Not the Same

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[a] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Luke 20:27-40 (NIV)

Growing up, I enjoyed watching Sesame Street just like countless kids have over the past sixty-one years. A frequent segment on the show featured four items with three of them being similar in some way and the fourth being dissimilar. They would sing the song, One of These Things, and challenge the viewer to determine which item was not like the others. The exercise was intended to assist children in looking for commonalities. Maybe you can still sing the song just as I can if you also grew up on Sesame Street.

In today’s reading we witness an encounter between Jesus and a few Sadducees. The Sadducees are attempting to trip Jesus up by bringing to him a question about the resurrection using a very unlikely scenario. What is interesting is that Sadducees said that there was no resurrection so why they used this scenario seems puzzling. The Sadducees use earthly marriage laws and customs to attempt to challenge Jesus on the resurrection. Jesus basically says to them that one of these things is not like the other. Earthly situations do not apply to the resurrection life. Then he continues by pointing out the reality of the resurrection using Moses’s words and the fact that God is God of the living and not the dead.

We can be guilty of the same mistake which the Sadducees made in regard to applying earthly understands and norms to the resurrected and spiritual reality of God. In one respect can be forgiven for this mistake because we live an earthly existence which we know and understand. Our understanding of the resurrected life is very limited. Knowing this should be a warning to us though. We have to remember that one is not like the other. We cannot assume that our customs and norms apply in any way to God’s reality. When we assume God will respond in a certain way, or our resurrected self will live as we do on earth, we are projecting earthly realities on the spiritual.

God is the God of the living both on earth and in the resurrected life. However, the two are not the same. So when you are tempted to try and make them the same, remember what we learned from Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other.

Imagine

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Isaiah 2:1-4 (NIV)

In 1971, former Beatles member John Lennon released the song, Imagine, which he had co-written with Yoko Ono. The song seems to respond to the turbulent times of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is a soft ballad which speaks of a much different world. As you listen, you are invited into what feels like a daydream, a hope that all which divides the human race and leads to violence would be gone. Throughout history there has always been a longing for the end of division and violence. Lennon and Ono’s words have been uttered in some form by every generation. Even today, we have the same longing which seems out of our reach. However, this longing will be fulfilled just not by human hands.

The passage from Isaiah addresses this longing and the path toward its fulfilment. In these words, Israel and we are told that the Lord will establish a temple at the highest visible point on earth. All people will be drawn to this temple because it is there where God will teach all God’s way, a very different approach than what humanity has followed. Here God will settle the disputes which humans have with one another. The end of conflict which the Lord establishes will bring about a time when instruments and skills of war will become unnecessary. Instead the tools necessary to care for the needs of humanity will become the priority. All of this sounds a lot like the song of Lennon and Oko.

Isaiah, Lennon and Ono invite us to join them in a vision, a daydream. This vision is one of harmony which can only be fully established by the Lord. While we daily strive for the elements of this vision, it is only possible if we learn and adopt the Lord’s way. The Lord’s way focuses on love which is demonstrated in our actionis and words. A love which overcomes the conflicts in our lives.

“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I am not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will live as one.”

Lyric from Imagine by Lennon/Ono

Rejection

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’[a]?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Luke 20:9-18 (NIV)

A great storyteller can communicate an idea or a message in a way which makes an impact on a listener. Some stories are told to communicate a moral lesson such as many of the fables told by Aesop on Hans Christian Andersen. Other stories are told to make a listener aware of how actions can lead to dire outcomes. A great storyteller not only transports the listener into the scene but can also captivate their attention for a period of time. Jesus was a great storyteller.

Jesus once again turns to telling a story in our passage today as a method to share a message. He is engaged in a power struggle with the Jewish leadership in the temple. The story which Jesus shares here involves a landowner, farmers who are renting his vineyard, three servants, and the man’s son. When the owner sends the servants individually to collect his portion of the harvest, the renters beat each one and send them back empty-handed. The man then sends his son because he thinks the farmers will respect the son’s authority. However, the renters see this as an opportunity to obtain the son’s inheritance so they kill him. Jesus asks what the landowner will now do and then answers his question. He tells the listeners that the landowner will go and kill the farmers then give the vineyard to others. After hearing this story, it becomes clear that the story is referencing the prophets and Jesus. The way the Jewish leadership had treated prophets over the years is how the owner’s servants were treated. The killing of the son parallels the future killing of Jesus by the Jewish leadership. Jesus points out that the one who is going to be rejected is the one who will crush the rejectors.

