Reflection day 51- Lamb and Shepherd
‘For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd.’ (Revelation 7:17)
God is ready to make startling and paradoxical statements in his Word. And in John’s vision in Revelation they can come thick and fast. In the same chapter, v14, one of the elders explains to John the identity of the multitude he sees in white robes praising God and the Lamb. ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ White? In blood? Yes, because the sacrificial death of Christ cleanses us spiritually and that is basic to what these white robes signify. Now three verses later in describing the bliss of those who have suffered and died for Christ (for God wants us to understand that their sufferings are over and infinitely compensated for) we read that ‘the Lamb… will be their Shepherd.’ ‘The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King,’ in the language of a beautiful Getty hymn.
Jesus is the Lamb. ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ cried John the Baptist. (John 1:29) ‘For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed,’ declares Paul. (1 Cor 5:7) At the time of the first Passover every Israelite household was required to slaughter a lamb. When the angel of the LORD passed over Egypt in the last and most severe act of judgement the Israelites’ firstborn sons would be spared when the angel saw the blood of the lamb daubed on their doorframes. But, and here is a remarkable turn of providence, the Passover Lamb is actually God’s one and only Son. Jesus died at the time of the Passover. That was not the original intention of the religious leaders but it was God’s (Matt 26:5). The Last Supper was a reinterpreted Passover meal. Like the Passover lamb not one of Jesus’ bones were broken. (Ex 12:46, John 19:33,36) ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ (1 Peter 1:18-19)
But Jesus is also the Shepherd. “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah… out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6, Micah 5:2,4) Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36). He tells the parable of the lost sheep and caring shepherd (Luke 15:3-7). Above all he is ‘the good shepherd’ (John 10:11). A shepherd was a familiar picture of a leader in the ancient world. In fact David, once a shepherd, became a great king and ‘shepherd’. But, as we thought yesterday, David was far from perfect. Israel had many ‘bad shepherds’ who neglected, abused and exploited the sheep (e.g. Jer 23:1, 50:6, Ezekiel 34). Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is the one who will provide for them and protect them and ‘no one will snatch them out of my hand.’ (John 10:28)
When God tells us in Revelation 7 that ‘the Lamb will be their shepherd’ it is more than wordplay. It’s that one ‘who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood’ (Rev 1:5) will care for us. We should be in no doubt about his love or commitment to us and it will be a joy to see his face.
This then is the comfort of the martyrs and of all who die in Christ. But there is a vital present and personal dimension. Christ is ‘our Passover Lamb’ today. And he is alive: God ‘brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep’. (Heb 13:20) We should be able to say, as we thought last night in our meditations on Psalm 23, ‘The Lord – the Lord Jesus – is my shepherd.’ And also to know as a church right now that he is ours.
Reflection day 52- Victory!
From David Mortimer, one of our church elders
Today is the early May Bank Holiday, moved from the first Monday of the month, so that we could all celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day together, with street parties, pageants, special services, and the like. The best laid plans….Whilst these large public gatherings will not be taking place, due to Government restrictions, there will no doubt be ‘virtual’ celebrations, with friends and families hooking up to do something together; also, some roads are having ‘social distancing’ street parties, with people taking tea in their own driveways at the same time.
There is a strong desire to remember an extremely important event in the history of our nation – the end of the Second World War in Europe. Those alive at the time will remember their own feelings of relief and joy on 8th May 1945 – and those of us who are a little younger must have gained a flavour of such feelings through recent newspaper and magazine articles, as well as TV programmes that have aired during the past week. The euphoria of ‘Victory’ is clear from photographs and film taken at the time; the sense of release reached all the way to the higher echelons of the Royal Family.
Yet the victory was not complete – service personnel who were active in the Far East at that time were very clear about that. VJ (Victory over Japan) Day was just over some 3 months off. Many more lives would be lost during that time. World War Two was not yet over. It must have been good to celebrate the ending of the immediate threat to the United Kingdom and our allies in Europe, but, for families with loved ones serving in the armed forces in the Pacific, there would still be days of danger ahead.
Contrast that situation with another victory – the victory that the Lord Jesus Christ has obtained over sin and death. He cried on the cross – ‘It is finished!’ – not a cry of a defeated man, but of a conqueror. He had finished the work that He had come to earth to do, bearing the sins of His people. This was no partial ceasefire, no brief cessation of hostilities, but a comprehensive victory – the enemy of our souls was defeated.
