THE GOOD NEWS IS PREACHED TO THE POOR
Key Verse 7:22
So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
First, “Good news to the poor” (18-23). In the previous passage, we studied about how Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, and how he raised the dead young man, by saying, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” When people saw this, they were amazed, and the news about him spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. When the disciples of John the Baptist heard this, they told him who was in the prison about all these things. Then, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Once, at seeing Jesus coming to him, John shouted, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) Another time, he testified to Jesus, saying, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Lk 3:16,17) He even testified to Jesus’ deity, by saying, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” (Jn 1:15) John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah, and fulfilled his mission successfully. But now, at the end part of his mission, he was confused about Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Why? It was because things did not go as he had expected. Even though his understanding of the Messiah was not political as in the case with all other Jews, still he expected the great messianic kingdom established by Jesus – all injustice removed, evil destroyed, and the society being restored into holiness and righteousness. Because the Messiah came, he expected that things would get better and better, heading toward the complete establishment of the Messianic kingdom where all sins were taken away, and where all people enjoyed peace and happiness. He expected that the desert and the parched land would turn into the rosy gardens. But, on the contrary to his expectation, Jesus was quiet, and it seemed that there was no change even after Jesus started his mission. Moreover, as he struggled to fight against the evil of the society, by challenging king Herod to repent of his immoral life, he was put in prison, and he was not sure what’s going to happen to him. Things, instead of getting better, got worse. He was confused. He asked himself, “Why?” So he sent his disciples to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
What was Jesus’ reply to his question? Look at verse 22. Let’s read this verse together:
So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Here, Jesus showed John the Baptist the work of the Messiah based on the Scriptures. Jesus’ quotation was from Isaiah 35:5,6, which reads: “5Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” How happy they will be when the blind can see, when the lame walk and when the deaf hear – their parched, sour and dried hearts will be nourished with grace of God so much that they will shout for joy, and render glory to God; water will gush out in the wilderness, and streams in the desert and roses will blossom in their hearts and lives. This is what the Messiah does. What the Scriptures suggest is that God’s salvation, God’s blessing in and through the Messiah is very personal and individual.
Many of us were blind, without knowing who we were, where we came from and where we were going; we didn’t know what to do with our lives. Many of us were deaf that we couldn’t hear; we didn’t receive any information from God at all, but just remained in our own world. At that time, we pursued worthless things wholeheartedly while many servants of God shouted not to do so. Many of us were crippled mentally, physically, and spiritually that we were very dysfunctional. But Jesus came to us as our Messiah, and opened our eyes to see who we are – children of God who were sent into the world to do the business of our Father. So now we know how we must live our lives, and what we ought to do as children of God. Now our eyes are opened to see the glory of the eternal kingdom of God, so we wait for it to appear so earnestly. We now hear the word of God, so the word of God in the Bible is like beautiful music like the “New World symphony.” Sometimes, as we read the Bible, we pant for joy. We are not deaf any longer. God does not need to shout to us to teach us any longer, but just a gentle instruction or even a gentle whisper is enough; now we live the life of obeying God’s will. This is the work of the Messiah as described in Isaiah 35:5,6. This was what Jesus was doing, and this is what Jesus is doing today.
Modern day, people reject Jesus as the Messiah, as a result, they remain blind, without knowing what to do with their lives – they change their major continually, and cry out, “What shall I do?” They don’t know who they are and where they came from, so they end up saying, “Monkey is my cousin, and Gorilla is my uncle.” They don’t know where they are going, so at the death bed, they are dead-scared. These days, so many people live in sin, as a result, their souls are so unclean like leprosy. The sense of uncleanness really bothers them that they become so excessive in taking a shower or hygiene that they wash their hands over and over; they come to hate themselves, become self-destructive, and eventually, suicidal. To these poor people, the good news is preached - this is the work of the Messiah. As the body of the Christ, we must do his work on our campuses, preaching the good news to the poor. Then, as we ourselves have experienced, many blind people will receive sight; many deaf will hear; many mute will praise God, and the spiritually dead people will cross over from death to life.
Look at verse 23. Jesus says, “Blessed is he who does not fall away on account of me.” This statement is really shocking. People never imagine that anyone can fall away because of Jesus. But Jesus’ statement shows that we must be very careful not to fall away because of him. John the Baptist was confused and he almost fell away from his faith in Jesus, because Jesus did not do the things he had expected him to do. The way God worked was different from John’s way, John’s expectation. Many people have some vague, but fantastic ideas about serving God, so they try hard at first, expecting fantastic results. Then, when things do not go as they expected, but instead, persecution comes to them, or they suffer financially, they doubt about God, and give up their faith and mission. Some people when they believe in Jesus, think that everything will go very well - they will get all As at school, they will get good jobs, and have a wonderful family. But when things do not go as they have expected, they doubt about God’s love for them, and even end up losing their faith. We must not be like them. Blessed is he who does not fall away because of Jesus. How can we avoid this danger? Our Christian life must be real, not fantasy, based on the word of God, not on our own expectation. Our life must be rooted and built up in the word of God.
Second, “What do you go out into the desert to see?” (24-28). After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John. He said, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.” When John was put in prison, it seemed that he was a failure. Even now he was confused, wondering if Jesus was really the promised Messiah or not. At this, some people may say, "Man, he was even confused about the most basic thing - Jesus' Messiahship?! What's wrong with him?" But Jesus recognized his greatness fully. He says, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Of, they did not go out into the desert to see a reed; if it were so, they would have gone to the beach. What is Jesus talking about? Jesus talks about John the Baptist that he was not a person like a reed that is swayed by the wind easily; instead, John was a man of integrity with a strong backbone, standing firm on God’s side, withstanding all kinds of difficulties, threats, persecutions and temptations. John was that kind of person – a man of integrity with strong backbone for God and God’s mission. How great it was for John that his Master Jesus recognized him this way. Some people live as God’s servants when things go well; but when difficulties rise and challenges come, when persecution comes, when they have to suffer for God, they are blown away and are not found in God’s work any longer – they are like a reed that is swayed away by the wind. Some people serve God’s work during college period when there is nothing to hold on. But after graduation when temptation for money and success comes, they are blown away – they are like a reed that is swayed away so easily. How do you want Jesus your Master describe you? We must be strong in Jesus Christ, taking down deep root in His grace, in his calling, and in his mission so that we can remain in him as faithful servants, standing firm for Him in any circumstances.
Jesus also says, “If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.” Certainly, you don’t go out into the desert to see a man dressed in fine clothes; you don’t expect that the man staying in the desert would be dressed in fine clothes. If you were looking for such a person, then, instead of going into the desert, you should have gone into the palaces, looking for a famous TV evangelist who drives Porsche Super Car. What is Jesus talking about? He is saying that John was not the kind of person pursuing money, success and luxury in serving God’s kingdom work. In serving God’s work, John did not give his heart to money or luxury, but pursued God’s will and purpose alone. Jesus indeed fully recognized how wholeheartedly John had served God’s work. When we serve God wholeheartedly, Jesus recognizes us this way. How sad it will be if Jesus says of us, “This man looked like serving God, but actually, he was secretly pursuing money.” If Jesus says of us this way, we will be utterly ashamed in heaven. We must serve God alone with our single-hearted devotion.
John was the prophet who was to come ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way for him. Look at verse 28. Let’s read this verse together:
“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Jesus says that John was the greatest among those born of women; simply, the greatest man among all peoples on earth. Jesus says, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” showing that basically, each and everyone in the kingdom of God is at least as great as John the Baptist. So, John’s greatness is the standard for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God. If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must be at least as great as John the Baptist. This is really shocking and amazing. This shows us what kind of people enter the kingdom of God - not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord,” “Lord,” but truly great people, not wishy-washy. Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls me “Lord,” “Lord” will enter the kingdom of God, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). One time, the disciples asked Jesus a very important question, saying, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Then, Jesus answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because, many, I tell you, try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:23-24) They want and try, but they fail to enter the kingdom of God. This is really shocking. Then, who enters the kingdom of God? Only those who are completely determined to enter it, and thereby, make every effort to enter it can make it; such people are not wishy-washy; they are not swayed by challenges or temptation; rather, with a heart’s complete determination, they seek the kingdom of God - these people enter the kingdom of God - they are great. What about those who wanted to enter the kingdom of God, but failed? When they are rejected to enter at the gate of the kingdom of God, they weep for sorrow of not entering it, and gnash their teeth angrily, for not seeking God’s kingdom wholeheartedly, but for being swayed away by temptations and difficulties. Those who make their journey to the kingdom of God are great, because they are the ones whose hearts and lives are completely dedicated to God’s kingdom; they are the ones who value things of God most highly and thereby, they serve God’s kingdom work with a single-hearted devotion.
If you make your entry to the kingdom of God, you are recognized at least greater than John the Baptist who is the greatest among all peoples on earth. So, John’s greatness is the standard for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God. By the way, all these great people, who are greater than John the Baptist gather in the kingdom of God and form a community there. What kind of society is it? The society of really great people - so great society. What about living among those great people in such a great society? Imagine that all your classmates are so great like John the Baptist; when you gather together to discuss something of the society, all those who gather there are so great, awesome, fully dedicated to God, pursuing God’s kingdom only in one mind and heart. It will be such a wonderful society and living among those great people will be such great experience - nothing to worry about; you will be truly satisfied. Let’s pray that our church may be such a great community - the kingdom of God here on earth. Let’s pray that we all may become truly great in God’s eyes, with our heart’s complete determination to serve God’s mission in any circumstances, and with our single-hearted love and devotion to God.
Third, “Like children sitting in the marketplace” (29-35). Look at verses 29 and 30. Let’s read these verses together:
29(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
This passage describes the two responses of people when Jesus came and delivered his message. One group of people, when they heard his words, acknowledged that God’s way was right. When they heard his message, they agreed to what he had said, recognizing him as a servant of God. Based on his words, they acknowledged that God’s way was right, and their way was wrong, and thereby, they would live according to God’s way; thus, their life changed. The other group of people – the Pharisees and experts in the law – rejected God’s purpose for themselves. Wait a minute! They were Pharisees and teachers of the law - Bible scholars, theologians and seminary professors. They had degrees and certificates in theology; they had religious and spiritual titles and positions in Israel; they were considered most devout. But the author writes, “They rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” Weren’t they already living according to God’s purpose for their lives, since they lived a religious life? This passage shows that becoming a Pharisee or a teacher of the law, having such degrees and certificates in theology, having such religious and spiritual titles and positions is one thing, and living according to God’s purpose for their life is quite another. They lived a religious life, pursued degrees and certificates in theology; they had jobs in religion; yet, they were the very ones who had rejected God’s purpose for their life. When they heard Jesus’ words, they did not him as God’s messenger for them; instead of acknowledging God’s way was right, they rejected Jesus and his message, insisting their own way.
Both of these two groups heard the same message from the same messenger, Jesus, yet, how come their responses were so different? The author comes up with only one reason, saying, “because they had been baptized by John,” and “because they had not been baptized by John.” The first group of people responded to John’s message, acknowledging their sin as sin, and repented through the baptism. At that time, their eyes were opened to what was really right and what was really wrong, and how they must live their life before God. Then, when another servant of God, Jesus came and delivered his message, they could recognize it as a message from God also, so they responded to Jesus’ message as well. But the second group of people did not respond to John’s message; they did not acknowledge him as God’s messenger, insisting that there was nothing wrong in their life. Then, another servant, Jesus came and delivered his message to them, they still did not recognize him or his message; instead, they still thought that their way was right; so, they did not respond to God’s servants, nor to God’s messengers; in this way, they had rejected God’s purpose for their life, even if they had lived a religious life.
These two groups’ responses to Jesus show us the importance of true repentance. When people really repent and turn to God by responding to God’s message, there, their eyes are opened to see what is truly right and what is truly wrong; they come to acknowledge that God’s way is right; thus, they live according to God’s will and purpose upon their life. But when people do not have this true repentance, real turning to God, there is no fundamental change in their life at all; at best they become religious; at best they become moralistic with tons of Bible knowledge. All these people reject God’s purpose for themselves even though they go to church, or even though they have a PhD in theology. How sad it is that so many people say, “I believe in Jesus,” or even, “I love God,” but reject God’s purpose for their life. How sad it is that even though people memorize John 3:16 perfectly, they reject God’s purpose for their life! How sad it is that people have been in church for ten or twenty years doing all religious activities such as, communion, baptism, Bible reading and praying, but have been rejecting God’s purpose for their life! At their death bad, they are empty, and full of regret. To whom can we compare these people? What are they like? Look at verses 31 and 32. Let’s read these verses together:
31“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’
“The people of this generation” refer to the Jews who believed in God, but they were the very ones who had rejected God’s purpose for them; instead of accepting God’s purpose for them and living accordingly, they were just religious. God tried to help them by sending his messengers, but they were not responsive to God’s efforts at all, just like the children in the marketplace. Sadly, this is how so many God-believing people live their lives - just being religious, but rejecting God’s purpose for them. Jesus was not happy with these people.
In Jesus’ time, God established two servants - John the Baptist and Jesus the Savior - the two opposite styled ministries. John’s ministry was very strict, holding onto the virtue of discipline - memorizing Bible verses extensively, praying 3 or 5 times a day absolutely, fasting 2 days or 3 days or even 4 days a week. Jesus described John’s ministry as the ministry of singing a dirge - a funeral song. If you visit his ministry - a big ministry with many people in a big building - you will be surprised because the whole building is so quiet - no one laughs, no one shouts, but everyone is so serious, and no one makes a mistake in anything; they are all super-holy. No one drinks, no one smokes, no one dances,... Modern day, there is a debate among Christians in regard to drinking wine, but what would John say about it? Absolutely no way! In our terms, John’s ministry was very conservative - an extreme right wing. His ministry was powerful, but at this, the Pharisees and the experts in the law criticized him, saying, “He has a demon,” and rejected him and his ministry. Then, God operated Jesus’ ministry. Jesus described his ministry as the ministry of playing the flute - always joyful and exciting. In his ministry, his disciples enjoyed a lot of fun; while John’s disciples fasted, Jesus’ disciples had a feast, eating and drinking. It seemed sometimes that Jesus was drunk - that’s why they called him, “a drunkard.” While John’s disciples were so serious, Jesus’ disciples had a lot of fun, maybe, often, having street evangelism with hip hop dance and raps. In our terms, Jesus’ ministry was an extreme left wing. Some people liked John’s ministry style, while others liked Jesus’ ministry style. God operated his kingdom work with these two ministries - one extreme right wing and one extreme left wing; with these two wings widely stretched, God was trying to catch even the last person. This was God’s effort - with his two wings widely stretched out, God tried to save all kinds of people.
Yet, how was people’s response? When they came to John’s ministry, they said, “He has a demon,” meaning “He is too extreme,” or “He is too legalistic.” Then, when Jesus’ ministry came to them, they said, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard.” Thus, they rejected both of God’s ministries. This is how people, especially, God-believing respond to God’s efforts to help them repent.
Today God operates all kinds of ministries, literally several hundred or even several thousand ministries in the world, with different focuses, styles and methods, even with some different theological approaches so that He can reach out to the last person in the world. Indeed, God is working hard for the salvation of many, willing to go extra miles. But people are not responsive. They come to one church where everyone is zealous for God, and they say, “This church is so legalistic.” So they go to another church where they enjoy rock band, but they say, “This church has no word of God.” Their problem is, simply they are not responsive to God’s efforts for them, and thereby, they reject God’s purpose for themselves. So, they never make true commitment to any church, and thereby, to God at all - they do just some religious things. God sings a dirge for them, but they do not weep; God plays the flute for them, but they do not dance. This is how modern day so many Christians live their life in God’s eyes. They reject God’s purpose for themselves, because fundamentally they have not received the true baptism yet - their acknowledgment that the way they have lived was wrong and that God’s way, God’s will for them is right. They must repent of their wrong way of life and accept God’s will for their lives, acknowledging that God’s way is right. They should not rely on their own righteousness of perfect church attendance, or their great Bible knowledge, or their spiritual legacy of attending a church with a famous pastor. Then, they will be able to see that God’s way is right.
One Word: The Blind Receive Sight, The Lame Walk, and The Deaf Hear - This Is The Work Of The Messiah
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
Key Verses 11:25, 26
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and, whoever lives and believes in me will never die do you believe this?”
First, “This sickness will not end in death” (1-16). Look at verses 1 through 7. Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus lay sick. They knew that Jesus loved them and would have dropped everything to come and help them. So they sent word to Jesus that the one He loved lay sick. But Jesus responded differently. He said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Wow! Jesus had a really optimistic view of everything. Instead of being sad, He saw it as an opportunity to reveal Gods glory. Jesus always saw the perfect chance to reveal the glory of God. Jesus had a single hearts devotion for God and to God that even through this deadly sickness, it was the perfect chance to reveal Gods glory. I pray that we all may have a single-hearted devotion to God so that we too may be optimistic in seeing the glory of God in our lives.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Mary and Martha both thought, that in love, Jesus would come to them right away, but He didn't. He waited two more days. During that time, it must have been very difficult to watch Lazarus suffering in pain. They kept waiting until, finally Lazarus died. Their hope that Lazarus could have been saved was gone. Lazarus died and was buried. Jesus love is different, even though Lazarus died, HE wanted them to see the glory of God. Jesus wanted those whom He loved to see something great, to see how great God truly is. Jesus did this in love. It is the same for us. Often, we too get discouraged; we too go through difficult and painful challenges. Even though we pray a lot still the problem is there. Jesus does not want to give us a comfortable life or to make problems just go away but, in love, ultimately He wants us to see the glory of God in our life. To see this Jesus is willing to let us go through difficult and painful times, maybe even to the extreme, but in love Jesus wants us to experience and see the glory of God in our life. Then we will be amazed at how great our God truly is.
“No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.” Here, God's Son, of course, refers to Jesus Himself. Jesus being glorified through it means that, through this event, Jesus would be revealed as who He truly was - God's Son. Jesus wanted to show those whom HE loved who He truly was. Recognizing as God would be indeed, glorious. Once they saw who Jesus was their attitude towards Him would never be the same. They would truly worship Him as their God and their King. Their life would change forever. For this reason, Jesus stayed behind two more days. Maybe they misunderstood His love for them but for their sake, because He loved them He was willing to be misunderstood. Jesus was willing to go through that battle for the sake of His beloved ones.
Jesus loves us. He is concerned for our happiness and wellbeing, He wants to give us the best. He wants to reveal the glory of God in our life too. How? In our real life, problems and difficulties. Maybe we expect Jesus to give us a smooth path, or just a comfortable life, but in this way, we become complacent and naïve, we never come to see who God truly is; but God wants us to really know Him, to be mature and full of integrity having a real knowing of Him; He wants us to experience His glory – and when we do, we are never the same. We can understand just how great He truly is. When we do, we will truly worship Him, HE will be the most valuable thing in our life; all other things lose their value and we can really purse Him with all our heart and strength. Jesus loves you. So, he wants to reveal his glory to you in your real life.
