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What Do You Want Me to Do for You? | Matthew 20:29-34

Guest speaker Rev. Ron Thomas

I came across three different sources that state there are between 200 – 300 questions Jesus asked as revealed in the Scriptures. Some may be repeated, but still, the number is impressive. They are at times probing, searching, convicting, revealing, enlightening, inviting and assuring. As many of the Lord’s questions were directed to those who called out to him or chose to follow him, or more specifically his disciples, I believe they are worth asking again and for us to respond if Jesus were asking us some of those same questions.

The question Jesus asked of two men who called out to him from their world of despair and darkness is the focus of our study.

Matthew 20:29-34

29And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

This event in the life of Jesus occurs about fifteen miles outside of Jerusalem, only a couple of days before he enters the city where he would be arrested, tried, crucified and buried. The pilgrimage had begun, as every male Jew over the age of twelve was required by the law to attend Passover. One of the main roads traveled to Jerusalem ran through the center of Jericho. William Barclay describes in his commentary the scene.

It was clearly impossible that such a law should be fulfilled and that everyone should go. Those who were unable to go were in the habit of lining the streets of towns and villages through which groups of Passover pilgrims must pass to bid them godspeed on their way. So then the streets of Jericho would be lined with people… Jericho was also the home many of priests and Levites, living there awaiting their rotation to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem. Very many of these priests and Levites resided in Jericho when they were not on actual temple duty.”

According to our text, Jesus had attracted a crowd. Remember he has been recognized by the masses as one who taught with authority. Again, Barclay writes:

“When a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey it was the custom that he was surrounded by a crowd of people, disciples and learners, who listened to him as he discoursed while he walked. That was one of the commonest ways of teaching.”

Two blind men were siting at the side of the road where they would be begging for their very livelihood, and what an opportune time with so many people traveling through their home town! Possibly through the conversation among those traveling with Jesus, or by their own curiosity, they learn that it is Jesus who is passing by. It is then they shout out; “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Immediately, they were rebuked by the crowd with Jesus telling them to be quiet. The desire to silence them could have been for different reasons.

  • Those who were listening to the teachings of the traveling Rabbi would have certainly considered the shouts from anyone were distractions and making it difficult to hear the teacher.
  • There would be those who considered the journey of paramount importance and to call a halt to the procession only delayed the anticipated arrival at the Holy City, Jerusalem.
  • There were also those in the crowd, or along side the road who represented the priestly duties of the Temple, men who were not all that enamored with this popular, itinerant preacher. Their dislike for Jesus would have only been agitated by the titles of respect and reverence the two beggars proclaimed: “Lord and Son of David.” They needed to be silenced, so that others would not be encouraged to bestow any such titles upon Him.

How these men had learned the truth of whom Jesus is we can only guess. Their faith in Jesus must have come by hearing. In the Gospel of Matthew, there are four other accounts to Jesus healing the blind, prior to this encounter. Or, like Peter, great confession, could their proclamation have been the prompting or inward illumination by the Holy Spirit?

Regardless of the objections and rebukes, the men “cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” At this point, Jesus must have already passed by the two men, for we read that he stopped and then called to them. The parallel accounts in Mark and Luke show that there was the invitation by Jesus for the men to be brought to him. The question is then asked:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

If Jesus were to ask you this question, what would be your answer? Life’s circumstances will often determine what we would ask of Jesus. For these to men, it was the deep desire to be able to see. The confines of blindness deprived them not only of sight, but also a livelihood. Their existence was totally dependent upon the compassion of others. Their physical infirmity was their sentence to poverty, to a life lived outside the acceptance of others. They had good reason to call on the One they believed could free them from their hopeless station in life. Their plea was for something much greater that the ability to see. It was a request of the Lord to give them a new life.

Jesus, by his very question was probing deeply into the hearts of these men. They wanted more than just the coinage that might be deposited in their laps as the crowd walked by. They want much more than a handout for the day. They called out to Jesus, the Son of David, the One to set the captive free. They wanted to experience life like they had never experienced it before.

