Chapter Fifty – Matthew 16: The Ultimate Question

glowing???

The storm’s approaching / I’m standing high and dry / Firmly planted on the Rock that is higher than I…I am on the Rock, the sure foundation…I am on the Rock, His revelation / I am on the Rock, though the winds may blow and though the floods may grow I shall not be moved – Petra, I Am On the Rock, from the 1990 album “Beyond Belief”

One of the major questions that floats among the stories of the gospel accounts demands to know who Jesus is. It stands to reason that if you can answer that question, you can explain how He is able to do the things He does. It’s a question that still echoes through the corridors of time to today. It ranks up there with other existential inquiries such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” I would argue, though, that to answer who this Jesus character is aids in answering all the other questions.

So far, Jesus has been telling people in Matthew’s gospel account to keep His identity a secret and not tell others about the conclusions they have reached. Why? Psychologists have speculated that the best way to get people talking about something it to insist that they don’t talk about it at all. Maybe that’s the angle Jesus is taking here. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. In any event, at this point in chapter sixteen, Jesus raises the question Himself and asks His disciples what they’ve heard others saying about Him (v. 13).

The disciples answer with the great names of prophets from ages past: John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. Someone like that. One thing is for certain: Jesus isn’t fishing for compliments here. He has a definite agenda to asking this question based on the question He asks next.

“But who do you say I am?” (v. 15).

There it is. That’s the heart of the conversation. That’s what He really wants to know. It’s not that He isn’t aware of what others are saying about Him. He already knows what others think. He is deliberately confronting His own disciples and probing them for their take on His identity. It’s almost like He’s saying, “That’s nice they think I’m Elijah or Jeremiah but who do you say I am?”

That’s the question He asks of all of us sooner or later, and our response determines our destiny in the next life. There are only a handful of possibilities for an answer. Theologian C.S. Lewis stated we can only reach one of four conclusions and they all start with the letter “L”.

  • He is a Legend – He never really existed. He’s a mythological figure like Zeus or Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. One would have to ignore historically verified documents that state otherwise to hold this position.
  • He is a Liar – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God knowing He was full of crap and none of it was true.
  • He is a Lunatic – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God, when He wasn’t, but was delusional enough to believe it was true which makes Him crazy.
  • He is Lord – He allowed Himself to be called the Son of God and claimed equal footing with God because it’s all true.

The apostle Peter, perhaps my most favorite disciple because I completely identify with the roller coaster that His life represents during His time with Jesus, blurts out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). As a result, Jesus calls Peter blessed because God had revealed that information to him. Then He goes on to say that He will establish His church upon this rock (petra – a play on the name of Peter). It’s a sign that at least the early church will be built on a firm foundation (Himself, the Christ).

At this time of the year, in part where we claim He is the reason for the season, who do you say He is? Upon what are you building your life? My late maternal grandfather used to “witness” to friends by saying, “If I’m wrong about Jesus, there’s nothing to worry about. But, if I’m right, Jesus makes all the difference”.  It’s not just about what’s beyond the grave, if anything, but also about the here and now. I would assert there is nothing better than starting a new year with a new direction in life. It’s easier than dieting and promising to exercise more. Like Peter, it’s simply determining the answer to a question Jesus is still asking, “Who am I?”

Chapter Forty Nine – Matthew 16: Beware the Yeast

yeast

Time is no friend to the ones who wait
For daylight to come
Time looks the same at the ones who hate
And the ones that do nothing

  • Derek Webb, Black Eye, from the 2009 album “Stockholm Syndrome”

Jesus is alone on the other side of the lake with the disciples after His latest encounter with the Pharisees and religious leaders, when Matthew records that the disciples were concerned they hadn’t brought any bread with them. Then Jesus makes a very strange statement: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 6). What the what?

Even the disciples are confused and Jesus patiently explains He is not talking about bread bread. He even uses the examples of feeding the 5,000 and feeding the 4,000 to underscore their physical needs in the form of bread can easily be met at any time. Somehow, they come to understand “that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching” (v. 12) of the religious elite.

Jesus uses yeast, the main ingredient in helping bread to rise, “as an example of how a small amount of evil can affect a large group of people. The wrong teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees were leading many people astray” (Study Bible, p. 1576). And the same thing is happening today across America.

