Saturday, August 1

What did you eat today?

Matthew 14:13-21 is one of the few experiences shared in each of the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in many places, but it must have been a special reason for John to record it. 

John, like the others, is concerned with showing his readers and the world who Jesus is. John records the intent of the people, to take Jesus and make Him King. Soon afterward in John 6: 26ff, Jesus confronts the crowd,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” which leads to verse 35 where Jesus reveals “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jesus and God

At the center of God’s creation is Jesus. The tipping point for all life is found in Jesus. Nothing is grander, more life-changing, fulfilling, earth-shattering, or joyous than Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel and if we miss this, we miss everything, everything!

I owe a lot in this discussion to the work of Dr. Thomas Torrance, systematic theologian and Presbyterian with an unwavering belief and trust in Jesus. His approach to every passage of scripture was to ask, “Who does this passage say Jesus is (Bester)?” Pastor Garrett Dawson wrote of Torrance, “What is at stake here is the belief that who we see God to be for us in Jesus Christ is who God is antecedently and eternally in himself (Dawson).” In other words, Jesus the perfect, human/divine reality of God who created heaven and earth. There is no other God than whom God reveals Himself to be in Jesus.

Torrance served as a stretcher-bearer in World War 2. He wrote of coming across a mortally wounded soldier who asked,

“‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him that he was the only God that there is, the God who had come to us in Jesus, has shown his face to us, and poured out his love to us as our Savior. As I prayed and commended him to the Lord Jesus, he passed away (Torrance 15).”

Torrance continues to write of the impression this had made on him and said,

“I kept wondering afterward what modern theology and the Churches had done to drive some kind of wedge between God and Jesus. There is no hidden God... no God behind the back of the Lord Jesus, but only the one Lord God who became incarnate in him. 2 Truly, when we try to look into the face of God, it is the face of Jesus Christ revealed in the gospels that comes before us (ibid.).”

Our sin divided us at Babel and God calls us together at Pentecost. We broke ourselves into Greeks and Jews; free and slave; male and female; yet the Kingdom of Christ finds us together as a great multitude of which the Apostle John writes:

I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Division is the outcome of sin; reconciling--uniting is God’s work through Jesus.

God Cares

In Matthew’s account of this miracle, something amazing takes place. Jesus comes ashore and finds a large group of people who had followed Him, and three things happen. Jesus saw the people, had compassion on the people, and healed their sick. Jesus didn’t just ‘feel for the people’. The word translated ‘compassion’ means to have a sense of concern that flows from the deepest place in which soul-wrenching pain, love, and hurt burn with a life of their own.

Verse 20 gives us Matthew’s view of what took place, “And they all ate and were satisfied.” This speaks directly to the physical hunger they had felt after a day of walking and listening to Christ, but I think there is a deeper satisfaction that comes from having Jesus feel compassion for us.

As I pointed out, Jesus knew that there were selfish people who wanted a King who could keep them fed, as in John 6. But there were also those who, perhaps for the first time, felt okay.

I read Isaiah 55:1-5 today and it is Jesus who invites and fulfills God’s call,

“Come, everyone who thirsts,

    come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without price.

If we are honest with ourselves it is easy to be like those described in verse 2.

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

The reason for such forgetfulness, rebellion, or silliness is that we believe we know best. We don’t seek the way of Christ. I read of a pastor who went to see a speech therapist who was also a psychologist. Two of his children started having issues with stuttering. He shared how the doctor cursed him out for being at the root of the problem. The doctor asked when we’d taken a vacation. The pastor tried to get around the question by saying

 “I was too busy to take time with my family. I remember I used to say that the Devil never takes a vacation, so why should I?—And I never stopped to think that the Devil wasn’t to be my example (Bayly and Bayly)."

Who is our example? Who is our role model?

God’s in Charge

The disciples were consumed with assumptions. As the day grew longer “neither Jesus nor the crowd was preparing to bring things to an end, so they took the initiative (Morris 377).” How like us. We know that “God helps those who help themselves” right. No! He doesn’t. Those who help themselves end up worshipping a golden calf, murmuring against God and betray Jesus, so he might become who Judas wanted Him to be.

Verses 16-18 each begin with the word ‘but’. “But Jesus said…” and then commands them to feed the people. The nature of this command is seen in that Jesus uses the pronoun “you” which, unneeded in Greek, when used makes it even more emphatic—think of it in terms of Jesus using your middle name when He calls you.

The disciples wanted the people to go away. This was how they handled people who they felt were too inconvenient to see Jesus. They tried to protect Jesus from parents who wanted their children blessed. They believed tried to manage Jesus. They saw themselves as the Messianic Chief of Staff who was to plan Jesus’ agenda and take care of those who, they thought, He didn’t have time to deal with. 

So, when Jesus issues His command to the disciples they are rocked on their heels. He doesn’t give them the means to do what He commanded. He doesn't even offer a hint.

