FRIEND OR FOE?

In Luke 9, Jesus brings the twelve chosen followers together for a team-talk.

They are given authority to cast out evil spirits and heal people to demonstrate the Kingdom of God that Jesus was proclaiming. He told them to spread out to all the towns and villages.

He then gave some specific travel advice. “Don’t take anything – no bag, no food and if someone welcomes you, stay at their house while in that town or village. If you go somewhere and they refuse to welcome you shake the dust from your feet and move on”. 1

Firstly, it is important to note, Jesus appointed His closest followers. The Complete Jewish Bible reads ‘Yeshua called his twelve talmidim”. When we read “disciple” or “follower” in our New Testament versions, the Hebrew word is “talmid” or “talmidim” in the plural.

There really is no equivalent concept in contemporary Western thinking for a “talmid”. It was a Jew who voluntarily endeavours to fully identify with his or her master in all areas of life–who dedicates his or her life to become like the master in every way. There is an analogy of a trade apprentice who spends years with the master craftsman, but even this falls short. “Talmid” dedicate themselves to the task of living, eating, sleeping, working, playing, loving, suffering, bleeding, and breathing every moment with God so that His deepest purpose becomes theirs, or better, that they become His purpose. The Hebrew concept for this deepest purpose and desire is called “sebyana”, and aligning oneself with God’s “sebyana” does not come overnight. After years of walking with Jesus as his “talmidim”, his closest companions still didn’t get it at times. 2

In the book of Matthew, Jesus also instructed the twelve to “only go to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep”. At this point, Jesus is yet to fulfil the Law and (as Zechariah has prophesied) “cleanse Israel”. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” This was God’s plan for Israel and is mentioned by Matthew because his writings concentrate on the Jewish people. As we will read, it also explains why Jesus told them not to take anything.

Jesus gave them instructions that sound radical to us: “Take nothing for the journey – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts…”

Taking this passage literally, some Christians have gone with little or no money to places that don’t have the same high regard for hospitality that existed in Jesus’ day. And even though God can provide for them, it seems clear that Jesus wasn’t asking his disciples to count on daily miracles to sustain them. Instead, He knew that the “talmidim” of an esteemed rabbi would normally be warmly welcomed in any Jewish town or village. Any community that failed to treat His disciples with honour deserved to be left behind. In a land without police, social welfare, or insurance agencies to provide for people, mutual dependence was vital to survival. 3

These twelve were the close “talmidim” of Jesus. To reject the rabbi followers was to reject His teaching. And rejection came with a serious curse “leave the place and shake its dust from your feet”.

Dust was a damnation featuring in God’s first curse. “Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed. You will crawl on your belly, grovelling in the dust as long as you live.” To the man, He said, “For you were made from dust, and to dust, you will return.”

The land of Israel can be a very dusty place where rain is truly a blessing. Dust means a lack of life and growth. Dust was formally put on the head when in grief and repentance. As we read a few weeks back, it was believed evil spirits lived in deserts and near graves. 4   

Matthew 10:15 goes on to say “I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day”. This is a city that was completed raised to the ground by the wrath of God. A story well-known by the Jews.

What can the modern Western reader take from this passage?
This event is recorded in the middle of the gospels. Why do you think Jesus sent the twelve out at that point? To spread His message quicker or prehaps to train the twelve?

1. Bible: Events recorded in Mark 6:7-13 / Matthew 10:5-15 / Luke 9:1-6
2. Website: TALMIDIM by Dave Brisbin Link
3. Book: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith Link
4. Website: Jewish Concepts: Demons & Demonology Link

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TOTAL REVERSAL

Last week we observed Jesus commanding nature and evil spirits. This week He follows on by displaying authority over sickness and death1.

Throughout this event the two interactions with Jesus mirror each other:

Character
A man called Jairus
Character
A woman in the crowd
High social status
The leader of a local synagogue
Low social status
Unclean because of condition
Dilemma
His only twelve-year-old girl was dying.
Dilemma
She had suffered twelve years with constant bleeding.
Public approach
In front of the crowd, he fell at the feet of Jesus pleading fervently.
Private approach
Thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.
Action
Jesus took the dead child by the hand.
Action
Reached out her hand to touch Jesus
Private
Jesus insisted that the parents should not tell anyone what had happened.
Public
Jesus affirms the women’s healing to the whole crowd.

There is no formula to ‘how’ or ‘why’ Jesus might heal us. Neither is it dependent on ‘who we are’ or ‘what we do’.

