The “Otherization” Of Jesus

I read an article recently in a well-respected publication that was trying to explain why Mary and some of Jesus’ other disciples didn’t recognize Him immediately after His resurrection. Aside from the obvious fact that they still didn’t understand the Old Testament prophesies concerning His death and resurrection quite yet, that author attributed their lack of recognition to some kind of “physical changes” in His body, as if He had suddenly become some kind of “other“. Did that mean He was no longer “completely-human“? WHAT???

Docetism“, the belief that Jesus was not truly and fully-human, has been around for almost two millenniums, and our churches are frequently infected with “docetism-lite“, such that, while not outrightly-denying His true and full humanity, they have trouble handling the “details” of His humanity. While Docetics would prefer a body-less resurrection, they will accept a bodily-resurrection, as long as God leaves the parts they don’t like behind. SO, what parts would they “leave-behind“? The parts they like to cover with “fig-leaves“?

This insidious “otherization” of Jesus even shows up in our Christmas carols where we don’t even give it a second-thought. Do you recognize these lyrics?

The cattle are lowing the baby awakes

But little lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love you lord Jesus; look down from the sky

And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

That is the second stanza of “Away In A Manger“. Am I being overly-picky, or not? What our kids hear and learn growing-up becomes part of the building-blocks of their theology later in life, so if they grow up accepting this “otherization” of Jesus, that there might have been some “changes” to His body when He was resurrected doesn’t raise any red-flags, but it does for me, because I have been studying Christology and realize how important it is.

Maybe Barbie and Ken are their ideal-prototypes…

I have found the Heidelberg Catechism quite helpful in its concise explanation. In question 16, we read:

Q: Why must he be a true and righteous man?

A: He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner he cannot pay for others.

The answer here is focusing on the need for a real human nature. Why? Because the penalty for sin requires suffering in body and soul. And only a human can do this (cf. Heb. 2:14; John 12:27). Jesus did not only share in our nature, but also he had to identify with us in the experiences of the fall (Heb. 2:17-18). But it was essential that Christ himself did not sin in this identification with us. Otherwise, how could he pay for our sin? Berkhof writes, “Only such a truly human Mediator, who had experimental knowledge of the woes of mankind and rose superior to all temptations, could enter sympathetically into all the experiences, the trials, and the temptations of man (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15-5:2) and be a perfect human example for his followers (Matt. 11:29; Mark 10:39; John 13:13-15; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 12:2-4; 1 Pet. 2:21). L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 319.

In short, the answer is Jesus had to be a man so that he could identify with us, suffering in our place and sympathizing with us in our weakness.

We don’t need for Jesus to have undergone some kind of “changes” during His resurrection to be able to explain why Mary and some of His disciples didn’t recognize Him immediately. When Mary went to the tomb, she was looking for a BODY, a DEAD-BODY, not her living Lord. She had seen Him die and be buried, so she was still convinced that He was as dead as a stone. People didn’t survive crucifixion. Period! The same was true of His other disciples. They knew that He was DEAD. STONE-COLD-DEAD! John and four women, including His mother and Mary, were at the foot of the cross when He breathed His last, so when He appeared to them, that He could possibly be alive was a TOTALLY-LUDICROUS.

Shortly before Jesus’ own death, burial and resurrection, John, in John 11:1-44, recorded the death, burial and resurrection of Lazarus. Why does this matter? There were two people present at all three events, Mary and Martha. They had nursed him while he was sick, they had prepared his body for burial, and they had buried him, so if there was something “different” about after his resurrection, they would have been the first to notice it, but there wasn’t. The Lazarus who was raised from the dead was the same Lazarus they had buried just a few days earlier. Why would Jesus’ resurrection have been any different? Jesus’ disciples knew Him as intimately as Mary and Martha knew Lazarus, so they would have been the first to notice that there was something “different” about Him, but they didn’t record anything.

