Up A Tree

Jesus was on His final march to Jerusalem when He encountered Zaccheus – up a tree. While Zaccheus needed to come down out of that tree to meet the Savior, Jesus would soon be nailed to a tree to purchase the salvation He so freely-offered. Two trees, two very different symbols.

Jesus was almost always surrounded by a crowd, His disciples, His other followers, and of course, His detractors. As we often see when Jesus encounters a “sinner“, His detractors are quick to point out His “lapses of judgment“. If Jesus is so “holy“, why does He associate with “sinners“?

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Jericho was only about 12 or so miles from Jerusalem, as the crow flies, but there was some pretty “rough” country (mountains) between them, so it would have made a convenient “rest-stop” on the way to Jerusalem.

Would Zaccheus have been satisfied with a glimpse of Jesus, or was he really looking for much more? Based on his actions, I suspect that he was probably looking for more, maybe even MUCH more, but maybe he didn’t even know what he really wanted. Whatever he was hoping for, he got far more than he could have ever imagined. He certainly wasn’t concerned about his own “dignity“, because if he had been, he would have never “ran on ahead“, let alone “climbed a tree“. Those things were VERY-UNDIGNIFIED, particularly for a “mature” man. Who else in the Gospels did something equally “undignified“? (Luke 15:11-32)

Whatever Zaccheus was hoping for, he had to climb a tree to even get a glimpse, because not only was Zaccheus short, as a tax collector, the crowd wouldn’t have even thought about making a way for him. He probably had gotten a few elbows to the gut as it was before he finally broke away from the crowd to run on ahead. So, even though it was highly “undignified“, he ran on ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree. He was that desperate to see Jesus.

Imagine his shock and surprise when Jesus stopped right under and called him by name. “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus just invited Himself to Zaccheus’ home. We often wait and hope for an invitation to someone’s home for special holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but Jesus just took charge of the situation. What would our response be if Jesus invited Himself into our home? Zaccheus was thrilled. And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.

 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Why should we NOT be surprised that there were some in the crowd who complained that Jesus went to the home of a “sinner“? There were Scribes and Pharisees lurking in the crowds during most of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and they were definitely unhappy that Jesus would associate with “sinners“. Even His own disciples had a certain amount of disdain for some of the people He hung-out with.

What kind of “sinner” was Zaccheus? He was a much-hated “tax-collector“, and not just any “tax-collector“, he was a “Chief tax-collector“. He had gotten rich, not only from his own thievery, but also from the thievery of those he employed. Quite often those taxes hit the poorest people the hardest because they didn’t have any money to “spare“. Tax-collectors were the lowest of the low-lifes in that culture because they were employed by the Roman government to do their dirty-work, and they were considered “traitors“, particularly because they were Jews.

Jericho was a particularly-lucrative place to be a tax collector because it was at the crossroads of a couple of important trade-routes, so they caught travelers both coming and going. Zaccheus had gotten very rich on ill-gotten gains.

Things still haven’t changed, have they? The “church” still refuses to seek the “lost“, to minister to the “low-lifes” in our communities. Like the Scribes and Pharisees, the “church” still expects people to come to it, rather than to go to them. If Jesus was here today, He would minister to “unacceptable” people, and the Church has been called to do likewise. Jesus would minister to bikers, tip a cold-one in a biker-bar, minister to street-walkers and go into brothels, things that would raise the ire of most “good-Christians” today. Yes, He would even minister in Cypress Cove, as I have been called to do.

Zaccheus’ response to Jesus’ ministry showed that he was a changed man. 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” The Old Testament law required restitution, but Zaccheus went above and beyond what was required in the law. Because the poor had been hit the hardest by Zaccheus’ greed, he promised to give half of his possessions to them. Salvation should bring with it a changed-heart, and wherever our old life has tainted our thoughts and actions the most should come the most change in us. Sadly, that is not always the case…

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. While Zaccheus was a Jew, thus a biological “son of Abraham“, without faith in the Savior, his kinship with Abraham availed him nothing. He could only become a true “son of Abraham” by faith, which he did.

10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” While much has been said and written about Jesus’ purposes on Earth, we don’t get any clearer picture of His overarching purpose than this brief statement from His own lips. Throughout His earthly ministry, He told many parables about His relentless search for what is lost.

I spent many years in Search and Rescue, so “seeking and saving the lost” has a special-significance to me. Those missions were particularly-critical when the “lost” was a child. We pulled out ALL of the stops, even enlisting the aid of helicopters and the National Guard if necessary. There was as much relief and rejoicing in finding and saving a lost child as there is in Heaven when one who was “lost” is “rescued” by Christ. We should rejoice too when someone comes to saving faith in Christ.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Advertisements

According To The Order Of Melchizedec

Melchizedec is one of the least know and most mysterious people in the Bible, only mentioned in Genesis 14, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7, but that doesn’t undercut his significance. He was a contemporary of Abraham, so he could not be descended from Levi and part of the Aaronic priesthood, and yet he was the priest of God Most High. His significance is explained in Hebrews 7.

Who was Melchizedek?
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”And he gave him a tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

7 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

As with many of the people in the Old Testament, his name has great meaning. The Hebrew word melech means “king“, and the Hebrew word zedek means “rightousness“. Thus, his name means “King of righteousness“, which means that he was a Priest.

He was also King of Salem, which means “peace“, however, Salem, which we know as Jerusalem, was one of the many city-states, each ruled by its own king, in the land of Canaan. This made Melchizidek both and King and a Priest. The only other person in the Bible who is described as both a King and a Priest is Jesus Christ. Melchizekek is seen as a type of Christ, our eternal Prophet, Priest and King.

From Hebrews 7:3, we learn that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…“. Lineage and genealogy were very important in the Old Testament, particularly in the Aaronic priesthood, however, lineage had no bearing on Melchizedek’s priesthood, particularly since he predated the Jewish priesthood. Were there simply no records of his family-heritage, or was it just immaterial? Some Bible scholars believe that Melchizedek was a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, but the Bible doesn’t really support that interpretation. He is also compared to the Son of God, “but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” Jesus Christ wouldn’t be compared to Himself.

Abraham and Melchizedek
Abraham wasn’t a king and he didn’t rule a city, but God had given him the land of Canaan in Genesis 13:14-17. He was still a nomadic-herdsman, but he did have many trained servants. Having his servants trained and armed was necessary to protect both his herds and his camp. When he heard that Lot, his nephew, had been captured, he armed his servants and went to retake what was rightfully his and to liberate Lot. (Genesis 14:13-16)

On his way back home, he encountered Melchizedek, who brought a feast out to him. Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham, 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;”. Melchizedec also praised God for Abraham’s victory, 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then, Abraham did something interesting, And he gave him a tithe of all. 4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. He recognized that Melchizedek was greater than him, and someone who represented God. Mind you, this was long before God gave the Law, which means that Abraham gave this offering freely and without obligation.

The prophesy…
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
2 The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
3 Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
4 The Lord has sworn And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:1-4)

David, the Psalmist, is looking forward to the time when his greater-son, Jesus Christ, is given all power and authority and is enthroned to reign forever. God had promised that one of his heirs would have an eternal kingdom and would reign forever. (2 Samuel 7:16) We also see the promise of an eternal priesthood.