This decisive victory was made manifestly plain on Easter Day and the 40 days following, as many of His followers met the resurrected Jesus. Their sadness that followed His crucifixion was turned to joy, their fear to boldness – so much so that, on the Day of Pentecost, just a few days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Peter the fisherman, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, was able to stand up and speak these amazing words:
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him….
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear….
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2 vv. 22 – 24, 32 – 33, 36)
This was a message of certainty, of power, of comfort; 3000 of those assembled in Jerusalem that day believed and were baptised, and were added to the church. What a day of rejoicing that must have been!
Ever since Pentecost, the worldwide church has been growing; countless numbers of men and women, boys and girls, have shared in the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, who has provided a way for them to be right with God – not through anything we have done, but all because of what He has done. No wonder Paul writes: ‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Enjoy your VE Day celebrations today – but, above all, every day, rejoice in and give thanks for the One who has gained the complete victory.
Reflection day 53- How great Thou art
Praise the LORD, my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendour and majesty. (Psalm 104:1)
The immensely popular hymn, ‘How great Thou art,’ has an interesting history. It was written in about 1885 by a Swedish pastor Carl Boberg. It is said that he was inspired to write after being caught in a sudden thunderstorm on the south-east coast of Sweden. It was midday and the awe-inspiring flashes of lightning were followed by the clear, brilliant sun and a beautiful rainbow. Then followed the singing of birds in the nearby trees.
A German living in Estonia (where there is a small Swedish speaking minority) Manfred von Glehn, produced a German translation in 1907. Then, five years later, came a Russian version (probably translated from the German) by Ivan S Prokhanoff (known as the Martin Luther of Russia). This Russian translation came to the attention of Stuart and Mercy Hine who were English missionaries in the Ukraine.
Stuart Hine produced a three verse English translation:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art! (Chorus)
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.
The miseries caused by Stalin forced the Hines to leave the Ukraine though they continued to minister in Eastern Europe. At the outbreak of WWII they returned to the UK and worked among the Polish refugee community.
After the end of WWII Stuart Hine added a fourth verse. It was said to have been inspired by this incident. He and a friend visited a camp in Sussex in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. One of these told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the War, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when Christ would return and they would meet in heaven and share eternal life together there. So, out of this came the last verse that is commonly sung:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
Stuart Hine also wrote two fine further verses based on the Russian version he was familiar with:
O when I see ungrateful man defiling
This bounteous earth, God’s gifts so good and great;
In foolish pride, God’s holy Name reviling,
And yet, in grace, His wrath and judgment wait.
When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance:
‘My child! for thee sufficient is my grace’
May we each know the sufficiency of our great and gracious Lord today.
Reflection day 54- The shield of faith
From Clive Gullett, one of our church elders
‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.’ (Ephesians 6:14-18)
Stand firm then—
- Belt of truth
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Feet fitted with readiness
- Shield of faith
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit
- Pray in the Spirit
A whole host of encouraging thoughts could emanate from these verses to our blessing and building up which would fill many morning reflections, but the one highlighted above just struck me for a moment this morning as it appeared in my reading.
We have come through 7 or 8 weeks of the Coronavirus with severe restraints, more so for some than others. The brilliant warm weather has assisted to make the bearing of restraint fairly acceptable, up till now. While we know and believe God has a reason for all this upheaval to what we call normal life, it is He who has (thus far) provided the helpful weather to ease the shock.
Many have suffered loss of loved ones and are grieving and I don’t want to be accused of bringing a discouraging word this day, but maybe the testing situation is only just beginning! — maybe there are months — or even years to go yet, before we are allowed relief from the effects of this particular agony.
So it seemed to me the shield of faith may need looking at (if forgotten), picking up (if left aside), polishing off the dust of self-reliance (if that might be the case), remembering its benefits (if forgotten), testing out its parrying and defensive qualities with renewed vigour (if unpractised) and with eyes to God and voices calling to Him for strength and help to use it, be more ready for the next period.
Reflection day 55- The same mindset as Christ
From Paul Barton, one of our church workers
Philippians 2: 5-6 – In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage…
On Friday evenings, Impact is still meeting via Zoom. We have recently started a new series in Philippians. A few weeks ago, we studied chapter 2. In that study we read some challenging words. We know that Jesus Christ is God, the perfect Son of God. He is also our perfect elder brother and our perfect example. He models this behaviour and as His disciples we should seek to live out.
In 2: 1-4 we read:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In those verses Paul rightly highlights the life of Christ as an example of service that puts others first. He commends the Philippian saints in this area and reminds us that we should follow suit.
