When was the last time that someone truly impressed you? Whether it was something you read or saw, or it was someone in your life—what did they do to impress you? Was it their abilities or skills? Was it their attitude? Their kindness and helpfulness? Why was it impressive? Because you admired their qualities and wished you had them? Because you realized the character or effort involved? Because it showed what that person must be made of at their core? Have you ever consciously tried to impress someone else? Why did you want to impress them? What did you do to impress them?
If you are truly sold out as a Christian—Who is the One Person that you should desire to impress more than anyone else in the world? Yet, Who do we usually give less conscious consideration towards impressing than anyone else? Have you ever seriously even considered what it takes, at the core, to impress Jesus? Can He even be impressed with our sinful, fallen attempts? 1 Samuel 13:14: That sounds pretty definitive that we CAN leave a deep and strong impression on God. In a conversation at work Friday, a friend brought up how certain people had touched Jesus in their actions when He was on this earth, and I could not get it off my mind. I had to go back to the gospels and learn about every instance that I could where it looked as if someone actually impressed our Savior with something they had said or done. Would that not be some of the most important and precious information that we could ever want to possess? And Scriptures actually have a number of instances where Jesus shows great satisfaction, even amazement, at the actions of certain individuals He had contact with in His earthly walk. Individuals that are never heard from again, that never go on and do big things in the pages of Scriptures later—just simple people that Jesus encounters, and is impressed. Let's look at some of them together today, and see if we cannot learn a bit more about exactly what it takes to please and impress our Jesus.
The first incident we will consider is special for a couple of reasons: Luke 7:1-10. First, this man was a Commander of 100 men in the Roman army, therefore a representative of the very oppression the Jews endured. Yet, he was obviously a very kind man who was humble in placing others before himself. He had been good to the Jews to whom he was in authority over, and he was desperately seeking the healing of his own servant/slave—of which under Roman law and common practice, a centurion was allowed and expected to simply kill a sick or useless slave under their authority. The centurion knew that he was a gentile and a sinner, and did not want to trouble or insult Jesus by asking Him to come into his house, which was forbidden by Jewish customs—the centurion did not even feel worthy to approach Jesus face-to-face (Probably because he was a gentile and a suppressor of the Jews). But what made Jesus stop and, "marvel" was this man's great faith in Him as the Messiah. The centurion had complete faith that Jesus would not even have to be present to heal his servant. The centurion had complete faith that, even though he was an unworthy scum in the eyes of the Jews, Jesus would accept him and show mercy. Here, Jesus reminded the Jews that some gentiles would eat at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matthew 8) and many of them (Jews) would not. The centurion had the determination to reach out to Him no matter what the cost to himself or his reputation.
The second account is so different and special: Matthew 15:21-28. First of all, the regions of Tyre and Sidon were located about 50 miles away. There is no other purpose ever revealed as to why Jesus made the journey—no other work done by Him there. He traveled 100 miles on foot to see this Syrophoenician woman. The disciples wanted her sent away because the two groups loathed one another—the Jews truly thought them as low as dogs. Jesus reminds her that He was sent first to the tribes of Israel, not the gentiles. This is all a test for her heart—and a lesson to the disciples. This woman comes and begins to worship Him even without an answer. [I wish we could hear the tone of Jesus' voice here]: He reiterates the attitude of the disciples, but only to bring His point to all of them out into the open in the next moment. He calls her, "little dog" lightening the accusations of the disciples and most other Jews, but clarifying her current status among them. His voice and eyes must have communicated His heart, because she persists. She admits her low status and seemingly undeserved attention, and then calls Him, "Her Master!" even so. She claims the benefits her Master would give even with such a low status: She wouldn’t be run away, discouraged by what the world thinks, or give up in self-pity—she remains steadfast in her passion and faith in Jesus' heart—in spite of the opinions and circumstances of the moment. In faith, she refuses to let Him go until he touches her daughter. Listen to the sweetness and pleasure with which Jesus answers her after this statement: v28: Jesus praises her for her faith. Her faith in humble understanding that she was undeserving but loved anyway; her faith that showed such understanding and expectation in Jesus' Character that He would not deny her; her faith that simply would not give up.
David showed this incredible faith in God when he was least likely to have any confidence in God's continued love—after his own terrible sin. Psalm 38:3-4, 10-11, 14-15, 21-22. David is overwhelmed with grief because he sinned so terribly. Even his closest friends and family stay away because of his sin and God’s judgment against him. Even in all of his undeserving ways, and in all of the terrible words of friends and enemies alike, he says he will not hear them. He says he will not try to respond to them; he says his hope will only be in the love and mercy of the very God who had to punish him in sin to wake him up. His faith—his hope—was based entirely on God's goodness—not his deservedness. This is what impresses God—what touches His heart. Time will not allow us to dig too deeply into every story, but briefly listen to examples of those Jesus was, "impressed by" in His time: Mark 12:41-44. Jesus was so impressed with this woman that He called His disciples over to tell them about her. In complete humbleness she gave herself totally to the mercy of God, knowing she could not help herself. In complete faith, she gave all she had in worship and dedication. In humility and total faith she trusted God's hand to take care of her, and it got the attention and praise of the Messiah.