The King of Righteousness
4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Need for a New Priesthood
11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Greatness of the New Priest
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’”),

22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7)

Jesus Christ has become our great High Priest, not by earthly-lineage, but by Divine-Appointment. Earthly High Priests lived to die. Jesus Christ lived to die and be raised from the dead, to live eternally. Thus, while an earthly High Priest only served for a limited time, Jesus Christ is living and serving, and will continue to serve for all eternity.

As New Testament believers, we rightly-understand that the Old Testament sacrificial-system has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and that the Temple, with its Aaronic-Priests, has also been eliminated, but even as Jesus Christ fulfilled and eliminated the old-order, He has also established a new-order of Priests with a new, perfect and eternal High Priest. The new Priesthood isn’t based on physical-lineage, as the old one was, but on spiritual-lineage. Those of us who have been “born-again” by faith in Christ have been appointed as Priests to God under our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
8 and,
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

If you thought that being a Christian was “boring“, think again…

Sola Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – Seeing Is Believing

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at a “composite-account” of Jesus’ last forty days on this earth which will be drawn from three of the four Gospels, since no single Gospel writer paints a complete picture of all of the events.

Pilate sets a guard
62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66)

The guards are bribed
11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)

Why should we NOT be surprised that the Jewish leaders concocted a story to cover-up the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead? After all, they had seen Him hanging on the cross, dead as a rock, and since they were still convinced that Jesus was an impostor, the only plausible explanation for His body being missing HAD to be that some had stolen the body, right under their noses. There was NO WAY they were ever going to believe that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.

The Road to Emmaus
13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:13-27)

Imagine these two dejected followers of Christ trudging-along trying to figure out what had just happened. Yes, they had heard Jesus tell them that He had to be crucified and be resurrected on the third day, but they still weren’t “connecting-the-dots“. When they had met Jesus some years ago, His claims of being the Messiah had rekindled their hope that He was their long-promised “conquering-king“. He also claimed to be their long-awaited “David’s greater Son“, thus He was also in the royal-lineage and could be that final heir to the Davidic-kingdom. As they chafed under Roman domination, they were hoping and praying that God would send a “liberator” to set them free and re-establish the nation of Israel as an independent kingdom. Jesus death on the cross had dashed their last hope that He was their “messianic-king“.

They believed, as most Jews still do today, that the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 referred to the nation of Israel, not to some particular person, let alone Jesus Christ. We see Isaiah 53 first applied to Jesus by Philip when he preached to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39. Only Christians understand Isaiah 53 as Messianic-prophesy.

While they had heard the report that Jesus was alive, they weren’t quite sure they believed it. After all, nobody, at least nobody they trusted, had actually seen Jesus alive. Jews didn’t put much credence in the testimony of a woman, particularly in a woman who had been demon-possessed. For all they knew, the resurrection was still a rumor, not an established-fact. Then Jesus met them…

15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. Jesus already knew what they were talking about, but He wanted to hear it from them. Why were they prevented from recognizing Jesus?

18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” They were incredulous that He seemed to be ignorant of the most significant event that had happened over the weekend. How could He have NOT heard?

19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” What had happened to Jesus’ body? Like most Jews of their day, they DID believe in a “resurrection from the dead“, but only in a general way, and only at the end of the age. That was the way Mary and Martha thought too, until Jesus resurrected Lazarus. These two dejected followers may have even witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection, but they still hadn’t “connected the dots” to realize that Jesus might be resurrected too. For all they knew, someone may have stolen Jesus’ body, as was rumored in Jerusalem. In spite of all they had seen and heard, Jesus had seriously let them down.

25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Why HADN’T they believed what the prophets foretold about the coming Messiah? Even though they hadn’t been to “seminary“, but that doesn’t mean that they were illiterate about the Old Testament? After all, it was read in their synagogues every Sabbath. Had they been looking for the wrong “kind” of Messiah? While we aren’t told what Scriptures Jesus used to show how He had fulfilled many prophesies, He certainly tore-down their Old Testament Messianic-preconceptions and showed them that they had been looking for the wrong “kind” of Messiah all along. Jesus came to be the “suffering-servant“, not to be an earthly “conquering-king“.

On a side-note, I had read and heard the Great Commission many times over the years, but because it was given to the Apostles, and has been largely-restricted to the “spiritual-elite” to carry-out in our time, I never understood that it applies to ALL Believers. I didn’t “get-it” until my pastor preached a series of sermons entitled “Getting out of the boat“. That is when the Great Commission flashed through my brain like a stroke of lightning. My eyes were finally opened, and it “only” took fifty-eight-years to finally happen. I finally “got-it“. Why did it take me that long to finally “get-it“? I grew up in a church-culture where men were “called, trained and ordained” as pastors or missionaries. It was, and still is, a tightly-controlled system, which should remind us of the Jewish religious leaders asking Jesus “By what authority…?” “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Maybe we shouldn’t be quite so “hard” on those disciples, because they were a “product” of their culture just as I was of mine.

28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35)

Why did Jesus act like He was going to continue His trip? Had He come “dangerously-close” to revealing who He was? Were their “mental-gears” whirring with wondering if the stranger who had met them might be Jesus? Maybe He wasn’t ready for the “great-reveal” just yet…

29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. Hospitality-customs in that culture required that local-people open their home to travelers who were passing-through, so in keeping with that custom, they offered Jesus a place to spend the night, and supper.

30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. This begs the question of whether they had been with Jesus during the Last Supper, or were their eyes opened supernaturally? Maybe a bit of both? Why did Jesus abruptly-vanish?

32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” They had heard those prophesies before, maybe even dozens of times, but they had been “conditioned” to a different-interpretation. How many times have we read or heard the same thing ninety-nine times, but we didn’t “get-it” until the hundredth time? That is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus told us in John 16:13 “He will guide you into all truth.” We are guided to understand the truth because we have a Divine-guide.

33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. That news was certainly too good to keep to themselves so they high-tailed it back to Jerusalem. They weren’t the only ones to have seen the risen Lord; Jesus had also appeared to Simon Peter.

Note: We don’t have a “timeline” of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples, so the following-accounts may be “parallel-accounts” told by different authors. We will take them as individual-events as recounted by their authors.

Other Appearances
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. (Luke 24:36-43)

I can imagine their surprise as they were swapping-stories about the Risen-Lord when Jesus Himself appeared to them. They hadn’t heard a “knock” on the door and didn’t see the door open, Jesus just “appeared”. He appeared as suddenly as He had disappeared from Emmaus. I would be troubled too.

“Peace be to you.” His greeting should have brought comfort to them, but they couldn’t believe their eyes. They thought that they were seeing a ghost, a “spirit”, because humans don’t walk through doors or just “appear”.

38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” As incredulous as it seemed, Jesus really WAS alive.

41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. One thing was for sure, “ghostsDON’T eat, but Jesus took food and ate it in their presence. Yes, He WAS alive, and they were NOTseeing-things”.

