The Man Justified Before God

PP-PhariseeAndPublican_CZ_00259To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’14”I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This parable is on the subject of prayer and concerns itself more with the inner attitude or heart of prayer. In this parable, the contrast is between a self-righteous Pharisee and a penitent tax collector; no two people could be further apart than these two. Jesus shocks his audience by saying that the penitent tax collector went away justified rather than the Pharisee.

Both men were praying in the temple precincts. From the way the passage reads, I can picture the Pharisee standing up close to the front of the Temple Courts. His posture was that of standing up straight and looking up to heaven, congratulating himself out loud. I’m sure that others nearby could hear how he so righteously lived his life. It is mentioned that the penitent tax-collector stood at a distance, perhaps at the back of the Temple courts near the entrance, because he felt so unworthy. He could not even look up to heaven, which was the normal posture of prayer. (Our tradition today when called to prayer is to look downward, mainly due to the words of this parable.) It is interesting to note that often when Jesus is mentioned praying, it records that He “looked up to heaven.” I picture Jesus looking up to His Father in expectation because of His faith. In the Pharisee’s case, his posture of looking up to heaven is seen as his own self-righteousness and self-importance, which the parable later points out. In the Pharisee’s prayer, the Greek words record him saying 5 times “I—I—I—I—I.” We find him praying “about himself” (verse 11), the literal rendering of the Greek is that he’s praying to himself. This man certainly was not maximizing his time of prayer, his prayer never got off the ground! His self-righteous attitude never brought him into a true relationship with God, he has no appreciation for grace, and in fact he disdains it. He’s far too righteous to need the grace of God. His life is all about keeping various laws to earn his right standing before God. He fully expects that his eternity is secured with a great mansion, but fails to look deep within himself to see his own character flaws. His boast was that he fasted twice a week. William Barclay tells us:

“The Jewish law prescribed only one absolutely obligatory fast- that on the day of Atonement. But those who wished to gain special merit fasted also on Mondays and Thursdays. It is noteworthy that these were the market days when Jerusalem was full of country people. Those who fasted whitened their faces and appeared in disheveled clothes, and those days gave their piety the biggest possible audience.”[1]

Like a good Pharisee, he tithed even on his spices, the mint, dill and cumin (Matthew 23:23), but yet he had no regard for the tax collector, in fact he despised him as he looked back at the man who could not even hold up his head.

Pride is an ugly sin to God. “The devil is content that people should excel in good works, provided he can make them proud of them” (William Law). “Pride is the idolatrous worship of ourselves, and that is the national religion of hell” (Alan Redpath). To be full of self is to be empty of God. Grace and humility bows the knee to a Holy God who alone can sustain and keep us free from the corrupting influence of self. The highway of holiness is a valley trail in the direction of humility. The trail will lead you on a path of death to self. If we can daily see tests that we are going through, that give us opportunity to humble ourselves, we are on the right highway. “The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem” (C.H. Spurgeon). Learn to welcome the opportunity to die daily to self. What is humility? “Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all” (Andrew Murray). William Barclay tells a great story about how we should all live as a Christian:

There is a story of a monk in the old days, a very holy man who was sent to take up office as abbot in a monastery. He looked so humble a person that, when he arrived, he was sent to work in the kitchen as a scullion, because no one recognized him. Without a word of protest and with no attempt to take his position, he went and washed the dishes and did the most menial tasks. It was only when the bishop arrived a considerable time later that the mistake was discovered and the humble monk took up his true position. The man who enters upon office for the respect that will be given him has begun in the wrong way, and cannot, unless he changes, ever be in any sense the servant of Christ and of his fellow men.[2]

If we really want to maximize our effectiveness, prayer is vital. God has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to be a kingdom of priests to our God. The Temple curtain has been torn in two for us to enter into the very presence of God offering spiritual sacrifices of prayer. The graces of humility, persistence and perseverance will bring the power of God through us to a needy world.

Keith Thomas

[1] The Daily Study Bible, Gospel of Luke, William Barclay, Page 223.

[2] William Barclay, Daily Study Bible, the Gospel of Mark, Page 301.

Does Jesus Know You?

