Sunday, March 12, 2017

His disciples came to him...

...And he opened his mouth and taught them.

I like the little stuff in the Scriptures. Sure, I like the sweeping theological statements, the deep teaching like we find in Romans and Ephesians. I like to go to the deep end and dive in (metaphorically as I can't really swim). But often I find pretty profound stuff in the verses that seem almost to be written in passing and often those can be found right before well known verses. This morning we were looking at the Beatitudes but right before you get into the "Blessed are..." passages, Matthew sets the stage for us and we usually miss it. He writes:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying (Mat 5:1-2)
It is amusing to see how much art that represents the
Sermon on the Mount depicts Jesus standing up to teach.
This is an interesting contrast. At the end of chapter 4 we read about the "great crowds" that followed Him (Matthew 4:25) because of His fame and especially because He was healing people and casting out demons. Here at the beginning of chapter 5 we seem to see a distinction. He saw the great crowds but He went up on the mountain with His disciples. He sat down and they came to Him. Did they have any idea what to expect? On the one hand He was pretty unpredictable. They never really knew what He was going to do or what He might say. Did they just follow Him up the mountain to see what happened? On the other hand, He sat down which was, according to the ESV Study Bible the way teachers in that era taught: "Teachers in Judaism typically taught while sitting..., a position Jesus takes regularly.". Regardless, they knew that He had something for them.

I got to thinking about this. What do we expect when we come to Jesus? I don't mean come to Him in faith and thereby receive justification. I am talking about the believer who comes to sit at the feet of our Teacher. When you pray or when you open the Scriptures, what do you expect to happen? Do you expect anything to happen? I find myself too often praying or reading in a perfunctory manner. I ought to pray and I ought to read the Scriptures so here it goes. Let me put a mark in that box on my religious obligation checklist and move on.

What if we came to Jesus in the ways we are taught to, by opening the Scriptures, by the remembrance of the breaking of bread, by prayer, by gathering as the church and really expect Him to do something, something miraculous and wonderful? I can't imagine that the disciples went up to where Jesus was sitting on the mountain and expected to get what we call the Sermon on the Mount, the longest continuous teaching of Jesus in the New Testament, but I bet they expected something to happen. I believe that if the church truly expected something to happen when they read the Bible or gathered together or prayed, amazing things would happen. There is incredible but often untapped power in the ordinary means of grace of the church. I don't mean listening to sermons necessarily or taking a plastic cup of grape juice off of a tray, although those certainly are a means of grace, but I mean anytime that the church, wherever it is, engages with God via the means He has provided and ordained: praying, reading the Scriptures, breaking bread with one another, gathering together in His name.

There is something to be said for being disciplined in the means of grace, reading and praying and gathering even when we sometimes don't feel like it but if we never do those things and expect something other than a perfunctory obligation, we miss the power of coming to Jesus. You can recite a prayer and "go to church" and read the Bible all the way through over and over but if you don't expect to meet Jesus and seek to meet Jesus when you are doing so, why should you expect anything powerful to happen?

God has ordained and provided and preserved the means by which we encounter His Son. He has given us every reason to expect something powerful and miraculous to happen when we do. Believer, come with me and sit at the feet of Jesus and expect He will do something and I guarantee He will provide. If you come to Him, He will teach you. Those who love Jesus, who have a new heart and His Spirit within them have a thirst for God. Come to the One who gives Living Water and you will be satisfied but your thirst will never be quenched. We simply need to come to Jesus looking to learn and He will teach us.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I also enjoy the "little stuff", and I'm finding that memorization provides me with ample time to noodle over seemingly innocuous words. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the Beatitudes were spoken chiefly to his disciples, not the crowd at large. Especially where Jesus says, "And blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Last fall I had the opportunity to recite the SOM on the Mount of Beatitudes on the Sea of Galilee, and it was noteworthy that Tiberias and the Decapolis were both clearly visible from this spot. Two areas which would be extremely hostile to the gospel message. And then for the disciples to hear, "Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Must have made quite an impact on those young guys.