We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want”.
In Matthew Jesus tells the story of king who had prepared a wedding feast for his son. But, when he had sent out his slaves to summon the invited guest , they refused to attend. The king sent out more slaves to entice the guests. “The king has prepared the banquet, he has slaughtered the bulls and fattened cattle, come to the feast” they said. But still the invited guests refused.
Eventually, the King sent the slaves to the street corners to gather and invite as many people as they could find to the feast he had prepared. They invited the bad along with the good, and soon the wedding hall was filled with guests. However, when the King came in he saw a man who wasn’t dressed for the wedding. He asked him, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” Then man was speechless and the King had his servants remove him from the feast. Continue reading
If you’ve ever asked a small child what they learned in church that day, you know you might get a deep theological truth, a funny story, or both. When our son was around 5, on Palm Sunday we did the normal, “So, what did you learn today?” parental questioning. He was carrying a small branch, so we expected to hear about Jesus riding on a donkey and people waving palm branches. Instead, our son said, “We learned not to poke anyone in the eye.” We smiled, even chuckled a little. And we’ve told that story now for years — it’s cute (at least it’s cute to his parents).
Why? Because it’s not what we expected. We expected him to tell us the Bible story, to share the facts. So we could make sure he was paying attention, building a solid Biblical foundation. We wanted him to tell us the flannel-graph version of the story of Jesus riding in on a donkey to large crowds shouting Hosanna and waving branches. We wanted to make sure he was getting the facts straight.
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho and walking towards Jerusalem a large crowd had gathered. As they passed, two blind men were sitting by the side of the road and shouted “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!” But the crowd began to scold them, telling them to be quiet. Instead, they call out even louder, “Lord! Son of David, have pity on us!”Jesus stopped and asked them what they wanted him to do for them. “Lord, open our eyes.” Jesus, filled with tenderness and compassion, touched their eyes and they received their sight and followed him.
Often times I just don’t know what or how to pray. There is so much that needs prayer, yet so many distractions. And how do you begin to talk with God? “Excuse me, um, God, it’s me again. I have a few thing’s I’d like to talk to you about.” Or more formally, “Dear Lord, …”. Continue reading
As you are reading through Scripture, but the Gospels in particular, do you ever have the inner dialogue where you think that Jesus should have answered a question in a different way. A way that is more direct, that lines up better with the theology you have been taught? No, me neither. Who would question Jesus’ words. But if I did have those conversations in my head, Matther 19 would be a great place to have one.
A man comes to Jesus and asks “Rabbi, what good thing should I do in order to have eternal life?” And Jesus responds “There is nothing you can do to achieve eternal life, it is a gift from God, not from works. You must confess your sins, believe in me and be baptized. Then you will have eternal life.” Except that isn’t what Jesus says. Continue reading
Sometimes reading Scripture and connecting with it is difficult. It seems distant, unrelated to everyday life. Sometimes it’s like reading a history text book and trying to figure out exactly what that has to do with today. Sure there are lessons to be learned, but there is a disconnect, at least at times in my mind, between the world of first century Israel and the one I live in. The one in which I sit and type this on my computer and publish it where anyone in the world can read it.
Perhaps that is sometimes why it is easier for those in third-world cultures to connect with the stories Jesus shares. They live in a world much more similar to His. They see the parables of the good soil and lost sheep play out in day-to-day life just as those hearing Jesus’ words for the first time did. And Jesus had a knack for using the real world, the nitty gritty, day-in day-out, routine things of life to make points. And he used those things specifically, not generically. Continue reading
A Question For Peter
Jesus and the disciples have just retuned home Capernaum and shortly after Peter encounters those who collect the half-shekel temple tax. The collectors ask Peter if Jesus pays the tax, and Peter answers “Of course he does”.
Taxes and Fish
Upon returning home, Jesus speaks first. He says “Simon, what’s your opinion? The kings of earth — from whom do they collect duties and taxes? From their own sons or from others?” Peter replies “From others”, as He remembers what had happened earlier. Jesus continues, “Than, the sons are exempt. But to avoid offending them — go to the lake, throw out a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth and you will find a shekel. Take it out and give it to them for me and for you.”
The Unwritten Story
I’m not sure exactly what Peter is thinking, but at this point he knows to just do what Jesus says without asking why or how. Matthew doesn’t record Peter’s fishing expedition nor his reaction to catching a fish with a shekel in it. Did he catch it right away, or did it take a while, giving him plenty of time to think about answering for Jesus before asking him how he should respond? But this story does raise some questions other than how the coin got in the fish. Continue reading
As I’m reading through the Gospels I keep coming across familiar stories, stories I have heard and read many times. Often something in those stories jumps out in a new way. Sometimes I see something in a story and make a connection to another passage that I didn’t know was connected. And still other times I find passages that I just don’t get. I’m not sure what Jesus was saying and I have no idea how his disciples would have heard and understood his words. I’m left scratching my head and saying “Hmmmmmm”.