Mid-week Lenten Eve – Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Theme: Lord’s Prayer, Second Petition “Thy kingdom come.”

Readings for the day:

2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Luke 17:20-21

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

“Thy kingdom come.”  Do you know how incredibly dangerous these three words are when you combine them together?  You are praying for Jesus to come, not soon, not after you have lived a long fruitful life, but right now!  “Jesus, come and restore this world; bring your kingdom here not tomorrow, but today!”  You also pray for this if you use the common table prayer… “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest.  Let these gifts to us be blessed.  Amen.”  “Come Lord Jesus.”  Equally as dangerous as “Thy kingdom come.”  There are times at home where I actually feel this way.  When we have one of the kids spitting food out of his mouth and flinging it with his spoon, plastering everything in a three foot radius with pureed peas.  While the other is taking a slice of bread and instead of eating it (because that would be what mom and dad what him to do), instead he takes this nice, soft, melt in your mouth slice of bread and crumbles it in his hands until the slice can only be distinguished by the small crumbs that are all over the table, his shirt and the floor.  Yes, times like this, I just think, “Come Lord Jesus…NOW.  Why can’t your kingdom come, NOW?”

But is this really what we want?  Do you want Jesus to come back and re-establish his reign on earth, today?  When life is going good, probably not so much.  So when you’re sitting on the warm, sunny beach of Florida, enjoying the fact that you are nowhere near any snow, you probably aren’t too concerned about when Jesus will return.  Plus none of us fit that description because all of the snow birds are at the beach – we’re stuck in the frozen tundra of Minnesota.

And we all know that life is not always sunny beaches and cool relaxing waters of the Florida coast.  No, we live in a broken, messy world.  Certain groups are beheading Christians, politicians are arguing and vetoing bills, just this morning there was a huge, multi-car pileup on an interstate in Maine, cancer is still running rampant in the world, and grain prices are falling.  When will Jesus restore his kingdom, when there will be no sin, no murders, no accidents, no life killing diseases, and no reliance on a volatile market that could eliminate our retirement accounts or our farms?  Why wouldn’t we want Jesus to restore his kingdom now?  Because we would rather think about this life and the little bit of power and control that we have.  When God’s kingdom is restored, sin will be completely removed from all of creation.  Which means that your power and your control (the little bit that you have) will be taken from you and you will live trusting and fully depending on God.  And as your loving parent, God will provide for your every need.

Until that day we remain faithful to God through hearing his holy Word and receiving his body and blood.  These are what sustain us in this messed up world we live in.  Jesus told the Pharisees that they can’t go looking for God’s Kingdom, because they won’t find it.  God’s kingdom is within us.  We listen and hear God’s Word and then we eat and ingest Christ’s body and blood – nourishing us in this life.  Luther says in his Small Catechism that God’s kingdom will come when “our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and live a godly life on earth now and in heaven forever.”[1]  When God’s kingdom comes we won’t have to worry about beheadings or cancer or kids crumbling up their bread and throwing it everywhere or people trying to exert their power and control over us.  For God’s kingdom will wipe all of this out. This is what you are praying for when you say those three dangerous words, “Thy kingdom come.”  You are praying that God’s kingdom will come to wipe out all sin, death, and hell, so that we may all live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation of Second Petition.

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1st Sunday in Lent – Sunday, February 22, 2015

Readings for the day:

Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm 25:1-10

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Have any of you played the game Candy Crush?  For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, Candy Crush is a game that you can play on your smart phone where you have to complete objectives or puzzles in order to level up.  The goal is to see how many levels you can complete.  You can also compare how you are doing with other friends.  For me, it became an addicting game that began eating up a lot of my time.  So I got to a point where I realized that every time I had an ounce of free time, I was on my phone playing Candy Crush.  I really noticed it when I was playing the game one night and the rest of the family was playing with toys on the floor right next to me.  I have since uninstalled this game and never looked back.

