Look back on your life for a moment.  Imagine you are sitting with your grandchildren or your children and they are asking you what was the most exciting or even most important event in your life?  What if you were writing a book about your life, what event would you want to lead with so that you could draw others into your story?  Truthfully there could be a huge variety of things we might consider.  It might be some important person we met at some point.  It might be a place we traveled to or even something we participated in along the way that affected our whole life.  What if they asked you, “if there was one thing or one event you could have gone to that you never had the opportunity of doing, what would that be?”  Again, I suspect there would be a huge number of answers that might arise.  I think if I could be at one event in all of history, I would choose to be in the crowd the day Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  I can imagine how those who were privileged to hear this, the greatest of all sermons, would have been changed from that day forward.  It would have gone far beyond just the things they learned that they had never thought of before.  It would have been the one teaching and the heart of his message.

When Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down to teach the people, there was a huge crowd of people gathered around him.  Most of them were not the religious leaders of the day.  They were ordinary people, struggling with life, with poverty, wondering how they were going to feed and take care of their family.  Probably most of them were so occupied with the day to day struggles of life to the degree they hadn’t spent much time focusing on their spiritual lives or on where they would spend eternity.  But there was something about this new teacher among them that drew people to him.  He was different from any other teacher.  He didn’t try to stay as an elite one who was separate from the people but involved himself in their lives.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners.  He spoke with authority and not like the scribes.

Imagine gathering around Jesus to hear what he said.  With no fancy introduction or welcome for the people who gathered around him, he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Usually, we have looked at that verse and the ones that follow immediately and thought that Jesus was telling people that in order for them to have the blessing of the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit.  I don’t think that was his point.  He wasn’t challenging the people to be humble or to realize their poverty spiritually.  Instead, he looked out on a crowd of hurting, struggling, poverty-stricken people who so often felt they were the outcast of society and pronounced on them a blessing.  He wasn’t trying to get them to become something different at that point.  He was simply looking at their hurts, pains, difficulties and telling them the blessing of the kingdom of heaven was available to them.  These were people who normally looked at others and thought of them as the ones who were blessed.

The word Jesus used for “blessed” is somewhat difficult to put into English.  Some have translated it as “happy” and there is definitely an element of happiness in the word, but that really isn’t a good translation of the word.  Happiness has to do with circumstances, with what happens.  The word translated “blessed” isn’t tied to circumstances.  It is a state of well-being that isn’t based on our situation but on our relationship with God.  It has an element of “success” in it as well.  It carries with it the idea of fullness, completeness and has some of the same thoughts behind it as Jesus statement later that “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”

The huge point in these beatitudes that is vital is that the blessing involved is what is stated at the end of each beatitude.  Here the blessing for those who are poor in spirit is that theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The blessing for those who mourn is that they will be comforted.  So, Jesus points to these people who were hurting, struggling members of their society and shouts the message the kingdom I have come to establish is for people just like you.  Just imagine for a moment what this would have felt like to these people.  They had felt rejected all their lives.  They were the misfits that were avoided by most of the people.  The word Jesus used here for the poor was the same word used by Jeremiah the prophet as he described the poorest of the poor who were left behind in Jerusalem and Judah when the Babylonians captured the city, burned the temple and destroyed the mansions there.  They took the multitudes into captivity carrying them back to Babylon where they would live out by the river Chebar.  But they left behind the poorest of the poor to live off the land.  Jeremiah would stay among that group of people.  Jesus took that very word for the poorest of the poor and said to them, “You are blessed in my kingdom.”  Instead of being the outcast, Jesus promises them a place of honor in his kingdom.

When Jesus used the word “kingdom” throughout his ministry on earth it was about the people over which he would reign as king.  It was a spiritual kingdom, not of this world.  He told them later in Luke 17:20-21 that they wouldn’t find the kingdom by searching here and there, that the kingdom was among them or in them.  It is the realm we enter by the new birth.  It is the kingdom we are to seek first along with his righteousness and he will supply for us the needs of this life.

