To my parents,
David understood the importance of words. Do we?
To my parents,
David understood the importance of words. Do we?
Most fairy tales have a common beginning and a common ending.
Almost exactly a year later, I found myself celebrating my birthday with this handsome, tall, blond man, who was now my boyfriend. We had started dating earlier in that year…and we were crazy about each other. I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him, and I could sense the feeling was mutual. So that day, on my birthday, I remember feeling like everything was falling into place; I had found “the one”, I was about to start my last semester of college, and my life was starting to converge into the point where I could be “happily ever after”.
I still love happy endings, and now I can say I believe in love at first sight (thank you Tim)…however, I am a bit more careful when it comes to happily ever after.
I’ve never liked candy very much (I know, I am kind of odd like that). However, when I was younger, there was one brand of candies that I loved to eat…the lifesavers. These candies came in various flavors wrapped together in a roll. I think one reason why I liked the lifesavers is because they were packed in a fun, colorful way. My friends and I would use the candy as a kind of friendship-ranking system. Since packages had certain amount of lifesavers of different colors and flavors, we ordered our friendships according to those colors and flavors that we would be willing to share with each other. For example, the red lifesaver was the best flavor, and because of this you would only share those coveted red lifesaver with your closest friends. The orange life-saver was not so highly coveted, and because of this, you could share it with other friends that were not necessarily your best buddies. Lastly, the green lifesavers that were not so hot, you could give to anybody. It is fun to think back to the dynamics of childhood friendships. As we grow older, friendships (and relationships in general) get more complicated…and we can no longer explain them or categorize them according to the color of candy we are willing to share.
Last year, Merriam Webster added the word “frenemy” to the dictionary. The definition of a frenemy according to this entry is a person “who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy”.
Normally, the emergence of a word in any language comes from a need to be able to identify an object or phenomenon. Thus, we can assume that the fact that the word frenemy is now in the dictionary indicates that we have developed the need to find a word to identify those people who call themselves our friends but end up acting like our worst enemies.
DR. JEKYLL OR MR. HYDE?
The essence of a frenemy is a lack of clarity in the relationship; sometimes they seem to love you and care about you, and sometimes they act in a manner that contradicts this fact, and they end up hurting you with their actions or words…it is like the same person turns into two different -almost completely opposite- individuals. Frenemies are inconsistent in their relationships…and because of this inconsistency, they are hard to spot.
God wants us to have good friendships and relationships that build us up, and not relationships that damage us and bring us down. However, this is not always what we experience, sometimes our friends and the people that are close to us end up hurting us and betraying us, and we experience a lot of pain from those situations. There are times in which we make the sad realization that a friend is not really a friend, but a frenemy.
The bible mentions this kind of friends;
There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. –Prov. 18:24 TM
So basically, not everyone whom we call our friend is a good, sincere, true friend, and because of this, God tells us in his word:
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.” –Prov. 4:23
So what is this verse saying?
First, lets look at the meaning of the verb to guard, and the noun heart.
In the Old Testament, the word “guard” comes from the Hebrew samar שומר and it means to “preserve from harm” or to simply put, “to be careful with something”…normally you guard things that are very valuable, because the things that are not valuable do not need to be guarded.The word heart in Hebrew is leb לב and it refers to the seat of emotion, thought and decision. So what this verse is trying to tell us is that you need to be careful whom you give access to your thoughts emotions and decisions.
In any friendship or any type of relationship we always give our friend access to our thoughts, emotions and decisions, and because of this, it is necessary for us to be careful and to treat our heart as something valuable, and not give it away lightly to people who are not trustworthy.
CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY
The quality of our friendships, is going to affect the quality of our life
Good friendships/relationships = good life
Bad friendships/relationships = bad life
Why is this a simple equation? Well, because the people you allow to influence your thoughts, emotions and decisions, are going to affect the type of person you become and ultimately determine the kind of life you aspire to.
“He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm.” –Prov. 13:20
So we know what it means to guard our heart and why we need to guard our heart…
Now, we need to ask ourselves;
How do we do this? How do we guard our heart?
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up my parents had a safe box in the house, where they kept their jewelry and stuff they considered valuable …however, you cannot take your heart and deposit it in a safe box, or in a bank, it is physically impossible.
So what do we do?
In order for us to guard our heart we need to develop one very specific skill; CHARACTER DISCERNMENT; to be able to look and understand the inner qualities of a person reflected in the way this person treats you and others.
Let’s look at an example;
Prophet Samuel and King David
1 Samuel 16
Samuel Anoints David
1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down [a] until he arrives.”
12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.
DO NOT LOOK AT THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE
We have an example of God teaching Samuel character discernment. Samuel was about to anoint the next king of Israel, and God tells him not to look at the outward appearance. Why? Because God knows we tend to do that…people to rely on outward appearance –not just physical appearance, but other external attributes too such as personality and popularity– in order to choose the people who influence our lives. Is not that the case with celebrities and their market appeal?
When you are entrusting people with something very valuable such as the welfare of a nation, character is the most important thing to look at…in this case David was going to be entrusted with an entire Kingdom and needed to have the right character. Similarly we entrust our friends with our most intimate thoughts, dreams, fears and feelings, so we need to choose wisely.
In the movies, it is very easy to distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys”; the outward appearance makes it very easy to guess what the inner qualities will be like…the hero is -as a general rule- handsome, has an imposing presence and a noble nature which fits to his exterior. On the other hand the villain has no striking physical appeal, is correspondingly evil and an overall loser. The only thing is that real life is hardly ever like a Hollywood move, and sometimes the quiet, unimpressive type like David turns to be the person who can be entrusted with the most delicate matters.
HOW DO WE EXERSICE CHARACTER DISCERNMENT?
In choosing our friends, we exercise character discernment when
• Instead of looking at how popular this person is, or how big their network is, we look at whether this person treats others with respect and honesty.
• Instead of looking at personality ethics, we look at the character ethics of this person.
• Instead of looking at wealth and appearance, we look habits of this person, are they good or bad habits?
