What makes me fall in love with Jesus?
I often run through conversations I have had and think about what I should have said. I was once in an elevator with a musician who was leading worship at the conference I was attending. I told him how much I appreciated his skill with a guitar. And then for some reason I told him “I play the guitar too.” I knew immediately this was a stupid thing to say and struggled to think of an analogy that would show how stupid a comment that was. It was later in my room that I thought of what I should have said. If I could go back in time I would have told him, “Of course, that’s like telling a dolphin I know how to swim too.”
Abigail Dahoud emailed me to say that one of the things that makes her fall in love with Jesus is how he answered the questions people asked. Jesus had amazing answers to questions people asked him. It doesn’t seem that Jesus had to wait until later to find the best response to a question asked of him. So this week I have been looking at questions people asked Jesus. Next week, Elliot will preach about questions Jesus asked others.
I found information on the internet about questions Jesus answered. Jesus answered 113 different questions in the four gospels. 52 of these questions were questions Jesus asked of himself and then answered. That’s more of a rhetorical device, a way of getting your point across to someone else, so I passed by those questions. That leaves 61 questions that people asked Jesus and I picked four of them to talk about this morning.
The first is found in Matthew 11:2–6
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Elizabeth, the mother of John, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were probably cousins. Perhaps, because of their age difference, Elizabeth was the aunt of Mary. At any rate, they were related and when Mary discovered she was going to give birth to Jesus she went to Elizabeth to stay for three months to process what had happened to her.
This made their relationship, whatever it was, a much closer relationship and over the years when everyone made their way to Jerusalem for the religious festivals, it is most probable that they spent time together. This meant that John and Jesus grew up knowing each other.
When disciples began to be drawn to John, there is speculation that Jesus was one of his disciples. What is more clear is that many of the disciples Jesus called to follow him were first the disciples of John the Baptist.
The closeness of their relationship, their friendship, helps to understand Matthew 14 when Jesus received news that John had been beheaded. (Matthew 14:13)
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Jesus left the crowds coming to him for healing and withdrew to grieve.
Some time before this, after John had been arrested and was sitting in Herod’s prison, John sent a message to Jesus through his disciples. “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
When John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan River, he had been told that the Spirit would descend on the one who was the Messiah. (John 1:32–34)
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
John knew who Jesus was, but he did not know that his cousin and friend was God’s Chosen One. When John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus, he must have been shocked and surprised. How had he not know this? Had Jesus kept this a secret from him?
But I think Jesus was also surprised when he was baptized and heard God say to him, (Matthew 3:17) “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Jesus left to go to the wilderness to fast and pray and contemplate the implications of what he had heard.
At any rate, John was the first to know that Jesus was the Messiah. But now John was sitting in Herod’s prison and thinking. He knew his life could be over at any time. Was he doubting what he had experienced at the baptism of Jesus?
Cory Driver was a member of RIC a few years ago and he helped me understand this story. Both John the Baptist and Jesus knew the scriptures. They knew them well and in this case they used their knowledge of Isaiah to communicate with each other.
John asked if Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus responded with
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
When John’s disciples reported to John what Jesus had said, he knew that Jesus was referencing Messianic passages from Isaiah.
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
Jesus sent a message to John saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah and my works are evidence that this is who I am.”
If John was having doubts, wondering what it was he experienced when he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus, Jesus reassured him that what he saw at the baptism of Jesus was true.
But there is another message Jesus sent in his response. This message was hidden, not contained in what Jesus said, but in what he did not say. John knew the rest of Isaiah 61:1 that Jesus did not mention.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
Jesus answered John by telling him the truth, that he would not be released from prison. But by omitting the reference, “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” he was helping his cousin prepare for the reality of what was coming.
What seems a simple answer was actually a deeply pastoral message to his cousin. If John was having any doubts about who Jesus was, he was reassured and if he was uncertain about his future, Jesus helped him to prepare for what was to come.
I find this a deeply moving response. And remember what follows this. Jesus talked to his followers about John. Jesus sang his praises, lifting him up in what was almost a eulogy.
Matthew 11:7–15 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Sometime later Jesus went away by himself to grieve the loss of his cousin.
When I see how Jesus loved his cousin and how he spoke loving truth to him while he sat in prison, it makes me fall in love with Jesus.
Luke 10:25–37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “ ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
I talked last Sunday about the Pharisees and teachers of the Law testing Jesus. In this case an expert in the Law of Moses posed a question to Jesus.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As tests go, this was a great question to ask. This is not a religious question; it is a question about what happens to me after I die. Perhaps he and another man were having a discussion about the resurrection from the dead and he wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.
Jesus answered, “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
This man was a lawyer, an expert in the Law of Moses and he gave a good answer.
“‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But now the heart of the expert in the law was exposed.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This was a man who prided himself on his knowledge of the law and his obedience to the law. He was looking for an answer that could be added to his “to do list” so he could check off each day his obedience to God. He wanted an answer that would tell him what his minimal response needed to be to fulfill his responsibility.
This reminds me of the encounter Jesus had with the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus but did not want to give all of himself to Jesus. He wanted to be a part-time follower of Jesus which would allow him to focus on his own responsibilities and pleasures.