But there is one certainty – Jesus has the power to restore.

By God’s ceremonial law, Jesus would have been made unclean by touching the woman and a dead body. The woman who touched Jesus’ outer garment (possible one of His traditional ceremonial tassels) recognised she would make Jesus unclean. She was scared of being rejected and hesitated in admitting to her action.

But Jesus is Holy.

In the Old Testament, the place where God chose to meet with his people was a place of contagious holiness. It was so supercharged with holiness that merely touching the very instruments of worship in the tabernacle would make a person holy.2

When we reach out to Jesus the flow of our sin is reversed by His Holiness. Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” Jesus is ‘greater than’ death.
Jesus (life)  sin (death)

Last week we read Jesus telling the possessed man to tell every one of his healing. This week Jesus tells Jairus to tell no one. Why?


1. Bible: Events recorded in Matthew 9:18-30 / Mark 5: 21-42 / Luke 8: 40-56
2. Website: TOUCHING JESUS MAKES YOU HOLY Link

GREAT CALM

In Luke 81 we read of Jesus performing two demonstrations that reveal the Kingdom of God. Controlling the elements and the evil spirits of this world. An authority that brings calm into the fear and confusion of this world.

In both situations, the human response is fear despite Jesus being in complete control.

Commanding the waters
Jesus got into a boat and sailed across the lake with his disciples. Soon Jesus falls asleep. A fierce storm develops and the boat begins to take on water.

The fishermen, accustomed to rough waves are terrified. Which suggests the water was pretty turbulent. Perhaps they would have been fine but Jesus is woken up and rebukes the storm.

Suddenly there is a great calm.

Jesus has already performed some amazing demonstrations. So why do the bewildered disciples ask “Who is this man?”

Every week in their Sabbath liturgy, Jews recall Israel’s miraculous redemption from Egypt with these words: “Your people saw your Kingdom as you cleaved the sea before Moses.” God was showing His people who is really in charge of the universe.2

The Jewish people associate power over the waters with God. Two fundamental stories in their history are Creation and Exodus where God moves and controls the waters.

In that boat, the disciples had just been presented with actions of a ‘God-like’ power. A mystery suddenly appears. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

They may believe Jesus was the Messiah but is He… God?

Who is this man?

Do they still not fully believe in Him? Jesus replies to their questioning. “Where is your faith?”

Commanding evil spirits
The boat arrives at its destination.

The second demonstration of God’s Kingdom is a show of redemption and purity. They arrive at an unclean Gentile region to be greeted by a man (two men according to Matthew) possessed with unclean spirits. This man is living among the unclean dead.3

I confess, if a possessed man who can break chains approaches me I will probably run the other way!

Jesus doesn’t.

The disciples have no clue what is going to happen but Jesus is in complete control.

It’s the unclean possessive spirits who are terrified and ask Jesus “Have you come here to torture us (send them into the bottomless pit) before God’s appointed time?” They plead to be sent into a herd of 2,000 unclean pigs instead.

Jesus gave them permission and two things happen:

  1. The unclean pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drown.
  2. The man now stands delivered and renewed through God’s mercy (Jesus).

Sounds like a baptism.

A crowd soon gathered around Jesus but these people are bad soil. The people of the region urge Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.

Jesus leaves them with a living demonstration. A man who would testify to his friends and family of how Jesus transformed him from being in utter torment to peace.

Consider

  • How often does fear rather than faith control your actions? 4 Remember the promise of Jesus to be with you.
  • Do we have authority to control the elements?


1. Bible: Events also recorded in Mark 4 & 5 and Matthew 8
2. Book: Sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus. – Page 168.
3. Book: Mealtime Habits of the Messiah – Chapter 20
4. Website: Faith vs Fear – https://www.gotquestions.org/faith-vs-fear.html

TEACHING METHODS

Jesus teaches us with two particular styles.

1. The Demonstration
We read last week of Jesus demonstrating Gods heart towards a repentant sinner. Jesus would often demonstrate His authority by a calming a storm or healing many people.

2. Buzz Groups
The parables of Jesus have a distinct purpose. They introduce questions within stories that require our response. What does this mean? How does that make me feel?

His parables create ‘buzz groups’ that discuss one or two specific questions or issues. The place soon fills with noise as people ‘buzz’ in a discussion.

In Luke 8, Jesus reminds the crowd of when God commissioned Isaiah. Israel would listen carefully but not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing. They would have hard hearts.