 “But…we only have five loaves…” Jesus listens with the intent to do what He had already planned to do. What He teaches us is to turns ours and their attention away from the hopelessness of the situation and the easy solution and invites them and us to think how they and us could help (Morris 377-378).”

Once again Jesus speaks beginning with “but bring them here to me” the sack lunch they had found. Not only does Jesus ‘satisfy’ the hunger of the people but he demonstrates before 5,000 the fulfillment of manna given from God to the people. He shows His compassion is not reserved for those who bring perfect lambs to the temple but all who are far off.

Let me close, reminding us to remember who and whose we are. I was blessed to have Dr. Abd-al-Malik teach Hebrew at Fuller. I didn’t learn much Hebrew, but I became acquainted with a man who lived a life he described as “teaching is my spiritual child (Barber).” Among the things I learned was to “Trust Allah and believe” by the way Allah simply means God in Arabic and probably flows from the ancient term El for God in Job and elsewhere.

The other thing I remember is his humility. When someone would say, “Dr. Malik” he would often stop us and explain “it’s Abd-al-Malik, the servant of the King I am not the King, that is Jesus.” May we remember we are the servant of God and not speak and ask as if we are a god… Let’s pray.


 Works Cited

Bayly, Joseph, and Timothy Bayly. Out Of My Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1993. Print.

Barber, Mary. "Everybody's 'Favorite Teacher' At Cal State L.A. Doesn't Intend to Become History Just Yet." Los Angeles Times. 1985. Web. 31 July 2020.

Bester, Joco. "More Than A Miracle." Sermon Central. 2013. Web. 29 July 2020.

Dawson, Gerrit Scott. "Recovering the Ascension For The Transformation of the Church." Theology Matters 2001: 1ff. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ, Lenoir: PLC Publications, 1999, p. 15

 Works Consulted

Amenyah, Ivy Drafor. "Feeding the Five Thousand." Sermon Central. 2017. Web. 29 July 2020.

Bayly, Joseph, and Timothy Bayly. Out Of My Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1993. Print.

Barber, Mary. "Everybody's 'Favorite Teacher' At Cal State L.A. Doesn't Intend to Become History Just Yet." Los Angeles Times. 1985. Web. 31 July 2020.

Bester, Joco. "More Than A Miracle." Sermon Central. 2013. Web. 29 July 2020.

Dawson, Gerrit Scott. "Recovering the Ascension For The Transformation of the Church." Theology Matters 2001: 1ff. Print.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14–28. Vol. 33B. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Vol. 9. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

Jackson. "Facebook Post Inspires Michigan Mail Carrier to Give Kidney To Stranger." MLive. 2019. Web. 1 Aug. 2020.

Köster, Helmut. “Σπλάγχνον, Σπλαγχνίζομαι, Εὔσπλαγχνος, Πολύσπλαγχνος, Ἄσπλαγχνος.” Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– : 548–559. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Rushford, Greg. "What Is The Role Of The White House Chief Of Staff? - Dummies." dummies. 2012. Web. 1 Aug. 2020.

Thomas F. Torrance, A Passion for Christ, Lenoir: PLC Publications, 1999, p. 15


Saturday, May 30

All Together Now!


Have you ever had a ‘bad’ week? Someone once said, “You can tell you’re going to have a bad week when a camera crew from 60-minutes is in the office on Monday and would like to ask you some questions.” Here are some other possible ways you can tell things are going to get hairy. The orthodontist says your kid needs braces and then asks if you think the blue or silver BMW is nicer. Your spouse gives you a ticket to Fiji for your anniversary, but there is only one, and it is one-way.

Let me suggest that when God pours Himself into your life your week is going to more than terrific, it is going to be spectacular. That is precisely what happened on Pentecost in Jerusalem.  What Jesus had promised happened. They had waited, as Jesus told them, and the Paraclete, counselor, comforter, God’s advocate was present with them, upon them, and within them.

Former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor at Hollywood Pres., Lloyd Ogilvie wrote, “The greatest need in the church today is for contemporary Pentecost (Ogilvie 56).” That was his conclusion after taking a year to discover the great need people had for a sense of power in their lives.

At 67 I find myself wishing I this or that ability I had when I was 40. In transitioning from a home to assisted living I hear the pain caused by losing control of their lives, their future. It is very obvious with this pandemic how many of us want things to go back to being normal and we chafe under the thought that things may never be ‘normal’ again. When the world is shifting all around us it becomes difficult to find an anchor on which we can depend.

As hard as it is to ‘trust God’ in such times, the answer to our lack of control is found in Christ and his presence and power—in Pentecost. In the matter of a few minutes, the lives of 120 people were uprooted by God. A weird sound and a strange sight moved 120 people from a room into the streets. It made fishermen apostles, it made shopkeepers into evangelists, it took women and caused their voices to shout God’s praise to the street in languages they may have never heard.

