baptism, Bible promises, called, crowds, decision, discernment, fasting, Father God, Holy Spirit, humility, Kingdom of God, transformation, Trinity, truth

Jesus’ Baptism, Entry #2

“But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 3:15

The Jordan River is quite remarkable. It stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, a distance of 156 miles. In the Bible, it is the scene of several miracles, from the OT we see Joshua who amazingly crossed it to get to the Promised Land to the baptism of Jesus by John.

Believe it or not–the water of the Jordan river is used today for the christening of some royals.

It is commonly believed that it holds significant properties that enable a king or queen to rule over their country.

The baptism of Jesus is of major significance.

I suppose the descent of the Holy Spirit, like a dove (and a voice) establishes Jesus’ future ministry. It seems that what happened there instilled in Jesus the strength for His future. We see the next event will be His temptation by Satan and it really seems that He now has the power to overcome the enemy.

We all need to be touched by God’s Spirit to overcome darkness, and often our baptism becomes the foundation of that which He ‘arranges’ this work. Jesus declared that it would “fulfill all righteousness.” That mystifies me, but it seems to connect with His humanity. He has chosen and decided to connect with people in this special way.

“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of the sinner with Savior.”

 -Max Lucado

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His Last Breath, #103


“Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I commit my spirit to you,” and with those words he died.”

Luke 23:46, LB

The cross had done its vicious work–it brutalized Jesus, and we see him broken and nailed to it. So much is happening, it’s quite hard to assimilate it all. It’s difficult to focus on just one thing. Several events seem to be happening all at once.

  1. An eclipse of the sun, darkness at 3 pm. It lasted three hours.
  2. An earthquake that shook the entire scene, it was strong enough to split rocks.
  3. The veil in the temple that separated the holy from the holiest, torn from top to bottom.
  4. Resurrections, with dead people wandering through the streets of Jerusalem, preaching.
  5. The mocking thief, and the salvation of the one who believed in Jesus.
  6. A centurion, most likely overseeing the soldiers, declaring that Jesus was “the son of God.”
  7. The women disciples who had followed Jesus, standing and witnessing all of this some distance away. Eleven of the twelve “disciples” were absent.
  8. John given the charge to watch over Jesus’ mother.

Each are significant in their own right.

These are all noteworthy, and this post could take up one of them and go in any direction. Besides these eight main observations, there many other details that could be mentioned. Needless to say, the crucifixion of Jesus profoundly effects every person who has ever lived.

They say the last words of a dying man are significant, and many books have been written about what people have said at the moment of death. We expect to hear some final wisdom (and often we’re disappointed.) We now hear the last words of Jesus, and they’re packed with meaning.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  This is the last thing Jesus spoke. We know that he had been separated from the Father because of our sin. Yet now we hear the faith of one who could hold on to his spirit while he died.

He had been beaten to an inch of his life.

He has been mocked and spit upon and made to wear a crown made of thorns. He stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying his cross–down what we now call the Via Dolorosa (lit. “the way of suffering.”)

“When he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

1 Peter 2:23

We see his faith in the Father’s mercy. At the very last moment he lays his spirit into the hands of God. We must remember, he is not the victim of a terrible tragedy, but he’s the second person of the Trinity, who has decided he must die, so we wouldn’t have to. He carried away the sin that wasn’t his, yours, and mine.

Jesus “put” his spirit into God’s hands. He believed that the Father would take it up, and hold it for him. As a man who was seconds away from dying, he trusts the Lord absolutely. There’s no fear, and there’s no doubt. In spite of everything, he places his soul into the One who promises to save him.

Never doubt that the crucifixion was brutal.

His suffering was intense, and it was very real. He did what he did to free us from our sin. Jesus transformed his death on the place of the skull to the place where sinners find salvation that’s eternal. As we consider this, let’s not forget–it’s our sin that put him there.

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

 John Stott

The breath that caused Adam to live (Genesis 2:7,) is now exhaled into the lives of anyone who believes.

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What is Truth?, #101

 “Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

“Jesus answered, “You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.””

“Pilate said, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out to the crowd again and said to them, “I find nothing against this man.”

