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Weekly Word

Entries in Cross (3)

Tuesday
Apr032018

The Victory of the Cross

Mark 8:34-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Easter Sunday, April 01, 2018.

It is no secret that Christians see the cross of Jesus as a moment of incredible victory for Him and for us.  It is that moment of overturning what looks like sure defeat.  It is truly a snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.  However, it is easier to get excited about His victory at the cross than it is to think about what that victory would mean in my life.

In this life it is ingrained into us by our own thoughts and desires that winning looks a particular way.  Young people who want a particular yummy item and continue to whine and beg for it are filled with the elation of victory when an adult finally surrenders and gives them what they want.  When that special someone agrees to go on a date, a young person feels that joy of success.  When our job application is accepted for that job we have wanted so badly, we are pumped and on cloud nine.  Marriage, children, cars and houses, all of these things are arenas in which our mind and body seek to be victorious and feel the joys of winning.  In all of these, we fall into the trap of believing that success is getting what our flesh desires and wants.  But Jesus taught us that to live for such a purpose, and to “win” by such a definition, is no victory at all.  It is only a deeper and deeper entrapment of our soul into a prison cell from which we will never escape, that is unless we take up our cross and follow Jesus.

This is why the Apostle Paul could rejoice when he said, “Now thanks to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”  2 Corinthians 2:14.  When Christians actually pick up their cross and follow Jesus, it brings forth a different kind of victory that has little to do with how our flesh “feels” about things.  So as we think about the victory that Christ obtained at the cross during Easter weekend, let us recognize that Jesus is asking us to walk with him in this new, strange victory that He is giving us.

Jesus has called you to Himself.

Verse 34 opens with the phrase that Jesus called the people to Himself.  Now the story of Jesus and His coming into the world is a miraculous story all the way around.  But the biggest miracle is not the virgin birth, or a resurrection from the dead, although these are amazingly great.  The greatest miracle is that the Creator steps down into our world and comes to our side as someone that we can see and with whom we can identify.  Yes, I can’t identify with a virgin birth.  But, I can identify with a child who is under the threat of people who hate his existence and call him an illegitimate child.  I can’t identify with a resurrected Lord, but I can identify with the man who was hated, pilloried, and publicly crucified by those around him.  Maybe I cannot identify at the same level of experience, but definitely I can identify with the same level of vulnerability. 

Having stepped into our world, Jesus calls us to Himself.  He draws us to Himself.  This is the heart of God.  It may appear that He has not cared about you and has given all the gifts to others.  But the reality of Jesus and the cross forever calls us away from envy, jealousy, and the striving of this world.  In Jesus God is calling us to Himself.  But, why does He call us to Himself?

First we see Jesus giving those who came to him teaching or understanding.  God is a teacher at heart.  In Jesus He has stepped into a world of people who keep striving to win, but have little understanding about how to truly win in life.  He steps in and offers us teaching, understanding, and wisdom.  But God wants to do more than download information into our heads.  There are many who only see the teachings of Christ as a kind of ideological virus.  Yet, being a Christian is about more than a particular understanding about life.

Jesus calls us to Himself because He also wants to have a relationship with us.  We were not created by God to live in isolation of Him.  When we live our lives only to please ourselves, we become like a little child with our head down at Christmas playing with the toys and ignoring the parents who sacrificed to buy those toys.  God has created a world full of pleasures and joys.  But it is our selfishness and lack of relationship with The One who created it all that fills such a world with pain and suffering.  Come and have a relationship with The One who redefined what it means to win, The One who took the things of this life to a whole new level, a level that included The Creator who made it all.  You were not intended to go through life alone, and that is why The Creator is calling you to Himself.  He wants you to know His love for you.

Jesus has called you to follow Him.

Relationship is not just emotions and feelings.  It is also a continual, living connection.  Our relationship with God through Jesus is not intended to be a once a year thing at Easter, or a once a week thing on Sunday.  Jesus is calling us to become followers of Him, to follow Him to a particular destination.  Such a connection will affect the physical places to which you go throughout the week, but it is more than that.  Jesus is going on to victory, and he invites us to join Him on this journey.  Last week I said that Jesus offered Himself as the King of Israel, but not in a way that satisfied their fleshly desires.  The same is true in this situation.  Jesus offers Himself as a captain or leader who will take us on to victory, but not in a way that satisfies our fleshly desires.  He says that He will lead us to victory, but He marches towards a cross.  Can you trust such a leader?  Your flesh can’t and won’t.  Are you more than your fleshly desires?  It is as if Jesus walks through a cross-shaped doorway and then beckons you to follow Him through it.  Every part of your flesh shrinks back, not because it doesn’t want victory, but because it cannot conceive of such a doorway leading to any victory that it wants.