Sometimes in life we need to give something up or let something go in order to make way for something new or more important.  The same is true with God.  God knows that we can have a hard time with change, so he sets aside a period of preparation.  When you look through the Bible you will find that 40 is a special number that God uses for the length of this period of preparation.  With Noah and the ark, the rains fell for 40 days, and then a new creation was born.  Moses spend 40 days on a mountain with God before receiving the Ten Commandments and a renewal of God’s covenant with his chosen people.  The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land where there were streams flowing with milk and honey.  Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil for 40 days before he began his public ministry.  Jesus also spent 40 days walking the earth after his resurrection before ascending into heaven, but he had to ascend into heaven to make way for the Holy Spirit to come and for the church to be born.  You see, God uses a period of preparation before doing something special.  Are you prepared for God to do something special in your life?

Are you prepared for God to follow through on his promises, to give renewal to your life and this church, to flood and kill certain parts of your life and certain parts of the life of this church in order to bring new life and resurrection?  Are you ready for Easter?  Well of course not!  Because the 40 days of Lent just started on Wednesday.  But that is what the 40 days of Lent are for; to prepare for God to do something special – which of course is Easter and raising Jesus from the dead.  But what else could God be preparing you for?

And how do we even get prepared?  By praying.  By studying God’s Word.  We already know how to do those; we might not faithfully do them, but we know we should be praying and reading our Bibles.  But we also get prepared by allowing God to work through us, which means letting our guard down at times and being open to where God is leading us.  Now that’s the hard one.  When we allow God to take control, we must let go of the control.  Remember, the rainbow couldn’t come without the 40 days of rain.  The Promised Land couldn’t come without traveling from Egypt through the wilderness.  Easter Sunday cannot come without Good Friday.  Jesus could not rise from the dead without first having to die.  The Holy Spirit could not have come without Jesus first ascending into heaven.  Sometimes we have to let go of certain things in order to make way for something even better.  What things in your life do you need to let go of or let “die” in order for God to do something even greater?  What things in the church need to be let go of in order for God to do something even greater?

Take for example the Metrodome.  I have some good memories of that stadium.  I played pep-band at the Metrodome during a state high school football game.  I was at the Metrodome when Brett Favre as a Viking beat the Packers for the first time.  And who can forget Kirby Puckett’s walk off home run in the World Series?  (I wasn’t at that one.)  I was also at the final Vikings game before the stadium was torn down.  Although I have some good memories of that stadium, I’m looking forward to the new stadium that is being built.  Now I’m not suggesting that we tear down this beautiful church in order to build a new one, but sometimes things need to end or go away in order for something new to be created.

Take our Sunday School for example.  Our Sunday School needed to change somehow.  And it turned out that we actually needed to completely kill Sunday School in order to begin something new.  WOW would have never stood a chance at being successful if we did not completely remove the current Sunday School program.  Are there other examples of things we need to let go of in the church?  What about certain ways of doing things?  If anything that we do hinders the gospel from being heard then we need to end it.

Over the next 40 days be asking God through your prayers, what it is that you need to be preparing for.  What do you need to let go of in order to make way for something new?  What does this church need to let go of in order to make way for something new?

10 years ago my home congregation made the very difficult decision to close their doors.  That was not an easy decision, but that decision did make way for a more vibrant congregation 4 miles away.  Again, I’m not suggesting this is what we need to do here.  What I am saying is there comes a time when we have to make some hard decisions in changing how we do things in order to strengthen our ministry and the work that we are doing in this place.

We can’t get to Easter Sunday without going through the crucifixion and Good Friday.  But we do know that Easter is coming.  Jesus has died and was raised from the dead in order to wash away all of your sins (like what was done during the flood with Noah and the ark).  And you have been made new through the washing of your sins.  You are forgiven and freed to take chances and allow yourself to be open to what God has planned for you and his church.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

Ash Wednesday – Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Readings for the day:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 103:8-14

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

So hopefully most of you had a chance to read my recent newsletter article in these last couple of weeks.  In that article, I talked about how we are teaching our boys the Lord’s Prayer by praying this prayer each night at their bedtime.  Except I have noticed that more often than not, I am saying the Lord’s Prayer, but I’m not really praying it.  My mind wanders and I end up thinking about other things…”what I need to get done tonight yet before I go to bed” or “I hope that they fall asleep quickly because there is a really good basketball game on right now that I want to finish watching” or “I wonder if we have any ice cream left in the freezer – ice cream sounds good right now.”  Do you ever notice your mind wandering as you do repetitive things in worship, like saying the Apostles’ Creed or the Lord’s Prayer?  Well you’re not alone.  My guess is that this is quite common for many of us.  So we are going to spend these 40 days of Lent by slowing down and looking at the Lord’s Prayer, line by line – looking at what we are actually praying for when we say this very familiar prayer.