Jesus among His Disciples
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:19-23)

The disciples had gathered, most-likely in an upper-room, and they had gone there secretly because they weren’t “out-of-the-woods” yet just because Jesus was “dead”. They still represented a significant-threat to the Jewish-establishment because there were so many of them. They also knew that if Jesus WAS alive, they could be rounded-up at any moment and suffer a similar-fate. Some of them may have even slipped-in under-cover of darkness. It was just too soon to be taking ANY chances. I would have been jittery too.

When Jesus appeared to them, He tried to calm their fears with “Peace be with you.” That “peace” was more than just an absence of conflict, it was an inner-peace, and the kind of “peace” we can have regardless of circumstance because we know that God is still in control of everything. 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. If any of them had been skeptical about Jesus’ resurrection, seeing Him in person removed all doubt.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Jesus’ disciples weren’t going to be able to just “go back home as if nothing had happened”, He gave them a new mission, a COMMISSION. They were to be His “ambassadors”, and they were to carry on with the work that He had begun, namely spreading the Good-News that the Kingdom of God had come.

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. This gift is essential for the performance of the task given the disciples. This occasion is a “foreshadowing” of the fullness of the Spirit to be given to the church on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came-upon them in great power. There were no “tongues-of-fire” or “speaking in tongues”, but God was already preparing them for the mission which lay-ahead of them.

23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” The Apostles, as the founders of the church and acting for it, received the authority to declare God’s judgment on sins. Fundamentally, this declaration is made when the Gospel is preached.

“Doubting” Thomas
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Why didn’t Thomas believe that Jesus had risen from the dead? Did he still believe the rumor in Jerusalem that Jesus’ body had been “stolen”? He had witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection, but how could a “dead-man” bring himself back to life? That was impossible. He, along with Mary and Martha, may have believed that there would be a “general-resurrection” at the end of time, but…

Thomas needed EVIDENCE, real, touchable EVIDENCE, that Jesus was alive. He would only believe if he could see and touch Jesus for himself. Second-hand “testimony” wasn’t good enough for him. He would have been a very-tough “trial-lawyer”.

26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:24-29)

Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas for wanting to see Him first-hand because He knew that some people need more “evidence” than just what they have been told. He had certainly surprised the other disciples when He appeared to them. He also wasn’t “surprised” that Thomas was “skeptical” because there is a bit of “skeptic” in all of us. It is part of being HUMAN. That is also one of the reasons why we have four Gospels, not just one. Each of the Gospels was written by a different author, each from their own “perspective”, and each was written to a different “target-audience”.

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas could only exclaim “My Lord and my God!” Thomas finally “got-it”.

29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

The disciples were the first eye-witnesses to the resurrected Christ, and yes, seeing WAS believing, but Christ has a message for us today. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Because of their eye-witness accounts in the Gospels, we too are able to believe in the resurrected Christ. We have the same opportunity to exclaim, with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Have you seen Christ through the pages of Scripture? I pray that you have.

Sola Deo Gloria!
Steve

Bible Study – The Plot Thickens

As we saw at the end of our previous study, Jesus’s popularity, fueled by having raised Lazarus from the dead, enraged the religious authorities even more. They will not only plot to kill Jesus, they will even plot to kill Lazarus. The religious authorities had been trying to derail Jesus’ ministry since almost the beginning, but we really couldn’t decipher their motives…until now. They had tried to trip Him up in something He said, they had tried to have Him arrested, and even tried to stone Him, all to no avail.

They were on an endless “gravy-train” because God had commanded that they be fed from the sacrifices and offerings from the Temple. They didn’t have to do any “useful” work because their “groceries” were brought to their front-door. Imagine a former CEO having to dig ditches or pick up trash for a living. It was no wonder that they lived a life of privilege and luxury. They also had supreme-authority over all of the religious life of the Jews, and as long as they “kept the peace“, the Romans pretty much left them alone. That was all about to change, but not immediately.

Note that we will skip over the Anointing at Bethany this time and pair it with the Triumphal Entry next time. Also note that these are the opening scenes and events leading up to the Crucifixion, which were only a few days away.

Conspiracy to Kill Jesus
47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Did you catch their motives? In light of my introductory comment, their motives become blatantly-obvious. How about greed, envy and jealousy? They couldn’t care less about “pure and undefiled religion“. All that mattered was their “exalted-positions“, and in spite of their “scholarship“, they had forgotten that Micah 6:8 applied to them too. He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Jesus had delivered a scathing-indictment against the religious leaders in Matthew 23:1-36, which we will look at at the end of this study.

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Did that statement justify MURDER?

51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. Little did he know, but he was prophesying about the spread of the kingdom of God throughout the world.

53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. Can you say “PREMEDITATED MURDER“?

54 Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples. Jesus was fully in control of the timing of His crucifixion, but that didn’t mean that He could live “recklessly“.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him. (John 11:47-57)

Passover was one of the most important Festivals on the Jewish calendar, and every able-bodied person was encouraged to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it was inconceivable that Jesus wouldn’t attend. The religious leaders had warned everyone to be on the lookout for Him so they could put their nefarious-plan into action. Again, Jesus was still in control of everything, so He was going to show-up when He was ready.

The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11)

How much more corrupt could they get? For what Jesus had to say about the Jewish religious-leaders, we are going to look at Matthew 23.

Pharisaism Exposed
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. They liked to strut around with their noses in the air, crowing like Bantie-roosters, trying to gain attention for themselves, but their religion was all for show…They were totally self-centered. Can you think of any “preachers” who are like that today? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Eight Woes
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. They had made themselves the “gate-keepers” of God’s kingdom, but they were far from following God faithfully themselves.

14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” Hypocrisy piled on injustice.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” They heaped legalistic requirements on their converts which they couldn’t even keep.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” Oaths can be dangerous things.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” They had forgotten that Micah 6:8 also applied to them.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” They “looked- good and smelled-good”, but they were rotten to the core.

27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” A casket, regardless of how pretty it is, still contains a DEAD body.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” The rotten fruit didn’t fall very far from the tree…

These are the same men who will have Jesus put to death, MURDERED, crucified because of the evil in their hearts, and in accordance with God’s plan.

34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

They aren’t going to be satisfied once Jesus is “out-of-the-way“, they would continue their murderous purges even among the Apostles and others who believed in Christ.

Lament over Jerusalem
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23)

When Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, He also foretold the destruction that would come upon Jerusalem in 70 AD. He was also foretelling the spread of the kingdom of God to those outside of Israel, the Gentiles.

It is easy for us to look at the Pharisees and say; “What a bunch of scum-bags“, but how much “Pharisee” is in us too? How often do we “clean ourselves up” before we go to church, and then act all “holy and pious” in church, when the reality in our lives tells a far-different story? We need to be honest with ourselves, and with God, that we aren’t all that we should be. It is only by the saving grace of God that we made right with Him, and only He can “clean us up“. We can’t do it on our own.

We must also remember that it wasn’t just the religious leaders and the Romans that nailed Jesus to the Cross, we were part of that conspiracy. We were there too, because it was OUR sin, MY sin and YOUR sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was there because of US.

Jesus chose a bunch of “misfits” to be His disciples, but it was only after Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit, that they started becoming the men God could use to spread His kingdom. When we look at the lives of the Apostles, it should give us hope, because they were in a far-different place than when they started following Jesus.