This idea about character discernment has been discussed very well in a book called SAFE PEOPLE (http://store.cloudtownsendstore.com/safepeoplebook1.html). According to the book SAFE PEOPLE are those people that you want to have in your life, as friends, or in romantic relationships, and UNSAFE PEOPLE are those people that are not trustworthy in friendships or other relationships because they do not understand the value of your heart. One of the main messages is that we need to develop and exercise the skill of character discernment.
Nowadays, we are constantly seeking to learn and develop new skills because we believe that this is going to help us have a better life. However we seldom think to develop the skill of character discernment…and this is an important skill to develop because it will influence the kind of relationships we have, and ultimately the kind of lives we will live. Here is a little summary that I adapted from the book to help us get started in trying to develop character discernment.
UNSAFE PEOPLE: FRENEMIES
• Do not admit their weaknesses
• Are religious instead of being spiritual
• Are defensive instead of being open
• Are self-righteous instead of humble
• Only say “sorry” but they never follow up by changing their ways
• Demand trust instead of earning it
• Lie instead of telling the truth
• Driven by insecurity
You are friends with an unsafe person if:
• You feel like you tell this person things about you, but this person hardly ever shares about him/herself
• The main focus of the friendship is to satisfy the other person’s needs
• You do not feel free to be weak/imperfect in front of your friend for fear of ridicule
• You feel like you need to live up to a certain “image” in order to remain friends
• You feel like you need to be a mirror to your friend (i.e. always echo his/her opinions, moods and choices)
• You are constantly being lied to by your friend
• Your friend does not respect your values and boundaries
• You never know on what ground you stand
Well, this is not a comprehensive list, but it might be enough to help us begin to understand where we need to look in order to find trustworthy, safe people. The good news is that all of us have at least one good friend, and that friend is JESUS.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…”
Jesus as a friend;
• Loves us and reaches out to us every day (constant)
• Accepts us as we are but also helps us to overcome our faults
• Is not selfish, or absent, but sacrificed his life for us
• He commands us to love others as he loved us
• Gives us confidence to approach others
JESUS, OUR LIFESAVER
Like I mentioned earlier, when I was little, we used to eat the brand of candies called livesavers. They looked like little doughnuts and came in different flavors. Their shape emulated the devices that were once used in order to save people from drowning. Have you ever felt like you are drowning in a bad relationship? Well, I guess then it is a good time to reach for a floating device, a lifesaver.
Jesus is the lifesaver; he can transform our life, and he can transform and redeem our relationships…we only need to ask him. We are called by Jesus to have a safe friendship with him, to look for safe people and to be true friends and safe people to others.
Recently I stumbled upon a blog-article from Steve Dubner, one of the authors of the book “Freakonomics”. The article was titled “Herd Mentality, the Freakonomics of Boarding a Bus”. In the article, Steven Dubner narrates a passage of his every day life…from an economist’s prespective.
Dubner and his daughter ride the bus together…they live in NYC, and as it is the case in most big cities during rush hour; the buses are crowded and full of impatient people trying to get to their intended destinations. For Dubner, the bus stop closest to his house is also a bus stop next to a subway station, which means that the amount of people waiting for the bus tends to be higher at that particular stop than in other bus stops.
I cannot imagine trying to get through a mob of people with a three year old by my side…and apparently Steve couldn’t either…he figured out a way to avoid this situation; by walking 250 yards down to the bus stop located one block before the crowded bus stop…thus avoiding the crowd and increasing his chances of finding seats for himself and his daughter.
As a conclusion to his article Steve Dubner asks himself; “why aren’t more people doing this?” As a good economist, Dubner wonders why more people are not adopting a small change in their commuting habits (walking 250 yards) which would increase their likelihood of finding a seat…do they not mind standing in the bus? Are they intimidated by the prospect of walking 250 yards? What is it?
The answer (according to Dubner) is herd mentality.
What is herd mentality?
Pat Thomas, general curator at the Bronx Zoo explains herd mentality as” the idea that the individual members of a herd relate, behave in a similar fashion,” … “so that they don’t stand out and appear different than their group mates.”
In human experience, herd mentality can describe how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.
According to Dubner’s blog-article, people would rather stay where the “herd” is (which in this case is the crowded bus stop), than behave differently and act out as individuals…even if this behavior is beneficial for them…
I don’t know about you, but this statement kind of scares me…and makes me wonder:
How much of our life is determined by Herd Mentality ?
Economics, Finance, Fashion, politics, and peer interactions are areas of our lives where herd mentality plays a role in the decisions we make…
Scientists at the University of Leeds conducted an experiment trying to explore the dynamics of herd mentality. In their experiment, they put people in a large hall and instructed them to walk around randomly…however, they had instructed some people to follow a specific route.
The participants were not allowed to communicate with each other…but in the end it turned out that the individuals who had been instructed to walk a certain route were followed by the others…thereby causing the whole crowd to follow the route and walk in an organized way…as opposed to randomly…without communicating!
Several experiments (including this one) conclude that in crowds of 200 individuals, a group of five percent was enough to influence the rest of their peers.
Christ and the Crowds
Why does almost everyone in a crowd adopt the same behavior? The French sociologist Gustav Le Bon in his research about crowd behavior noticed how crowds foster anonymity (Contagion Theory). Thus, not only do crowds validate a behavior, they also foster anonymity. They can make people feel protected, but they can also make them feel lost.
The book of Mark narrates one instance in which Jesus found himself in the midst of a crowd…according to the passage “the crowd was following and pressing against Jesus” (Mark 5:24) and out of nowhere… a woman who was chronically ill approached Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak.
As he was walking in the midst of a crowd, Jesus noticed that someone had touched his cloak…and he asked “who touched my clothes?”
The disciples were baffled by this question…they answer “you see the people crowding against you (bumping into you) and yet you ask ‘who touched me’” (Mark 5:31)…I can see the disciples almost asking Jesus “are you kidding???”
But Jesus wasn’t kidding…he continued to look around, until the woman who had been healed came forward and kneeled before him…
Jesus didn’t let the woman get lost in the crowd…he recognized her and showed empathy and compassion towards her. Her action stopped Jesus in His track, and Jesus’ response towards her changed the trajectory of her life from a downward spiral to a life of hope.
