I stand broken asking the difficult questions of life. My past experieces muddled in my present confusions. My heart and soul wide open wondering what to make of my disappointment. I wait for clarity and peace as if anticipating the rise of the sun shining forth on a new day. My faith unwavering yet aching through and through. I reach for renewal on the foundation of resurrection and yearn for embrace from the majesty of love.
Today, I met the man from Nazareth. I think his name is Jesus; however, people are calling him many different things. Some call him teacher, master, or Lord. Others think he is a prophet, a holy man, or the Messiah. The Pharisees think he is a blasphemer. I am not exactly sure who this man is, but today I call him my forgiver and healer.
I live in Capernaum and several years ago, I had a diving accident in the Lake of Gennesaret which left my body paralyzed. My life radically changed that day, and I often wondered how could this happen to me. Many people think this happen to me because of sins I committed against God. They may be right because I never really followed God and his commandments. Nevertheless, I have many friends who prayed to God for my healing, but I still struggled with believing in God. My encounter today with Jesus changed everything.
Since I can not move, I spend most days on my bed dependent on others to feed me and wash me. My days are usually filled with the same scheduled routines, but today my faithful friends came dashing into my home and carried me on my bed out into the streets. I kept asking them, “What is going on?” “Where are you taking me?” They gave me brief, hurried responses. Something about a miracle man arriving in Capernaum. They kept saying, “this man is for real; he will heal you.” When we arrived at the home where he was speaking, there was a large crowd and my friends could not get me close to him. I saw the love and concern in my friends’ eyes, and they were not going to give up. One of my friends located a stairway to the roof, so they carried me up. Once we arrived on the roof, my friends began to demolish the tiling. I told them to stop because they were damaging someone’s house. They were not concerned because they were absolutely convinced that if they got me close to the miracle worker, then he would heal me. They assured me that they would fix the roof later. They smiled and said that after the man healed me, I would be able to help fix the house. I laughed nervously, and then they lowered me down before Jesus.
Jesus looked at me and said, “man, your sins are forgiven you.” I heard this and did not quite understand what he meant, but I was happy with the thought and even experienced something changing in my soul. While Jesus began to discuss his statement with the scribes and pharisees, I looked at my friends and saw confusion and disappointment on their faces. What just happen? Am I not going to be healed? The conversation between Jesus and the synagogue leaders continued with heated exchanges, but the next thing I experienced was Jesus telling me to “arise, take up my bed and go back to my house.” I wanted to say, “Pardon me?” “Can you say that again?” “Did I hear you correctly?” But instead, I felt strength in my body and stood up, grabbed my bed and left, just as he instructed me.
I am walking again. I am healed. My soul is cleansed. Jesus changed my life. Everything is new. I am truly blessed. I do not know how to respond to such newness and blessing. This is weird, strange, almost too good to be true. Thoughts flood my mind, What does the future behold? What do I do next? What if the new strength fades away? I have to push all these thoughts aside and do the only thing I really can do. Glorify God! Believe in His goodness and greatness! Walk in His newness and blessing!
Eyes tell a story. A physical story and a spiritual story. They are a vital sense of the physical body and reflect character, feelings and emotions. As one walks through the city, he or she will see love, anger, desire, sorrow, passion, pride and malice reflected in the eyes of people. A person will see healthy eyes, blind eyes, supported eyes, diseased eyes. Eyes of all of all colors, shapes and sizes. Eyes are the narrator of a person’s story.
Eyes symbolize spiritual conditions. Eyes that are closed to God and seek darkness. Eyes that are blinded by sin and rebel against all goodness. Eyes that are fixed upon the things of this world. Idolatrous eyes, haughty eyes, lustful eyes, covetous eyes, evil eyes. These are the eyes of humanity apart from God.
But God with his great mercy and grace, lights up the eyes of humanity by reveling his glory and love. He attracts the eyes of his beloved creation and with one glance, a heart can be captured; the veil from the eyes removed. God transforms and opens the eyes of people to his holiness and power giving them spiritual vision and understanding. These eyes lift up to the Lord, seeking to live with him, focusing on righteousness, purity, compassion and truth. Human eyes will ultimately see God in his fullness; the King in all his splendor. The eyes of the beloved will look into the eyes of the lover. As Christians, our eyes tell this story. God’s story, our story.
My eyes have a story to tell. A physical story about growing up with dry, irritated, allergic, red eyes and having difficulty looking at people and allowing people to look at me. It took most of my life to arrive at a place with clear eyes and to have the confidence that my eyes look okay; although, I still run away from cats, look with suspicion at pollen producing plants and avoid walking down the laundry detergent aisle with all the scents.
My eyes tell a spiritual story of being blinded by evil and seeking the things or the world. The things that bring pain, sorrow, and emptiness. The things that moths eat, rust destroys and thieves break in and steal. The world promises happiness and prosperity but at the end of the day, the world fails to fulfill the desires of my heart. In this condition, God catches my gaze and draws me to him. My eyes see the glory of the Lord; my eyes are purified; my eyes light up for Jesus. Jesus fulfills my desires.
However, many times my spiritual eyesight becomes poor again. My vision and understanding becomes small and my eyes focus on the things of this world rather than on the things of God’s kingdom. I try to fulfill my desires by seeking the treasures of earth. I have desires; we all do, and God created us this way. The problem is not the desires, but rather my desires are too small. My spiritual eyes too weak. I need a bigger vision of God, and my desires need to be higher. Desires beyond my earthly existence. Desires for the treasures of heaven. Desires of God’s kingdom work throughout the world.