One commentator says vs5-6 reveals that service to one another is not inconsistent with authority — in fact, serving others is the true mark of leadership. Jesus Christ exemplifies true greatness and models excellent leadership because He did not use His position as an excuse not to serve; rather, He saw meeting others’ needs as inherent to leading them.
The greatness of Jesus Christ is assumed at the outset of this passage, for Paul speaks of Jesus “being in very nature God”, v6, literally “being in the form of God”. Paul is teaching us that the Son of God shares fully in the very essence of God; “very God of very God.” as one creed says. One early church father wrote, “The form of God is truly God and nothing less. Paul did not write that he was in process of coming to be in the form of God; rather ‘being in the form of God,’ hence truly divine. This is much as to say ‘I am that I am.’”
Paul then completes this section of verses with these words (vs7-11):
‘…rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.’
May we all seek to have the mindset of Christ and serve others before ourselves just like our elder brother did. Christ is God, divine and He is therefore worthy of our worship, our loyalty, and, indeed, all that we are.
Reflection day 56- Clean!
Have you ever felt inwardly polluted, defiled, unclean?
Noah, in Genesis 7, was told to take into the ark seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and a female, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal. Some animals were clean and lawful to eat and others were unclean.
So very early in in the Bible we see this distinction between clean and unclean. It is, however, in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, that God gives to the Israelites detailed regulations about this.
Among things that were considered unclean were:
Certain foods, notably pork
Skin diseases including leprosy
Bodily emissions, among them a woman’s monthly bleed
Touching a dead body or even entering a room where a dead body was laid
Sacrifices and ritual washings were ways to restore cleanness but this wasn’t possible where there was an ongoing issue.
In the Old Testament contact with an unclean thing was also ‘contagious’ and transferred the uncleanness. A clean thing did not purify an unclean thing but an unclean thing contaminated a clean thing (a point emphasised in Haggai 2:10-13). It was one way traffic.
Something in the gospels we could overlook is the way that Jesus confounds this process. We have considered the psychological importance of touch before but, today, notice touch in the context of OT laws about cleanness. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper and said, ‘I am willing. Be clean!’ and immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42). It is interesting that Jesus delivered the demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs (the place of the dead) by driving the unclean spirits into unclean pigs which drowned in the lake of Galilee (Mark 5:1-20). In the interwoven stories which come next, a woman with a persistent flow of blood touched Jesus’ cloak and Jesus took Jairus’ dead daughter by the hand. Jesus should have been defiled but, of course instead, the woman was healed and Jairus’ daughter raised to life (Mark 5:21-43). The supreme cleanness of Jesus actually makes the unclean clean, healthy and alive. (For the record in Mark 7 in his comments on cleanness, ‘Jesus declared all foods clean’, v19.)
We see in the book of Acts that the OT laws about cleanness were superseded by the coming of Jesus (Acts 10 & 11 – though a Jewish Christian might still observe them). When Peter declared that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised or keep the OT laws about cleanness he said, ‘God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us [Jews] and them, for he purified their hearts by faith… We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’ (Acts 15:8-11) Through faith in Jesus God purifies our hearts and gives his Holy Spirit to us. Jesus makes the unclean clean. God does not just forget what he said before about cleanness but cleanses at a deeper level.
There are times when we, as Christians, can still feel inwardly defiled and dirty. The writer to the Hebrews urges us to draw near to God with a sincere heart and the full assurance that faith in Jesus brings, ‘having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water’ (10:19-22).
As we sometimes sing with the children,
‘So we can come to Jesus
and ask to be made clean,
for Jesus has the power
to wash away our sin.’
Have you done that? Will you do that today?
Reflection day 57- For mothers
‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.’ (2 Timothy 1:5)
Many mothers are naturally spending a lot more time than usual with their children during lockdown, and, indeed, so are many fathers too. Although schools are open for children of key workers and are teaching online, it could be that some children do not return to school physically until September. In fact, even this is not certain at the moment.
The Bible says fathers have an important role in bringing up children. Even if they would not say it, some men think of raising children as ‘women’s work’. In contrast the Bible says, ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:4)
Still today a word of encouragement for mothers.
