes us to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall.

Let us build each other up in faith, and with joyful hearts embrace our fates like ‘the others’ in Hebrews who received no miraculous rescue from persecution and death because the world ‘was not worthy of them.’

Peter’s bitter tears finally humbled him, but the Lord uses that in which we are gifted to His glory, for in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of three-thousand because of Peter’s boldness, and he never looked backed (except when he lapsed in front of Paul. Big mistake…)

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters; He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If I scatter, let my bitter weeping make the ground good soil and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit to speak light to darkness, love to hate, but mostly truth to power. Let me be compassionate but uncompromising, bold but not self-righteous, fearless with faith and holding onto Your promises of a prepared place.

And let me always speak, as You did, in love. Let my words be few as they point to Our Father, that He get all the glory, honor and praise.

Thank You for looking upon this unworthy servant, and restoring him to be reconciled.

In Your Name, I ask it.

Amen

Christmas Witness

CHRISTMAS WITNESS (Luke 2:17-18) Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

A group of unschooled men on fire with a holy message should sound like a familiar bell to our ears. Walking the streets of Bethlehem, they spread the message: Emmanuel.

At the doors of the inns where the people slept, waking the highborn and the low, with fervent, reverent whispers, with excited gestures, with joyous shouts, they spread it throughout the length and breadth of their travels, throughout the night. Whatever silence there had been was now filled with something better: Emmanuel

And all those who heard wondered that these men, not prone to talk of things fantastic, not subject to flights of fancy, walked among them with something so important to them that they could not keep silent, speaking to them of visions and angels and heavenly praise, followed by directions to where a living prophecy fulfilled lay in a manger: Emmanuel

This Christmas, let us not keep silent in the face of those who would say “Stop speaking in this Name!”  Time grows short, and there are those who would yet marvel that our own hearts burn with a holy witness, though we’ve seen Him not.  Emmanuel (G-d with us)

Amen

Christmas for All

CHRISTMAS FOR ALL Luke 2:10

“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be to *ALL people.” *(Caps added).

Again, from the beginning, God intended His Word to reach ALL the nations, first to the Jews, then the Gentiles. It was never to be contained, but to enfold. The shepherds, social outcasts, were the FIRST to hear the news of the savior’s birth.

How is it then, that we debate over His skin color, what He said, who He meant it for, WHY He said it? The issues are trivial and from the pit of Hell that keep the FAMILY of GOD divided.

Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

If He was Black, ALL NATIONS would include Europe, Sweden, Finland, etc. If He was White, ALL NATIONS would include Africa, India, South America, Asia. This is why the Model Prayer begins with: “OUR Father, who art in Heaven…” It is, “Thy will be done on EARTH,” not, “Thy will be done only in Israel.”

ACTS 17: 26-28
26 And He has made from ONE blood[a] EVERY nation of men to dwell on ALL the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (caps added).

Include someone in your Christmas celebration that was never included before, and show them the love of Christ.

Christmas Signs

CHRISTMAS SIGN: Luke 2:12

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

God tailored the sign given to the recipients of the news. Not for the shepherds the subtlety of a Star in the east, but an angel in their midst. The shepherds received a Savior; the Magi were told of a King. The shepherds’ message was given in a startling fashion so that there would be no misunderstanding of the event that had taken place.

The Magi had been studying the star and plotting to follow it long before.

How fitting they bought gold, so that a carpenter could afford to flee to Egypt.

And frankincense, a kingly scent to overpower the smell of livestock.

And myrrh, a burial spice, prophetic in its symbolism, as was the oil of anointing at Bethany.

Shepherds were not welcome in places such as palaces and temples, so access would be given them by placing the newborn King someplace where they too could see and worship.

But the city of David was the city where the pinnacle of King David’s line was born. The Magi would be welcome there, and treated as the royalty they were. And when they arrived under the guidance of the star they worshiped Jesus, not his parents.

Of the thousands of babies born that night to swell the ranks of the census, this one was in a special place, a place where typically no human baby would ever be placed, a container to feed cattle and sheep.

A synonym for manger is “crib.”

Later He would come to say, ‘He who eats my body…’

The signs that point the way to Him are still being revealed to those who would walk the path to see and worship, and those who would look for the signs G-d has promised He would set in the heavens.

May the knowledge that your King is accessible to you, and that you may partake of Him, bring you comfort and joy.

Amen.

Devotional 41: A Triumphal Entry, A Confession of Defeat

John 12:12-19

The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’[a]
The King of Israel!”

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”[b]

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

As they saw the people leaving, those who witnessed the dramatic raising of Lazarus, and those who heard of it from the witnesses, their hearts must’ve failed within them, for in this they saw, finally, that Jesus had broken their oppressive grip on the people.