John 18:37-38, NCV

Not only was Jesus on trial, but it seems the truth was too. “Truth” is mention three times in just two verses (again, for emphasis). Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor of Judea, meets with Jesus to make the determination if Jesus would be executed.

Truth seems to be a focus here. Jesus understands that he was sent to declare the truth to the people. He also states that those were called would be listeners, and these would respond positively to all the Jesus had been saying. Jesus clearly understood what he must do, it was the reason he was born.

Pilate is cynical, “What is truth.” He asks the question that even today is being considered. He thinks that truth has many variations, and none of them could be understood.

But Jesus pronounces that he is the King of truth, and to Pilate that was foolish. No one person, in his mind anyway, could be the sole source. He dismisses Jesus’ statements with a philosophical idea that things are relative, nothing can be understood with any degree of certainity.

Pilate very obviously believes in unbelief.

He seems to want to set Jesus free–from his balcony he points out Jesus’ innocence. He finds no reason that Jesus should die for these statements. We see him negotiating with the Jewish people. But the Pharisees have decided that Jesus must die, we see them stirring up the crowd.

To Pilate’s credit he tells them that Jesus is no revolutionary. He presents no danger to either Rome’s empire or Judea. Being pressured, he orders Jesus to be whipped. It was also the place where a crown of thorns was put on Jesus’ head (John 19:1-5).

He tries to negotiate once more.

But the people won’t listen. It was Passover, and there would be pilgrims in the city. Scripture tells us that they’re on the verge of rioting. They declare that anyone who supports Jesus must be an enemy of Caesar (John 19:12-16). Pilate finally acquiesces and orders Jesus to be executed. C.H. Spurgeon makes the following observation about Pilate:

“Oh, the daring of Pilate thus in the sight of God to commit murder and disclaim it. There is a strange mingling of cowardliness and courage about many men; they are afraid of a man, but not afraid of the eternal God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Pilate ceremoniously washes his hands over the whole thing. He seems disturbed by the whole incident (Matthew 27:24).

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

This is our calling–and this verse exhorts us to do this in order to learn holiness, and to follow him with a complete heart.

Tradition has it that Pilate does become a believer in Jesus some years later. He is martyred for his faith by being beheaded on orders by the emperor Caligula.

A Member of Faithful Bloggers

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What About the Children? #82

 “People were bringing infants to him so that he might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: 

“Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 18:15-17

There is conflict here–and we can’t ignore it. The disciples seem to see themselves as the unofficial “protecters” of Jesus. I suppose that the sheer immensity of the crowds, and Jesus’ popularity, forced them to act as go-betweens. They believed that they needed to protect Jesus by only letting certain people, with certain needs, get close to him. I believe that their motives were good and proper.

Jesus’ disciples were getting headaches. His ministry was wildly successful by this time–wherever he went massive crowds followed, if not for the teaching and healings, but at least for the spectacle. In a dull and dreary life, the Lord Jesus was their entertainment (this was before MTV and video games).

Celebs often need protection. The president of the United States has the Secret Service–they surround him, and form a barrier. Perhaps this is what the 12 saw as their duty and calling. Only certain people, those who were properly vetted, could get close enough to really meet him.

The disciples had a plan–but it meant restricting access to him. They would set up their perimeter, and only let certain people access Jesus. In theory it was wisdom, but in practice it was really difficult. But disciples would find a way–and, of course, parents would find ways to get around them.

But I’m digressing here.

The real issue here is how we enter his kingdom. Jesus was crystal clear. Only “children” get in. The simple and the unsophisticated are the only ones who are given kingdom passports. They’re the ONLY ones who can enter in–that means the proud theologian, the all together socialite, and the mature elder will only get “citizenship” if they become children again.

“The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.”

Charles Hodge

But what does this really mean? It seems to me that it most definitely ties into Nicodemus’ late night talk with Jesus, John 3, and being “born again.” In chapter 3, Jesus sits down with a sophistically religious man, and rocks his sophisticated world–

“Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (context, vv. 1-13)

We must stay simple, (K.I.S.S.) It’s the enemy who tries to pull us away from that, and into a knotty complexity, and a fairly elaborate theological correctness. But this dear reader, isn’t the way of Jesus, nor is it the way of true maturity. We can understand Nicodemus’ confusion all too well, when we try to enter God’s kingdom without the humbleness of a child.

