Jesus Can: May He?
Written by Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 4:12-25
January 26, 2020

Dear friends in Christ, grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel reading this morning tells us that, after John the Baptist had been arrested, Jesus withdrew into Galilee (Mat. 4:12). He then went to live in Capernaum, which was next to the Sea of Galilee (Mat. 4:13). Jesus then traveled about throughout the region of Galilee teaching in their Synagogues, preaching the Gospel or good news of the Kingdom of God, and healing every disease and sickness among the people (Mat. 4:23). Large crowds came from all over to Jesus. They brought their friends and relatives to Him who were sick or had physical difficulties of some kind, and He healed them (Mat. 4:24).

Sandwiched in between all of this is Jesus’s call to Andrew and Peter, and James and John. Jesus called to them, “Follow Me.” Immediately, with no hesitation, they left everything and followed Him (Mat. 4:18-22). Jesus and the things relating to Him became their highest priority. They placed themselves in a position of being taught by Jesus and having their lives shaped by Him.

In relation to these things, I was thinking of a couple of quotes I ran across recently. I ran across them in an espionage novel I was reading. One of the quotes goes like this: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” The authors of the book attributed this saying to Buddha. The other quote went like this: “Pain is not a fate; It is a choice.” The authors described this statement as a popular Arab saying.

While saying that we must save ourselves, the saying from Buddha raises another important issue when it states that no one can and no one may save us. No one can, speaks of ability. No one may, speaks of permission and moral right. It would have us believe that not even God has the permission, the moral right to save us. As a moral claim, the absolute and total burden is all on us. We must save ourselves, even with respect to the most ultimate things regarding human destiny. No one else, not even God, has the right or the permission to do so.

But what if we can’t?

I was surprised that the saying about saving ourselves came from Buddha, because it sounds like a viewpoint that is popular in our own American culture. Looks like people aren’t so different around the world.

And what about that Arab saying? Pain is a choice. I bet the people coming to Jesus that day would have disagreed, and rather vehemently. I bet they would have said that they were wishing and willing with all their might, with all their heart, that what they were suffering would go away. But it didn’t. They needed help. So they came to Jesus.

What a different picture of things we see in the Gospel reading. Jesus was traveling around Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, teaching in sincerity and truth. And He was preaching the Gospel of God’s kingdom, good news, glad tidings. He was preaching God’s mercy and peace. And He was healing the sick.

His fame spread like wild-fire throughout all the surrounding region. So, the people were bringing their friends and loved ones to Jesus. The Holy Spirit simply says through Mathew: “And Jesus healed them.”

Can you imagine, however, if Jesus went the way of Buddha or the popular Arab saying? Can you imagine Him saying: “You people all need to go away. You need to realize that you must save yourselves. No one else has the power to save you. No one else has the permission to do so, the right. You must walk your own path alone.” Or this: “C’mon people. Where is your will power? Pain is not something you suffer; it is not something that befalls you. It is a choice. Now clean up your act. Grit your teeth. Choose with all the power of your will, and you will find.”

If He had said that, they would not have found Him very merciful. And they would have been left by Him without hope.

Of course, Jesus didn’t do any of that. He simply healed them. So, someone else saved them. His Name is Jesus. Someone else can. His Name is Jesus. Someone else may. Jesus has that right as divine right.

Here is an interesting thing, though. How should we think of that right? And on what side does the permission fall? Does it fall on Jesus’s side or on the side of the sick, the people in need, and the people who brought them?

It is important to see that Jesus did not force Himself on anyone. There was no demand here. No threat, no terror, no imposition. Jesus is simply goodness, compassion, and mercy in action. And the people came to Him. In their coming, they gave Him the right to be Savior in their lives. And they experienced His ministrations. They placed themselves entirely in His hands. They gave Jesus the permission, the right. And in their need, it probably didn’t even seem like an issue. The so-called wisdom of Buddha and the popular Arab saying were very far from their minds. In fact, that wisdom did not turn out to be very wise at all.

What a lie it is to say that we must save ourselves and walk the path alone. God in His mercy knows that we cannot save ourselves, especially not regarding ultimate things. And in His mercy, He does not want us to walk alone. He sent Jesus.

As a Christian, you have this great blessing and promise in Jesus. Even if you were completely alone in relation to other human beings, you would not be alone, because Jesus walks the path with you. This means that God walks the path with you. And what greater friend could you have walking with you than God.

In addition, it is also a great blessing that in Jesus you do not walk alone in relation to other human beings. He has called you into fellowship with Himself and others that follow Him. He didn’t just call Andrew or Simon or James or John. He called all four of them. At times it may seem that this fellowship has its own set of problems. On the other hand, it is a fellowship that Jesus provides and that we really can’t do without.

And God our Father, Creator, also gives us the aid of human beings more broadly in society, because we really can’t do everything by ourselves. He gives us others, and their gifts and vocations. In God’s universe, we are not meant to walk alone.

Jesus can, and Jesus may, by divine right. Seek Him and give Him the permission. He receives you and will not let you down. Amen.

 Now the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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