The woman who “had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse”(Mark 5:26) was set in a new direction by Jesus’ words when he told her; “Daughter, your faith has healed you, Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34)…those are beautiful words… especially considering that this woman had been waiting to hear those words for over 10 years.
We can see in the bible several instances in which Christ interacted with the crowds…he spoke to multitudes, he fed those multitudes, he walked through the crowds…he was used to dealing with lots and lots of people at the same time… and contrary to what research shows about people’s tendency to get lost in the crowd and adopt a herd mentality, Jesus never ever allowed himself to get lost in the crowd and he also never allowed anybody else to get lost either…
According to scripture, when Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”(Mat 9:36) Jesus said of himself; “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me…I lay down my life for the sheep”. (John 10:14)
These verses shed so much light into Jesus relationship to the crowds…he sees himself as the Shepherd and the crowds are the sheep; a Shepherd doesn’t follow the sheep, he leads them, and he also cares for them…for a shepherd, sheep are never anonymous…and each one of them has great value in his eyes.
Matthew 18:12-14 explains this shepherd-sheep relationship in the following way:
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep,
and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine
on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep
than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that
any of these little ones should be lost.”
Jesus, just like a good shepherd, will not let anybody get lost in the crowd…he will not let you or me get lost…
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you”
It is important to notice that the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep is not one sided, it is mutual. The shepherd tends his sheep, but he is able to do so because the sheep recognize and follow the shepherd. Jesus said “my sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:28)
How can we as sheep listen to Jesus our Shepherd?
1. By Reading God’s Word
“ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for
every good work:”
2nd Timothy 3:16-17
“Sanctify them in your truth, your word is truth”
I am sure most of us have daily routines in which we set time apart to meet with friends, go to the gym, study…etc…we can do the same with the word of God…set time apart to read and meditate on it.
A good resource which can be easily incorporated into our routine are the email-devotionals…a few suggestions for subscriptions are “Our daily bread” http://www.rbc.org/odb/email/, or in touch http://www.intouch.org…
Once you start receiving the devotionals in your email…you can dedicate a few minutes while you sit on your computer to read and meditate on God’s word…
2. By listening to the Holy Spirit within us
Another way in which God speaks to us is through the Holy Spirit within us….the bible says;
“But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has
revealed it to us by his Spirit”
1 Corinthians 2: 9-10
How does the guidance of the Holy Spirit look life in our daily life? Author Bruce Main introduced a good expression to explain the way the Holy Spirit guides us…
In his book ”Holy Hunches”, Main notices that on several occasions people have been guided in their daily life by means of hunches or nudges… it is not a fire bush talking to them, it is that inner prompting to do something…”to put our faith into action”… he says “God-inspired (Holy) hunches can happen to ordinary people doing ordinary things”…that’s a pretty broad category; it includes everyone….
I like the expression “Holy Hunch”…because it is not something we hear with our ears, or see with our eyes…it comes to us as the verse in Corinthian says…by his Spirit…to our spirit.
God is on the line wanting to speak to us….are we listening?
Who belongs to the top five percent?
Experts in the study of change call the individuals who embrace a new trend and adopt a different behavior the trendsetters or innovators.
Trendsetters and innovators are the first ones in a group to follow a specific direction a.k.a the top five percent…
Trendsetters/innovators are followed by the early adopters, afterwards comes the early majority, followed by the late majority, and lastly, the laggards.
Several studies confirm that any group behavior will follow this progression;
1. innovators/trendsetters, 2. early adopters, 3. early majority, 4. late majority and 5. laggards.
Jesus calls us to be innovators…he wants us to be part of the crowd, but not led by the crowd…
“For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness;
but of power and love and discipline.”
2nd Timothy 1:7
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”
King David said “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” it is my prayer that we also experience God’s provision and guidance in our life as we follow his voice with renewed purpose.
I guess this is one of those confessions that I might regret ever making…and it is kind of embarrassing to admit…but here it goes; when I was young, I wanted to be a marching band girl…the kind that walks in cute little pleated skirts and twirls the baton to the beat of the drums with a smile on her face and the perfect posture all along… I admit it…I am guilty as charged.
When I was growing up, there was a school near my house that had marching band practice in the afternoons… they would rehearse going up and down the street where I lived. I remember how I would ask my mom to let me go out and watch the band walk by…I loved everything about the marching band, the music, the drums, the coordination, the batons, and the elegance of the performance…as much as a four year old can appreciate such things.
After watching the band, I would run inside the house, take the broom stick and try to mimic the baton routines that I had just seen…I was seriously obsessed with being like those girls…
To my dismay, I never managed to convince my mom to buy me a baton (probably because she thought I would poke my sister or something)… but my sister and I succeeded in convincing our mom to buy us pleated skirts like the ones the band girls wore…and we wore those skirts ALL THE TIME…
As I grew up, my interest in becoming a band girl disappeared… my school did not have a marching band, and realistically speaking…had there been a marching band in my school I would probably have been too embarrassed to even try out. Once I reached my teen years I stopped thinking that marching band girls were that cool…until today, when I stumbled upon the following article:
Girl beats off muggers with marching Band Baton
QUARTZ HILL, Calif. – Don’t mess with the marching band. That’s what California authorities are saying after a 17-year-old girl used her marching band baton to beat back two would-be muggers.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Michael Rust says the Quartz Hill girl was walking to school April 24 when two men approached her from behind, tried to grab her coat and demanded money.
Instead, one got a punch in the nose and the other a kick to the groin. Rust says the girl then beat both of them with her band baton before she ran away.
The men had not been caught. But Rust says there’s a clear message to take from the encounter:
“The moral to this story is don’t mess with the marching band girls, or you just might get what you deserve. Final score: marching band 2, thugs 0.”
Now that is a cool marching band girl…
This article reminds me of those movie scenes where the thug tries to attack the proverbial defenseless old lady…and the old lady ends up beating the thug with her purse and rendering him helpless.
I don’t know why such scenes give me a warm, fuzzy, feeling on the inside…I guess I get a certain satisfaction when I see that the turn of events totally takes people by surprise…there is a certain irony about it…and the thugs are completely baffled, because they encounter exactly the opposite of what they had anticipated…
The bible narrates a similar instance, in which Jesus caught the disciples by surprise by choosing to do exactly the opposite of what they had expected of him…
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet (John 13)
1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.
