August 13, 2011

Jesus Encounters

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Jesus’ Encounters

We know Jesus spoke to and interacted with large crowds. The Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of large crowds just a couple of examples. But we also have records of his encounters with individuals and their reaction to him. People who we talk to about Him, often have three reactions: rejection (either in sorrow or anger); more to think about it; and acceptance. We are going to look at two encounters that we find in the Gospels, what Jesus had to say to them and their subsequent reactions: his encounter with the rich young ruler and his meeting with Nicodemus. Next time we will look at two examples of those who accepted and believed in Him.

1. Rich young ruler Matthew 19:16-26 Mark 10v17-22 Luke 18:18-27

Mark 10v17: As Jesus started on his way; a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

This story is in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke describes him as a wealthy ruler (Luke 18v18-27). Matthew describes him as a young man (Matthew 19v16-26). In Mark’s account, he is simply a man (Mark 10v17-22). Put altogether that makes him a rich young ruler. He runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees before Him. He wants eternal life, wants it now and so asks Jesus about it. When he calls Jesus a good teacher, Jesus responds “No one is good—except God alone.”

Now Jesus could have been correcting the young man, but more likely Jesus was asking: “Do you know what you are saying and how close to the truth about me you are?” This young man had fully kept the commandments listed by Jesus (Mark 10v19). However when Jesus said to the young ruler that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth in order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, the man left rejected.

That was a step too far for the rich young ruler. He wanted his riches and also eternal life but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only man who left Jesus’ presence sorrowful, and that due to putting his trust in his riches & wealth alone. Now riches are not necessarily wrong but they do make trusting fully in God very difficult (Mark 10v23).

2. Nicodemus John 3v1-21

John 3v1-3: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[

Nicodemus wants to know more about Jesus and investigate Him personally, instead of following the majority of the other Jewish leaders. What do we know about Nicodemus?

  • Member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin
  • A leading teacher and learned scholar of the Scriptures
  • From other sources we know he may well have been from a family of wealthy landowners
  • Protested against Jesus’ condemnation without a trial (John 7v50-52)
  • Took gifts to anoint Jesus’ body (John 19v39-40)

Nicodemus was probably one of the many looking for a kingdom of God based around a political Messiah; hence him admitting that due to his miraculous signs, Jesus must have been from God. They wanted a Messiah who was a political leader who would lead Israel to be a shining light for the whole world to come to Jerusalem and worship the one true living God. However, Jesus corrects Nicodemus and says that it is not through a new Israel that God’s kingdom will be seen, but by being “born again”.

Three times in this conversation, Jesus repeats about being “born again”. What does “born again” mean?

  • It is not a physical rebirth and nor is it merely a turning over a new leaf.
  • It is not baptism because Jesus has not instituted baptism yet!
  • It is the new covenant, which Nicodemus should have known about it (Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36). It is being born with water and spirit – cleansed of sin and indwelt with the Holy Spirit
  • It is being born from above, which is looking to the one who has come down from heaven. For the phrase “born again” can also be translated “born from above”.
  • It is looking to Jesus and trusting in him just as the ancient Israelites were saved by looking at the bronze snake (Numbers 21v8)
  • It is on an individual basis just as physical birth is. Nobody knows the date and time of their own birth unless they are told by somebody!

Jesus seemed astonished that the teacher didn’t already know that, being as Nicodemus was a highly educated and learned teacher!

So there we have 2 different reactions to Jesus: The rich young ruler who left full of sorrow; the Jewish leader who left with more to think about regarding this Jesus. In each encounter, Jesus is remarkably comfortable with all two people. He loved the rich young ruler (Mark 10v21)His love surrounded them, just as His love surrounds all people today. His message of salvation, through Him alone, is for everybody of all time.

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Please read Mark 10v17-22. What things may be hindering me from fully trusting in God for all things?

Q2. Read John 3v1-21. What does this Scripture tell me about God’s salvation?

