CONTENDING WITH THE ENEMY (2) Luke 5

DETECTING THE ENEMY:  OBVIOUS AND NOT-SO-OBVIOUS

Luke 5:12-16

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

GETTING ALL THE INFORMATION

When we read a particular incident like this one in the Gospel of Luke, it is important to notice all of the information given to us. If the story IS the way God’s message is presented, we need to allow all of its information to contribute its part. The story IS the MESSAGE, and the MESSAGE IS the story. The way I get that information is to put each new piece of information on a new line. This way I get to notice everything I am being told and avoid the temptation to focus on some parts at the expense of others. Here is how this story looks as a list of each piece of stand-alone information.

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns,

a man came along

who was covered with leprosy.

When he saw Jesus,

he fell with his face to the ground

and begged him,

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand

and touched the man.

“I am willing,” he said.

“Be clean!”

And immediately the leprosy left him.

14 Then Jesus ordered him,

“Don’t tell anyone,

but go, show yourself to the priest

and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing,

as a testimony to them.”

15 Yet the news about him spread all the more

so that crowds of people came to hear him

and to be healed of their sicknesses.

16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION

My most common way of understanding the information is to write it down using my own words. If I don’t understand the meaning of a phrase or a piece of information, I might go and look up a Bible Dictionary, or a Bible Atlas, or the meaning of a word using Young’s or Strong’s Concordance. You will find meanings of specific words there. This information needs to be seen in the light of the particular incident or passage. The context will always give the best basis for choosing which meaning a word might have – or a phrase. Don’t start interpreting or applying yet. We need to get the full download of information first. If you have to read over a number of times in order to notice how each piece of information fits, that’s okay. The idea is to allow the Bible to speak to you, not make it say whatever is most suitable to your own preferences or experience. Think of all the occasions in Christian history where wonderful, sincere people missed what was being said because of their preconceived assumptions and cultural blinkers. The Bible will be revealing the kingdom of God to us, not the best human reasonings. So I’m going to put the information in my own words and not try and figure out what it all means just yet.

  1. This incident happened in one of the towns of Galilee.
  2. A man came to where Jesus was whose whole body had become leprous
  3. The man recognised Jesus.
  4. He fell on the ground with his face to the earth.
  5. He started begging Jesus.
  6. He told Jesus that he was aware that Jesus had the power to heal him
  7. Jesus told the man he wanted to make him well.
  8. Jesus commanded that the leprous man be healed.
  9. Immediately, the leprosy completely left his body.
  10. Jesus gave a particular instruction to the man.
  11. He told him not to tell anyone how the healing had happened.
  12. He instructed him to go and show himself to a priest to confirm his healing.[1]
  13. Along with presenting himself for inspection by the priest, he was to take the sacrifices prescribed by the law of Moses[2]
  14. this act would confirm the validity of his healing. (i.e. a testimony)
  15. Even though Jesus had told him not to tell anyone, the news spread widely – about the fact that it was Jesus who had healed him.
  16. As a result of the spreading of this story, crowds of people came to hear Jesus speak
  17. They came so that Jesus would heal their sicknesses
  18. The crowds became so constant that Jesus had to withdraw from them to remote places to spend time in prayer.

HOW DID THE PRESENCE AND WORK OF THE ENEMY BECOME KNOWN IN THIS SITUATION?

Serving the kingdom of God will, by definition, require us to dispossess incumbent enemy presence. We also need to be able to see a “new creation” happening in place of the old. A quick look at “day in the life of this world” will put beyond any doubt that there is a destructive “will” at work. We come seeking for the “will of God” to be established. Another “kingdom” has taken over. So, our task of seeing “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,”[3] will be seriously contested. It happens in two ways. First of all, there are things which are good in an of themselves but are incomplete. The devil wants to stop the completing process. When a baby is born, he or she is amazing and beautiful, but not complete. Every parent knows that the work of getting from good to complete is a monumental task, yet every decent parent wants the journey to go from good to complete. We are like that as followers of Jesus. We are on a pathway to fullness. The church is the same. It is on a journey to become the fullness of Christ. Apart from that, things happen that destroy the goodness that IS there and bring corruption and destruction. Personalities are scarred, emotions are damaged, physical bodies are ravaged, relationships become destructive – multiply that with the suffering caused by war, famine, poverty and you can get a good picture of the nature of the enemy, based on the fruits of his work. This enemy is at work everywhere, every day. When we start serving Jesus, we are challenging the power that created the mess and wants to make an even bigger mess. Being aware of enemy presence and work is sometimes apparent and at other times, very subtle. We will get an idea of each of these types in this story.