But we should probably start with “What is prayer?”  Prayer is something that is commanded by God.  We know this through the second commandment which is to not use God’s name in vain.  So if we are not to use God’s name in vain, then that probably means we should be using God’s name in a way that honor and respect God.  And God wants us to call on his name for our every need…which is a prayer.  It is our duty to pray to God.  This is how we communicate with God and inform him as to what we need.

And now I already know what you are thinking!  You are thinking: “My prayers don’t sound very good” or “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t even know if God pays attention to my prayers” or “That’s what my pastors are for.”  Well, the thing is, we all are commanded by God to pray, for Jesus has given us a promise that if we pray to our heavenly Father, he will listen and reward us.  God does actually listen to our prayers, if only we would believe and trust that our prayers are heard.  I think many times we end up praying for miracles or things that end up testing God, and then when the result isn’t what we wanted – we despise God and begin believing that our prayers weren’t good enough to be heard.  God promises to always and faithfully listen to your prayers.

So can we all agree that prayer is important, whether it is during worship, before a meal, after you wake up, before you travel, before a medical procedure, or at any other time of day?  Now there are people in our congregations who are certainly in need of our prayers, and we should be praying for them during our worship services as well as throughout the week.  So this coming Sunday, you will see in the bulletin a prayer concerns list.  This list will be updated and managed by Pastor Eric and myself.  This list will not be your gossip column.  The names on this list are our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need of our prayers.  If you know the reason why they are on that list, then you may be more specific in your prayer.  However, if you don’t know why they are on the list, then simply pray for them by name.  God knows why they are on our prayer list, if you don’t know, you don’t need to know.  Please don’t be snoopy and try to find out why certain people are on this prayer list!  We care about our brothers and sisters in Christ, and so we should respect their privacy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pray for them.  So if you are in need of prayer, I hope that you would feel comfortable enough to have your name be included on our prayer concerns list.  We pray for it is our duty and obligation, but gossip is not part of that.

Now if you don’t know how to pray, don’t feel bad; the disciples didn’t know how to either.  So they asked Jesus, “How should be pray to our heavenly Father?”  Jesus says, “Great question, pray like this, Our Father who art in heaven…”  What we know as the Lord’s Prayer.  But what does “Our Father who art in heaven” even mean?  Martin Luther in his Small Catechism says, “Here God encourages us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are his children.  We therefore are to pray to him with complete confidence just as children speak to their loving father.”  We have earthly parents and we also have a spiritual, heavenly parent who desires to have a relationship with all of his children.  God desires that we would trust him and confidently pray to him, bringing all of our needs and concerns to him.

The next line then is “Hallowed be thy name.”  Now there’s a fun word that we use all the time – hallowed.  Everyone know what hallowed means right?  Really, this isn’t a word that you use every day?  I think the only time anyone uses the word hallowed is when they are praying the Lord’s Prayer.  Hallowed means to praise, honor or to make holy.  So certainly God’s name is already holy in heaven, but on earth we don’t always keep God name holy, perfect, or sacred.  That’s why Jesus commanded us to pray that God would help us to keep his name holy on earth too.

We fail to do many things, such as actually praying the Lord’s Prayer instead of simply saying the words, or being snoopy and poking around in other people’s business, or using God’s name in a context other than worship, prayer or giving praise to God.  But even though we fail to do these things, God promises to still be fully attentive to our never-ending needs and desires.

You have ashes on your forehead which essentially tells everyone that you meet “I am a sinner.”  Not something that you really can be proud of, but it is in the shape of a cross, which reminds people that you belong to God.  And that is something to be proud of.  You are a baptized, child of God, and this one thing is true: God listens to and never forgets about his children.  Your prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ are indeed heard by God.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

Transfiguration of Our Lord – Sunday, February 15, 2015

Readings for the day:

2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Today we conclude the season of Epiphany, the season where we put extra focus on the stark difference between the darkness of this world and the light that Christ brings into the world.  We end this season of light with Jesus shining dazzling white.  Here Jesus is transfigured, or radically changed, but before digging too deep into Christ’s transfiguration, we should look at everything that is going on in this text.

