|Book: Becoming a Secure Christian|
Part 1 : Setting the Scene
Part 2 : A Biblical Security
Part 3 : Personal Security
(Practice and Theory)
Chapter 4: Secure with Jesus
Jesus, the Son of God who came to earth, has to be our supreme example, so we would be wise to examine the Gospels and observe how he treated people and created a sense of security in them.
In this chapter we'll consider the sort of person Jesus was, by looking at what he said to various people and how they responded to him. Many people feel God is harsh or distant, but when we consider Jesus, we are considering the one who is described as “the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3), the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).
In Jesus, therefore, we see God fully represented in the flesh (Jn 1:1,14). To see how Jesus dealt with people is crucial to our understanding of how God views us, and how we subsequently feel about Him. So let's look at a number of instances of Jesus interacting with people in the Gospels.
4.1 The woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11)
Commentators vary on their understanding of this passage (as they do on most passages!) but basically we have a woman accused of adultery which, in those days was very serious and warranted the death penalty!
How does Jesus deal with it? Does he know they're simply bringing her to try to trap him? Does he know they really haven't got any genuine witnesses? Does he know they're being anti-women? Maybe yes to all those questions, but note what he doesn't do and he does do.
In this episode Jesus doesn't :
In fact what Jesus does do is:
In that latter action it is clear that he is subtly stating that he knows what her life was like, but he was also now letting justice be tempered with mercy. How do you think that woman would now feel towards Jesus? Grateful certainly, but more than that. Secure, safe!
Here is a man who knows what she is like, but rather than condemn her will give her another chance. Here is a man who protected her from the male-biased authority of the day. From then on, whenever Jesus was around, this lady would feel totally safe in his presence, where the lines are clearly drawn, but grace and love abound.
4.2 The cripple at the Pool (Jn 5:1-15)
On one occasion when visiting Jerusalem, Jesus visits the Pool of Bethesda, a pool that was supposed to have healing qualities at certain times and where there were many invalids waiting to be healed. Now we don't need to go into the details here, simply to note that Jesus picked out one man, brought healing to him and then later brought moral correction to him. So let's note again what Jesus doesn't do and what he does do:
In this incident Jesus doesn't :
In fact what Jesus does do is:
It is important to observe these things because we so often want to make healing conditional, or blessing conditional. Just recently I heard a young man testifying, “I said to the Lord if you will bless me financially I will tithe, and the Lord blessed me and my business has increased greatly.” As he said this I sensed a chuckle from heaven and I could imagine the Lord saying to an angel, “Well isn't that great. I was going to bless his business anyway and now he's going to give some of it back to us!”
Our legalistic or even mechanistic mentality so often works on the “if-then” principle, “ If you do this, then God will do that”. No, it's not like that! God is love and God is good. God wants to bless your life. If God says don't do something it is to stop you opening yourself up to harm.
So, in this incident we see Jesus bringing complete healing without condition and then later, to stop sin bringing something else upon the man, he warns the man to change his lifestyle! We should find a sense of security in the way Jesus dealt with this man, and we would do well to follow his example of unconditional love when we are ministering to people.
4.3 The man blind from birth (Jn 9:1-7)
As Jesus and his disciples walk along they see a blind man. They must know this man because they know he was blind from birth. The disciples use him as the butt of a theological debate over the causes of sickness or infirmity. Possibly valid questions to ask the Master, but how would the man have felt sitting there and hearing himself being spoken of in this way? Demeaned, belittled, degraded!
Jesus' answer to them could perhaps be paraphrased as, “Well actually lads, sin wasn't the cause of this man's disability, in fact let's not worry about WHY he is like it, let's just take it as a God-given opportunity to bless him with healing”, and then he heals him! Now look at the difference between Jesus and his disciples!
Jesus, on the other hand:
So how do you think the man felt about Jesus? Very grateful certainly. But surely much more, surely he would feel safe with Jesus. Here was a man who was more concerned with his practical needs than the theological questions of his students. Here was a man who was more concerned to care than to criticise, to help rather than harangue, to restore than to ridicule. No, this man would feel safe with Jesus. If this man encountered Jesus at any later date, he would feel good in his company.
