Calling Disciples

John now turns his attention to Jesus, specifically the beginning of His earthly ministry. Jesus starts by calling disciples, men who will learn from Him and accompany Him in His ministry. His first followers began as followers of John the Baptist. None of them had angelic messages or voices from on high; they simply reacted to the person of Jesus Christ. Why is that noteworthy? Because that is exactly how you and I are “called”. I’ve never met a person who claimed that they was a follower of Christ because they had experienced a personal audience with an angel, prophet or indeed God Himself. They simply reacted to who Jesus is.

35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:35-42)

As a preacher and prophet, John the Baptist had attracted a group of loyal-followers, disciples. John knew that he was only the “forerunner“, the “herald” for the coming Messiah, so far from being “possessive” of them, he pointed them to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God!” Two of John’s disciples took the hint that they should follow Jesus instead of John. One of them was Andrew, and some Bible scholars have speculated that the other one was John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James, particularly since John never mentions himself by name in his Gospel.

John’s story of the calling of disciples begins in verses 35-42; taking it as a whole, we see two main components, the first being John’s testimony that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” This is the confession that marks the difference between a world that is lost and a follower of Christ. The second aspect is the response of the two disciples of John who heard it: they followed Jesus. Notice however that their initial following of Jesus was literal in the sense that they were going to go where He went as opposed to give Him their lives. When Jesus saw them he simply asked them what they wanted, a question that He would ask many over time. The two did not give a great theological reply; they just wanted to see where He was staying, maybe to have a chance to talk with Him later. Jesus gave them a classic reply, “Come and you will see.”

Evidently Andrew, in his “off-duty” time, was a disciple of John the Baptist, because as this scene opens, Andrew wasn’t out fishing but was with John the Baptist. Andrew, while not mentioned in previous scenes, had probably heard quite a bit of what John the Baptist had said about Jesus. Thus, when John said “Behold the Lamb of God“, he was prepared to find out more about this man named Jesus.

Heeding John’s testimony, Andrew and the other disciple went with Jesus and spent the rest of the day with Him. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (the “tenth hour“, according to first-century Jews’ reckoning of time), so the disciples began what would become a lifetime of discipleship. Hospitality customs were such that someone who was providing a room for the night to a visiting Rabbi would also open their home to whoever was with him.

Andrew, while he never rose to be in the limelight with Peter and the other leading Apostles, can be seen as the “great-introducer“, and he starts with his own brother, Simon. That he had already accepted John’s testimony about Jesus, that He was the Messiah, is evident in what he told Simon, “We have found the Messiah”. Even though the religious leaders would assess them later as being “uneducated men“, they knew more than the religious leaders gave them credit for.

In truth, this is the matrix for all personal evangelism: Someone hears about Jesus and they want to check it out. Our approach is “Come and see”. In the case of our text, they arrived at Jesus’ lodgings at around 4 in the afternoon. Time in the Gospels is reckoned more or less as a twelve hour day from roughly 6 am to 6 pm. The tenth hour would be about 4 pm. During their visit, Andrew goes off to get his brother Simon, who comes along to see Jesus. Andrew was now certain about the identity of Jesus. Jesus, in verse 42 tells Simon that he will be called Cephas. Note that the synoptic Gospels record this name change roughly in the middle of Jesus’ ministry; is this a conflict? It is not a conflict because Jesus did not change Simon’s name to Cephas; He only said that he will be called by that name: future tense, it will happen someday. As we will discover later on, Peter’s new name came with a new occupation.

Perhaps the most important thing Andrew ever did as a disciple was to introduce his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Simon, as is well known, would go on to serve a foundational role in the establishment of the Christian church, and that is foreshadowed here in Jesus’ renaming Simon as Cephas or Peter. Aramaic was the common language of first-century Jews in Palestine, and Cephas comes from the Aramaic word that means “rock”. Peter is from the Greek word that means the same thing. Jesus would again identify Simon as Peter, the Rock, later in His ministry (Matthew 16:13-20), but this record in John’s Gospel that Jesus identified Peter as the “rock”, as having a key role in the disciples, long before Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. He would be essential for laying the foundation of the church by preaching on Pentecost, by being the instrument through whom God worked to convert the first Gentiles to Christ, and by writing part of the New Testament (Acts 2:10; 1 and 2 Peter).

We have noted that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, does not play as large a role in the foundation of the early church as does Peter. Yet, it was through Andrew that Peter first met Jesus.

The next section takes place on the next day as Jesus moved on and in the process came upon Phillip. He simply said to him, “Follow me.” Phillip’s response was immediate: He followed Jesus.

43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)

Jesus began calling disciples with Philip, who later found Nathanael. It isn’t recorded what their occupations were, but whatever they had been doing, they forsook and started following Jesus.

Why was it important that Philip was from Bethsaida? Bethsaida was a small fishing village, so it is likely that Philip knew Peter and Andrew. As we will see, Jesus and His disciples formed a tight-knit community.

The “bait” Philip used was their knowledge of the Old Testament, Moses and the Prophets. As was common in that culture, Jesus was referred to by who His “father” was and where He was from. Nathanael was naturally skeptical; “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”, because Joseph was a carpenter and Nazareth was a sleepy-backwater town in Galilee with no real significance. It isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament, unlike Bethlehem.

