Years ago, I studied violin with a very strange man named John. Whenever my mom joined me in my violin lesson, he offered her coffee, fully expecting her to say “no.” Finally, she decided to call his bluff. The moment she accepted his offer, he scampered off to his kitchen and spent the next 20 minutes of my one-hour lesson making coffee.
Another time, I arrived at my lesson slightly congested from a cold. So, he placed my music stand in one corner of the room and then proceeded to the opposite corner where he remained until our time was finished. He even fired a student (a friend of mine) because her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was afraid of catching it!
Oh yeah, and he smoked—like my Plymouth Champ back in college when it started to lose its catalytic converter.
But John did have one quality (and only one) which I greatly admired: he paid a high price for his freedom.
Toward the end of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, John decided he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life under communist oppression. So he escaped across the border, but was shot in the process. The bullet to his chest lodged in his lung. John spent the rest of his life with only one lung. He paid a high price for his freedom.
What price are you willing to pay for freedom?
Today, a selection from one of our readings will tell us about a town that opted for oppression over freedom. And I’m sad to admit, we often make the same choice.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 24:50-59. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “For a marriage to be arranged, the groom’s family must provide a bride price, while the bride’s family provided a dowry. The silver and gold objects and the garments presented to Rebekah are part of her transformation into a member of Abraham’s household.”
Genesis 24:54-58. What a woman of faith! Rebekah agreed to marry a man her family didn’t even know–and travel to a country with the unknown man’s servant.
Genesis 25:22. Jostled in the NIV is too tame. The Hebrew word means “smashed.” This foreshadows the kind of relationship Jacob and Esau would have.
Genesis 25:32. Eau’s birthright must not have meant something to him. He sold it for a bowl of stew!
Genesis 26:1-10. How interesting that Isaac would repeat the errors of his father, Abraham. This occurs more often than many of us would like to admit.
Matthew 8:20. Jesus’ comment here tells us that he was homeless.
THE WORD MADE FRESH
One passage really hit me hard in today’s reading.
Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Matthew 8:34
Jesus had just demonstrated his power over a legion of demons terrorizing two men. With a single word, Jesus cast out the demons, sending them into a herd of pigs, who then rushed off the edge of a cliff and into the lake below.
Two men had just been released from the clutches of demonic oppression. They were free!
And how did the people in the town react? They pleaded for Jesus to leave.
What a missed opportunity! Their lives could have been forever changed, and they pleaded for Jesus to leave.
Why would they react like this?
Here’s my guess: Despite his obvious power and authority, the people didn’t want Jesus to alter their lives. To put it another way: the people preferred lives of bondage over the freedom only Jesus gives.
Following Jesus is scary because it requires a willingness to change, a willingness to give him our familiar sins and dark places. But he asks for this is in exchange for freedom.
Reading through the gospels, I get the message that following Jesus requires a commitment to change. The first part of our reading in Matthew demonstrated that.
If you have time, read through Matthew 8:18-34 again and ask yourself, What price am I willing to pay for freedom?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
- What stood out to you in today’s reading?
- What do you think God might be speaking to you throught today’s reading?
- Do you think Jacob was justified in charging Esau his birthright in exchange for a pot of stew? Why would God bless that?
- What bondages do you find difficult to give God in exchange for freedom?
- What are the benefits of freedom over bondage? Why do people choose bondage over freedom? What would cause you to choose bondage over freedom?