After the two days had passed, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples responded, “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” At this, Jesus gave them a very important teaching. Look at verses 9 and 10. Let's read these verses together.
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
There are 12 hours of daylight, and then the night comes. We don't have to worry that night will come at 1pm or 11am, but once the 12 hours of daylight are over, the night comes. In the same way, God has granted everyone a certain span of life. Until that span is complete we will not die. So as you serve Gods mission your life will not end by some random drive by shooting, or a terrorist attack but only when you complete the mission God has given you. Jesus encouraged his disciples to walk by day so that they will not stumble, only when they walk by night will they stumble. Right now, the disciples were walking by night because they were afraid of the Jews and wanted to avoid any danger. Because of the fear of death, they didn't know what to do. Death controlled their every decision. In this way, they would eventually fall. ON the contrary Jesus was walking by day. His decision to go back to Jerusalem was because of His absolute trust and faith in Gods absolute sovereignty. He knew that His life was in God's hands – not at the hands of some angry Jews. At that time, he knew what to do and how to live his life very clearly - he must do the work of God and reveal God's glory and a perfect chance was waiting for him in Judea. We must not walk by night but by day – by trusting in Gods absolute sovereignty of our life. The decisions in our life must be by faith and trust in God, not by fear or uncertainty.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” The disciples were scared of death so Jesus reaffirmed that death is just sleep, like taking a good nap. Death is the transition of this earthly body to our heavenly body where we will be refreshed and start a new chapter in our lives. So there is no reason to be afraid of death. The disciples took Jesus words literally and said “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” The disciples were really trying to get out of going back to Judea, they were saying “let him sleep, he will get better, so see? There is no reason to back to Judea.” But Jesus answered them: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Not only did Jesus want to help Mary and Martha but also his disciples in overcoming their fear of death. Jesus knows our limits and weaknesses and wants to help us overcome them so that we may serve Him freely, powerfully and limitless.
At this Thomas said to the rest of the disciples “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” To Thomas being Jesus disciple was like being a Japanese Kamikaze pilot in WW2. But we must understand that Jesus is our Good Shepherd who is concerned for our well-being and wants us to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life. Jesus wants to help us overcome our fear of death and our weaknesses and character flaws and really put our trust in Him - so that our faith in God may be sound and healthy and that we may enjoy our life as real children of God.
In this passage, I can see that God truly wants me to see who He is. Like the disciples, I have a lot of fear. As I started out being a disciple of Jesus I still had a lot of fear and anxiety of life. I get nervous in situations, I get anxiety when I can't figure things out and things are confusing, I am afraid when I am uncertain of my future, but because of this I cannot serve God freely and trust in God freely. But living as Jesus disciple, Jesus has taken care of me step by step. God has given me a job, God has taken care of my family, I haven’t had to worry, Jesus has taken care of all of my practical things, now I have a career job with upward mobility. When my wife lost her job, that real fear and anxiety came back, but soon enough she got a job with the Redondo Beach Unified School District, God has taken care of my family and myself, God is taking care of my son, and I am learning that as I trust in God really, He will take care of me. Nothing will happen to me until I fulfill Gods purpose in my life. I am learning to walk by day by real trust in Him and relying on Him for all things. It is only when I don't trust Him that fear and anxiety takes control over me and in that way, I walk in darkness. God is really good, God is really loving to His people, Jesus is my Good Shepherd who is guiding me continually and I have seen the glory of God in my life. Because of this I have been free to take care of sheep and to serve His mission, I am becoming more and more free to love God and to be myself around my brothers and sisters. I am being more open to others so that I can freely love my brothers and sisters instead of being anxious all the time. Because of Jesus guidance in my life I am becoming free to love God and serve God freely. That is the glory of God in my life. Jesus is helping me to overcome my weaknesses and character flaws and I can only thank Him. I pray that I may really believe in Jesus that I would really trust Him in all things so that I may love Him and serve Him freely and unlimitedly. I pray that as I learn to trust in Jesus and follow His guidance I may change into a beautiful child of God and reveal Gods glory.
One Word: It is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it
Second, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (17-27). When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. There were professional mourners, mourning so professionally, and everyone there in the house looked so sad and depressed. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She was so sad and upset that Jesus had not been there when she needed him the most. But after blaming him that way, she felt bad and added, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” What was Martha talking about? She herself did not even know.
At this, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Amazingly this is what Jesus was planning the entire time. But she understood Jesus' words as a theological expression and said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” That's what she had heard about from others and it was better than nothing, but practically, it did not help her at all in the given situation. As a result, she was still utterly sorrowful; it was because that theology was nothing but head knowledge - not real to her yet.
Look at verses 25 and 26. Let’s read these verses together:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus was not satisfied at all with her head knowledge of the Bible. Instead, he showed her who he was. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is the resurrection and the life. This is an amazing proclamation. But what does it mean that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? As the resurrection, it means that Jesus is everything of the resurrection: it is about Jesus, for Jesus and by Jesus. Jesus is the Giver of the resurrection, Originator of the resurrection, Author of the resurrection, and Owner of the resurrection. Simply, the resurrection happens because he does it! Jesus also says, “I am the life.” The expression, “the life,” shows that Jesus is everything of life. He is the Giver of life, Cause of life, Creator of life, and Owner of life. The resurrection and the life go side by side; the resurrection can be there only because there is life. So who might this person be? Who can be the resurrection and the life? He is God! “I am the resurrection and the life.” This is Jesus' proclamation as God.
Jesus then says, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Often, due to our own sins, or doubt, or because of life's challenges and burdens, we lose all our strength, vision, and passion for God; simply we die feeling like flat tires or worn out batteries with no life in us. But things do not end there for those who believe in Jesus, because he revives us; he gives us life power through our faith over and over. This is what all of us have experienced in our life of faith and mission. So many challenges have been there, academically, financially, and even spiritually. But by faith in Jesus, we rose again over and over. So with Jesus as the resurrection and the life, what do you have to be afraid of? There is nothing to be afraid of in this life when you believe in Jesus, because even though you die, you will live. Then you will live the life that that knows no limits, you will not be bothered or controlled by anything in this world. Instead, you can do what God wants you to do freely with no fear or worry. How come things happen this way for those who believe in Jesus? It is because he is the resurrection and the life. When you believe, you live and rise above all challenges, even death.
Jesus also says, “And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” This is what we all desire in our spiritual life. We don't want to go through death and resurrection, or go through many spiritual ups and downs continually. Instead, we want to continually enjoy this new life in Jesus to the full, never experiencing spiritual death again. Then, how? Now Jesus gives us his answer, saying, “He who lives and believes in me will never die.” By believing in him, we live. The Bible says that the righteous will live by faith from first to last. So we started our new life by believing in him, we maintain this new life by believing in him, and we serve God’s work continually by believing in him trusting in Jesus’ love, his goodness for us, his great vision for us, and his guidance for us. That way we live our life, and when we do we will never die. Challenges might be there; you may have persecutions and sufferings; you may be poor financially; you may have some health issues. But your spirit is never bothered; you are never discouraged, but you always have such fervor for Jesus; you always love Jesus, and even in extreme challenges you enjoy such deep consolation in your heart that you are always with God – you never die. This is the kind of life Jesus wanted Martha to live instead of uttering some Biblical or theological expression, and this is the kind of life He wants us to live - the life of resurrection, and the life that never dies. Again, how? By believing in him - by believing in his goodness and love for you. Through the word of God, or prayer or singing hymns, our faith in Jesus is renewed - we become confident of his love for us, his leading and guidance, his provision and blessing, and his good plan for us; when our faith is renewed like this, we live again, and we even never die.
After this, Jesus challenged Martha personally, saying, “Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that you can enjoy this kind of glorious life of resurrection by faith in him? Do you believe that you can live and never die by believing in him? After showing us what a glorious life we can enjoy in him by faith, he challenges us personally, “Do you believe this?” What is your answer?
Martha answered, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” She should have stopped after saying, “Yes, Lord.” But by adding a little more commentary, she showed that she had totally missed the point. When she did not know Jesus as the resurrection and the life, when she didn't truly know Jesus as her God, her attitude toward Jesus was limited. Her service to Jesus was limited. That's why Jesus wanted to reveal his glory to her so that her eyes might be truly opened to him, and thereby, she would really worship him.
Through mediating on this passage, I learned that those who know Jesus as their true God, the resurrection and the life, are the ones who enjoy a glorious life of resurrection. I am reminded that I started this Christian life by believing in Jesus, and now the key to continually enjoying this new life is by continually believing in Him as the resurrection and the life. When I moved out to college in 2006, I did not know what I should really live for or pursue. I had changed my major 5 times in the course of one year and when I could not find anything worthy of my life, I turned to a pleasure seeking lifestyle, only to become more empty and miserable. But amazingly God saw me and had great mercy on me by sending me a Bible teacher. And through The Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke’s gospel, God’s love for one lost sinner touched my heart that I broke down in tears and repented before God. It was at that moment, when Jesus’ love became real and I believed that I could cross over from death to life and start my Christian life. I began to dedicate myself to God’s work on the CSULB campus, looking for lost sheep and teaching them the words of God, and eventually by God’s grace I could even experience the great joy of seeing disciples grow under my care.
Now that I am married and have two energetic boys, there have been a lot of challenges and difficulties where I reached my limit. Sometimes it was very hard and scary especially when my children’s well-being was involved and as God was challenging me, “Do you believe this?” But each time, by God’s help through his word and servants I could trust in God’s love and good plan for my life and children’s life, and thereby seek God first continually. At that time, God always helped me and revived my soul.
At the beginning 2015, I got my new boss and in our first conversation he told me was that I was replaceable. I was shocked and scared after that because I thought that if I did not work as much as the other employees then I would not seem as committed, and be the first to go. That year we struggled a lot with our budget and some people from our group had to go on a domestic temporary assignment in Seattle for 6 months minimum. My boss asked several times if I would go, but each time I declined, then it came to the point where he told me, “Johnny, you are going.” I was so scared to answer him and when I told him that I would not go because of my commitment to God, he was frustrated with me. I thought that surely my career at Boeing was over and I was utterly defeated. But as these things happened so many times, I learned that I needed to really have faith in God and entrust my career, security and future into God’s hands. After that, the burden was gone and I could entrust my job security into God’s hands. Amazingly, God intervened into the situation allowed me to find favor in my manger’s eyes and he promoted me that year. Hallelujah!
Also, when I was having great burden about my financial security, God provided me with several cash awards for my patents! Because of God’s provision and love for me, I could pick up new spirit and vision.
Lately, it has been really challenging to find new sheep with very limited time and limited energy. Because of this, I am often discouraged. But Jesus now challenges me through this passage, saying, “Do believe that you can find new sheep with your limited time and energy?” I see that it has nothing to do with having more time or more energy, but about me having faith in Jesus. I started my life of faith by believing and it was glorious, now as I continually go that way by believing in him in everything, I will not be defeated but will rise above all challenges and difficulties living the life that never dies With faith in Jesus, I do not settle down with anything in this world nor am gripped with fears, health issues, or security matters, but invest all I have in serving God’s kingdom work on my campus. I pray that my life may be used for God’s purpose alone and by continually believing I may enjoy that powerful and dynamic life of serving God’s mission always and find many new sheep.
One Word: Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Third, “Lazarus, Come out” (28-44). Look at verses 28 and 29. As soon as Mary heard that Jesus came home, she quickly ran out to him. She fell to his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She was upset with him for allowing her brother to die, and for not coming to help her when she needed his help in the most difficult time of her life. Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?” “Come and see,” they replied. When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus was aware of how much they had been overwhelmed by sorrow and death. This made him troubled in spirit. They needed to see the glory of God for only then, their sorrows could be taken away from them. Driving them to the corner when they were overwhelmed was not easy for Jesus to do. This had made him cry. Seeing how much pain they were in also made him cry. Some of his critics were also at the same location: some saw his love for them when he cried in front of them. Other people entertained the fact that it was Jesus’ fault for allowing Lazarus to die and for making Mary and Martha suffer.
Sometimes in our practical lives, Jesus allows us to go through difficult times even to the point we are overwhelmed with pains and sorrows. This is not easy for him to do. Sometimes we cry when Jesus does not answer our prayers. Sometimes we have a hard time pressing on. We hope for some measure of comfort from him, yet he gives us no response. Still, he leads us this way so that we could see the glory of God. Only by witnessing the glory of God in our situation, our spirits could be revived and rejuvenated. We will not be controlled even by our present circumstances.
Look at verses 38 and 39. Jesus deeply moved again and went to the entrance of the tomb. He said, “take away the stone.” What Jesus said was shocking and beyond common sense, so Martha said, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” In response, Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Let’s read verse 40 together:
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
After four days in the tomb, Lazarus’ eyes were decomposed. His organs and muscles liquefied. His skin was pale. His body was covered with maggots. Martha did not want to see her brother’s decomposed, maggot filled flesh. She would rather not have the last memory of him be his decayed body. She wanted the tomb to be covered. Jesus did not accept her sentiments. In fact, he challenged her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Only by faith in Jesus she should expose her brother’s decayed, maggot-filled body. She would remove the stone by faith rather than in fearing of the worse possible outcome. She would see the glory of God and not experience an embarrassing moment. Things would turn out glorious for her-- far beyond what she could imagine: she would see her brother come back to life! Wow. Jesus challenged her to believe his power over death. This challenge was new for her. She never thought that Jesus had power over death. She knew that Jesus had power over sickness, diseases, including demons. But she never thought that Jesus had power over the Grim-Reaper—death. Death is a mighty champion and has been so for thousands of years. No one could outdo him. But Jesus, in today’s passage, tells Martha that he could defeat death by raising Lazarus back from the dead, and He wanted her to believe that he could do it. She must put her faith in Jesus as the resurrection and the life.
Today, Jesus encourages us to remove our stones from the tomb. Many people have something that they do not want to expose publicly. They fear that if they expose that embarrassing part or ugly part, they would be shamed. However, as they hide behind that problem or issue, they are actually like a decaying corpse inside a tomb. They make excuses saying, “Lord, it’s so bad.” Or they say, “People will think I am a weirdo. There’s no hope for me.” Jesus challenges us that if we believe in him as the resurrection and the life, we will see the glory of God. If we expose our ugly and disgusting and decomposing part, we will witness something marvelous. Like what? A weird person becomes sound; a sexually immoral person becomes clean in heart and in deed; a hateful person becomes loving and thoughtful; a traitor becomes sincere and faithful; if we believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life, we remove the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, and then we will experience the glory of God. Jesus says to us, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
After Jesus’ challenge, they picked up faith and rolled the stone away, then he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And lo and behold, Lazarus walked out of the tomb, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus told them to remove the grave clothes. All the maggots from Lazarus’ body were gone. His skin color was restored, and his eyes were bright. He looked like a healthy young man. Everyone else was amazed and put their faith in Jesus. They experienced Jesus as the resurrection and the life.
In 2010, God gave me vision through Mark’s gospel that I would be sharp and effective man of God when I reach 30 years old. God’s words to me at that time was alive to me, because I kept Psalm 1:2, 3 very seriously which says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prosper.” During that time, I worked yet had no car and rode the bus two hours to get to campus and two hours to get home. I was not burdened at those times because I was meditating on God’s words and completing my testimonies on the bus. The word of God was refreshing; I felt like a tree planted by the streams of water. Surprisingly I became a fellowship leader because I did not think that I could be a leader. I also was inspired to start the Narnia symposium at a New Year’s conference in 2011. That same year God helped Herman received God’s words personally and he also became a dedicated servant of God as well. In December 2011, I married Sarah, a woman of God. Later, God also raised up Darius from under my care. He too has been growing. God blessed me to be a fellowship leader to be an encouragement to my fellowship every week.
As time went on in 2014-2016, many of my fellowship members left the ministry. I was very bothered by this because each person in my fellowship was very dear and precious in my eyes, and we all worked together closely like a family. During the time my daughter Sylvia was born, and I came to have many more things to take care of. Seeing all of this was like seeing Lazarus die in front of me. Although I tried to build my fellowship up, and I tried to find and teach sheep the Bible, I did not see sheep grow well. It was like my vision even to be effective and sharp bible teacher would not come true. If Jesus made things go well, like heal Lazarus’ sickness, I would be happy just as Mary and Martha would be. But since Jesus let my fellowship diminished and not given me any new sheep to teach, I was confused and bothered.
In November 2016, I began working at a Chrysler dealership in Signal Hill and am working 9 to 10 hours a day five days a week. I only have one day to serve campus mission. Even though I struggled hard to teach sheep I had no success. Although I pursued God’s vision, things seemed not becoming true. What if Jesus allowed his vision in my life to die? Jesus wanted me to learn something about him. Despite how things go in my life—good or bad—many sheep or no sheep, would I believe in him? Would I look to him and remain in the love relationship with him? It’s Jesus who has provided me vision and it is Jesus who has given me his blessings—not because I worked hard or I earned some reward. He gives me the vision and allows it to happen. At first my reaction at seeing his vision not come true was, “What! Oh NOOOOO!!!” But He is the resurrection and the life so he decides what lives and what dies. Jesus wants me to concentrate on him and not be so concerned about his vision coming true or not, because ultimately that decision belongs to him. Jesus waits two more days where he is, or he even lets Lazarus die, all for my sake, so that I may know him really. My idea was that the glory was witnessing the vision coming true and seeing disciples grow powerfully under my care. But real glory is Jesus himself. Learning about him more and more is true glory. Getting closer to him is my reward. Therefore, I will choose to love him and be faithful to what he asks me to do, despite the outcome because he is the resurrection and the life. Then I will see him more and be happy with him all the days of my life. I will laugh and cry because of him. He will be my joy and my song. He is the glory that I will see.
One Word: Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?
YOUNG MAN, GET UP!
Key Verse 7:14
Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
First, “Such great faith” (1-10). When Jesus entered Capernaum, some elders of the Jews came to him and begged to help one centurion, for his servant was sick and about to die. They pleaded, saying, “This man deserves to have you do this, for he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” Wow! This was not a usual case – the Jewish elders were pleading for the Roman Centurion! The Jews hated the Romans, and especially, the Roman centurions were the very ones who imposed the rules and regulations of the Roman Empire on the Jews in their practical life. They were enemies to each other. But this Roman centurion purchased the hearts of the Jews completely so that now the Jewish leaders were pleading with Jesus for him. How could he possibly purchase his so-called enemies’ hearts completely like this? When we check out the passage, we see that this Roman centurion was not a cold-blooded killing machine; instead, he was a noble man, valuing his servant highly and struggling hard to heal him. Also, they said that he loved the nation of Israel. This was very remarkable because in those days, Roman citizens considered themselves special and superior; they were proud of their nationality and despised all others. But amazingly, this Roman centurion, a ruler, loved the nation of Israel; it seemed that he recognized the God of Israel as the true God. Also, they said that the Centurion had built the synagogue for them, most likely, out of his own pocket. He was very concerned about their wellbeing, figured out what they needed, and supported them, even sacrificing his own money and time. He had sincere love for them. Probably, at first, when he was kind to them, they were suspicious of his motives. But when his attitude and concern for them remained the same, when his loving affection for them was shown continually in words and actions over and over, these Jews began to open their hearts toward him, and accepted his love, until they too came to love him from their hearts. The Roman centurion purchased the hearts of the Jews. It was really a shocking thing. But that’s just the beginning. The more amazing thing happened on the way.
