authority, Bible promises, bread, decision, faith, Father God, Jesus Christ, loneliness, lordship, power, satan, seeking Him, temptation, truth, will of God, Word of God,

Tempted by the Devil, Entry #3

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God are’”

(Matthew 4:4)

God’s Words are equated to bread, emblematic of God’s kind of food. Bread signifies life. Jesus addressing the tempter places the Word of God as the final Sustainer of life itself. By His declaration, He establishes what is real and necessary to every disciple.

The Word of God is the food that the believer needs. Without the promises of God, we’ll “starve” inside spiritually. We must have what God is speaking, all that “the mouth of God” wants to share with us.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 parallels Matthew 4:1–4. When Jesus is tempted three times, He quotes exclusively from the book of Deuteronomy each time. We see Him strengthening His calling by using the truth found in the OT, He establishes His ministry using the Law of Moses.

God’s words have a profound effect on our hearts. They change us from the inside out and nothing can do that. Without his words, something dies deep inside us. We look around and realize there is no real meaning.

“I will abundantly bless her provisions;
    I will satisfy her poor with bread.”

(Psalm 132:15)

(See also: Matthew 3:15, 4:7, 4:10)

Image, “Christ in the Wilderness,” Briton Riviere

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The Boy in the Temple, #1

Art: William Holman Hunt, oil 1890

“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

His parents are somewhat frantic. Jesus is missing. He can’t be found in the pilgrimage crowd journeying back to Nazareth. The travel time from their home back to Jerusalem would have taken several days on foot, a trip of over 60 miles.

They find the youth in the Temple, and it’s there they questioned His decision to stay with the rabbis. Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary are somewhat astonished. Why did He call the Temple, “my Father’s house?” Why did the teachers of the Law find Him so compelling?

A lot of boys would’ve found a more exciting place ‘to hang out.’

What we learn I suppose is the primacy of the things of God. Jesus has a definite connection to the place God dwells, His presence, and the rest God gives to each one who will only come. He is waiting for ‘ignited desire’ for each believer to come. Our hearts are now His home.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

(1 Cor. 6:19-20)

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The Skull, #102

“Two criminals were also led out with him for execution, and when they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him with the criminals, one on either side of him.

“But Jesus himself was saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Then they shared out his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 23:32-34, Phillips

This is easily the darkest and evil point in human history. The Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity) allows himself to be crucified. Do we have the slightest idea what that means? Is this really something we can grasp?

The word “Calvary” means “place of the Skull.”

When criminals were put to death that’s where it took place. Since Romans liked to execute people, I imagine it was semi-permanent, with vertical poles set in place. The “skull” was visible to all, situated on a main highway. The men who were lifted up would’ve been able to see Jerusalem’s walls, and perhaps even the Temple.

Jonathan Edwards comments about putting people to death like this:

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.”

“Maximum pain and suffering.” Doesn’t that bring it into perspective?

Jesus spends his last few hours praying for his enemies. While he was suffering and dying, the soldiers were rolling dice for his robe. But as he was hanging, the nails holding him in place–he was praying. The pain must’ve been beyond belief. (It’s worth noting that we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word meaning “from the cross.”)

Jesus took my sin–he took yours too. He absorbed every ounce. And yet taking on all that, he was still innocent. He did not sin, but he carried every single drop of it. Why would he do this?

At that precise moment, the Father turned his back on him.

With all of that sin (my sin, and yours) God turned away, (Isaiah 53:10). He was now totally alone, and the wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus, at that moment, was in our place–he substituted himself for us. He died, so we might go free, (2 Corinthians 8:9).

What more can I say? The darkest moment for him became the brightest one for us. He hung there, completely horrified–he was now all alone. God left him at that moment.

I now must live differently.

Once I really truly understood this, everything changed. God is now my friend, I’m at peace with him. When Jesus died on “the place of the skull” he substituted his life for mine. He died, and now I live. It was the greatest exchange in all of history, (1 John 4:9-10).

I now choose to turn away from those things that Jesus Christ went to the cross for.