5560611945_a3f0f3d56a_zMany of us have heard the question posed to us “Do you know Jesus?” It’s a very important question that we all must ultimately answer either yes, or no to. It is very easy to assume that Jesus knows us. “Why of course Jesus knows me. He knows everything and everyone, right?” In one sense, yes, that is very true. God is omniscient, but what does it really mean to know someone?

Suppose one were to dedicate a large part of their life learning everything there was to possibly know about the President of the United States. You would learn when he gets up, what he does during the day, all his accomplishments, where he was born, how many children he has, his wife’s name, his education, even down to minute details like what foods he may like and the friends he invites over for dinner. You could spend so much time and energy learning absolutely everything there is to know about him that you could almost say, “I know the President”. Now just imagine that someday you were able to find your way uninvited into the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC. The Secret Service grabs hold of you as you inform them “It’s OK, I know the President!” By chance if he is there, they are going to ask him if he knows you and should you hear him say: “No, I don’t know this person,” your future would quickly be determined. Unless you would have met him, spoken with him, sat with him, and spent time with him, he could never say he knew you at all. Let alone call you his friend. Knowing all about someone does not constitute a relationship.

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

In the above verses we see that not everyone who claims to know the Lord Jesus will find Continue reading

Jesus and the Woman with Internal Bleeding

banner_touchjesus25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:25-34).

The woman we read about above had internal bleeding for 12 years. She had tried everything the doctors had said to her but nothing healed her. In her desperation, she conceived a plan. Faith rose up in her to believe that if she could get close enough to Jesus and touch the hem of His cloak, she would be healed. The God of heaven inspired her to reach out and stop the Son of God for her need. She made a faith statement inside her heart to the Lord.

God responds to faith. When a thought that may be inspired faith comes to you, do you shut it down as ridiculous or do you go with it? We are told in verse 31 that the crowds were pressing against Christ, how is it that some can crowd the Lord while others can go beyond the crowd to touch him for their needs? What do you think is the secret of those that get their prayers and needs met? Expectation or faith are key words in approaching God, but also determination, not allowing anything to put you off from getting your need met by the King of Glory.

This principle of determination is what the woman has. No matter how big the crowd was, no matter how hard it was to push through; she would reach out and touch the Lord. There was danger that went along with this plan, though. There were strict laws laid down in Leviticus 15:19-33, that separated any woman with internal bleeding from other healthy people. Any person with a sickness like hers had to be separated from the community and kept at distance. Anything or anyone she touched would make them unclean. If she were found out, she could have got into a lot of trouble.

Imagine the pain that this woman lived with daily. There was the physical pain of her condition, and also the constant emotional pain from living a life of segregation similar to that of a leper, one who was viewed as unclean by the rest of society. Everything she touched was viewed as contaminated! How scared she must have been as she was mingling with the crowd trying to get to Jesus. He was her only hope and He did not let her down. She was desperate and alone as she stretched forth and connected her fingers to the cloak of Jesus. As soon as she touched His garment she was healed instantly.

The Lord felt power leave His body as the woman touched Him. Even though the crowd was pressing against Him, He knew that someone had gone beyond the crowd with a touch of faith. Why would Jesus stop and ask who touched Him? It might have been that He wanted the Father to get the glory for what was done. It also might have been that He was concerned for the woman that the healing is open before all the community, in order for her to reenter society and no longer be separated from her friends. He wanted her to be able to go into the house of God and worship with all the rest of the congregation.

Why was she trembling at His question? “Who touched me?” She had taken a huge risk. Jesus was well known as a Rabbi in who is the Spirit of God. She might have thought that she would contaminate him with her uncleanness and render Him unable to carry on His ministry. I am sure that she expected to be severely told off, but instead, how kind was His response. There was no anger from Him, just encouragement to her for stretching out her faith to touch Him. How about you? Isn’t it time you stretched out your faith to the Lord Jesus?

Keith Thomas

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

jesus_heals_helps246Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road (Luke 18:46-52).

As Jesus approaches the city of Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting beside the road in a place that was strategic for begging. With the popularity of Jesus being what it was, a great crowd of people was traveling with Him. It is likely that because of the crowd Jesus did not even see the blind beggar; His focus might have been on what he was teaching as He was walking. It is also possible that Christ did see the blind beggar but chose to wait until there was an expression of His faith. I wonder how many times it is that Jesus has passed me by because I have not cried out to Him in my need.

