I love Peter's experience of walking on the roaring sea with Jesus. But the thing is, Peter's story is often misunderstood. Do you have a step you need to take?
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Last week I was thrilled to join our children’s pastor as we ventured to the Orlando Orange Tour stop. I absolutely love what Orange stands for – uniting children, families and the church. Reggie Joiner knows we only have 940 Sundays with our precious children before they turn 18. As a parent, I want to make the most of every single week.
One of my favorite breakout sessions was with Danielle Strickland.
To be honest, this was my first-time ever hearing of Danielle’s ministry and my ears perked-up as my heart opened-up to her passion for social justice. Danielle serves in The Salvation Army as an officer in Toronto, Canada. Serving the marginalized for over twenty years, she is also co-founder of Infinitum, Amplify Peace, The Brave Campaign, and is an Ambassador for Stop The Traffik (a global anti-human trafficking campaign) and Compassion International. I had no idea what I was getting into by attending her breakout on helping the vulnerable feel safe. I came away with more than just a few pages of notes. I also discovered a different slant on an encounter in the Bible I have grown so incredibly used to hearing repeatedly in sermons over the years. Because the passages she used are overwhelmingly uttered the week of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take the time to look at it this holiday week with you.
Go ahead. Be prepared to have your mind blown.
11On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
COMMENTARY: If you look at a map of this journey, you will come back a bit puzzled thinking, “How in the world is is Samaria “on the way” to Jerusalem?” In Jesus’ day, Samaritans were viewed as unclean. You just didn’t “go” to Samaria. It was the place you avoided at all costs. Yet, Jesus purposefully decided to cut through this path – not because the route is shorter, but because He had a greater purpose in mind. Jesus constantly redefined boundaries and what was considered clean and safe.
Who sets your boundaries today?
What does “clean” and safe look like to you?
COMMENTARY: Of course they stood at a distance. Lepers were viewed as “unclean, ” lonely and castaway. To many, they were a separated minority and a lost cause. Sometimes we feel its better to provide a safe distance from things or conditions we don’t understand. But Jesus came to them untouchable. Jesus was willing go go the distance to bring the castaways home. As Danielle says, “You have to go out of the way to get in the way.” Jesus’ presence caused these lepers to make a choice, to take a chance and cry out for healing. Because Jesus cared enough to get in the way, He made a way to healing.
COMMENTARY: Where were the priests of Jesus’ day located? In the synagogue, right in the middle of the accepted crowds of the city. The priests were in their comfortable surroundings. These lepers were willing to leave their dark lives of desolation and risk the judgement of others in the city. Jesus instructed them to walk with their heads held high back into the same community that sent them away. Could you do that? Just a few seconds earlier they couldn’t see beyond their condition. Now, they are setting off to a journey that requires more than just physical healing, but a changed heart. Only Jesus can do this! Can you imagine what was going through the minds of these lepers as they walked past the city gate for the first time in years? Imagine the looks they received from friends, family and the city officials! Imagine their complete surprise (because honestly, we are still shocked when Jesus does exactly what He told us He would do) when their skin is transformed from rotten pieces of flesh to baby soft skin.
Because Jesus got in the way, lives radically changed.
Because Jesus cared, the castaways came home.
Because Jesus spoke, they heard hope.
Because Jesus believed enough to come to them, they believed in Him enough to go beyond their boundaries.
Have you allowed Jesus to do this in your life?
15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;
COMMENTARY: One turned back! Where did he go? He didn’t go home to his family. He didn’t go to the priest inside of the walls of acceptance. No, this man went back to Jesus. He returned to the darkened community of the outcasted lepers because that’s where Jesus was. He risked his healing to return to his Healer. He didn’t allow his outside healing to fill his heart with the need for outside acceptance. No. He went back to the neighborhood of the castaways and praised Jesus as a witness of hope to everyone around him. Have you been changed? Have you ever turned back? (Hint – it’s never too late to turn back by the way).
16and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”g
COMMENTARY: Here we find the typically overused portion of this passage. Of course we are zeroed in on the fact that this guy was a Samaritan, representing the very people that were outcasted in Jesus’ day. We typically conclude, “Even this guy came back to Jesus to tell Him thanks, so I guess I need to do that too.” We elevate ourselves. We are too comfortable. Yet, were we not outcasts? Have we completely forgotten what Jesus did for us?
4Butc God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. -Ephesians 2:4-7
I’m not sure about you, but the word “dead” in verse 5 just shouts out at me. All of us can go back mentally to that moment in our lives…
When we were clinging desperately to the end of our rope.
That moment when our life was shattered in a million pieces all around us.
The moment when we realized we wanted, needed, yearned for something more.
The moment when we realized just doing life on our terms wasn’t going to be enough.
Going back to that place feels like death to me. Sometimes we get caught up in all the new comfort we have in this new life that God has given to us through Christ, that we forget what the sting of death felt like. How can we remember what Christ has given us if we aren’t willing to rub shoulders with others dealing with this hopelessness each and every single day? Are we really thankful or just too darn comfortable?
Jesus got in the way.
He saw more in me.
He saw more in you.
He sees more in those in the fringes of our society.
I want to go beyond just asking God for me to see what He sees. I want to be where Jesus loved to be.
I’m honestly so bored with being comfortable. God doesn’t place burning bushes in the middle of my busyness, He places burning bushes in my intentional desert places, right where its fire of hope can be seen the brightest – for those who need it the most.
I want to turn back to those who dare to ask if there is more to this life.
I want to turn back and find Jesus with my neighbors that I only seem to connect with during hurricane season.
I want to turn back as I ride the city bus once a week just to meet others I don’t normally rub shoulders with on a daily basis.
I want to turn back as I live fully in the present, in His presence with every step I take.
I’m not afraid of turning back, because I’ve already seen Who moves me forward. Let’s show others the same hope.
What does “turning back” look like to you? How can this community pray for you this Thanksgiving week?
Dare to do more than just survive, step out and thrive!
Hello and welcome to Step Out And Thrive Ministries! My name is Bethany Boring and I am proud to be called a child of God before any other title or role. I am a mom to 3 amazing boys. I enjoy writing for this Step Out And Thrive community and walking with you as we venture through the ups and downs of life together. I am an ICF trained Certified Professional Christian Life Coach (Christian Coach Institute Graduate), Motivational and Inspirational Speaker, mentor, Certified Human Behavioral Consultant (DISC Personality) and an author. As always - dare to do more than just survive, step out and thrive!