A Devotion for Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Matthew 12:38-42 (NRSV)
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
The religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign. Although it was common practice to ask teachers for a sign to prove the truth of their teachings, this request was a bit ironic. Just before Jesus was asked for a sign, he had healed a man possessed of demons!
This text reminds me to be on the lookout for signs of Jesus at work in our midst; a serious skeptic who comes to faith in Christ; a new, hopeful spirit in one formerly overcome by despair; a church facing schism brought together by the Christ-filled spirits of the pastor and lay leaders. Signs of Jesus at work – among us, around us, and within us.
Prayer: Healing Lord, open my eyes to see signs of you at work. Amen.
Scripture Reading for Personal Reflection:
Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV)
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
“Wanting to justify himself …” The lawyer was focused on his needs, his welfare, his future. Jesus takes his self-centered focus and points him to his neighbor – and not just to the person who lives next door. As the lawyer questions Jesus about who his neighbor is, Jesus goes well beyond his local neighborhood, beyond even his own national borders.
The hero in Jesus’ parable isn’t a leader of the Jewish faith, or even one of the lawyer’s fellow countrymen. Instead, the hero is a man from the country to the north, a foreigner, and a rather disliked foreigner at that. That foreigner is the one to think beyond himself and look to the welfare of someone else – the victim of a robbery lying injured by the side of a dangerous road. Not only does he think of the other man, he does so at some personal risk – after all robbers had been there recently, leaving the injured man lying there.
As I listen to the news these past few days, I hear people clamoring to re-open the economy, re-open society because they’re getting tired of being stuck inside, tired of being told what to do. They want to exercise their personal freedom. It’s about me. And there seems to be little thought as to the impact on others. They aren’t as important as I am. Jesus would kick back against that and ask “which of you ‘was a neighbor to the man [woman] who’ was infected with Covid-19?”
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor – as ourselves, or, as he has loved us (see John 13:34). That means looking beyond ourselves, to those in need, to those who are vulnerable. Our freedom is found not in ourselves, but in the One who loves and saves us and sets us free precisely from our self-centeredness (one definition of sin!), the One who is the parable teller, Jesus, the Christ.
Hymn for Reflection:
“Jesu, Jesu” (ELW #708, WOV #765)
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve
the neighbors we have from you.
Kneels as the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them. Refrain
Neighbors are wealthy and poor, varied in color and race,
Neighbors are nearby and far away. Refrain
These are the ones we will serve, theses are the ones we will love;
All these are neighbors to us and you. Refrain
Kneel at the feet of our friends, silently washing their feet:
This is the way we will live with you. Refrain
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
– Matthew 25:40 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Danielson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery.
Or, make some cheerful, simple artwork – for others and for yourself – that can be put in a window to cheer you up, and those who may see it in your neighborhood.
Do you Quilt? How about making Masks out of quilting fabric? It’s supposed to be one of the best fabrics to use, and there are patterns online to make them.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.
What about a Sign Campaign?
Would we want to make simple roadside signs – from the people of Messiah – indicating prayers and support for medical, food, pharmacy, and other essential service workers (especially “on the front lines”)? What do you think? Could be a visible way of “sharing the love of Christ” in this time.
Have another idea? Let me know, and I will share it here!