2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.
4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,
5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”
11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?
13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.
14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.
15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.
16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.
17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
Entertaining & Etiquette
When was the last time you had guests over at your home?
I am sure that the last time you had guests over at your home, you prepared in advance for the occasion and tried to make your guests feel as welcome and comfortable as possible, right?
At the time when Jesus walked on earth, good hosts would normally have a servant available to wash the guest’s feet at dinner parties or similar social occasions.
This was a necessary action in light of two important facts; first of all Jewish people would walk in dusty roads all day long, and when they sat at the dinner table, their feet would be at the same level as the rest of their body (they did not use chairs like we do) so it was a necessary hygienic measure to have not only clean hands but also clean feet at the table. Secondly, it was an act of hospitality which signaled appreciation on behalf of the host for the guest’s presence in his home… in a way it is like saying “I am glad you could make it”, or even “I am honored to have you at my table”.
The passage narrated in John 13 begins with a very poignant statement about Jesus feelings on that night when he was having supper with his disciples. Jesus was aware that he was not going to be with his disciples for much longer…that he was leaving them…and of course he wanted to show them his love in a very practical way; by wrapping a towel around his waist and washing their feet.
Jesus; The servant leader
Jesus was in a position of authority, the bible says that “Jesus knew that the father had put all things under his power”… and in spite of this, he chose to dispose of all human conventions and instead of taking the role of a magnanimous host showing appreciation for his guests, he took the role of a humble servant who cleanses the dirt that people gather from the ground.
I can imagine the disciples not knowing how to react in light of this major faux pas…in their minds Jesus, their Master and Lord shouldn’t be performing this kind of service to his lowly disciples…
Peter managed to muster up some courage and tried to stop Jesus from washing his feet. When we read about it in the bible it seems like Peter is trying to save Christ from the indignity of becoming like a mere servant…but Peter did not understand that Jesus had come to serve…he was a servant leader who taught by example.
Jesus is the King of Kings, he has all the authority and power, yet he chooses to act as someone in a position of powerlessness and service.
After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus asks a very crucial question: “Do you understand what I have done for you?”… “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to literally go around washing people’s feet…but he does want us to let go of our conventions in order to show love and appreciation for each other.
Paul encourages the church to be like Christ in his humility…
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2 5-11
According to Paul, we shouldn’t hold on to any kind of status, position, or social conventions but we should follow Christ’s example…
Have you ever thought you are too cool/old/young/smart/clean/mature in order to serve others?
Or conversely, have you ever thought that someone is too bad/lost/immature/annoying/dirty for you to reach out in love to that person?
I know I am guilty of having done that…but when I think that Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords did not think of himself as being too much of anything in order to humbly serve others…I can only pray that God will help me gain humility…because those who go down the path of humility are brought up in God’s sight…and Jesus is an example worth following.
I had no clue what was going on…I didn’t think much of it though.
I walked to the building and saw a lady wiping the floor with chlorine… I still did not connect the dots, I went home and started watching T.V.
A couple of hours later my husband came home, he told me “the street is full with policemen, apparently someone with the swine-flu fell over in the hotel next door”…in that moment, it all made sense to me… I couldn’t believe that I missed all the sings…
I guess in retrospect it all seems too obvious; the H1N1 virus is all over the media…and I knew that it had come to Asia…there were warning signs all over…but I missed them, I guess I never imagined it would get so close….
Warnings are preventative statements which guide us to safety in different settings of life…and we know them since childhood…from our parents, teachers and other authority figures. Warnings are given to us in most cases by people who care for our wellbeing to a greater or lesser extent…right?
This I came across a documentary named “Zeitgeist”, and what I saw reminded me of a warning given to us in the Bible; Peter warns Christians in 2nd Peter 2 that there would be people who would deny Christ’s divinity…he calls them false teachers.
The documentary “Zeitgeist” is one of those teachings…it begins with a description of different mythological figures of antiquity. It records how various civilizations had similar accounts of a “savior god”…which sound very similar to Jesus Christ…putting into question whether Christ is really the only true God-savior.
The way I came across “Zeitgeist” is because as a result of watching the documentary, someone asked the question, “How do we know that Jesus is the real God”? So I figured I should try to understand where the question is coming from….
As I watched the documentary, there were accounts of several Egyptian, Indian, and Greek mythical gods who were said to have the same traits as Jesus did. I wasn’t familiar with any of them until something caught my attention… a very specific comparison made between a Greek god named Dionysius and Jesus.
I remembered a course that I took my third year of college called “Classics”…it was an overview of Greek Mythology and Literature.
Oedipus Rex (a piece that most people read in high school) was written by Sophocles to be performed in the theater festival; a festival in honor of Dionysius celebrated each spring.
Dionysius is said to be the god who discovered how to make wine and he is also the god of nature and fertility (source: Encyclopedia Mythica http://www.pantheon.org/articles/d/dionysus.html) …every spring as the green sprouts emerged after the winter and the animals were mating; the Greeks would interpret this as the resurrection of Dionysius. This is what I had learned about Dionysius at the University in my “Classics” course.
As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but notice that some concrete statements were made about Dionysius; the video stated that Dionysius is said to “turn water into wine” which according to my understanding of the mythological account is a gross generalization…
Dyonisius is said to have discovered and perfected the process of wine creation, which he later on spread through Asia-minor. This act is completely different to a miraculous act of transubstantiation (turning one substance into a different substance) performed by Jesus…the Bible narrates in the New Testament how Jesus turned water into wine…not by a process, but by a miraculous act. (I have included the text which is John 2).
Having studied a bit of Greek mythology, I could see how the statements made about Dyonisius in the “Zeitgeist” documentary are deceitful…it is clear to me that the producers of the video have the intention of presenting the Biblical account of Jesus’ life and resurrection as nothing but a repeated version of other previous mythologies…when it is not at all the case…
Broad generalizations such as the ones used in this documentary are dangerous; history has shown that they lead to prejudice and exclusion. As an individuals, people normally wouldn’t pass judgment on someone based on stereotypes or generalizations about their race, ethnicity or culture… Now, it is should be the same case with faith…we should encourage people not to base their conclusions about God or Jesus on broad generalizations.
