Who Sits Next to Jesus?
In reading Mark 10:35-45 today, I began to wonder, and, frankly, speculate about who really is sitting at Jesus' right hand. In that story, the brothers James and John asked Jesus if they could sit at his right hand. What they wanted, of course, was earthly power because they thought Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus doesn't tell them that they are wrong about the kingdom, but that they are wrong about the role of power.
However, I got off on speculating about who sits with Jesus. My first thought was that it might be Mary and Joseph, two important people in Jesus' life. Then I thought about the Transfiguration and reasoned that maybe it was Moses or Elijah. I even considered Judas as an example of what a forgiving Father God is. In the text, though, Jesus seems to imply that whoever it is will be someone who is a martyr. Perhaps Peter?
Could it be a rotating position with all the saints getting a turn? I don't know. Who would you nominate for sitting next to Jesus?
Lamb of God
Such contrasting images are used for Jesus, Lamb of God among them. First, it's odd to picture God as an animal, a lesser creature even than man. Thought to be without free will, easily led (like a lamb to the slaughter), mild (meek as a lamb). A lamb does not present a flattering picture of God Almighty.
Second, lambs were routinely offered as sacrifices to God (sacrificial lamb). Only the best lamb would do. It had to be a lamb without flaws in body, coloring or wool in order to be given as a sin offering to God.
So why would God permit his divine Son to be called "the Lamb of God?" For that is what John the Baptizer calls Jesus when he first points him out to his followers. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). John is speaking far beyond human understanding when he identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who is capable of taking away the sins of the world. What a wild statement that is - a man, as a sacrificial lamb, who can somehow obliterate the sins of the entire world. Really? Who would believe that?
And yet Jesus did it. He offered himself as a sin offering to God, his Father, not just for one person's sins for one year but for the sins of all the people in the world for all time. He and the Father had that plan in mind before the first human came to be and the first sin was committed. The plan of the lamb came before the fall of man.
For Reflection: See Genesis 22:8, Exodus 12:21, Isaiah 53:6-7, Luke 10:3, 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Let us pray. With the elders, we sing: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." With the angels, we sing: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" With all creation, we sing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (based on Revelation 5:6-14)
Light of the World
Do you know who you are? When you introduce yourself, what do you say? "I am . . . ." Usually our name is the first thing we give. But what if we could not give our name, we had to say something else. And the next word after "I am" has to be a noun, not an adjective. You must say something about who you are (spouse, spreader of the Good News) and not what you are (blessed) or how you look.
It may not be easy at first thought for us to name ourselves in this way. But Jesus gave us several examples for himself. He said, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12). It's a huge claim. He didn't say, "I am the Light of Jerusalem" or "I am the Light of Israel." Who is big enough, important enough, bold enough to be the Light of the World? Only Jesus.
For Reflection: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. I know where I came from and where I am going" (John 8:12, 14b). Do I know where I came from and where I am going? How do I complete the sentence,
"I am . . "?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Light of the World. You are the light that draws everyone. You are the light that banishes the darkness of evil, corruption, inhumanity and sin. You are the light set on the hill of Calvary. You are the light of our lives. You are the light of the universe. You are the light of heaven.
"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" (Revelation 1:18). Some years ago it was proclaimed, "God is dead." Hardly. Imagine the surprise of the people who said this to find, upon their own death, that not only is God not dead but neither are they. We live eternally either with God or without God. Our choice lies not in living eternally or dying, but in how we will spend that eternity.
For Reflection: Many of us live day-to-day, not looking too far into the future. Christianity calls us to take the long view, looking toward eternity. Where are my choices leading me? (For further reflection see Romans 6:8-10, Revelation 4:9-10, Colossians 1:18.)
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Living One, the firstborn over all creation, the firstborn from the dead. You are before all things and You have supremacy in all things. You are the head that holds the body together. You live and reign for ever and ever!
Alpha and Omega
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8). Jesus is the beginning and the end. He existed before time and he will continue to exist after time ceases. He was present at the creation. His birth inaugurated a new age for humankind and his return will bring a renewed creation. He is Lord of the past, the present and the future.
The title Alpha and Omega brings to mind the ancient teaching of exitus et reditus. We come from God and we will return to God. We are made in God's image and we will find our fulfillment in complete union with God. As Jesus and the Father are one, we hope one day to be one with the Trinity.
For Reflection: Is Jesus the beginning and the end of my day? Is he Lord of my past, my present and my future? Am I on the path to unity with God? (For further study, see Isaiah 44:6, 48:12-13; Revelation 4:8, 21:6 and 22:13.)
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. You were present at the creation and you will be present at the end. You chose to become one of us at your birth, bringing salvation by your life, death and resurrection. You are worthy of all praise.
In his final words about the resurrection of the dead and the return of Christ, Paul says to the Thessalonians that the day of judgment should not surprise them life a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:5). In saying this, Paul does not mean that Christ's followers will not be surprised because they will know the day in advance but that they will not be surprised because they are always ready. In fact, Paul himself seems to think that the Lord will return soon. Yet here we are.
And so we are to encourage one another to always be ready because the Lord Jesus could return at any moment. Paul instructs us to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak and be patient and kind with all (5:14-15).
