Meet Thomas

John 20:25-29

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

The others had told me that they had seen Jesus. But this couldn’t be. Either they imagined it or they saw His ghost. I saw him brutalized, crucified, and buried, and I knew He was really dead. I was never into pretending, or wish fulfillment. No, not me. When you’re dead, you’re dead. (At least that’s what I thought.)

I remember telling the others that I would only believe them if I could see and feel the scars–the nail holes and the hole in his side. I needed proof, something tangible or solid before I could believe their stories. Part of me hoped it was so, but I honestly couldn’t join the others in their excitement.

Some would call me a doubter–a skeptic.

And maybe I was, but a realist is how I would describe myself. To go along with the others wasn’t going to cut it. They said that they had seen Him and He was very much alive, that somehow, someway He was now resurrected. But for me, I couldn’t believe it. I myself must know it for myself.

Was Jesus alive after all they had done to Him?

We had all gathered in a large room. The door had been locked–we were afraid that the authorities would come for us next. In spite of the confinement, we had some good fellowship that Sunday morning, catching up and sharing stories of the last three years, thinking about all the things Jesus had taught and done.

And suddenly Jesus showed up. Trust me on this if you can–the door was locked, and there was no other way to get in. When Jesus “dropped in” we were completely amazed. He was very much alive–and how can this be? We were all in shock as He stood right in front of us!

Immediately Jesus looked at me, and I looked back–and it was really Him!!

Jesus immediately focused on me, He asked me to come close; He wanted me to touch Him, to inspect and see for myself that He was as real as you or I. He asked me to come and see the nail prints in His hands, and stick my hand in the hole where the Roman soldiers had thrust a spear into His side.

And I was completely undone.

It was really Him, and I couldn’t explain it away. Jesus was real flesh and blood! In a second I went from doubt to faith. How He knew that I had voiced my hesitation out loud I didn’t know. But I now knew for certain Jesus was very much alive. Death was now dead.

“My Master! My God!” was all I could say.

At that moment I became a believing believer. It wasn’t second-hand anymore; I wept and laughed at the same time! I couldn’t explain it, I must believe it. Jesus had overcome death and He was now commanding me to believe.

Immediately I knew, I saw Him for myself.

Looking back I admit my foolishness and doubt; Jesus had sought me out, and somehow He knew that of all His disciples, I needed that special touch. He understood and had come just for me. To this day I realized how much He really loved me–the doubting Thomas.

According to common Christian tradition, Thomas, was killed by jealous Hindu priests of Kali India. He was burned to death in 72 AD. A church is now established there and still recognizes him as an apostle.

Bryan’s note: I can relate to Thomas. I was also one who needed to know for myself that Jesus was really God and that He really did rise from the dead. It was reading “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell that propelled me into belief. If you need to know for yourself, I suggest you buy this book. (If you want, I’ll buy it for you.)

Art: Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, c. 1601-1502, oil on canvas–Verses are from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.

Little Christs

Luke 9:1-6, Amplified

Now Jesus called together the twelve [disciples] and gave them [the right to exercise] power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then He sent them out [on a brief journey] to preach the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey [that might encumber you]—neither a walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two [b]tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city [to go to another]. And as for all those who do not welcome you, when you leave that city, shake the dust off your feet [breaking all ties with them] as a testimony against them [that they rejected My message].” 

So they began going from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing the sick everywhere.

Jesus called the twelve of us together that day for a reason–He wanted us to start doing His work, which, I admit wasn’t really in my thinking. But this was His plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. I didn’t feel remotely competent, and the thought of doing what Jesus did seemed a bit sacrilegious. I was very intimidated.

But now I can see that was what He intended all along, to push us into the supernatural–preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. He wanted us to touch people, to meet the needs of the desperate, and by doing so, extend the kingdom of God.

We were all skeptical, obviously. We weren’t Jesus, not by a long shot, and we had no right or ability to do miracles. On our own, I we were still fishermen and tax collectors. And honestly, what Jesus was asking (or commanding?) was for us to leave what we felt was comfortable and to step into His sandals. He wanted us to be just like Him.

He gave us His authority and power–it was His to give.

