Sometimes you stay longer in one place than you intended. It may be because what’s there is so sweet, you don’t want to leave. Other times, your feet get mired by one distraction or another and it takes a while to untangle the vines.
I’ve been untangling the iron tendrils of the world, and mulling over where they’ve had me tethered…
Still at the temple,(John 5) I am watching the conversation between Jesus and those who spent a lifetime pouring over God’s words and discussing their importance. Those in charge.
As always, Jesus has something to say to those that professed to be ‘religious’.
“You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me; yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.” V. 39,40
I cannot move past this verse, spoken from the lips of God’s Son, and it has me looking at this from all sides. By “this” I mean the coming to Him.
Just prior to this soul-excavating two-by-four, He says something else:
“…you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He has sent.” v. 38
These men have poured the hours and days of their lives into knowledge about God and His promise of redemption, and yet His word remained lifeless on the ancient scrolls–unrolled for study and dialogue, and rolled back up until the next discussion.
I have more in common with them than I think, sometimes…
Like them, I go to the right places, digging deep into scripture on my own or in a class, but in the process, I forget the Person. “... it is they that bear witness to Me.”
After pulling off the chokehold of the vines of responsibility and distraction, I have gathered the blessings of coming to Jesus and abiding with Him. What richness I found that renewed my soul! In the quietness of this moment we have together, breathe them in with me:
Coming to Jesus’ side is coming to a place of STRENGTH!
“Everyone who COMES TO ME and hears my words and does them, I will show you what He is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundations upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” 6:47-49
The message: Dig deep. Lay your foundation into the bedrock that is Christ. Not scripture. Scripture points TO Christ
Coming to Jesus is to come to God, whose Place is one of compassion, healing, and love.
“Yet it was I who taught E′phraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of compassion with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-5
Breathe in those words of deep, deep love. Wouldn’t we rather be here than anywhere else?
This place with Jesus is our intended residence!
“When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne…Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt. 25:31-34
Jesus calls us to Come, and has waiting for us, exactly what we need.
“The apostles returned to Jesus, and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.”
This happens immediately following a long, very difficult day. They had just lived through the beheading of their beloved coworker, John the baptizer. Can you imagine the gruesome vision in their heads? They must have been broken hearted, and terrified. Still, they took care of their friend and came to Jesus to report on their work in His name. He recognizes their need for pause and refreshment, compassionately bidding them, “Come.” Not “Go, take a break, regroup, then return to Me and the work at hand.” He uses the word “Come.” Come with. Come alongside. This is the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 4:19 for “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It’s an ‘along with Me’ word—a word of presence, of companionship and teaching.
Did you ever have an exhausting, horrific day or season of your life? (Are you having one now?)
Look what Jesus does here:
He invites them to come away with him for rest from the pressing crowds and separation from the emotional and political turbulence that was John’s death. They hadn’t even had time to eat, let alone regroup and refresh. You’d think, being Jesus, that He’d choose to exercise His power and clear off that secluded place He had promised them for rest. Yet a great throng followed them and beat them there.
I hate it when that happens. I clear out my morning, my day, or place, or activity so that I can decompress and rejuvenate, then the people come, or a need arises, or husband, kids, friends, mother, strangers, brothers or sisters in Christ…they press in with their needs and wants and expectations.
Jesus does something interesting here I almost missed. In inviting His beloved disciples to rest, He moves into a situation that at first looks absolutely draining, but ends up turning the world upside down for a while, and their faith with it. “Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As He went ashore He saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Mk. 6:33ff
He takes over the work for a while. Maybe the disciples stayed slumped in the boat while He taught, or resting on the hillside. Maybe they dragged themselves on shore to provide crowd management, as always. No matter, Jesus took over for a while. Then He feeds them from almost nothing. You know the story: 5 loaves, 2 fish. Thousands fed.
Forget about the filling of bellies. Think about the filling of souls. THINK about it! Those disciples got exactly what they needed. What a faith-building experience that drove the needy to Jesus who provides! In their exhaustion and fear, in the middle of an oppressively difficult day of training, Jesus bid them “Come” and gave them- and in the process, others- exactly what was right for them at the time. Totally different from what they were expecting, it took a long while for what He really did for them to sink in. They didn’t get it at all at first, and their hearts were hardened. (v.52)
Gulp. I’ve been there. Has that ever happened to you? Longing for rest, God places more on our plate. We don’t get it at first. Quite frankly, we rebel against it. Then, with the passage of time, He gently nudges us toward understanding of the gift He gave us in all of that.
Coming to Jesus and abiding with Him is living in a place where His grace is deep and the pull of the world can be cast off.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Our bodies may not rest, but our souls will. It is promised.
Some things to ponder…
Whether we are church leaders, officially, or leaders of our families, our friendships, our marriages… we need to come to Jesus and abide with Him. The responsibility that comes with this privilege is to help those we lead in the Coming to Jesus.
If we mentor another precious soul, or are a camp counselor, or a Bible class teacher…we need to come to Jesus and abide with Him. The responsibility placed in our hands by God is to guide those we lead in the Coming to Jesus. Not to me. Not to the lesson agenda. Not to the structure of church activity. To Jesus. Those are worthy tools, but they are just tools to keep us clinging to Jesus.
I am thinking, too, of the danger we place each other in by treating God’s word as an academic study. How challenging it is to share and gather knowledge about God without reducing Him, His Son, and His plan to a scholarly outline! This is the peril that comes with the gifts of our Christian schools and universities, and of our Bible classes, is it not?
Let us train ourselves to love the presence of God and abide in this life here, with His Son, Jesus.
Blessings on your journey to and with Him.
“LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.” Psalm 26:8