On the very night that Herod was planning to bring him out, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, chained with double chains, while guards maintained a strict watch in the doorway of the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side. His chains fell away from his hands and the angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.”
And he did so. Then the angel continued, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” So Peter followed him out, not knowing whether what the angel was doing were real—indeed he felt he must be taking part in a vision. So they passed right through the first and second guard-points and came to the iron gate that led out into the city. This opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and had passed along the street when the angel suddenly vanished from Peter’s sight. Then Peter came to himself and said aloud, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from the power of Herod and from all that the Jewish people are expecting.” Acts 12:7-11
This little narrative – from the man sleeping in his cell to now standing outside unchained – is so fun, despite its seriousness, that to me it’s almost silly. This is the wild, whimsical, all-powerful, uncontrollable way of the God we're serving! This, in fact, is actually our story – let me prove it to you:
Under the darkness of this world, it was as if we were asleep between sin and death, chained with double chains, while the Accuser maintained a strict watch in the doorway of our prison. Suddenly the Lord Jesus appeared, and His light shone throughout the world. He took our stripes and woke us from our deathly sleep, saying, “Get up quickly, for I have risen.” Our chains fell away from our hands and then Jesus said to us, “Fasten on the Belt of Truth and put on your sandals fitted with the Gospel of peace.” (Eph. 6)
And we did so. Then Jesus continued, “Wrap the robe of my righteousness (Isa. 61:10) round you and follow me.” So we followed Him out of the old life, not knowing whether all of this was real, it seemed so good — indeed we felt we must be taking part in some heavenly dream. So we passed right through the condemnation of sin and death and came to the curtain that led into the presence of God. This tore of its own accord from top to bottom, and we went through and passed into the Holy of Holies, into the Throneroom of the Father and, at His right hand, Jesus. And there we came to ourselves and said aloud, “Now I know for certain that the Father has sent Jesus to rescue me from the power of sin and from all that the evil one was expecting...”
For just a moment, try to imagine that night alongside Peter. Feel the cold wet stones of the prison floor; smell the filth, the sickness of that place; look out into the unlit darkness of the cell: that sort of darkness that hurts the eyes as they find nothing to focus upon…
And now, moments later, imagine standing in an empty city street, looking up at the twinkling of the stars overhead! Friends, this is how good Jesus is, how fully free He’s set us free; we must learn to relish in our absolute freedom! We are free!
John the Baptist: "It is true that I baptize you with water as a sign of your repentance, but the one who follows me is far stronger than I am — indeed I am not fit to carry his shoes. He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit..." Matthew 3:11
Isn't it fascinating that the forerunner of the Kingdom, the only one with the microphone, the voice crying in the wilderness to make the Way ready and the path straight, when he describes the intent and scope of Jesus's coming work, says it's what?
"He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit."
John the Baptist says that Jesus is primarily, too, a baptizer. And why does this matter so much to John, why should it matter so much to us? Romans 7:6 - “…We are free to serve God not in the old obedience to the letter of the Law, but in a new way, in the Spirit.”
John's work, John's life was to prepare for the new Way of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is a Kingdom of the Spirit, not the Law. The old was over, the new had come, and the bringer of this baptism of the Holy Spirit was just coming over the nearest hill, right about now...
Do we know that One for ourselves?
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Today, I am challenging you to live in the true reality that there's complete uniformity of concrete experience available in the progression of the words in these verses. When your "foot slips" - either your actual foot or you just "feel like you're slipping" - stop and do nothing and wait for an actual, practical experience of His unfailing love to bubble up from within you. When anxiety feels great and overwhelming within you, I personally challenge you to stop what you're doing and talk to Him and wait not only for His peace (which will come, by the way) but even, far more fantastically, for Him to lift your heart unto a joy that conquers the world: His own joy!
These are the offerings He has for you. Unfailing love and Joy.
