Categories
encouragement theology

The Vine and the Branches

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This passage contains one of the simplest and one of the most well-known allegories of the Christian life: the vine and the branches.

The popular belief is that you need to behave well in order to be a good Christian. You get closer to God by acting better, doing good deeds, and being kind to other people. You then make God happy by how nice you have become.

Jesus teaches the complete opposite!

It was late Thursday night, on Jesus’ final night on earth. As he walked through the streets of Jerusalem with his disciples, the great temple would be in full view in front of them. A massive golden vine covered the top of the wall, with the grapes “as tall as a man’s height” (according to Josephus) [3].

In front of this backdrop, Jesus says, “I am the true vine.”

The great vine was the national symbol of Israel. God himself had used the vine to illustrate Israel, but they had turned away from God. Instead of showing God’s glory to earth, they had become a wild vine bearing useless fruit (see Isaiah 5:1-7 and Jeremiah 2:21).

Israel was supposed to be the means to bring people to God, but they failed. Israel was to showcase God’s glory, but they thought only of themselves. Unlike faithless Israel, Jesus is the true vine. Jesus is the way to God (John 14:6) and he brings glory to God (John 15:8).

All of us who have a relationship with Jesus Christ have a part in Jesus’ mission. He is the vine, the true vine, and we are the branches.

Our job – our essential job – is to abide in Him. As a branch stays in the vine, so we are to stay close to Jesus Christ. Jesus supports and gives life to his people in the same way that the vine supports and gives life to the branches.

Jesus never teaches that you should do good things to get close to God. He says the opposite – stay close to him and he will do the good things through us. This is beyond anything that we can do, and so God gets all of the credit!

Jesus makes several wonderful promises of what will happen when we abide in him.

 

We produce fruit when we abide in him. Jesus gives us permanent, tangible results when we stay close with him. This fruit in our lives may vary, but it includes repentance, good works, godly attitudes, wisdom, praise, and impact on others (see below for a more detailed list).

We are totally helpless to generate this fruit apart from Jesus Christ. We often think that our problem is that we are not trying hard enough. Jesus says to stop trying altogether. “Just abide in me!”

“We are not handicapped, we are paralyzed!” – Stephen Davey [4]

 

We will be pruned when we abide in him. He cuts out the empty parts of us so that we can produce more fruit. This pruning process can be painful, but God wants us to grow into a more fruitful branch for Him.

“And so when we have to pass through great trials, deep waters and many sorrows, it is not an evidence that He does not love us, that He does not care for us.” – H.A. Ironside [2]

 

He answers our prayers when we abide in Him. God never promises to answer our prayers when we are avoiding Him (Psalm 66:18). But when we abide in Him, we are able to pray from the very heart of Jesus Christ, asking what he himself would ask (see here).

 

We radiate the love of Jesus Christ when we abide in Him. We are anchored in the love of Christ and we show it by our love for others. We are no longer slaves, but friends of the Lord Jesus Christ! He demonstrated his love for us, as his friends, by giving his own life for us (see also Romans 5:8).

We keep Jesus’ commandments when we are anchored in His love by abiding in Him. It is no longer a duty to obey him but an act of love. We show our love to Him by loving His children.

 

We experience full joy when we abide in him. Jesus was only hours from dying on a Roman cross, yet he promised joy to his disciples! This joy is beyond happiness, and can survive through the worst of pain. How do we experience this joy? We experience this full joy when we abide in Him.

We experience this full joy when do what we were created to do – to glorify God!

 

Jesus gives one more promise in this section. Your time is limited if you do not know Jesus Christ. If you have never believed in Him, then you are as useless to Him as a branch that never produces grapes. You can pretend to be close to Jesus Christ, but take a warning from the useless branch. The destiny of the useless branch is to be thrown away, to wither, to be gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

If you have not believed in Jesus Christ, do not hesitate any longer! This may be your last chance to believe in Him (see here). Be warned, but come to him before you are thrown out like the useless branch.

If you have believed in Jesus Christ, abide in him. Abide in Him! Stay close to Jesus Christ and obey him out of your love for Him. All of the good deeds that you can do are useless if you do them apart from Jesus Christ.

 

Previous Post: The Holy Spirit

Categories
encouragement theology

The Holy Spirit

john-14-16
The New Testament says a lot about the Holy Spirit. In the book of Ephesians, we are told to be filled with (literally, “dominated by”) the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21). The book of Galatians contains the famous passage about living in the Spirit and the fruit (effects) of The Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

But what did Jesus say about the Holy Spirit? Up to this point, Jesus has taught extensively about God the Father and God the Son. As seen in John 5, the Father and the Son are totally equal and abide together in total intimacy.

But Jesus has not taught directly about God the Holy Spirit until now. He alluded to the Holy Spirit in John 3 and John 7, but he did not directly teach about the Holy Spirit until he was ready to leave.

Jesus’ entire ministry was a living demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus surrendered the use of his divine attributes when he came to earth. This included his omnipotence (being all-powerful) and omniscience (being all-knowing) (see here). He lived on earth with the same limitations of humanity, except that he had no sin (see here). He totally relied on the Holy Spirit for direction, knowledge, and power to perform miracles.

