The Centurions Slave

(Luke 7:1-10)

Have you ever considered the difference between power and authority?

It is possible for a person to have power but no authority, but typically a person who has authority also has power.

We see in this section of scripture a discussion of this matter and the importance of recognising the power AND the authority of God in our lives.

Understanding Power

Here we see a centurion call upon Jesus to heal a slave who was dear to him. The centurion sent some of the elders of the Jews to Jesus to make this request.centurion

It is evident that this centurion was a man of considerable power and authority. He was able to send elders of Israel to Jesus to make his request. In addition he had built the synagogue for the people, and so he was a man of considerable influence as well.

There are many forms of power, and that is a study in its own right. There is power derived from a person’s position, there is referred power when a person has the ear of another more powerful person. There is the power of influence and so on.

From what we can understand here, this centurion certainly had the power that came with his position as a centurion, but he also had the power of influence, for the elders appeared to have willingly gone to Jesus on his behalf.

But sometimes power is not enough to do as you may wish unless you have the authority to carry out your actions.

There are many situations where people may have the power to act but are restrained because they do not have the authority to act. War-time is a good example. A platoon or regiment of soldiers may have the power to unleash tremendous displays of force, but without the authority to proceed they must wait until directed by their superiors.

Recognising the Authority of God

However what we see in this scripture is that this centurion, despite the power that he had was also a humble man. He recognised that Jesus not only had the power of God, but also the authority of God to exercise that power.

This centurion understood the difference between power and authority and he also understood the spiritual nature of the work Jesus was doing.

This is the reason why the centurion did not come to Jesus himself but sent the elders. He knew that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to the slave physically to touch and heal the slave, but that Jesus only had to say the word and the slave would be healed. The centurion understood that God is able to do anything and it was not necessary for Jesus to be present in the flesh to do this work.

In saying these things it is clear he recognised the authority of God in Jesus and thus a miraculous healing from a distance was not out of the question. He believed God could do this if Jesus only said the word.

How does this help us?

God will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask the Lord for it. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us power. This was shown in Acts 1:8 saying, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

More importantly, the Holy Spirit does the work of transformation in us so that we can become the children of God. John 1:12 says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And as for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit it is written, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

There are some who would love to have this miracle working power and be able to heal people miraculously. I have heard some people try to “claim” the promises and power of God. But they cannot do this because God has not given them the authority. The key to miracle working power and using the promises of God is not in having the power, it is in having the authority.

I believe, and this is just my opinion, that Jesus has not given these broad miracle working powers AND the authority to people because man cannot be trusted. Jesus said that he would support and confirm the message of the truth with signs and miracles. (Mark 16:15-20) The reason these signs do not operate is because people are seeking them for the wrong reason. It is not the signs that are important, it is the message of the truth. If anyone wants the signs Jesus promised they first must seek the truth. Then Jesus may grant both the power and authority to carry out such miraculous works to confirm the message of the truth.

Jesus had the authority to do the works he did for it was given to him by the Father.

We too have not been left without some power and authority. Authority has been given to the church for the benefit of the people and the church. For example, we have the authority to heal through anointing with oil by the elders of the church as described in James 5:14-15 which says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up.” We have the authority to pray and operate various forms of ministry in the church. We have the authority to baptise and lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit so that they can enter the kingdom of God.

Finally, it is not important that we do not have the authority to do miraculous works. It is more important that we become the children of God. Jesus showed this saying, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:22-23) As Jesus taught, our number one priority is to, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Spanish Browne)

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Let the Children Come

(Mark 10:13-16)

Too often as adults we exclude children. The old saying that children should be sen and not heard is still often applied by many people. In public places and in churches they are told to be still, keep quiet and stop being disruptive.

But they are kids! By nature they are boisterous, undisciplined and disruptive. And lets face, you wouldn’t want it any other way for when they are playing and laughing and having a good time, they can really cheer your heart.

Jesus and ChildrenThe people in this section of the scripture were bringing their children to Jesus that he might touch them. The disciples were obviously annoyed for they rebuked the people. You can just imaging their thoughts. After all this is the Son of God…surely he doesn’t want to be bothered and annoyed by children.

Not so. Jesus, when he saw what the disciples were doing was indignant and he said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Jesus had no problem with the children coming to him. And why would he? The children were his children too!

Instead he took the opportunity to teach the people, including his disciples, a lesson. He said, “…for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Verse 14-15)

If we are to enter God’s Kingdom we must become like children. We must be innocent and open to learn. We must trust in Jesus and have the faith of a child in their parent.

It is as adults that we learn pride and arrogance. It is as adults that we become untrusting and hard of heart. It is as adults that we are faithless, harsh to others and cynical. These are not the attributes of children and so we must learn or re-learn those things from our children.

Don’t ever exclude the children. They learn from us and we can learn from them. We can learn to remember what the requirements are for entry into God’s Kingdom, as Jesus showed us here.

(Picture sourced from http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)

Jesus Came to Call the Sinners

(Mark 2:13-17)

Jesus came to call the sinners and not the righteous. When he called Levi the tax collector in this section of Mark we see he went to his house and ate with the sinners and tax collectors. The scribes at that time looked down on Jesus for being with these people they thought as second-rate citizens. This showed up their prejudices and bias for Jesus showed no partiality.

