One on One With Jesus!

What do all these people have in common?

The leper cleansed by Jesus in Matthew chapter 8 and in the parallel accounts in Mark chapter 1 and Luke chapter 5

The centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant in Matthew chapter 8 and Luke chapter 7

The paralytic who Jesus healed in Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 2, and Luke chapter 5

The synagogue leader whose deceased daughter was brought back to life, and the woman who was cured of severe bleeding in Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 5, and Luke chapter 8

The mute man from whom Jesus cast out a demon in Matthew chapter 9

The man with the withered hand who Jesus healed in Matthew chapter 12, Mark chapter 3, and Luke chapter 6

The Canaanite woman whose daughter was healed by Jesus in Matthew chapter 15

The demon possessed young boy who Jesus healed in Matthew chapter 17, Mark chapter 9, and Luke chapter 9

The rich young man in Matthew chapter 19, Mark chapter 10, and Luke chapter 18

The man with the unclean spirit who was made well by Jesus in Mark chapter 1 and Luke chapter 4

The demon possessed man in the country of  Gerasenes whose sanity was restored by Jesus in Mark chapter 5 and Luke chapter 8

The deaf man who Jesus healed in Mark chapter 7

The blind man at Bethsaida whose sight was restored by Jesus in Mark chapter 8

Bartimaeus the blind beggar whose sight was restored by Jesus in Mark chapter 10 and Luke 18 (only Mark gives us his name)

The widow in the town of Nain whose dead son was brought back to life by Jesus in Luke chapter 7

The sinful woman who was forgiven by Jesus in Luke chapter 7

The woman with the disabling spirit who was healed by Jesus in Luke chapter 13

The man who Jesus healed from dropsy in Luke chapter 14

Zacchaeus the tax collector who was brought to repentance by Jesus in Luke 19

The thief on the cross who was forgiven and assured of being in paradise with Jesus in Luke chapter 23

The Pharisee Nicodemus who Jesus taught about spiritual rebirth in John chapter 3

The woman at the well who found new life through faith in Jesus, and the official’s son who was healed by Jesus in John chapter 4

The paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5

The woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8

The man born blind in John chapter 9

Lazarus, from John chapter 11

So what do they have in common? For starters, they were all healed of some affliction or ministered to in some way by Jesus. And in a few of those instances, a dead person was brought back to life. That’s obvious. What may not be as obvious is that all of them, 28 in all, were healed or ministered to by Jesus….one on one. Even though Jesus was, in most cases, in the midst of crowds of people when he met these 28 persons, He still responded to their needs individually and in a way that was very personal.

And that’s the very thing those 28 encounters reveal to us about God and our relationship with Him. It’s a personal relationship. Our faith is personal. Our salvation in Christ is personal. Even though there were times when Jesus healed multiple numbers of people at once and taught and preached and ministered to large crowds, it’s those one on one encounters with Jesus that remind us of God’s great love for His people. Jesus was moved by their suffering. He was moved by the troubles those people were struggling with. And God has not changed. Jesus is moved by our suffering. He is moved by the troubles we deal with. He is every bit as as personal to us as He was to the 28 people in those gospel accounts

John wrote in the last chapter of his gospel that if everything Jesus did was written down, the world could not contain the books that would be written. And that’s true because the 28 people in those gospels weren’t the only ones who had one on one encounters with Jesus. Jesus has touched millions upon millions in the exact same way, one on one. How so? Think about where you were and what you were doing the moment you decided to follow Jesus Christ. You may have been all alone in one of the rooms of your home. Maybe you were in the company of a pastor or minister like I was. Or perhaps you were sitting in a church surrounded by hundreds of other people. Maybe something in the pastor’s message pierced your heart. Maybe the small still voice of the Holy Spirit said, “It’s time”. Regardless of where you were or how many people were around when you accepted Jesus Christ, it did not matter if you were alone or surrounded by hundreds. Jesus spoke to you and ministered to you one on one, just as He did for those 28. That’s true for all of us, and it’s true for all who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Our one on one encounter with Jesus was not just a one-and-done experience. Jesus continues to minister to us one on one. Of course, it’s a two way relationship which is why our prayer life and our time in God’s word are so vital. Our prayer time is our alone time with God; our one one one time with God and we need to commit ourselves to regular prayer time. As James wrote in his epistle: Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

We also need to maintain our one on one relationship with Christ through the study of scripture. God cannot minister to us one on one if we don’t know what He’s saying to us. The Psalmist who wrote the 119th Psalm understood the importance of God’s word as well as the nature of our one on one relationship with God. Here are just a few examples:

Psalm 119 Verse 16 – I delight in your decrees, I will not neglect your word.