Timothy was a dear companion and co-worker of the apostle Paul. He came from Lystra in modern day Turkey. Timothy’s father was a Greek but Timothy’s mother and maternal grandparents were Jewish. It seems that Timothy’s Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, put their faith in Christ when Paul visited Lystra in Turkey on his ‘first missionary journey’. Although Paul was stoned, almost to death, in Lystra, ‘after the disciples had gathered round him, he got up’ (Acts 14:20). Quite possibly, Lois and Eunice were among these disciples peering anxiously down at Paul as he lay on the ground. At some point Timothy also turned to Christ. When Paul returned to Lystra on his second missionary journey the believers at Lystra and nearby Iconium spoke well of Timothy and Paul took him along with him (Acts 16:1-3). As well as appreciating company and help, Paul certainly understood the value of mentoring. From then on Timothy travelled with Paul but increasingly Paul sent him off on other assignments. We have two letters from Paul to Timothy. 2 Timothy is Paul’s last letter, certainly the last one we have in our possession, written from prison shortly before Paul’s execution. Timothy also knew what it was to suffer. The writer to the Hebrews says, ‘I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.’ (13:23) Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to speak of ‘timid Timothy’. But I am getting side-tracked.
In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul speaks warmly of the sincere faith of Lois and Eunice, the faith that he was persuaded now lived in Timothy too. In chapter 3 he writes:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
It is a great blessing to grow up knowing the Holy Scriptures but Paul also cites the godly lives of Timothy’s mother and grandmother as evidence for the truth and goodness of the Christian faith – ‘you know those from whom you learned it’. The lives of these women made a powerful, positive and lasting impression upon Timothy. Mothers, notwithstanding the frustrations and tensions of lockdown, remember this at this time.
Although Lois was a Jew, Timothy’s father was a Greek and his faith is not mentioned. The situation reminds me of Augustine the great north African Christian (354-430). Augustine’s mother Monica was a devout Christian but her husband, Patricius, was a pagan. You may know that Augustine caused his mother all kinds of heartache. By the age of 17 he was sleeping with a girlfriend (and fathered a son by her) and for several years he belonged to a popular religious cult. He was converted when he was aged 31. Monica continued to pray earnestly for her son and to seek his well-being during these years and, in his autobiographical ‘Confessions,’ Augustine speaks with great love and gratitude of his mother. He also tells us how Monica won the respect of his father and Patricius was converted not long before he died.
Reflection day 58- Riches
‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s gracethat he lavished on us.’ (Ephesians 1:7-8)
Lockdown has affected people financially in different ways. I have heard of some people who are better off. They are able to work overtime and have nothing to spend their money on so they have paid off their debts. Others (like me) are being paid exactly what they were before lockdown. But many are worse off. Some who are self-employed have not received any money from the Government yet and so have been without an income for almost two months (Government help is coming through soon but most will have not at this point received anything). Many more are likely to be adversely affected going forward. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken this week of ‘a significant recession’.
Today we briefly review what Paul says to the church in Ephesus about ‘riches’ and some other related matters.
When the gospel came to Ephesus it radically altered the attitude of some to money.
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. [ A drachma was a silver coin worth about a day’s wages.] In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (Acts 19:18-20)
The converted sorcerers clearly thought they had something more precious in Christ. In contrast the idol-makers of Ephesus were outraged that their lucrative business was being damaged and rioted (19:23ff).
Later in Acts, when Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, he reminds them that through working with his own hands while he was with them (presumably as a tent-maker Acts 18:2&3,19:12) he had supported himself and his companions. ‘In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’ (Acts 20:35)
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which was likely written still later when Paul was in prison in Caesarea or Rome (Eph 6:20) it is interesting to note his stress on the riches Christians enjoy in Christ. He speaks of ‘the riches of God’s grace’ (1:7), ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people’ (1:18), ‘God, who is rich in mercy’ (2:4), ‘the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus’ (2:7), ‘the boundless riches of Christ’ (3:8), ‘his glorious riches’ which can inwardly strengthen the Ephesians (3:16). Whatever our financial condition may be right now let us remember that if we have trusted Christ we are spiritually rich.
Paul also touches on attitudes to money in the more practical second half of this letter.
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (4:28)
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (5:3)
A greedy person ‘is an idolater’ (5:5) and has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (5:5).
Slaves are also to serve their masters wholeheartedly ‘as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do…’ (6:8)
In conclusion we can say with confidence that the riches Christians enjoy in Christ affects their attitude to wealth, work (what work they do and how they do it) and giving. May God help us to think all this through and know what we’re to do as we move forward.
Finally, let me remind you that the church has a benevolent fund which can provide some help (in confidence) to those who are struggling financially. And there are church members with financial expertise who are willing to give advice if that would be useful.
