On Friday evening, March 16, Dr. Boaz Johnson of North Park University will lead us in a celebration of the Seder.  Traditionally this is a meal shared by every Jewish family on the evening of Passover.  While we will not be dining together, we will be learning about this celebration and taking part in the ritual aspects of it.  All are welcome to this family event, so join us from 7-9pm.  Sign up here or click the picture to the left to reserve your seats.

It has always confused and amazed me that Jesus’ power was such that even touching something that He touched brought healing.  Here, we see that the sick can touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak and be healed.  This changes the way we think of Jesus’ healing and miracles in general.

We generally consider Jesus’ miracles to be intentional and pointed.  He feeds the 5000 because of His compassion on the crowds, the very same crowds who block and hide Him from those in need of His care in other instances.  He calms the storm to calm His disciples’ fear.  But here, like with the woman with the flow of blood, Jesus doesn’t even seem to realize He’s healing people.  It is simply the touch of the cloak He’s wearing that heals them.

We are Jesus’ cloak.  Having been touched by Jesus ourselves, we therefore bear His Spirit and power and bring healing to others.  We know that what we accomplish for God is not from our own power.  We can’t affect people through our sermons, or make them believe by sharing our testimonies.  It is only the power of Jesus through His Holy Spirit that makes these things effective for the Kingdom.  Otherwise, they will bring praise and glory to us, not to God.

One of the hardest things we can do when it comes to trusting God is to let go of a situation that we are truly passionate about.  To be able to sit back and trust God to handle the problems of this world and of our lives is even more hard in a society like ours that tells you to go out there and get what you want, to work hard, to achieve and accomplish.  In fact, we are often told that it is God who is driving us to do more and try harder, only then to feel like a failure when we know we could do more and try even harder yet.

Moses is confronted by a huge group of leaders of the people who seek a vote of no-confidence.  They lie about their situation, put undo blame on him, and call his motives into question.  But Moses doesn’t argue or dispute their claims.  He simply lets God do what God will do.  And in the great test, God proves faithful to His servant Moses, even to the point of Moses having to come to the aid of the very community that is grumbling against him.

Have you ever faced a situation where either you could try to fight your battle or you could sit back and let God do what God might do?  Which choice did you make?  You see the danger of letting God be God is that often God’s outcomes are not the ones we’ve fought for.  But they are God’s and if that is truly what we seek, then we should be content with those outcomes, even if they go against our own desire for achievement, accomplishment, and victory.

This is one of the most intriguing passages in all of scripture for me.  God’s faithfulness to His people, the faith of the leadership of Israel, and the faithlessness of the people are all held in strong counterpoint to one another.  After all this time, beginning with Jacob coming to Joseph in Egypt, or maybe even with God’s promise to Abraham in Gen. 11, God’s people are finally going to take possession of God’s land.  All they have to do is trust Him.  The God who brought miraculous plagues on their enemies in Egypt, who passed over them but killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, who parted the Red Sea, who led them with a pillar of cloud and fire, who gave them manna, water, and quail, this God who was so very active in their lives had more than earned their trust.  And all they had to do was trust that He would keep doing what He had been doing all this time.

But they couldn’t.  It’s amazing to me that when you put “but” in a sentence, the whole direction of the sentence changes.  “All they had to do was trust God, but…”  We see it in the report of the spies: “This land is amazing – all that God promised it would be – but…”  From a report of God’s faithfulness, it became a report of their faithlessness.  “We can’t attack those people!  They are giants with walls and strength far beyond ours.”  And so the faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, use the same tactic.  “Yes, the people are huge and have walls, but… God is faithful and will strengthen us.”

I wonder what God might have done to these people had His people been faithful.  Plagues and miracles?  Power and strategy?  New leaders with insights into war that hadn’t been seen before?  I guess we’ll never know.

And so God comes to the discussion with his own “but”.  “These people are faithless after all I’ve done so I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but… through Moses I will raise up a new people for myself as I did through Abraham.”  And Moses reminds God of His faithfulness and mercy, and God relents, but refuses to allow the faithless to see the Promised Land.  Because of them, they wander for 40 years, “one year for every day they explored the country”, and die in the desert as they had requested.

What might God do in our lives if we are only faithful?

Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.

Why can’t we ever just be content?  It seems like as a species, we always want more.  We’re in slavery, and all we want is our freedom.  We get our freedom and all we want is our promised land.  We get to our promised land and all we want is to walk in and take it without any struggles.  We wander in the desert and all we want is food.  We get food and all we want is water.  We get water and all we want is different food…

The most frustrating part is that we have such a tendency to rewrite our own history to match our arguments.  “Do you remember how great Egypt was?  All the fish and free vegetables we could eat?”  We forget that we were enslaved and in peril all day every day for hundreds of years.

Oh, how often we do this ourselves.  We rewrite our history to match our complaint, and then we complain about all we don’t have rather than celebrate all we have.  It seems that contentment is not something we can handle for long.

We see it again in the story of the Gerasenes demoniac.  All people want is to be free of this demon terrorizing their town.  And when Jesus frees them, they are afraid and ask Him to leave.  Only the demoniac himself recognizes all God has done for him and asks to follow Jesus.  Told that he could not but had to stay and follow the Great Commission, he gladly did and shared throughout the Decapolis (a region of 10 towns) all that God had done.

