The Closed Door
    Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
                     The Church of The Reclining Jesus

“And it came about that He was reclining at the table in his [Levi’s]
house, and many tax-gatherers and sinners were dining with Jesus and
His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following
Him” (Mk. 2:15).  

Unlike Luke who is meticulous and detail-oriented, Mark comes
straight to the point much of the time in his presentation of Jesus as
the Gospel.  

In chapter one, Mark paints a picture of a very busy Savior with
multitudes of people pressing in from all sides wherever Jesus goes.  
Great throngs of people with all types of needs, requests, sicknesses
and demon-possessions gather around Him.  In chapter two, even the
ill-intentioned Pharisees come to Him with their reasoning and
accusations.  

Out of all these encounters with the needy people and people of
various agendas, one thing becomes clear: they all want something
from Jesus; either they want healings, deliverance and blessings, or
they want confrontations.  They all want something from Him.  

We have to lift our voices and give Him a big “Thank You!” for all the
healings, deliverance and blessings that He has bestowed upon all of
us needy and ignorant ones.  Were it not for His mercy and grace in
patiently tending to our relentless requests, desperate cries for help,
and sometimes ill-intended slanders, none of us would be where we
are today.  

Without a doubt, a great deal of fanfare has been generated by all the
healings and deliverance….  News about Jesus’ miraculous power
spread like wildfire.  More people with special needs come to Him….  
Mark records that “Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but
stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from
everywhere” (Mk 1:45).  In 3:20, Mark remarks that because of the
crowd, Jesus and entourage could not even eat a meal!  

Under such tremendous weight and burden to care for the needy
people, Jesus shows nothing but grace and mercy.  He continues to
bless, heal and deliver….  Praise the Lord!  

Chapter two opens with yet another dramatic demonstration of man’s
desperate need: four friends of a paralytic go the extra mile in
hoisting him up on the roof, digging a hole and lowering him to Jesus’
feet.  This is without a doubt a culmination of man’s desperate need
for healing.  And as usual, the Savior stands ready to save and to
heal.  

Interestingly tucked away in the middle of chapter two is an almost
obscure instance of Jesus reclining at table feasting with Matthew and
his despised cluster of fellow-tax collectors and sinners.  

What is so unusual about Jesus reclining at table with a group of
sinners and tax-collectors?  

Plenty.  

For one thing, this group of simple folks does not show to be
desperately wanting something from Jesus as in all the other
instances.  Don’t they have needs?  Sure they do!  But they are not
here because they want something from Him.  They are here because
He is here.  They don’t want a “thing” from Him.  They don’t want a
“blessing” from Him.  They just want Him.  

Dear saints, this has got to be one of the all-time great eye-openers
in the Bible, if we would just pause a moment and ponder a bit.  Lowly
and humble men and women finally find something in Him to be
desirable and not something He does to be desirable.  This is a great
revelation.  

When children are young, they only appreciate their parents for their
provisions, presents and allowances.  When I was little, I’d get
excited whenever dad bought us toys.  All I could see and appreciate
were the toys.  When I grew older I began to appreciate him for who
he was, not just what he did.  

A.B. Simpson wrote a wonderful hymn, “Himself,” and verse one goes,

“Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.”  

If you read through the rest of the hymn, there can be no doubt that
Simpson has gone through all the scenarios that any zealous Christian
would in the course of serving and pleasing God.  It is a very common
experience for a believer to ask for blessings, seek feelings, covet
gifts, crave for powers, plan for gospel campaigns, request healings,
etc, etc….  But in the end, Simpson found the secret – Himself.  

And what a discovery it was!  

All the labor, toil, ministry…pale in comparison to Himself alone.  

Nothing can be quite as uplifting and liberating as coming to Him for
who He is without any agenda, hidden motives or preconceived
notions.  

Nothing pleases Him like a group of folks who just desire Him,
whether He does anything for them or not.  

And nothing saddens Him more than seeing His children for years
living in the “once it was,” but never advancing to the “now it is.”  

When the Lord finds a group of simple and unpretentious folks who
instead of clamoring for blessing, feeling, gifts, ministries and healing,
make a feast for Him, He reclines.  Now that’s probably one of the
most significant pictures of the church – a reclining Jesus feasting with
a group of lowly and simple people.  

Much to our regret, today’s churches make their own statements about
their accomplishments and toot their own horns.  Many claim to have
done great works for the Lord.  Many claim to have been faithful to the
Lord.  Many claim to have endured persecutions and sufferings for the
Lord.  Some claim to have discovered certain doctrines of the local
ground of the church.  Some claim to have returned to the unique New
Testament pattern of meeting from house to house, and the list goes
on and on….  

What makes a church a church is not in what she can do for the Lord,
but whether He is there reclining.  And feasting.  

The Song of Songs is an intriguing interplay between the beloved and
his beautiful bride.  In typology, this is a most amazing interplay
between the Beloved Christ and His beautiful Bride, the Church.  

Throughout this song, the bride shows her longing and desires and
needs for him.  Likewise, the beloved also shows his longing, desires
and needs for her.  It slowly becomes evident that as the bride grows
and matures, she is less concerned with what he does for her and
more focused for what he is.  As she grows, he praises her more and
more not for what she does, but for what she is on the inside.  His
needs and desires for her become fully met and satisfied in her
matured state.  

This should be the normal experience of the Church.  Only the
increasing and maturing portions of Christ in the Church can offer
pleasure and satisfaction to our Beloved Bridegroom.  

It’s not about building a perfect wineskin; it’s not about building
according to an authentic blueprint.  It’s about Him…Himself being the
wineskin, Himself being the blueprint, and the builder, and the
building.  

Finally, here in Matthew’s home, the Lord is no longer busy working.  
He is resting, reclining, feasting.  And the simple folks are just
enjoying His presence, offering their praise and worship, carrying on
fellowship.  Very simple, isn’t it, this business about the church?  

May the Lord find Lamb-like simplicity in us.  May the Lord find rest
and recline among His people.  May we offer Him our portions of Christ
as His feast.  

One more line from A.B. Simpson’s hymn:

“Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, now He uses me.”  

Saints, it is not your work or my work; it is Him doing His work in,
through, and out of you and me.  This is true rest.  

Come to the table, there is a place for you.  Amen.  

Oliver Peng
8/23/07