Missing Jesus

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I began a new preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?” by looking at a little episode at the end of Matthew, chapter 13, on Jesus’ visit home to Nazareth and the response He receives from people there. This leads us into a little exploration of the questions we ask, our blind spots, and what it means to truly pursue Jesus in our lives.

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.’”  (Matthew 13:57)

Amazed by Jesus (Matthew 13:53-54)

The power of Jesus’ teaching

Echoes of the Sermon on the Mount

Different kinds of amazement

Misunderstanding Jesus (Matthew 13:55-57)

Different types of questions:

  • rhetorical questions
  • probing questions

Knowing what we know and what we don’t know

Faith seeking understanding versus pride reinforcing ignorance

The end: offended by Jesus

Making It Real

Asking the right questions of Jesus

The life in pursuit of Jesus The radical openness to Jesus


Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Draw, paint, or ink this story as a way of reflecting on what is happening and what you are learning about who Jesus.
  • Journal about your questions for Jesus, taking time to let the Holy Spirit search your heart about what you bring to Jesus. Then journal the questions you think Jesus may be asking you in your life.
  • Consider reading a book about Jesus, such as Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew or N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus.
  • Consider watching a theatrical version of Jesus’ life, such as The Jesus Film or The Chosen.

The Significance of Incidental Healing

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

The woman with the issue of blood is an incidental healing; a healing on the way from one miracle to another. In the flow of Jesus’ life and ministry, however, she is significant. While it appears as if Jesus’ power cannot be contained and that He ‘unintentionally’ heals her when she draws near by faith, there is clear intention from Jesus throughout the whole story.

Here is this woman who reaches out amidst the pressing crowd. She touches, not even Jesus Himself, but merely the edge of His cloak. After twelve years of the pain and isolation of her situation, in an instant it is resolved.

Even though the healing happens quietly, even unnoticeably, Jesus pauses to notice her and her healing publicly. He stops everything and searches for her. Heal first heals her physically, but carries on to heal her emotionally, socially, and spiritually. He identifies who she is and acknowledges the significance of her faith. He shows everyone that she is no longer unclean after these twelve years and speaks peace over her. The first wonder of the physical healing is amplified through the second wonder of the restoration.

Where do we need healing in our lives? Where do we need to reach out to Jesus for His power to be released into us? Where have we felt hidden and isolated? How might we need to let Jesus speak not only healing into us but significance and idntity over us?

Praise God for His recognition of our situations. There is nothing that is incidental or unnoticed to Him. He truly is the God who sees. And praise God for His power to bring healing and redemption through Jesus Christ. He truly is the God who saves.

You Alone: a prayer of dedication

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure. (Psalm 16:5)

You alone.
Lord, it is You alone.
Although I sometimes
turn toward others sources
of strength or joy,
it is You alone
who is my portion and my cup.

My sustenance is in You.
My provision is in You.
My security is in You.
My joy is in You.
Lord, my God,
my King and my Savior,
it is You alone.

Purify my heart
from all idols and false loves.
Clear out all the wrong desires
and twisted pursuits.
Bring me back to my first love,
my one holy desire and passion,
my solitary pursuit of You—
You alone.

Why Does God Seem Distant?: The Holy Pursuit of the Hidden God

Distance of God

There are times when God feels distant. There are moments, particularly in times of suffering, when God seems silent. To enter into the stillness of God and to attend to the silence of God requires patience.

God is not a Labrador retriever who comes when we call. God is sometimes like the rain that comes when it will, whether the grass is green or the crops are failing.  Jesus told us that if we ask it will be given, if we seek we will find, and if we knock the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8), but the timing of the giving, the finding, and the opening is not ours to demand. That God will answer prayer happen is guaranteed, but when God will answer is not determined by the one who asks. The timing is in the hands of the One who gives, reveals, and opens.

I believe this is at least part of the meaning behind Psalm 40:1, which says: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” There is waiting in prayer and with God, who sometimes seems still and quiet from our perspective. This is echoed in 2 Peter 3:8-9, which addresses the timing of the parousia:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

It is actually God’s patience that causes the apparent delay here; a patience motivated by love for human lives. This reminds us that God’s distance, whether measured in minutes or miles, aims to stir something up within us.

Waiting on God.001

Sometimes that distance of God that we feel personally as waiting is an effort of God to bring a change within our lives, situation, or world. The Hebrew word most connected with the idea of change is shuv, which throughout the Hebrew Bible means to return to God (Hosea 14:1-3; Zephaniah 2:1-3). It is a highly relation concept, often paralleled by the word repentance, conveying that something is wrong between two parties that needs to be repaired; a breach that needs to be retraced through return. The distance of God, even the apparent hiddenness of God, is not random, as we often experience it, but has intention behind it. God aims to stir up our lives toward change and a longing for Him that outpaces anything else. It is a longing that should grip us so deeply that we feel dry and deadened without God. This is why the psalmist describes his longing for God in terms of dehydration in Psalm 42:1-2:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

“Clouds and thick darkness surround him” (Psalm 97:2) not in order to keep us away but in order to incite our desire for Him even more. It is a desire marked by fervent longing that is evident throughout the Psalms (e.g., 42, 63), but it is also more than that.

