Offended

“And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” Matthew 11:6

Do I question Jesus as to Who He is or what He does? Do I doubt His authority? Does Who He is offend me? Does what He say offend me?

I have answered those questions with a resounding, “YES!” before I knew Him. I knew of Jesus and during those many years (except as a child), I did question His very existence. I thought He was a good teacher, a kind and gentle man. But I certainly did not trust Who some said He was. I mean, they said He was born to a virgin! He performed miracles! He chose 12 men to be apostles who followed Him all over the place. Why would I believe Him? Why would I trust Him with my life? Besides, if I did, I might have to change…change the way I did things, or even change my thoughts. Goodness, no!!! Yes, I took up an offense!

In Matthew 11, John the Baptist was in prison and questioned Jesus:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the One Who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” Matthew 11:2-6

σκανδαλίζω

skandalizō

I. to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend

  • to entice to sin.
  • to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.
  • to cause to fall away.
  • to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority (Matthew 11:6, Mark 6:3, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 13:57-58)
  • to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Some think that John sent this question for his own satisfaction. It is true he had borne a noble testimony to Christ; he had declared him to be the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and he that should baptize with the Holy Ghost, and sent of God, which were great things. But he desired to be further and more fully assured, that he was the Messiah that had been so long promised and expected. Note, In matters relating to Christ and our salvation by him, it is good to be sure. Christ appeared not in that external pomp and power in which it was expected he should appear; his own disciples stumbled at this, and perhaps John did so;…. Note, It is hard, even for good men, to bear up against vulgar errors. **

(John’s doubt might arise from his own present circumstances. He was a prisoner, and might be tempted to think, if Jesus be indeed the Messiah, whence is it that I, his friend and forerunner, am brought into this trouble, and am left to be so long in it, …. **

(Others think that John sent his disciples to Christ with this question, not so much for his own satisfaction as for theirs. Observe, though he was a prisoner they adhered to him, attended on him, and were ready to receive instructions from him; they loved him, and would not leave him. Now, they were weak in knowledge, and wavering in their faith, and needed instruction and confirmation;….)  **

Are worldly influences persuading us that Jesus is not who we are expecting? Is there someone greater or different? I think that the world around us does draw us away from the One Who has, indeed, come to save us because the world wants Him to be someone/something else.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6:3

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Matthew 26:31

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:57-58

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Mark 8:31-32

It seems easier for us if Jesus would look like the world, to do things as the world does. We squeeze our description, our “Jesus-likeness” from our minds, into a box filled with expectations.

The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him. Mark 8:11

Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to Him?” John 10:20

The Israelites wanted a king, a king who would conquer and save.

But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Luke 24:13

Maybe our eyes are shut and we miss Him altogether.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. Luke 24:15-16

We want to know Who He is and to know this with clarity, intelligibility, and purity.

So the Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10:24

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the Cornerstone. Acts 4:11 (Psalm 118:22)

We want to know Him, yet we do not trust because we do not know Who He is.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep. John 10:25-26

I see Jesus caring for the poor, the afflicted, the sick, the demon-possessed. These acts should draw me to Him, not send me away for He cares and loves the lowly and meek.

“If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37-38

The Cross offends. The Cross scares people because of the depth of it’s meaning. Jesus the Christ went to the Cross. He bled for each and all of us for we are sinners. We are disobedient to the Father. He sent His One and Only Son to draw us unto Him, to teach us the Truth. Jesus went to the Cross for the sins we committed. He was sinless. Jesus died for us, nailing our sins to the very Cross from which He hung.

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is a Truth that many run fast and hard away from. I did…for many years. I carried the heavy burden of my sin too and did not know what all that weight was on my back.

Rather than acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, the Jews dealt with Jesus in ways of their own:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. John 10:31

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. John 18:12

And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Mark 15:13

I reached a place in my life, at age 45, when I could no longer run, nor hide, nor carry the weight of my sinful burden. I turned to Jesus. I repented of my sin. I could no longer face myself in a mirror because I saw no good in me through anything I was or did. I gave myself to Jesus. He cleansed me and made me brand new. The weight was lifted from my shoulders. Jesus has given me a new heart, a heart that loves Him and only Him. Through Him, I can live anew and love anew. Oh my! Freshened. Refreshed.

