20/20 Vision, Entry #8

He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

John 1:39 (context, 1:31-51)

The calling of the 12 was one of the more remarkable events in history. Some experienced amazing things–Nathanael for instance (1:47-48). But I suppose the most astonishing thing was how the disciples left everything to follow in the steps of God.

“Come” is a word of submission. To obey it they must trust him. Jesus wants these men to follow Him. He wants them to ‘travel’ with Him. Jesus deeply desires that these new disciples see for themselves the things of God. He wants them to engage in the work and experience the Kingdom first-hand.

“You will see.”

There is a need for people who can really look at things and ‘see’ what is real. Today it seems the world is living in a fantasy. There are very few who can understand things as they really are. For many the ways and presence of God are never real. The world never understands what the Kingdom is all about. They are truly blind.

A Physician With Power, Entry #7

“And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”

Luke 4:23, (in context, 4:25-27)

Jesus does heal, the Gospels attest to that fact. Generations since then have been beneficiaries of a ministry that alleviates pain and disease. Many have been touched, and many more will encounter Him in this way. We may carry our difficulties poorly, but if He chooses to heal us that is His prerogative. Some will be dramatically healed, others will not. Jesus chose to pass by dozens before He encountered the paralytic.

We cannot manipulate Him.

Sometimes we use our faith like a tool to try to get what we want, but He decides, not us. Sometimes we think that healing comes to the really ‘spiritual,’ as if it were attainment of our faith alone. In the Gospels we see Jesus initiating and alleviating disease, and I believe that. But I also know that He passes by many faithful believers who still endure pain.

Jesus’ reputation has grown.

The synagogue leaders in Nazareth have heard of Him, of His phenomenal teaching and His earth-shaking miracles. When He stands to read from the scroll every eye is fixed on Him. In verse 22 the leaders speak very highly of Him, but a few verses later they’re filled to the brim with anger and want to throw Him off a cliff.

Human beings are fickle creatures.

We seldom realize our inconsistencies and our erratic behavior. Many wonder why their faith doesn’t work– but what about the faith needed to remain sick? Doesn’t it work both ways? It seems that it also takes significant faith to follow Jesus when we remain terribly ‘unhealed.’

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

-James H. Aughey

Jesus Begins His Public Ministry, Entry #4

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

Time. We are all on a definite schedule and affected by its relentless pace. Jesus now declares that His moment has finally come. It seems that the Creator of time is subject to the pace at which it unfolds. He is precisely on schedule for the ultimate event of all of history. It all begins at this moment.

Jesus now officially recognizes the start of “the Kingdom of God.” The Jewish people have sought this moment, they have looked for it and waited. But now they must respond to His message of repentance and faith. They have to make the decision, they must settle themselves into God’s purpose for their lives. There is no other way.

Our response to that good news is repentance and faith.

Both are absolutely critical to really becoming a Christian believer. Both situate us to the certain place where we can receive from God. We can’t just ‘admire’ His person and message. Far too many people make this mistake. Instead we must vigorously respond to all that He says; we absolutely need to make a decision. We have to change.

There is no other way.

“A sinner can no more repent and believe without the Holy Spirit’s aid than he can create a world.”

-Charles Spurgeon

  

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)

God’s Electricity, #110

“He also said to them, 

“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”

Luke 24:46-49, CSB (vv. 44-49)

His power is critical. These verses are packed full of really strong things. You can’t minimize any issue in this passage without damaging something that matters. I don’t intend to do that. For me, everything he says is crucial. I hope I won’t diminish anything that he has spoken to us.

  • There’s the issue of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We can’t minimize this. It’s the most astonishing event in history. It becomes our message.
  • There’s the critical need of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is something that needs to be heard. The whole world must understand what has happened, and how they must respond.
  • The disciples of Jesus know this, they understand, and they’re the witnesses of everything Jesus did. All that they saw and learned, isn’t for them, but for others.

But the real significance is becoming empowered from God. They must operate out of what God has promised to them. There’s power coming, God’s electricity is going to meet every circumstances they’ll face. People are going to be shocked by what’s going to happen.

They need to wait for Him though.

Power is coming–they need to hold on. They will witness, and testify about Jesus. They’re being sent, but not in their own strength or effort–but with the father’s power. The gift isn’t given for their enjoyment, but for his work.