This is a good story which impacted the listeners of that time. What can it possibly say to us today since Jesus has already been rejected, killed, and arisen? There is a message for us in these words. This strong message involves rejection. We reject Jesus when we choose to hide our decision to follow him. We reject Jesus when we do not follow his example of communicating God’s love in actions and words. We also reject Jesus when we are too busy to be in conversation with him, learn about him by studying the Word, or offer our praise to him in acts of thanksgiving. When we do not listen to God’s messengers, or even treat them poorly, we reject Jesus.

As we continue to grow as followers of Christ, we learn that our choices and actions may have results we struggle to see, The story which Jesus uses to create an awareness among the Jews, can create an awareness among Christians. It is doubtful that any would purposely reject the Lord. When made aware, we likely would have a response like the Jews, “God forbid!” Yet few of us can say that we have not engaged in at least one form of rejection listed above.

Thank your Jesus for making us aware!

An Example

Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters[b] loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (NIV)

Often we have no idea how many people are watching us. Whether we are in positions which give us a public spotlight or not, there is always someone who watches what we do, how we respond to people and events, and how we communicate. Those watching maybe co-workers, neighbors, people in the community, and/or members of our household. We are examples whether we intend to be or not. The question is what type of example we are being.

The passage for today is the beginning of a letter written by Paul, Silas, and Timothy to the believers living in Thessaloniki. The first verse of this passage is the traditional form of greeting for a letter written in this time period. Then the letter shifts to assurances of being thankful for the believers and remembering them in prayer. Another shift occurs and the writer declares that the believers accepted the good news with great power and adopted the ways of Christ as demonstrated by Paul, Silas and Timothy when they lived in Thessaloniki. The believers have become examples for others in the surrounding areas.

Being an example to others is the expectation which the Lord has of all who choose to follow Christ. The Son came to earth to be a living example of God’s love and to demonstrate how that love is to be lived out. With this example set before us, it only makes sense we are to do likewise if we claim to be followers. This is an important, and somewhat daunting, responsibility given to us.

How are you doing with this responsibility? I challenge you to ask yourself each night before going to sleep how you were an example that day. Were you a good or bad example? Should you do something differently to improve your example? The great thing is that when the Lord gives us a new day, we are given a chance to be an even better example of God’s love, the good news.

Being Prepared

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)

Like many young boys in the 1970s, I joined Cub Scouts when I was in third grade. I remained a member of the scouting program through Webelos and into Boy Scouts. My freshman year of high school, I dropped out of scouts to pursue other interests. I am grateful for all that I learned during my tenure with the Boy Scouts of America. One of the key principles in scouting is to always be prepared. Many of the skills which a scout is taught have the purpose of guiding a young man in how to be prepared for a variety of life circumstances.

The passage which we are examining today speaks of preparedness, Jesus is talking about the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven. He tells the story of ten bridesmaids who are awaiting the arrival of their bridegroom. Half of the bridesmaids were prepared for a late arrival of the bridegroom by having extra oil on hand for their lamps. The other half were not prepared so while they were going to get more oil, they missed out when the bridegroom arrived. Jesus uses this story to illustrate the importance of being prepared for the unknown time of the fulfillment of heaven’s kingdom.

Jesus’s warning speaks to us today. As we continue to await the ushering in of the kingdom fulfilled by Christ, we must consider our preparedness for such an event. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3 that God’s time is not our time and when God chooses, the fulfillment will take place.

How does one prepare? There is no  specific right or wrong way. The key element of our preparedness is to believe in the love, grace, and forgiveness of the Lord. We continue to work at understanding how these elements impact our perspectives on life, relationships, and our connectedness with the Lord. We strive to respond to God’s love by following Christ’s example of service and the embracing of others. We await with anticipation the promises of our Lord.

Facing These Times

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:7-19 (NIV)

Life can be difficult at various times. There are times when a person can wonder if the effort is worth it. Many who are engaged in work which benefits others can easily become discouraged. Challenges can seem to abound and meaningful results can seem impossible to obtain. Health care workers, teachers, pastors, non-profit workers, emergency responders and other service workers can relate many stories of times when they have felt like throwing up their arms and walking away.

