Not just flesh & bones & sweatpants
This past week’s message identified that fact that to various degrees we are out of practice when it comes to interacting with each other. Sweatpants Syndrome – the drift towards informality, staying at home, hiding out, avoiding “stressful” encounters with others – is an unfortunate outcome of the pandemic. But the greater need for Jesus followers is not just to learn how to reengage with in-person interactions, but how to take seriously that – because of the Holy Spirit in us – we are ordinary people who bring the extraordinary presence of Jesus everywhere we go!
This week’s readings will look at 5 different accounts from the life of Jesus. If we are going to have said about us the same thing that the religious leaders said about the disciples (“they took note that these men had been with Jesus”), then let’s use theses passages to “spend time” with Jesus, and ask His presence to show up in us in the same ways.
Read: John 13:1-15
In the first century, walking everywhere in hot weather and on dusty roads, wearing sandals was standard practice…and combined for some nasty dirty feet for pretty much everyone. At the end of the day when you came home or (if you were lucky) were hosted at someone else’s house, if you or your host had money, a servant or slave (e.g. the lowliest person in the house) would wash your smelly dirty feet, until they were clean and lovely again. Ahhh. That’s the life.
The disciples of Jesus (Jesus included) were rarely so fortunate, as they had no fixed address (or wealth) themselves, and were not generally considered the kind of guests most wealthy people would want in their home.
So when Jesus, at an intimate dinner with his closest friends, begins acting like the lowliest person in the room – taking off his outer garment, lowering himself to the ground, and washing the feet of his disciples, it definitely is one of the most stunning and awkward moments in their relationship with Him. They are horrified. There isn’t anyone on the earth by this point that they hold in higher regard than Jesus – He is Lord & Master. And He is subjecting himself to this humiliating, gross task? Unthinkable. But he does it. And then says, I’m showing you how people with power, prominence, importance and status are to act with everyone else.
So let’s spend time with Jesus on this.
What are parts of your life, your heart, your past, or even your body, that you are ashamed of? Embarrassed of? Hope that no one ever sees, notices or knows?
How does it make you feel to know that Jesus knows them and sees them? That he doesn’t judge you or reject you because of them? He accepts them. Cleanses them. Protects them.
Is there any problematic part of your life right now that you are struggling with alone? Not praying about or considering how Jesus might want to help you with?
Ask Him to come close and help you with that part of your life.
Now consider this: Is there anyone in your life with “dirty feet”?
- Something they feel embarrassed or ashamed of?
- Something they are struggling with and can’t fix?
- Something they do or say or look like that pushes others away?
Pray a prayer to Jesus, the servant, foot-washing King, asking Him to help you serve this person that has come to your mind.
Read Luke 18:9-14
Whenever Jesus told stories, parables, the listeners were invited to see God, see others and see themselves in the story. This story that is about “Two men” is a call to see which of the two we are more like; if not exactly, then at least somewhat leaning towards…
Perhaps the most distinctive difference between them is how they see themselves. The Pharisee (who would have been one of the few people who, ostensibly, kept all 639 laws of the Jewish faith) saw himself in comparison to others. And from that vantage point, he thought he looked pretty good. He was able to list all the good and noble things he does that others don’t do, and all the terrible things the doesn’t do, that others do. He makes a good argument (so he thinks). He’s even aware of the “others” he compares himself to while he’s praying – like the tax collector is the perfect example in his argument/speech before God.
The tax collector sees himself very differently. In actual fact, all he sees is the ground. He is unaware of what others are doing, for better or for worse. He is just very aware of who He is compared to God in heaven.
Jesus says the perspective of the pharisee, which only produces pride, leaves him in a sketchy uncertain place with God. But the perspective of the tax collector, which produces humility, leaves him in a good, right and safe place with God.
So, what about you? How often do you compare yourself to others? Who are the people you are most likely to compare yourself to?
Other members of your family?
Friends at school?
People at church?
People at your work or who have a similar role in the marketplace?
The result of comparison is pretty much always, only, pride. Either arrogance (I’m good!) or insecurity (I’m no good0 – but either one is pride. It increases our obsession with ourselves.
Jesus invites us into a much scarier, but in the end much safer and freer, kind of comparison – to Him (to God). What is God like? Look at Jesus. How did Jesus handle wealth? Criticism? Power? Rejection? Betrayal? The outsider? The poor?
How do you stack up to Him?
The beauty of comparing yourself to Jesus, is not only that it produces humility (through honest confession) but that these are the very characteristics he promises to produce in us!
What quality of Jesus do you most need or want to see in your life right now? Ask Him to keep working to produce that in you.
Take two minutes of silence, breathing slowly in and out.