It isn’t until later in the New Testament that we read about “glorified-bodies“…

When I lost my first wife in 1997, I did NOT know unequivocally whose body was in that casket. I did not witness her death, even though I saw evidence that something had happened in our home, and I never saw her dead-body because it was a closed-casket funeral, for which I had no hand in making the arrangements. All I had was a piece of paper, a “Death Certificate“, which already had fraudulent-information on it that I had to have corrected. I lived with the nagging question of whether her “death” was a cruel-hoax for many years, particularly since I continued to receive mail addressed to her for several years even after I had moved over a thousand miles away. That was NOT the case with Jesus. His death was witnessed by many people, including the Roman soldiers who crucified Him. Joseph and Nicodemus had prepared His body for burial and buried Him, events that were witnessed by others.

We DO affirm that there WAS a certain “otherness” about Jesus, because He IS the incarnate Son of God, the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14), very God of very God, Creator-God, but that did NOT diminish His humanity. No other person in all of history has been BOTH God and Man, but His favorite title for Himself was “Son of man“.

We also know, from the Gospels, that Jesus, after His resurrection, exhibited capabilities He had not displayed before, such as the ability to appear and disappear at-will. Did that make Him any less human. Absolutely-not! He still ate and drank…

Does it REALLY mater?

In a word, YES, because His resurrection body was His ascension body, and the rest of the New Testament makes it very clear that we have our own flesh-and-blood in Heaven, with all His parts intact. making intercession for us. SO, we either do our own flesh-and-blood, with all His parts intact, or we don’t. If part of that “change” was that He no longer has all His parts intact, then Jesus is no longer HUMAN. He is an “other“, a “changeling“, and is a worthless mediator, and our “salvation” is worthless.

What we believe concerning Jesus Christ DOES matter, because, unless we have a fully-qualified Savior, we have no Savior at all, which required that His humanity be genuine.

Sola Deo Gloria,

Steve

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Why I Celebrate The Birth Of Christ

Around this time of year, the anti-Christmas folks come out in full-force to try to shame and demean fellow-Christians into not celebrating the birth of Christ, and while their “reasons” may seem plausible on the surface, they are built on a false-pretext. Part of their pretext is that “it isn’t commanded in the Bible“, so if we are going to celebrate anything, we should still celebrate the Jewish feasts and festivals. I won’t go into why we no longer celebrate the Jewish feast and festivals, but only a handful of cults do.

I believe the real question comes down to; “Do we have good reason to celebrate the birth of Christ?“, to which I believe that the answer is a resounding “YES“. So, I am going to present my reasons for celebrating the birth of Christ. They are; its importance to our redemption, and the precedent for celebrating it.

Its importance to our redemption…

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…

The birth of Jesus Christ was THE most important event in human history, because, without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion or resurrection, thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was also the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the Promises to their fulfillment.

The first promise of a Redeemer was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is recorded in Genesis 3:15. They had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden-fruit, and thus they had broken their relationship with God. Sin entered the world by their disobedience to God’s command, and we have inherited that sinful-nature. God did NOT accept this broken-relationship as the “new-normal“; rather He instituted a plan of redemption, whereby a “seed of the woman” would come someday to “crush the serpent’s head“. God wanted us to be restored to a right-relationship with Him, and in His love and grace, He was willing to do what it took to accomplish His goal.

Down through the annals of time, God gave many promises to select-people who would carry-on that special lineage from which this Redeemer would come. God also spoke through His prophets to remind His people that the Redeemer, the Messiah was yet to come.

This Redeemer would be no “ordinary man” because an “ordinary-man” could not live up to the righteous standards God demands. Adam had failed, and he only had ONE command to obey. This Redeemer had to be fully-human, yet perfect in all respects. He would be the “second-Adam“, the one who would perfectly fulfill all of God’s just requirements. He came to bring a “new-humanity” to mankind.