Current religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Franklin Graham and others have sold their soul in support of our immoral President and his administration, while mega-church preachers like Joel Osteen proclaim a gospel of prosperity that somehow manages to only make them rich (as if being materially rich is our main spiritual goal in life). Both groups are seriously wrong and teaching incorrect doctrine. But as bad as these men are for the spiritual health and reputation of the church, the church itself refuses to call these people out on their bullshit. The church stands by and does nothing to rebuke them but instead continues to embrace their ideology which makes it fully complicit in the evil being spread. As a result, the message of the Christ suffers and is rendered ineffective in the world.

So what can be done? We can support leaders both in the church and in politics who LIVE the attributes of Jesus. People who support social justice. People who welcome refugees. People who strive to unify rather than divide. People who are concerned about lifting the poor up instead of stepping on them. People who seek to serve the least of these  – the homeless, the food insecure, the forgotten – on a DAILY basis rather than a once a month cause at best. People who put their time and money into the cause of “others” rather than themselves. People who stand against immorality and call falsehood by its name. People who are truly “pro-life” for ALL people, not just the unborn. Get the idea? In other words, people who are Christian in their ideology AND the way they live, not in name only. Because that is what is happening now – and a lost world recognizes it and wants nothing to do with us.

Remember, Jesus said you can tell a tree by the kind of fruit it bears (Matthew 7:15-20). You can tell what kind of people they are by their actions. It’s not hard. This is a crisis that is completely solvable but it is up to us, the members of the church to stand up and speak out, since so many leaders are compromised.  Right now, as Jesus warned, the yeast is ruining the bread. Like the song lyrics above state, time is not the friend of those of us who choose to wait out the problem in hopes that it will resolve itself. We must demand better of our leaders. We must hold them accountable. It’s not just the future of the church at stake. It’s also the eternity of millions of people who need to see truth and grace lived out, not just spoken about from ivory towers.

Beware the yeast of the religious leaders of our day. Don’t just listening to what they say, carefully examine the way they live their lives. They are more concerned today with power and wealth than with actually living out the attributes of Christ to a lost world. Remember, Jesus reached out to the marginalized. He lifted up the broken. He blessed those who welcomed the stranger. If America were truly a Christian nation – we wouldn’t have hungry children because we would honor life by making sure they were adequately fed instead of cutting government assistance for them. If America were truly a Christian nation – we wouldn’t be over-run by rape culture or domestic violence. We wouldn’t have an opioid epidemic on our hands. We wouldn’t need a Black Lives Matter movement or a March For Our Lives movement. We wouldn’t have Nazis marching in our streets.

But America is not a Christian nation because it is not led by Christians. Those men listed above? They are Christians in name only. It’s time to rid ourselves of the yeast before it completely ruins us.

Chapter Forty Eight – Matthew 16: A Cold Heart

cold heart

Don’t let your heart be hardened / Don’t let your love grow cold / May it always stay so childlike / May it never grow too old – Petra, Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened, from the 1987 album “This Means War!”

The Pharisees and other religious leaders are at it again: demanding the Christ give them a sign to prove He is who He says He is. This time, however, they think they’ve outdone themselves. They demand a specific sign. One they think He can’t perform. A “sign from heaven” (v. 1). I don’t know exactly what they were looking for. Did they want the sun to turn black? Or for a star to fall from the sky? Did they want a plague of locusts to blanket the horizon? No one knows. It could have been anything. Maybe they purposefully left it open-ended just to bait Him into responding.

You see, the religious leaders of His day tried to “explain away Jesus’ other miracles as sleight of hand, coincidence, or use of evil power, but they believed only God could do a sign in the sky. This, they were sure, would be a feat beyond Jesus’ power” (Study Bible, p. 1575).  One thing is clear: Jesus was having none of it, as usual.

He never minces words, this Jesus fellow. He tells them they know how to interpret the weather but they have no clue how to read the sign of the times (v. 2-3). He calls them an “evil, adulterous generation” (v. 4) and tells them the only sign He will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the great fish for three days. What? They probably had no clue how to interpret the last part of this comment. What was He trying to say?