Look at verses 6 through 8. So Jesus went with them. But he was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” “I do not consider myself worthy to come to you.” “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Indeed, he was the opposite of many people who say, “Only if God appears to me, and tells me what to do, I will accept it as God’s will,” or “Show me God, and I will believe.” No one deserves such honor from God, but they think that they deserve such treatment of honor from God. They are groundlessly proud, thinking of themselves too highly. But this centurion did not think that he deserved such honor. Certainly, he would not dare to have the Roman Emperor under his roof – he understood Jesus in the same way, so highly that a lowly person like himself was not worthy to have him under his roof. Also, he considered Jesus as the commander in chief in the chain of order and himself as a private soldier; a private soldier trying to talk to the four-star general is certainly not acceptable; so he dared not come to Jesus and ask him for favor directly. Indeed, his understanding of Jesus was so great, and he understood himself worth nothing before Jesus; from this understanding of Jesus’ greatness and his unworthiness came such a sincere and humble attitude toward Jesus. True humility, true sincerity comes from knowing the greatness of Jesus.
He said, “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He had absolute faith in the power of Jesus’ word. What was the secret of the Centurion’s great faith? In verse 8, he explains how he came to have such great faith. He had lived in the military. The military is the society of order. He lived by the order, meaning, whether he liked it or not, he obeyed the orders. Sometimes, it was painful; sometimes, it was dangerous; his life was at risk. But through that, he came to understand the power of the words of the authorized person. The words of the centurion had the power to control the lives of one hundred soldiers under him. The words of a tribune had power over one thousand soldiers. The words of the Roman Emperor had the power to affect the lives of all people in the Roman Empire. When the centurion heard about Jesus who healed the sick, opened the eyes of a man born blind, stopped the wind, and drove out demons, all by his words, he applied the same principle he had learned in the military and drew a conclusion that Jesus was the authorized person not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual world. In his eyes, Jesus was the ruler of both physical and spiritual worlds. He would not dare to come to the Roman Emperor directly; he would not bear even the Emperor coming under his roof either. Then, how much more toward Jesus, the ruler of physical and spiritual world! When he checked out what Jesus had done and said, this was his only logical conclusion. He came to grasp that Jesus’ word had absolute power to control.
Faith is not blind, but it comes from realizing and figuring out who Jesus is. We need to be logical in living for God. Many things happen in our daily life; when we see them casually, they are just events that happen without any purpose or meaning; but when we think about them logically and sincerely with faith in God, often we find God’s divine work in them, and our faith in God becomes concrete. Nothing happens by accident. Even a sparrow in the air cannot fall to the ground without God’s approval. God has taken care of us so closely, providing us with everything we need and raising us up as his servants. Now we need to find God in our daily life so that we can confess that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which He prepared for us to do in advance. Brothers and sisters, if Jesus is the Creator God, how should our attitude be toward him? If it is Jesus who is in control of our life, why should we be worried about our future? If Jesus comes again with his reward in his hands, how should we live our life until he comes? Be logical, and be real to God! Show your great faith with your deeds, with your life, and impress God greatly.
Look at verse 9. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Jesus was amazed; he was shocked; he was happily impressed. It is not easy to surprise Jesus because He has all, and He is Almighty; simply, he is all sufficient. But when we have faith in him, we can please Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” In which area do you need to have faith in Jesus? In the matter of your future security? In the matter of your academic grades? In establishing disciples? Just, give your complete trust in Him, and say, “This time, I will surprise him by faith!”
Second, “Young man, get up!” (11-17). Look at verses 11 and 12. One day, Jesus went to a town called “Nain,” and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As they approached the town, they met a funeral procession of the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. In those days, widows had no means to support themselves; no job was available for them. So, the word the word, “widow” was disturbing. The widow’s son died – that’s more disturbing. And he was the widow’s only son – this is really disturbing. Triple tragedy. The son had been a source of comfort and encouragement, a source of hope for her life, a source of joy and happiness, the meaning and purpose of her life; indeed, he was her everything. When he died, the widow lost everything; she was utterly sorrowful; it seemed that her life was over. Who could comfort her? Who could make her smile again? No one!
In the coffin, was lying a “young man.” If an old man were lying in a coffin, it’s not so tragic; it’s okay. But, a “young man in a coffin” is so disturbing. Why? Because simply, a young man should not be lying in a coffin. The key characteristic of a young man is vitality – full of life power, full of potential and possibilities; life power is full in them, and thereby, they can be very powerful; once they find something worthy of their life, they can devote themselves to it completely, pouring out their time and strength, struggling to do something great for their nation, for the world; at that time, they are passionate and zealous; their life becomes very dynamic and action-packed. That’s what young men are about. Young men living such a vital life with passion, zeal, with a challenging spirit, pursuing something great wholeheartedly is just normal; that’s natural. Such young people are the hope of the society, of the whole world. They will change the world. But the young man in a coffin has become void of life completely. His youth, his passion and his potential are gone. He has become only a heavy weight in the bottom of a wooden coffin. He has become a source of sorrow to his mother and townspeople. Instead of bringing great hope and joy, he is a burden to the people around him. Thus, a young man in a coffin is a great tragedy – perhaps the most tragic thing imaginable. Yet, today, there are so many young people who are like this young man lying in a coffin.
There was a young nominal Christian. Growing up as a Christian, he didn’t mess up. But when he thought about his life, he could not find any meaning. So, he gave his time and strength to reading the books, especially, fantasy books, because while he was in fantasy, he could forget about the reality. He was a dead young man. Another student was so depressed because of his broken family. So, he only watched TV to forget his pain and sorrow – when he woke up, he watched TV; when he went to school, he thought about TV programs; when he came back home, he watched TV until he fell asleep. He was a dead young man. Another student just did Video game all night long and didn’t care about anything – his school work or his future. When young students are like this, they bring sheer burden to people around them – to their family, to the school, to the society and even to the government. “Young man” does not refer to just young people in age, but when people have such passion and zeal for their future, when they are active, when they bring such great hope and inspiration to the society, they can be called “young man,” in the true sense. When young people are soaked with alcohol or drugs, staggering on the street hallucinated, we do not call them “young men,” but “zombies.” Modern day, young people are fearful, instead of being powerful, because of their concern for their security. Because of their fear of not being able to pay the bills, the fear of being a loser, they do not live as young men any more – no daring life of challenge or even ambition. Instead, despite their young age, their lifestyle is like that of senior citizens, seeking for a comfortable life. They are like young people, struggling and competing with each other to secure their spot in a coffin.
Look at verse 13. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” When Jesus saw this woman crying, he was deeply touched; he sensed her pains and sorrows; he understood her, and wanted to comfort her. So, he said to her, “Don’t cry.” Usually, in this kind of situation, trying to comfort such a person, people say, “I am sorry.” Yes, that’s what they can do – they are sorry because, even if he or she suffers to terribly, there is nothing they can do; they are sorry because, while the other person has such pains, they do not have that much pains. Or they hug such a person, saying, “Cry more,” hoping that he or she may let it out. Maybe, psychology professors may say some sophisticated words to such a person. But eventually, it is still for some psychological comfort. That’s what humans can do in such a situation. But Jesus said to her, “Don’t cry,” because he was going to help her; he would change the whole situation so that she would not have any reason to cry. That’s the difference between Jesus and all others; that’s the difference between God and humans. When we think about this, we understand that eventually, the real solution to our problems is from Jesus, our God alone. We humans may help and support each other emotionally and psychologically to soothe our pains and sorrows a little bit, but the real solution comes only from Jesus our God. So, eventually, we encourage everyone to come to Jesus and seek him, because he is the solution, and he is the answer. When you meet Jesus, when you secure Jesus’ help, your problems will be gone really, and you will have no reason to be sorrowful or cry any longer. So, seek him!
Let us read verse 14 together:
Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” “
Amazingly, Jesus didn’t call the dead person, “You dead man,” but called him, “Young man,” and gave him a clear direction, “Get up!” There are so many young zombies on the streets, at work and at schools, but amazingly, Jesus still calls them, “Young men.” In Jesus’ eyes, they have potential; they can be somebody and do something great as young men, and he commands them, “Get up!”
“Young man, I say to you, get up!” Jesus’ command reveals that young men should not be lying in coffins. Young men should not throw away their youths in mud chasing after pleasures; young men should not be couch potatoes, wasting their life in worthless things; they must not be like senior citizens only hoping for success, or a comfortable life, or any other perishing thing in this world. Rather, young men must get up and live real life – life of spirit and vision. A young man’s vision should be to secure his place in the kingdom of God, not his coffin. John 5:25 says, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Unless young people hear Jesus’ voice, “Get up,” they will spend their whole lives like a dead young man in his coffin. Jesus calls out to all the dead young men in this world, “Get up!”
Acts 2:17 says, “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’ “God wants all young men to have His vision for their lives, so he pours out his Spirit on people and fills young men with His glorious vision. Jesus says to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” What a thrilling vision Jesus has for his disciples – they will do God’s work to the ends of the earth, and for this, He will support them by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them. William Carey (1761-1834) said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” The Apostle Paul was a young man from a small Roman colony whose only vision was for success in a small Jewish society. Yet, after meeting Jesus personally, he was filled with God’s great vision for his life. He saw a great vision of conquering the Roman Empire with the gospel. He said, “I must see Rome also.” God also called one young man named Jeremiah. Jeremiah responded saying, “I am only a child.” But God said to him in Jeremiah 1:10, “See today, I appoint you over kingdoms and nations to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to plant and build up.” God’s vision upon Jeremiah was to destroy many sinful nations and change them into holy and righteous countries through him. This was God’s vision upon one person, who said, “I am only a child.”
When we check out the Christian history, we can tell how preciously God used young people; we can tell that it was the young men’s history. Jesus’ 12 apostles were not old men, but young men. In the 18th century, seven Cambridge students in England decided to give their lives to God for God’s world mission purpose. Their devotion to God’s world mission command brought such great inspiration to Christians in England that the dead England church was revived through them. John Wesley (1703-1791) and his brother Charles Wesley (1707-1788) decided to live a non-compromising, holy life before God. They formed a campus club, called “the holy club” in Oxford; this club became the foundation for the Methodist church that has covered the entire world. John Wesley once said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but God, hate nothing but sin and are determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and I will set the world on fire with them.” About 200 years ago, College students in America, accepted God’s mission for the lost world that they volunteered to become missionaries after their graduation. At that time, these college students’ dream was not to build their career successfully so that they could pay the bills faithfully and live a comfortable life; instead, it was to be a missionary, bringing God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. They offered their life to God’s mission under the slogan, “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation.” It was called, “Student Volunteer Movement.” God used these young college students so preciously to bring the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, including Mainland China and Korea. In those days, those who did not know Jesus just pursued their own desires and plans for success and a comfortable life. What happened to all these people? No one cares, because, whether they paid the bills very well or they suffered terribly because of ‘Great Depression,’ their life carried no value at all; just they struggled hard to survive, and then, perished, and no one remembers them. But these young college students who accepted Jesus and offered their life to God for his world mission purpose as missionaries, became history makers; they brought real changes to many people and they changed the course of many nations. They were the ones who did something really beautiful, something really praiseworthy. Ruby Rachael Kendrick went to Korea as a Methodist missionary in 1907, at the age of 20, and she died there in less than a year and was buried in Korea. On her tombstone is the inscription, “If I had a thousand life to give, Korea should have them all.” She was a 20 year old young girl, and that’s what she did and said. At the memorial service held in her home conference alone, twelve young women volunteered to take the place of the fallen missionary, and from all parts of the State came reports of the significant influence, which the sacrifice of this young life had brought to bear upon the hearts and lives of the young people of the Methodist church. And the Texas Methodist churches raised about $120,000.00 in her memory as a mission project. She lived a short life. Yet, indeed, she lived a beautiful life, bringing great inspiration to the human world and glory to God. Young people, when they respond to Jesus’ words, when they respond to Jesus’ love, rise and they are the ones who do something really beautiful, something really astounding. Their life carries real value, real meaning.
“Young man, I say to you, get up!” Jesus commands dead young men to get up from their coffins. Jesus is the one who restores dead young men to life. When dead young men hear Jesus’ voice, they are filled with God’s vision for their lives. No longer do they live like senior citizens whose youthful energy, passion, and hope is gone. Rather, they expect great things from God, and their vision is to do great things for God. When one young man hears Jesus’ voice and gets up from his coffin, that young man becomes so powerful-he becomes more than a conqueror. Such a young man changes the world. Jesus calls young people today to get up and live powerful lives. Jesus calls young people to uproot, tear down, overthrow, and destroy the godless lifestyles built up in this world, and to plant and build up the kingdom of God in every town and village in every country. Jesus is the hope for young people today, but we must hear and obey his words, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
Look at verses 16 and 17. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” When they saw that Jesus had brought the dead young man to life, both companies of people were filled with awe, and they began to praise God together. It was an amazing and wonderful thing to see one young man brought back to life. They said, “A great prophet has appeared among us, God has come to help his people.” Actually, the people were all living under Roman rule, and none of their problems were really solved. But when they saw one young man brought back to life, they were filled with vision and hope in what God would do. Whenever one young man is raised from the dead, the greatness of God is revealed, and all God’s people are filled with awe and vision to expect great things from God. Surely, God has come to help the fallen mankind.
In this passage, we learned the faith that surprises Jesus. By his absolute confidence in the power of Jesus’ word, the Roman centurion shocked Jesus. Jesus was very pleased with him and granted his wish immediately. We also learned the power of Jesus’ words, when he said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Those who hear this word of Jesus get up and live a powerful life. Once they get up from the coffin by hearing the voice of Jesus, their life never becomes the same. “Young man, I say to you, get up!” This is what Jesus wants young people to hear, and live by.
One Word: Young Man, I Say To You, Get Up!
HOUSE ON THE ROCK
Key Verses 6:47,48
I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
First, "Love your enemies" (27-36). In the previous passage, we studied about the disciples' blessed life; they were poor, because nothing gave them meaning or purpose in the world; these poor people, when they found meaning and purpose, joy and happiness in Jesus, left everything behind and followed him. Jesus encouraged them to live as poor people in the world continually, putting their hope in God and pursuing God all the way; when they hunger and when they weep as poor people, they are truly blessed. Otherwise, if they find happiness and meaning in anything else, it is a warning sign. After this teaching, Jesus now gives them a detailed instruction of how they should conduct themselves as his disciples. Look at verses 28 and 29. Let's read these verses together:
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Jesus commands his disciples to love their enemies. "Love your enemies." Enemies are those who have done wrong and evil to you that when you think about them, your blood surges and you are angry. How can we love them when we are angry with them? We cannot love our enemies with our emotions because we are angry with them. Jesus does not ask us to love them in that way either. Then, how? Here, love Jesus talks about is agape, God's love, not humanistic love or emotional love. Jesus shows us how we can love our enemies, by saying, "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." With our emotions and feelings, we cannot love them, but we can do what Jesus asks here, maybe, painfully, denying our ill-feelings and emotions against them. Sometimes, we are angry at our enemies; we feel like devouring them and swallowing them up alive in anger, but controlling our anger, we grab their shoulder, and say, "God bless you." Someone has done something wrong against you and as a result, you suffer a lot - that person is your enemy. It is hard to say a good word to him. But controlling your anger, even though it is hard, you say, "I forgive you," because Jesus commands you to do so. Maybe, at that time, your whole body trembles, due to the difficulty of controlling and denying your anger. Surely, it is not easy to love our enemies in this way, but surely, it is not impossible; even though it is really hard, we can do it, maybe, shedding tears due to the pain and sorrow of denying our own emotions and feelings; maybe, holding your fist so tight, you say some good words to your enemies or wish something good for them.
Many people dwell in their anger all the way and do crazy things; or they perish in anger; they are controlled and conquered by their ill-emotions and feelings. But Jesus teaches us, instead of cursing and retaliating, to do something good to our enemies, or say good words to them, wish something good for them, and even pray for them. By doing so, we are not controlled by our ill-feelings and emotions; instead, despite our anger or pains inside, we still do good to them. This is how we can overcome evil by doing good. This is the way Jesus wants us to live our life as his disciples. When we do so, a miracle happens. When we love our enemies despite our ill-emotions and feelings, we come to experience that love for even our enemies grows in us that we come to love them even with our hearts - this is mysterious. By loving our enemies in the way Jesus describes, our inner person is being beautified and sanctified. This is indeed a mysterious miracle. Then, we can really wish good for them and pray for their souls sincerely.
Look at verses 29 through 31. Let's read these verses together:
29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Now the disciples' expression of love for their enemies grows more practical, strong and direct. Before, it was about doing good to them, or blessing them or praying for them, denying our own ill-feelings. But now, it is more direct, practical and personal - someone slaps on your cheek - such a sense of humiliation, but instead of retaliating, you give in; money is concerned, yet you are not so materialistic, instead, you are willing to taste loss in love. In that way, as you practice love, as you struggle to do good to your enemies, bless them and pray for them instead of retaliating, your inner person is being beautified in love and you grow as real men and women of love.
Loving our enemies is not easy; it is painful; with deep pains and sorrows of not expressing our anger to our enemies, we struggle to love our enemies, because this is Jesus' command for us; it is indeed painful. But amazingly, when we obey this command enduring all inner pains, sorrows and anger, we begin to grow as beautiful men and women of love, being able to really love our enemies - shocking the world. Such people are Jesus' disciples. Christianity is full of such an amazing and wonderful story of love - how one woman missionary in India forgave those who killed her husband and her two sons in fire, how a Korean pastor saved from execution and adopted a North Korean communist soldier who had killed his two sons, as his own son. Jesus commands us, "Love your enemies." This is not a suggestion; this is not optional; this is Jesus' command for us. We must obey it whether we feel like doing it or not. When you obey, a miracle happens. Eventually, loving our enemies is for ourselves - our inner person is being beautified.
