The Incarnate Lord (4)
But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” Mark 8.17-21
Motive to serve
It may seem that we are making too much of this practice of fixing in our minds, hearts, and consciences an increasingly clear and compelling vision of Jesus, that we’re calling for an enrichment of our imaginations beyond what Scripture allows and, thus, what may be proper.
But what else can David have meant when he wrote, “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Ps. 16.8)? Or what did Paul intend when he wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3.1, 2). That opening “if” could just as well be translated “since”. In other words, since you are a Christian, and since your life has been hidden with Christ in God (Col. 1.3), it only makes sense for you to long for the vision of Christ to be always before your mind, increasingly clear, compelling, and transformative.
John Owen was strong in his conviction of the importance of this discipline: “He is no Christian who lives not much in the meditation of the mediation of Christ, and the especial acts of it. Some may more abound in that work than others, as it is fixed, formed and regular; some may be more able than others to dispose their thought concerning them into method and order; some may be more diligent than others in the observation of times for the solemn performance of this duty; some may be able to rise to higher and clearer apprehensions of them than others. But as for those, the bent of whose minds doth not lie towards thoughts of them—whose hearts are not on all occasions retreating unto the remembrance of them—who embrace not all opportunities to call them over as they are able—on what grounds can they be esteemed Christians?”
In this part of our study we’re considering Jesus through “the especial acts” which He accomplished during His incarnation. We’re looking at familiar situations, scenes, and stories a little more closely, to consider what we might see of Jesus, and how seeing Him more clearly might induce us to love and serve Him with greater joy and fruition. We want to “rise to higher and clearer apprehensions” of Jesus, to fix our minds on Him, so that He might be always before us, just as we are always before Him.
We’ve considered Jesus as welcoming, strong, and compassionate. Even as we say these words situations in the gospels come to mind, and we see Jesus receiving the little children with open arms, turning over the tables of money-changers, and looking from the cross at His mother and John with welcoming, strong, compassionate eyes. We want to see Him seeing us these ways as well, because as we do, we will be drawn to Him, to hide more completely in His Presence, and thus to participate in Him and the transforming power of His Word, His Spirit, and His glory. We do this, not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of the heart, praying God to open them wide so that the bright and polychromatic light of Jesus might shine throughout our soul.
Thus, however we see Him, we may learn to see Him more, so that the vision of Christ that is “fixed, formed and regular” in our minds contains more of the total of what God has revealed to us in His Word. We see Him as welcoming, strong, and compassionate as we consider Him during His earthly sojourn.
Can we also see Him as patient? What does a patient person look like? Perhaps it would be easier for us to envision an impatient person. Arms folded across the chest. Looking upon with us tight lips and disapproving eyes. Tapping a foot. Casting a glance at his watch. Making us feel unworthy and uncomfortable as we struggle to get our act together.
Imagine Jesus, then, with those unschooled disciples, trying to help them understand the most profound and empowering truths ever spoken in the world. He taught them in parables. He explained the parables. He showed them by His works. He helped them do such works. He taught them in private. Over and over, day-in and day-out. And they still didn’t get it.
But there is a tenderness in His “How is it you do not understand?” He’s not about to give up on them. His desire is for them to share in His work, participate in His joy, and draw on His power for a life greater and more fulfilling and fruitful than they had ever dared to ask or think. He is not impatient with His disciples, but patient to bear with them, perhaps with a little laugh, as He thought ahead to just what those men would end up doing after He ascended to the Father.
The fruit of the Spirit includes patience. The Spirit is patient with us, and Jesus is patient, picking us up each time we stumble; gently reminding us of our duty each time we read over a familiar passage of His Word; letting us stub our spiritual toes but standing by to soothe and restore; and prodding, encouraging, pointing the way for us to grow from glory to glory into His image so that we do everything to the glory of God.
If we see Jesus as patient, we will not give up hope. We will not despair. We will not say, “What’s the use?” We will draw near to our ever-patient Savior, into His welcoming Presence, where we are wrapped in His compassion and draw on His strength to carry out the calling He has appointed to us.
How do you see Jesus?
As John Owen reminded us, every believer bears some vision of Jesus in mind. For most of, that vision is probably more limiting than liberating. It is a small vision of Jesus rather than an expansive and enriching vision. We’ve caught a glimpse of Jesus at some point, and that glimpse determines in large measure the nature of our discipleship. We see a small Jesus, so we live a small faith.
But when we learn to consider Jesus – to meditate on Him like studying a fine work of art or listening to a complex and glorious musical composition, considering Him like a richly rewarding idea with many threads and implications, to consider Jesus in these ways, reflecting, praying, singing, talking with others, sinking into Scripture, and learning from our Christian friends and forebears – then the Jesus we see will be the Jesus God reveals to us in His Word, and Whom we are striving to see through these studies. We need to improve at being “diligent” in “the observation of times for the solemn performance of this duty”, so that we may see Jesus more clearly, constantly, and transformingly.
How do you see Jesus? Do you think your view of Him is as rich as it could be? Or as it should be? May we increasingly make it our practice to plead with the Father, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
1. How do you feel when you know that someone is being patient with you? How does that help you think about Jesus as patient?
2. What can you do to improve in “the observations of times” for considering Jesus?
3. What do you hope to gain from more careful and consistent consideration of Jesus?
Next steps – Transformation: Today, practice patience with everyone you meet. Then thank Jesus, each time, for how patient He is with you.
A Thanksgiving Challenge
A generous friend of The Fellowship is offering a $5000 challenge gift for new donations and donations over and above regular giving. Will you join us to give thanks to God for this, and to ask Him whether you should participate in this opportunity? If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
At the website
You can also now listen, each Lord’s Day, to a weekly summary of our daily Scriptorium study, which is presently working through the book of Jeremiah. Click here for last week’s summary of Jeremiah 22, 23.
Have you discovered The InVerse Theology Project yet? You’re missing Patrick’s report on his ministry. You can pick up Part 2 of “Celtic Flame” by clicking here.
Two new resources are available at our website to help you grow in the Lord and His work. Our new Personal Mission Field Workshop offers weekly training to help you shepherd the people to whom God sends you. And The Ailbe Podcast will introduce you to The Fellowship and how its resources and Brothers can be of help to you in your walk with and work for the Lord.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.