What Am I To You?

Today in our study of Matthew marks the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and the calling of the first disciples. Matthew begins to paint a portrait of Jesus for us to communicate exactly who this man really is. In chapter 4, verses 12-25, Jesus fulfills yet another ancient prophecy, proving he is the foretold Messiah. Matthew speaks of two specific cities Jesus passed through in his return to Galilee after his time in the desert, Zebulun and Naphtali. Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would travel this route many years earlier (Isaiah 9:1-2). As he begins to preach, Jesus echos the words of his cousin, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The first element of the portrait Matthew is painting shows Jesus is both fully man and fully God.

During his trek, Jesus passes by fishermen working on their boats in the Sea of Galilee. As he draws near, he makes a proposition to the men. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Verse 20 recounts these men left their posts immediately and followed. Jesus is the new Exodus, leading his people out of exile like Moses did centuries earlier. Simon (Peter) and Andrew recognized this man for who he was, their long awaited Messiah, and did not hesitate to stand at his side.

Jesus continues on with his band of committed followers, drawing attention and preaching everywhere he went. As he preached in the synagogues he also took time to supernaturally heal the sick and diseased in his presence. Verse 24 strikes a very personal chord in my own life. This verse became part of my father’s prayers when I was diagnosed with epilepsy nearly twenty years ago. This December 13 will mark ten years I have been free from seizures and all anti-convulsant medication. Jesus is the merciful and righteous judge.

The crowds received their proof, the Messiah is here. Jesus is the new Adam, the true Israel. His words and his actions established his place as the light of the world, and the people could not be silent. The further he went and the more he preached, the farther word of him traveled across countries, spreading by word of mouth from town to town. Just as Jesus alluded to in his analogy of being “fishers of men” in verse 19, evangelism became the heart of his ministry; people reaching people and teaching them to reach more through the love preached by Jesus.

This is our litmus test for faith. Are you having a stronger impact on people around you because of your faith in Jesus? If you are not, have you honestly placed your faith in him? Jesus gauged the faith of his disciples using a single question; who do you say I am? How would you answer?

1-13-13, Follow Me 3, Who Do You Say I Am

 

As much as I resist drawing portraits of Jesus, that is the focus of today’s message and, alas, the focal point of my drawing. This is not your traditional fair-skinned Jesus you may remember from the stale-smelling Sunday school classroom wall. This face holds is sad and exhausted, the scars from his thorny crown only partially healed. Above his head, written in Greek, is the word exodus. Exodus literally means a mass departure. Jesus leads this mass departure from the prison of self-serving sin; the weight of our exodus lays in his shoulders. Below his face, the simple call he makes to us, “follow me.”

To join in our exodus is to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to know who he is and live with urgent obedience to his mission.

Who do you say he is?

Jesus, Icarus, and The Blind Side

Week two of North Ridge’s series “At The Movies” took a look at another blockbuster hit, The Blind Side. We compared that true story to a similar one found in Luke 10, the story of the good Samaritan.

Though separated by two thousand years, the story lines are very similar. Both involve an individual who is rejected by society at large, brushed passed without any notice. Also present in both is one person who takes notice of the outcast and cares enough to take action.

Matthew 6:19-20 encourages the Christian to “store up treasures in Heaven”. This is analogy of storing up treasures is an encouragement to serve others, good deeds on earth create treasures in heaven. We must be careful to hold Luke 13:30 in as high regard, “those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.” (Jesus, speaking of Heaven). The motivations for our actions, good and bad, matter significantly to God. A man who serves in order to be seen by his peers will not receive the same reward in heaven as one who sacrifices for others in silence.

As the message progressed, ways to present the conflict of motivations in a single image churned in my mind. Greek mythology provided the insipiration for the subject of my drawing; the story of Daedalus and Icarus from Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid. In the myth, Daedalus and his son Icarus have been exiled to the island of Crete by King Minos. While on the island, Daedalus constructed two pairs of wings using wax and feathers that he and Icarus could use to escape the island. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun nor too close to the sea. Despite his father’s warning, Icarus became overcome with the thrill of flying. As he soared higher, the wax began to melt and release the feathers that enabled Icarus to fly. Soon realizing he had no feathers left, Icarus fell into the Icarian Sea (named for Icarus).

I have drawn the fallen Icarus to represent individuals who attempt to pave their own path to God with their deeds. Though they are serving others, their motivations are selfish. Instead of serving out of compassion for an individual, they are merely using individuals as opportunities to promote their own perceived “goodness”. Despite their best efforts, their facade of empty kindness will collapse when their true character is exposed and, like Icarus, their mistake will not come without consequences.

'Jesus, Icarus, and The Blind Side'

Juxtaposed to the Icarus figure is a scene of the crucifixion. Jesus is hanging on the cross, while two figures on the ground work together to reach him. This cooperation is what God desires of us. It is in helping others grow closer to God that we, ourselves, are able to grow closer to Him. The kneeling figure is providing a step up for the other figure to reach for their Savior, making himself last. We each must move over, giving everyone else priority over ourselves, in order to be genuinely good and honestly compassionate.

What I really took away from today’s message was this; what’s your motivation for helping people? Are you genuinely compassionate and willing to move over for anyone (unconditionally) or spiritually greedy and attempting to hoard heavenly treasures (an idea that will bite you in the end)?