For Reflection: While we wait for the coming of the Lord, how are we spending our time? Are we in right relationship with God and others? Is there anyone with whom we need to be reconciled? If He returned tonight, would we be ready?
In chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians Paul makes a defense of his ministry in Thessalonica. Possibly one prong of the persecution the church was under was a discrediting of Paul, Silas and Timothy. People may have been saying to them, "Oh, you were just taken in by their trickery and flattering ways. They are not sincerely interested in you. After leading you astray, look how quickly they left you." And so Paul reminds them of the truth. We had no impure motives; we were not trying to trick you; we didn't use flattery nor were we greedy. We shared our hearts and our lives with you. We worked alongside you while we preached to you the Gospel of Jesus. We treated you as a father treats his own children. And we are still concerned for you.
For Reflection: Paul and the other disciples did not suffer only from the physical persecution of those who wanted to kill them, but also from the slanderous tongues of those who would discredit them and their message. Although some Christians in the world today are being killed for believing in Jesus, most are not. But many suffer the whispered criticism, being thought less of or outright ignored. Jesus taught us, though, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Let us pray. Jesus, we pray for all people who are persecuting Christians around the world. Touch them, Lord, with your mercy and forgiveness and let their minds be open to your truth.
When Jesus sent out the apostles and disciples to follow his example (Luke 9 and 10 as we discussed in our last post), he gave them the power and authority to do what he did. Luke 9:1 says, "he gave them power and authority." In Luke 10:1, it says, "the Lord appointed seventy-two others." Those who were with Jesus were appointed with the power and authority of Jesus. In Luke's gospel, we don't have the same ending as in Matthew 28. Instead Jesus opened their minds to understand what was written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-45) and he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power.
Since he would no longer be present with them in the flesh, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be with them. They receive that empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Peter, the presumably uneducated fisherman, begins to preach from the Prophet Joel and from Psalms. And so the next chapter, the chapter of the church, the believers, our chapter begins.
Believers receive this power from on high, the Holy Spirit, in baptism. Sacramental churches also have Chrismation or Confirmation. Some add the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". Whatever we want to call it, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to enable us to live the normal Christian life.
For Reflection: Have I been baptized? Am I clothed with power from on high? If not, today is the day. If I have been baptized, do I act like it?
Let us pray. Jesus, I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Help me to live up to it today and every day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Blessings and Woes
In Luke 6:17-26 we have the blessings and woes. Much has been said about the blessings, also known as the beatitudes, but let's look at the last one of those and the last one of the woes. "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23), and "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets" (Luke 6:26).
Jesus is not speaking of the accolades that come with hard work and success in life which can be richly deserved. A person isn't awarded a Nobel prize without great accomplishment. Whoever wins a medal at the Olympics has worked long and hard and given up all other pursuits. That type of acclaim is not the subject of the blessings and woes in Luke 6.
No, Jesus is saying, "Woe to you who are yes men to kings and presidents, who lead people away from God rather than toward God." He is saying, "Blessed are you who truly speak the word of God." If we speak the word of God, we may well put ourselves in danger and suffer for it. For an example, we need only look back to our discussion of Elijah speaking God's word to King Ahab. Elijah had to go into hiding and be fed by ravens while the false prophets of Baal were feted at the King's court. Elijah spent years living with the widow while Ahab actively hunted him in order to kill him. But God kept Elijah safe. Elijah didn't feel blessed at the time, nor did he rejoice, but I'm sure his reward in heaven was great.
For Reflection: Have I ever had to stand up for what was right? If so, how did I do?
Let us pray. Jesus, I admit it's not easy to stand up publicly for your word and for what is right in your eyes. Still, I trust that when I do you will be with me and will give me the words to say. Help me to rejoice in insult and rejection on your behalf.
We are looking at how Jesus began to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which he read in the temple in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He has been preaching the good news to the poor (financially poor and spiritually poor), he has been healing people and working other miracles. Now it is time for him to choose a team who can help him with doing this work of God.
Alone Jesus cannot cover enough ground, even in one country, to make a big difference and spread the word as far as he wants it to go. He needs help (Luke 6:12-16). His next step is to spend the night in prayer. That's a long time to pray about one thing. I don't know about you, but I don't very often spend the night in prayer. But as you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, often late at night or early in the morning when he could get away from the crowds.
After the night of prayer, Jesus didn't choose just any 12 men. He chose from among those who had been with him consistently, who knew his basic message, and who had seen his miracles. Even with the choice of Judas, who ultimately betrayed him, I believe he selected the men his Father wanted him to name.
This short passage can teach us a couple of things: the importance of prayer before important decisions, or developing a team rather than trying to go about God's work alone. But it also causes me to think about those who were not chosen. What happened to them? Were they fine with Jesus' selection or were they jealous and disgruntled? What did Jesus say to them to smooth things over?
For Reflection: Have I been passed over, not chosen for a team before? Was I the last one chosen for a team in school? Was I turned down for a date? Was I passed over for a job? Let us forgive the person(s) who did not choose us and pray a blessing for them.
Let us pray. Jesus, there have been times when I was not chosen, when I was overlooked. I choose now to forgive that person(s) for not choosing me. And I ask you to heal the memory of the rejection in me and pour out a special blessing on that person today.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.