This devotional today and for the next three days are especially given for us by our dear TSF friend Bill Kesecker.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” –Ephesians 3:16-21 (New International Version)
I’m making plans to go to the Grand Canyon in 2019. The Canyon is a chasm 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. Its depth plunges over a mile (6,000 feet), and the Grand Canyon is home to 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 types of reptiles (Oh, my!), and 5 species of amphibians (not really planning to meet any of these “friendly” critters!). The stats are impressive, but kind of meaningless! I mean, we’re talking numbers! But, that’s NOT the Grand Canyon.
Just a view of some of the photographs I’ve seen is the breathtaking story (just the way a friend described to me when she and her husband saw the Grand Canyon for the first time on their tenth wedding anniversary!). The vast, stretching, plunging vistas, the gorgeous red-bronze rock faces bathed in the setting sun, the golden river slicing its way through mountains of rock, lighting strikes piercing the atmosphere over and into the Canyon, and millions of sparkling, starry globes piercing the black velvet sky. That’s the Grand Canyon. That’s what I want to see! That’s what moves me to adventure. I can stay home to peruse statistics. However, I must dive in to experience a wonder!
In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul is on his knees, begging God to equip the young Christians at Ephesus to dive in to experience the most miraculous, multi-dimensional wonders the world has ever known! Paul pleads with him that they may know the love of Christ! Not know about it! Not facts, not statistics, not theological statements and definitions, not creeds and catechisms!
Know the love of Christ! Better, know the Christ who loves! Know the man, know what He said, know how he said it, know his rebukes to the proud and religious, know his tender pursuit of the scorned and the unrighteous who knew full well they didn’t belong, had never belonged, and couldn’t even figure out how to belong to anyone like this man.
Mark’s Gospel tells a great story of a conversation Jesus had that, frankly, he didn’t want to have. He was in the area of Tyre, just outside where the Jews lived. Jesus was tired, desperately tired. He didn’t want one more conversation, not one more request, nothing but silence, prayer, sleep. But here she comes! A woman rushes in. Greek-speaking. Born in Syrian Phoenicia. A woman.
She pushes into the room and falls onto her knees before him. She blurts out her plea as only a desperate mother could, begging Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. The woman had heard of what Jesus was doing in the region. She had heard countless stories. Her passion grew with each as his fame spread, “Jesus, please, I beg you, help us, Jesus!”
“First let the children eat all they want.” Probably a common saying known to all in the countryside, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” His eyes fixed on her, staring intently. Looking for a twitch, a wince, a flash of anger, some kind of response. How had she taken his words? What opinion of her did he hold? Silent, Jesus watched and waited.
“Lord,” she said in even, measured, determined, sustained tones, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” The woman was not prepared to go anywhere until Jesus heard her plea.
The parable showed that Jesus’ mission was first to the covenant people of God, the Jews. The woman had no place in that assembly. She was a Gentile, she didn’t belong, she couldn’t make herself belong. But her daughter needed a miracle, she had to have a word from Jesus. There was no other place to go. None whatsoever. And still on her knees, she wondered, “Was he Lord of the Jews only? Or could the unworthy, unprepared, irreligious partake of the crumbs tumbling from the table of those feasting?”
The silence screamed like a horrifying storm for what seemed forever.
Was that a twitch at the corners of his mouth? Was a knowing smile breaking on his lips? No, not sure? “For such a reply, you may go.”
“No, Lord, please, don’t send me away, please, No. . .,” trembling, she thought.
“The demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon had gone (see Mark 7:24-30 NIV).
Is this the love that Paul knew and wanted these young Gentile believers to know, too? Is this what he wanted them to grasp, to take hold of, and to cling to for dear life? How wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ? He wanted them to know it so fervently that he was on his knees begging God to root them in this love as seeds sprouting deep into the soil, not letting go, reaching downward and outward, and possessing and owning the ground that fed them and growing more and more fruitful in that exhaustless love. As a foundation, level, firm, stable, and sturdy that will take the full weight and expanse of a magnificent structure of glorious and enduring purpose that will not ever fail to fulfill its mission. Christians, come on; dive in to experience a wonder!
Merry Christmas, dear ones! We celebrate today the coming of Jesus, the love of God on display! “O, Come, let us adore Him!”
“Dear Father, please answer Paul’s ancient prayer for us today, that we will not only grasp, but be possessed by the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, but not grace! Grant that we may know Jesus today and experience his love forevermore and be granted the grace to give His love to others, without distinction in full measure. In the name of your Son Jesus, Amen.”