Jesus tells the people gathered that if they want to follow Him then they are going to have to do some things first.  They will have to deny themselves in order to follow Him.  It would be appropriate to use the situation where the disciple Peter denied Jesus to analyze this statement.  On the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter followed the soldiers to the High Priest’s compound.  He stayed out in the courtyard trying to find out what would happen to Jesus.  Someone recognizes Peter as a follower of Jesus, which leads him to declare that he did not know the man.  Remember that earlier Peter had boasted that if everyone left Jesus, Peter alone would stand beside him.  Here was his moment.  The moment where the dreams of Peter’s flesh (to be the faithful disciple that is better than all the rest) meets the hard reality of what it really takes to be such a person.  Such a person has to make a hard choice about what desire to satisfy.  Yes, the flesh wants fame and glory, but it doesn’t want suffering, hardship, and crucifixion.  Denying ourselves is seeing Jesus and the desire of our flesh side by side and choosing to stand with Jesus, not our fleshly desire.  Denying ourselves is to allow the desire that we want so badly to be drug off and crucified, instead of Jesus.  In life, when I encounter a problem in following Jesus, like when my flesh want to choose the easy path, but Jesus is telling me that victory lies on another path, precisely at that point is where I will either deny Jesus or myself.  It is not enough to agree with Jesus on 99 points, but refuse to follow on 1.  It is not a denial of our flesh to follow Jesus in the areas where we agree with Him.  No, it is only a denial when my flesh pulls the other direction and tempts me to say that we are done with the man Jesus.  I can’t have both Jesus and the desires of my flesh.  When Jesus says to love your enemy, my flesh laughs and calls such things foolishness.  My flesh says that I can’t win by going that direction.  To follow Jesus and live by His principles or mindset is to say no to ourselves and to say yes to Him.  It is to take our place beside Him and say, “Crucify me too.”

This is why Jesus adds that we will need to pick up our cross in order to follow Him.  This image was literal for Him and many disciples in that first century.  However, the cross is a metaphor for our own personal death to self.  Each person will have to pick up their personal cross (notice he does not say that we will need to pick up his cross).  Denying yourself is not some kind of asceticism where we remove all sensory pleasures from our life.  Rather, it is about picking up that particular cross that has our name on it.  It is about denying those things that are standing in the way of following Jesus and obeying Him.  So what was standing in the way of Jesus’ victory?  Perhaps the desire to raise up a mob and throw out the corrupt religious leaders.  He would also need to raise up an army and miraculously lead it to victory over the Romans so that Herod could be deposed, and Jesus take his place.  He had to die to taking over the world and becoming its emperor and forcing the world into His thinking underneath a boot to the face.  Jesus had crucified such fleshly desires internally before He was ever nailed to the cross.  He had to die to all those natural desires to stay alive, vindicate yourself, and strike down your enemies.  Instead he loved his enemies and blessed them even as He was dying (Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.)

But the real question for each one of us is this.  What is standing in the way of me following Jesus?  Clearly it is not a Roman oppression and worldly-minded Pharisees/Sadducees.  Perhaps it is your reputation that you will have to die to.  Perhaps the things that you know you will have to quit doing or even start doing that are standing in the way of following Him.  Is it forgiving someone who has hurt you deeply?  Your flesh tells you that victory in these areas cannot possibly be found in following the cross-path which Jesus has blazed.  If you are trying to hold on to both Jesus and these conflicting desires then you will find that the tension will increase until you are about to be pulled in two.  At some point you will choose one master and hate the other.  Which will you deny?  Can I choose the path that looks like losing, simply because Jesus is going there?  That is the challenge.

Jesus has called you to victory.

Even though we are called to follow Jesus to our own particular cross, the cross is not our final destination.  It is only a critical waypoint.  Jesus does have a real victory that He is offering us, both in this life and in the life to come.  Thus one of the favorite descriptions used of Christians in the book of Revelation is “overcomer.”  To deny ourselves, pick up our cross and persevere in following Jesus throughout this life is called overcoming the world.  Yes, our victory is mainly a spiritual victory over the lies of our flesh and the lies of this world.  However, it leads to something much more.

