Saturday, January 23, 2010

Now they came to Jericho. As He (Jesus) went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. Mark 10:46-52 (NKJV)

Have you ever asked yourself, 'I wonder what I need to do to get on God's good side?' Have you ever felt like God is pressing you against the wall like a thumbtack and saying, 'You need to do this if you really want to follow me.'? Do you ever feel like no matter how many good things you do and how many days you are faithful, it's never enough? Like God is never happy with you? Or maybe you feel like God doesn't give you a second thought; that you're not worthy of His attention and He won't even notice if you're not following Him.

In Mark 9:33-10:52, we can read about the Disciples' need to be seen as important and "great". In one instance they are arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest, and on another occasion two of them are asking Jesus if they are great enough to be seated on His right and His left in His Kingdom. In both cases Jesus says the same thing about what awaits those who have their sights set on greatness and a desire to be first: it's a lot of work! And while some may interpret Jesus' words in a challenging way, as something to strive for through servanthood, I'm not so sure that's His recommendation. I think it's more of a warning to not get the wrong impression about what it means to truly follow Him.

The purpose of following Jesus is not to earn God's favor. It's not to show God or others how good and committed I can be. He's not looking for me to sacrifice more or to be perfect or to become worthy of His attention and love. People often expect that of me, but God is interested in something else. He wants me to recognize how much I need Him. Like a child needs a parent's care. Like a sick person needs a doctor. Like a blind man needs a miracle. I have nothing to offer Him, but He has everything to offer me.

When a rich man came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, I think he may have expected Jesus to say, 'Give twenty percent of your income to the Temple instead of only ten: give me a little more and I'll reward you for it.' But Jesus told him to give everything he had. Why? Because God really needed his money? I don't think so. God's resourcefulness is not dependent on us humans. So what was Jesus really asking for? He wanted the man to let go of his self-sufficiency. He didn't want him to be placing his trust and identity in his money because riches are fleeting and require a lot of time and energy to maintain. They can be gone in a moment and become the source of a lot of worry. Having money can be nice, but it can also be a tremendous burden. Just ask the man who went away sad in his wealth. Where was his joy? He didn't have any of that.

Contrast his story with the blind man's. The blind man has nothing to offer Jesus. All he could do was cry out for mercy. People told him to be quiet and not bother the good teacher. But he didn't listen to them. He had a need, and he wanted it met, and he wasn't ashamed to beg for it. 'Have mercy on me!' he cried. And how did Jesus respond? Did he ignore him or send him away or rebuke him or tell him what he needed to do to earn God's favor? No. He asked him what he needed, and He gave him his sight because he asked for it. That's faith. Believing in God's mercy. In unmerited favor. In God's concern for His people. In God's heart that loves beyond reason.

If I was to meet Jesus face to face today, and He had one question to ask me, I don't think He would say, 'How much have you done for Me, Melanie?' or 'How have you proved your love for Me?' or 'How much money have you given?' or 'How much have you sacrificed for Me?' Those are human standards of measurement. Performance based. Law based. Impossible standards for an impossible-to-please god.

But Jesus' standard of measurement is a little different. Not 'How much have you given?' but 'How much have you received? How much do you believe in My love--My unconditional love--and in My ability to meet your need and also My willingness to.' Why do I believe that? Because of all the people Jesus interacts with in these two chapters of Mark, the two He responds most favorably to are those who have the least to offer Him. This blind man. And the children. Why? Because they are completely open to His love. To His mercy. To His openness. To His heart. They're not asking, 'What do I need to do to get on God's good side?' It never even crosses their mind. They just come when He says, 'Come closer.' They just receive His warm embrace and His healing touch.

They are "the least of these" and they aren't striving for greatness. They don't feel ignored. And they aren't concerned with their own faithfulness, just His. They aren't consumed with performance, they're consumed with His presence and His love.

And so am I. Are you? I hope so, because it's a beautiful place to be.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

They came to Capernaum. When Jesus was at the house, he asked his disciples, "What were you arguing about on the road?"

But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus spoke to them and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Mark 9:33-35

Jesus goes on to talk about welcoming children and "outsiders"(who were actually insiders according to Jesus), and then He talks about causing "these" to sin. I think He means leading others astray by inaccurate teaching about their value and worth in God's eyes. Most, including the disciples, had disregard for their pure hearts just because they weren't seen as important in society and even among religious people.

How does this happen? How do we overlook those who are so valuable in God's eyes? By trying to get ahead. By reaching for greatness, walking toward prestige, and having the wrong focus. (Mark 9:42-47)

Jesus finishes by talking about salt and being at peace with one another. (49-50) Salt is a symbol of the covenant--God's grace, love, and faithfulness. And this is what we should be reaching out for and walking toward and seeking to receive. To receive God's love brings peace, for ourselves and with others, not striving to be first--even through servanthood. If the motive for servanthood is to get ahead, it's not any better than trying to get there through dishonest means and probably more exhausting.

A true attitude of servanthood, one that welcomes and accepts others for who they are and where they're at--this comes from allowing God to first serve me.