“Spiritual power is seldom found because it is so often sought. It cannot be found if sought directly. If sought directly for itself, the seeking will be tinged, most likely, with desire for spiritual power for purposes of personal success in religious work, for the acclaim that comes to anyone who spiritually excels. This introduces a fatal element. Spiritual power is a by-product of something deeper. It comes out of inward fellowship with God and abandonment to his purposes. Most of us have no spiritual power because we are not abandoned. ‘Blessed are the pure [literally, the single-minded] in heart: for they shall see God.’ We are not single-minded, hence we do not see God in inner fellowship and in outward power. It is not that we do not love him but that we do not love him completely. We give to him, but do not give up to him.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
Then the devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of mankind in a sudden vision, and said to him, “I will give you all this power and magnificence, for it belongs to me and I can give it to anyone I please. It shall all be yours if you will fall down and worship me.” Luke 4:5,6
Satan will show you whatever it takes to sway your heart away from Jesus. Whether it be “the kingdoms of mankind,” wealth, possessions, power, sex or influence, it’s his favorite practice to see which axe will fell the tree of our belief. So what are we to do? How can we steel ourselves against his alluring voice?
Brothers and sisters, we must become so practiced in dwelling in the midst of our Kingdom-inheritance that we’re absolutely ruined for anything less. We must daily walk the hallways of Heaven and know the glories that are actually already ours through Christ, so that nothing else compares!
How's that as a barometer for your "quiet time"?
These are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed to them, by the lot of their inheritance, as Yahweh commanded by Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half-tribe. For Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe beyond the Jordan; but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. (Joshua 14:1-4)
As you'd be told if you kept reading till Chapter 18, this was because the Levites' duties as priests, their access to Yahweh Himself, were the inheritances they were meant to enjoy and delight themselves in. What an important reminder for us! Whether you read these words as one with great earthly wealth or as someone struggling to get by, your only real inheritance – the place from which you should derive all your identity and joy – is your access to Jesus and, by Him, His Father. Everything else is as nothing. His love - and the service of that love - is everything.
"But you are God’s 'chosen generation,' his 'royal priesthood,' his 'holy nation,' his 'peculiar people' — all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you..." 1 Peter 2
“The System gnashed on them with its teeth, struck out at them and broke its own arm in the striking. The disciples smiled their way through threats, rejoiced their way through stripes, sang their way through prisons, and triumphed their way through death. And the multitudes watching found themselves wanting the very thing the disciples had. This freedom! This poise! This moral power! Here religion, while on the offensive, was not offensive; it was winsome, compelling. Their weapons were strange indeed – they turned other cheeks, went the second mile, gave the cloak also, refused to do anything but love their persecutors. And they won! Of course they did. What can you do with a thing like that? It never knows when it is defeated, for it turns its defeats into victories and it turns its Calvaries into Easter mornings.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
I've been reading Exodus lately and was struck this week by how the enslavement and discouragement of the Hebrews led them to revolt against Moses's earliest interventions on their behalf. In Chapter 6 especially, Moses hears directly from Yahweh about His plan and His power and His love, and yet, again, because of their circumstances, the people won't hear a word of it.
In some ways, it reminds me of where we can get sometimes. In fact, let me take Yahweh's words from Exodus 6, update them to suit our New Covenant reality from Jesus's lips, and show you what I mean:
"I am the Lord. I appeared to men and women just like you as Jesus of Nazareth, so that by the Name of the Lord I might make myself known to them. I also established my New Covenant with them - and with you - to give you the Kingdom of Heaven, where you are to live as naturalized citizens. Moreover, I always hear your prayers - and the groanings of the Holy Spirit on your behalf - and I always remember my personal covenant with you.
"Therefore, I say to my followers: 'I am the Lord Jesus, and I have brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. I have freed you from being slaves to them, and I have redeemed you with an outstretched pair of arms and with mighty acts of love. I have taken you as my own people, and I will be your God. Now you may know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the yoke of Satan, sin, death and the world. And I myself am the Way that will bring you to the Kingdom I swore with uplifted, nail-riven hands to give to my sons and daughters. I am giving it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.'"