In each of these cases, it is usually not the extreme things we are likely to overlook or fail to notice. It is more likely to be the subtle and culturally respectable destructive forces (e.g. arrogance, covetousness, independence, division, self-indulgence, materialism are a few of many). Many of these come by way of our various cultures and become a form of “collective captivity.” Like the frog in the kettle, we often don’t notice what is going on until the destruction has reached a tipping point.

We see examples of this happening here. The most obvious presence of the enemy’s work in this story is a man who, through no fault of his own, contracted leprosy. This disease has not only affected his body, destroying flesh and numbing nerve endings but has caused massive social isolation – hatred, humiliation and estrangement. You could hardly get a more fitting example of the nature of wickedness. The last part of the story illustrates a very different form of evil presence. It is much more subtle and harder to identify. In fact, I think a lot of people will doubt that it is important at all. We are made aware of this by noticing what happens after the healing. Let’s deal with the first of the two.

HARD-CORE ENEMY PRESENCE                The presence of evil as leprosy.

Leprosy wasn’t the “cancer” of the first century, but there are significant parallels. I worked for a short time in a Bible College set up for people with leprosy in north-eastern Thailand in a town called Khon Ken. It is the only time in my life I have lived amongst lovely people (most of them young) who were infected. Most of them had stumps for fingers and toes. I remember seeing the signs placed over the sink and the stove in the kitchen telling them that it was hot because they could put their hands on a hot stove and it would burn their skin without them knowing. I remember seeing them take notes with a pencil poked under a strap tied around what was left of their hand. Even though they were not shunned quite as forcefully as their counterparts in Galilee in the first century, they were still together at a segregated Bible School. Sickness and disease can only be the work of the devil. The only place where there is none is in the new heaven and the new earth.[4] When God’s will is fully happening, there is no sickness.

We need to point out something significant about this exchange. When this man sees Jesus in the road (or wherever in the town he happened to be), he is ready to declare his faith. He is sure he has a disease. He knows Jesus has the power to heal him. On that basis he falls down in front of Jesus and makes these statements:

  1. I know this sickness is wicked and unfair (a la ‘sinful’ or ‘from the devil) – that’s why I am seeking healing
  2. I know you have power from heaven to destroy the disease and make me well.
  3. What I don’t know is whether you want me to be well.
  4. I am begging you to decide in my favour.

This kind of profession would find ready counterparts no matter what generation or location. The view that sickness should be eradicated is largely universal and not confined to people who believe and follow Jesus. The second statement would be true for most of those who do follow Jesus. The third is still a matter of some conjecture. Those Christians who commonly pray for sick people to be healed (e.g. Pentecostal/Charismatic) have to live with the reality that everyone who gets prayed for doesn’t get healed. The gospel stories have no record of sick people coming to Jesus and/or the early church and NOT being healed. We do have a reference from Paul that Timothy suffered from a recurring illness.[5] Some theories of Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ suggest either physical disability or sickness.[6]. The overwhelming posture of the New Testament presupposes sicknesses being healed. There is a strong case for the idea that the healing of sicknesses should be considered as part of the outworking of the covenant of salvation.[7] There is another stream in the Christian church that prays for healing but presumes that God now doesn’t want to make sick people well. There is a third group who assume that it is quite wrong to pray for healing. All three groups have their problems. My own preference is to stick as closely to the expectation created by the New Testament. We then need to live with the fact that there will be occasions where we will do everything we know by way of seeking God’s power to heal, but without satisfaction. We are then left with the opportunity to pray and seek God for the answers rather than allowing our pagan culture to make us satisfied with the power of human medicine (which I also believe in, by the way).

