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Worship Message - Conversations With Jesus - #8 - "The Importance of Spiritual Values"

Conversations With Jesus - #8

The Importance of Spiritual Values

In three recent messages, we have considered conversations Jesus had with people in need of healing. Those people included a woman who had a bleeding problem and a girl who had died, a man who was paralyzed and a man who was demon-possessed, a man with leprosy, a servant who was paralyzed, and two men who were blind.

In each of those conversations, Jesus’ parts included words spoken and sometimes touches made that resulted in healing. How important those conversations were, both for those healed and for us even now to be reminded of Jesus’ power.

There were many other healings Jesus performed, including a man who had a withered hand. A man who did not ask to be healed. A man who had no friends who asked for healing on his behalf. A man who did not even approach Jesus for anything. A man Jesus noticed and had a conversation with. Jesus asked the man to stretch out his hand. When the man did so, the withering immediately and completely went away.

Healing was a very important part of Jesus’ ministry. Many of His healings involved conversations with those needing healing or, in some cases, people who asked on behalf of those who were ailing.

Today we are going to change the focus as we consider two conversations Jesus had about the importance of spiritual values - of having a spiritual focus. Conversations recorded in Matthew 12 and 16.

First, Matthew 12, beginning with verse 46. A conversation that occurred about halfway through Jesus’ ministry.

To set the stage, it needs to be mentioned that by this time, Jesus, even though He was attracting huge numbers of people wherever and whenever He spoke or healed, He was in increasing trouble with religious leaders. The leaders did not like it that Jesus did not observe all the religious rules they had developed. I think they did not like it that He seemed more popular than them. So intense was the trouble, the religious leaders were already trying to figure out how to do away with Jesus.

As we know, the goal of the religious leaders eventually was fulfilled. That happened when Jesus was crucified. But in the midst of the trouble with the religious leaders, we find, in verse 46 of Matthew 12, Jesus once again teaching, once again with a huge crowd of people around Him.

This time, however, it was not religious leaders who were trying to silence Him. It was His family trying to silence Him.

Matthew 12, beginning with verse 46. He was still speaking to the people. The word translated “speaking” refers to plain, easy, familiar-type talk. He was not angry or overly-forceful. Jesus was simply having a comfortable time of teaching. “While He was still speaking, behold, Jesus’ mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him.”

There were some instances where there was such a crowd around Jesus, no one else could get into the place He was teaching. That appears to be the case here. Jesus’ family was outside. They had to send word inside that they wanted to talk to Him.

Word of His family’s request eventually made it to Jesus. When He got the message, He knew they wanted to do more than speak to Him. He knew they had more in mind. Something recorded in the Gospel of Mark, where it is reported His family wanted to “seize” Him. That refers to a forceful grabbing of Him. To pull Him away and take Him home.

Why was that? Why did they want to pull Jesus away from His teaching and the rest of His ministry?

Well, it seems some were saying He was “beside Himself,” which is a polite way of saying  He was crazy. That was embarrassing, not to Jesus, but to His family. If His family could simply get Him out of the public eye, rumors about Him might go away.

Also, His family had to have been concerned for His safety since He was already in trouble with religious leaders. And, since Jesus was hounded by religious leaders, might that extend, at least eventually, to His family? They might have been concerned for their own safety.

Plus, there were other times when Jesus was so busy, He did not have time even to eat. It sounds as if that might have been true at the time of today’s first conversation. His family may have wanted to tear Him away from His ministry because they were fearful for His own physical well-being. At least they could see He got some rest.

By the way, this is not the only time others, who should have known better, tried to stop Jesus’ ministry. At least a couple times His disciples tried to get Jesus to not go to Judea toward the end of His ministry, knowing how dangerous it would be for Him there. In fact, that will come up in today’s second conversation.

Here is the same mood. During His lifetime, many of those nearest and dearest to Him seemed unable to understand Him.

Actually, I think Mary understood. She had heard about His mission even before Jesus was conceived. But as a mother, she was concerned for her son. Maybe that is why the wording in the message to Jesus was that they wanted to “speak” to Him. The request was polite, at least in the wording.

