Today I’m sharing a podcast I posted today about things we just don’t understand. Click the link below to hear the episode.
Today I’m sharing a podcast I posted today about things we just don’t understand. Click the link below to hear the episode.
I have a friend who loves to put puzzles together; she’s amazing. She has the patience to work any puzzle to the end. She will often talk about her puzzles, describing how long she works on them to complete the picture. Every piece is studied and put aside on the table – to be used when it fits in its rightful place. Oftentimes those pieces won’t fit for days or weeks as other pieces have to be fit first. In due time, the puzzle is completed and every piece in place.
I’ve had things happen to me in life that I couldn’t explain and there are still some things I can’t explain; they still don’t have a place to fit into in my life. So, those pieces just sit out on the periphery of the puzzle, waiting to be fit at the right moment. They are prepared for the time they will be needed. Yet, until that moment comes, those pieces won’t make sense. Like my friend, they have to sit on the side of the puzzle table until they fit.
Jesus went to a city called Jericho (Luke 19:1-10) and in that city, there was a man named Zacchaeus. I remember being a young child in Sunday School singing, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he! He climbed up in a sycamore tree the Lord he wanted to see!” The problem Zacchaeus had was greater than his lack of height; he was a tax collector and leaping over his despised status among his countrymen was no small task (pun not intended).
How was this short man, who no one wanted to help (really, even today who wants to help a tax collector?), supposed to get a glimpse of the Lord Jesus as He passed by? He didn’t even consider that Jesus would stop to change his life forever – that would be impossible for he was nothing but despised by all who surrounded him. Why would Jesus consider stopping for him? However, Zacchaeus did hope to at least get a glimpse of the Lord as he passed through the city.
If you read Luke 19:1-10, you’ll see that Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus as he was quite short – he needed a boost. Sitting in the tree, Jesus drew near to him and engaged him in conversation and from that point on, Zacchaeus’ life was forever changed. He restored money to those he had stolen from, his character changed from the inside out.
But have you ever considered that long before Zacchaeus climbed the tree, God planted it to meet his need? He placed a piece of the puzzle in the right place so at the right time, Zacchaeus would encounter Jesus. Until that time, it was a random tree that at best offered shade for weary travelers on warm summer days. It wasn’t until Jesus walked through Jericho and met Zacchaeus that the real purpose of the tree was revealed: it was meant to bring Zacchaeus closer to Jesus.
I imagine Zacchaeus had no intention of even speaking with Jesus and might have even scurried off in fear had Jesus begun walking towards him. In the tree, Zacchaeus was cornered on his branch. He had nowhere to hide.
There are pieces of the puzzle that will fit into our lives just at the moment they are designed to fit; we simply need to leave the pieces alone until the Zacchaeus moment arrives.
It will fit perfectly.
Psalm 18:30 NLT “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection.”
My life has been spent carrying things. I have carried my babies, their bags, bits of furniture, luggage, cardboard boxes, not to mention the countless groceries I’ve carried from store to home. I’m that mom who would rather nearly break her arms carrying 25 grocery bags than having to return to the car more than once.
I didn’t even mention the times I’ve carried my children’s back packs, school books, PE supplies, and lunch boxes. My firstborn started going to school in 1991 in France and I’ve been carrying my kids’ school things ever since. I calculated that by the time my 4th child finishes school, I will have been carrying school supplies for 30 years. That’s a long time to be carrying things.
I want to get carrying things over with – but there seems to be no end to my burden bearing.
“Mom, can you carry my jacket?”
“Mom, can you bring my water bottle?”
“Mom, can you please carry my bag? I’m so tired!”
Here in Africa, my litany of complaints is really very petty in the face of what I see people here carrying each and every day. It doesn’t matter the whether they feel well or not for in Africa, carrying things is often the hinge that swings the doors of life to be open or closed.
Women have to haul water for their families daily as many, if not most of them, have no access to running water in their homes. Without water, life simply comes to a standstill. Someone has to fetch water for the children to drink, to wash dishes and clothes, to bathe, and to water thirsty crops. After hauling the water, there’s firewood, harvested crops, and food to haul. All the while, babies that are too small to be left alone are carried on their mothers’ backs.
When you see people here carrying their loads here, they’re bent low under the weight of their burdens. Every muscle in their bodies seem to tremble with each step with the effort they put out to move forward.
Indeed, my little burdens seem very insignificant.
