When I turned 50, I decided to do something really difficult. I enrolled in a university course to learn Biblical Greek. And, trust me when I say, this in no way is a brag – because I struggled through it and took far far longer than the average Biblical Greek student ordinarily takes to complete this course. I had to do twenty translation tests and then two major translations exams of the New Testament’s Greek text into English. I scraped through the course and somehow managed to pass it. I can testify that learning another language later in life is really hard! This is why I have the utmost respect for non-English-speaking migrants who come to our country and manage to learn English. Learning languages is not the only thing I find difficult. I envy those people who do the things easily that I find difficult to do or understand (like quadratic mathematic equations for example). Over the years I have pondered why it is that different people doing the same task can result in a person finding it incredibly easy who then gets it done quickly, and why another other person finds it next-to-impossible and as a result gives up trying to do it. I have discovered the answer to this conundrum lies in the “mat” principle.
This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee.
¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41
Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…
Sometimes we can feel that things in our life are beginning to get to us. This could be attributed to a number of factors including the 24 hour news cycle constantly pumping out bad news from all over the world, or to the growing practice of ‘doom scrolling’ on our smart devices. This is the habit of continually scrolling down through news stories that relate to murders, domestic violence, assaults, road rage, floods, fires and disease. Another issue that can reduce our resilience is the almost constant push to create laws that work against members of our society who are unable to protect themselves such as the elderly and the unborn. Little wonder we can feel overwhelmed.
Jesus asked a question, that I’m pretty sure every wife frequently asks her husband, “Do you love Me?” But the question Jesus asked of Peter was not the same as the similar sounding question that wives ask their husbands. The kind of ‘love’ that Jesus was asking of His disciple was extremely odd. And while many a sermon down through the centuries has claimed that Peter’s answer to the Christ was not satisfactory, I think they may have missed the point of this profound exchange between the Saviour and one of His servants. It is from this exchange that we are gifted one of the greatest insights into what love really is and why it requires something in particular.
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”