WEEK 65 — March 30, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
PASSION / EASTER

 

week 65

 

When Jesus Came to Town

 

Jesus of Nazareth  . . .  went everywhere, doing good . . . .  Then they put him to death by nailing him to a cross.   But God raised him from death.    . . . All who believe in him will have their sins forgiven.
Acts 10:38a, 38c, 39b-40a, 43b, GNT

Have you ever stopped to think how little we actually know about Jesus’ earthly life? One of the Gospel writers clearly pointed this out: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

If an inspired Gospel writer felt compelled to make such an admission, how much more should I make it as the writer of this two-year series of devotional meditations!

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS includes glimpses of many of Jesus’ earthly ancestors, Jesus’ contemporaries, Jesus’ early followers. Yet . . . think how many more people’s lives must have been changed forever by their contact with Jesus! Perhaps it isn’t surprising that so many novelists, dramatists, and film-makers have spun their imaginary stories about all those other folks.

These devotional thoughts are all reality-based; they do not include any made-up characters or events. Yet even a series with more than a hundred Bible-inspired poetic meditations cannot possibly touch on all of the people whom we know for sure must have had a personal encounter with Jesus.

That’s one reason why “When Jesus Came to Town” has been included here. It combines into one the following people who met Jesus:

• A girl and her mother (Luke 8:51-56; see also “A Mother in Galilee,” week 11 in these MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS)
• A boy and his father (Mark 9:14-27)
• A woman (John 8:1-11)
• A man (Mark 10:46-52)

There’s yet another reason for including “When Jesus Came to Town” in this series of devotional meditations with its subtitle that mentions “FAMILY AND FRIENDS.” Things were never quite the same when Jesus came to town. He changed things. Some people welcomed the changes; some didn’t. At last those who didn’t like the changes banded together and nailed Jesus to a cross.

But Jesus didn’t stay there, . . . a silent, helpless figure on a crucifix. No, Jesus lives again today, and he’s still in the business of making changes every time he comes to town.

Remember that as you prayerfully read the following Bible-based poetic meditation:

When Jesus came to town,
a girl lay still as death.
Others could only sigh, “How sad!
She’s drawn her dying breath.”
But Jesus took her hand
and raised her to her feet.
A grieving mother saw her daughter
walk and laugh and eat.

When Jesus came to town,
a boy lay bruised and torn.
Others could only shake their heads
at pain that must be borne.
But Jesus spoke of faith,
of possibility.
A father saw his troubled son
stand tall and whole and free.

When Jesus came to town,
a woman bowed in shame.
Others could only point in scorn
and call her an ugly name.
But Jesus bowed down, too,
and scribbled on the ground.
Said he, “Now stone her, only
if in you no sin is found!”

When Jesus came to town,
a blind man raised his voice.
Others could only warn, “Keep still!
You’re making too much noise!”
But Jesus turned and asked,
“What do you want from me?”
“Lord, give me back my sight!”
he cried. And Jesus made him see.

When Jesus came to town,
they nailed him up to die.
Others could only mock, “Come down,
you Son of God Most High!”
But Jesus loved them still;
he bore the bitter pain.
For us he died on Calvary;
for us he lives again!

O Lord, come to my town, my home, my family, my circle of friends! Come with Your longsuffering love, Your all-knowing wisdom, Your all-encompassing power! And when You come, things will never be the same. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 64 — March 23, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
SONS

 

week 64

 

Lunch by the Lake

 

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:8-9

During his earthly lifetime, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior was sometimes given gifts.

• At the very beginning, Wise Men from the East worshiped Jesus by presenting gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
• A man named Peter let Jesus use his boat as a makeshift pulpit.
• A woman named Mary poured precious perfume over Jesus’ head and feet.
• At the very end, a man named Joseph offered his own new tomb to receive Jesus’ body.

There was yet another gift, . . . one that seemed pitifully small, and yet the offering of it may have touched the Master’s heart as much or more than any of the others.

We don’t know the name of that Galilean boy who took his lunch to the lake one day. The Bible-based poetic meditation below assumes that the boy’s mother had packed provisions for him, but we don’t really know that, either: He might instead have been a youthful snack vendor, and the five loaves and two fishes might have been all he had left.

It wasn’t much. Don’t build up a mental picture of hearty fish sandwiches: Those five hard loaves of barley bread were the only real sustenance. The two tiny salted fish would only have added a piquant flavor, much like pickles at a modern picnic.

Little as it was, the boy was apparently willing to give it up to Jesus. And Jesus then performed the only one of his miracles which is recorded in all four of the Gospels.

What do you have to give to Jesus? As the boy says in the following imaginative Bible-based soliloquy, “Give him all you’ve got!”

Remember, miracles can still happen.

Mother says I’m always hungry.
Maybe so; I’m growing fast.
Every month she lets my robe out,
each time longer than the last.

