A Lesson From Yesterday’s Dinner

The number one, hands-down, all-time favorite dinner in our family is grilled salmon. Marinating it in soy sauce and minced garlic for the day, and then grilling it provides the main course to a meal that no restaurant can match.

I’m a big salmon fan, but not just because it tastes good. Rich in protein, vitamin D, and Omega 3 fatty acids, salmon are also extremely healthy to eat. More than that, they’re one of the most amazing animals in nature.

Think about it: Salmon are born in freshwater streams and rivers, and then migrate downstream to the ocean, living one to five years in saltwater. Talk about versatility! Then, when they’re ready to spawn,  they return to the very spot where they were born.

But what I admire most about salmon is their ability to swim upstream. In the aquatic world, where all other fish “go with the flow,” the salmon bravely tread uphill through the water. Some salmon, like the Chinook and Sockeye, may travel over 900 miles and climb 7200 feet in elevation in order to spawn.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to swim upstream either. In one of our readings today, we’re going to look a little closer at how he broke the conventional  norms of his day—which is a challenge to all of us.

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 23:1-24:51
Matthew 8:1-17
Psalm 9:13-20
Proverbs 3:1-6

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Genesis 23:1-20. Abraham insisted on paying for Sarah’s burial plot when it was offered to him free of charge because he wanted to buy property in the Promised Land. Remember, up to this point, Abraham was wealthy, but he didn’t own property. If the property had been given to him, the ownership would have reverted back to the family after Ephron (the original owner) died. But by paying for it, the land forever belonged to Abraham.

Genesis 24. Notice how prayerful the servant is in his search for a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:2. Putting your hand under someone’s thigh was a means of taking an oath.

Matthew 8:2. Leprosy in those days wasn’t the kind of skin disease where noses fell off. That’s known today as Hanson’s disease. Leprosy referred to a variety of skin conditions, some serious and contagious, others not so much.

Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage reminds me of Matthew 6:33 from our reading on Friday. Trust and lean offer the picture of a person completely supported by someone or something else. And without that support, the person would fall helplessly to the ground.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

After initially reading it, Matthew 8:1-17 seemed like a run-of-the-mill collection of miracle stories. Of course, there is no such thing as a run-of-the-mill miracle—that’s what makes it a miracle. My reaction also points to how dull I’ve become from reading Scripture. Reading about Jesus’ miracles should blow me away. But I digress…

Then I realized that all three people Jesus healed held little or no status in Jewish society: a leper, a Roman centurion, and a woman. After a little checking, I also discovered that these are the first three stories of Jesus’ healings mentioned in the book of Matthew.

How did Jesus respond to these people? He touched the leper, meaning he defiled himself in the process of healing the man. Then he healed the Roman centurion’s servant. Associating with any Gentile was discouraged, but Jesus helped the servant of a Gentile.

Then with Peter’s mother-in-law, we see Jesus touching a sick woman by the hand. In many Jewish circles at that time, men were banned from touching women like this. And , rabbis—of which Jesus was one—were forbidden from touching a person with a fever.

By nature, I’m not the kind of person who goes against the flow. I like rules, and following them as long as they don’t inconvenience me.

But Jesus didn’t necessarily follow the conventional norms of his day. He lived by the law of love, which meant jeopardizing his convenience and reputation. He didn’t “go with the flow” and accept cultural values as gospel truth. Instead, he made sacrifices to embody God’s love.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. How do you respond to Jesus’ miracle stories? Why do you respond this way?
  2. Who are the people of little or no status whom Jesus might be calling you to touch? What prevents you from touching them? Why?
  3. What conventional norms in society deserve being challenged?
  4. What sacrifices would need to be made to live like this?
  5. Describe a time when you had no choice but to trust and lean on God. What did you learn about God? What did you learn about you? Did you grow? How?
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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A Lesson From Yesterday’s Dinner

  1. Mike

    The law of love is prone to abuse. We see it used
    as rationale to satisify personal desire while denying scripture. It can be “if it feels good, do it.” Or as one pastor says, God wouldn’t want any of us to suffer the “burning” of sexual desire so we should simply satisify our lust however suits us. He calls this the law of love. Jesus broke human convention and human misunderstanding but in no way did he disobey God’s law.
    It is a rule not to counsel with a person of the opposite sex in any way that could bring accusation. Not alone, not with the door shut, etc. But one lady I encountered was victim of abuse from childhood with family, later with husband and his friends, and finally with her pastor. She felt guilty and to blame. She was lower than a worm.
    I took her to lunch at a fine restaurant. She hardly ate but kept saying, “I can’t believe you would be seen with me.” Each time I assured her that the abuse she had encountered was not her shame, that God did not hold her guilty and I was not at all shamed by her presence or friendship. She has found much healing and much healthier relationships.

    • You’re absolutely right, Mike. People abuse grace and love to feed their fleshly desires or rationalize their sin. It seems to me that the tendency among most people (including me) is to allow the pendulum to swing back and forth. I run between rules and regs, and license (which we wrongly call “grace”). But holding love and holiness in tension requires boldness, faith, and the acknowledgment that we may not get it right.

  2. Linda

    Mike, thanks for being a channel of God’s grace to that woman.

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