The Faith of a Mother
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1: 16-17
I can’t imagine how she must have felt standing there watching him die surrounded by the anger of the crowds, the greed of the soldiers, the arrogance of the priests, and the betrayal of his friends.
She had been with him from the beginning. She was his greatest cheerleader. From the start she quietly assembled a treasure box of all things he had done. Like a Rubbermaid box filled with a lifetime of homemade Mother’s Day cards and tiny hand print pictures, her heart stored every memory of the Son God had given her. And now it was the end. Not her end, which is the natural order of things, but His.
So, she stood watching him be humiliated, dehumanized, ridiculed, and killed. She didn’t yell at the crowds or guards to stop. She didn’t tell Him to get down from there. She stood still. Silent. Vulnerable. Hurting. Quietly weeping as He fulfilled His calling. Over the last 33 years, she had grown to accept the fact that He did not belong to her. He belonged to God and His life was meant for a greater purpose, even if it meant breaking her heart. She knew He had to die, but she wasn’t going to let him do it alone. So, she stood like a mother sitting in the stands hands clasped, separated from the one she loves, watching the final minutes of the championship game tick by praying for a miracle.
Women are strong. We have a fortitude that goes beyond our stature. I guess we have to be that way in order to bring life into this world. But even with our great inner resilience, we are weak in our hearts and emotions. Our love for our tribe makes us vulnerable. And, sometimes this vulnerability keeps us from letting those we love to be who God has called them to be. Mary didn’t always get it right (the desperate plea for wine at the wedding in order to keep up appearances), but she did in the end. She never wavered in her support of Jesus and His mission in bringing salvation to all mankind.
On this Good Friday, I am grateful for Mary. His sacrifice is her sacrifice. Her faith produces my faith. As a mom, I want what is best for my children. I want to protect them and keep them safe. I don’t want them to struggle or get hurt. I want them to be successful and flourish in this life. But more importantly, I want to follow Mary’s example of relinquishing her heart to God so that His “righteousness can be revealed from faith for faith” (1:17). I want to cheer my children and others on as they walk the path of faith set before them “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (1:12).
Life is hard and faith comes at a cost. Let’s encourage each other this Easter with the Good News of Jesus because it took a lot for His earthly mother to give Him up.
When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Matthew 9:28
“Well, I never.” “Never in a million years.” “Have you ever seen anything like that before?” “That’s a first for me.” “I just can’t believe it.” “Wow!” “Amazing!” “You’ve got to see this.”
Extraordinary encounters elicit different responses. Some of us are awed and amazed and can’t wait to tell others about the experience hoping they too can enjoy the euphoric high of an adrenaline rush like an extreme sports athlete. Others of us are skeptical and hesitant to give credit where credit is due. We question everyone and everything and think all good things must come with a catch or a hefty price tag.
The two stories in Matthew 9:27-34 provide us with three different responses to the miraculous healing by Jesus.
The first response to encounters with Jesus is to go and tell (Matthew 9:30-31). In this story two blind men who have heard about Jesus, but have never seen him nor been witnesses to his actions, call out to him for healing. Like Tarek and Christina El Moussa on Flip or Flop, they are buying property sight unseen believing the investment will be worth it. Their blind faith (no pun intended) is rewarded by Jesus and their sight is restored. The men believed, without having visible proof, that Jesus was the real deal worth pursing in their quest for healing and the risk paid off.
Like children who have been told not to tell mom what happened, they immediately ran and told everyone they knew what Jesus had done for them and how their life had been forever changed.
The second story reveals two different responses to a miraculous encounter with Jesus. In this story, Jesus restores speech to a man who was made mute by a demon (Matthew 9:32-33). As if they were watching fireworks on the fourth of July, the crowd responds with oohs and aahs and “never have I seen” type statements. The miraculous event is met with the sounds of show-stopping amazement and wowed applause of an audience who has just experienced the best show of their life.
They leave amazed, but unchanged by their encounter.
The third response is one of disparagement. Challenged by the possible truth of who Jesus was, the Jewish leaders of the day do their best to discredit all that He does. The truth of Jesus does not fit into the truth of their faith and threatens their position of power. So, they respond in ridicule and cynicism in order to maintain control of their lives.
What about us?
Do we respond to faith encounters with God by sharing the live changing message with others?
