Month: July 2018

Simon The Pharisee

Simon the Pharisee

Luke 7:37–48

Life is all about credibility.
And this Jesus of Nazareth is certainly building his!
He is becoming the rising star of the region.
Teaching in the synagogues, by the shore of Galilee, preaching about the kingdom of heaven being here!
How would he know? I’ve been around longer than he has, and I’ve never seen it!
What’s worse, he’s healing people, not just of their diseases, but claiming also of their sins!
How does a carpenter get to do that!
By all accounts he’s a dangerous man,
Upsetting the order of things,
Challenging what we do, what we’ve always done.
I suppose I’ll have to invite him to my home,
Check him out.
I feel a mixture of arrogance and intrigue.
He’s on my patch, I need to know what he’s up to,
But I’m also interested…
What’s he got that’s making people follow him rather than us?
Is he just some new fad, or is there something more real?
The healings seem genuine.
What if they are?

I complete my ritual of afternoon prayer, making sure I am seen of others.
I have a responsibility to maintain appearances.
It’s a comfortable routine, and I feel the better for it.
There’s time now to go out into the street and see this man for myself.
I watch from a distance, catching the odd word.
He’s in preaching mode.
I begin to make my way towards him through the crowd.
How they are listening!
I need to gently push my way through,
Minor irritation gives way to acquiescence when they see who I am.
Slowly and surely I reach to the front.

He is younger than I expected, and obviously less experienced than me.
Yet he has an authority about him that is somehow ageless,
A meekness and knowledge that speak of a higher power,
An effortlessness in every word and movement as he unveils the scriptures.
I can see why he is attracting crowds…
My earlier thought returns. Is it just novelty, the age-old hope of the new Messiah attaching to any thing original and different? I feel within myself it is something far deeper and suddenly resent his preaching and teaching and healing. That’s our job, our duty. Even though we can’t heal. We’ve all rather left that to the older prophets, – that was their special role. So, what’s this Jesus doing? I will find out for myself, invite him to my home, be seen with him.
It makes me feel uncomfortable, but I shan’t show or admit it!
Jesus has seen me approaching. I feel in that one glance he has dissected my very thoughts, yet he continues untroubled and confident.
No wonder my fellow Pharisees hate him! He’s more dangerous than I imagined!
He finishes his parable, leaving the crowd thoughtful, and turns to me, expecting and granting my request.
And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

This wasn’t the plan! How did she get in! All the kudos of his presence ruined by this harlot! He must know what manner of woman it is who is touching him! He read my thoughts readily enough!

“Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee”

He’s reading my thoughts again! His meekness against pharisaical pride! Love against my surprising hatred of his superiority. Everyone is listening. I must be careful. I bid him continue.

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?”

The question is too easy, but I phrase the answer with due caution. “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” Where’s he going with all this. I am nervous… He looks at me and responds with calm assurance.

“Thou hast rightly judged”

He looks at the harlot, – how does he get away with that! And I feel a sinking premonition of his wisdom putting me to shame…

“Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

His rebuke is harsh and uncompromising. I cannot fault him. My disdain in sharp contrast to the genuine repentance of the harlot woman. Yet who is the real prostitute? Aren’t I selling my pharisaical robes for my own purpose, getting money for worn out creeds and empty blessings?
Aren’t I putting myself before God!!! All the time!! Jesus doesn’t care what I think about him. He knows what God knows, and that’s all that matters to him. What does God know about me? He turns again to the woman:

“Thy sins are forgiven.”

She looks at peace while I am in turmoil. I have heard of Jesus’ demand that we should repent. Dare I change the habits of a lifetime? I ask myself the desperate question, do I really want to! I am too comfortable, too well set. I am a Pharisee! Yet she is forgiven, she has repented, she has loved much. That blunt question….who do I love more, – myself or God? Who did she love more? The first commandment rings through my consciousness, – how many times have I said it out loud in the synagogue and in the streets? If Jesus hadn’t come, I wouldn’t be having this battle. Do I hate him or love him?

Jesus looks at me again. Despite his damning words there is such tender love in his eyes, the promise of redemption. His love is constant, out-going. I realise that my love is self-centered. I can feel the presence of the Christ, reaching out to me, as it did to that harlot. Am I going to put God first, as she did?

The choice is mine.

The Withered Hand Restored

The Withered Hand Restored

I was there, witnessed the miracle.
Even now I can scarce believe what my eyes saw,
What I now know.
But it was my best friend who was healed.
And it has changed our lives for ever.
Would you be willing to take a risk, listen to what I have witnessed and believe what happened to us both?

We’d been friends since childhood.
He’d never fussed about his disability, –
His right hand, (why did it have to be his right hand?), severely withered,
Utterly useless.
But it didn’t stop us playing games, running ragged and breathless up and down the hills, laughing and forgetful of any limitations.
Yet there were other times his natural compensation could not cope,
And I’d be there, or his parents, to help.
I loved him for his joy, his lack of self-pity.
I sometimes felt he was more of a man than me……
I’d often wondered why he had been so afflicted.
His life had been blameless, – indeed so much better than mine.
His parents as far as I’d known them had always been good.
Perhaps a distant ancestor had done wrong.
It seemed a harsh thing for him to suffer, – especially as there was no possible release.
There was no way out, no healing, no hope.
What sin must have caused that?
It seemed so unfair.
Why did so many people have to suffer with illness or misfortune?
Living lives of acceptance and just managing.
Yet the paradoxical question:
How is it that the sick and so- called disabled often seem so much better, more alive, than we?