And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

The elements of prayer are revealed in petition of the two blind beggars:

  1. They acknowledged the lordship of Jesus, the Son of David, savior of God’s people, the One who gives sight to the blind and sets the captive to free.
  2. It is with humility that they called out to Him; “Have mercy on us.”
  3. Even as they are put off by the crowd, they were not to be discouraged. William Barclay: It often happens that we are easily discouraged from seeking the presence of God. It is the man who will not be kept from Christ who in the end finds him. Pulpit Commentary: Faith resists opposition and triumphs over all impediments.
  4. Theirs was an imperfect faith, but they acted upon it. These two blind men had an imperfect faith but they were determined to act on the faith they had. It was as Son of David that they addressed Jesus. That meant that they did believe him to be the Messiah, but it also meant that they were thinking of Messiahship in terms of kingly and of earthly power. It was an imperfect faith but they acted on it; and Jesus accepted it.
  5. These two blind men were grateful. When they had received their sight, when they saw the very face of Jesus, they did not go away and forget; they followed Jesus. Hopefully, we don’t forget what Jesus has done for us and our prayers keep us close to him.

So, Jesus asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” How are you going to respond?

Standing Firm

Written by Dawn Rutan

Lately I’ve been thinking about Truth; not just facts but Scriptural truth as taught and personified in Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed for His followers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV). Biblical truth matters for all who call themselves Christians, and yet there are so many ways in which Christians fail to cling to the truths of Scripture out of fear, conformity, or ignorance.

In today’s news, Lifeway will probably stop carrying Eugene Peterson’s books because of his recent comments that he doesn’t think homosexuality is wrong: “…it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” For someone who considers himself a theologian and a Bible translator to make such a statement is baffling. [Update- Peterson has since retracted his statements.] Yet there are many who agree with him for one reason or another. When those who proclaim to be Christians can’t even agree on what the Bible actually says, our witness in the world is greatly hindered.

Ed Shaw, a person who experiences same-sex attraction, wrote in Same-Sex Attraction and the Church:

“We have a plausibility issue: what the Bible clearly teaches sounds unreasonable to many of us today. And so it is (not unreasonably!) being rejected all over the place. A few high-profile leaders in our churches have already broken ranks…” (21).

“But what helped me was that, back then [the 1990s], embracing a homosexual lifestyle was clearly a no-go area for an evangelical Christian like me… The parameters set out for me were crystal clear—celibacy and a daily battle to avoid even a hint of sexual immorality in what I thought or did (Ephesians 5:3)… And although I found the consequences of that clarity immensely hard, the lack of ambiguity was incredibly helpful. It made the choice I’d taken seem plausible” (25-26).

Whether we’re talking about homosexuality, marriage, the sacraments, the nature of God, the structure of the church, or any other matter addressed in Scripture, we should be clear about what the Bible says and how it should inform our beliefs and actions. Then from the solid ground of Scripture we should have no fear in stating our beliefs.

It seems to me that fear is a driving force behind a lot of people who are bending to cultural norms. I understand that we don’t want to cut off opportunities for ministry and sharing the Gospel, but I think that we are presuming too much about our own ability to convert people. Only the Holy Spirit can bring someone to repentance and faith, not any human effort. Trying to sugarcoat Scripture is not sharing the Gospel. If a clear statement of the truth of Scripture causes someone to pull away, then it is still in God’s hands to soften their heart. If the seeds we are trying to plant are not grounded in Scripture, then they shouldn’t be bearing fruit anyway, and I don’t think God will allow them to bear fruit if it compromises His Word or His sovereignty and glory.

Jesus came as the embodied Word of God (John 1:1-14), and because of the Spirit’s work in the early believers we have the written Word as our foundation for faith and practice. The Word matters because it is the Truth of God. If we choose to abandon the truths of Scripture we might as well stop calling ourselves Christians, because it is not Jesus Christ we are representing but ourselves. Jesus repeatedly stated the importance of abiding in the Word:

  • “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
  • “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:7-8, 10).
  • “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul reiterates the fact that only God can open the eyes of the blind. Our responsibility is to be true to the Word of God:

“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:2-5).

May we not be tempted to tamper with the Word, but “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

 

© 2017 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.

Let’s Pray Together

This post is for my fellow Dulin’s Grovers. I wanted to share some things I’ve been praying through, and ask you to pray with me.

