Monday of the Second Week in Advent
Luke 5:17-26 - World English Bible
17 On one of those days, he was teaching; and there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was with him to heal them. 18 Behold, men brought a paralyzed man on a cot, and they sought to bring him in to lay before Jesus. 19 Not finding a way to bring him in because of the multitude, they went up to the housetop, and let him down through the tiles with his cot into the middle before Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, he said to him,"Man, your sins are forgiven you."
21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?"
22 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, answered them, "Why are you reasoning so in your hearts?23 Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you;' or to say, 'Arise and walk?' 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (he said to the paralyzed man), "I tell you, arise, and take up your cot, and go to your house."
25 Immediately he rose up before them, and took up that which he was laying on, and departed to his house, glorifying God. 26 Amazement took hold on all, and they glorified God. They were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today."
What is easier to say? The core question of this passage from Luke was not only a rhetorical question of Jesus' ability to heal and forgive; it pitted two groups listed in the scene: those who believed (the four men who lowered the paralytic before Jesus) and the skeptics (the scribes and the Pharisees). In other words, the question appealed to and challenged the faith of those who sought the healing. Jesus was telling them, "Yes, I can heal and I can forgive sins." The same conjunctive statement scandalized the religious leaders, and eventually led to his execution.
Believers vs. skeptics. Some things have not changed in the two millennia since Jesus walked the earth. We, too, are challenged to pick a side, to deepen our faith or to give up and allow faith to drift away.
Do you believe you have seen God's power today in your life?Top of the page
Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent
Matthew 18:12-14 - World English Bible
Jesus said to his disciples,
12 "What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray? 13 If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
In this passage from Matthew, Jesus mixed the image of the sheep and the "little ones." In context, Jesus spoke to his followers about children (Matthew 18:1-12), so to really understand the verses, we must investigate the status of children in ancient society.
The place of the child in the time of Jesus was the exact opposite of his or her place in modern, Western culture. Children lay at the bottom of the social ladder, where as elders stood at the top. Parents had children for primarily economic reasons; love was a secondary reason. Children were laborers that increased the worth of the clan as a whole and provided care for the parents in their old age. Since one half of all children died before the age of 16 (from many diseases we now vaccinate against), conditions encouraged people to have as many offspring as possible. So, the notion of a lost child ("sheep"), while tragic, would not bring the economic efforts of a clan to a standstill in a world where most people lived below a subsistence level. Yet, that was the ideal Jesus held up.
Now, consider the symbolic meaning of the term "child." It could refer to the core audience Jesus served (the outcast, the sinner, the ill) or it could refer to a fellow Christian (as a "child" of God). No matter the reference, however, Jesus desired extra attention paid to the lost child, the outcast in society, the errant sinner. This care was a key component of ministry.
How can you care for the "lost child" in your life this week?Top of the page
Wednesday in the Second Week of Advent
Matthew 11:28-30 - World English Bible
28 "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
In these few passages from Matthew, Jesus used an agricultural metaphor to describe discipleship. He implicitly portrayed the religious life of the Jew (we assume) under the Pharisees as a heavily burdened lifestyle, like that of a yoked oxen driven by a farmer to plow a field. Life for the Jewish Christian would be easier, not necessarily because discipleship freed him from the duties of the Torah, but freed him from the responsibility of salvation. The responsibility of his soul did not lie simply in his own efforts, but in the One who died for all. Following the Christ and sharing in his very life lifted the burden of conscience; the disciple did not have to please God alone; no, he had a Savior who did that for him.
We follow the Messiah and learn from him; we don't have to do it by ourselves.
When have you felt relieved that you had Christ beside you, helping you?Top of the page
Thursday of the Second Week in Advent
Matthew 11:11-15 - World English Bible
Jesus said to the crowd.
11 Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.12 From the days of John the Baptizer until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
In these few verses, Jesus placed John the Baptist in the flow of salvation history. He was the greatest of all men up to that point, simply because he immediately preceded the Christ and, so, the Kingdom. John acted as a signpost for THE person and THE event; his activity would culminate in everything the Hebrew scriptures (the Law and the prophets) foretold. Yet, if John was great as the one who pointed to the Messiah and his realm, the commoner who entered the Kingdom would be that much more blessed (i.e., "greater").
I once heard a man proclaim, "The greatness of an idea can be measured in the opposition it faces." This was true in the case of early Christianity. The faith faced enmity, even persecution, on all sides. The Pharisees considered its claim of a crucified Christ audacious; the Greeks considered it ludicrous; the Romans considered it seditious. Yet, this was the faith of the Church; their Master was the Messiah; he reigned in his Father's Kingdom. And, the Baptist, the one who foretold the Savior, was his Elijah.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of YHWH comes. (Malachi 4:5).
How can you act like the Baptist and help others prepare for the coming the Christ?Top of the page
Friday in the Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 11:16-19 - World English Bible
16 "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call to their companions 17 and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you didn't dance. We mourned for you, and you didn't lament.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
After his teaching on John the Baptist, Jesus critiqued the common wisdom about his ministry. He repeated what we can only surmise was a popular proverb about non-participation of people in good times or bad; then, he compared John to himself. John must have had a demon because he was so highly disciplined, he embarrassed the general culture. Yet, Jesus was condemned for having too many vices. His point still resonates today; too many people do not want to get involved, yet they love to stand on the sidelines and judge others. The only judgment that can possibly be valid is one over results. Indeed, wisdom is justified by her children.
How can you be patient with others and refrain from judging them?Top of the page
Saturday in the Second Sunday in Advent
Matthew 17:9a, 10-13 - World English Bible
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, 10 his disciples asked him, saying, "Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
11 Jesus answered them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and will restore all things, 12 but I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they didn't recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted to. Even so the Son of Man will also suffer by them." 13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptizer.
In Matthew's gospel, Jesus and a few of his disciples (Peter, James and John) came down the mountain after the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). The missing verse from the passage above was: Jesus commanded them, saying, "Don't tell anyone what you saw, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead." (Matthew 17:9b). The two events (Transfiguration and the prediction of his Passion) reinforced their belief about the Master: he was the Christ. Now they asked the question about Elijah.
In 1 Kings 2:8, Elijah did not suffer death but was whisked into heaven on a chariot of fire; in the time of Jesus, people expected the prophet to return and reveal the Messiah (see Malachi 4:5-6). So, the disciples expected some Elijah figure. The question was: who was he? Jesus implicitly answered, "John the Baptist."
The core of the passage lay in 17:12, where Jesus declared that both he and John would not be recognized by the leadership and both would be ill-treated. What happened to the Baptizer would happen to the Messiah.
When have you failed to see Christ in others? How can you rectify that error?Top of the page