An old gentlemen carefully boards the city bus and finds a seat next to a tired young man. As the bus twists and turns through the city, the two start a conversation beginning with the typical introductory questions. “What is your name?” “Where do you live?” “What do you do for work?” They find that they have a lot in common. The old man is a retired minister and the younger man is also in a helping profession. The minister shares stories about God’s greatness and goodness revealed throughout his life. The young man also loves God and has many memories of God’s working hand; however, the young man begins to share that he has spent many years following God in service of a severely broken humanity only to come to place today where he feels extremely fatigue, beat up, empty, alone and forgotten by God. The old man listens intently and replies by saying, “I was once young but now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous servant forsaken by God. In fact, God promises that those who refresh others will be refreshed.” The old man continues by quoting Isaiah 58:10-11 which states,
If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well watered-garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Also, Galatians 6:9-10 which states,
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
The old man points out the promises and then highlights the importance of abiding in Jesus and depending upon him to provide everything the young man would need to carry out his call to service. The old man explains that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help, strengthen and comfort his people and uses various means to accomplish this. Sometimes through fellowship with others. Sometimes through quiet and solitude. Sometimes through the reading of scriptures. Sometimes through music. Sometimes through nature. To name a few.
The young man agrees and acknowledges that talking to the old man has made him feel a sense of comfort, rest, renewal and blessings. They both begin to laugh and praise God for his faithfulness to his promises. The bus stops and the young man squeezes by the old man. He says, “goodbye” and walks away as a refreshed servant.
“But this is your hour–when darkness reigns,” said Jesus to the arresting mob in the Gethsemane Garden. It was a moment of surrounding darkness for the man who was called, “the rising sun from heaven”. Jesus knew that his death was imminent. He knew his betrayer was coming, the one who would strike with a kiss in the waging battle of darkness and light. The knowledge of the future events was beyond what even he, the God-Man, could handle. The great shepard was in the darkest valley to protect his sheep, and he cried out to his heavenly Father, pouring out his anguish from the weight of the darkness. The LORD was with him and comforted him, but the night was dark
The arresting mob arrived brandishing their swords and clubs. They were ready for battle with their armor of darkness. Jesus stepped up to the front lines, he did not have physical weapons, gear or armor, but he was ready for battle. His battle tactics were to be carried out with love and light. The type of love that would heal the cut off ear of his attacker. The type of light that would cause the mob to draw back and fall to the ground when Jesus spoke. A love beyond comprehension filling the hearts of sinful humanity. A light so glorious as to be the saving presence of God in a fallen world.
Jesus battled the darkness of the night, and then he brought about a radiant victorious morning. Jesus is the bright morning star, the rising sun, the true light who brings new hope, renewal and forgiveness in his present kingdom and the kingdom to come.
The disciples of Jesus were also surrounded by darkness that night, and Jesus instructed them to wake up from their sleep, to seek God and to follow his example of love and righteousness. Christians are still surrounded by darkness in this world, so we must awake from slumber, pray, love and live right because the night is nearly over; the day is almost here. The day when Jesus will gather his people and complete his saving work. He will heal and purify his people, exalting them to his everlasting kingdom.
We are to anticipate the coming day of our Lord, to sing our morning song about the sun of righteousness. As Christians, we are on the front lines at the end of a long night of darkness. We stand not with weapons or gear of this world, but with the armor of love and light from our heavenly king. Therefore, let us love others with a pure heart and shine the light of salvation to a dark world.
Often I am impressed by actors/actresses who can play dead. For example, Crime Scene Investigation television actors who lay on an autopsy table; movie actresses who peacefully lay in a coffin during a funeral scene; Broadway singers portraying death even with all the musical drama going on around them. Appears so real, but nonetheless, they are playing dead.
As a child, I remember learning about death and at times playing dead by laying still with my eyes closed and unresponsive to others. Although I attempted to play the part of being dead, I was easily distracted from the role. All it took was someone saying a funny comment, tickling me or offering me ice cream; then sure enough, I was alive! There were the times when I played dead but had just enough life to answer a question about what I was doing. I whispered, “I’m dead.” I tried to peek through my eye lids, but people saw my eyes through the cracks; thus, I lost the Oscar. Needless to say, I would not have made it in Hollywood or Broadway.
Most people understand the defining physical characteristics of being dead, so I find the christian scriptures’ teaching on being “dead to sin” interesting and worthy of discussion.
God is holy, morally excellent, perfect in every way and set apart from all sin, evil, iniquity, unrighteousness. Sin was never a God problem, and it never directly effected Him or had power or dominion over Him. When sin entered the world, it had a devastating effect on his beloved creation, and thus sin became a human problem. For the first time humans experienced separation from God, a spiritual death, and the eventual physical death. Although God was set apart form sin and sinful humanity, he intervened because of his great love. Therefore, He went to work on His mysterious yet wonderful plan of salvation.
He established that an unblemished life was to be sacrificed for the cleansing of sin. Animals were used in the beginning, but they were pointing to someone else. Someone who would be the ultimate sacrifice. Someone who is sinless but would die for the sinful. At the pinnacle of his intervention, God showed up with his own final sacrifice for sin-Himself! God became a man. Jesus was God. The God-Man gave his life for humanity. Jesus took upon himself the totality of sin and was beaten and crucified to death. A real death, beyond merely playing a part in a drama. Humanity was dead to God, and Jesus died to sin. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection to life, humanity is alive to God and dead to sin. Death is an awesome thing when it is sin to which one has died.
A physical body, once it is dead makes no response to its environment. It is immovable towards ice cream. No distractions. No explanations. No peaking through the eye lids. Dead is dead is dead. Jesus followers are to have the same death characteristics in response to the promptings of sin. Yet to often we only play the part and thus get distracted and again become ensnared by sin. How do we stop the acting? How do we live while being dead to sin?
We died with Jesus and we were resurrected with Jesus and shall live the resurrection life with Jesus. May we daily experience the freedom we have in being dead to sin and alive to God.