I am not familiar with Indian, Persian or Egyptian mythology…but I am sure that when looking at them in detail we will find that the statements made in the documentary about those mythical figures are not completely true…that generalizations have also been used in those cases to make the mythical figures seem exactly the same as Jesus… this means that you cannot trust the statements made in the video…Jesus is not a mythological figure.
There is ample historical evidence that Jesus was an actual person who lived and walked on earth 2000 years ago. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded the existence of Jesus (37 A.D.), another Roman historian named Cornelius Tacitus recorded Jesus’ existence too (112 A.D). I do not think that other historians have documented the existence of Dionysius or other mythological figures; because they are mythology….but Jesus is real.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for his disciples:
“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician once said:
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.“
It is so important for us as Christians to be aware of the value of the truth we know…and to guard it and defend it…
1 Peter 3:15 says:
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
Jesus is real, Jesus is God and he saves…some might want to deny these facts…
We can consider ourselves warned.
What is change?
According to wordnet.princeton.edu change is:
Any variation or alteration; a passing from one state or form to another; as, a change of countenance; a change of habits or principles.
A succession or substitution of one thing in the place of another; a difference; novelty; variety; as, a change of seasons.
A passing from one phase to another; as, a change of the moon.
Alteration in the order of a series; permutation.
Change and Life
Different accounts, scientific and faith-based, of how life in this planet originated and perpetuates itself identify change as a key element for the existence of life.
The Bible narrates in the book of Genesis how God formed the Earth and creation by gradually changing the “formless and empty darkness” which was there in the beginning into a place where light, sky, water, vegetation, animals and humans exist. (Genesis 1). God changed the conditions of the void by creating living and inanimate matter; we see a change taking place.
Science also explains how in an embryo is created through the differentiation and specialization of different cells which come from the union of two gametes. One cell multiplies and changes into millions of different kinds of cells to create a living organism; a zygote becomes an embryo, which turns into a fetus and later a baby; we see a change taking place.
Regardless of the lens we choose to look from…we can agree that change is a part of life, change results from the temporary nature of our earthly existence, change happens to everyone and everything in this planet…change is a precondition for life.
Two Kinds of Change
In our lives, we experience changes without even realizing it; seasons change, conditions change, we grow older, we go from one stage of our life to the next, we sometimes experience loss or unexpected out-of-the-ordinary situations. In order to study the phenomenon of change, scholars have categorized change in two kinds; cyclical change and structural change.
Cyclical change, as described by its name, is a change that occurs on a regular interval…for example seasons, fashion trends or business cycles…this kind of change is not permanent and can be reversed.
Structural change is a change that is unusual such as a revolution in a country, loss or death…this kind of change is permanent and cannot be reversed.
Change and T.V.
One of the biggest money-makers in the t.v. industry are the shows that capitalize on documenting change, such as makeover and improvement shows…as an avid t.v. viewer, please allow me to name my top 5 shows dealing with change:
5. Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style; it is a Bravo produced show where fashion-impaired ladies get the tools to reinvent their wardrobes from Tim Gunn.
4. Extreme Makeover; it is a total revamp of a person’s appearance which includes months of training, plastic surgery, wardrobe reinvention plus hair and makeup.
3. Extreme Makeover Home Edition; this show deals with the renovation of the house of a deserving family…it is a joint effort of the t.v. show and the friends of the family.
2. What not to Wear; people are recommended by their family and friends for this show…another show which deals with the fashion-impaired.
1. Pimp my Ride; a show dealing with car-makeovers.
So Please MTV, Pimp my Ride!
I especially like the format of “Pimp my Ride”…the show begins by introducing us to a person who has a car in dire need of repair…usually the car is falling apart and barely driving. After detailing all the malfunctions and glitches of the car the owner issues a plea to MTV asking for help, the first scene of the show always ends with the phrase “so please MTV pimp my ride”…the next scene shows the host Xzibit coming to the person’s house first to inspect the car and to announce that a change is coming; MTV has heard the plea and is going to Pimp the Ride.
It is so funny and endearing to see the people’s reaction when they open the door and see Xzibit standing in front of them…they are ecstatic; some will scream others will jump and scream, and others will scream, jump and embrace Xzibit like he was a long-lost brother. These people understand the implications of Xzibit’s presence at their front door; he’s coming to bring about a much needed change…He’s coming to get the defective automobile, and he’s going to take that car to get work done in one of the best garages in California…the participants in the show are aware that the next time they see their car, it is no longer going to be defective; not only will it be repaired but also immensely improved a.k.a. pimped. This change brings joy, anticipation and excitement to people’s lives…and I like watching all these emotions unfold.
Just like the introduction of the show follows the same format over and over, the conclusion of the show also follows one recurring format; once the car is in a new and improved, the owner is invited to the garage to witness the “great reveal”. The mechanics explain step-by-step the repairs, improvements and changes made to the car and the owner of the car responds in amazement and gratitude. The host of the show, Xzibit presents the person with his car keys and before letting him/her drive away he tells them; “You’ve officially been pimp’d”.
Jesus the Great Mechanic
Recently we celebrated Easter…a time when we remember Jesus’ life here on earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection after three days. However, many times we overlook the fact that Easter is also celebration of change; through his sacrifice, Jesus has dramatically changed the course of history and the potential outcome of our lives. In the show “Pimp my Ride” the cars are changed at two levels; first the mechanics fix those things which are malfunctioning or have deteriorated over time, and second the mechanics improve the car by adding equipment that the car did not have even when it was new from the dealer; such as extra-powerful stereo or GPS navigation system, which enhance the car’s condition beyond the owner’s expectations.
Similarly, Jesus brings change to our life at two levels; first he repairs the damage caused by sin and the works of the enemy our life, the Bible says in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”, and John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Second, Jesus improves our life through giving us the opportunity to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit; our God-given GPS navigation system, and by opening the way to the throne of the father. Paul says in Ephesians 3:13-21 that we can know the depths of God’s love and be strengthened in our inner man through his Spirit and that God is “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”…in other words; the changes that Jesus brings to our lives can exceed our expectations.
