29 March 2010

Jesus Financially Cared For by Women

Luke 8:1-3

Paid ministry is always a touchy subject.  Are those professional ministers motivated by calling or by paycheck?  By other's needs or their own needs?

Jesus was teaching and healing.  He had twelve disciples who were learning to do the same.  How were they able to be fed, clothed and sheltered as they went from town to town?  By women who had been personally affected by Jesus and wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to do the same for others.

 It's a beautiful picture of how Christian ministry should work.  There are two sides to the equationthe minister and those who ensure the minister's needs are met.

All good ministers work for God.  It is he who calls them, gives them the gifts and directs them in meeting the needs of his people.  All good ministers are motivated by their love of God and their love of people. All good ministers would do the job whether they are paid or not.

The beauty about being a Christian is there is not one Christian who has not been served in one way or another.  And we are reminded of the grace of our Father in heaven and the one he sent every time we see someone with the calling, the passion and the ability to help others the way we have been helped.  We so appreciate how they are able to serve our neighbours in the name of Jesus, we want to ensure they are held back by nothing in order to serve as God has called them to.

A worker is worth their wages.  And this is no different for those who are full-time workers in the name of Jesus.  How much should they be paid?  Enough that they can do the job without having to worry about their own needs. 

As Jesus served others, the ones he served served him.

28 March 2010

Jesus Deserves Our Love and Gratitude

Luke 7:36-50

I like the fact that Jesus will eat anywhere he is invited.  There is something very simple about that principle.  He will go to the home of an adoring disciple or a skeptical religious leader.  Since Jesus does it, we must do the same.

 We are not told of the circumstances of Simon's invitation.  But, we are told he is a Pharisee.  As has already been recorded, the Pharisees were so focused on their esteemed community position and their rules, they did not appreciate Jesus' ministry.  In fact, they so did not like Jesus that some conspired to shut Jesus up by killing him.  Would Simon go that far?  Not sure.  He could be like Nicodemus who met Jesus in the middle of the night.  What is clear from Jesus is that he didn't receive a warm welcome from Simon. 

We are not told many specifics about the woman either.  We only know that she had sin (rebellion against God) in her life and that when she heard where Jesus was,  she immediately went to him and demonstrated by her actions that she knew who Jesus is.  Isn't it interesting we have now seen two people who demonstrated great excitement once they learned who Jesus is who didn't have physical but deep spiritual infirmities and they are both women?  Please don't try to tell me that Jesus or the recorders of his ministry had a low regard for women.

We learn in this passage that religious people are not warm people.  For Simon's coldness was not only demonstrated by the way he welcomed Jesus into his home, but by the way he regarded the woman.  Apparently, he knew the woman and he knew her sin.  Was his reaction, "I am so thankful that this needy woman will find the help she needs and maybe this Jesus, who is the friend of sinners, can provide what she needs."  Sadly, no.  In fact, he projects his repulsion toward this woman onto Jesus.  He thinks that if Jesus knew this woman as well as he did, Jesus wouldn't even let her touch him.

Jesus then addresses both of them in his leading question.  Does Jesus' answer mean that the religious leader had little to be forgiven for?  I do believe that the woman did have much to be forgiven and delivered from, but I'm not sure Simon had little in comparison.  Look at the lack of love he had for people.  Surely his unwillingness to love his neighbour as himself is a grievous sin.

What caused this sin is what Jesus addresses.  The woman knew of her need.  Simon did not.  Simon had it all figured out, or so he thought.  Simon thought he did not need forgiveness.  Simon thought he was fine in the eyes of God.  But his folly is demonstrated in how he welcomed this man of God into his home.  You would think that a man after God's own heart would lovingly welcome one of God's servants into his home.

How and who we welcome into our lives and homes says a lot about our true understanding of our Father in Heaven and the one he sent.  The woman knew who Jesus is.  That he is her Saviour, the Messiah.  She demonstrated her faith through a tremendous outpouring of generosity and affection toward Jesus.  

Jesus forgives her sin and tells her in another astonishing statement, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  How do we react to the presence of Jesus?  Do we welcome him or regard him with suspicion?  Jesus is the way to have a right relationship with our Father in heaven, to find peace.  What do you have faith in?

27 March 2010

Jesus Warns Cities

Matthew 11:20-30

"If Jesus would come down right now, I would believe."  "If God would give me a sign and let me know he exists, I would believe."  "If he would...I would believe"  Really?  Are you sure about that?  Because, according to this account from Jesus' ministry, there were three cities off the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus performed many indisputable deeds of power, where he would heal anyone who had faith in him by coming to him and asking him to heal them.  And yet it wasn't enough.  People would still not heed the message of Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

One would think that if some holy man was healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind,  giving the lame the ability to walk, etc... that there would be mass repentance.  There would be great hordes of people rejoicing that the kingdom of God is at hand.  But, alas, there was not.  How could this be?

