“Matthew 7:23” worries…

Depart from me

If you’re like me, you might occasionally have what are called “Matthew 7:23” worries. You know the verse, that terrifying one. Jesus declares that there are some who will have professed his name, but ultimately Jesus will say “depart from me, for I never knew you”.

The danger it seems is that we can do good things, for the wrong reasons. My worry comes every now and then in the form of a question. “Is he talking about me?”.

The only helpful bit of advice I’ve heard to resolve this worry, came from one of my favourite authors Adrian Plass in his most recent book. He wrote very simply: “Learn to love Jesus, and then do what he says”

Not the other way around.

Thank you Adrian.

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All Things Are Possible For Who?

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Mark 9:22-23 – “… “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him “‘If you can’! All Things are possible for one who believes.””

Check this verse out. Is Jesus essentially saying that everything is possible for a person who believes?

I like to read it as though Jesus is experiencing a little bit of indignation at the man’s suggestion that Jesus may be able to help. Would it be too extra biblical to paraphrase Jesus’ response: “‘If I can!’ Pah! All things are possible for the one who believes”. Read this way we see something quite remarkable. Jesus might have been talking simply about himself. He is the one who believes and for whom everything is possible. Not us, necessarily.

This is quite different from the way this verse has typically been read. I find it particularly helpful to read it this way, because it places the entire burden of supernatural acts on Jesus, and not on me. This makes sense right? We know that Jesus is capable of all things, and if he chooses to do something great, and if he doesn’t well that’s okay too.

So what part do we have to play? I think the man’s humble response tells us very much. The man’s humble response is “I believe; help my unbelief”. What a strange request! He has a little faith, but he’s still struggling with doubt. Does Jesus rebuke him, or scold him for his doubt? No. Does he ask him to come back when his faith is better? No.

Jesus heals the boy.

What we don’t see is the faith of the father healing the boy. Isn’t that the way we’ve typically understood this passage. “If the father had had more faith, then he could have healed his own son.” Possibly?

What we see instead is actually far more beautiful. We see Jesus’ faith healing the child, despite the Father’s doubt. Isn’t that comforting? We don’t have to be the finished article for Jesus to do beautiful things. If our faith is shaken we can be reassured that Jesus’ is very much intact. If you allow me to just be a little more extra-biblical, I imagine Jesus with a little indignation and much passion saying: “You don’t understand, it’s me! I believe, I’m the one with enough faith and I can do all things, just watch me”.

Perhaps if we wish to see more of the supernatural, we should place confidence in Jesus and his faith, rather than our own. Doesn’t that sound sensible?

My faith isn’t much to speak of, but thankfully, Jesus has great faith.  I trust Him and not myself, or at least I try to. He is the only one able to move the those mountains I never stood a chance at. What need have I for power? I have very little of it, but my friend, my closest companion has great power. I’m content with that.