I suppose that this was the key to it all. We had witnessed fantastic miracles, stunning things that pretty much undid us. Jesus repeatedly defied the laws of nature—with just a word. And we’re His disciples, so I suppose that meant we needed to step out and touch people just like He taught. I guess that was Jesus’ plan for us all along. We just thought it wouldn’t happened this quick.

So the power and authority was given and we became “little Christs.”

Two by two we went in different directions to discover for ourselves what would happen. The needs we encountered were substantial. The world was a needy place that made its home in the pain and darkness of the demonized and the desperate. It seemed overwhelming. I think we all felt weak and very inadequate.

It’s funny, but we suddenly saw all these people through His eyes–it’s like we never had seen them before. We were now cloaked in Jesus’ very own power. When we laid hands on people astonishing miracles began to happen. All at once there were needs all around us. And the people kept coming.

I began to understand what it really meant to love people. We had left the relative safety of learners and had now became doers. I suppose we realized that there was an incredible difference between the two. We were all astonished by what we saw, at that moment we had few doubts about what was happening inside of us.

It changed us like nothing else could!

Being made into “little Christs” made perfect sense. We saw fantastic miracles and dramatic victories over dark demons. The things we had seen Jesus do were now the things we were doing! Suddenly everything came together and we understood many of the words that He had tried to drill into our thick skulls.

From village to village we went–we stayed with whoever wanted us. The needs we saw were staggering, from sunrise to sunset people came. Wherever we turned there seemed to be somebody else, but Jesus’ own authority was always present, it never diminished or weakened. It was like a bubbling spring that never once ran dry.

I suppose what happened inside me was just as much a miracle as we had seen Him do for others. I was astonished–up to now I never realized how exciting it was to follow the Lord Jesus. What a joy to see the face of a man or woman who was set free. It was such a thrill to touch a little boy’s dead eyes and suddenly realize that he could see!

So this is what it honestly means to be His disciple!

“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

Jesus and the Cliff

Luke 4:28-30, CSB

” When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.”

When I pastored a church, I loved it when people told me that my sermon was the best they’ve ever heard. What a boost! But Jesus didn’t have that response when He preached at the synagogue in His hometown. The people went nuts! They weren’t happy with what Jesus had to say.

Nazareth was big enough (500 people) to have its own synagogue. This was the central place in the town. The village was also built very near to a sizable cliff. (You can see it today.)

It wasn’t a nicey-nice sermon, and it certainly didn’t comfort the congregation. They got really angry–Jesus point-blank confronted them. I suppose the Jewish leaders may have incited the crowd, which is sort of typical. If we take a quick peek at what He said perhaps we can understand their response (Luke 4:23-27).

But it’s really odd, initially, the people were responsive:

“They were all speaking well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

(v. 22)

Two things immediately strike me, maybe they’re significant, and maybe not. One–This attempt to toss off the cliff came immediately after Jesus’ temptation. (One of Satan’s temptations was Jesus jumping off the pinnacle of the temple.) Two–this is Nazareth, the town where He grew up, and the people obviously had issues about this ‘familiarity.’

They couldn’t or wouldn’t accept Him.

What probably happened is this. After Jesus’ sermon, the people were enraged. They escorted Him, pushing and shoving to the cliff. Throwing Jesus off was just the beginning, as He landed they would have gathered rocks (as big as a person’s head) and they would’ve finished the deed by stoning Him. They would have aimed at His chest first, and then the head. Survival was unlikely.

Prophets and teachers are seldom respected by who is closest to them. (Trust me, I know all about this.) Joseph, Jesus’ step-dad (if he was alive) would’ve had a carpentry shop. And Mary would’ve shopped with the women of the village. Both would have been in the synagogue and part of the crowd.

So tell me. What lesson can we grasp from this passage?

We’re people who’ve got the ability to make choices. Stoning is frowned upon in our culture; but could it be that we respond to Jesus’ words in less extreme ways? Physically we can’t react like this. But could it be we ignore Him or are apathetic to the things He says to us? Might this be as “bad” as stoning? (Maybe I’m putting too fine a point on it?)

The Lord Jesus’s voice to us should never be trifled with.

The things He speaks are supremely authoritative–what He shows us is not a trivial thing. His words are always significant. What Jesus says to us mustn’t be ignored, no matter what they communicate.