Our Lord’s kingdom is for all kinds of people, no matter how poor, hurting and challenged in life.  He invites everyone to lay aside the kingdom of darkness over which Satan reigns as the god of this world and enter the kingdom of light where Jesus reigns as king, sitting on David’s throne.  He will continue this reign until he comes again and delivers the kingdom over to God the Father, for he must reign until all his enemies are made his footstool and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:24-28).  Praise the Lord that kingdom is available for even the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich and everything in between.

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Jesus had said to the twelve that some of them who were standing there wouldn’t taste death until they saw the kingdom of God come with power.  Immediately after saying that, he took Peter, James, and John and went up on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before them. His appearance changed.  He became whiter than anyone or anything they had ever seen.  Just as amazing, Moses and Elijah came down to talk with him about his coming death.  No wonder Peter was confused and not knowing what to say, said something anyway that turned out to be the wrong thing to say.  He said, “It’s good for us to be here.  Let us make three tents, one for you, one more Moses and one for Elijah.”  He likely was thinking of how great it would be to just stay up there on the mountaintop and see these marvels of God.  But God spoke to him out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  What a powerful message for all of us.  Many times what we need to do is listen rather than trying to think of what we will say.  That is especially true when the one speaking is God.

Jesus and the three apostles headed down off the mountain.  Jesus explained to them on the way that John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to appear.   He told them to not tell what they had seen until after his resurrection.  But when they reached the bottom of the mountain, they saw a commotion going on among the people and the other apostles.  A man seeing him rushed to him with his son who was possessed of a demon.  He told Jesus that he had brought him to the apostles for them to heal him but they had tried and weren’t able to cast the demon out.  Jesus seemed weary with the apostles for their lack of faith and growth.  He asked, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

When the father described the situation of his son he said,  “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly.  For often he falls into the fire, and into the water.  If you are able please heal him.”  Jesus responded, “If I am able.  All things are possible for him who believes.”  The father answered, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”  Jesus rebuked the demon and demanded it to come out of the boy and never return.  The demon threw him to the ground and left him looking as though he were dead.  Some of the people around him said, “He is dead.”  Jesus took the boy by the hand and lifted him up and he was well.

Put yourself for a moment into the place of this father.  He had watched his boy attacked by the demon over and over again.  The seizures, the foaming at the mouth, the falling into the fire or into the water and all the torment that went with it had to torment the dad day and night.  Every parent has at some point wrestled with the question of what should I do when they watched a child deal with illness or some form of the disease and the parent had no idea what to do to help.  They held them, prayed for them and often cried out to anyone who would listen for help.  It seems very real when he said to Jesus, “Lord if you are able, heal my son.”  Can’t you imagine how many doctors and priest he had carried his son to see asking for help and probably many of them believed they could help?  Doctors may have given medications or herbs for the boy to take, but he didn’t get any better.  Priest, likely prayed diligently to the Father to heal this boy and bring relief to the whole family.  But he didn’t get any better.  The very hope that your child can get better, that anyone can help begins to fade from you.  So, when he heard from friends or neighbors about Jesus and all the people he had healed with all kinds of problems, even demon possession, he had a flicker of hope.  But even with that hope, his doubt likely grew when the disciples tried to cast the demon out and were not able.  No wonder he said to Jesus, “If you are able.”  It reminds us of the time the leper said to Jesus, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”  Between the two of them, they raised the questions that so often fill our hearts.  Is God willing and is he able to heal or solve the problems I have?

Jesus answered the leper by saying “I am willing” and reached out to touch him and cleansed him of leprosy immediately.  With the father, he pointed to there being no lack of ability on his part.  “All things are possible for the one who believes.”  He put the real question back to the father by saying, “If you believe, all things are possible for the one who believes.”  His point was clear, it wasn’t a lack of ability on his part, the real question was did he have the faith to put his trust in the Lord for the healing.  I love the integrity of this man.  He declared, “Lord, I believe.”  It would have been so easy to stop right there and let the feelings in his heart stay hidden.  But he didn’t do that.  He spoke up to plead, “Lord, help my unbelief.”  Haven’t you walked in this man’s shoes at times?  Haven’t you had the times when you wanted to believe with all your heart and longed to cry out to God how deep your faith was in him.  But if you were honest with yourself and with the Lord you had to admit that your faith had holes in it.  You needed to cry out, “Help my unbelief.”  Jesus never turns away those who have honest doubts and questions in life.  But he often turns away those who have a pretend faith that hides what is real in their life.