The New Testament tells us clearly that Nazareth was an insignificant, even despised town. Even fellow Galileans looked down on Nazareth, as is evident by Nathanael’s response when Philip told him about finding the Messiah, Plainly, Nathanael could not believe that the promised Savior would come from such a humble locale. It’s kind of like Minco, Oklahoma: Nowhereville! Nathanael, it should be noted, is likely the same person as Bartholomew, who is listed among Jesus’ twelve disciples in the Synoptic Gospels.

Funny, it is interesting that the Son of God should be from “Nowhereville”, and He was born in a stable, to an unwed teenager, while on a road trip, and He died on a cross, naked and penniless. There is no worldly appeal to Him; there is only who He is to draw a person closer. Philip’s reaction is a classic: “Come and see”.

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, we see an interesting statement, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael wasn’t just a nominal-Jew who just went through the motions in his worship. Rather, Nathanael knew and was trusting in God’s promises to provide a Redeemer for Israel.

48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” How did Jesus know Nathanael? Jesus was God-Incarnate, God in the flesh, and He revealed some of His supernatural knowledge to Nathanael.

Based on what Jesus had just revealed to Him, Nathanael made an incredible statement, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Nathanael immediately recognized that he was standing before the long-promised Messiah, and Jesus promised that what Nathanael had just witnessed would pale in comparison to what he was going to witness later on, the glory of God.

When the skeptical Nathaniel first meets Jesus he is surprised by what Jesus knew about him. His reaction was to believe what Phillip had told him, and he responded in faith. Jesus has an interesting reply to Nathaniel’s expression of faith: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Jesus begins His final comment in this chapter with “Truly, truly I say to you” the first of 25 times in this Gospel to introduce an important statement, and then proceeded to make a statement that reminds us of Genesis 28:12, Jacob’s ladder. “…you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This statement gives the commentators some trouble, but my take is that His disciples would see that Jesus was directly connected with heaven, speaking for heaven and being of heaven. Jesus and the Word cannot be separated. This is also His first use of the title “Son of Man”, which will become His favorite way of referring to Himself. In calling Himself the “Son of Man“, Jesus was affirming His full-humanity, which was necessary for Him to become our Sacrifice, the perfect Lamb of God.

Once again, we see one man, Philip, once he was called by Jesus, going out and finding another man, Nathanael. As Andrew introduce Peter to Jesus, Philip introduced Nathanael to Jesus. Isn’t our calling to introduce people to Jesus?

Fishers of men

We now go to Matthew 4:18-22 to pick up the call of the four fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John:

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

The Sea of Galilee is an inland lake which is about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide. In other parts of the New Testament, it is also called the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Tiberius. It is fed from the North by the Jordan River, beginning at its headwaters, and drains out to the South through the Jordan River to the Salt Sea (Dead Sea). Many of the events in the life and ministry of Christ took place along the Sea of Galilee. Because it is ringed by mountains, it is well-known for its violent storms.

Even though Jesus had met Peter and Andrew before, we now see Him call them to be His disciples. Peter, Andrew, James and John were commercial-fishermen, so they left a lot behind when they started following Jesus. We are told later on that Peter had a family, so following Jesus was not trivial. Matthew, or Levi, was a tax-collector before Jesus called him, so he left a very lucrative occupation behind (Matthew 9:9-13).

We should note that “Follow Me…” is not merely a “suggestion“, it is a COMMAND. Could they have blown Him off and said “We’re not interested”? They could have, but they didn’t.

Note that Jesus doesn’t recruit His disciples and “fishers of men” from the religious intelligentsia but from ordinary people from ordinary walks in life…people like us.

“God doesn’t call the “qualified”, He qualifies the called!”

The cost of discipleship…

19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:19-22)

Discipleship has a cost, as His first disciples quickly found out. Discipleship also has a cost for us, because, even if we aren’t called to leave our old occupation behind, we certainly do have to leave our old lives behind, including our old sinful ways of thinking and our old sinful ways of living. Whatever the cost of discipleship is, our heavenly-reward will make it all worthwhile.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

Advertisements

Tempted By Satan

Even though it is not mentioned in John’s Gospel, another important step towards beginning His earthly ministry was when Jesus was tempted by Satan. So, we are going to take another brief side-trip into the other Gospels and pick up that event. The ministry of Jesus has begun… or has it? He has been baptized by John, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Him in “bodily form” and the Father has spoken; now He has one more hurdle before He begins; He must be tempted, and in a sense, “tried” or “proven”, much as gem-stones and precious-metals are assayed for their purity and quality. Was He the “real-deal”? Did He have the “right-stuff”?

Satan tempts Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

*********************************************************************************

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ 11 and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13)

There are a couple of things to note right from the get-go. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, but He was also led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. He didn’t go into this “unarmed”, because besides being empowered by the Holy Spirit, He had a comprehensive-knowledge of Scripture. His journey into the wilderness was reminiscent of the Jews forty-year wandering in the wilderness, and while the Jews failed their test miserably, Jesus passed His test with flying-colors.

Jesus’ three temptations correspond to temptations common to us today: lust of the flesh, hunger of all types; lust of the eyes, or covetousness; and pride, lust for power.

Turn a stone into bread – The Spirit leads Him out into the desert (Wilderness) where He is to fast for 40 days, just as Moses and Elijah have done before. This is the first of several parallels to Israel’s past in this section. After 40 days, Jesus is terribly hungry, and in this we see His humanity in full force, after He was proclaimed by His Father to be the Son of God. Taking advantage of the situation, the devil comes onto the stage… Because Jesus was fully-human, it was natural and normal that He was hungry, so knowing Jesus’ hunger, the devil points to a stone and tells Jesus to turn it into bread to ease His suffering. Notice how Satan begins this temptation; “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Satan begins by questioning Jesus’ true-identity as “the Son of God”. Is He who He ways He is?

