April 6, 2018
WHY THIS GENERATION WAS HELD RESPONSIBLE
Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that their generation would be held responsible for all the prophets that God had sent them since creation. Why would God hold this generation responsible for all the prophets before them being murdered?
Jesus summarized the list of prophets killed beginning with Abel, whose murder was recorded in the first book, Genesis, and ending with the murder of Zechariah, whose stoning was recorded in 2 Chronicles, the last book according to the order of the Hebrew Bible. The first murder victim, Abel, was killed by his brother because he had “by faith offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4). Abel brought the firstborn of his flock as a sacrifice of blood, which in effect prophetically pointed to its fulfillment in Christ. God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. And Cain murdered his own brother out of jealousy.
The last prophet recorded as being murdered in the Hebrew Bible was Zechariah, the son of the high priest, Jehoiada. King Joash conspired to have him stoned to death in the Temple courts because he had prophesied against him for forsaking the daily sacrifices and turning to idolatry (2 Chron. 24:15-22).
God had delayed His judgment against the Jews, so that the coming of the promised Seed, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, might be given to them and through them to the whole world. But this generation would reject and murder the very One to whom all the murdered prophets had pointed. And upon them God’s accumulated wrath would be spent. Indeed, this generation saw the fall of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, so that those that remained were dispersed among the nations.
April 5, 2018
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HEAR AND OBEY
A woman in the crowd that had gathered listening to Jesus teach, exclaimed, “God bless your mother!” To which Jesus replied, “Even more blessed are those who hear and obey God’s Word.” Surely, the blessing that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had received was great. The woman who cried out was correct. Jesus’ mother was blessed. Yet, Jesus would have the woman and everyone in the crowd know that an even greater blessing was available to them. For if they would only allow the seed of God’s Word to penetrate their hearts, they would be born again.
That the Son of God was born of woman is indeed a great blessing. That everyone who hears and obeys the good news about God’s Son will experience new birth themselves is an even greater blessing.
April 3, 2018
THE LONGING OF GENERATIONS FULFILLED IN JESUS
Jesus told His disciples that they were blessed because they were privileged to see and hear that which their forefathers had long awaited. The coming of the Messiah had been prophesied since the Garden when God spoke to the serpent saying that the woman’s “Seed shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). For centuries, people of faith looked forward to the coming of Messiah, yet they didn’t see it. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it” (Heb. 11:13). The disciples were seeing and hearing what generations had longed for, namely, Jesus the Messiah.
For those of us today that have placed our faith in Jesus, our longing is already fulfilled, but not yet. For the Lord has opened our spiritual eyes and ears, and we already have the Spirit of Christ with us and in us. Yet, our bodies long for the day when our “faith shall be made sight,” becoming like Jesus and seeing Him “as He really is” (1 John 3:2).
April 2, 2018
THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS IN MINISTRY
Luke listed three people that expressed a desire to follow Jesus, yet all three turned aside when they considered the cost.
The Lord challenged the material motivations of the first follower by pointing out that foxes and birds have places to live, but He had no “place to lay His head.” Following Jesus is not a means for worldly gain, but a call to deny oneself in this kingdom in pursuit of the eternal one.
The second potential follower expressed his desire to follow Jesus later, after a delay to do his duty for his father’s burial. Jesus’ reply seems harsh: “Let the dead bury the dead. Your duty is to go and preach.” But the duty to bury his father could take a year or longer as he followed the tradition of putting the bones into an ossuary. The cost of following Jesus must take priority over other duties and it must be taken with a sense of urgency.
The third one who expressed desire to follow Jesus, asked to return home first to say goodbye to his family. Jesus warned that those who look back are not fit to follow. Following requires focus on Jesus, not the past. It also requires giving Jesus first priority over all others.
Through the years, I’ve noticed these same three reasons that people turn back from following Jesus in ministry. Whether they feel called to serve in the local church, to missions, or to church planting, the three concerns of 1) a desire for material things, 2) competing duties/priorities, and 3) family concerns, often cause people to give up on their call to ministry.
There is a cost to following Jesus in ministry. Lord, give us the perseverance to finish the race following You. For there is a crown awaiting those who finish well.
