We are His Workmanship

smiling woman at the field

There’s something special about crafting something that took a lot of sacrifice. This can be from playing sports, to learning an instrument, to working on a masterpiece. These things take time, energy, and motivation. They don’t just happen. Ever. In fact, it’s an impossibility. When we put blood, sweat, and tears into learning something the payoff is absolutely magnificent!

Paul tells the Ephesians that we are God’s workmanship. Think about that for a moment. God, when we were dead in our own trespasses, made us alive together with Christ! By grace God saved us and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith. . . “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

God takes pride in his children–his workmanship. We are his and he is ours. We belong together and God created us for good works. Our accomplishment in this brings everything back to God. We become one with God and Christ through his Grace. When we realize the value of our worth we are encouraged to work hard for the sake of others.

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

cute family picture

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus was still talking to the crowd about not blaspheming the Holy Spirit and told the story about a person who had seven evil spirits return when his family appeared. His mother and brothers asked to talk with him. Luke said that they could not get to him because of the crowd.

But he replied to the man, “Who is my other, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48 ESV). He then pointed to his disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (vs 49, 50). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have one thing in common with this story: this story is sandwiched between Jesus’ speeches about not hiding/squandering their faith.

Those stories include the parable of the sower, the parable of the weeds, the parable of the hidden treasure, the lamp under the stand, and so on. Jesus’ point that those who do the will of God are his family members was reinforced and even magnified by all the parables the precede and follow. It’s clear that Jesus puts the most emphasis on being doers of God’s word. He also makes a strong contrast between those who get “chocked out” of their faith by the worries of this world and those who set their roots down deep and grow. Being doers of God’s will requires tremendous discipline.

Return of the Unclean Spirit

close up photography of beige concrete decor

In Matthew, Jesus gave a strange account of a person who has an “unclean spirit” who leaves him. Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none” (Matthew 12:43-42 ESV). This is interesting, because it is in contrast to the story of the demons who entered the pigs and went into the water. Water, or the deep, is where demons were thought to live. What’s different here is the the demon passes through waterless places seeking rest.

The restless demon says that it will enter back into the “house” from which it came. But it finds it swept clean and put in order. So the demon goes out and “brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first” (vs. 45). Jesus said that’s what it will be like with this evil generation.

There are lots of points that can be made. First, people should never let their guard down. Just because we are living in a season of peace doesn’t mean the devil isn’t prepared to attack. Second, We shouldn’t be assuming. Evil people clean on the surface and assume they are cool with God. Clearly they are caught off-guard when evil comes back. Finally, it can probably be argued that evil people create an inviting environment for evil spirits. It’s not insignificant that these evil spirits chose a person as their home rather than the “deep” of the sea, where they belong.

In my opinion, Jesus is giving a stern warning that evil shouldn’t be tolerated. He previously said that a tree is known by its fruit. Jesus said, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (vs. 34). We’ve got to do good and be on the lookout for evil.

A Kingdom Divided Cannot Stand

group of people standing on top of building during sunset

After Jesus cast the demon out of the man that made him mute, Jesus was accused of casting the demon out by the name of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus knew their thoughts and said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25, 26 ESV).

Jesus then asked them by whom their sons cast demons out. If Jesus was doing it by the name of Beelzebul, then so were the Pharisees. Jesus went on to explain that all blasphemies are forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the one to come. Most people focus on this part of Jesus’ speech and rightfully so. If there is an unforgivable sin, we want to know for sure that we are able to avoid it at all costs.

But just as important is Jesus’ point that a kingdom cannot be divided and stand. There is no room for people to be divided as a family, as a nation, or as a church. At a time when our nation is so divided, it’s especially important for Christians to stand united and show the world that Jesus is king! There’s no need or reason for division. We all share the same Savior. God’s church is a people of beauty. When people see unity, healing takes place!

Nobody Will Hear Jesus’ Voice

woman placing her finger between her lips

There is something unnerving about being mute. If you’ve ever witnessed someone who is nonverbal, especially someone who once was able to speak, you know that it is very distressing. To not be able to communicate with precise words is frightening. Daniel experienced a time when he was mute. After hearing about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel was worried and became mute. When he had another vision of his own, Daniel recounted, “When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute” (Daniel 10:15). It wasn’t until someone in the likeness of a child touched his lips that Daniel could speak again.

In Mark 9 a demon had come over a little boy and had made him mute. The boy’s dad said, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute” (Mark 9:17). The demon was violent and would often throw the boy down and would throw him into both fire and water. When Jesus cast the demon out, it convulsed the boy so violently that people thought the boy was dead. In Matthew 9 Jesus healed a man with a demon that made him mute. When the demon was cast out, “the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, ‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel'” (Matthew 9:33).

Given the “oppression” of being kept from speaking that’s mentioned in the Bible, it may be surprising that Isaiah prophesied that the messiah would be oppressed and silenced. In fact, Jesus ordered his followers not to talk at all about him. This was to fulfil what Isaiah said: “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). Jesus actually spent a huge portion of his life being mute. This demonstrates that the signs were very important. Jesus did not have a huge platform. There was no social media and often he was made mute. Yet God’s kingdom advanced like never before. We don’t always need a big platform to bless other people. We need to remember that God is the one working through us!

God’s Desire for Mercy

Satellite Shows Developing U.S. Nor'easter

In Matthew’s gospel account, he retells a time that the disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain to satisfy their hunger. “When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath'” (Matthew 12:2 ESV). Jesus was quick to remind them of the time David was hungry and did what was unlawful by entering the Temple and eating the bread of Presence, which was reserved only for the priests. He also reminded them that the priests profane the Sabbath in the temple when they make sacrifices.

Jesus then said, “I tell you, something greater than the Sabbath is here. And if you had known what it means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (vs. 7, 8). Jesus’ point (as well as God’s point in Hosea 6:6 that Jesus quotes, is that God prefers mercy over following the letter of the law. We can technically get the law right and not have a good heart. I’ve known people in law enforcement who give family members tickets for very minor infractions. Isn’t it better to show mercy to the innocent than to enforce every law and make their life burdensome?

Jesus is the lord of Sabbath, and he gives us room to practice mercy to the innocent. In fact, he expects us to!

The Dust of the Rabbi

black and white photo of bare feet and dust

There was an ancient phrase called “following in the dust of the Rabbi.” It meant that disciples, or followers, of a teacher would follow so closely that the dust kicked up from the rabbi’s feet would get on the people following. It was an honor and privilege to follow in the dust of a Rabbi. Usually someone would seek out a teacher they wanted to follow. A teacher could allow or disallow someone to follow them. This practice was usually formal and occurred in Jewish religious centers.

This is where Jesus differed. Here, the Rabbi was walking around the Sea of Galilee, far away from Jerusalem where the religious schools were. And it was not followers seeking Jesus, but was rather Jesus seeking followers. Where he actually called Peter, Andrew, James and John is debatable, but we know they grew up in Bethsaida, a town that means “house of fishing.” Bethsaida was a town of only about 600-800 people. It’s likely, given the narratives in the Bible, that they were fishing in their hometown when they were called.

According to Matthew, Peter and Andrew were casting their nets when Jesus was walking along the lake. He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 ESV). They immediately left everything and followed him. He saw James and John with their father a little while later. They were in their boat mending nets. Jesus called them and they, too, left everything to follow Jesus. The rest is, as they say, history! It took a tremendous level of commitment and courage to follow Jesus. Sometimes we forget that these disciples left everything to follow in the dust of the Rabbi. And he calls us to follow him too!