Friday, November 30, 2012

Having Jesus In Your Heart 16


The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him,‘ Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Matthew 8:18-20
“Here‘ the Son of man’ denotes the Divine truth;‘ not having where to lay His head,’ means that Divine truth had no place anywhere, or with any man, at that time.” (Secrets of Heaven §9807:9) “And also that they had it not abiding in them, because they had not acknowledged Him (John 5:38). In Revelation also‘ the Son of man’ means the Lord in respect to the Word.” (Doctrine of the Lord §27)
The actions and words of Jesus Christ manifested Divine power. They manifested the Divine Love that was His soul. By His actions He did miracles. By His words He brought people to understand their lives as consisting of both natural and spiritual realities, both outer and inner. He invited people to live spiritual lives. He taught people how to realize a joyous release from the drudgery, the fear, and the anger that dominated their small lives. He showed them a path to an ever-expanding happiness, and to freedom from the impossible rules of the church leaders, and the oppression of the Roman taxes.
I can imagine that there were hundreds who said and did just what the “scribe,” the church legal expert, did when he came and fell at Jesus’ feet, and declared his intention of following Jesus. We are told the story of this particular man so that we may learn a spiritual lesson and see its application to our spiritual life.
This government representative, and employee of the church, was offering to give up his entire life style. He was abandoning both his income and his reputation. He was a leader, a teacher and a man with power. Here he was stepping back, and down, into the role of mere student, acolyte, disciple. He was walking away from his place in his community. I wonder how much he prepared for this break. Was it a spur of the moment action, or did he pack a bag and bed roll? Did he bring a second cloak and set of sandals? Did he say anything to his family and friends as he left the city to go see Jesus on the outskirts of Capernaum, as He headed east and out of the country?
I am sure that we are to understand that the Scribe believed he was paying a high price to volunteer to follow Jesus. I know this because of Jesus’ response to the man’s announcement of his obeisance. If I had been that man (acknowledging my need for acceptance!), I would have expected Jesus Christ to put His hands on my arms and raise me up, embrace me, and congratulate me, perhaps even giving me a place in His inner circle because I was such a valuable commodity – an insider from the enemy camp!
Instead Jesus gives the man (and me!) a reality check and a response precisely matching the man’s spiritual needs. The scribe knows that foxes and birds are not noble or useful creatures. Birds steal seeds from the field before they root. Foxes eat lambs out of the flock. And Jesus gives the man this powerful image that these noxious irritants have a place in the world that Jesus has been refused.
Jesus has begun to show the man, starting where the man’s life is – in a comfortable and satisfying home and work – that in fact, to become a “follower” of Jesus, one must be willing to become a martyr! Knowing the end of the story, we can see how Jesus is preparing the man for this very noble task. I have a small disappointment that the New Testament does not tell the rest of the story of this man. I am sure it would be inspiring whether the man stayed with Jesus or returned home.
Now, I am not at all bothered by foxes and birds. I am excited to see a fox trotting across a nearby field, newly reaped of its wheat. And other than an occasional dropping, birds always give me delight in their colors, flight or song. As with the rest of Jesus’ words, there is a message here for me that is much deeper than the metaphor and simile. It is describing how I can make the spiritual journey to be with Jesus Christ, to have Him in my heart.
First, Jesus Christ inspires me to leave my comfort zone, the spiritual country of my heredity and upbringing. He invites me, ever so gently yet compellingly, to leave my home, my standard operating, my usual thought process. The more I listen to Jesus, the more I really get that what I am giving up to follow Him is not all that valuable. He models for me how to let go of the possessions, the desires and the beliefs that are actually limiting my joy and thwarting the expression of my love of what is good and true.
For instance, when I hear Jesus tell me to “forgive others trespasses,” I am reminded of certain specific thoughts and feelings I have about specific people because of specific things they have done to me. At one end of the spectrum is forgiving the person who dangerously cut me off while driving. I can easily and quickly forgive that person, letting go of disparaging thoughts and feelings of anger.
At the other end of the spectrum is forgiving the person whose violence wounded my spirit. Putting myself in his shoes does not work as it does for the harried, thoughtless driver. Denying that harm was done – “no foul, no penalty” – leaves me vulnerable to a festering of the wound. Jesus Christ welcomes me into a new spiritual home that He shows me, which is across the sea. There I can see clearly, as it were from a better perspective, the thoughts and feelings conditioned by my experience, which I am holding on to, that make me feel comfortable. I can then see clearly that they are foxes’ holes and birds’ nests – ignoble homes for a human spirit.
As I hear Jesus Christ invite me to the home He is providing, where His heart and my heart find communion, I realize that Jesus was not advocating homelessness. Jesus did not tell His followers to live under a bridge. Rather, He is saying that, with Him as the householder, we can all be in a community. By becoming a manifestation of, for instance, authentic forgiveness, we create a structure in which Jesus Christ can dwell.
The homes of foxes and birds are symbols for desires and ideas having existence in our natural mind, which are, if not evil and false, at least less noble than what the home for our Savior and Lord ought to be. Jesus does not ask us to become destitute physically, but to depend upon Him for our sense of security on an external level. Eventually, we become spiritually dependent upon Him for the very life of our soul (which is an advanced spiritual state!).
Following Jesus Christ is definitely a walk, a journey. There are steps to take in certain directions. There are actions I have to do, and some that I have to stop. There are words I have to say and some that I have to stop saying. But that is not the end or goal, even though it is the necessary journey “to the other side.” On the other side is the enjoyment of freedom, the delight of goodness, the enlightenment of truth because I have prepared, made a commitment, and then accepted the gift of having Jesus in my heart.

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