Jesus said all this to His disciples, His followers, those called "Christians," but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and their bondage to the ways of the world, sin, death and the evil one...
Friends, is this the story we want our lives to be? Don't we want to fully appropriate what's already ours? Today is the day for doing so!
Remember today: A heart that loves and seeks to serves others has the potential to touch the whole world. But a heart that loves and serves only the Self immediately has no impact; the beginning of that love is its end.
On three Sabbath days Paul argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and quoting passages to prove the necessity for the death of Christ and his rising again from the dead. “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you,” he concluded, “is God’s Christ!” Some of them were convinced and threw in their lot with Paul and Silas, and they were joined by a great many believing Greeks and a considerable number of influential women.
But the Jews, in a fury of jealousy, got hold of some of the unprincipled loungers of the market-place gathered a crowd together and set the city in an uproar. Then they attacked Jason’s house in an attempt to bring Paul and Silas out before the people. When they could not find them they hustled Jason and some of the brothers before the civic authorities, shouting, “These are the men who have turned the world upside down and have now come here…” Acts 17:2b-6
Which is certainly my favorite accusation against the Early Church that we ever get to hear of. ἀναστατώσαντες: these men have "unsettled" the world; have shifted the ground beneath the world’s feet; have upset the established way of doing things, doing normalcy, doing life…
Yet before we start thinking in the wrong direction – how we need to start being more “outspoken,” more “visible,” more “radical” – let’s remind ourselves of how, to date in Acts, Paul and his companions have gone about “unsettling” everything. They have proclaimed Jesus in Jewish synagogues and, when asked to, before whole cities of people interested to hear of this Gospel. They have, at times, persevered in cities where they weren’t wanted and, at others, simply gone with the flow and left. They have performed physical healings; encouraged people; shown tremendous spiritual courage; endured hardship; and seen people the world around them chooses not to see. When you read all that – the content of the first two Missionary Journeys – who does it start to sound like?
Paul and Silas, Luke and Timothy, Barnabas and John Mark – The whole Early Church – “unsettled” the world because they were a direct living extension of the actual life of Jesus. There were no other tricks up their sleeve; only His alive life. And coming up against that, the world had no answers.
Since you probably know that I don't particularly admire "apologetics," here’s a thought to consider: Rather than trying to “defend our faith,” what if we just got down to living it, living HIM, so that all the world’s counterpoints become indefensible? Because what unsettled the Thessalonian populace was not really “these men,” it was the shining contrast of Jesus standing back of them. It was like experiencing the Mount of Transfiguration after a lifetime of darkness.
Just as He took on flesh to become Himself - the Man, Jesus of Nazareth - so, today, that same Son will be attempting to take on your flesh, attempting to just as fully live His life again in you... if only you'll let Him.
"Everything that my Father gives me will come to me and I will never refuse anyone who comes to me. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes." John 6:37-40
How often we hear people say, and even say ourselves, "Oh, I wish I knew the Lord's will" for some decision we need to make, or crisis, or question we’re presently pondering. But in those last two verses, Jesus tells us the Will of God: 1) that He "should not lose anything of what [the Father] has given [Him]" and 2) "that everyone who sees the Son and trusts Him should have eternal life." THE Will of God is to possess and redeem. How stunning!
But did you notice that each of these will-of-God statements is binary, meaning they’re composed of two parts? The first part in each was different, but the second was the same: He will "raise [them] up when the last day comes." The word John uses there for "raise up" means just that - "to raise up" or "raise from the dead" - but it also has a lesser definition that goes beautifully with what we know to be one of the truest definitions of our lives-in-Him: "to produce a witness."
THE Will of God is to possess and redeem, that we might be raised up - raised from the dead, in fact - and produced as witnesses of what we know and have seen of Him.
“But, Eugene,” you might say, “it would still really help to know His particular will in this one particular decision I’m trying to make.” Well, here’s your decision-making grid: “I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of Him who sent me.” The “wants” of Jesus were nothing when compared to His delighted, intimate, listening, waiting-upon expectation of having the will of God daily revealed to Him. Can’t you see Him out in those lonely places in the pre-dawn hours, simply waiting and receiving word of the Father’s particular will for each particular day?