Of course you’ll recall the ruckus among the Israelites in the Wilderness about their lack of food which demonstrated their lack of faith in the God who had so recently rescued them from Egypt in spectacular fashion. Unlike the Israelites, Jesus’ faith does not bend at this point. Satan tempted Jesus to use His creative-powers to satisfy His own hunger, which He refused to do. That He could have turned a stone into bread is not in question, but He never used His powers for His own self-gratification. Every time He used His creative-powers, it was for the benefit of someone else. He turned water into wine at a wedding. He multiplied loaves and fishes to feed hungry crowds at least twice. He also made breakfast for His disciples after His resurrection on the day that He restored Peter. All of those events, while clearly-displaying His power, were for the benefit of others. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament in response to this temptation.

Jesus was the “real deal”, the true “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15), and stands in stark contrast to the Israelites, who had short memories and wanted God to prove Himself over and over in the Wilderness.

You can fly – Satan also tempted Jesus to see if God would really keep His promise. Had Jesus flown that day, it might have been a grand-spectacle, and while it might have jump-started His ministry, it would have violated His relationship with His Heavenly Father. Jesus was not about to use His power and position for His own personal ends, rather He came to be a servant-leader in humility and self-denial. He never had a “road-crew” to make sure that He had a “proper-pulpit” to preach or teach from. He used whatever He had available. When Satan quoted and misapplied Scripture from the Old Testament, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture also.

Become king of the world – Satan shows Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms and offers them to Jesus, if He will only worship Satan. Is the entire world Satan’s to offer? Is a renter authorized to put a property up for sale? Satan was tempting Jesus to bypass the cross and become an earthly-king. The really interesting aspect of the offer is that it would have brought Jesus to His destiny in a sense, while bypassing the cross, for in being the king of all nations, every knee would bow to Him. The irony of Satan’s offer is that Jesus already owned everything in the universe, and once His mission was finished, God the Father was already going to hand the reins of authority over to Him, so earthly-glory wasn’t going to hold a candle to His heavenly-glory, and when He returns, every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that He is Lord. Jesus once again fended Satan off by quoting Scripture from the Old Testament. In His denial, Jesus has passed another test that the Israelites had failed in the Wilderness, for He refused to bow to another god, while they had not only bowed to other gods, they had actually manufactured gods to bow to.

Could Jesus have failed the test? – Since Jesus DIDN’T fail the test, we will never know if He could have. He was tested so that He can understand our tests and temptations. Those were not the only temptations He faced. There were several times when adoring-crowds tried to make Him their king, but He passed on those as well. Probably His most intense test was in the Garden as He faced the cross and all the suffering that went with it. He did go to the cross, and He endured both the physical-agony and having the full wrath of God for our sins poured out on Him.

In the final verse, Luke tells us that Satan withdrew in favor of a more opportune time, and indeed, we will encounter him again and again in the story. When all of this was completed, Jesus returned to His home town to kick off His public ministry, no doubt to cheers from His friends and family.

Or not.

Why does it matter?

Why does it matter that Jesus withstood these temptations from Satan?

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Jesus has been tried and tempted by everything that we will ever confront, so He understands all of our trials, temptations and struggles. We won’t ever face anything He hasn’t faced and conquered already, so as our great high priest, He is ever-willing to come alongside us to help us face and conquer our trials, temptations and struggles.

Today – While it may be tempting to sell one’s soul to Satan in exchange for earthly-fame and fortune, both of those “rewards” are short-lived, while the consequences are eternal. Many aspiring entertainers have sold their soul to Satan, become shining-stars, and met untimely-deaths.

Satan is still in the business of tempting believers today, because he loves nothing better that to trip us up, tarnish our reputation and cause us to mangle our fellowship with God and other believers. Whether it is lying on one’s income-tax return, perpetrating a shady business deal, or falling into sexual-sin, the results are the same. We become less like Christ and more like Satan. Satan has tripped me up with sexual-sin way too many times. No, I don’t walk on water or commune with angels.

Satan has also infiltrated the church in far more insidious ways. As he tried to tempt Jesus by quoting but misapplying Scripture, he has also gotten church leaders to twist and pervert Scripture by preaching as “gospel” lies from the pit of hell. Many of them have been taught those lies in Bible college or seminary. Unfortunately these lies sound so “right” that many Christians believe that they are true. John the Apostle has given us a stern warning about believing everything we hear from pulpits or read in books. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

God has promised to supply ALL of our needs, but not necessarily all of our “wants“. In the Lord’s prayer, we say “Give us this day our daily bread“, and even though that may not include steak, God WILL provide for our needs. Trust God for your needs and trust God to help you resist temptation. Jesus understands our temptations and stands ready to help us because He was also tempted.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

Are We Too Busy?

A special visitor had come to town and there was a lot to do to get ready to entertain him, but one of the sisters refused to help with the preparations. Instead of helping with the cleaning and cooking, she wanted to hear what their special guest had to say. The other sister was furious…

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus was SUCH an important visitor that Martha thought that she had to get things “justright” for Him. The floor has to be swept, the dishes had to be washed, and their food had to be prepared. After all, she WAS entertaining the Son of God, the most important person who has ever walked this earth. Does this sound familiar?

We succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent” far too often and leave more important things undone, such as being a good mate to our spouse or parent to our children. I mentioned the song “Cats In The Cradle” in my post “Regrets“, and it really brings to light our relentless pursuit of things we may think are “urgent“, but really aren’t.

I wrote about having proper priorities in our time-management in “Priorities – Time“, and the more I study the Bible, the more strongly I believe that, counter to what our culture would say, I really did place things in their proper order. If you haven’t read it already, I invite you to read it and prayerfully consider your time-priorities.

You may be thinking that there are some things which truly are “urgent“, and you are right. True emergencies require immediate attention, and I have responded to plenty of those. I have dropped everything to rush my neighbor-gal to the hospital many times, and I have spent countless hours with her in hospital rooms. On her part, if she was in the hospital on Sunday, she has insisted that I go to church before I come up to see her. I also take the time to give her my undivided-attention when she calls or needs to talk, and recently I set-aside a Saturday to go with her to see her father, who is in an assisted-living facility. She wanted the companionship and needed the emotional-support. Sometimes I am the only “sanity” in her otherwise-crazy world.

Jesus highlighted what our priorities should be; “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” People and relationships MUST be our highest-priorities, and all else MUST be secondary.

Are YOU too busy?

In Christ,
Steve

Have You Seen Jesus?

If you painted a portrait of Jesus, what moment in His life would you try to portray? If an artist were to try to capture the complete essence of His life and ministry, it would be a collosal project. What is your favorite “snapshot“?

As a baby in the manger?

Presented in the Temple?

Talking in the Temple with the teachers?

Baptized by John the Baptist?

Confronting Satan?

Calling His disciples?

Turning water into wine?

Feeding the multitudes?

Raising the dead?

Healing the sick?

Walking on water?

On the mount of transfiguration?

In the Garden of Gethsemane?

Nailed to the Cross?

Risen from the dead?

Ascending into heaven?

Over seven-hundred years before His birth, Isaiah the Prophet penned the last of his four “Suffering-Servant” Songs, and he captured the essence of why Jesus came to Earth in just a few, short verses. Isaiah 53 is the most-quoted Old Testament prophesy in all of the New Testament.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

Forget the pasty-white complexion, the elegant flowing robes, the dainty, manicured hands and the flowing-locks. Who was the REAL Jesus?

Had John the Baptist not known who Jesus was, He would not have stood out in the crowd of those who came to hear him preach and get baptized. Jesus didn’t have a stately-stature or kingly-appearance. Throughout His ministry, He was often identified by people around Him as “the son of Joseph and Mary” because He looked like “one of the boys“. He was born into an ordinary working-class Jewish family, so He looked like any other Jewish man, and as much as artists would like to portray Him in “regal” attire, He told some of those who wanted to follow Him that He didn’t even have a place to call His own. He is recorded as having spent time in the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaum, and that may have been His “headquarters” when he was in that area.

The hands that touched the eyes of the blind were strong, tough and calloused from working as a carpenter for most of His life. The arms that embraced little children and swung the whip when He cleansed the Temple were strong and muscular from hefting heavy pieces of wood and swinging a hammer. Heavily-muscled legs and calloused-feet carried Him all those miles He walked during His earthly-ministry. He was a man’s-man, strong yet gentle.

The only thing that made Him stand out in a crowd was the power and authority with which He spoke. He baffled the Jewish leaders of His day with His wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. He was the Son of God, the eternal Word, Immanuel, God with us, the Messiah, the Son of Man, Jesus.

Have YOU seen Jesus?

Steve

Bible Study – John’s Testimony

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-17)

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent three years with Jesus. They may have been cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion.

The most profound marvel of the Incarnation is that the sinless Son of God was able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, fully-atone for our sins. If we die for our sins, we die, never to be raised again. Jesus died the death we could never die and was raised again so that we might be raised again also.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus, in His incarnation, was Emanuel, God with us, and unlike previous times when God dwelt among His people, Jesus, God, was approachable, touchable, with no strings attached. He wasn’t separated by a curtain, approachable only once a year, and only by the High Priest with a blood-sacrifice. God, in bodily-form, dwelt among His people for several years. God came near. The Holy One of Israel got His hands dirty so that we might be made clean and new.

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply to us that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up. If “unique” was substituted for “begotten“, it would give us a much clearer sense of what and who the Word was. Sometimes translation and our word-limitations make for less-than-clear understanding of the original thought.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am frequently amazed by how many Christians have bought into lies, with pastors even preaching those lies from their pulpits. Just because colleges and seminaries teach it, and much of Christendom believes it, doesn’t make it true. The Protestant Reformation was started to confront and correct the rampant-heresy in the Roman Catholic Church. Lies enslave us, while truth sets us free. Jesus came to speak truth into our fallen world, to set us free.

Was John the Baptist demeaning himself by saying the Jesus Christ ranked higher than him? Absolutely not. He simply recognized that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was God, and he wasn’t.

The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalim to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.

That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” based on His perfect record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, came to reveal who God is in an intimate way. He didn’t merely “represent” God, He WAS God.

The Testimony of John
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:14-34)

Why did the religious-authorities question John the Baptist? Didn’t he have the “right-stuff“? Didn’t he have the right “pedigree“? His father, Zacharias, was a priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron“, so he certainly had the right “pedigree“, but our answer comes in the “who” that questioned him, the religious leaders. They didn’t believe that he had the “authority” to do what he was doing, specifically, baptizing people. John the Baptist had not graduated from the “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, nor had he gone through the proper steps to become “ordained” by the “powers that be“. John’s “ordination” came from God, not from man. In a nut-shell, he was operating outside their “system“, and they didn’t like it.