Caiaphas had prophesied that:

” (Jesus) would gather together in one the children of G-d who were scattered abroad.”(John 11:52)

Their plotting to kill him was intensifying, but Jesus knew what to do and stayed on mission, knowing what He was going to endure. How easy it would’ve been to slip away, to be seen no more, to give over control and the oppression that came with it back to the men who believed themselves empowered by G-d to twist His Word to their benefit.

But then, we would not have the final cry of Our Savior gaining victory over sin, death, and hell: “It is finished.”

He did well to try to get them to see that the Law they so loved to quote and add to was embodied in Him, that the patriarchs existed to guide Israel to Him, that Moses and the prophets were writing about and speaking of Him, but they refused to see.

It is with good reason our Lord tells us to set our minds on things above, for these men were lost in the trappings, living for the approval of men. Even now, ministers of the Gospel are falling prey to this in a world of immediate gratification and accolades for doing wrong and evil things.

And even in this, we see the Word of the Lord being played out before us. Nation against nation, brother against brother, divided houses of worship falling prey to predatory teaching and false doctrine.

We would do well to remember that in His capacity as Savior, our Lord admonishes us to remember these things: to watch and pray, that he who endures to the end will be saved, that there is no other name under Heaven by which we come to the Father, and we have been called out of this world, that we may receive the gifts of Grace, Salvation, and Eternal Life from the Wisest, as He received gold, frankincense, and myrrh for our sake.

Therefore I pray,

King Jesus, 

I ask that You bring to remembrance in me all that You’ve said to do, to bring to mind the promises of the Father for me through You. Help me to watch and pray, to fast in seeking, to build altars in my home, and set guards over my mouth and heart, that my meditation be pleasing to You.

As I celebrate Your birth, help me not to be sentimental, disconnecting its importance from Your resurrection to which Your own 12 witnesses and Mary Magdalene have seen, to which Thomas proclaimed You Lord and G-d, for having seen You, he saw the Father too.

In the year ahead I ask Your blessing over all my house and those of my family in You. I ask Your protection, that no weapon formed against me will prosper. I ask Your mercy once again over the wrong I know I will inevitably do as surely as sparks fly upward, and I thank You for the grace you will impart.

Help me, above all, to know that it is in You I live, and move, and have my being.

Thank You for paying the price of this servant; I would not grieve Your heart for doing it.

In You there is eternity, and as time grows shorter, draw this lost sheep closer, for I would be found by You even as I seek, as the father ran to the prodigal.

In Your Name above all names, I ask it.

Amen.

Christmas Lights

Luke 2:9

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.”

A light from Heaven suddenly overtakes you.

In your world, this has never happened. It’s night time, and you’re outside, and suddenly….

We have the gift of hindsight, but the shepherds were afraid. Greatly afraid.

Did they cry out, shield their eyes, maybe even start to run? Yet, the light was not hurting them, or blinding them, or burning them. It was just sudden.

He is the God of “suddenly.”

Remember the conversion of Saul? In Acts 9:3 we read:

“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” 

We are admonished to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (John 1:7)

May the light of God surround you with peace, and change your life, your heart, with the news of the blessed birth of our Savior. It really doesn’t matter what day, it matters that it happened.

“The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters.

Devotional 32: Let Them Grow Together…

Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

This parable is often not preached, in deference to the one about the Sower and the seed, which is the Word, but I found myself drawn to this for a few years now, especially as the times upon us now continue to unfold in seemingly unchecked aggression, fighting for rights, and strife along racial and economic lines.

I am reminded of the admonition to take the lowly place, so that we may come up higher when called by the host, instead of taking the high and lofty place, and lose it to someone of greater stature. Jesus said the least in the kingdom of Heaven was greater than His cousin and herald, John the Baptist. As Christians act like Pharisees, and compromise with the world (me included), and don’t practice grace and judging righteously, speaking Truth in love, and loving one another even inside the Way, we must walk in faith while watching, praying, and making disciples of ALL nations, not just the ones who look like us. We must be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

What draws me to this parable is that:

1- the landowner’s property had to be big, if an enemy was able to get in and sow weeds undetected (figuratively speaking).

2- the plants looked enough alike that weeding them before the harvest would’ve culled the good along with the bad.

3- the good crops are utilized, protected by the barn, and used by the landowner for the good of others, feeding them on that which is whole and good.

4- the tares are to be destroyed, consumed by fire, and made to disappear.

But here’s the main thrust of it: They looked so enough alike as they grew that the servants would not be able to tell them apart.

There are former Christians who have left the faith for various reasons. John says they were not of the faith or they would have remained.

