Not everyone is going to be a preacher or full-time missionary, but we can all be disciplers. Pray & find someone to mentor in the faith.
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t compare to Jesus’ disciples? Look at that crew! They doubted & even denied him, but he still used them.
Jesus reassured his disciples that their mourning over his impending death would turn into joy, like a mother with her newborn (John 16).
In a passage frequently referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry” (see Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21, & John 12), we read the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s account:
“As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” (Mark 11:1-3, NLT)
If you’re like me, you may have heard that story so many times over the years that it feels very familiar, but let’s look a little more closely. First of all, a lot happened around Bethany in the New Testament, and this story is no exception. Bethany was the hometown of Lazarus, the raised-from-the-dead friend of Jesus (John 11:1); it is also where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6); and, it is the place where Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12). Bethany is also where Jesus blessed his disciples after his resurrection, right before he ascended into heaven! (Luke 24:50-51)
Next, Jesus chose a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but I find it interesting that God – in his wisdom and sense of humor – selected an untamed colt as his animal of preference. He could have specified any magnificent creature on earth, yet he chose a lowly, stubborn, beast of burden. (May we remember that little fact whenever we think too highly of ourselves in the Lord’s work – if he can use an untamed jackass … er, donkey … then who are we to think we’re so important?)
Lastly, Jesus instructed his disciples to respond to any inquiries by saying, “The Lord needs it.” This word for Lord is the Greek word Kyrios, which is translated “master.” In essence, the Master of the universe is asking to borrow a lowly, untamed donkey so that he can ride into the city where he will ultimately sacrifice himself on our behalf. Let that sink into your heart for a few moments.
God always has a reason for why he asks things of us. He does not demand them of us, but he gives us opportunities to partner with him in his work. Sometimes the things he asks of us don’t make any sense right then, and to be frank, they may not ever make sense in our lifetimes. But, one day, all will be revealed in his perfect, eternal timing. In the meantime, we are called simply to obey. The Lord has need of you … are you willing to serve?
Since we began these weekly posts nearly five years ago, I have been pretty transparent about grief and mourning, but I have tried not to dwell too much on my own personal life. However, the truth is that sometimes I have crummy days. I had a particularly rough day recently, and I whined and cried my frustrations to the Lord. I confessed something that had been on my heart for a long time, but I never mustered to courage to say it aloud until then: It feels like I’m being punished.
I’ll spare you the whole pity party, but suffice it to say that sometimes I feel like I have given everything I could possibly give, and then I’m expected to give even more. I go through periods where I feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and excluded – sometimes simultaneously. It’s as if my life is not my own, but I’m responsible for damage control. That’s when I came across this passage from 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NLT):
“Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”
Whew, it’s like Paul was reading my mind! Jesus never promised that following him would be a bed of roses, and if you’ve read a feel-good book or heard a televangelist say otherwise, then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Why, then, would anyone want to follow Christ? I think Paul sums it up well later in the passage quoted above. In verse 20, he writes: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” My life is not my own; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that Jesus paid an expensive price for me. Though some days are hard, I stand firm in God’s power that is living in me, and that’s worth the rough times.
Matthew and other disciples of Jesus have this in common: they left their comfort zones to follow him. What has following Christ cost you?
I was talking with a friend recently who confided in me some struggles that she’s had with her adult son. She mentioned that he had hit rock bottom – again – and had started going to church “to find God.” I heard in her voice a mama’s heart that was aching for her wayward son, and her words stuck with me.
Have you ever been working on a repair project and dropped a tiny screw onto the carpet or in the grass? They can be pert near impossible to locate. Worse yet, if you wear contacts, then you have probably experienced the frustration of crawling around on your hands and knees, half-blind, trying to find the thin, shimmery sliver on the floor. I wore contacts for 20+ years, so I’ve been in that lowly position more times than I care to recollect … kind of like my friend’s son.
Three of the gospel accounts (Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5) record the scene when Jesus called Matthew (also named Levi) to be his disciple, and Matthew held a banquet in his home in Jesus’ honor. Some religious leaders were in attendance, and they were offended that low-lives like tax collectors were invited to dine with them. Jesus’ response is the same in all three recordings: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (NLT). Matthew, however, included an additional comment that Jesus made, and it is recorded in v. 13: “Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’’”
I think it’s beautiful that the disciple who happened to be the center of the story was also the one who recorded a statement about mercy and what Jesus expects of us as his followers. Matthew had not hit rock bottom in a material sense; in fact, he probably made a very good living as a tax collector and had a comfortable life. However, Luke’s account says that Matthew left everything behind when he got up from his tax collector booth and followed Jesus. Once he found what he was looking for, he didn’t turn back.
Whether you’ve hit rock bottom in a physical/emotional sense or whether you have finally put on your spiritual contact lenses and seen Jesus for who he truly is, I encourage you to be like Matthew and not look back. Leave your past, your sin, your old life behind and follow Jesus.