Two Blind Men

Matthew 20:29-30. “And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David.”

How do you suppose those two blind men knew that Jesus was the Lord, the Son of David? They couldn’t read, after all. Clearly they had some education, though, and had listened to the Law and the Prophets being read. Clearly they understood Who Jesus was, though their eyes could not see Him. In simple faith, they called to Him for mercy, believing  fully that He was the Son of David, the Son of God.

Wouldn’t you love to have been there?

Let Him Be Your Minister

Matthew 20:24-28. “And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Can you imagine?  The other ten disciples heard about James’ and John’s request, and they were jealous, muttering and murmuring among themselves at these two upstarts who dared to place themselves in positions of importance.

Jesus gathered them together to scold them–mildly, but kindly.  “You men know that among the Gentiles, the kings, princes, and men of power rule over them and expect to be treated accordingly. But among you, this is not to be.  I’m teaching you something new here, and this is what I say:  If you want to be chief, then you must be willing to serve.  If you want to be first, you must be willing to be last.  If you would follow in My footsteps, you must be willing to minister rather than to have others minister to you.  This is a new and better way. Put aside your petty desire to be SOMEONE, and be willing to be NO ONE.

How the disciples must have blushed in embarrassment. I’m thinking it was very quiet among them for some time. They were still learning, still seeking to understand this new and very different attitude that Jesus modeled for them.

It is in our nature to desire recognition, praise, and esteem. Sometimes, when we do rise to places of leadership, we forget our own weakness and trumpet our own success and importance.

There is an old saying that I love: He who blows his own horn generally plays a solo!

Ye Know Not What ye Ask

Matthew 20:22-23. “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto Him, We are able. And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.”

Indeed, these two brothers had no idea what they were asking. Jesus’ response to them was clear:  “Only if you are able and willing to follow in My footsteps, to suffer as I will suffer, to endure as I will endure, can you ask such a favor. And you shall. You will endure suffering. But only My Father knows to whom will be granted special places of favor. It is not Mine to decide.”

How eagerly they responded, “Yes!  We are able to follow You in suffering!”

The scriptures and historical accounts tell us that James, who was the first of the twelve to be killed, was beheaded by Herod. His brother John, who was the disciple that Jesus loved, was the writer of the Gospel of John, the epistles of John, and the book of Revelation. Tradition tells us, and many historical writings bear it out, that John was at one point thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil but received no injuries. In his old age, he was exiled to the isle of Patmos. He lived to be 100 years old, which was a very old age in that time.

Do you wonder. . . .if they had known what faced them, would they have been so eager to proclaim their ability to follow in Jesus’ path?  

Are we?

 

 

 

What Wilt Thou?

Matthew 20:20-21. “Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. And He said unto her, “What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom.”

Jesus had just told His disciples that He would suffer betrayal, torture, and death in Jerusalem, but that  He would rise again  three days after His death. We aren’t invited into the conversation that must have taken place following this announcement.  Instead, we are shown the picture of a loving mother who is concerned for the future of her sons. I don’t think we should be too quick to condemn her. 

In Matthew 27:56 coupled with Mark 15:40, we learn that the “mother of Zebedee’s children” (James and John) was named Salome. We are told that she worshipped Jesus. The language would indicate that she knelt before Him, acknowledging Him in a reverential way. Then she asked Him for something very special. 

It is at this point that we often tsk-tsk this woman, feeling that she is out of place in seeking special favors for her sons. However, when we look at the same incident in Mark 15, we see clearly that James and John were with her; that, in fact, the request had come through their mother from them. Jesus did not address her again in this incident, but spoke directly to the two disciples, whom He loved.  

Salome received no rebuke from Jesus. i believe that He understood her heart, and felt no anger toward her.  Salome is among the women who stood away from the cross and watched during His crucifixion, women who had followed Him and ministered to Him and the other disciples during His ministry.  Salome was not a greedy helicopter mom. She was simply relaying a request from her sons–who should have known better!

James and John had doubtless hear Jesus’ response to Peter when he had asked about rewards. They had heard that the twelve would be seated on thrones, judging (having authority over) Israel in the Kingdom. It was customary then that an Eastern king would seat his two most important followers on either side of his throne, indicating their place of position and favor. James and John coveted those positions, and apparently felt they had earned the right to request those places next to Jesus. 