John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

There are new believers entering the faith:

Luke 23:39-43

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,[j] save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[k] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

I would be among the sheaves of joy, going into the Kingdom, forever protected, forever sinless, forever useful, forever praising God and serving Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, remember me indeed, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

I bless Your holy Name above all names that took my wretchedness into your dying body, and purged me of fault before the Father, that I might be with you, on that day, resurrected in Paradise.

Help me then, Lord, to store up my treasures in Heaven, where thieves don’t break in and steal. Strengthen my desire to be ever like You, and less like me. Cover the filthy rags of my self-serving righteousness in Your spotless blood, and save me from the fires waiting for the unfruitful and purposeless, and the outer darkness of the rebellious and faithless, in the time of Harvest.

Do not blot my name from the Book of Life, that I may eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden, and live forever with You as my Savior, Brother, Master, Lord and King.

I ask it in Your Name, in faith believing.

Amen.

Devotional 30: Depart from Me, for I am a Sinful Man…

Luke 5: 1-8

 

5 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So 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. 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 which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

 

That night the fish proved smarter than men, for they weren’t where the disciples were fishing in the cold water, all night long.

Tired, discouraged, with nothing to show for their efforts, and feeling like failures in their own calling, they then sit patiently while Jesus teaches the people from the boat, because it’s too crowded on the shore.

We are not told when Jesus finished speaking to the crowd, but now he’s about to reward their patience in spectacular fashion.

But now comes the test not only of faith, but fortitude: Put out into deep water…

   Surely they’re thinking, what does the son of a poor carpenter know of the sea?

But Jesus had never claimed to be the son of a poor carpenter.

“,,,and let down the nets for a catch.” A twofold command.

The large, heavy nets they just finished washing and setting aside, they now have to take back with them, and go into deep water. It took longer to get to the deep water, was more turbulent and prone to currents, and harder to control the boat.

And Peter, who had to listen to Jesus sermon to the people for who knew how long, was now tired, and his answer, like the command, is twofold. He testifies to what they’ve done in their own strength, that they’ve toiled all night and caught nothing, but then he submits to the Lord’s will: “Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net.”

So when Peter hears and obeys the Word of the Lord, the nets are not only filled for one boat, but two.

Peter, James and John are astounded, but it is Peter the passionate who sees and knows this is the Father at work in through the Son.

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

How like the centurion Peter is in this moment. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, only say the word…

Peter is speaking from his heart, and while Jesus is concerned with the heats of mankind, He in fact came to redeem the souls back to their Creator.

Evil knows good, and will use it, trick it, and corrupt it if possible.

But evil fears holiness, and can’t abide in its presence.

Our Lord says the world hates Him because He testifies to it that its works are evil, because the prince of this world walks it, and ravages those who would hear and obey the Word of the Lord.

He makes us weary in worldly pursuits, and we testify to the Lord of them: I’ve worked hard all night, all these years, all this time, and have nothing to show for it.”

And it’s there some give up and turn away, while others yet say, “Nevertheless, at Your word, I will…”

Which one will you be?

if the latter, welcome then, to the army of God. Get ready to fight the current in deep water, and by faith our Lord promises there will be no way to prepare for the overflow that will be the honoring of your faith and obedience in Him, the Living Word.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I am grateful that it’s I who must obey you, and not the other way around, for I would tell you to depart from this sinful pod of flesh. It would be a foolish request, for then I would die unclean, unjustified, unrighteous, and not reconciled to the Father, and my soul condemned.

I can’t deny the wide road to Babylon is smooth and pleasant, and the city itself, like the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, is pleasing to the eye, and indulges the senses. I cast a disparaging eye to the narrow road to the kingdom of G-d and eternal life, full of bloody thorns of martyrs and saints, with a narrow gate lost in the fog of the hilltop.

But I am grateful that when I say, “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man,” looking toward Babylon with anticipation, and I, not You, move away, You endure the heartbreak again, and watch me go, but wait for me to come back to myself, and return to Your open arms, receiving me again with rejoicing, and walking with me once more.

Thank You for blessing me in the midst of my rebellious obedience that testifies to my own strength first, but ultimately, nevertheless submits to You.

May it ever be so, and in Your Holy Name I ask it.

Amen.

 

Devotional 28: Will You Also Go Away?

John 6: 60-70

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[a]

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

Jesus had just alluded to what seemed to be acts of cannibalism and violation of the Law against consuming blood, much less doing it willingly.

Being simple men, these disciples did not understand that Passover itself embodied the coming of Christ through the symbolic eating of bread and drinking of wine.

A hard saying, indeed. “Who can understand it?”

Jesus’ attempt to clarify by teaching on the Spirit only served to further obfuscate.