Because our ultimate problem is not that our Father in heaven has not spoken to us.  Our ultimate problem is that we do not want to hear what our Father in heaven says.  For to hear what He has to say to us, gives us the responsibility to live as he wants us to live.  And so, we arrogantly construct all kinds of intelligent-sounding justifications for why we simply can not believe in the God of the Bible or the Son that He sent.

As Jesus has already taught and as he will continue to teach throughout his ministry, following him is not an intellectual exercise.  It is not the winning of a debate nor the superior use of clever arguments.  Following Him is a matter of the heart.  Do I believe that Jesus is who he says he is and will I allow that to make a true difference in the way that I live?

This is why he goes on to talk about the upside-down kingdom of God.  He confounds the wise and gives the truth to children.  We have seen Jesus over and over again teach in the synagogue and on mountainsides.  We have seen Jesus touch the untouchable and heal the unclean of Israel.  Who believes in Him?  Who has thrown parties in his honour?  Who has left their professions to follow Him?  It are those whom the ruling religious class disregards; the poor, the unclean, the tax collectors and sinners.  Who criticises Jesus?  Who is plotting to kill him and therefore shut him up?  The people who had placed themselves as stewards of God's Word for the people.  The religious class.

It is as though Jesus is telling those who may have had desires of living a life for God, but have given up on the idea because they have been ridiculed, disregarded and/or harassed by their religious leaders, "Following me is easy.  In fact, if you trust me with your life, you will find a peace that you never knew was possible.  Lay your concerns with me and I will take them upon myself and we will go forward together."

On a separate note about this account, it is interesting to me that Jesus does not pronounce his judgment to individuals but to cities.  This should not sit well with those who regard Jesus as a mere "personal" saviour who has nothing to say on how entire communities are to respond to his message of "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

23 March 2010

Jesus Commends John the Baptist - Pt. 2

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Luke 7:31-35

Not every prophet acts alike.  As Jesus points out, John the Baptist was very simple.  He lived in the wilderness.  He ate bugs.  He must have looked like a bit of a nutter.  Jesus, on the other hand, went from city to city.  He ate the same things that people served him as he went into their homes.  He celebrated with people.  He probably looked quite plain and ordinary as Isaiah prophesied.  

The only thing that any true prophet has in common is they all speak the truth from God.  Prophets were sometimes used by God to speak to people.  Sometimes their words are heeded, but more often the Word of God is ignored and derided.  People who ignore what a prophet has to say brings up excuses as to why they should be ignored.  "He has a demon."  "Look, a glutton and a drunkard."    As Jesus points out, these are just excuses masking the real reason neither the words of John the Baptist nor Jesus were heeded by, in particular, the religious class.  

They were not willing to accept the Word of God.   They did not want to listen to anything that would not mesh with what they already believed to be true.  John had integrity?  So what?  Jesus is performing healings that we have never seen before?  So what?  I know what is right and what I believe!

What if God clearly comes to be speaking truth but I do not want to listen because it is too hard to accept?  It will cost too much?  Is this wise?  God is truth.  God is wisdom.  When God speaks, we ignore him at our peril.  "Did God really say....?" is the oldest deception in the world.  

Jesus consistently says that by their fruit we will know them.  You don't just listen to what people say.  People can say anything.  You look at their fruit.  Are they wise?  Children of wisdom give glory to God.  What does the fruit from wise "trees" look like?  What does a life that listens to the words of John the Baptist and Jesus look like?  Let's keep reading the Words of God and find out...

22 March 2010

Jesus Commends John the Baptist - Pt. 1

"When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Luke 7:24-35

While John's messengers return to John with the message Jesus gave to them about all the lives changing from Jesus baptising people with the Holy Spirit, Jesus used the occasion so that no one would have doubts about the ministry of John the Baptist.  "I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John;"  High praise indeed.  And keep in mind he is speaking to descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the people of David and Elijah.

What made John the Baptist the greatest of those born of women?  We could guess that he had integrity.  Certainly the simplicity of his dress and where he lived suggested he was not corrupted by want of any kind.  It is also true that he carried out the task that God had given him to prepare the way for the Lord.  Indeed, many of John's disciples became close disciples of Jesus.  He carried out his orders even when he didn't understand them such as when he baptised Jesus.  Even after the start of Jesus' ministry, he carried on being a prophet of God to the point of being imprisoned.

Jesus also uses the occasion to give a brief glimpse of the kingdom of heaven which is not a surprise since it was Jesus' favourite subject.  He says that this one who no one born of women is greater than was not greater than anyone in the kingdom of God.  Why?  We are given a clue by the commentary given by the author Luke.  Luke suggests what Jesus states here is that John is not greater than the people he baptised.  The key to understanding this is to understand the main task in John's ministry:  baptism.

