Monday, January 30, 2012

It Was Like Magic!

Miracles!  Miracles everywhere!  It was like magic.  Early in his ministry, Jesus healed the mother-in-law of his new disciple Peter. She was burning up with a fever, on the verge of death and he took her hand and raised her up in the privacy of Peter's home, away from the public eye.  This would indicate Jesus intervened not solely to establish who he was, but also out of deepest concern--concern that would bond him to this special group--Peter and his wife, his mother-in-law, his brother Andrew and James and John who were also there.

Such a heartwarming, caring gesture made it easier for this new circle of friends to support the extraordinary mission that would consume so much of their lives over the next three and a half years and beyond.  It was a glimpse of his goodness.  But for the two ladies, it was more.  It represented recognition of their value as women; a show of attention that made them feel special and gentleness they were unaccustomed to receiving from religious teachers and leaders.

And the miracles they were destined to witness on a daily basis began anew that evening when hoards of people in desperate need of healing and deliverance lined the streets and alleys leading to the door of their home.  They were all clamoring for Jesus.  News about him had already spread quickly over the entire region.  Not only were these pitiful, infirmed and diseased individuals bound by their handicapped existence, they were also bound by a legalistic application of the Jewish code of law.  They had been taught they could not ask for or receive help until after the sun set on their sabbath days.  They were mistaken.  Jesus would have healed them any time of day or night. He had already healed Peter's mother-in-law just that afternoon.  The Lord was not unreasonable.

For many years, I too was mistaken.  I thought  my supplications to God were valid only if I offered them at the "right" time of day, just as the needy crowd at Peter's door.  But it didn't stop there, I also felt I had to pray in the "right" position, say the "right" words, in the "right" tone of voice and spend the "right" amount of time doing it. Otherwise, it would not work.  I allowed my entire day to be ruined and expected things to go wrong if I failed to pray the "right" way. How silly, you might say.  Yes, indeed it was.  But I needlessly labored under that misconception for a very long time.  Now I see how such a picky and complicated approach makes God appear unreasonable, harsh and unrealistic.

Jesus spent hours that night wandering through the massive crowd, empathetically laying his hands on the afflicted, the outcasts and misfits--many of whom were extremely unstable mentally. But it was not necessary for them to have waited until sunset to cry out for help, just as it wasn't necessary for me to pray at what I thought was the "right" time and way.  Jesus is neither unreasonable nor unrealistic.  He knows we are only human.  His mercy is unending.  His love unconditional.  We may come boldly before his throne of grace at any time, whether it be in early morning, with elegant, poetic phrases or late night with nothing but groaning and tears.  It doesn't matter. He understands.

Read the story of all these miracles as told by Peter's wife.  Click onto What A Day This Has Been! under Recent Posts.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What a Bunch of Losers!

Can you imagine the reaction of much of the Christian world today if they were faced with the kind of decision Jesus made regarding his first public miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding?  You know in your heart of hearts that many (and I include myself) would be thinking, "Well, the wedding party has already consumed all the wine way sooner than expected.  It's too bad there is no wine left, but it is just as well.  They've really had enough!"   The fact that Jesus did not have that reaction is fascinating.  It means he wasn't standing in their midst, arms folded, with a scowl on his face judging the merriment. It actually indicates he just might have been enjoying himself.

Weddings in first century Judea were a huge deal.  Running out of wine was not an option.  The reputation of the family was as stake. Jesus saved the day for the young bride and spared the family from embarrassment.  He responded to the request of his mom, even though he initially told her not to involve him because the time had not yet come for him to be made known through his miracles.  But she had a feeling he would do something anyway.  So she told the servants to follow his instructions.  She knew her son.  He was, after all, love personified.  Does that mean a supplication from  his dear mom and a desire to save the day for a tender young bride influenced Jesus to change his mind?  That's what it looks like.  Wow!  Who would have thought he would do such a thing?

This event in Jesus' life shows me I can lighten up a little bit, not be so rigid or inflexible.  Jesus didn't self-righteously turn his back on the wedding party and say, "Tough!  It's not my problem they ran out of wine. They should have had a more efficient wedding planner.  What a bunch of losers!" and watch the celebration fall to pieces.  Why did Jesus fix the situation?   He wanted the party to be a success.  He wanted everyone to be happy and the rejoicing to continue.

And I was touched the first time I realized Jesus might have had a soft spot regarding his mother.  Even though he initially told her no, he did reconsider, did he not?  And ended up turning water into wine--an unusual miracle that delighted his mom and the bridal party even though it resulted in launching his public ministry earlier than he planned.  When you think about it, Jesus life on this earth was filled with surprising happenings, unexpected stops and detours along the way enabling him to compassionately meet the needs of people, even "losers."

Note:  Read the story of this wedding as told by the bride--click onto The Bride's Story under Recent Posts.