We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6

These words made no sense to me at one time in my life. Now, I can clearly see that my sin was cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

This is so OFFENSIVE to so many in this world.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

Yet, through the Word of God, prayer, quiet times, the Lord calls me to be near Him. He knows me and will not let me fall back into the world. I stay close to Him in obedience. I do not want to be a stray sheep.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.” John 10:27-30

Father, I pray I am able to be true to You, to the Truth of the Gospel, to all that is of You. I want to be a reflection of You. I desire to transmit Your love to those I come in contact with, while opening my heart to others about Jesus. I do not want to be offensive yet the Cross, the Gospel, Jesus, You can be offensive to many. It is through me where some may meet up with these, thus possibly making me offensive, like body odor. They may stand back, run away, protest, deny. Reactions can be many. Lord, please guide me and show me Your ways in which to walk as I share my faith in You. I love You so. I pray in the Saving Name of Jesus. Amen.

** Matthew Henry: Commentary on Matthew 11

Cornerstone drawing: https://www.ulpanor.com/2017/11/23/hebrew-vs-aramaic/

Cross: Adam Zdebel @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/zdebel/. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Burden of this Cross

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Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.   Matthew 16:24

ἀπαρνέομαι

aparneomai

to forget one’s self

lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests

disown, abstain

Jesus’ words strike a hard cord in me.  I am called to follow Jesus because I have chosen His way over mine, yet I still want to do things my way, guide the direction of my own life, take my own chances.  Then I hit a wall and it hurts.  I run on empty, unable to go anywhere in life except down by the pull of gravity.  In order to follow the Lord, I am to deny myself, releasing my desires and hopes for His, His alone.  When I am in step with Jesus, all that He desires for me are those things I need.  An interesting piece of God’s puzzle for my life is His desires for me are often just what I desire for myself.  I’m not losing after all.  The relationship with Christ is far more important so that I walk rightly with the Lord.

αἴρω

airō

  bear (up)

place on oneself

to carry

My burdens can be worries, anxieties, physical pain, other people’s lives and their concerns, hurting people of this world, and so much more.  All can weigh heavily upon my heart.  The Word tells me not to be anxious, not to worry.  He is faithful and is with me.  He feeds and clothes the birds; He will do the same for His children.  So I lift those weights and take them to Jesus.

σταυρός

stauros

a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment)

figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial

by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.

The cross is what Jesus was placed upon for His crucifixion.  It is a horribly cruel punishment and eventual death.  Scourging comes first.  The one being crucified must carry his own cross.  Jesus did this part of the way until Simon was compelled to carry it the remainder of the way.  Jesus would hang upon the Cross until death.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.  Luke 23:26

The cross is that which will kill this earthly life.

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I carry a cross, laden with burdens.  I place it there at the feet of Jesus.  He died for my sins.  Why do I continue weighing myself down?  Jesus has taken it all to the Cross.  Part of the definition of cross, in Greek, is self -denial.  I deny myself, being exposed to death, reproach, suffering, trials, punishment.  I am no longer mine, but His.

I am learning as I do that which Jesus asks of me: denying things of the self, lifting up that which weighs me down, carrying the cross to Jesus Who has already taken my burdens upon Himself.  It is in the doing, the actions of denying, lifting, and carrying to Jesus that I begin to find a clearer, deeper meaning to all that He is asking of me.

ἀκολουθέω

akoloutheō

to be or become the disciple of another as to faith and practice

to follow his teaching

Following Jesus is key to my walk in this Christian life.  When I am His, I desire to be near and to know the path upon which He leads me.  I release all burdens, knowing that He is caring for me.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