Look at verses 32 through 34. Jesus says, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full." Loving those who love you and hating those who hate you is what everyone does; as a result, there is no change in human life, and there is no hope in the world. Now, the disciples are to be leaders for them, bringing beautiful influence to the world. How? By loving their enemies. Look at verses 35 and 36. Let's read these verses together:
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Here the expression, "You will be "sons of the Most High,"" means that as people see how you behave, how you even love your enemies, by seeing your good and beautiful behaviors, they come to recognize you as children of God. This is the title all church going people like to talk about. But in most cases, what they talk about is not the reality, but theology. Maybe, theologically, what they say is right, but practically, they are not recognized by people in the world as children of God. Instead, actually, the opposite is true - they give bad influence to the people of the world. Many people refuse to believe in Jesus, because they don't like the way Christians live their life. That's not what Jesus intended; but this is the reality because Christians don't pay attention to Jesus' words and don't obey Jesus' command, 'Love your enemies.' How can we be recognized as sons and daughters of God? By becoming beautiful people in words and actions in our practical life! Then, how? By obeying Jesus' command: 'Love your enemies.' Obey this command, and a miracle will happen to you and you will become a beautiful person.
Jesus says, "You will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." There are many ungrateful people; even though God has given them everything, they do not show any gratitude to Him; instead, in most cases, they live as his enemies, mocking him, and attacking his kingdom. But amazingly, God does not wipe them out; instead, He still takes care of them and provides them with necessary things for them to survive and even flourish, by giving them the rain and sunlight. That's God's character. And the disciples of Jesus do the same thing by loving their enemies, being merciful to their enemies; like the Father, like the son. When you obey Jesus' command, 'Love your enemies,' you become beautiful people, and people come to recognize you as real children of God.
Second, "But first take the plank out of your eye" (37-42). Look at verses 37 and 38. Let's read these verses together:
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
"Do not judge; do not condemn." Instead, "Forgive; give." The reason why you judge people is because they have done something terrible; just think about your enemy; just think about some bullies who bothered you in your middle school or high school; you see their wrongdoings and in your eyes, they are blameworthy; you have a reason to judge them and condemn them as terrible sinners. But Jesus says, "Do not judge." "Do not condemn." It means that even though you see others doing something wrong, don't judge them quickly. What Jesus suggests is that, when you see people doing terrible things, or even they become your enemies, bothering you and insulting you and pushing you to the corner at work, at school, or at home, instead of judging them and condemning them quickly based on their acts, you try to think that there may be some reason for them to do so such as they are stressed out by the burden of the finals, or of job search, or they have some terrible relationship problem with their spouse at home, or their business does not go well and thereby, they are in terrible financial jeopardy. Instead of judging them quickly based on their outward appearance, you try to see things from their point of view - there may be a reason, or they may have an excuse. In this way, about others' sins, character flaws and mistakes, you use a generous measure, giving them room for excuse. Your sheep fails over and over in their fight against sin, and each time, they come up with a lame excuse, yet you accept their excuse and go on continually, giving them another chance. You are generous to them. Jesus commands us, "Forgive." When you have this kind of generous measure toward others, God will deal with you in the same way, very generously. You make a lame excuse to him, saying, "I am so weak," God accepts you and says, "I know. Be strong." You make a lame excuse to him, "I am sinned. My environment is too sinful." God accepts your lame excuse and forgives you and encourages you to start all over again. Because you have forgiven others of their sins, because you have been generous to others, God will forgive you and be generous to you also. Jesus says, "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you." So, ultimately, your generous attitude toward others is for you: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven." We are all sinners; we cannot stand before God with our Bible knowledge. Ultimately, even all Jesus' disciples need God's mercy. How can we secure God's mercy for ourselves? By being merciful to others; by being generous to others' sin problems.
In verse 39, Jesus says, "Can a blind man lead a blind man?" No way! Surely, both of them will fall into a pit. In verse 40, Jesus says, "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." What is he talking about? Jesus mentioned about how generous they should be in dealing with others' problems. Now in these verses, Jesus is talking about how the disciples should struggle with their own sins. Look at verses 41 and 42. Let's read these verses together:
41 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Here, Jesus describes people's sins as "the speck of sawdust in their eyes" and the disciples' own sin problems as "the plank in their eyes." The speck of sawdust is so tiny that it can be ignored so easily. But the plank is a huge lumber, used for frames and posts for the construction like a telephone pole. Such a thing cannot be in one's eyes; but we must see our sins as a plank in our eyes - so big, obvious and serious, something that must be removed absolutely right now by any means - no excuse is accepted. And thereby, we must deal with our own sins so seriously and absolutely. You consider your own sin problem as a plank in your eye. Is there any excuse for you to have a plank in your eye? Can you say, "I am different than others"? Or "Later, I will deal with it"? No way! Instead, you will scream and shout, and you will go to an emergency room right away! No excuse, no delay is accepted. In that way, you deal with your own sin problem, your own character flaws, or your mistakes absolutely and immediately, never allowing any excuse for such things. In dealing with your sheep's sin problem, you are generous, willing to accept even their lame excuses, and to forgive; you have room for them to play around and enjoy good time. But in dealing with your own sin problem, you are so strict that you don't show any mercy, and you don't accept any excuse, but consider any sin, even any hint of sin as something so disturbing, something absolutely wicked and terrible that you are so bothered until you remove it. When you fight against your own sin so wholeheartedly like this, you will really mourn and weep a lot. When we have this kind of attitude, we can understand what Paul, the great man of God, said of himself, "I am the worst." When we have this kind of absolute attitude toward our own sin problems and have such a rigorous struggle to fight against it, we come to see everything clearly. We come to understand how terrible sin is, what sin does, how sin affects every aspect of human life, how people live under sin, what God has done for all sinners, God's love and grace shown through Jesus' death on the cross, and how we must live our life. Our understanding changes; our perspectives change; we come to develop godly value system, hope and vision. At that time, we can see how we must lead people under our care. Otherwise, if we take a casual attitude toward our sins, that is our perspectives, and that's our value system, and that's what we teach our sheep. What will happen? Indeed, both of we and our sheep will fall into a pit; when difficulties rise, when temptation comes, we will be really blown away. Why? Because no real absoluteness toward the things of God. A student is not above his teacher. Then, under such a teacher, no great student rises.
Jesus says, "First take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." This is the prerequisite for all disciples of Jesus Christ - an absolute struggle against our own sin problems. Remove all sinful, worldly and humanistic elements from our hearts and life, and build godly and spiritual value system, then, being able to see all things from God's point of view, we can help and guide people in the way God desires. As a result, under our care, so many powerful people, fully dedicated to God's purpose, will be established.
Third, "Wise builders and foolish builders" (43-49). Look at verse 43. "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." It is really true that people do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. What Jesus is talking about here is that we must become good people so that we can produce good fruit in our life. Jesus' disciples' struggle is not to be nice or look good by doing some good looking things or by being nice to others. Instead, as Jesus' disciples, we must become really good people - with godly and spiritual value system, beautiful and godly characters, with hope in the kingdom of God, loving and pursuing Jesus Christ alone. When we become really good people, we say good words out of the good stored up in our hearts, and just as a good tree bears good fruit, we come to bear good fruit in our life. We must become good trees in God so that we can bear good fruit according to God's will and purpose. Then, how? By obeying Jesus' commands in today's passage! That's what Jesus has been talking about in today's passage. Love your enemies, and your inner person will become beautified as children of God; do not judge, do not condemn, but forgive and give, and first remove the plank from your own eye, and through this struggle, you will become truly sanctified with godly and spiritual value system. You will become good.
Look at verse 46. Let's read this verse together:
46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?
Think about Jesus saying this to his disciples! You never want Jesus say these words to you. But alas! Sadly, this statement of Jesus describes the attitude and life of most Christian today very well; the absolute majority of God-believing people live this way. They call Jesus, "Lord, Lord." They say, "Glory goes to Him alone!" Or they say, "For his glory." They identify themselves as Christians; they pray before eating their food. They are proud that they don't believe evolution, but they believe Genesis 1. There are so many people who profess themselves as believers of Jesus Christ. But it is really hard to find even one person who does what Jesus says; it is really hard to find even one person who lives according to God's will and purpose. Indeed, the love for God is on their lips, but their hearts are far from God. Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Again, you never want Jesus says to you like this. Then, what should we do as his disciples? We must really do what he says! We must really struggle to live according to His will and purpose, instead of just doing some Christian things. Then, on that day, Jesus will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servants!"
Look at verses 47 through 49. Let's read these verses together:
47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
This is the conclusion of Jesus' sermon on the mountain - the conclusion of Jesus' teaching for his disciples. Who are wise builders and who are foolish builders? At this, many naive Christians says, "Believer are wise builders and unbelievers are foolish builders." That's not right. Again, this teaching is not for the unbelievers, but for the disciples who come to him and hear his words, even calling him, "Lord, Lord." Jesus here divides all his disciples into two groups - wise builders and foolish builders. All other things of these two groups are same - they both come to him, hear his words, and call him, 'Lord, Lord." But one thing is different. Wise builders put what they learned into practice - they obey Jesus' teaching. They struggle to love their enemies even though it is painful and difficult; they are generous to others, but strict to themselves, struggling hard to remove the planks from their own eyes; as a result, their inner person is being beautified. And through this kind of real struggles, they come to develop godly and spiritual value system, and they are being truly sanctified. As a result, their life, hope, future direction, and their desire and value system are being built up on the rock foundation of God's words. Then, later, when the rain comes, when life's challenges come, when terrible temptations come, they are not shaken; instead, they stand firm as Jesus' disciples whose life and hearts are fully dedicated to him, and what they have worked for as Jesus' disciples stands firm. Thus, they come to produce good fruit as Jesus' disciples.
Foolish builders do not put what they learned into practice, even if they call Jesus, "Lord, Lord," and even though they come to him, study the Bible and understand his words; they say many Amens, but they don't live according to Jesus' teaching. They may develop a lot of the knowledge of the Bible, and have the form of Jesus' disciples in their words and actions, but they do not become godly people, but still with worldly or fleshly value system with their hope in this life. Since they don't have the struggle of laying down the foundation, they build their house so quickly. While others have hunger and sorrows and pains in their disciples' life, these people laugh freely. But later, when life's challenges come, when real difficulties rise, and real temptations come, since their value system has not changed, since their real hope is still in this life, they are blown away, and what they have worked for as Jesus' disciples crumbles down. Thus, they fail to produce good fruit as Jesus' disciples. In Jesus' eyes, such people are foolish builders who build their house without laying down the foundation. The Bible proclaims, "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." (1Co 3:12-13) As Jesus' disciples, we come to him, study the Bible and hear his words; we respond to Bible's teaching with many Amens. Now we have two choices - either we become like wise builders or foolish builders. What is your choice? Of course, wise builders. Then, what should you do? Do what Jesus says! Love your enemies and struggle to remove the plank from your eyes first; be generous to others, but be very strict to your sins. Don't just have a lot of Bible knowledge, but obey God's words and you will become really good people as sons and daughters of God.
One Word: Be Good People By Obeying Jesus' Commands!
BLESSED ARE YOU WHO ARE POOR
Key Verse 6:20
Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
First, "The Twelve Apostles" (12-19). Verses 12 through 19 talk about Jesus choosing the Twelve and designating them as apostles. This event is not unrelated to the previous passage - the two events that happened on the Sabbath. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were supposed to be the leaders and shepherds for God's people Israel. But the events happened on the Sabbath showed that they were not like shepherds at all. Jesus prayed about this all night long, and had a direction to establish a new batch of leadership - the Twelve apostles. With this new batch of leadership, God's kingdom work would go continually. Also, when we check out verses 17 and 18, we see the practical reason to establish leaders. Verse 17 shows that there was a large crowd of his disciples, not just onlookers, but the disciples who had a heart's decision to follow Jesus; they were committed to Jesus, maybe, several hundred or even several thousand. Also, there was a great number of the crowd who came to hear his message and solve their problems; they did not know Jesus personally yet, but they considered him as a great man of God and wanted to solve their practical problems such as diseases or demon-problems. Surely, Jesus' ministry was now so big that simply he needed helping hands. So, at this moment, he organized his ministry by establishing the Twelve of them as leaders and designating them as apostles. These twelve apostles would be his inner circle members who would serve God's kingdom work together with him; they would discuss the things of the ministry with Jesus, make plans, and launch them to advance God's kingdom work. Simply, they would be his partners who would serve God's work together with him in one mind and heart.
The word, "designate" means, "to nominate, or select for a duty, office, purpose etc." And the word, "apostle," means "the one who is sent." This was the title given to the ambassadors of the Roman Empire; they represented the Roman Empire in other countries. Jesus assigned them as his ambassadors to have the authority to represent himself to others. They would serve God's kingdom work in his name. In the passage, we see two words standing out - disciples and apostles. The disciples are those who learn: they learn from him who God is and what God is doing; they learn what God is talking about in the Bible, and mostly, they learn of Jesus himself. Then, they are assigned as apostles to be sent out to the world for Jesus' purpose. Our Christian life can be summarized with these two words: once we are disciples, learning of the Bible, coming to know God's will and purpose, and enjoying fellowship with Jesus; then, we are assigned as apostles to go into the world for God's kingdom purpose; then, when our mission is done, God will simply take us away from this world to be with Him for ever and ever. The event of choosing his Twelve apostles was a universal event that has changed the world history forever. When God establishes our church, we too will organize our church with new leaders; I pray that such a blessed time may come quickly, and that it may be a universal event that will change the course of human history completely.
The chosen Twelve apostles were: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. There were two sets of brothers - Simon and Andrew, John and James, a very pure-hearted person - Bartholomew (Nathanael), a very smart person - Philip, a very pragmatic person - Thomas, an excellent mathematician - Matthew the former tax collector, a nationalistic patriot - Simon the Zealot, and James son of Alphaeus, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot the traitor. An interesting person is Simon the Zealot; actually, he was more than a nationalistic patriot; the zealots were extreme, willing to take the course of violence for the nation. Whenever a national issue came up, he would raise his voice. But still Jesus chose him. Matthew was a tax collector, despised as a public sinner; having that kind of known public sinner as one of the top leaders would not look so good for his ministry, but Jesus chose him. There is no record about James son of Alphaeus and Judas son of James, indicating that they were not so outgoing, not playing a leadership role among the disciples, yet Jesus still chose them as his apostles. When we think about the Twelve, we can see that Jesus' choice was not based on functionality for the ministry or based on their performance either. Instead, it was based on Jesus' own sovereignty. After praying for this matter all night long, he chose those whom he wanted. We are called to be his disciples not because we had performed well; we are called to be his apostles not because we have performed well. Jesus chose us and now he is establishing us as useful, effective and influential leaders for His kingdom work.
Second, "Blessed are you who are poor" (20-26). Look at verse 20. Let's read this verse together:
Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
This is the sermon on the mountain. The author Luke specifies that this message was addressed directly to "his disciples." There were so many disciples, and now through this sermon on the mountain, Jesus showed them how blessed they were, how they should live their life as his disciples, and what would happen to them; and at the same time, he gave them warnings. So, the sermon on the Mountain is like the manual for the disciples. You are Jesus' disciples, so now you need to know the manual and live by it - so this is for you.
The first words in his address to the disciples were: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Looking at them, Jesus said to them, "Blessed are you,..." Jesus was so happy to see his disciples and showed them that they were really blessed to be his disciples. "Blessed are you,..." He was saying, "Congratulations! You made the right choice to follow me; now you are really blessed; you will be happy and your life will be beautiful." When you applied for schools, you receive a letter that says, "Congratulations!" That's what Jesus was saying. His heart was full of joy and the desire to bless them - they looked so precious and lovely.
"Blessed are you who are poor." In Jesus' eyes, they could leave everything behind and follow him because they were poor. They were poor, meaning that they had nothing valuable in their life. Matthew - even his high paying job did not give him any meaning; it had no value to him, so when Jesus called him, he could leave it freely and follow him; John and James - their family business, even if it was successful, did not mean anything to them - no value at all; so, they could leave it behind and follow Jesus freely; Simon - he even did not ask his wife about Jesus' calling; even his family matter did not give him any meaning. They had nothing to hold on in this world - nothing gave them any meaning or purpose or fulfillment; surely, they were poor in this world; they had nothing valuable in this life. These poor people accept Jesus' calling and follow him. What about rich people? They have things valuable to them - their career dream, their desire for a romantic marriage life, their desire for a happy family; they pursue what they value in this world; they find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in these things, so they turn down even God's calling so that they can pursue and secure what they desire. Only the poor are blessed because they can accept God's calling and pursue Jesus.
How are they blessed? Jesus says, "For yours is the kingdom of God." The kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor, those who have nothing to hold onto in this world and thereby, follow Jesus as his disciples. They come to possess and enjoy the kingdom of God. The real essence of the kingdom of God is not abundance, or beautiful scenery, but "fellowship with God," or simply, "life together with God." When Adam was in the fellowship with God, the Garden of Eden was the Garden of Delight, in which he could enjoy a truly fulfilling life; but once he lost that fellowship with God due to his sinning, the Garden of Eden was not the Paradise any longer, but a hiding place. But when you are in the fellowship with God, you are so overjoyed and happy; your life is so fulfilling and wonderful that even in extreme poverty, you say, "I have all I need." "My cup overflows." When you have life together with God, you say, "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life." Possessing the kingdom of God is all people's dream. "Yours is the kingdom of God." This means that you are the ones who come to enjoy beautiful fellowship with God and thereby, enjoy a truly beautiful and fulfilling life. The kingdom of God is actually what all peoples on earth have looked for - a truly fulfilling and happy life. The kingdom of God cannot be found in money, or in boyfriends or girlfriends; it cannot be found in family, or in fulfilling your most rosy dream, but it is found only in the fellowship with God; it is found in following Jesus Christ as his disciples. Those poor people who have nothing to hold on in this life, and thereby, follow Jesus are really blessed, because they are the ones who find the kingdom of God and enjoy it. This is what Jesus proclaims. When you make a decision to follow Jesus, he welcomes and blesses you, saying, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." You live as Jesus' disciples. Then, Jesus confirms with you, saying, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
Look at verse 21. Let's read this verse together:
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Jesus describes his disciples' present struggles with the words, "hunger" and "weep," and their future blessings with the words, "satisfied" and "laugh." With these, Jesus shows what kind of struggles the disciples have now, and what kind of blessings they will enjoy later.
When you hunger and weep in your Christian life, you are blessed. This is totally the opposite of general consensus of modern day believers. They think that Christians must be satisfied, and happy, and they pretend to be happy, behaving as if everything goes well with them and that they have nothing to bother them at all, saying, "God will take care of that," "God will help me." As a result, they are not sincere about their Christian life; they are not so serious about their practical struggles. But Jesus shows that you are blessed when you hunger and weep. In other words, when you hunger and weep, you are living the blessed life of Jesus' disciples in the right way. How come, "hunger" and "weep"?