Today, lets commit to not being like the Israelites, or the people of the Gerasenes, or like we usually are and instead follow in the ex-demon’s shoes, gratefully sharing with everyone around us all that God has done for us.

“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  This thought from Ps. 119 reflects a theme that runs through both the Old and New Testaments.  Light permeates the scriptures from the first words of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.

In the Numbers text today we hear about the lampstand in the temple, a wonderful symbol of the light of God.  In the Mark text we hear Jesus talking about the light under the bowl.  And it is here that we ponder today.

What was the moment when someone brought their light, their experience with God, out from under their bowl and shared it with you?

What has been your light, your experience with God?

In what ways have you been hiding it?

What have been your bowls under which you’ve hid that light?

When have you taken it out from under your bowl for all the world to see?

“Whatever has been hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever has been concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  If anyone has ears to hear, then hear.”

Have you ever had a time in your spiritual life where saying, “I love you” to God just didn’t seem like enough?  Like “Thank you” and “I’m sorry”, “I love you” sometimes seems too small for the size of the emotion we feel toward God.  This has been so since the earliest days of our existence as God’s people.  And so, God instituted the Nazarite Vow.

As a way of praising God beyond just words, the Nazarite vow was a way to live out your praise and worship rather than just saying or singing it.  It was a vow that included not cutting your hair, not either drinking or eating anything that came from a grape, and staying ritually clean throughout the vow.  Our most famous failure at the Nazarite Vow is the judge Samson.  Known to most every Sunday school aged child as the strong man with long hair, Samson had a Nazarite vow thrust upon him by his parents, and he despised it.  His story very clearly shows him thoughtlessly breaking every aspect of his vow, from touching a dead body (both a lion and a donkey), drinking wine (at banquet after banquet), and finally allowing his hair to be cut.  And so in breaking his vow so thoroughly, God’s Spirit leaves him and he is powerless.

What might a Nazarite vow look like today?  While we shrink back from anything resembling duty, a vow of praise and devotion would be more palatable to our evangelical minds.  Not cutting our hair wouldn’t be too hard, though harder for women in our culture.  Avoiding raisins, wine and the like would be tolerable.  But avoiding dead things would be much trickier.  Dead bugs on the windowsill, dead mice in traps, we deal with dead bodies all the time so that one might be trickier.

What vow might you make to express your love for God?  How might we praise Him with our lives as well as our words?

When the last plague struck Egypt, every firstborn son in the entire land was marked for destruction.  However, God gave His grace and showed the Israelites, His people, the key to their redemption – the blood of a lamb on the doorposts.  With this sign, the angel passed over the home, sparing the firstborn.  However, these redeemed firstborns now belonged to God since it was He who spared them.

Recently, we read a second grace that God gives His people in this area.  The firstborn of all people and animals are God’s, it’s true, but God would allow those people and animals to be redeemed again with an offering given to the priests.  This offering essentially bought back the lives of these firstborn from God.

Today, we read a third grace that God gives His people in this area.  In lieu of the offering for the firstborn of Israel, God takes to Himself the entire tribe of Levi.  The Levites are now to be the servants of the temple and holy to God.  The Levites take the place of the firstborn.  Why the Levites?  Why not the tribe of Dan or Asher?  According to Jewish commentary, the Levites were purer than any other tribe because they had not committed the sin with the golden calf at the foot of Sinai.  And because they were purer, they were chosen to be God’s holy servants.

The Old Testament is full of foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry and redemption, and here is a big one, though one that is seldom discussed.  We often see Jesus in the Passover Lamb.  But He is there in the second grace, paying the price for the redemption of those firstborn sons, namely us.  And He is there in the third grace, the Eternal Priest taking the place of those firstborn sons.

God is a God of grace, and grace abundant.  Our redemption comes from Him and Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for us.  Hallelujah.

As you read Mark’s gospel, watch the role of the crowds.  Earlier in the gospel, it’s the crowds that block a paralyzed man from being brought to Jesus.  Instead, his friends have to tear apart the roof to lower their friend down to the healing presence of Jesus.  Even in Luke’s gospel, it is the crowds who force Zacchaeus into the tree in order to even catch a glimpse of the Savior.  Today, the crowds that follow Jesus push Him right out into the lake in a boat.  But they aren’t there for His teaching or for a relationship with Him.  The crowds are said to crowd Jesus with their jostling because “He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him.”

Today it is no different.  Crowds gather wherever there is something to be had.  Faith healers, promises of health, wealth, and blessing, big names, and entertainment all draw huge crowds while faithful relational churches doing good ministry continue to shrink.  Ask anyone who has left a church for another why they left and ultimately it will come to the fact that they weren’t getting what they wanted.

And so, Jesus calls a few people out of the crowds to be His “church”, His disciples.  12 men chosen not because of their ability or zeal or righteousness, but because Jesus chose them.  12 men who will follow Jesus more closely than any others.  12 men who will learn more, share more, grow closer to Jesus than any other.  While the crowds are blocking Jesus from those He wants to serve, heal, and love, His disciples will draw people to Him, if not now while they are learning from Jesus, then throughout the rest of their lives after His Resurrection.

What is the difference between the crowds and the disciples?  Which group best exemplifies you and me?