John is described by the prophet Isaiah before him as one who was to prepare the way of the Lord by making straight paths for him.  How?  By proclaiming to all "Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near" and those who accepted this message were baptised by John.  People, including tax collectors, who accepted this message accepted the justice of God and people, including religious leaders, who rejected this message rejected God's purpose for themselves.

What an extraordinary comment by Luke.  Remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 7?  That the kingdom of heaven is not inhabited by those who merely hear Jesus' words but does what Jesus says.  The Christian faith is an active faith.  The kingdom of God is populated by those who demonstrate their faith in God by DOING what their Father says.  

Paths are made straight for the Lord when hearts are straightened.  Hearts are straightened when we acknowledge our rebellion against God, we turn back from those rebellious ways and we acknowledge that the only way for us to truly live is to ask God to forgive our rebellion and give ourselves completely to the only one who is just and true.  He is the giver of life.  We are His.  Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

Many in the crowd would have been baptised by John and from what we can glean from the inspired words of Luke, they eventually understood the full implications of what Jesus was teaching here.  John prepared people for the Lord through baptism because when people were baptised they acknowledged the coming of the kingdom of heaven which was ushered into their lives by Jesus.  Even today, we don't see the full glory of the kingdom yet, but because of what Jesus did for all of us, it soon will be.

I pray that everyone I know will have a path straightened for the Lord.  I pray that everyone will acknowledge the justice of God, that it is he who rules over his kingdom.  I pray that everyone will accept God's wonderful purpose for them.

20 March 2010

Jesus Points to Healing as Evidence

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ ” Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”  Luke 7:18-23

Isn't it strange that the one who proclaimed "Look!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the worldsends messengers to ask Jesus if he is indeed the one they have been waiting for?  Is he indeed the Lord that John was to prepare the way for?

John was imprisoned by the king for condemning the murder of the king's brother so that the king could marry his brother's wife.  It was probably a very discouraging time for John.  His ministry was drawing to a close.  He told people of the coming Lord and Messiah.  He called people to repentance in order for them to be prepared for the new era the Messiah would bring.  He baptised many.  At the end of the day, was it worth it?  Sitting in the earthly king's prison because he worked for the King of kings, he had to wonder if anything had really changed.

So, John sent the disciples who had been caring for him (no prison meals or other provisions) to find the answers to his end of ministry question, "Are you the one?"

Jesus' response?  He turns to the crowd and cures diseases and plagues, drives out evil spirits and gives sight to the blind.  He then gives the message to John, in essence, yes John the world is changing.  Well done, good and faithful servant.

It's also odd to me that he also tells John "And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."  Why did Jesus say that to John?  Not sure.  We may see more of an answer when the messengers leave and Jesus talks to the crowd about John the Baptist.  

But, one thing is certain.  Jesus is the Lord that John was preparing the way for.  Jesus' way is THE way.  We may question Jesus and we may be humbled as Jesus challenges our worldly way of thinking.  But, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to not be offended by Jesus.  It's to humbly accept his Lordship as his grace shapes the life I am to lead.

18 March 2010

Jesus Heart Goes Out to the Hurting

"Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country."  Luke 7:11-17

Sometimes when we think about Jesus, we may see an ethereal figure who showed little emotion while waving his hand in the air as he healed people as his feet glided instead of pressed on the ground.  But when I read this I see a human being who heart feels for a fellow human being.  When Jesus has compassion or when Jesus' heart goes out to another, it is expected that something amazing is about to happen.
I once read a book that asserted that God is a God who likes to come through.  He wants us to know exactly where our help is from.  This woman had just lost everything.  She lost her husband and now her son.  Who would care for her?  Who would put in the hard labour that she could not?  The Lord saw her and his heart went out to her.  
Whenever a writer refers to Jesus as "The Lord" we are about to witness his authority.  He demonstrates to all the people present that he even has authority over death.  What an incredible Lord we serve!
Here we read about two large crowds coming together.  What must it have been like to have been a member of that crowd.  You constantly see Jesus doing amazing things.  You constantly hear Jesus giving amazing teachings like none ever heard before.  But as a person who is introverted and a bit claustrophobic, it would be a bit harrowing to be in a consistent crush of humanity.  At the end of the day, however, I would probably be turning to someone next to me and ask, "Did I see what I just saw?"
For once (no sign of the religious class here) we see the crowd have a proper reaction to Jesus.  The translation here is awe, but the word is actually "phobos" which you may recognise from "phobia" which in English is fear.  They were afraid.  Wouldn't I be?  "What in the world does this mean?  Who is this man?!?"
In proper fashion, fear of the Lord leads to praise of God.  "God has come to help his people."  Death is a constant reminder that things aren't the way they are supposed to be.  Death exists because we decided to pursue other gods.  Yet, his heart still goes out to us.  He has not left us to our fate.  He always acts.  He always loves.  He is always the Lord.  Thank you Father for your son Jesus.