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus Christ when he was baptized by John (see here). The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan (see here). He gave him supernatural knowledge about the Samaritan woman (see here). Most notably, when the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing miracles by the power of the devil, Jesus condemned them for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (see here and here). The miracles of Jesus were done through the Holy Spirit.

But now Jesus is leaving. He promises to send the Holy Spirit, the same person who enabled him through his ministry on earth. The Holy Spirit will come as a helper, one who will come alongside believers in this world.

 

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Jesus also refers to Him as the Helper (also translated “comforter”) and  the “Spirit of Truth”.

The Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force. The world does not know him, he dwells with you. He will teach you. …

The Holy Spirit is God. Jesus promises to send another helper, literally, “one who is exactly like me”. He will come from the Father.

The Holy Spirit will be with us forever. Old Testament saints knew that the Spirit of God would come upon people for a short time, but now he promises to stay with us forever!

The Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth. He is the Spirit of Truth. He is our divine teacher who will bring God’s Word to our mind, and will illuminate His Word so that we can understand it.

The Holy Spirit is unknowable to the unbelieving world. Those without Christ cannot see or know the Holy Spirit. By contrast, he will show himself to those who believe.

The Holy Spirit is in complete unity with God the Father and God the Son. The Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of the Son.

The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals Him to those who believe. His ministry always points back to Jesus Christ.

“And he is the comforter. We often believe that the comforter is like a warm fuzzy blanket, but he is the strength that will give us the ability to stand against evil. He fortifies us with supernatural strength.” – Stephen Davey [2]

 

The role of the Holy Spirit with the unbelieving world

The Holy Spirit shows Jesus Christ, even to those who do not believe. He is the voice behind the persecuted Christians who tell of Jesus, even when it leads them to torture or death. The Spirit of Truth will bear witness of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit will either convince or convict those who do not know Jesus. If He does not convince you to believe in Jesus, He will be the one to convict you. If he cannot persuade you, he will pronounce the sentence of eternal punishment.

He shows you your sin. If you do not believe in him, your unbelief will be the one sin that condemns you (John 3:18).

“… the outstanding sin which will separate you from God forever will be that you rejected the Savior whom He has provided.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

He shows you the standard of what it means to be “righteous”. There was only one perfect person — Jesus Christ! Jesus defeated death and is now with God the Father. He sits with the Father in complete perfection.

He shows you your ultimate destiny if you do not believe. Satan, the ruler of the world, is already judged. Those who refuse Jesus Christ will face judgement with him.

“If Jesus Christ swung the death blow at Satan and hit dead center, you don’t think that someone less than Satan is going to get away. When Satan was judged, every man and every angel that ever attached himself to Satan was damned with him.” – John MacArthur [5]

 

The role of the Holy Spirit with believers

Jesus tells his 11 terrified companions that this is to their advantage that he leave them. Why?

What could be better than living with God himself? They had spent over three years with him!

How can this be an advantage?

Jesus was limited by his human body. While Jesus was in one place on earth, the Holy Spirit can be everywhere. While Jesus was with some believers on earth, the Holy Spirit will be in all believers.

The Holy Spirit teaches wherever God’s Word is present. When Jesus taught in one city, the next city was not able to hear the Word of God. Without the Holy Spirit, the Gospel could never spread across the entire world.

The Holy Spirit gives understanding. The disciples could not understand what Jesus did and what He taught. They needed the Holy Spirit to give them understanding (John 12:16).

Below is just a sampling of the many ways that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers [4]:

“He opens up the riches of grace and love, and gives us to know the wealth of the realm over which Christ is set and which we are to share with Him.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

 

Previous Post: I Am Returning to the Father

Categories
encouragement theology

I Am Returning to the Father

john-14-2

It is late Thursday night, and Jesus has just finished the Passover dinner with his disciples. He showed them humility by washing their feet. He told them that there was a traitor among them. During their time of astonishment, the traitor, Judas, left.

The events are now in motion. By the next morning, Jesus will be taken away to die on a Roman cross.

But Jesus needs to prepare his struggling disciples. He is going to leave and they cannot come. Jesus was their entire life for the last three years, and now he will be gone! They are still struggling with the thought that one of the disciples would betray him, and this new news must have been too much to bear!

What follows is one of the most touching and heartfelt conversations between Jesus and his disciples:

 

“I am leaving and you cannot come”

These events will lead to God’s glory. Before anything else, God’s glory is most important!

He will crush the power of sin and death.

God will show his justice, faithfulness, mercy and love by letting his own son die for the entire world!

Jesus will have the ultimate glory when he rises from the dead and returns to Heaven.

But what about the ones left behind?

What about his followers here on earth?

They are not left alone. We are not left alone. We have each other.

Jesus’ final command is to love each other. Regardless of background. He will repeat this command throughout this final conversation (see here).

 

Peter: “Why can’t I follow you? I would die for you!”