Prejudice is part of human nature. It is the cause of a great many inhuman and unjust actions in this world. People consider themselves to be better than others and look down upon them. The basis of this prejudice can be many things: skin colour, religion, race, education, sex and even the sporting teams they follow. This should not be so. In many places Jesus condemns prejudice, bias and partiality, as too did the apostles.

As far as the Lord is concerned all mankind is equal. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God as Paul wrote in Romans 3:23. No man can claim not to have sinned and thus no man can stand in the presence of God in his own right. If this is so, then who can claim to be better or more superior to someone else? Nobody has that right. Jesus alone was the only person to have come to the earth and lived a life without sin.

Now here in Mark we see Jesus say that he came to call the sinners and not the righteous. If he came to spend time only amongst the people of the church, how would the message of the Gospel of truth be spread to the rest of the world? How would the opportunity to be set free from sin ever be proclaimed if only the people of the churches held the message of the Gospel? The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message to the whole world, and to achieve his purpose he had to be with those who needed this message. Who needs the message of the Gospel? Every person that ever lived is now living, or will come in the future.

Can anyone stand in the presence of God? As I have said already, it is because of sin that man cannot stand in the presence of God. But in Jesus we have the ability to enter into a place where we are freed from sin and born again as new creations. In Jesus our sins are taken away and we become righteous through faith. And finally in Jesus we do have the ability to stand before God, not as sinners, but as freed men through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

So is there any place for prejudice and bias in this world? None whatsoever. Even when we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus and are set free from our sins we have no right to think ourselves superior to those who have not done so. For those who are in Jesus, all are equal as he said through Paul in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And as we progress in Christ we do not rise to a position of superiority but rather we settle to the position of a servant. Jesus showed this saying, “you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:8-11)

Do you want to be like Christ? Then aspire to be a servant as he came to serve and not be served. (Luke 22:27) Do not aspire to be the centre of attention, as some preachers in the church today seem to do. Do not aspire to seek the power of this world through Christianity. Aspire rather to serve the Lord and learn the truth of the Gospel in humility and obedience to God. Remember that it is the meek who will inherit the earth, not the mighty and the power we seek is the power to become the children of God as he said, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Humiliation of Jesus

(Matthew 27:27-31)

After Pilate released him into the hands of the chief priests, the soldiers took Jesus to the praetorium where he was humiliated. The humiliation of Jesus was in the form of mockery and abuse. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him as if he were royalty, plaited a crown of thorns, put a reed in his hand as a sceptre and mocked him. He was struck and spat upon and they treated him shamefully.

This was all to fulfil prophecy for it was written by the prophet Isaiah, “In his humiliation justice was denied him.” (Quoted in Acts 8:33) Jesus humiliation was of the worst kind for he was truly and innocent man. What is more, in their mockery the soldiers dressed him as royalty, pretending he was a king, and yet not recognising him as the King of kings.

All of this the Lord did and suffered on our account. All of this shame he took on our account so that we might have the chance to be freed. In him we receive salvation, but the price he paid in humiliation, mockery, abuse and ultimately death was enormous.

We need to recognise his suffering and be thankful. In the same situation would we be prepared to suffer in the same way? Probably not. But Jesus who had first descended from magnificence and the right hand of God suffered all of this on our account so that we could be saved.

His humiliation was our salvation. His weakness before these men became the strength in which we live. His sacrifice became our great salvation and the means by which we are reconciled to God.

We cannot give thanks enough for his sacrifice. There are insufficient words to praise him for this magnificent gift. He has given us the gift of life, which we do not deserve for we were all sinners. He gave us this gift even while we were sinners and effectively the enemies of God. But by the grace of God, by his undeserved kindness and compassion towards us, he suffered this humiliation and death so that we could be released from our bondage to sin and become the children of God. His gift is inexpressible and it is for this reason all people should praise God.

Doing the Will of the Father

(Matthew 21:23-27)

What does it mean to be doing the will of the Father? Do you know what the will of the Father is in the first place to be able to do it? Jesus shows us what it means to be doing the will of the Father in this section of scripture.

Doing the will of the Father is about obedience. It is about doing what the Father asks of us. It is not about what we think or say but about obeying His will and His commands. But what is it that God asks of us so that we may do his will? Jesus explains what the Father requires of his people when he said, “For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” (John 6:40) The will of the Father is to believe in Jesus Christ. The Father’s will is not about what we are doing, but being obedient to his word, which is to believe in Jesus and thus receive the free gift of eternal life. That is the will of the Father.

We see also that those who do the Father’s will shall be called the brothers and sisters of Christ. (Matthew 12:50) That is, they will be called the children of God, and as God’s children will receive the inheritance promised.

There are many who will claim to be doing the will of the Father but are not. Jesus showed in Matthew 7:21:23, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” There are some who will come to him on the last day claiming to have been doing the will of God but Jesus will reject them. Their supposed claims will be based upon works rather than on faith. You cannot please God on the basis of works. You cannot enter the kingdom of God by just doing works. You must have faith in Jesus Christ as it is only through faith in Jesus that you will be doing the will of the Father.

