The Road To Redemption

Whether you’re a Monty Python fan in search of the Holy Grail or perhaps you began your digest of literature with a modicum of sarcasm perusing Gar Larson’s Far Side of humor, where you encountered the well-known idiom of the beatings will continue until morale improves. Today, we let the cat out of the bag, another idiom of famous roots. For when the cat, which was a cat of nine tails used for punishing did come out of the bag, beatings were only the beginning. The cheers that once held us ruckus are about to begin a slow but quick fade. 

Jesus and His disciples continue towards a triumphal entry fit for a king, only to have the crowd turn sour. As the Lord leads, His entourage travel about 17 miles from Jericho to an aptly named city, called Bethphage, a small village on the Southeastern side of the Mount of Olives near Bethany. Though its exact location is uncertain, what is certain is this is the home stretch. Another idiom to signal that the Gospel is turning towards its fine leg. Jesus was born and grew, in Chapter 4 He began to Preach and do miracles, in Chapter 16, He began to share of His impending death. Now, here in Chapter 21, we will take the express train #8, 8 for the remaining number of chapters in Matty nice’s Gospel. All of these events which are recorded moving forward spans only 6 days. 

We know this because John records that Jesus arrives in Bethany 6 days before Passover. John 12:1~Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. (NIV) Jesus apparently stays in Bethany until Monday morning when He enters Jerusalem. 

We all have big weeks in our lives, and none are as big as the week before Jesus, but what do you do in preparation for a big week? Why not join me today in praying over the week that you are facing. Perhaps there is a giant or a giant-sized problem, or it could be that the week you face is big in another way. Whatever you are facing this week let’s ask God to help us do it in a way that brings Him glory.

Lift Up Your Eyes

Did you know that Christ loves eyes? (Matthew 20:29-34) As we age, our eyes have a tendency to diminish in their capacity for clarity. Thus, we make our annual pilgrimage hearing the not so sweet tune of Father Time’s theme music. As the doctor sings to us, you get with this or can you get with that. Your doctor may be from the last century, using the King James vernacular as they ask, one, or two, one, or two. Yes, we need to get our spiritual vision checked regularly also. The Good News is Christ loves eyes. Especially eyes that look to Him. As Helen Lemmel wrote masterfully in her divinely inspired hymn: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

Some in the community of faith are like the man in Mark 8:24~He looked up and said, I see people; they look like trees walking around. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (NIV) Some in the house of faith need to be touched again by Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we might think we are seeing double, becoming dismissive. 

Take, for instance, Jericho. You know this city with a long illustrious past of large fruit and falling walls. But, during the time of Jesus, there were two Jerichos. The old city ruins were about a mile and a half from where Herod the Great built a beautiful winter palace. The following miracle probably happens somewhere between the two sites and explains the fact Mark writes Jesus is leaving Jericho Mark 10:46~Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. (NIV) Luke writes it this way in Luke 18:35~As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. (NIV) 

Here is how Matthew saw it. Matthew 20:29-30~And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed…behold, there were two blind men sitting roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David! (ESV) The blind men have probably chosen this spot because it was like a red light beside a viaduct. People were passing them and making turns all day long. Many of which would have already been traveling for the season fast approaching. With forgiveness in the air, some were in a ripe mood to give a gift. Remember why Jesus is bound for Jerusalem? Passover. A time when a lamb spared life, people were released from the confines of prison and the favor of the Lord was given. 

This pair of panhandlers were seeking help. Though blind they could see Jesus and began to shout His messianic title, Son of David, we believe you are the Messiah. When we are blinded in this life and need sight, who do we cry out to? Appealing for mercy reveals that they acknowledge their unworthiness. Hey Lord, I need your help. These men are physically blind but are spiritually perceptive. On the other hand, many people who have excellent eyesight are spiritually blind. 