Peter is ready to follow his Lord Jesus to death! But Peter does not know his own weakness. When the time comes to be brave, Peter will be hiding like a coward, denying that he ever knew him!

He will do this three times.

It is easy to fall upon our own bravado. We belittle others’ failures and vow that we would have never done that if it were us!

But notice that this follows closely on Jesus’ command. We are to be known by our love — even when we fail!

 

“You will be with me for all eternity!”

Jesus gives some of the deepest words of encouragement in all of Scripture. He will no longer be physically present. But they needed to put their trust in an invisible God, and believe in him in the same way.

“Just as you have believed in the unseen God through the years, I want you to put your faith in Me, the unseen Christ, after I have gone back to the Father.” [7]

“Stop agonizing in your hearts. I am completely trustworthy.” [5]

Like a husband who is preparing a place for his bride, so Jesus is returning to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us. He will bring us back to himself and we will be with him for eternity!

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

 

Thomas: “How can we know the way?”

Thomas speaks for the rest of the group when he says, “I don’t get it”. How can we know the way?

Jesus’ reply is direct.

“I am the way”. He is the way, the only way to God. He is not just giving directions, he will take us there himself.

“I am the truth”. He is the truth, the only truth. They know the Father because they know the Son. With him is truth. Apart from him, there is no truth.

“I am the life”. He is the life, the only life. There cannot be death in his presence (see here). There cannot be life apart from him.

He is exclusive. No one else can get to the Father except through Jesus Christ.

“Religion is worthless because it provides no way to get to heaven.” – John MacArthur [9]

“While many religions will try to take bad people and make them better, only one is qualified to take dead people and make them alive.” – Stephen Davey [8]

 

Philip: “Just show us the Father.”

Philip’s request is, “Please just give us something tangible.”

But we already know the Father when we know Jesus Christ. He is given us not one, but two tangible things: his words that he said, and his works that he did.

How often do we look something more from God when we should be relying on what he has already given us!

 

“You will do greater things. Ask in my name and I will do it.”

Jesus showed the Father when he was on earth. Now that he is returning to the Father, he will enable us to do even greater things.

We reflect God the Father to our broken world.

We pray from the heart of Jesus Christ himself, asking to fill what he wants. We pray for God’s glory. We pray to love one another. We pray that our joy may be full. He promises to give us what we ask.

 

Previous post: It Was Night.

Categories
encouragement theology

It Was Night

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It is an awesome responsibility to teach or to lead another person. Whether you are in the role of a parent, a teacher, or a mentor, it is a great privilege to teach another.

But what do we do when things go wrong? What do we do when a student turns away from what they have learned? When they reject the teacher? We can blame ourselves, but we cannot change another person’s decisions.

You could be a perfect teacher, and yet some would still turn away. The best teacher who ever walked on the earth had a student walk away from him.

That student did more than turn away from him. He turned him in to the authorities to be arrested, tortured, and then executed.

Jesus had intensely taught his disciples for three and a half years. They all saw him teach, work miracles, and raise the dead. Each of them were able to teach and do miracles themselves. Eleven of them would follow Jesus to their own death, yet one refused to believe.

Jesus was at the final Passover dinner with his disciples when he became greatly disturbed. To the shock and amazement of everyone in the room, Jesus announced, “One of you will betray me!”

The traitor had hidden himself so well that no one suspected him. Instead, they were all asking, “It’s not me, is it?” They suspected themselves more than they suspected the betrayer.

No one suspected Judas. He was the cultured and educated one. They trusted him with all of their money. He cared for the poor.

But the devil had already put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus (see here). Judas was already convinced that he no longer wanted any part of Jesus. Unknown to any of the other disciples, Judas had already secretly made plans with the chief priests to arrest him (see here).

You may already be familiar with Judas, but the surprising part of this section is how Jesus treats him. Jesus knew that Judas has rejected him and that he was about to betray him, yet how does Jesus act?

He washes his feet. He gives him the place of honor at the table. He passes the food to him, giving him the best piece of food (a gesture of friendship).

This was intensely upsetting for Jesus. He felt the agony of being betrayed by a close friend (see here). Yet even at the last minute, he showed nothing but love and friendship to Judas. He took every opportunity to try and rescue Judas.

But it is too late for Judas. After the last gesture of friendship, Satan took full control of Judas. Jesus told him to go and do it quickly. Judas knew that his game is up and he quickly leaves.

John’s final summary is as much poetic as it is factual: “It was night”.

It was night for Jesus. He would face the agony of separation from the Father as he takes the guilt of the whole world.

It was night for the disciples. They are on the darkest night of their lives. Before daylight, their master would be arrested, tortured, and headed for a Roman cross. They will all be scattered in terror.

But most of all, it was night for Judas. Jesus would rise again. The disciples would be brought back together. But for Judas, there would never again be light.

Jesus is very clear. He will be arrested and killed according to God’s plan, but Judas was no machine. Judas rejected and betrayed Jesus out of his own free will. Both Matthew and Mark quote Jesus’ statements about Judas, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

 

Remember!