But, let’s look at the spiritual part first.  Jesus asked the question, “What will it profit a man to obtain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  Think about what he is implying.  Every time that a person chooses the path of pleasing the flesh over the top of pleasing our Creator, we lose a little piece of our soul.  We were not designed to have “pleasing the flesh” as our purpose in life.  The body was to be a tool that our soul used in this life, rather than our soul becoming a tool of the body.  When we live that way, we little by little give up a piece of our soul.  Something inside of us dies and we lose the freedom and authority that we had over ourselves.  We find ourselves, little by little, coming under the tyranny of this body that is slowly wasting away.

Another way to think of this is to remember the words of Jesus in Luke 21:19.  “By your perseverance, take possession of your souls.”  Jesus uses terminology that hints at Israel coming into the Promised Land.  It had giants that had taken over the territory.  If they wanted it, they would have to trust God to help them win the battles.  Similarly, we have lost territory in our souls by serving the flesh.  When we come to Christ, He challenges us to fight these giant strongholds of fleshly desires by His Spirit.  By persevering with our faith in Christ, we will have the victory, which is to have back our own soul.  The truth will set you free.  Now, even when the teacher has taught you how to win, it is not easy to follow through.   Perseverance is that part that keeps going when every other part wants to quit.  It is easy to start following Jesus, but it is difficult to stay with Him all the way.  Yet, in so doing, you will find that God gives you back your soul.  There will be a life within you that replaces the deadness inside.  This is a true victory that we can have in this life.

But the victory is not just a spiritual or unseen victory.  Jesus has called us to receive glory and honor at the day of Judgment.  Jesus actually rose up out of the grave, presented himself to over 500 people at various times over the course of 40 days, and then ascended into heaven in front of their eyes.  In verse 38 Jesus puts the stakes in a negative light.  If we choose to satisfy our flesh then there is a day of judgment when Jesus returns with His holy angels.  Those who lived for their flesh and denied Jesus will find shame and disgrace.  But those who picked up their cross and followed Him will find glory and victory.

The cynic will reply that Jesus hasn’t come back yet, and chances increasingly are that He never will.  But life teaches us that there is always a day of reckoning.  You can avoid it your whole life, but eventually the truth catches up with you.  Only a fool tells themselves that they can cut the corners, serve only their self, and get away with it (i.e. be victorious).  Jesus stands on the other side of the cross and beckons us to walk through it to victory.  This strange door causes our flesh to fear, but it is the path to true victory.

Victory of the Cross Audio

Tuesday
Mar012016

Prayer and Temptation

Luke 22:39-46.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 28, 2016.

If the cross is the visible, public trial of Jesus then here we see the private trial in which he wrestles with God over the things before him.  Ultimately Jesus gives us a key to facing trials and temptations, and that key is prayer.  Without prayer we are unprepared for them, no matter how strongly our spirit wants to please the Lord.  Peter is very determined to stand with the Lord, but will fail in the time of trial.  Jesus is not just praying for himself.  He is also teaching his disciples a lesson in temptation and overcoming the flesh.  It is also a glimpse of the agony involved in saving mankind.  Rebellious humanity can be saved, but only at great cost to God Himself.

Pray About Temptations

In verses 39 through 41 the scene transitions from the upper room inside Jerusalem to a garden outside of Jerusalem.  Judas is off to betray Jesus, so we only have Jesus and the eleven going across the shallow valley east of Jerusalem.  There they enter the Garden of Gethsemane, which is near the bottom of the Mount of Olives.  He knows he is about to be arrested and is very clearly picking the ground upon which it will happen.  It is important to recognize that Jesus gives them the command to pray.

Jesus is not running away or trying to hide.  We see this in the words “as he was accustomed.”  Jesus could have snuck out of the city and kept going.  However, he stops and spends time praying while his betrayer marshals troops to come after him.  Jesus goes where Judas would know to find him.  They had spent time there and it had become a part of their routine, especially in this last week.

Jesus also tells them why they should pray.  Somehow it will enable them to avoid temptation.  The terminology is actually the idea of entering into temptation.  Temptation itself is merely a trial or a test in which we are tempted to choose something other than God’s will.  There is nothing wrong with praying to avoid such tests.  However, some tests cannot be avoided.  Thus we need to pray also that we will not give in to those temptations or fail the test.  The Bible refers to this as falling.  It is as if you are walking the way of the Lord and something trips you up and causes you to fall down.  We also have some further description in the other Gospels.  Jesus tells them that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  So when we take time to pray about the temptations and trials that we see ahead of us, it can enable us to overcome the weakness of our flesh.  Peter’s strong declaration of faithfulness to Jesus becomes the perfect illustration of this.  There is no reason to think Peter is lying.  He really does want to be the kind of disciple that would stick with Jesus even when everyone else leaves.  Yet, in the crush of the trial his flesh is unable to stand up.  Jesus is showing us that our lack of prayer and wrestling with God over the temptations of life keeps us spiritually weak.

