Author Archives: Robin Giberson Lawrenz

Jesus spit

Jesus healed a lot of people during the course of his earthly ministry. His methods were as varied as the patients themselves. He reached out and touched lepers with His hands. He drove out fevers and demons with a command. He healed a paralytic by first forgiving His sins and then telling him to pick up his mat and go home. He healed a woman seemingly by accident when she reached out and touched his robe. He healed multitudes who sought him out to be made whole. He sought out individuals to be healed in the tabernacle for all to see (on the Sabbath, no less). He even healed people who were too sick to come into His presence, simply declaring by His word that it would be so. And it was.

One day, Jesus and His disciples entered a village, and the people brought Him a blind man and asked Jesus to touch him. But Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of the village. I can imagagine that as Jesus reached out for the man’s hand, people waited with baited breath. After all, Jesus could heal with a word, with a brush of His garment. Surely as His hand made contact with the blind man’s, something would happen. But when nothing did, the crowd dispersed, probably with a fair amount of grumbling and disappointment.

What Jesus did next was even more shocking. He spit in the man’s eyes. He actually spit. And then He rubbed it in! I would assume that if there were still a few stragglers from the crowd, this would have cleared them out. Because really, who wants to see that? Jesus asked the man what he saw, and he answered, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” So Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes again. Verse 25 says, “Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

This story certainly doesn’t make the top 10 Sunday School Bible stories. It’s just not how Jesus typically goes about the business of healing people. To wait to heal the man until they were away from the crowd, to use His saliva, and to have to touch him twice for the healing to take full effect…it just seems so un-Jesus-like.

I want to offer two thoughts in response to this story:

First, Jesus was often un-Jesus-like. Even more often than performing miracles and saying nice things, Jesus was in the business of shocking people. He peered into their hearts and shattered their preconceived notions of who God is. So as soon as I encounter Jesus in the Bible and say, “That’s not like my Jesus,” I need to start looking at who Jesus really is according to the Word.

Secondly, healing is a messy business. When I have a problem, whether it’s sickness, sin, or circumstantial, what I want is for Jesus to give me a tidy little word from heaven and make it all go away. If He wants to do it miraculously and instantaneously and for all the world to see, so much the better. But more often than not, healing is a process. It’s slow. It stings. It’s messy. It’s done in the quiet, secret places of our hearts, where we can encounter Him in all our mess.

I am grateful to have a Jesus who can spit. I am grateful that He is not afraid to get His hands dirty. I am grateful that He has compassion enough to reach out again when my vision is still blurry. I am grateful that Jesus heals, in whatever unconventional ways He chooses.

Robin (Giberson) Lawrenz has been connected with Delanco Camp for 24 years as a scamper, camper, counselor, craft lady, music leader, teacher, activities director, and assistant dean. She currently lives in Boston with her husband Jason and their one-year-old son Judah. Image credit: Nicolas Colombel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Celebrating the victory He’s already won

Let me set the scene for you. Fast forward 33 years from the baby in the manger. Jesus has just spent three years with His disciples, teaching and performing miracles. Now Jesus is finally ready to enter Jerusalem, and as He does, He is given a king’s welcome. The people lay down their cloaks and palm branches before him and shout “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” They celebrate with singing and dancing. They’re beside themselves with excitement because they believe that Jesus has come to lead the uprising against Rome and to free the Jews from Roman oppression. I imagine that as they lined the streets for His procession, the parade route was set to end right at the steps of the governor’s mansion. But as He nears the center of the city, He asks the crowd to part and He takes another road. I wonder if the cheers quieted slightly as people asked one another, “What is He doing? Do you think He’s lost? He’s going the wrong way.” Maybe the crowds ran in front of Him and tried to redirect His path, recalculating like a thwarted GPS.

I wonder at what point they accepted that Jesus had a different destination. Maybe some of them figured it out and told the others, “He’s going to the temple! That’s where He’s going to announce His plan to seize power!” So they wait at the temple gates with eager anticipation. Their gaze shifts back and forth between the Roman guards patrolling the temple walls and their processing king. They relish the fear in the eyes of the guards as this man comes with the full support of thousands of angry, long-oppressed Jews. But as Jesus reaches the entrance, He pays no attention to the Roman guards. It’s as if He doesn’t even see them. Instead, He walks right up to the money changers and the people selling doves and starts flipping tables. Coins and feathers are flying in a chaotic whirlwind around the temple courts. And Jesus rebukes not the Romans but the Jews: “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!” Because more so than the political regime occupying Israel, Jesus is chiefly concerned with the religious officials who are exploiting God’s people and desecrating God’s house.

This is not at all what the people expected. They wanted a different kind of king, a king who would restore to them the land which they believed was theirs by birthright. They wanted a king who would punish and humiliate their enemies. They wanted a king who would put them back on top. In going up against the religious leaders of the day, many believed that Jesus was fighting the wrong battle. Was He blind to the bigger problems at hand? Didn’t He care? If He was who He said He was, couldn’t He handle bigger fish than the petty temple money changers?