The word, "hunger" implies their desperate attitude. Nothing - money, pleasures, relationships, any success - satisfies them; no meaning or purpose or fulfillment in anything. They are hungry for a true meaning and purpose of life - a truly fulfilling life. And the only solution for their hunger problem is in Jesus alone. So, they follow Jesus alone desperately and wholeheartedly. When you have such hunger for a true meaning and purpose of your life in following Jesus, you are blessed. And Jesus' promise for you is that you will find what you have looked for - a truly fulfilling life - in him. As you pursue Jesus that way, you will find yourself so satisfied and happy in such a beautiful fellowship with Jesus, your Lord. You will be satisfied. Those who put their trust in God will never be put to shame.
The word, "weep" shows the disciples' sorrows and pains now. Why? Because following Jesus is hard and challenging; you have to deny yourself, and there is deep pains and sorrows. Sometimes, your family members whom you love so much misunderstand you saying that you don't care about them any longer; even they persecute you. Sometimes, you have to let go of a dream job offer only for the sake of following Jesus, and you have to see your colleagues get it. Sometimes, your sin hinders you in pursuing Jesus. So, you weep a lot. While bearing such pains and sorrows in heart, you live as Jesus' disciples. This is a real Christian life. Jesus shows that, if you have this kind of struggle, if you weep as his disciples, you are really blessed, because you will laugh. If you follow Jesus with such pains and sorrows in your heart, eventually, you will have the laughter of victory, the laughter of thanks and happiness. How come? Because God will make you laugh. This is what real Christian life is about.
What verse 21 suggests - hunger and weep - is directly the opposite of verse 25. Some people are well fed, having so many good looking things; they post on the Facebook and brag about what they have - good career, boyfriends or girlfriends, beautiful looking marriage partner, and they make big smiles in their pictures, and you don't have anything like that; it seems that they have freedom and fun, and you don't have; instead, your Christian life is with painful self-denial and sorrows; you envy them and wish that you may have what they have - you have hunger, and for the sake of serving God, you deny yourself and struggle, but still sorrows are there in your heart, so you cry out to God in prayer at night, you shed tears, saying, "I am lonely. Help me." When you have this kind of struggle, when you have hunger and sorrows only to follow Jesus, Jesus says, "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." This is Jesus' confirmation that you are living your Christian life in a right way. And also, this is Jesus' promise of blessing that you will be happy and satisfied. How? Because God will satisfy you, and God will make you laugh. At that time, your conscience will be really free to laugh and enjoy God's blessing. You will find yourself in Christ, and everyone who hears about you will laugh together with you. Happiness not through securing what we have desired by ourselves, but through receiving what God gives. Meanwhile, until that time, we patiently endure hunger and sorrow so that we can pursue and serve God's kingdom work as Jesus' disciples. This is what Christian life is about.
But that's not all. In addition to "hunger and weep," there is one more thing you come to have if you live your Christian life in a right way - hatred and persecution from others. Look at verse 22. Let's read this verse together:
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
When we check out verse 22, their hatred intensifies - they hate you - ill feelings toward you, - exclude you, meaning, single you out in discrimination, insult you, meaning now personally attack you, and reject your name as evil, meaning, they blend you as an evil man publicly alarming others about you to have no association with you. Their hatred against the disciples is personal as if the disciples are their real enemies. In this individualistic society, no one wants to care about anything of others. Even wicked people say, "You eat your bread, and I eat mine; don't bother me." Then, how come these people hate the disciples and attack them? All these ill treatments show how wholeheartedly and persistently the disciples have struggled to challenge them to repent, disallowing how they have lived, not giving them any credit. Just delivering one general message, even though it may be harsh, will not cause so many people to hate you this much. Just giving them some indirect message of repentance will not create so many haters, but when you personally challenge them to repent, when you personally point out their sins, and disallow what they desire - such as success, job matter, marriage matter,.. - they will really hate you. When you really try to serve God's work this way, you will have only two groups of people - those who accept your challenge and repent will honor and respect you highly as true servants of God, but those who do not accept your challenge and refuse to repent will hate you personally and become your enemies.
At that time, how should you respond? Look at verse 23. Let's read this verse together:
"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
Jesus says, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy." What does it mean to "leap for joy"? It means to jump into the air and shout for joy, saying, "Hurray! At the last!" It is like college students at their graduation, throwing their caps into the air, and shouting - a lot of struggles so far, but finally, they are done with their school and graduate; they have done all the requirements and they have proved themselves worthy of graduation. When you have this kind of ill-treatment from people, rejoice and leap for joy, shouting, "Hurray! At the last!" Why? Jesus says, "for great is your reward in heaven." Not because of some other reason, but because of this practical reason that you have secured great reward in heaven that you must leap for joy. Reward in heaven must be great. But Jesus emphasizes the greatness of your reward in heaven, saying, "Great is your reward in heaven." So, the reward you have secured in heaven by being hated and persecuted for Jesus must be really great. Because of this great reward, you leap for joy, "Hurray! At the last!" When you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, then, you are like a person who wins the California Lotto. How will you respond that you win $30,000,000.00 lottery? Indeed, you leap for joy, shouting, "Hurray!" You know that such a big amount of money is there waiting for you to come and collect. In the same, when you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, you know that such great reward is waiting for you in heaven. So, you shout and leap for joy, "Hurray!"
Jesus says, "For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." When you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, God sees you in the same level with the prophets in the Old Testament. We all honor the prophets - the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet Jonah, the prophet Elijah and the prophet Elisha. Indeed, they are holy prophets. But when you are hated and persecuted for Jesus, you are in the same level with them. You are so great in God's eyes deserving such great reward. By being persecuted for Jesus, you have proved yourself worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus Christ; you have proved yourself truly loyal and dedicated to God's kingdom work. Such hatred from people is like the seal of God's approval on you as his true servants. You are recognized by God for your love and service to Him. So, you shout and leap for joy. When people hate you and discriminate you, when people attack you and give you evil names, don't be discouraged; don't be confused. Instead, shout and leap for joy, for great is your reward in heaven.
Look at verses 24 through 26. Let's read these verses together:
24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Remember Jesus was not talking to other people, but to his disciples - so verses 24 through 26 is about Jesus' warning for the disciples. When they show the symptoms and signs Jesus mentions here, when they live the kind of life Jesus describes in these verses, a red flag is up - these symptoms and signs are evidences that they are living a wrong Christian life, and as a result, unless they really repent right away, sooner or later terrible things are going to happen in their lives. In verses 20 through 23, Jesus talks about their blessed life as his disciples - if you hunger, if you weep, if you are hated, you are blessed and you are living your Christian life really wonderfully. Now in verses 24 through 26, Jesus talks about a wrong way of life as his disciples - if you are rich, if you are well fed now, if you laugh, if everyone speaks well of you, you are living your Christian life as his disciples in a wrong way, and sooner or later, something terrible is going to happen; so you must repent right away.
Originally, we were poor, having nothing valuable in this life; we were looking for something real, something truly valuable; that's why we could turn to Jesus and follow him as his disciples, leaving everything behind. In this new life, now we must be careful that we will not give our hearts to the things of this life such as comfortable and pleasant life, or happy family life, or titles and positions, and pursue them. Jesus must be the source of our joy, comfort and fulfillment all the time. But the minute something else becomes the source of our joy and happiness, the minute we pursue them, a red flag is up. And Jesus warns us, saying, "Woe to you who are rich." "Woe to you who are well fed now." "Woe to you who laugh now." You never want Jesus says to you this way. So, don't give your heart to such things at all. Otherwise, sooner or later, something terrible will happen to you. What the Bible says is really true. The Bible says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:15-17)
Jesus says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." When I heard the expression, "false prophets," many years ago, I thought that these people were really evil like Satan worshipers. But when I read the Bible and learned about them, I found that they were not with two horns or with divided tongues like snakes; instead, they were Bible teachers who taught others the word of God and prophesied in the name of God. But the only thing was that they said good words - words of peace and blessing, which God believing Israel people liked to hear, giving them their approval of the way they were living, proclaiming God's blessings on them; while God's judgment was coming due to their sinning, these messengers, Bible teachers proclaimed peace and God's blessings on them, saying that they were God's chosen people and God would help them. As a result, people liked them and honored them as God's servants; they spoke well of them; these false prophets were popular in Israel.
As Jesus' disciples, as Bible teachers, we must not become false prophets. How? By serving God's work really, by challenging people to really repent and dedicate themselves to God, instead of saying words they want to hear all the time. Actually, it is really burdensome to say words that would offend them; proclaiming the message of judgment generally is not hard at all; if you do that, they will like you more, saying that you are cool. But in dealing with their practical matters such as job matter, or boyfriends or girlfriends matter, or marriage matter or their family gathering matter, it is really burdensome to say, "Don't go to your family gathering; instead, come to our church worship service absolutely." It is really burdensome to challenge people personally to cut off sinful relationships or to not get that job they like. So, often, when that kind of challenge comes, I call John Boos. How easy it is to try to maintain good relationship with people instead of serving God's will! How easy it is to just enjoy honor and respect from others as a servant of God! Sadly, this is the trend nowadays, and it is a sign of the last days. The apostle Paul warns about it, saying, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2Tim 4:3) We should not follow the way of false prophets. With a heart's determination, we must pursue Jesus' will and purpose as his disciples. Let's not be afraid to be hated by others; let's not be afraid to be rejected by people. Our praise is not from people, but from God alone. Let's be zealous for God and serve his work wholeheartedly, then, surely not all people will speak well of us, but only those who accept our challenge; then, other people who refuse our challenge will hate us.
One Word: Blessed Are You Who Are Poor, For Yours Is The Kingdom Of God.
THE SON OF MAN IS LORD OF THE SABBATH
Key Verse 6:5
Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Today’s passage is about the law of the Sabbath. The Pharisees thought that they were keeping the Sabbath law very well by not doing anything on the Sabbath; they accused others who seemed not keeping it. But Jesus told them how they must keep the Sabbath, by saying, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." May God bless us to grasp what Jesus is talking about so that we can keep the Sabbath in the way Jesus desires.
First, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (1-5). Look at verse 1. One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. We can imagine how the disciples acted when they were going through the grain field. They were hungry because they did not have any regular meal time due to their busy life as the disciples of Jesus. Probably, it was after the 11 am Sabbath worship service was over. They knew very well that it was forbidden for them to harvest some heads of grain on the Sabbath and eat them. But because they were so hungry, and because they were not bothered by that kind of religious regulations any more, they shouted for joy when they saw the harvest filed of grain. So without having any hesitation, all of them, like one man, attacked the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, blew the chaff away, and ate them. It was really delicious, a little chewy and sweet. Levi had lived as a selfish and rich tax collector; Simon Peter was already married. But they were like little children who rejoiced over some free heads of grain in the field. The rich can buy fancy and comfortable beds, but they cannot buy sweet sleep. The rich can have all kind of delicious and gourmet food, but it does not mean that they really enjoy it. But the disciples of Jesus are different. They do not have anything in the world, but they act as if they have everything. When the disciples followed Jesus, even the raw grain in the fields was so sweet to their taste, and they were satisfied. To their mouths, even one crunch taco bell taco is so sweet. The disciples of Jesus were enjoying their new life in him fully. When you live as Jesus’ disciples, I can tell you two things guaranteed – sleep will be sweet and food will be sweet.
But the Pharisees did not see this point. They challenged the disciples, saying, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" According to Deuteronomy 23:24,25, it is okay to enter others’ vineyard and eat all the grapes you want, but you must not put any grapes in your basket – it is stealing. It is okay to enter your neighbor’s grain fields, and pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to the standing grain. God is a merciful God that he is so concerned about the poor people; also by exercising this law, those who had fields and vineyards could learn God’s merciful heart for the poor. Our God is a merciful God. But now, the Pharisees’ point was that the disciples did this on the Sabbath and accused them as the lawbreakers.
When the disciples ate the kernels of grain, the Pharisees were right next to them. As the Jews themselves, the disciples had been trained about the Sabbath laws and they knew that such activities were prohibited on the Sabbath. Then, how come, they did such activities on the Sabbath, even while the religious cops were watching them? It was all because, as they had been dedicated to God by following Jesus and having life together with him, they came to understand what was really important and what God really wanted, that was, loving God really and serving God's work wholeheartedly, not tedious observation of all kinds of rules and regulations. When they saw it, they were free to love God and serve Him in any circumstances, and as they really obeyed God's will and purpose upon their life, they were not bothered by any rituals. Again, what was their secret of such great revelation of what God really wanted? What was the secret of freedom they enjoyed? It was their true dedication to God by following Jesus, by having life together with Jesus. This is what those whose hearts and lives are truly dedicated to God come to know and enjoy. Jesus said to his disciples, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (Mar 4:11-12) This is what Jesus said in John 8:31,32. He said to those who believed in him, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Be real disciples of Jesus by holding on to his teaching, by really living according his will and purpose, by really dedicating yourself to God. Then, because of such life of devotion to God, eventually you will come to know the truth. Then, there, you enjoy freedom.
Look at verses 3 and 4. Let’s read these verses together:
3Jesus answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."
Actually, it was the disciples’ mistake; only because they did what was unlawful on the Sabbath, Jesus was blamed. He could have been angry with them and rebuked them, saying, "Why couldn’t you endure your hunger?" But he did not do that. It was an obvious violation of the Sabbath law, but Jesus defended his disciples, saying that they had not violated the Sabbath law and that they were innocent and thereby, the Pharisees should not accuse them as law-breakers. He came up with an episode based on 1Samuel.
When David was fleeing from Saul, the situation was really urgent that he had no chance to eat or prepare some food. He came to Nob and asked the priest there if he had anything to eat. The priest had nothing but the consecrated bread and gave it to him. David ate it, and gave it to his soldiers. According to the Pharisees' view, David violated the law by eating the consecrated bread, but the Bible never talked about it; God never made an issue of it; it was not a problem at all in God's eyes. Why? Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?" His point was, "when he and his companions were hungry." When God gave them the laws and regulations, his purpose was not to restrict them, but to teach them the way of God so that by obeying his laws and regulations, they might live an abundant life. They were living their lives however way they desired - very sinful, violent, and wicked; as a result, they were terrible, and their life was miserable, and their society was barbaric. Now God wanted to show them how they must live their lives as humans, and how they could become holy and righteous as children of God, and how they would live a truly beautiful and fulfilling life. Surely, by giving them the laws, he showed them the way of life - it was God's way; God revealed his heart's desire and good intention for them. David loved God and God's law; he meditated on it day and night; he struggled hard to keep the laws, saying, "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is flawless." (Ps 40:8) But he did not become legalistic, because he knew God's heart; he understood why God gave the laws - he said, ""Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,... burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require." (Ps 40:6)
The Pharisees' challenge was about the Sabbath laws. But in his answer, Jesus came up with an episode that was not related to the Sabbath. What was Jesus showing them through David's episode? Jesus was showing them God's real intention, God's heart's real desire in giving them the laws, that was, for their wellbeing, for their flourishing life.
"Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?" The Pharisees missed what God was really talking about, even if they read the passage and even studied it many times; maybe, they passed the written test, but they would never pass an interview with God. Even if they memorized the Sabbath laws and kept them absolutely, they missed the real point of God's laws; as a result, instead of growing up in maturity, humility and beauty, the more they knew and kept the laws, the more legalistic, proud and self-righteous they became - simply, they became mean and evil people. Through all our struggles to serve God's work, and through all our knowledge of the Bible, we must come to know God more and more, and we must grow to be beautiful children of God, so humble, so obedient, and so holy, not mean, legalistic and stubborn people.
As a conclusion, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." At their challenge about the Sabbath laws, Jesus answered them with an episode that was not related to the Sabbath laws. Then, he concluded his answer with the Sabbath, showing that actually he had been talking about the Sabbath laws. "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." This is Jesus' proclamation that he is the purpose and focal point of all the Sabbath laws. The expression, "The Son of Man," shows who Jesus is: He is God in flesh who came into the world to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for people. That person, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is about him and for him - the Sabbath is there for us to remember him, what he has done for us, how much he sacrificed for us, how much he loved us; the Sabbath is for us to praise and thank him and worship him, by remembering all these things. Keeping the Sabbath is not the matter of doing nothing on Sunday, but coming to him, thanking him, and worshiping him by remembering his love and grace for us. When you keep the Sabbath this way, there, you are overjoyed, and your heart is refreshed and your spirit is renewed; there in keeping the Sabbath with Lord of the Sabbath and worshiping him, you find true rest for your souls. Then you are ready to go and do God's work continually. For this, we make wholehearted struggle to keep the Sabbath absolutely, because Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, is the most important figure in our life - the lover of our soul. Without him, no one can keep the Sabbath properly.
Who can keep the Sabbath with him this way? Only Jesus' disciples who live with him, and who do God's work together with him. Only those whose hearts and lives are fully dedicated to God as Jesus' disciples can keep the Sabbath this way. And others cannot, even if they are determined not to study on Sunday for finals on Monday. The Pharisees failed to keep the Sabbath even though they kept all the laws and regulations meticulously according to the word of God. Only Jesus' disciples, even though they harvested and threshed on the Sabbath, kept the Sabbath properly, because they were with Jesus. As they were with Jesus, even such harvesting and threshing and eating carried real divine value and meaning - they needed to do so to do God's work continually. This is how we can keep the Sabbath really. Be with Jesus as his disciples, and you will keep the Sabbath very well.
Second, "Stretch out your hand" (6-11). Look at verses 6 and 7. On another Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was sitting there. According to the Jewish tradition, this man’s occupation was a stone cutter, but because of an accident, his right hand was wounded, and then, shriveled. When he could not use his right hand, he became limited greatly – he could not keep his occupation any longer; he could not play basketball any longer; he even had to figure out how to do his signature with the other hand. Moreover, when his right hand was shriveled, he became very self-conscious. He did not want his badly shriveled hand exposed to others; so even during hot summer, he wore long sleeves; when people wanted to shake hands with him, he quickly stretched out his left hand. He was always conscious of it; he was afraid if people would talk about it; because of this shriveled hand problem, he was always self-conscious. His way of thinking, his words, and actions were so bothered and influenced. It was just his hand that had a problem and the rest of his body was sound. But this shriveled hand problem was now controlling his entire life, making him so nervous, fearful and self-conscious. Because of his shriveled hand, his heart was shriveled, and his life was shriveled. This man, a poor soul, now was sitting in the synagogue, perhaps vaguely hoping some help from God.