  • Jesus knew about Judas, but never stopped trying to rescue him. Don’t stop trying to rescue those who do not believe.
  • Jesus never pulled back his friendship from Judas, even when he knew that Judas would betray him! Don’t pull back from friendships because of how they might fail you — they will! Only God will not fail you.
  • You are in God’s care, even the darkest times! Rely on God when it is night.

 

Previous post: Dirty Feet

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encouragement theology

Dirty Feet

Basin and the Towel

It was a Thursday evening when the men sat down for the Passover dinner. Their teacher had gathered them — just the twelve of them — for a special dinner that night. They could hardly contain their excitement!

They had followed their teacher for over three years, yet this week was one that they would never forget. They had come to realize that their teacher was more than someone special, he was the long-awaited Messiah! He had come to bring them back to God, and he would set up a new kingdom on earth. He was more than just a teacher, he was their lord and master.

How could anyone doubt him after this week! This must be the time that their master would take his kingdom! He had started out the week by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jerusalem — that great city, that holy city, that city of kings! The people of the city had rushed to him, waving Palm branches and chanting praises!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

He returned to the temple on Monday and threw out the crooked merchants and money changers. He then took charge of the entire temple for two days! He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple (see here). The priests and the synagogue leaders all tried to challenge him but he bested every one of their arguments. No one dared to challenge him any more!

He had taught them that he would be arrested and executed, and that he would come back to life on the third day. But this made no sense to them — maybe he was telling some strange parable? Maybe this was the distant future? For now, the whole nation was following him!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

The past two days had been much more quiet as they stayed in the small town of Bethany nearby. But it was now Thursday evening and they were getting ready for the Passover dinner. None of the men even knew where they would be having dinner until they were shown at the last minute. They were directed to a house in Jerusalem with a large upstairs room, on the Western Hill. The room was already furnished and prepared for the thirteen of them to come and celebrate (see here).

The men were so sure that it was time for him to set up his kingdom! The master had promised that they would rule with him and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see here). Now that they were gathered together on this special occasion, this must be the time to hand out the assignments for his new kingdom! [7]

As they sat down to dinner, the twelve men struggled for the best places at the table. They argued about who was the greatest. All twelve of them wanted to look the best for the master and show them that they were ready to rule the new kingdom with him.

They were so intent on their struggle that they did not worry about social norms. All twelve of them reclined at the table with dirty feet. There was no servant available to clean them up before dinner, and they could not risk being seen doing servant’s work. It was time to rule!

Then, during dinner, the master shocks the entire group! He himself gets up from the table, removes his outer clothes, fills a basin with water, and washes each of their feet. Every single dirty, muddy foot is washed clean by the master.

Peter refused when the master reached him. “Never will you wash my feet!” But the master replies, “you have no fellowship with me unless you let me wash your feet”.

Peter’s quick reply is, “Then give me a bath!” But the master stops him. You are already bathed, and now you only need to wash your feet.

He then brings his lesson to a point. The bathing and the washing illustrate the relationship with him. Most of the men in this room, including Peter, have been bathed into a new life with him (Titus 3:5). One of them does not have a new life and will soon betray him.

But they also need daily cleansing. Even when you have the new life, you still need to be cleaned regularly from the filth of this world. You still have the new life, but you cannot have any fellowship with God without this daily cleansing.

The final point is that if the Lord Jesus Christ is able to wash his disciples’ feet, then we need to do the same. We need to serve each other in humility and apply the cleansing of God’s word.

 

Remember!

  • We need the one-time bath of a new life (John 3:14-16; Titus 3:5). It is only when we believe that we will have the eternal life that he has promised.
  • We need to allow The Lord to daily cleanse us (1 John 1:6-9). We need to remove the filth and sin in our own lives in order to restore fellowship with God.
  • We need to wash others’ feet. We need to serve in humility yet always applying God’s word. We need to wash both the good and the bad people in our lives. Jesus washed the feet of Peter, John, and Judas.

 

In an upstairs room, a parable

is just about to come alive.

And while they bicker about who’s best,

with a painful glance, He’ll silently rise.

Their Savior Servant must show them how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place,

on any ordinary day,

the parable can live again

when one will kneel and one will yield.

Our Saviour Servant must show us how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the space between ourselves sometimes

is more than the distance between the stars.

By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow

we take up the basin and the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

– Michael Card

 

Previous post: The Final Message

Categories
encouragement theology

The Final Message

John-12-24

 

For public speakers, what would you say in your final speech?

For writers, what would you write in your final letter? In your final article?

For pastors, what would you preach in your final sermon?

It is now late Tuesday of Jesus’ final week on earth. He entered the city of Jerusalem on Sunday (see here), and He has been teaching in the temple through both Monday and Tuesday.

The Jews had been listening to Jesus when a group of Greeks came to the temple, requesting an audience with the Lord. With these Gentile followers looking to hear from him, Jesus declared some of his most startling words:

 

“You need to die”

A grain of wheat is alone and useless unless it is planted. But when it is put into the earth and it “dies”, it will grow and become fruitful.

