Don’t shoot the messenger

Posted: September 17, 2011 in Acceptance, Faith
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Hi, when I asked if I could do an interview with you, you said, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Why did you say that?

Because the report in the Bible about my meeting with Jesus gets a bit of criticism from time to time. But you see, I was just the messenger.  My meeting with Jesus was almost a chance event.

Tell us about what happened.

Jesus was at this house teaching people.  There was a great crowd of people crushed into the house. Everyone was hanging on every word that he had to say. I couldn’t get in because there was so many people, but I was trying to listen at the door, hoping to catch something of what he was saying.

Anyway, Mary James, Joses, Simon, and Judas  turned up. Mary is Jesus’ mum and the guys are Jesus’ brothers. Generally they didn’t bother Jesus, but they were asking after him, and it sounded like there was something on their mind they wanted to see him about.  I figured I would do the right thing and let him know they were asking after him.

So what did you do?

Well I pushed my way through the crowd and interrupted to tell him that his mum and brothers were outside and wanted to see him.

How did Jesus respond to that?

He made a very interesting statement. He said, “here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Wow, what did he mean by that?

Well most of us really didn’t have a clue what he meant, but I’ve been thinking about it since then. It think he was saying that his calling was greater than just his earthly family.  His higher calling was to work for God and that he had a responsibility to many people.

You don’t think it was a bit rude as far as his family were concerned.

No, I think they understood what he was saying. In fact, I figure he wasn’t actually saying anything negative about his family.  Rather it was an inclusive statement about the people who were prepared to listen to him and accept his teaching.

So really Jesus was saying that whoever was prepared to hear him and accept his word was like family to him.

Yeah, and not only that, he was saying that if they were prepared to hear him and accept his word they were children of God.

What an interesting meeting. Thanks for sharing that insight into Jesus’ life.

 

Read the story for yourself at Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, or Luke 8:19-21

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I’m back into it. In case you’re new here, this blog is about telling some of the stories of Jesus from the point of view of the person who was with Jesus at the time. The interview style is my way of digging a little deeper into who Jesus really is. Enjoy.

Hey Simon, thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. I’m told you had a rather interesting meeting with Jesus.  How did it come about?

I invited Jesus over to my place for dinner with a few friends.

But you’re a pharisee. Your lot aren’t exactly Jesus’ biggest fans

You’re right there. I’ve given him my fair share of criticism over the years, but there’s something about Jesus that I wanted to know more about.  I thought that if I had him over to dinner, we may get to understand where he was at.

Were you surprised that he accepted your invitation.

You bet. He has dinner with all the low life in town, but he doesn’t usually eat with us. Probably because we’re usually trying to trick him with our philosophical questions. It was a real honour that he accepted my invitation.

So I believe you had a gatecrasher?

Yes this woman walked in, right in front of us all. She was a real mess. She was crying as though something really bad had happened. I figured she must have been abused or something.

Did you know her?

Er… well… I didn’t actually know her.  But the other guys said she was a sex worker. They said she was pretty well known …that is … known by reputation.

So what did she do?

She went straight over to Jesus, got down on her knees and started washing his feet with her tears. Then she brings out this bottle of perfume. It wasn’t a little bottle, must have cost quite a lot, and began pouring it on him.

How did you feel about that?

I was mad as a cut snake. I mean I live in a respectable neighbourhood.  A nice dinner party with good friends. Everything was just right and in walks someone who I wouldn’t normally let anywhere near my house, and Jesus just allows her to blubber all over him. It was disgusting.  Funny thing, his friends didn’t seem to be worried about who the woman was.  They just complained about the waste of money because of the expensive perfume she was using.

Did Jesus say anything about what was going on?

Well he didn’t stop the woman. He just let her go, but he leaned over to me and tells me a story.

A story? What sort of story?

Well he said there was this businessman who was owed money by two people. One of them owed him five hundred denarii and the other 50. When they couldn’t pay, he said he would overlook the bill and let them both off. Then he asks, now which of them will respect the businessman more?

Did you answer him?

Yes, of course, I said it would be the person who was let off the biggest amount.

