God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Friday, October 11, 2013

October 11 - Matthew 8:1-13; Luke 7: The Irony of Israel and the Pharisee

Today’s Reading: Matthew 8:1-13; Luke 7

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Pharisees watched Jesus perform miracles but wanted to destroy Him. The Roman centurion wanted Jesus to perform a miracle but did not want inconvenience the Savior.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

A Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant but preferred Jesus do it long-distance. Jesus marveled, "The man with the greatest trust isn't an Israelite! Soon 'pagans' like him will take faithless Israel's place in God's Kingdom."
Jesus returned life to a widow's only son.
Jesus proved His Authority to John's disciples. They passed the message to John in prison.
Jesus complained, "John was ignored as a crazy, religious nut but you ignore Me as too worldly. Make up your minds."
A prostitute cleaned Jesus' feet at a Pharisee's home, exemplifying that affection is often proportional to forgiven sin.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Jesus wants to heal.

God has always wanted to heal His Chosen People. All the leper needed to do was ask. God wants to heal when we are willing to ask.

The Roman Centurion's faith in Jesus demonstrated the irony of Israel.

In Malachi we read that people from all over the world wanted to worship God. The Roman centurion gives a great example of this saying in person—he did not think he was worthy of a visit from the one the Pharisees wanted to destroy. There are people who want to obey God around the world if they only had a chance to hear His Name. Those who know His Name could not be bothered to lift a finger for Him.
Today we find this same irony in churches where individuals who come to know Jesus later in life are often more interested in obeying God than the people who have been there for generations. I believe this is more of a generational problem than anything else. People who grew up with Christian parents who also grew up in Christian homes have no great "salvation" story to tell, similar to Israel's forgetfulness of the Exodus. God took them into exile so the big event that tied them together could be the salvation from exile. It is this reason alone that missions are an essential component of setting things right—it spreads God's Name all over the world. The spreading of God's name can re-infect trust and obedience to God's Chosen People.

Soon the distinction of "God's Chosen People" would be open for the world.

Because of the Roman centurion and the multitude of others willing to obey God if they had the chance, Israel faced losing their exclusive claim to being God's Chosen People. God would no longer keep them exclusively as His Chosen People if they were unwilling to obey Him. When God's Chosen People refuse to set things right, He finds new Chosen People.
Is this happening today? I believe so, but not in the same way we think. God's Chosen People are losing their place as the center of attention in society. This is both a positive and a negative (more on that later). Non-Chosen People willing to set things right replace God's Chosen People as the ones worth emulating. We no longer tie "righteousness" and "church" as we once did. I believe this can provide a place for non-Chosen People and Chosen People to help each other—one pushing the other to go out and set things right while the other gives the Name of the One ultimately setting all things right. We need both and if we work together, we may help non-Chosen People give praise and honor to our God.

"The masses" do not know what they want.

Jesus described the religious leader's dilemma—either you are "too holy" or "too worldly". There is no middle ground when it comes to popularity. John the Baptizer dressed, ate, and acted differently than the masses. He was considered a religious nut who didn't need a place in a "civilized" community. Jesus dressed and ate like the people but they dismissed Him as too much in the world, unfit for the "religiously pure" community. John's and Jesus' rejections were not because they failed. They were rejected because Israel did not want to obey God in the first place.
We, too, should not be surprised when popular culture rejects Jesus' difficult teachings. They do not wish to set things right and therefore cannot legitimize Jesus' teachings. It is not new, it's as old as popular culture.

The prostitute in Simon's house gives another example of the principle that great forgiveness is met with great affection.

As mentioned earlier, God's Chosen People had difficult times obeying God. Within God's Chosen People there were varying abilities to see God's Way. The woman lived a sinful life. She knew it. Jesus knew it. Simon and his guests knew it. However, she also trusted who Jesus was. She was willing to humiliate herself in front of these powerful, influential men and women. Simon and his guests were not. Because of her humility and trust in Jesus, her sins were forgiven. The guests could not see what was going on because they were stuck in their religious arguments—"Who does this man think he is, forgiving sins!" (Luke 7:49, The Message). They could not see God's Love because their sins did not cause great suffering. Those who have seen the consequences of their sins express their love for God more than those whose consequences for sin stay easily hidden. May we neither miss God's Forgiveness nor God's Way!

Do you feel jealous when non-Chosen People outdo you in setting things right?

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