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August 24th, 2015

Encounter With Jesus

Encounter With Jesus

When we travel, say a train journey, we meet people. They are not friends but we call them acquaintances. But certain people who enter our lives help us, support us, stand by us, transforming us to reach the sky, the zenith of glory, the summit of success or the pinnacle of joy. Such transformation leaves everlasting memories, gratitude and breath of a new life in our hearts.

Encounter with Jesus

The word ENCOUNTER means “bring a change after contact so that you are no more the old self.” i.e. leaves an impression on someone. The same happens with our relationship with Jesus. We all know him as God, His life, His glorious finish and so on. This knowledge cannot help us in any way.

When Jesus was walking along the roads of Jerusalem and Judea many people flocked around him. They were all gifted to see him face to face which none of us got. Yet how many of them benefited? Only the ones who allowed Jesus to transform them completely.

Let us now look at three encounters people had with Jesus:

1. Bartimaeus [Mark 10:46-52]

Bartimaeus, a beggar on the roadside, totally blind, has heard so many talk about a man named Jesus. He pondering over His power, fully desires to meet Jesus, awaits with anxiety, as his last chance of hope in life. Bartimaeus cries out yelling in full surrender “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me” as He passes by him. Jesus, fully aware of the situation, moves forward. Now the beggar hears (for he cannot see) the sound fade and Jesus moving beyond him, his last ray of hope fading, throws himself and yells “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me”. Now Jesus turns back, calls him and asks “What can I do for you?”. He answers “I want to see You”. That is it. His sight was restored! This is what Encounter is all about!

2. The Woman with Hemorrhage [Luke 8:43-48]

A woman with heavy bleeding for 12 years comes to Jesus, “For she said in herself, If I may touch but his garment only, I shall be whole.” A huge crowd was pressing Jesus, still He particularly felt some power leaving him. He knew that a woman with full hope of being healed is touching Him. Jesus asks “Who touched me?” Peter says “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?”. This is the difference between being pressed by a crowd and touched by a single one with faith, full of hope and surrender to be transformed. At this perfect timing healing becomes instantaneous. The woman certainly had an Encounter with Jesus.

3. Martha and Mary [John 11]

The dynamics between the two sisters and Jesus is just awesome, revealing and releasing many graces and blessings in stages. When Lazarus dies, the whole of Bethany gather in their home in mourning. Martha comes to know that Jesus is in town. She runs to the street, meets Jesus and says “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died”. Then she runs home, tells her sister and brings her to Jesus and now Mary repeats every word of Martha “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died”. Jesus is deeply moved and seeing the crowd weeping He too weeps. The crowd says “He who opened the eyes of the blind, can he not prevent this man from dying?” Again Jesus is deeply moved. Now comes the glorious finish. “Lazarus come out”! The whole audience then had an encounter with Jesus…dumb struck, standing in awe to see a dead man coming out to dine with them! Amen.

We can go on with many more examples like Centurion, Zacchaeus, Leper – they all had a desire to go to Jesus with their whole heart and faith. We also see that Judas, Pilate, High Priest, Herod, Pharisees – they all had the greatest chance of seeing Jesus face to face, yet they were lost in their own world of mortality, filled with hidden agendas and missed the mark and lost the valuable eternal life.

Let us seek Jesus to get transformed, to have an encounter with full confidence, hope, trust and faith, without even the slightest ray of doubt or apprehension. We are sure to be transformed in our six areas [Job 5:19] of life viz: physical, mental, spiritual, family, society and finance. Amen!

– – – written by Cecilia Francis

April 28th, 2014

The Stolen Miracle

The Stolen Miracle

If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed (Mark 5:28). That’s what she told herself, this nameless, bleeding woman who’d traveled 30 miles, fueled by nothing but faith.

It was a daring plan. According to Mosaic Law, women who were ceremonially unclean weren’t allowed to touch anyone, let alone the Son of God. But desperate women do desperate things. For 12 long years blood had flowed from her body, making her physically sick and socially unacceptable.

Desperation and Determination

The physicians of her time were unable to relieve her suffering. She “spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26). Some of us have been there, dealing with a prolonged illness or stubborn medical condition. It’s frustrating, even embarrassing, to keep going to the doctor, only to return home with an expensive prescription, yet little hope.

The true miracle in this story is what remained healthy: her faith. Her willingness to believe she could be well again, despite all evidence to the contrary. When she heard about a man who’d “healed many who had various diseases” (Mark 1:34), she made a beeline for Capernaum.