When the man asked Jesus to make a decision, there was no hesitation. Jesus not only answered the healing question but answered the social question as well. He could have just spoken to him from a distance. All of that would have seemed perfectly reasonable to everyone present, especially his disciples. Jesus made sure the man knew the attitude and motive of his heart. He is the incarnate Son. His heart is to fully identify with sick and broken people at the very point of their brokenness. It is a prophetic sign of an event that would mark world history – his death on the cross. There, we see the ultimate expression of incarnate love. Jesus, the one without sin fully embracing total human sinfulness, so that we would have the opportunity to reconnect with God and discover the divine vocation for which we were created. [8]

The point of this part of the story is that Jesus treated the sickness as an enemy. There was to be no appeasement plan, no ‘detente’ and no need for further deliberation. Leprosy was a work of the enemy. Consistent with the nature of wickedness, it had indiscriminately attacked this man and stolen his physical and social well-being. The response of the kingdom of this world was to both exclude and reject him. When someone is shunned or excluded, still say they are being “treated like a leper.” The life source that flowed through Jesus was from the kingdom of God. Not only did he declare his willingness to heal, but he reached out and touched the man. This was as important a part of the healing process as the other. He was able to feel divine esteem and embrace. We have so much homework to do on this matter. The kingdom of this world is quite capable of offering medical solutions entirely devoid of human love and care. It becomes a business, or even worse, an ego trip for doctors. And notice the sequence here: first the touch, then the command. First, love and then power. Love is the only environment for the power of God to work safely. We so easily get side-tracked on the power kick. It is a testimony to the way our humanity gets twisted. Jesus demonstrates that the first and foremost item on the agenda is that this man is to get a full dose of heavenly love; then he deals with the work of the enemy.

The weapons of warfare in operation

We are using this incident as a case study of how weapons of war as deployed by Jesus.  The battle is against the presence and work of a spiritual enemy[9], In Ephesians 6, those weapons are identified as: truth/reality, righteousness, the gospel (of peace), faith, salvation, God’s word and prayer. I don’t want to suggest that this list is exhaustive or that all seven weapons need to be deployed at the same moment to have validity. I have noticed that there are overlaps – i.e. one action might represent more than one weapon.