John the Baptist did recognize that he was fulfilling the prophesy from Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

When John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal, he wasn’t demeaning himself, rather he was recognizing the greatness of the very Son of God.

Where have we seen the promise of God’s provision of a lamb before?
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:6-8)

Abraham believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice and his faith was rewarded with that provision. God’s provision of that lamb that day was a powerful symbol and foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God. Animal sacrifices could only cover-over sin, but could not take it away. Only the perfect Lamb of God could actually take upon Himself our sin and truly take it away.

Even though Jesus and John the Baptist were related, John knew very little about Jesus or His upcoming ministry until God revealed it to him. The clincher was when John baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descend on Him in the form of a dove, combined with the Voice from heaven.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all three members of the Godhead were revealed, Jesus, the Son of God, God the Father by His voice, and the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove. God had never revealed His fullness in this way before, which led John to say: I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

What a marvelous testimony!

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in 2016!
Steve

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.

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 8:2-11)

The backdrop…
Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which was also known as the Feast of Booths. The Feast of Tabernacles 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 annual 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 be needing 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. 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 stooped 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 “MoralityPolice” 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, I have no business picking them up either.

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.

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

Steve

LGBTQ Issues

Many Christians are getting bent out of shape because non-heterosexuals are making big gains in rights in our society. I believe that Christians have the wrong emphasis. I believe that the Church has the wrong emphasis. God has given US, His children, a code of conduct which applies to how WE live our lives. He never gave us permission to sit in judgement on those outside the Church for not keeping His code of conduct, but God did say “Love your neighbor as yourself“, and that command DOES apply to US.

Jesus was often seen in the company of “sinners“. The Pharisee’s two biggest gripes about Jesus were that He associated with “sinners“, and that He didn’t meticulously keep their “rules“. Jesus met people in their places of need, not with condemnation, but with love and grace. The Incarnate Son of God, the eternal Word made flesh, chose to associate with the “scum of the earth“. What part of that do we not understand?

As I have read the Apostle Paul’s epistles to the various churches, most of which were in heathen cities, I was struck by the fact that, while he gave those believers a code of conduct, he never authorized them to go on a “clean-up campaign” in their neighborhoods. We also never read where Paul himself undertook a “clean-up campaign” in any of the cities he preached in and established churches in. Paul simply preached the Gospel, the Good News, and left the results up to God.

Paul did not denounce temple-prostitution, even though it was rampant in those heathen, idol-worshiping cultures. He simply told the believers that they were not to be part or party to it. Paul also didn’t denounce the pedo-homosexuality that was rampant in the Greek culture. He simply told the believers that they were not to be part or party to it. Paul also never told those believers to not go to the gymnasiums, which were centers both for fitness and learning, all of which was done nude. Paul also never told those believers that they could no longer go to the Roman bathhouses just because they would see other nude people and be seen nude themselves. Paul never pointed those believers down the road to prudery. Paul preached the Gospel, because that is what the Great Commission is all about. Paul didn’t try to “change” people, because that is God’s job, not his.

I have several friends who live with people they aren’t “married” to, but my job is to love them, not judge them. I have several friends who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or even try-sexual. If you aren’t familiar with what it means to be “try-sexual“, it simply means that a person will try anything sexual. My job is to love them, not judge them. I also have several friends who are polyamorous, which means that they have more than one intimate relationship. It is my job to love them, not judge them. If you think that I should disassociate myself from these people, you don’t understand either the Great Commission or God’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself“. I may be the only “Gospel” that these people will ever see if I love them and love them well. They might refuse any attempts to “evangelize” them, but nobody in their right mind will ever turn away love. God ALONE is the judge of all the earth, and He has NOT, nor is He hiring “associate judges“.

Rights…
Why are we still, as a nation, bickering about who should be “allowed” to have certain “rights“? The US of A was founded on the principle that “ALL men are created equal“, and yet we still have some classes of people who are more “equal” than others. We also have some classes of people who are less “equal” than others, and the latter includes LGBTQ people. The US of A is NOT a theocracy, even though our founding fathers were mostly Christians. Why did it take an act of Congress for women to get the “right” to vote? Why did it take an act of Congress for people of color to get the “right” to vote, and a host of other “rights“? Why do we still have ANY citizens who are denied equal rights under the law? The answer is that certain people still believe that they are more “equal” than others, and some of those “certain people” are Christians.

I have heard the tired old argument against same-sex marriage that “If we legalize same-sex marriage, we will be opening the door to legalized polygamy.“. What is so “bad“, so “wrong” about polygamy? Polygamy was practiced throughout the Old Testament, and Jesus, the Messiah’s “father“, King David was a polygamist. Prophesies foretold that the Messiah would “sit on the throne of His father David“, and Jesus was called “King David’s greater Son“. Sorry to pop your theological-bubble, but there is only ONE place in Scripture where monogamy is the “Gold-standard“, and that is for church officers, Elders and Deacons. So much for the vaunted “Traditions of the Elders…“.

