DayBreaks for 9/02/16 – The Day I Learned Who I Was

Image result for looking into a mirror

DayBreaks for 9/02/16 – The Day I Learned What I Was

John 11:47-48 (ESV) – So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

I have often found myself shocked and puzzled by the reactions of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. They certainly are not painted with a sympathetic brush in Scripture. They (for the most part – there are some exceptions) are not figures that we think to ourselves: “I want to be like Caiaphas when I grow up!”

In the verses preceding the passage above, Jesus has raised Lazarus. Afterwards, the crowd that witnessed the miracle dispersed and it says that some ran to tell the Jewish leaders what Jesus had done. Why did they do this Maybe they did so because they were amazed and wanted the leaders to know that Jesus must have been the Messiah so the leaders could accept and welcome him. Maybe, however, some were spies who were in cahoots with the leaders and were sent out to report back all that Jesus did so they leaders could trap him. We see that the leaders had tried to trap him many times. We simply don’t know their motive, but the reaction of the leaders is what is significant.

John gives us at least a clue into their motivations. They couldn’t and didn’t deny the signs…yet in this recorded discussion, it is as if they totally excluded the miracles from their thought processes. Their fears appeared to be centered on four things: 1) that many would believe on Jesus; 2) that the Romans would intervene; 3) that they would lose their places of prestige and honor; 4) that the Romans would obliterate the nation.

I suspect that the greatest of these motivations was the third one. We always seem, no matter our position, to think of ourselves first and the impact something will have on us.  Sometimes the better part of us takes over and we over-ride the concern about impact to us and do something for someone else, even though it may be very costly to us as individuals to do so. Think of someone diving into a raging river to rescue someone else. They have made a conscious decision to disregard their personal safety for the benefit of someone else – perhaps even for a stranger. But, more often than not, when we are asked to sign up to help in the nursery at church, or to give to a cause or to take on some responsibility, don’t we do a mental check that goes something like this: “What will this mean to my time?  How long will it take me?  How long am I committing for? What won’t I be able to do or buy because of this?” This mental calculus doesn’t take us long, but if we are to be honest, don’t those thoughts run through your head when someone makes a request of you?

Perhaps we aren’t that different from the Pharisees at all. I learned something about myself from this passage today – and I didn’t like what I saw when I looked into the mirror of God’s Word.

PRAYER: God, I confess that my first instinct is to count the cost of what something I might do for someone else means to me and my wishes and my goals and my “place”! Help me to know when it is right to count the cost and when it is right to simply say, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

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DayBreaks for 8/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

DayBreaks for 08/23/11 – Of Fig Trees and Pharisees

The fig tree and appearances...and reality.

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” – Matthew 21:18-22

I know that Jesus used this to teach a lesson to his disciples.  The lesson Jesus draws is about faith and doubt.  It is hard to miss that part of the story because Jesus makes it so explicit.  Perhaps we should just leave it at that in the interest of pure exegesis.

But I think that there’s also another lesson that isn’t usually associated with this passage.  Jesus looks at the tree and curses it because the tree was all show – and no substance.  It was much like the Pharisees – with whom he’d had a confrontation the day before – beautiful on the outside, but there was no substance.  They looked good, but weren’t good.  It is so easy to get down on the Pharisees because Jesus allows us to see them as He saw them.  Lest we get too carried away, however, I need to remember that it is probably easier to be like the Pharisees than different from them.

I try (who doesn’t?) to look good on the outside – physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually.  When it comes to spiritual matters, I can say my “Praise the Lord!” when someone experiences something good, so that I sound like I’m always thinking about the Lord and how good He is (and He is!)  Another case in point: I can pray in public when I go out with other Christians to eat at a restaurant, making a show of bowing my head so it’s obvious what I’m doing, even suggesting we pray if others don’t bring it up first…but what if in my heart of hearts it is all a show?  I mean, if I don’t normally give thanks for each meal when I’m at home by myself or with my family, one must ask themselves the question: why am I doing this in public?  What’s my motivation?  Is it truly thankfulness, or am I just putting on a show because I think my Christian co-diners expect it, or because I want them to think I’m spiritual?  And what about watching my language when I’m around other Christians, but not when I’m with foul-mouthed co-workers?  Aren’t those things nothing more than pretending to be fruitful, to present a look of a fruitful Christian but not the reality in my heart?

Pharisees are a dime a dozen.  Real followers, real disciples, are rare treasures.  Which am I?  Which are you?

PRAYER: Lord, we can be such hypocrites – and never even really think about how hypocritical we are!  Open our eyes to our own attempts to appear holier than we are and humble us before your cross.  Grow us into being real followers and not just show-boats.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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