In Exodus 15 there’s an incident that carries weight for today. Israel has come to the springs of Marah. The water is bitter. The people turn to Moses. They challenge him and the complaint voraciously. “Why have you brought us here?” They press Moses to the point of mutiny. They are furious.
Some commentators believe this bitter water was a laxative, and anyone who drank this “bitter” water made many trips to the outhouse!
Moses is shown a branch of a common tree. The Lord speaks a word of the direction he’s to throw the branch directly into the spring. It’ll cure the water, and make it sweet and drinkable.
t seems to me that this awful cross cures the bitterness we absorb as we make our way through life.
The cross of Jesus is critically important. When that ugly tree touches our lives it makes what is bitter sweet. He has changed us by that incredible sacrifice on the hill of Golgotha.
Luke 9:1-6, Amplified
Now Jesus called together the twelve [disciples] and gave them [the right to exercise] power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 Then He sent them out [on a brief journey] to preach the kingdom of God and to perform healing.
And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey [that might encumber you]—neither a walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two [b]tunics apiece. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city [to go to another]. 5 And as for all those who do not welcome you, when you leave that city, shake the dust off your feet [breaking all ties with them] as a testimony against them [that they rejected My message].”
So they began going from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing the sick everywhere.
A disciple’s perspective:
Jesus called the twelve of us together that day for a reason–He wanted us to start doing His work, which, I admit wasn’t really in my thinking. But this was His plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. I didn’t feel remotely competent, and the thought of doing what Jesus did seemed a bit sacrilegious. I was very intimidated.
But now I can see that was what He intended all along, to push us into the supernatural–preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. He wanted us to touch people, to meet the needs of the desperate, and by doing so, extend the kingdom of God.
We were all skeptical, obviously. We weren’t Jesus, not by a long shot, and we had no right or ability to do miracles. On our own, I we were still fishermen and tax collectors. And honestly, what Jesus was asking (or commanding?) was for us to leave what we felt was comfortable and to step into His sandals. He wanted us to be just like Him.
He gave us His authority and power–it was His to give.
I suppose that this was the key to it all. We had witnessed fantastic miracles, stunning things that pretty much undid us. Jesus repeatedly defied the laws of nature—with just a word. And we’re His disciples, so I suppose that meant we needed to step out and touch people just like He taught. I guess that was Jesus’ plan for us all along. We just thought it wouldn’t happened this quick.
So the power and authority was given and we became “little Christs.”
Two by two we went in different directions to discover for ourselves what would happen. The needs we encountered were substantial. The world was a needy place that made its home in the pain and darkness of the demonized and the desperate. It seemed overwhelming. I think we all felt weak and very inadequate.
It’s funny, but we suddenly saw all these people through His eyes–it’s like we never had seen them before. We were now cloaked in Jesus’ very own power. When we laid hands on people astonishing miracles began to happen. All at once there were needs all around us. And the people kept coming.
I began to understand what it really meant to love people. We had left the relative safety of learners and had now became doers. I suppose we realized that there was an incredible difference between the two. We were all astonished by what we saw, at that moment we had few doubts about what was happening inside of us.
It changed us like nothing else could!
Being made into “little Christs” made perfect sense. We saw fantastic miracles and dramatic victories over dark demons. The things we had seen Jesus do were now the things we were doing! Suddenly everything came together and we understood many of the words that He had tried to drill into our thick skulls.
From village to village we went–we stayed with whoever wanted us. The needs we saw were staggering, from sunrise to sunset people came. Wherever we turned there seemed to be somebody else, but Jesus’ own authority was always present, it never diminished or weakened. It was like a bubbling spring that never once ran dry.
I suppose what happened inside me was just as much a miracle as we had seen Him do for others.
I was astonished–up to now I never realized how exciting it was to follow the Lord Jesus. What a joy to see the face of a man or woman who was set free. It was such a thrill to touch a little boy’s dead eyes and suddenly realize that he could see!
