Jesus' Footprints

Archive for April 2012

As I read chapter 9 of the Gospel of Matthew, I noticed the following two things:

  • Some of the people came to Jesus
  • Others were brought to Him

Let’s first look at those who came to Jesus.

Jairus – a father went to ask Jesus to go to his house where his daughter lay dying because he believed that Jesus could raise the dead.

The woman with the issue of blood – for twelve years she had this condition and the doctors took her money but could not help her.  She braved the crowd to find Jesus because she believed that if she could only touch the hem of His robe, she could be healed.

The two blind men – they followed Jesus and cried out to Him.  They were very persistent.  He followed Him into the house and begged Him to have mercy on them.  They believed that He could restore their sight.

Now let’s look at those who were brought to Jesus.

The paralytic – his four friends brought him to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could cure him.  In Mark’s Gospel, we learn how far these men were willing to go to get their friend to Jesus.  And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  Their faith impressed Jesus (Mark 2:4, 5).

The mute and possessed man – some people brought this man to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could cast out the demon.  When the demon was cast out, the man spoke.

Which were you?  Did you come to Christ or did someone bring you to Him?  Is there someone you are hoping will come to Him or is there someone whom you are hoping to bring to Him?

There is another important thing I noticed in this chapter.  Jesus called Matthew.  There are those whom Jesus calls.  There are those to whom He invites to follow Him.   Has Jesus asked you to follow Him?  What was your answer?  Did you follow Him without any hesitation or are you waiting for a more convenient time to do so?

It is important to point out that all those who came to Jesus exercised great faith.  Those who brought others to Him did so in faith.  Faith pushes some people to seek Jesus and faith motivates people to bring others to Him.  And faith compels others to get up and follow Him without a second thought.

Faith takes action.  Faith pushes through a crowd.  Faith doesn’t give up.  Today, come to Jesus in faith, believing that He could help you or the person you bring to Him.

And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

Jesus’ response was:  Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.  In Luke 9:60, Jesus adds, “but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

It doesn’t make sense that if the man’s father were dead that he would be there or that Jesus would discourage him from burying him.  So this man’s problem is not that his father was dead and he had to bury him.  He wanted to wait around until his father died.  This is procrastination.  He was delaying following Jesus and Jesus made it clear to him that the invitation to follow Him was to be accepted now not later.  He told the man what to do–let the others bury his father when he died while he went out and preached the Gospel.  Following Jesus and spreading the Good News without delay was what was expected of anyone who wanted to be a disciple of Christ.

In verse 61, Luke mentions another man who says,  “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” This man was kind of having one foot in and one foot out.  He was like Lot’s wife.  He was looking back.  He was half-hearted in wanting to follow Jesus and that’s why Jesus said to him, that no one looking back is fit for the kingdom.  You can’t plow a field in straight rows by looking back.  You have to look ahead.  You have to be steadfast.  When you follow Jesus, your eyes have to be on Him and the mission He has called you for.  You can’t be looking back and expect to serve God wholeheartedly.  God wants all of you not part of you.  He demands and deserves your full attention.  We can’t take our eyes off of Jesus and expect things to go well.  Remember when Peter was walking on the water?  He was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus.  That’s when he began to sink.

Just as the farmer keeps his eyes on the object ahead of him so that he is able to plow straight rows and do a good job of plowing, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we can do a good job of following His example and bringing others to Him.  Think about it.  People can’t follow us if we keep looking back.  They are going to look back too or get confused.  The disciples who decided to follow Jesus never looked back.  James and John didn’t delay.  They left the nets and their father in the boat and followed Him.  Matthew didn’t delay.  He left his job and followed Him.  They realized that following Jesus and preaching the kingdom of God took precedence over family and livelihood.  Their actions proved that they wanted to do this wholeheartedly–without any reservations.   These are the kinds of disciples Jesus was and is looking for.  People who are willing to put Him and the preaching of the Gospel first and not are looking over their shoulders.