John the Baptist, in John 1:29-34, called Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Our deepest, most-urgent need is for a Savior, someone who will save us from our sins, because it is our sins which separate and exile us from God. Jesus came to be our Savior, to reconcile us to God by paying the just-price for our sins and imputing His perfect-righteousness on us. We gain, through Christ, the sinless-record we could never produce on our own.

That is why the Birth of Christ is SO important.

The precedent for celebrating….
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back; glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly-show. The shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Why did God orchestrate that celebration? “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” A Savior had been born, and not just any savior, He was Christ the Lord. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had entered our time and our space as a human-being. God, who’s very Presence was so awesome and holy that He was unapproachable by any human, was lying in a manger, and He was here to become THE solution to man’s deepest-need, the need for salvation.

Not celebrating would be unthinkable to me because it would covey a “ho-hum” attitude towards God’s most marvelous gift. THAT is why I celebrate the birth of Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Sola Deo Gloria!

God Uses “Insignificant” People

As we read and study the Bible, we are tempted to look for the “heroes“, those people whom we would expect to see in God’s “Hall of Fame“, and yet those great “heroes” are outnumbered by “insignificant” people God has used down through the ages to accomplish His purposes. God called some people out of relative-obscurity to become great heroes of the faith, however, there were many people who passed their lives in relative-obscurity, whose names we only know because God saw-fit to include them in the Canon of Scripture. We are going to look at a few from each “category“, beginning back in Genesis.

Who is THAT?
She was the unloved-wife of a scheming, conniving man who was trying to get what he wanted by hook or by crook, the girl who her father had pawned-off on a man who wanted to marry her younger sister. He had gotten the shock of his life when he woke up next to her on the morning after their wedding-night. Who was she?

She was the daughter-in-law her father-in-law grew to be afraid of. She had buried two of his sons, so he was afraid to give her his third son to be her husband. Her grandmother-in-law was the unloved-wife. Who was she?

She was a prostitute in a city God planned on destroying so that His people could enter the Promised Land. Who was she?

She was a foreign-born widow. Who was she?

There is a common-thread which ties these women together. What is it? Some of them are also mentioned in the New Testament. Any ideas?

She was a captive in a foreign land. Who was she?

She was a young peasant-girl from an obscure village. She was also an unwed-mother. Who was she?

Two of these women have Old Testament books named after them. Which two?

Do you recognize these men?
He was a nomadic sheep-herder. Who was he?

He was a shepherd-boy. Who was he?

He was the son of a slave? Who was he?

He prophesied naked. Who was he?

He married a prostitute. Who was he?

He had to take cold-showers for over nine months. Who was he?

He was a tax-collector? Who was he?

He fled the scene naked. Who was he?

He was a physician. Who was he?

They were fishermen. Who were they?

Who were they?

The unloved-wife…
Leah was the unloved-wife, the girl nobody wanted, including by her husband, Jacob. She was also the mother of Judah, from whom the Messiah was descended, and Levi, from whom the Aaronic priesthood was descended.

The “scary” daughter-in-law…
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, and after she buried Er and Onan, Judah didn’t want anything to do with her. She conned Judah into having sex with her by pretending to be a prostitute. Their son, Perez, was an ancestor of the Messiah.

The prostitute…
Rahab is described as being a “harlot“, a woman of “ill-repute“, who lived in Jericho. When Moses sent spies to check the land out before they began their conquest of the Promised Land, the spies who checked out Jericho found refuge from capture in Rahab’s home. When the children of Israel captured Jericho, she and her family were spared death, and she ultimately became an ancestor of the Messiah.

The foreign-born widow…
Ruth was the foreign-born widow, who, after she married Boaz, became the great-grandmother of David, whose “greater-son” was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. That story is recounted in the book of Ruth.

The captive in a foreign-land…
Esther was a teenage-girl, and a captive in a foreign-land. After she became the Queen of her adopted country, she was instrumental in saving her people, the children of Israel, from annihilation. That story is recounted in the book of Esther. The Jewish festival, Purim, celebrates this event.

