This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Seeing Jesus' Humble Service (Part 15)

This final post in the series about seeing Jesus focuses on two related topics: His service and His humility. Because Jesus left the splendor of heaven to minister on a sin-cursed earth, His service was intrinsically humble. Also, the nature of His service demonstrated His humility. There was nothing self-serving about Jesus' ministry; rather, He was completely consumed with giving, helping, and ministering to others. In actuality, the concept of genuine service cannot be separated from that of humility, a truth that Jesus' life powerfully demonstrated.

Previous posts (love, kindness, gentleness, compassion, power) have explored some of the physical displays of Jesus' ministry as He healed and did miracles. The current post will look specifically at His teaching ministry. At first glance, this may not seem to showcase His humility, but the reality is that the Son of God gave approximately three-and-a-half years of His life to the primary pursuit of preaching the gospel. He lived very simply, with no source of income, with no home, with no stable environment, with few creature comforts, and even with no place to lay His head. Jesus gave hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year to bring the good news to those who needed to hear, all for nothing that would be considered personal reward.

Jesus' humble service often included preaching the truth. Numerous verses record something like this: "Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 9:35). He repeatedly taught truth about salvation, using such approaches as bread, water, shepherding, the new birth, and freedom. Jesus was bold to speak the truth and confront error. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12:34).

Jesus' humble ministry met people where they were. He taught people from what they knew; He met the Samaritan woman on common ground by discussing water, worship, and the prophets (John 4:12-24). When people who had received His initial ministry spoke with Him again, He gave them additional light and instruction (John 5:14 and 9:35). Jesus used situations of life as teaching opportunities, such as when the disciples asked him why a man had been born blind (John 9:3).

Jesus' humble ministry meant that He did not force His ministry on others. "And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58). Still, He persisted in His ministry even when "many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore" (John 6:66). He humbly continued when "not even His brothers were believing in Him" (John 7:5).

Jesus' humble ministry gently led people to a point of decision or confession. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:26).

Jesus' humility meant that even though He was God, He did not presume upon His position. "Jesus said to him, 'On the other hand, it is written, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test"'" (Matthew 4:7).

Jesus' humility was expressed by His choices of disciples. For example, He chose several lowly fishermen (Matthew 4:19-21) and a man in the hated position of tax collector (Matthew 9:9).

Jesus' humility was wonderfully displayed by the fact that He placed no boundaries on ministry recipients. He ministered to an entire village of Samaritans, a cultural taboo, (John 4) and was often found in the presence of tax collectors, sinners, and others who were despised by the religious leaders.

Jesus' humility was displayed by His agreement to pay a tax, even though He should not have been under the requirement. "When Peter said, 'From strangers,' Jesus said to him, 'Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and . . . you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me'" (Matthew 17:27).

Finally, Jesus' humility was demonstrated through His willingness to do menial tasks for others. "So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. . . . Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise" (John 21:9,13). Perhaps most dramatically, Jesus "got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" (John 13:4-5).

"You call Me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him" (John 13:13-16).

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Seeing Jesus' Power (Part 14)

This aspect of Jesus' character is one that man cannot duplicate. Regarding power, man is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Jesus. Rather than an example, therefore, Jesus' power provides encouragement, hope, and confidence.

Jesus' power was awe-inspiring in His day. "They were astonished, and said, 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?'" (Matthew 13:54). "The crowds were amazed, and were saying, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel'" (Matthew 9:33). The land of Israel had indeed seen many amazing miracles over the centuries, but the crowds were right in their evaluation; never had miracles been done to the extent that Jesus did. "The crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing" (Matthew 15:30).

Jesus' healing power was oft-expressed. Here is a sampling of Jesus' healing power (emphasis added).

There was no limit on the types of illnesses Jesus could heal. "Healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness" (Matthew 4:23). "All who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them" (Matthew 4:24). "Bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them" (Matthew 15:30).

Jesus healed instantaneously. "And immediately his leprosy was cleansed" (Matthew 8:3). "At once the woman was made well" (Matthew 9:22).

Jesus healed thoroughly. "He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him" (Matthew 8:14). "Jesus said to him, 'Get up, pick up your pallet and walk'" (John 5:8).

Jesus healed even from a distance. "'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.' And the servant was healed that very moment" (Matthew 8:13). "'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives'" (John 4:52-53).

Jesus healed through various effortless methods. "They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill" (Matthew 8:16). "Brought to Him all who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured" (Matthew 14:35-36). "And said to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" . . . So he went away and washed, and came back seeing" (John 9:7).