17 March 2010

Jesus Has Authority

"After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health."
Luke 7:1-10

From a Jewish perspective there is much to despise about the centurion.  He was a military leader from a Gentile nation occupying their land.  But, apparently he was well regarded since, according to the elders, he showed interest in their culture and backed his interest with the action of building the local synagogue.  Jesus chose to honour the centurion because of his faith.

The centurion heard about Jesus from others and the others explained who Jesus is so well, the centurion understood who Jesus is.  At the very least, he understood Jesus to be someone sent by God and that God had given Jesus authority to carry out His will and mission.  A military leader understands this perfectly.  They receive their orders from someone in authority over them.  They do not ask the why or the how of the orders.  They are not even privy to how the order fits exactly with the overall plan from the emperor.  Those in authority over the centurion had given him authority over others in order that the centurion would be able to complete the task that he had been given.

He understood that Jesus was under the authority of his Father in heaven and that Jesus had authority to carry out his Father's will on earth.  He demonstrates his faith by acknowledging two things.  First, people with great authority need to have an audience requested before any sort of request is heard.  People with great authority don't see just anyone.  People with great authority need to be humbly approached.  This is why the centurion did not personally see Jesus or bother Jesus with the trouble of entering the house.

Second, people with great authority use words to accomplish the mission.  People with great authority give commands to complete the task.  He understood who Jesus was and knew that Jesus could simply heal his servant with a word.  There was no magical incantation or ritual, no loud, laborious dance that Jesus had to perform.  Jesus did not even have to see the servant.  All that was required was the authority of Jesus.  

Jesus was so amazed at the centurion's understanding that he seems to turn to his Jewish disciples and say, why can't any of you believe in me the way this Gentile does?

16 March 2010

Jesus Teaches That to Follow Him is to be All-In

"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Matthew 7:12-29

As Jesus concludes this teaching with a positive summary of the law and the prophets, he reminds us that following him is active.  We do not follow Jesus in contemplation.  We do not follow Jesus by formulating theories on what life in Jesus may look like.  We do not follow Jesus in what we do not do.  We are to DO for other as we would have them DO for us.  Following Jesus is meeting the practical, real needs of people.  After Jesus rejoins his Father in heaven, the church is described in part as not having any needs among them.  How is this possible?  Because they followed the "Golden Rule" as prescribed by Jesus.

Jesus then concludes his teaching with four stark contrasts that have no middle ground.  He drives home again and again that either we will follow him or we won't.  Following Jesus is not a part-time proposition.  Not only that but Jesus teaches his disciples that following him is their only hope.  This is an incredibly audacious claim.

Worse, he tells his disciples that the road that leads to life is a hard road.  Apparently, nobody taught Jesus about winning friends and influencing people.  I tend to be a very lazy person.  I hate resistance.  Resistance is hard.  It makes me scream as I fight against it and sore after I lifted it.  But without resistance, we cannot grow stronger.  Like any good father, God wants us to mature, to grow.  My default mode is to go with the flow.  But in going with the flow, I get lazy, fat, slow and apathetic.  This is the road to destruction.  Worse, this is not the only road to destruction.  Any god that we pursue other than our Living Father in Heaven leads us on the road to destruction.

How do we know who is on the road to destruction and who is on road to life?  Don't focus on what they say.  Speaking is easy.  Whether or not we should learn from a teacher needs to be determined by the results of a teacher's life.  Is there life, love, and hope in the teacher's wake.  Is there real needs being met?  Or, is there destruction, malice and despair evident when one investigates the teacher?  Jesus says this is how you can tell who is a good teacher and who is not.  Again, there seems to be no middle ground.  Either we good trees that bear good fruit or not.

What I love about Jesus is that he isn't selling me unrealistic expectations.  He is lovingly blunt with us.  He teaches that people who follow him with their lives will face the same trials as everyone else.  Following Jesus does not mean that our troubles go away.  The rains will come.  The wind will blow.  The floods will rise.  The advantage of following Jesus with our lives is the strength to withstand and thrive through trouble.

Father, thank you for the opportunity at life through Jesus.  May I come to trust you completely in order to have life that you have created for me. 

13 March 2010

Jesus Encourages His Followers

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11

By this time there must have been many questions swirling in the heads of the crowd.  Jesus gave several warnings.  He wanted them to be "perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect".  He taught them about integrity in all their spiritual disciplines.  He taught them about having a purity of heart that does not entertain malice or lust or any kind of evil. He even taught them about loving even people who mistreated them.  He taught them about seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness.

How?  How in the world is this possible?  Keep in mind that throughout the twelve disciples and the crowd there were many who had come to Jesus believing that he could heal them or their loved ones and He did.  If I had brought my brother who could not walk to Jesus and Jesus healed him, when he tells me "Ask, and it will be given to you..."  I would be nodding my head quickly.