Certainly, the doubt faded completely away when Jesus cast the demon out and gave the boy back to his dad completely healed.  But it brought a whole different set of doubts and questions from the 9 apostles who had tried to cast the demon out and weren’t able to do so.  It wasn’t a lack of power.  Jesus had given them the power to cast out demons, heal sicknesses and diseases.  Why then did their power fail them in such a crucial hour?  Jesus explained it is “because of your little faith.  For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.”  Mark’s account of this event adds another detail that is important.  He pictured Jesus saying to them, “This kind only comes out through prayer.”  The implication was that while Jesus and the three with him had been on the mountain praying, the 9 apostles down in the valley hadn’t been praying as they should and their faith had wavered as a result.  Even the power of God is limited in our life and actions by a lack of prayer that leads to a lack of faith.  It mixes the prayer and faith together when we have the heart to say to Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

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Are you a parent?  Have you had a time when a child was sick and you didn’t really know what to do?  If you were young or perhaps still are and the child was young, you likely called a parent first to ask if they had some idea what you should do and maybe a friend whose children were older than yours. You may even have gotten on google to see if there is an answer online for what you are dealing with.  It usually isn’t long before we begin to try to reach a doctor or carry the child to the hospital.  Few things in life are more upsetting than to have a child very sick and not know what to do to help them.  In Matthew 9:18-26 the story is told of a ruler among the Jews who had a daughter who was twelve years old and very sick.  Since this man was a ruler of the Jews he may well have been one of the Scribes or Pharisees who had been very critical of Jesus and his ministry in days past.  But now things have changed entirely.  His own child is sick and he doesn’t know what to do to help her.  Death is very near unless something can happen to intervene for her.  Then he hears that Jesus is in the area.  He had heard time and again of Jesus and all the people of various diseases whom he had healed.  It didn’t take long for him to swallow his prejudice and fears of what others might think, to rush to Jesus and plead with him to come.  Both Mark and Luke’s account of the story says that the girl was sick.  Matthew’s account says she had died.  Either way, she was about to die.  “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

He had hope in his voice.  He probably didn’t understand a lot of things that Jesus had done or said.  But Jesus was the last hope for his daughter so he pleaded with him to come to his house and take care of this little girl.  “Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.”  There seems to have been no hesitation on the part of Jesus to go.  He could easily have asked the man why he would come to him now in such a case when all his friends had said every kind of ugly thing about Jesus you could have imagined.  He could have pointed out how his friends had declared that it was by the power of the devil that he was healing the sick and casting out demons.  But Jesus knew this dad was in pain.  He was struggling with fear and torment about the health of his daughter that he dearly loved.  Jesus ignored all the baggage and simply arose to go with the ruler to heal this daughter.

As is so often the case with Jesus, as he started to the home of the ruler to heal his daughter he was interfered with by someone else who was hurting.  A woman had been having a problem with bleeding for the last twelve years.  Her problem had gone on the same amount of years the little girl had lived.  She had gone to doctor after doctor seeking help until she had spent all the money available to her and was not improved at all.  She too heard that Jesus was passing through the area.  Even though the law said that a woman with this kind of problem wasn’t to enter into a crowd nor touch any other person for fear of contaminating them, she was on a mission.  She believed with everything in her that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus garment she would be healed.  She ignored the law and all the Jewish customs and entered the crowd, came up behind Jesus, believing that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed.  She longed to not be a spectacle and just touch his garment, be healed and ease away without anyone being the wiser.  Sure enough, she got to him in the crowd and reached out to touch him.  Power came from Him into her and she immediately felt her body healed.  The flow of blood stopped.  As she began to fall back into the crowd, Jesus turned.  “Who touched me?”  The apostles began to ask him how they could know since the crowd was so large.  But she was convicted to the degree she knew she had been found out and came to fall before him telling him how she had been healed.  She may have expected Jesus to reprimand her for violating the Old Testament Law.  But he didn’t do that at all.  He told her that her faith had made her well.