We will look next time at the Celebrations which kicked-off Passion Week.

In Christ,
Steve

 

Bible Study – The Good Shepherd

The images of “Shepherd” and “sheep” are used frequently throughout the Bible to represent God and His people, an all-encompassing and all-sufficient relationship. The 23rd Psalm begins with these beautiful words; “The Lord is my shepherd“. God always does what is best for His people. Jesus, in this parable, is claiming the title “the Good Shepherd” for Himself. Those who are called to minister to God’s people are often called “under-shepherds” in the New Testament, and those we minister to are often called our “flock“. We are to tend to the well-being of those whom God has placed in our care, and we are to do it as unto the Lord, because we are accountable to Him.

Parable of the Good Shepherd
10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

This passage is figurative. (John 10:6) There are 8 components of the extended metaphor in this section: The shepherd is the caretaker and owner of the sheep. The sheep (flock) are the animals that the shepherd loves and cares for. The thief is the one who tries to steal the sheep away from their rightful owner, the watchman is the one who opens the gate only for the shepherd, the hired hand watches the sheep, but lacks the dedication of the shepherd. The wolf is a predator that terrorizes kills and scatters the flock, and the sheep pen is the protective enclosure in which the flock is kept for safety during the night.

He begins in 1-6 with the thief; the thief enters the pen by any manner other than through the gate. He sneaks in by some form of subterfuge for the express purpose of stealing the sheep away from the flock. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd, who is recognized by the watchman as the legitimate shepherd. In addition, he is also recognized by the sheep that love and trust him. He calls them by name (has a deep relationship with them) and they will follow him where ever he goes. They will not follow anyone who is not the shepherd, because they are strangers to the sheep; they only follow the shepherd.

7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Jesus begins to make His point beginning at verse 7. Jesus Himself is the gate; no one enters the flock except through Him. If they enter the pen through Jesus, they will be saved and have life to the full. The thief on the other hand, enters the pen by a means other than Jesus; his motive is to steal, kill and destroy. The sheep do not follow such a person.

Jesus is not only the gate, but He is the Good Shepherd. He is the “good” shepherd because when all others run away, He will lay down His life for the salvation of the sheep. His caring is so great for His sheep that He will die for them.

11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

In this final section, vv. 14-18, Jesus sets out the theology of His coming sacrifice on the cross. He will willingly lay down His life for His flock. No one will take it from Him, for His act is voluntary. It is authorized and ordained by His Father in Heaven, for it will result in the redemption of all mankind. This act will not only seal the salvation of His sheep, but redeem mankind back to fellowship with God, something that has been absent from creation ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. This will also highlight the separation of those within the flock, and those without the flock; nothing will ever be the same again. Jesus is also implicitly stating that the Gospel, hence salvation, will also go to the Gentiles, whom He will bring together under His shepherding-care as one flock.

19 A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”

We find the reaction of the people in 10:19-21. The reaction of the crowd is typical; His opponents, unable to refute what He has said seek to marginalize Him with ridicule. Once again they claim He must be demon-possessed and ask “Why listen to him?” What else can they do if they insist on opposing Him? The others (v. 21) say exactly the words that their leaders fear, pointing out that Jesus is not saying things a demon-possessed person would say, and then dropping their trump card: “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” There is nothing that the opponents of Christ can say to that. These people who believe Jesus have had their eyes opened; now they can really see… and Jesus isn’t quite finished…

Jesus Asserts His Deity
22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

This passage is a continuation of the discussion regarding who the Jews’ father was. In that passage (9:13-34) the discussion was about the opponents of Jesus and their “father”, while this passage sets out very clearly whose Son Jesus is. It has often struck me as interesting that over the centuries, people who deny the Lordship of Christ will often claim that He neither claimed to be God or the Son of God. In fact, there are groups who call themselves Christian who are confused on this point today. Here, Jesus is clear and precise about exactly who He is. Please note that while the discourse of the text follows 10:1-21, the occasion has shifted to the Feast of Dedication which is now known to us as Hanukkah, a celebration of the driving out from Judea of the Syrian Greeks. It celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple after it had been refurbished after that occupation, a nationalistic celebration of the (former) glory of the nation…

John sets the scene and then the dialogue begins; “are you the Christ?” Jesus responds by indicating that He has identified Himself by His miracles, but they have refused to believe because they are not His sheep, going back to the analogy from the previous text. Since they are not His sheep, they do not believe what He says even though He has confirmed His sayings to them. Those who are His followers (sheep) hear His voice and believe. While many have taken this to mean all kinds of things doctrinally speaking, what is very clear is that when a person decides to follow Jesus, understandings clear up considerably.

Jesus amplifies what He said in verse 10, that His sheep would have “abundant life” to add that they will have “eternal life”. Eternal life would appear here to have two characteristics: First that they cannot be destroyed, i.e. that they will live forever. Second, they cannot be stolen away from the Father’s hand, which is to say that no one, human or otherwise, can steal eternal life from you. In verse 30, Jesus makes a statement that is theologically so significant that it cannot be overstated. “I and the Father are one.” This is a type of “I AM” statement, only here it is “We ARE”. In doing this, Jesus is alluding to the name of God: I AM. By placing Himself into this title, he has added a new dimension to the Shema of Deut. 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God. The Lord is one.” This is the monotheistic foundation of their faith and Jesus has just included Himself into it monotheistically. He is not doing this in a mystical way of somehow having achieved divinity, but as a foundational premise reminiscent of John 1:1. While doing this, He continues to maintain a distinction between the two; He did not say “I am the Father”.

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” 39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.

Quite naturally, they want to kill Him at this point.

This time, Jesus doesn’t slip away; He asks them to justify their desire to kill Him. His opponents tell Him they are not doing it because they deny His miracles, but because He has committed blasphemy in claiming to be God. Isn’t it odd that so many “scholars” think He never made that claim? According to the Law, these opponents had a point (Lev. 24:16) however they overlooked the possibility that He might be telling the truth. Then He added this: Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

OK, let’s be honest: This is a difficult passage! Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82:6, “I have said you are gods” can make you crazy if you aren’t careful, and much has been written and argued about it. I prefer to take a simpler look at it… Consider the fact that it is a parenthetical side comment that is not expounded on because it isn’t the main part of the argument Jesus is making. The structure of the argument made in vv. 34-38 points to a conclusion that looks like this:

1. In the context of Psalm 82, the term “gods” is not a term denoting divinity, but humans were referred to as “sons of the Most High” (v. 6).

2. These “mere men” received the Word of God, yet they died as mere men.

3. Scripture (the Word of God they received) cannot be broken (thwarted).

4. I have been sent to you as the Living Word by God.

5. I am God’s Son

6. My true identity has been proven by the miracles I have performed

Therefore:

1. You can only deny me by denying the truth of Scripture

2. You should pay me greater honor than anyone in your history before.

3. You must believe the miracles you have seen

4. I am the Son of God (Messiah)

40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 Many believed in Him there. (John 10)

It wasn’t the time for Jesus to die quite yet, so He retreated back into the familiar and reasonably “safe” area beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist had baptized Him. Bethabara (John 1:28) was a well-known “ford” across the Jordan River.