Here's something that Jesus hammers home to those who want the Lord as their King, who want God to be their heavenly Father:  We are not alone.  We might look at the will of God as a very difficult thing, as too much to bear in certain circumstances.  But we must come to know that He is good.  He wants the best for all His children.  There are just two things he wants from us.

First, he wants us to ask.  Why does the one who knows us better than we know ourselves wants us to ask, seek and knock?  Because he wants a relationship with us.  He wants us to know that he is there.  He wants us to know where our gifts come from.  He has given us everything.  It's all gift.  And in honestly searching and seeking Him out, we come to truly understand who He is.

Second, our heavenly Father wants us to trust him.  Jesus calls the crowd evil.  That's a bit harsh.  But if we are to honestly look at our lives and some of the decisions we make out of absolutely stupid, selfish motivations, we can only bow our head and acknowledge this to be true.  Our Father is good.  It is hard to recognise sometimes because we are not entirely convinced that he has our best interests at heart.  Why do I have this?  I wanted this.  Why am I suffering through this?  Doesn't he care?  If there is a God, why did this happen?

In a fallen world, from an evil perspective, it is sometimes hard to tell what is good and what is evil.  To repent is to turn back from the old way of life.  To believe in Him is to trust that our heavenly Father really does have our best interests at heart.  Jesus reassures us that if we are honestly asking, we will receive.  If we are honestly seeking, we will find.  And Jesus reassures us that if we knock on the door of His home, he will always open the door for us.  Isn't it truly wonderful that the maker of heaven and earth, our heavenly Father will always welcome us into His home? 

12 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about Discernment

"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you..."   Matthew 7:1-6

Jesus previously warns us about serving two masters.  We are to first seek His kingdom and His righteousness.  We know that wealth must not be our focus.  How are we to regard one another as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
Jesus now teaches that perception is everything.  How do we see others?  How do we see Him?  How do we see our heavenly Father?  How do we see ourselves?  This is key in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness.
The hardest thing for me to change as I repent of serving in another kingdom instead of the Kingdom of Heaven is laying down my own rule for His rule.  It's His kingdom.  It is not my kingdom.  He is the King.  I am not.  He is the one who decides who has, is and will serve Him.  I do not.
As we have already seen, Jesus cares deeply about people.  He touches lepers.  He forgives sins.  He parties with tax collectors.  He gives intimate teaching to fishermen.  He does not refuse anyone who asks for what he offers.  As we will read later, Jesus gains a reputation for being 'the friend of sinners'.  
That title was given by people who saw themselves as the favoured of Israel, as the favoured ones of God.  And, as we have already read, the ones who trusted in their own righteousness had hard hearts.  They could not care less about people.  They saw a healing and wondered if it was done on the right day.  They saw a celebration and wondered if a rabbi should be eating with those people.  They saw a man who had not been able to walk for 37 years and scolded him for carrying his mat.
If the Father can forgive me, he can forgive anyone.  It is not my place to decide who can not come in and who should stay out.  If they come to me for help, as a servant of the King, I help.  If they come to me wanting to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, as a servant of the King, I offer what He has given to me to assist them.
But, in order to more effectively serve others, I must make sure my sight is clear.  I cannot seek first His kingdom and righteousness, if I am not truly seeking His kingdom and righteousness.  The blind cannot lead the blind.  I must humbly, daily seek the King's orders in my life.  I must not be so quick to focus on and point out my neighbours' faults.  To constantly see the wrong in people is the way of the world.  It's a discipline from Jesus to see the ability for anyone to be the light of the world.  Whatever is keeping me from seeing others as Jesus sees them must be dealt with.
It would not be loving, however, if I saw someone with an irritated, tear-stained eye and not offer help.  If I had something in my eye, I would want someone to help me get it out.  After all, I have just acknowledged that I need my eye clear if I am to clear the eyes of others.  It would be stupid pride (as if there is another kind) if I was to refuse help and allow my vision to grow worse and worse.
It's pride and wickedness that blind the eyes of those who refuse to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  We live in a world where we see sick and hurting people every day.  All of us need help in one form or another.  The problem is not everyone wants help.  They stupidly walk around with planks in their eye stumbling through life while proclaiming to anyone within the sound of their voice that they are doing just fine.
One of the hardest lesson for people who have been given hearts of flesh is to understand that while Jesus offers salvation to everyone, not everyone wants salvation.  He gave teachings that confounded the stubborn and caused their blindness and deafness to increase.  He only healed those who believed he was their only hope.  He only healed those who came to him.
The Holy Spirit seems to be reminding us through Jesus' words here:  There is plenty of need out there.  You have been sent to serve those in need.  But don't waste your time forgiving those who don't want to be forgiven, helping those who don't want to be helped and healing those who don't want to be healed.  
Believe me there is more than enough to do for those who cry out to our Father for help.