The unwed-mother…
Mary was the unwed-mother, and her first-born son was Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Without her, our redemption, and the entire New Testament, would not have been possible.

The nomadic sheep-herder…
Abram (Abraham) was an idol-worshiping, nomadic sheep-herder before God called him to become the father of a nation. God told him that He would bless all nations through his seed. That ultimate-blessing came through the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ.

The shepherd-boy…
David was a young shepherd-boy, the “runt” of the family, before God chose him to be the next King of Israel. God promised David that one of his “sons” would rule and reign forever. Jesus Christ is that “greater-son“.

The son of a slave…
Moses was the son of a slave in Egypt, and even though he was raised in the palace by Pharaoh’s daughter, he was an exile in a foreign-land tending sheep when God called him to go back to Egypt and liberate His people. He is credited with giving us the first five books of the Bible.

He prophesied naked…
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, but few people realize that he prophesied naked and bare-foot against Egypt and Ethiopia for three years. That event is recounted in Isaiah 20.

He married a prostitute…
God called Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children with her, as symbolic of how the children of Israel had whored after false-gods.

He “took cold showers”…
Joseph, Mary’s husband, kept her a virgin until she had given-birth to her first-born son, Jesus of Nazareth. He took full responsibility for raising Jesus, along with their other children, into adult-hood.

He was a tax-collector…
Matthew was a tax-collector before Jesus Christ called him to be His disciple. He gave us the Gospel of Matthew.

He fled the scene naked…
Mark came to the Garden of Gethsemane clad only in a linen sheet, and when one of the guards tried to nab him, he left his sheet behind and fled the scene naked. Mark became a ministry-companion with Birnbaums. He gave us the Gospel of Mark.

The physician…
The Apostle Paul called him “the beloved physician“, and we are indebted to Luke for the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a close companion of Paul during several of Paul’s travels.

They were fishermen…
Fishing was nasty, tiring work, but someone had to do, and that is what Peter, Andrew, James and John were doing before Jesus Christ called them to be “fishers of men“. It would have been difficult for four men to get a more “obscure” start than by fishing. Peter, who had the habit of getting his foot caught in his mouth-trap, became the spokesman and leader of the church after Pentecost. He gave us 1st and 2nd Peter. John, the “beloved-disciple“, gave us the Gospel of John and the Book of the Revelation. Andrew didn’t write a book, but he introduced Peter to Jesus. James also served in the background.

From obscurity…
As should be obvious from this brief survey of characters from the Bible, God doesn’t always pick the “most-likely” candidates to do His work. He picked many “losers“, people we would have never known of if they didn’t appear in the pages of Scripture, but they all had significant roles in God’s plan of redemption. Some of them continued on in obscurity, while some of them became well-known, but they were all important.

God STILL calls people from obscurity to labor in His kingdom, and even though they may labor in obscurity, their labors are NOTinsignificant“. They are NOinsignificant” people in God’s kingdom. We ALL matter to Him, regardless of what He has called us to do.

Blessings,
Steve

Bible Study – Bread Of Life

We come to one of the most difficult to understand of the many discourses Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. I will try to unpack it as best I can, but like Jesus’s hearers, I am also a mere man. Taken literally, this discourse is gory to the extreme, eating flesh (cannibalism) and drinking blood were repulsive and forbidden by God, however, Jesus was speaking using types and symbols which had many Old Testament parallels and pointed-forward to a soon-to-be New Testament reality.

We must remember that this was the season of Passover, so Jesus used “Passover-symbols” which His audience should have been familiar with, and as He spoke, He was pointing-forward to when He would be the final Passover-Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“, whom John the Baptist announced in John 1:29. His audience, however, couldn’t get past the physical to see the spiritual. So, let’s see if we can unpack this passage and understand what Jesus was really saying. We are going to take this passage one little chunk at a time.

Words to the People
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:26-34)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. As you may remember, after the feeding of the five-thousand, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their earthly-king. They just knew that He could solve ALL of their problems, and make sure that they never went hungry. Jesus is acknowledging this; however it wasn’t His true mission.