Jesus wants to be YOUR Good Shepherd. Have you turned your life over to Him?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – More Encounters

As the scene in John 7 closes, Jesus has retreated to the Mount of Olives for the night while the Pharisees plot their next attack. They thought that they had the perfect “bait“, a woman who they claimed they had caught in adultery. Jesus would be stuck between the Law of Moses and the Roman government, because if He didn’t agree that she should be stoned, He would be violating the Law of Moses, and if He DID agree that she should be stoned…well…only the Roman government could legally execute a criminal. They thought that they had Him between a rock and a hard-spot.

Caught In The Act…
Have you ever been caught doing something that you weren’t supposed to be doing? Have you ever been caught with your hand in the cookie-jar? Have you ever been caught with your pants down? People are caught all the time doing something wrong, and two-thousand years ago, a woman was caught with way more than her pants down. She was caught in bed with a man she wasn’t married to.

8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

The backdrop…
Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a week long, and commemorated God’s gracious provisions for the children of Israel during their forty-year wilderness wanderings. It was also the longest of the major Festivals.

Jesus, as was His habit, went to the Temple early in the morning to teach the gathered worshipers, and by this time in His ministry, the Scribes and Pharisees were itching to catch Him saying something “wrong” so they could do away with Him.

The raid…
The Jerusalem “Morality-Police” had made an early-morning raid, perhaps to the woman’s house, and they caught her in bed with a man she wasn’t married to. Was she a known “SINNER“? She may have been, and the Scribes and Pharisees thought that this was a good opportunity to finally “get” Jesus. I doubt that they even gave her the opportunity to cover up before they dragged her out of the house. Besides, she wouldn’t need her clothes when they stoned her…

The trap…
The Law of Moses required that someone who committed adultery must be stoned to death. Under Roman law, only the Roman government could execute someone, so if Jesus gave them the “thumbs-up” to stone her, He would be going against Roman law, and if He refused to allow them to stone her, He would be going against the Law of Moses… It seemed like the perfect trap.

The trial…
Could this fraud of a “trial” have started any worse for this poor woman? She had been dragged, likely naked, through the streets of Jerusalem, and was thrust into the middle of the Master’s morning Bible-class. The “Morality-Police” had caught her in a very compromising-position, and now this…

They made their case, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” As far as they were concerned, she was guilty-as-charged, and all they needed was permission to carry out the sentence. If this scene was re-enacted today, they would even have video-proof.

The problems…
I see a couple of serious problems with this case:
1) What were the “Morality-Police” doing snooping in her bedroom?
2) Where was her “partner-in-crime“? The Law of Moses required that BOTH adulterers be stoned.

Handwriting on the ground…
Jesus stopped down and wrote on the ground. We aren’t even given any hints as to what He wrote. Perhaps, as His fingers touched that earthly dust, He was reminded of the first time His hands touched earthly soil when He created Adam out of the dust of the ground. Whatever He wrote, the “Morality-Police” were annoyed that He didn’t give them the answer they wanted IMMEDIATELY.

He who is without sin…
The Sinless Son of God gave them the go-ahead, IF they were also sinless. Jesus wasn’t picking up any stones, not that day, not ANY day, and He gave them a lesson in humility, a lesson that should make us wonder whether we have any right to be judging others. If stones didn’t fit His hands…

The verdict…
Jesus knew their hearts and their malicious-intent. The woman was merely a pawn in their game, and whether they would have actually stoned her is immaterial. They wanted Jesus gone, and they were willing to go to any lengths to accomplish their goal. Rather than judging the woman, Jesus had put her accusers in their place.

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Our accuser…
We also have an accuser hissing in our ear. Satan would love to keep us enslaved to our past and fearful of moving on. He loves to drag us and our name through the mud, and if possible, cause us to even question whether God could ever love us. There is but one not-so-small problem, and that is that Satan isn’t our judge, he is merely our accuser.

Do you feel like you have written way too many “checks” on God’s “grace-account“? Satan would like to make us think so, but God’s grace is so far beyond our comprehension that there is no such thing as a “bad-check“. If we allow Him to, Jesus will stand between us and our accuser as He stood between that woman and her accusers almost two -thousand years ago.

Our verdict…
As Jesus said to her, He says also to us, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Jesus Is the Light of the World
John introduced us to the Light of the World back in John 1:1-13, and now Jesus is claiming that title for Himself.

4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

We see in verse 4, that Jesus Christ, the Word, was both Life and Light. We often think of Light as a person’s presence, and may say “The lights are on but nobody is at home” when a person seems to be alive but is totally-unresponsive. When a person dies, we think of their “light” having gone out.

Light” is also about spiritual-illumination. As fallen humans, we are in spiritual-darkness because there is no “Light” in us. The Word, Jesus Christ, came to shine His Light into our spiritual-darkness.

Witness to the Light
7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

John was NOT that Light, but he came to bear witness to that Light, and to begin shining Light into dark hearts and souls. He was not pointing to himself as a source of Light, but to the coming Messiah, as the one true Light. Once Jesus Christ came upon the scene, John always pointed people to Him.

The True Light
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 

Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was to come, would be the true source of Light. When we see the Moon, it appears to be a source of light, however it is only reflecting light from the real source, the Sun. In much the same way, John reflected God’s Light to those around him until the real source of Light, Jesus Christ came and began His ministry. As the Sun gives light to all of us on Earth, Jesus Christ brought Light into our darkened world. (John 1:4-5, 7, 9)

12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” 19 So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” 20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

21 Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 25 So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? 26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” 27 They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” 30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. (John 8:12-30)

If we moved directly from 7:52 to this point, leaving out the story of the adulterous woman, we would have a scene change for sure, but we would still be within the context of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles. In this passage, Jesus states that He is the light of the world, which is a reference to a portion of the Tabernacles festivities in which four great torches are erected in the court of women on the last night of the Feast. It was said that they could be seen all over the city. This makes sense when we recall that the Temple was built on top of a mountain. By doing this, Jesus had tied His claims to the two great ceremonies of the Feast, the water ceremony (7:37-38) and the light ceremony (8:12). It would also appear that Jesus was speaking either just before nightfall or after dark on the last day of the Feast.

In saying that He is “the light of the world” Jesus was making His second “I Am” statement in John’s Gospel. Light has already been used by John to signify the Word that is the true and living light in chapter 1, and again in chapter 3 as God’s truth that reveals human sinfulness and evil, things more conveniently done in darkness. Jesus here is telling the people that His followers will be freed from lives of sin with Him as the unquenchable source of God’s truth.

The scene change is complete here with the revealing that His public opponents are the Pharisees who have failed in having Him arrested and now move on to a public confrontation in which they attempt to marginalize His message by pointing out that he has no one to verify what He is teaching…

The Pharisees having made their move, now Jesus replies by going to higher, spiritual level. His testimony is valid because He has come from the Father in Heaven. His judgments are made without human frailty because He stands with the Father who also testifies for Him. The Law allows truth to be determined by the testimony of two men. Jesus has His own testimony (1) and God’s also (2).