So of course she packed my lunch-bag
early on that special day.
After chores were done, I hurried
down the crowded lakeside way.

Maybe I could watch a wonder,
maybe hear a healing word;
miracles were happening daily,
or at least that’s what we’d heard.

Jesus always caused commotion
every time he came our way:
Throngs would seek his touch of mercy,
crowds hear what he had to say.

Never did I dream he’d need me,
need the only thing I had:
Salted fish and loaves of barley
from the lunch-bag of a lad.

Hungry? Yes, I’m always hungry.
Yet when Jesus needed food,
all my lunch I gave him gladly;
giving less seemed mean and rude.

Miracles? He fed five thousand
on that very lakeside spot.
Miracles can always happen
when you give him all you’ve got.

O Master, You have told us to become like little children. Like that long-ago boy beside the lake, help us also to give you all that we have, expecting You to do more with it than we ever could. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 63 — March 16, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
SONS

 

week 63

 

What Jesus Learned from Mary’s Chickens

 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Luke 13:34

The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus “learned obedience” (Hebrews 5:8) and that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Those two verses give us a pretty good indication that as a boy in Nazareth, Jesus most likely had to help take care of Mary’s chickens.

Few domestic creatures can provide more opportunities for experiencing temptation to sin than chickens can.

• Have you ever had to chase a squawking pullet that has popped out of the pen?
• Have you ever had to clean up piles of smelly, watery wastes near a roosting place?
• Have you ever tried to find the eggs of a laying hen who is determined to “steal a nest,” as the old saying goes?
• Have you ever tried to quiet a crowing rooster who is determined to sound off at inappropriate times?

Other domestic creatures can show at least a modicum of reason, at least a measure of good sense. Not chickens. When they’re eating scraps, one of them will pluck a tidbit from the mess and hurry away. Almost invariably another bird will then turn its back on the plenty scattered right under its beak, scuttling away instead to chase that first greedy chicken so as to steal its treasure.

Do we really know for sure that the boy Jesus once “learned obedience” by tending Mary’s chickens? The Bible doesn’t say that in so many words. Yet it does say that young Jesus “was obedient” to Mary (Luke 2:51). And Mary would have been most unusual among wives and mothers in New Testament Galilee, if she hadn’t kept chickens.

The verse quoted above contains a striking comparison which the adult Jesus made when he wept over Jerusalem. If Jesus never tended Mary’s chickens, then how did he learn enough about those brain-challenged birds to make such an apt comparison?

Jesus could have compared the wayward people of Jerusalem to straying sheep. He could have said that they were willful as goats or stubborn as donkeys. Instead, He compared them to chickens.

Now, here’s the strange thing about what Jesus said concerning chickens: As stupid as chickens are, he didn’t speak about them because of their stupidity, . . . but rather, because of their wisdom!

Are people of today as wise as stupid chickens are?

In Jesus’ day, the people of Jerusalem weren’t!

Think about that as you read the following Bible-based poetic meditation.

Chickens are a stupid breed.
Yet they know enough that when
danger lurks, when there’s a need,
they go to their mother hen.
Stupid though they be, they know
when she spreads her wings out wide,
that’s the time for them to go
underneath her wings, and hide.

O that all the race of men
were as wise as chickens are!
When our Lord, like mother hen,
calls them in from near and far,
do they answer? Do they come?
Do they turn from lust and pride?
No. They wander far from home.
They refuse to come and hide.

O Lord Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, You who “learned obedience” from homely things, help us to find our true home in You. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 62 — March 9, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS
SONS

 

week 62

 

King Joash, Age Seven

 

Joash was seven years old when he became king. . . . Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
2 Chronicles 24:1-2

Surely no other king of Judah had as strange a life story as Joash did. Rescued as a baby from the murderous ambition of a usurping queen, he was hidden away somewhere inside the Temple complex. (It helped that his uncle by marriage was one of the priests.) When at last as rightful ruler he was brought out again into the light of day, Joash was still only seven years old.

How much does a seven-year-old boy know about ruling a kingdom? Not much. Joash wisely did what his priestly uncle told him to do, and for a time all went well.

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 in the old King James Version). Jehoiada the Priest and Jehosheba his wife obeyed this Scriptural injunction; yet the Scriptural promise was not fulfilled in their case.

Although young Joash was given careful training, perhaps receiving royal honors at such an early age did something irreparable to his moral fiber. Once Uncle Jehoiada was dead, the Bible tells us that Joash turned into a thoroughly bad character.

A former Hollywood child star came out with his autobiography at the ripe old age of 25. By that time he had already gotten into trouble with the law, especially for substance abuse. He had already started that sad process of multiple marriages (or serial adultery) experienced by so many film celebrities.

The former screen star frankly confessed that he had led an extremely isolated existence since early childhood. Said he, “It’s kind of been me and my mind.” A reviewer of his autobiography referred to the “crippling self-consciousness brought on by early fame.” (Both quotations are taken from The Week magazine, March 24, 2006, in an unattributed review of Macauley Culkin’s book Junior.)