Together Before

A keyword used to describe those people is “together”. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place” v2. They were together because that’s what Jesus had told them to do, back in 1:4-5 “he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, …but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Together, describes these people, before and after the Holy Spirit comes. Before, they were together waiting. After, they were together as a force. Before, they were together but powerless. After, thousands wanted to be together with them. This wasn’t mass hysteria but a God thing. They ran into the street among the gathering crowd together but not the same. In an instant, the Holy Spirit delivered them from “the limitations of their Galilean speech (Peterson 134) so that those who had gathered at the sound were hearing God being praised in their own languages. “It was not simply a miracle of hearing: it was a miracle of speech (Peterson 134)” because they were enabled “as the Spirit gave them utterance” v4. This is what the Holy Spirit does with gifts, 1 Co 12:11 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he [Holy Spirit] wills”.

Together After

After some 3,000 people respond to Peter’s sermon, ‘together’ is used three times.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:44-47 NIV
The ESV uses ‘together’ twice. It describes their meeting in the temple and breaking bread in v. 46. Either way, they were supporting and caring for one another in a way that was unique, even in a culture that honored hospitality. Read through Acts 2-6 and you’ll see successes and tensions to this togetherness. Yet, God continually brings his people together. So much so, the summary for chapter 2 that “the Lord continued to add to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47).

Together Today

How can we live a together style life today? Above everything else, it comes from, is powered by, and brings glory and honor to God and God alone. Look back at verse 47, “The LORD continued to add…” their cleverness didn’t work, nor does our nifty programs. “The LORD continued to add…” it wasn’t their keeping the rules of the law, and it doesn’t happen because we are polite and don’t wear a hat in worship. The rich guy in Mark 10 asks what it takes to be saved and Jesus said you know the commandments. His response was, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth”. Yet he walks away unsaved. Why? Because it isn’t our good deeds that brings about salvation, it is God and God alone.

To be together today demands a humble spirit, to see us as God sees us. There is a story about Teddy Roosevelt that comes from a traveling companion and friend, William Beebe. He wrote,

After an evening of talk...we would go out on the lawn, where we took turns at an amusing little astronomical rite. We searched until we found, with or without glasses, the faint heavenly spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus, when one or the other of us would recite:
·          That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.
·          It is as large as our Milky Way.
·          It is one of a hundred million galaxies.
·          It is 750,000 light-years away.
·          It consists of one billion suns, each larger than our sun."
After an interval, Colonel Roosevelt would grin at me and say: "Now I think we are small enough! Let's go to bed (Beebe 234)."

Beebe concludes, “We must have repeated this salutary ceremony forty of fifty times in the course of years, and it never palled (ibid.).” Their simple recitation gave them a humble perspective on life.

Does it excite you that God, who created that spiral galaxy some 750,000 light-years away, sent Jesus to die for us? Do we grasp that this same God, who sent Jesus to die, insists we do the seemingly impossible? What is so impossible about telling others about Jesus, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving the unlovable?

Together today must be kindled by the Holy Spirit and cause a growth in our spiritual vitality and power. Only then can the seemingly impossible be accomplished. Forget about the source of this power; grow weak; distant from others, or be forgetful about the things of God and we find ourselves alone, with no means of support, or compassion.

I was in Hawthorne Nevada for six years, two election cycles. In each of those years, one of the county commissioners made a Sunday appearance at worship. He was a good person. I think his name was Lyberger but it doesn’t matter because he was never together with the followers of Jesus. He was a good county commissioner. He seemed to be a moral and good person. But the proof he was not together with us came during a graveside service one afternoon.  Harry Kumler, the funeral director in Hawthorne and a faithful member and deacon asked, what church he attended. He told Harry, “I’m a Presbyterian.” To which Harry simply said, “Funny, I’ve never seen you there.”

God’s love, God’s Holy Spirit will continue to challenge us to be together with-others even as he moves us out into the streets and smack-dab-in-the-middle of messy lives and messy situations. He will call on us to remain together even as we stand apart from the world taking unpopular stands. The awe and wonder of it all is that God actually likes using us to do this work. Let’s pray

Works Cited
Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Bibliography

Batterson, Mark. Whisper. Portland: Multnomah, 2017. Print.

Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, Print.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : V 1, p 637 Print.

Marshall, ‘Significance’, 355. Cf. G. Delling, TDNT 6:128–31, 283–98; Turner, Power, 165–69.
Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Polhill, John B. Acts. Vol. 26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

Salmond, Roy and Mulder, Mike "Bear the Burden". Stumbling Heavenward, 1979, LP

Wilson, Andrew. "Paul Says To ‘Be Filled with The Spirit.’ How Do We Obey A Passive Verb?." ChristianityToday.com. 2019. Web. 27 May 2020.