After a 30-mile journey, I would have thrown myself in his path, begging him to help me. Instead our bleeding sister quietly “came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak” (Mark 5:27). By law, her touch would have made him unclean. By grace, just the opposite happened. “Immediately her bleeding stopped” (Mark 5:29). Without a word, a look, or a touch from Jesus, she was made whole simply by believing he could heal her—and daring to act on that belief.

A Stolen Miracle

When her faith was rewarded, she wasn’t the only one who noticed. “He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” (Mark 5:30). How her heart must have pounded. She’d just stolen a miracle!

When the disciples pointed out that many in the crowded street were touching him, “Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it” (Mark 5:32). He wasn’t looking to accuse but to affirm.

The same faith that empowered her to stretch out her hand now gave her the strength to step forward. She “fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33). She risked everything—public humiliation, if not punishment—to make her confession of faith, explaining to the crowd “why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 8:47).

Restored

With a single word from Jesus, 12 years of pain and isolation were swept away: “Daughter…” (Mark 5:34). In no other gospel account does Jesus use this term of endearment and respect. Daughter. She was a member of the family now, restored to her community, setting an example for others who “begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed” (Mark 6:56).

This woman literally put feet to her faith: traveling to Capernaum, reaching out to touch Jesus’ garment, and walking forward at his invitation. By faith, we too can go first in our families, in our workplaces, and in our circles of influence, stepping forward to proclaim, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.”

– – – written by Liz Curtis Higgs

July 3rd, 2012

Jesus Refuses To Heal, Thrice

Jesus Refuses To Heal Thrice

Jesus often resists to grant the several prayers petitioned to Him. He does not give away, just like that for free. He often refuses. He may humiliate. He may intimidate. He may discriminate. He often tests. He may grant you your dark hour. In Matthew 15:21-28 we read the three rounds of denials before a miracle is delivered to the daughter of the Canaanite woman, pursuant to the intercessory trial of her biological mother – the Canaanite woman. The dark hour of the Canaanite woman with Jesus.

Jesus is not always easy to go with, if one takes on Him. He tests faith, before he delivers the Glory of God. In my world as a Cost Accountant, we implement performance management systems to reward performance in organisations. I remember what my counsellor Bro Paulose, during my retreat at Christu Jyothi in 1999. He said, “Kingdom of God, is for the determined. You need the strength and tactic of an unreserved-passenger getting into an overcrowded Kerala State Transport bus”.

You have to use the strength of your determination, to overcome the hurdles of tests and faith to qualify for an explicit miracle from Jesus. With His Grace, strategy of competing in the test of faith will produce profitable results. Jesus has responded with silence, taken more time, allowing some deliberate delays and presented some unusual excuses before he granted miracles for several of the prayers. We try to discern, a sample of the process practiced by Jesus in delivering a miracle, granting a prayer, in enacting the drama of salvation to the daughter of the Canaanite woman.

Jesus denies to cure, The First time

The Canaanite mother is praying to Jesus to save her demon-possessed daughter. First, I observe the presence of a relationship between the intercessor and the affected – a mother and daughter relationship. She then prays to Jesus as an intercessor on behalf of her daughter. And Matthew 15: 23 records, Jesus did not answer a word in response to her prayer.

By not answering, Jesus denied her the first time. Or by silence he discounted the prayer value down to zero. Often silence is His communication style, before a miracle. A prayer being un-answered is thus the labour pain preceding the birth of a miracle. I see this silence when the sisters Martha and Mary prayed for the healing of their dying brother Lazarus.

In several places Jesus is a “silent God”, a “blind God”, a “deaf God” , a “sleeping God” until we burn our faith offering in good volumes, until we breath out enough faith, until we build the bridge of faith to an adequate length, until we climb high enough on the graph of faith, establishing a live Holy Spirit connection between our prayer and His miracle. Let us examine how the Canaanite mother laboured her pain to give birth to a miracle for her demon-possessed daughter.

Jesus refuses to cure, The Second time

Since the mother was humble enough, she did not feel hurt by the way Jesus ignored her prayer. Fr Varghese said, “It is our pride, which prevents us from pursuing prayer”. Once we are intimidated by the silence of Jesus, by the first rejection by Jesus, our pride is hurt, we are frustrated and quick to abandon. Our faith is burnt out by the dry heat of silence, by the storm of a ridicule, by the non-conforming behaviour of a church member.

