Monthly Archives: June 2009

a matter of clean hands

“Why don’t they wash their hands?”


“Your disciples, why don’t they wash their hands?”

Why do you steal from your parents?


Why do you steal from your parent’s retirement funds when the rent is due? Why do you take food out of their mouths? Why do you gut their pension plans?

“What are you talking about, Jesus? We were just asking about the ceremonial handwashing thing. You’re making a federal case out of this.”

What you started, you are going to have to finish. You asked about Peter washing his hands. You asked why my disciples break the tradition of the elders. Though you don’t understand this completely, what you are saying is, “why do they obey God and disobey tradition?” So I ask you, “why do you disobey God and obey tradition?”

You know you are supposed to take care of your parents. It is their retirement plan.

But here’s what you do:

You pledge money in the temple fundraising campaign. You make a five- year pledge. You get to keep the money until it’s due, you get to use it to earn interest, but you say that you can’t give it to help your parents because, “It’s been committed to God.”

That is hypocrisy.


When we are following Jesus, we have to make sure we are following Jesus and not what people have said that he meant when he said that.

When we are following Jesus, we have to be prepared for having our words weighed carefully by him.

When we are following Jesus, we have to consider the possibility that it is freeing.

When we are following Jesus, we may ask him questions.

When we are following Jesus, we may have to answer questions, too.

When we are following Jesus, we can wash our hands.


obedient wind

“when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.”

It didn’t need to be told to stop, it just stopped.

It hadn’t been told to start, that we know of, it just blew, keeping the disciples working, their arms rowing.

And then, when Jesus was with them, when they had seen him on the water and given him a hand climbing into the boat, when they were distracted by His presence, it just stopped.

The wind did its job that night, effectively serving the master of the wind and the waves.

Maybe that’s what the rocks would have done if the people hadn’t spoken up.

Maybe that’s what the heavens do, night after day.

Maybe that’s what creation does.

Maybe I should think about that, as an effective obedient servant. Just going about my work.

into the wind

A dozen guys. A fishing boat. A lot of wind. Oars. More wind. Tired arms.

Jesus’ guys were heading across the lake after the long preach, after the big feast, after the “send on a mission.” They were trying to get to the other side, mostly because that’s what Jesus told them to do.

But they couldn’t get there. The wind was so strong that they made little progress. They were straining at the oars. They got three and a half miles and they rowed all night. It was a tough night.

It wasn’t a dangerous night, most likely, not like their storm nights. In fact, as my friend Bill pointed out, this wasn’t a storm. There was just a lot of wind.

It’s an interesting thought. To get to where they were told to go from here they were sent was going to be a safe but impossible trip. They would push as hard as they could but they wouldn’t be able to get to the end.

And Jesus knew. He knew when he sent them. He knew when he stood on the shore and watched them. He knew as he went walking on the water.  He knew that they wouldn’t get across without him.  He sent them to try anyway.

And then they watched him walk on the water. Then they watched Peter walk on the water. Then they, according to John anyway, suddenly found themselves at shore.

As disciples, I’m pretty sure that nothing has changed. There are days, there are years, when we know that we were told to go to the other side. And we can’t get there. And we are doing everything we can. And we are making no progress.

We’ve got to keep rowing. The command isn’t gone.

But watch for a wave-walkers.

after it goes great

Jesus has a great day.

He talks to 20,000 people about his dad. He talks to his dad about feeding 20,000 people. He talks to his followers about picking up the leftovers after the meal that he and his dad had prepared for the 20,000 people.

It was, by any measure, a wonderful day.

So what does he do to celebrate? Have an after-party? Take a nap? Sit around telling stories with his friends? Let the crowd remind him of how great he is?


He sends his closest followers away. He gets rid of the crowd. And he heads up a mountainside by the lake to talk with his dad. All night.

It’s the last thing that most of us would do. We would deserve to do something else. We would be thrilled by the success of the event. But I think for Jesus, there wasn’t an event. This wasn’t a performance, planned with script and moves and actors and tricks. This day was not on the agenda, at least from a human perspective.

Jesus had planned a day of solitude. His relative John had been killed by Herod. He knew that he was on Herod’s list, too. So Jesus headed for the hills to get away.

When he got to the beach at the foot of the hills, he found a crowd of 20,000 people. At the end of himself, from a human perspective, he felt compassion. He preached. He fed. He forgot about how he felt and took care of the people.

Then he took care of himself. He spent the night talking with someone who understood him, who cared about him, who knew the plan, the pressure, the risks, the rewards. He spent time with his dad.

When it goes well, do you get alone…or do you get with God?

Get in

Peter almost went under.

That’s the highlight of the “walking on water” story, the part that everyone knows, the part that everyone tries to dissect.  It is the amazing part, the idea of a normal guy (slightly obnoxious, but normal), actually taking a few steps on water.

But that’s not where the story starts.  Before there was Peter getting out of the boat, there were a dozen guys getting into the boat. Jesus tells them to get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

It’s a boring command, at least compared to being asked to get out of the boat. Anyone can get into the boat, almost anyone can cross a lake. And when you think about what Jesus was making them leave, it gets even more boring.

Jesus had just fed, maybe, 20,000 people with one sack lunch. The disciples had gathered a bunch of leftovers. The crowd had to be excited. The place had to be “the place to be. ” (In fact, one writer said that the people were ready to make Jesus the king.)

And Jesus tells them to get in the boat and go home.

It’s not fair. To have to get in the boat would be routine. It would be pointless. It would be so ordinary and routine.

It would be obedient.

If they hadn’t been in the boat, they wouldn’t have seen Jesus coming walking on the water. They wouldn’t have seen Peter get out, get excited, get wet, and get caught. They wouldn’t have watched the wind just stop when Jesus climbed into the boat. They wouldn’t have been there.

They would have been standing on the shore, wondering what might have happened.

Before we can be called out of the boat, we have to climb in.