Did he agree with you?

He points to the woman and says, I’ve been in your house for dinner, you didn’t give me anything to wash my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears. You didn’t offer any sort of affection but this woman has been kissing my feet ever since she walked in the door. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, as the custom is, but she hasn’t stopped anointing my head with perfume.

That must have hurt?

Funny thing is it didn’t hurt. It just made me realise that here was someone who didn’t have any of the privileges I had, but she was offering Jesus a whole lot more than I was. When he said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little,”  I suddenly realised how little I was prepared to give to Jesus.

Will this meeting with Jesus have any ongoing effect on your life?

I’ve got to think about this a bit more. I feel as if there is something really special about Jesus. I’ve been pretty mean to him over the years, but he just accepted me, and seemed to really care about me.  He was quite right about how I had treated him. I gave him dinner, but it was probably more about the social acceptance than anything else. But this woman who had nothing going for her, expressed herself in a way I couldn’t. I think there must be something else that I need to do for Jesus.

Simon, thanks for sharing your story.

Read the story for yourself at Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9

Just a great watchmaker?

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Faith, Fear, Nature
Tags: ,

watchThere has long been discussion in theological and philosophical circles about God’s involvement in the world and in the lives of human beings. Was he like a great watchmaker  who created the world, wound it up, then let it run down, or does he have ongoing sovereignty over nature? How do we understand volcanoes, earthquakes and storms and the destruction that often goes with such natural phenomena?

My interview today is with a boatie who plied his trade on the waters around Palestine at the time when Jesus was living there.

Hello, you had a fascinating meeting with Jesus. We’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for the opportunity to tell me story.  I’ve been fishing and sailing around here for years and I’ve sailed through many storms in my time but I’ve never had an experience like this.

How did Jesus come to be in your boat in the middle of the lake?

He had been pretty popular at the time. Wherever Jesus went great crowds of people would follow him. Whenever people gathered, Jesus would take the opportunity to speak to them and teach them about the Kingdom of Heaven. I used to love listening to him. He is a great teacher and everyone who put his words into action found that it radically changed their lifestyle. But I could imagine that sometimes the crowds became too much for Jesus, and he just needed to get away. He was near the edge of the lake teaching, and came over to me to ask me to take him to the other side of the lake.

So he wanted to get away from the crowds?

Well, he wasn’t running away from the crowds, because the people would walk around and be on the other side waiting for him when he got there.  But it was a time for him to get away and spend some time in prayer and meditation. He seemed to have the capacity to give of himself to others quite sacrificially, then he could withdraw and gain spiritual sustenance to keep going. On this occasion he went to sleep. I reckon he needed it right then.

There’s a rhythm there that we could all learn from, isn’t there?

That’s right. Well, he came and asked me to take him to the other side of the lake, so I took him on board and headed off.

Can you explain to me why it seems to be so stormy out there?

Yes the Sea of Galilee  is subject to heavy squalls on a regular basis. You can see there are high mountains around the edge and there’s a big difference between the cold dry air in the hills and the warm topical conditions at water level. As a result there are big temperature and pressure changes, and storms occur on a regular basis.

So tell me about this particular storm.

As I said, Jesus was asleep when this storm started and we were starting to take in water. I’ve been out in that kind of weather before, but it was getting pretty scary and it was looking like we may be swamped.

So you went and woke up Jesus I assume. What did he say?

Here we were, experienced sailors, getting into a panic. Jesus wakes up and calm as you like, he looks around then calls out Peace be still. You wouldn’t believe it, the wind stopped immediately, and of course, the waves stopped as well. It was amazing how quickly the storm stopped.

So you’re saying that that Jesus had the power to stop the storm?

Yes, it was no coincidence. In fact, what Jesus said to us after that was the most interesting thing. He said, “why are you afraid, haven’t you got any faith?” We were stunned because he seemed to be saying that we didn’t even need to worry about the storm. If we trusted him, we could leave things like that in his hands.

It sounds to me that God is more than a great watchmaker. He can control the winds and the waves. I think I need some time to think through that concept. Thanks for sharing your story.