Now in this section of Matthew 21 we see Jesus speaking to the temple priests and showing them this message. He raises the situation of a father with two sons whom he asks to go out and work in his vineyard. The first says, “I will not,” but later repents and goes out to work in the vineyard. The second says, “I go sir,” but did not go out. Jesus asks the priest which of these did the father’s will. Clearly it was the first son, for the will of the father was to work in the vineyard. In spite of his first assertion that he would not go out, he repented and went, thus doing the will of the father. As for the second son, he said he would go but did not. On the surface he appeared to be doing what he should, but failed to follow through on his word. This was hypocrisy rather than obedience and was even worse than not going.

Jesus likened the tax collectors and sinners to the first son, for they were opposing the will of the heavenly Father, as the first son opposed his fathers will, but in due course they repented and did do the Father’s will. However he likened the priests of the temple to the second son, for although they held the appearance of religion, just as the second son held the appearance of one ready to go and do the Fathers will, the priests were not doing the will of the Father for they did not believe either the words of John the Baptist or the teachings of Jesus. Their lack of faith showed they were not doing the will of the Father, and worse, they were opposing the Father’s will.

As Jesus said also, even when they saw that the effect of John’s ministry they still did not believe. So they were rejected.

We must learn from this. We must learn not to fall into the trap of trying to seek righteousness by works, but trust in faith to God and seek His righteousness, which comes through Jesus Christ. There is no other path to the Kingdom of God but through faith in Jesus Christ. And if we are to be doing the will of the Father, we must believe in Jesus and follow his ways.

No Gatekeepers between Man and God

(Matthew 19:13-15)

At this time the people were bringing children to Jesus to have him lay his hands on them and pray. They were seeking for the Lord to bless their children.

However as often happens, the people around the Lord, his disciples, were “running interference” to try and “protect” Jesus from these interruptions. Imagine the personal assistant of a major corporation CEO who acts as gatekeeper to ensure the boss isn’t disturbed by the unimportant masses and you’ll get the idea.

However Jesus was showing a principle in his actions. Between Jesus and man there are no gatekeepers. We all have direct access to him at any time. This was the key point he was making to ensure the disciples and the rest of his followers from then on recognised that there were to be no gatekeepers getting in the way. Likewise there were to be no gatekeepers to prevent people from coming to the disciples.

Jesus said in this section to let the children come to him. Now he was concerned about the children of course, but the point he was making were in his following words, “…do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Verse 14) The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who become like children. It belongs to those who are humble, innocent and open like children. Jesus made this point earlier in chapter 18 when the disciples asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

We see also that Paul made the point that there are no gatekeepers saying, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) No one stands between God and us and no one can act as gatekeeper between God and man as that is the position that Jesus holds. No man has the right to take the place of Christ and no man can stand as gatekeeper between man and God. We are all equals in Christ, brothers and sisters in the Lord and no person has the right or authority to Lord it over another in Christ.

Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

(Matthew 18:1-6)

The disciples came to Jesus to ask who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. This is a common thought of man. When we look at things like the Guinness book of records we see a collection of the most outstanding achievements of mankind in all disciplines. When we think about the “Who’s Who” books we see a list of who is considered to be the greatest of all men. But all of these approaches will not identify who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

God does not think like man. God does not consider greatness the same way that man does. To think someone is greater than someone else is a human thing. It is not of God. God does not show partiality, but looking at someone as being greater than someone else is to be partial to one over another.

Paul understood this issue quite well too. He wrote, “Not that we venture to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) To measure someone against someone else shows a lack of understanding. The truth of the matter is that we are all different. So what if someone can’t jump, ski, surf, ride a bike, drive a car or run faster than someone else? So what if someone is more creative artistically, dramatically or musically than someone else?

The truth is not everyone can do everything better than everyone else. When we compare someone to someone else, we dent the capabilities of the person considered lesser than the other and who may have other qualities that are greater and more beneficial than the person being idolized. Consider those in the public spotlight from the entertainment world. Some of them a re on drugs, in brawls, heavy drinkers and caught in all kinds of scandals. Is it right to idolise them when their behaviour is worse than the rest of society?

So when the disciples asked Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven they were thinking like men, not like God. To answer them Jesus took a child and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4) He did not say that children were the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, but those who turned and became like a child.

When we think of children we think of innocence, humility and openness to learn. Children are sponges and take in everything about the world around them. Likewise a child of God needs to take in everything about the kingdom of God. They need to be humble under the mighty hand of God and they need to repent and become innocent like children.

Jesus also warns that anyone who puts a stumbling block or temptation into the paths of one of these people who are children of the kingdom of God are in a dangerous place. He says, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Verse 6) This is a serious indictment on those who would try to lead God’s people astray.

If we would be great in the kingdom of heaven then we need to take in Jesus’ words. We need to become like a child and learn from Jesus. We need to seek out the ways of God by following Jesus and learn to do what is pleasing to him. Then we will truly become great in the kingdom of God.