By this time the Jewish leader was discouraged.  According to both Mark and Luke, the word came then that she was dead and that he didn’t need to continue to bother the Lord.  Jesus told him not to be afraid.  When he came to the home, he told the people to stop all the commotion that she wasn’t dead but asleep.  They laughed at him at the very thought.  He took Peter, James, and John with him into the room where the girl was laying.  He also took the mother and dad with him into her room.  There he took the hand of the girl and said to her, “Little girl arise.”   She arose and Jesus told the people standing around to get her some food to eat.  Now she could walk, talk and be involved in life all around her, even though her sickness had led to her immediate death.  Now she was alive.

Think for a moment how the ruler of the Jews felt.  His dream of his little girl living and being able to make a difference in the world was now alive again.  His fear and worry about her life and the future were gone.  Can you imagine the exhilaration he felt when his daughter arose and began to walk, talk and eat again?  I wish we knew what happened in the coming years with both this family and the woman who had been healed after twelve years of struggling with her sickness.  Alas, we are left to wonder, if they became devout disciples who stood with and for him from that day on or if they along with others around them, in the days of trial that were soon coming, ones who turned their backs on him to cry out with the crowd, “Crucify him, crucify him?”

Here is what we can know.  No matter what our sickness or hurt, no matter what agony we are going through, Jesus cares and He can help.  It is so discouraging when you as that young parent call someone to ask what you should do for your child that is sick, and they answer, “I don’t have any idea.  I never had anything like that to happen with my children.”  Thank God, when we go to Him through Jesus we never get the answer that it is new to them or that they don’t know what to do.  God cares and God can.

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What does it mean to be a wise person?  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ended the sermon by talking about the wise and foolish ones.  He said those with wisdom were the ones who heard his words and obeyed them and compared them to those who built their house on the rock so that when the rains came, the winds blew and storms arise their home would stand. He said the foolish built their house on the sand and when the tornado arrived it would be demolished.  So in this text, the wise were the people who on hearing the message of the Lord would obey the teachings.

In Matthew 25 Jesus spent the whole chapter discussing the second coming of the Lord.  In doing so he told three stories, one was about five wise and five foolish virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom to go to the wedding feast.  In the second story, Jesus told about a master going on a trip and calling three servants to him and giving them amounts of money based on their abilities.  How they used the gift determined how the master treated them when he arrived home.  The third story was about the Lord’s coming and his judgment of the people.  He explained that he would come again with all his holy angels and all the nations would appear before him for Jesus consideration.  The amazing thing was the standard he used in judging them.  Those on the right were called before them and told to “come you blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you took me in, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you came to me.”

They had no idea how to respond.  The question was “when Lord did we do that?”  “Since you did it for one of the least of these, my brothers or sisters, you did it for me.”  Those on the left were told the same thing except they hadn’t been there for the least and thus not for the Lord.

Focus on the first of the stories.  Jesus’ picture was of a wedding feast as was typically carried out in his day.  When a young man became engaged to a woman, he went back to his home and prepared for the living arrangements for him and his new wife.  Typically it meant the adding of a room to his parent’s house.  When he completed it, he returned to have the wedding feast and carry his new wife back to their new home.  As he approached the engaged one’s house, it was normal for those to be involved in the wedding to go out to meet him and travel with him to the home of the bride.  There was something of a game behind the whole thing.  Those who missed the appointed gathering with the bridegroom missed the wedding feast.  They were not sure when he would come, so it was vital that they come prepared for any delay.  That is the point of the wise having extra oil and the foolish depending on the oil in their lamps to be sufficient.

