Friday, January 18, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women: Who Touched Me?


Have you ever been on a crowded bus? Ugh! Not my fave.  I remember, when I was a young woman living in the big city for the first time, I didn't have a car...soooo...yes...public transportation was my only way to get from point A to points B-Z.  And, there is something you need to know about Panama, if you don't know it already:  IT IS REALLY HOT IN THERE!  On top of which, back then, in the last century, when I was a young person, busses didn't have air conditioning.  They were discarded American school busses painted in colorful/creative (some may say CRAZY) designs as if to distract people of how horrible it was to ride on them...it didn't really work...it was still plenty horrible, just in a colorful/creative/crazy way...

At any rate, life was simpler back then, but traveling by bus made it challenging.  Most of the time I had to ride standing up, barely hanging on to my life by the tip of my fingers grabbing to whatever I could hold on to.  People packed so close that air couldn't get through.  Of course, purses, backpacks or any other form of transporting essentials were a big no, no...so, I had to get by with whatever I could fit in the front pockets of my jeans.  I could smell what people had for breakfast, it was so tight... ick!!! 

Anyway...I think about that when I read verse 45 in our passage of Scripture from Luke 8: 40-56.  In that verse, Jesus says:  “Who touched me?”

I mean, it's no wonder that His disciples were puzzled.  Like, back in Panama, if someone had said that on a noon bus in my route, everyone would have been looking at each other, saying:  "not me!" as the first reaction, probably followed by someone uttering a loud what all would have been thinking:  "Come on, man...there are all kinds of people crowding and pressing against you...of course somebody touched you!  Get real! Pff!"

That's kind of what happened in this passage, when Jesus inquired about "who touched Him," they all, first, denied it, and then, of course Peter, said:  “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”  (can't you hear the not-so-faint:  "Come on, Jesus...get real! Pff!" here? )  Well, that would be a very common and logical reaction.  At least from my perspective.  Jesus, however, knew exactly what He was doing.  Of course He was aware of the crowds! Better yet, of course He knew who had touched Him.  And that's precisely why He made a big deal out of it.  

Once again, He wanted to call everyone's attention to what had just happened and use it as a learning moment.  He wanted everyone to be aware of the simple and humble faith of this poor woman who had been hopelessly ill for 12 debilitating years.  Can you imagine?  Bleeding for 12 years straight!  Anemic probably didn't even begin to describe the state of this woman.  But, in all her weakness, she gathered the strength she needed to touch Our Lord's garment.  Such was her faith, that it propelled her to make that bold move.  She knew that Jesus didn't even need to know she was there.  She trusted that His power was so great that it would spill over through the tips of His robe...if she could only get close enough to touch it...and she did...and He saw her...and He wanted everyone to see her too!

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

She couldn't go unnoticed!  None of us can!  He sees each and everyone one of us...and He heals us...and He calls us "Daughters." 

I wonder what the disciples said afterwards, huh?  I wonder what I would have said, had this happened on any of my crowded busses back in Panama?  Would I have had eyes to see it?  Would I have had the faith to believe it?

Heavenly Father, thank you for seeing us regardless of our state!  May we always trust that You know it is us, even when the world seems so crowded and the needs are so strong.  Amen!




Thursday, January 17, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women: The Healing Touch of Jesus

Just like the passage about Mary, the mother of Jesus coming with His brothers to see Him, and Him pointing out to the fact that His family are those who hear His voice and obey His Word, is found not only in Luke, as we discussed it earlier in Matthew, today's exchanges with women are also recorded not only in Luke, but also in Matthew and in Mark's as well.

The fact that three of the Gospel writers were inspired to include these events in their accounts of Jesus' walk on this earth warms my heart and astounds me all at once.  I don't have to repeat the fact that women, back in those times, were worth about the same as cattle...some even less.  So, for the Gospels to contain stories about how Jesus not only answered petitions that involved the healing of women, but more amazingly, often reached out to women Himself and initiated the healing, forgiving, comforting, bring great joy to my feminine heart...and reassures me that in the Kingdom of Christ, it truly doesn't matter who you are.  He looks at the heart, and by His blood and sacrifice He makes us all new.

The passage we are pondering today includes two instances, one, we already reviewed when we encountered it in Matthew 9: 20-22.  The other one, even though it is also in Matthew 9, we set aside to consider it today, with Luke's version of the same incident:  the healing of Jairus daughter.