  1. TRUTH/REALITY Jesus makes known two things that can’t be seen, even though they are both real and present at that time, in that situation: (a)the leprosy is a manifestation of the kingdom of darkness. Its power to remain or resist should be broken and the man’s body restored to full health. (b) God loves this man irrespective of this disease. He is not under judgment but sovereign grace. He is not to be treated as worthless or dangerous. He is to be esteemed and embraced. Both of these are beautiful revelations of truth/reality. Jesus is the only one present who knew these unseen realities. Sadly, almost everything that the people already believed covered or opposed these truths.  When Jesus courageously proclaimed them they created a weapon that the enemy has no power to resist.  All he could do was to restate what people had believed and accepted in the past. The advance of the kingdom of God will always confront a destructive past defending itself against a redemptive future.
  2. RIGHTEOUSNESS: As I have said, these actions overlap. The righteousness here happens when Jesus touches the man and tells him that he wants him to be healed. Those who can only think of righteousness in some quasi-legal sense can miss its most common form, modelled by Jesus every day. He loved people, indiscriminately and redemptively. It didn’t matter who or where or when. They got loved. It didn’t matter what, this love gave them an opportunity to be rescued and restored. It is the intention and motivation that spell out the righteousness of the actions. It is easy to see how this becomes a powerful weapon.  And we know that it is a weapon Satan has no power to resist.
  3. GOSPEL OF PEACE: When you think of the way disease ravaged this man’s life. Think beyond his own plight to his family and the others who loved him. Think of the pain of being socially outcast and judged. This approach by Jesus and the invitation offers peace with God, but also peace on all those other  fronts: peace from suffering, peace with people etc. The enemy of God has no power to stop someone from accepting the gospel invitation, but it has to be proclaimed to be accepted.
  4. FAITH: Jesus exercised faith for the man to be healed. I can recognise a small measure of this kind of faith, but a lot of this is way beyond me. As a weapon here, Jesus challenged the sovereignty of the disease by exercising his own authority as the Son of God.  As we can see, the enemy had no power to resist.
  5. SALVATION: There is no doubt that faith and salvation are linked closely together. As the leper approached, Jesus was moved and motivated out of his unity with the Father. When Jesus responded to the man’s request, his response was entirely drawn from the heart and will of heaven. There was no fear, the man’s condition didn’t intimidate him. The prevailing cultural views and values didn’t influence him one bit. It wasn’t that he consciously did the opposite for the sake of doing the opposite. He did no more or less than tangibly represent the presence of his Father, God. He made the heart and the will of God evident to all. This is how the weapon of salvation deals with the presence of darkness and destruction. It takes away all fear and sets us free to be fully involved in the Family business.
  6. WORD OF GOD: I may be guilty of repetition here, but we know because of many references in the Gospel of John, that Jesus ONLY did what he saw the Father doing. He took no initiative on his own. The Father told him what to say and how to say it.[10] This means that whenever Jesus said anything, it was based on what he heard from his Father. Whenever he did anything it as because he was following the initiative, he saw from his Father. The teaching and actions that followed were the results of revelation, not reason or debate or popular opinion. Satan has answers for all of these. He has no answer to something God says from heaven.
  7. PRAYER: Again, we don’t see Jesus praying at this very moment. We do know that prayer was part of his lifestyle. The importance of times and places for prayer in the life and ministry of Jesus will become even more apparent in the next part of this very story.

SOFT-CORE ENEMY PRESENCE

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” (v.14)

This is a great example of how we need to look at all of the information in order to understand the message. Just think of it, a leper has been miraculously healed. His whole life and his future have been restored. If this man had been healed in a meeting where I was the preacher on the day, I’d want to tell the story everywhere. I would do a documentary and interview everyone who knew him, before and after. I would be careful to give the glory to God of course, but at the next meeting of my leadership team, I would want to know how we could get this man’s story on local television. Soon all kinds of new people would be coming to “my church.” If I were the leader of an itinerant healing ministry, it would headline the next five newsletters. I would put video clips on YouTube with links from and to our website. It would be the reason I would ask people to put their names on our mailing list and support the ministry financially. A healed leper would validate and commend everything I stood for – to the glory of God, …………of course.  How easily we confuse what brings glory to God with what validates and promotes us.

But, Jesus ordered the man to tell no one how he was made well, or who had healed him. Why?

We could all have a guess. Opinions on this matter have produced a whole string of theological debates. The topic was called the “Messianic Secret.” A Lutheran theologian called William Wrede.[11]  He started the ball rolling about a century ago. He thought that Jesus deliberately avoided drawing attention to his identity as Messiah because of the prevailing default view. Traditional ideas about the Messiah had him pegged as royalty, coming from King David’s line. They were expecting a military leader of royal blood to gather an army, kick out the Romans and establish Israel as the world power. No one expected him to break cultural traditions, hang out with sinners, upset all the authorities and go to the cross.[12]

My own way of answering the question is to look at all of the information given in the story. It comes from an assumption that these stories were told and passed on as individual units of revelation about Jesus and, as such, were self-contained. That is, the information given as part of the story provided its context and therefore made sense on its own. It is true that the collection of these stories makes up a bigger story, but that doesn’t mean the small story has to wait for the big story in order to have meaning. It carries its message and meaning. This message should be allowed to retain its importance. For example, in western culture, we like to analyse and systematise everything. When we do, the process will often rob stories and exclude pieces of information just because they don’t fit our systemic preferences. Let each story speak for itself, I say.