Here’s a favorite: Luke 8:43-48. This woman was especially embarrassed and miserable because according to the Laws of cleanliness, she was unable to take part in worship, and anyone or anything she touched also became unclean. Because of her embarrassing issue, which would have caused the crowd to condemn her for even being there—much less touching Jesus—she came secretly in shame, knowing she was not clean enough to touch anyone, much less touch Holiness. But trusting that if she could just touch Him, He would not be made unclean, but that she would be made clean. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. The disciples were like, "Really Master? Everyone is touching you!" But even though many people were touching Him, Jesus knew that only one person was touching Him in real faith and hope. Jesus knew when He asked who it had been, and He must have been looking right at her when He spoke. But in such a way, that she only saw love and compassion, because it compelled her to come forward and confess. Jesus did not call her out to embarrass her further; He called her out to reward her for her faith. To openly give her warmth and recognition where she expected more pain and condemnation; to show her and everyone else that it was her great faith in Him which healed her. And where the people condemned her, even rightly so, Jesus made her worthy, and called her, "Daughter!" This is the only time it is recorded in Scriptures where Jesus used this precious term of endearment for anyone. She came in humility and embarrassment; she came in boldness confidence and desperation, and was not only rewarded with mercy and righteousness, but she was warmly embraced in her affliction.
And lastly, for the sake of time, we will look only at a part of a well-known moment in Jesus' ministry. Jesus was invited to a Pharisee's house, seemingly as a Guest of Honor, but He had been truly brought there to be disrespected and picked apart by the self-righteous group. One person there saw the disrespect Jesus was receiving. One person who should not have even been there in her sins and shame, stepped out in humility, desperation and passion, to openly love and worship her King, her Savior: Luke 7:36-39, 44-47. Knowing the horror she would experience publicly, this woman saw something in Jesus' face—felt something so genuinely accepting in His demeanor—that made her sure He would love and accept her back, and not scold or humiliate her, even in front of these men. She risked everything to be near this Man, knowing her lowly position as a probable prostitute and a woman among these, "Holy men!" She worshiped Him and removed the disdain they placed on Him in their actions. She used the intimacy of her own tears, in place of the simple water they denied Him to wash the dirt from His feet. She took down her hair in an intimate and forbidden fashion, and touched His unwashed feet in a complete abandonment of herself—to take the place of a towel He was not offered. She repeatedly kissed His feet, honoring Him far greater and more passionately than a customary kiss on the forehead or cheek. She broke open her alabaster jar of spikenard (worth about 30K today) and anointed His feet, hen they would not even use cheap olive oil on His head. This act of total worship cost her all of her money—and all of her modesty—but none of it mattered at this point, compared to Him. Jesus rewarded her humility, her expensive gift of all she owned, her brazenness in openly abandoned worship, with open praise and recognition, with forgiveness and Salvation. And one dirty, selfish prostitute won the admiration of the God of the Universe that night.
All of these stories have a very noticeable common thread, and Scriptures seamlessly, repeatedly say the same thing throughout. Jesus was not one time impressed with anyone's scholarly knowledge of Him, or with their great accomplishments and skills, or even with their sacrificial ministries. He was impressed by these simple traits every time—true humbleness and humility that recognized they were unworthy to be with Him or expect anything from Him. But a true recognition, a powerful faith in His preciousness and acceptance of them in their dirty and unworthy state anyway. They were all focusing on Him, not themselves. They each had an unwavering, almost brazen approach to being in His Presence with worship and requests, and each had a trust and a resolve that they would not stop until they reached Him—no matter the cost in time, reputation or trouble. They were completely, unstoppably desperate for Him. There was only one other time that Jesus actually, "marveled" at someone's actions. When He returned to His home town and saw the reaction from those that had known Him best growing up, He responded to them this way: Mark 6:5-6. Jesus marvels at our faith—our faith in Him for undeserved love and blessings, and our lack of faith in Him, against all evidence of His love and power.
Which do you possess? Hebrews 11:6. We can impress Jesus today, but not with any ability or knowledge you possess. We can only impress Him with our faith today, but it must be in humbleness and humility. It must be in brazen confidence of His desire to love and help you anyway. (Based only on Him) And it must be with a relentless passion to reach Him.
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