Asking for a Friend

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1

You have to love those disciples!

In today’s colloquial, the phrase “asking for a friend” could have easily been tacked on to their question.

Just when you think the disciples were understanding who this man Jesus was, they ask a question like this. They must have been discussing it among themselves.

I wonder what their responses were, how they evaluated greatness in the kingdom: wealth, looks, good deeds, helping others. Those are the things I would have chosen, though landing on ‘good deeds’ as my final answer.

On the other hand, Jesus used this as a teachable moment.

His time was short and he still had so much to impart. Were they learning quickly enough? He knew their faith and understanding would waver. He had just enough time to teach them all they needed to know.

Then, advancing the kingdom of God would be on their shoulders, that is, with the help of the Comforter who would come later.

No, Jesus was right on schedule teaching His disciples what they needed to know before He left.

Similarly, God is right on time with answers to our prayers and requests.

We frequently assume God will answer in a nanosecond. He rarely does.

He still needs to set things in motion “behind the scenes” before answering that prayer, and almost never in a time frame we choose.

That’s fine because as long as He’s still in control, He’s in control.

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When Does the Government Cross the Line?

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” Matthew 17:24-27

Jesus knew when it was fine to “rebel” against the civic and religious leaders and when it was more acceptable to “play the game” by not causing offense.

Out of all the miracles Jesus performed, this has to be the most unique and one that 21st century Christians would not try to replicate.

Again, we find that Jesus was teaching them a valuable lesson about civic duty. There were times to fight against the system and times to go along to get along. This was clearly the latter for His time had not yet come to suffer and die.

We also find the times we live in to be unique regarding civic responsibility. State and local governments have issued recommendations and guidelines for their municipalities as they have seen fit. Many of the guidelines are arbitrary and based on old data. Even the requirement of face coverings to be worn in stores is arbitrary and inconsistent.

As I write this, three churches in California are coming under fire for their stance against the draconian measures the Government has placed on them due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pastor John MacArthur from Grace Community Church laid out the Government’s requirements for opening up the church again. He gave these as he stood in the pulpit readying to preach and thereby rebelling against the new and arbitrary Government mandates.

1. No indoor meetings at all.
2. Preregistration of every person.
3. People only allowed on church property for scheduled events.
4. Every person that comes on the property is to be screened and have their temperature taken at the entry.
5. Six feet of social distance at all times and everywhere, including the parking lot and the restrooms.
6. Every other parking space must be left vacant.
7. Marked pathways to maintain social distance, monitored by staff monitors.
8. Everyone always wearing a mask.
9. Restroom monitors to control six feet social distancing.
10. Tape on the ground marking distance.
11. Signs indicating these mandates.
12. Restrooms are to be used during the service to minimize the rush.
13. No hymn books, no communion, no offering containers.
14. No pew Bibles.
15. No singing, no hugging, no shaking hands.
16. Disposable seat covers changed between services.
17. The services have to shortened.

#2, 13, and 14 should terrify all of us.

The Grace Community Church is appealing the mandate and filing suit against the State of California. Unfortunately, this has not received as much press as the mandate deserves.

Pastor MacArthur drew his line in the sand and has found his hill to die on (to mix two metaphors). He is taking quite a bit of heat for his stance. 

Where’s your line?

Where is your church’s line?

At what point do Believers say, “enough?”

Or should the Church obey every recommendation and guidance no matter how obscure or arbitrary?

Everyone has a line.

For some it has already been crossed. 

Where’s yours?

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What’s Said in Jerusalem Stays in Jerusalem

22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus neared His time on earth, the disciples were finally getting it. It was still a bit of a mystery how it would all end up even though He was painting the picture with each lesson. His constant everyday actions and teachings were settling in. Yes, they had given up everything for Him, but things were clicking, and they didn’t like it.

How would they survive?

How would they cope?

Jesus would later reveal the Comforter – the Third Person of the Trinity – to them, but they would have to manage with the Second Person, the Son of God.

We know what is recorded in Scripture but what about those unscripted moments, the times they would gather around a campfire at night, for instance, or the many miles they walked together?

  • What did they talk about? Sports? Family?
  • Were they nervous?
  • Did they tell jokes in His presence?
  • Did they ask questions about the Father and the Spirit?
  • Did they ask about Heaven?
  • Did they ask what it was like to be the Son of God?

We’ll never know the answers to any of those because just as Jesus told the Three to keep mum about the Transfiguration, He might have sworn His disciples to secrecy, sort of a “What is Said on the Road to Jerusalem Stays on the Road to Jerusalem” moment.

Today is a time of wondering about the Savior.

What questions would you ask Him if you had walked side by side with Him for three years?

What burning issue would you bring up?

I suspect many of those questions are what you’re battling right now.

We can still bring them up to Him.

In fact, He invites us to do just that.

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Mustard Seed Faith

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:14-21

Here was an instance where someone brought someone else to the nine disciples not at the Transfiguration, but they couldn’t help him.

They tried but to no avail.


Jesus told them it was their lack of faith.

They had a modicum of faith to believe they could to it, but evidently not in the One who could make it happen for them.

Was it something they need to learn personally from Jesus as they watched the Master minister?

In similar scenarios, Jesus stated that the demons couldn’t be exercised without prayer and fasting, two disciplines necessary for the removal of demonic activity.

So, how does a passage like this relate to us today?

Does Jesus heal and cast out demons today through us? Yes.

Admittedly, praying for people to be healed or released from demonic possessions is complicated and not as straightforward as some would have us believe.

I would submit that fasting and prayer must accompany the action as a starting point. It seemed to be the minimum disciplines for Jesus and His disciples.

And of course, we pray for God’s will to be done in those situations.

What is God’s will for the person and for the person praying? He is working in both people during those times.

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Processing Life Events

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:9-13

The disciples asked Jesus a curious question after He told them not to tell anyone about what happened on the mountain. I imagine that their minds were scrambling to process what had just happened. Given that the three disciples had just seen Elijah and Moses on the mountain top, they asked a question that was probably going through their heads at the time.

Jesus brought the topic back to the present, to what was going to happen soon to Him and similarly what had already happened to John the Baptist.

When people have traumatic events in their lives, they need time to process it. The more traumatic the event is, the more time needed to process it.

For example, my brother called me three years ago to tell me he had Stage 4 brain and lung cancer. The doctors told him he had only months to live. After I flew out to visit him a couple of times, I steeled myself against the phone call I would eventually receive.

When the call finally came, it was a shock to my system because of the finality of death. Even though I knew the call would come, I couldn’t prepare in advance for the actual loss of life. I needed time to process it, and by the time I made it to the memorial service a few days later, I was still processing it, but at least I could think straight.

This type of shock happens in a divorce, job loss, getting a new job, getting married, bankruptcy, lawsuits, injury, death, child moving away, and other various life events. People need time to process what happens. Sometimes they are not able to think straight until the initial shock has worn off.

Someone in your circle of influence is probably experiencing one of these life events. Just as The Three needed time to process their mountain top experience, so people need space and time to deal with their events.

Let them know you are praying for them, and be there for them if they need you.

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