This is the second time Jesus has told them He would only give them this sign (see 12:38-42), and He was referring to His death and resurrection when he said it. It’s a prediction. And surely there is no greater way to prove you are God than to die and bring yourself back to life. Right?

But the Pharisees and the religious leaders missed it because they had cold hearts. Here Jesus is willing to give them a sign greater than the one they are asking for, and they didn’t get it. Oh, He could have done as they wanted. So why didn’t He? Why be cryptic with them? Most biblical scholars believe that Jesus didn’t perform on command because He knew they still wouldn’t believe in Him anyway; that they had already made up their minds that He was NOT God so it wouldn’t have done any good to give them what they wanted. “He knew that even a miracle in the sky would not convince them he was the Messiah” (Study Bible, p. 1575).

And all of that just goes to show how gracious God really is. Sure, He could have forced them to believe in Him, but that’s just not His style. I sure would have been tempted to take this route. Not Jesus. He never forces Himself on people. Is it possible to do something miraculous in the heavens? Of course. But when hearts are hard, He doesn’t demand they soften to Him. Which is why we, as believers, shouldn’t force Jesus on others either. Instead, go above and beyond their expectations in how we live our lives. Give them more than they ask for, just like Jesus did with the Pharisees.

There are some people today who say they would believe if they only saw a miracle, just like the religious leaders of His day. But Jesus knows miracles don’t convince the skeptical. The disciple John would record in his gospel that Jesus would say people are blessed when they believe without seeing proof (20:29). Which begs the question: which are you?

Are you the kind of person waiting around for a miracle to happen before you commit? “Do you doubt Christ because you haven’t seen a miracle? Do you expect God to prove himself to you personally before you believe?…We have miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments, 2,000 years of church history, and the witness of thousands. With all this evidence, those who won’t believe are either too proud or too stubborn” (Study Bible, p. 1576). There’s a great series of books by a man named Josh McDowell called Evidence Which Demands a Verdict. Each volume lays out the direct evidence for believing in Scripture in a simple, methodical way. They lay to rest the doubts and questions that many people have today when it comes to Christianity.

But don’t take my word for it. Investigate for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_9?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=evidence+that+demands+a+verdict&sprefix=Evidence+%2Cstripbooks%2C186&crid=3HKRN63BQUH72

Or maybe you know someone who would benefit from reading this book. It would make a great holiday present. Either way, the choice is yours. Investigate or don’t. Jesus will still be Jesus no matter who believes in Him and who doesn’t. And we have the benefit of being on this side of the sign of Jonah. The grave is empty. The rest is history. Remain childlike. Don’t be like the religious leaders. Don’t let your heart grow cold.

Chapter Forty Seven – Matthew 15: Multiplying the Past

multiply

I will cast my cares on You / You’re the anchor of my hope / The only one who’s in control / I will cast my cares on You / I’ll trade the troubles of this world for Your peace inside my soul

  • Finding Favour, Cast My Cares, from the 2015 album “Reborn”

Jesus is on the loose in a land of the Gentiles, Phoenicia. It’s a sleepy seaside community consisting of two primary towns: Tyre and Sidon. He’s still indiscriminately healing people even though they are not from the lost tribe of Israel (v. 29-31), when He becomes concerned about them. He says, “’I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry or they will faint along the way’” (v. 32).

First of all, can we blame the people for wanting to be near Jesus? The man is amazing. They’ve basically been having a weekend revival and no one wants to go home. The problem: they are running out of food and Jesus mentions this fact to His disciples. Note: The group is out in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It’s not like there’s a Mickey D’s or Circle K nearby. They are in the wilderness, as stated by the disciples (v. 33), who – for some reason – are at a loss for how to feed so many people. What?

Do they actually not remember the miracle of the fish and loaves from before when Jesus fed over 10,000 people? And yet, how like us. We do the exact same thing. We come to a “problem” in life – we turn to Jesus – He solves it – and we go on our merry way with retrograde amnesia when the next problem surfaces. The disciples literally ask the same question they asked before when in this situation: “’Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?’” (v. 33).