What we are told in this story is that Jesus gave the man who had been healed from leprosy three clear instructions. First, he was not to tell anyone how he had been healed or who healed him. Second, he was told to follow the instructions in the law of Moses for people with contagious diseases. The priests were the ones to assess whether or not a person was healed and therefore fit to return to mainstream society. Finally, he was to bring the offering that would signify his thanks to God for the fact that he was healed. To get a sharper look at this, we should ask the question as to what would have happened differently if the man had done what Jesus said. He would have arranged to see the priest for an inspection. The priest would have declared him healed and he would have been allowed to return to his home and family. He would also have brought the stipulated offering. The name of Jesus wouldn’t have been mentioned. Life in that village and the surrounding villages would have continued with the joyful exception of one man, who with his family would have enjoyed the rest of his life free from the curse of leprosy. Jesus would have continued to minister to people within the parameters of normal village life – enhanced by the quiet but advancing presence of the kingdom of God.

I know it sounds crazy to people from our culture, but the kingdom of God doesn’t need a celebrity profile to be successful. It needs disciples multiplying disciples and creating quiet waves of kingdom advance: healing, reconciliation, kindness, forgiveness, love etc. I point to the most significant revival since the beginning of Christianity. China has experienced revival for sixty years without depending on a single headline, without legal status and without political favour. The same is true for the other parts of the world where the gospel is exploding: Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and Algeria. These are the fastest growing churches. In our society, we get excited when some Christian event receives a fifteen-second mention on the TV news and think that the kingdom will come when two or three more Christians are elected to the Parliament. Within the Christian bubble, we rave about comparatively successful churches, and we tell and re-tell their stories. We love celebrating certain personalities and exalting them to a status that is rarely warranted. As modelled by Jesus, such strategies and values do not represent the kingdom of God – which starts silently like a seed in the ground or yeast in flour but ends up impacting everything in its sphere. We have to wean ourselves off our non-kingdom-of-God substitutes and learn this until they become as irrelevant as they are impotent. Jesus didn’t need to become a superstar. Not in the human sense. He just had to finish the work he came to do. A popularity contest was never part of that agenda, nor was a slick publicity campaign.

The second impact of enemy presence comes in the form of sincere human frailty. Jesus gives three commands. We don’t know whether he kept the second and third – there is no reason to think that he didn’t. We know for sure that he didn’t follow the first; don’t tell anyone. I am aware that this particular version of the story makes the general statement about news spreading. In the parallel account in Mark’s gospel we are told that the man actively disobeyed[13] – I’m sure there was nothing sinister about this. Imagine how excited he was. The social media of the day was very effective even though there was no Twitter or SnapChat. The outcome of this disobedience changed the way Jesus operated. He could no longer travel on the normal roads or simply wander into one town or another. Mark’s version describes it this way, “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. The people still came to him from everywhere.”

At the risk of being accused of exaggeration, I think this was as much a strategy of the enemy the more obvious ones. We are told in this passage that crowds of people went to extraordinary lengths to find out where Jesus was and followed him. On one occasion he set off in a boat to spend some time in the company of his disciples for a rest, but the crowds followed him, walking around the edge of the lake. On that day he ended up teaching, healing and feeding more than five-thousand people. Crowds and crowd management became a strategic problem rather than an advantage. You don’t have to think too long to understand how this strategy represents opposing darkness. When someone a celebrity there is always a cost. The fans or supporters have their own agenda – nothing to do with the agenda of the person they have ‘crowned.’ We see this very thing happening in the Gospel of John.[14] Ironically, at the beginning of John 6, they want to make him a king by force. By the end of this story, everyone except the disciples have left him.[15] That’s how crowd mentality works. I think the enemy planned to use “crowd mentality” to drag Jesus into the vortex of popular opinion and popular expectation. It is always self-serving by the way. That’s why it is demonic and dangerous. This is not to say that popularity itself is wrong. Popularity is neutral. What happens as a result of popularity will tell whether or not it becomes an enemy weapon. If we think that popularity is, of itself, a sign of the blessing of God, just have another careful think.