When we wait upon God in His apparent distance, we often find ourselves feeling increasingly helpless. Our crutches are stripped away and we become more and more in need. God is bringing us back to the humble naivety witnessed in a child who is not even aware of its utter dependence upon an adult. The psalmist once describes the soul as “a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131:2), and Jesus called His followers to receive God’s kingdom “like a little child” (Luke 18:15-17).

Waiting on God.002

While it may not feel like it, waiting on God—looking for God in His apparent distance—is a work of grace from God. In a world where we used to believe we were capable and held power in the palm of our hands, God’s distance brings us into the necessary desperation by which we recognize our utter need (2 Kings 5; Luke 8:40-56; 17:11-19; 18:35-43). We spend a good deal of our life trying to avoid recognizing our utter powerlessness and only God, the almighty One, has both the power and tenaciousness to work us into the place of facing into our need. It is in that place, where we recognize that nothing and no one else can satisfy our deepest desires. When God taps into this hungry need it keeps us awake at night, singing songs of longing for God (Psalm 77). It eventually burns us with awareness of our sin that sends shivers of regret through our broken souls that rises in longing for wholeness (Psalm 51, 80). This longing burns brighter and stronger, making even the smallest taste of God more satisfying than all other goods or pursuits in life (Psalm 84:1-2, 10).

The distance of God and the waiting we experience is a gracious gift that leads us back to an encounter with the living God. It is the promise of God’s glorious presence ahead of us that spurs on in these times:

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

It is this longing that sets us on a journey with a focused destination. Over time the destination becomes less about a place and more about a being; that is, God Himself. As in the Psalms of Ascent, we are spurred on from faraway lands to return to the center of all our hopes and joys, which are only satisfied in a holy God, who is both loving and sometimes apparently hidden. All the distance, all the stillness, all the silence cannot hold us back from giving all for the sake of that holy pursuit.

The Holy Pursuit of the Hidden God

IMG_1817To enter into the stillness of God and to attend to the silence of God requires patience. God is not a Labrador retriever who comes when we call. God is like the rain that comes when it will, whether the grass is green or the crops are failing. While it is true that, as Jesus said, if we ask it will be given and if we seek we will find and if we knock the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8), but the timing of the giving, the finding, and the opening is not supplied to us. That it will happen is guaranteed, but the when of that event is not determined by the one who asks. Rather, it is in the hands of the One who gives, reveals and opens.

This is at least part of the meaning of Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” So, too, the words of 2 Peter 3:8-9, which address the timing of the parousia, are relevant to this discussion:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

It is actually the patience of God that causes the delay here, motivated by the love of God over repentant human lives. This reminds us that the distance of God, whether measured in space or time, aims to stir us up toward repentance. The meaning of repentance is richer than simply asking forgiveness from sins, or even turning away from sin. The Hebrew word for repentance is shuv, which throughout the Hebrew Bible means to return relationally to God (Hosea 14:1-3; Zephaniah 2:1-3). The distance of God, even the apparent hiddenness of God — those times when God seems to play hide-and-seek with us — is intended to make us long for God even more. It is a longing that should grip us to the point where our souls are dehydrated with longing for our God. This is the thrust of Psalm 42:1-2:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

“Clouds and thick darkness surround him” (Psalm 97:2) not in order to keep us away but in order to incite our desire for Him even more. It is a desire marked by fervent longing that is evident throughout the Psalms (e.g., 42, 63), but it is also more than that.

It is the naivety and dependence witnessed in a child (Psalm 131; Luke 18:15-17). This desire is the last chance of desperation by those who are sick and in need (2 Kings 5; Luke 8:40-56; 17:11-19; 18:35-43). Nothing and no one else can satisfy this desire. It is the desire that keeps us awake at night, singing songs of longing for God (Psalm 77). It is the desire that sends shivers of regret through our souls over the sin and brokenness clinging to us (Psalm 51, 80). This longing burns brighter and stronger, making even the smallest taste of God more satisfying than all other goods or pursuits in life (Psalm 84:1-2, 10). We are spurred on by the promise of God’s glorious presence ahead of us:

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

It is this longing that sets us on a journey with a focused destination. As in the Psalms of Ascent, we are spurred on from faraway lands to return to the center of all our hopes and joys, which are only satisfied in a holy, loving God. All the distance, all the stillness, all the silence cannot hold us back from giving all for the sake of that holy pursuit.