Lay Thy Hand Upon Her

Matthew 9:18. “While He spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live.”

Sometimes I wonder if we really understand the pathos in many of these stories.  The immediate, obvious story here is the tragic death of a young girl, probably from some disease.  Maybe a fever raged in her body, taking her swiftly.  Maybe she had some sort of cancer that ate her slowly from the inside.  We don’t know.  But any parent can imagine the pain and grief when a dearly-loved child dies.  It is out of time.  The child is not supposed to die before the parent.  I’m sure there was unbearable sorrow in the hearts of the parents of this girl.

This father had faith, but not the faith of the centurion. Remember, the centurion asked Jesus to simply speak the word, and his servant would be healed.  This Jewish father, however, requested the physical presence of Jesus, and His touch.

The secondary meaning  is a dispensational truth.  Israel is often spoken of in the Old Testament as a daughter, the daughter of Zion.  The daughter who has died is then a type, or picture, of the people of Israel.  Only Jesus can bring life to Israel; only His presence can restore Israel.  The first time He came, they would not come to Him for new, abundant life. But He is coming again to raise up His people, to bring to life the daughter of Zion.

Always, I am amazed at the deeper meanings in these stories.  Jesus did nothing just for the sake of the miracle.  His miracles were always significant of so much more than just the healing, or the feeding, or the bringing back to life.

There’s another interesting twist to this story, as well. We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.

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Patches and Wineskins

Matthew 9:16-17. “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

I have four children. Three of them were boys. We went through lots and lots of jeans back in the day.  I used to save jeans that had become too worn to pass down. I would cut patches from them to put in the knees and backsides of jeans that were still in service. It didn’t take me long at all to understand that old fabric needed to be repaired with old fabric. A new-fabric patch would only pull at the hole and make it bigger because  the new patch would shrink with washing, Not a good fit.

I don’t have any experience with wine, so I had to look that one up. Why would new wine break old bottles? What I learned is that the old wineskins  get stretched to their limit during the fermenting process. Putting new wine into an old, brittle wineskin would result in an explosion.

What Jesus was describing here was a whole new order of things. The old garment is Judaism with its legal righteousness.  Because man had turned the Law into an instrument of self-righteousness by which one could gain heaven, it was to be put aside. A new garment, a better righteousness, was to be given  by Jehovah our Righteousness.  Right standing with God was to be gained not by following every letter of the Law, but by accepting the new garment of righteousness provided through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The tragedy is that man loves to believe he can be a part of his own salvation, and the new garment has become an old garment, patched with new fabric, tearing and being pulled out of true by the efforts of man to create yet another works-based path to God. How sad.

To mix law and grace together is to pour new wine into old wineskins.  When we do that, the old wineskins burst and we lose both the bottle and the new wine.

Ritualistic Christendom is also guilty of the new wine-old wineskin error.  It is neither Christian nor Jewish.  When we rely on ritual, legalistic modes of salvation, we have neither the Law nor grace. We are holding an outward form of godliness, but we deny the true power of God and His grace by diluting it with our own ideas of how salvation may be wrought.

My Own Musings: 

Another thought has just occured to me, another application of this principle.  All around the world today, including here in America, we are seeing a generation of  young pastors trying to pour “new wine” into the old church.  They believe the traditional church has outlived its usefulness, and needs a shot in the arm if it’s going to keep the young people.  But if you look, you will see that all this “new wine,” in the form of “new” ideas and modalities, has resulted in a lot of broken churches and broken people. Wouldn’t it be better for those who want to instill new life into the Church to go and build a new church for their new wine?  Then they can grow together, and there is not the loss and pain caused by pouring new wine into old wineskins.

Understand that I am NOT saying that this is what this passage is teaching. It is only an application of my own, and you are perfectly free to disagree. Courteously.

The Disciples of John

Matthe 9?14-15. “Then cam to Him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”

Once Jesus began His public  ministry, John the Baptist faded into the background. He still had followers, however, who apparently were watching Jesus and His disciples pretty closely.

Remember that John himself had lived in the desert and had eaten grasshoppers and wild honey.  (By the way, I’m told by some who have tried them that grasshoppers or locusts are actually quite tasty.  That’s good to know, I guess.)  Apparently John encouraged his followers to fast often; yet, here, they saw Jesus eating and drinking  with publicans and sinners.

There is no hint in these two verses that John’s disciples approached Jesus in a negative way. Typically, when someone did approach Him with ill intent, He turned the tables on them with lightening speed and left them muttering in their beards.  With this group, however, He took the time to give them a simple explanation.

Jesus declared Himself, in His response, to be the Bridegroom. Why, then, would the friends of the Bridegroom mourn and fast, when the Bridegroom is still present?  There will come a time, He said, when the Bridegroom is taken away. That will be the time when the children of the bridechamber will mourn and fast.

In the next two verses Jesus used a simple parable to further explain Himself. Check back tomorrow to see what He has to say next.