Jesus at the Door
As I mentioned before, one of the most memorable instances in the show “Pimp my Ride” are the scenes where Xzibit knocks at people’s door in order to bring about change…similarly in Revelation the Bible contains a passage where Jesus is pictured standing at the door and knocking…
Revelations 3: 14-21
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler
of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I
wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—
neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth…So be
earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone
hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he
When I read this passage, I cannot help but contrast the enthusiasm of the people portrayed in the t.v. show when Xzibit is at their door and the indifference of the church of Laodicea when Jesus was at their door… the bible describes the church’s reaction to Jesus as “lukewarm”, in other words apathetic, unexcited or even neutral…and this has not changed very much with time. Christians are still very passive, indifferent or neutral when it comes to Jesus’ presence in their lives…I sometimes get more excited watching a car get fixed than reading God’s promises in the bible…and I know I am not the only one.
How can people (including myself) be so excited for a temporary change such as their car getting fixed and ignore the person who wants to bring about changes that benefit their entire lives not only on this earth but also for eternity? Unlike the t.v. shows such as “Pimp my Ride”, the changes that Jesus brings to people’s lives are permanent, structural, eternal. A car lasts 20 years…eternity lasts forever.
How can we respond adequately to the changes that Jesus wants to bring to our life? John the Baptist once instructed people on how to respond to Jesus’ gift of salvation…he said in Luke 3:8 “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. Repentance is a word which implies change…it is actually a complete 180 degrees change in direction; it is a U-turn. Jesus himself tells the church in Laodicea to repent…to be earnest. Repentance includes a heartfelt desire to embrace the changes that Jesus wants to bring about in our lives…it is the equivalent of making a U-turn when we are driving in the wrong direction, or giving Xzibit the keys to a car which desperately needs repair.
Concluding Thoughts: The 10-Cow Makeover
Readers Digest once published a powerful story which narrates the story of a widower who lived with his two daughters in a small village in Asia a long time ago. One of the daughters was beautiful; her charisma and grace was known in the entire village and the neighboring areas… The other daughter, although noble-hearted, lacked allure and charm. The two young women were ready to be given in marriage, and as it was the custom in those days, the father was expecting suitors to show up and offer cattle in exchange for a wife.
One morning, word came to the old man that a wealthy dignitary was coming to the village to find his future wife. The wealthy man had been on a long quest to find a suitable woman to share his life, and had travelled near and far in his mission. The old man thought to himself; “surely when he sees my daughter, this man rich in possessions but poor in love will forget all his previous distress and forfeit his travels; he will settle with her and ask for her hand in marriage”, he rushed to his house and prepared for the event.
As the dignitary entered the old man’s house; his face light up, his eyes grew teary and his mouth uttered the following words; “Good man, at the sight of your daughter, I who am rich in possessions but poor in love, have forgotten all my distress and travels, I am in love with your daughter and wish to settle with her and ask for her hand in marriage, allow me to offer 10 cows as exchange” The old man who was prepared answered without hesitations, “Dear sir as a father, I am prepared to give you her hand in marriage.” The price of 10 cows was the highest price anyone had ever paid for a wife, but the old man was not surprised, since his daughter’s beauty was legendary.
The old man was smiling, satisfied that all his predictions had come to pass, when something happened that took not only him, but the entire village by surprise; the dignitary approached the two daughters who were standing side by side, and turned to the other daughter, the one who was noble-hearted and asked her “would you be my wife?” Without any hesitation, the young woman took his hand, looked at his family for one last time, and left with the distinguished man to become his wife.
Time went by, and word came to the old man, that his daughter and son-in-law were coming to the village in the customary visit that daughters pay their fathers. In villages a family-visit, concerns the entire town, and so all the people had gathered outside the old man’s house, to see the daughter arrive with the fool who paid 10 cows for a noble-hearted but unattractive wife. The dignitary appeared first, illustrious and poised as usual and stretched his hand to his wife to lovingly usher her into her father’s house.
The sight that caught people’s eyes was not that of an unattractive, noble-hearted woman, but that of an exquisite creature, who stood dignified, lovely and self-assured by her husband’s side. Astonishment and admiration filled people’s minds. The old man in his amazement couldn’t contain himself; he asked his daughter the reason for her change. The woman looked at his father and at everybody else, set her gaze on her husband and answered; “I realized the price he paid.”
I like this story because it is a makeover story, and it also illustrates what repentance should look like. Jesus paid a price for each and every one of us, so that our lives could be changed…however we need to respond and change our ways…and we will be restored, made-over, or as put in my favorite lingo; we will officially be “pimp’d”.
“”If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me” (Jeremiah 15:19)
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)
“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.”
It is time for a change….
The Olympics – A Reflection for Palm Sunday
This is a fun age quiz: Which are the first Olympics you remember watching? This should be an easy question to answer…at least for some people…and it will remind you how old (or young) you are.
An article appeared online last year titled “You never forget your first Olympics”, the author Bob Fitzgerald narrates his experience witnessing the Olympics of 1976; the most memorable event for him was the performance of a Japanese gymnast who in spite of having a broken leg, managed to compete and deliver a nearly perfect routine in the rings…he describes it in the following way: “In an almost inhuman display of strength and concentration, the gymnast performed what looked to me like a perfect exercise, even landing a perfect dismount. The image is burned into my brain. I was only five and this is one of my earliest memories.”
I also have a vivid memory of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. I remember sitting in the living room of my aunt Melly’s house and watching the inauguration ceremony on T.V. with my cousin Anna and the rest of the family. The fact that I was watching the ceremonies at my aunt’s house was very significant for me due to one specific and significant detail: my aunt lived in Munich, Germany…I had been staying with her family for almost a month and this was the first time that I had been away from my native El Salvador for such an extended period of time…
Call me sentimental, but being away from my country awakened in me a sense of patriotism and nostalgia which I had never experienced before in my life (twelve years of life to be exact). I remember watching the delegations from every country march around the Olympic stadium; first the A countries, Angola, Argentina, Australia Austria etc. Afterwards the B countries, then C’s and so on…I was eagerly awaiting for the E countries to come out and march, I was expecting to see the Salvadorian delegation among them…with much anticipation.