The exact identity of Jesus’ Father will be the central point of the rest of the discussion. Jesus’ statement that they know neither He nor His Father in verse 19 is an interesting insight for it indicates that to know one of them is to know the other. Verse 20 is inserted into the dialogue to indicate that they were apparently near the Temple treasury where many guards would be stationed, yet no one moved to grab Him and silence what the Pharisees would consider blasphemy, for the time for His arrest had not yet come. John’s continual reference to His time coming or not yet having come is a reference to the fact that Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion were an integral part of God’s plan of salvation and no accident.

The discussion resumes in verses 21-24 with Jesus pointing out the difference between Him and His antagonists: Jesus is from above (God/Heaven) and they are from below (world). They cannot go where He is going because of their sin. To follow Jesus is to overcome the sin of unbelief and to remain in unbelief is to die in our sins. At the end of the passage, the “I am” focus emerges more clearly.

Do YOU have His “light” in you?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – More Controversy

Jesus is surrounded by controversy no matter where He goes. When He is on His home-turf, they can’t believe that He is from Above because they are sure that He is just a “localboy“. While some people believe that He is the Messiah, others think that He is a fraud or worse. In spite of Peter’s confession in the previous section, not all of His disciples are even convinced about who He is. Jesus, however, never “watered-down” His message to make Himself more “popular“.

Jesus Teaches at the Feast
7 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. 3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers believed in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.

1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Most of Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee, and He only went to Jerusalem for the major festivals. Hatred for Jesus by most of the Jewish religious leaders had grown to the point that they wanted to kill Him.

2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. The Feast of Booths, or Feast of Tabernacles, was a week-long commemorative celebration of when the Jews had “camped” for forty years during their wilderness-wanderings. During the Feast, they “camped-out” while performing various ceremonies which celebrated significant events during their long “camping-trip“. All able-bodied men were expected to go to Jerusalem and participate.

3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers believed in Him. If ANYONE was convinced that Jesus was just a “home-boy“, it was His brothers. After all, they had grown up together, they had the same mother, and they assumed that they had the same father. WRONG!!! Yes, they had the same “dad“, but they did NOT have the same father, and only Mary and Joseph knew “the rest of the story“. His brothers figured that if Jesus was “something-special“, He needed to “come out of the closet“. Sadly, His brothers didn’t believe in Him until after His resurrection. After Pentecost, James became one of the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem, and the author of the Epistle of James.

6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee. Jesus simply had His own time-table, and He wasn’t quite ready to go to the Feast.

How often do WE jump-the-gun on God’s timetable, wanting what we want, when we want it, and find out later that we made a BIG mistake? Yes, sometimes God DOES cause something “good” to come from our mistake, but not always. This ministry came to be because of a mistake I made back in 2012. Yes, something GOOD came out of something BAD.

10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. 11 So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” 12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast when He was ready, and not before, however the crowds were sure that He wouldn’t skip the Feast altogether. Even before Jesus appeared publicly, there was already chatter about whether He was “good” or “bad“. Notice however, that people didn’t talk about Him where they might be heard by the religious-establishment because they didn’t want to bear the wrath of the Establishment.

14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Everyone KNEW that Jesus hadn’t graduated from “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, so how did He get this much knowledge? WE know the answer to that question, because we know that Jesus was the Incarnate Word of God, but they didn’t, so He twisted their tails again. 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. Jesus is claiming Divine revelation. He goes on to add, 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. Jesus is pointing them back to what the Old Testament had revealed about Him, which, if His hearers had learned and understood, would shore-up His claims about Himself.

18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. This is a pointed-comparison between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the Pharisees. The Pharisee’s teaching was self-centered, whereas Jesus’ teaching was God-centered. The Pharisees sought their own glory, while Jesus sought to bring glory to God the Father.

19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

Jesus is really going to twist their tails… 19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”

20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” Now it goes from disbelief to claiming that Jesus has a demon. Could it get any more absurd?

21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Circumcision was part of the covenant God made with Abraham, which was supposed to be done on the 8th day, so when God gave the Law through Moses; it became part of that Law. The Pharisees were so meticulous about keeping the Law that they required circumcisions to be done even on the Sabbath. Circumcision had also become part of their “national-pride“, something which separated them from the “heathens” (Gentiles). This is a continuation of the controversy Jesus cause back in John 5:1-15, when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. What Jesus was confronting the Pharisees with is that it was “okay” in their book to hurt a baby in order to circumcise him on the Sabbath, but they got bent out of shape when Jesus HEALED a man on the Sabbath. They had their “logic” backwards.

25 So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26 Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? 27 However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” 28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” 30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”

25 So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26 Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? 27 However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.” The Pharisee’s plot to kill Jesus was an “open-secret” in Jerusalem, so they couldn’t believe that Jesus was speaking publicly. Even though some people thought that Jesus might be the Messiah (Christ), they weren’t so sure because they “knew” that He was just a “local-kid“. What was really sad about their comments is that there were many prophesies concerning the Messiah, including some foretelling where He would be born, and where He would come from.

28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” To make matters worse, Jesus stoked the fires of their speculation, and angst, by telling them that He came from God.

30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. Jesus had a timeline for His ministry, and not even the Pharisees could alter it or rush it to completion.

31 But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?” Did they REALLYbelieve” in Him, if they were still looking for the Messiah (Christ)? Yes, they did acknowledge that Jesus was performing Christ-like signs, but they were still looking…

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. 33 Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? 36 What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. The Pharisees were completely-convinced that Jesus was a dangerous nut-case, so they sent their posse out to arrest Him.

33 Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” Jesus told them that His time on earth was limited, and that He would be going back to be with His Father before long, but they misunderstood where he was talking about, so…

35 The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? 36 What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’?” Every time the Jews had been conquered by a foreign country, some of them were taken as captives to other parts of that country’s empire, but not all of them went back “home” after their captivity ended. They were known as the “Dispersion“, and the “home-town” Jews couldn’t believe that Jesus would actually take His message somewhere else. They certainly couldn’t imagine Jesus going to those “accursed” Greeks (Gentiles). That was the only “logical” explanation for “You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come”.

37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Where have we seen the theme “living water” before? Jesus offered the Samaritan woman “living water” back in John 4:10, and now Jesus is offering “living water” to His hearers, which John explains is referring to the Holy Spirit, which would be poured out on all believers on the day of Pentecost.

Division of People over Jesus
40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41 Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. 44 Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

As the controversy over who Jesus is continues, there are really three different opinions about Him. A great Prophet, who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, had been prophesied 400 years earlier in Malachi 4:5-6, and because of the miraculous deeds Jesus performed, some thought that Jesus might just be that “Great Prophet“. What they didn’t realize was that that great Prophet had already come and gone in the person of John the Baptist, who Jesus affirmed to be the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:7-14). Some thought that Jesus was the Messiah, but those who didn’t believe that He was remembered that Micah 5:2-5 spoke of Him being born in Bethlehem, which He was, however, since He called Galilee “home“, they thought that He must have been born in Galilee. Jesus WAS descended from King David. Others thought that He was just a dangerous wacko nut-case, so they wanted to get rid of Him.

45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” 47 The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49 But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” 52 They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” 53 Everyone went to his home. (John 7)

45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The religious leaders had sent out a posse to arrest Jesus, but they didn’t.

46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” Just because they were mesmerized by what Jesus said, doesn’t mean that they believed in Him.