The Church…
Would a same-sex couple be welcome in your church? How about a trans-sexual? How about a cross-dresser? How about a biker? How, and whether we accept these people, who are “different” than we are, is a matter of the heart, whether we have a heart that loves God above all else, and a heart that, in gratitude to God for the love that He has lavished on us, loves our neighbor as ourselves. I wouldn’t be welcome in many churches because I have a beard, and my hair is way more than “shoulder-length“. I am “different“, and in many churches “different is bad“.

Final thoughts…
You have the right to associate or not associate with people who are “different” than you, but you don’t have the right to NOT love people who are different than you. It is not coincidental that several of my recent posts have been about love. God has been working on me, and I can’t help passing on what I am learning about love to you, my beloved readers. How am I doing? Not good enough, because I flunked a test just last night, when I didn’t greet and warmly-welcome someone who seemed to be “different” to a group I belong to, a group where, in some ways, I am also “different“. I knew what I should do, but I didn’t do it, and in so doing, I failed to love them as I ought. I am still a work in progress.

I know that there are many Evangelical Christians who would take strong exception to what I believe, but that is between them and God. I have been there also, but God hasn’t allowed me to stay in that place. My wife and I lived in an RV park which was owned and managed by a same-sex couple, and there were several other same-sex couples in that park. I had to learn to love them, and to love them well. I am now in a meetup group which welcomes people from all sexual-orientations, sexual identities, and relationship statuses, including polyamorous. Oh, and there are a few atheists, Wiccans, and assorted and sundry other kinds of people. I believe that God has brought me into that “Samaria” to not only teach me some badly-needed lessons, but also to be salt and light in that diverse community. I am not a “closet-Christian” in that community, as anyone who reads my community profile can easily see, and it hasn’t gone un-noticed. Someone in the group asked me about it at a meetup just a few days ago. Am I being “salt and light” in that community? Only God knows for sure.

Are you “loving your neighbor as yourself“? Are you being “salt and light” in your community? I pray that you are.

God bless!
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 2

In my first segment on the humanity of Jesus, I focused on the physical evidences of His humanity. While it may be uncomfortable to some to think of Jesus in this way, if He was less than fully-human, displaying all the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not have been our Redeemer. Because some in His day believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be human, the Apostle John focused in one His humanity, not only in the Gospel of John, but also in 1st and 2nd John.

We only get a few snapshots of His early life in Scripture, as if we are only seeing pages ripped out of the photo-album of His life, but those snapshots paint an incomplete picture of Him. What about the rest of His thirty years before His baptism by John the Baptist? Jesus didn’t simply get born, and voila, He was a man. He experienced life as any child does as he or she grows into adulthood.

As a baby…

Jesus entered our world as every child has since Adam and Eve had their first child. He was born, and His birth was in a filthy, smelly stable. Nothing clean or sanitary about His birth. He was wrapped in whatever rags were available. Scripture calls them “swaddling cloths“. There were no Pampers, He had no “baby-clothes“. He was simply wrapped up with what was available.

We are told that He was circumcised and named on His eight day of life, as was the custom. There had been no “baby-shower“, so He didn’t have some cute outfit for this ceremony. When He was forty days old, His parents took Him to the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord, and offer the sacrifices which were required for His mother’s ceremonial purification. His “baby-album” ended with this snapshot.

Was He a cranky baby when He was cutting teeth? Teething is not a pleasant experience for any baby, and I am sure that He was no exception. He experienced the pains of baby-hood just as every child does.

Did He ever have an ear-infection or runny nose? Only about half of all babies born made it to their thirteenth birthday. Infant mortality was very high.

What were His first words? Was He a “super-baby” speaking in whole sentences almost immediately, or were His first words “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da“? Babies have been learning to talk since the first one was born, and He was no exception.

Did He crawl before He walked? How many times did He skin His nose or knees learning to walk? Floors back then weren’t well-padded carpet. The very poor had dirt floors in their homes. He didn’t enter our world to live in luxury. He left that behind so that He could experience life with the poorest of us. How old was He before He got His first pair of sandals? Did His parents have trouble keeping clothes on Him? Young children, who have never been taught that their bodies are shameful, will happily run around naked any chance they get.

As a toddler…

The next snapshot we get was when His life was threatened and His parents were forced to flee to Egypt. That was a long, hard journey, which may have taken several weeks to complete. They rode donkeys, and if they had a tent, camped in it. Otherwise, they slept on the ground under the stars. There were no motels along the way, perhaps a rustic inn or two, but nothing we would find appealing.

How many siblings did He have by then? Joseph and Mary didn’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born, and probably not until after her purification was complete. Did Mary get pregnant on their wedding-night?

Did they travel to Egypt with both a toddler and a baby? Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus had brothers and sisters. That was a journey unlike any we have ever experienced. They were also traveling to a foreign country. It is one thing to travel by car for hundreds of miles and stay with family and friends or in a hotel, but quite a different story traveling that same distance on foot or on a donkey with one or more young children.

Out of Egypt…

Once the threat was no longer there, God told the family to go back home, except that it wasn’t back to their hometown. They would have to start in a new community – Nazareth. Joseph didn’t have his old carpenter shop to go back to. It wasn’t easy starting all over again. There wasn’t a department store on every corner where they could get everything necessary to set up their new home.

Meanings…

You are probably thinking “Steve, why all the detail?”. Until we deal with the nitty-gritty of His life, we won’t really understand why He was described as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief“. The nitty-gritty IS what makes Him one of us, fully-human. I grew up poor, but we were rich by comparison.