Jesus explains His parables will allow people to hear, but not all will understand. Look beyond metaphors such as lamps, money, houses or seeds. Parables unveil the nature of the heart.

Some will get it. Some won’t.

Fertile Soil
In Luke, we read The Parable of the Four Soils. Jesus explains this is about people accepting the Word of God. The four soils in the parable represent four kinds of people and the effect that the message of God has on them. Still true today, Neil Cole encourages Christians to invest in good soil1.

The Word of God (the seed) is alive and powerful. What is God saying to you right now?  Jesus warns of three things that can stop us growing in Gods Word. The deviltemptation and pleasures of this life. What condition is your soil?

Light a Lamp and Listen
In the second parable, when God lights a heart it shines and will be seen by all. Any hearts that are hidden will also be revealed.

If we listen to Jesus, our hearts grow. Those that ignore will become spiritually dull.

Consider how Jesus taught by demonstration and posing questions.
How could you incorporate this into your teaching?

1.  Book: Organic Church – Chapter 5 – Kingdom 101 You Reap what you Sow. – Page 61

WHAT DOES FAITH LOOK LIKE?

Pharisee called Simon invited Jesus into his house for a meal. Like many others, Simon wants to know, who is this Jesus? There were many theories going around, a prophet, a heretic, a teacher, a madman, the Messiah! An invitation like this was a common practice in first-century Israel.

If you had been a first-century Jew, you probably would have heard a saying in circulation for at least a hundred years: “Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.”

The Jews of Jesus’ day greatly prized the study of Scriptures. Many of their most gifted teachers walked from town to town teaching from the Bible, asking no pay in return. People were expected to open their homes, providing food and shelter to these wandering teachers and their disciples.1

A woman who was known by the host turns up at this event with a rather expensive gift for the guest speaker.

Then it all gets a bit unconventional. She begins to cry. Then proceeds to anoint Jesus will perfume and then kiss and wipe His feet with her hair. The suggestion that she is a prostitute (sinner) perhaps makes it all feel a bit awkward.

But her actions have cultural significance.

Foot bathing signified the status of an honoured guest and usually was the task of the lowest house servant. This service became a common Jewish custom at formal banquets and took place either on arrival or before the feast. Kissing was an act of submission, respect, gratitude, supplication, neediness, and humility. 2

Women were second class in this society so imagine what life was like for a prostitute. A women’s hair was seen as her pride and joy. To show it off was licentious behaviour. To wipe someone’s feet with it was a sign of humility.

Last week we read the expectations of how a Messiah should behave. This week Jesus fails to act like a prophet should. Jesus politely reminds Simon that he has failed to act as The Host With The Most. He should be treating Jesus like royalty!

Presumption or humility. What is your heart towards Jesus?

Why would this woman face rejection and judgment for such a public statement?

Faith produces good works and this woman is saved by her faith. If passion for Jesus burns inside do we suppress it or let it move us? The jar of ointment would be a highly valuable and according to John’s gospel, was worth 300 denarii. She probably spent her life savings on it.

This women’s display was a fine example of extravagant faith in Jesus. So what’s the reaction?

Humanity, since the beginning of time, has not trusted God’s wisdom to discern good and evil. Instead, we choose to define it for ourselves. This passage shows our willingness to judge others.

Thank God, that His Son Jesus clearly did not come to condemn our humanity. He only requires that we recognise our sin, who He is and ask Him for forgiveness.


1.  Book: Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus – Page 14
2.  Website: Origins of Foot Washing & Foot Kissing

MESSIAH CONDUCT

Chapter 7 of Luke’s gospel tells of John the Baptist sending disciples to ask Jesus if He is their saviour?

At this point, John had baptised Jesus and was now in prison. So why is a man filled with the Holy Spirit from birth unsure of who Jesus is?

John the Baptist is the last and greatest of the Old Testament-style prophets. From a priestly Jewish family he lived a simple life as a Nazirite in the desert. Like the previous prophets in the Bible, he communicated Gods message to the world in a challenging way. Perhaps John’s question comes out of a surprise to hear the Messiah would spend some of His time eating and drinking with sinners.

Jesus firstly points to His miracles and speaks of God blessing those who are not offended by Him. Like the Roman officer that amazed Jesus at the start of the chapter, our faith in Jesus must be strong.

He follows this up by telling the crowds who John the Baptist is by referencing the book of Malachi. The listeners would know Malachi, the last book of the Neviim (prophets) section in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). The Prophet Malachi instructs them to honour God and wait for His coming righteousness.