Psalm 146:8b TLB “He lifts the burdens from those bent down beneath their loads.”
As those who labor strain under the weight of their loads, so many of us today are straining under the various loads we carry daily. We might not carry firewood or water, but the loads we carry are heavy nonetheless. The strain can be seen in our faces; it feels as if we can’t take another step but somehow, we manage to put another foot forward.
Some time ago, I helped a lady who was a pedestrian passing me by as I walked nearby our house. She had a baby on her back and was carrying a suitcase. She also had, if I remember correctly, a load on her head. She had dropped her umbrella and while many were passing her by, no one stopped to help her pick it up. When I saw she needed help, I picked the umbrella off the ground and gave it to her and also helped to better secure her baby’s blanket that was tightly wrapped around her. She quietly said, “Dzikomo” (translated “Thank You” in the local language of Chichewa) and I smiled at her. Then, she was gone on her way.
I have this picture in my mind; we’re like this lady trembling under the strain of the load she was carrying with no one to help. We’re all alone, no one is bothering to notice that we’re about to buckle under the heavy weight that we’re carrying.
People in this world will disappoint us and we often further disappoint ourselves when we expect others to understand us or want to help us when it feels as if we are going to collapse under the weight of life. We would do well not to project these expectations on others as we don’t know what weights they’re carrying – perhaps they’re hoping we would help them carry their burdens. It might be they’re not as thoughtless as we think. We never know what other people are facing from day to day and the very thing we’re hoping they would do for us, they might be hoping we would do the same for them.
Enter Jesus – He Who can live up to and surpass all expectations we might have. No, He doesn’t “live up to” what standards we might set. He actually exceeds them. It is in this exceeding (Ephesians 3:20,21) that we misunderstand His abilities. We wonder, “Why didn’t You come sooner? Why did I have to carry this so far?” The answer isn’t what we would suppose it to be for the answer is found in the form of a question or two: “Why did we wait so long to give Him the load? Why did we hold on for so long?”
In 2018, may we all learn to let go of the bags; to drop them. He’s ready to lift them.
I have children. That statement alone says a lot. If you have raised children and hear someone say, “I have children” you suddenly bond with that person quickly. Parents of children can say one word or one phrase such as “I told the kids to clean their rooms” or “I had a parent/teacher conference” and a collective sigh of understanding rises among them.
Then our kids, as life is happening, say things like, “You never listen to me!” When over and over you have heard them saying, “My backpack is tearing I need a new one.” Or, “I want to join the swim team.” And in the time that works for you, you break out the money and buy needed things for them for school or sport – and they act surprised and ask, “How did you know?” When you’ve heard them all along.
I like to think that as an adult I have outgrown childish tendencies like these – but unfortunately I find myself falling short. I am guilty of being surprised or even ungrateful when God sends blessings and answers to prayer time and again and I continue to accuse Him of not hearing my cries for help.
In John 9 Jesus is coming from a time (in chapter 8) where He was teaching in the temple, having contentious discussions with the Pharisees, declaring Himself to be the Light of the World, speaking to the Jews (the crowds following Him) challenging them about whose descendants they were (they insisted they were children of Abraham, saying that alone was enough to save them), and He brought it all to a culmination by declaring He was the “I Am that I Am.” Infuriating the Jews to the point of them wanting to stone Him – but He “slipped away.”
After all that drama Jesus is found chatting with His disciples. I imagine they were all in a panic about what had just happened to them. Can you visualize them talking among themselves, “We almost got killed back there! Is this guy worth our lives? We’ve got to talk to Him.” And they looked for opportunities to take Jesus to task.
The disciples’ opportunity came In John 9 when they walked down a street, saw a blind beggar and asked the eternally difficult question, “Why was this man born blind? Whose fault was it?” For they thought that there must’ve been someone at fault.
Jesus’ answer is amazing in John 9:3 Message “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look Instead for what God can do.”
After Jesus had answered the disciples’ question, He turned His attention to this man. Here’s someone who had been born blind. In this time and age, there was little done for people born blind. They were perceived to have sinned or their parents had sinned – whatever the case, society deemed him as an “untouchable.”
Those people born sick, blind, or leprous or widowed or born out of wedlock were the outcasts of society. Not many dared to relate to them. Who, I wonder, are today’s untouchables? Who are they that are our unclean? Have you ever seen a child falling off the deep end of life and find yourself saying, “Oh if the parents had just…” Bringing condemnation where condemnation only hurts and doesn’t help; those kinds of people are our untouchables.