4.4 Peter and the temple tax (Mt 17:24 -27)
Arriving in Capernaum, Peter is waylaid by collectors of the temple tax. They challenge him over whether his master pays the tax. Peter responds defensively, “Of course he does!” Back at the house, before Peter has a chance to say anything, Jesus raises the subject with him.
Now, rather than go into the detail of what Jesus said to Peter, let's simply note the key points of this encounter:
It is all done in such a gracious way that Peter is corrected and given a way out without it demeaning him in any way. How would that leave Peter feeling? Thoughtful but secure.
I remember an occasion once, where I stepped out in presumption in a meeting in the presence of a wise and senior leader. After the meeting, back at home drinking coffee together, we were discussing the meeting and he passed a comment about my action. It wasn't until ten minutes on in the conversation that I suddenly thought, “Good gracious! He was actually telling me off back there and I didn't realise it”. This man had been so gracious and his correction came with such gentleness, that it went right under my guard and I received it without a flinch. Perhaps that's how it was with Jesus sometimes.
4.5 Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10)
Zacchaeus is not a nice man. That is a severe understatement! He is probably a cheat, he is clearly identified as “a sinner” and he's thoroughly disliked. Those things are quite clear, so when we acknowledge all these things it is even more amazing when we consider the way Jesus treated him.
Instead Jesus did
What must be the spiritual dynamics of this encounter? They are:
How must Zacchaeus have felt after this incident? Grateful certainly, but far more. Accepted, loved, cared for, secure. I know that I have personally felt a number of times in the past, “Tell me off, berate me and I feel defensive. Love me and I'm melted and I can't but help face my failure and repent!” How many times have I expected the Lord to come and berate me for my weakness or failure, and instead all that comes is this unconditional love.
4.6 Peter after his Denial (Jn 21:15 -22)
This is Peter's main encounter with Jesus after Peter has denied Jesus three times. If it were us, how would we have handled Peter? “Well Peter, to say the least, I am disappointed in you. You of all people! At least I would have thought I could have counted on you!” But no, there is nothing like that. Instead there was that gentle threefold questioning of Peter which, in its simplest form might be reduced to, “Pete, are you sure about what you feel for me?” And after each question came that gentle instruction, all of which in their simplest form might be reduced to, “OK, Pete, just keep on serving me, keep on looking after my people.”
How do you think Peter felt about facing Jesus again? Well I'm not sure. We'll have a look in the next chapter at what Peter must have felt about being with Jesus, and so in the light of what I know is coming, I'm not so sure as I used to be.
I used to think that Peter must have dreaded meeting Jesus again, wondering what Jesus was going to say about him. I used to wonder if Peter might have felt he was going to be ‘excommunicated', put right out of the apostles' band. But I'm not so sure about that these days. I think Peter might well have had a much greater sense of security when he was with Jesus than we might have first thought.
So what about after this encounter, what do you think Peter felt then? Well regardless of what he felt before it, he must now be absolutely broken by Jesus' love for him. Instead of chastening he receives encouragement. Instead of exclusion he receives appointment. Jesus has simply helped Peter clarify his feelings and has then reaffirmed him in the most positive way possible.
4.7 The woman at the well (Jn 4:7-26)
The woman comes to draw water and encounters Jesus. It seems fairly clear that she is ‘a lady of ill repute', and Jesus knows it! Just as a quick aside, two men in our church doing Bible study in the book of Revelation, put a particular verse which they had read onto our awareness board. It was Rev 2:13a - “ I know where you live ”. That spoke volumes to them. It was as if Jesus said to them personally, “Guys, I know all about you two!” But that's Jesus isn't it. He knows all about us. He knows all about this woman as well. He knows she's been through five men and the one she has now isn't her husband.
If this had been one of the Pharisees instead of Jesus, first he wouldn't have stopped to speak to her and second, if he had, it would have been to roundly condemn her for her immoral lifestyle. But what does Jesus do? He gently leads her into a place of confession, to facing the truth about herself and then goes on to reveal more about himself.
At the end of this encounter what must the woman have felt? Exposed? Well possibly, but only to Jesus and he accepted her and had not rejected her. When someone knows all about you and still is obviously for you, that makes you feel secure.