47 The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49 But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” That is pretty tough talk from the ones who should have been the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah; however, they were basing their “righteousness” on keeping the Law, which they didn’t.

50 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” Nicodemus had paid a late-night visit to Jesus back in John 3, so he was already partially-convinced of whom Jesus was, so he reminded the rest of the gang what the Law said about a fair-trial.

52 They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” 53 Everyone went to his home. The religious authorities in Jerusalem had a very-low regard for Galileans, believing them to be loose-living half-breeds. Had they somehow missed the prophesy in Isaiah 9, which speaks of Galilee, a land in the shadow of darkness, being given new light – by the coming-Messiah. Isaiah 9:6-7, is one of the most well-known of the Old Testament Messianic prophesies.

The Pharisees, who seemed to be SO meticulous about keeping the Law, were grossly-violating the 5th Commandment, You shalt not murder, as they were plotting to kill Jesus. Sadly, their hypocrisy was blatantly-obvious even to a casual-observer, however when Jesus called them on it, it made them even madder. They were, to say the least, unfit spiritual-leaders. This wouldn’t be the last time Jesus encountered them, and eventually they would finally “get their way“, but not until Jesus was ready.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Miraculous Healings

After Jesus has been warmly-welcomed in Galilee, He again shows His power in healing two people, one in Capernaum, and the second one back in Jerusalem. We are going to focus on those healings in today’s study. Jesus, the eternal Word, was the principal-agent of creation, and He could heal anyone of anything.

Healing a Nobleman’s Son
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” 49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. 51 As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. 54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:46-54)

Jesus was back in Cana of Galilee, where He had turned water into wine. News about Him had spread to Capernaum, the home of a “royal official“. Capernaum was an important fishing-center which was located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Cana was about twenty miles southwest, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a ridge of mountains between them. Cana is also about ten miles due-north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Was this “royal official” a Roman dignitary, a Gentile? We aren’t told, but we see the father’s faith that Jesus could and would heal his son, because he made the trek to Cana to see Jesus. His son was dying, so Jesus was his only hope.

Was Jesus trying to put him off by saying “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”, or was Jesus testing his sincerity? Either way, the father wasn’t taking “No” for an answer, because he said “Sir, come down before my child dies.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” Jesus, once again, shows His divine authority by healing the man’s son from afar. We find another “spoken-word-healing” in Luke 7:1-10, when Jesus healed a centurion’s servant.

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. Notice that he DIDN’T say “Why aren’t you going with me?“. He believed, and headed back home.

As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. Can you imagine the excitement when his slaves told him that his son was okay? Friends and family had hovered over him for agonizing hour after agonizing hour watching as his fever went ever-higher. They had tried everything they could think of, but nothing worked. He kept getting sicker and sicker, until he was on the brink of death. Then, in a moment in time, the fever broke and he was WELL. Had they been hoping and praying?

As a parent also, I can relate, because my son had a lot of problems when he was very young. Croup put him in the hospital for three days, and we took turns huddling over the croup-tent he was in, watching as a respiratory-therapist gave him breathing-treatments very four hours. We were very happy to take him back home to his sisters and HOME. Recurrent ear-infections also turned him from being a happy-go-lucky toddler into an inconsolable baby. I will never forget the day he got tubes put in his ears. He went into the hospital cranky and came out happy. We had our happy-go-lucky boy back.

52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. Twenty miles is an easy drive for us, but it wasn’t an easy hike for him. He didn’t get close-enough to home for his slaves to meet him until the next day. Traveling alone at night was dangerous, so he had probably stopped somewhere for the night. He may have set out again at first-light. Jewish time-reckoning began at 6 am, so his son had been healed at about 1 pm, so it had been over twelve hours since the healing. Faith had turned into belief, and after the miraculous-healing, he and his whole household believed in Jesus.

This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. Signs and miracles validated Jesus’s message, but He didn’t do them as “magic-tricks” to impress people, rather He did what would meet the needs of people in the moment.

The Healing at Bethesda
5 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:1-17)

As this scene opens, Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. The last time we saw Jesus in Jerusalem was during Passover when He had cleansed the Temple. Jesus is going to rattle some more chains this time also by declaring that He was equal with God.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. The pools in Jerusalem were a place where Jews could perform their ceremonial-cleansing rituals, not places of recreation. The Romans had their public-baths which Jews may have used for ordinary bathing, but when they needed to get ceremonially-clean, they went to one of the pools. There was a list of things which caused a person to become “ceremonially-unclean” in the Old Testament, and if a person was “unclean“, they couldn’t participate in worship in the Tabernacle or Temple. As you may recall, the water that Jesus turned into wine in Cana was for “ceremonial-purification“.

In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. “Bethesda” means “House of mercy” or “House of kindness“, and God showed mercy on His people by sending an Angel to stir the waters. Healing was “first-come-first-served” which sets this scene up for Jesus to perform another miracle, and His next encounter with the Jewish leaders.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

We aren’t told how old this man was, but he had been lame for 38 years, and maybe since he was young. How long had he been coming to the pool hoping to get healed? How did he even get there? Jesus knew everything He needed to know about him, and took care of his problem in an instant. The man had been depending on others to help him get into the pool, but he hadn’t gotten there yet. Jesus didn’t ask him if he had the faith to be healed, rather He asked him if he WANTED to be healed. When Jesus said “Get up“, he was healed. Period. No questions asked. He got up, grabbed his pallet and walked.

My baby brother is a semi-quadriplegic as the result of a spinal-cord injury he suffered as the result of a motorcycle accident. Yes, he has recovered an amazing amount of movement in his hands, arms and legs, but he is by no means “well“. He is still wheelchair-bound and dependent on my sister for some of his needs. It would be marvelous if he was granted complete-healing, but God hasn’t seen fit to heal him completely.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” There was just one hitch – it was the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders confronted him about carrying something on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders weren’t content with God’s Sabbath-commandment, so they had built a long list of “do’s” and “don’t’s“, mostly “don’t’s” which they loved to club people over the head with. They thought that they were doing God a “favor“, but in reality, they were making legalism more important than obeying God.

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Jesus had an uncanny knack for slipping through crowds and away from the scene of action, and the man was probably so shocked that he had been healed and was now walking that he didn’t immediately recognize Jesus.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” While it is true that some sins can bring physical-consequences, but Jesus wasn’t insinuating that the man was crippled because he was a “sinner“. Jesus just cautioned him against doing anything which might bring physical-consequences.

My dad had syphilis when he died, and you don’t get syphilis by drinking the water. There are numerous other examples of a person’s actions causing physical-consequences.

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Why did he go back to the Jewish leaders? Was he trying to shift the blame for getting caught carrying his pallet onto Jesus?

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders started turning up the heat on Jesus, and that gave them even more reasons to hate Him.

But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This is the clearest and most unmistakable claim to Deity that Jesus had made up to this point, and the Jewish leaders picked up on it immediately. They went ballistic!

We will pick this conversation up from here next week, when Jesus reaffirmed His claims.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Cleaning House

Passover, the scene of our next event in the life of Christ, was one of the most important festivals on the Jew’s religious calendar. It commemorated when the Jews were released from their bondage in Egypt, and is also known as the “Feast of unleavened-bread“. So, we are going to take another side-trip into the Old Testament to look at this historical-event and why the Jews continued to celebrate it. It is also worth noting that Jesus was three years from the cross at this point in time.