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That Fox, #77

 “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. “

Luke 13:32, (context, vv. 31-35)

Herod’s “accomplishments” were hardly the stuff of a righteous king. He flagrantly committed several very public sins. He wasn’t a good king, as he flouted his authority over the Jewish people. He was regarded as cunning, but weak. Some of his evil things he did is listed below:

  • Signed a decree to murder all the children under two year old and under.
  • Ruled as a “puppet” leader and was given his authority by the emperor Augustus and the Roman government.
  • He permitted Salome to dance before an audience, which was forbidden by the Jewish Law.
  • Ordered the murder of John the Baptist after John confronted him about his evil relationship with Herodias.
  • Turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate for judgement and execution.

Needless to say King Herod Antipas didn’t have a good track record, he was regarded as a wicked man, and an evil king. He actively opposed any threats to his rule. It’s interesting that he resisted both John, and later Jesus. He was a definite threat to the kingdom of God.

Typically the Pharisees’ and the Herodians’ were on opposite poles, especially when it came to religious and legal matters. It’s quite interesting that they united to oppose Jesus and his ministry. Herod was very superstitious and paranoid–for instance, he believed that Jesus was actually John the Baptist risen from the dead to continue his ministry.

Jesus called him a fox, which certainly wasn’t an endearing description, and described the rule of Antipas as an evil ruler. Usually kings choose a “lion” as their emblem–it represented strength and authority, Jesus refused to recognize Herod in this way. Herod was an evil man, and ruled like a fox.

“To the Jew the fox was a symbol of three things. First it was regarded as the slyest of animals. Second, it was regarded as the most destructive of animals. Third, it was the symbol of a worthless and insignificant man.”

Barclay’s Commentary on the Bible

Jesus is direct and blunt. He knew the character of Herod’s reign, and didn’t mince words when he referred to him. Jesus recognized the evil and “labeled” it. At the same time he seemed to acknowledge the authority of Herod’s reign.

Jesus was well aware of the “timetable” he had. He understood that he had plenty of work to do, and the time that he had to do it. Jesus was definitely aware of Herod’s resistance to his ministry, but wasn’t the least bit intimidated or cowed into silence or fear.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus understood that his death was imminent.

The ministry of Satan often can be seen in the influence of fallen man–it seems the more authority one has over others, the more the enemy can work. Perhaps that’s the awareness that Jesus has. Rather than altering his ministry, Jesus has confidence that he is on God’s timetable. He refuses to be afraid of this wicked king.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Proverbs 29:25, ESV

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The King’s Work, #70

 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 

Luke 10:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

What happens when lambs are attacked by wolves? My simple guess is that they tear them up. Jesus doesn’t paint a rosy picture of ministry. He’s very clear what the seventy can expect. There shouldn’t be any illusions about the work, it’s not entirely easy, or pleasant. There maybe casualties.

This passage is crucial, not only for Jesus’ disciples, but for the harvest. Seventy-two are selected; they’re given clear instructions on the work ahead–what they must know, and how they need to act. The kingdom of God must be announced, that’s imperative. His rule extends over all, and that dear one, is markedly good news.

They’re given them supreme authority over demons–that’s going to be a necessity for doing his work. There’s an awful lot of darkness out there, and they will engage it head-on. Satan rules temporarily, but God triumphs forever. The disciple’s ministry is to step into this, and extend the kingdom of God. This is now your work.

Doing this means they have to follow his detailed instructions. The disciples are going to move into both the physical and spiritual, and the wolves are coming– the seventy-two have been warned. The world will hate, but the believers still have to preach.

It’s not just a message to preach. There’s more.

Words are not going to be enough. They’re also to have a ministry of physical healing. They’re to touch the sick, and God will heal. But please, don’t misconstrue the work, bloodshed is a real possibility. The wolves are coming in packs.

Jesus is not only training, but he’s extending the Father’s rule by sending them out. He is duplicating himself, and the seventy-two are clearly extensions of him, they’re to be his witnesses, doing his work. Essentially that’s what true ministry is, doing what he would do if he were in your shoes.

