Jesus Rejected

In Matthew 13:53-58 we read that Jesus was rejected at Nazareth.  Why?  What did He do?  He taught them in their synagogue.  They saw that He had wisdom and did mighty works.  They knew Him as the carpenter’s Son, Mary’s Son and the Brother of James, Joses, Simon, Jude and His sisters.  He was one of them.  He came from their community.  His family still lived there.  Jesus left there some time ago and was visiting and teaching in their synagogue.

The people wondered where Jesus got all those things (the ability to teach and do mighty works).  They were offended at Him because of these things.  It is as if they felt that He had no business teaching them anything.  They saw Him as the carpenter’s Son not as a Teacher or Preacher or Prophet.  They probably would not have accepted Him as the Messiah.

Jesus got a better reception among the Samaritans (John 4:1-45).  The people in Samaria urged Him to stay with them and afterwards testified that He was the Savior of the world.  The people in Galilee also welcomed Him.

Jesus did not do many works in Nazareth because of their unbelief.  Mark wrote that Jesus marveled at the unbelief of the people of Nazareth.  Their attitude prevented them from receiving the blessings that Jesus would have gladly given them.  They didn’t get to know Him as the Savior because they saw Him only as the Boy who grew up among them.  He was the Neighbor who lived there with His family and then He left.  He was gone for a while and now He was back teaching things they had never heard before.  He taught in wisdom and with authority, but they hardened their hearts instead of opening them to His wonderful teachings.

The attitude of the people of Nazareth toward Jesus reminds me of the Sanhedrin’s attitude toward Peter and John.  To the rulers of the people and the elders of Israel, these disciples were uneducated and untrained men.  They marveled at them and realized that these men had been with Jesus.  They wanted to shut them up, however, because of they were disturbed that they taught the people and preached in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Acts 4:1-3).  The apostles were arrested again because they continued to teach in Jesus’ name (Acts 5:17-28).  After they were beaten and then released, the apostles continued to teach and preach Jesus as the Christ daily in the temple and in every house (verses 40-42).  The unbelieving religious leaders could not prevent the apostles from spreading the Gospel.

This also reminds me of the attitude of the people in the country of the Gadarenes.  Instead of rejoicing when they saw the demon possessed man in his right mind and clothed, they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.  They were afraid.  They learned about what happened to the pigs and they wanted Jesus to leave.  Jesus complied and go into the boat.

The man whom He helped wanted to go with Him but Jesus encouraged him to stay and share what the Lord had done for him.  So even though Jesus was driven away from the region, His great works were  proclaimed in ten cities (Decapolis) and all who heard marveled (Mark 5:15-20).

When you reject Jesus you are preventing Him from doing great things in your life and yourself from enjoying a saving relationship with Him.  Don’t limit Jesus because of the way you choose to see Him.  He’s more than a Teacher or a Prophet or a good Man or the Son of Mary.  He is the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God and the Savior of the world.

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Abide in Jesus

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

First, what does abide mean?  According to Strong’s Concordance, it means not to depart; to be held, kept, continually.  Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, then whatever we ask it shall be done.  We cannot depart from Jesus or His words.  He mentioned earlier that He was the Vine and that we are the branches.  Without Him we cannot bear fruit.  We have to remain connected to Him and His word in order to bear fruit. This is the same as building our foundation.  We cannot build on anything else but Jesus.  He is the Rock.  When we abide in His word it is the same as the man who built his house on the rock instead of the sand so that when the rains came, his house stood.

If we want to continue to be fruitful we must continue to have a connection (relationship) with Jesus.  He sustains us.  We draw our sustenance from Him.

So, Jesus is the Vine.  God is the Vinedresser.  And we are the branches.  God casts away the branches that are bearing no fruit because they were not properly abiding in the Vine.  This reminds me of the seed that fell by the wayside; on the stony places; among the thorns.  The seed is the word of God and those who hear it but have the word taken out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved or those who believe for a while but fall away when faced with trials and temptations because they have no root or those who allow the cares of the world to get the better of them will not bear no fruit.  These are the branches that God will take away.  The branches which bear fruit are like the good soil on which the seed fell and yielded a good crop.  These are people who hear the word of God and  with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

Jesus wants us to be doers of the word not just hearers.  None of us want to hear Him say to us, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”  It is the same as those who claim to do all sorts of things in His name but He told them that He never knew them because they did not do the will of the Father.  Not everyone who calls Him Lord will inherit the kingdom.  These are they who are not abiding in Jesus.  In order to abide in Jesus you have to do the will of the Father.  We have to bear good fruit.  Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor [can] a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:18-20).  The branches that don’t bear good fruit will be cast into the fire (John 15:6).