First of all, Mark’s Gospel is 16 chapters long and the transfiguration story takes place at the beginning of chapter 9 making Christ’s transfiguration the center of Mark’s Gospel; and I believe he did that for a reason.  Plus right before this story, Jesus gives his disciples a prediction of his death and resurrection.  And again, shortly after this story, Jesus gives his disciples another prediction of his death and resurrection.  So Christ’s transfiguration is sandwiched between two passion predictions and it is at the center of Mark’s Gospel. And before this mountaintop experience, Jesus is seen doing many healings and miracles.  But after the mountaintop experience, Jesus is heard through his teachings and parables.  So if you can’t tell, according to Mark this transfiguration that Peter, James and John witness is extremely important.  The whole focus of Jesus’ ministry changes from healings and miraculous signs to teachings and parables.  After this experience on the mountain, Jesus’ main focus turns toward the cross.

Now, what happens on the mountain is equally as important as Mark’s placement of this story in his Gospel.  Up on the mountaintop, Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah.  Why Moses?  Because Moses was the giver of the law.  Why Elijah?  Because Elijah was the greatest of all the prophets.  Why Jesus?  Because he is the Messiah, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; the fulfillment of Moses and Elijah.  Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law or what the prophets told, but to fulfill everything that the law and the prophets said.

Jesus is trying to show his disciples exactly who he is and what his purpose is…to fulfill everything that has been spoken about him until now, but they still don’t get it.  Peter sees Moses and Elijah, but all he wants to do is just stay up on the mountain with three tents for the Messiah and what he is fulfilled.  Peter doesn’t get it!  Then God speaks from a cloud; which doesn’t happen very often, actually the only times this really has happened was for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  This time though, God speaks to Peter, James and John, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”  Which is a very similar line to what was spoken to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”  The line is just a little different on the mountain than in the river Jordan, God tells these three terrified disciples to listen to Jesus.

Up until now, Jesus’ entire ministry (according to Mark’s Gospel) has been mainly doing signs and wonders that people could see.  The casting out of the unclean spirit in the Synagogue, healing Peter’s mother-in-law, healing the man with leprosy, calming the storm, feeding the five thousand, and walking on water, just to name a few.  But Jesus isn’t going to be around forever to continually do these signs, wonders, and healings.  When Jesus heads down the mountain, his focus turns to the cross and what will happen on Good Friday.  Jesus, the human, could not remain on the earth forever.  If he did, only a small percentage of humanity would actually have been healed.  There was only one way to save all of humanity and that was to go to the cross.  Plus after all, Jesus is the bridge for humanity between heaven and earth, a bridge between the divine and the human.  Jesus has made it possible for us to connect with our God and know him.  If we know Jesus, we know the Father.

Today that bridge for us is when God’s Word (Jesus) is in and with the waters of baptism.  Without God’s Word, there is no baptism, it is simply water.  We also see this bridge when God’s Word is in and with the bread and the wine.  Without God’s Word, there is no spiritual nourishment or forgiveness, it is simply a very light meal or a snack with a tasteless wafer and a shot of wine.

God told Peter, James and John to “listen to Jesus”.  This is what God means!  Jesus’ word is how we not only hear God, but also grow spiritually with God.  As we begin the season of Lent on Wednesday this week, focus on those three simple yet challenging words, “Listen to him.”  It is not always easy to listen to God’s Word because it is not always what we want to hear, but it usually is exactly what we need.  God’s Word will challenge us, pull us out of our comfort zone, and transfigure US (which means radically changed).  But God’s Word will also forgive your sins, call you up out of the grave on the last day, and give you everlasting peace and rest with God.  Jesus’s actions and healings were great and wonderful, but without his word and listening to that word, we either wait with anxiety for Christ’s return to heal the world, or we wait with hope that Christ will return to shine so brilliantly bright as he did on the mountain when he was transfigured, in order to shine is light brighter than the sun and push the darkness completely away from this world.  Now, until that day, when Christ will restore his kingdom, we wait by listening to his word that is both spoken and found in the waters of baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

5th Sunday after Epiphany – Sunday, February 8, 2015

Readings for the day:

Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Mark 1:29-39

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

So there are moments when my son, Nicholas, likes getting dirty – and why not, he is a two year old after all.  But most of the time, he doesn’t like getting dirty.  He refuses to sit in his boaster seat at the dining room table if there is even one small crumb on it.  A couple weeks ago, Stephanie did a science experiment with him which used milk, soap, and food coloring.  He thought the experiment was pretty cool and he certainly liked the little food coloring drops.  So, of course he began playing with them by putting more drops of food coloring in the bowl.  But that eventually led to him getting blue food coloring all over his hands and arms.  He looked like a little smurf.  Once he noticed that his hands were dirty, he began freaking out, trying to wipe it off as quickly as possible.  Except the more he wiped, the more smeared on it became.

