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If you have a sense of déjà vu when reading Psalm 53, it’s because this psalm is virtually identical to Psalm 14. Lining up these two psalms in parallel columns, you’ll find that they differ only in a few minor details. How curious! It’s as if those who collected the psalms must have believed that the message contained in this particular poem was so important that it was worth repeating twice, almost verbatim.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Jesus called for Bartimaeus to be brought before him. Excited, Bartimaeus “jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (10:50). But then Jesus asked a curious question, “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:51). Wasn’t it obvious? Couldn’t Jesus have figured out pretty quickly that Bartimaeus was blind and wanted to see? Why did Jesus want Bartimaeus to state his desire so obviously?
This simple cry for mercy has inspired countless prayers during the last two millennia. In particular, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, one of the most common and influential prayers is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This so-called “Jesus Prayer,” which appears in a variety of forms, is spoken millions of times each day by believers throughout the world.
Faith is uncomfortable, and is almost always associated with the impossible. It’s this unorthodox dance between God and human beings where God speaks surreal things and then we respond with obedience to produce supernatural or highly improbable results.
As we celebrate this Advent Season, reminded again of Jesus’ coming into the world, I want to reflect on the distinctive vision and driving force behind God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ. What was the mindset that Jesus brought to his work in the world? And, what might that say to us about our work as leaders?
Psalm 52 begins with criticism of a “mighty hero,” whom the heading of the Psalm identifies as “Doeg the Edomite” (see 1 Sam. 21-22). This warrior uses his tongue to boast of his crimes and to lie in order to destroy others. But, in time, God will “uproot” him from the land of the living.
In contrast to this uprooted tree, the psalmist is “like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God” (52:8).
Three weeks ago, we encountered Jesus’s call to servanthood. As you may remember, in Mark 9 the disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. In response, Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (9:35). In chapter 10, the disciples are once again seeking their own exaltation and Jesus is once again emphasizing the call to servanthood.
We live in a curious tension when it comes to the Lord. On the one hand, we rightly bow before him, offering ourselves in humble worship. On the other hand, we experience friendship with God that invites us to be completely honest with him.
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