TOLD FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
THE MEMBERS SPEAK OUT
A Parable about Unity
The joint meeting of the L.P.O. (Limbs, Parts, and Organs) had barley gotten underway when the feet stood up to complain. “We’re tired of carrying the whole load,” they whined. “It’s hard enough to keep everything in balance, but we have to keep things moving, as well – and we aren’t getting any cooperation. The knees refuse to do any heavy work (such babies). They say that the strain has been too much, lately. The back has been pampered for so long; all it has to do is imagine hard work and it starts to cry.”
“Oh boy, here we go again,” said the hips. “You feet always feel like you are the only ones working. ‘Poor, tired feet,’ ‘sore, aching feet.’ Why, if we weren’t doing our job, you feet wouldn’t be any better off than boat anchors.” “You tell ‘em hips,” said the knees. “’Bout time someone set them straight,” chimed in the back.
“Now, listen!” said the brain. “The purpose of this meeting is to resolve our differences, not emphasize them.” “I get that Mr. B,” exclaimed one of the arms. “But this whole thing is really a matter of fairness. We arms, legs, knees, and other working extremities are constantly busy putting in our time and often much more. Many times we are called upon to do more than we were ever intended to do and, well, I just don’t see that kind of effort elsewhere.” “Why, take a look at the nose. How hard can smelling be? And the mouth – garbage in, garbage out. The ears do nothing but hang around and listen, the neck only turns, the shoulders are good only for hanging clothes on, and the hair – well, its just about vanity with them. Equal attention and considerations aught to be given for equal effort, is what I say,” said the arm, flexing its muscle.
“Hold the phone, now, let’s take a look at the whole picture here,” said the delegate from the Nervous System, with feeling. “Fairness is not easily determined from just one perspective. Me and my buddies get around a fair bit and sense what is happening all over this place. And who’s to say who works the hardest? Does our brother the liver outwork our team of muscles in the leg? And who hurts the worst? Is it our friend the toe with his inflamed hangnail, or Mr. Bladder with his gall stone?”
I don’t know about all that Nerve, buddy,” said the stomach, “but I tend to see things like the ole arm. I mean, I work hard digesting food three times and day and then some and, well, let’s face it – some folks around here have a pretty cushy job. Frankly, I’m fed up with it! Just how much effort does it take ole uncle sweat gland to perspire, anyway? Why, just the other day I saw the neck loafing around so much he didn’t have the energy to lift the head off its pillow. I’ve seen eyelids that droop, a spine that slumps, and even kidneys that quit. And, well, let’s be honest, Mr. B, sometimes your thinking hasn’t been too sharp!”
“Hold on!” shouted the brain, “your bulging belly is hardly an example to us all. I’ve got a lot of decisions to make around here and more responsibility than a dozen stomachs will ever have…” “Well,” cut in the stomach, “your decisions haven’t been all that responsible, lately…”
“May I say a word,” said the heart, quietly. “I pump life to every one of you, as you all know. I see each and every member of the L.P.O., as they go about their regular chores. I see different jobs done by different parts with different abilities. This I will say… there is no similarity, there is no element of equality and there should be nocomparison. But what there is, or should be, is oneness – because we all make up one whole. As each part performs its task, we reveal what we are – a living, breathing body. If part of us fails, we all experience failure. If part of us hurts, we all experience pain. And when we choose to criticize or attack another part, we do it to ourselves.”
“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work…”
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
(Eph. 4:15 – 16; Rom. 12:4 – 6a)
THE FAITH OF OUR FRIENDS
The Story of the Paralytic (As it could have been)
There was a cool wind blowing across the sea that afternoon in Capernaum and it probably made our task a little easier but I sure didn’t know it at the time. It was a day I will never forget. There I was, a respected young man around town, perched on top of a strangers house clawing furiously through the clay tiles and straw trying to dig a hole in his roof. It wasn’t as though I was up there alone. My brother, Jacob, and his two friends were clawing and sweating just as much as I and poor Aram was lying there on his cot, propped up on his elbows and hissing at us as loud as he could that we were all “crazy in the head”. It must have been quite a sight! We hardly noticed, though, because we were in a big time hurry. We needed to open the hole big enough to lower Aram down inside before a very angry homeowner removed us, not too gently, from his roof. If there had been time to think about what we were doing I might well have agreed with Aram; we were kind of crazy!
When we set out for the house that warm afternoon in Capernaum we had only one thing on our mind. We not only wanted our paralyzed friend to live, we wanted him to walk again. And here staying in our quiet little town, in this very home, was an amazing Teacher and Healer we were certain could make that happen. Nobody could do what this man had done unless he was from God. So, we didn’t quit when we found the house was packed with people. We didn’t back down the stairs when we realized what we were doing. And we sure didn’t think about what might happen to us when Jacob suggested we dig down through the roof. We just knew that it was now or never for Aram and anything would be worth the sight of our buddy on his feet, running and playing with us again.