Many people have this shriveled hand problem. They carry this shriveled hand problem secretly, so that it may not be seen by anyone. To some people, it is their secret immoral sin they committed long time ago. To some others, it is their gloomy and fatalistic childhood they never want to talk about. To one student, it was his illegal residential status. To some others, it is their physique. Usually, it is just a small matter that no one will concern about, once it is exposed. But they are self-conscious of this shriveled hand problem all the time and try to hide it. As a result, this shriveled hand problem influences and controls every aspect of their day to day life. It is a local problem, but it becomes a universal problem to them.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were waiting for Jesus to heal him so that they would be able to find fault with him and accuse him as a law breaker. They were supposed to be good shepherds for God's flock. But they were not interested in God's will or God's mission; they were not concerned about this poor man either; they were only concerned about their tiles, positions and reputation as leaders in Israel. Then, when Jesus was rising as a spiritual leader in Israel doing God's work powerfully, they considered him as a threat, as their enemy and hoped to find fault with him so that they damage his reputation, even by utilizing this poor man; they were really evil, not like God's servants at all. When they lost God's mission, they became evil.
Verse 8 says, "Jesus knew what they were thinking." When he sent his disciples two by two on their mission journey, he said to them, "Be as shrewd as snakes," so that they might not suffer unnecessary persecution. So he could have dealt with the situation wisely, such as waiting for the evening to come and then, healing him, or tell him to come to his place later. But instead, he chose to deal with them openly; he said to the man, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." Then, Jesus asked the Pharisees, "I ask you, which is lawful: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" Outwardly, it seemed that they were not doing any work on the Sabbath; they did not use their muscles at all; they did not sweat at all, but just sat down and watched what Jesus was going to do. So they thought that they were keeping the Sabbath very well, not working at all. But Jesus showed them that they were doing evil positively on the Sabbath.
Looking for a reason to accuse someone on the Sabbath was evil. Moreover, their intention was to kill someone, and it was really unthinkable for God’s chosen people to do. They thought that they were keeping the Sabbath Law very well, but Jesus showed them that they became law breakers by doing what was evil positively. Moreover, Jesus showed them the true purpose or meaning of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the day when we must do good positively and save souls. What should we do on the Sabbath? How can we keep the Sabbath right or lawfully? Instead of talking about whether we can do our homework or not on Sunday, we must think about doing good and saving souls positively. God gave us the Sabbath law not so that we become lazy or unproductive, but so that we can do what is good and save souls positively. When we accept this will of God and offer our life to saving souls, we can enjoy true rest in Jesus Christ on the Sabbath even while being so busy to do God’s work on Sundays.
Look at verse 10. Jesus looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. For this man with the shriveled hand, Jesus' instructions were: "Stand in front of everyone," and "stretch out your hand." Mainly, his instruction for him was to expose his shriveled hand to others. That's the beginning of his healing for him. Ephesians 5:13-14 says, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."" Whatever is exposed belongs to the light because in the light, everything is visible. But whatever is hidden belongs to darkness because in darkness nothing is visible. When people try to hide their shriveled hand problem, it has power to control their minds, words and actions; ultimately, their life is controlled by it. But when people expose it openly, it loses its power to control; moreover, they find that actually, no one cares about whether they had that kind of shriveled hand problem or not. Then, their shriveled hand becomes just a local problem that gives them just some inconvenience, which they can overcome easily.
Jesus encourages us to stretch out our shriveled hand of selfishness, the shriveled hand of lust, and the shriveled hand of fatalism, so that we can be healed and become sound.
In conclusion, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He is the reason and purpose why we have the Sabbath, and the Sabbath laws. People wonder how they should the Sabbath. But without having life together with Jesus, no one can keep the Sabbath really, even if they do all the things the Sabbath laws require. When we love Jesus with all our hearts and strength, when we follow Jesus with all our hearts and strength, we are already keeping all the laws he has given us. May God bless us to have life together with Jesus as his disciples all the days of our life.
One Word: Jesus Is Lord Of The Sabbath
NOT THE RIGHTEOUS BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE
Key Verse 5:31,32
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
First, "Follow me" (27-28). Look at verse 27. "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him." His occupation, tax collector, showed what kind of person Levi was very well. In those days, tax collectors were national traitors, working for the enemy nation, the Roman Empire. Levi was willing to betray his own country, his own people, all for money. He was willing to give up his identity as God's chosen people, all for money. In this way, he valued money above all things, and pursued it really wholeheartedly. Then he became rich.
Jesus saw this man sitting at his tax booth. He paid attention to him closely, and thereby, understood him - a broken man. At Jesus' calling, he left everything and followed him, showing that nothing, even his high paying job, even all his wealth did not have any meaning or value to him; he could not find any meaning or purpose in all these things, yet still, he was working, most likely, so reluctantly, so heartlessly, really dragging his body to do his duties barely. His demeanor, his face, his attitude all testified that he was a broken man, so miserable. Jesus saw him and understood him; he had pity on him and wanted to help him so that he might be saved from his misery and be restored. So, he called him, saying, "Follow me." His purpose in calling him was not to utilize him for his purpose, but to mend his brokenness and restore him.
"Jesus saw Levi." How were we doing when God saw us? How were you doing before God's grace came to you? In darkness, in sins, in misery, doing terrible things, being suicidal, without knowing what to do and where to go, dying moment by moment, screaming out of the sense of frustration,... We were like that, and God saw us - He paid attention to us and thereby, understood our sorrows, our pains, our agonies,... Simply, we were broken people, lost and miserable and dying. He had pity on us, and wanted to help us. So, he called us by sending his servants who taught us the Bible. Thus, today, we have a new life in Jesus Christ, following him as his disciples. When we think about this, we can really see that God's grace is overflowing in our life. Because He saw you and had pity on you, today, you are here.
Jesus called him, "Follow me!" When Jesus called Simon, he gave him his promise, saying, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." With this, Jesus planted a vision in the heart of Simon that he would do great things and become great; because of this vision for his own life, Simon followed Jesus. But in calling Levi, Jesus didn't give him any promise, but this one single direction, "Follow me," because that's what Levi needed - a clear and right direction of life. Jesus gave him a new life direction, that was, to follow him. Thus far, Levi followed money; as a result, he was almost killed. So, it was a wrong direction that led him to spiritual bankruptcy. Now Jesus showed him a new life direction, that was to follow him, the Son of God, not money. This new life direction would transform him, even a spiritually bankrupt person into a great man of God, and his life as he followed Jesus would be truly meaningful and fulfilling; his life would be really wonderful. Thus, this new life direction of following Jesus was proved to be the right life direction.
What do you follow? What should we follow? This is a good question. And this is the very question all peoples on earth have and want to know the answer, shouting, "Show me the way!" In our old life, each of us followed something - 70 different ways of life we tried, and the result? All of them, 70 ways of life, were wrong, having led us to spiritual bankruptcy, misery, sorrows, pains, demon-possession, making us suicidal. So, never go back to your old way of life. If a million people gather together, we will see the same result - a million wrong ways of life. What is the right way of life? Show us the way! Jesus, the Son of God, shows us the way of life that will lead us to a truly wonderful, meaningful and fulfilling life, saying, "Follow me!" This new direction of following Jesus will mend their brokenness and transform all lost sinners, spiritually bankrupt people into beautiful children of God, great servants of God, and their life will be so meaningful. Following Jesus is the right life direction, and it is the only way of life for all peoples on earth. Follow Jesus, and you will be satisfied. Don't follow money; it's a wrong direction. Don't follow anything else, but Jesus, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isa 55:1-3)
At this, Levi got up, left everything and followed him. His response showed that he was sick and tired of his high paying job, his money and all other things in his life. Before, he valued money, wealth and his high paying job. But now, those things carried no value to him; they were really like rubbish that, at Jesus' calling, he threw them away; they had no meaning, no value at all in his eyes. He left everything and from that time on he followed Jesus. He was a man of decision. In his life, he made only two decisions – one was to follow money - he was almost killed, because it was a wrong direction; the other was to follow Jesus. This decision led him to a wonderful life, transforming once a spiritually bankrupt person to a great man of God; it was the right direction.
Second, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (29-32). Look at verse 29. In order to express his thanks to Jesus, Levi held a great banquet at his house. At the same time, it was his farewell banquet to the world. He prepared all kinds of delicious foods, and invited a large number of tax collectors and others. In verse 30, the Pharisees called these "others" as sinners, referring to the prostitutes. The tax collectors and the prostitutes were outcasts in the society, classified as public sinners. People just hated and despised them, only seeing them outwardly. But Levi had been one of them, and had known their agony and sorrows very well. Out of compassion for them, hoping that they too might meet Jesus and have a new life, he invited them to the banquet. Once he experienced Jesus' grace, he became a good shepherd for them. At the banquet, everyone was happy: Levi was happy for Jesus' grace; Jesus was happy because he had found one lost sheep; his disciples were happy because they could eat gourmet food freely; the tax collectors and the prostitutes were happy because, unexpectedly, they were given a chance to meet a holy servant of God, Jesus, and have fellowship with him. It was a heavenly banquet where the Prince of the Kingdom of God was enjoying the beautiful eating fellowship with thankful and repentant sinners. But there were some people who were not happy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law complained to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus was enjoying the heavenly banquet at Levi's house, but these religious leaders considered him violating the law. According to their understanding, Jesus, a holy Rabbi, should not eat with such sinners, but with holy people like themselves. What was Jesus' response to them? Look at verses 31 and 32. Let's read these verses together:
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Jesus here shows the purpose of his coming into the world, that is, to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus saw them - sinners - as sick people and himself as a doctor for them. His idea was clear: Because they were sinners, they needed help. So, as a spiritual doctor, he offered them his hand of acceptance, his hand of friendship so that, through his help and having fellowship with him, they might not live a sinful life, but live a righteous life. That's the purpose of his coming into the world - call sinners to repentance.
We lived a sinful life, but Jesus came to help us. What was his purpose? It was to call us, sinners, to repentance so that we may not live a sinful life any longer, but a holy and righteous life. By his grace, we now live for him. We must never go back to our old way of life.
Sometimes, we feel condemned because of our unsolved sin problems. Even after experiencing his grace and even if we live as shepherds, still we suffer from sins; we feel guilty and thereby, we are burdened to come to God. The Pharisees discriminated sinners, considering them worthless. But Jesus looked for sinners, because they needed help. In Jesus' eyes, we simply need his help, and he is there to welcome us and help us so that, eventually, in him, we all may overcome our sins and live a holy and righteous life. He is there to help us. The apostle Paul was deeply touched by this statement of Jesus, and said, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." (1Ti 1:15)
Third, "New wine into new wineskins" (33-39). Look at verse 33. While Jesus was eating, some people said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but your disciples go on eating and drinking." Their words showed that there was general consensus about how God's servants, or spiritual leaders should conduct themselves or what they should do. Basically, those who were dedicated to God were expected to do fasting and praying regularly; that's what John's disciples did, and so did the Pharisees; due to their struggle for such spiritual activities, they looked holy and devout, and people recognized them and respected them. But Jesus' disciples were different; they didn't have that kind of training or practices; instead, they kept on eating and drinking. They didn't look so holy at all. According to the general consensus, it seemed that they were not dedicated to God. People were confused. So, they challenged Jesus about it, implying that, if he wanted to establish them as servants of God, he should train them in the same way other religious institutions did.
What was Jesus' answer? Look at verses 34 and 35. Let's read these verses together:
Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
Jesus says, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" The guests of the bridegroom should not fast at the wedding banquet; it will be such insult at the bridegroom if they did. Instead, they must rejoice, eating, drinking, singing and dancing, blessing the newly wed couple. But if the bridegroom is taken from them, then, they would mourn and fast. His point is not that fasting is bad. Instead, his point is "while the bridegroom is with them," or "when the bridegroom is taken from them." The bridegroom at the wedding banquet is the Most Important Figure; the whole wedding banquet is for him. So, when he is there at the wedding banquet, they can enjoy the banquet freely, but if he is taken, there is no reason or purpose for the wedding banquet at all. Jesus says, "But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." Here, Jesus does not say, "They must fast," but, "They will fast," showing that, when Jesus is taken from them, naturally, on their own, they fast. How come? It is because they love Jesus and want to enjoy fellowship with him.
Jesus' answer shows us what Christian life is about very well. Many people think that being a Christian means to be religious; they are greatly mistaken. Many people also think that when they do all the religious or even spiritual looking activities, they are good believers, and that they truly worship God. But if it is so, then, those who are self-controlled, like Navy-seals or CIA special agents, are the best believers, and those who cannot get up early in the morning to pray or those who are so weak to fast will never become good Christians. Such activities do not make one a true believer. Rather, Jesus shows that the one who is with him is the true believer. Such a person's believing life is not boring or so difficult to beat the flesh, but he can rejoice freely because of Jesus. The whole point of Christian life is whether we have Jesus with us or not because he is everything of our Christian life - the very cause and purpose of our Christian life - He is the Bridegroom of all the Christians. Romans 1:5 describes this very well, saying, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." So, our whole struggle is to secure him in our Christian life so that we can have life together with him.
When Jesus is with us in our Christian life, our Christian life is so wonderful and we can enjoy it freely, expecting great things from him and attempting great things for him. But often, we feel that we are far from him, maybe, because of our own sins, or because we have become complacent; when we do not have Jesus in our day to day life, then, there is no joy, no happiness; instead, we just go through the motion, so tasteless and boring. At that time, we do all we can do to have him back with us, to have life with him. We pray, harder than before. In testimony writing, we spend more time than before so that somehow, we may be renewed and refreshed by his words, and thereby, with renewed heart, we can come to Jesus and have fellowship with him. If there is any sin, we repent thoroughly. If fasting is necessary, we fast. In this way, we struggle really hard to secure him in our Christian life and have life together with him, because he is everything in our Christian life - the very cause and purpose of our Christian life - the Bridegroom in our Christian life.
Look at verses 36 through 39. Let's read these verses responsively:
36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"
Jesus describes his disciples as new wine, full of passion and zeal for God, rejoicing at this new life; their potential is limitless. New wine is still in the process of fermenting; it produces gas and bubbles come up, and as a result, its total volume increases. In those days, the container was made of animal skin, and new wineskins was a little elastic. As the volume of the new wine increases due to continuous fermenting, the new wineskins expands, being able to accommodate the increasing volume of new wine. Old wineskins is the skins that have already expanded to its max that it is no longer expandable; so, if new wine is poured into it, as the new wine's volume increase due to continuous fermenting, the old wineskins cannot hold it any longer, and eventually, the old wineskins burst forth, and the wine spills to the ground; thus, both of the new wine and the old wineskins are ruined; surely, it is not a good idea to pour out the new wine into old wineskins; new wine must be poured out into new wineskins. It is common sense.
When people talked about fasting, they meant that Jesus should adopt other religious groups' system and train his disciples in the same way so that they would look holy and devout like other religious people. But Jesus didn't think so; he was not going to train them to beat their flesh through fasting or prayer. In his eyes, that's not what they needed, and that's not going to work for them either. If they were to go through that kind of religious struggles of beating their flesh, then, their spirit would be ruined, and they would lose all the joy of this new life, and eventually, at best, they become like Pharisees, so proud, self-righteous, and unyielding - completely worthless and harmful. He did not think that Levi, a former tax collector, should become a Pharisee after experiencing His grace. He did not think that Simon Peter should fast twice a week to become a spiritual leader; if it were so, then, Simon, who was not well self-disciplined, would not find any joy in serving God and his believing life would be so torturous. Simply, it would not work. Instead, Jesus was going to provide them a new environment, in which they could enjoy this new life freely, that was, life together with him; he let them stay with him, enjoy fellowship with him, learn from him, do God's work together with him, and try to copy his example. How fun it was to teach so many people as leaders appointed by Jesus! How fun it was to stand on Jesus' side and defended him while temple guards tried to arrest him! How fun it was to have personal Bible study with him on the streets! Often, they suffered together with Jesus - hunger, poverty, sleeping in the fields, mistreatment and persecution from others, and it was also fun. In Luke 11, we see the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. It was the time when Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem to die on the cross for the sin of the world (Lk 9:51). We are really shocked that, until that time, Jesus had not taught them or trained them to pray as his disciples - for three years, he didn't try to train them to pray, but let them have life together with him; of course, he always prayed, and his disciples always slept during his prayer time; but they were watching and learning from him. Then, when they picked up spiritual desire, and asked him about prayer, he taught them what they should pray for. Actually, they asked him about how to pray - technical aspect of prayer, but Jesus didn't teach them about how to pray, but what to pray for - God's name, God's will and God's kingdom - what they should really pursue. During all this time, he kept teaching them the word of God, sometimes encouraging them, saying, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you," (Mt 13:11) and sometimes, rebuking them harshly, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but things of men." After giving them further explanation of his parables, Jesus asked them, "Have you understood all these things?" Then, they answered, "Yes." Then, he said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." (Mt 13:51,52) What great encouragement it was for the disciples! Surely, it was exciting to live as Jesus' disciples! When the disciples enjoyed their life in Jesus freely like this, they remained in him to the end while so many, even thousands of people came and went away. And later, when they accepted Jesus' will for them truly, they prayed day and night not as an expression of their devotion to God or as an expression of their religiosity, but so that they could really serve and fulfill Jesus' will upon their lives. They became great spiritual leaders. Christian life is not about polishing our flesh with religiosity, but about having life together with Jesus, and struggling to pursue him by studying and obeying the word of God. Those who love Jesus and thereby pursue him and enjoy fellowship with him are good Christians - they grow according to God's will and purpose and become great spiritual leaders for God's kingdom work.
This simple expression of Jesus, "New wine into new wineskins," shows us Jesus' amazing vision for his newly emerging disciples. They were young, weak and immature in every aspect. They were not completely refined like other religious leaders such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, that their style, sometimes, was rough, like new wine tastes sometimes, too strong – Maybe, their manner in conducting God's work, such as preaching the message of repentance boldly, was not desirable yet. But they had great potential to grow. Because he had a great vision for them, he was willing to provide them a new environment in which they could grow up freely and have a chance to live up to the full potential of their lives. For this, he offered himself to them.
At this direction, some people may say, "Then, let these new growing disciples go to other groups and reform them." But Jesus doesn't think so either, because simply it will not work. He says, "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" When people are used to their way of serving God, they don't want to change - just once a week, they go to church, and other than that, they pursue success in the world, occasionally participating in God's work by distributing gospel flyers on the streets, or going to a short term mission trip in Mexico, or serving homeless during Christmas; then, after 20 years' church attendance, they become elders occupying positions in their church. We say to them to serve God wholeheartedly, but they don't listen, because, for them, the old which they have been used to and familiar with is better.
Today, Jesus looks for the lost; he calls sinners to have life together with him so that they may be healed of their wounds and scars; Jesus helps them truly repent and be healed of all their sin-sickness and live as beautiful and wholesome children of God. Today, Jesus calls us, "Follow me."
One Word: I Have Not Come To Call The Righteous, But Sinners To Repentance.