Favor always comes with merit. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Jesus’ response was. 

Friday Counseling Issues: Abandonment, Part 5

A person who has been abandoned, whether physically or emotionally, tends to develop habits of self-harm. Usually, these habits involve substance abuse:  Alcohol, drugs, cutting, sexual promiscuity, obesity. Because he believes he is not worth loving, he doesn’t care much about taking care of his health. 

abandoned-dream

The tendency to try to bury the hurt and fear under alcohol, food, sex, or drugs is very strong.  Of course, doing so only creates more problems and makes healing slower and more complicated. 

Along with self-abuse comes the need for constant, excessive reassurance.  This need is not, of course, restricted only to those who have been abandoned. We’ve all known people who seem to need  to be told often and with feeling that they are ok, that they are loved, needed, look wonderful, have talents and gifts, and so forth. And we all know how draining it is to  be in the position of the one who must always give the reassurance that is demanded, without ever getting anything back. The inevitable result of such a relationship is that sooner or later, the one who is always required to give reassurance will drift away to find a healthier relationship. Once again, the abandoned person’s self-perception is validated; she is not worthy of being loved, of having friends, of being cared for.  In a twisted kind of way, she feels kind of good about being proven right.

Some who counsel in this area believe that abandonment and narcissism are closely related.  That’s an interesting theory, and makes some sense to me.  The truth is, when any of us focus  on our misery to the exclusion of anything else, we are truly putting ourselves and our needs first and foremost.  “No one else loves me,”  goes the inner monologue, “So I will focus on loving myself.” Because no one wants to be around a person who is fixated on his own value, needs, appearance and popularity, he is quickly abandoned again.  It’s a circular pattern, like a snake eating its own tail. 

Self-esteem becomes part of the dialogue here as well, in psychological realms. If you’ve been following my Friday Counseling Issues posts for some time, perhaps you’ve already read how I feel about the whole concept of self-esteem.  If not, you can go here.  Scroll down to the bottom–I think there are four posts–and read to the top. My position is not popular in today’s mental health arena, just so you know ahead of time and won’t be too shocked :)

Next week, we’re going to look at some ideas to help yourself if you have abandonment in your history. 

 

 

Son of Man

Matthew 20:17-19. “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem: and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again.”

This passage marks the definitive turn in Jesus’  path that would lead Him to Calvary.  He knew the disciples needed to hear and understand what was going to happen in the near future, so He took them aside from the path and gathered them around Himself. His words were clear, simple, and amazing.

1.  We’re going to Jerusalem.  This is what’s going to happen.

2.  I will be betrayed–turned against by someone close to Me–to the chief priest and scribes who have been looking for a way to kill me.

3.  I will be arrested.  I will undergo questioning, and mockery; I will be horribly beaten, and then I will be crucified by the Gentiles, because it is not legal for the Jews to execute Me.

4.  Here’s the good news:  After three days, I will rise again!

Well!  What consternation those words must have caused!  What questions, what fears, what denials!  You’d think so, wouldn’t you?  Next time, we’ll see what some of the disciples had to say.

Go Thy Way

Matthew 20:14-16. “Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?  So the last shall be first, and first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”

The great lesson in this parable is that God will give the rewards in His own sovereignty, as it seems best to Him, never out of harmony with His justice. When we labor for Christ, it is not to be for the sake of reward as one who is hired for a specified wage. There is to be no trace of watching the clock or counting the pennies.  Such a person is nothing more than a hired servant. The believer who labors for Christ is not just a hired servant to be paid off and dismissed at the end of the work day. He labors for the love of God, and the love of lost souls. 

The owner of the vineyard admonished those who complained to simply take the wage they had agreed upon, and go their way. He asked them, “Isn’t it lawful that I do as I choose with my own property, in my own affairs?  If I choose to pay the last the same as the first, isn’t that my right? Are you turning an evil eye upon me, giving me attitude, because I have chosen to do a good thing?” 

He went on to say that “many are called, but few are chosen.” This is not the call to salvation, but the call to work in the field, the world, reaching the lost for Christ. Indeed, every believer is so called. Few, however, answer the call. They will be rewarded not according to their own idea of what they deserve, but according to the Master’s will. 

And so ends this important parable, and Jesus turns His footsteps toward Jerusalem.