As believers or nonbelievers, we must take into our hearts the word that He speaks. To minimize or nullify (by our apathy?) is incredibly dangerous. When we judge Him we’re actually judging ourselves, and that dear one is frightening. We make the decision to accept or reject Him. It’s that freedom of choice that can be scary.

What has Jesus spoken to you that you’re turning a blind eye to?

Is it possible He has spoken but you’re ignoring Him? I mean no harm and it’s not possible for me to know your heart. But maybe you’ve listened up to a certain point and ignored the things that don’t settle with you. Personally, when I read Jesus’ words in the Gospels I discover an awful lot that I don’t really want to hear. (He talks about humility and loving our neighbor before ourselves. Yikes!)

Please consider this honestly. It’s spiritually dangerous to be apathetic and not to pay attention to what you know to be the full Word of God.

“In all unbelief there are these two things: a good opinion of one’s self, and a bad opinion of God.”

    Horatius Bonar

Meet the Deaf and Mute Man

“Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.”

36-37 “Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Mark 7:34-37, The Message

Jesus enjoyed carrying the good news to distant places. His ministry wasn’t confined. He went to places that orthodox people avoided. Jesus penetrated these places and found a rich mission field. (This should speak volumes to us.)

It was in Decapolis that He met this man. He was deaf and mute, and it seems no doctor could help him. Close friends brought this man to Jesus. They begged Jesus to heal him–perhaps this shows their faith and love. (Again this should speak to us. Do we care for others–or not?)

The Lord led this man away from the crowd (interesting.) It seems Jesus wanted privacy. I think that He wanted to avoid the “carnival” atmosphere that healing would cause. Jesus was God–not a showman. (This dear one should clarify things for us.)

It interests me the approach He took. Jesus’ fingers went into the man’s ears. He spits (!) and touched the man’s tongue with His saliva. (Oh if He could do this to us!) Jesus looked up to heaven and said one word, “Ephphatha!” Which in English means “be opened.”

The man suddenly began to speak!

Everyone who witnessed was amazed. Jesus looked at those and told them not to say a thing about what just happened. (Is this humility or what?) Of course, it interests me that the crowd ignored His command; they couldn’t help but spread the news. They must have figured that Jesus was the Messiah, and this miracle proved it.

But the way He went about this amazes me–why the fingers and obviously why the spit? Perhaps this man, (and his friends) needed to see something more “physical.” Maybe? Could it have communicated something to Jesus’ disciples who were watching? Could it be that this can guide us as we now carry Jesus’ power?

I’m thinking through these things.

One: Jesus does impossible things He extends Himself to the “unorthodox”

Two: He seems to heal in ways we really don’t quite understand.

Three: What Jesus does is not about “showmanship,” He avoids publicity and self-promotion.

And there must be other points. It’s good I think, to roll these thoughts around.

A Question: Am I Like Peter?

To follow Him can be really hard. There doesn’t seem to be any contingency plans for any who are looking to escape such a drastic call. Jesus either is, or He isn’t our Lord. “Do you also want to leave?” This is a question that will be asked to every disciple–sometimes once, and sometimes repeatedly.

There are these crystalline moments when I must make a decision. Will I take up my cross and go with Him? There doesn’t seem to be any room in Jesus’ band for ‘almost’ disciples. That scares me sometimes.

Today’s cross is waiting for me. I’m afraid at times that I won’t be able to take the next step as a true follower. Am I just fooling myself?

All of heaven seems to stand on tiptoe to see what I’m going to do next.

Who am I really?

Being obedient to Jesus is far from easy. We must have His Spirit.

“After this, many of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance:

“Do you also want to leave?”

“Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:66-69, The Message

Image from Wikipedia, verses are from The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson.

Meet the Man at the Pool

John 5:1-9

1-6 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”

8-9 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.

9-10 That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.”

There were hundreds of us, surviving in our own personal man-made hell. We were the blind and the lame; simply dropped off by our families here to exist, to somehow make it on our own. We were a desperate lot, but there was a strange camaraderie, we all understood that our condition was hopeless. We were just marking time–and my 38 years was a lifetime for some. It’s a very long time to be sick.

None of us were whole, not by a long shot, otherwise, why were we sitting here waiting to die?