Finally, the E countries came out, first the Ecuador delegation, then the Egypt delegation…I expected El Salvador to come next, but to my surprise, it did not happen…I waited, and waited…then the F countries started marching…I was so confused; what had just happened? Where is El Salvador? To my surprise the Spaniards had decided to place the El Salvador delegation among the S countries…the S!!! I remember thinking “that is almost at the end of the alphabet!!!!” I was not happy about the unexpected change, to say the least.
I continued half-watching the rest of the countries march…the ones starting with F, H, G, and so on. I waited, and waited…and at last…the S countries started marching out in the stadium…again my spirits lifted and anticipation started to build up once more…then it happened… the El Salvador delegation came marching out…it was a handful of people smiling and carrying the Salvadorian flag and a banner that read EL SALVADOR…oh what a sight!
Even though the El Salvador delegation was hardly comparable in terms of size and presence to the delegations of other countries such as Switzerland, Sweden or the host-country Spain, in my eyes, it seemed like the greatest thing on that stadium. My heart was bursting with a mixture of pride, hope and expectation at the sight of those Salvadorian athletes which I will never forget, like Bob Fitzgerald would say; the image was burnt not only in my brain, but also in my heart.
I am sure my feelings regarding the 1992 Olympics were only magnified by my young age and the fact that I was far away from my country. However, last year as I watched the inauguration ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics I could see traces of those same feelings in people’s faces as they cheered and shouted for their respective delegations. The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics was packed with feelings of awe, anticipation and excitement, and it was the culmination of 84 months of preparation and much hard work and sacrifice…and controversy aside, it was a moment of national pride for China.
The Olympic Games normally start with a triumphal entry of an athlete carrying the Olympic torch into the stadium…giving a great start to a significant event…the bible narrates a similar story of how the most important week in the history of mankind started with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The Triumphal Entry (John 12: 12-19)
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
“Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
Beijing and Jerusalem
In 2001, China was awarded the rights for the Olympic games, and from that time onwards the entire city of Beijing became a “work in progress”. Beijing became a permanent construction site…slowly transforming into a cosmopolitan center worthy of hosting a world class event; this process included the completion of great landmarks such as the Birds Nest and the Olympic Village. Jerusalem at the time when Jesus walked on earth was no different from Beijing in 2008; scholars have described it as a “great metropolitan area home to the lavishly restored Jewish Temple, a world-renowned wonder” comparable to modern day London or New York City. (source http://www.time.com/time/2001/jerusalem/cover.html).
According to the official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (http://en.beijing2008.cn/news/official/ioc/n214520633.shtml) the inaugural ceremony for the games was viewed by nearly 4 BILLION people…that is roughly 2/3 of the world’s population (the world population is 6,771,182,070). Just like Beijing in 2008, the city of Jerusalem in 31 A.D. was in a period of Renaissance….and the Passover and the festival of the tabernacles drew thousands of people to Jerusalem…specifically to the Temple; which became the epicenter of attention and activity for all the Jewish folk for a week.
It is in this significant point in time that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and as he approaches, stories of those miracles and signs which he performed precede him; building anticipation among the Jewish folk. The particular circumstances surrounding the Jews at this time in history are noteworthy…they are under Roman oppression, with very little national pride, and their only hope is the messiah who will bring them the much needed victory over Roman rule; restoring their national pride and sovereignty. They have been waiting for this moment eagerly, hearing prophecies and promises regarding the Messiah for decades and decades.
Jesus and the Athletes
It is now easy to see how the emotions awakened in Jesus’ contemporaries regarding his arrival in Jerusalem would resemble those emotions experienced by people watching their country’s delegation arrive at the Olympic stadium; or more specifically, what I felt when I was 12 years old watching the El Salvador delegation walk in Barcelona; a mixture of pride, hope and expectation. On such rare occasions national pride and the anticipation of victory burst inside one’s heart and are expressed in shouts of joy and cheers for the object of one’s hope. For the Jews in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time, Palm Sunday was one of those occasions.
The shouts resounded, “Hosanna!”…but what does this mean? Hosanna is a very special expression, it means “save us” and “praise the Lord who is faithful!”…it is both a cry for help and a shout for praise, and encompasses the realization of a need and the recognition of God’s power on behalf of a man. People recognized Jesus as their hope for victory and restoration…like an athlete can bring victory and honor to a country; Jesus was viewed as the one who could bring victory to Israel and restore the nation’s sovereignty.
There is no aspect of an Olympic event which can be equated to the oppression experienced by the people of Israel …however there are many other aspects of human experience which allow us to taste and know what oppression feels like… and the good news is that there is hope in Jesus.
Conclusion: The difference between Beijing and Jerusalem
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout Daughter of Jerusalem!
See your king comes to you
Righteous and having salvation
Gentle and riding on a donkey,
On a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
There is one big difference between Beijing 2008 and Jerusalem in the time when Christ walked on earth…the victory won by athletes in the Olympics in Beijing was significant, but temporary… Jesus’s victory on the cross is the most important victory ever won and it has eternal implications for every person who chooses to believe in Christ as his or her savior.
As we enter Easter we celebrate that victory.
What Jesus did on the cross was indeed to bring victory to Israel, and to us…however, his methods were not understood by many, not even his disciples. The bible narrates that it was only in retrospect “only after Jesus was glorified” that the disciples understood how Jesus was fulfilling God’s promises. Jesus himself said to Peter; “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)
There may be “things of God” that we (or the people around us) do not understand, or promises which we have yet to see fulfilled… the good news is we can still rejoice, Jesus brought salvation, victory and restoration to us and we will understand his purposes at some point if not now, then later. In the mean time, we can rejoice. Rejoice because Jesus loves us, rejoice because he brought us salvation and we can experience that love and salvation today. Jesus is our champion, we can celebrate and praise HOSANNA.
I’d like to think that I could be happy living as a hermit…with a bunch of wolves and away from society. However, realistically speaking, even though I think I could do without lots of human interaction for extended periods of time (I am a consumated loner), I couldn’t do without the day to day comforts of “civilized life” such as cable t.v., cooked food, and most of all Coca-Cola.
