Friday, February 29, 2008


I'll get back to the habit post later, but something struck me that I really want to share and remember.

Why do people sigh? If others are like me, they sigh when they're about to face an event or person that brings a sense of trouble or frustration during a time when they are already tired or they sigh in relief after a good amount of tension has passed.

It's sort of like saying "As tired as I am, I'll step up to take care of this tedious task, but I wish it wasn't necessary." For example, if the dishes in the sink are flowing over and the dishwasher is full, either I sigh or my wife does. The one who sighs is generally the one who takes the responsibility.

Sighs of relief are a bit more rare. It's like holding your breath in anticipation, then when the event is over letting it out. It's that moment at the end of a good movie or sports game when you say "Whew! That was close."

While reading through Mark I came across something that stood out. Jesus sighed. It's mentioned twice in the Bible - both times in Mark, almost back to back in scripture (Mark 7:34, Mark 8:12). Jesus apparently had moments of exasperation. He didn't get angry, but you can see his disappointment.

Mark 8:12 is obvious, so I'll address that first:
And the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him (Jesus), seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side... Then He charged [the disciples], saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."

There are other issues going on through this verse, such as bickering about a loaf of bread, hardened hearts, and selfish ambitions amongst his disciples. Though that contributed to Jesus' frustration, I don't think it was the root of His sighing.

Jesus shows frustration on two specific related issues. At first it appears that it might be because the Pharisees are being a pain, but Jesus has dealt with these jerks before. I think it specifically has to do with them demanding a sign and spreading some idea that even though Jesus heals the sick, the lame, the blind, the possessed and has miraculously fed thousands that unless He can make some super-miracle sign from heaven (like maybe turning the sky green or something goofy like that) then He can't really be (from) God. And I think the second issue is that his disciples and others were starting to believe that the Pharisees had a point.

It's obvious from these troublemakers that even if Jesus gave them a bigger sign than He already had through His ministry that they wouldn't be satisfied and would want an even bigger sign. They didn't want a Savior, they wanted a magician.

Jesus could have given a big enough sign that it would have overthrown the Roman Empire. This should all sound familiar - it was a temptation from Satan when Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days (Luke 4:5-6). He wasn't here to do that, and doing so would have gone against the will of God The Father.

That second issue is about leavening. These Pharisees and Herodians are trying to devalue the works of God. When they start spreading thoughts that what Jesus is doing isn't good enough evidence of who He is and others start believing it - even His own disciples - that's a great disappointment.

How should we apply this? We need to be steadfast in God's word and get to know His character. Most churches teach what the Bible says, and the good ones go as far as how to apply it - but how many really go into the character of God? We need to be on lookout for that. It's our individual responsibility... and let's stop putting conditions on God.

We shouldn't say that if God is really God then He wouldn't allow some event to happen or that He would have performed some crazy sign. That's what the Pharisees and Herodians did. Sometimes He does give us signs, but I don't see evidence that He does it to show off who He is, but rather to help us know who we're dealing with. I doubt that's the type of sign the Pharisees would be willing to, or want to, accept. Even when Jesus was crucified and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom they didn't take it for a sign and just sewed it back up.

Mark 7:34 is tougher to get through. Partly because the man's heart isn't revealed until well after Jesus sighs, but remember that God can see into the heart of man and that He can tell what state it's in. The gist of this passage is that Jesus heals a deaf and mute man who had nothing more than the selfish expectation to be healed. Jesus tells him not to tell anyone (this has caused trouble in the past - and I believe it ultimately led to the Pharisees confronting Jesus in chapter 8, see above).

You'd think this guy could at least be quiet - after all, he was so speechless that he didn't even take a moment to thank the LORD for healing him. But he immediately runs off and disobeys Jesus' command with the very tongue that was just healed. How many times do we beg God to do this - or to do that and expect it to be done, then get angry with God when it isn't to our liking... or when He does answer our prayer we go off sinning just like before - perhaps with the very part of our life that God just healed?

I'm not saying we shouldn't ask. God makes it clear that asking Him is good. When we come to expect it from Him is where we go wrong. We can't put our sinful man-limited expectations on the creator of the Universe and expect any good to come of it.

Then, when God does pull through we should turn to Him in gratitude and ask Him what we could do for Him . What He wants usually isn't what we think He wants. Our society is selfish by nature. We tend to quickly forget the good that others do and remember the bad. Apparently this neither new, nor specific to our culture.

Go against that selfish grind. Pay close attention - people are doing thoughtful things for you that you have no idea of. Find out about those things, then when you discover someone doing something kind, thank them and ask what you could do for them. In the meantime, list out specific times in your head when something happened (or didn't happen) to save you from trouble... chances are, that was God. His greatest miracles happen when there is the least expectation.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Nothing Better to Do"

Several days ago my youngest daughter, three, started learning about Jesus' crucifixion. We've spoken to her about it before, but this was the first time she actually understood it to some extent.

M to Mommy in an excited voice: "Is it true? Is Jesus Really Coming Back?"
Mommy: "Yes. He's coming back someday."
M: "Yay!" (Spins around in circles as fast as she can.)

A few days later my wife took the children to a thrift store where the little girl saw a cross...

M to Mommy: "Look, Mom. A cross."
Mommy: "Do you know what happened there?"
M: "Jesus died."
Mommy: "Yes. Do you know why He died?"
M: "Because He had nothing better to do!"

Children can be so funny at times. Neither my wife nor I could figure out where that response came from. On "Jeapordy" she would have lost hundreds of dollars on that response. Looking deeper at the meaning, though ... she's right!

Matthew 26:50-54 brings this to light in Jesus' own words when Peter sliced off the ear of the high priest's servant at the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus warns Peter about what violence brings then says something we hadn't heard before: " you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?"

Jesus knew He had a way out of being crucified. It wasn't steel and strong wooden beams that held Him to the cross. At any moment He could have cried out to God and Jesus could have ruled in might and power - but then He wouldn't have fulfilled His word.

John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Jesus had nothing better to do than to save the world from sin and death ... than to bail us out of the eternal prison we walked into when Adam sinned at the beginning.

He had nothing better to do than to die on the cross.

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