It’s said by some that an angel would venture down from heaven, and stir the pool–and the first to get in the water would be healed. It was one of those strange things that kept us from going crazy–a mental mechanism that bruised hearts often carry deep inside. It was a necessary way to keep from being lost.

I lived with my friends on these hard stone steps all these years, I’ve seen some live, and many more die. Banding together we became a community of survivors. We understood each other, and we knew everyone’s story–what else was there to do but talk?

It’s funny how some ideas get started–a silly dream, or a fairy tale of leaving this pool and becoming normal again. We developed the knack of a gallows kind of humor, a bond that condemned men shared with each other. We bantered these in order to cope with this slow-motion death. These were inside jokes, mixed with hefty dollops of half-believed hope and odd humor that only dying men learn to appeciate.

But maybe it kept us alive for just one more day. Perhaps it helped us to survive this hell.

That day started like 13,879 days before, and there was nothing unusual about it. There was nothing but the growing heat, the flies, and the sour smell of unwashed bodies. But in an instant, my life was going to be decisively interrupted. And at the time I never saw it coming.

Jesus threaded His way through the sitting bodies to find me.

When our eyes met he stopped. All He did was to ask me simply— “Do you want to be made well?” That question cut through the many years of accrued pain. I mumbled something about the angel, and the pool, and not having anyone to help me into the water. His question pretty much unraveled me. It seemed like it was just Him and me, staring at each other.

He told me to stand, to pick up my mat, and walk.

All of those half-baked days of a wasted life crashed in on me then. I saw all the emptiness and sadness of 38 long years. But in an instant, He healed me. I stood and picked up my mat, I shook my head and cried. Through my tears, I saw my friends looking at me in shocked and total amazement.

I simply walked out of there, carrying the only thing I owned.

“Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.”

Isaiah 35:6, CSB

Art: Free Bible Images, text used is from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson

Meet the Man Born Blind

John 9:1-7

As he was walking along, he saw a man blind from birth.

“Master,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?”

“Neither,” Jesus answered. “But to demonstrate the power of God. All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, for there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. But while I am still here in the world, I give it my light.”

Then he spat on the ground and made mud from the spittle and smoothed the mud over the blind man’s eyes, and told him, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam” (the word Siloam means “Sent”). So the man went where he was sent and washed and came back seeing!

Up to now I’ve tried to approach these posts from the first person viewpoint. I hoped to understand those who met face-to-face with Jesus. I wanted to grasp what they were seeing through their own eyes. But I intend with this post to revert back to a more traditional approach to this passage.

First, we’re introduced to a man who is blind from birth.

I can’t even imagine what that would be like (just as he probably could imagine having sight). I’ve been told that he probably didn’t have a “dream” life–that requires having seen images (a dog, a tree, a mean person) and this wasn’t available to him. He never saw the color red, or seen a mountain. (He didn’t have the circuitry.)

I suppose we can only imagine what blindness like this would be.

Somehow I’ve come to an idea that this represents fallen men–we’re spiritually blind to the workings and truths of Jesus’ Kingdom. It seems a pretty good explanation of each of us–“blind from birth.”

Secondly, notice the response of the disciples who first met this unfortunate man. They don’t see his needs, rather they want to know the theology behind this. Perhaps that’s how we respond much of the time–we don’t see the needs, we only want to know the reasons. We’re not wise or discerning enough to see what’s going on–in short we’re not equipped to love or show mercy. (We haven’t got the circuitry.)

Perhaps this is how we operate as immature Christians.

We don’t engage the need, but rather we like having great theology over understanding compassion. If we really don’t love needy people, we miss so much. We don’t ever grow up. It’s easy to philosophize–it’s hard to get down and serve and really love others.

It’s funny but Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world while speaking to the man who is born blind.

Third, we discover the gentle mercy that Jesus has when He meets needy people. Now the Lord does accommodate His followers, but not at the expense of engaging the need of the moment. Jesus is full of compassion–most especially when He meets broken people–and as His followers, we must grasp this.

Good theology is not the primary calling of Jesus’ followers.

As I mature in Christ I’m learning (slowly) that people are His real focus. He has come, not to theologize or philosophize, but to meet needs! Sure the reasons why become clearer, but that really isn’t Jesus’ primary goal. People are, not having impeccable theology.

