Forgiving; July 31, 2020

Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

This is a very interesting incident. It’s the only place I can recall where someone else’ faith was credited for forgiveness. We don’t know all the circumstances, but obviously this man had something about him that made his friends care enough to go to all the trouble they did to get him to Jesus. However, what comes to mind is what Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:21-23) There is much we don’t really understand about forgiving sin! With all that is going on in the world at large, not to mention all that is happening in each individual life, we have plenty of opportunity to learn about forgiveness by doing it. When we learn about something distant from us it is our sense of right and wrong that is invoked, and we have to decide whether to forgive or not. When it is something closer to home that impacts us personally, then it gets real and emotion is fully involved. However, there too forgiveness is a decision. I really don’t know how much authority we have in terms of forgiving distant sins, but I do know that forgiving sins against us personally is of the utmost importance. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) There too, Jesus is our ultimate example. He had no sins to need to be forgiven, but even so, on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) When we really understand how much we’ve been forgiven, forgiving others should be a matter of course, and something we do with joy.

This of course applies to me, as it does to everyone. I feel like I forgive pretty easily, but I still catch myself resenting various things and getting upset about them. As it says in Hebrews, I need to “Fix [my] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [I need to] consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that [I] will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) I’ve certainly not had anywhere near the stuff done to me that Jesus had done to Him, on any level, physical or emotional or social. He will enable me to do what He did, (John 14:12) forgiving many so that they may be brought from darkness to light, from death to life, for the glory of God.

Father, I still don’t fully understand forgiveness, but help me be an instrument of Your forgiveness to many, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Morning Devotions; July 30, 2020

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

It is widely agreed that Mark is actually the recorded recollections of Peter, which shows in the next verse specifying that Peter went looking for Jesus at this point. The experience obviously made a significant impact on him. Jesus had just had some very successful ministry, and the natural human response would be to stay and build on that. However, Jesus’ response was to spend time alone with His Father, listening to what He had to say. As a result, in obedience to His commission, he moved on to minister in other places as well. When Jesus Himself placed such a priority on spending time with God and getting lined up with Him, we certainly should do the same. We can certainly identify with the pressures Jesus felt, with all the expectations of the people around Him. We are never completely free from such pressures because society as a whole has expectations, and those who are close to us in various ways have specific expectations. That’s all the more reason to take time every morning to get quiet before God and receive His orders for the day. The very idea of getting up so early in the morning is somewhat “counter-cultural” in most places today, but the biggest barrier is our own inertia. We have to decide that time with God is more important than whatever TV show, or anything else, that might keep us up at night. Our need for sleep is fundamental, and simply sacrificing sleep, which is how a lot of people view morning devotions, does not hold up in the long run. We have to decide that morning time with God is more important to us than whatever tends to keep us up at night. That’s not easy when the world expects us to value those late-night activities. Japanese in general are often chronically short on sleep. Students, particularly from high school through college, have so many demands on their time that sleep is one of the first things to go. Then in the business world it only gets worse, and the lack of sleep is a major factor in the famous Japanese phenomenon of being “worked to death” (karoshi). After a recent case of that, it was found that the young woman in question had been getting about 10 hours of sleep a week. God certainly doesn’t intend for us to live – or die – like that, but we’ve got to make the fundamental decision to listen to Him first, before we consider all the other demands on us. Only then can we get the work/life balance we need to be healthy, happy, and successful.

I am deeply grateful to have had the example of my parents when I was growing up. They didn’t make a big deal of it so I wasn’t always aware of it, but time with God was indeed their first priority. I tried to emulate that when I was in college, more out of a sense of obligation than anything else, but it certainly didn’t last long. It was only after I was a husband and father that the Lord got through to me and I repented of my misplaced priorities, but it has now been over 45 years since I got into the firm habit of starting each day with God. I couldn’t be more grateful. As a pastor I deeply desire that everyone in my care have that same sort of relationship with their Creator, but I can’t force anyone into it. All I can do is pray and set an example, encouraging them by speaking the truth in love.