In this particular instance, Jesus wasn’t looking for free publicity, courtesy of the healed leper. He was interested in going to all of the towns and villages in Galilee and Judea to proclaim the kingdom of God. One of the ways unrestrained popularity hindered Jesus was to make it harder for him to connect with God. We don’t need to think too long to see the adversarial intention here. There’s only one person who wants to stop Jesus (and us) from the critical link between ourselves and our heavenly Father – and he seems to be able to do it very effectively, especially in societies like the one we have in Australia. When was the last time all of the private places in a given region were full up with people connecting to God? Jesus’ responsive strategy on this occasion was to spend more time in remote locations where it was difficult for crowds to find him. His relationship to his Father was THAT important.  When instant popularity happened, Jesus reworked his strategy.  He avoided crowds wherever possible and took deliberate steps to find remote and difficult places so that he could spend time in his Father’s exclusive presence.  That made his life more difficult, but it was his weapon against the way the enemy used the disobedience of the healed man.

It may not be crowds that make it difficult for us. There are more subtle and effective alternatives: we get busy with all kinds of things: at the respectable end of the spectrum are things like family commitments and career demands or sport and other recreational pursuits. At the other ends are things like blobbing in front of a TV screen or downloading a never-ending supply of movies on Netflix. As with all relationship matters, we are not talking about clocking up a set number of hours. If you ask the question, “How much time do you need to spend with your spouse or your kids?” there is no perfect number. It’s not about a number. The answer is, “Enough.” Sometimes more and sometimes not as much depending on what is going on. How much time does it take each week to maintain a close communion with God? The answer is the same: “Enough.” Enough to get answers to your questions. Enough to get wisdom on what to say and do in certain situations. Enough to make sure your life is being transformed by that relationship more than any other. Enough to make sure that the branches are getting their life supply from the vine and nothing else.

Jesus was called by God to go to every town and village to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. To put it another way, he had a series of appointments to keep: he speaks about it in the Gospel of Luke: ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ [16] He had a contract with ordinary people, to proclaim good news, cast out demons and heal sicknesses. After that, he had an appointment with infamy on an old rugged cross in Jerusalem. All the fame, popularity and the so-called “influence” it might presume would only ever hinder and oppose these goals. We have a similar appointment with the stepping stones to the fulfilment of our calling. The most important thing you need to do today will be something that comes from God. The most important resource you need is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The most important task will be making sure someone you otherwise have no obligation to gets something from heaven through you. The schemes of the devil will be at work to try and stop all of these from happening.

 