10 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about Who People of the Kingdom Serve

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
 “And who of you by being worried can bad a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own..."  Matthew 6:19-34

After Jesus warns us about doing 'acts of righteousness' for praise from our fellow man instead of for our relationship to our heavenly Father, he continues more pointedly on the subject of divided loyalties.  After asking us to be honest about why we give, why we pray and why we fast, he now asks the more pointed question:  Who do you serve? 
This is the key question because who we serve determines how we live.  What do we want?  Jesus teaches that our hearts determine our reality.  What do we long for?  What do we dream about?  What is our heart's desire?  Where do our hearts direct our eyes?  What do we see?  Jesus teaches that our eyes are indeed the windows to the soul.  What do we focus on?
What do I want?  To be happy, content, joyful, loved, respected.  I think everyone has these same desires.  It is inbuilt in all of humanity.  This is not hard to believe since we are all made by our Creator.  The question then becomes how will I get what I want.  Will I trust the one who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but took the form a servant or will I just do it and grab what I can when I can?
I said before that Jesus speaks here about divided loyalties.  Jesus teaches there is no such thing as divided loyalty.  For sooner or later, a choice will have to be made.  Either we will serve God or we won't.  Jesus warns that when we do not serve the King fully, we will not serve Him at all.
Can Jesus be any clearer than this?  Being a Christian is not a matter of intellectual superiority but of complete and utter trust in Jesus the Son and God the Father.  That's all.  What do I spend my money on?  How do I live?  What are my hopes and dreams?  What do I repeatedly look at?  Am I trying to keep up with the Jones or to keep up with Jesus?
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of my needs will be met.  Do I really trust that to be true?  

09 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about How People of the Kingdom Serve

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-18

After Jesus teaches the blessed ones how they are to follow the Father's Law in relation to one another, he now teaches them how they are to follow the Father's Law in relation to the Father himself.
We are told in the Holy Scriptures that God is a jealous God and he demands strict loyalty to all who would worship Him.  This seems a rather odd attribute for a heavenly Father who we see as loving and kind.  But, when we wisely and humbly look at the times when we have served another as our King, we can see that reminding us that he is a jealous God is quite loving indeed.  
Worse still is when we pretend to serve our heavenly Father while using that same service to please an earthly master.   If you knew someone was using your friendship simply to gain the favour of the person they really cared about, how would you react?  And you are not even the giver of all life.
When Jesus came to Israel, it was a very religious culture.  There were holy festivals and holy days that were a part of the culture.  People were encouraged to give offerings, to pray and to fast.  These are not bad things at all.  Jesus, however, teaches all within the sound of his voice that it is critical to remember why they are practicing these 'acts of righteousness'.  Why do we give?  Why do we pray?  Why do we fast?
The way of Jesus, the way of our heavenly Father, is a simple matter of the heart.  He wants all of our hearts.  We cannot have divided loyalties.  We should not give in order to win the hearts and minds of men who will applaud us for how good we are.  At the end of the day, so what?  We give because we realise that all the blessings of this life that we enjoy are gifts from the King.  Therefore, we pay him tribute in order to thank Him for the things we do enjoy.  It is not ours.  It is the King's.  And the King tells us to be generous just as He is generous.
We should not pray in order for people to see how clever we are in our prayers.  At the end of the day, so what?  We pray because we seek an audience from our Father who loves us and enjoys spending time with us.  We pray because we understand that to have communication with anyone, let alone our Father in heaven, is to have relationship with them.  And, what's beautiful about our Father is we don't have to address him in a certain language that he has given to just a few.  All he asks for is respect and we address him with simple respect.
We should not fast in order for others to see the strength of our resolve and write books about our discipline.  At the end of the day, so what?  We fast in order to set our minds on the fact that our Father is the giver of life and that we trust what he gives or takes from us.  Fasting is a holy way to flush out all the nonsense of a world obsessed with what it sees.
Our Father in Heaven, I want to serve you only.  Please forgive me when I serve someone or something else.

08 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about How People of the Kingdom Live

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven...
Matthew 5:17-48

There would have been those who saw Jesus breaking "Sabbath Law", eating with sinners, etc... and thought that this new rabbi was truly abolishing the law and/or the prophetsBut Jesus clearly teaches that this is simply not the case.  Jesus continues his teaching about people who are blessed by the King that the current problems with the Law is not with the Law itself, but in how the Law and the Prophets are interpreted.  In fact, Jesus (Would simply a good teacher make this claim?) claims that he came to perfectly fulfill the law and the prophets.  