Father, thank You for this clear reminder. I had been wondering what I was to speak on Sunday! Help me get this into a clear outline, and prepare the hearts of those who will hear the message as well. May Your Word flow through me unhindered and undistorted, to break down the lying fortresses the enemy has set up in people’s minds and hearts, setting them free to be and do all that You intend, for their incalculable blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Speaking with Authority; July 29, 2020

Mark 1:22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

I have to say that my first reaction on reading this just now was to remember Preaching class in seminary, where I was required to quote commentaries in every message. To me, that seemed then, and seems now, to be imitating the “teachers of the law,” who go by human precedent rather than communicating what God is saying now. That is evident in Judaism today, when the Talmud is put on the same level as the Torah, but it is certainly evident in Christian churches as well. We are to study to understand history and context and language, but our ultimate source must be the Author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit. When we don’t understand that in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus was delegating His authority to us, our preaching and teaching will be uncertain and generally off base. There must be an essential humility, understanding that the message does not and must not originate in us, but there should also be an assurance that it is the Word of the Lord, and He will use it to accomplish that for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11) There are as many styles of preaching and teaching as there are preachers and teachers, and none of them are without value. However, teaching history and context and language must always be for the purpose of preparing people to hear the Word of the Lord in all its power and purity. Humanistic preaching comes in many flavors, but none of them have any real spiritual nutrition.

As should be evident by now, I’ve always felt that prophetic preaching was the way to go. That’s not to say predictive, necessarily, but rather speaking out what God is saying. I’ve heard plenty of that, and I’ve also heard plenty of garbage. I don’t want to be a purveyor of garbage! I do not want to claim to speak for the Lord and then say anything that originates in my mind alone. I recognize that each speaker colors what the Lord speaks through us, because of personality and a number of other factors, but I don’t want to add any distortion whatsoever. I’m grateful to say that the Lord often speaks to me through my own mouth, whether or not I recognize it at the moment. I must be on my guard against the human tendency to feel that “I said it, so that settles it.” I am never the ultimate authority! Pride and conceit have been pitfalls for me all my life, but the answer is not to feel that God can’t use me or speak through me. After all, He spoke through a donkey! (Numbers 22:21-33)

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me be faithful to listen to You consistently, hearing You accurately and communicating Your Word without distortion. May Your authority operate through me to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8) and set people free, (John 8:32) for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Anger; July 28, 2020

Matthew 21:19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

Just the other day someone was asking me if Jesus ever got angry, and here we have a pretty clear answer. We’ve just had the report of His clearing the merchants out of the Court of the Gentiles in the temple, (verse 12) and John reports that he even made a whip to do that. (John 2:15) Here, irritated at not finding anything to eat when He was hungry, He cursed a fig tree and it withered, when Mark records that it wasn’t even the season for figs! (Mark 11:13) Actually, when a fig tree is in full leaf is will often have a few “out of season” figs on it, so Jesus’ expectation wasn’t entirely unreasonable. In any case, Jesus was indeed fully human. We tend to paint an impossible image of Jesus, when He was fully human as well as fully divine. That’s why the song, To Be Like Jesus, isn’t at all unreasonable. As Paul said, we are indeed to “put to death” the flesh that is in rebellion against God, (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5) but that doesn’t mean we become inhuman, it rather means that our humanity comes into line with God, in service to Him. We aren’t to use our humanity as an excuse to sin, (Romans 6:1-2) but neither are we to beat ourselves up over being human. We have created the term, “righteous indigna­tion,” to describe what Jesus felt when He cleansed the temple and such, and we like to claim that for ourselves any time we get angry, but the truth is most often different. That said, there are too many times when we don’t get angry at things that God hates, like human trafficking, abortion and such. We turn things upside down, using anger in destructive ways instead of as a tool in God’s hands. It is not at all that we are never to be angry, but rather that our anger is to be submitted to God and channeled as He intends.

I have a rather strange relationship with anger, because I don’t like to be angry, and so get angry that I’m angry! That’s about as stupid as it sounds, but it’s a pretty accurate description. However, I’m not to fear anger but rather let God use it, as I’ve just written. When Jesus cleansed the temple, His disciples remembered something David had written: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” (Psalm 69:9; John 2:17) I need to be willing to be “consumed by zeal!” At the same time, my wife tells me that I sometimes come across as angry when I don’t consciously feel angry, and that’s not a good thing. Again, I need to be more like Jesus! I am still very much a work in progress, and I need to remember that everyone around me is too, and respond to them accordingly.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me submit all my emotions to You, allowing You to use them to motivate me to do Your will and nothing less, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Marriage; July 27, 2020

Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

This is a passage I quote every time I do premarital counseling, warning the couple that they’re getting into marriage for life. It speaks to the human condition, and as such is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines. The Pharisees had just asked Jesus about the rabbinical opinion that it was OK for a man to divorce his wife over anything, with the specific example given in such arguments of her burning his breakfast. That might seem absurd on the face of it, but sharia law, taught by Muslims around the world, says essentially that, and all a man has to do to divorce his wife is say, “I divorce you” three times, and it’s final. I’ve heard of men saying it twice right off the bat so they’ll only have to say it one more time, in order to keep their wife subject to them. That again seems heartless, but then America has “no fault divorce,” that really treats marriage just as casually. This passage also deals with the whole homosexual/transgender mess, with Jesus quoting Genesis 1:27 about mankind being created male and female, with no other options. Mankind has always looked for “other options” besides what God has said and done. The thing is, God knows the end from the beginning, so He’s always right! In verses 11 and 12 Jesus talks about exceptions to this, but here he is talking about God’s design. Marriage is not something to be entered into casually, but for the vast majority of people it is part of God’s good plan for them.