We’re cruising through those tough summer months as a church when so many (including me!) are traveling. Several of our House to House groups have taken a break, and Sunday attendance is low. This happens every year, but there’s more going on among us than just the “summer slump.”

  • We’re contending with the increasing challenges and limitations of aging, leaving some isolated and lonely.
  • We’re failing to engage some among our younger generation–those in their 20’s and 30’s–in the life and ministry of the church.
  • Some are suffering in a variety of ways (familial, emotional, physical, financial, etc.).
  • Some are falling out of fellowship with the church, and possibly with Christ.
  • Some are straining under the stresses of modern American life, which leave little time and energy for devotion to our shared life in Christ, and our shared mission to reach the world with the gospel.

Of course, there are more good things going on among us than bad, and there are other issues not included in the list above, but these things have been especially on my mind lately, and I wanted to share them with you. And please don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraged by all this. This is what church life looks like. We’ll always have various struggles and issues to pray through together. These are the opportunities for us to depend on God together.

Speaking of which, I came across a couple of sermons I wrote four years ago that seem timely: Jesus Will Build His Church and Church Devotion. I’d encourage you to read them sometime. The bottom line: “The Christ, the Son of the Living God is working on building up his chosen people. Look to him. Rest in him. Let him do his work in your heart and among his people. Jesus will build his church.”

God is awesome, and he is up to awesome things among us and through us. In Christ, we have every reason to rejoice and be at peace. But there’s also good work to be done together, even during the summer slump. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). So let’s renew our devotion to:

  1. Trusting and following Jesus together (encouraging one another in the faith, and helping one another live by Jesus’ teachings)
  2. Loving God and people together (worshiping God together, and combining our efforts to help people in need)
  3. Sharing the gospel and building up disciples together (spreading the good news in daily life every chance we get, meeting with younger believers to encourage them in their walk with Christ)

More specifically, let’s…

  • Visit, call, or send a card to our home-bound brothers and sisters, and those who are ill and unable to come to church gatherings.
  • Connect with someone who is disconnected to the life of the church over dinner or a cup of coffee.
  • Check on those whom you know are going through hard times.
  • Check on those whom you know have fallen out of fellowship.
  • Encourage someone who is stressed out with a bit of grace and truth.

In Christ,

Matt

Ashlyn Wilson Summer Ministry Update

Hey Everyone!,

Matt asked me to write like a blog kinda thing every so often and I totally forgot, sorry. This experience has been the best thing ever! Flying over here when I was getting water on the plane and pulled the tray down a New Testament bible fell and that was my sign that God was with me that day and the rest of the summer. Like he said in Joshua 1:9 “I am with you where ever you go”. The past 3 weeks have been fantastic. My team is hilarious. The family camp that we were at was so welcoming. It felt like I have been going to Camp Maranatha forever. But this past week we were in inner city LA at Lincoln Heights Tutorial Program. It was a summer day program that also tutors the kids during the summer. We stayed in a house with 9 other college students who were also involved in the staff. I knew this week would probably be my favorite week but I didn’t know it would be coming from the people I was staying with. They were the most spiritual people I have ever meet. They were apart of a group called LAUP (Los Angles Urban Projects) through a club that they were apart of at whichever university that they went to. We were invited to attend their worship service on Thursday with everyone involved and I never felt a room praising God so loud and joyful. It was something I have never felt before that it actually brought me to tears. Every day my love for the Lord grows more and more. It’s is just an overwhelming love that I now understand. It was so hard leaving them. We wanted to stay another week! But now we are heading to Camp Maranatha for Kids/Teen camp! Thank you everyone for all the prayers because not only is God working so much through my life I know he is through others! I love you all!

Still Waiting

Written by Dawn Rutan

I was reading in John 9 of the man born blind. “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (2-3 ESV). Obviously this man and his parents were not completely free of sin, but their sin was unrelated to his blindness. We can’t read too much into this, but it is apparent that the brokenness of this world is used to display God’s works. He uses all things for His purposes (Rom. 8:28). He can use physical, mental, and emotional brokenness, and He can even use our sinfulness in ways that will bring Him glory.