Another aspect of prayer is that Jesus clearly wanted some people to pray with him.  Sometimes you need people close in prayer and sometimes you need to get alone.  This passage gives us a bit of both.  Luke’s account here is somewhat short.  But the other Gospels tell us that Jesus left 8 of the disciples in one area and then went a distance away with Peter, James, and John.  He even then separated a little further from them.  Thus they are close enough to hear him praying but not right next to him.  When you are facing difficult trials the sense of being alone can become overwhelming.  Having people who will not only pray for us, but also with us is imperative.  Make sure that you have friends who will pray for you and with you.  Yet, some things are so deep and so personal that we need to get alone with God.  In fact, Jesus often went off by himself to spend time in prayer.  This seems to be a mixture of both.  He wants to get alone in prayer and yet he needs them to pray with him.  May God help us to learn how to come alongside of a brother or sister in prayer when they are going through difficult circumstances and hard trials.  You don’t have to force yourself upon them.  Simply let them know that you are there for them in whatever they need.

The Lord Leads The Way

At verse 42 we get a glimpse into the prayer of Jesus.  He is our pattern and template for faithfully serving God.  So this prayer and others are important to understand.  First we see Jesus asking to avoid the cross.  The magnitude of what lies ahead weighs heavy upon the humanity (i.e. the flesh) of Jesus.  As the eternal Son of God he has already agreed to this and is just as committed as the Father.  Yet, here he is in the flesh about to go through with it and his flesh is pulling back away from it.  Now he must reaffirm the commitment in his humanity.  His time has come.  He knows that God will allow him to be taken and killed.  There are moments in life in which we face a particular decision.  Regardless of how we choose, we will then be caught up in a series of events that we can’t control.  The die is cast.  This is that moment for Jesus.  If he runs he can avoid it.  But if he stays here they will catch him.  Of course this is no gamble, but control of how this will end up is being surrendered.  Once he is arrested the human side of Jesus will have no escape short of God’s intervention.  Such heavy laden decisions must be approached with spiritual fear and trembling.  Lord help us to learn to pray in such a way that we are able to discover his will and surrender our flesh to it.

Though the flesh of Jesus is pulling away, it is not greater than his desire to do God’s will.  Specifically he is here to save mankind.  In Hebrews 12:2, speaking of Jesus, says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He knew the end game and how important it was.  He knew what would be lost if he didn’t and what would be won if he did.  Jesus was not obligated by anything but his own love for us.  May this image remind you in your own times of doubt that the Lord loves you with an everlasting love that is willing to suffer the depths of sorrow in order to reclaim you.

At this point God strengthens Jesus by an angel.  This also happened at the beginning of his ministry when he was fasting for 40 days and the devil tested him.  Here as well as there, Jesus is in need of physical strengthening.  I do not believe the angel is strengthening the resolve or faith of Jesus.  But rather, the angel is enabling his physical body and physical psyche to endure the stress of the situation.  We do not realize how much our lack of knowledge about things in our life is a blessing.  It is a blessing because it enables us to live with peace.  If we understood completely what lay ahead of us we would most likely not eat or sleep.  Yet, in those moments when harsh realities set upon us and we become fully aware, God has many means of providing strength for us.  In fact, we should pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in such times.  We see Jesus agonizing over the coming contest with severe mental and physical struggle.  This only causes him to pray more earnestly.  Our flesh tends to give up on prayer when we become overstressed.  Yet, it is important to pray more earnestly in these times.  We don’t have to be desperate, although we sometimes are.  Jesus can identify with the agony that we endure in such times.  He can empathize with what hangs over you.  In fact, because He has already overcome the world, we can rejoice.  We have hope that just as God brought Him through, so He will bring us through too.