“Not only did Jesus welcome these little human beings as members of the kingdom of God; He also extolled them as model citizens of the same, because of their capacity to trust and love.”

-Some unknown guy

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Plain Talk, #79

14 “So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:14-15, (context, vv. 1-44)

It’s not easy to speak concisely. Our world is filled with overly careful verbiage, and confusing talk. Often we will complicate things to make them palatable, and comfortable for others. As a ‘writer-wannabe’, I’m aware of bringing confusion when I complicate words, sentences and paragraphs.

Not that being careful and diplomatic is wrong. The book of Proverbs, over and over, makes it clear that our words are powerful things, and they must be carefully watched. What we say, to be astringently honest, communicates what is hidden in our hearts.

Jesus is God’s megaphone in a world that has grown deaf.

The real thing is not what we say, but what we do. Jesus intends to do the impossible. He is going to raise the dead, which has never, ever been done. Jesus intends to simply speak out, simply, and life will come to Lazarus again.

Just as he spoke plainly here to his disciples–he will speak simple words to Lazarus as well. Jesus’ words–very plain and quite simple–will bring life to a body that has laid on a stone slab for four days. The decomposition was already quite advanced. His body, “stinketh.” (John 11:39, KJV).

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”

John 11:43-44

Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus created the world by words–it is said that he holds the world together by his words. And when he speaks, (or commands), definite things are going to happen.

He’s God’s megaphone in a world that has grown deaf. All that he says is spiritually amplified over the mumbling’s of a confusing darkness. When he stands and speaks to Lazarus, life returns. Jesus is clearly heard in the deep corridors of death, and what he speaks is going to happen.

“And because of his words many more became believers.”

John 4:41, NIV

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The Very First Stone, #63

“He stood up and said to them, 

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7 (context vv. 3-10)

The religious police had caught them together, and they held her (just her?) for the express purpose of embarrassing Jesus. Ideally, on the holy grounds of the temple they could challenge him about the Law, and when Jesus tried and failed, they could then humiliate him to the crowds. He would lose a lot in the credibility department (or so they thought.)

“They set a trap for Jesus. If Jesus said, “Let her go,” then He would seem to break the Law of Moses. If He said, “Execute her for the crime of adultery,” then Jesus would seem harsh and perhaps cruel. Also, He would break Roman law, because the Romans had taken the right of official execution for religious offenses away from the Jews.”

-David Guzak

Adultery is expressly prohibited by the seventh of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) which says simply: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” There is no ambiguity to this. God had made it clear that adultery was wrong, and she was guilty. (The man she was involved with wasn’t charged–which is a bit interesting.)

Jesus, being sinless, was the only one capable of judgement. Having complete authority he had perfect right to carry out God’s verdict. But he didn’t. He wouldn’t. I suppose that’s why this passage is so evocative to many.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

John 8:11

All of her accusers had quickly left. Jesus simply wrote something in the sand, and whatever it was, it did the trick. There was no other thing that would of caused them to leave so quietly, and abruptly. They suddenly refused to enforce the penalty of the Law, and just skedaddled.

The adultery was still an issue though, it wasn’t overlooked. Jesus spoke directly to her about it, she wasn’t off the hook yet. “From now on sin no more” is after all a command, and that relationship with her lover must be forsaken. Jesus was serious. What she would choose to do from this point on was critical.

Jesus insists that she understand the why behind them departing so quickly. I think it’s important for her quite specifically, she knew that not only was she forgiven, but that now she could live without guilt or condemnation. The condemners were gone. She was free. Absolutely free.

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

Billy Graham

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Flowing Rivers, #62

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out,” 

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:37-38

It was the Feast of Tabernacles–it would be the last one that Jesus would attend. The feast went on for eight days. Every day someone would carry a golden pitcher from the Pool of Siloam to be poured out on the altar in the temple. Everyone understood that this was to be done to acknowledge the way God provided water for them in the wilderness.