Jesus even healed people who were dead. "He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up" (Matthew 9:25). "And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak" (Luke 7:14-15). "When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth'" (John 11:43).

Jesus had power over the laws of nature. "He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm" (Matthew 8:26). "He came to them, walking on the sea" (Matthew 14:25). "Go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel" (Matthew 17:27).

Jesus had power over food. "He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets" (Matthew 14:19). "When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine" (John 2:9).

Jesus had power to forgive sins. "Which is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matthew 9:6).

Jesus had power to control His own arrest, death, and resurrection. "So when He said to them, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, 'Whom do you seek?' And they said, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' Jesus answered, 'I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go on their way'" (John 18:6-8). "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit" (Matthew 27:50). "I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18).

The Bible is by no means comprehensive in describing Jesus' power. "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25).

If God doesn't do something, it is never because He can't. The unstoppable power of God enables Him to do anything He decides to do. "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Even Jesus acknowledged He could not act without the Father. "Jesus . . . was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing'" (John 5:19).

If Jesus drew from the Father' strength, it is exponentially more necessary for the believer. "For apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). On the other hand, as weak and helpless as the believer is, there is nothing he cannot do within the will of God when drawing on God's unlimited strength. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves" (II Corinthians 4:7).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Seeing Jesus' Obedience (Part 13)

"He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). Jesus lived His human life in perfect obedience, though it cost Him His life. Though fully God, He obeyed whatever the Father wanted. His obedience, absolutely critical for the redemption of mankind, provides the example for Christians.

Jesus repeatedly declared His intention to obey the Father.
·         "The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does" (John 5:19).
·         "I can do nothing on My own initiative. . . . I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 5:30).
·         "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
·         "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me" (John 7:16).
·         "I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not come on My own initiative, but He sent Me" (John 8:42).
·         "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day" (John 9:4).
·         "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak" (John 12:49).
·         "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight" (Matthew 11:26).
·         "And He . . . fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will'" (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus acted and ministered in obedience to Scripture.
·         "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him. . . . Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness'" (Matthew 3:13-15).
·         Jesus "settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned'" (Matthew 4:13-16).
·         "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
·         "When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases'" (Matthew 8:17).
·         "Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles'" (Matthew 12:15-18).
·         "All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 13:35).
·         "And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord'. . . . And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:17-21).
·         "But He said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose'" (Luke 4:43).
·         "This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden"'" (Matthew 21:4-5).
·         "All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. . . . This it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:44-46).
·         "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, 'I am thirsty'" (John 19:28).

Jesus allowed nothing to prevent His obedient death on the cross.
·         "And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: 'See that no one knows about this!'" (Matthew 9:30). "My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4, 7:8).
·         "Or do you not think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way? . . . Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets" (Matthew 26:53-56).

Oh, that Christians could earnestly say, "Not as I will, but as You will."

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Seeing Jesus' Wisdom (Part 12)

One characteristic of Jesus that believers can only partially imitate is His wisdom. Jesus had understanding and skill in living life and in handling every situation He faced. Because He is God, He possesses that wisdom to a perfect and incomparable level.

Sometimes Jesus' wisdom was on a very practical level, as He dealt with ordinary problems and situations that all humans face. Jesus displayed wisdom as He faced potentially dangerous situations. The Pharisees conspired to kill Him, "but Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there" (Matthew 12:15). "He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him" (John 7:1). Another time "Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple" (John 8:59). For safety's sake, He spent time in the wilderness country instead of in public areas (John 11:54). Jesus was wise enough not to live carelessly or take unnecessary risks.

Jesus also showed wisdom regarding normal human pain. He faced a time of sorrow and mourning when John the Baptist was killed. In His wisdom "Jesus withdrew from there . . . to a secluded place by Himself" (Matthew 14:13). Later, when He dealt with an extremely challenging personal trial, He sought support from His closest friends, asking them to stay with Him and to join with Him in prayer (Matthew 26:40).

Jesus showed wisdom as He evaluated people. He discerned the weaknesses of would-be followers (Matthew 8:18-22). He showed discretion as He determined His methods for teaching different groups of people (Matthew 13:10-11). Because He understood men's hearts, Jesus knew better than to depend on the shallow and fickle nature of mankind (John 2:23-25). In fact, Jesus even knew men's thoughts when they did not verbalize them (Matthew 9:4).