This message is personally about Jesus. Jesus had said several times earlier that his time had not yet come (John 2:4; John 7:30; John 8:20), but now the time had come. It is only a few days before he is going to die. Yet he will be glorified through his death as he saves mankind.

This message is also about his followers. When we set aside the value and control of our own lives, Jesus promises us life forever with him and honor from God the Father.

 

“Even the horror brings glory to God”

Jesus was horrified by the anticipation of his death on the cross (the English word, “troubled”, is not strong enough). The horror was not the physical pain, torture, and death of the crucifixion. The real terror for Jesus is that He would be torn apart from God the Father. The Father and the Son existed for all eternity in total union and intimacy (John 5:19-23). Now, the Son must stand alone to take the punishment for mankind.

But His encouragement through all of this was that God would be glorified. This was why he came. For only the third time in his ministry, God the Father gave an audible response — His death would bring glory to God.

 

“The enemy is defeated”

Satan is the ruler of this world, but his power is broken by Jesus’ death on the cross. He, and all in the world who follow him, will be judged on the last day. They are now on death row, awaiting their execution.

 

“Believe while you still can”

Jesus gave this invitation to his listeners, but it is the same for all people. You have only two choices: you can follow the Light or you can follow the ruler of this world into his judgement. Jesus is the light (John 1:4-5; John 8:12) and he is making one more call to believe in Him.

But beware! The invitation will not last forever. If you keep refusing to believe in him, the time will come when you will no longer be able to believe. The more you refuse him, the less chance you have to come to believe in him. You have only a “little while longer”!

 

Then Jesus left.

 

Sadly, many people refused to believe. They would rather have the blindness so God gave the blindness to them. They stayed in their unbelief for so long that they were no longer able to believe.

 

Previous post: The King has Come!

Categories
theology

The King has Come!

GoldenGate

The East Gate of Jerusalem today

The first man and the first woman had a perfect life. They were free from any problems and would never die. They had a perfect relationship with God, and would personally walk with him in the garden.

Yet they destroyed all of that in their rebellion against God (Genesis 3). Now they faced hard labor, sickness, and death. Their relationship with God was permanently damaged, and they would be forever separated from God.

Their disobedience — their rebellion against God — was their sin. This sin would infect the entire human race through Adam’s descendants, leaving every person separated from God. Humans were no longer capable of having any relationship with God.

But God made a promise to this man and this woman. They would have a descendant who would save the human race from their sin. He would restore their relationship with God.

Over time, God gave more information about the one would save mankind. He was given a title, “The Anointed One”, or in Hebrew, “Messiah”, or in Greek, “Christ”. He would be the sacrifice for sin for the entire world. He would lead his people to freedom and victory. He would rule in peace.  See a more complete list here.

God also gave a specific time for the Messiah. The Messiah would come to Jerusalem on March 29, 33 A.D. [2].

God had given this message about the Messiah to the Jewish people. But as time went on, they were no longer concerned about being saved from their sin. They had devised an elaborate set of rules and laws which gave them confidence that they were were able to personally earn God’s favor. They no longer needed a Messiah to save them from sin.

However, the Jewish nation was often oppressed by other nations. Although they no longer needed (as they believed) a Messiah to save them from sin, they longed for the Messiah to come and free them from their oppressors. They looked forward to the conquering King who would set up a kingdom that would never end.

Then the Messiah came. He came to his own people and his own did not receive him (John 1:11-12). He did not follow the religious laws like he was supposed to, and the religious leaders were jealous of his fame.

Jesus Christ was wildly popular when he was on the earth. He taught like no one else did and he worked spectacular miracles, baffling his enemies and validating his claims to be the Messiah. As his final public act, he caused an explosion in the Jewish religious world by raising Lazarus from the dead (see here).

The hatred of the Jewish leaders was complete. They wanted to cover up the miracle of Lazarus so they determined to kill Jesus. They gave orders everywhere that anyone should report Jesus if they knew where he was (John 11:45-57). Jesus Christ was now a wanted criminal.

Yet as the Passover drew near, it was time for Jesus Christ to enter Jerusalem. It was also time for the city to welcome the Messiah as their king, in fulfillment of the prophecies about him (Daniel 9:24-27). Instead of coming in secret, Jesus came at the head of a massive crowd, cheering him as king.

Why did the crowd welcome Jesus as their King on that day? The miracle of Lazarus had already drawn the interest and the excitement of the people. Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem with a large crowd of Passover pilgrims, so they all knew that he was coming. He had spent the Passover (Saturday) in the nearby town of Bethany, so the next opportunity for him to come would be Sunday morning.

Jesus left Bethany with a large crowd of followers on Sunday morning. As He approached the mountain separating him from Jerusalem (the Mount of Olives), he sent two disciples ahead to bring a donkey colt with its mother. The donkey showed his claim as king and fulfilled the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) that the Messiah would enter on a donkey, the symbol of royalty.