Jesus, ever patient, asks how much bread is available (v. 34) and the disciples report they have seven loaves and a few small fish (v. 35). So Jesus does what He did before: He takes what He is given, He blesses it, and then He multiplies it so there is enough food for everyone to eat as much as they want (v. 35-37a). Again, He satisfies the crowd, which is estimated at 4,000 men (v. 38), not counting the women and the children. It sure sounds a lot like the other story (14:13-21). In fact, some people wonder if authors like Matthew merely got confused and wrote twice about the same situation. This story is also found in Mark 8:1-10. It is confirmed to be two different occasions in Mark 8: 19-20. The primary difference between the two feedings are that one is for a Jewish audience, and the other is for a Gentile audience.

But let’s get back to the disciples reaction. Again, they are perplexed and at first glance, I don’t know why. It’s literally the same problem as before. Yet here they are, throwing their hands up in despair at how to solve it. Really? I mean, come on. If Jesus had just finished feeding over 10K people, why wouldn’t they remember that and act accordingly? I mean, I want to think that I would instantly start to gather up whatever leftover food there was and bring it to Jesus so He can do the multiplying trick again. But no, they give up.

It’s easy to chastise the disciples. It’s easy to criticize them. But in reality, when I really start to think about it, I am just like them. Only with me, it’s not just once or twice that a particular issue surfaces as a problem and I am dumbstruck as to how God is going to work it out this time. No, I mean, literally the same issue will surface over and over and over and I’m at a loss. Got a giant bill to pay and not enough money in the bank account to pay it? All the time. And do I remember that God provided before? Why do I tend to think He will drop me on my head now? Yet I panic. Every. Single. Time.

What’s your issue? What keeps resurfacing over and over and over again? You know God has answered your prayers in the past but for some reason you doubt He’ll answer you this time?

The good news is that He stands ready to act. The disciple known as Peter, who is thought to have probably informed Mark’s gospel, wrote a letter later that said in part, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT). Literally, the word translated here as give means to cast away, like a net when fishing. Something that is thrown away from the body and towards something else; in this case, God the Father.

Here’s the footnote from my Study Bible: “It takes humility…to recognize that God cares, to admit your need, and to let others in God’s family help you. Sometimes we think that struggles caused by our own sin and foolishness are not God’s concern. But when we turn to God in repentance, he will bear the weight of even those struggles. Letting God have your anxieties calls for action, not passivity. Don’t submit to circumstances, but to the Lord who controls the circumstances” (p. 2136).

And let’s let the past inspire us to once again start collecting what little food there is so that Jesus can once again perform the multiplying trick.

Chapter Forty Six – Matthew 15: A Word About Table Scraps

tablescraps

To the thief, to the doubter / To the hero and the coward / To the prisoner and the soldier /
To the young, to the older / All who hunger, all who thirst / All the last, all the first /
All the paupers and the princes / All who fail you’ve been forgiven / All who dream, all who suffer / All who loved and lost another / All the chained, all the free / All who follow, all who lead / Anyone who’s been let down / All the lost you have been found / All who’ve been labeled right or wrong / Everyone who hears this song/ Just come, come to the table
Oh, come join the sinners you have been redeemed / Take your place beside the Savior
Just sit down and be set free

Sidewalk Prophets, Come to the Table, from the 2015 album “Something Different”

The Christ and His gang of followers have left the region of Galilee and headed north to Phoenicia on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. This is a sea-faring group of Gentiles (non-Jews). It is interesting that Jesus heads here to minister because, as He admits in this passage, His primary purpose is to seek the lost sheep of Israel (v. 24). What is He doing among the Gentiles?

He’s doing what He does best: teaching and healing. A woman (read: second-class citizen) comes to Him and begs for help, saying “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely!” (v. 22). What puzzles me is that Jesus doesn’t respond right away to the woman. In fact, He gives her the silent treatment and the disciples, annoyed by her pestering, urge Him to send her away.

Nevertheless, she persisted, and Jesus utters the line about only serving the house of Israel. He’s not saying He won’t help. In fact, Jesus ministers to Gentiles in other portions of scripture. What He is saying is that “Jews were to have the first opportunity to accept him as the Messiah because God wanted them to present the message of salvation to the rest of the world (see Genesis 12:3)” (Study Bible, p. 1575). She still doesn’t give up. Matthew writes “But she came and worshipped him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’” (v. 25).  Jesus apparently tries to dissuade her once more, this time by saying, “’It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs’” (v. 26). Say what?