When Bartimaeus heard the commotion of a large band of people passing by, he inquired Continue reading

Jesus Delivers From Demon Spirits

revgenlink-136060754210On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 14Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” 15The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13:10-16).

The passage we are studying today is about a lady who would probably be diagnosed by physician’s today as Marie-Strümpell Disease, a fusion of the spinal bones. There are no medicines known today that can cure this physical condition. But in this particular case the disease had a spiritual cause rather than a medical. Early in the course of the disease, sufferers often find that the pain is relieved somewhat when they lean forward. Sufferers go through the day leaning slightly forward, and gradually their spine begins to fuse. The more they lean in order to relieve the pain, the greater the angle, until a patient might be bent almost double, as the lady referred to in our passage. The bones become calcified and people are not able to straighten themselves. This lady had lived with this condition for 18 years and it was steadily getting worse.

It was a Sabbath day we are told. She sat down with the others in the synagogue, even though she could not see Christ, being bent over double. I think it is a beautiful thing that even with her disability she is still present to hear the Word of God. One gets the feeling that maybe it was her only hope. The passage seems to indicate that the Word of God was taught first, before Jesus called her out from the crowd. There had to be a degree of trust in her heart to sit and wait and leave her condition in God’s hands. I wonder how many had noticed her or even helped her to a seat. Were other people aware that her condition was caused by demons? She could not ask for healing as it was the Sabbath day. The religious rulers would not allow healing to be practiced on the Sabbath; they considered it work. The woman sat there and silently trusted.

The Lord Jesus knew the storm of controversy that would erupt at healing the woman on the Sabbath day, but He cared more for people than all the little rules that the religious leaders had put in place. Those that were out for His blood never intimidated Him! This passage is interesting because Jesus didn’t heal her; he set her free from the demon by casting out the spirit. When the spirit was forced to leave her at the command of Jesus, she was released from her ailment. It seems to me that the demon had not only caused this crippling disease 18 years previously, but was still keeping her tied up in a spiritual way. When Jesus put His hands on her, she immediately straightened up. We are told that she praised God. What joy flooded her heart!

But at the sound of the woman’s praise, the synagogue ruler angrily tells off the woman accusing her of coming to be healed on the Sabbath. What a cold stone of a man he is! It does not seem right that he is in charge over a congregation of God’s people. Doesn’t it make you wonder how a man with no heart and compassion can lead the flock of God? He is indignant, what a strong word scripture uses about him. Instead of joy at this woman’s deliverance and healing, he is very angry and upset. Doesn’t it make you wonder if the demon found another home right away!

The synagogue leader does not scold the Lord for healing her, but this religious person takes it out on His people instead! This woman had patiently sat in her seat; it was Jesus who had called her forward. It strikes me how the Lord is so quick to defend this daughter of Abraham, a child of God, from the attacks of the evil one. It is just like the enemy to get at the Lord by attacking His people, especially when we begin to praise our God. The enemy sometimes uses religious people to squelch out the praise of God. One would expect that a leader of this synagogue would be a lover of people, but this man showed no compassion whatsoever. His words betray his heart. Something wonderful and God honoring had happened in his synagogue and he is angry about it. On the other side, though, we see how kind the Lord is. He encourages her by calling her a daughter of Abraham, even though she had just been released from a demon that had disabled her for 18 years. Jesus speaks words of love and affirmation to her. How kind and reassuring that must have felt to her.

If you want to be a person that knows the power of God and be set free in the area of your praise to God, ask God to set you free. Raise your hands in submission to the Lord, picture Him sitting on His throne as you worship. Don’t wait until heaven before you learn to worship in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking for such (John 4:23-24).   Learn to be a worshiper who will abandon self and give Him all your praise and adoration this side of heaven. The enemy hates it when the Lord’s people move in an abandoned spirit of praise, because the Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). The presence of God comes as He is worshiped.

Jesus reminds the synagogue leader that animals are treated better than the Lord’s people under the heavy rules of the Jewish leadership. Doesn’t any man allow his animals to drink in the morning? One can hear the care in His voice for this poor woman that has been under the cruel bondage of Satan for 18 years. Not another day, He says. How about you? Isn’t it time you were released from whatever has bound you. Call upon the Lord with all your heart and He will hear you (Acts 2:21).

Keith Thomas