In this story, Jesus is the bridegroom coming to receive his bride which is the church.  The oil represents our preparation to meet him when he comes again.  The fact we don’t know when the Lord will return makes it necessary to be ready at any time.  The wise prepare for the coming by being those who go the extra mile in being pleasing to God.  They are the same people Jesus referred to back in the Sermon on the Mount who when compelled to go one mile would go two.  The foolish represent the people who try to get by doing the very least they can do to be prepared to meet Jesus.  They aren’t looking for the best they can do but the least they can do and be accepted.  The question often raised is how much to I have to do to be prepared, or how much must I give to please God?  God’s longing is for us always to be looking for the doors God opens for us so we can do the best we can in God’s favor.  The point isn’t that God is always watching for us to mess up or make sure we punch all the right buttons.  It is about the attitude we have in serving God.  Our longing is to be the best servant possible, not to be the one who is nearly right.



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Being consistent in our thinking, speech and actions has to be one of the most difficult challenges we face.  It is obvious that the consistency in Jesus life was often the very thing that got him into trouble with the religious leaders of his time.  If you read the Gospel accounts it quickly becomes obvious that one of Jesus habits was to heal those who were sick or afflicted in some way, on the Sabbath Day.  It was such a common thing with him that the Pharisees and Scribes would actually watch him on the Sabbath Day worship in the Synagogue to see if he would heal someone during that time together so they could bring charges against him.

One example of their actions and Jesus habit is found in Matthew 12:9-14.  Jesus entered the Synagogue and there was a man there who had a withered hand.  They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? – so that they might accuse him.”  Whether these particular people had seen Jesus perform miracles of healing on the Sabbath or not we don’t know.  But even if they hadn’t observed it for themselves they knew his reputation for not observing the rules set up by the rabbi’s of the day on how to observe the Sabbath Day.  The law that Moses had given the people on the subject came directly from God and was quite simple.  “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall work and do your labor, but the Sabbath Day will be holy to you and you shall do no work on that day because God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested from his work.”  But the religious leaders through the years had added more and more regulations specifying exactly how much one could do on that day without it being regarded as work.  You could travel 7/8 of a mile without it being work, but if you went beyond that it was work. They even determined exactly what weight one could lift on the Sabbath before it became work.  Jesus broke their rules over and over again, not just by healing the sick and hurting on that day but with his disciples walking through the grain fields plucking some of the heads of grain and eating it.  That was work in their eyes and was completely wrong.  So it is no wonder they would ask Jesus about healing on the Sabbath because of what they knew he had done already and what his habit was with regard to the Sabbath Day.

Jesus answered their question by saying, “Which one of you who has a sheep if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!  So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  Notice Jesus pointed to their inconsistency to demonstrate to them that it was right to heal a person on the Sabbath Day.  How could they possibly condemn his actions in rescuing a person, when they would go to all kinds of effort to rescue a sheep if it fell into a pit and couldn’t get out on its own.  The reality is that he could have made tons of other such points such as if your child or even if you got hurt or sick on the Sabbath you or the ones who love you would do what is needed to take care of the child or of you.  But by pointing to the care they would give to a sheep his point was even stronger.  If you will take care of a sheep, then surely it is right for me to heal a person since the person is made in God’s image and is much more valuable than a sheep.

On other occasions, Jesus made the point to them that the Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath.  It was to offer them rest and a time to worship God.  It wasn’t just an arbitrary law to force people to do something that had no real benefit for them.  It was for their good.  He also made the point that the Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.  He told them that their actions were like the person who poured new wine into an old wineskin that would burst when the new wine began to ferment and expand.  He said it was similar to the person who wanted to patch a torn garment that was old and patched with a new piece of cloth which would shrink when it was washed, thus tearing the garment again.