May it be so for us as well!
“Pentecost showed us the way to a spiritual democracy that would have saved us from contentious centuries during which Christendom struggled over orders and validities and supremacies. When the question of validity of orders and successions is being discussed I find myself falling asleep. I am simply not interested. It is all so irrelevant. For here at Pentecost the highest was open to a person as a person, and Peter and James and John stood in a position not one whit different from the humblest of seekers and believers. The Holy Spirit was given alike to all, and this directly and immediately without the intervention of anyone. For it must be noted that when the Spirit came no one was leading the meeting.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
O Timothy, guard most carefully your divine commission. Avoid the Godless mixture of contradictory notions which is falsely known as “knowledge” — some have followed it and lost their faith. Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20,21)
In verse 20, J.B. Phillips translates the text as “guard most carefully your divine commission,” while the NIV has it, “guard what has been entrusted to your care.” The actual Greek is better than both: “guard the deposit committed to you”; the picture of treasure hidden away in some strong vault somewhere. Yet you and I know that we’re not supposed to be vaults and we certainly know we’re not meant to be hidden away! So what’s the best picture of what we hold and who we’re meant to be?
Consider 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar — to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.”
That’s my prayer for you as you approach this day: that your eyes would be entirely on His “splendid power” and “priceless treasure” and that you would allow His Life to supersede your “common earthenware jar” life. What a joy it is to watch His Life pour forth from us!
Here's a simple way to describe what we could be after today:
Psalm 48:8a - "As we have heard, so have we seen..."
Let's spend today in expectation of seeing, experiencing, and living those beliefs that we have always heard so much about. Rather than listening to a sermon, nodding our heads, and going out the door into our "normal lives," let's listen with a heart that will expect all those truths to live in our lives in reality.
For either this Jesus is truly alive and ready to minister in/through us by His Holy Spirit... or we should stop pretending that we believe what we say we believe.
“Draw a line through the New Testament and on one side is spiritual fumbling, hesitancy, inadequacy, defeat, and on the other side is certainty, courage, adequacy, victory. That line runs straight through Pentecost. When we read the Acts of the Apostles, which is taken up with the doings of the apostles after Pentecost, we are struck with the incongruity between the apostles and their acts. Here were very ordinary men doing extraordinary things, thinking in an extraordinary way, leaving an extraordinary effect in the changed lives of men and society. The very temper and spirit of their lives was extraordinary. They seemed to have found power by which to live. And far from being rampant emotionalism the striking thing is their amazing balance and sanity. They burned with zeal, but they met issues and crises of the most far-reaching consequences and met them with poise and insight. They picked their way through intellectual and moral bogs and quagmires and marked out paths which we today tread with safety and salvation. And, more than that, they brought to bear upon life a power that redeemed men and made them immediately God-conscious; that changed the moral and spiritual climate; that turned dull, drab life into the spiritually delightful and taught a sad world to sing..."
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
The Zacchaeus account, from Luke 19, with some notes throughout -
Then Jesus went into Jericho and was making his way through it. And here we find a wealthy man called Zacchaeus, a chief collector of taxes, wanting to see what sort of person Jesus was. That turn of phrase is simply perfect because Luke has only just told us “what sort of person” Zacchaeus was: “wealthy” and a “chief collector of taxes,” ie. the very best at extortion, intimidation and financial shenanigans. (Plus don’t forget how “wee” he was!)
But the crowd prevented him from doing so, for he was very short. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to get a view of Jesus as he was heading that way. This action is absolutely delightful! In the face of his circumstances – short and crowded out – Zacchaeus does whatever it’ll take, whatever embarrassment he might feel, in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus. What a model for our own journey after intimacy!
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and saw the man and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down. I must be your guest today.” And this is even more delightful! Jesus stops, looks up and chats with Zacchaeus, causing the whole entire crowd to stop and look up at Zacchaeus too!