“Dog was a term the Jews commonly applied to Gentiles because the Jews considered these pagan people no more likely than dogs to receive God’s blessings. Jesus was not degrading the woman by using this term; he was reflecting the Jews’ attitude so as to contrast it with his own” (Study Bible, p. 1575). It is important to note that the woman does not argue with Jesus or become insulted by His choice of words.  Instead, she offers a clever reply that seems to delight Him.

“She replied, ‘That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table’” (v. 27). Imagine the humility and the boldness it took to utter these words.  “Instead, using Jesus’ choice of words, she agreed to be considered a dog as long as she could receive God’s blessing for her daughter” (Study Bible, p. 1575). Even Jesus notes her great faith and says because of it, her request will be granted (v. 28a). Matthew writes that her daughter “was instantly healed” (v. 28b).

Can you imagine the mother’s relief? Can you imagine how the trajectory of her daughter’s life has been forever altered for the better? For the first time, in perhaps a long time, her daughter will now lead a “normal” life. Now, buried hopes and dreams have a chance to become realized. All of that begging and pleading pays off.

The only thing that maybe bothers me a little bit is it took a good number of exchanges before Jesus acquiesced. Maybe He was testing her faith. Or “he may have wanted to use the situation as another opportunity to teach that faith is available to all people…Ironically, many Jews would lose God’s blessing and salvation because they rejected Jesus, and many Gentiles would find salvation because they recognized and accepted him” (Study Bible, p. 1575). It’s like the lyrics to the song above say, the invitation is open to all. It doesn’t matter your background or situation. Everyone is welcome at the table.

The question now is: what have you done about it? I have my place. Do you have yours? I would love to see you there. Like the Gentile mother, it’s a simple matter of faith. It’s not even a question of receiving table scraps (though, as we’ve seen, the scraps invoke incredible results). The full banquet dinner awaits.

Chapter Forty Five – Matthew 15: A Pure Heart

pure heart

When the day is closing in
Like the stars in the night I am falling
Into the pull of the earth and its affection
In me, oh lord, can you create
A pure heart cause I’m afraid
That I just might run back to the things I hate

  • Tenth Avenue North, Satisfy, from the 2008 album “Over and Underneath”

As Matthew chapter fifteen opens, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law are confronting Jesus over the fact that His disciples are not observing the practice of washing their hands before eating. It’s an age-old tradition and one meant to promote good health. Considering that there wasn’t any hand sanitizer back then, and even my mother would request we wash our hands before dinner, it seems to be a sensible issue; one that Jesus should probably agree with.

“The Pharisees and teachers of religious law came from Jerusalem, the center of Jewish authority, to scrutinize Jesus’ activities. Over the centuries since the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, hundreds of religious traditions have been added to God’s laws. The Pharisees and teachers of religious law considered them all equally important” (Study Bible, p. 1573).

But Jesus knows the religious leaders are not concerned with proper health practices but with once again trying to trap Jesus and His crew in a position of breaking religious law. And Jesus is having none of it. He fires back and asks them why they don’t observe their own traditions like honoring their father and mother (one of the original ten commandments). “And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own traditions. You hypocrites!” (v. 6b-7a).

It’s important to note that “[m]any traditions are not bad in themselves. Certain religious traditions can add richness and meaning to life. But we must not assume that because our traditions have been practiced for years, they should be elevated to sacred standing. God’s principles never change, and his law doesn’t need additions. Traditions should help us understand God’s law better, not become laws themselves” (Study Bible, p. 1573).

Jesus then turns His focus to the heart of the matter: inner purity is what matters to God. He uses the example of what a person eats does not defile them, but the words that come out of our mouths can and often do defile us. The disciples are shocked and so are the Pharisees. You see, Jews had strict dietary laws of what they could and could not eat (see Leviticus 11). Jesus is again turning centuries of religious teaching on its head. Then He sums it all up by saying, “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you” (v. 17-20).

He’s talking about the importance of having a pure heart. “We work hard to keep our outward appearance attractive, but what is deep down in our heart (where others can’t see) is more important to God…When people become Christians, God makes them different on the inside. He will continue the process of change inside them if they only ask. God wants us to have healthy thoughts and motives, not just healthy bodies” (Study Bible, p. 1574).