I grew up with such an attractive example of marriage in my parents that I was eager to get into it, and so got married at 20, less than 24 hours after graduating from college. People are regularly amazed at that, but I couldn’t be more grateful. We had our children while we had plenty of youthful energy, and we’re still going strong after 51 years. Marriage has been an integral part of who we are, and I have no trouble understanding and agreeing with the expression, “one flesh.” Japanese has an expression to refer to this that I like very much, that means “one heart same body.” The Bible I use in marriage counseling uses that expression, but more recent editions of the same translation limit it to “one body,” since that is a more literal translation. I still like including the heart! In Jesus’ day the idea of a woman divorcing her husband didn’t even come up, but I counseled one woman to whom I said, “Congratulations,” when her divorce was finalized! It was a sad occasion, even so. Being in such a good marriage myself, it is always something of a mystery to me when I deal with people who are struggling in marriage. Being self-centered is the greatest enemy to genuine happiness, and certainly to a good marriage. I have learned that I’m not to ignore myself or my needs, but the way to greatest happiness and satisfaction is to focus on my wife and her needs. I find it fascinating that, as a single man, Paul could have written so accurately that “He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:28) I delight to love myself through loving my wife, and I am convinced that is God’s plan for us.

Father, thank You for Your overwhelming grace toward me. Help me be an example and an encouragement to others, so that the lies of the devil may be exposed and people be set free to walk in all that You have planned for them, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Faith; July 26, 2020

Matt 17:19-21 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.)

There are several things about this passage. The first is that the disciples expected to be able to deliver the boy from the demon and were surprised when they were unable to do so. They genuinely wanted to know why they couldn’t. The second is that they were embarrassed that they hadn’t been able to deliver him, which means that they were used to much better results generally. The third is of course Jesus’ response to their inquiry. He didn’t beat around the bush! The descriptive word for their faith in the Japanese is “thin,” as in a thin piece of paper, or your hair getting thin. I’m sure that stung their pride a bit! His next statement tests our faith indeed! We don’t claim mountain-moving faith, yet Jesus said it takes only a very small faith to be able to do such things. I have always felt that the metaphor of a seed was important, because a seed, properly planted, doesn’t remain small, but grows because it’s alive. That said, this is still an earth-shaking statement on Jesus’ part. I wonder if verse 21 wasn’t added by some copyist as a escape clause of sorts, which is why only some manuscripts have it. (Even though it appears in other Gospel accounts of this incident.)  I really think we have very little understanding of faith, even on the most basic level. Some Christian teachers seem to have faith in faith, rather than faith in the Lord! It is true that we have only begun to touch the level of authority originally invested in Adam and Eve, which they proceeded to relinquish to the devil by their sin. However, “I believe in me” can get you into a lot of trouble. The Japanese word for confidence is written, “self-faith.” When I deal with the English word in my Medical English classes I tell my students that I don’t believe in me, because I’ll always betray myself. Rather, I believe in God, and so I can have assurance. The world is inspired by the Rogers and Hammerstein song that says, “I have confidence in confidence alone. So, can’t you see, I have confidence in me.” That is worlds apart from the faith Jesus is talking about, and that’s why we fail so often.

This is a struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for every thoughtful believer. I am more sure that God is real than I am that I am real, but I still don’t necessarily speak to mountains and have them move. I can say that my faith is growing, which is encouraging, I certainly can’t say I have faith in my faith, but I do know without question that anything at all is possible for God, and He might even use me in the process. I do pray for many things, but I don’t do much demanding that things happen. I have learned that God knows things perfectly, and I don’t know much at all. That was a hard lesson for me! I am still learning about faith, and I certainly look forward to the day when I stand before my Lord and faith becomes sight. Until that day I am to be faithful, seeking His will and being fully obedient, so that His will may be manifested in and through me for His glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all that You are doing. I see so much upheaval in the world, and so many plans of men being totally frustrated. Thank You. Help me follow Your plans and not my own, operating in the assurance of Your presence and guidance. As You told me, help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Giving Credit; July 25, 2020

