“Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me,
and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not Me but the One who sent Me.”
“and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”
(readings: Mark 9:30-37, Psalm 1 and James 3:13-4:8)
Peace! Do you long for peace in your life? I do. There are so many things that disrupt us and rob us of peace. God’s promise for us, His longing for us, is for us to know and experience genuine peace. Not the type of peace the world gives, but a peace that passes all rational thinking and human ability to create or imitate. That peace is possible.
Psalm 1 contrasts opposites for the sake of making a point. It is the first of the 150 psalms, and as such, sets the tone. Listen and follow God’s truths and you will be stable and secure in life. Don’t and you will be blown about like lifeless chaff that has no substance.
A parallel would be Jesus’ parable about the house build on a rock or the house built on sand. Remember that from Matthew 7:24-27. What are you using as the foundation of your life—your values, your actions, your thoughts and words, and relationships, etc. Foundations matter. Decisions and actions matter. Words matter.
James has something to say about that too. He talks about divine wisdom. God’s wisdom must have its impact and affect on how we live and conduct ourselves.
“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy…”
James tells us that bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, boastfulness and holding on to lies—all this works against peace and God’s wisdom.
There is an interesting story that comes out of the Second World War. England and Germany both had state-of-the-art fighter planes. Germany had the Messerschmitt, which was considered to be the world’s fastest fighter plane. The British had the Spitfire. The Spitfire was slower than the Messerschmitt. Nevertheless, German pilots were envious of their British counterparts.
You see, the Messerschmitt had been designed to hold the perfect German. Who was the perfect German? Who else but Der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was little more than five feet tall. However, the German pilots who guided the Messerschmitt were considerably taller than 5 feet. So the Germans had to fly in very cramped quarters. But who was going to tell Adolf Hitler that he was not the perfect German? The Messerschmitts were faster, but their pilots were not happy men.
Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who would have the most prominence in God’s kingdom. The three in the inner circle, Peter, James and John had just come down from the mountain of transfiguration. The rest of the disciples had failed in casting out a stubborn demon from a desperate father’s son.
Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances where we just feel inadequate. Like we do not measure up. And the irony is others do not judge us as much as we judge ourselves. At other times we are comparing ourselves and measuring ourselves up against those who have failed or are less than us so that we can feel better about ourselves.
We do not know what course the disciples’ argument was taking, but we do know Jesus’ response. He turns their attention to what it means to serve others. You want to be considered great, seek to meet the needs of those around you. Care for those among whom you live.
He takes a young child—baby, toddler, youth—the Greek word padaion means a young child, maybe a toddler. He takes that child in His arms and says “whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me!”
Get that? If we receive a child we are receiving and welcoming Jesus. He then goes on, “Whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.”
Seeing Jesus in the other person, whoever that might be. What if we are dealing with someone who has offended or hurt us? What if we are wrestling with someone who is a “sworn enemy.” Jesus, in taking and holding a child, is helping us to see that those we view as less than us and insignificant in the eyes of the world, we must see Him. That has the affect of changing us.
There was a tribe of Indians who lived a long time ago in the state of Mississippi. They lived next to a very swift and dangerous river. The current was so strong that if somebody happened to fall in or stumbled into it they could be swept away downstream.
One day the tribe was attacked by a hostile group of settlers. They found themselves with their backs against the river. They were greatly outnumbered and their only chance for escape was to cross the rushing river. They huddled together and those who were strong picked up the weak and put them on their shoulders; the little children, the sick, the old and the infirm, those who were ill or wounded were carried on the backs of those who were strongest. They waded out into the river, and to their surprise they discovered that the weight on their shoulders carrying the least and the lowest helped them to keep their footing and to make it safely across the river.
Jesus is teaching us an object lesson about greatness, about servanthood, about leadership. “Have you lost the peace, the childlike joy and love and faith that once were yours?” Then hear Him say, “If you want to walk on secure ground in this world it helps to carry someone with you.”
We can experience peace when we let go of what we cannot control—all the hurts, regrets, pains, sorrow, bitterness, jealousies, insecurities, etc, etc.— and then see Jesus in the other, and be Jesus’ hands and feet for
No one can do this perfectly. We all fail and fall short. But…We have the forgiveness that Jesus offers us through His cross. We can cling to that forgiveness and focus on doing the best we can in following Him. That is enough.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.