Wait for Jesus in Stillness
It’s not always the easiest to teach Bible Time or chapel to the kids of Loving Arms. It is almost inevitable that during the Bible story one of the children will shout out something which is completely out of left field. Each time they are looking for undivided attention to their question or statement. Perhaps you have a similar situation in your job or daily life. Interruptions almost work like clockwork –every time we are in the middle of something important there is something else that cries out for our attention. It was no different for Jesus. In our lesson this evening we see Jesus interrupted during a time of teaching.
The theme for our three Advent services this year is: “Wait for Jesus.” Our Lesson this evening reminds us that we Wait for Jesus in Stillness.
1. Wait, despite loud cries
2. For one everlasting compliment
A man had been mute for some time, but now he was able to speak! Those who had seen it happen were amazed at what they had seen, they couldn’t believe it. As they talked among themselves, they shared their own theories as to what had happened. Some had said Jesus drove out the demon because he was the son of David. But the Pharisees in the crowd had a different idea: “Jesus drove out the demon by Beelzebub” (v15). “It was the devil’s own power that drove out this demon,” they said.
Jesus responded to their accusations. “If Satan is divided against himself,” he said, “how can his kingdom stand? And if I am driving out demons in the name of Satan, then by whom do your own followers drive them out?” Jesus point was that he could not be driving out demons in the name of Satan but instead was driving them out by the power of God to show that the kingdom of God had indeed arrived (vv17-20).
Jesus continued with a mini-illustration. “An evil spirit comes out of a man and searches for a new place to rest, but cannot find one. And so the spirit decides to return to where he had left. When the spirit arrives, the house is cleaned and in order, but it is empty. The spirit finds seven other spirits and they all go in and live there” (vv21-26). Jesus point was this – it is not enough to simply reform one’s sinful life. A reformed life is like a house that is swept clean, but lacking any residents. A reformed life, without God living in the heart, is vulnerable to the devil’s continued attacks.
As Jesus spoke to the crowd, their reaction changed. It was no longer wonder at how he had driven out the demons; they were now amazed at his knowledge and teaching. “Clearly,” they thought, “this man knows what he is talking about.” They were impressed with Jesus knowledge of Scripture, they were impressed at his rebuttal to the Pharisees arguments. Some even may have thought, “Where does this man come from?”
One woman couldn’t keep it in any longer. She interrupted Jesus’ teaching and shouted out – Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you (v27)! What was in this woman’s head and heart is not known. Did she think that Mary, Jesus’ own mother, was blessed to have given birth to such a knowledgeable man? Was Jesus’ teaching ability a source of pride – and therefore blessing – for Mary? Perhaps it was something completely different. Perhaps this woman had been influenced by the Roman pagan religion. Perhaps she had the mistaken idea that important and talented men were only born to goddesses of the Roman pantheon. “If I don’t bless this man’s mother, I may anger the goddess that bore him” she may have been thinking.
Whatever her reasons for crying out, she did so that she might attract Jesus’ attention. Maybe it was for selfish reasons; she may have had other motives. Nonetheless, she looked to interrupt our Savior’s teaching. She hoped that Christ’s attention would move from teaching to responding to her cries.
There are things in our lives today that also cry out for our attention, aren’t there? And as we cross off another day and move closer to Christmas, those attention grabbers seem to cry out just that much louder. We receive Christmas cards and letters in the mail and feel the pressure to write our own. As you walk into Wal-Mart or Target those little red bells seem to ring just a little bit louder. The demands and tasks we need to finish at our jobs seem a little more pressing.
Or, perhaps the things that cry out for our attention aren’t nearly as important or necessary. Those Christmas season shopping ads are just a tad bit more colorful and appealing. There are Christmas lights to hang and a tree to purchase. Sometimes we may have a hard time pinpointing exactly what is vying for our attention, and it just seems as if the whole busyness of the holiday season wants our undivided attention.
Whatever it may be that wants our attention, our sinful nature does whatever it can to nudge us toward things of this world and away from our Savior. It’s only natural to feel a bit overwhelmed during the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are Christmas cookies to bake, letters to write, presents to purchase and wrap, and all this in addition to our already busy schedules! And as the Christmas season gets busier as we get closer and closer to December 25th, there seems to be only one easy response – to drop something from our busy schedule in order to free up a chunk of time. And when those thoughts begin to enter our mind, there Satan is, sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ear to forget about coming to God’s house for worship. There’s so much else that needs to be done. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “God can wait, he understands you’re busy. Church will be there when this season is over with!”
