The disciples had a legitimate question. After all, we all question why bad things happen to good people. When they saw the man who was bling from birth, they simply wanted to know who had sinned, the man or his parents. Jesus replied in verse 3, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” This is really hard for us because we want to believe that bad things come from consequences of someone doing something wrong. If each of us realized that bad things had the sole purpose of finding a way to glorifying God, we would all have a different perspective on bad situations.
There is so much information in today’s reading. Jesus has an amazing dialog with the religious leaders. I love the way He made it clear that the glory belongs to God the Father. In the second part of verses 49 and in all of 50 it says, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.” Then Jesus makes it clear that the glory He does receive only comes from the Father. In verse 54 it says, “Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” It is difficult sometimes to remember that everything we do is for the glory of God and no one else! Jesus is the perfect example of how we are to serve and how we are to acknowledge God as worthy.
I love reading verses 37 & 38, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”” The living water alludes to the life giving that comes through the Messiah. Like the necessity of water required by all living things, the Jews looked to the Messiah to provide eternal life for them.
Forgiveness is a tough thing to do. It requires us to forget a debt or a wrong that someone has committed against us. But when we focus on the level of forgiveness God has given each of us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, it helps to put things in perspective. In verse 22 when Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” He is acknowledging that people are human and they will make mistakes. But if Jesus can forgive our multitude of sins, then we should be able to accept everyone’s sinful human condition. Knowing we have been forgiven should make it easier to forgive others.
The illustration of “salt” is such a good one. In verse 50 Jesus says, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” We are to give flavor to the world and give it purpose. Sometime as Christians we believe we are supposed to be separate from all that goes on in the world. The truth is we are here to take part in the world and bring purpose to our human existence. We should never approach our lives here on earth with worry or fear, but with boldness in knowing we reflect the hope of Christ.
The last part of today’s reading, for me, has always been more about the miracle of a fish having a coin in its mouth than the meaning behind this particular event. Jesus was making it clear that He is the King and as the King He really was not obligated to pay any taxes. It would be the equivalent of me tithing to myself. But Jesus understood the rulers did not understand who He really was. It was not worth making a big stink about it so He paid the taxes through the miracle of supplying a fish with the money in it (kind of like an ancient pez dispenser). The application for us is to remember that we are foreigners on this earth and we are not citizens here. However, we still to be good residents and be good ambassadors of our true King.
The last verse in the chapter struck me today. Verse 62 says, “Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” This verse applies to both believer and non-believer. For the non-believer it says they must look away from their current existence and look to a relationship with God. For the believer it has significance because a lot of us, myself especially, have a tendency to look back at our past. We are either slowed by our baggage or we are drawn back into it in times of weakness. We must constantly look forward to where our relationship with God is taking us, not how we got there. The past is of little value for how we proceed in impacting the kingdom of God.
Verse 36 is always a great reminder to me, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” I used to thing this verse was strictly talking to non-believers, but the reality is it is talk to everyone. We need to do things with eternity in mind. It is our souls that benefit and/or suffer from our current actions. Money, fame, and earthly glory will benefit us for the short period of time we are here on earth, but to benefit eternity, we must focus on impacting God’s kingdom and for His glory alone.
It is funny how we always think we know best. In verse 22 Peter tries to convince Jesus that He will not be killed by the Jewish leaders and says, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” The problem is that Jesus was following God’s perfect plan and in His plan the sacrifice was necessary to fulfill the bigger picture. Jesus’ replay in verse 23 was, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” He knew that Peter’s response came from the desires of Satan not wanting God’s plan to be fulfilled. I don’t think Satan knew what the plan was, but the truth is he doesn’t need to know what it is; he is a disrupter and that is all he wants to do. For this reason it is imperative that we listen and follow God’s leading in our lives. He has the big picture and we need to trust and know He has it under control.
Once again, in this chapter, Jesus keeps His focus on what really matters in following Him. In verses 20-22 He says, “20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” We as humans want to keep a lot of rules and regulations so that we can feel good about keeping score. Jesus makes it pretty simple by explaining how all the things we do for ourselves means nothing if it doesn’t result in purity that comes out. What we allow to come out of our bodies (namely our mouths) and how it affects others means everything. Our actions and reactions to others is a direct reflection of our relationship with God.