In the temple…

The next snapshot we find in Scripture is when He was twelve years old. His parents had journied to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. As they traveled back home with their friends and neighbors, Jesus came up missing. His parents asked around if any of their friends and relatives had seen Him, but no one could remember exactly where they saw Him last. They were panic-stricken.

It wasn’t safe to travel alone, which was why they traveled as a group. As a father, and as someone who has been involved with many missing-child searches, I can relate intimately with how they felt. There was only one thing to do, turn back and search until they found Him. That search took three days.

As a foretaste of His roles as our Prophet and Priest, His parents found Him in the temple in Jerusalem discussing Scripture with the religious teachers. They were amazed at His knowledge at such a young age, and they would continue to be amazed throughout His ministry.

Was He Just a rebelous almost-teenager, or was there a connection with God the Father that His parents didn’t understand? “And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, was no ordinary child.

His parents didn’t understand, because the mystery of the Incarnation was as huge a mystery to them as it is to us today. “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:50-51)

As an adolescent…

Even though Jesus was no ordinary child in a spiritual sense, He still went through the trials of puberty. As the Creator of our bodies, He experienced first-hand what it was like to go through everything a young boy experiences. How old was He when His voice started cracking and deepening? Did He go through a precocious puberty, or was He normal for His age? Did He ever have pimples? How old was He when peach-fuzz turned into a real beard? Babies don’t become men overnight, and He was no exception.

Questions…

Have you confronted His full humanity yet, or are you content with the sanitized version of Jesus Christ? If we ignore what it actually took for Jesus to go from being a new-born baby to being a grown man, it is quite easy to see Him as a “super-human“. Turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding thousands of people, healing sick people and even raising the dead are more the marks of a “super-human“, not what we would expect of an ordinary guy, and yet, as a human, a man, He was totally-ordinary. God didn’t come down and merely inhabit a human body. God became human. He was the God-Man, and He often celebrated His humanity by using the title “Son of Man“, not the exalted titles of His deity.

As a teen…

What was the first thing He built in His dad’s shop? Was it as perfect as He was? Did He struggle with learning all the languages of His era? Many Jews of His day were multi-lingual, and even though Hebrew was the national language of the Jews, Greek, Latin and Aramaic were also in common use. The Roman empire had conquered all of the know world, and all of the languages of the various countries in the empire could be heard in the streets, particularly in Jerusalem.

Manhood…

When did Jesus have to become the man of the house? How old was He when His dad died? Joseph is never mentioned in the accounts of His ministry. I am sure that He mourned the loss of His dad as any other young man would. One of His tasks as the oldest son was to make sure His mother was well cared-for, and even as He suffered on the cross, He commissioned John to be His mother’s care-taker. As He bore our sins on the cross, He didn’t neglect His human responsibility. How many other family-members did He lose on His way to the cross? Had He already lost some of His siblings?

What if…

What if we could look at a complete photo-album of His life? What uncomfortable truths would it reveal? How would our perceptions of Jesus of Nazareth be changed? Would we still worship and adore Him, or would the nitty-gritty of His life scare us away? Would we, like His brothers and sisters, think that He had lost His mind when He claimed to be God?

Why?

Why have I tried to build a photo-album of word-pictures of Him? God didn’t see fit to provide us more details, but that doesn’t mean that those details aren’t important. The Apostle John told us the purpose of his gospel; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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). John ended His gospel with these words; “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Your redemption, your salvation, and mine too, depends on His full humanity.

Your turn…

Are you ready to kneel beside that manger and adore the Great I AM? Would you kiss the face of God? Would you cry with the Word who became flesh as His tender foreskin was cut and removed? Would you crawl around on that dirty floor with the Prince of Peace? Would you hold out your hands as the Everlasting Father took His first few steps? Would you play hide-and-seek with the Mighty God on the dusty streets of Nazareth? Would you listen intently as the Wonderful Counselor spoke His first few words? Would you marvel with the teachers as Emmanuel, God with us, spoke wisdom way beyond His years? Would you admire that beautiful wooden sculpture which He made with His own hands?

Are you ready to step down to the edge of the river to be baptized with the Lamb of God? Would you gladly introduce your friends to Jesus? Would you forsake everything to follow Him? Would you dine at the table of a tax collector with Him? Would you have had a heart-attack when you saw Him walking on water? Would you weep with Him in front of the grave of a close friend? Would you throw your garment down before Him as He rode that donkey into Jerusalem? Would you vie with John for the place closest to Him at that Last Supper? Would you be embarrassed as He laid aside His garments to wash your feet, taking on the role of a servant? Would you weep at the foot of the Cross as the Messiah bore your sin and shame, naked, battered and beaten? Would you be grief-stricken with Mary Magdalene when you found that His tomb was empty? Could you contain your joy when you received word that your Lord was alive, risen from the dead? Would you run to the empty tomb with Peter and John? Would you offer Him that bread and fish? Those who knew Him best were never the same. They had been with Jesus.

Do you want the healing of spirit and soul that only comes from the Great Physician? Come to Jesus. Come to the God-Man. Embrace and adore the Son of Man. He is the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, and our own flesh and blood is at the Father’s right hand, forever. You will never be the same.

Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels.
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

In Christ,
Steve

The “Winter” of Life

Have you felt the chill of that icy wind pierce your soul? Have you been through times when you thought that nothing else could possible go wrong, but it did? Have you wondered if you would ever see the last of it, but you hadn’t, that there was more that could and did go wrong than you could have ever imagined? Have you ever wondered if even God has abandoned you? Were there more questions than answers, and did most of those questions start with “WHY“? Those are the questions of someone going through one of life’s winters.