From outside where Jesus was teaching, Jesus’ mother and brothers sent word to Him that they wanted to speak to Him. The word eventually reached Jesus. As mentioned, He knew their real purpose. So instead of leaving His lesson, He changed it, beginning a one-sided conversation consisting of a question and two statements.

The question? “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?”

The statements? After stretching out His hand toward His disciples, which of course included the 12 closest followers He had selected, plus, I think, others in the crowd that day who were believing what He was teaching, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers.” I think He included all those who were believing because He added, “For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Now, I do not think we should interpret Jesus’ conversation to reflect any lack of love on the part of Jesus for His family. One reason is that later, at His crucifixion, Jesus would single Mary out for care. This is certainly not a call to disrespect parents and siblings.

Nor do I think the main gist of this conversation is the negative part of having to leave others behind, though that is also a teaching in the Bible.

Instead, let’s consider a positive possibility, that being how special spiritual relationships can be, which sometimes can be beyond family love. Having the same purpose and worshiping the same Lord is supposed to bring a closeness. I hope that is fostered here.

I remember someone who attended here many years ago. In a meeting once, he shared how, when he had become a Christian, his friends had turned away from him. Someone else at the meeting suggested that maybe those who turned away were not really friends. The man said that was probably true, but, he added, it still hurt. What helped the hurt were other Christians who became his friends. I hope he felt that while he was here.

I am thinking of a missionary I heard tell how one of her family members reacted when she announced she was going to become a missionary. Her brother spit in her face. Wow. Not much brotherly love there. For that missionary, I am guessing she might have felt closer to other believers than to her brother.

In fact, the missionary, who is now serving in an especially dangerous part of the world, she has said that if things get really scary, she is not sure she would return to the States.

I don’t know that I am that brave. I hope so, but I don’t know. However, she feels close to her Christian family. She knows her purpose and is determined to see it through.

And remember the thorn in the flesh referred to by the apostle Paul? Interestingly there is not a Biblical answer to the question of what the thorn was, so it is only conjecture that we have. Some conjecture it was an illness Paul had that troubled him. Others suggest it might have been a wife that was Paul’s thorn. That when he became a Christian, she had nothing to do with him anymore. If that is the case, Paul’s fellow Christians became close to him. They became his family, at least in a spiritual sense.

What a responsibility that gives those of us who are Christians. We need to be brothers and sisters and mothers - and fathers - to others who are Christians. That is how close we are to be with one another. As close as Jesus was with His disciples.

On the day of the first conversation for this message, Jesus faced an attempt to get Him away from His purpose - His mission. He had faced that before and He would face it again.

He had faced it before when He was tempted in the wilderness right after His baptism. In the wilderness, three times the devil tried to dissuade Jesus from even starting His ministry.

He would face it later on the cross. It had to have been a temptation to call 10,000 angels to rescue Him. But all the time, including when His family tried to talk to Him and maybe seize Him if He would not listen to their reason, He always was willing to obey His purpose.

A purpose He explained to His disciples in the second conversation for today. A conversation recorded in Matthew 16.

This was close to the end of Jesus’ ministry. He had done more teaching and more miracles. He had got into more trouble with religious leaders. It then became time for Him to start preparing His disciples for all the horror that was to befall Him in the hours leading up to and including His crucifixion.

Mathew 16, beginning with verse 21. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem.” He was, at the time of this conversation, in the northern area of Galilee. Jesus shared with His disciples He had to go to Jerusalem, the capital city in the south, “and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed,” which was of course bad news, but, He added, “and on the third day be raised.”

I am not sure the disciples heard that last part, which was good news. I would guess they concentrated on the bad news. But He told them what was about to come.

Elders represented the respected religious men of the Jewish people. Chief priests were Sadducees, one of the important groups of religious leaders. Scribes were Pharisees, the other important group of religious leaders. All the religious leaders would be against Him when He went to Jerusalem. Jesus knew that. He shared what He knew with His disciples. Again, so they could be ready for what was coming.

There may have been other disciples who answered Jesus, but Peter’s response is the one recorded. Peter took Jesus and, in his part of the conversation, began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord. This shall never happen to You.”

