?March 8, 2009
Second Sunday in Lent (B)
The I.R.S. received this letter a number of years ago:
“Gentlemen: Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest. Sincerely…”2
We can chuckle because the sender was willing to be honest up to a point … just far enough to help relieve his guilty conscience … just far enough to help his sleep return. . . but not far enough to make a clean break.
The disciples were willing to hear Jesus up to a point. When He talked about the kingdom, love, joy, peace, hope and all of that, it was great. They were on board with Him. However, when He began to talk about rejection, suffering, being hated, crosses and the negative things of discipleship, they did not want to hear the truth about it. The text tells us that it was so bad that Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him.
Before Peter could get it all out, Jesus turned to him and said, in essence, “You don’t like the plain truth? You only want to hear the good side of life? Let Me tell you there are things that are going to hurt, and Satan is blinding you to those things and using you to impede My agenda from the Father. Get behind Me, Satan.”
Before we condemn these disciples, we have to reflect on our own discipleship. Is it positive or negative?
God hurts with us when we hurt. Jesus understood the hurtful things in life. He was rejected by His family, who came one day to take Him home because, in their opinion, He had gone off the deep end mentally. His friends hurt Him by rejecting Him. He faced the agony of the cross nearly friendless. His closest friends abandoned Him for the safety of their homes. The Father in heaven had to reject Him as our sins were laid on Him, and Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” His hurt makes Him the perfect empathizer on our behalf! He will be with us in our suffering in this life.
He will be with the world’s suffering. In a report dated July 11, 2002, from the Nazarene Communication News Global Edition, the reporter said that Sudanese rebel fighters drove out 20,000 people from their homes with only the clothes on their back as their entire possessions. The rebels killed and looted as they swept through entire communities, with many people losing their lives as they fled. Reports described civilians being hunted down and strafed by airplanes and helicopters giving chase. Foot soldiers and mounted militia were also shooting and killing the civilians.One missionary was quoted as saying, “Our members are crying for help. They have no shelter, no food and no medical attention-nothing! If we do not help immediately, I believe there will be widespread starvation.” Where is God?
There is individual suffering. Every day that we open a newspaper or listen to a newscast, we hear of individuals who are suffering in one way or another-physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and socially. Where is God?
There is church suffering. Dozens of churches die weekly and are closed. Church arguments lead to splits, and the congregations suffer. Anti-Christ and anti-church feelings are demonstrated daily. Where is God?
The truth is God is there going through it all with the world, individuals and churches. We must learn to turn to Him, for He understands our sorrow better than anyone else.
God gives us hope when all others fail. He helps us to understand how to deal with life and destiny. He gives us life today. Jesus protects us, preserves us, surrounds us and even fills our hearts with music.
He gives us life tomorrow. God sees into all of your tomorrows and makes His presence known. All we have to do is ask for Him to be there, and He will be in all our tomorrows! He will be with us in trials, sorrows and the deepest distresses in the future. As the old hymn “How Firm a Foundation” states, “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.”
He gives us life forever. All we have to do is read and grasp John 3:16, where it says that all who will believe in Jesus have life everlasting. That’s the kind of God that I need, who has perfect hearing when I hurt and perfect timing in all of life’s situations!
?2. Charles Swindoll, Come Before Winter (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1985), 91.