But in that case and in this case, Jesus is not interested in part-time followers who give some of themselves to him. Jesus wants complete and total commitment.
In his response to this question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was robbed and severely beaten. As he lay by the side of the road a priest passed by without helping him. A Levite, one of the descendants of Levi who served in the temple, also passed by without helping the man. A priest and a Levite would be expected to be the most holy of men.
And then a Samaritan, a despised Samaritan who was unclean because of intermarriage with Gentiles, passed by. He helped the man, took him to an inn, and gave money to pay for his food and care.
Jesus asked the expert in the law,
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In the parable Jesus told in answer to the man’s question, Jesus spoke about the need for the heart to be involved. The expert in the law, a lawyer, was concerned with the legal requirements needed to be righteous. Jesus pointed him to his heart.
Jesus could have taken the expert in the law to texts in the Bible that would give him a list of what he needed to do, but instead he told a story that made clear that what God is looking for in men and women is not a legalistic measuring up against the law, but a heart that cares for people like God cares for people, a heart full of mercy.
Jesus told such brilliant parables. His parables were like lasers focusing in on the heart of the issue, the heart of the questions asked. Jesus did not get distracted and get lost in a theological discussion. Jesus spoke from the heart to the heart of those he talked with.
The brilliance of Jesus and his focus on our heart response to life’s questions makes me fall in love with Jesus.
Mark 10:17–22 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
This account appears in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This man who came up to Jesus was a good man. A man who was much admired. He was a leader in his community. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, a poor Jewish peasant who makes a living selling milk from his cow, sings about being rich. He sings about having a grand house with one staircase going up and one going down and a third going nowhere just for show. And then he sings,
The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Reb Tevye…”
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye…”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And then Tevye adds,
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!
Whether the rich young ruler was wise or not, his wealth made what he said wise in the ears of those around him.
The encounter started out well. This man, who was used to being treated with respect because of his wealth, ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before him. That shows a lot of humility. It shows how much he respected Jesus and how much he wanted to follow him.
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
How did Jesus answer him?
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
Jesus answered his question by asking him who he thought he was talking to. In calling Jesus “good”, did he suspect Jesus might be the Messiah? The rich young ruler ran to see Jesus. He was on his knees before Jesus, not something you would expect a rich ruler to do. Jesus’ response was a probing question, directed to see what was in the heart and mind of this young man.
Jesus did the same thing with Pilate. The chief priest and his council brought Jesus to Pilate and when Pilate had Jesus brought into his palace he asked him, (John 18:33–38)
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus is being abused and heading to his death by crucifixion, but in the midst of the greatest trial of his life Jesus shows his concern for Pilate.
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Who do you think I am?” Jesus is asking Pilate. His response shows that his heart is reaching out to Pilate. Jesus was soon to die on the cross for Pilate and he wants Pilate to respond, to open his heart to God.
Jesus was not content with people thinking he was a good man. He was not content to be admired. The crowds coming to him did not go to his head. In his encounters with people he had one goal, one question in his mind: How can I rescue this person? What can I say to this person that will draw them to me?
The heart of Jesus for the people he talked with, his unceasing desire for the people he talked with to come into his kingdom makes, me fall in love with Jesus.
There are so many wonderful stories. Let me share one more.
Matthew 26:6–13 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
I mentioned this last week in talking about the woman caught in adultery. Jesus saw men and women as people, not objects to be used for his own purposes.
For example, in John 9:1–2 Jesus and his disciples passed by a man who was a blind beggar.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples of Jesus saw a theological question, but Jesus saw a man about to come into the kingdom of God. The blind beggar was a person to Jesus.
In this account in Matthew 26 a woman (John tells us this was Mary, the sister of Lazarus), anointed Jesus with fragrant oil just a week or so before he entered Jerusalem, was arrested, and crucified. The disciples saw a lot of money being wasted, poured out on Jesus, running down on his clothes, and dripping onto the floor.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
But Jesus saw her devotion to him and responded,
“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Over my years at RIC have seen many extraordinary people who came to Morocco with great gifts and talents and used them to bless people in Morocco. If they had stayed in their home country, they could have made a lot of money, lived an extravagant and comfortable life. But they set that aside and used their gifts and talents for the benefit of people living in this country. They are like expensive perfume poured out on the head of Jesus.
The world would say they have wasted their resources and talents, but Jesus responds, “Why are you bothering these people, they have done a beautiful thing to me.”
When I see how Jesus saw the heart of those who came to him, when I see the pleasure of Jesus as he watched people coming into his kingdom, it makes me fall in love with him.
When you read the gospels, take time to think about what the people Jesus interacted with thought and felt. The people Jesus interacted with were people like you and me with ambitions, dreams, desires, fears, insecurities – the human nature we have in common with all men and women who have ever lived on this planet. Watch how Jesus related to them and then remember that how Jesus related to them is how he relates to us. Put your feet in the shoes (or sandals) of those people, experience the love of Jesus, and fall deeper in love with Jesus.
Falling in love with Jesus – what a gift that is to us.