So Zacchaeus hurriedly climbed down and gladly welcomed him. But the bystanders muttered their disapproval, saying, “Now he has gone to stay with a real sinner.”
But Zacchaeus himself stopped (Normally, Jesus would be the one to answer the crowd's “sinner” charge, but, here, Zacchaeus, enamored with what he’s gaining in Jesus, answers for Him) and said to the Lord, “Look, sir, I will give half my property to the poor. And if I have swindled anybody out of anything I will pay him back four times as much.” 50% immediately out the door, plus 4x the majority of his earnings must mean he’s giving away all he has. Zacchaeus’ life is destined to be the fulfillment of the “rich young ruler’s” earlier calling...
Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today! Zacchaeus is a descendant of Abraham, and it was the lost the Son of Man came to seek — and to save.” Again in Luke's Gospel, Jesus uses the language of a sinner “saved,” plus the wording “salvation has come to this house today!” Which, again, shows the utter inadequacy of how we often describe personal salvation in our modern context. Zacchaeus never “prays the prayer”; he doesn’t know any deep theology; he knows next to nothing. He simply interacted with Jesus and then fundamentally reordered his reality because of that personal experience.
Is that us?
Paul speaking in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, from Acts 13 - “Men and brothers, sons of the race of Abraham, and all among you who fear God, it is to us that this message of salvation has now been sent!”
Do you ever have the experience, when you’re reading through the scriptures, of reading through a particular verse or sentence, and, when you get to the punctuation mark at its ending, there’s something inside you that says, “There’s something more about that verse”? Do you know what I’m talking about – that sensation? Well, it happened to me strongly with those words, that verse: verse 26. (And I’d love to remind you that you should always stop and wait upon Him whenever you yourself have that experience while reading the Word. For, nine times out of ten, I bet you, it’s the Holy Spirit working out His ways within you…)
So what, for me, did I learn from waiting with that last verse? The importance of the present moment, over and above the past or future, when it comes to the full salvation Jesus has already bought us. Here’s what I mean: For Paul’s hearers in the synagogue that day, “salvation” from God was entirely a system of promises from Yahweh, anchored in their people’s Old Testament past; and a distant someday-hope, glowing out there in the ever unknowable future. But now – right now – Paul tells them, even as they sit in their uncomfortable seats in their small local synagogue, “it is to us” – meaning himself, Barnabas and them – “that this message of salvation has now been sent.” Can you imagine hearing that? That not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today you may – right now – interact with the message that will save and set you free?
I think the reason I’m so fiery about this idea is because I realize how often we don’t properly interact right now – not in the past, not in the future – with all that Jesus offers. We conflate “knowledge about” with Knowing Him, and wishful hopefulness with Hope; and we’re so often left with a present “experience” of Jesus that has nothing to do with the experiential, experimental moment-by-moment, day-by-day life in Union with Him that is actually what this is meant to be.
But is that what we want?
"The man who has not learned to praise, with whom it never breaks out spontaneously, has not learned to know his God aright, has not yet tasted the joy of a full salvation."
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
[The wily Gibeonites said to Joshua] - “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the name of Yahweh your God; for we have heard of his fame, all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. Our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take supplies in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them. Tell them, “We are your servants. Now make a covenant with us.”’ This our bread we took hot for our supplies out of our houses on the day we went out to go to you; but now, behold, it is dry, and has become moldy. These wine skins, which we filled, were new; and behold, they are torn. These our garments and our shoes have become old because of the very long journey.” The men sampled their provisions, and didn’t ask counsel from Yahweh’s mouth. (Joshua 9:9-14)
When we read this account, our temptation may be to scoff at the foolishness of watching Yahweh hold up a river, shatter a city with shouts, turn the tide of battle supernaturally, and yet not pause here for a little prayer. But, really, don’t we do the same thing everyday?