Jesus is not the only one who is stressed here.  The disciples are exhausted from stress, lack of sleep, and sorrow.  Jesus had to wake them several times calling them back to pray.  I do not believe this is just because they didn’t want to pray.  Stress and sorrow can overwhelm a person so much that they physically shut down.  I am not excusing them, so much as pointing out the issues involved.  Some can even get to a point where they are barely able to function.  We must learn to recognize the spiritual danger around us before we get so low.  Does the Lord understand our lack of strength?  Yes, and he even empathizes with us.  Yet, before his arrest, he makes sure that these words would be stuck in his disciples’ hearts.  “Pray lest you enter into temptations.”  Prayer is far more important than we realize.  Sure we must put feet and hands to our prayers.  But don’t thing that your faith will survive the trials of this life without it, whether from yourself or others in your life who love you.

Prayer and Temptation Audio

Tuesday
Aug262014

Misunderstanding Greatness

Luke 9 is filled with situations that deal with the issue of greatness: the greatness of Jesus, the greatness of his disciples, and the world’s idea of what greatness means.  Today’s passage is Luke 9:51-56 and focuses on Jesus being rejected by a Samaritan village.  When Jesus is rejected several of the disciples want to destroy the village.  This story forces us to ask the question, “How should a great person react to rejection?”  Isn’t greatness defined by how many people receive you?  In truth, Jesus was great.  The crowds initially flocked to him for self-interest.  But, the closer he came to the cross the fewer people there were around him.  So let’s look at this passage.

The Resolution of Jesus

It says in verse 51 that when Jesus knew it was time to be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.  This Hebrew idiom of setting ones face towards something is a picture of resolve.  If you want to go somewhere you first turn yourself in that direction.  Christ intentionally headed towards Jerusalem and his crucifixion.  It was the next major stop along his destination of sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, this Samaritan village was along the way.

Now let me just point out that when it says Jesus was to be received up (also to be taken up) it is pointing to the ascension into heaven.  This same word is used in 1 Timothy 3:16, “He was…taken up into glory.”  It is easy sometimes to know the wonderful things ahead of ourselves and not pay attention to the difficult things that lie in the path to it.  Jesus is headed towards ascension, but rejection and crucifixion lie on the path to it.  It takes firm resolve and a steadfast spirit to stay on such a path.  In order to be glorified our Lord must first be killed.  He bravely marches towards his death because he knows it is a necessary step towards the heavenly work he is doing now.  If he is not crucified and resurrected, then he will not be able to be that high priest who intercedes for us before the Father.  Thus, it is important for us, as believers in Jesus, to understand the purpose of God in this day and age.  We have a glorious future ahead of us that God has promised.  And yet, there are many difficult things that we will encounter throughout our life on our way to that glory.  We may not understand all that they are as Christ did.  However, we must prepare ourselves to be resolute and steadfast.  I have to learn to firmly march towards things that I do not want to deal with in order to reach the good things that God has for me on the other side.

A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus

Though John 4 records the Samaritan village of Sychar receiving Jesus, here we have the opposite.  As Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem, certain ones are sent ahead to prepare a place to stop, rest, eat, and most likely minister as well.  This would prevent a situation where they all arrive weary and hungry while someone looks for a place to stay.  Plus, it would enable the word to get out to the surrounding area that Jesus would be there.  He could minister to far more that way.  Yet, at some point, the destination of Jesus comes up and the villagers are not happy.  Jesus is headed to Jerusalem.

The racial and religious difference between the Samaritans and the Jews comes to a head here.  The wall of hostility between the two was because of the attitudes of both sides.  They were willing to embrace Messiah if he promoted their side of the religious argument.  Of course Jesus was not a partisan in this debate.  He pointed out the errors of the Samaritans and the Jews.  In fact, the religious Jews were rejecting Jesus for many of the same reasons.  He wasn’t supporting their view.

Now it is most likely that it was the elders of the village who were standing in the way of Jesus staying there.  Either way, the effect of that decision is that they will miss out on a blessing.  The blessing of healings, being set free from sin, and salvation, could have come to this village.  Pride and stubbornness often cause us to miss out on blessings that God has for us.  He is not going to force them upon us.  Yet, we push them away because of things we are not willing to experience.  Are you so tied up in the interpretations and traditions of your ancestors that you are missing what God is trying to do today?  Even the secular world has its own traditions and views of life.  Yet, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, our pride and stubbornness can wall us off from God’s blessing.

James And John Rebuked

James and John’s violent reaction to the offense of rejection is rebuked by Jesus.  But let’s look a little deeper here.  Why would James and John be so offended that they want to destroy the village?  We are given no description of what is going on inside of James and John.  However in Mark 3:17 we are told that Jesus had nicknamed these two, “Sons of Thunder.”  They both seem to have had stormy, quick tempered personalities.  We definitely see such here.  There is probably some bigotry going on here as well.  Jesus had been rejected in other places too.  But this Samaritan village receives their greater wrath.