FRIEND, YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN
Key Verse 5:20
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
First, "Through the roof" (16-19). Look at verse 17. As of this time, the news about Jesus spread throughout Israel. He was very popular, and all the religious institutions were paying attention to him. Finally, they wanted to check him out. So, one day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were the most well-known and respected spiritual leaders in Israel. In our terms, they were theologians, seminary professors and famous pastors. They were not only from every village of Galilee, but also from Judea and Jerusalem - national level spiritual leaders, not just a few of them, but so many of them. When people saw many of them sitting in the house, they were wondering, "What’s going on here?" It was not an easy environment for anyone to preach when these Bible scholars were sitting there, folding their arms, to see if they could find any fault with his message. But the expression, "the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick," indicates that Jesus was not overwhelmed by them. Rather, his spirit was overwhelming and he was teaching freely. At that time, God's power was working through him that, as people heard his message, many people experienced healing. This is what we have experienced as we taught college students the word of God with all our heart and strength - by hearing God's words, people come to experience healing of their disease.
Look at verses 18 and 19. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house. Think about these men carrying their friend on a mat! They heard about Jesus - his healing; they came to believe that Jesus had a healing power. At that time, they were concerned about their friend. So, they teamed up together and carried him on the mat to the place where Jesus was. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Having such a concern for those who are in need is the beginning of shepherding. With this concern, the direction is to bring them to Jesus, because only he can really help them; only he is the Savior. This is what we all struggle to do - bring our sheep to Jesus! Even if we may enjoy good fellowship with our sheep, unless we bring them to Jesus, there is no salvation, no healing, no new life.
How was it when they came to where Jesus was? The house was so crowded with people that there was no way to get him in. It seemed that they had to give up and wait for the next Bible conference. What did they do? Did they just give up? No! They did not believe in tomorrow or the next time. They were determined that they would bring their friend to Jesus that day by any means. When they had this heart's complete determination, they kept looking for a way. Was there a way? No. Yet, they still kept looking for it, trying to figure out any possible way, because they could not give up. When they were determined this way, when they kept looking for a way, they found a way! The roof was not occupied, and they saw the possibility of bringing their friend to Jesus through the roof! Who could even think of such an idea? No one! There was actually no way! But when they were determined to bring their friend to Jesus by any means, when they could not give up no matter what, they found such a way that was not occupied by anyone, and thereby, had been preserved for them alone. It was a divine way. They decisively went up onto the roof. Then, what did they do?
What they did was really horrible! When they got up on the roof they began to dig an opening in someone’s roof big enough to lower the paralytic down through. Yes, the hole was even bigger than this podium. But they did not care because they were really determined to see Jesus. So, they found rocks on the ground and struck the roof, ruining the fancy roof tiles. And they didn’t stop there; they smashed the roof open causing debris to fall from the roof. So what happened to Jesus’ Bible study? While they were listening Jesus’ sweet but powerful message, suddenly, they heard some noise from the roof, and the house was shaking. They were surprised, and Jesus stopped his message and everybody looked up at the roof. Then, suddenly, a hole was made on the roof, and a ray of bright light shone through the dust in the house. The hole became bigger and bigger, and suddenly from the roof, something was lowered little by little, very carefully; it was a mat, and behold! On the mat was lying a paralyzed man! He was placed right in front of Jesus! Everyone was shocked, and silent. They did not believe what they were seeing. Jesus also was silent. He looked up at the hole on the roof, and down at the man in front of him. He saw some people on the roof, the friends of this paralyzed man. They interrupted what Jesus was doing. It was a great disturbance and Jesus’ Bible study was destroyed completely. Everybody was surprised.
When they had their heart's complete determination to bring their friend to Jesus by any means, they could find a way even when there was no way. Then, because of their heart's determination, they were so wholehearted in bringing their friend to Jesus that nothing could slow them down whether good manner or bad manner, good etiquette or bad etiquette or how others would think of them. They had their heart's one single desire, that was, to bring their friend to Jesus; at that time, they were passionate, powerful and unstoppable; they had such an overwhelming spirit that even nothing could bother them or slow them down. Thanks to their overwhelming spirit, they were finally able to set their case before Jesus first, over all others.
As shepherds, our whole struggle is to bring our sheep to Jesus. But as we try to do so, we come to have many obstacles. Due to school work, or full time job, or even both, we have hectic schedules, and our sheep have hectic schedules too - simply, not much time. Not only so, often, our sheep are so paralyzed spiritually that they just lie down without showing that much spiritual desire; or sometimes, they have really a serious sin problem. Often, we feel like there is no way for us to bring them to Jesus due to these obstacles; often, we think that we have to wait until they are ready, or until we have a better schedule. But what we really need is not a little more time; what we need is not actually good sheep - there is no good sheep; all sheep are bad, because human hearts are corrupt beyond cure – each and every person is like this. In this situation, what we really need is to pick up real spirit, real passion for God's kingdom work, and such real spirit, such real passion for God comes from our heart's complete determination to bring them to Jesus by any means. We must make our heart's complete determination that we will, by any means, even in this semester, bring our sheep to Jesus. Have this heart's complete determination, and seek the salvation of your sheep really. How? By trying to figure out a way, trying this way and that way, doing all possible things doggedly. Serve God's kingdom work with that kind of wholehearted struggle - that's how you can serve God in spirit. At that time, God will intervene into your struggle, and save souls through you. Because such people are the kind of worshipers God seeks.
Second, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (20-26). What did Jesus do about their absolutely ridiculous act? Look at verse 20. Let’s read this verse together:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
"When Jesus saw their faith…" Faith is invisible. But through their action, Jesus saw their faith in him. This is really amazing. Even though his Bible study session was ruined completely, even if the house was damaged greatly and the whole room was filled with the dust, Jesus was not upset nor saw any of those things. Instead, he saw their faith. "When Jesus saw their faith..." This means that Jesus understood what had motivated them to do such an act. He understood why they did so. The motive behind the scene was their faith in him that he could heal their poor paralyzed friend, and they could miss that chance by no means. It was their absolute trust and faith in Jesus’ power and goodness that even if his Bible study might be ruined, he would accept and heal their poor friend only if they brought him to Jesus. That complete trust in his power, that absolute trust in his goodness - this faith impressed Jesus greatly. He was glad because he found faith in him in the hearts of these friends of the paralytic. So many people were sitting in front of him hearing his message, but it did not mean that they had faith in him. Rather, he found the faith that he had been looking for in the hearts of these friends of the paralytic. When Jesus saw this, he was glad – that’s what he had been looking for. So, he simply ignored all the confusing facts and focused on them. Jesus treated them as the most important people. So he dealt with their case first. We must become men and women of faith. Having faith does not mean that you think about it or talk about it. Rather, when you have faith, your words and actions change. Your life changes because of faith you have in Jesus. Faith becomes visible in your actions.
How did he bless their faith? He said to the paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." What! At this, some of the friends of the paralytic who were standing on the roof almost fell from the roof. Why had they come to Jesus all the way overcoming all obstacles and even destroying someone's property, which they had to pay later? Of course, their friend being healed so that he could walk again. They wanted to see Jesus heal him. But Jesus said to their friend, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." It was really shocking and made many people speechless for a while. Maybe, someone wanted to say to Jesus, "No, no, Lord. You see, he is paralyzed. He needs to be healed." No one expected to hear such words from Jesus in the case of the paralytic. But strangely, the paralyzed man didn’t say anything; he didn’t say, "I want to be healed." But he was lying there, maybe, being touched by Jesus so much, maybe, shedding tears. We don’t know what kind of specific sin this man had been suffering from. But nonetheless, we can easily imagine that once he became paralyzed and lied down on the mat all the time, he remembered all his mischievous behaviors and terrible sins he had done, and his conscience was fully awakened to those things. He had never talked about that sin problem. But now, Jesus talked about it. No one, even none of his friends understood his real agony; everyone thought that he needed to be healed. But Jesus saw his inner person being bothered by the guilty conscience, and said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." Surely, when Jesus said this word to him, no one understood what’s going on, but this man knew what Jesus was talking about. He could see that Jesus knew him in the true sense. To others, Jesus’ words, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," were just a kind of theological matter, but to the paralytic, his words were very personal. Surely, Jesus spoke to him, not to others. "Friend, your sins are forgiven." This was the word of God given to him very personally. How happy he was that Jesus, a great man of God, knew him very personally and proclaimed the forgiveness of his sins! Indeed, to him, it was God who was proclaiming the forgiveness of his sins through his servant. What an amazing grace it was that God forgave his sins! Suddenly, the stain of his past sins was removed from his heart and deep thanks and joy filled it. He knew that he was really forgiven. He was confident of God’s mercy on his life. At this, he must have shed many drops of tears in thanks.
At first glance, it seemed that this man needed to be healed so that his living condition might be better. But Jesus didn't think so. What he needed most urgently was not to improve his living condition, but to be forgiven of his sins - that's most urgent and most important. Often, as we come to God in prayer, we ask God to do this and that for us. Mostly, it is about improving our condition - school matter, job matter, financial matter, family matter, ... But God sees what we really need - the forgiveness of our sins so that our relationship with Him may be right. Real happiness, real joy, real satisfaction does not come from improving our condition, but from having real relationship with God. What sin do you have? In which area do you need to be forgiven of so that you can be really right with God? "Friend, your sins are forgiven!"
When Jesus said to the paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," it was really a heart moving moment, especially, to the paralytic, even though it was very shocking words to all others. But some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" These theologians were shocked at Jesus’ words, and quickly jotted down his words as an evidence, saying, "Aha! I got you." They were confident that they had found fault with his ministry. It is true that only God can forgive sin but they didn’t realize that Jesus is God in flesh who had authority to forgive sins on earth. Immediately Jesus sensed the change of their demeanor and knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts. Jesus said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" Then, he challenged them directly. Let’s read verses 22 and 23 together:
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
"Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?" In the Roman Catholic church, people go to a confession room and confess their sins to the priest there. Then, after hearing all their sins, the priest proclaims, "Your sins are forgiven." Let's say, a priest serves this duty for 100 people every day; then, every day he says 100 times, "Your sins are forgiven." But he never says to a paralyzed man, "Get up and walk!" Why? Because immediately the result will come out, showing that what he said was nothing but just words of mouth. It was easy for him to say, "Your sins are forgiven," because, whether it really worked or not, there was no evidence, and at least, it sounded good. So, why not?!!! Certainly, saying to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven" is easier than, saying to the paralytic, "Get up and walk!"
When Jesus said to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," they could not see outwardly if his word worked as he had said or not, because the forgiveness of sins was not a visible matter. So, they considered it as a theological expression, not something real. But now Jesus wanted to show them that it was not just words of mouth, but it really happened as he had said. He would show the power of his words by healing the paralytic. He said to him, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." And amazingly, the paralytic did it. He slowly rose from the mat, folded it up, took it and walked out in full view of them. At this, everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today!" They realized that God had given Jesus the authority to forgive sins of men, and the authority to heal anyone He wanted.
Whatever he says comes true, and whatever he says works both in the visible and invisible realms. When anyone hears his voice, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," his sins are forgiven. When any paralyzed man hears his voice, "Get up! Take your mat and go home," his paralysis is healed. When a cancer patient hears Jesus’ voice, "Friend, your cancer is healed," he is healed. How blessed are those who hear the voice of the Son of God! Whatever he says comes true. Whoever hears the voice of the Son of God will live; they cross over from death to life. Let's pray and seek to hear his voice. "Friend, your sins are forgiven!" "Get up and walk!"
One Word: Jesus says, "Friend, your sins are forgiven!"
I AM WILLING BE CLEAN!
Key Verse 5:13
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"
First, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (12). Look at verse 12. "While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." He was a leper, condemned as an unclean person according to God's words in Leviticus 13 and 14. Not only he himself was unclean, but also everything and everyone he touched became unclean. He was a source of uncleanness. So, whenever someone was coming closer to him, he had to warn that person, by covering the lower part of his face with his hand and shouting, "Unclean!" "Unclean!" That was what he was about - unclean! That was his identity. Since he was a source of uncleanness, he could not stay with others, but he had to live in the lepers' cave or valley, separated from his own family. There was deep sorrows and pains in his heart that he had been separated from his family. At the same time, there was deep sense of loneliness due to isolation and no fellowship with others. The expression, "who was covered with leprosy" shows that, despite all his attempts to be healed such as repentance, prayers and fasting, his situation got worse and worse until his whole body was covered with leprosy. It seemed that God was really punishing him for his sins. He felt condemned; he despaired deeply.
The Bible talks about leprosy extensively. For example, in describing God's creation of the universe and the earth, the Bible spends 26 verses in Genesis chapter 1. But in describing the leprosy, the Bible spends 78 verses in Leviticus 13 and 14. The reason why the Bible talks about leprosy so extensively like this is not because God specifically hates this disease, but because this disease has the characteristics of sin; in other words, God is showing us what sin does or what happens when people sin through leprosy. Like leprosy, sin makes people unclean. Many people are exposed to sexual immorality even from childhood. As soon as they are exposed to it, their purity, their innocence is taken away and they feel unclean and suffer from the sense of guilt, shame and uncleanness. When people live a sinful life, they are disgusted about even themselves, resulting in self-abuse, self-destructive behaviors. The result of a sinful life is broken relationships - broken relationship between God and men, broken relationship between husband and wife, broken relationship between parents and children, broken relationship among coworkers and friends. When all these relationships are broken due to their sins - violent words and actions, sexually immoral life, foul language, weird behaviors, or terrible character flaws, they are isolated and lonely, because, now even though they try to have some fellowship with others, people avoid them. During the whole summer, no one calls them. How is their life? Painful, lonely, sorrowful, and miserable! That's how people live their life. This is the result of sin; this is the real condition of all fallen men. Isn't there any remedy? Isn't there any hope for mankind? Yes, there is! Our Lord Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, made a way for anyone and everyone to be forgiven of their sins, and thereby, start all over again as if they have done nothing wrong. Today’s passage shows us how the leper, unclean sinner received cleansing from Jesus.
In Israel in those days, there were many lepers, but not all of them received healing from Jesus, but this leper. Why? Because all other lepers had already given up their hope for cleansing, but this leper. So, even though they might hear the news of Jesus - how powerful he was, how he healed many, they were not so excited; they did not respond. But this man was different. He saw the hope and possibility of being cleansed; he came to believe that Jesus could heal him. The first step for cleansing, for healing is to keep hope for it. That's what faith is about. Faith is being sure of what we hope for. Then, because of this hope for healing, because of his faith in Jesus' power to heal him, he began to seek Jesus; he got up from his bed, left his cave, and made his journey to Jesus. As a sick person, it was not easy, but somehow, dragging his feeble body, he walked and walked. There was the danger that, once he tried to enter the village where Jesus was, people might throw stones at him; he was willing to face that danger. Overcoming all those difficulties and dangers, he finally came to Jesus.
When we really believe that Jesus can cleanse us from all our uncleanness, when we believe that Jesus can heal us of our leprosy, what do we do? We really seek him with all our heart and strength, despite dangers or difficulties. The second step for healing, for cleansing is to seek Jesus wholeheartedly. Because only he is the solution. But the problem many people have is: they don't seek him really. Instead, they assume that they are already forgiven, cleansed and healed, because they believe that Jesus is the Almighty and that Jesus can heal them and forgiven them. What they rely on is not Jesus himself, but what they have heard about him; what they rely on is not Jesus himself, but on theology people talk about. As a result, even though they say that they believe in Jesus, fundamentally, there is no real change in their life, and there is no real commitment to God, because there is no real encounter between Jesus and them. In the Old Testament, God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13) This is what He said to the Israel people - those who believed in God. He was showing his believers how they would be able to meet Him and experience Him. Those who seek him with all their heart find him and experience His healing and forgiveness. Only Jesus can heal us; only he can cleanse us; only he can really help us. So, what do we do? We seek him wholeheartedly.
When the leper finally came to Jesus, what did he do? He knelt at Jesus' feet and said to him, "Lord, If you are willing, you can make me clean!" Even a man born blind cried out to Jesus, saying, "Son of David, have mercy on me. I want to see!" People asked Jesus for help directly. But this leper, even after having made such a heroic struggle to come to Jesus, he did not say to him, "Please heal me." Instead, he said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," totally relying on Jesus' choice. It was because his heart was so guilt-ridden that he felt unworthy to ask Jesus for anything directly saying, "Lord, please heal me." He was a condemned man even according to the Bible, and through all his failures, he was confirmed of it. In his eyes, such a condemned man did not have any right to ask Jesus to do anything for him. If Jesus did anything for him, it was purely by his grace alone. So he knelt at Jesus' feet and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."
Some people are confident about themselves, and say, "Thank God for helping me not to sin too much." "Thank God for blessing me to grow up in a believing family so that I might not become sinful like others." Some others sin freely, but they say, "Lord, thank you for forgiving my sins. I love you." Some others are also bold and say, "I have sinned. Please, forgive me." They say so as if God is obligated to forgive or love them. But some others are like this leper; they know how terrible their sin is that they cannot say, "Lord, forgive me." Instead, they stand there in a remote place and beat their chest, crying, "Oh, oh! What shall I do?" In their eyes, their sins are too big to be forgiven. At late night, when no one is around, they kneel down and sob endlessly remembering their terrible sins, which cannot be revoked. While others sing songs of praise so joyfully, they groan deeply. What a terribly ravaged heart it is that they cannot even ask God to forgive them, but just say, "Oh, Lord, have mercy! My sin, my sin!" What they say is this: "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean!" Because of the terrible sense of guilt, they are poor in spirit. They cannot laugh, but mourn day and night. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Second, "I am willing. Be clean!" (13-16). How did Jesus respond to his plea? Look at verse 13. Let’s read this verse together:
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man!!! According to the Bible, Jesus was not supposed to touch him. But when Jesus heard such disturbing words from him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," he was so touched; he felt this man's terribly ravaged heart by the sense of condemnation. With these words, he could see what kind of life he had lived, and what's going on in his heart - such pains and sorrows, such sense of guilt and condemnation - he could not bear to see such a terribly ravaged and broken heart by the sense of condemnation any longer. So, out of his desire to comfort and encourage him, Jesus expressed his affectionate heart toward him by touching him, by even going out of the Bible's instruction. Certainly, Jesus could not despise such a broken and contrite heart.
