Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Matthew 9:20-22 Jesus, Our Compassionate Savior

I love to read the gospels because I am always reminded of how compassionate the Lord Jesus is toward us.  While obviously His most compassionate act was when He died on the cross as our substitute when He bore God’s wrath for our sins, His miraculous healings also demonstrate how tenderhearted He is.  I’ve been going through a lot the past year or so.  At times I have felt lost, unwanted, unloved, and useless.  As I look at the healings in this chapter of Matthew and I see how kind Jesus was to the people who needed Him, I see all over again why He is called the Good Shepherd—He truly cares for His sheep. 

As we noticed last time in Matthew 9:18-19, Jesus was en route to the house of a Jewish Synagogue leader whose daughter had either just died or was about to die.  So, while He, the father of the girl, and His disciples were headed to the man’s house, He was interrupted by a desperate woman—a woman who had suffered for 12 years. 

We’re not told exactly what the disorder she suffered from was, but we are told it was “a discharge of blood”.  Speculation about what the discharge was would prove fruitless, in my opinion.  If God had wanted us to know, He would have inspired the gospel writers to tell us.  Suffice it to say, however, that this constant flow of blood made her an outcast from society.  She couldn’t work.  She couldn’t socialize.  She was totally alone.  And she was desperate. 

First of all, she was desperate because she was cut off from contact with people.  According to Leviticus 15:25, she was perpetually unclean and therefore anyone she came in contact with also became unclean.  Add to that the obvious hygiene problems she must have had and you can imagine she must have been miserable.  Secondly, as we read the other gospel accounts, we find she was desperate because she had tried all kinds of treatment for her condition and had spent all she had in doing so (Mark 5:26) without seeing any relief.  A first century rabbi notes the kinds of “treatments” she had to endure. 
"Take of gum Alexandria, of alum, and of crocus hortensis, the weight of a zuzee each; let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that hath an issue of blood. But if this fail, "Take of Persian onions nine logs, boil them in wine, and give it to her to drink: and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this fail, "Set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her hand; and let somebody come behind and affright her, and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this do no good, "Take a handful of cummin and a handful of crocus, and a handful of faenu-greek; let these be boiled, and given her to drink, and say, Arise from thy flux. But should this also fail, "Dig seven trenches, and burn in them some cuttings of vines not yet circumcised (vines not four years old); and let her take in her hand a cup of wine, and let her be led from this trench and set down over that, and let her be removed from that, and set down over another: and in each removal say unto her, Arise from thy flux."
Can you imagine the heartbreak she must have felt every time one of these treatments failed?  She was beyond hopeless.  There was no light at the end of the tunnel and the only one who could truly help her was the Great Physician.  We’re not told how she knew how to find Him, or how she knew about Him.  For that matter, we’re not told what she knew about Him.  But we are told that she had enough faith to touch the “hem of His garment” (probably some tassels on His robe).  We read in Matthew 9:21 that she knew at least that He had healed others and believed that He could heal her as well.  So, in faith, she touched Him. 

Then, as quick as you could snap your fingers, the very instant she touched Him in fact, she was made well.  She could tell in her body that something was different—her disease had been cured.  She probably would have expected a rebuke from the crowd.  In fact, the other gospels that record this miracle (Mark and Luke) state that she was timid about coming forward.  Jesus wasn’t offended, however. This was no accident.  She wasn’t healed by Him passively.  No, this was a divine appointment and Jesus noted that He healed her because “your faith has made you well”.   

Now, this doesn’t mean that all those who have saving faith will be healed of their diseases and it certainly doesn’t mean that healing miracles are available today.  It does teach us those that when Jesus performed miracles such as this healing, they were proof that He was Who He said He was—the Son of God.  They also show His love and compassion for people (“Take heart, daughter”). 

Have you repented of your sins and trusted in Christ’s death and resurrection to save you from God’s wrath?  If you haven’t, consider how kind and merciful Jesus was to this woman and know that He will show that same kindness and compassion to you if you will only place your faith in Him.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review: Jesus + Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

I am a huge fan of the Star Wars movies—particularly the original trilogy that I saw as a child.  There isn’t a man my age that didn’t imagine himself swooping in with a lightsaber to defeat the forces of evil, saving the day, and being hailed as a hero.  One of my favorite scenes comes in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke is talking to Yoda trying to convince him that he is serious enough to train to be a Jedi.  Yoda looks him up and down and says:  

“This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! Hm? What he was doing!” 

That’s a pretty good summation of the human heart, in some respects.  And, as Tullian Tchividjian says in his book Jesus+Nothing=Everything, when you look in your heart and you see dissatisfaction or longing in some form, you see a place in your heart that needs a confrontation with the gospel.  In this book, he examines Paul’s epistle to the Colossians and drives home the point that the gospel is the answer to the deepest longing of our hearts because in Christ we have been fully accepted by God, blessed, redeemed, and saved from God’s holy wrath against our sin.  In short, Tchividjian drives home Paul’s point that Christ is supreme over all creation and that in Him we have everything we need.  Without Him, therefore, even if we have everything this world offers, we really have nothing.

Rather than extolling a gospel of legalism, or as he terms it “performancism”, Tchividjian exhorts believers using the book of Colossians to trust in the finished work of Christ.  Christ has already kept the law—He has done the work to deliver us from hell by dying on the cross.  Therefore, we can’t add anything to that work by our behavior.  We don’t live holy lives in order to earn salvation, but rather we have been freed by Christ from the curse of the law and enabled by the Holy Spirit to joyfully follow Christ.  When we realize that Jesus is more precious, more beautiful, and more valuable than anything this world has to offer, when our hearts are captivated by the gospel of grace, we find true satisfaction that all the things that we look to now (men’s approval, money, fame, status) can never provide.

In short, this would be an amazing book for personal study and reflection.  I would also commend it for a group Bible study.  We all need to be reminded of the gospel and reminded that the gospel is not just for those who need to be converted, but it’s also for Christians.   We are reminded in this book that the gospel doesn’t just save us, it also sanctifies us.