So this is what it honestly means to be His disciple!
“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
“Cursed is the man that feeds the swine.” That’s the commentary on Jewish ritual cleanness. The prodigal knew this, but when you’re starving, tradition is thrown out the window. It’s really hard to be spiritually correct when your stomach is growling. In verse 17, we see that the prodigal suddenly realized his condition. Notice the change:
It took sometime for this to happen. But it was a true and a complete repentance. A total alteration of his mind and heart took place at that point. And I must assume, when he finally made the decision to return, he didn’t even say ‘good bye’ to the pigs.
It’s the Father’s reaction that fascinates me.
How does God see us? Is he angry or frustrated? And yes I suppose, there is ample reason for him to treat us with caution. Deep down, we know exactly how dark we are, and on a superficial level we realize our dirt doesn’t belong in heaven. And yet the father is in a party frame of mind. That isn’t rational.
There were no tests to see if the repentance was real.
Did he really repent, or was it all for show? The text tell us that he was hungry, maybe he just wanted a hand-out? Did he meet the criteria needed for reinstatement? It amazes me, there wasn’t a 30 day waiting period to determine whether the prodigal had truly repented. No, the party started when the father hugged his son.
Do you see the “suddenness” of this part of the story?
At least for me, the pace quickens, and I imagine the whole household jumped up to get in the act. Verse 10 explains the joy that reverberates through heaven at this, Just so, I tell you, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Joy seems to be the key thought to really “get” these verses. If we can’t see it saturate (like a sponge) we’ll never understand this parable. Its not hard if you can read it with excitement and anticipation. If you decide to do so, it’ll make a lot of sense, and it’ll be less mysterious.
This story is as much about the father as it’s about the son.
In it we see the character of the Father revealed. We see his joy, and excitement over his son’s return. Right from the start we see him running, (v. 20) moving to his son. I can see a weeping father giving his son a big bear hug and lots of kisses. He has hoped and dreamed about this moment.
Golly, there is so much to be said: there’s a ring and shoes and a roasted calf. But I think that the overwhelming lesson is the joy of the father. It tells me much about what he’s like–and he’s not at all what I thought he’d be.
I’m convinced, after 30 years of reading this parable, that He’s the Father who is always moving, and he runs to meet us. He’s the One who is filled with joy at our return. Please dear one, take Him at His word.
“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God!”
1 John 3:1. MSG
— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. Perhaps we should give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence. Their hurt is typically inside, and most carry this pain apart from others’ knowledge. They cry when they think no one is looking.
What can we say to those who seem to be in a white-hot furnace? How can we bless those who are in so much pain? They hurt deeply, and honestly, at times we have no idea what they’re having to endure. They’re being challenged in ways we never imagined. We should realize that their burden would probably destroy us.
Sometimes just a word of simple encouragement is all that is needed. A phone call or an email is good, and it’s the work of a believer to actively lift each other up like this. This is how the Church is meant to be. We watch out for each other, we care for each brother and sister, and it’s a joy to serve each other like this.
But sometimes it might be necessary to speak directly into their awful storm.
In the midst of some awful difficulties in my early walk, I had a dear brother who was so kind. He gently (and carefully) quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over. It was wonderful and so encouraging–he blessed me with that promise and it’s now my “life verse” fifty years later!
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
A good reminder for us is that the pain we feel right now is not the end. Our trials have a finite duration (although it seems far away). There’s coming a day when the difficulty will suddenly cease and we’ll come out on the other side. “We’ll shine like the stars,” scripture promises us. (Daniel 12:3). I really believe we’ll see that.
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing in their spiritual heart. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.
But please understand. A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let’s be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and to be honest, that’s okay. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap saying not a word. Please dear one, be aware, alert, and very wise about these things.
Just wait on God—-be sensitive, discerning, and pray a whole lot. It’s no small thing to speak to those who are hurting so deeply.
Isaiah 50:4, CEB