The man had never expected this. The response he had expected from Jesus was: maybe, at his request, Jesus would say, "Ok, I got it. But don't come closer; just stay where you are," then, healing him without touching him. Then, he would be thankful for his grace all the days of his life. That much would be more than enough. But Jesus did far more than he had expected. Jesus, a holy servant of God, reached out his hand and touched his leprosy-covered body! He had forgotten about that warmth of human hand. No one touched him since he had had leprosy; instead, they avoided him and threw stones at him; they never allowed him to come closer. But Jesus touched him!!!! How was it for the leper? At first, shocking; maybe, he tried to avoid it instinctively, but when Jesus touched him, the warmth of his hand was so good; Jesus was accepting him just as he was, a leper; Jesus' touch, his affectionate heart for him was so soothing that his heart melted. Maybe, at this moment, he broke down and wept uncontrollably. Who could understand his agony that he had been separated from his family by force, and that he had to live in a cave with unclean lepers? Who could understand his pains and sorrows that people avoided him and isolated him? How did he feel when people refused to come near him but instead, threw stones at him? But Jesus accepted him just as he was!!! Jesus touched him. No one had touched him like he did. No one had touched his heart like Jesus did. At this, all his bitterness, sorrow, loneliness and despair melted in him. Now the man could forgive all those people who had despised and mistreated him.
We all experienced this marvelous moment of Jesus touching us, when all our bitterness, anger and sorrows melted in us. When was it? Sometime ago when I was in deep pain. We need to remember it and record it so that we may never forget it, we may never forget his grace. Polish it because it was your wonderful time with Jesus, your Master.
And Jesus said to him, "I am willing. Be clean!" Immediately, he was cured. The man believed the power of Jesus to heal his leprosy, but he was not confident that holy Jesus would be willing to heal such a condemned and worthless man like himself. But Jesus said to him, "I am willing." Not that Jesus was going to just do the minimum for him reluctantly, but it was Jesus' willing desire for him to be cleansed. Because of his repeated failures in his attempts to be healed, he thought that God did not care, or God did not want him to be healed. But that's not the case.
We all have sin problems; we all have weaknesses. We want to overcome them; we fight against them. But when we fail in this fight, when we sin over and over again even against our own will, we despair deeply. When such a sin problem exists continually despite our struggle, we despair; we become fatalistic, thinking that we are doomed to live a miserable and unclean life all the days of our life because of this sin; we wonder why God does not help us with our sin problem; we wonder if God cares for us or not. But Jesus says, "I am willing. Be clean." It is never God's desire for any of us to live such a miserable, shameful and unclean life only because of our sins. It is really God's willing desire to help us in our fight against sin; God wants to see us overcoming our sins and become clean, healthy and sound as children of God. What is God's will for us? He says in the Old Testament, "Be holy as I am holy." Jesus says in the New Testament, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is God's willing desire for us; for this, He is more than willing to help us in our fight against sin. While we fight against our sin, God is right next us, cheering up on us, saying, "Go on, you can do it; I will help you." When we shed tears for the pains and sorrows due to our failures, God remains silent and does not interfere, lest He may ruin the whole thing; watching all our tears and pains, sensing the same pains and sorrows, He remains silent for our sake. Certainly, we are fighting together with God in regard to our sin problems. Then, at the right time, usually, when we reach our limit, when we are about to collapse, God grabs us and reveals Himself to us. There, we experience God, and victory in Him and through Him. Then, everything changes because we experience God, because our eyes are opened to God - our perspectives of life, of God, of ourselves, of the world; our hopes and desires; our life never becomes the same. Jesus says, "I am willing. Be clean!" Those who have faith in Jesus and thereby, seek him with all their hearts and strength come to experience this freedom from sin, this cleansing from their sins. God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)
Look at verse 14. Let's read verse together:
Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."
After cleansing him, Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone." In the previous passage, we learned that Jesus had a clear direction for his ministry, that was, he would focus on preaching the good news, instead of healing the sick; that was his ministry's direction, and that's what he had been doing. Then, at the words of the leper, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," at such a broken and guilt-ridden heart, Jesus was so troubled that he could not ignore his case, even if he was determined to focus on preaching the good news. So, he embraced him and healed him, even going beyond his ministry's direction. He was a compassionate shepherd. But he still did not want all kinds of sick people coming to his ministry. So, he told him not to tell anyone about it, so that his teaching ministry might not be bothered. In this way, he struggled to focus on the teaching ministry.
This passage shows us what kind of person Jesus was very well. He was a compassionate shepherd. At the same time, he struggled to hold onto his ministry's direction, that was, teaching and preaching, not healing. But even if he had such a clear direction and decision about how to do God's work, he was not legalistic; his ministry was not governed by rules and regulations alone, because he did not serve God's work legalistically, but with a compassionate heart for the poor people. At that time, there was harmony in his ministry. Indeed, he was full of grace and truth. This is how we are to serve God's kingdom work, and to serve college students as shepherds - a clear direction of teaching and preaching the word of God, fishing and one to one Bible study, at the same time, not going by rules and regulations, but serving them with compassionate heart.
At the same time, he was concerned about this man being restored to the community. So, he encouraged him to do what the law suggested for his restoration in the society. In this way, he was concerned about his wellbeing very practically. This is how we take care of college students who are under our care, being concerned about their school work, about how they can be successfully established in the society with a good career job, and about their family life. We stand before God with absolute attitude to his will and purpose, and at the same time, we stand before God's flock with deep concern for their wellbeing and practical life in the society. The apostle John says, "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." (3Jn 1:2) When we lead God's flock with grace and truth, they will grow up as sound and healthy Christians, enjoying this new life in Jesus freely.
So, how did the man respond? Look at verses 15 and 16. It reads: "Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Mark's gospel 1:45 reads: "Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." Maybe, he was thankful for Jesus' grace; maybe, he wanted to tell how great Jesus was. But when he did not follow Jesus' instruction carefully, but did what he saw right, eventually, Jesus' teaching ministry was hindered. Whenever Jesus entered a town, so many sick people flocked to him, and since Jesus did not want to dilute his ministry's direction, he was not happy to offer medical service to them. So, even though many people gathered, often he simply withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Indeed, Jesus struggled to focus on teaching and preaching in serving God's kingdom work. He struggled hard to keep his ministry's direction. Let's pray that we may follow his example, focusing on teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to poor college students all the time.
One Word: Jesus Says, "I Am Willing. Be Clean!"
FROM NOW ON YOU WILL CATCH MEN
Key Verse 5:10b
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men."
First, "Put out into deep water" (1-7). Look at verse 1. It reads: "One day as Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God," It was early in the morning when fishermen were washing their nets after night fishing. Jesus showed up at the beach, probably, to meditate on the word of God or to pray. He walked along the shore, enjoying the waves splashing on his sandals. But when people noticed him, they got up, and ran to him. Soon, Jesus was surrounded by the crowd, and he taught them the word of God. About 7 centuries before Christ, God said through the prophet Amos, "The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land-- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it." (Amos 8:11-12) Israel was a religious country; everyone had been studying the Bible, attending the synagogue worship service regularly, but what they were thirsty for was the word of God. They were suffering because of the famine of hearing the word of God. Despite their religious life, many were wandering without knowing what to do with their life and how to live, suffering from the deep sense of meaninglessness and emptiness, because, in the true sense, no one taught them the word of God. Many families were broken, and children were scattered and young men were tortured by demons because of the famine of hearing the word of God. When these suffering and thirsty people came to him, Jesus taught them the word of God.
While teaching the crowd, Jesus saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Simon said, "Sure!"Jesus sat down and taught the people from the boat. Jesusstepped into his boat!! That was the beginning of real change in the life of Simon. In Acts 10, when God told Simon Peter to get up and eat unclean reptiles and other unclean birds and animals, he said to God, "Surely not, Lord! I have never eat anything impure or unclean." This showed what kind of life he had lived. He was a Jew, and he had struggled to live according to God's laws, attending the synagogue worship service every Saturday, studying the Bible and keeping the laws. But even if he believed in God and kept laws, there was no change in his life - always the same routine. But when Jesus stepped into his boat, that was the beginning of all good things in his life; real changes occurred and his life never became the same. Simon did not ask Jesus for this, but Jesus chose Simon and stepped into his boat; that was the grace of Jesus in his life.
Some of us believed in God, living as Christians. But still there was no real change, even if we attended worship service every Sunday. But when God sent us his servant who taught us the Bible, that was the beginning of real change in our life; since then, all kinds of good things occurred in our life, and our life changed completely and now we are living as God's servants. How come such changes and such blessings? It is because God stepped into our life by sending his servant to us. When we think about this carefully, we see that God's grace is overflowing in our life. God has done a marvelous thing for us.
Look at verse 4. Let’s read this verse together:
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon washing his nets in the morning meant that he had been working hard all night long. But then, where were the fish? There was no fish! Despite his hard work all night long, he had caught nothing. How was Simon doing? He looked depressed and tired, sighing deeply. While teaching the people, Jesus noticed it; he had pity on him and wanted to help him in regard to catching fish. So, after finishing his teaching, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
His instruction to catch fish in deep water was challenging to Simon, a fisherman, because in the morning, fish come out to the shallow water to find something to eat, while during night time, fish go to deep water. Jesus’ instruction did not make a sense. Also, Simon had tried all night long in the middle of the sea, but caught nothing; why should he try again, even after so many failures, and also after having washed his net?!! Jesus instructed Simon to do what he could not understand; Jesus challenged him to go beyond his own understanding and experience; it was Jesus' invitation to a different world that went beyond his own logic and knowledge.
In shallow water, you can see through, and thereby, things are predictable. Figuratively speaking, thus far, Simon had lived in shallow water, relying on his own understanding and experience as a fisherman. To him, what he had known as a fisherman was everything there to learn. Now relying on his own understanding, common sense, and experience, he was living his life – he was living in shallow water. He was living in his own human territory, and he had never been beyond his human territory. What was the result of living in shallow water? The empty nets! It seemed that in shallow water, he would succeed, because he could see through and understand things, but strangely, he was empty; in the end, he had nothing; it was like chasing after the wind or trying to grab water with his hand. Now Jesus invited him to go beyond his human territory, to go beyond his own understanding, logic and experience. What would he see when he went into deep water? What would he see when he went beyond the human territory? He didn’t know. It was an unknown world to him. It was a challenge.
What was Simon’s response? Look at verse 5. Let’s read this verse together:
Simon answered, "Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
His response, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything," meant that he had many understandable reasons to turn down Jesus' invitation - he had already tried in deep water all night long, maybe, throwing the nets in deep water for more than 50 or 100 times, but all his attempts failed; he had tried that "one more time" many times also; he had no reason to try one more time, even after having washed his nets. Also, he had already set plan - go home, take a hot shower, eat some soup and sleep; maybe, he had been waiting for Jesus to finish his message; he was already home. Simply, he had tons of understandable reasons to reject Jesus' suggestion and excuse himself.
But despite all understandable excuses, he changed his position and decided to try, because of only one reason, saying, "But because you say so…" If his partner, John or James suggested him to do so, he would not do it; if his mother-in-law told him to do so, he wouldn't do that. But because Jesus said so, Simon decided to defy all his logic and common sense, change his plan, and obey his instruction. In this way, he respected Jesus as a servant of God very highly, and by holding onto his words, he decided to go beyond his logic and knowledge.
So, Simon rowed the boat to the middle of the lake and threw the nets. What was the result? A miraculous catch of fish! They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. It was unbelievable. When Simon Peter went beyond his logic and experience, by obeying Jesus’ words, he experienced the power and possibility of God. The catch of fishhe made was so great that both boats were sinking. How did it work? How come, such a large number of fish in deep water in the morning? Were these fish crazy? Simon did not know. Simply, it was beyond comprehension, but surely, it was far greater and more glorious than his wildest dreams. In shallow water this would never happen. When he went beyond hishuman territory by obeying Jesus’ words, he experienced a new world, the deep world, the world of God where God's power was working beyond natural laws, common sense, and human logic, and it was powerful, wonderful, and glorious, far greater and marvelous than the world he had known-it was an eye opening moment.
Here, now we can understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Put out into deep water." Deep water is the deep world where we can experience the power and possibility of God. Deep water is the world of God where God’s power is real and practical. It is God’s dimension. No one can come to this deep water on their own, no one comes into God’s dimension on their own, because simply it is beyond their capacity, beyond their human territory. When Jesus said to Simon, "Put out into deep water," it was his invitation for Simon Peter into the world of God where he would experience God’s power. This is God's invitation for all of us - "Put out into deep water." When people live in shallow water, relying on their logic, knowledge, experiences and common sense, the end result is always the same - empty nets. This is what all people in the world testify, even generation after generation. God never wants us to spend our whole life in shallow water playing around small waves, but he wants us to go beyond this human territory and tap into His world. Jesus invites us, "Put out into deep water." This is a must for all peoples on earth. This is a must for all of us, Christians as well. Think about our Christian life of just doing church activities and developing the knowledge of the Bible without really tapping into God's world - how is it? It is so boring, eventually, we will be tired of doing all these things. That's how so many Christians live their life, dragging their body to the church worship service for maybe, 40 or 50 years as an obligation, without real joy and happiness. It's painful. What about those who are zealous for God and thereby, do a lot of things for God, but not really tapping into God's world? They eventually become Pharisees, so self-righteous, judgmental and demanding. We must tap into God's world where we can experience God's power and God's person so that we may have life together with God really. Once we go beyond our territory and experience God's Person, God's power really, there, we begin to see everything differently; our perspectives change, our desires and hope change, and our direction changes, and our whole life changes; our life never becomes the same. Then, in everything we do in the church is what we do before God alone - our service to the Lord alone.
Then, how can we tap into God's world? On our own, we cannot go beyond our own territory - we just do everything based on our logic, knowledge, experiences and common sense. On our own, it is impossible. Then, how? By holding onto God's words, by doing what God commands us. God invites us into his world, saying, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation,… and you will be a blessing… All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." By obeying these commands, we can go beyond our own human territory, and tap into God's world. It requires absolute faith in God. Those who really trust in God go beyond their understanding by doing what God wants them to do, entrusting themselves in God's hands. But those who do not have real faith in God, back out, making excuses. Don't be scared of some big waves that bother you as you try to go into deep water. God is not dead, but living; He knows what's going on, and He is in control. By faith in God, go into deep water, going beyond your human territory, and there, you will see a new world, the world of God, and your life will never be the same.
Second, "From now on you will catch men" (8-11). Look at verse 8. When he just tried Jesus’ words, at the first try, he made a great success right at the place where he had failed so miserably. So, he should have been overjoyed and shouted, "Hurray!" But he did not give Jesus a high-five. Instead, he fell at Jesus’ feet and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Something really amazing happened in his heart. Through this miraculous catch of fish, his eyes were opened to see who Jesus was, the Holy Son of God; he realized that he was standing before God. At the same time his eyes were opened to see who he was, a sinful man, not worthy of God's presence. When Simon Peter went beyond his own understanding and logic, and went into deep water, there, he experienced the power of God, and his eyes were opened to see who God is, and who he was. When he lived in the shallow water, probably, he thought that he was okay because he was a Jew, read the Bible and attended worship service. Also, he was not a lazy bum, but a diligent and faithful man as a fisherman and husband struggling hard to support his family. Before people, and outwardly, he was a good man. But when he stood before God, he was found as a sinful man. His life was a sinful life, because fundamentally, he had lived for himself, struggling to build up his career and to support his own family, instead of living for God and struggling to build God's kingdom. Despite his religious life, still it was nothing but a self-seeking life – a sinful life.
Many people think of themselves good, saying, "I am okay." It is not because they are really good, but because they see themselves before people, not before God. What is important in God's eyes is not whether people have a form of religiosity or Bible knowledge, but what they live for, what kind of fruit they bear, and what kind of people they become. It is far better for people to find themselves before God while they are living here on earth. Otherwise, they will find themselves as terrible sinners on the judgment day. What a terrible time it will be for them! Those who find themselves as sinners before God are really blessed; they are the poor in spirit; they are those who mourn; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Look at verse 10b. Let’s read this verse together:
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men."
"Don’t be afraid; from now on…" This expression shows that Jesus forgave his sins and he would not hold him accountable for his past life. What is important is not the past, but the present and the future. What grace it is that Jesus, the Judge of all, does not hold us accountable for our past life. Even if our sins are so obvious like crimson tide, Jesus considers us as white as snow, as if we have done nothing wrong. Now, Jesus is more concerned about how we must live our life from now on.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "From now on you will catch men." Simon had lived the life of catching fish, but now Jesus told him, "No more the life of catching fish, but the life of catching men." When he lived the life of catching fish, and when he was loyal to it, he was able to support his family, and enjoy some pleasures and luxury. That’s what he had so far lived for by living the life of catching fish – some sense of security, being able to pay the bills, and enjoy some luxury and pleasure. But the end result of the life of catching fish was empty like his empty nets after a whole night of labor. And now he realized that it was a sinful life; so he must not live that kind of sinful life any longer. Jesus showed him that he must live a different way of life, that is, the life of catching men.
Here we see that Jesus divides all people’s life struggles into two categories – the life of catching fish and the life of catching men. All people are living the life of catching fish.They catch fish to kill and sell for money. Catching fish is the means of their security and success – some people in getting a job, while others in running their business, but no matter what, all their purpose is that through those activities, they might survive and secure their life in the world. This is an empty way of life. When people have to leave this world, they realize that they have not done anything meaningful, fulfilling and lasting. They are full of regret and sense of emptiness. They have lived a sinful life. That's why people at their death bed, are so fearful.
On the contrary, the life of catching men is the life that lives for God by taking care of God’s flock. You struggle to catch men as shepherds. Why? Not so that you can kill them and sell them for money; instead, you struggle to catch men so that they may not be killed and destroyed; you catch them to heal their wounds and scars, make them healthy and sound so that they may have eternal life, a truly wonderful, happy and fulfilling life in Jesus Christ. So you do it for their happiness and their life; you live for them, and eventually, you even will die for them. This is the very life God wants us to live - a holy and righteous life, and this life of catching men brings glory to God.
When you live the life of catching men, you will have many friends whom you have rescued, and thereby, who love you and honor you greatly; you will spend eternity together with them. Moreover, since you work for God, God will love you and bless you – He will reward you greatly on that day. When you catch many people, on the day when you see Jesus, he will say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matt 25:21) Daniel 12:3 says that those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever in the kingdom of heaven. The life of catching men is the life that bears the fruit of life with eternal reward. Jesus says to us, "From now on you will catch men." This new life direction is not an option, but a must for all Christians, for all who experience Jesus' sin-forgiving grace; all other ways of life are sinful. "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." How will you respond to this calling? How will you respond to this invitation?
Look at verse 11. Let’s read this verse together:
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
At once, Simon Peter, Andrew, John and James all accepted Jesus’ calling to live the life of catching men. They left everything – their career, their family, and their family business, and followed Jesus. When they lived in shallow water, these things were important to them; they lived for them – career, business and family. But once they tapped into God's world, once their eyes were opened to God, in deep water, these things didn't carry any value; so they left all these things behind and followed Jesus; now Jesus was the most important figure in their life. That was the beginning of their new life, the life of catching men. Since then, their life would never be the same. Now today, Jesus invites us to this glorious life of catching men. Friends, how would you respond?
One Word:From Now On You Will Catch Men