What am I like on the inside? Am I a better person inside today than I was yesterday? Will I be a better person tomorrow than I am today? God expects progress in our lives. He expects growth. He expects change. If none of those things are happening in our lives, then we must question whether our relationship to Him is genuine. If we are constantly running back to do the things that God hates, we may not truly be His after all. How pure is my heart? Do I mirror the pureness of the Most High? Or am I sitting in the sludge of unholiness?

The word holy means to be set apart for a special purpose. God wants our hearts pure so we can openly reflect His holiness to a world mired in sin. It’s part of the gospel of attraction that surrounds the good news of the Christ. “It is not enough to study about religion of even to study the Bible; it is not enough to act religious. Our actions and our attitudes must be sincere” (Study Bible, p. 1574). I would add they also need to be pure. Otherwise, we are no better than the Pharisees and teachers of religious law.

Chapter Forty Four – Matthew 14: Faith Like a Child

childlike-faith

They say that I can move the mountains
And send them falling to the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
With faith like a child

            Jars of Clay, Like a Child, from the 1995 self-titled, debut album

We’ve just seen Peter do the impossible with Jesus – walking on water. The storm is calmed, and the boat lands safely on the other side of the Sea of Galilee on the shores of a city called Gennesaret. It’s a town just to the southwest of Capernaum, and guess what? Jesus is recognized (like a rock star walking through the airport) and word spreads of his arrival. Pretty soon, there are hordes of people bringing their sick and dying to the Christ so He can heal them.

Does it ever stop? When I was much younger, I used to dream about being famous, but not any more. Not in today’s society and not 2,000 years ago in a small Roman province called Galilee or Judea. I just don’t think I have the energy required to deal with all of the demands that others can place on someone who is famous. The requests never stop. Can you get me tickets to Hamilton? Will you donate to this worthy charity? Can you heal my child will leukemia? A broken arm? A mute tongue?

It’s not that I wouldn’t want to do these things for others. I just don’t know if I could keep pace with it all. Let’s think about the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life so far. His cousin John has been executed. He’s catered a meal to over 10,000 people and healed hundreds. He has not slept. He’s saved the disciples from yet another storm on the Sea. And now, more people want to be healed. In fact, they have this notion that if they are allowed to only touch the hem of his garments, they will be healed (v. 36). All of this qualifies as rock star stuff.

Have you ever seen video footage of when the Beatles landed in the States? People went absolutely bonkers. Hysterical crying and shouting. Hordes of people. And that’s what I envision happening here at the end of Matthew chapter fourteen. There are people swarming Jesus with out-stretched hands – just trying to brush His clothes as He passes by with the tips of their fingers. They’re calling His name and begging Him to turn His head in their direction. The disciples encircle Him like body guards as He makes His way through the crowd. It’s absolute madness. There’s a definite electricity in the air.

Or maybe not. I mean, I wasn’t there (obviously). I don’t know for sure one way or another. But the thing I find really cool is that people had so much faith in Him, they only needed to touch the clothes He was wearing – and they were healed. That’s faith like a child.

Jesus mentions such faith in Mark 10:14-15 and Luke 18:17. In fact, He says it’s absolutely mandatory for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s think about some of the ways children have a simple but trusting faith. You can tell a child pretty much anything and, unless given rock solid proof to the contrary, they will believe you. For example, they believe in mythical figures like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny because we tell them such figures are real. They see the proof in the presents left on Christmas morning and the Easter Basket found on Easter Sunday. I’m not comparing Jesus (who really existed) to St. Nick (who also existed). I’m just saying children believe so easily and freely, and that’s what Jesus is saying His followers must do.

Note: That doesn’t mean we don’t ask hard questions about Him. I have a six year old nephew who is very curious and he wants to know the back story to EVERYTHING. He gets the facts and examines the evidence – and then he doesn’t let the obvious escape him. He accepts the conclusion: Santa exists.

Jesus wants the same thing from us. He wants childlike faith in Him, not blind faith. Look at the evidence in Scripture. Ask the hard questions. Accept the obvious conclusion, just like the people of Gennesaret…”and all who touched him were healed” (v. 36b).