“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46
The truth is that I can act like a disciple and not be one. I can sit on the fringes of discipleship, testing the water, testing and drilling the teacher, and never really become a disciple, while coming often and sitting near Jesus’ feet. On the other hand, I can act like a disciple sometimes, occasionally showing up at Jesus’ feet. I can even be there in the middle of Jesus’ closest companions, look like a disciple, act outwardly like a disciple, and fool everybody but Him. Or, I can be a true disciple.
Many of the scribes and Pharisees called Jesus “Lord, Lord.” Master, Teacher, those are words like, Lord. So, when they were calling Him Teacher, were their words lining up with their actions? I wonder about the young scribe who approached You, Jesus, and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19-20) Were those just words spoken one day? Did he follow through? Does his name ever get remembered as a disciple? Or were the ties of his family and the other scribes and Pharisees too binding? Was the news that joining with You would mean no longer having a “real” home too foreign?
And what of the other scribes and Pharisees? Like the ones there that day you forgave the paralytic man. And the scribes thought, “This man is blaspheming.” (Matthew 9:3) If You were blaspheming, could You have made that man rise and walk as You did? When they saw Your authority to heal like that, they should have seen Your authority to forgive. But they didn’t. They just kept barrelling down the same track they started on, like a train heading down a doomed stretch of track not knowing the bridge is destroyed ahead of them, even though someone is warning them.
So the scribes and Pharisees are often there, where Jesus is teaching. And they are posing as learners, but they are really there to find fault in You. So that when you eat with Matthew’s tax collector and sinner friends, they ask, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11) One day they send someone to say, “Teacher,” and the next he is “your teacher.” After all, there are just some of us who don’t need teachers, right? There are some of us who are as whole as it comes, right? There are some of us who don’t need a doctor, right, because we are too busy curing every one else. But the truth is, some of us are sicker than we want to see, sicker than we want to admit. We may see ourselves as well, but the truth is that we are the ones in the greatest need of a physician. (Matthew 9:12) After all, You didn’t come to the world because we were ok. You came because we all had a problem, every last one of us. You came to call not the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13) But if I don’t see myself as a sinner, I won’t want to hear Your call either.
Yeah, you can be an upright, so-called God-fearer and totally miss out on God. You could watch Jesus cast out a demon from a mute man. You could see everyone else rejoicing. And you could stand there grumbling in your heart, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” (Matthew 9:34 ) Why? Because, if you see Jesus as Jesus, you will have to see yourself the way you really are- a sinner in need of Him.
You could act religious and look religious and see Jesus and His disciples hungry and walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath. Instead of having mercy, like God, you could point a finger at them for doing it all wrong, and plucking corn on the holy day. In other words, you could take God’s laws and invent more. Maybe God’s not able to work in people’s hearts on His own. Maybe men are better guides at helping men to be godly, right? Ummm, wrong!
You’d think that if someone was a follower of God, then at least their place of worship would be God’s, right? But what happens when that place becomes theirs? When Jesus enters their synagogue and finds a man with a withered hand there (who was probably placed there as a test for what Jesus would do on the Sabbath), he heals him and many others. Wouldn’t a believer in God rejoice? But the scribes and Pharisees accused him, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” (Mattthew 12:24)
But none of this was a surprise. Scripture lets us know that Jesus, You knew their thoughts. (Matthew 12:25) You even know my thoughts, Lord, every one. That means that when the scribes and Pharisees approached him as interested disciples, “Teacher,” He wasn’t tricked. He knew what was in their heart when they said, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38)
Sometimes, we don’t come to You to ask questions because we really want to know You or the true answer. Sometimes, we just want to make You see things our way. How crazy and lame is that? That’s like asking Jesus “‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the comandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’” (Matthew 15:2,3) All of a sudden, it got started in our brains that I could make a tradition that was as binding as those God had established? Really? What kind of hypocrosy is that?! Because then I honor what I want to honor and don’t honor what I don’t want to. What a liar I am then!
