Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cross 101

The disciples did not understand Jesus’ way or his purposes.  They were committed to him, but they didn’t really know who they were following.  Jesus tried to build their faith, again and again, but they just didn’t understand.  Sometimes they understood a bit, and then they would show that they didn’t understand at all.  Finally, Jesus told him the most important message of all—and they showed that they understood that least of all.

Another day, another crowd.  This day it was four thousand men, not counting the women and children.  They had followed Jesus far away from any community, and they were hungry.  Jesus said to his disciples, “This crowd is hungry and I feel sorry for them.  If I sent them home, they would collapse before they ever got there.  What do you think we should do?”  
Jesus was saying this to test the disciples.  Unfortunately, they didn’t even know there was a pop quiz. “Who could possibly get enough bread for this huge crowd,” they responded.  
Jesus asked, “How many loaves of bread do you have?”  
They replied, “Seven.”  
Again, Jesus told the disciples to sit the crowd down.  Again, Jesus gave thanks for and divided the bread.  Again, there was enough for everyone to eat, and seven baskets of bread leftover—one basket for each loaf there was to begin with.

            Immediately after this, some of the Pharisees came up to Jesus and demanded, “Give us a sign in the heavens to let us know you really have authority.”  Jesus looked straight at them and said, “This rebellious generation doesn’t deserve a sign.  You don’t believe even with what you have—you will get nothing more.”

            A little later that day, Jesus was in the boat with his disciples, and they were going across the lake.  Jesus told his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.”  The disciples, though, weren’t really listening—they were concerned with how much bread they had.  “We’ve only got one loaf,” they said, “That won’t be enough for all of us.  Perhaps Jesus is mad because we don’t have enough bread.”

            Jesus heard this and was extremely frustrated with them—“Why are you always concerned that we don’t have enough bread?  Are you pursuing stupidity?  How is it that you don’t understand?  Look, remember the first time I fed the five thousand—how many loaves were there?”  
      They shyly said, “Five.”  
      “And how many baskets did you pick up?”  
     “And when I fed the four thousand, how many loaves were there then?”  
     They sheepishly replied, “Seven.”  
     “And how many baskets were left over?”  
     “Why don’t you get it?  Haven’t you learned the lesson yet?”

            A couple days later, Jesus and his disciples were in the villages surrounding Ceseria-Phillipi.  As they were going along the way, Jesus asked the disciples, “So, you’ve been listening to the crowds.  Who do they think I am?”  One replied, “Some think you are John the Baptist risen from the dead.  They think that’s why you can do the miracles you do.”  Another disciple said, “Some think you are Elijah, just as Malachi promised that he would return before the day of the Lord.”  Another disciple said, “Most people think you are just another of the prophets.” 

Jesus said, “That’s interesting.  What about you?  What do you think about me?”  All of the disciples were silent.  They didn’t know what to say—and they were afraid to say the wrong thing.  Simon, however, opened his mouth and said, “You are the Messiah—the King of Jerusalem and the Son of God.”  Jesus smiled and said, “You are blessed by God, Simon.  For you didn’t figure that out in your thick skull—you learned that from God himself!”

Then Jesus got serious.  “Look, starting the kingdom of God is more difficult than anyone thought.  Some thought it would start if the Messiah gets the agreement of all the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  Some thought that if they got an army blessed by God that the Messiah would conquer Jerusalem.  Let me tell you the biggest secret— the Son of Man is the Messiah, and he will go to Jerusalem.  The Son of Man will be rejected by the chief priests and Sanhedrin, and they will condemn him to death.  Then they will hand him over to the Romans and he will be killed.  And on the third day, he will be risen from the dead. This is how we will win Jerusalem.”

Simon took Jesus aside, where the rest of the disciples couldn’t hear him and said, “Look Jesus, this simply can’t be true.  A dead man can’t rule Jerusalem.  We won’t let such a thing happen to you.  All you have to do is to convince the Sanhedrin that you are on their side, then we can gather up an army…”  “Shut up!”  Jesus yelled.  “Get away from me, Satan!  You are tempting me with pleasing words—but you do not know God’s will, only what man desires!”  Jesus stomped away, over to where a crowd was gathering to listen to him.

“Listen to me, all of you,” Jesus announced.  “If you want to follow me, recognize that I am leading a revolution.  If you want what I have—my healing, my salvation—then set aside your dreams and ideals and get ready to be executed! 

“If you want to save the life you have—get ready to lose it.  But if you are willing to lose everything you have and everything you are for my sake and for the teaching of God’s coming kingdom—that’s the only way you will gain any life!  What good is it for anyone if they have their present life, but throw away any future they have!  What will you trade for an eternal future?  A few dollars, a house, some land?  What about your whole life—that’s what I’m offering.  Trade in the life you now live for an eternal future.  If anyone is ashamed of me or of my words before men, then I will be ashamed of them before the Father on the final day.  
"Make your choice—choose me and lose your life, or choose your present life and lose your future!”

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