Jesus quotes from Chapter 3 and tells the people that John the Baptist is the messenger who makes way for the Lord. This reference is an indirect prelude to Jesus being the Lord Whom they seek. Those that recognise this will prove themselves children of wisdom.

the-tanakh

SETTING GOALS

This is an extract from a book called Living L’Arche by Kevin Scott Reimer.

The development of goals happens in fits and starts, in large part through time spent with the core members of L’Arche. Accordingly, I asked caregiver assistants to write down 12-15 personal goals in order of greatest importance. I separated assistant responses into two groups with the intention of considering developmental differences in character based on years served in L’Arche. The first group was known to have served for one year or less. The second group served for five or more years. Assistant goals were sorted with the use of a sophisticated computer program that mimics human learning. For newly arrived assistants, goals were organized into five clusters of meaning. The first cluster was termed self-consistency (e.g. ensure I am treated fairly, do my best, and do the right thing). The second cluster was identified as openness (e.g. be open-minded, make contact with others, and consider future directions). The third cluster was named adventure (e.g. seek new experiences, be financially independent, and seek new relationships). The fourth cluster was identified in terms of empathy (e.g. take care of people, and be helpful in stressful situations). The fifth cluster was noted in terms of lifestyle (e.g. live simply, waste few resources, and eat less).

For long-term assistants, the first cluster was named balance (e.g. find a balance between work, prayer, and play, and practice patience). The second cluster was understood in terms of groundedness (e.g. make time to garden, keep in touch with friends, and find space to relax). The third cluster was framed in terms of self-care (e.g. take a nap, go for walks, and sit calmly for 20 minutes). The fourth cluster was identified as interpersonal responsibility (e.g. forgive others who hurt me, maintain a good relationship with my staff, and give love to those I serve). The fifth cluster was named awe and ethics (e.g. look at stars, live in gratitude, and be a godly disciple).

To my thinking, the goal classification process made good sense in outlining a better understanding of behaviours that arise with the development of character. Newly arrived L’Arche assistants mention goals related to identity formation. In effect, rookie assistants are attempting to find themselves while mapping the priorities of the community. They must quickly and correctly read the intentions of others a daunting task when working with developmentally disabled persons who may lack the ability to communicate clearly. In particular, empathy suggests a capacity to understand the perspectives and feelings of other people, helping cultivate an interpersonal ethic given to care. For this assistant group, goals are highly social. Consistent with their status as newly arrived participants in a community, goals are geared toward improving self-understanding across a range of diverse relationships. Assistants are preoccupied with getting along with others and figuring things out. Central to their goals is a spirituality of action before contemplation, seasoned with a measure of idealism.

By contrast, long-term assistants offer more contemplative goal systems, demonstrating a marked capacity for self-reflection. Idealism is tempered by recognition of personal limitation and the means by which spiritual insights emerge through difficult circumstances. These are the mature goals of people with clearly defined boundaries relative to the community. While L’Arche values are abundantly evident in the narratives of long-term assistants, there is evidence of creative synthesis and revision. The L’Arche emphasis on simple living is reframed around self-care such as taking a nap. Spiritual commitments are sprinkled throughout the clusters, some carrying moral implications. Long-term assistants are looking for concrete ways of integrating spirituality into the most mundane aspects of daily life. Responsibility, fidelity, love, and fairness are hallmark character standards virtues by which these assistants attempt to live. The path is characterized by weathered morality and spirituality. Hope reminds L’Arche members that the highest ideals of community are realized in earthy and sometimes painful circumstances.

New Care Assistants Experienced Care Assistants
self-consistency

e.g. ensure I am treated fairly, do my best, and do the right thing.

balance

e.g. find a balance between work, prayer, and play, and practice patience

openness

e.g. be open-minded, make contact with others, and consider future directions.

groundedness

e.g. make time to garden, keep in touch with friends, and find space to relax

adventure

e.g. seek new experiences, be financially independent, and seek new relationships

self-care

e.g. take a nap, go for walks, and sit calmly for 20 minutes

empathy

e.g. take care of people, and be helpful in stressful situations

interpersonal responsibility

e.g. forgive others who hurt me, maintain a good relationship with my staff, and give love to those I serve

lifestyle

e.g. live simply, waste few resources, and eat less

awe & ethics

e.g. look at stars, live in gratitude, and be a godly disciple