In both instances, we see the Healing Touch of Jesus.  There are a couple of differences, though, let's read the entire passage as Luke recorded it in chapter 8: 40-56.  We are not going to rush through this, because I believe there is much to discern out of this portion of Scripture, so just take time to read it, and as you do, think about the following:
1.  How many healing instances are recorded in this passage?
2.  What are the reactions of the people who witnessed these healings?
3.  How does Jesus react to what people say to Him?
4.  Are there any differences in the healing instances described in this passage? Explain.

So, let's read and ponder on the questions above.  Then, we'll get back to the passage and the answers in our next meeting.  May the Holy Spirit bring light to His Word and allow us to have understanding of the message that Jesus speaks to us today! Amen!  Enjoy:

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.  Luke 8: 40-56

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women: The Door



19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8: 19-21

Today's passage offers a rather strange slice in the life of Jesus.  I mean, what might be the point of this scene?  Why is it in Scripture?  It seems like such a mundane and unimportant incident that one might perceive it as superfluous.  The Word is a Powerful entity, though, and always has a purpose:

...my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55: 11

So, this paragraph is anything but insignificant.  Picture the scene, Jesus' closest kin pressing to see Him, His Mother among them...but Jesus dismisses them and doesn't do anything to grant them access to Him.  Why not?  Some commentaries say that it was because Jesus' relatives wanted Him to take a break from Ministry.  I'm sure if that's the case, at least Mary was probably truly worried about Jesus and wanted to protect Him.  She might have thought Jesus was rather spent and needed to rest for a while.  I can see that.  A Mother's instinct is to nurture and preserve the well-being of her children, regardless of how old they might be.  I don't see any ill-intention on the part of Mary.  Jesus, however, could see right through whatever the motives were, and it is obvious that He chose to use the occasion as a teaching moment that has implications all the way to us, centuries later.

“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” 

For us, Jesus' words are precious.  He is opening the door of His Royal Family to us!  He is calling us family, us, His followers who hear God's word and put it into practice regardless of birth.  What a marvelous revelation!

I wonder, however, how did Mary feel?

As a Mother, there is little else that hurts more than having one's children disown us in any way.  I think of my own kids, and I remember how hurt I am every time that they express, perhaps not with words, but with actions, that they are a bit embarrassed of me.  Dylan does that to me more often than I would care to admit, and every time it feels like a dagger into my heart.  Even if he doesn't truly mean it 100%, I can't help feeling the deep hurt.  So, I wonder if Mary felt that same sting that day?

I don't think Jesus' intention was to offend His earthly Mother, not at all.  He is just making sure that everyone knows that there aren't any favoritisms in the Kingdom of God.  Nobody has a higher ranking.  There is nothing we can do that would earn us a place in Heaven.  It is all about Him.  He is the One at the door, and He is the One who knocks.  But, paradoxically, He is also the Door.  And, whoever must enter, will enter because He open Himself up, with arms stretched out on the cross.

May the Holy Spirit guide us through the mysteries of God and lead us to enter through His Holy Door.  In Christ's precious name.  Amen!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women: Missions


Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8: 1-3

Moving on to chapter 8 in the Gospel according to Luke, verses 1-3, we don't see a record of Jesus words to women, but we do see a record of how women accompanied Jesus as part of His followers.  In addition to the 12 disciples, there is a list of women who walked with Him.  Luke, who penned this Gospel, found it important enough that he, not only mentioned the fact that there were women followers, but he mentioned some by name!  We see Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna.  

These women had experienced the healing power of Jesus, and, I believe, just couldn't stay away from Him.  Therefore, I think, as a sign of their gratitude and love, they left everything behind and offered their care and material provision to Christ as part of His entourage. 

These women gave, out of their means, and travel alongside the disciples.  This makes me think of missionaries, who set aside their own personal pursuits to dedicate their lives and means to the service of God's Kingdom.  In this case, these group of women had been personally impacted by the healing power of Christ, so that might have been their first motivation to surrender their lives.  But, as I imagine, I bet it took them only a little while to forget about any previous aspirations and see no other possible life, but the life of a full-time follower of Jesus.  