Matthew 15:31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Performing so many miracles, Jesus naturally got a lot of attention. However, He managed to do it in a way that caused people to praise the God of Israel, and not think any of the other gods with which they were familiar might have been responsible. People in general try to take credit for whatever good or impressive things they might do. In contrast, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) In His time on this earth, Jesus didn’t exercise His power as a part of the Trinity, He operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, in strict obedience to the Father. That’s why He could say, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) To the degree that we are filled with and operating by the Holy Spirit, in perfect obedience to the Father, we have the same power flowing through us that Jesus did. However in such a case, taking credit is the furthest thing from our mind. We will be like Peter was when he said, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12) Peter knew exactly where the power had come from, and he gave full credit where it was due.

I’ve not had remarkable miracles manifesting in my ministry, but at the same time I am deeply aware that I couldn’t do what I do apart from the grace and power of God. I have had people be amazed at how I have forgiven some people, and even Christians have told me they don’t have my faith in that area. However, I know that I couldn’t do that apart from the grace of God in my own life. When God has forgiven me, how can I not forgive others? God has brought me through some trials of faith that I don’t wish on anybody, but in all of that He has taught me that His grace is indeed sufficient for me. To put it like the TEV translation does, His grace is all I need. However, I wouldn’t have that assurance if it weren’t for His grace, His presence in me. That might seem like somewhat circular reasoning, but it reflects the reality that everything good in me comes from Him. I took credit for my accomplishments far too many times, and I now know the stupidity of that. I want my life to cause people to praise the God of Israel, because He alone is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the trip to the emergency room last night, and for the peace You gave me in that. Thank You that we were treated respectfully and kindly, and that the care we received has been helpful in reducing Cathy’s pain. Father, she endures so much of that! I do pray that You would keep her from any unnecessary pain, and that together we would indeed cause people to acknowledge and praise You, for Your glory alone. Thank You. Praise God!

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Focus; July 24, 2020

Matt 15:25-28 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

This story is one I have struggled with in the past, because it seemed to me to be so uncharacteristic of Jesus. His remark about “little dogs” seemed incredibly cold, and not like the image I had of Him at all. What I realize right now, however, is that absolutely everything Jesus did was in obedience to His Father; He did nothing outside of His instructions. After His resurrection the commission expanded to all of mankind, but at this point He was sent strictly to the Jews. So much for antisemitic Christians! This woman’s humility and faith, accepting the label of “little dog” and still clinging to Jesus, moved Jesus to the point that He granted her request. However, Jesus’ focus was on what He felt God was telling Him to do at that moment. There are several places where the Bible says things like, “He healed all who came to Him,” but it’s obvious He didn’t heal everyone in Judea, or there wouldn’t have been the beggar at the Beautiful Gate for Peter and John to heal after Jesus had gone back to heaven. (Acts 3) Some people seem fixated on making other people feel guilty for not participating in whatever they have as their ministry. That’s simply wrong. It’s not that their ministry isn’t valid and important, it’s that it’s their ministry, and not everyone is supposed to participate. This causes a lot of conflict in individual churches and in the Church as a whole. We are to rejoice when God sends people to work alongside us, and we are explicitly told to pray for such fellow-workers. (Matthew 9:38) We are to let people know of the opportunity to serve God in that way, but we are not to dump guilt on them if they don’t jump on our bandwagon. And we ourselves are to be faithful to pray for all the concerns the Lord brings to our attention, but listen carefully before we jump in to do more. We are not to ignore the divine appointments God gives us, certainly, but we are not to be man-centered in seeking them out. We are far from perfect, but the devil delights to make us feel guilty for things that aren’t our responsibility.

This is a complicated issue that I have struggled with over the years. I’m sure I have failed to follow through many times when God had a task for me to do, but I have also over-extended myself by taking on tasks that God did not intend for me. It all boils down to the fact that I don’t have the wisdom and knowledge I need to get it all right. Only God has that, so my focus must be on listening accurately to Him and obeying Him fully. There are things He has for me to do that He hasn’t assigned to other people, but He certainly hasn’t assigned me to meet every need even in my own field of view, much less in the whole city, nation, or world. God cares about all those things, but He has other people He wants to use to deal with them.