In Peter’s letter, he writes about the end and about the experiences of those working to live out the Gospel through their lives. First, Peter tells the followers that they should use prayer to prepare themselves for the coming end. The early Christians lived in great anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth. There was an urgency in their understanding of the timing. Since they were certain this fulfillment would occur in their lifetime, they were anxious about being prepared. Peter instructs there to use prayer to assist them in being prepared.

Peter then turns to the suffering which they have been experiencing while doing the work of the Gospel. The believers had been engaging in acts of compassion as a demonstration of the love encompassed in the Gospel. They had also been sharing the story of the Gospel and what it is about with others. While engaging in these actions, they experienced ridicule, condemnation, and even physical harm. Peter informs them that this suffering aligns them with the sufferings of Christ. Their suffering witnesses to their bearing of the name of Christ.

Peter’s words spoke to the early Christians who felt like foreigners in this world but they also speak to us today as well. We currently live in very turbulent times once again. Uncertainty quickly overcomes us due to events and conditions throughout the world. We, like those who Peter wrote to, can feel unprepared and anxious. Peter’s advice can benefit us, pray. Prayer can calm our souls and bring us comfort. Prayer can open to us ways to prepare for what is ahead, even if we have no idea what that is or when it might happen.

The other perspective which Peter presents, the concept of enduring suffering for bearing Christ’s name, provides guidance to us. Whenever we serve others or share our experience with the Gospel, we open ourselves to frustration, alienation, ridicule and judgment. Remembering that Christ understands suffering for God since he suffered for this reason, we can find strength to continue the work. Our purpose becomes higher than earthly benefits. By demonstrating the love found in the Gospel through our words, work, and actions, we can witness to others and build them up in life. 

Servant Leader

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:17-28 (NIV)

Many years ago, Robert Greenleaf wrote a book on the subject of servant leadership. In his book, Greenleaf indicated that service should be an identifying characteristic of leadership. Over the next thirty years, corporations, schools, government bodies and nonprofits began to examine and implement some of the concepts which Greenleaf presented. The idea of allowing company employees to volunteer during some of their work time grew out of the servant leadership theories. Higher education began to include a section on student applications where students were expected to share how they had served others through volunteering. This section was included in the decision process for admitting students into the institution. Servant leadership became a common buzz phrase.

Looking at the passage for today, we can quickly see that Greenleaf was not the first person to introduce servant leadership. Jesus demanded it of his disciples. The passage begins with Jesus telling the twelve what is about to happen when all of them enter Jerusalem. Clearly Jesus will be taking on the role of a servant in the greatest way possible. Throughout the three years of ministry, there had been endless examples of Jesus serving others. Now that service will result in his death and resurrection. In the midst of this comes the request for two of the twelve to receive the highest seats of honor beside Jesus. Jesus has a conversation with the two, in which he questions how far they are willing to go in service. This then sets up a leadership dispute. Here is  an opportunity for Jesus to explain a reversal in God’s kingdom. He tells the twelve that with God the leader must become a servant and the last will become first. For Jesus, service brings honor and the right to lead.

We tend to struggle with God’s reversal of what we have determined is the right order of things. Even in the United States where our ancestors have thrown off the robe of royalty, we still believe that leaders are to be given certain honors and privileges, especially when we are in leadership. However, Jesus would disagree at some level. Leadership is seen in service. Honor is given based upon how the person has assisted others. Servant leadership is the only type of leadership found as important in God’s order of the world.

Give Thanks

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Today our nation pauses to give thanks for all the abundance and positive aspects of our lives, This particular year has been a very difficult one for our nation and our world. The global pandemic has touched every one of us in some manner. In addition to the effects of the virus, we have witnessed all forms of disasters. The economy has taken a heavy hit with a record number of unemployed and hundreds of small businesses, and even some long-existing corporations, closing or declaring bankruptcy. Our country has experienced violence, protests, and a very contentious election cycle. This year’s events could easily cause people to ask what there is to be thankful for as we reflect. Yet we are not the first group to encounter a year of significant hardship and pain. Folklore indicates that after a year of death and great hardships in the New World, a surviving group of Puritan settlers held a festival of thanksgiving in their new land. The story even includes an invitation to Native Americans who had provided the newcomers with skills that aided in their survival. These settlers gave thanks for what they had been given which allowed them to live.