The crowd that accompanied Jesus was met by a larger crowd coming out of Jerusalem. Together, they chanted the Psalm of the Messiah (Psalm 118:24-26), “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”

The religious leaders objected to this praise and personally asked Jesus to tell them to stop. But this was the day of Messiah’s coming. If the people did not shout out, the rocks would proclaim him as King!

Through all of this excitement, Luke tells the shocking response by Jesus as he approaches the city. Jesus starts sobbing as the city comes into view. Neither his disciples nor his enemies were able to see through the crowd’s excitement, yet only Jesus saw that these excited people would not receive him. He is given a vision of what will happen to Jerusalem and it brings him to tears. He see the Roman legions surrounding the city, cutting off the supplies and eventually killing the inhabitants. This all happened because they rejected the Messiah.

The people were excited to receive a Messiah of their own design. They wanted a leader to save them from Roman oppression, but they did not want to be saved from their sin. Yet that was His purpose, and that was why He had come. He would be the sacrifice to bring the people back to God.

In less than a week, the same people who were welcoming him as king would be shouting for his death.

 

Remember!

  • How much do we value a relationship with God? Are we willing to value the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in order to bring us back to him?
  • As the Messiah, Jesus Christ’s main objective is to free us from sin and bring us back to God. It is as true now as it was in the first century — don’t look for a substitute!
  • The disciples did not understand what was going on until afterward. Don’t miss the important things in life because we are caught up in the moment.

 

Previous post: Dare to Waste

Categories
theology

The Messiah of the Old Testament

Since the time of Adam, God has promised that one will come who will defeat Satan and restore his people.  As the books of the Old Testament unfold, we see that God gives more and more detail about this promised one.

This promised one was known to the Jews as the “Anointed One” (Daniel 9:25).  To the Hebrew-speaking Jews of the Old Testament times, they would refer to The Anointed One by the Hebrew translation: “Messiah”.  To the Greek and Aramaic speaking Jews of the New Testament times (and in between), they would refer to The Anointed One by the Greek translation: “Christ”.

The information below shows what was revealed about the Messiah through all 39 of the Old Testament Books.  Note that this list is far from exhaustive but I wanted to highlight the most significant themes regarding from Messiah in each book.  Most Jews of the First Century were very educated in their Law and Prophets (these books), and were anxiously awaiting the promised Messiah.

See also an excellent  post here showing how all 66 books of the Bible point to Jesus Christ:  https://sapphiresky.org/2013/11/09/its-all-about-jesus-christ/

Genesis

  • The messiah is an offspring of the woman (Eve).  He will be bruised by Satan and will crush his head (3:15).
  • All the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham’s descendant (12:3, 18:18).
  • Melchizedek is (briefly) introduced as the great high priest (Psalm 110:4).
  • The royal line of the Messiah will be through Judah (49:10).

Exodus

  • The Passover is instituted as a time to celebrate God’s deliverance of the nation and to sacrifice a lamb.  Jesus is identified as the eternal Passover Lamb in the New Testament (John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor 5:7).  Jesus died on the day of Passover.
  • The office of the High Priest is instituted.  This also foreshadows the ministry of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (see Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:11-15).

Leviticus

  • The ritual of sacrifices is instituted to cover personal and national sins.  However, the sacrifice is only a foreshadowing of the permanent sacrifice made by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Numbers

  • Moses raises a bronze serpent so that all who are dying can look on it and be healed (21:6-9).  Jesus compares himself to this scene, saying that he will be lifted up for all to look on (John 3:14-15).
  • From the words of Balaam, “A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel” (24:17).

Deuteronomy

  • Moses promoses that God will raise up a “prophet like me” (18:15-19).  In the New Testament, Peter applies this to Jesus (Acts 3:22).

Joshua

  • Joshua himself is a portrayal of the Messiah as he leads the people to both reform and victory.  Note that Joshua’s name is the same Hebrew word as Jesus.
  • Rahab, a gentile prostitute, is part of the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:5).

Judges

  • There are no direct references to the Messiah in Judges.  However, each of the Judges shows the role of the Messiah in that they rescue, lead, and reform the people.

Ruth

  • The kinsman-redeemer in Ruth portrays Christ in that he is related to the bride and is willing to pay the price of redemption.
  • Ruth is another gentile woman in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Samuel

  • The kingdom of David is presented in First and Second Samuel.  David’s kingdom is promised to be ultimately fulfilled by the Messiah in his kingdom.  (7:16 – “your throne will be established forever”).

Kings

  • Elijah is presented in 1 Kings, and we are told later that Elijah will precede the Messiah (see Malachi).
  • Through both good and bad kings, God is faithful to his covenant with David to preserve his royal line.

Chronicles

  • The tribe of Judah is given prominence since this tribe holds both the Kingship and the Messiah.
  • God remains faithful to the line of David despite wickedness and treachery.

Ezra

  • God shows his promise to restore the people and to preserve the line of David.
  • The decree of Cyrus starts the 70 weeks to the Messiah as prophesied by Daniel (see Daniel).

Nehemiah

  • Like in Ezra, God shows that he will restore the people.
  • The rebuilt temple restores the priesthood and the sacrifices as they prefigure the Messiah.