The eighth day was key. No water would be poured out; only prayers would be offered. There are points we should know–

  • The feast was also known as Tabernacles, and, Booths–Shelters–Sukkot–Ingathering.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles is very much like our Thanksgiving. It had dual focuses. It was a fall celebration, corresponding to the harvest. It also commemorated the 40 years of wilderness wanderings where God provided water for the Israelites. So it had dual significance.
  • It was a major event in the calendar; it was one of three main pilgrimages to the temple for every Jew and his family. Every observant man was required to make this trip. No matter where they lived, they must make this trip.

The city would be flooded with people, and Jesus spoke to huge crowds of religious pilgrims. Jesus stood in the temple courts, just a few steps from the Temple itself, it is there he just didn’t speak–he shouted. Perhaps that might seem to be a challenging thought for some.

There is a direct link between the water poured out on this Feast and Jesus’declaration that he was the final source of water–something spiritual, and quite true. Jesus declares plainly that he is the wellspring of life, and the amazing thing is that it’s open to all–it is received through a holy and true grace.

There is something about having water flow perpetually from one’s heart that we must figure out. It usually doesn’t long to realize that this all has to be pretty much a supernatural work of grace. People who need grace come to The Feast of Tabernacles, which looked forward to a beautiful river of grace–the throne of God is its source.

Jesus says that we’re to put our trust in him, to place him on the throne of our hearts–and then watch out, the water is going to gush out. But to be honest, I need to understand that he is always the first source, and we are the conduits of life to others. That spiritual equation is essential–it’s how it’s got to work.

“He was able to satisfy thirst, and, moreover, that those who received such satisfaction from Him should become channels through whom the overflowing rivers should pass.”

(Morgan’s Commentary on John 7)

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Who Do You Think I Am? #48

“Who do the crowds say I am?”

“But who do you say that I am?”

Luke 9:18, 20 (context, vv. 18-20)

The question is significant; and it’s never been fully answered. Perhaps each of us must be asked this exact same thing. And perhaps it’s the crucial question that every human being who has ever drawn breath must ask themselves. Who is Jesus? Who is He really?

The crowds had witnessed Jesus feed them with a little boy’s lunch. They saw miracles and heard teaching, and yet maybe they were a bit confused. They could only put Jesus in the context of what they knew was “allowable” by the Pharisees. He definitely was some kind of prophet. Jesus was being evaluated by a very curious crowd.

Jesus isn’t distressed by this, He’s not full of self-doubt or second thoughts. He’s not looking around for our support–or accolades, palms or laurels. He knows exactly who He is. He is the only Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He is fully and completely God; and He is now wearing a robe and walking around in sandals.

There exists a “crowd faith,” something more or less aware that God cares, and miracles do happen in this life. This is all well and good. But it seems there is a “personal faith,” which Peter now announces out loud. “You’re the Messiah, come from God.”

What Peter declares in front of everyone changes everything.

We must always draw our own conclusions, of course. We must look at Him, and decide for ourselves what He claims to be. There is no question it’s scary, and it’s hard. But you, and you alone, must decide. Crowd faith is almost always good, I suppose; but Peter’s bold declaration is what He really is waiting for. Are you convinced yet?

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Crowd Compassion, #46

“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

Mark 8:2-3, (context, vv. 1-8)

This one differs from the other miracle of feeding found in entry#42, “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” (Luke 9.)

In that first instance, (see my most very humble entry, #42) the miracle comes as a surprise, more of a reaction to the moment. This second one though, is a tad more ‘contrived’–it’s designed by the Maker to be a lesson for all prospective disciples. It’s not that the first is a complete surprise, rather, it seems anyway, the other is more expected.

He watches over me, and He does keep me. He’s aware of my every need. This must be understood.

I believe everything he does, he does it out of compassion. That’s how His mind operates, that’s what makes him tick, He always acts this way. He is predictable, and you can trust Him, He will never intentionally hurt you. He will lead you through all this crap.

“No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend – a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

D.L. Moody

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