The problem was honoring God with our lips but not our hearts. It’s so easy to teach doctrine of men as commandments of God. We do it every day, all over the world. And we still seem to label it as what God wants. But it’s anything but like what God wants, because we actually don’t care anymore because we are so guided by what we want and what we’ve been taught to want, even in the “religious” world.
I could keep pulling example after example from Matthew alone. It’s funny, in a morbid way, but I was just thinking of the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that says, “Bad company ruins good morals.” You’d think that would be talking about riff-raff, you know, people who don’t know better or who are just intent on doing bad, the troublemakers. But, apparently that includes religious people who don’t surrender their thoughts and wills wholly to God but pave their own road and lead others down it with them.
Why did the Pharisees ask about divorce? Did they want to know how to please God? Did they want to discourage divorce? Or did they just want to trip up Jesus? Why ask about how to find eternal life if you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to assure it? Why not worry more about who is really standing in front of you or riding through Jerusalem on a donkey as was prophesied than worrying about what people are saying? Why wonder where Your authority comes from, when You’ve already made it apparent and God has given all the evidence we need in fulfilled Scripture? Why ask Jesus to prove himself, when you won’t be honest about your own self? Why is it ok for you to speak badly about Jesus but when he speaks badly about you, you get angry? What if the truth about ourselves just hurts and if we want to be whole we just need to face it? We are the ones who need help. We are the broken ones just as much as any other person. If you know that Jesus is true and teaches the ways of God, then why don’t you do them? If you know that Jesus isn’t swayed by personal opinion, why are you so easily swayed?
And that’s just the scribes and Pharisees! What about those among the disciples? I might be one of those who wants to go and bury my father, even though he’s not dead yet. (Matthew 8:21) In other words, being a disciple might be risky and I might need to hedge my bets first, make sure I have myself covered. Sound like a true disciple? What if I followed Jesus and let Him take care of things in their time? Would that be faith?
We find so many reasons to not follow right now. I have a sick loved one. It doesn’t matter if God has provided somene to care for them. We want an excuse to not obey. Or maybe, they don’t deserve forgiveness! Hmm, last time I checked, neither do we. I just don’t feel like it. That’s honest. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just feel all wrong and negative. But that’s not an excuse to not obey. Maybe I don’t have enough money or there is some other need. Well, somehow if God invited others to live without a bed and to not take any money in their pouch and still took care of them, I think He will still take care of me when I choose to obey Him.
All the disciples ran at one point. And of course we know the story of Judas, who had been robbing from the money bag all along. Jesus knew, even if the other disciples never new until the end. We’re just not used to letting God totally change our lives. Scribes and Pharisees aren’t the only ones who fight God’s will in their lives. We all have our dreams and desires and notions that we want Jesus to line up with. But that’s not how it works. To be a disciple, I have to line up my dreams and desires and notions to take on God’s.
“‘What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21:28-31) Well, which? The first, right? It doesn’t matter what our mouths say if our actions don’t follow. Faith is more than words. Faith is living in God’s will, not ours. But if we live in God’s will and live with You long enough, Your will, will become the delight of our life just as You are.
I don’t want to fight You. I don’t want to figure out my own way. It’s hard, so hard. I want to come to You. I need You. I admit it, wholeheartedly. I need rest from the work and the heavy burdens of bearing weight I was not created to bear on my shoulders. I shouldn’t be carrying around Your load. I should be letting You be God. I want to take Your yoke upon me. I want to learn from You. I am so grateful for Your gentleness with me and that You are lowly in heart, so low that You would even take time to let me get to know You intimately. I want to find rest for my soul in You, because that’s the only place rest exists. I want to be Your disciple, not in word alone, but in reality. I want to walk Your walk with You with me. I want to do what I can’t do without You, solely because You are with me. I want the burden to be light because You carry it as You walk with me and teach me and as You live in me.
I don’t want to seek opportunities like the scribes or Pharisees or Judas to fulfill my own will. I want to fulfill Yourselves. But I am so dependent upon You to do that. But that’s ok. Because there is no better, safer place to be than to be humbled under the mighty hand of God by choice.