In young adulthood King Joash came to a pitiful end. He fell into idol worship — and probably into the kind of immorality associated with pagan cults of those times. When the priestly son of Jehoiada (who would have been the king’s first cousin, by the way) spoke out against such evils, Joash had him killed in the very Temple itself.

Then a foreign enemy attacked Jerusalem and left King Joash gravely wounded. As he lay helpless on his bed, assassins finished him off. Even in death he suffered a final indignity: He was denied burial in the traditional tombs of the kings.

All of that was still in the future when little Joash came to the throne at too early an age. Let this poignant Bible-based poetic meditation remind every adult among us: We have a great responsibility to do the best we can in guiding the young toward paths of righteousness.

                    All my life, they had kept me hid.
                    All my life, this is what they’d said:
                            “Hush, Joash!” — when I’d make a fuss —
                            “Hush, Joash! What will come of us?
                                     We must wait, hiding from the queen.
                                     We must wait; you must not be seen!”

                    Where I lived — high on Temple hill —
                    where I lived, all was dark and still.
                            Once I knew what the soldiers did,
                            then I knew why they’d kept me hid:
                                     Every prince stabbed and left to die.
                                     Every prince? All the rest . . . not I.

                    Then one day — out into the light!
                    On that day wrong was turned to right.
                            How my eyes blinked to see the sky!
                            How my ears rang to hear the cry:
                                     “Hail your king!” all the people said.
                                     “Hail your king!” Soon the queen was dead.

                    Now I’m king, so the people say.
                    Now I’m king, starting from today.
                            If I’m king, how do I behave?
                            If I’m king, does this mean I’m brave?
                                     One thing sure — though I don’t know how —
                                     One thing sure: Life is different now.

O God, if there is a child whom I should be training up in the way he or she should go, help me to do my best . . . and then to leave the rest up to You. Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 61 — March 2, 2016

MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS:
SONS

 

week 61

 

I Never Meant to Go and Fight That Giant :  David

 

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone . . . . David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it out of the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 1 Samuel 17:50a, 51

It’s a strange story, how young David suddenly came out of nowhere into the full light of history. It’s a story marked with tantalizing why’s and might-have-been’s.

David’s father Jesse had six or seven sons who were older than David. Yet only the three eldest heeded King Saul’s rallying cry and went to fight the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. Why did none of the others go? Why was David, the youngest, chosen to take supplies to his soldier brothers, even though this meant that someone else had to be left in charge of the sheep?

When David arrived at the army camp, he heard shouting. Quickly he learned for himself how a huge Philistine was taunting the army of Israel. Three times the boy from the pastures of Bethlehem asked what reward was being offered for anyone brave and skillful enough to do away with the boastful giant (Goliath may have been as tall as 9′ 9″). His oldest brother heard about this and scolded David for his presumption.

Royal officials also heard the youth’s eager questions. They brought him face to face with the gloomy and moody King Saul. Why did Saul not recognize the little musician, the skillful lyre-player whose soothing melodies had comforted him when he felt sick and sad? Had several years passed since the time when David used to be summoned so regularly to Saul’s mud-brick palace in Gibeah?

What might have happened if David had tried to fight Goliath while wearing Saul’s body armor? Scripture tells us that Saul was an unusually tall man. Young David felt as if he could hardly move in the oversize borrowed gear.

What if David had let the giant get close enough to impale him with a spear or slash him with a sword? What if David’s golfball-sized stone had failed to hit Goliath squarely between the eyes?

What if Prince Jonathan had been understandably jealous because of the sudden success achieved by this rank newcomer? What if he had declined to accept David as his friend?

All of this is mere conjecture; everyone knows the old familiar story as recorded in the pages of the Hebrew Bible. The Bible-based poetic meditation below seeks to remind us of the uncertainties that may have plagued young David’s mind during those dramatic events. How bewildering it must have been to be a mere shepherd one day, an errand boy the next, and a national hero the day after that!

I never meant to go and fight that giant:
I only went to take my brothers food.
They’d been away for weeks with King Saul’s army,
since foreign troops attacked our neighborhood.

I never meant to rouse my brother’s anger
by asking for the terms of the reward:
I knew the giant must be fought, if ever
we hoped to drive away that foreign horde.

I never meant to wear that kingly armor,
so heavy I seemed rooted to the spot.
I took it off again, and with my slingshot
I faced the hulking foe who must be fought.

I never meant to let that giant touch me:
I knew his strength was greater far than mine.
Before we closed the distance, I got ready
and slung a stone as straight as I could line.

I never meant to cause so much commotion:
I only hoped the fighting soon would end.
It seems I’ve now received a great promotion:
Prince Jonathan has named me as his friend!

O God, only You know who among our sons and daughters will rise out of obscurity to become the leaders of tomorrow. Help us to point them toward Your ways! Amen.

Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas