At some point, usually young in life, most of us come to the realization that other people are #blessed, and we are #notsomuch.
I am not chosen, while another is favored. I struggle paycheck to paycheck, while others take their family on a holiday to the Caribbean sea. I am trapped by my body; my marriage; my crippling depression, while others live unhindered. I remain wounded from toxic relationships, even while others flourish in love. I cannot conceive, or carry a child, even as others around me raise an inheritance of joy (#blessed).
Why have I been denied this blessing? Have I not been faithful? Have I not prayed earnestly? What have I done, or not done, that God would withhold his favor from me?
In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 18) the men closest to Jesus, his friends and disciples, pull him aside and say, Tell us Teacher, who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
What they wanted to know was this: Lord, you know we’ve given up everything to follow you. We’ve left family and friends, homes and jobs, safety and all life’s comforts. What will be our reward? How will you bless our faithfulness? What status will you give us that signals your favor of us over all the other people? How will the world know we are #blessed?
I can identity deeply with the disciples in this story. Lord, I wonder, what is my reward for going with you in this life? How will you compensate me for all I’ve sacrificed? How will you elevate me above all the others to show them that I am #blessed and #favored in your sight?
And Jesus says, Turn dear one. Turn again and become like a child. Whoever humbles herself like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom.
Ah, yes. If there’s one thing that children are, it’s trusting. Little children trust the words and intentions of their earthly father, even if he isn’t always faithful or especially good. With the conviction and delight of small children, Jesus says to his disciples, trust in your Heavenly Father’s perfect love and constant care for you, and you will be blessed.
The original disciples forgot a few important things in their “Who is the greatest?” brain freeze, just as I frequently do. I am grateful for the gospel reminder.
Jesus called his disciples into fellowship. They were not called because they were winsome, wise, and respected by all. They were not called by Jesus because they were fun, clever, and uplifting to be around. They were called from their mundane, unremarkable, struggle-filled lives into fellowship with Jesus and his Father. This was their profound blessing.
Jesus chose his disciples to be with him. They were not chosen as his disciples because they had something helpful or inspiring to offer Jesus along his way. They weren’t chosen because they were honorable, represented God especially well in their community, or because they were model husbands or fathers. They were chosen to be with Jesus. They were chosen to enter into his life, his sufferings, and witness his resurrection. This was their profound favor.
Jesus is God’s blessing to the world. When Jesus arrived in the world (poor, unmarried, unwelcome, no home of his own) God said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” And God’s favor rested on him until his last moments on the cross.
But as the most favored one – God’s own humble and trusting son – raggedly drew his last breath in the world, his own Father turned his face away. He was not delivered. He was not helped. He was overcome by God’s wrath so that we might never be overcome. This is our profound favor.
And on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead, and his eternal blessing and favor was poured out, not only on Jesus, but on all those he came to rescue. On us! We are saved by his blood, sealed by his spirit, and drawn into fellowship with a holy God forever. This is our profound blessing.
Beautiful families, good jobs, good health, and happy holidays are not a sign of God’s reward to those he favors the most. In the same way, those who find themselves seemingly thwarted at every turn, denied, unrescued, unhealed – their lives broken – are not without a very great reward.
You have entered into Christ’s suffering, so also through Christ your comfort will overflow. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
For those who trust in the name of Jesus, even though they may not appear #blessed in the eyes of the world, will never be separated from the one who has brought them securely, and with joy, to God.
Peace to you today as you enjoy the true blessing and reward of your faith: the fellowship and communion with Jesus – today and always.
Indeed, you are most blessed.