Society’s rulers of that day, religious leaders, Pharisees, had placed conditions on those who were deemed to be “acceptable.” They had made it impossible for anyone and everyone to approach God; they had become exclusive, elitist. People with physical faults were unacceptable; they reasoned that there must have been a sin committed to result in this problem.
Nothing about Jesus was, or is, elitist and this presented a complicated situation for these leaders. He made God accessible to the masses, even those that society wouldn’t touch, He would address face-to-face. Yes, He posed a problem for the elite because they were opposed to the kind of people Jesus wanted to include in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus then turns to this man, an outcast in society, and instructs him on what to do so he can see. He doesn’t even ask the man, “Do you want to see?” He just tells him what to do.
It was trouble enough that a healing was being worked on the Sabbath but also this man was told to “go and wash” at the pool of Siloam. So many religious laws were being broken, but this man obeyed. But I wonder, how did this man make it to the pool of Siloam where Jesus told him to go and wash? In that time it seems the untouchables of society would group together, and these are the ones who probably escorted him to the water. There were no blind schools back in this day, not many people who had compassion to help. He only had his friends who were fellow outcasts. They were most likely sick, blind, leprous, and otherwise unacceptable people. These are the ones escorting him. Imagine how amazed they were that a normal person, let alone someone amazing like Jesus, would stop to address their friend, this blind man.
I try to imagine what this man felt when he bent down to wash his eyes in the water. Was there any sensation in his eyes when his sight came to him? I also try to imagine what it was like when, after washing as Jesus instructed him, what it was like to see for the very first time after a lifetime of blindness.
News spread and the healed man was brought to the Pharisees. Just like it was when he was born, the leaders of the day couldn’t accept him or accept the healing he had experienced. All of their theology was turned on its ear as God did a marvelous thing on the Sabbath. They didn’t understand that the Sabbath was meant to be a day for blessing not bondage.
His parents were summoned once he was healed; imagine, it appears that family wasn’t even caring him for because they had to call them in! All indications point to him being left to fend largely for himself. The first time he physically saw his parents, they aren’t recorded as embracing their son who now saw. They also rejected him by their, “we’re not getting involved” attitude. “Ask him what happened,” was their reply to the miracle when asked by the Pharisees about what had happened for they feared being excommunicated.
So the Pharisees attention was turned again to the healed man. When he was questioned further, he gave God glory for his healing. This was his undoing, thanking God before them, and in the end he was excommunicated from the synagogue. Which was the harshest thing to face in society at that time.
It seems he wasn’t bothered to be put out of the synagogue; he could see. Besides, he was accustomed to being among the unaccepted of society. I imagine when he was thrown out, he just shrugged his shoulders – he could see!
As this was taking place, Jesus was listening, He heard him, and then challenged him:
John 9:35-37 Message “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man said, ‘Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?’”
This man had met with Jesus, he had already heard Jesus’ voice when He had sent him to wash at the pool of Siloam but when he encountered Jesus for the second time, he didn’t recognize His voice – he hadn’t been listening for Jesus.
How often have we found ourselves accusing God of not speaking, but we are the ones who do not recognize His voice? He speaks but we don’t recognize Him even though we’ve heard Him before. Then, we try to figure the problem out on our own and work to find out “why?” If we can find the answer, maybe we then can find the solution…then our own voice becomes more important that the Father’s.
The prayers of this man in John 9 were heard but his one problem was that even though he had heard Jesus’ voice before, he didn’t recognize Him when He spoke again. Instead of rebuking him for not recognizing His voice, Jesus once again reassures him and says, “I’m the One, it’s Me.” In the same way, our Father isn’t hiding from us; He is always intent on helping us hear His voice. The key here to this man finally recognizing Jesus’ voice was his heart. He didn’t care about going along with what the crowd accepted, he just wanted to find that One who had healed him.
Once this young man realized it was indeed Jesus Who spoke to Him, he fell down and said, “Master, I believe” and he worshipped.
When my little girl speaks to me, I’ll often bend over to hear her. She likes to whisper in my ear. This is the picture I have of my Father listening to me.
Psalm 116:2 NLT “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.”
The Father stops everything He is doing to give you His attention when you pray, He’s bending over, He’s listening. Are you?