The Holy Spirit is the electricity that gives the kingdom its power. Any substitute will mean failure, and weakness.

We operate only when we are filled with his Spirit. There’s going to be incredible obstacles, but we’ll have insurmountable power. The Word we preach must be done with his power, orders, authority. The message is one of repentance and forgiveness, a proclamation of spiritual deliverance. And it begins in an upper room in Jerusalem.

What will happen there will be forever known as Pentecost.

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Jesus Restores, #109

15 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time,” 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.'”

John 21:15-17, (context vv. 15-19)

Peter’s denial was public one, and it was important that his restoration be public as well. It may come as a shock, but Peter needed to do this–even though it was a grief to him (verse 17.) It was necessary for him to heal. It was also a clear testimony to the others that Peter was completely restored.

Repeatedly in this passage, love gets linked to service. (Can you see this, it’s important that you do.) The Lord asks Peter if he really loved him, and most likely it was solemn affair, not something trivial or casual. The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape–this is the type of love that God has for people. It’s a love that gives 110%.

The third time the word for love is different though, the word used is φιλέω, philo–this is a type of love that a man has for others, a brotherly kind of love. Something good, but less than agape.

And each time Peter responds, he uses the brotherly type of love. I don’t mean to be confusing here, but every time Jesus uses agape to Peter, Peter responds with philo. It’s as if Peter is struggling with loving Jesus wholeheartedly. Perhaps Peter was ashamed of his denial.

Love is linked with service.

Love can’t be seen unless it has a physical aspect. Love can’t be abstract, a vague feeling, or a hazy concept–it has to be seen by others. Jesus’ sheep (and lambs) must be fed, and watched over. This is now Peter’s call to ministry.

This is Jesus’ ministry as well.

Apparently there is plenty of this kind of work to go around! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ work in Isa. 40:11. This is now becomes Peter’s work as well.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”

Whether or not Peter was the first “pope” is debatable. But it’s clear that Jesus focused on Peter. And isn’t it just like him to turn our failings into victories. Peter’s denial was now his ministry to others. It dealt with the pride issue, which often disrupts true ministry to his flock.

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah 3:15

It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

He is Solid, #106

38 “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”

Luke 24:38-41, CSB, (context vv. 36-43)

He isn’t a ghost, a hallucination or some sort of fabrication of hopeful desires. He’s real! As real as you or I–solid, flesh and blood, and real bones. That may seem like a small thing, but it reveals to the disciples (and us) so much. When his resurrection happened, it didn’t alter him, or change his physical attributes. The disciples were floored when the solid Jesus showed up to be with them.

It was a late Sunday evening.

The doors were shut tight, and the eleven were hiding out there–scared and wallowing in doubt. That’s a lousy mixture. Jesus doesn’t knock on the door, he just pops right in their gathering. That must of been a bit of a shake-up in itself. I know I would of freaked. (And I would’ve taken a serious look at that door.)

At the core, they couldn’t believe that he was real. Maybe a ghost, or his spirit or something else? I’m fairly certain that even if this “man” was really Jesus, it would, maybe be something mystical or ethereal. He wouldn’t be flesh anyway. That was a real stretch for them–and me too.

If it was really true, it meant that physical things are really spiritual.

What I mean by that earth was now combined with heaven. Jesus, the King of the known universe–the One who sits on the throne–is solidly human. Concrete and quite tangible. He’s not a vague kind of spirit, but he’s just like like us. Finally, something physical!

Let’s not get confused about this; I think it’s a critical point. Eternity will not be a vague and misty reality–nebulous and celestial. It’s now quite relatable. When Jesus walks with you on the golden paths of his heaven, you’ll not be walking with a ghost. He’ll be as you and I are right now. He’ll be real. You’ll be real.

You’ll be able to touch him. And if you really want to you can stick your finger into his wounds (verse 40.) I love what this solid Jesus told Thomas in John 20:27:

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.

This should shatter any misconceptions you might have. Thomas had real doubts, and instead of getting rebuked, Jesus invites Thomas to discover the reality of himself. This is really quite profound when you think of it. I’m so glad that this happened, I needed to hear it for myself.

I maybe a very silly preacher and writer, but that’s the way I see it.

A light shining in this heart of darkness
A new beginning and a miracle
Day by day the integration
Of the concrete and the spiritual

Bob Bennett, “Heart of the Matter

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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.

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.