February 22, 2015

God looks for flowers . . .

Leviticus 12:1–13:59
John 8:12–30
Song of Solomon 6:11–13

Today’s worship service at our church focused on the courage of Jesus Christ facing the band of solders who came to the garden to arrest Him. I learned a couple of new things. One is the band of soldiers was actually a ‘cohort’ which means 600 armed men. That many? After one person? They must have realized they were up against no ordinary man!

Second, some thoughts touched me about Peter and how he needed “to do something” in this situation. I can relate to that feeling, but in Peter’s case, he pulled out a sword and lopped off the right ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. Luke writes that Jesus restored the ear, but our pastor noted that when Malchus reported back to his master about the arrest, this ear incident was likely in his report. How could this man forget the injury done to him and the way Jesus healed him?

The pastor then talked about those who act, even in the name of the Lord, and perhaps sincerely intending to do the right thing . . .  but we somehow manage to chop up others. We need Jesus to mend the wounds and make things right. This was a powerful reminder that God cares about His people and wants us to live in wholeness and in right relationships.

Today’s Old Testament reading is also about protecting others. For instance, “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean’” (Leviticus 13:45), doing this so others are warned and do not come too close.

Other laws cover other defilements which will spread if not properly examined and diagnosed: “Then (the priest) shall examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the garment, in the warp or the woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a persistent leprous disease; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, or the warp or the woof, the wool or the linen, or any article made of skin that is diseased, for it is a persistent leprous disease. It shall be burned in the fire.” (Leviticus 13:51–52)

In these passages, the defilement is skin disease and God does not what it to spread. In my mind, this points to the defilement of sin. He doesn’t what that to spread either. If that seems a strange analogy, the next time you are with people who gossip, notice the challenge to keep from doing the same thing, or the next time you are with a person who criticizes others, note how easy it is to agree with them. God wants me to get clean and stay clean.

In the NT reading, Jesus is speaking to those who challenge His identity. He said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

The result was, as he was saying these things, many believed in him, (John 8:28–30) but many did not. Jesus did what the Father wanted, making Him a godly person. Not everyone enjoyed His presence.

I’ve noticed this too. Those who are pure from sin can be just as challenging to me as those with leprosy. In a sense, both of them bring out things in me that I’d rather not allow to be seen. For instance, the lepers of this world can reveal how uncaring I am, and how proud I am that I am not like them. The godly people of this world, even Jesus Himself, reveal my ungodliness also. Either way, the real me is exposed.

Yet Jesus is not concerned about that. Instead, He persistently looks for my uncleanness, not to embarrass me but that He might cleanse me. Thankfully, He also looks for the healed and cleansed places that He might bless me and celebrate with me. He is like the lover in Solomon’s poem: “I went down to the nut orchard to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom.” (Song of Solomon 6:11)

Imagine being a flower or a vine in bud and Jesus is waiting for the full bloom. Such an image moves me to be more cooperative with Him, to strive for purity, to be obedient, to treat people well, and to avoid lopping off the ears of others just because I am desperate. Under His eye, I want to become all that He is looking for!