My son doesn’t like getting dirty, but in the ancient Jewish tradition it actually was unlawful to encounter things that would make you dirty on the outside or on the inside.  Today we heard of two individuals who were both unclean; one was Peter’s mother-in-law, and the other was a man with leprosy.  Because of their illness or disease both were culturally considered unclean.  Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever, and the man had a skin disease.  Now coming in contact with either one of these people would make you dirty, unclean, an outcast.  Anyone who was sick or had some sort of disease had to be avoided like the plague.  The only way to regain your status and your cleanliness in society would be to go through a list of required cleanings and offerings (as prescribed by the Law of Moses).

So when hearing about Peter’s mother-in-law, as a good, law abiding Jew, Jesus would have went in the opposite direction.  But he didn’t.  Instead he went straight to her house and reached out to touch her.  Jesus reached out his hand to touch the unclean.  By touching her he would make himself unclean and banned from everyone.  He was taking a huge risk by doing this, but he did it anyway despite the risks involved.

The same thing happened when Jesus encountered the man with leprosy.  This man boldly tells Jesus that if Jesus desired to, he could make him clean.  Jesus reaches out his hand again to another unclean person, touches the man and say, “I do choose.  Be made clean.”  And despite how messy and dirty humanity is, Jesus chooses to risk making himself unclean in order to heal and make clean the outcasts of society.

Now where do you fit in to all of this?  It doesn’t look like any of your have leprosy, and if any of you are running a fever, my guess is that you take a couple tablets of Tylenol, maybe a nap, and feel better in a couple of hours.  But don’t be fooled by this story.  You aren’t any better off than Peter’s mother-in-law or this leper.  You may not be physically sick and if you are, you aren’t considered an outcast in society.  But you are spiritually sick!  You sin every day!  Whether it is the things that you say to other people, or the things that you do (or fail to do), or the things that you just think but don’t actually say or do.  You sin every day making you spiritually sick, unclean!  Even Christ’s church, this church, is spiritually sick!  We get ourselves into ruts and stuck in our ways because of the habits and traditions that we form; which aren’t bad except for those habits and traditions that hinder or prevent the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ) from being proclaimed in and through this church.  You may not think that we are spiritually sick, but don’t we lament about the way this church used to be (full of people, a booming Sunday School, no lack of funding or people to help out).  You see, we are no better off than Peter’s mother-in-law or the leper, and yet I wonder if anyone here is bold enough to stand up to Christ, like the leper did, and boldly declare, “If you wish, you could clean us!”  I don’t think any one of us are that bold.  And that is exactly why we all needed God to do what he did through Jesus.

God sent Jesus to break into the dirtiness and the darkness of our lives, reaching out his hands and touching us.  Jesus isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.  When we touch something that is dirty, like Nicholas touching blue food coloring, we get dirty as well, Nicholas’ fingers turned colors.  But when Jesus touches something that is dirty, the filth, the illness, the dirtiness, the sin, is all washed away.  Jesus doesn’t get blue food coloring on himself, no, the blue food coloring gets washed away.

This is what Christ did for you on the cross.  He reached out his hands to touch you, to pick you up, and to wash you clean of all the dirtiness in your life.  Jesus knows the risks involved with interacting with sinners.  After all, what divine deity would even consider interacting with the dirtiness of humanity to not only clean you, but also save you?  Well, our God chose you even though you don’t always do what you say you’re going to do, even though you spend more time lamenting about the way things used to be rather than looking to what God is and will continue to do with you and this church to further his kingdom.  Even though your sin makes your entire life filthy, Jesus isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to touch the dirtiest parts of your life in order to fully clean you of your sins.  You might not like to get your hands dirty.  I know Nicholas doesn’t like to get his hands dirty.  But luckily for all of us, Jesus wants to get his hands dirty because that is the only true way for him to fully cleanse us and make us perfect in God’s eyes.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