Either way, James and John ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven and destroy the village.  Yes, they were probably offended on behalf of Jesus.  But they were men just like you and I.  They were offended on their own behalf too.  They don’t want to scare the villagers, or give them a sign to impress them.  Rather, they want to destroy them.  They ask Jesus because he is the master and because it is in keeping with what happened earlier in Luke 9.  Jesus had given his disciples authority to heal, cast out demons, and proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  He hadn’t given them authority to do this.  Thus they are more than asking permission.  They don’t have the ability to bring fire from heaven.  They are asking for God to back up their pronouncement.  Have you ever prayed such a prayer?  “Lord, give me the power and strength to crush and destroy those who stand against me!”  We need only look at how our Lord responded to those who stood against him to know his response to us.

Now the newer translations only say that Jesus rebuked them and they left.  This has to do with the fact that when the older translations were done we didn’t have all the manuscripts we do today.  It seems that early on some notes were added (whether by Luke or others we do not know) to explain further. 

So, the words “like Elijah” appear to have been inserted.  This explains the reason the disciples would have thought of such a drastic action.  They are clearly thinking back to the story of the prophet Elijah in 2 Kings 1.  After Ahab’s death, Ahaziah ruled.  One day he falls and is injured.  So he sends messengers to the false god Baal-Zebub in the Philistine city of Ekron for a prophetic word concerning whether he would recover or not.  Elijah intercepts the messengers and tells them to tell Ahaziah that he is going to die.  When Ahaziah hears the news he is angry and sends 50 troops out to capture Elijah.  The captain of the troops refers to Elijah as “man of God.”  To which Elijah responds, “If I am a man of God then may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”  Fire does come down from heaven.  Ahaziah sends out another 50 men with the same results again: fire comes down and consumes them all.  When Ahaziah sends out a third group of fifty soldiers, the captain is a humble man.  He tells Elijah why he has been sent but also begs for his life and the life of his men.  Elijah then relents and goes with him.  In this story Elijah represents God’s Law and is not going to be killed by Israel’s king.  When we approach God in arrogance and the might of men we can only expect to be judged by His law. But when the man approached in humility and begged for grace, he was received.

Now that situation is very different from the Samaritan village.  We can be too quick to use examples of godly men for our own justification.  Christ had been rejected before and no such thing was ever encouraged.  He had told them when he sent them out that if they are rejected they are to shake the dust off of their feet and move on.  In the case of Elijah they sought to apprehend the man of God outside of God’s will.  But, here they do not want to apprehend Jesus.  They are simply saying, “Go somewhere else.”

Jesus rebukes this attitude.  Whether these words were added or not, anyone who has studied the teachings of Jesus knows that this is exactly the reason he would rebuke them.  The spirit of Christ was not motivating them to destroy the villagers, but rather it was the spirit of Satan.  What manner of spirit am I?  That is a powerful question.  The Bible says in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  They wanted to judge quickly out of hurt pride and revenge.  This is not how God judges mankind.  When God’s judgment comes it will not come out of pride and hurt.  It will come from a pure holy understanding that nothing more can be done to reason with those who have chosen rebellion.

Even the teachings of Christ stand in opposition to this vengeful request.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who do you wrong.  Bless them that curse you.  Jesus commands this, not because it is okay.  But, he commands it precisely because the long suffering judgment of God has been appointed for a specific day and it will come upon them.  This is the day of God’s grace.  This is the day where God wrestles with man and cries out, “Why will you die?  Come let us reason!”  The spirit of this world is quick to judge and quick to destroy.  But, the Spirit of God is slow to judge in order to leave room for repentance.

Thus Jesus rebukes his disciples because he is here to save people not destroy.  It is impossible for fallen men to perfectly perform the judgment of God.  Only Jesus can do that.  He is the one whom God will send to judge the world and many will be destroyed in that judgment.  Judgment is final and we are too quick to pronounce eternal judgments.  There is no overturning it and no coming back from it.  Thus God is slow to judge.  Don’t let your emotions misrepresent God.  We too often get God’s greatness mixed up with our own.  Jesus says to us, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  This will take a steadfast resolve and a humble understanding of what a great person does when they are rejected. 

Misunderstanding Greatness Audio