In today’s  passage, the Israelites are preparing to arrive in a land which God had promised them. Moses speaks to them about their journey through the wilderness. He reminds them of all which God had done for them during this leg of their journey. He tells them to keep God’s commands as a response of thanks to God. Then Moses speaks to the people about their entrance into a land full of abundance. Again, he tells them to keep God’s commands in this new land. He instructs them to offer praise to God for this land of abundance once they have been filled. They had experienced many years of hardship and God provided during those years. They would experience a land of great abundance which God has provided now. Moses makes it clear that God’s giving in both situations should give reason for the people to offer thanks both in praise and in action.

Now we pause for one day, like many generations before us in this land and others throughout the world. During this year’s hardships, God has provided. Through people reaching out to assist during a natural disaster, God provides. In the dedicated service of healthcare workers, emergency responders, teachers, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, restaurant employees, and countless others, God provides. The hundreds of researchers and health science departments who have worked tirelessly for answers, God provides. This is when we must take time to reflect on God’s abundance and offer our thanks in praise and action.  We have even more reason to do so when life is difficult. 

Impossible to Possible

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 19:23-30 (NIV)

This time of year I think about the women and men who serve in our military, especially those who are on ships or stationed overseas without their families. The holiday time has always been important family time to me. I honestly could not imagine being without at least some of my family during the holidays. Those who sacrifice family time to serve our nation are due my honor and gratitude.

Jesus speaks of sacrifice in our reading from Scripture today. Specifically, he speaks of giving up aspects of life to follow him. At the beginning of the passage, Jesus is referring to the wealthy man who chose not to give up his wealth to follow Jesus. He tells the disciples that this would be impossible unless a person relied on God to make it possible. The disciples point out that they have sacrificed everything to follow Jesus. Jesus replies that anything which someone sacrificed to follow will be received back in great abundance and eternal life. Then Jesus points to a great reversal in life’s position between those considered first and those considered last.

Reading this passage and thinking about our military personnel and others who have jobs which keep them from their families, creates a challenge and provides insight for me. The challenge presen ted comes in the form of me considering what limits I may have in sacrificing to follow Jesus. The insight is found in the promise that with God all things are possible. I understand here that if I were called to make a sacrifice which I could not do on my own, God would provide me the strength, wisdom, and ability to carry through. There are many times people are called upon to make sacrifices for a variety of reasons. Some are able to do so with what appears to be ease. I wonder if this may be due to their reliance on God. May all of us strengthen our reliance on God.

Missed Opportunities

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Matthew 19:13-22 (NIV)

There are times in life when an opportunity comes our way but for one reason or another, we do not seize this opportunity. Later, we may realize what we truly missed. Other times we fail to ever have such a realization. Have you ever had such an experience in your life? I know that I have personally allowed opportunities to pass by me.

The writer of Matthew tells of two times an opportunity presented itself during Jesus’s ministry. The first involved children. The children came to Jesus in hopes that he would lay his hands on them and pray for them. The children saw an opportunity and determined to seize it. The disciples were the opposite. Instead of seeing an opportunity to minister to the children and learn from their unbridled faith, they saw the children as a nuisance and tried to send them away. Jesus intervenes, telling the disciples to let the children come to him. He sees an opportunity to teach the disciples about the nature of the kingdom of heaven. He also capitalizes on ministering to the children by laying his hands on them and showing them how important and loved they are in God’s eyes.

The second opportunity shared here does not have such a positive ending. A wealthy man approaches  Jesus to ask him how to ensure he has eternal life. Jesus lists some major commandments to follow which the man claims to be doing already. The man is not convinced that following these commandments is not enough so he seeks from Jesus what else he can do. Jesus instructs the man to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus. The man walks away sad because he determines he cannot do this. A missed opportunity has occurred.

These stories cause one to take inventory of missed opportunities in one’s life. When have there been times in which instead of ministering to and/or learning from others, I have seen them as a nuisance and not worthy of my time? When have opportunities to sacrifice or give seem like too high of a price to pay to follow Jesus so I walk away? While no action of mine can take away or guarantee my eternal life, Jesus has already taken care of this for me, the missed opportunities can impact how I understand and live my faith.

How about you? Are you watching for and embracing opportunities to serve and grow in your faith? Be cautious to not see others as a waste of your time because they may be the very ones who can model for you what God is all about. Think carefully concerning what is too high of a price to pay for following Jesus. May the Lord open our eyes to all the opportunities which are placed in our path. May we be like the children and seize every opportunity with Jesus that we are offered.