Q3. How does Jesus’ approach to telling people about salvation inspire me to do likewise?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partakes(at) googlemail.com. Thank you

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January 9, 2011

JOG eBook Sampler

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Sample chapter of JOG - Jesus Over in the Gospels.  Eighteen study chapters where we jog together through the four Gospels of the Bible.

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Will release the full e-Book soon, but feel free to try this sample and let me know what  you think...

September 22, 2010

Jesus Four Portraits

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Jesus in the Four Gospels

In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

What the Gospels are!

Firstly they are called Gospels, because they gave substance to the Gospel or Good News as described by Paul in Romans 1v16 (The Message): “this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!”

We know Jesus Christ during his time on earth wrote nothing yet the stories about him were preserved and passed on by Christian teachers and evangelists. For the first thirty years or so, these stories were possibly collated and stored together. That would explain the similarity in the four accounts of Jesus’ life. They are not an exhaustive biographical detail of all that Jesus did. Similarly they are also not diaries reflecting a daily account of Jesus’ life. Rather they are selective accounts of His life, and were probably factual illustrations used by His disciples when preaching about Him. Therefore they would represent the theology of the disciples, as each story about is Jesus is told. That is why they are trustworthy accounts as well as rooting Jesus’ life in first century Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.

The first three of our Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are what are called the synoptic Gospels. This is based on their great similarity and possibly use of a common source. Mark is probably the first Gospel as it is shorter in length than Matthew or Luke and it would appear that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a guide and elaborated where required. Mark wrote none of the great discourses of Matthew, such as the Sermon on the Mount nor does Mark show the great parables that Luke recorded, such as the Good Samaritan. Surely if Mark had used either the accounts of Matthew or Luke, he would have used those two examples! Matthew is closer in similarity to Mark than Luke. Luke does share large portions of Mark and quite often verbatim, and with a greater use of the Greek language.

John on the other hand, while still telling about Jesus’ ministry, has a vastly different story content. Whereas in the synoptic Gospels Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God frequently, in the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about Himself much more often, as in the seven I AM statements. For this reason, John was probably written later than the synoptic Gospels.

Four Different Portraits

Mark

Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord, coming in fulfilment of the Old Testament. Jesus offers His credentials, gathers His disciples, offers the Kingdom of God and its message. Jesus’ teaching is seen in short parables, which hide the truth from those hardened against Him, yet prepares and instructs those responsive to Him. Overall Jesus calls those who follow him to serve others and to deny themselves by taking up their own cross, just as He took. Early tradition states that Mark’s Gospel had a connection with the Apostle Peter, and was therefore written to preserve some of Peter’s memories before his death.

Mark 8v34 - "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 10v45 - For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Luke

Luke 1v3-4 -Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 19v10 -For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Luke presents Jesus as the God-Man, as a saviour for the entire world, writing primarily to Gentiles. He does this from a broad vantage point that is compatible with the fact that he is a Greek. Luke traces the incarnation, Christ's introduction, ministry, rejection, subsequent teaching in view of His rejection, the cross, resurrection and ascension. Even though a Gentile, Luke emphasizes the kingdom program with Israel's place in the kingdom. This Gospel is not complete in itself, but is rather the first for two parts, with the Book of Acts being the second section. Both are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1v1-4 & Acts 1v1). The author is probably the Luke as identified by Paul as a doctor, and was one of Paul’s travelling companions (Colossians 4v14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4v11). The style and language use is that of a native Greek speaker.

Matthew

Matthew 16v16 - Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Matthew 28v18 -Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. "

Matthew wrote primarily to Jews who knew the Old Testament. He wrote to present Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. He also records Israel’s attitude towards Him as Messiah. Throughout this Gospel, Matthew gives us the genealogy, presentation, and the authentification of Jesus as the Christ Messiah. Matthew then shows the nation of Israel's opposition to and rejection of Jesus as the Christ followed by Jesus' rejection of Israel due to her unbelief. He then records the death and resurrection of Christ. He concludes with Christ commissioning the disciples. Throughout this Gospel is a well ordered and balanced account

John

John 1v9 & 12: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world… Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 20v31 - These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John presents the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that mankind would believe in Him as the Son of God, Messiah, and Saviour of the world. His selective argument portrays Christ as the God-Man. John records miracles and messages that affirm the deity and humanity of Christ. John builds his record around the public ministry of Christ, the private ministry, the cross, and the resurrection.