I remember my hands were hurting pretty bad that day when suddenly a light appeared below us as our hole got bigger. I also remember the surprised looks of the folks inside as they scrambled to get out of the way of the falling pieces of roof. What a mess we were making! I heard the angry words they begin to shout up at us but it didn’t matter because by the time we began to lower Aram down through the hole there was no turning back. I was so nervous
I almost dropped my end of the rope until I looked down at the face of the One we had come to see. There below me was the man who had opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. The only person in the room not surprised by our presence was the One who cast out demons, healed a leper with the touch of his hand and amazed the crowds wherever he went. He looked up into my eyes as I strained under the weight of Aram and in a flash of time I knew I had done the right thing. Before he even said a word I was certain my friend would never need his cot again. When he left this house he would be walking out the front door baring the very bed that bore him.
FAITH AND THE CENTURION
An Unlikely Lesson on Faith (As Possibly Told by A Disciple)
Jesus attracted people like flies on a Bedouin camel. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised after all that I had seen and heard. But there was no way I was ready for the daily barrage of humanity that found its way to the Master everywhere he went. People alone, people with friends; poor people and rich people; hurting people, religious people, important people, scorned people; children and the elderly – they kept coming and coming. I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know how he always seemed to be ready to do what needed to be done or to say what needed to be said – but he did. I don’t know how he always found room to care. Now don’t get me wrong those same people wore him out and even frustrated him at times. I saw him angry on more than one occasion and there were days he actually led us in the opposite direction (away from the people) - but he always cared. And the thing was, somehow, he knew each one of them. They came from a hundred different places, each with their own story, their own perspective and their own expectation of Jesus and he spoke to them as if he read their minds and knew their hearts – it was incredible to watch.
But I do remember the day that he was, well, he was surprised. No, I would go so far as to say he was astonished and from my experience – that just didn’t happen very often. It was all about a Centurion, of all people, who I actually never saw and about his servant who, come to think of it, I never saw either. Which makes this story a bit unusual, because if I remember right, Jesus never saw them either despite the fact that he healed the man’s servant who was about to die. I’d better start from the beginning…
We were in Capernaum on a beautiful day and we were heading to the sea but because of this particular ‘barrage of humanity’ we were going nowhere fast. I was impatient, the crowd was getting on my nerves and I was about ready to go find some shade when I noticed the masses around Jesus part like Moses, himself, had waved his staff. This got my attention, you see, because the crowd around Jesus only parted for two reasons. One was when someone unclean was beating a path to his feet and the other was when someone important was about to make his presence known. On this day it was the later as two elders from the synagogue made their way through the throng. Despite my aversion to crowds I found myself moving a little closer to get within earshot. My experience was that when elders or Pharisees, or the like, arrived – things were about to get interesting.
The elders got to the point right away. They were there on behalf of their friend who just happened to be a Centurion. Yeah, I wasn’t sure I was buying that either but I couldn’t help but want to hear more. Apparently this Centurion was really good to the Jews, built the local synagogue and was a man worth helping. But actually the help was needed for his servant who was deathly ill.
It didn’t surprise me at all that Jesus agreed to go with these men to see the servant - it’s what he did. What surprised me took place on the way. Apparently word went back to the Centurion because when we were not far from his home another entourage came out to greet us and to deliver this message from the man. “I don’t deserve you to come to my home - which is why I didn’t come to see you myself”. “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” And right after these startling words came the explanation. “I, myself, am a man under authority with soldiers under me. I know what it means to tell someone what to do and to expect them to do it”.
I gotta tell you, it took a while for that to sink in for me. Authority? Do this, do that. Come, go?… But before this even began to make sense Jesus was saying something extraordinary. He turned to the crowd (I swear he was looking right at me) and said, ‘I have found no greater faith in all of Israel than this’. And with one fell swoop a Centurion, of all people, laid claim on the ‘best faith ever’ award. Wow! No wonder Jesus was shaking his head in wonder.