Further, he gives a warning that righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of heaven.  He then gives several examples of what that righteousness looks like:

  • People of the Kingdom do not harbour anger and hatred against one another.  They wisely settle disputes between themselves quickly before actions escalate and it becomes much harder to repair the relationship.  Blessed people know that their King will not be accept their service and tribute if his people have cut off one another.
  • People of the Kingdom do not even entertain fantasies about another person's spouse.  Blessed people stay true to their King and/or their spouse.  Yes, Jesus gave strong teachings and warnings about sexual relationships.  Anyone who believes sexual relationships have little to no impact on who we are and our relationship to the King are either deceiving themselves and others or incredibly naive.
  • People of the Kingdom do not divorce unless they have already physically divorced by giving their body to another.  According to Jesus, physical affairs are the only legitimate reason for divorcing our spouse.  Again, anyone who believes that divorce does not impact ourselves, our spouses and especially our children to our very core are either deceiving ourselves and others and/or have hearts of stone.
  •  People of the Kingdom do not rely on oaths to assure people of their truthfulness.  People of the Kingdom have integrity and are trustworthy period.  Again, anyone who believes that protecting our reputation by deceiving others has little to no impact on who we are and our relationship to the King are deceiving themselves as well as trying to deceive others.
  • People of the Kingdom are always generous and kind no matter who receives our kindness or the circumstances in which the kindness is required.  Withholding kindness or plotting vengeance or reacting vengefully has a deep impact on who we are and our relationship to the King who gave His Son while we were still rebelling against Him.  The King's subjects are to conduct themselves by the King's own standard.
 In light of such teaching, anyone who claims Jesus has little to no say in how we are to live are giving false teaching.  Jesus has plenty to say about how people of the Kingdom are to live.  It seems the mistake so many of us make is in our interpretation of the Law.  According to John, Jesus is the Word in the flesh.  He is indeed fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  If we are to understand and correctly interpret the law and the prophets, we must study the one who came to interpret and fulfill the Law and the Prophets for us.  
Father, I know that how I live the life that you gave to me has a deep impact on my relationship with you, myself and my family and neighbours.  Please give me wisdom in following Jesus and in giving Jesus so that through your lamb I may perfectly pattern my life after the standards you have set for yourself.  Your wonderful, holy and perfect standards.

03 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about Why People Are Blessed

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus healed the crowds and then started a teaching on who is blessed in the kingdom of heaven.  He started teaching in the third person, but shifted into the second person when he says "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."  He continues addressing them in the second person. 
Were the disciples blessed?  It all depends on one's view of Jesus.  Were the crowds blessed?  There were many in the crowd that had been healed by Jesus and they all bore witness to the miracles of Jesus.  Yes, they were blessed.  Most of the people present were broken people who went through extraordinary lengths to go to a man they had only heard about and he validated their hope in him. 
He then warns them that if they decide to continue to follow him, the road ahead will not be smooth and without trouble.  "No good deed goes unpunished" is an old saying.  Why is this so?  Because those who are blessed by the King still live among people who despise the King.  They do not recognise the King as they have set up someone or something else in their lives that exist as their king.  And whenever there are two kingdoms trying to win the hearts and minds of people, there is war. 
Against such a warning, Jesus explains to them the mission the king gives to them now that he has blessed them.  "You are the salt of the earth."  Most of these people were not regarded as good for anything before.  What an extraordinary statement by this authoritative teacher to the ears of the disregarded.  What did he just say?  Is that what he called me?  Really?  Salt preserves.  Salt enhances.  Is he saying that we preserve and enhance the earth?  Really? 
Jesus does warn them, however, that they must not be overcome by the old, tired, failed ways of men.  Jesus teaches all of us who are blessed by the King that the King will bless others through us.  But this requires that we do not forget who our King is.  Whenever we fail to serve the King as he has asked us to serve, we are no different than the ones who are leading the earth down a path of apathy, listlessness, spoilage and destruction. 
"You are the light of the world."  Most of these people were not considered as good for much of anything before.  What an extraordinary statement by the one who had brought them hope for a better life.  What did he just say?  Is that what he called me?  Really?  Light illuminates.  Is he saying that we illuminate the world?  Really? 
Yes, I suppose since they were on an elevated point that Jesus could have pointed to a nearby city when he told them "A city built on a hill cannot be hid."  But I think Jesus illustrated this by the crowd themselves.  "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  A city had been established on a hill by the King.  It was the crowd who was present.  Imagine looking around at the mass of people when Jesus spoke these words. 
They were blessed by the King and were now commanded by the King to serve Him.  How were they to serve the King?  By letting their light shine.  How were they to let their light shine?  "so that they may see your good worksJesus was setting up a kingdom that would grow not by traditional means of wealth, manipulation and military strength but by the ways of kindness, justice and mercy.  "give glory to your Father in heaven."  He will talk more about this as the teaching continues...