Those who abide in Jesus and in His word will bear nothing but good fruit.  What fruit?  The fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  When we abide in Jesus, whatever we ask we will receive because we ask is in accordance with His will.  And when we bear good fruit, we bring glory and honor to God.  Jesus made it clear that our good works are for the purpose of glorifying God, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

And when we bear good fruits we show that we are Jesus’ disciples.  Our fruits show that we  enjoy a close and loving relationship with Jesus.  Our fruits are evidence that we follow the teachings of Jesus–we are hearers and doers of His sayings.  When people look at us they should see Christ reflected in us.  It is like when Jesus was here on earth.  When people saw Him, they saw the Father.  When people look at us they ought to see Christ in us.  If Jesus abides in us and we in Him and His word, our actions (lives) will reflect this.  We will have no trouble bearing good fruit or shining our light so that our Father in heaven will be glorified.

It is true.  Whoever abides in Jesus and Jesus in that person, he or she will bear much fruit. Look at the great things the disciples did after Jesus returned to His Father.  They preached the Gospel boldly in the face of persecution, imprisonment and death.  On the day Peter preached after receiving the Holy Spirit, those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  God added to the church as they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:47).  Churches were planted in different parts of the world.  Gentiles received Christ and were baptized into the faith.  Paul who once persecuted the followers of Christ, became a champion of the faith.  Once he abided in Christ and Christ abided in him, he became the bearer of good fruit.  And that is why he was able to say with faith and conviction, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

Today, make it your purpose to abide in Jesus.  Continue in His word.  Act upon His teachings.  Follow His example.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.  Allow God to trim away the areas in your life that are preventing you from bearing more fruit to His glory.  Cling to the Vine because without Him you can do nothing.

Sheep or Goats?

The other day when we were in the gas station, my four year old and I were sitting in the car while my husband was filling the tank.  I was thirsty so I went into my handbag to get some change.  As my husband passed to pay for the gas, I called out to him but he didn’t hear me.  Disappointed, I put the coins back into my wallet.

A few minutes passed and then I heard a tap on the window beside me.  I turned to see a woman standing beside the car looking at me.  I hesitated.  I couldn’t roll down the window because the car engine was off.  I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to open the door.  However, I did.  I had to in order to find out what she wanted.

She told me that she needed change for the bus.  I hesitated and then I took out my wallet.  My fingers closed over the same coins I was going to give my husband to buy me water and I gave them to her.  An expression of gratitude came over her face and she took the coins.  She reached out to shake my hand.  I stared at her hand.  I don’t normally shake hands with perfect strangers.  Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I held her fingers in a feeble handshake.  And she said, “God bless you.”  Of course, I felt badly that I didn’t give her a nice, warm handshake.

Any way when my husband returned, we talked about it.  He had seen what happened and he was happy that I helped the woman out.  He believed that God sent her to me for the bus money.

This evening as I was reading the story of the Sheep or Goats found in Matthew 25 to my four year old, I thought of the woman at the gas station.

Jesus spoke of a king who will separate two groups in the last day just as a shepherd separates the sheep in his flock from the goats.  One group of people will be on the king’s right and the other on his left.  The ones on the right will be those who will share in His kingdom because they helped those who were in need while the ones on the left did not.  The words that struck me were, “Every time you saw one of my followers–however unimportant–and refused to help him in his need, you were refusing to help me.”  Had I refused to help that woman, it would have been the same as refusing to help Jesus.  She was a follower of His and she was in need.  She needed money in order to get to where she needed to go and I had the money.  Yes, I was thirsty but her need was greater.  I didn’t need the water and she needed the change I was going to use for that water.  God had other plans for that money.  He saw a greater need for it and prevented me from wasting it.

I am very thankful now that God used me to help someone in need.  I am grateful that helped someone who needed it.  I hope and pray that the next time God gives me an opportunity to help someone in need, I will not hesitate.

When God’s judgement day comes, which group will you belong to–the sheep or the goats–the ones who will live with the King forever or the ones who will be banished from His presence forever?  I pray that you will be among the sheep.

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