Evangelicals often get criticised for being so … well, evangelical. Here’s an interesting twist. Jesus didn’t sound too evangelical at all in this story in the Bible. If you haven’t been following Amazing Meetings, I’m using a slightly different method: I’m “interviewing” people who met Jesus. I hope you find it helpful in getting a better picture of who Jesus is, and that you’ll share it with your friends.  Here goes…

I’ve heard it said that you had a rather interesting meeting with Jesus in which you didn’t get the answer you were expecting. I’d love to hear about this, but first of all could you tell me something about yourself?

They call me a teacher of the law. I’d been hearing about Jesus for some time, and I’d been along to a few of his meetings, and it was beginning to make sense. It seemed to me that following Jesus wouldn’t hurt my reputation. Here was an opportunity to be a part of a new movement that was occurring and while I was a good solid Jew with all the right credentials, there seemed to be some benefit in appealling to this new fringe market of Jesus followers. You’ve got to keep up with the times you know.

Yes I understand what you are saying. So what happened?

Well I found Jesus and I said to him. I will follow you wherever you go.

What did you mean by that?

Just what I said. If I was going to be a follower of Jesus I was going to go the whole way. That’s the way I work. I don’t do things in half measures. If I was going to give this new sect a go, I may as well go the whole way. Surely it couldn’t be that hard. Jesus seemed to be very popular so there would have to be some benefits to me.

But his reply wasn’t what you expected?

No he said foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

What did you think he was saying?

Well it seemed to me he was saying that while the birds and animals at least have somewhere to go at night to be safe while they slept, he didn’t have anywhere that he could call home.

So he was saying that following him wasn’t going to be easy?

Well if I was to take him seriously and follow him wherever he went, which is what I said to him, it would involve me leaving home and sleeping rough.

Why do you think he said that? If he was trying to build up a new movement of followers it wasn’t a very good marketing approach was it?

No, I expected that he would be wanting people to follow him, and he would offer all sorts of benefits. It took me by surprise, but I appreciated his honesty. He wasn’t putting across some  sugar coated picture to try and get people in. There was no pretense, no gimmicks, just straight out honesty. Following Jesus ain’t easy.

Thanks for your thoughts today. I guess there’s a message for those of us who call ourselves evangelicals. We want people to know about Jesus but we need to do it honestly without any kind of deception.

 

You can read the story for yourself at: Matthew 8:18-22; and Luke 9:57-62

Sir, you had an interesting meeting with Jesus. I get the impression that you weren’t actually expecting it to be a good meeting.  You’ve been described as a Pharisee. Can you please tell us what a Pharisee is?

Some people would call us a political party, others a religious sect. We see ourselves as the protectors and upholders of the Rabbinic law. Judaism as you know it depends on our faithfulness over the years to upholding the law.

In my reading of the Bible I get the impression the Pharisees weren’t too supportive of Jesus.  Is that right?

You’re right there. The religious law was given to us by Moses and when people break that law or come up with their own forms of morality or religion our whole society is in danger of collapse.

So this meeting you had with Jesus was because you and your friends wanted to challenge him about the way he seemed to be a little loose in his interpretation of the law?

Loose? Man, we figured this guy was an out and out libertarian.   The fourth commandment in the law Moses gave us was to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.  We developed all sorts of rules and regulations to make sure that this commandment was kept. But this day we spotted Jesus and his disciples walking through this paddock on the Sabbath Day plucking off the heads of grain and eating them.

So this was considered by you to be breaking the Sabbath law?

Well, not so much the rabbinic law, but we had very clear oral laws about the Sabbath. We considered what they were doing as harvesting. They were working on the Sabbath and we didn’t appreciate the way they seemed to be flaunting our authority.

It sounds like it wasn’t the breaking of the law that upset you. It was more to do with your authority being questioned?

Come on, let’s get on with this interview.

OK, what did Jesus say to you when you challenged him and his disciples for plucking grain and eating it on the Sabbath?