The kingdom comes–“thy kingdom come, thy will be done” is the believer’s prayer. We’re committed to this, and we follow our king’s example. The world will be ruled by him, and we have the incredible privilege of being his witnesses–we are his healers, and proclaimers of his gospel.

“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God.”

Leo Tolstoy

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A Really Hard Reality, #53

30 “They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,” 

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 

32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Mark 9:30-32

There are no illusions found in these verses. This passage is painfully practical, and whenever I read it I’m forced to take another slug of reality–Jesus will die. Evil men will kill Him. I don’t want to see His ministry end like this. Deep inside, I want to His ministry to continue. I need to hear more parables, and see more miracles.

But thinking squarely isn’t always my best point. I sometimes like illusions. They seem like necessary padding for the stark rigors of living. They’re nice to have around. But I do know that gripping reality is needed. It’s harsh and rude, and some of us avoid it like vampires dodge picnics.

The disciples must get real and extend their thinking about the Kingdom. They’ve been witnesses to all those supernatural things that the Messiah is doing. It’s all been very good. But now they must think deeper, and even more redemptively. Jesus will-must die, and He will rise. Why?

The Holy Spirit is always pouring love on us. I know that all that He does is done by love. Whether it’s touching a leper or feeding 5000, it’s love that is Jesus’ reason and clearest motive. Easily seen in these amazing miracles, and somewhat harder to picture when it comes as betrayal and murder. (God help us adjust.)

Jesus will (must) die. That is His accurate prediction. The disciples must clear the decks and assimilate this fresh information. They’re needed to grab this and make it part of their understanding. They are now witnesses, completely and wholly grasping the deepest realities of the Kingdom.

The gospel of the Kingdom up to this point is indeed a wonder. Teachings and healings, miracles and resurrections are becoming the norm. We all want to see them continue. We are shocked when Jesus takes this morbid perspective! How perfectly awful. (NOT the way to win disciples!)

The death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection, is the next necessary miracle. It is needed to redeem and ‘heal’ the entire world. Oh yes, Jesus touched a leper, forgave the whore and raised the dead–but these are miracles that primarily touched individuals. He intends to kick it up a notch.

Jesus is going to die for us all. Isn’t that outrageous?

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Mothers and Brothers, Entry #37

Jesus Papyrus, jerusalemperspective.com

49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 

“Here are my mother and my brothers! “

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12:49-50, (context, vv. 46-50)

His family is spiritual. Earthly connections aren’t what really matters, Jesus expresses an important understanding of the Kingdom of God. Things are not evaluated by physical relationships anymore. Life is different now.

I don’t think Jesus has gone out of His way to alienate His earthly or physical connections to His family. I don’t think He is being rude or uncaring. That isn’t part of His thinking. And yet He does seem to point to something that’s more permanent and everlasting.

It isn’t enough to be His brother, or cousin or uncle. These things really don’t matter. What does matter is being part of His spiritual family. To be painfully honest, it seems to me anyway, that the spiritual relationship is what truly counts. Being Jesus’ disciple, and doing the Father’s will for us transforms us and lifts us up to family ‘status.’

But it doesn’t strictly matter “how” you relate to Jesus so much, but how you do the will of God. That is what impresses Jesus. That’s what He communicates to those who are standing around Him. Do you really understand what is family? Can you grasp the idea that doing the will of God now makes you authentic?

They say “blood is thicker than water.’ Jesus’ blood unites us to Him and each other! Doing the Father’s will turns us into His family.

We must reach out and grab this concept–we are family if we do the will of God, believe in His sacrificial work and immerse ourselves into His purposes. We become His family, spiritually anyway, when we start to do what He wants for us. Am I doing what He wants for me at this moment, or the next, or the next?

Are we really part of His family, or is someone else our father?

“The purpose of the Bible is simply to proclaim God’s plan to save His children. It asserts that man is lost and needs to be saved. And it communicates the message that Jesus is the God in the flesh sent to save His children.”

– Max Lucado

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