Verse 28 – My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me with your word.

Verse 42 – then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

Verse 57 – You are my portion Lord, I have promised to obey your words.

Verse 89 – Your word, Lord, is eternal. it stands firm in the heavens.

Verse 105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Verse 114 – You are my refuge and my shield, I have put my hope in your word.

Those verses emphasize the importance of drawing close to God through his word and at the same time they depict the Psalmist’s personal relationship with God. Those words do not depict a God who is an impersonal, far off God. They depict a very personal God. They don’t describe a God who wants us kept at arm’s length. They depict a God who draws us near. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time believed God to be this impersonal, distant, and unapproachable figure who was even somewhat hostile, and it was reflected in their conduct and in the way they treated people. On the other hand, God the Son, Jesus, showed us who God the Father really is. He is a God so personal that, as Paul wrote in his letters to Timothy, “He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” and  “The Lord knows those who are his.”

Think about that last quote from 2 Timothy, “The Lord knows those who are his.” The book of Revelation tells us that the names of all believers are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That means Jesus Christ Himself recorded each of our names in that book. I don’t know about you, but that ministers to me and I hope it ministers to you too. We know Jesus, and He knows us…by name. That’s about as one on one with Jesus as you can be!

 

 

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The Least of all the Commandments

Deuteronomy 22, verses 6 and 7

If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.

According to Matthew Henry, this particular law in the book of Deuteronomy is considered by the Jewish faith to be the very least of all the commandments of the law of Moses. And from our modern day perspective, it might seem to be somewhat trivial. It’s likely this law pertains to those species of birds that God said were permissible to eat; game birds like pheasant, quail, or dove. In our time, a skilled hunter with a 12 gauge has no problem taking dove or quail. But back in those days, it wasn’t close to being that easy. If someone living during that time came across a bird’s nest full of eggs or young birds, it was like they’d won a prize. People in those days often had to scrounge for food just for daily survival. Eggs could be eaten, and I’m guessing that people were permitted to take young birds and raise them in a coup so they could either sell them or have them for dinner later on. Today we just go to the store and buy eggs and chicken and turkey meat and whatever else we need. It was much more difficult to procure food thousands of years ago.  

Regardless of how all that worked, that law was given for a reason. It makes sense that a mother bird was to be released back into the wild so she could lay eggs again. So I’m sure there’s a lesson there about the importance of being good stewards and managers of the resources God gives us. Also, as Matthew Henry wrote, it’s possible that law was given to remind us of our need to be merciful towards those who are weak and defenseless.

But I think there’s more to this law than a simple lesson in wildlife management. First, it shows that God cares about every living creature, no matter how small. Again, as Matthew Henry pointed out, Jesus may very well have been alluding to this particular law when He said in Matthew 10, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” All life matters to God, and as Jesus went on to say in that passage in Matthew 10, we are worth more than many sparrows.

I think that commandment also shows how seriously we should take the law of God. James wrote in his epistle, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Suddenly, that law in Deuteronomy 22 doesn’t seem so trivial and meaningless as some suppose it to be. I imagine more than one person broke this commandment thinking that it really wasn’t that big a deal. After all, what’s one little tiny mother bird? What’s one little tiny sin? It might seem trivial, but have you ever noticed how disobedience to God always seems to start with………little things?

Jesus said, Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. I believe that’s what’s really at the heart of this law in the book of Deuteronomy. If a person cannot be trusted to obey a law so small and simple as this, how can that person be trusted with something much more important? At its core, it’s about trust. Can such a person be trusted? While it may not be a bird’s nest full of eggs or small birds, we run into these types of situations every day. We encounter situations in which obedience to God may not seem to be such a big deal at the moment. It might seem trivial and unimportant. It might seem like………just one tiny little sin. But you can be sure of this, no matter how small it may seem to us, obedience is always a big deal to God. After all, if we cannot be trusted with the little things……………………………………..