Esther

  • God will keep his promises and preserve his people — even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Job

  • “I know that my redeemer lives” (19:25-27).
  • Job tells of his need for a mediator (9:33).

Psalms

  • Many of the psalms either directly or indirectly tell of the Messiah.  Some examples:
    • Psalm 2 – God declares him as his Son
    • Psalm 16 – He will rise from the dead
    • Psalm 22 – This gives great detail of the crucifixion experience.  He will be scorned and mocked, his hands and feet pierced, and others will gamble for his clothes.
    • Psalm 34 – Not a bone will be broken
    • Psalm 35 – He will be accused by false witnesses and hated without a cause
    • Psalm 41 – He will be betrayed by a close friend
    • Psalm 45 – His throne will endure forever
    • Psalm 69 – Zeal for God’s house will consume him; he will be given sour wine to drink
    • Psalm 72 – Kings of the earth will pay tribute to him
    • Psalm 110 – His enemies will become his footstool; he will be a priest like Melchizedek
    • Psalm 118 – He is the chief cornerstone; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”
    • Psalm 132 – He is the descendant of David

Proverbs

  • Wisdom is personified in chapter 8.  Jesus became the fullness of wisdom (Col 2:3, 1 Cor 1:30).

Ecclesiastes

  • Ecclesiastes shows the emptiness of life without God, who has created eternity in their hearts (3:11).

Song of Solomon

  • The church is depicted in the New Testament as the bride of Christ.

Isaiah

  • Isaiah has more about the Messiah than any other book in the Old Testament.  The central section of the suffering of the messiah is Chapters 52-53.  Some of the specific prophecies about the messiah:
    • 7:14 – He will be born of a virgin
    • 9:1-2 – Light for those who have walked in darkness; his major work will be in Galilee
    • 9:6 – Wonderful, counselor, the almighty God, the everlasting father
    • 11:1-5 – He will be a descendant of Jesse
    • 28:16 – He is the precious cornerstone
    • 35:5-6 – He will make the blind see the deaf hear, and the lame walk
    • 40:3-5 – a voice crying, “In the wilderness prepare the way of The Lord”.  John the Baptist considered himself to be this voice as he prepared the way for the Messiah’s coming (John 1).
    • 42:1-4 – God’s chosen servant will have his Spirit on him.  He will bring justice to the earth.
    • 42:6-7 – He is a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind and to save the prisoners.
    • 50:6 – He will be beaten, mocked, and spit on
    • 52:14 – His appearance was marred beyond recognition
    • 53:1-12 – He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; … and by his wounds we are healed.  He will be rejected and killed.  He will be silent before his accusers.  He will be condemned with criminals and buried with the rich.
    • 59:16 – He will intercede for the people.
    • 61:1-2 – He will bring good news to poor and liberty for the captives.  Jesus personally read this passage in his home town of Nazareth, applying it to himself (Luke 4:16-21).
  • Prophecies about the Messiah that are not yet fulfilled:
    • 11:2-10  -he will rule with righteousness, equity, and force
    • 32:1-8 – He is the king who will reign in righteousness
    • 49:7 – Kings and princes will pay homage
    • 52:13-15 – He will silence kings
    • 60:1-3 – Darkness will cover the earth but brightness will shine from the Messiah
    • 61:2-4 – He will restore and repair the nation
  • Jesus directly quotes from Isaiah 61 when he describes himself to his home town.
  • John the Baptist uses Isaiah 40 to describe himself as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness”.

Jeremiah

  • God promises to raise up from David a Righteous Branch (23:5-6) who will reign as king and act wisely and save the people.  He will be called “The Lord our righteousness”.
  • God promises a new covenant with his people (31:31-34).

Lamentations

  • Jeremiah weeps over Jerusalem, just like Jesus will weep over Jerusalem many centuries later (Matt 23:37-38).

Ezeklel

  • The messiah is the tender twig that grows into a great tree (17:22-24).
  • God will give judgement to him (21:26-27).
  • The Messiah will be the shepherd over his flock (34:11-31).
  • The Messiah rules as the prince over his restored people (chapters 44-47).

Daniel

  • He is the great stone cut out of the mountainside which will crush the other kingdoms (2:34-35, 44).
  • He is presented as the “son of man” and is given a kingdom that will never end (7:13-14).
  • Daniel 9 tells of 70 weeks to the coming of the Messiah.  Specifically, 9:25-26 gives a specific pinpoint of time between when the decree to restore Jerusalem to he coming of the Messiah.
    • Daniel 9 specifically identifies “the anointed one” (i.e. Messiah).

Hosea

  • 11:1 says, “out of Egypt if called my son”.  This is referenced in Matthew (2:15) as referring to Jesus.
  • Hosea’s relationship with his sinful wife (Gomer) illustrates the Messiah’s work of redemption.

Joel

  • Joel 3 tells of the Messiah sitting in judgement over the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat.

Amos

  • He promises to restore the “booth of David” (9:11).