The Last Plague
11 Now the Lord said to Moses, “One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.” 3 The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again. 7 But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 All these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, ‘Go out, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

The Passover Lamb
12 Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Feast of Unleavened Bread
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

A Memorial of Redemption
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.

28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”

Exodus of Israel
33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.

35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. 39 They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
Ordinance of the Passover

42 It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”

50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

Consecration of the Firstborn
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”

3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. 4 On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. 5 It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month. 6 For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. (Exodus 11-13:10)

After 430 years in captivity, God sent Moses back to Egypt to lead His people out and towards the Promised Land. God had already terrorized the Egyptians with nine plagues, which had decimated the landscape and sickened both man and beast, when we come to this tenth and final plague, the Destroyer, or Angel of Death. No firstborn would be spared, from the family of Pharaoh to the lowliest servant, the firstborn of both man and beast would be killed. Even hard-hearted Pharaoh would be forced to succumb to God’s demands to let His people go.

However, before the children of Israel left Egypt, God ordered them to plunder the Egyptians and enabled them to do just that. They made an incredible haul of silver, gold and precious stone, much of which would be used later to build and adorn the Tabernacle.

God was going to spare the Israelites, but only if they did exactly what He told them to do. They were also to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt ever year perpetually, which brings us to the opening of our next scene.

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (John 2:13-25)

Temple background:
Solomon’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and it had only been rebuilt after the Jews were allowed to go back to their homeland. Even though the new temple didn’t have the grandeur of Solomon’s original temple, it was consecrated in 516 BC.

Herod the Great, ever one to enhance his image and legacy, decided that Jerusalem needed a larger and grander temple, so he commissioned the building of a new temple on the site of the old temple. Even though the core of the temple was completed fairly quickly, the temple was being expanded almost constantly. This temple was still not finished when Jesus walked into it as our scene opens.

Temple layout:
The heart or core of the temple was the Holy Place and Most Holy Place, which were surrounded by the central courtyard where the Altar of burnt offerings was. Only Jewish men were allowed in this central courtyard. Adjacent to the central courtyard was the Women’s courtyard, which was open to all Jewish men and women. Surrounding the entire temple was a Courtyard of the Gentiles, which during that time, had become very much a flea-market. This is where Jesus encountered the sellers and money-changers.

Background:
Roman currency was not acceptable for money offerings in the temple, so it had to be exchanged for a more-acceptable currency. Animal-sacrifices could also be a problem for people journeying into Jerusalem, so it as common for them to buy animals locally. The problem wasn’t with this commerce, but with where it was being carried-out, on the temple-premises. During these special feasts and high-holy-days, it wasn’t unusual for there to be upwards of a half-million pilgrims in town. The noise was probably deafening and the smell was even worse, not that the temple smelled like a bed of roses either. It didn’t make for a worshipful-environment.

Our scene
Jesus, like most other able-bodied Jews, made that annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and He didn’t like what He found there. The religious leaders, who should have kept commerce out of the Temple, hadn’t, and judging by their reaction to Jesus’s actions, may have even been getting kickbacks from the commerce. At minimum, they challenged His authority to throw the business people out of the Temple.

Jesus was concerned with the purity and holiness of the Temple, His Father’s House, because worship was being disrupted by commerce. The quote referenced in verse 17, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” is from Psalm 69:9.

The Jewish leader wanted a “sign“, as if they hadn’t already heard about all the miracle Jesus had already done. Jesus didn’t perform miracles “on-demand“, and they weren’t getting one from Him now. Jesus gave them a “sign“, but it wasn’t what they were expecting. Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They were incredulous, because the only “temple” they could think of was the physical-temple they were standing in, and it had been under construction for forty-six years.

Jesus was already prophesying about His crucifixion and resurrection, something His disciples would only comprehend after-the-fact.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Something to note in this final section is that many people believed in Jesus, but only because of the miracles He was doing. This is not unlike people following Jesus after one of His miraculous mass-feedings. Did they want the true Messiah, or did they want Him for what He could do for them?

Not much has changed. While the “health, wealth and prosperity” preachers gather huge followings, many churches where the Gospel is faithfully-proclaimed struggle to keep their doors open. Our Lord’s call to “Take up our cross daily and follow Him” is no more popular now than it was when He issued it. Denying ourselves for the sake of the Gospel has never been easy because it goes against the grain of our self-centeredness. That begs the question: “Do we want our reward now, or later?” As hard as it is sometimes, I’ll take my reward later.

In Christ,
Steve

The Heart Of A King…

Their homeland was deserted, their Capitol was in ruins, and what few people were left of their nation were scattered far and wide. A marauding army had swept through their country slaughtering men, women and children, razing cities and towns, and taking anyone they didn’t slaughter captive. Their temple had been reduced to rubble, but not before the marauders looted everything of value. The situation looked hopeless. Then there came a decree…

This scene could be part of our 21st century world, but these events took place about twenty-six hundred years ago. The people were the children of Israel, their capitol was Jerusalem, and their captors were from the Babylonian empire. God had used the Babylonians to punish the children of Israel for their idolatry, just as He had promised, but it was time for their exile to end. Then there came a decree…

The children of Israel still didn’t “get-it“. Even after being taken captive several times, the children of Israel kept going back to their idol-worship. Each time they repented, God delivered them. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat… God was faithful to them, but they weren’t faithful to Him.

The Proclamation of Cyrus
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)

While it might be easy to get the impression that Cyrus was a “godly” man, he was quite the opposite. He was as big a heathen as those who had gone before him. If we pay close attention to what he said, he never acknowledged that “The Lord, the God of Heaven…” was HIS god. He was, like the Pharaoh in Egypt, simply following orders.

God had given favor to the children of Israel allowing them to raid the Egyptians of gold, silver and other precious things when they left Egypt. God likewise gave the children of Israel favor to raid the Persian kingdom of everything they would need to rebuild the temple. The children of Israel made quite a haul, and if we look back at just what was needed for the tabernacle, it was quite a haul also.

Our world…
As we look at events in our world, both locally and globaly, it would be easy to lose heart. Evil is rampant, including in the halls of government. Many politicians wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them in the face, and lying has become a way of life. What is good for the people, particularly Christians, no longer matters. What matters is keeping them and the global string-pullers happy. It seems to be too late to ask if things will actually get better…but…

Sometimes we lament that God isn’t taking care of the “big” things while we forget how many “small” things God does frequently. “Divine Appointments” is about three “small“, but no less important things that God has “handled” for me recently.

Pharaoh and Cyrus were no less evil and no less corrupt than our current leaders, and yet, when God spoke, they listened, and did what He told them to do. God is still in control, whether we see it or not. As we saw in “Bible Study – The Birth Of Christ“, God caused Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, to “arrange” for Mary and Joseph to be in Bethlehem at the appointed time. There is not one king, one president, or any other leader who is beyond God’s control. By the way, NOBODY is beyond God’s control. Do we not believe that God could do the same in our day?

I believe He can. How about you?

In Christ,
Steve