4th Sunday after Epiphany – Sunday, February 1, 2015

Readings for the day:

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Psalm 111

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Mark 1:21-28

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

This weekend at our annual confirmation lock-in, I asked the confirmation students how far into the future they look to.  Some of them said that they are thinking about and looking to college already.  Which I thought was pretty good since these are all 7th and 8th graders.  But many of them said that they know what their plans are for tomorrow, but they don’t really have any plans beyond that.  I think this is quite common for many of the young people in our world today, but I think we all are like this too – people who focus and create our entire identity around the present time.

Let me explain what I mean.  When I was in high school, I thought that those were the best years of my life.  I didn’t want those good times to end.  But then came college and it turned out that college was even better than high school.  And then I met Stephanie and we got married.  So then I thought that those 3 years of marriage without kids was really great.  But now we have 2 kids and I think this is the best years of my life.  Except my parents keep telling me that being grandparents is even greater!  I’ll have to wait and see on that one.  My point is that whatever stage of life we are in, it usually appears to be the greatest and best years of our lives.  I believe it is part of our human nature to not look too far beyond the present.  After all, we know all too well how fragile this life can be.  You’ve probably even seen the quote, “Live like there’s no tomorrow.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that there is some truth in this quote to live like there’s no tomorrow.  Of course none of us actually know if there will be a tomorrow.  So why not live for today, making the most of it.  But I think that if we get so caught up in living for only today, living only in the short-term; that we lose focus on what really matters and we forget about the long-term that is promised only through Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel reading tells of one of the very first miraculous healings that Jesus did.  Right after calling Simon, Andrew, James and John out of their boats and giving them a different purpose in life, Jesus heads with his new disciples to the north side of the Sea of Galilee to the town of Capernaum.  While they are there, Jesus goes to the Synagogue to teach.  And while he was teaching, this man interrupts him and says, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  Jesus immediately silences the man and the demonic, evil spirit that was inside him.  Except this isn’t what Jesus wanted to have happen.  Jesus certainly was a caring individual, looking out for the outcasts and the sinners, but I don’t think that Jesus wanted to let it be known to everyone that he could heal people.  Because anytime that he healed people, he gained more followers until it got to a point where he really couldn’t travel anywhere without a huge crowd following after him; trying to see if he would do another miracle.

This was certainly an exciting time for the people – there was this authoritative prophet that could command the evil spirits to be silenced, and heal any illness or disease.  It is easy for us to also get caught up in the moment, but what happens when the moment is over?  What happens when life changes?  A new day begins?  What happens when tomorrow does comes?  You know what happened to the people in Jesus’ time when the moment was over – where were all the people when he was hanging on the cross?  Well the moment was over and then he was just another criminal hanging on a tree.  They were focused on the short-term, the temporary.

Jesus came not to give us sight now, giving us temporary relief from our worldly problems.  Rather, Jesus came to give us eternal relief from our spiritual problems – our sins.  Jesus didn’t want it known that he could heal people’s illnesses and sicknesses because then that would be all they focused on, and that is exactly what they did.  A multitude of people flocked to see Jesus because of the temporary healings that he was doing.  But his purpose was much greater than that.  Yes he certainly had the power and authority to heal any infirmity that people had, but in this world, those infirmities can and will come back.  Even if Jesus was here today and healed people, it would be a temporary healing.  Imagine you broke your arm and Jesus was here to heal it.  He could heal your arm, but tomorrow you may very well break it again.  This earthly healing that Jesus was giving was temporary.  People focused on their short-term outcomes rather than on the long-term outcome that Jesus was bringing them.

The long-term, permanent healing that Jesus was focused on would take place when he would hang on the cross.  Yes Jesus was able to heal people while he walked the earth, but the greatest healing miracle that he did was healing and saving all of us from the sins that continually corrupt our lives and the world we live in.  You may focus on the present time and short-term outcomes, but Jesus had you in mind all along when he went to the cross to give you the permanent healing that you so desperately need – forgiving all of your sins.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial lamb who died on the cross to redeem the world from its sinful state, has indeed forgiving you of all your sins.  This morning you walk out of this church forgiven sons and daughters of God.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.