He mentioned the story we knew about King David, and how we went into the house of God and ate the holy bread  . He even said it wasn’t lawful for David to do that, but he still used it as an example for why he and his disciples were breaking the Sabbath law.

Did you understand the significance of the story about David?

Yes, I did. He made sense.  He didn’t excuse David for what he did. He still said it was unlawful, but he pointed out that David was hungry and I think what he was getting at was that there was another law at work here that was probably greater than Moses’ law.

What do you mean? did he explain himself?

Well, then he talked about the priests who work on the Sabbath.  He had a point. Someone has to work on the Sabbath, and that’s what the priests did.  We were able to get around the law for that one, so I guess we weren’t all that consistent. I suppose that’s the problem with being so fixed on law. If you’re not consistent on everything, you end up getting yourself pretty mixed up.

And was that all Jesus had to say?

He added that something greater than the temple was here. He said he desired mercy not sacrifice.

It sounds to me he was saying that the teachings of Jesus represented a new way of looking at the old law. The emphasis of the new approach was more about mercy than about following rules and regulations? Is that how you understand it?

Listen mate, I’m a Pharisee and my job is to uphold the law. Unfortunately, what Jesus said actually makes sense. It’s left me pretty confused. There’s no freedom or hope in the approach that I take, whereas Jesus and his friends seem to be so happy. Maybe there is something in Jesus teachings…

I agree, it’s worth investigating further.

To read the account for yourself in the Bible see Matthew 12:1-8  ; Mark 2:23-28  ; Luke 6:1-5.

For those who are reading “Amazing Meetings” for the first time, thanks for coming along to my blog. If you feel so inclined I would be privileged if you would share it with others on Facebook, put a link on your own website or tell your friends about it. Stan Fetting was one  person who gave me a plug on his Crossover website. Thanks Stan. I appreciate your support.

If you are a first timer on this blog let me set the scene. In order to help us explore the life of Jesus I’ve imagined that I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the people who have met Jesus. In this way, I’m hoping you’ll get a better picture of Jesus, and how he may affect our lives in the 21st century.

Since I have been exploring the life of Jesus there is one story that has really had an impact on me. It was with a woman whose life had been pretty messed up. She was probably one of those un-cool people referred to by one of my favourite bloggers, Rachel Held Evans

Let’s have a chat to this woman.

Hello, thanks for the opportunity to meet with you. You had an amazing meeting with Jesus. I wonder if you could start at the beginning and tell me why you wanted to catch up with Jesus in the first place.

I had been sick for 12 years – women’s problems, you know. Been to dozens of doctors who charged like wounded bulls. I was broke from spending everything on doctors and alternative medicine and anything I could get my hands on. I was still sick despite all this and I’d really got to the end of my tether.

So what made you think Jesus could do any better than all these doctors?

I really didn’t know if he could. But I’d heard the stories about him, and I was desperate. He was pretty popular at the time, lots of people followed him around, so I thought, if I could sneak through the crowds, touch his clothes, some of the magic might brush off on me.  Nobody would notice me doing that. Nothing lost, nothing gained. Who cared about me anyway?

What do you mean by that?

I’m a woman. All my life I’d been told that women were only for one thing and with the bleeding I was having, no man would be interested in me anyway.  In fact, not even religion was working for me. They had this rule in the temple that anyone who was bleeding was considered unclean. I wasn’t allowed at the temple. I was a nobody and nobody cared.

So you went down to the market to see Jesus and there was a big crowd of people gathered round him.  Did you do what you planned, to sneak up behind him?

Yes, it was easy. There were so many people I could just push through and get real close to him and touch his coat.  I was desperate and probably a bit skeptical as well, but with all I heard about Jesus I was prepared to give it a go.

What happened when you touched Jesus coat?

I got the shock of my life. Here he was busy with all these people and suddenly he turns around and say: Who touched me?  His friends who were there with him kind of laughed. You’ve got all these people crowded around and you want to know who touched you? You’ve got to be joking, they were saying.

Did Jesus say anything else?

Yes, he did say something else. He said someone had touched him and he felt power going out from him.

What did you do?

