As a first-year public school music teacher and church musician, I looked forward to observing Good Friday and Easter. I wanted the children in my classes to understand why Good Friday was a holiday. When I described the significance of the day, one child raised his hand. He said, “I live across the street from the people who killed Jesus.” I moved on with my lesson, not knowing how to respond. I shared this experience with other teachers. One of them offered an explanation. “His neighbors are Jewish.” I was speechless. It never occurred to me to blame the Jews for Jesus’ execution.
In today’s reading, Paul grieves for the Jews who have not accepted Jesus as Messiah. Paul was a Pharisee, so strong in his faith that he relished persecuting Christians. But Paul came to believe when he came face-to-face with the Lord. Here, he states that he would relinquish his relationship with Christ in order to bring the Jews to belief in Jesus’ messiahship. He goes on to list the many gifts God has given Israel. And yet the question remains: Has God rejected God’s chosen people? Paul attempts to hold Israel as chosen by God through the unfolding of the plan of salvation that will save all people.
Many Christians have friends or family members needing repentance and the peace that forgiveness brings. We may grieve or become frustrated that they do not share our beliefs. We may fear that they will fall outside the fold. But we, like Paul, affirm God’s loving plan of salvation that includes the entire world.
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray today for all who do not know the joy of repentance, forgiveness, and communion with you. May we trust in your plan of salvation. Amen.
The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.
• Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you felt like you were wrestling with God? What impact did it have on your relationship with God?
• Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. In what ways does your faith give you strength in the face of adversity? Reflect on a difficult time when you felt God’s presence.
• Read Romans 9:1-5. How do the words of Peter in Acts and Paul’s words in Romans shape your understanding of the Jewish faith?
• Read Matthew 14:13-21. How hungry are you for Jesus? Are you willing to nibble and snack, or are you starving for substance and sustenance?
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