The “taking” of Jesus was probably not the seizing Jesus’ family had intended. This was probably more a protective grabbing, or maybe stepping in front of Jesus to prevent Him for going into danger. Which is, of course, an example of an attempt to dissuade Jesus from finishing His purpose.

Peter’s intent was no doubt one of love. Jesus had been his teacher and friend and companion for close to three years. Of course he did not want Jesus to be hurt.

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan. You are a hindrance to Me, for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

What a rebuke. Peter must have felt the sting of the rebuke. But you know, Jesus was right in blaming Satan for Peter’s words, which might have reminded Jesus of the temptations at the very start of His ministry, which were at the hands of Satan.

The temptations were referred to earlier. Satan tempted Jesus to give people sensations and wonders. He tempted Jesus to compromise with the world. “Reduce Your standards”, the devil suggested. “Forget Your purpose.”

That is kind of what Peter was suggesting. “Forget Your purpose. It’s too dangerous. You might die.” That was of course the whole point, but Peter tried to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem and the trouble that awaited Him there.

Jesus did not want to hear any ideas other than God’s ideas, knowing other ideas come from Satan, Satan here referring to any influence that turns us back from the way of God. So it was not that Jesus called Peter Satan. However, Peter was, at that moment, speaking the devil’s words. By doing that, he was accused of not knowing and letting Jesus follow the hard way of God.

The way we are all to follow. Verse 24. Jesus also told His disciples, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

This is not the only place that teaching is recorded. It is a common theme in the New Testament.

Deny. Say “no” to self and “yes” to God. Make God the ruling principle, the ruling passion of life.

Take up your cross. Engage in sacrificial service. Give up personal ambition to serve Jesus. Luke adds the word “daily.” Every day seek and do His will.

Follow Jesus. That is the call to perfect obedience in thought, word, and action.

Deny, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Do that, for there is a reward. Verse 25. “For whoever would save his life [whoever chooses not to deny, take up the cross, and follow] will lose his spiritual life.” That is not the reward we should be looking for. But “whoever loses his life for My sake [whoever does deny, take up the cross, and follow Jesus] will find life.”

And think of this, which Jesus added to this conversation. “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life, or what shall a man give in return for his life.” The “whole world” refers to material things, which we cannot take with us and will not provide much help on difficult days. Material things cannot mend a broken heart or cheer a lonely soul.

It is a spiritual friendship with Jesus we need and that will help us. Verse 27. “For the Son of man [Jesus] is to come with His angels in the glory of his Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done.” For those who have denied and taken up the cross and followed Jesus, the repayment will be wonderful.

*       *       *       *       *

Two conversations. One teaching the importance of spiritual relationships, the other preparing us for the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice, both of which teach to have proper spiritual values. To have a spiritual focus. What can we learn from those conversations?How about these points?

As mentioned from the first conversation, may we know the importance of being friends with other Christians, which may be helpful to others, which is important for us. We may not agree on everything, but we need to get along with other Christians, as much as it depends upon us. We need to support one another in our spiritual walk. Let’s continue doing that.

From the second conversation, may we hear the warning of the need to be careful how we live. It is of course easy to live for the world, but our goal must be to live for Christ and His purpose. To make sure our spiritual lives are what they ought to be.

Why? It is because of the promise Jesus gave in His words that He “will repay every man for what he has done.” Of course there is the negative part of a bad repayment if we do not keep Jesus at the center of all we do and are, but there is also the positive. If we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him, we will be rewarded with life now, which will include His blessings now, and then Heaven later. What a wonderful repayment that will be.

Today’s closing song will give us the opportunity to state our determination to follow Jesus, knowing the rewards for doing so. That will come in the first three verses. The fourth verse will remind us to share our faith with others. To try to be Christian friends with those who join us in following Jesus. Both today’s conversations are thus covered in the song. It is the chorus I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;

The world behind me, the cross before me;

The world behind me, the cross before me;

No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, I still will follow;

Though none go with me, I still will follow;

Though none go with me, I still will follow;

No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decided now to follow Jesus?

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

No turning back, no turning back.

Jesus did go to Jerusalem. As He predicted in today’s second conversation, He did suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes. He did that willingly as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Let’s be thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. Let’s remember He is worthy of being followed. Let’s remember to help one another to keep following. Amen.

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