Well, I was going to get out as quick as possible, but there was something in his eyes. I just knew that he really accepted me as I was. I couldn’t run, so I fell down at his knees and he told me that I could go in peace, my faith had healed me. Then I had this amazing feeling.  I had felt weak all my life, not just because of my sickness, but just that nobody cared for me. Like I said before, I was a nobody.

All of a sudden I felt different. Jesus cared for me even though I was a woman, even though I was sick, even though I was probably the least important person in the crowd. I had never felt anything like this before.

What do you think he meant when he said he felt power had gone out of him?

Well that was what was so amazing. The power had come to me. I felt straight away that I had been healed physically, but having felt like nobody cared for me all my life, there was something else that was even more important. The power that came from Jesus all of a sudden gave me a sense of being loved, of being needed, of being a somebody for the first time in my life.

You were empowered by Jesus to be the person you were meant to be?

Absolutely. For the first time in my life I felt that I had a purpose in life, a reason to live, and somebody cared. I would recommend Jesus to anyone.

Thanks so much for telling your story.

You can read the story in the Bible for yourself at Matthew 9:20-21; Mark 5: 24-37; Luke 8:43-48

Freedom, law and tradition

Posted: June 10, 2011 in Tradition
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How do we maintain security in a changing world? According to Tevye, the Jewish Milkman in the famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the answer is “tradition, tradition, tradition”.

I think there was a time when I thought Christianity was protected by tradition, and that the traditions of Christianity could protect me from the evils of the world.  My guest today puts a different slant on tradition in the amazing meeting he had with Jesus.

As you read this interview, please share your thoughts in the comments box, and refer this blog to your friends.

Hello. You’re described in Matthew’s Gospel as a disciple of John. Who is John and how did this meeting with Jesus develop?

Hi, John is actually Jesus’s cousin. But his mission in the early days was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. He was what you may call a hippy. He lived in the desert, didn’t shave or cut his hair, wore alternative clothing and had a diet that was something else. There were a group of us who became his followers. We got into the alternative stuff like him and we were very serious about all the Jewish laws. Especially fasting.

Why was that?

Well, John believed that if we were serious about our religion we should follow the law right down to the last jot.

So why did you go to see Jesus?

Well, that’s the thing. John was really strong on keeping the law, but we watched Jesus and his disciples and they seemed to be the very opposite. They didn’t fast, and in fact they kept going to these parties with people like Levi and his slimy mates.

So a couple of us went to see Jesus’ and ask him what was going on. We wanted to know why John expected us to follow the law in everything, but Jesus didn’t seem to have the same constraints on his disciples.

So what did he say?

It was a fascinating answer. He basically told three short stories. First of all he said, how can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while is with them. Then he talked about putting a new patch on a piece of old clothing, and how the new patch is likely to stretch and pull away from the clothing. Then his third illustration was about not pouring new wine into old wineskins.

So was he talking about himself when referred to the first story?

Yes, I think so. As I watched his disciples I could see that being with Jesus was so good, that the religious traditions actually didn’t make any sense. He wasn’t bound by the law at all – really free – but he didn’t do anything wrong. He maintained a lifestyle that was enjoyable, but there was nothing about it that was offensive, or destructive, or selfish.

So what do you think he meant about the patch on the clothing and the wineskins?

What I thought he was saying was that the Jewish law wasn’t to be thrown out; the traditions of the past had their place. But if you’re introducing something new, it had to be brand new, and not influenced by the past.

The new movement that Jesus was introducing – he called it the Kingdom of Heaven – was so radically different and new that it wouldn’t be effective if it was tied down by traditional thinking and legalities.

Does that mean we should throw out all the old traditions?

No, Jesus was really showing that his teaching should interpet the traditions and old laws and not the other way around. If you pour new wine into old wineskins the old wineskins will burst and you’ll lose all the wine.  If Jesus new teaching was made to fit the old traditions and laws, it would irreparably damage all that was good in the past.

Instead, Jesus preserved the past as a way of preparing for the future, and implemented a whole new way of thinking about life.

Thanks for that insight. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the new ways of Jesus.

To read the story for yourself see Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39