My dear brothers and sisters, guard yourselves against such thoughts! Neglect of hearing God’s Word ultimately has one result and it is not a more enjoyable Christmas season! Rather, continued neglect of hearing God’s Word will result in the eternal misery of complete separation from God.
The woman who shouted out to Jesus was looking for him to agree with her shout of blessing. Perhaps she was looking for Jesus to commend her for such an astute observation. She was waiting for a response to her earthly compliment. We wait for Jesus in stillness, because he gives us one everlasting compliment.
Jesus response couldn’t have sounded any more peculiar to the woman’s ears. The confirmation she was looking for was absent, that commendation was not there. Instead, this is how Jesus replied: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it (v28). Should this response have been so surprising to this woman and the crowd around her? After all, it hadn’t been that long ago that Jesus had rebuked Martha for her concern about so many things. He had not only rebuked Martha, but he had also commended Mary for choosing to sit at his feet (Luke 10:38-42). And some time before his visit with Mary and Martha Jesus had told his followers that his real mother and brother’s were not those who shared his DNA but they were really those who heard his word and then put it into practice (Luke 8:19-21).
Do we too wait to hear Jesus’ confirmation of the compliments that we dole out? We may look to hear Jesus say that the ones who are blessed are those who build large churches, or dare I say, even large child care centers? Perhaps we wait for Jesus to say “amen!” to the compliment that those who are blessed are those who spent so much time with family and friends or those who spent the most on gifts. Are the compliments that we seek of the sort that say, “You are blessed because you have amassed great earthly wealth!”
If those are the compliments that we like or look for, then we too are surprised to hear our Savior say, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it (v 28). But we really don’t have any reason to be surprised, do we? We know this passage and all the other passages like it. We have all learned that what God wants from us is far different than what the world wants from us or thinks we should do. God doesn’t desire that we spend our time focusing on our family, friends, and earthly wealth and so neglect hearing and obeying his word. He does desire that we make time for our earthly obligations, but not in such a way that we obsess over them or take time away from our spiritual needs. When Jesus comes again he will not say that those who spent their time focusing on the things of this world are blessed. No, instead, those who will be called “Blessed” will be those who heard the Word of God, who took it to heart, and who obeyed it.
What an important and amazing truth for us to remember as we enter a season which is often declared the busiest time of the year! It’s no secret that that “Honey do list” grows longer this time of year. And as that list grows longer, the items that demand our attention seems to shout a bit louder. As the world begins to cry for more and more of our attention, let us constantly remember Jesus’ words before us this evening. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it (v28).
Therefore, let us always remember to make time – during the Christmas hustle and bustle and all year ‘round – to hear God’s word. And after we have heard God’s Word, may we remember to not leave it sitting on the shelf or return it like some unwanted present. Instead, keep in mind Christ’s words prior to our lesson this evening – that it is not simply enough to live a “reformed” life. As we obey God’s word – living a life reformed by that word – we also should treasure it as the best gift we will receive this Christmas season.
It is in that word that we are drawn to the foot of Calvary’s cross. There we lovingly and gratefully gaze on our crucified Savior. As we look at him hanging there, we are reminded that his purpose on earth was not to gain earthly wealth or fame. He did not come to build his social structure or increase his bank account.
Instead we see a Savior whose most important commitment was studying and spending time in God’s Word. We see him who knew it was important to gather in God’s house – even at the early age of 12! Jesus saw it important to regularly talk to with his Father in prayer. And as the pressures of his earthly life grew louder, as his schedule filled up that last week before his crucifixion, Christ knew the most important thing to do was spend time studying and teaching God’s Word.
It is on that cross that we see our Savior – who not only heard God’s word and made time for it, but did so perfectly on our behalf. Christ obeyed God’s word perfectly so that by his death he might pay the penalty for sin. Because of his death, it is possible for us to be called “blessed.”
During this season of Christmas it seems as if our priorities are playing a game with each other as to which gets the majority of our time. Some of these priorities may be necessary – others may be labeled as “frill.” As we struggle to prioritize, especially this busy Christmas season, let us never forget the Word of God. The world may loudly cry out for our attention, but a lack of attention to God’s Word has eternal consequences. The strength we receive in God’s Word allows us to keep on waiting for Jesus in stillness. We wait for him by hearing God’s Word; and in that word that we receive an everlasting compliment!