The crowd rebukes them, but when you have a real need, you can’t be silenced. Like John who is blind and yet sees the Lord and His work on His day, more clearly than we ever will, these blind men are seeing the coming of the Lord. No, not on the clouds of glory, but into their moment. Matthew 20:31-32~And stopping, Jesus…said, What do you want me to do for you? They said to him, Lord, let our eyes be opened. (ESV) Christ Jesus is not oblivious to the obvious. Rather, He wants them to verbalize their faith in Him. The Bible says we don’t have because we don’t ask (James. 4:2). However, in the next verse, we read in James 4:3~You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV) 

We are never to ask out of greed, only out of need. That’s exactly what these two blind men are doing. Therefore, they answer Jesus, Lord, let our eyes be opened. Moved with compassion, Jesus touches their eyes, and immediately they recover their sight (20:33-34). 

Is there a place in your like that you need Jesus to touch? I want you to know that you can muster the faith today to kneel and pray as you ask Him honestly to help you. 2 Peter 1:8~The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NLT) Today, is the best time to take a step in faith and to ask the Lord, then watch as He begins to work in your life and you will notice your faith grow.

Overcoming Temptation

The Bible teaches us that we are to serve the Lord unselfishly. (Matthew 20:20-28) After Jesus tells His disciples of His approaching death and resurrection, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, comes to Him with her sons. Now you may have heard of the boys of summer, but these are the sons of thunder. They must have been a real handful growing up. I feel as though I can relate. I came outside on the way to the hospital a few years ago to find my boys, Luke and Levi racing. It’s not surprising to find them thick in things attempting to mix-in in a little danger. So I told them to be careful and called my mom from the truck. I told her I wanted her to know that I was raising boys. She just laughed and started a conversation which abruptly ended why are we talking about this? I preceded to tell her they had the cozy coupes atop the hill and were racing into the fence. 

Here comes mom in Matthew 20:20-21~Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (ESV) Evidently, James and John think Jesus will be more favorable if mom makes the request. What they don’t yet understand is that the cross must precede the crown. Matthew 20:22~Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink? They said to him, “We are able.” (ESV) We need to be careful what we ask for, sometimes it is much more than it appears from our narrow understanding. Matthew 20:23~ He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (ESV) 

Christ Jesus knows full well what King Herod will do to James, which is recorded later in Acts 12:2. Jesus knows all things. How each disciple will be transitioned from this life in horrible death, but not John, for he will suffer in life, being boiled in oil twice and having his eyes put out, only then to truly see while being exiled to the isle of Patmos. In darkness John will see the brighter light in vivid detail Revelation 1:10-11~I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, Write what you see in a book…(NIV)

Matthew 20:24~And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. (ESV) Jesus uses this incident as an opportunity to further teach about the kingdom of heaven and those who occupy seats of power. Matthew 20:25-26~You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority…It shall not be so among you….whoever would be great…must be your servant (διάκονος diakonos), (ESV) In our sinful world, rulers lord over others too, but this is not the kingdom way. Instead, Jesus says ruling or leading is about ministering. That’s why the KJV renders (διάκονος diakonos) as a minister. This Greek word gives us our word deacon, literally meaning to run errands or waiters. A biblical deacon attends to the needs of others, seeking nothing in return. 

Matthew 20:27-28~and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (λύτρον lytron) for many. (ESV) We must understand that Jesus never asks us to do anything, He hasn’t already done. Jesus gave us the supreme example of being a slave to others when He gave His life for us. To ransom (λύτρον lytron) which means to set something loose. Jesus died to set us loose from the penalty of sin Romans 6:23~For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV) Jesus is saying to everyone you have been working for death, why not accept my free gift, where I will die for you, and you can live for me. 

That is literally the best news. That when we come to Jesus we give Him our guilt, sin, shame and He gives us His life, peace, and joy. What an amazing offering it is that Jesus would die for you and I. In light of all that God has done in your life, why not look around and see who you can serve in an effort to let them know that God loves them. In so doing you will share God’s love and let them know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. (John 13:34-35)