THANK Outside The BoxJon Burgess
Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.” Matthew 11:25-26 (MSG)
Jesus was looking out at the crowd and what a mixed bag it was. His disciples were towards the front and closest to him. Standing towards the back were the professionals, the standards of relgious observation, who seemed to have it out for the radical Rabbi. In the middle were the huddled masses scraping together a llving. They felt very much caught in the middle between a message of perfection they could never attain and a message of grace they could not explain. The contrast between the two messages could not have been more clear. Jesus highlighted the difference between the indifference of those who felt they knew everything and therefore had no need to learn from thisrabble rouser and the desperate interest of those who knew they had much to learn! Then, after a strong word against the cities who had ignored the Good News He breaks out into spontaneous and intimate prayer with His Heavenly Father. Those that were walking by on their way to work, the Pharisees that were about to tune out, the Disciples who wondered where Jesus was going with all this- everyone stopped! At this point they might have thought He was angry or at the least annoyed, but now they saw He was thankful! No one saw this coming! With wide eyes they each beheld a moment of intimacy between Father and Son that would have taken their breath away. Looking from the crowds around to the skies above Jesus audibly thanked His Father for the brilliance of His divine plan being carried out right in front of Him. Only the childlike, the simple, the humble, the needy, the broken, the worn and the sinner would receive the truth Jesus was hand-delivering from heaven to earth. This prayer of thanksgiving would have impacted everyone in the crowd that day. The Pharisees would have been more offended then ever and doubled down on their plans to silence this Jesus. Why would a supposed "holy man" thank God for the sinner? The Disciples would have been more thankful then ever that the man they were following had such a life-giving message for everyone. They knew they were the ordinary ones that everyone passed by until the day Jesus looked them in the eyes and called them to follow Him. The crowd would have been awe-struck. They were used to hearing the religious leaders pray prayers against them, not for them! Instead of thanking God for the simple and the sinner they would thank God "Who has not made me “a goy [Gentile],” “a slave,” and “a woman.” The ones the Pharisees looked down on Jesus now lifted up in prayer. The ones the Pharisees avoided Jesus now welcomed! This was a thanksgiving prayer that opened a door to hope instead of slamming it in their faces. It was an invitation to relationship with a God they thought would never give them the time of day! Jesus had just blown apart the box they thought God was in. Just in case they still couldn't believe Jesus was talking about them He goes on to say "come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest".
Everyone seems a bit more bruised and beat up lately. Maybe it's the combination of this vicious election cycle and its aftermath along with a shaky economy, but everyone in the Holiday crowds seems to be a bit more on the edge. I've even found myself more on the edge when it comes to my responses to those who cut me off on the road, or take too long in the Costco line, or pay little to no attention to me when I'm asking for directions. If 'weary and heavy laden" is ruling the day then what people don't need is another relgious person thanking God for a peace they don't know or a family they can't have or a President they didn't vote for. What the crowds in our life need now is what the crowds in Jesus' day needed- someone who is thanking God for them. What if, instead of the obvious Thanksgiving prayers around the table, we decided to thank outside the box? You know that Uncle that gets on your nerves? Instead of avoiding him, find one good thing about him and thank him for it? You know that person that is taking too long in the line? See if you can help them unload the cart instead of standing there annoyed. Then thank them for letting you help them. They may look at you with a strange expression, but you've just experienced thanking outside the box! You know that kid of yours that wont stop asking you questions at the worst possible times? Take a moment to sit down with them, look them in the eyes and thank them for being such good learners and for being so interested in doing what you are doing. You know that Holiday meal that turns out to be a total bust? Thank the person who made it for working so hard to make this meal. Thank God for helping you not gain weight over the Holiday by providing food no one would want to eat. You know that waiter or person at the cash register who is totally rude to you? Thank them for working so hard. Is this just a ridiculous exercise? Jesus did it! In fact back in Matthew Chapter 5 he spent an entire message thanking outside the box- we call it the Beatitudes. Thanking God for those who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, persecuted, reviled is either insane or it's thanking outside the box. It's coming the opposite spirit. It's seeing what we are normally missing. It's letting God be God instead of our circumstances. And, just as in Jesus day, it will shine like a light in the night. The national conversation right now is filled with anger and hurt. As Christians, let's walk in intimacy with our Heavenly Father and begin to thank God for what's going on around us whether we feel thankful or not! Thankfulness is not an emotion as much as it's a choice. Thanking outside the box is a statment of faith that says My God is up to something good even in a bad situation! The weary and heavy laden will come running to a refreshing message like that!
Forgive me for the grumbling and complaining that so often fills my heart. Thank you for lifting me eyes to the Father who turns my eyes to the hurting around me. Let me be a part of the solution not the problem. Let me be overt in my thankfulness toward the people and situations that I would rather avoid. Thank You for not passing me by and for revealing the Father's love for me and giving me rest. Let me thank outside my Christian box so that everyone I come in contact with will feel Your love through me!