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Read Mark 8v34 and Mark 10v45. How strongly am I encouraged to carry my own cross, knowing that Jesus carried His cross?

Q2. Read Luke 1v34 and Luke 19v10. If Jesus gave up everything to seek me, what more can I give, in order to help spread the good news of Him?

Q3. Read Matthew 16v16 and Matthew 28v18. If Jesus is still living and has authority, how is that a help to me as I live a life worthy of His name?

Q4. Read John 1v9-12 and John 20v31. As a Christian Disciple and therefore a child of God, how is Jesus working and changing me?

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June 18, 2009

Jesus’ Birth

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Jesus Birth

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Matthew 1v1-17 - The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.  Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

Christ's Birth Announced to Mary Luke 1v26-38

Luke 1v26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."

38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Christ Born of Mary - Luke 2v1-7

1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed.  The birth of Jesus is extraordinary at every level.  The primary documents about Him, found in the Bible, says that he was born of a woman, which in itself tells us that at least in a prenatal state he was nurtured and formed as any other male baby was and is.  On the physical level, Jesus was born as any person is, but as regards his conception, He was conceived like no other person - conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1v35).  This was so that Jesus would not be given the sinful nature that all humans have.  Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  Other documents, outside of the Bible from that time period also attest to Jesus and his existence.

Throughout the Old Testament, there is a witness to the birth of the Messiah, the Saviour.  From the time of the first sin done by Adam, through the creation of Israel, the life of the Patriarchs and Kings and the oracles of the Prophets - all looking forward to the Messiah coming.  The 5 Covenants that God made with people all look forward to this Messiah, this King.  This King was to be their hope, their Saviour.  His genealogy takes his physical line back to Abraham via David.  Abraham the father of Israel and David the first King. He grew into maturity as any young Jewish boy did.

When Jesus was born, his name imbued the very reason he was born. His conception and birth were extraordinary at every level.  So important is our understanding of the birth of Jesus that no fewer than 4 angels come to give us a full picture of the event.  Do you think that his parents, Joseph & Mary, or God, ever gazed upon him, and thought "How misnamed He is"! They did not, because they knew the very purpose for which He was born. Did Jesus ever think of how misnamed he was? Certainly not! His name means one who saves or a rescuer.  The entirety of His birth, life and death were centred on this very role.  His role was to save all those who would follow Him.

He is the most talked about person in history.  Almost everyone has an opinion about Him.  He was born to confirm God's promises, to reveal God as a Father, and to be our representative before Him.  He gave us an example of how to live a holy life to the full.  He was not merely a man who received some special power.  He was not some strange creation that was half man and half God, with his human nature somehow absorbed into the divine.  He was, as we shall see in this series, much more than those ideas!

One of the church father's, Anselm, wrote that God's salvation plan for humans' involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave.  However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this.  Because of this, God stepped into the human history, so that this victory could be achieved.  This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death.  This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave.  Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature.  That is why Jesus being both fully God and fully human is all important - without either, He could not be the long awaited for Messiah and Saviour.

That Jesus is both human and divine is what makes Christianity unique amongst the world's religions.  It is why Jesus' claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense, and it is why millions of people today worship Him and acknowledge Him as their Lord and their God.

From what we know of his childhood and early life, we know that he grew in stature and wisdom (Luke 2v52)

For more to think about please do read Matthew 1v18-2v23. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close

1.    How important to me is every aspect of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ?

2.    What lessons can I learn from other characters in these early chapters of the Gospels - Joseph, Mary, Shepherds, Wise Men, Simeon and Anna.

3.    What aspects of the whole story of Jesus physical conception and birth am I not familiar with?

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