March 31, 2018
JESUS PREDICTED HIS PASSION AND RESURRECTION
Jesus revealed His purpose and destiny to His disciples on many occasions. He said that He “must suffer.” In the Greek, the word “to suffer” is “paschō” (πάσχω), which is the origin of the English word “passion.” Yet, they didn’t grasp His meaning until after these things had happened. It must have been particularly difficult to understand Christ’s words on the day that Peter was commended for rightly identifying Jesus as the “Messiah and Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Their view of the Messiah was one of a conquering king, not a suffering servant. They had not understood the many prophecies found in Bible passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 that Jesus “must” fulfill.
So on that Good Friday, Jesus suffered just as He said and just as the prophets had foretold.
March 30, 2018
THE TOUCH THAT BOTH HEALED AND MADE CLEAN
A woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years saw her opportunity to touch the hem of Christ’s garment unseen, hidden by the press of the crowd. No doubt she wanted to avoid drawing attention to herself. Her condition meant that she was “ceremonially unclean” (Lev. 15:19), forbidden to touch anyone, nor to enter the Temple courts. If she were to touch someone, her ceremonial uncleanness would pass to them, so that they would be unclean until evening.
Dr. L. Lewis Wall, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University, believes that the woman may have been suffering from a “vesicovaginal fistula.” He has observed this condition in the women of third world countries which results when labor becomes obstructed and is not reversed with timely surgical intervention. Such a condition would have been incurable not only in the first century, but in all the years up until the modern era of surgical medicine.
Yet, in her desperation for wholeness, the woman secretly reached out to touch the “fringe” of Christ’s robe. This “fringe” was probably the “tassel” of His prayer shawl, worn as an outer garment over His robe. The prayer shawl or “tallit,” had four tassels tied to its four corners to represent the laws of Moses (Num. 15:37-41). In other words, the unclean woman touched the most holy part of Jesus’ clothing. But even though the law taught that her uncleanness would be transmitted to Jesus, instead, His holiness and healing were transmitted to her!
Jesus knew that “healing power” had gone out from Him. Her secret was out. She fell at His feet trembling with fear, admitting that she had touched Him. But Jesus commended her faith. A touch of Jesus had made her whole— physically and spiritually— whole.
March 29, 2018
THE WIND AND WAVES OBEY HIM
A fierce storm blew down onto the Sea of Galilee threatening to sink the boat with Jesus and His disciples aboard. Even the professional fishermen like Peter, James and John were afraid. Yet, Jesus remained asleep, untroubled by the storm. The disciples woke Jesus with shouts of “We’re going to drown!” Jesus raised up from His nap, rebuked the storm with a word and an immediate calm fell upon the sea. The disciples were amazed. Their fear of the storm outside the boat was replaced by fearful awe of the One inside the boat!
If even the wind and waves obey Him, so will I.
March 28, 2018
JESUS EXPLAINS HIS TEACHING TO HIS DISCIPLES
After Jesus taught His parable of the four soils to the crowds, His disciples asked Him to explain its meaning. Imagine how wonderful this would be to have Jesus personally explain His Word. Don’t you wish you could have been there?
Remember how Jesus explained the Scriptures to His disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection? Luke wrote, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). No wonder their “hearts burned” while learning from Him.
Does Jesus still explain His Word to His followers?
March 27, 2018
JESUS STILL GOES AROUND FORGIVING SINS
The men sitting at Simon the Pharisee’s table questioned Christ’s habit of forgiving sins. He had just allowed an immoral woman to anoint His feet and said nothing to rebuke her. Then, to top it off, Jesus forgave the woman her sins.
Perhaps their question should be worded, “Who does he think he is going around forgiving sins?” I think that was the real sense of their question. They questioned His authority because they rejected His identity. How can a mere man go around forgiving sins? That’s God’s job.
The other revealing thing about their question is the one they didn’t ask. They didn’t ask why Jesus had forgiven the woman, but had not forgiven their sins. Why? Because they didn’t see themselves as sinners. They didn’t see their need for a savior.
The first part of their question, “Who is this man?”, when rightly answered also answers the second part. When Christ asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt.16:15-16). Since Jesus is the Christ, and the Son of God, He is able to forgive sins. And Jesus is still going around forgiving the sins of those who rightly recognize Him and receive Him today.
March 26, 2018
THE WISDOM OF THE SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE
The wisdom of the Spirit-filled life appeared in both John as the ascetic and in Christ, as the social and later the suffering. Yet, the Pharisees rejected both of them. For they did not see with spiritual eyes, but with natural. As the apostle Paul wrote, “So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
There is a wisdom that is beyond the world’s understanding. This is the wisdom that is ours in Christ alone.