Looking back over the years spent with Jesus, I realized that faith was the most important lesson that He was to teach. I learned that faith comes in all sorts of sizes and shapes. It’s an automatic reaction with some and with others it comes after months of lessons pounded into the head. It comes in the form of a simple gesture and it comes as the result of a whole perspective change. But faith that is called great - even ‘greater than anything else’ is the understanding that when Jesus controls something, it will do what he says, when he says it. That ‘control’ speaks to his power and to his knowledge, but it also speaks to his love and his grace. It doesn’t require my expectations to be met or a set of procedures that need to be followed. But it does require movement, action or response. And for the faithful Centurion the response was simple... “Just say the word…”
FAITH FROM A FOREIGNER
A Gentile Woman Gets It Right (Mt. 15; Mk. 7)
As far as I am concerned it’s always a good idea to head to the coast. I spend a lot of time around the lake and I love it but there is something decidedly different about the big expanse of the sea. My uncle had a home in Caesarea when I was growing up that I could hardly wait to go visit. The quiet peace that came from the ocean breezes and the sounds of the surf had a calming effect that I remember even as a child. So when I heard the Master say, that day that we were heading to Tyre I was all in. I remember my thought also was – this couldn’t come at a better time. The 35 mile journey to this town by the sea meant a much needed opportunity to get away and to escape what was almost a suffocating existence. Well, Jesus wouldn’t have called it that but I knew this time would be important to him as well.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jesus got the devastating word that his cousin John had been killed and I know that hit him hard. He had wanted to get away then by himself but like so many times the crowds found him. One thing led to another and instead of some time alone he ended up in an all too familiar role – reaching out to meet the needs of others. The more time I spent with Jesus the more I realized that he was not just motivated by compassion (though that was clearly there) but was driven by a mission that superseded all else. Time and time again he explained he was ‘about his fathers business’ and that everything he said and did was in obedience to him. So, he couldn’t help himself – he did what came natural to him but he did it with a clear understanding what he was all about. But that didn’t mean he didn’t need rest. So the news that we were heading to the coast was good news indeed.
The trip started out being all that I expected it would. The crowds were left behind and the demands that so often left Jesus physically and emotionally weary seemed to melt away with every step. It was a good time for us. Peter led the way, assuring us at every bend in the road he knew where he was going while Thomas proceeded to question him at every turn. The journey was leisurely, the conversation was light and the laughter left us all in a great mood. When we finally came down out of the hills and caught our first glimpse of the sea we were tired from walking but there was a calm sense of peace growing in each of us, including Jesus. As I think back over the years we spent with him, I realize that those times were few and far between.
We headed to the shore before we headed to town, but when the time came to find lodging in Tyre we did so with our wits about us. Jesus knew of a home where we could stay but his intent was for us to be there without anyone finding out. You see, we knew that even in the Gentile region of Tyre, out of the country and away from Galilee there would be those who knew about Jesus. There may have been some who even trailed along behind us – guessing where we might end up. Others would have received word one way or another from those who traveled the roads. In either case Jesus just wanted to keep his presence a secret as long as he possibly could. It turned out that wasn’t very long at all.
I guess I kind of took it on myself to look after Jesus. Its fair to say all of us were concerned about him and the pace he was keeping. But I am more the protective type so I was constantly keeping an eye out for his well being and on this trip it was very evident to me that Jesus needed rest - the ‘crowd-free’ kind. And so I couldn’t help but let loose an audible groan when I saw the woman coming toward us. Her appearance told me she was Phoenician, a native of the area, but the look in her eyes told me so much more. I had seen that look many times before. The look of nervous desperation. The look that said, ‘I am determined to act regardless of the consequences’. There would be no stopping her - she needed Jesus.
Jesus didn’t groan, though I think I detected a small sigh, when the woman showed up at our table and fell down at his feet. Her request was straightforward and familiar - ‘my daughter is tormented by an evil spirit, please have mercy on us and come cast it out’. Same song - different verse. Unexpectedly, though, Jesus’ response was - silence. A silence that spoke volumes to me of his state of mind. How much could be asked of him and at what cost? How many people were enough? Jesus’ silence was met by the woman’s persistence until I felt compelled to speak up. “Tell her to go away” I blurted out. She is keeping you from the rest you deserve, the rest you need. I was about to suggest we retire to the house when Jesus finally said something.
Jesus spoke to her that day not in response to her need but in response to his purpose. “My assignment” he explained to the woman, “is to provide for my family, the people of Israel. How can I give you the food that is intended for them?” Well, that was enough for us so we stood up with the clear intention to whisk him out of the room when the woman cried out with words that caught us up quick and amazed Jesus. Hers were words not merely of persistence, as we were soon to find out, but of faith. “Yes, Lord” she said, “but even the dogs under their masters table are allowed to eat the scraps that fall at their feet”. And with those words she had Jesus’ full attention. “Dear woman”, he said, “you have great faith, go home and you will find that your request has been granted”. And in faith she did just that.
As we walked back to the house I kept thinking, ‘what was her faith and why was it so great?’ Once again, what am I missing about this ‘faith thing’ that was all so important to the Master? It wasn’t until later the next day as we walked the shores of the great sea that it came to me. A crumb was enough! That was what the woman believed. Somehow she understood enough about Jesus to know that as big and important and unimaginably difficult the situation facing her daughter was the smallest little piece of what Jesus offered would be sufficient. Though I wasn’t so prone to accept it at the time - I came to realize that this Phoenician woman understood faith better than I, a disciple of Jesus. And I can’t tell you how many times after that when I got up from a meal and flicked the remains of supper off my robes that I was reminded - a crumb is enough.