Classes in systematic theology are good, but soup kitchens are better.

The miracle happens, and Jesus’ love and desire to restore this man is ‘front and center.’ The Lord’s methodology is interesting. Spit and mud, wiped on the blind man’s eyes. In Genesis we discover that God made man out of dirt and dust of the ground. Perhaps what He’s doing here mirrors that work.

And it’s also important to understand that Jesus never performs the exact same healing in the exact same way. For some reason He ‘tailors’ His work to the individuals deepest need. I suppose He doesn’t want us to grab a hold of a formula, as that’s what we want to have.

The story is primarily about a blind man’s healing.

It’s not theology, and it certainly isn’t about what is proper and acceptable. We really must understand this, and we really need to understand the tremendous mercy and power of God to both heal and restore.

There’s a ton more here we can extract, but I suppose there isn’t time. This is merely my take on John 9.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

Luke 4:18

Image: MCCC. Text from the “Living Bible,” published by Tyndale House

Meet Jesus’ Family

John 7:1-5

After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

To be honest, I didn’t believe He was the Messiah. I simply couldn’t accept that he was the Chosen one, predicted in the Scriptures. Really now, Jesus? Our older brother? Was he the one we were all looking for? Was he the one who would save Israel? He was family, and we saw Him eat, drink, sleep. I for one didn’t believe it.

We played with him in the streets.

We ran, played ball, and raced donkeys. We sat with him around the fire when the storytellers came. We had fun dancing–(with our sisters of course). When we weren’t working in the shop, carrying water, and helping out, we found lots of things to do, and Jesus as the oldest was the one who came up with many of our adventures.

But to say that he was the one who was prophesied about in the book of Isaiah seems ludicrous. To be very honest, our father was just a poor carpenter–we lived hand-to-mouth, much like any other family in Judea. We wore Jesus’ hand-me-downs, and when he outgrew his sandals, guess what?

Looking back at it all, the whole business of him being the Messiah seemed like a sad and silly joke.

Our father and mother seemed privy to some sort of secret, but we kids never could get the whole story from them or others. Our cousins knew something, but no one was talking, and I suppose we never really pursued it. Maybe it would’ve helped, and again maybe it wouldn’t.

Our lives rotated around the Temple and the synagogue. A Sabbath day was part of our religious upbringing, and we listened to the rabbis and Pharisees as they taught. Jesus had a tremendous knack at grasping these things, and yes, he did know the Scriptures and the various interpretations that the leaders gave.

Each of us boys had the mitzvot ceremony at the age of 13.

We were told that we were now responsible before God for our own lives after this ceremony took place. This was normal for each of us. And apparently, even for Jesus, there was nothing special about it–no lightning, no doves coming down. Like I said before, it all was very normal. We were normal people trying to survive in normal Judea.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

When Jesus was around 30 we heard that he had been baptized by our cousin John. We later heard that he started to teach and preach to any who would listen. He gathered disciples who followed him from town to town, sleeping and eating in the countryside, or wherever things opened up. I was told by many that his teaching was brilliant and authoritative.

When we started to hear of his miracles, it didn’t make any sense.

Honestly, it seemed something happened directly after his baptism–something that was hardly normal. As his brothers and sisters, we tried to process it with each other. At that time we finally came to the conclusion that Jesus was losing it. Maybe he was or at least very close to it. I remember at least twice we came to take custody of him. That was hard.

Was Jesus orthodox, did he have the Pharisee’s ‘stamp of approval?’ After so many reports of healings and exorcisms, we thought that having that could help. I remembered then that we wanted him to reveal his ministry through the proper religious channels. For ourselves, we didn’t believe he was who he claimed to be, but we desperately wanted him to be safe.

When they arrested him and gave him a trial it was a shock to us all.

And when they ordered his death by crucifixion we were deeply troubled and ashamed. Only criminals died that way. Did Jesus deserve to die like this?

But then something quite startling was said to have happened–we were told that he rose from the dead! I remember the shock; maybe these resurrection reports were being made up by those with deluded hopes. We really didn’t know, but we did wonder.

Who was he really? Who was our older brother exactly?