I have been there, done that and got the T-shirt…many times, but this isn’t about me. Someone else both comforted those in the winter of life, and experienced it first-hand Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ met several people in the winter of life several times, and then experienced it Himself on the cross.

In Luke 7: 11-17, Jesus met a funeral procession. A young man had died, and was being carried out to be buried. He was the only child of a woman who was also a widow. Everything dear to her had been stripped away. She was alone, and in mourning, but the story doesn’t end there. The Author and Giver of life stopped the funeral procession and raised the young man back to life. Jesus had met her in her winter, and proclaimed that spring is here.

In John 4: 1-42, Jesus was travelling, and came to a town in Samaria. The relations between Israel and Samaria were frosty at best. While His disciples went into town to get lunch, Jesus sat by the well to rest a bit. As He was resting, a woman came to draw water, no doubt trailed by a gaggle of children. They were from several different daddies, as she had been married five times. Some of them may have been fathered by the man she was living with, but not married to. The Jews would have considered her a woman of ill-repute, but Jesus wasn’t put off by her bedraggled persona. Jesus met her in her winter, and proclaimed that spring is here. The Kingdom of Heaven had come to earth in the person of the Messiah, and He touched her heart with healing and grace.

In Luke 8: 42-48, again as Jesus was travelling, a woman touched Him. She was extremely sick and penniless, because she had spent all of her meager income on doctors who couldn’t cure her of her problem. The Great Physician did what only He could do…heal her completely. Jesus met her in her winter, and proclaimed that spring is here. The Creator and Giver of life is also the Great Physician.

They were a close family, and maybe even lived together. Two sisters and their brother were dear friends of Jesus, but that didn’t keep the unthinkable from happening. The brother fell ill and died. In John 11:1-44, we meet Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. When Lazarus fell ill, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick, but He didn’t even make it back in time for the funeral. When Jesus did come back into town, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Mary and Martha knew that Jesus could have healed Lazarus, but He didn’t, but He did meet them in their winter, and proclaimed that spring is here. Grieving sisters met the Resurrection and the Life, and Lazarus rejoined his family.

Simon Peter was part of the inner-circle, one of Jesus’s closest associates. He was bold, brash, arrogant, and often mouthy. On that last journey to Jerusalem, he proclaimed his undying loyalty to his Lord. That was until Jesus was arrested, and he met a servant-girl. Then he was faced with his most severe test, and failed. He denied his Lord, not just once, but three times. Heart-broken, he went back to fishing, his old occupation (Matthew 26:69-75), but the story doesn’t end there…

Jesus had met others in their winter, and had proclaimed that spring has come, but He still had to face His own winter. Jesus had always had perfect fellowship with His Father (John 1:1-5). Jesus took on our flesh and blood (John 1:14), so that He could experience our winter with us. When Jesus was crucified, He experienced His own winter (Matthew 27:45). The perfect, sinless, Son of God, who had not experienced separation from his Father for even a pico-second, was abandoned, forsaken. God turned His back on His own Son… Our winter became His winter… He experienced winter first-hand…

Three days later, spring returned in a big way as Jesus was resurrected. Not only did spring return, but He had purchased our spring for us. Grieving friends were met by the risen Savior; Matthew 28:9-10 and John 20:11-18. Jesus had conquered our worst enemy – death. He who was the Resurrection and the Life was alive and well.

Jesus had only been resurrected for a few hours when He met Mary at the tomb. The loss of a loved-one to death is certainly a “winter” experience. She had seen Him crucified, but His prediction that He would be raised again on the third day had gone right over her head. The risen Lord, in speaking her name, proclaimed that spring is here, and she was to share the good news with the rest of His disciples. (John 20:11-18)

A short time later, Jesus met two of His disciples on the dusty road to Emmaus. They had also seen Him crucified, and all their hopes and dreams were dashed. They imagined a conquering Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman bondage. Instead, they experienced the Suffering Servant who Isaiah had fortold. When Jesus broke bread with those two broken-hearted disciples, their eyes were opened, spring came in like a lightning-bolt, and their grief was turned to joy. Even though they had planned to stay in Emmaus that night, they high-tailed it back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples. Good news can’t wait. (Luke 24:13-35)

After the resurrection, Jesus met Peter in his winter, and gave him a new commission. He was to tend His sheep…to be an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd (John 21:15-17). Peter was to proclaim to others that spring has come…

Are you experiencing those icy winds of winter? If so, I invite you to come to the One who has experienced our winter, and has proclaimed that spring is here. Do those memories of winters-past still haunt you? I invite you to lay them at the foot of the cross, and receive the healing which only He can give. We have a great High Priest “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” ,”14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:14-16), Who has experienced our winter, and stands ready to heal us, and proclaim that spring IS here.

We often think that our problems are too tough, and our winter is too bleak, but He who conquered sin and death also said; “ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the nake of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching the to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to even the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

As a fellow-sojourner, who has experienced more than my “fairshare” of the winters in life, I am here to proclaim the Good News that spring IS here. As we prepare to remember our Lord’s passion week, and celebrate His resurrection, there is no better time to bring your winter to find the spring which only He can bring. The clinic is open, the Doctor is in, walk-ins are always welcome, and there is no waiting. The price is already paid…come as you are… Will you come to Him for healing? I pray that you do, because you will be glad you did.