But notice in this story in Matthew 12 after telling them it was lawful to heal a person on the Sabbath he turned to the man with the withered hand and said, “Stretch out your hand.”  The man stretched out his hand and it was restored and made healthy like his other hand.  Jesus knew how they felt about him healing on the Sabbath.  He knew they were looking for a way to accuse him of breaking the law.  Even though he had convicted them of being inconsistent in their own observance of the Sabbath, notice what was said in the last verse of the paragraph.  “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”  These religious leaders were inconsistent in how they observed the Sabbath, but they were totally consistent in their condemnation of Jesus.  No matter how much good he did, how many powerful lessons he gave of the gospel and the promised kingdom of heaven, how many people he healed and how many times he fed the hungry, even providing a meal for over 5,000 people from a little boys lunch, they couldn’t see the good.  They only saw the ways he broke their homemade rules, so they condemned him.  Ultimately they would conspire to have him crucified like a criminal.

I understand that none of us as humans are totally consistent about our life for God in this world.  But it ought to be the case that the closer we come to the Lord, the more consistent we become both in how we apply the Scriptures and how we live daily for Him.  When we see our inconsistency it should lead to a re-examination of what is causing such action in us.  On re-examining our lives with God’s word, we should make the moves necessary to become consistent in our actions, like Jesus.

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In most of our minds, our hometown has a very special place.  It may be small or large, city or country and in any part of the world.  Yet, wherever it is and whatever it is like we tend to have good memories of it and anticipate going back there, at least for visits.  But we don’t always have the reception we long for when we are in our hometown.

In Mark 6:1-6 the story is recorded of Jesus going back to his hometown of Nazareth, along with his disciples.  He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach the people.  Many of those who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?” They took offense at him.  Jesus responded that “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  He couldn’t do many mighty works there and he marveled because of their unbelief.

All around this set of verses are stories of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons from people, stilling the storm and feeding multitudes of people with a little boys sack lunch.  But in his hometown, he was rejected.  They were certain they knew him in ways that the rest of the world around them didn’t know him.  They had known him as a boy.  They had used him as a carpenter.  They knew his whole family.  The fact that Joseph’s name isn’t mentioned by the people, likely means that he had died by this time and Mary was left alone to bring up her large family.  Jesus may well have been honored among them as a family man and as a worker who made things for the support of the family.  But he was now in a role they had never imagined him doing.  They could easily see him as the carpenter, but not as a rabbi who would teach them more correctly the word of God.  After all, he had gone to the same synagogue as they had to study the Scriptures.  How could he have learned more than they had and now think of himself as one who would teach them?  How could a local boy be a miracle worker?  Perhaps most puzzling to them was the reality that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah that had been promised for centuries and the people were believing that.

Notice the result of their unbelief was, they didn’t accept the teaching he gave.  Matthew’s account of this same event tells of him taking the scroll of Isaiah and reading Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah who would heal the sick, raise the dead, cause the blind to see, the lame to walk and the deaf to hear and that the poor would have the gospel preached to them.  He then declared to them that today this is fulfilled in your hearing.  So, he made it clear to them that he was indeed the promised Messiah or Christ.  They resented such a claim from a hometown boy they had known all their life.

Prejudice can run in many directions toward multiple people.  We tend to think of prejudice as a racial thing in our day and it certainly is on many occasions.  But prejudice isn’t limited to just that one area.  It often raises its head toward women or children.  It is prevalent against those who have a different political stance from us.  It can be for those whose religious beliefs differ from ours.  And it is there for those we are very familiar with.

Think about why Jesus would be judged so harshly and wrongly by those who had known him down through the years.  They had likely played games with him and his brothers and sisters.  They would have eaten with him.  They may have had him working at their homes as a carpenter.  They had watched his life from the beginning.  I suspect that many of these same people had talked about his character as a man many times before this.  But, none of that set him apart as the Messiah, the savior of the world.  To imagine this hometown boy as God in the flesh just didn’t add up for them.  Their doubts and contempt for Jesus would affect his actions and their whole lives.  Sadly, the background they knew kept them from accepting the truth from God that could save their souls and give them eternal life with God.

How many times in our lives has the prejudice for all kinds of reasons kept us blind to the realities that God puts before us?  Having an open mind to whatever God may reveal to us is wise and will bring tremendous blessings our way.