Obadiah

  • The book culminates with the restored kingdom, which will belong to The Lord.

Jonah

  • Jesus compared himself directly to Jonah.  As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so he would be three days and three nights in the earth.  (Matt 12:38-42).

Micah

  • Micah 5:2 clearly states that the Messiah (ruler in Israel; timeless one) will come from Bethlehem.
  • Micah 4 gives great detail of the Messiah’s reign over the whole earth.

Nahum

  • We see the Messiah judging the nations.

Habakkuk

  • Salvation comes from the Lord (3:13, 3:18).

Zephaniah

  • The Messiah will preside over the restored kingdom (chapter 3).

Haggai

  • The new temple will be part of God’s plan for peace (2:9).

Zechariah

  • He is The Branch (3:8, 6:12-13).
  • He will be the king and priest (6:13-14).
  • He is coming humbly and mounted on a donkey (9:9).
  • He is rejected and sold for 30 pieces of silver (11:4-13).
  • He will be pierced (12:10).
  • He is the shepherd who will be struck and abandoned (13:7).

Malachi

  • The messenger will prepare the way for the Messiah (3:1, Isaiah 40:3)
  • He will purify the nation (3:2-3)
  • Elijah the prophet will come before the day of The Lord (4:5-6)

Primary Source, The New Open Bible, Study Edition, (c) 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Categories
encouragement theology

The Word

John will use several different descriptions of Jesus through the course of his gospel as he introduces us to different aspects of his character.  But he uses a very simple term, “The Word” (Greek: logos), to introduce us to him.  The significance of Logos is lost in our English world, but means far more than just “word”.  “Logos” conveys the entire message, both the said and unsaid.

To the Greeks in John’s day, the gods were distant.  The philosopher Plato said, “Maybe one day, a logos (a message or a word) will come from God who will reveal the mysteries and make things plain.” (*)

The Jews in John’s day had a clear understanding of God’s word.  The Old Testament contains many references to God’s power and presence expressed through his word.  For example:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. (Psalms 33:6)

 

But John makes this more personal.  Not only does the Word (logos) signify the power and the presence of God, but it is also a person.  This man that John has come to know is more than a mere human!  To the Greeks, he is the one who will reveal the mysteries.  To the Jews, he is the power and the presence of God.  But he is more than a mere force — he became human and lived among us!

 

​ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:1-5,9)

John starts out his gospel with an extended introduction to The Word (logos).  In many ways, this introduction is a summary of the entire gospel:

  • The Word is fully God (he was with God and he was God)
  • The Word has God’s attributes, including eternity (in the beginning), power (creation)
  • The Word is the source of all life
  • The Word is the source of all goodness.  He stands against evil and is greater than Evil (referenced by light vs. darkness) [1]
  • The Word is the true light.  The real thing!

 

But there are more personal notes about The Word:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
(John 1:6-8)

John the Baptist (not the author) is sent ahead as a witness of the Word.  John only lived to reflect the light back on Him. [2]

 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:9-13)

Sadly, The Word came to his own country, but his own people rejected him.  But therein is also the good news: he gives the right to be children of God to those who do receive him!

This is the core of our confusion about Jesus Christ.  The point here is very clear and very simple: Jesus — the very one who made the world — came into the world.  Yet the world did not know him.  His own people did not receive him.

But the good news is also here: he has given the right to be God’s children to those who did receive him!

This is a critical point: what does it mean to receive him? Jesus came with a message of who he is.  He also came with a call. When we receive him, we yield our allegiance to him.  It means that we believe who he is and have placed our faith in him. [3] This challenge is the same for us in the 21st century as it was for those who lived with Jesus in the 1st century.

 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:14,16-17)

John (the author) has personally seen the glory of the Son of God.  But his fullness and his grace is not only limited to the eyewitnesses: we can all receive his grace.  Not just once, but over and over again (“grace upon grace”).

In case you have any doubts about who The Word is, John concludes his prologue with a very specific ending: “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.

Jesus Christ is the Word (logos) from God.  But he is more than a message.  He is more than power.  He is God himself!

Categories
theology

Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Does the difference in the genealogies of Jesus Christ in the gospels of Matthew and Luke present a problem for Christian faith by challenging historicity of Christ? Perhaps you have heard this difference explained by claiming that Matthew is tracing the ancestry of Christ’s father and Luke the ancestry of his mother. But that’s not the full story. In reality, both evangelists are tracing genealogy of Christ through his father, but Matthew follows the biological ancestry while Luke follows legal ancestry. This divergency exists because of a common ancient near eastern custom of levirate marriage. Since women in the ancient world did not have the right to own land, they risked losing all their property if their husbands died before they had a mature son. A mature male relative closest to her husband, however, could rescue the widow and her children from the doom of poverty by marrying her. This way he would preserve her estate, becoming her legal guardian and redeemer, but by doing so he would legally assume the identity of her deceased husband and would have to give up the rights to inheritance he could receive from his father. Such an act was often seen as heroic charity, especially if the redeemer came from a wealthier family, as it can be seen in the book of Ruth. Continue to read…