That's what I imagine happens to most missionaries when they hear the call to serve.  We have a nephew in Dan's family who is about to leave for the Philippines in a couple of days to stay for one year as a missionary.  He went on a short trip last year, almost as if by chance...and he couldn't resist the call to return, this time for a longer period.  Those of us who have not received such a call, at times, struggle to understand.  But, reading about these women today, reminds me of the irresistible nature of God.  Look at Joanna, in this passage.  She was the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager!  I bet that was an important position not only of great responsibility, but of great privilege as well...and she left that life to walk the dusty roads with Jesus.  I wonder what happened to Chuza?  He is not mentioned as a follower...so I wonder if she just left him after she found herself unequally yoked to an unbeliever??

Whatever her reasons, she couldn't stay away from her calling to serve The Lord, just as our nephew couldn't either.  But it is not just missionaries who leave their lives behind, the only ones called to serve.  We are all called to serve, one way or another.  We are all called to use our gifts, whatever they may be, for the service of God's Kingdom...wherever we may be:  at our workplace, at our schools, at our homes, at our churches, at our local grocery store... The irresistible call of God finds us wherever we are, to do whatever He requires of us.  Now... the question is:  do we hear it? and furthermore, are we willing to answer it?

Sigh...

May the Holy Spirit reveal to us the pathway to our calling and the strength to follow it.  Also, may He be with those who have been called to serve in a mission field far, far away, as they leave their previous lives behind. Amen!

Monday, January 14, 2019

God Speaks to Women: Stronger Faith

50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7: 50

My pondering of this passage of Scripture takes me to a question:  Do I have the kind of faith that moves mountains?

Sigh...

I believe that...in my case, most of my issues derive from... my lack of solid faith.  There, I said it...

I am seeking to be humble this year, so, I humbly admit that I lack the faith that could move mountains.  

What does the Bible say about gaining faith?  "...faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." Romans 10: 17  

Hearing the message?  What message?  Well, the message of salvation!  And how is that message heard?  Where is it found?  in the Word!  The message of salvation and hope and love of Christ is found in Scripture.  But, why would knowing about Christ help us make our faith stronger?  In my opinion, an important element of faith is trust.  And, who do we trust?  We tend to trust those we know, those who have a tangible record of trustworthiness.  So, if it works like that among humanity, chances are, it works the same way in our relationship with Our Heavenly Father.  The more we know about Him, the more we begin to trust Him, for even if we are unfaithful and faithless, He is Faithful Forever!  But, how would we know He is worthy of all our trust if we don't know Him?  Hence, the importance of hearing the message contained in the Bible.

Therefore, we see why the author of Romans insists in staying in the Word:  that's the way to a life of faith, to a life where sight is irrelevant, for we walk by the assurance of things not seen.  

Once God has bestowed upon us the gift of Grace and Faith, reading Scripture becomes part of our walk, because the more we read it, the more we know Him.  And the more we know Him, the more we trust Him and the stronger our faith becomes.

And this has nothing to do with ourselves and who we are.  It is all about Jesus!  He touches our hearts and softens them to receive His Grace as a gift, and with that comes faith.  This sinful woman did nothing to deserve forgiveness.  She didn't have the Gospel either, to read about Christ.  But I believe God called her to Christ, and she said yes, even if it meant going into the Pharisee's house and making a fool out of herself in all of her shame.  That's when she had the encounter that transformed her and saved her.  Salvation doesn't depend on us.  It is a gift of Grace.  But once we receive it, our wheels turn into motion and it is impossible to resist the calling to get closer and closer to the One who paid our debt.  For this woman, it was the daring act of walking into the Pharisee's house...for us, it is to pick up our Bible and eat it like our daily bread.

May the Almighty God who calls us His own give us what we need to pursue a life of faith, inspired by the Word and resting upon the power of Christ Our Lord!  Amen!


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women: Peace, Faith and Forgiveness


50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7: 50

The power of Jesus' words shook those reclining at the table with Him, the woman who received them as well as whoever reads them through the centuries.  He is the Word Made Flesh (John 1: 14) and what He speaks comes into being, so the woman's sins were forgiven, indeed, hence the last three words:  "go in peace."  

Is it hard for you to "go in peace"?  Peace is so elusive for me.  It was my "word" for 2018, but I know that for me to attain true peace it will take more than a year.  For people like me, peace seems just too far away.  Why is that?  I don't know.  Perhaps, because I listen too much to fear constantly shouting in my ears.  Maybe because I'm a control freak.  Or...might it be because I lack faith?

