Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Being Content

Luke 4:40While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.” The first time I read this verse, I paid attention to the healing that was going on; you probably did too just now. But I want to take a look at the opening words – “while the sun was setting”.

Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel has been telling about a busy day in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Our Lord had been teaching at the synagogue in the morning and was confronted there by a demon-possessed man. He casts out the demon and is invited to Peter’s house to heal his very ill mother-in-law. And now the sun is setting. No doubt the news had traveled quickly that day throughout the area that Jesus had taught “with authority” and also demonstrated authority over demons and disease.

No doubt as well that people were anxious to bring their sick or lame loved ones to Jesus for healing. But here we read a curious thing – the people did not start arriving till sundown . . . . The time here is an important part of the story, but Luke seems to miss telling his Greek readers why this matters and I’m guessing it is because they wouldn’t understand why it was such a big deal. And I’m not sure I really “get it” either, but here’s my best shot:

The sun was setting meant the Sabbath was ending!  Sabbath laws forbid traveling or carrying things. These people had in their midst a healer, THE Healer, and they couldn’t overcome their legalism and traditions to take their loved ones to Him for healing. This is so very sad! I’m not familiar with any orthodox Jewish families and so it is very difficult for me to imagine this mind set. But how do you wait all day to take your loved one (who may be literally dying!) to see the One who can bring healing? But that’s just what they did. “While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick . . . brought them to Him.”

I’m so much a loss for words here. I really am just not sure why this story grips me so – but it does. My eyes begin to swell with tears at the thought of people waiting all afternoon, anxiously watching the sun creep along its path in the sky – and then finally heading out to seek the Healer! Really? Tears? Yes, I know it sounds so pathetic and I can’t explain it. But the sadness doesn’t end here . . . .

Luke 5:39And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” These have got to be some of the saddest words ever spoken! How often has the gospel been preached to someone who already has “religion” and they reply “no thank you, my old religion is good enough!”? And here these Jewish folks have the Living Gospel right in their midst and they would rather follow their traditions and thousands of rules than turn their lives and their sick loved ones over to Him who can truly heal. They are comfortable and content with the faith of their parents and can’t bring themselves to part ways with family tradition.

It was for this reason that Peter INSISTS that the Jewish converts on the day of Pentecost are baptized – he knows their hearts’ desire to just patch on this new found religion to their old ways. But he won’t let them, and so the call to repent is followed with “and be baptized” into Christ! (Acts 2:38). Make a clean break from the religion of your families and publicly show everyone in Jerusalem that you are now IN CHRIST.  Some of those 3,000 baptized that day may have been left with nowhere to go, literally they had just turned their backs on their families and they were no longer welcome at home!

I am sure that some of the sharing of possessions that we see in the opening chapters of Acts came from heart-felt joy and love, but I'm equally sure that some of that was brought about by necessity. Many of those who chose to be "baptized into Jesus Christ" would have nowhere to go. Unless their entire family was baptized with them, they would be un-welcomed in their homes that evening. Furthermore, many would soon become unemployed if their Jewish employers learned of their baptism into Christ. Sharing was a very needful thing for these folks.

Interesting, I heard tell that the crowds estimated on that day in Jerusalem were over one million – that means less than one-third of one percent actually decided to become baptized into Christ. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He did not change the path to eternal life on that Day of Pentecost. Jesus tells us that the way is NARROW and FEW are those who find it. The way did not become "wide" for that day and then somehow become "narrow" again later.

Lesson: Be careful what you are content with! Luke 5:39And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” Sad words indeed.

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