Looking back, we can see how near-sighted the people were. We can see how the life and death and resurrection of Jesus crushed a much greater stronghold than the Roman empire. We can see how God’s plan was so much bigger than the people’s expectations. We can understand that God wanted to give them a gift that was far better and far more important than a life of comfort and freedom from an earthly enemy.

But I think we are too often guilty of the same near-sightedness. We pray to God like our personal Santa Claus. “God, I really want such-and-such. Please give it to me.” “God, I have this thing I want to do. Please bless my plans and clear my path as I walk in it.” “God, I really have a problem with so-and-so. Help them to realize they’re wrong, or please just make them go away.” And when God doesn’t show up with a poof or a bibbity-bobbity-boo or a tidily wrapped present laid out right under the tree where we expect to find it, we think He hasn’t heard or doesn’t see or doesn’t care. It is absolutely true that God cares about the tiniest details of our lives. But I think we sometimes expect God to fight a different battle when we should be celebrating the victory He has already won. Jesus has done the impossible work of bridging the gap between a broken, sinful people and a holy, glorious God. He is reconciling His entire creation to Himself. While we are caught up in the mundane space and time of the day-to-day, God sees the whole grand picture of eternity.

So this Christmas, I encourage you to think about where you expect God to show up. Are you waiting for Him to take down your own personal Roman empire? Have you made up your wish-list of requests? I encourage you instead to look at the grand scheme of redemption. Ask God where He is working, what battles He is fighting, and what victories he has already won. Allow Him to be the King He actually is, and celebrate that He came to earth to offer you a gift far greater than you could ever imagine to ask for: the gift of eternal life with Him.

Verses to read: Psalm, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, Amos 2:6-16, 2 Peter 1:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11

Robin (Giberson) Lawrenz has been connected with Delanco Camp for 24 years as a scamper, camper, counselor, craft lady, music leader, teacher, activities director, and assistant dean. She currently lives in Boston with her husband Jason and their eight-month-old son Judah.

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Lent Reflections – Fully Known and Fully Loved

Today’s Scripture Readings
Psalm 55, 138, 139
Deut 11:18-28
Heb 5:1-10
John 4:1-30

Last year, my pastor asked me to share a reflection at our church’s Good Friday service. Not being much of a public speaker, I decided to write a song instead. A melody came to me almost immediately for a Good Friday hymn that would be called “They Nailed My Jesus to a Cross.” The lyrics were a bit more of a challenge. As I read the crucifixion accounts, I was having a hard time really connecting. I was sad about the painful and gruesome ways that Jesus was being tortured. I was angry at the people responsible. I was outraged at the unjust punishment of the innocent. I was scandalized by the death of the Almighty God. But there was nothing in the story that really drew my heart to the transforming love that I know to be so central to the message of the cross.

So I stepped away from the verses and just played the chords of the song, musically searching for what I was missing. And as I played, I found myself singing the words of a traditional prayer: “Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy on me.” And suddenly, I knew what was missing from my account of the crucifixion. This missing piece became the turn that completed my hymn:

They nailed my Jesus to a cross. They nailed His hands and feet.
The hands that made the leper clean and caused the blind to see,
The feet that walked upon the waves, those wondrous feet and hands
Were covered with Messiah’s blood. Behold the Son of Man.

They nailed my Jesus to a cross, a thief on either side,
And all around the crowd demands my Lord be crucified.
He could have called the angels down so justice would be served,
But He Himself bore all the wrath their guilty souls deserved.

They nailed my Jesus to a cross, God’s one and only Son,
Light of the world, the Word made flesh, the Christ, the Holy One.
Behold Him now, the mighty King, His glory veiled in shame.
My Lord was broken and condemned . . . though I deserve the blame.

I nailed my Jesus to a cross. ‘Twas I who drove the nails
With all my sin and all my pride and all the ways I’ve failed.
Yet Jesus looks down from the cross, so ready to forgive.
He says, “My child, do not fear. I died so you could live.”

The piece that I had been missing was my part in the story, my responsibility for what happened to my Jesus. The amazing mystery of the cross lies in the harsh reality of my guilt and the unbelievable, self-sacrificial, loving response of Christ.

John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well’s encounter with Jesus. He offers her the gift of living water. He answers her questions, settling centuries of theological and social debate. He even tells her outright that He is the Messiah. And yet, as she spreads the news of His arrival, her gospel invitation is, “Come meet a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.” Knowing what we know of this woman, her proclamation doesn’t seem to be one of “good news.” I suspect some who heard her tried to hush her up, thinking that she lacked an appropriate level of shame for her life of sin. Maybe some refused to come because they feared what Jesus would reveal about them.

But this is the irony of the gospel: God knows everything about us, and He still loves us. God placed in us a deep desire to be fully known. He is the only One who knows us in our entirety and meets us with an unconditional love, a love that knows our weakness and–rather than condemning us for it–bore it all to the cross. As you journey through this season of Lent, I invite you to personally claim this good news. Behold Jesus on the cross as the God who knows you completely and offers Himself to you with a powerful, transforming, unconditional love.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)

Robin Giberson Lawrenz is a co-dean at Teen 1 this summer.

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