I’m sure I’ve contributed to my own “blindness” through the ways I’ve behaved or things I have mistakenly believed, but the story doesn’t end there. Each piece of my story is an opportunity for God to display His glory. Whether He heals the brokenness or not, He gets the ultimate glory for whatever works He does in and through me. There are parts I am fairly certain will not be “fixed” in this lifetime, but that will just make eternity that much better. Some things I’ve experienced in the last few days have made me yearn even more for the day when all will be made perfect—where people won’t misunderstand one another or say things that are incorrect; where we won’t overreact to words or deeds because all the old wounds will be healed; where we won’t have anything to hide from one another; where fear will be a thing of the past; where our bodies and minds will function perfectly as God intends. I long for that day to come.

As I was skimming through some Scriptures I’ve read this week, it struck me how often we take Isaiah 40:31 out of context. “They that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with winds like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” That is an inspiring picture, but we can’t divorce it from verse 30, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” In this life we are guaranteed to encounter weariness, exhaustion, pain, and trials. The promises of verse 31 won’t truly be fulfilled until we receive our new bodies and the earth is made new. Even Jesus grew weary while He walked this earth.

So we are called to persevere in faith until that final day, trusting that everything will be made clear and God’s purposes are revealed so that He will be glorified. There are days I don’t want to persevere, days when everything seems pointless and hopeless. But I’m reminded, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Heb. 10:36). I imagine the man who’d been born blind got tired of the routine of his life. The man who’d been an invalid for 38 years (John 5) certainly had reasons for complaint. I wonder how much the difficulties in Joseph’s life influenced the way he manipulated his brothers (Gen. 42-44) before he revealed who he was? (Somehow I don’t think God told Joseph, “Let’s string them along for a while until they really appreciate your position”!)

One day “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). But until that day we endure, we wait, and we pray for His will to be done and His glory to be revealed.

 

© 2017 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.

Out of the Darkness

Written by Dawn Rutan

“He brought me out into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19 ESV).

I read this verse last night and saw it in a new light. Usually when I’ve read it I’ve thought to myself, “I hope that will be true one day.” The cares and pressures of today often leave me looking for a way out of what feels like a narrow valley. But as I looked at it from a bird’s eye view I thought about it a little differently.

Looking back over my life, and particularly the last few years, I can see many examples of ways that God has rescued me and brought me out into open spaces. He’s lightened heavy burdens; He’s brought freedom from some areas of sin and fear; He’s opened doors for honesty that I never imagined. He’s torn down many of the walls I had built to protect myself—walls that restricted me more than I realized. Today I am in a much broader place than I have been before.

In a very real way, God has rescued me from myself. But from an even higher perspective, He has also rescued me from the enemy—from sin and death. As Paul said, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). We have been rescued and made citizens of a new country full of light and open places. I was reminded of the scene from Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian journeys through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in pitch darkness:

“Now, morning being come, he looked back, not out of desire to return, but to see, by the light of day, what dangers he had gone through in the dark. So he saw more perfectly the ditch that was on the one hand, and the quag that was on the other; also how narrow the way which led betwixt them both. Also now he saw the hobgoblins, and satyrs, and dragons of the pit, but all afar off; for after break of day they came not night; yet they were shown to him according to that which is written, ‘He showeth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death” (Part 1 Chapter IV).

The valley is dark and full of dangers, but the road ahead is wide open and brightly lit.

But perhaps the best part of Psalm 18:19 is the ending, “because He delighted in me.” God rescues and delivers us not out of pity or obligation, but out of delight. That is almost incomprehensible to us if we’re honest. There’s not much within us to make us “delightful,” but God sees something we can’t. Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2), and that joy was in the salvation of the children of God.

So I’m reading Psalm 18 differently these days and seeing how God is continually at work rescuing us and bringing us out into open, safe places. Although God doesn’t always deliver us the way we want or expect, there are probably many “little” rescues that we aren’t even aware of. Other rescues happen so gradually that we don’t see them unless we are specifically looking. And then there is the eternal rescue that has been transacted and will be fully realized in eternity. That one makes it worth it all.

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

 

© 2017 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.

