Immediately: Matthew 14:22-36

This is the story of Jesus walking on water. He had just finished feeding the five thousand (men, besides women and children) and then IMMEDIATELY he sends his disciples into a boat and to go ahead of him to the other side of the lake so he can spend some time in prayer. He walks out across the lake to them and when they see him, they are terrified and Jesus IMMEDIATELY says to them, “Hey guys, no worries, it’s me”. Then excitable Peter wants to walk on the water too, but as he gets out there, he’s afraid and starts to sink and Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out and catches him, asking “why did you doubt?”

Obviously, immediately stood out to me in this passage as it is used three times in these verses. Jesus sends his disciples away to cross the lake before he has even dismissed the crowd, right after collecting the leftover food. Then he immediately responds to them in their two times of need. He didn’t wait a second or two to take in their terrified faces or wait a second or two to “teach Peter a lesson”. He was very quick to take action to comfort them and save them.

I know I am guilty of waiting to respond to take in the reaction of others first or try to teach a lesson where perhaps an immediate response is the better course of action. Or I wait because I am “busy” and need to “just finish up” before responding. I can get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I fail to really be aware of the rest of my surroundings.

What would life look like, how would it be different, if I were to be better at responding immediately? Of course, not everything requires an immediate response, but sometimes, I put off a good immediate response opportunity for a variety of reasons. I would say that most of the time, it comes down to my selfish nature. I can’t know anyone else as well as I know myself and that is my biggest stumbling block – selfishness. My time, my money, I need to relax, I need to finish this project, I need, I need, I need. Having children has challenged me on so many levels because of that. I don’t always get my time. I don’t always get to do “just one more thing” or eat my own food or relax as long as I’d like or whatever else. Most of the time I am okay with it, but sometimes I really resent it. Sometimes I wish it was just me so I could do whatever I want whenever I want to do it and not have to be accountable to anybody or share my time and space.

Those moments don’t last very long, though, thankfully. Usually it’s in the middle of a busy season or when I have a mountain of laundry needing to be put away and dishes overflowing everywhere and a playroom I can hardly walk through and dogs completely up in my face and being spit up on for the fourth time today and short nap times and extra needy kids. It is usually in those extremes that I fail to immediately respond. I intentionally wait and wait. I don’t offer comfort when it’s needed.

There is a lot I can learn from this short little passage about responding immediately and appropriately, asking the right questions, and saying the right things at the right time. “Take courage, it is I” and “Why did you doubt?”

This mama thing can be really hard, but learning from and leaning on Jesus, I know I can make it through even the hardest seasons.

Where can you be better at immediately?

 

According to your faith, it will be done to you

Matthew 9:29b – “According to your faith, it will be done to you.”

Jesus had been followed by two blind men who begged him to have mercy on them and restore their sight. Jesus asked if they believed he could and they said yes. So Jesus touches their eyes and says “According to your faith, it will be done to you.” And they were sincere in their faith, for their sight was restored.

In all my reading so far, I haven’t come across Jesus asking someone if they believed and then said healed according to their faith. How very interesting and different the story would have been if he said that and their sight WASN’T restored. I wonder what Jesus would have said in reply to that, Jesus who said super radical things that still pushes us to a higher and holier standard, one that involved not just our actions but our thoughts and our intentions? What would he have said?

Does Jesus still say that to us? Does he ask us if we believe and do we say yes and then we find that in the end, we didn’t really believe? How often do we really NOT trust God to take care of us and our needs?

Over the past few years, we have had the opportunity to make decisions that force us to really rely on God, to ask “Do I believe?” and then to act. Do I believe that God will provide when we don’t actually make enough money for one to stop working? Do I believe that God will provide when we move to a small town and need just a little bit of extra income? Do I believe that God will provide in the midst of heartache and loss in the family? Do I believe God will provide when I’m feeling lonely and misunderstood and just need some mom friends to walk with on this journey of parenthood?

We asked those really tough questions and then planned, expecting God’s provision because we knew that it could work no other way. We definitely need to have some steps to take that are bigger than we can do on our own but we also still need to plan. As our pastor said on Sunday “Prayer is not a plan. Hope is not a plan. They are needed, but they are not a plan.” We still need to make good decisions and plan and be good stewards, but we can’t live life so comfortably small that we disallow God to come through and provide. If we only live a life that we can provide for and control, then we miss opportunities to build our faith and trust in God and we also miss opportunities to show others how big our God is. We miss times that we can tell people “We didn’t know how it was going to work, but God provided for us.” God provided the right family at the right time for daycare. God provided an opportunity for extra money without getting an extra job for just as long as we needed. God provided a buyer and a seller right at the time big changes were happening or about to happen with my daycare families. We have a long list of times God provided.

I am convinced that it is because we believed and acted on that belief. Jesus asked “Do you believe I can do this?” We said yes and he replied “According to your faith, it will be done to you.”

When have you stepped out and let God provide for you?

 

Reflection: Matthew 5

I was reading again in Matthew this morning and the first two verses really stuck out to me.

“Now when he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:”

I had somehow always thought that Jesus was teaching the crowd that had gathered. I never could quite wrap my head around that because in my mind, thousands of people are gathered around this mountainside so how could anyone at all hear Jesus? Did he have some kind of supernatural amplification? Was it a case like Pentecost where the people in Jerusalem could understand the apostles in their own language except these people could hear Jesus even from really far away? Did people pass the message back as they heard it?

Now, as I read again, Jesus isn’t teaching the crowd. He is teaching his disciples. All four of them at this time, according to Matthew: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He is teaching a MUCH smaller crowd. So he teaches them and then what?

Matthew 7:28-29 ends the Sermon on the Mount by saying “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

I wonder, even with the way Matthew 7 is worded, if Jesus taught his disciples and then they dispersed among the crowd and taught the gathered crowd what Jesus had said? After all, if I knew that I had limited time for ministry and was depending on average, uneducated men to carry on my work when I was done, I would want to start their training early. Give them a chance to prove themselves, an opportunity to learn, teach and coach them through the difficulties they encountered.

In addition, these are some pretty radical ideas that Jesus is teaching and what better way to wrap your head around new ideas than to teach them yourself?

I remember in college helping various classmates with difficult sections of material and even if I didn’t have the best grasp on it when we started, by the time we ended, I really understood the new material. Struggling through it together, trying to explain it to someone else, getting lost or hung up on a misunderstood process and working through it, helped me to really internalize it.

That is how really great teachers teach, though, isn’t it? Or how really great leaders lead? By equipping those under them and sending them out to teach or lead others?

It is amazing to see how these little things that Jesus did equipped his disciples for the extremely challenging times that would come before them after his death and through them being able to preach, teach, and mess up while he was alive, they were all the better equipped to preach and teach on after they had no opportunities for post-preaching debriefing sessions.

So what do you think? Did Jesus teach the crowd or his disciples?