Obviously, today (9/11) is a day of tremendous pain for our country – a day in which innocent lives were taken by terrorists who were seeking war against our culture and our values – a day in which many people were going about the routines of life, only to have those routines abruptly stopped by some lunatics who thought their actions were justified and holy.
In a sense, it’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since our country was terrorized. I often think about this time one time a year as we near September and the start of school. Yet for those affected first hand by the actions that day, I can only imagine that these 10 years have seemed like an eternity. And my heart and prayers go out to those who are reminded daily of their loss because their loved one is no longer around. They no longer get to touch, see, smell, or hear the loved one, but rather must remember the good times of the past.
But as we think and remember this time, let’s take a moment of silence, to pray for the victims and their families during their time of pain. And let us also do as Jesus taught us; pray for those enemies who masterminded this act of terrorism. For though they feel they are right in Allah’s eyes, we know that God, the Father of Jesus, showed us what true love and sacrifice really look like; and they need Jesus.
Now that we’ve had some time to reflect and pray, I want to look at a passage in the Gospel of Matthew that will lead us into a series on things Jesus refuses to do. But before I share with you this reading, I have a trivia question to ask. Now keep in mind, this was new to me when I researched it so I’m not some brain that can just throw out to you tidbits of information.
Question: Where is the one place in the world where a person can throw different pieces of wood in different directions and have them end up in 3 different seas; the Black, the North, and the Mediterranean?
The answer is a place on the North Side of the Alpine Mountains in Switzerland. If you throw a piece in the Danube River, it will end up in the Black Sea. If you throw a piece in the Rhine River, it will end up in the North Sea. And if you throw a piece in the Rhone River, it will end up in the Mediterranean Sea.
Three pieces of wood thrown from the same place but ending up in different Seas several miles apart. Their destinationis determined by the way they were thrown.
With our lives, the principle “what will be tomorrow will be determined by the choices we make today” is a good principle, but not always a valid principle in light of every circumstance. Yes, if I drink too much alcohol over the course of time, my liver pays. If I smoke, my heart and lungs take a beating. If I’m promiscuous, then I may end up with disease or unplanned pregnancies. Yet, in light of 9/11/2001, over 3000 people had their lives abruptly ended. Not because of the choices they had made in the past or the choice they made that day to go to work (an attribute God has placed in all of us), but because some decided, with Satan’s influence, to use our planes as missiles.
I feel the better way to state this principle is: “Bad choices will most likely result in negative consequences, whereas good choices will most likely result in positive ones.” There is no guarantee that if I make good choices, nothing bad will happen to me. Nor, is there any guarantee that if I make bad choices, nothing good will happen to me, ever. I’ve seen it too many times. People want the black and white, the cookie cutter approach to life, yet life never operates with a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Choices always have to be made. And even Jesus had to make them.
We sometimes forget that Jesus was human. And just like we have to make choices daily, the choices He made developed the character He would become. He chose to do some things and refused to do others.
And I’m glad that in the Bible, particularly the Gospels, it tells of things He chose to do willingly. He willingly raised Lazarus from the dead. He willingly healed a man with a withered hand. He willingly stopped a funeral by raising a widow’s son. He willingly laid down His life so that we have forgiveness of sins.
But today, we want to key in on one of three things that Matthew 12: 14-21 tell us Jesus refuses to do: Jesus refuses to be impatientwith sinners.
Verse 15 – Aware that the Pharisees were plotting how to kill Him, He withdrew from that place. Many followed Him and he healed all their sick……
Imagine how many people were pursuing Jesus wanting a healing. Yet in his patience, when He could have shooed them all away, He healed all their sick.
Martin Luther once said, “If I were God and the world treated me as it has treated Him, I would have kicked the wretched thing to pieces long ago.”
The scripture shows us that many people are hurting and want Jesus to heal them. There is no question that pain and suffering were evident then and are still evident today. But you know; pain and suffering often don’t make sense to us, especially when we have the knowledge that God is a loving God who is supposed to be in control of this world.
Read this explanation, one of the best ones I’ve ever heard, of why God allows pain and suffering.
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about all kinds of things. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.
“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? Would there be innocent lives taken in acts of terror? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.”
The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start and argument.
The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barbershop again and said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you.”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”
“Ah, but barbers do exist! What happens is people don’t come to me,” the barber said.
“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s my point! God too does exist! What happens is people don’t go to Him and do not look for Him. That’s why there is so much pain and suffering in the world.”
Jesus is patient with us. He keeps hoping that we’ll come to Him just like those who followed Him and were healed that day some 2000 years ago.
Here’s a prayer by a minister named Joe Wright given at the opening session of the Kansas State Senate in 2000 that truly reminds us that Jesus refuses to be impatient with sinners.
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask for Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it “pluralism.” We have worshipped other gods and called it “multiculturalism.” We endorsed perversion and called it “alternative lifestyle.” We have exploited the poor and called it “the lottery.” We have rewarded laziness and called it “welfare.” We have killed our unborn and called it “choice.” We have shot abortionists and called it “justifiable.” We have neglected to discipline our children and called it “building self-esteem.” We have abused power and called it “politics.” We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it “ambition.” We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it “enlightenment.” Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your Will, to open our hearts and ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Wow! What a prayer. What courage. But best yet, oh how it shows us that Jesus refuses to be impatient with sinners, with me.
Our remembrance of the 10 year anniversary of September 11 truly reminds us that we’re in a fallen world – that pain and suffering exist – that mankind makes choices that affect us, both good and bad. If we look truly at 9/11 we are reminded that Jesus doesn’t zap with lightening those who do wrong, though sometimes we wish His judgment be swift and harsh on those who hurt others. But it reminds us all the more that we should be careful what we wish for, for we all have done wrong. And no sin – no matter how big or little it may seem – goes unnoticed by God. The only time it goes unnoticed is in this day of grace – this day of patience. It’s during this time when sin is wiped clean through repentance in the name of Jesus. One day, this day of grace will end, and all sin not covered under the blood of Jesus will be judged swiftly and harshly.
So remember, Jesus willingly does many things. But there are some things that Jesus refuses to do and one of them is: He refuses to be impatient with sinners. 2 Peter 3: 9 states, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Jesus is patient because He wants to see that no one is eternally separatedfrom the love of God at the time of judgment. And that choice is up to you and me.