She, did not weigh her shame against her prayer. She prayed again and again weighing her faith in Jesus with the love she had for her daughter. She was humble, she was determined, so she prayed again ignoring the silent intimidation of Jesus. Her determination was overwhelming the silence of a powerful and silent God. As Jesus reduced the decibel of his response to zero, she increased the decibel of her faith proportionately. As Jesus went silent, she went louder. As Jesus intimidated, she overcame her shame with her determination, her humility, her faith.

Here I discern that the disciples including apostles intercede for her cause, so that they are saved the shame of a crying mother pestering Jesus. They also intercede with their style of prayer with Jesus to get rid of the “discomfort” of a praying, crying petitioner. The apostles, at that hour, display a low valuation for the Charisma of Jesus to perform a miracle. They ask Jesus to just give away a miracle , a cure, to save them from the shame of a crying, nagging Canaanite mother. The Charism of the Holy Spirit are not given away to keep beggars away from us. Charism of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles is not a piece of bone to saves us from the annoying bark of a street dog. Jesus shows no mercy and is firm and raises his Second denial.

This denial is in the form of a technical, legal, legitimate objection. He does not have adequate powers, adequate authority, and adequate relationship with the petitioner. Jesus disowned the crying mother as a non-Israelite. He discriminated her. He defined his domain as “exclusive to the lost sheep of Israel.” And she was outside his focus. She does not matter to his mission or mandate. She is not in the Will of His Father. She is an outcast, she is not a child of God, she is just another human being descended from the several sins after Adam and Eve, but not a child of Abraham. She is a dog. She cannot compete for his attention. She is disqualified to enter the race of faith.

Thus Jesus raised the technical and legal excuse to restrict his mission to Israelites. He was unwilling to extend his value to the non-Israelites. Here Jesus is declaring loud at that hour, that it is illegal to the mandate given by His Father to deliver the Glory of God to an out-cast. He loudly discriminates the crying mother. The apostles showed more mercy than Jesus. They were more inclusive than Jesus. They were more secular and modern than their Master. Or may be they did not understand the exchange value the power required for a miracle, or valued them so less, relatively; so that it can be given away, for the first and second asking, to save their ears from the nagging cry of a Canaanite woman.

Jesus refuses to heal, The Third time

In spite of the Jesus ignoring her, the praying mother knocked at the ears and eyes of Jesus, into the mouth of Jesus. She prayed shamelessly, and the Word of God broke its silence and blocked her flow of prayer with an insulting dam, she was downgraded to a dog, she was discriminated, and the language was as abusive and insulting then as it could be today. Do you re-call this rude, aggressive Jesus, but here he is, surrounded by the caucus of his disciples, taunting the poor, mother.

I had since shared this part of Jesus, to a friend of mine. And I asked him, what will you do, if you present your son’s need for the medical miracle, and the anointed Priest denies a counsel to you saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. See you no more”. He loves his son, who needs a medical miracle. But his answer was I will be very angry and throw away my prayers at night vigil and go my way, will not attend the service by that priest any more, I may even diminish or wipe out my faith. And this is a Son of St Thomas, son of Abraham attending a Syro Malabar service in Perth.

There are a few whose feelings got hurt, when they were denied by the Parish Priest, a counsellor, a prayer leader and for that reason, refuses to enter church and prayer again and some have even re-valued their faith to a non-performing asset, pursuing for a foreclosure. The Canaanite woman is the role model for all who are insulted by church and its leaders.

Jesus is not the God of the Proud. Jesus is the God of the abused, the discriminated, the denied, the ignored, the spat, the God of dogs and bitches. On his way to his Cross, he was abused, discriminated, denied, ignored, spat and was treated lesser than a stray dog. He was a worm.

The Break-even Point of Miracle – From labour to birth

A prayer being un-answered is thus the labour pain preceding the birth of a miracle. In my profession, as a Cost Accountant, we use the term break-even point, where the income equals the costs of earning the same income. The costs are classified as fixed and variable in relationship to the business of earning income.

Read The Poem: I believe in miracles

When we enter into the domain of a miracle, we should have a starting firm faith (similar to fixed costs). Then the production of miracle, is the variable component of faith, in proportion to the specific challenges on faith posted by Jesus. Once we overwhelm the Lord, with our variable and proportionate volume of faith, in competitive measure, we win, Jesus wins. Faith triumphs, even over a live and active Word of God.

– – – written by Johnson Edakalathur

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