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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Luke 6:12-19

We would do well to study the intentionality of Jesus, especially as he relates to different groups of people. This is a subtle but hugely important wineskin. A few things to note from these verses:

First, Jesus is intentional about bathing his decision in prayer. He retreats from the crowds, goes into that desolate place again (here, "the mountain") and spends the entire night in prayer. When have you bathed a decision in prayer? Was your experience in that decision making process different from just making a decision on your own? The practice of extended prayer both acknowledges our own dependence and invites God's intervention. It sets up a willingness, a pliability in us that God will honor by providing direction. Of course, it's better to approach prayer with a heart of "God, what do you want?" rather than "God, here's what I want." But God will meet you where you are and mold you from there. At the same time, it's worth sharing the desires of your heart with God, because very often he delights to give you those things as a way of showing his love for you. It is the ongoing conversation with him that is important.

Second, Jesus is intentional about choosing a limited number of disciples who will be his closest followers. Without a doubt, hundreds of others followed him from time to time. In the first chapter of Acts, we learn that there were others outside the Twelve who had been with Jesus throughout his ministry. This key decision is about Jesus narrowing his relational focus. In reality, each of us has a limited amount of relational energy to expend, and that was true of Jesus in his incarnation as well. More often than not we simply drift through life accepting whatever relationships happen to be our reality at this moment. Sadly we miss out on so much in this way. Jesus demonstrates that the intentional, prayerful choosing of relationships is a God-honoring thing. He was probably criticized for this. It might have seemed to some that he was playing favorites, or that he loved some more than others, or that his movement was exclusive and not "fair." But Jesus intentionally chose the Twelve -- and within the Twelve he chose Peter, James, and John to be his inner circle. Any follower of Jesus would do well to be intentional about where they invest their relational energy. Too often the mediocre, unexamined connections in our lives keep us stuck and in limbo. We need to follow those who lead us toward Christ, be sharpened by partnerships with excellence, and invest in those who can grow and develop the most from our example and efforts. Over and over throughout his ministry we see Jesus being intentional about these decisions.

Third, Jesus intentionally lays out appropriate relationships with people at various levels of connection to himself. He doesn't shut out the crowds, but he limits his time with them. He ministers to those in need of healing, but he doesn't often recruit from that pool for leadership in his movement. (Mary Magdalene and the Gerasene demoniac might be two exceptions to this.) Jesus does intentionally invest time in the hurting, the curious, the hungry. But his most focused energy, the relationships at the core of his life, overwhelmingly involve those he has intentionally chosen.

The content of what Jesus shares with those disciples is yet another way Jesus creates new wine packaged in new wineskins. That's where Luke leads us next.

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