Tag Archives: matthew

Does Jesus want miracles for our lives?

I’ve been working on a new daily bible reading plan this year – M’Cheyne – and I’ll be writing more on that in a later post. For now, I wanted to focus on something that really struck me from my reading this morning. If you grew up in Sunday school, or have spent much time in the bible, you’ll have read about Peter walking on water somewhere between dozens and thousands of times. But I had some different eyes this morning:

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31, NIV 1984

There are a few things that stand out for me here. First, Peter’s instinct is remarkable. I’m trying to imagine myself as Peter, and wondering what he was thinking about. Yes, he’s seen Jesus working miracles. But at this point, there have been few, if any, that impacted any of the disciples personally. Yet when Peter – in the middle of the night – realizes that he’s not seeing a ghost on the waters, but his teacher, doesn’t merely look on in wonderment or glorify God. He asks Christ if he, too, can walk on the water to meet his Master. To me, that speaks to a special kind of faith. A faith that essentially blocks every fact – including the law of gravity and any knowledge about the physical properties of water – and focuses every ounce of his being on his Christ and the desire to be with him. How often is my faith so exclusive? How often does my faith produce the kind of Christ-centered tunnel-vision that Peter experienced?

The second thing that made me really put on my thinking cap this morning was Jesus’ response. He didn’t say, “hang on, Pete, I’ll be there in a minute.” He didn’t say, “Peter, don’t waste my time with foolishness – just wait in the boat.” He simply said, “Come.” I imagine him smiling in a combination of joy and amusement at Peter’s childlike faith. And it made me wonder what I would be capable of – in Christ – if I just asked earnestly to walk with my Master. Would anything be impossible?

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Here comes the judge

Last night, I was watching a Netflix DVD (my last one before canceling the service – but that’s another story) – “Easy A.”  It was so disturbing to me that I turned it off after a half-hour (and rated PG-13!  I wouldn’t let my daughters watch it any more than I would the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!).  Consider that your “Finding Approval Movie Review of the Week” – but it’s actually not the point of this blog post.

The real point is that there was a character in the movie who was meant to represent a Christian girl at Ojai North High School – Marianne, played by Amanda Bynes.  Her character was entirely defined by hateful legalism and judgment-passing.  The one quote that I remember from her was, “Olive Prendergast is a tramp – we need to pray for her.  We also need to pray for her to GET OUT OF HERE.”

Marianne’s character was obviously created by a non-believer who has a pretty awful view of what Christians (if not Christianity itself) is all about.  But this ranty blog post isn’t for the writers, director and actors that portrayed Christians that way – it’s for us.  The people who gave them that impression in the first place.  God’s people have been sucked into that trap since the Garden of Eden.  That bothered me much more than anything that happened in the story … so I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised that my REAP study this morning was on Matthew 23.  Jesus’ words for the Pharisees rang incredibly true.

Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’  – Matthew 23:4-7, The Message

Gregory Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Religion” posits that Adam and Eve’s sin in eating the forbidden fruit was so that they could be like God – and sit in judgment over his creation.  I believe that we, as Christians, do more to harm the Gospel in 21st century America by behaving in that way than we can possibly understand.  Whenever I see Christians portrayed in that way (or worse, see Christians acting in that way – or worse, see myself acting that way), I remind myself that those whom we find easy to judge … the criminals, the addicts, the prostitutes … Jesus died for each one of them because of their unsurpassing worth.  How can I do less?

[UPDATED to reflect that Marianne was not, in fact the most popular girl in school, according to my wife.  Apparently, I was too disturbed to pay that much attention to the details ;-)]