Miscellany

 

Tonight we’re celebrating my daughter’s birthday, coming up on Wednesday. She’ll be 36–and she’s my youngest!  I often wonder how on earth this happened, that I have children in their late 30’s and early 40’s 🙂  Truly the years have flown. The older I grow, the more I realize that life is truly just a vapor.

We have a friend about our age who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We are heartsick, knowing that treatment is almost worse than the cancer itself.  If you think of it, please pray for our friend and his family.

I’ve been fighting a migraine most of the week, so I’m feeling pretty drained this morning.  Been thinking about how sin has affected us.  Not necessarily our own sin, but the fact that we live in a fallen world where the rain does indeed fall on the just and the unjust.

Think how wonderful it will be in heaven, when our glorified bodies will be free of sin, sickness, pain and death.   No more night, no more pain, no more tears, no more crying again. . . .I’ll have to find that song.  I think it’s in one of my earlier posts.

Counseling Issues: Verbal Abuse

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”
― Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Shadow of the Wind 

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A person who is constantly verbally abused in childhood often marries someone who will continue the abuse.  Why?  Well, because she believes it’s true, and that she deserves it. This is true of any form of abuse.  One of the biggest lies we learn as children is that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Of course they do.

I could fill this whole post with pictures of this nature. I hope you’re getting the point.  Words do hurt. Sometimes, they can even kill.  More than one person has taken his own life because he believed he was worthless; that there was no hope of his ever improving; that everyone who knew him hated him.

As a teacher, I observed the pain that words and body language created for the children who weren’t quite acceptable.  You know, the little girl from the poor family, who didn’t have the right clothes.  The other little girls would turn their shoulders to her and whisper and giggle while she stood outside the circle, knowing she was being talked about. And I’m talking about very young kids here, kindergarten and first grade.  It got a lot worse as they grew older!

Fat. Skinny.Stupid. Ugly. Dumb. Clumsy. Retard. Dirty. Ragbag. Thunder thighs. Tank. The list is endless. What other children say is hurtful and ugly; what family members say is devastating.

Here’s a short list of Bible verses that address the issue.  There are hundreds more:

Matthew 12:36-37. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Col. 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Psalm 34:18. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Eph. 4:29. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Eph. 4:31. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

(All verses from the ESV)

So how do you know, in marriage, if you’re being verbally abused or if negative comments are truly meant to help you?

Verbal abuse can be  loud rants, quiet comments, obvious put-downs, or not-so-obvious remarks that undermine the partner. They can be said so that the offender can say, “Why are you being so touchy?  I was just teasing!” Or, even more difficult to deal with, the ever-popular “Well, I didn’t mean it that way. You’re too sensitive.” What all the methods have in common is the need to control, to be superior, to avoid taking personal responsibility, and to mask or deny failures.

Abusers of all sorts are incredibly expert at blame-shifting, making every offense the fault of the victim.  Here’s a good barometer to know if what you’re experiencing is truly verbal abuse:  You feel you just can’t win. You’re always wrong, he’s always right. He embarrasses you in public as well as private, and claims he was joking. He “doesn’t remember” saying anything hurtful. And finally, even if it has never happened, you worry that his verbal abuse will escalate into something physical.

So. What can you do to help yourself?

First, understand and accept that you cannot change him.  It’s not your job to change him. If he isn’t violent, calmly inform him that you will no longer tolerate his abuse. Tell him that disrespect is abuse, and that you have felt abused since Day One, right after the “I now pronounce you husband and wife” part. Tell him you want him to get some counseling–pastoral, professional, peer, whatever you think he will agree to.

Second, never try to match him verbally.  His sarcasm is well-honed.  He will win simply because he won’t quit until he does.  You will leave that battle feeling worse than ever. It would be much wiser to tell him that you love him too much to hurt him with words, and then walk away.

Third, it’s time to draw some boundaries and set some consequences.Next time he starts on you, calmly hold up your hand and say something like this: “John, I will no longer listen to your hurtful words. If you don’t stop, I will leave the conversation.  If I have to, I will leave the room. If you push me to it, I will leave the house.  Please treat me as your equal, which I am.” Note here that telling him you will walk away could be dangerous if he is also physically violent. In that case, don’t tell him.  Just do it.  Have your keys where you can grab them in a hurry.  Make sure you are much closer to a door than he is.  If there are children in the house, and he is escalating to physical violence, you may need to call the police from the safety of your car.  Lock yourself in. Sit tight until help arrives.

Fourth, there are other safety measures.  If the verbal abuse  becomes unbearable, it would be helpful for you to have a network of support from friends, family, church or coworkers that you can rely upon if you need a place to go. One tool all abusers use is to isolate their victims from everyone else, including and especially from their own families.  Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you have a cell phone (a cheap one is all you need).  Also, start a bank account in your own name only so that you are not caught without finances if you have to leave.

Finally, get counseling. If he won’t go, then go by yourself to learn how to cope with his abuse. And please, if he escalates to physical violence, get out of there RIGHT NOW!