Powered by God | Psalm 18:30-36

Guest speaker Rev. Jeff Walsh

What we do with success tells a lot about who we are. As a follower/disciple of Jesus Christ our deepest goal in life should be to reflect Him in our character, to be shaped by God’s Holy Spirit living within us into the image of Christ. There are a lot of things that reveal Christ’s life in us (or the lack thereof). Success/victory is one them.

“Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”  – Wayne W. Dyer

“The real test of greatness is not whether a man possesses fame or power, but how he employs them.” – David Vaughn

Proverbs 27:21 (NLT): “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.”

Did you ever feel really good about accomplishing something? Success / victory comes in lots of different forms. It might be…

  • …building something
  • …seeing a project completed
  • …seeing people come to faith in Christ
  • …completing physical therapy after surgery

With whatever victories / successes we experience in life, God’s word helps us celebrate them in ways that reflect the glory of God and the life of Christ Jesus our Lord within us. God’s word gives us the lenses to view victories and successes properly. Psalm 18 is written for that purpose.

Point: Our victories are powered by God himself.

David attributed his glorious military victories to God.

  1. This psalm is a thanksgiving psalm. Designed to lead God’s people in giving thanks to God for victory.
  2. To do this David uses his incredible experiences of victories in battle as his reference point.
  3. The title of Psalm 18 is taken from 2 Samuel 22:1
  4. 2 Samuel 8 gives us some examples of David’s God-enabled victories over the enemies of Israel.
  5. David’s career as King of Israel was defined by escaping from enemies and subduing them.
  6. David was at the height of his power as king when he wrote this psalm.
  7. Probably none of us have led thousands of soldiers in victorious battles like David, but the intent of this psalm is that we would follow David’s pattern of attributing our victories to God and lavishing God with thanksgiving.

Key principles to notice that will help us internalize the truth that God powers our victories:

Our victories / successes derive from God’s character and his action.

Character-wise– God is perfect and flawless in power. He is always able to achieve everything he wants to do. And that perfection of power / ability is mirrored in what he produces in you and me.
  1. 30: “This God – his way is perfect (tamim)…”
  2. 32: “…the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless (tamim).
  3. Point: Though we are not perfect like God, as followers of Christ, we become little displays of his perfection.
God’s action– Our victories / successes are possible only because God stoops down to make us great.
  1. 35: “…your gentleness made me great.” – The word translated “gentleness” (ESV) has the same root meaning in Hebrew as the word that is often translated “humility” or “meekness” or “condescension.”

This psalm has another layer to it.

When we read Psalm 18 in light of the whole witness of Scripture, especially the NT, we see this psalm finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus.

This psalm of thanksgiving, with all its descriptions of God’s mighty acts and the way he enabled David to be victorious in battles, ultimately describes Christ himself and the ultimate victory he has won over sin and death, and the ultimate victory that will be realized when he returns.

  1. John Calvin: Much in this psalm agrees “better with Christ” than with David.
  2. In Romans 15:9 Paul quoted from v.49 to reinforce the idea that Christ’s victory is for non-Jewish people as well as Jewish.
  3. As we thank God for our successes and victories, let it be a reminder that we live in the victory of Christ. Any success or victory (no matter how tiny it may seem) can be a pointer to the great victory God has won for us in Christ.

Conclusion

If we live outside the truth of this psalm, our successes get stained with our own pride and self-centeredness. So in the pattern of Psalm 18, give thanks to God for your victories:

  • Give thanks to him for your skills and abilities.
  • Give thanks to him for your achievements.
  • Give thanks to him for the victories he’s given you over life’s difficult battles.
  • Give thanks to him always for the victory he’s given in Jesus.

When we lived in the Philippines I remember on one occasion attending a Vacation Bible School at one of the churches. The teacher told the children something very simple but very profound. She said, “Always do your very best for the glory of the Lord.” Successes and achievements are great, but as Christians we recognize their purpose is to bring glory to our God.

Discussion Starters

  1. What is one victory or accomplishment you’ve had that means a lot to you? Why?
  2. What were some of the victories David experienced? (eg. 1 Sam. 17; 2 Sam. 8)
  3. What was David’s response to victory? (eg. 1 Sam. 17:45-47; 2 Sam. 22)
  4. How can we apply this message in our own lives? What are some ways we can give God credit for our successes?
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