That Sabbath we’d met and entered the synagogue together as usual.
There was a lot more interest and buzz about the place that day.
Jesus of Nazareth had been invited to address us.
We’d both heard about him, – some talk or remark about him being the Messiah or Christ, – but so unlikely, – Nazareth was only a village and that not many miles away, and by what little we had heard he was no more than a carpenter by trade. Still, there must be something about him to have created an interest.
The Pharisees and scribes knew that we would be there, but that day when we arrived there were nudges and knowing looks.
One of them asked us to sit at the front.
We chatted for a bit. A fly tried to settle on my friend’s face. He brushed at it with his withered hand.
I felt compassion for him, – his handsome looks marred by this senseless deformity.

The service began and went through its normal routines.
The time came for anyone to stand and speak.
From the back a man stepped forward.
He had an air of authority that commanded attention,
His seamless white robe somehow a symbol of his natural stature.
This had to be Jesus of Nazareth.
I suddenly realised it didn’t matter what village he came from.
He came from God.
As he took his place his love seemed to shine and when he spoke, that same love permeated everything he said. The scriptures became alive, meaningful.
I’d always thought that the kingdom of God was something to come,
Some far-off event, powerful, as a result of mighty battles, with a great commander to the fore.
But this kingdom was altogether different, stronger, immediate, grounded in love.
I glanced at my friend. He too was watching enthralled, – his eyes shining, accepting every word spoken.
They were fine words indeed, – but was that it?
Comforting, but without proof, fine words were all they were.
I suddenly thought what if he did prove them true? How would he? What evidence would I want? How would anyone prove the kingdom of God here and now?

“Rise up and stand forth in the midst.”
In the sudden bewilderment of being brought back into the present I thought for a moment Jesus was talking to me. But no.
My friend levered himself up and stood alone in front of Jesus.
There was a stillness, an expectancy borne of his undoubted authority.
He turned to the Scribes and Pharisees.
I could see them shifting uncomfortably. It was as though he had read their thoughts and they knew that he knew what they were thinking, and in some way those thoughts would be exposed.
He spoke to them directly:
“I will ask of you one thing”
He paused a second, but that pause seemed to contain a lifetime of moment.
“Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?”
He looked round at each of them in turn, the silence and expectancy deafening.
We all knew what was going to happen.
I looked again at my friend.

“Stretch forth thine hand.”

I said I was a witness.
But how can you own up to seeing the impossible.
He obeyed Christ’s command.
Not “Stretch forth thine withered hand”, but “stretch for thine hand as God gave thee”.
His arm extended, fingers uncurling, filling out fully formed.
We all looked at one another, knowing it was happening yet still disbelieving.
My friend’s face shone as his hand was restored whole as the other.
He knelt before Jesus, giving thanks amidst his awe and wonder.
Then turned to me and shouted my name.
Leaping forward his hand outstretched to take mine,
Right hand to right hand.
What mixed emotions I had! Joy for my friend, but shamedly half frightened to grasp what may have been only illusion.
His handshake was firm, firmer than mine.
And then I responded truly. Grip to grip, laughing and praising with him in the midst of the synagogue.
No dream but reality, but dear God how?!
I’d asked for proof, and here it was! The only proof possible!
No wonder the scribes were scowling! Here was true authority! No longer mere words, but the consciousness of God’s kingdom here and now seen in health and completeness. Faced with full health, sickness had become impossible! Health the reality and sickness the dispellable illusion. This was the uncomfortable but wonderful import of what Jesus had been saying and had now proved! Yes, proved! – How else can you explain what had happened! And yes, I’ve seen similar things happen so many times since. I have had my own healings.

Let me hold you by your hand in that same love that Jesus is living. Our lives have changed so much for the better! This was not just a one-off miracle of some prophet, a magician’s trick. It was the coming of the Christ. The recognition of Love, God’s love for you and me, all-embracing. The true “Our Father” of which Jesus spoke and commanded us to pray, lifting our thoughts above human heredity to our true and guiltless origin, that we are even now the sons of the one God, the sons of Love! It’s the only explanation I can understand.

Don’t just accept my word, look, – here comes my friend, let him say it, prove it to you. Let him hold you firmly with both hands, with his love, confirm what I am telling you. Rejoice with us in the now of the kingdom of God. Jesus has sent us, is even now on his way. Jesus is telling everyone about what the TRUTH is, and he’s proving it all the time: God’s love for us is timeless and unconditional.

So that’s the real point I’m trying to make and so much want to share: the Christ is already here, with us even now, has always been here, will ever be with us all! Can’t you feel it? Dear friend, you just have!

;

Eternal Now, For Always.

God

; Eternal Now For Always.