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

It seemed that at this point, the desertion of Jesus began en masse, since He turned to Peter after the uncomprehending crowd dispersed and asked him, “Do you also want to go away?”

And Peter’s reply, eloquent and affirming as it was, did not keep him from denying he even knew Jesus at all.

I wonder if, even though Jesus knew from the beginning that this would happen, if it broke His heart to see the disconnect in the eyes, the stopping of the ears, and as they began to turn their backs on Him, if he felt hurt.

I’d like to think so, yet He loved on many who didn’t believe, and as they ‘walked with Him no more,’ neither did He walk with them.

I’m thankful that the year of the Lord’s favor, the covenant of grace, allow us to yet seek Him through the Spirit’s divine revelation, at the Father’s direction, while He may be found. But if we continue in doubt, willful disobedience, and outright rebellion, there will come a day Jesus can’t be found.

And it will be too late.

If, therefore, He will not let us be snatched from His hand, let’s not pry his fingers open with hard hearts, blind eyes, and stoppered ears.

Let’s not think eloquent prayer will keep us from sinfulness.

Let’s not think we won’t sleep in the garden when the hour has come.

Let’s not think we’d believe on His Name without signs and miracles.

Let us take heed not to think we stand, lest we fall, as the Apostle Paul admonishes us.

Let us hold fast to our Savior, knowing that the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the wooden doorposts of the Israelites delivered from slavery has become the Lamb’s blood shed on the wooden cross to break our spiritual chains to sin and death, and reconcile us in love and worship to our Eternal Creator, now and forevermore.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, thank You for grace and mercy, thank You for healing and restoration, thank You for blessings, and delivering me through my trials.

On the days, and in the moments, when I would turn my back to walk no more in communion and fellowship with You, I beg of You to call my name, and to remind me that I am in the Book of Life because of the Bread of Life, because of the vine that connects You to me, and us to the Father.

I repent of belief based on signs and wonders, and embrace the faith of the centurion, a faith so great that even You exclaimed in admiration of it.

I repent of not obeying Your words, for I am a foolish man in a house of sand, founded on sand.

Call me forth from my spiritual grave, Lord Jesus, that I may never turn away, because as Peter said, there is nowhere to go, for only You have the words of Spirit and Life, and You speak them to me, casting pearls…

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 27: Stretch Out Your Hand

Matthew 12:9-14

Healing on the Sabbath

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Sabbath, the sacred day of rest, when no work is to be done, knows no rest from the Pharisees’ plotting, yet Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, not replace it.

We read where crowds are astonished at the way Jesus teaches, because He ‘taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,’ who taught what they were able to glean, or manipulate, to keep the people docile, uninformed, intimidated, and under control of the powerful, and wealthy, religious leaders.

Yet their jealousy persisted, and with every attempt to trap Jesus in the things He said, they lost face with the people, and control of their power.

What they failed to realize is that the Sabbath itself is given to us as a day of restoration, to rest from our labors, restore our strength, our family ties, our relationships with others and our communities, and to reflect on the goodness of the Lord.

Their question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was therefore a foolish one.

Jesus, ever teaching to the secrets of the heart, answers them with an analogy that speaks to their need to preserve their wealth, for livestock was wealth, and they would rescue a sheep from a well in order that they might continue to profit from it, because they loved wealth rather than G-d and their fellow man.

But men are more valuable to G-d than livestock. Isn’t that why He sent us His Son?

Also, Jesus asks something of the man with the withered hand. We don’t know if the Pharisees brought him to the synagogue to be complicit in their plans, but we do know he didn’t go unnoticed and ignored by Jesus even if that was the case.

And so, a test of faith and obedience:

“Stretch out your hand.”

Jesus doesn’t touch him, but as the hand draws closer to the presence of the Lord, it’s made whole again, and useful now to the kingdom of G-d.

Obedience and faith must be our hallmarks as believers. We must act, ‘in faith believing,’ and pray ‘as if (we’ve) already received,’ and the restoring power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will do its part.

Therefore I pray:

This, O Lord, is simply a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for restoring me to G-d, that I might see the light of His glory and not die, for You are the light of the world, and the bread of Heaven, and You have promised me eternal life through belief in your Name, and obedience to your Word.

Today, I stretch forth the withered hand of my faith, Lord Jesus, right where I am, right now, knowing You will make it whole again the closer it gets to Your presence.

Your unworthy servant bows low before You, to thank You for paying my debt, and granting me the mercy of Your shed blood for my sake, and Your grace to help me up when I stumble.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making my spirit whole through Your broken body, now in glory, and seated at the Father’s right hand.

I long for the day we meet, and I am made whole anew, and forever.

Amen.