Insecurity so often comes when we feel bad about ourselves but are afraid to tell anyone else what we're like in case they react badly when they find out. Jesus brings her out into the open about her place in life, and then doesn't reject her. THAT makes for security!
4.8 The Rich Young Ruler (Mk 10:17 -23)
So far in each of the above illustrations there have been certain similarities in the people we've used. They were people who:
We need to look at the rich young ruler because he is in direct contrast to these others, but there is still a very important lesson to be learnt from the way Jesus dealt with him. So what happened?
Matthew's account tells us that he was a young man (Mt 19:20 ,22), a ruler, obviously a man with a burning question, almost a burden, to ask Jesus. The three Synoptic Gospels all show this happening after Jesus has just been with a group of children, blessing them. Mark's account indicates this happened immediately after, just as Jesus was starting to move off after that incident.
It is as if the young man has watched how Jesus responded to the children and something within him seems to say that this is the sort of man who can give him answers and who won't deride him like the Pharisees might have done. From the outset there is an indication that this young man feels secure with Jesus.
So he comes and falls on his knees before Jesus, an indication of his humble attitude. He is willing to submit himself to this travelling rabbi. Mark records him asking, “What must I do?” but detail-noticing Matthew remembers him as saying “What good works must I do?” He recognises that there is something missing from his life and he wants to know how he can yet further do good to get that missing thing, that life with God that we call eternal life.
When he is questioned by Jesus he makes it clear that he is a good person who has sought to be religious and keep all of the Law. He has been doing this since he was a child and has obviously had a very good upbringing. Yet something is still missing.
Now it is Jesus' responses to him that we are really looking for. Jesus knows men and he knows this young man. He knows exactly what his problem is and he knows what is missing. So, first of all, he picks up on one of the words that the young man has used, ‘good'. No one is good, he says, only God. Now some commentators make great play on this saying that he is subtly inferring that he himself is God. Now that may be so but the main reason, surely, is that he is starting to say to this young man that ‘being good' or ‘keeping the rules' is NOT what it's all about.
Now why have I focused on Mark's account of this incident? Because in his account there are some words that the other two don't record, words that are commentary by the writer.
Early church writers and many scholars indicate that Peter was somehow behind Mark's Gospel, and if that is so then these words are highly significant: “ Jesus looked at him and loved him” (v.21). These are the words from someone who was there, someone who witnessed these events, someone who saw the look on Jesus' face when he spoke to this young man. These are the words of one who had experienced that same accepting love and recognised it here.
So, when Jesus goes on to instruct this young man, there is no element of hard rejection in him. Jesus instructed the young man to sell all he had, give it all away and then come and follow him. Was this a command for every subsequent would-be follower to obey? No, in itself wealth isn't a wrong thing, but it becomes a hindrance when it comes in competition with God, when it becomes a master (see Mt 6:24). Jesus knew that the one thing that kept this young man away from God was his reliance on his wealth, and probably his position.
Now we come to the difficult part. The young man was saddened by this and knew he couldn't do this thing, and he went away - and Jesus let him go ! Unlike our previous examples, here was a young man who was good , who ‘kept the rules', who trusted in his own righteousness. He came to Jesus, feeling that he could approach him, expecting to be told something that would fit into his scheme of things. Instead Jesus challenged him, very gently and lovingly, to reassess his life.
How does this apply to our subject? The young man came secure in what he knew about Jesus so far, and had his false security revealed. Perhaps the most generous interpretation of what then happened might be to say, “And he went away to think about it!” We don't know the outcome, but everything about this young man says he had a good heart, yet a heart captured by wrong ultimate values. Yes, Jesus confronts him and allows him to go away and work it through.
4.9 And so?
So what have we seen about the way Jesus dealt with these people? Remember we've considered
The last of those incidents showed us a man who trusted in a false confidence, and yet who had come acknowledging a need, probably because, watching Jesus, he had felt secure with him. So in respect of those other seven incidents:
We have seen that Jesus didn't:
On the other hand, Jesus did:
As a result of the way he dealt with them, it is probable that each of these people would have felt
So, two questions for us to face at the end of this chapter:
Or, to put these questions in another way:
Serious questions that need serious considerations. Please do think them through, do face them up. It is important that we do that if we are to progress with this whole idea of a secure church.