02 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about Who is Blessed

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 5:1-12

Again we see Jesus teaching a large crowd seated and using acoustics to his advantage.  This just fascinates me as a public speaker.  Before he sat on a boat and pushed out from shore so the acoustics of the lake could carry his voice.  This time he uses the acoustics of a mountainside to carry his voice.
In the context of this teaching where I will devote several posts, those in severe need have been coming to Jesus from near and far.  Jesus has been healing all kinds of ailments.  This must have looked like a crowd that no one wanted seeking Jesus' help.  And, he has just completed picking the most unlikely group as his inner circle.
"So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan."  Matthew 4:24-25
What if I was blind my whole life?  What if I could not walk for a very long time?  Has God cursed me?  Has he forgotten about me?  Then, suddenly this incredible rabbi bursts on the scene.  He knows the scriptures.  He teaches with an authority like no one has experienced before.  And, he seems to surround himself with people whom the other religious leaders have previously disregarded.  We seemed to be lost causes and then I heard about Jesus.  He is my hope.  He is my salvation.  I don't care that he is several days journey away.  If asking him to heal me is my only hope, I will make it there no matter what it takes.  I just hope I am able to get through the crowds to see him just for a second.  I hope I am able to see him just long enough for him to heal me.
Many make the journey.  Many of those people are healed.  Can you imagine their anticipation as this miracle worker spoke.  How does he open? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  Jesus is again speaking on his favourite subject, the kingdom of heaven.  Not only that but he seems to be teaching his disciples about who has access to the kingdom of heaven.  And he does not give the expected answer.
The poor in spirit?  Those who are persecuted?  Really?  Yeah, really.  Look at what has been happening in Jesus' ministry so far.  It is those who are broken who are begging Jesus for help.  They come to him in desperation and he honours their pleas.  He heals them and changes them.  Those who mourn will be comforted.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.  This is the nature of the kingdom of heaven.  
Do we trust the king?  Do we trust the king even when the rest of the world says that trusting the king is the most foolish thing we could ever do?  Even when those who rebel against the king seek to silence his subjects by any means necessary?
Jesus encourages those who have come a long distance to seek his help.  This is how the kingdom of heaven works.  If we realise who we are, the foolish ways we have wasted and despised the life that he has given to us and realise who He is and how only through Him, can we truly live life to the full.  What we truly want will never be gained through arrogance, apathy, pride, brute force, hatred and revenge.  What we truly want will only be gained by laying down our own foolish ways and seeking the way of the king.  Then, we will gain everything we should ever hope for.
Father, I want to be healed.  Your Son is my only hope.  I want to follow his every steps.  My one desire is to be blessed.

01 March 2010

Jesus Prays Long Before An Important Decision

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.  Luke 6:12-16

The last time we read about Jesus praying, it was in deciding whether to stay in a town with a lot of need or to move to other towns with a lot of needs.  Once again, Jesus prays before sunrise.  Only this time, he starts around sunset.  This shows that Jesus choosing the twelve was not an arbitrary decision.  On these twelve men, save one, would rest the kingdom of God movement that Jesus came to spawn.  

Jesus would teach twelve men who he is, what the kingdom of heaven is and how they were to carry forth once he was gone.  Jesus had crowds following him and he chose twelve and those twelve was to start a viral movement that would influence the rest of the world.  Only twelve?  Really?  And in less than three years?  This is the way of Jesus.  

In today's church growth material, there is much that concentrates on pure numbers as though the church is a company putting up annual reports to the shareholders they are responsible to.  But, there is very little on the quality or depth of discipleship.  Why?  It is easy to measure "success" through numbers and difficult to quantitatively measure discipleship.  But Jesus would pour much of himself and his teaching into these twelve men.  And these twelve men were expected to do the same for future followers of Jesus.

Who were these chosen few of Jesus?

Seven of these men, have already been mentioned.  Four of these men have intimate ties to one another through family and business.
  • Simon Peter - Fisherman.  Renamed by Jesus.
  • Andrew - Fisherman.  Peter's brother.
  • James - Fisherman.  Son of Zebedee.
  • John - Fisherman.  Brother of James.  Son of Zebedee.
  • Philip - Fisherman.  From the same town as the previous four.  Friend of Nathaniel.
  • Nathaniel - Fisherman.  From Cana where Jesus turned water into wine.  Introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip.
  • Matthew - Tax Collector.  Threw a party for his friends and Jesus when Jesus commanded Matthew to follow him.
  • Thomas - Not much is known about Thomas prior to meeting Jesus, but there are a couple of times after he is called by Jesus, where we come to know him a bit better.
  • James son of Alphaeus - Not much is known except he could be the brother of Matthew?
  • Simon - Political activist.  Part of a group of militant, violent outlaws.  (Imagine the conversations between Matthew and Simon.)
  • Judas son of James - Not much is known about this Judas but he does ask a couple of good questions to Jesus later on.
  • Judas Iscariot - Unknown about his prior profession, but he was the treasurer of the group.  He would later betray Jesus into the hands of those who sought to kill him.
All of these men's lives would never be the same again after being trained by Jesus.