No man, &c.–As ploughing requires an eye intent on the furrow to be made, and is marred the instant one turns about, so will they come short of salvation who prosecute the work of God with a distracted attention, a divided heart. Though the reference seems chiefly to ministers, the application is general. The expression “looking back” has a manifest reference to “Lot’s wife” ( Gen 19:26 ; and see on JF & B for Lu 17:32). It is not actual return to the world, but areluctance to break with it. (Also see on JF & B for Mt 8:21.)

(Source:  Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary on Luke 9)

What if the second man had returned home to bid farewell to his family and they persuaded him not to leave?  The same Bible Commentators give the following illustration:

…those Hindu converts of our day who, when once persuaded to leave their spiritual fathers in order to “bid them farewell which are at home at their house,” very rarely return to them.

Today when you say to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You” don’t let there be a “but”.  Make up your mind to follow Him without delay or excuses.  Don’t look back.  Look to Him.  Keep your eyes on Him.  Put Him first in your life.  Remember when you address Him as Lord, that means He is to be Lord of your life.

Yesterday on our way to work, I read Matthew 8 and verse 20 caught my attention.  I wanted to reflect on it more.  It states:  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  This was Jesus’ response to a scribe who came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus didn’t say “Follow Me”.  He told him that unlike the foxes and birds who had homes, He didn’t.  Jesus traveled from place to place.  He slept out in the open for the most part and sometimes stayed with friends.  He had no place to call home which makes sense since His kingdom is not on this earth.  He didn’t come to put down roots or to set up a kingdom.  He came to teach, heal and sacrifice Himself.

At first I wasn’t sure what He meant when He answered the man’s request to follow Him so I read some Bible commentaries which helped me tremendously.  Jesus was letting the man know that following Him was not a walk in the park.  It was not a glamorous life.  Discipleship carried with it a cost than not many are willing to pay.  This scribe was making a rash decision.  Was he interested in joining Jesus because of His fame?  Jesus was popular among the crowds.  People flocked to see and listen to Him.  He performed miracles.  He taught with authority that made the people marvel.  Jesus was akin to a celebrity in His day and that may have been what attracted this scribe.

This reminded me of the wife of Zebeedee’s request about her sons sitting on either side of Jesus in His kingdom.  Jesus asked if they were willing to take up the cup.  Do we want the glory but not the price that comes with it?  Peter and the other disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus.  They were in it for the long haul.  When the other disciples deserted Jesus because they couldn’t handle His teachings (John 6:60-69), Peter and the others stayed.  They didn’t take off.  Had this scribe joined Jesus’ ministry, at the first sign of trouble he would have flown the coup.

Jesus wants us to know what we are getting ourselves into.  Remember He knows our hearts.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knew this scribe and that is why He made it clear to him what being one of His disciples entailed.  Jesus’ was all about spiritual things not material things.  He had no riches, no home.  His ministry was supported by the donations of women.  He got around on foot.  Christianity is not about being popular or wearing fancy clothes or driving expensive cars or mansions.  It is about reaching out to people and sharing the Gospel.  Christ is the One who should be in the spotlight not the preacher or the church.

We don’t follow Jesus because it’s the popular thing to do.  We follow Him because we believe in Him and what He did for us on the cross.  We want to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus doesn’t want us to be spontaneous when it comes to following Him like the scribe.  He wants us to think it through, know what discipleship entails and make our decisions based on that.  He wants us to come into this with our eyes wide open and not have preconceived notions of a glamorous life.  We must be serious, not rash when it comes to the decision to follow Jesus.

One Bible commentary referred to the scribe as the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

Few as there were of the scribes who attached themselves to Jesus, it would appear, from his calling Him Teacher, that this one was a “disciple” in that looser sense of the word in which it is applied to the crowds who flocked after Him, with more or less conviction that His claims were well founded. But from the answer which he received we are led to infer that there was more of transient emotion–of temporary impulse–than of intelligent principle in the speech. The preaching of Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so.