Consider all the countless ways you’ve seen the hand of the Lord manifest His miracles across the whole sweep of your life in Him – and even before you knew Him. Think of how He’s personally proven Himself to be so present in your circumstances; how He’s, in fact, given you His Holy Spirit to be your “Counselor.” Yet not a day passes when we don’t forget to ask counsel from Yahweh’s mouth; we’ll consult just about anything and anyone – our friends, our feelings, our first impulse – before we approach Him. And yet, my friends, there is nothing that we can’t approach Him for; He delights to counsel and lead and guide His children – let us come to Him! Yes, let us approach Him for His counsel, right now, today, all day long, and everyday, as He delights to incline His ear to our questions and considerations!
"Let the presence of God be thy one desire; the will of God thy one choice; the help of God thy one trust; the likeness to God thy one hope. Let every day, the most ordinary one, the most difficult one, be a day with God, as one of the days of heaven upon earth, a day of which faith is the beginning and the end."
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
“The veil was rent that the way through it might be opened for us; that we might have access to that which is within the veil; that we might enter into a new world, an entirely new way of living in close and intimate fellowship with God. A high priest must have a sanctuary in which he ministers. The mystery of the opened sanctuary is that we can enter too. The inner sanctuary, the Holiest of All, the presence of God, is the sphere of Christ's ministry and our life and service.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
My prayer for you is that you may have still more love — a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
What were Paul’s great hopes for his friends in Philippi?
1) that they “may have still more love”…and of what kind? “full of knowledge and wise insight”
2) that they’d “recognize the highest and the best”
3) that they’d “live sincere and blameless lives” that were “full of true goodness, produced by the power” of Jesus.
In essence, he wants their thoughts and activities to be on a plane of heavenly, Christ-likeness: no longer worldly and earth-bound. And so, how were they – how are we – to achieve that goal? By more earnest striving? By more and more rigorous study? No! It’s Jesus Himself who has “more love” – is love! – “full of knowledge and wise insight” that’s ours for the taking. It’s Jesus Himself who always recognizes “the highest and the best” and is “sincere and blameless” Himself.
So, along those lines, let me tell you my favorite “Chapter 2 realities” - the two greatest “newnesses” we’re given by Jesus that just so happen to land in the second chapters of their respective books: In Acts 2, we receive the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit of God supplants our formerly human spirit forever! And, in 1 Corinthians 2, we’re told we possess the “mind of Christ”; our wayward human mind is superseded by the very thoughts of Jesus! Mind and spirit, my friends, we’ve been granted complete newness! All of Paul’s best hopes for his friends in Philippi are only possible in their personal life of abiding in the Living Jesus. And the same is so for us today.
“The living center round which all the perfections of God cluster, the living energy through which they all do their work, is the will of God. The will of God is the life of the universe; it is what it is because God wills it; His will is the living energy which maintains it in existence. The creature can have no more of God than he has of God's will working in him. He that would meet and find God must seek Him in His will; union with God's will is union with Himself. Therefore it was that the Lord Jesus, when He came to this world, always spoke of His having come to do one thing—the will of His Father. This alone could work our salvation.”
Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All
A little section from Luke 15, with notes in italics -
Now all the tax-collectors and “outsiders” were crowding around to hear what Jesus had to say. When we read those words, especially if you take the time to read this chapter in context, it causes us to cast our attentions both backward and forward. Looking back, isn’t it amazing that, given His most-recent teaching on “counting the cost,” and “giving up all your possessions,” that these tax-collectors and outsiders still crowded to Him?! And, looking ahead, and trying to understand the nature of that crowd's "crowding," what is the atmosphere of being around the person of Jesus?
Celebration, celebration, celebration!
If we’re to be the "Body of Christ" in this present day, just as He Himself was the visible-tangible-literal Body back in His day, are “outsiders” and rejects clinging to us, right now? Are they flying through the doors of our modern churches? What exactly are we inviting people into? A Sunday “service” or a party-like atmosphere of Heaven?
The Pharisees and the scribes complained of this, remarking, “This man accepts sinners and even eats his meals with them.” Remember: Our words and lives tend to tell people what we think Jesus is like. His name and renown are utterly unchanging; but His day-to-day reputation is in our hands everywhere we'll go this week.