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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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avoiding confrontation

so, while Jesus was talking and eating with levi and the other ‘sinners’ in his home, the pharisees pull aside a few of the disciples to ask them questions about their rabbi. they were undoubtedly curious about His choice of eating arrangements for the evening. they were probably also frustrated because of His complete disregard of their system for social interaction, or the lack thereof. also…He was making them look bad in a way they couldn’t cope with on any level.

i imagine that some of the disciples went right into the house with Jesus and levi, because they didn’t hold much regard for the pharisee’s rule either. they had never been in the ‘in crowd’ religiously speaking. the zebedee boys may have enjoyed it because it was something previously forbidden, and so it was kind of like rebelling. but a few of the other disciples must have been uncomfortable, and so they stood just inside the house where you could be near the door in case anything ‘bad’ happened.

so, the pharisees begin to question these few that are near the door about their rabbi’s behavior. they may have been looking for an opportunity just like this, so they could feel morally superior, according to their own standards, and look down their noses at Jesus. they were always on the hunt for an opportunity like this, to ask questions that made them seem better then others. their perception of their moral superiority, and their appearance of holiness to others was a driving factor about why they were who they were.

Jesus’ description of ‘white washed tombs’ was spot on. they were all about the look of spirituality with none of the heart. they couldn’t bear to see someone doing something against their own man-made rules, but they also couldn’t interact wit the people who needed the most help. it would have hurt their image to speak with them, or to make a house call. so they really made for lousy shepherds and blind guides. they were of absolutely no help to anyone.

their lives were inaccurate representations of God’s desire for us, and so they drove more people away from Him than they could drive to Him. they were counter-productive to their own cause. and so they were truly sad to see. like a made for tv movie of your favorite novel. they were ‘loosely based’ on something much better, but the production quality was low and there had been too many re-writes to the script. they were more flawed than the guys who were just out being regular ‘sinners.’ they had a whole series of mental blocks built up against God that had to be torn down, burned and disposed of before they could come to a point of repentance like levi reached by being told ‘follow me.’

they spoke to the disciples, because they knew that speaking to Jesus would have led to some sort of conviction in their own lives, and they couldn’t have that. it was easier avoiding confrontation, and staying on the fringes.

Father God, please forgive me when i stand behind my own ‘moral superiority’ or hide from confrontation. let me be willing at all times, and in all places to speak with and spend time with your children, no matter where they may be found. i don’t want to wear a mask of smug spirituality. i don’t want a calloused heart. forgive me, and mold me into who You want me to be each day.

Father, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

sometimes a meal changes everything…

it is pretty much understood that having a meal with someone conveys a general acceptance of them. it doesn’t mean you endorse their every action, but that you see them as valuable. you recognize that they are indeed a human being, just as you are, and that they are just as much a child of God as you are, no matter where they may be in their walk. and the leaders in Jesus day knew this. they knew that eating with someone conveyed more meaning than just having a warm body nearby, and so they forbid anyone who wanted to be a ‘good jew’ form doing just that. good little boys and girls only ate with other little boys and girls who were ‘good’ just like them. those bad kids were to be left alone, ignored, shunned. they were not seen as being equally loved by God. they were not seen as being of any value whatsoever. so that is precisely why Jesus breaks protocol, and treats these tax collectors and other various ‘sinners’ that He comes across in such a different way.

and as we know, being different really got up under the leader’s skin. conformity was the rule for power over others.

so Jesus brings His disciples, who are undoubtedly uncomfortable in this situation, into the home of levi…a traitorous, thieving, half-jew tax collector. this was a ‘no-no’ for good little jews. they should never have entered his home, let alone sat down to eat with him. and so the leaders stand out in the street watching Jesus actually talk to ‘those people’ and treating them like they weren’t who they were…and they knew who they were.

this had to have bugged the living daylights out of them. and that makes me very happy. yes, i have a non-conformist streak in me. nothing crazy, nothing overpowering, but just enough to enjoy seeing accounts like this. i am not perplexed by Jesus’ actions here. having been the guy on the outside before in social situations, i am very pleased with Jesus’ choices here. not just for my sake, because really i have lived a pretty tame life, but for the sake of those who have spent the bulk of their life on the outside.

they must be told, and more importantly shown, that they are valuable. no social barrier is to keep the gospel from being spread. no one should ever feel like they are beyond being loved. no one should ever feel like they are past all hope, relegated to just being a ‘sinner’ for the rest of their lives.

and so Jesus goes to levi’s home, to sit, to eat, to talk, knowing that sometimes a meal changes everything. sometimes just being a friend to someone, a real friend, can break down walls, open and revive hearts that were solid stone and thought to be dead. as long as we each draw breath, there is hope. there is always hope.

churchill’s quote “never give in. never give in. never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. never yield to force. never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” applies here as well as in it’s original context. our ‘convictions of honor and good sense’ are the example of Jesus and the leading of the Spirit to live and work and act in the lives of those who have been waylaid by the enemy. satan has done a marvelous job making us think that our primary enemy is other people. but that is not the truth. there may be people who are acting as agents of the enemy, but they are not the enemy himself. they may have been waylaid, ambushed and brainwashed, but they are never beyond hope…never, never, never, never beyond hope. the devil is our primary adversary, and we must realize that sometimes, in the midst of battle, enemy troops can be brought back home through some simple hospitality, loving-kindness, and compassion.

sometimes a meal changes everything. sometimes it’s a simple ‘hello’ that can begin to break down walls. some people just want to be wanted, that’s all they’re looking for…and who are we to withhold that from them?

Father, forgive me when i pronounce judgment on others in my heart. forgive me when i do not treat them the way You do. forgive me when i live as the ungrateful, unmerciful servant. help me to have a heart of true compassion, and the strength to speak out and show Your love, interceding in the life of those who feel like they are on the outside.

forgive me. embolden me.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

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