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Christians are referred to in many different ways in the New Testament.  Jesus emphasized to the apostles that they were not to be called by titles such as a rabbi, Master or teacher since he was their rabbi, master, and teacher.  He said they were all brethren.  So we are referred to often throughout the rest of Scripture as brothers and sisters, with God as our father and Jesus as our older brother.  Christians are called saints on many occasions.  In I Corinthians 1:2 the church is referred to as the church of God in Corinth and the people are “called to be saints.”  It wasn’t a special word used by only a select crowd who were super holy.  It was a word for every Christian because we are all set apart for God as his holy people.  We are called priest of God by Peter in I Peter 2:5,9 who offer us spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.  We are called ambassadors for Christ.

I want to focus on that word “ambassadors”.  An ambassador is one sent by an official body or person, to represent that group or nation in another country or place.  It is very close to the word “apostle” and to the word “missionary” that we use today, even though it isn’t ever used in Scripture.  So, how are we ambassadors for Christ?  This word was used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.  He started the discussion by declaring that “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.  He said it was “the love of Christ that controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  He then said that from now on we are to regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though he had once regarded Christ according to the flesh but not anymore.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  We have been those who lived by our own desires and passions, but God was willing to make us new, forgiven, with an entirely new mission for life.

He laid out that new mission like this: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  We are God’s ambassadors in the world.  Just as the ambassador from this country to another goes with a mission and message from the President to the other country we go out into the world we live in to represent our king, Jesus Christ.  We go with an official message to present.  When we faithfully present to others the message of the Lord, God is actually making his appeal to the world through us.  When the ambassador presents a message from the president to the leader of another country, it isn’t supposed by that leader that this is some personal message from the ambassador but is seen as what the president has said.  As an ambassador, the people of that country will look at them as representing the people of the nation they come from.  If their character is poor and their attitude is horrible the people will judge the country to be like that as well.  In the same way, we as ambassadors for Christ can either make the king look good by our actions or we can live in a way that causes the people to see the king in a very poor light.

But what is our message to give to the world from our king?  It is the message of reconciliation.  We are to be moved by the fear of the Lord to persuade others.  The love of Christ is to control us.  We are to refuse to judge others by their flesh, their background, their race, color or creed.  We must see deeper into the heart of others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.  Then as ones who have been reconciled to God, we are to present the message of reconciliation.

Think of Paul writing in I Timothy 1.  He praised God for making him a preacher of righteousness even though he was before a blasphemer, a persecutor of the church and injurious to the cause.  He said of himself that “I am chief of sinners”.  Yet God in his grace not only saved him from his sin and his past, he gave him a mission to carry the gospel to the gentile world.  Before this, he as Saul of Tarsus had hated the gentiles and looked down on them as beneath him since he was a Jew, one of God’s chosen people.  It is ironic that God would call a Jew, who was a Pharisee, who had hated and persecuted the church, to become the apostle to the Gentiles.  Paul said it was out of his grace and he did so to show everyone that no matter what you have done or what your attitude may have been you can be forgiven by God and have an amazing mission for your life.

Like Paul, we may look back at our life and think we have messed up in so many ways that surely God can’t use us.  Yet he majors in using those who have made a royal mess of their lives before turning it all over to him.  He gives us the ministry of reconciliation to the world and our message is that of reconciling the world to him.  God longs to be our Father, our friend, and our savior and Lord.  Both by our life and by our words we are to carry this message to others.

We live in a time when the world seems fractured all around us.  There is an overload of distrust and judging others based on superficial things in them, has become an art form.  People are both looked down on and distrusted because of their race or color.  When someone disagrees politically, they are often seen as the enemy, no matter what else may be true in their life.  The world desperately needs the message of reconciliation where God is speaking through us to the world, telling them that Christ who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  What an amazing shame it is when those who have this message and are appointed by God as his ambassadors to the world, remain quiet and keep the message hidden away somewhere safe.

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