In today’s reading I found it very peculiar when Jesus said the following words in Matthew 11:6 “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Jesus was not apologizing for making the establishment uncomfortable with who He was. It was not a statement of regret for His own actions. Jesus was making a statement about the blessings people would receive if they simply removed themselves from what was dictated as right and instead looked to His example of what we are called to do. Because of His sacrifice we are free to serve and love others without the burden or constraints that existed without His mercy and grace.
We look at physical healing as something difficult. It sometimes even requires a miracle. But the spiritual healing of your heart is even more difficult. And just like in physical healing where there are often scars, spiritual healing leaves scars as well. But when Jesus heals the sinful woman at the end of today’s chapter He says in Matthew 7:50, Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus wants all of us to live in peace. The kind of peace you can only find from miraculous healing. Our scars remain because of us, not Jesus. Trust in Him and accept His complete healing because He loves us regardless of the sin He has forgiven in our past.
One of my favorite stories of Jesus is the one with the Centurion’s sick servant and the faith he displayed to Jesus and His ability to heal and save. The Centurion was a gentile and was probably not someone who knew there was a Messiah coming to save the world, but he saw what was happening and he accepted what was possible by putting his faith in Jesus. Jesus Himself reacted to this man’s faith in Matthew 8:10, When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Knowing what is possible with Jesus is all we really need to believe He can do miracles in our lives. May we all have the faith of the Centurion and know Jesus has the ability to save and heal us. And, most importantly, let us all know and have faith Jesus has the capacity to love us more than we ever thought possible, despite the flaws and sin in our lives.
There are plenty of people out there who talk a good game. There are many self-proclaimed athletes who can trash-talk with the best of them. But “talk” is cheap and the measure of an athlete is found on the athletic field. The same goes for the faithful believer and servant of God. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Jesus wants your “walk” to be better than your “talk”. Talking about doing the right things means nothing if you are unwilling to do the right things. Let your actions be the measure of your commitment to doing the will of God.
By His example, Jesus took care of people without seeking glory. His acts received attention because of other people, not for the purpose of attention alone. In Matthew 6:1 Jesus says, Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Good and bad attention will come to you if you are doing what is commanded of you by God. But when we do things for the sake of attention itself, we miss the point, which is to bring glory to God the Father.
I cannot imagine anyone who would happily be persecuted for most causes. But in Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus calls it a blessing, 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. When we are persecute for the cause of Christ, it should be taken as a badge of honor. When we stand up for truth and righteousness we are rewarded in the eyes of God. It is not easy, but few things worth fighting for ever are.
It is easy to love people and be kind to them when they love you and are kind to you. But what happens when people are mean, unkind, and unloving? In Luke 6:32 Jesus answers that question, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.” Jesus is our example and we are supposed to be a reflection of Him. Loving others is not conditional.
Do you ever get the impression Jesus healed people on the Sabbath on purpose? It seems like Jesus took several opportunities to do this and it wasn’t an accident. Jesus begins to explain why in Mark 3:4, Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” But they remained silent. One of Jesus’ principle reasons for coming to earth was to fulfill the law. He makes it clear later on that He was not here to abolish it. The law had it’s purpose, and it’s purpose was to bring people to a point where they recognized their unrighteousness and their need for repentance. When Jesus came, there was no longer a need for rules to remind people of their sinful nature because now Jesus became our only way to salvation and eternal life with Him. From this point on we were no longer in competition with each other to see who could be more holy by following the rules. Our only task in life is to reflect who Jesus is. That is what is means to be “Christ-like”.
There are no rules around doing what is right and Jesus exemplified this at every opportunity. In John 5:17 Jesus makes it clear that rules do not supersede taking care of those in need, Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Let us never hide behind traditions and liturgy in place of doing what is right. If we need to shut down the church on Sunday in order to feed and clothe the poor, then let’s do that.