GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS THE CHRIST — THE ONLY WAY, THE ONLY TRUTH, THE ONLY LIFE — THE NARROW GATE TO SALVATION.
In LUKE 18:25, Jesus was discussing the many things in life that can make us feel self-sufficient and not in need of what only God can give us. That day it was a rich young ruler who trusted in his possessions more than in God. He was seeking an alternate way to earn his way into the Kingdom of God - and Jesus told him “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
Well, what about that camel? Is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one of us to earn our own eternal Salvation? Is it even possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle?
In ancient times, every city had a city gate – not like one of those gates people used to have in the fence by their front lawn. The ancient city Gate was an entire complex. There was a huge iron door followed by a large narrow room where city officials, tax collectors, and soldiers held court. The narrow room led to another huge iron door through which a person entered the city.
I remember how, living in Old City Jerusalem, I walked past that huge iron door with the small door at the bottom every morning. When the huge iron doors were closed, the city gate could only be entered through a small door through which only one person could enter at a time. That door was called the eye of a needle. A camel could enter through the eye of a needle, but first his owner had to remove everything the camel was carrying on his back.
Then the camel needed to get down on its knees to crawl through the narrow doorway.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Lutheran denomination I belonged to when I was in college and seminary had a Board For Service and Mission Division – a board I later served on. One of their main functions was the developing of BIBLE studies on the main ethical issues of the day. The studies were centered in the relevant BIBLE texts and provided a time for prayerful discussion of those texts. That denomination has long since been swallowed up in merger and the BIBLE study booklets are gone as well.
Today the BIBLE study booklets for individual Christian’s thoughts and actions have been replaced by almost weekly partisan pontifications by bishops and church committees misquoting Scripture and using non-Christian advocates as the source of their pronouncements on everything from violence in America to border security to capital punishment to Israeli-Palestinian relations to campaign finance reform.
The Holy Bible has passages in which God speaking through His Word describes the governments God has allowed to exist and their main purpose under God to defend the freedoms of those they are allowed to govern – to defend those unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness by which we have all been endowed by our Creator – which were so powerfully recognized by our forefathers who also recognized the government’s responsibility under God. Here in America – as individual Christian citizens - we share in that responsibility for that government of the people, for the people, by the people under God. Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as individual Christian citizens, we stand for our flag to pledge to do all we can to make the country it symbolizes all it claims to be under God.
Our text this morning is one of the most often misquoted and misapplied of those Biblical passages bishops and church committees use to pontificate their partisan opinions to government officials and citizens.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR...JESUS THE CHRIST.
In our text, we have a Biblical scene we have become very familiar with. Jesus is sitting and teaching when so many thousands of people had gathered that they were trampling one another. Most of them were listening intently because they know Jesus is The Man Who teaches with The Divine Wisdom and Authority of God Himself.
Jesus is frequently interrupted by someone with a question. One man moves slowly and methodically through the crowd - barely hearing what Jesus is saying. Subjects like the Kingdom of God, love and faith were of little interest to him so as he reaches the front of the crowd, he immediately seizes the opportunity to petition Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
The man approaching Jesus knew the authority and prestige people attributed to Jesus and he wanted to use Jesus’ support against his brother in the dividing of the family possessions.
Jesus’ answer may have surprised some in that crowd. It shouldn’t have. Jesus – like all Truth – is truly consistent.
Jesus said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or divider over you?”
Where matters of personal dispute were concerned Jesus refused to allow Himself to be drawn into the dispute. Where issues of ethics and morality were concerned, Jesus always began “Have you not read ….” and pointed to the unalterable Word of God.
Without God’s Law we have no guide to show us how God created us to live – to give us The Foundation for our morals, ethics, and lifestyles and to show us that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God and therefore totally need what only Jesus can and does give us.
Jesus warned the man, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a person’s life does not consist in his abundance of possessions.” “Look to The Word God has already given you.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
And Jesus said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; whoever comes to Me shall never hunger; and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”
The day after Jesus performed the miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 people, the people came looking for Him and Jesus promised “I AM THE LIVING BREAD That came down from heaven. If anyone eats of This Bread, he will live forever.”
His signs and words are not always thankfully and faithfully accepted for as the aroma of bread baking wafted about the people, they muttered to each other in barely audible low voices.
Jesus and the people moved from outdoors to the synagogue (whose ruins you can see here) and as He taught, the Judeans disputed among themselves against Jesus and His Words. “How can Jesus be what He claims to be and do what He claims to do? His Words defy our human intellect.”
It was so easy to treasure the gift – 5,000 people fed with five barley loaves - and forget the sign and message it was pointing to and even The Giver Himself.
Break Thou The Bread of Life,
Dear Lord, to Me,
As Thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOUR ... JESUS THE CHRIST.
As our Gospel text begins, Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
The disciples’ request may at first seem unusual. These were devout and committed men who had left an extremely prosperous fishing corporation or an extremely lucrative tax collector’s booth or an exciting political agenda to become full-time students of their Master Teacher Jesus. For two and a half years, they had been focusing totally on what Jesus did, said, and taught.
Any accurate description of Jesus would have to emphasize the fact that He prayed a lot. How constantly the disciples saw Him off by Himself praying — how meaningful every word He uttered was when He prayed with them or lead them in prayer. Certainly they had learned a great deal about the value and content of prayer from Him during those two and a half years. Why did they now ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray”?
Communication must constantly grow and mature in marriage, in parent-child relationships, among siblings, between friends, between business associates. As we grow and mature in any relationship, our communication becomes more meaningful — it must or the relationship will not grow and eventually will die. Still, in every relationship, there is always room for improvement in the way we communicate.
Prayer is nothing more and nothing less than communication with God — and, as with all communication, our prayer life must grow and mature or that great gift will lose its power and die. We all need to join the original disciples’ request - “Lord, teach us to pray”.