HOW DOES THIS ILLUSTRATE THE DEPLOYMENT OF THE SEVEN WEAPONS?
  1. TRUTH/REALITY If my observations of the ministry of Jesus and the apostles is correct, the “belt of truth” weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6 is not about sprouting the words of a creed[17], parroting a Bible text or doctrinal statement. Again and again, Jesus proclaims truth in a given situation by declaring things that can’t be seen, even though they are part of redemptive reality. In this story, when the leper is healed, Jesus does this by telling him not to say anything to anyone. As such he is proclaiming a kingdom of God value, namely, the kingdom of God will only be thwarted by the clamour of cheap popularity and the enemy will use it to try and prevent Jesus from carrying out his ministry, in particular, going to the cross. Crowds wanting to make him king by force[18] were only going to impose their own will, not seek the will of God.
  2. RIGHTEOUSNESS When the man who had been healed from leprosy disobeyed Jesus, the news spread like wildfire. Roads that were travelled by a few became filled with crowds craving a vantage point or an audience. Things were out of control. As stated previously, the plan remained unchanged. implementation of that plan just became more difficult. We are told in the text here and the parallel passages that Jesus didn’t become resentful, distracted, angry. He didn’t start complaining or playing the victim. He didn’t go and find the man and berate him. He changed the way he did things. He took harder routes in order to avoid the crowds. He had to go to more remote places to find places of prayer. The righteousness here is an attitude of peace and trust, knowing that regardless of what other people may or may not do, his Father would enable the work to be done regardless. No excuses, no blame shifting, no complaining. Just doing what needs to be done in another way. That is a rare but wonderful expression of righteousness.
  3. GOSPEL He continued to make the proclamation of the gospel his primary calling and task. He found other ways to do it. That’s why he could call on his disciples to understand that anytime was a time for harvest [19]. I so deeply feel this today, even without having all of the answers myself. I hear people talk about certain places as being resistant to the gospel – my own city among them. As such, churches and their members have turned inward or substituted the gospel with social welfare programs. Jesus made no excuses or apologies. With the change in his circumstances brought about by pressing crowds of onlookers and hopefuls, Jesus just did the same things in different ways. I want to find out how to do exactly that.
  4. FAITH When we start out to do something and find that “Plan A” is not going to work, we need to be like Jesus. God was always going to have a “Plan B” and “C” and “D” and “Z” and “ZA” etc. and etc. When the enemy rushes in like a flood, we need the faith to raise our “standard” higher. What we must not do is give up, turn aside, slow down, or go back. Jesus’ trust in his Father’s purpose never wavered. It just found the way for it to be fulfilled. He travelled along obscure tracks instead of the main road and walked five kilometres up winding tracks to find places to pray rather than going down the back yard. He still got to all the towns and villages to preach the gospel and he maintained his needed relationship with his Father. It was faith that made that possible. Disappointment will never be able to see the alternative route, nor will bitterness, nor will complaining – and all the rest. If one door is closed to us God will always have another door that, if we push on it, will open for us to continue serving him till the work is done.
  5. SALVATION Once again, changed and more adverse circumstances will always want to challenge our security and identity. We can feel isolated, feel like we have failed, feel disappointed or want to blame someone as am excuse for NOT continuing to do what God has called us to do.
  6. WORD OF GOD I reckon it is fully consistent with all of these gospel stories to presume the Jesus resolved every problem and challenge by seeking the counsel of his Father, God. I am encouraged by the fact that there is no occasion where God does not speak. Even when the people are totally determined in their disobedience, God still speaks. I have no doubt that Jesus sought his Father’s counsel about the problem with crowds of people wanting to block the plan – the resulting strategy wasn’t just a bright idea from Jesus, it was the revealed wisdom from his Father. We should have the same confidence.
  7. PRAYER And there you have it. All six of the seven weapons will only be identified in a given situation if we pray like Paul advises in Ephesians 6. I call it assault praying: in the Spirit, everywhere all the time, every different kind of prayer, and every request we can think of.

 

[1]         Following the instruction from the laws given to Moses

[2]         see Leviticus 14 for details.

[3]         Words from the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Matthew 6:10

[4]         See Revelation 21

[5]         See 1 Timothy 5:23 “23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

[6]         See 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

[7]         See Matthew 8:16,17 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities

and bore our diseases.” Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 53:3 where the prophet is referring to the work of the cross.

[8]         See 2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

[9]         See Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

[10]       See, eg. John 5:19,20 “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all, he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these so that you will be amazed.”

See also John 12:49 “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.”

[11]       This is a quote from the Wikipedia article under the heading “The Messianic Secret.”

Wrede proposed that the author of Mark invented the notion of secrecy to reduce the tension between early Christian beliefs about Jesus being the Messiah, and the non-Messianic nature of his ministry. However, Wrede’s idea of secrecy did not merely rely on the commands of Jesus but also involved the “Markan parable theory” of why Jesus spoke in parables.

[12]       This idea does seem to fit the reference in Matthew 16 where, when Peter answers Jesus’ question as to who he is by saying that he is convinced Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus instructs them no to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (V. 20)

[13]       See Mark 1:45 “Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.”

[14]       See John 6:15 “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

[15]       John 6:66-69 “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

[16]       Luke 13:32

“At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 “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, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

[17]       There have been a number of creeds developed to summarise core Christian beliefs. The two most universal are the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

You can find a list of Christian creeds at this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_creeds

[18]       See John 6

[19]       John 4:31-36 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

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About Brian

Passionate follower of Jesus. Member of a family that keeps on growing because I keep on meeting up with more great people from every nation and background who I belong to because of Jesus. Husband of an amazing woman, father of four forgiving kids and eight almost perfect grandkids. And loving it.

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