John 6:16-21, Revelation 10:6

The sea had risen strongly with the wind.
Waves reaching high, landmarks lurching and vanishing.
Sails down, passage slow: laboured rowing all that was possible.
Heavy perspiration now uniting our efforts,
Fighting the elements, fighting latent fear with age-old fisherman courage.
Rowing together, rising and falling together,
Safety some way distant.
Sweat is blinked from the eyes.
There’s someone on the sea!
Head shakes, checks again. There!
Gone. Did you see? There! Look!
Hallucination shared by all? It’s Jesus! It can’t be!
What’s he standing on?
He’s walking towards us!
Our oars crash together in our disbelief and fear. Ever nearer!
What’s happening?!
“It is I: be not afraid.”
Somehow he is suddenly by the side of the boat, and we urge him to get on board.
I am first to reach out my hand.
He takes it firmly, – no spirit then, – and he is on board! He didn’t need to climb up.
Perplexed, I keep holding, feeling new strength,
Powerfully pleading with all my thoughts for understanding,
Searching his eyes,
Finding the embrace of Love for each one of us.
His knowledge of unquestioned infinite power
Mocking all material law.
And in that millisecond of communication,
In that recognition of his utter dominion,
Time became irrelevant. It was simply no more.

“and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went”.

Scarce-believing, we looked at each other, the boat safe on the shore. How did we get here? How did Jesus get to us? Why weren’t we tired from hours of rowing? What happened to the storm?
So many questions, but we were safe; safe the instant he stood on board.
And in that immediacy of timelessness, no further footsteps taken,
I found his hand still holding mine,
His eyes still reaching into mine, such a sense of oneness, completeness,
Giving me the thrill of this knowing:
Material laws cannot interpose between God and man. They must be nothing, for God’s laws are everywhere.
The awesome realisation that there can be no exceptions: no exceptions!
His Christ power was God’s All-power expressed in every aspect of life.
Health, supply, weather, gravity, and now time itself! What else was there!
But was this for real? We were still holding hands, but his thought held me even more securely, reading mine:
“Peter, there are no exceptions. God is the great I AM. Follow me and you will see.”
I glanced round at my fellow fishermen, the sudden stillness of the Galilean Sea, the beauty of all about us.
Breath-taking recognition of what Jesus meant!
Eternity is the forever now of Life. God is the law of our being, and we are all under God’s eternal laws.
Jesus knew this and was proving this truth to us, for all of us, to follow.
I felt his timeless love.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free….” Christ Jesus. John 8:32
“there should be time no longer.” Revelation 10:9 there

A Parent’s Revelation

I’ve heard a lot about this person Jesus.
Peter’s bringing him home tonight, – he’s talked about no one else ever since he met him a few weeks ago.
I’ll never understand Peter. He’s so impetuous!
Apparently Jesus said “Follow me” – or something to that effect, – and Peter did exactly that!
Never told his wife and family – anyway he’s a fisherman and they’re used to his being away.
Nothing Peter does surprises me….but he’s got a heart of gold and I love him.

I’m seeing both Peter and Jesus tonight.
I wonder what he’s like, this Jesus.
Peter thinks he’s really special, – but he only comes from Nazareth.
He’s a carpenter by trade, – so what can he teach a fisherman??
There have been crowds following his new friend, –
He’s been healing people of all kinds of diseases, – Peter can scarcely believe what he’s seen.
Keeps talking about him, about praying to “Our Father!”, “Doing unto others what you’d have them do to you”
I hope he’s not being tricked by all this talk and seeming miracles. I’m not going to be.

My daughter has planned a special meal for Peter and his friends, – we won’t let Peter down.
She’ll need my help. But I don’t feel well…….need to lie down…
Can hardly move…
Must get to bed….
Don’t want to be a nuisance…

“Hello Peter….I’m so sorry
…… to be like this….
Hello Jesus…”

I look at his friend. He looks at me.
In one brief instant I forget myself, my doubts, my concerns for Peter.
How can I describe the Love that radiates from this man?
His complete knowledge of infinite power,
Total tenderness,
Expressed in his very being,
The effortless outreach of his hand to mine,
Lifting me up. Nothing to heal!

Why then was I down?
No memory of what was ever wrong, no more self-pity, but full focused on gratitude and love for God, for everyone. In full joy I go to help and serve. Everyone so happy! Why did I ever doubt? Love is everywhere.

***
That evening many other people from the city came to our door, and all in need were healed, instantaneously. Next day Jesus, Peter and the other disciples went off over the Sea of Galilee. When I next saw Peter, he told me about the miraculous calming of the storm, the healing of the madman, other miracles Jesus had worked. But I now know they are not miracles, – they are the power of God, the Almighty power of God, made manifest.
Infinite Love doesn’t need time to prove itself, it is present and active now!

I’m with Jesus again, he is teaching to the crowds, to each one of us, how to pray: …
“Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name…” **
I feel the ever-present warmth and vibrancy of God’s love.
I behold for the first time my true family.

And suddenly realise that I love my son more than I ever did before……
I see him as Jesus sees him, I see myself as Jesus saw me and sees me even now.
I now know what “Father” means….

(see *Mark 1:30-34; 3:31-35, and **Matthew 6:9)