The Bare Soul - April 12, 2009
A Divine Home

Luke 9:58 - And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

Jesus never quibbled about his cutting of family ties and his seemingly "hobo" lifestyle. He was the first to admit His divine vagabond status to all who wished to follow him. The Lord had given up everything to become everything for those who desperately needed the salvation that only He could afford. He was on a timeline with destiny and knew He only had a short time to complete His mission on earth. Hence, the disciples found themselves with this "Jesus", who owned all yet possessed nothing, living like tramps as they followed Him for three years and ultimately to His crucifixion. Even after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at His last Passover, we might expect that some of the well-to-do disciples that met Jesus would offer the Lord and His twelve accommodations within the city walls. After all, He was like the HUGE guest speaker coming into town. Surely, they could put Him and the "boys" up in one of the finer inns of Jerusalem? Along with His lodging, shouldn't they take care of a "love offering" to provide for His needs while in town? The reality is diametrically opposed to what many today would expect a holy man of God to be offered.

The scripture tells us that Jesus and His disciples retreated nightly to Mount Olivet (or the Mount of Olives) which was close to the city (Luke 21:37). This limestone ridge runs about a mile in length, and in Jesus' day was probably well-forested with olive trees (hence its name). The Garden of Gethsemane was one area on the mount where Jesus and his disciples would regularly "lodge". (Compare it to spending a full day in New York City and then sleeping in Central Park, yet with not as much grassy undergrowth!) This area was a familiar "campground", if you will, for the poor, the hapless, and for many who had generally lost their way in life. Those who could not afford accommodations in the city would retreat to this area to bivouac under the stars. In this open-air hotel, there were no restrooms, no places to tidy up before lying down on the most comfortable place one could find in this uncomfortable setting. Places of this sort commonly experienced crime such as robbery and murder. On the night of Jesus' betrayal, it was just another night like so many others to the disciples. They knew that once again they would be huddled together for warmth under the boughs of an olive tree that would help keep the morning dew from covering them and chilling them to the bone. Yet, this night was different. There was a sadness that they had not known. Jesus said that He was going away, yet they did not understand. He told them not to let their hearts be troubled ... that he was going away to prepare a place for them and in this place were many mansions (John 14:1-2). Possibly, the disciples dreamed that night of sumptuous pillows and silken sheets rather than the sandy soil they were so accustomed as their nightly resting places. Even as they nodded off to sleep between their times of grief, their Lord was being betrayed into the hands of the ungodly. They would not sleep restfully for some time as they witnessed the One whom they had followed for three years being lead away bound by those with swords and torches to be crucified as a common criminal later that morning. Ironic to the crime of that area, they were the ones that were robbed of their friend and master that night in the garden and were at a loss when He was murdered by means of a mock trial.

Many in Jesus day could not understand the importance of Jesus giving up all to become everything for all humankind. They just didn't "get" that if someone was truly the Messiah and if they possessed all things, why it was necessary to become destitute in this life. Many today don't understand that about our Lord. They say it with their lips but it is far from their hearts. It is evident in the way a large majority of the religious class of our day shuns those who have nothing, and yet buddies up to the rich and affluent. The scripture is very clear that Jesus would not have spent much time or effort with these sort of folks. It's quite certain that Jesus' disciples would have enjoyed the home of a rich person versus sleeping on the hard Palestinian ground with a rock for a pillow! But Jesus knew that the things of this earth can never serve us the way we believe they inevitably will. They are an illusion and a vain piece of trickery set up by the evil one to cause us to waste our lives in these vain pursuits. Until one truly believes John 14 when Jesus said that he would go to prepare a place for us -- a place of exquisite beauty and richness like the world has not seen -- then we will all secretly crave the "good life" on this earth which is destined to burn with all the elements at his return (II Peter 3:10). We will pass up the most amazing "home makeover" ever to be devised as Jesus Christ promised He would accomplish on our behave in His Father's house.

St. Francis of Assisi was one of these that understood the importance of releasing and relinquishing all ties to his earthly home to gain an eternal one in the heavenlies.  A final denunciation of his father's wealth as a cloth merchant led to a vow of poverty that the young man would never regret. Francis lived a life of abject humiliation toward all things temporal, taking great joy in ministering to the poorest of the poor which included society's castaways such as lepers, the blind, and the disabled. He understood that in order to attain to a true lodging that would never be swept away by fire, flood, or calamity that he must empty himself of all desire to become anything in this world and become everything to those around him. Hebrews 11:37-38 states that many others had likewise lived an example of homelessness upon this earth and were looking to an eternal abode: They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Just as the world was not worthy of these, neither was it worthy of the One who gave up everything to live as the scum of the earth.

As in Christ's time and before, God is raising up many today that have no desire regarding how they might appear to their contemporaries. They have given up all things in order to look forward to that heavenly home that will out-dazzle anything here on earth. Does God want us to leave behind family and friends and live a life of abject poverty as our Lord? I truly believe that is the call for some. We see it every day as someone will commit their lives to serving as a missionary somewhere in the world. So what about the rest of us? Jesus Christ has called ALL of us to disenfranchise ourselves from the things of this earth, for in the end they hold no value. It matters not whether we have the nicest home on the block with the prettiest yard. What matters is what we have done for those around us by opening not only our homes to those less fortunate, but to open up our entire lives and to give unreservedly. God gives to us not to spend and consume on our own selfish ambitions, but to empty ourselves for the sake of others. Only as we truly understand that we are aliens and strangers on this earth as Jesus did, then and only then will we behave in compassion and humility to those all around us. It will truly give us a new perspective on those we might have looked down on, sleeping out in the open in a contemporary "hobo jungle" or under an overpass as those did, comparatively, in ancient Palestine. Our better judgment, born of true humility and understanding, would tell us that some of these might be like a band of twelve nearly two-thousand years ago who were looking for a more lasting home -- a divine home that their Savior has gone to prepare.

Father, thank you that your Son has gone to prepare a place for us. That by His death, burial, and resurrection on that glorious Resurrection Day so long ago He has been awaiting the day to welcome us to our heavenly home. Lord, we anxiously look forward to that day and are reminded that You have MANY mansions. Lord, help us to bring others to an understanding that this wonderful place of divine habitation awaits all who would believe in You. In Jesus' precious name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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