Weekly Devotionals June 3 – June 8

MATTHEW 9:14-17
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension came to open our eyes to something brand new. It doesn’t just change us, but it changes everything for us. When we speak about the gospel, we tend to speak in personal terms about the forgiveness of our individual sins. To truly speak of the gospel we need to see that it is even greater than our greatest sin. The primary claim of the gospel is that the Kingdom of God is here and Jesus is it’s king! To help us understand this new creation, Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s gospel) often times through parables. These stories helped people understand, in their own terms, how to discern this new kingdom in their midst. In this scene, Jesus is approached by some followers of John the Baptist. John the Baptist and his followers practiced a form of religion that sought outward signs of repentance for the whole of Israel. Their practice of fasting was a sign of mourning Israel’s disobedience and oppression – longing for the coming of the Messiah. Little do they know, he is here! Jesus invites all to the feast! This changes how and why we live out our faith and the purpose behind our spiritual disciplines. Jesus is the new wine and in order to understand what he was all about requires us to not only see, but live and believe differently. Talk with Jesus now about his invitation to feast with him, the king of God’s kingdom.
Jesus doesn’t only teach about a new creation, he embodies this new creation. In the midst of teaching about new and old wine, a man of great importance comes to Jesus believing that he can heal his young daughter who has died. This is one of those instances that jumps to the top of your to-do list. It’s urgent and important and an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate the power of God through him. What, in your life, would you classify as urgent and important? What gets your attention above all else? While Jesus and the crowd are heading to the man’s house, a woman approaches him through the crowd and touches the edge of his coat. Jesus, we are told in Luke’s version of the story, feels power transfer from him to the woman and he stops. Why do you think he stops? Our life is often times dictated by the urgent and the important: important people, meetings, deadlines, goals. Jesus’ new creation redefines what is urgent and important. It isn’t simply those people with power and prestige, but all people in need. The woman lived in isolation because of her illness, Jesus’ contact with her would have made him “unclean,” yet he still stops and invites her into the family of God. “Daughter,” he says, “your faith has healed you.” Where do you need healing today? Take heart, Jesus sees and knows you and wants you to be made whole. Bring him your heart today.
It’s one thing, in Jesus’ day, to have contact with a sick person. That would have rendered Jesus “unclean” for one day. To touch a corpse is an entirely different ordeal. Contact with a dead body renders a person ritually unclean for an entire week. Unclean individuals were not allowed into the Temple, they had minimal contact with other people and had to walk through multiple rituals to become “clean” again. Yet, here is Jesus, holding her hand. Can you picture this scene? Jesus tells everyone to leave, bends over and holds the little girl’s hand. Take a moment to picture this in your mind. What expression do you see on Jesus’ face? In the old creation, “unclean” people were a danger to those who were “clean.” In the new creation, we see in Jesus that his presence, his touch, makes unclean people clean. He isn’t compromised by what scares others off. Is there something about you that you believe is “unclean”? Something that you think needs to be hidden from others? Imagine Jesus entering the room where you are now. He invites everyone else to leave and only the two of you are left there together. He walks over, sits next to you, takes your hand and looks you in the eye. What does he say to you? What does Jesus want you to know today? Take time and speak with him now.
Jesus’ healing ministry continues with two blind men who follow him, shouting loudly to get his attention. “Son of David” would have been a signal that the blind men believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah from the lineage of King David. They follow Jesus all the way into the house where he is going. They are persistent. Why do you think Jesus waits to address them?
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” It seems like an odd question. They’ve followed him, shouting loudly, and even called him the “Son of David,” what more could he want? What does Jesus say to them when he touches their eyes? Why do you believe he says this? In those days, Biblical law mandated concern for the blind, but only through giving them aid as they begged along the roads. Begging was the only work that the blind could engage in. If you were born blind, you were stuck for your entire life. These two had faith that Jesus could lift them up from poverty. He invites them to lean into their faith. There is nothing that Jesus cannot lift you out of: poverty, abuse, addiction, destructive habits, debt, doubt, hopelessness. There is nothing out of Jesus’ reach. Do you need to be lifted from anything today? Talk with Jesus about what you need. Hear him say to you, ” According to your faith, let it be done to you.”
MATTHEW 9:32-38
The miracles continue! Next Jesus heals a man possessed with a demon that kept him mute. That makes a chronically sick woman, a dead girl, two blind men, and a demon-possessed mute person. All in a days work, right? These healings weren’t for Jesus’ glory, they were all to demonstrate the power of God and the reality of God’s kingdom that was breaking into the world. Where do you see evidence of God’s Kingdom in your world today? Jesus teaches and heals. When the crowd gather in, Jesus isn’t annoyed, he doesn’t condemn them, he has compassion for them “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Then he instructs his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” People still live in the old creation, unaware or untrusting in the work of Jesus. As Christians, we are to live our lives as new creations under the rule and authority of Jesus. This new life brings unprecedented joy, peace, purpose, and courage to live this new life. Jesus entrusts his work to us. What is your response to Jesus’ trust in you? Talk with Jesus now about the new creation he has created in you and for you. Where is he sending you as his representative to proclaim this good news to the world?
JOHN 15:1-4
Faithfully following Jesus requires us to stay connected to Jesus. Just as a branch dies if it becomes disconnected from a tree; our souls wither and dry when disconnected from Jesus. The following pages provide you an opportunity to reflect back on your week and take into account where you have been connected and where you have been disconnected from Jesus. It takes a holistic approach to being connected with Jesus. It isn’t just about your prayer life or scripture reading though that is included. It invites us to look at our physical well-being, our relationships, and our spiritual energy. This reflection will not change your life, but it can open a window to discovering areas of our life where Jesus is inviting us to grow. This is not meant to discourage you in any way, only to begin to become aware of our relationship with Jesus. Ideally, this would be shared with someone you trust. We say a corporate prayer of confession when we prepare for communion, and we may even pray private prayers of confession and forgiveness to God. It is possible to do both of these practices and remain “alone in our sin” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it. Being alone in our sin never frees us from the sinful habits we have created. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” It may be uncomfortable to practice confession because we fear feeling guilty. Confession frees us from guilt by helping us experience grace and forgiveness that comes from Jesus. There is nothing like a life free from guilt, set free to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Begin by praying this prayer and spending a moment in silence to prepare your heart. Prayer: Father God, As I look back upon my week, help me to be honest with myself and with you. I long to remain connected to Christ so that I may live in him. Guide me in these moments closer to your heart.

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