The Blessing of the Children

Luke 18:15-17, KJV

15 And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

16 But Jesus called them unto Him and said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.

17 Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

We were wrong (like usual it seems). I guess that we were trying to maximize Jesus’ ministry. We meant well, but He needed organization. That was our “ministry.” We simply felt that Jesus’ time was our concern, and as His disciples we wanted Him to connect with those who really mattered.

The parents were bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus.

“It was the custom for mothers to bring their children to some distinguished Rabbi on the first birthday that he might bless them.”

William Barclay

Jesus made it clear that these children needed to be the focus of our ministry. Our efforts were not to be centered on adults, rather it was misguided thinking that we direct Jesus’ work to be focused and redirected. These little ones were in the way.

Up to now, Jesus’ work was for adults. There were lepers, demon-possessed, paralyzed, tax-collectors all waiting for His ministry. Somehow we overlooked the needs of little children. Again, we were wrong, misguided, and ignorant of the walk of the true believer.

And sure enough, Jesus explained what we were missing. Children were to become our focus. They were the ones who we were to emulate and esteem. The radical thing to us was understanding that these ‘little ones’ were that significant. This was a powerful jolt.

“Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

Luke 18:16-17, The Message

This was astounding! It was nothing less than another radical thought from our Teacher. Accepting this wasn’t easy, but Jesus was crystal clear. We dare not think otherwise, but to believe this was against all we thought we understood.

Jesus understood that childlikeness was the only way we could enter His Kingdom.

Trust me on this–we believed otherwise. Up to now, we assumed that maturity meant sophistication. It was all about right thinking and good theology that God was looking for. We assumed that being simple wasn’t quite what Jesus wanted from us. Rather we believed the opposite.

Children were now to be our examples. Their simpleness was to be our guide–it was the Kingdom of God’s doorway into true discipleship.

“Part of the exquisite beauty of salvation is its simplicity. Any man, woman, or child can come to Christ with absolutely nothing to offer Him but simple faith-just as they are. Salvation requires nothing more than childlike faith-believing that Jesus Christ died for my sins and accepting His gift of Salvation.”

Beth Moore

Discipleship Can Hurt

Luke 9:57-62, NIV

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

There’s to be no whitewashing the way of discipleship–there’s no glamour, no special recognition–no acclaim in it. I guess this is the “real” way of being His follower. The path Jesus has for me demands I give Him my whole heart. Heart enough to turn it all to Him. Heart enough to give Him total commitment.

Jesus seems to make it hard–we can see this in His responses to each prospective disciple. His statements to each possible follower seem harsh, difficult, and a bit “unreasonable,” but He doesn’t receive these men unless they do what He says.

Discipleship demands that we give up what we hold dearest.

What happened to these three “would-be” followers? Did they return home dejected and frustrated? To follow in Jesus’ footprints means we give up our personal agendas, and turn our backs on what is closest and dearest. We must renounce everything, and give Him preeminence over all.

These are hard verses with profound implications. But this passage is given to us for a reason. We dare not minimize what it means to be a disciple. We must grasp the plow with both hands, and we can’t look back.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meet the Demon-Possessed Boy

Luke 9:37-43

“On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”

All of this takes place immediately after Jesus’ transfiguration. He has shown Himself to be God, wrapped tightly into manhood–He’s fully and completely the Word made flesh. He is the Creator, and He is holding the universe together. Who really can fathom this?

Full of power, but also completely covered with incredible compassion. He meets this desperate man, a man who is carrying incredible weight, a burden that had taken over his life. Jesus steps into a theological circus, after all, the Scribes had shown up, and the disciples were disputing with them. The terrible need of the demonized boy had been forgotten.

The disciples had tried to free him, they really had.

But between the gathering crowd and the arguing Scribes, they were overwhelmed–completely out of their element. Defeated, they didn’t know what to do. (Isn’t this a description of much of today’s church?)

The father of the demonized boy was incredibly desperate. He watched the bizarre scene unfold yet knew he had no other answers. He despaired but continued to wait. What else could he do, there were no other options. He really tried to wait for Jesus Himself. He needed Him.

Sometimes we as the Church stress theological niceties, and look beyond the awful needs around us. We rather debate than serve. We prefer to argue rather than meet the incredible pain around us. How sad is this? We constantly meet terrible pain, and we choose to reside in some strange theological bubble of our own making.

When Jesus comes down from glory on the mountain, He immediately faces off with a desperate man and a demonized son. This father is terribly overwhelmed–the disciples had made a try (or two) and yet couldn’t free the boy. The demons had ignored their efforts and laughed at attempts to free him. These demons decided to stay inside this boy. The disciples can do nothing about it.

But when Jesus shows up, all hell breaks loose.

There is amazing power here. Jesus, already shown to be God on the mountain top, now declares His authority over the ugliness of the darkness. He’s been unleashed and absolutely demolishes the works of Satan. He dismantles the evil and decisively frees the boy.

The text tells us, “And all were astonished at the majesty of God.” We can link this power to what we’ve seen on the mountain top–His Words are powerful enough to hold the world in place! He is the Almighty One that has chosen to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with us. He pushes against the darkness and sets us free.

“But have we Holy Spirit power – power that restricts the devil’s power, pulls down strongholds and obtains promises? Daring delinquents will be damned if they are not delivered from the devil’s dominion. What has hell to fear other than a God-anointed, prayer-powered church?”

   Leonard Ravenhill

Meet the Centurion and Discover Real Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Obedience had been ingrained in me. I understood authority and submission to my superior officers. It’s called “the chain of command” and it’s the reason why armies function the way they do. I ultimately acceded my will to my superior, who’s under authority himself. I also have soldiers who I command. I led over 100 men as the occupying force in Palestine.

We were hated and despised.

My servant was sick, and I knew that he was suffering greatly, but I had run out of options. My servant was the only family I was allowed to have. Since I served as a centurion I was not allowed to have a wife for the duration of my service. Over the years I’ve kept good and trustworthy servants with me–these men were very dear to me. They became my family.

I certainly was aware that both my men and I lived in constant danger from radical Jews.

I had exhausted all my efforts to bring some relief and healing to him–and it seemed to be getting worse, not better. My “contacts” told me of an itinerant teacher who had a reputation as a healer. It seems Jesus had a large following and I realized that He could be my last option.

So I went to Him for help and Jesus responded. But He wanted to go with me to my home. His willingness to come encouraged me, but I simply couldn’t allow that. Jesus’ visit would’ve made Him ceremonially unclean–I was a Gentile, a “dog.”

My home was off-limits.

But I did understand something. I was under authority as an officer in the Roman army, and my men also took orders. Obedience meant survival in a hostile environment like Judea. Our entire unit was drilled constantly and we all understood the need for a “chain of command.” Each of us obeyed our superiors. We had to.

With all this in mind, I asked Jesus to heal my servant with just a word.

He marveled at this. He said that my adherence to protocol was evidence of real faith. Those who were with Jesus were told something earth-shaking. My trust meant something, He made me an equal with the Israel patriarchs. My faith was to be emulated by the Jews.

He then told His followers that my confident trust was respected and acknowledged as evidence of God’s favor.

Simply, Jesus spoke a word and when I returned home my servant would be healed. I returned home to find him healthy.

“Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

Please visit my new site, alaskabibleteacher.com. If you liked this teaching, I really think you like this one too.