Reflection day 59- Authority
From David Mortimer, one of our church elders
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1 vv. 21 – 28)
This passage describes an event early on in Jesus’ ministry. On the Sabbath day He had gone to the synagogue in Capernaum to worship Almighty God, and had been invited to speak by the synagogue leader. Such invitations were often the case when a visiting teacher or rabbi joined the regular congregation. It seems that Jesus was already gaining a reputation as someone who had something important to say.
Those assembled that Saturday morning would have been used to hearing a variety of people speak – but this time it was different. What this man from Nazareth said struck home, it made sense, and it came across with real authority – totally different to what they usually heard, from the teachers of the law. They could relate to what he said; he was preaching with power, not just going through the motions. Every word would have been seized upon, the only voice being heard that of Jesus. No coughing, mumbling or shifting of feet from those present, until…..
AN INTERRUPTION !!
As Jesus was speaking, a man cried out with a loud voice, and all attention would have switched to him. I remember trying this once whilst taking an Assembly at Archbishop Tenison’s School, persuading Mark Jenner to come in and heckle me (he needed very little persuasion). It worked a treat – such was the shock that there was a gasp, and all eyes swivelled to the rear of the Hall. (It wasn’t quite as disruptive as the occasion when Bishop Sentamu threw sweets into the body of the Hall, but that’s another story….)
The impact in the synagogue would have been even more intense, not least because this was a place of worship, where everything should be done in a fitting and God-honouring way. Not only was it the fact that the man cried out that would have caused a major disturbance, but it was also the words that he used, in that he spoke directly to Jesus, acknowledging who He was – ‘the Holy One of God!’ This recognition might have come out of the man’s lips, but they were from the impure spirit (demon) that possessed him. The impure spirit recognised who Jesus was, and what He had come to do, and that his power and that of all the powers of darkness was nothing compared to this teacher from Nazareth.
Those present would have been wondering what was going to happen next. If we were challenged in such a way we may have been at a loss for words, or at least totally thrown for a while. This was not the case with Jesus; He was in full control of the situation, and gave the impure spirit a command – ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ Immediately the impure spirit came out of the man, and he was healed.
That shocked those looking on – they had never seen anything like this. Jesus spoke with authority, and He also acted with authority. He had power over the forces of evil. No wonder news about him spread throughout the region.
Jesus words and deeds showed his authority. We may not have witnessed what the worshippers saw and heard on that Sabbath day in Capernaum, but we have the testimony of the Scriptures, particularly the gospel accounts, of Jesus’ power in word and deed. Do you recognise Him as the Holy One of God? Knowing that, are you trusting in Him, rather than standing out against Him?
Reflection day 60- Focus
From Clive Gullett, one of our church elders
The following three mornings each contain a thought from ‘The African Bible’ and thus they are attuned to their culture and experiences of life, but the meanings behind the examples are the same for the worldwide church. The thoughts are based on the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16 vv 19-31. No doubt you will remember this well but pick a moment in the day when you can draw aside to browse the verses before pondering these selections.
I remember a guy called Eric Holdstock from my Fellowship of Youth days who impressed me by his quiet witness (which I wish I could emulate). He became the pastor of the church at St John’s Wood and, before that role, I invited him to come and talk to the then young people at Newtown amongst whom was a nipper called David Mortimer and his sister Maggie. He chose this passage to speak from and illuminated the warnings and indeed the blessings of which many are found in this passage.
This morning’s thought from the passage prompts us to be careful how much importance we make of our possessions, certainly with regard to our focus — is it centred on Christ and what honours Him, or have the habits of our lives out bid that focus? Well, have a look at a thought from our African brethren.
The Kelenjin people of Kenya when preparing their walking sticks cut a stick from the bush. They put it over the fire for a few minutes and then shave that side. Next they put the other side over the fire and shave it also. They repeat the process until they have the right quality of walking stick. A Kelenjin proverb says —“You cannot work on two walking sticks over the fire at the same time because one will burn.” People must be single minded for good results.
Jesus talked about the difficulty of serving two masters: God and money. Just as it is impossible to work on two walking sticks and produce quality, we cannot divide our devotion to God. We must constantly check our focus.
Is it fully on God? If we devote ourselves to make much of wealth or in fact anything that distracts us following our Lord Jesus, then we lose our primary focus.
Because of this, we must be careful how we handle our possessions or interests. Where our hearts and minds go, our lives follow.
(to read the following two reflections by Clive Gullet on this topic click here)