Tuesday, June 27, 2006

King, Servant and Sacrifice

Jesus is  not the king of the materially minded people; he had come to rule our hearts
"Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself" (John 6:15).
It was an opportunity that anyone who would like to have: to become king! However, Jesus runs away from that excellent opportunity. However, in John 18 when questioned by Pilate, Jesus ascertained that "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:37). At the same time he also had made clear that his kingdom "... is not of this world" (John 18:36).
There are crucial differences between the way kingship was understood by the people of Jesus' day (including Pilate) and Jesus. That is why Jesus had to clarify that his kingship is not an earthly kingship. The people around Jesus, who had just eaten the food that Jesus multiplied from five loaves and two fish, had a different concept of kingship. For them the ideal king is someone who can feed the hungry. The rulers should provide opportunities so that people can work and earn their living. Low taxation, high per capita income, secure investments, etc are all part of it. Here is however, an ideal candidate for kingship: he provides all these without you working for it. He not just provides you opportunity to earn your bread and butter but actually serves it without any effort from your side.
Jesus conceived kingship as an authority that is higher than that of this world. He has come to rule the hearts of the people. That is another way of saying he has come to establish the kingdom of God. A bunch of people craving for the material things, concerned only about their livelihood and nothing higher than that would hardly qualify to be the citizens of this Kingdom. He don't want to be their king. He had no other option except to flee that crowd.
Establishing the eternal kingdom, with eternal values that are high above the earthly, is through the servant-hood. He came to be a servant of all. He suffered as a servant and then became the ultimate sin-offering. Since he became the sacrifice for all of us, those who believe in Him are now citizens of the Kingdom of God and members of the household of God. Becoming the king of Jews that day could have foiled the eternal plan of God. Now he is my king and he rules my heart. Thank you Jesus for fleeing that mad crowd.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Crowd that Jesus Really Pulls!

The Crowd Puller
The Crowd that Jesus Really Pulls!
The Gospel of John presents Jesus as a loner in the opening chapters of the book. The statement in John 1:11 is rather startling: "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." And then we see Jesus walking (alone?) in John 1:29 when John the Baptist introduces him saying, "Look, the Lamb of God!" Then the following day Jesus gets two disciples of John the Baptist to follow him (John 1:35-42). In the second chapter, we see a small crowd around Jesus but they had come for the wedding in Cana and not because of Jesus. Then until chapter 6, he mostly ministers to solitary individuals: Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, etc.
However, by the time we reach the sixth chapter he has become so popular that there were 5000 adult males in the crowd when he multiplied the fish and loaves by Lake Galilee. Rest of the sixth chapter is about the type of people who came to Jesus in large numbers. In these days of mega churches and large crusades, where success and blessings are a matter of numbers, a closer look at this passage is useful.
The first large crowd that came to Jesus because they had seen "the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick (John 6:2). It is this large crowd (numbering 5000 adult men and children and women not counted) that stayed late into evening so that Jesus had to feed them. Miracle workers are still great crowd pullers. Healing miracles, whether it is Christian or non-Christian does draw large crowds even now.
Then in 6:23 we see another group from the city of Tiberias arriving the following day in the place where Jesus had fed the people. They had come evidently seeking free food. They were disappointed because Jesus had moved from that place (probably Bethsaida) to Capernaum. However, the crowd, having not found Jesus there follows him to Capernaum. Looking at them Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill" (John 6:26). Looking for the Jesus who feeds and meets the physical and material needs explains why large crowds gather into meetings and churches where the promises of material blessings are offered.
Large gatherings of people are one thing, but what matters is those who stick! Towards the end of the same chapter, we have people leaving Jesus out frustration! Verse 60 records the disciples grumbling at Jesus' teaching that they found distasteful. Verse 66 says, "from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." It is not just the people on the periphery but some disciples (who belong to the inner circles) also left Jesus. This is what happens when miracles stop and people are asked to make moral commitments. There is always a demand for material blessings without any moral or spiritual commitments. This explains why the crowd around teachers of the Word and the churches where teaching the Word get priority is thin!
However, 12 definitely stayed back (see verse 70). The Christian Church has a history of 2000 years and growth and spread that  surpass any other spiritual movement in history because these twelve decided to stick to Jesus even when there was no loaves being multiplied or no sick was being healed. They stayed with Jesus because they found that, as Peter put it, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). These are the twelve who became witnesses of his death and resurrection and later the pillars of the Christian Church.
Real loyalty to Jesus is a commitment to his Word. This is a commitment to believe what he says, and obey he speaks through his Word. The number of this group who follow Jesus because they have found eternal life in him is not that big!

Paulson Pulikottil
Union Biblical Seminary, PB NO. 1455, Bibvewadi, Pune, India.
Phone: 020-21711158

The miracle mix

Miracles are the display of God's power not the strength of our faith
For a miracle to happen you have to have faith, that is what I was taught. I was also taught that miracles happen only when certain people pray, the anointed ones. I have thus developed a notion, as many of my readers have that miracles is a product of right amount of faith with anointing. If there is something wrong in that mixture then miracle may not happen.
Now, I know those who told us this haven't really read their Bible carefully. In the Bible, miracles have happened in the context of unbelief and sometimes by people who lacked faith. They themselves did not believe that a miracle is going to happen.
When God did miracles through Moses in the presence of Pharaoh, it did not depend on the faith of Moses nor the Pharaoh. In fact the miracles were performed that Pharaoh may believe. When the Syrian official Naaman was healed of leprosy what was the role of his faith in his healing? He did not believe that dipping himself in the murky waters of Jordan is going to heal any skin disease. However, he did so, not because of faith but because his servants insisted! However, that miracle generated faith in him. Take any miracles that has happened in the Bible, miracles are not necessarily the product of ones faith, but faith is the outcome of miracles. John the evangelist puts this way, "many put their faith in him". They put their faith in him because they saw the miracles that he did. So, God does miracles in order that we may have faith in him.
The healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda happened not because he had faith in Jesus. He did not express any hope that he will be healed nor did he know who Jesus was.
Miracles are a displays of God's power over human body, and nature both his creations.
However, the question remains: then why did Jesus could not perform miracles in places where they did not believe in him. Is not the faith of the centurion the reason for the miracle that he experienced?
We hear this often: "Exercise your faith". It accents human effort, while miracles are purely what God does at his discretion. Nothing may happen however hard your exercise your faith, unless God makes the move!

Paulson Pulikottil
Union Biblical Seminary, PB NO. 1455, Bibvewadi, Pune, India.
Phone: 020-21711158

Being the light of the world

'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that t...