Thank Jesus for his extraordinary presence, in your ordinary, everyday life.
Read Luke 19:1-9
More tax collector stories. Why do they show up so much in Jesus’ biographies? Because they were the perfect example of the kind of people Jesus was drawn to, spent time with and ultimately had come to save.
When I taught this passage to the kids at daycamp several years ago, every time I said the name “Zacchaeus” they had to yell out “Traitor, Cheater, Liar!”. They didn’t miss a single chance. It’s one of my favourite memories from daycamp (along with Mister T, Melissa J stuck halfway inside a cooler, and Carolyn’s moving mustache…if you haven’t volunteered at daycamp, you’re missing out!!!)…I digress.
The tax collectors were hated by pretty much everyone; and the religious leaders assumed that in hating them, they were representing God’s heart towards the tax collectors (He – they assumed – hated them too).
So Jesus’ eating with them, calling one of them to be in his inner circle (Matthew) and going out of his way to meet with them, in their homes (like Zacchaeus) was as scandalous and ungodly as could be imagined.
Jesus answer when questioned as to his conduct towards Tax collectors was always the same: these are the ones I came to save.
Who are the tax collectors in our day? In our life? Said another way, who are the people you could never imagine going out of your way to talk to, eat a meal with or think God would want you to show his love to?
Jesus ran into Zacchaeus on his way somewhere else.
Ask Jesus to help you run into someone today who needs to know the love, grace, acceptance and kindness of God. Ask Jesus to help you realize when that is happening, and to give you the words and ideas as to how to respond when it does.
Go through the day’s plans in your mind. Ask Jesus to walk with you through all of it (step by step, hour by hour), making you aware of His presence and attentive to his direction.
Close with 2 minutes of silence & slow breathing.
Acts 4:13–14 (NIV)
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The hostile witness of the religious leaders was that Peter and John had clearly been with Jesus. One of the reasons they concluded this was because of the courage, boldness and kindness they displayed. Kindness in healing the man, boldness and courage in speaking the truth clearly and without fear to the very same men who had crucified their Lord & Saviour. Interestingly, these were the same disciples that just a few months earlier had been hiding in fear from these same religious leaders. The difference? They had received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus.
The boldness, courage and kindness displayed by the disciples are examples of what the Apostle Paul, a few years later, would describe as the “fruits” of the Spirit; the evidence of the extraordinary character of Jesus in an ordinary person’s life. Paul’s list of character qualities included:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control
From this list, or any of the other character qualities of Jesus that come to mind, which do you need most in your life right now? Another way to think about it is in what sphere of life, relationship or situation do you feel most “ordinary” (i.e. weak, lacking, challenged, frustrated)? What do you need from the Spirit in this situation or relationship?
Take 3 minutes (set a timer) to breathe slowly, imagining yourself breathing out your feelings or experiences of ordinary responses to people and situations, and breathing in the character, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Read Acts 3:1-10
Acts 4:13–14 (NIV)
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.
One of the main reasons the religious leaders associated the behaviour of Peter and John with the Jesus (noting that they had been together, been under His influence) was because of the healing power they displayed in enabling this man who had been crippled from birth to be able to walk (And run and leap!).
Yesterday we talked about the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit producing Christ’s extraordinary character in Peter and John (and us). But this passage also shows that the Spirit produced Christ’s extraordinary power through Peter and John – the power to heal.
This is something that many of us as Jesus-followers wrestle with. Perhaps we find it much easier to believe (and see evidence of) the fact that the Spirit can make our character more like Jesus. But do we believe and see evidence of the fact that the Spirit can work the power of Christ through us – to heal, cast out demons, speak truth, show uncommon mercy and understand Scripture? These are just some of what the apostle Paul (and the early church) called the “Gifts” of the Spirit. Scripture describes things like:
Teaching (helping people understand God and God’s truth), Evangelism (sharing faith such that people believe), encouragement, wisdom, mercy, healing, miracles, prophecy (God-like words uttered in a timely fashion, about the present or the future), helps, leadership, apostleship (God-inspired innovation and initiative), to name a few.
The NT writers encourage us to ask for the gifts of the Spirit, to discover what gifts we have, and to use them. Which of these gifts do you feel like you need right now? Or Which have you benefited (received) from others in the body of Christ?
Is there someone God’s Spirit is putting on your heart to go and pray with for healing? To help? A serving or leading role to say “yes” to? Someone who needs encouragement? Whether or not you know if it’s your spiritual gift, don’t ignore this prompting.
Take a few minutes of quiet to listen to what God’s Spirit might be directing you to do, or who he might be directing you to.
Close with a prayer of commitment to follow through on whatever you heard Him say.