Or, do we stand in awe of it for the moment and then go back unchanged to our regular lives?
Lastly, do we see it as a threat to our comfortable lifestyle and we counter argue it with cynicism and ridicule so we don’t have to make changes in order to make room for Jesus?
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1 (ESV)
PLEEASEEE…just one more? PLEEASEEE….can I go? PLEEEASEEEE…can I stay up? PLEEEEAASSEEE…can I get it?
Oh, the pleas of the desperate hearts of little ones. Their wails of want can be heard in every store aisle, playground jungle gym, church nursery, and suburban home. If there is one adjective to describe a desperate dependent, it’s persistent. Once their hearts are set on something, they don’t let go. Like the relentless squawking of seagulls clamoring for food, the begging, pleading, bargaining, whining, and wailing ensues the moment the way to desire is blocked by a parental “no.”
In today’s passage, Jesus tells a parable of a relentless woman who continually begged and pleaded with an indifferent judge to right a wrong she had experienced (Luke 18:3). Her constant pleading so bothered the judge that he gave in to her demands. Much like the weary parent who says “yes” just to stop the wailing siren of whining, the judge crumbled under the pressure of the widow’s constant begging and granted her wish. “For a while he refused, but afterwards he said to himself, though I neither fear God nor respect men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming” (Luke 18:4).
It wasn’t out of love or godliness that he granted her request. It was because she wore him down. She asked so many times that he finally did what she asked -just to get rid of her. Every parent knows that moment when you can’t take it anymore. That moment you give in and say “yes” because you can take one more moment of pleading.
If weary parents and indifferent judges can be broken by tenacious begging, how much more will the God of heaven do for us when we unceasingly cry out to Him in our desperate moments of need. “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay over them” (Luke 18:6-7).
God doesn’t get “broken” by us, but he does want us to seek Him continually. He wants us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). He wants us to ask, seek, and knock.
He wants us to be persistent in prayer.
Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
What burden is weighing heavy on your heart? Have you taken to the Lord? Take it again. And again. And again.
Don’t lose heart in praying for the things that matter to you most.
Take a page from the toddler playbook and beg, beg, beg.
God promises to hear and to be found when we seek him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:12-14).
More Work Than I Expected
Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they were.” (Acts 15:10-11 ESV)
Oh man, I was in trouble.
The regrets began the minute I peeled off the paper label and started reading the instructions. Do not immerse in water. Do not use soap. Do not put it in the dishwasher. Do not scour. Dry completely with a soft cloth. Lightly season with oil. Re-heat in the oven. Do not let it rust.
I just wanted to be able to grill food quickly on the stove top without firing up the gas grill outside (never mind that it was rusted and on the curb waiting for the trash man).
The small cast iron skillet-grill hanging in the aisle of Target looked like the perfect solution to my problem. But when I got it home and was about to use it, I realized the simple utensil wasn’t so simple after all. The tool, I thought was going to save me time, came with a long list of dos and don’ts. It was not what this convenience cook bargained for at all. What I thought was going to make my life easier, just made it more complicated.
The newly converted Gentiles with their freshly found faith in Acts 15 must have felt a little bit like I did with my new kitchen purchase. They heard the word of the gospel and believed, but now the Jews were saying they needed to do a few more things in order to be “truly” saved. What they thought was a simple act of faithful surrender was turning into a long list of dos and don’ts.
Luckily for them, Peter stepped up, spoke up, and set the Jewish leadership straight.
“Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they were.” (Acts 15:10-11 ESV)
Peter is saying, as Jews we couldn’t keep the law, why should we expect Gentiles to do it? We were saved by grace, so are they. We need to stop telling them that they are not good enough unless they follow our religious rules.
“And God, who knows the heart bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.” (Acts 15:8 ESV)
Salvation is by faith, no extra work is needed.
Our long lists of man-made dos and don’ts only make someone’s walk of faith harder-and this is not God’s intention. We are saved by faith and faith alone, not by doing or not doing what a religious denomination dictates as the way to God’s heart.
“And he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.”(Acts 15: 9 ESV)
I wish my little pan had come with a giant red sticker on it saying “Beware. Cookware requires LOTS of work.” I would have kept on shopping until I found the cooking utensil with the label reading “Easy to Use. Easy to Clean. Ready to Use.”
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.