He replied to the one who was speaking to him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Matthew 12:48-49

[Two of Jesus’ brothers that we know of became believers, they went on to write the book of James and Jude.]

Those Strange Christians

I was thinking about this today.

Do you have any idea how ridiculous unbelievers must see us? Just imagine for a minute that you’re on the outside of faith looking in.

———————

They get very solemn as they slowly take the bread and wine. They say that when they sing it’s to God Himself. Some get loud raising hands in surrender to Him. Some will even dance in the worship of someone who’s invisible. How bizarre is that?

They call a man who died a long time ago, Lord and Master.

They gather to read from a special and “magical” book, that they say speaks to them. They talk about being a living a life separated to Him. They truly think that others need to join them in this silly group. They regard each other as brothers and sisters and they serve each other.

They tell us that Jesus is God in human flesh, who was put to death on a cross is now alive. They also believe that His blood saves them from their “sin.” These very odd ones think this man is going to return and rule the world, physically bring the Kingdom of God to this planet.

How very odd of them. How very strange these Christians are.

—————————

There exists a letter written to Diogenes, who is known as the Cynic. It was written around 130 AD. This letter itself is fairly extensive. I suggest that you read it in its entirety. It describes the faith and beliefs of the Christian to a man who really has no idea about them but wants to understand–here is a small portion of this epistle. Remember that this is one of the very first observations of our Faith:

“They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory.” 

Meet the Older Brother

Luke 15:25-32

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

I hated him. I know I shouldn’t but I did. He betrayed all of us by his nonsense. It all started when he demanded that our father immediately divide up our inheritance. Strange I know. It was a shock, like a punch in the stomach. No one knew what to say, it was so bizarre. I have no idea where this idea came from.

He insisted that we divide things up right this instant. He didn’t have the decency to wait for our father’s funeral. It was such a shameful thing that I couldn’t begin to tell you how mortified I was. No one ever heard of anything happening like this before. Even now, after these many years, I can hardly talk about it.

My father simply did what was asked, there was no argument, no resistance.

The property was appraised, and the money was divided up according to custom. We sat at the kitchen table, and the ass watched to make sure that he received every penny that was coming to him. His hungry greed was beyond belief. He oozed arrogance–it was then I really began to hate him.

Never ever had I been so angry and ashamed.

My younger brother never even batted an eye and my father simply did what was asked. My brother didn’t even have the decency to say “thank you.” I desperately wanted to leave, and I couldn’t. I had to be there, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Enough of that. Let’s move on.

That ass, my younger brother packed up and left. Occasionally I heard of his escapades. There were awful reports of his drunkenness and whoring. He was spending our father’s money as if it would never going to run out. Even talking about it now makes me angry.

The last I had heard was he was now feeding pigs. He had spent every last dime and now it seems he was getting what he deserved. I didn’t shed a tear, I felt no pity. Good, he was getting what he should of gotten all along. I only wished that things would get even worse.

Coming in from the fields I heard a raucous party coming from the house.

I asked one of the servants what was going on. When they told me I was even more shocked. Our father had arranged a celebration, all because my brother had returned. The fatted calf had been killed, the one that was saved for parties, and I heard shouts of joy and dancing. They were celebrating, and that made no sense to me at all.

I had served the estate faithfully, I had sweated to make things work, and I never got a party like this.

My father came out to find me, I had hid out in a shed–I didn’t want to be a part of this awful charade. When he found me he said that the party had to happen. It seems the scoundrel had the audacity to return–the money was spent, and apparently, he came home in rags–it served him right. He got what he deserved.

He told me about the necessity of this celebration.

My mind reeled. Could things get even crazier? Never had I heard of anything so bizarre. It was beyond belief. My father wanted me to come in and join them; I’d rather die. You have no idea.

He kept telling me that this had to happen–apparently he was given a new robe, and worst of all he was given the family ring, the ring that declared that he was now a full-fledged son, someone who could have all of the privilege and authority of a son. I had never heard of such foolishness.

My father said this was necessary, that my brother who I hoped was dead, was now alive.

How bad could things get? Perhaps my father had lost his mind.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Luke 15:7

Painting: “The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, c. 1667, oil on canvas. This picture shown is a small part. Scripture is The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.