Father, this is an important revelation. Thank You. Keep me from using it as an excuse to avoid things You do have for me to do, but keep me from being distracted by the limitless supply of things I could do. May I seek Your will alone, recognize it, and do it with all I am, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Failures; July 23, 2020

Matthew 14:28-29 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

The whole story is so famous that I had a hard time deciding how much to transcribe for this. We put Peter down for losing his focus and starting to sink, and even Jesus chided him for his lapse of faith, (verse 31) but how many of us would have had enough faith to get out of the boat in the first place? For that matter, how many of us would have had the boldness to ask for confirmation the way Peter did? Peter was a man with many rough edges, but Jesus recognized qualities in him that would be very valuable in establishing His Church. It was not long after this that Jesus asked His disciples to define Him, and Peter so beautifully replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) I would venture to say that the experience of walking on water had a lot to do with the assurance of that declaration. God knows the gems He has placed in each human being, and He knows what it will take to bring those out and polish them. Some people accept the “mining” and polishing that requires, and some reject it and run from Him. Peter’s ultimate test was one he seemed to fail, when he denied three times that he knew Jesus, but where he didn’t fail was that he didn’t run from Jesus, but just acknowledged his own fault. (Matthew 26:75) In response, Jesus gave him a personal audience after His resurrection that we aren’t given the details of, just that it happened. (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5) We often focus on failures, our own or others’, and fail to see the good things God is doing in that process. In today’s story, if Peter hadn’t started sinking, he might well have become insufferably puffed up about himself, instead of being absolutely convinced of the deity of Jesus. We are not to condemn, either ourselves or others, but rather seek God for how He is going to turn failure into blessing. (Romans 8:28)

I have long known that there has never been anyone who achieved great success without also experiencing failure. One of the notable things about Elon Musk is that he has consistently said, “Failure is an option.” Playing it safe doesn’t bring great victory! At the same time, I don’t know how well I have applied that knowledge. So long as knowledge remains theoretical, it’s just words. It is only when it is applied and experienced that it becomes real. That’s what James was talking about in James 1:22, that I quote frequently. I need to be willing to “get out of the boat,” even if I sink a few times, to apply my faith that my God can do anything at all, even using me.

Father, thank You for this Word. Guide me in communicating it on Sunday. Thank You for the beautiful paintings Jim Van Farrow did for us of this story. Show me how to use those to get the message across. Guide in who reads the Scripture in Japanese. Lord, it looks like we will have a larger-than-usual group here Sunday. Help me not be distracted by numbers or anything else, but be fully faithful and obedient to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Jesus’ Compassion; July 22, 2020

Matthew 14:14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

This is such a picture of Jesus’ heart. He had just been told of his cousin John’s execution by Herod, and He wanted some time away by Himself, both to grieve and to order His thoughts, since He knew He was destined for a cross Himself. However, He placed the needs of the people above His own. With 5000 men, plus women and children, this was a huge group. We don’t know how many of them needed healing, but Jesus was willing to do it. In terms of spiritual authority He could have spoken a healing command and everyone would have been healed at once, but then they wouldn’t have felt Jesus and the Father’s personal love for them, and that was a matter of great importance. We have many records of Jesus healing with just a word, but more often He touched the person being healed, and I feel that was probably the case here. That’s a lot of touching! We can add physical exhaustion to the emotional stress Jesus was experiencing. Even so, His concern was for those to whom He was ministering, rather than for Himself. The result was the astonishing miracle of feeding that great crowd from one boy’s lunch, as we know from John 6:8-9. John didn’t repeat very many of the things recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, because He wanted to add to the record, but feeding this huge crowd was too big an event to pass over, and he did add more detail. In any case, Jesus’ compassion on the people resulted not only in the healing of many but also in a major demonstration of His authority.

I find myself having more empathy for Jesus here than I might have had before, because I just did the funeral of a man I baptized 22 years ago. Over the three days of seeing him on his deathbed, then holding his wake and his funeral, the emotional exhaustion built up, and I wasn’t very enthusiastic about ministry to someone else Monday night, even though they needed my full attention. I need to remember that even on the cross Jesus was concerned for others, praying for forgiveness for us whose sins sent Him there (Luke 23:34) and interacting with the man crucified beside Him. (Luke 23:39-43) In myself I couldn’t follow that example, but as God assured Paul, His grace is sufficient to get me through anything He brings me to. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Some years ago someone came up with a catchy little illustration that has a lot of truth to it: JOY is found by focusing on Jesus, Others, and then Yourself. As has been pointed out, self-care is important, but Jesus must be my first priority, and then those to whom He sends me.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for getting me through this past weekend, and for blessing others through, and even in spite of, me. Help me be faithful, available at all times as an instrument of Your grace, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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