As Your child, LORD, I depend upon You.  When I feel alone, or struggling with concerns, You are right here.  You are yoked with me.  You know my physical pain, the concerns that touch my heart regarding others, my anxiousness over provision for this earthly life.  Your grace is truly sufficient, Sweet Jesus.  Sometimes I feel wrung out and worn out.  The Word says in Matthew 27, verse 39-40: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’  But You hung on that Cross, LORD, and paid the ultimate price for me, releasing me to walk with You always. You have given me eternal life.  How much more could I ask?  What else is there to ask?  Forgive me when I am selfish.  Often, when I deny myself, I must turn around and deny myself again, LORD, because I am selfish.  I just am, but am also very sorry.  I carry my cross to You so that I may follow You.  “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”  (Matthew 10:38 ESV)  I do not want to be called “unworthy,” LORD.  Thank You for walking with me on this journey even when I fail You.  Your forgiveness, Your love, Your gentle nature give me the hope in this life that my physical eyes cannot see, yet the eyes of my heart know hope for You are the Hope.  I love You, Jesus.  I pray gently in Your Name.  Amen. 

befuschiasig

 

Graphic:  by American/Dutch web designer Catherine Reijans, founder of KATINK web design; https://thinkingmuseum.com/2013/10/30/thinking-museum-on-think-katink/  (but the actual think-Katink web design site is no longer connected, but I want to give her credit where it is due)

Cross:  http://www.themescompany.com/2012/04/17/cross/

Sheep and Shepherds

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1

רָעָה

ra`ah

shepherd

to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension, to associate with (as a friend):—× break, companion, keep company with, devour, eat up, evil entreat, feed, use as a friend, make friendship with, herdman, keep (sheep) (-er), pastor, shearing house, shepherd, wander, waste.

occurs 173 times in 144 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV

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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

ποιμήν

poimēn

a shepherd (literally or figuratively):—shepherd, pastor

occurs 18 times in 17 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

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Sheep do not have the ability to survive on their own.  They:

  • graze the same area until the pasture is destroyed.
  • pollute the same ground until it breeds dangerous parasites.
  • drink whatever water is available, clear or contaminated.
  • are fearful and become aggravated which can lead to improperly digesting foods.
  • are timid.
  • and can be stubborn.

They need a shepherd.

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Christians are compared to sheep quite frequently in God’s Word.

We wander down paths of our own devising rather than follow God’s way for our lives.  We delve into false beliefs.  We drink from unhealthy waters, figuratively.  We can be stubborn and fight against God’s best.

Looking at the natural habits of sheep when left on their own can be a reflection of ourselves.

Jesus is our Shepherd.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  He created me and you.  Who better to care for me, for us?  He cared more than anything for the likes of me when He went to Calvary.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

We are capable of doing right, yet often fail in our attempts using our own strength.  We drink waters of the world rather than the Living Water.  We live in fear rather than trusting in Him Who is trustworthy.  We wander away from our Maker and do not listen for His still, small voice directing us in the way in which we should go.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our faithful Shepherd, gentle, caring, and, yet, stern.

A shepherd owns his sheep and marks them with his special mark to determine ownership.  He will cut a notch, a distinctive mark, into his sheep’s ear while placing one ear on a wooden block.

In the Old Testament, Exodus 21, this was also done to a slave in a Hebrew household who chose, of his own free will, to become a lifetime member of that home.  His master/owner would take him to the door, put his ear lobe against the door post and, with an awl, puncture a hole through the ear.  He was marked.

1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.  Exodus 21:1-6

We, as Christ’s, bear the mark of the Cross.  Jesus has authority over me.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

We need the Good Shepherd, the One Who truly is our Shepherd.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  11 I am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 I am the good Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me, 15 just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.  So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.  John 10:7-16

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Father God, You gave Your One and Only Son to pay the price for my iniquities.  Thank You so very much.  

As one of Your children, I so want to please You.  Carrying my cross daily and following Jesus is my call.  And I want that to always be my call.  I am grateful for being willing and able, for the sake of the Gospel.  I follow.  It is a privilege, LORD.  A privilege.  

As a sheep, I would wish that I were not so vulnerable, but I am.  It is by staying in Your Word, by listening to and for You, by praying, that I can remain in Your fold.  I know that the good Shepherd guards the gateway so that I remain safe.  He watches for the wolves, protecting me.  I am dependent upon Jesus and look to Him.  I am sorry for my past periods of straying away.  I am here now.  I must stay close for His protection is vital to my life.  Thank You, Father.  I lift up in prayer those who stray or are lost or have not yet found the Shepherd.  May they hear Your Voice and come to You before it is too late.  I have family and friends in those places and I so want them with us in Heaven.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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Photo of shepherd and sheep

Photo of John 10