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Jesus never said that eating “real” food was “wrong“, rather He was pointing them to the real reason He was among them, to bring them eternal-life. He is also validating who He is based on His relationship with God the Father.

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” They had a very “works-centered” religion, which was based on keeping the Law. They believed that they could be right with God by keeping the Law and performing the required-rituals, not realizing that the entire Old Testament pointed-forward to the coming Messiah.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Was that “work” “too-easy” or “out-of-reach“? It should have been simple, but they asked instead for another “sign“. What was it going to take to get their attention?

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” When they were hungry during their wilderness-trek, God provided food for them. When they were thirsty, God provided water for them. Who else was “thirsty“?

When Jesus offered “living-water” to the woman at the well, she thought that He meant “indoor-plumbing“.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” First, Jesus corrects their notion that Moses was responsible for feeding them in the wilderness, but they STILL don’t “get-it“. They still want God to feed them – FREE

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26-40)

The simple take-away from this section is that salvation is from God, and ONLY from God, and ONLY from believing in Jesus Christ. His shed-blood and finished-work are all-sufficient for our salvation, and if we are trusting in Him alone, we need not fear for our eternal-destiny.

Words to the Jews
41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus was a “localboy” whom they assumed was the son of Joseph and Mary. They knew His “parents“, so there was no way He could have come from Heaven. NOT

43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Jesus is reiterating that nobody can come to Him unless God opens their “eyes” to see and understand who He is. They were “spiritually-blind” and wrapped up in their own agendas, so no matter what Jesus did, they would never own Him as their Lord and Savior.

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Even though they had, and were familiar with the Old Testament, which was God’s revelation about Himself, they were blind to the fact that God had woven His redemptive-plan into the very fabric of it, and it all pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the incarnate God-Man, was the visual-representation of the Father.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. Jesus again reiterates that salvation is ONLY of God, and ONLY through faith in Him.

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Jesus now compares “physical-bread” to “spiritual-bread“. Physical-bread only sustains physical-life for a short time, and must be eaten regularly. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness all died, including Moses, who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. However, those who partake, through faith, of that spiritual-bread, will live forever. Jesus IS that spiritual-bread.

“and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus was forecasting His crucifixion, when His broken-body and shed-blood would pay the final price of redemption for all who believe in Him.

43-52: Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching. He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life. We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world. Physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life, are horrified! Yuk!

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The Jewish religious-leaders were still stuck on the implications and the horror of physically-eating Jesus’s flesh and blood. They should have known the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, but they were blind to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst.

53-59: Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals. Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Laughable! Again, we only see physical things. Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion. Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life. When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies? Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important. We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal, that food enters your body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you. When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it. This gives us eternal life. This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

Words to the Disciples
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:59-65)

Even some of His disciples had trouble “digesting” what Jesus just said, because they were still stumbling over “eating” and “drinking” Christ himself. Then He told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet“, because those who stuck-around were going to be eye-witnesses of His ascension into Heaven.

Peter’s Confession of Faith
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:66-71)

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth. People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail. Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion
It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread. The manna is the type; Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents. God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them. However this was not God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life. A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us; they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ; the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Dr. Don Merritt, my beloved friend and mentor, who offered his Reflections on John, without which, I would STILL be stuck.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – In The Beginning…

Gospel of John

Perhaps you are wondering why we are going to study the Gospel of John. My purpose is summed-up by John himself, and I believe that we can learn a lot about Jesus through this study.

The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)

In the beginning…
There are two “In the beginning…” passages in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-5. The second “In the beginning…” explains and magnifies the first.

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Explaining “God”…
When Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible, started compiling and writing what had been only oral-history before then, God had only revealed Himself as a singular-entity, so trying to explain “God” in more detail would have been an impossible task. That was one of the reasons the Jews rejected Jesus, because He claimed to be God. John, the writer of this Gospel, didn’t have that problem, because he had spent over three years as a close follower of Jesus.