Talking about hermits and people who live away from civilization, here is a hypothetical situation for you;
Imagine one day you are just hanging out in a coffee shop right after church… you see someone come to you and say;
“Excuse me, may I ask you something?” You nod, you probably expect that person to ask for directions or the time, but this person asks you something completely unusual which catches you by surprise…he/she says:
What would you tell this person, how would you describe Jesus?
Now imagine everyone you know was in the same situation as the ex-hermit…nobody knows who Jesus is…
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,[c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it.[e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[f] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[g] loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
This passage shows us, how important it is for people to have the right understanding of who Jesus is.
There are two questions that Jesus asks…
1. Who do people say the Son of Man is?
2. Who do YOU say I am?
Jesus was concerned with people’s understanding of him; of who he was and what his mission was in this planet. The previous passage shows that there were many ideas floating around regarding Jesus’ identity: People called him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet. And that was not so bad…prophets were people with authority and leadership sent by God….but Jesus made it a point to differentiate himself from being a prophet…he wanted people to know that he was not only human, but that he was God himself, and that he had come to be a sacrifice for our sins…and this was and still is a significant fact for people to understand.
How significant? We can see how vital it is to have the right notion of who Jesus is by looking at Jesus’ response to Peter when he correctly identifies him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus says to Peter “Blessed are you”…the Greek word for blessed is makarios which according to the dictionary “conveys the idea of being especially favored or privileged”…Jesus is saying that Peter’s realization about Jesus’ identity has made him (Peter) a favored man, or as we would colloquially say “a lucky man”….
Have you ever had a realization that instantly made your life better? I had to think of the following article:
Elementary, my dear gamersBy Ben Silverman
Note to prospective tech thieves: if you’re going to steal something, you’d better steal all of it. Especially if Ryan Ketsenburg is on the case.
According to school newspaper The Standard, the Missouri State University student managed to track down his stolen Xbox 360 by cleverly using the console’s wireless controller, which the thief unwisely failed to snag.
Ketsenburg’s amateur detective work began when he awoke one morning to find his Xbox 360 had gone missing. Distraught, the sophomore turned on his wireless controller and found that it still connected to the stolen console. Since 360 controllers have a range of about 30 feet, he knew the system was nearby and proceeded to canvas his dorm building, using the controller’s green connectivity light as a guide. Eventually he was able to pinpoint the location of the box, and soon enough, the two were back together.
But the whole experience so irritated Ketsenburg that he doesn’t plan on letting the thief off with a measly warning.
“I’m going to try to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, because I had to follow all the rules, so let’s make sure it gets done right,” he told the Standard.
What do Peter and the Xbox owner have in common???
I stopped being into videogames since the Super Nintendo and the Sega went out of fashion…so I am not familiar with the Xbox…however, I know how important/vital and fundamental it is to have your console once you are into playing videogames…. people can get really attached not only to consoles, but also to computers, mp3 players and cell phones…I know I am…so I can sympathize with Ryan K. and I can totally imagine his heart sinking when he realized that one of his most valuable possessions was G-O-N-E.
Fortunately for Ryan, the story does not end there…he is able to make two realizations that change his fate:
1. The control is still there and is still connected to the Xbox.
2. The Xbox is still in the building.
I can imagine the hope and excitement involved in searching for the Xbox…I picture it like the thrill of hunting for something…and then catching it (not that I’ve ever hunted for anything other than bargains) anyway…these two realizations shaped the outcome of events in a favorable way for Ryan.
Similarly for Peter, and for the rest of us, when we come to the correct realization of who Jesus really is, we are blessed, for this knowledge changes the outcome of events in our life in a favorable way.
Who is Jesus?
Since it is vital for us to understand who Jesus is, let’s look at some passages which describe who Jesus is:
1. Matthew 1:23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means, “God with us.”
-Jesus is God with us-2. Matthew 1:16-17“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’”
-Jesus is the Son of God-
3. John 1:14“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
-Jesus is the Word, Jesus became flesh (100% human and 100%God)-
4. John 1:29“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
-Jesus is the Lamb of God-
Concluding ThoughtsThese descriptions of Jesus make me think of two paintings… “The Crucified Christ” of Velázquez (above) and the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God) by Zurbarán (below) …
These two paintings have a lot in common:
They both were painted by Spanish Artists between 1630-1640.
They both depict Jesus in the same way, as a willing sacrifice against a black background.
Yet they both differ significantly from each other…
These two painters depict Christ as the sacrifice for our sins; one single theme, yet the paintings are so different…reflecting each painter’s individual perspective and understanding of Jesus and his role on earth…
This highlights the crucial question that Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16:15…”But what about you?…who do you say I am?”
This question clearly shows the personal nature of Jesus’ relationship to men. He is not concerned about “public perception”, he is concerned about personal relationship. God wants to give us an individual revelation of who Christ is. Societies today are not too different from the time when Jesus walked on earth…
There are still many misconceptions about who Jesus is…people doubt Jesus’ divinity, they doubt his existence, there is a lot of skepticism, some people still think Jesus is just a prophet, and they do not believe he was God…sounds very similar to the situation which is described in Matthew 16….
For people who live in societies where Christianity has been present for centuries, it is easy to assume things about Jesus, God and Christianity without seeking a personal encounter with Jesus…as Christians it is important for us to be mindful of these tendencies and to continually listen to God and seek to know Jesus more and more.
It is moving for me to read Jesus’ response to Peter’s affirmation of who he is… it is easy to see how happy, touched and excited he is about Peter’s answer. As I read this passage I see Jesus humanity and divinity mesh perfectly to express human enthusiasm and divine purpose in one expression “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…”.
Jesus is longing for us to know him for who he is…God still wants to reveal Jesus to each person individually, he is a personal God.
To have the knowledge of Jesus is a crucial realization, which has the potential to change the outcome of our lives. A personal revelation of Jesus will bless us, it will give us a firm foundation to establish our lives and it will enable us to bless others.
Jesus says in Revelations 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” This passage reflects the personal nature of a relationship to Christ, and once again, we see Jesus’ eagerness to have a one-on-one encounter with men. Jesus is talking to the Church…he’s talking to people who know about him, inviting them to know him personally. Jesus stands at our door, he’s waiting for us to open up to him…he asks “who do you say I am?”