“Wilt thou?” replies the Lord Jesus. “Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head.”

How affecting is this reply! And yet He rejects not this man’s offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow Him. Only He will have him know what he is doing, and “count the cost.” He will have him weigh well the real nature and the strength of his attachment, whether it be such as will abide in the day of trial. If so, he will be right welcome, for Christ puts none away. But it seems too plain that in this case that had not been done. And so we have called this the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

It’s true.  Jesus did not reject this man.  He did not tell him that he couldn’t follow Him.  All He did was let him know what the real deal was.  It’s like the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus but when Jesus told Him what he would have to give up, the desire to become a disciple was gone.  He chose his riches over Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t reject us when we want to follow Him but He wants us to examine our motives.

When we look at the other disciples, we see people who were serious about following Jesus.  Peter, Andrew, John and James left their families to join the ministry.  Matthew left his job to follow Jesus and to top it off, he threw a banquet for Jesus and invited his friends so that they too could experience what it was life to meet Jesus.

Don’t be rash in your decision to follow Jesus.  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Ask yourself tough questions.

As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marvelled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!”

But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 9:32-34)

Here we have a man who was mute and possessed.  He was brought to Jesus who healed him.  The people saw this miracle and rejoiced because they had never seen anything like it before.  However, we have the religious leaders who are not impressed.  They tried to discredit Jesus by claiming that He was casting out demons by the authority of the ruler of demons.  This assertion makes no sense as Jesus later points out. 

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely thekingdom ofGod has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:25-30).

Instead of being thankful that Jesus healed someone, the Pharisees criticized Him and showed clearly that they were not among His supporters.  They were jealous of Him and wanted to oppose Him every opportunity they got.  How many of us are the same?  We see someone do something good for someone else and instead of supporting them and encouraging them, we tear them down with our insensitive remarks and criticisms.  We say something like, “Oh, she’s just doing it for the publicity.” Or “give him another month or so and he wouldn’t be able to keep up with all this good work he is supposedly doing.” 

Satan cannot cast out demons.  It doesn’t make sense to imply that he could.  He would be defeating himself.  As Jesus pointed out a person cannot be robbed in his or her house, unless they are tied up first.  A church cannot be divided unless it allows itself to be.  And this is where Satan comes in.  He causes strife, pitting people against each other.  He sows jealousy, discontent, disunity and contention among believers until like the Pharisees, they are tearing down what others have built up.

The next time someone does something that is beneficial for someone else, do not put him or her down but give encouragement.  Don’t give credit where it is not due.  Don’t give the devil God’s credit.  That’s what the Pharisees did when they claimed that Satan was helping Jesus to cast out demons.

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

The two blind men heard that Jesus was passing by and realized that this was the perfect opportunity to ask for help.  They cried out to Him.  The crowd told them to be quiet.  How many of us try to prevent people from seeking God?  These men were determined.  They shouted even louder.  Jesus heard them and stopped.  Jesus asked them what they wanted Him to do for them although He already knew.  When we want something from God, we should state it clearly. 

They told Jesus that they wanted their sight.  They had faith that He could restore it.  Their persistence proved this.  They didn’t allow the crowd to discourage them.  They were not about to let this opportunity pass them by just to appease a crowd.  We should follow their example.  We should not allow what others think to influence us or the decisions we make.  We are responsible for our own well being.  These men had a chance to see and if they had allowed the crowd to intimidate them they would still be blind and probably begging in the streets.  They wanted to improve their situation.  They didn’t want to be sitting on the roadside anymore.  They wanted to have the kind of life that Jesus could bless them with if He would give them their sight. 

Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes.  Immediately they received their sight.  And what did they do?  They followed Him.  They didn’t run off. They followed Him.  When Jesus shows compassion to those who seek Him they are so thankful that they want to be with Him.  They make the life-changing decision to follow Him. 