Jesus demonstrated wisdom as He answered people's questions. The Pharisees in particular were constantly coming to Jesus with challenging or argumentative questions. When the questions were difficult or thorny, Jesus always had an insightful and accurate answer. Often the questions were not even sincere, and Jesus had wisdom to avoid every potential trap, answering questions with skill that left His listeners speechless. Jesus discerned the motives behind the questions; He then provided the needed answer, which did not always match the requested answer. Jesus also effectively deflected questions that He deemed inappropriate to answer. (For examples, see Matthew 12:10, 12:25, 15:3, 16:2, 19:4, 19:17, 21:24, 22:18, 22:23, 22:34, and John 21:22).

Jesus' wisdom was effective because of its source. When tempted by Satan, Jesus took His defense from Scripture (Matthew 4). When people had a lesser focus, Jesus turned the conversation to the Scripture (Matthew 12:38-40). Even when people tried to create controversy, Jesus was able to redirect the attention to the truth of Scripture (Matthew 15:3, 22:29-32, 22:42-44). Jesus often quoted or referred to Scripture in His interactions and conversations.

Because of Jesus' divine nature, there never was and never will be another person with such a level of wisdom. "The crowds were amazed at His teaching" (Matthew 7:28) and "astonished" at His wisdom (Matthew 13:54). Eventually they would not even "dare . . . to ask Him another question" (Matthew 22:46). While believers can never match Jesus' wisdom, they can learn from His example, drawing their wisdom from the Bible and turning conversations to truth. They can grow in discernment for answering questions and evaluating people or situations. They can make wise choices in the circumstances and events of life. Most wonderfully, they can rest with confidence in a Savior whose wisdom is boundless, knowing that He will provide them with answers when they need them and will guide their lives perfectly as they trust Him.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Seeing Jesus' Compassion (Part 11)

This series of posts about seeing Jesus has thus far focused on the fruit of the Spirit. Seeing how Jesus displayed these qualities can both encourage believers and provide an example for them to follow. Jesus displayed other characteristics beyond the fruit of the Spirit that can also serve as an encouragement and example; one of those is compassion.

Two Greek words for compassion are used. The literal meaning of the more common one is "to have the bowels yearn." This is a feeling of pity or sympathy that comes from deep within and is palpable. The second word refers to tender mercy. True compassion not only deeply feels, but then does something in response. In fact, the second word actually has a verb form, essentially meaning to outwardly express the inward emotion. Jesus effectively acted on His compassion on many levels.

Jesus showed compassion for practical needs. He cared about something as simple and routine as a meal. His heart responded to people who had faithfully listened to Him and who did not have food nearby nor an expedient way of obtaining food. "And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, 'I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way'" (Matthew 15:32).

Jesus regularly expressed compassion for physical needs. Much of His time was consumed with healing various diseases. In spite of this very common aspect of His ministry, Jesus never grew callous or indifferent to the individuals He contacted. Jesus felt and expressed this compassion on a grand scale. "When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14). Jesus expressed compassion for two blind men. "Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him" (Matthew 20:34). He showed compassion for a leper. "Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed'" (Mark 1:41). He showed compassion to a demoniac. "He said to him, 'Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you'" (Mark 5:19). Jesus even showed compassion for a foreign woman. "Then said Jesus to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once" (Matthew 15:28).

Jesus displayed compassion for emotional needs. He responded compassionately to a man who had just lost his daughter. "While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, 'My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.' Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples" (Matthew 9:18-19). Without any solicitation, His heart responded with compassion to a widow whose only son had died. "When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep'" (Luke 7:13), and He raised her son to life. Jesus extends His compassion universally to all who are burdened and agitated. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

Finally, Jesus demonstrated compassion for spiritual needs. His entire ministry was centered around compassion to sinners, something that had been prophesied regarding Him. His compassion caused Him to associate with people who were considered unsavory or even hated. "Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. . . . But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire compassion, and not sacrifice," for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Matthew 9:10-13).

Jesus showed His spiritual compassion on a personal level when He interacted with a woman caught in adultery and indicted for her sin. "Straightening up, Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?' She said, 'No one, Lord,' And Jesus said, 'I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more'" (John 8:11).

Jesus also showed His spiritual compassion on a widespread scale. "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). He responded by teaching the people and by expressing the need for more workers in the ministry. Jesus had a special compassion for the Jewish people, expressing His heart-felt yearning to protect and bless them. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matthew 23:37).

These examples are merely highlights of Jesus' compassion, incidents clearly or specifically attributed to His compassion. In reality, Jesus exhibited compassion every day and in countless ways. In each case His compassion led to action: provision of food, healing, comforting words, resurrections, selfless ministry, assurances of forgiveness, and spiritual instruction. Jesus deeply felt the needs of others and He "compassioned" to assuage those needs.

"Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:13-14).