The fact that the Word, the pre-incarnate Jesus, was the principal agent of creation has great importance to us, because it not only means that He created the first two “prototypes” of the body He would one day take on for Himself, it also means that He personally gave the promise to Adam and Eve that one day He would return as their Savior. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Studying the Bible…
This study will immerse us in both this Gospel and in the Old Testament prophesies and historical-context of the time of Jesus and John, because I don’t believe that we can adequately understand the New Testament without having at least a working-knowledge of the Old Testament. I pray that you are enlightened and enrichened, and that your faith in Christ is deepened by this study.

In Christ,
Steve

Little Is Much…

Little is much” is counter-intuitive in American society. We have succumbed to the “Tower of Babel” mentality and a lust for more…MORE…MORE. We want to “make a name for ourselves“. We want more success, more wealth, more influence, more prestige, more power, more control…bigger cars, bigger homes, a more prestigious address, more stuff, more, MORE, MORE. We have succumbed to Satan’s first lie “You shall be as gods“, and we are willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of our success. This, however, is meager fare in God’s economy.

You may not think that you have much to offer to God in the way of resources or talents, but God has a way of using the most unlikely people to do great things in His kingdom. Twelve men, who would never have been awarded “Most likely to succeed“, were chosen by our Lord as His first disciples. Four of them were fishermen, and none of those even had a high-school education, and yet we have the New Testament Scriptures because of those men. Peter, the impetuous, self-reliant and sometimes mouthy disciple who denied even knowing Jesus, became the spokesman for the Apostles after Pentecost. On the cross, Jesus passed over his own half-brothers when fulfilling his first-born obligation to care for His mother and passed that mantle to John.

Human assessment might have dubbed them the “Least likely to succeed“, but God had great plans for them, and gave them the power to carry out those plans.

They were ordinary men, but they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the New Testament because of their writings.

Matthew was a tax-collector.

Mark fled the scene of Jesus’ arrest naked.

Luke was described by Paul as the “Beloved Physician”. He penned Luke and Acts.

John was a fisherman, and the disciple whom Jesus loved. He penned the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and the book of the Revelation.

Peter denied his Lord, and then became one of the pillars of the church. He penned 1st and 2nd Peter.

Paul persecuted the church until the Lord got hold of him. He became a missionary to the Gentiles, and penned most of the rest of the New Testament.

James was the half-brother of Jesus, and until after the resurrection, a scoffer and unbeliever. He gave us the book of James.

John Newton, a slave trader who had come to faith in Jesus Christ, penned the marvelous hymn “Amazing Grace” as his personal testimony. It is one of the most loved hymns in all of Christendom.

Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, fed up with the rampant abuses he saw in the Catholic Church, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel, and in doing so, he fired “the shot heard around the world” and sparked the Protestant Reformation.

A small group of Believers in Crystal River, Florida, had a vision of building a Christian School. They believed that a church would grow along with the school. They committed their way to the Lord and built a school building. Within a few short years, they were bursting the seams of the school building and the multi-purpose room where they held services, so they started planning for and raising funds for a new sanctuary. I was privileged to be part of both the ground-breaking and the dedication of their new thousand-seat sanctuary. Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church has grown beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Little became much!

Little is much…
Penned in 1924 by Kittie L. Suffield, this beautiful hymn describes God’s kingdom-economy.

Little is much when God is in it!

In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling
To the harvest calling you.

Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

In the mad rush of the broad way,
In the hurry and the strife,
Tell of Jesus’ love and mercy,
Give to them the Word of Life.

Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.

Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Are you laid aside from service,
Body worn from toil and care?
You can still be in the battle,
In the sacred place of prayer.

Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

When the conflict here is ended
And our race on earth is run,
He will say, if we are faithful,
“Welcome home, My child—well done!”

Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Even if you think that you don’t have much to offer to God, all He wants is your willingness. He can and will supply the rest, because His resources are limitless.

In Christ,
Steve