Today, if you have a need that could improve your life or your situation, cry out to Jesus.  He will show you the same compassion He showed those men.  Don’t let your family or friends discourage you from seeking the only One who can positively change your life.

He is one of my favorite biblical characters.  His name means “His abundance” Jethro was Moses father in-law and father of seven girls. He was a priest of Midian and a descendant of Abraham’s. It would appear that he was a widower. There is no mention of a wife. He was a single parent raising seven daughters.

He was a gracious man. When he heard how Moses had rescued his daughters from the shepherds who tried to drive them away, he gently scolded them for leaving Moses behind. He instructed them to go and invite Moses to sup with them.

Supper extended to forty years during which Moses married one of Jethro’s daughters and tended his sheep. Over the years Moses and his father-in-law developed a close bond. It seemed as if Jethro was like a father to Moses. It is doubtful that Moses saw his natural parents again after his mother returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter. I think we would have read about it as we read about his reunion with Aaron and Miriam.

Jethro was the father Moses never had the opportunity to have a relationship with. A single woman raised him. There is no indication that Pharaoh’s daughter was married. It has been suggested that Moses was a neglectful father—he neglected to circumcise Gershom. In doing so he endangered the boy. The Lord had said to Abraham, “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:12-14). Moses was struck down and would have died if Zipporah had not stepped in and circumcised their son.

Jethro grew to love Moses like a son. It is obvious the deep affection these men had toward each other. News of all that God had done for Moses and the people reached Jethro and he sent his son-in-law a message that he was going to see him and Moses’ family would accompany him. It is obvious the deep affection the two men had toward each other because of the manner in which they greeted each other. Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them.

Moses loved Jethro and wanted him to know the God whom he worshipped. Jethro was a good man who recognized God’s goodness because of Moses’ testimony. He blessed God and offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to Him. Then, he, Moses, Aaron and all the elders broke bread together in the Lord’s presence.

Jethro was more than family to Moses. He was a friend. He looked out for Moses and was able to offer him good advice when he saw how Moses alone was presiding over the people, listening to their disputes all day. Jethro, out of great concern said to Moses, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:17-23).

Moses listened to his father-in-law and chose capable men to help him. They took care of the simple cases and he the difficult ones. Jethro returned to his own country and we don’t hear about him after that. He was a man whom Moses could depend on. While Moses was in the wilderness doing what God had called him to do, Jethro was taking care of Moses’ family. They had a home to stay in until it was time for them to join Moses. He had made a difference in Moses’ life. He supported his decision to let back to Egypt and bid him, “go in peace” (Exodus 4:18). He visited Moses in the desert, reuniting him with his family. He encouraged Moses in what he was doing but helped him to do it more efficiently by delegating the duties so that he was no longer stressed out.

Jethro was a man to be admired. I have no doubt that he was a good father to his seven daughters and a loving grandfather to Moses’ children. He filled in for their father until it was possible for them to be with him.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths God went to demonstrate His love for us. His loving and generous heart would not permit Him to simply stand by and watch His beloved creation sink deeper and deeper in sin. He had to do something. He came in person. He became one of us in order to save us. He was really God with us.

He was with us in every sense. He was with His people in their suffering, their persecution, and their physical and spiritual blindness. He was joyful when they were. He was sorrowful when they were. He identified with them, letting them know that they were not alone. He came to give them life, truth, hope, love, joy, peace, healing, understanding, deliverance, strength, courage, guidance, encouragement and most importantly, Himself.

He came to undo all that Satan had done. He came to remove the yoke of sin from about our necks. I love the account of the crippled woman He helped. One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised and thanked God! (Luke 13:10-13)

Like this woman, Jesus wants the rest of us to walk upright, to be free from the burden of sin, which Satan has placed on us. He said, Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” (John 8:34-36) What a mighty God we serve.



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