I am aware that  there are some well-meaning religious leaders who will tell you that you just need to submit to your husband and pray, and everything will turn up sunshine and roses.  I know about the passage in I Peter 3 that teaches women that they can win their unbelieving husbands by their pure and humble behavior without ever speaking a word to him. I believe that passage. However, I have a little trouble with the “just submit and pray” thing. Such a position seems to me to assume that the husband is all that he should be–and often, these abusive men are absolute charmers when they are not within the confines of their own homes. They save their ugly side just for you, and sometimes they will even taunt you that no one will believe you if you try to get help.

The most troubling and confounding thing about all this is that so often the wife feels guilty and responsible, and that if she can just do better, he’ll be nicer.

Nope. Won’t happen.  Remember, this is all about power and control. Boundaries, consequences you can and will follow through on, and a deep realization that you are, as a believer, a daughter of the King of Kings!  As such, behave like the princess you are and refuse to tolerate abuse for one more minute!

Next Friday:  Mental abuse.

Mercy, not Sacrifice

Matthew 9:12-13. “But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

At this point in His earthly ministry, Jesus took every opportunity to shake up the status quo. He didn’t rant and rave.  He didn’t need teleprompters and half a dozen speech writers to know what to say. Usually, He made His point using very few words. That’s exactly what happened here. 

Jesus heard the Pharisees asking some of His followers why He was eating with sinners. He replied promptly, before His disciples could be put on the spot. He said that, like a physician who comes to heal the sick and not the healthy, He had come to call sinners to repentance, not those who were already righteous. 

I have thought about those words quite a bit during the last couple of days.  What do we discuss when we get together for fellowship with others who already share our faith?  Ideally, we talk about the things of the Lord, right?  But how often does our conversation degenerate to discussing how awful the unsaved are?  How godless, how immoral our society has become?  It is even worse when we start down the path of excoriating other believers who, perhaps, do things differently than we do. What I’m really wondering, though, is how much time we spend discussing how to reach the lost?  How much time in praying for the efforts of our missionaries?  How much for the church calling program, if such a thing still exists anywhere?  There are churches who run what they like to call “outreach” activities.  They hold carnivals, bake sales, spaghetti dinners; they show movies and offer free widgets and all other sorts of things to draw people into the church. Lots of money can be spent on these outreach efforts, and lots of people give lots of time to making these efforts successful. 

Would these same people be willing to pass out tracts  somewhere?  To witness personally, face-to-face with someone they’ve never met? Even to spend time each week going to the homes of people who have visited their church, and getting to know them?  Inviting them into their own homes?  Offering them Jesus Christ? Or is it easier to have dunk tanks and hot dogs?

Okay. That’s my rant for today. 

After Jesus made His first statement, He said something truly shocking. He said to the Pharisees, of ALL people, that they needed to go and learn what He meant when He said “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.”  He was referencing at least two OldTestament scriptures: Hosea 6:6 and I Samuel 15:22. From these two passages, it is clear that what He meant was this: 

I desire acts of mercy on your part rather than showy sacrifices.  If your religion makes you feel and look exalted and self-righteous, and you consider yourself  to be defiled by associating with sinners, then your sacrifices are just so much sound and fury. To obey is better than to sacrifice. You need to read Micah 6:8, which teaches you that I have required only that you do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with Me.

Please note that I did not type the previous words in red, because they are not Jesus’ words. They are my version of what I believe He was saying to the Pharisees. Also, He was not saying that they shouldn’t make sacrifices.  He was saying that He would prefer that they be merciful to those they considered beneath them than that they should make sacrifices publicly that proclaimed how devout they were. 

Jesus never said anything that was frivolous or meaningless.  There is such wealth to be mined from His every word. 

 

The Pharisees Again

Matthew 9:10-11. ” And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?”

 The next scene we see is Jesus in the house of Matthew (Mark 2:14-17), eating with other tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus has chosen to accompany Matthew to his house, where a meal is prepared and served to what was probably a pretty good number of disreputable people. They probably did not sit on benches or chairs, but reclined around the table, as was customary.He Who had come to seek and to save that which was lost declared Himself, by this action, to be completley comfortable having fellowship with social outcasts.

Now think!  This was the One Who owned the universe; the One Who had created all of it and had the power of forgiveness and healing. What a picture of grace this is!  I wonder if any of us would be so comfortable to sit down and eat with people who were definitely not on the “A- List” of the social leaders of the day.  No red carpet here, no hordes of people waiting to catch a glimpse of celebrity.  Just a bunch of  social pariahs who knew they were welcome in Matthew’s home and who had heard of his startling departure from his tax collector’s table to follow the Nazarene.

They very likely gathered in a courtyard, open to the gaze of passers-by.  And before long, here came the Pharisees, the Hector Inspectors of the realm, to see what was going on at Matthew’s house–to which they had not been invited.

You see, they were already seeking fault in Jesus.  They were already on the lookout for anything of which they could accuse Him.  It wasn’t right that He was gaining such a following; it wasn’t right that a Man Who presumed to forgive sins would eat with sinners!

So they asked His followers why their Master was eating with the rabble.

Tune in tomorrow to see what Jesus said.