It pains me to admit it...but I think that's the case:  I have a shaky faith.  It tends to crumble and falter at the slightest sign of hardship.  When life takes a turn that I was not expecting,  my faith stals.  Actually, there doesn't even need to be a turn...just the fear of the possibility of a potential turn being remotely coming makes me quake in my boots...sigh...pathetic, I know...

But, what is faith?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 
Hebrews 11: 1

And, how do we get it?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10: 17

But, what is it based on?

so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power. 1 Corinthians 2: 5

And, that's why Jesus says:

“Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11: 22-25

Jesus is God, and this sinful woman had faith in Him, which means that she was confident that His power is sufficient to give her assurance of His forgiveness, and as she heard Him speak to her, her confidence rested on His power to do what He said He'd do; therefore, she had peace...

It's complicated, I know, but what I want to take away is that faith does not rest on me or on the wisdom or power of anyone in the world.  Faith is wholly dependent on the power of God and His power is limitless, so even mountains would obey and jump into the ocean at His command.  The thing is, however, that the prayer of faith must be accompanied by forgiveness.  Jesus states it, in verses 24-25 in Mark 11.  As we pray and lift our petitions to Him, we need to do an introspection:  who do I need to forgive?  And actually, forgive.

Yeah...that's another biggie for me...

I'm too proud and forgiveness evades me.  I hold grudges.  My memory is very long when it comes to remembering offenses.  My ego is too fragile and I don't recover easily when someone crushes it.  I think too highly of myself, so, I demand respect, and when I don't get it, I hold it against them...

Sigh...

I think I need to pause here right now and continue to ponder because this text is so rich, I don't want to get confused.  For now, I pray that the Lord in His great mercy, would look upon us with love and forgive our trespassess as we forgive those who have committed trespasses against us.   Amen!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Jesus Speaks to Women...even Sinful Women...

And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7: 48

For some, this expression may represent a re-birth...a healing...a permission to breathe again.  Yet, for others, it might be an occasion to mistrust.  This is the contrast between the two characters in the passage that contains this wonderful verse: Luke 7: 36-50.  

On one side we have the sinful woman who came to Jesus with her alabaster jar of ointment and, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7: 38) On the other hand we have the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dine.

Jesus uses both to teach a magnificent lesson: faith.

The way I see it, both, the woman as well as the Pharisee were drawn to Jesus.  The difference is in the details of their intentions/reasons as to why seeking Jesus. The Pharisee invited Him to his home to eat and hang out.  The sinful woman entered the house of the Pharisee to seek out Jesus and worship Him.  The Pharisee, accustomed to sitting among important people, used the invitation to call attention to himself, to his power, to his position of influence:  look at me, look at me, I have the hottest celebrity of the moment dining at my house, aren't I amazing?  The woman, sneaking into the room where Jesus was reclining, surrendered her tears, her hair, her precious ointment, weeping, ashamed, broken...

For the Pharisee, it was all about himself.  He wanted to make himself look good, and he also wanted to prove how smart he was, "Hey, if Jesus really were who He said He is, He'd know better..." (my paraphrase of verse 39)

For the sinful woman, it was all about Jesus.  Notice she didn't even say anything...she didn't ask for anything...she just wanted to get near Jesus.  In contrast with Mary in Matthew 26, this woman washes His feet.  I believe, she didn't feel worthy of anointing Jesus head, so she, in great humility, took the the most humble of tasks:  cleaning a man's feet...with her tears...and her hair.  I mean, her hair!  A precious commodity for a woman.  Back then, women weren't even allowed to show their hair in public.  Their hair was reserved only for her husband.  I think of today and the great pains that women go through to fix their hair just like so...how much we wrestle with our hair...how much money we invest in our hair...I'm sure women back then did the equivalent too...and to use her precious hair to wipe the dirty feet of a man who had been beating the dusty pathways for days?  I mean, Jesus didn't even have like a permanent residence...how many times a week you think He got to wash His feet?  They are Holy feet, I know...but even Holy feet get dirty...don't you think?  And to use one's hair to wipe them?!  WOW!  That is surrender...that is worship...

How much are we willing to surrender when we worship?

Sigh...

I would like to pause here to ponder for a while.  May the Holy Spirit speak to us and reveal to us what He wants us to learn, appreciate, and discern in this passage.  Amen!