Partakers Christian Podcasts

WOW Jesus


WOW Jesus 01

Friday May 04, 2012

Friday May 04, 2012

Jesus in the Four Gospels
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In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ that 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 1:16 (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 that 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 (Mark 13 being the exception), 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 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
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 16:16 - Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Matthew 28:18 -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.
The Gospel of Mark
Mark 8:34 - "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 10:45 - 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.

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.
The Gospel of Luke
Luke 1:3-4 -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 19:10 -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 of two parts, with the Book of Acts being the second section. Both are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4 & Acts 1:1). The author is probably the Luke identified by Paul as a doctor, and was one of Paul's travelling companions (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). The style and language used are those of a native Greek speaker.
The Gospel of John
John 1:9 & 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 20:31: - 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 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 8:34 and Mark 10:45. How strongly am I encouraged to carry my own cross, knowing that Jesus carried His cross?
Q2. Read Luke 1:34 and Luke 19:10. 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 16:16 and Matthew 28:18. 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 1:9-12 and John 20:31. As a Christian Disciple and therefore a child of God, how is Jesus working on and changing me?

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WOW Jesus 02

Saturday May 05, 2012

Saturday May 05, 2012

2. Jesus' Birth

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Luke 1:26-38 - In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.'
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.'
'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'
The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.'
'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her.
Luke 2:1-7 - In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
That Jesus was a human male is not really disputed. The birth of Jesus is extraordinary at every level. The primary documents about him, found in the Bible, states 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 1:35). This was so that Jesus would not be given the sinful nature past 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 was the father of Israel and David the first King. He grew into maturity as any young Jewish boy did.
What's in a name?

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 Fathers, 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 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 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 2:52)
For more to think about please do read Matthew 1:18-2:23. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them.
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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WOW Jesus 03

Sunday May 06, 2012

Sunday May 06, 2012

3. Jesus’ Baptism

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Luke 3:21-23 - When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

We start with Jesus’ baptism, as it also shows the commencement of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus is now about 30 years old. John the Baptist precedes all Gospel accounts of the start of Jesus’ ministry, and this is because repentance before God is the key to starting a new life in God’s Kingdom.

Witness 1 – John the Baptist
When John came (Luke3:1-2) – When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, no prophetic voice had been heard within Israel for almost 400 years. His coming was part of God’s perfect timing, for everything that relates to God’s Son is always on time (Gal.4:4; Jn.2:4, 13:1)
How John came (Luke3:3) – Dressed and acting like the Old Testament prophet Elijah, John came to the area near the River Jordan, preaching and baptizing. He announced the arrival of the kingdom of heaven (Mt.3:3) and urged the people to repent. John’s baptism looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, while Christian baptism looks back to the finished work of Christ in His death and resurrection.
Why John came (Luke 3:4-20) – John the Baptist was a voice “crying in the wilderness” (Is.40:1-5; Luke 3:4; Jn.1:23). Spiritually speaking, the nation of Israel was living in a state of unbelief and twisted spiritual reality. The people desperately needed to hear a voice from God, and John was that faithful voice. It was John’s work to prepare the nation for the Messiah and then present the Messiah to them. John is compared to an axeman cutting down trees that down bear fruit (Luke 3:9) or a farmer who burns useless chaff (Luke 3:17). Many Jews of the time thought they were destined for heaven simply because they were descended from Abraham. In Luke 3:7, John depicts the crowds as snakes.

John the Baptist also was a teacher. He taught people to live their new faith (Luke 3:10-14). He told them not to be selfish, but to share their blessings with other people. Tax collectors were told by John to do their work honestly. Soldiers were to stop using their jobs for personal gain. John clearly stated that Jesus was “the Lord” (Luke 3:4) and the Son of God (Jn.1:34)

Witness 2 & 3 – The Father and the Spirit
Jesus comes to John the Baptist, and presents himself for baptism. John at first refuses to do it (Mt.3:13-15). He knew that Jesus of Nazareth was the perfect Son of God who had no need to repent of sin.
Through his baptism, he identified with all sinners that he came to save. We have seen already that it is the start of his public ministry (Acts 1:21-22, 10:37-38). But why did Jesus get baptized? In replying to John’s initial refusal to baptize him, Jesus said “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness” (Mt.3:15). This looks forward to the cross, because it is only through the baptism of suffering that Jesus endured on the cross, that God is able to fulfil all righteousness. The “us” referred to means Father, Son and Spirit. When Jesus came up from the water, the Father spoke from heaven and identified Him as the beloved Son of God, and the Spirit visibly came upon Jesus in the form of a dove.

Jesus as the Son of Man 3:23b-38
The genealogy here reminds us that the Son of God was also the Son of Man, born into the world, identifying with the needs and problems of mankind. Through the genealogy, we see down through the generations Jesus’ link to Adam and ultimately God. The phrase “the son of” generally means any remotely connected descendant or ancestor. It is a reminder that Jesus, being Joseph’s legal son was part of a human family, tribe, race and nation. Jesus’ line goes back through the Old Testament from Joseph to King David to Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, to Methuselah to Noah and Adam. The genealogy, with its link to David, shows Jesus’ right to ascend to David’s throne (Luke 1:32-33). The genealogy shows Jesus’ total human-ness, and because he is linked to Adam, identifies with all humanity and not just Israel. But there is one difference between Jesus and all other humans. In that Luke doesn’t stop the genealogy at Adam, as he would have for all other humans, Luke ultimately leads and links Jesus to being God’s Son.
Son of God (Luke 3:38) – Adam has come into the world bearing the true image of a son of God, but, when Adam disobeyed God, that image was marred and scarred due to sin entering the world. All that is, except Jesus. The voice from God the Father ratified Jesus as the Son of God. Not a son of God as some may claim, but the one and only Son of God. This genealogy points to the unbroken relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus is as Adam was before Adam’s disobedience.

For more to think about please do read Luke 4:1-30. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them.

Q1. What lesson can I learn from the ministry of John the Baptist?
Q2. What link is there between being tempted and doing the work God has give me to do?
Q3. What lessons can I learn Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth?

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WOW Jesus 04

Monday May 07, 2012

Monday May 07, 2012

4. Jesus’ Temptations

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Luke 4:1-13 - Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone.”’
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
‘“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

In Luke 3, we discovered that Jesus had started his public ministry at his baptism, and that he was revealed as God’s Son. However, not only was Jesus fully God, he was also human. In the other Gospel accounts of this event, Matthew (Matthew 4:1) and Mark (Mark 1:12) both tell us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. Luke alone tells us that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, and that he was led in the Spirit into the desert. Luke’s phrasing and terminology makes it clearer that Jesus’ temptation experiences in the desert were all part of God’s plan at the start of Jesus’ public ministry, in order that the type of Messiah Jesus was, would be revealed.
This temptations event reveals Jesus’ perfect and full humanity. Knowing Jesus to be both God and man, satan starts his plan of attack against him. After forty days of fasting, prayer and wandering in the desert, Jesus is confronted by satan. In this event we have three temptations, and it reveals the way Christian Disciples are to handle temptations when confronted with them.

First temptation (Luke 4:3-4) - Note the way satan starts by saying “So you are the Son of God.” As if to say, “If you are really who those voices speaking at your baptism say you are, then prove it to me. You must surely be hungry by now, so why don’t you turn these stones into bread and feed yourself” (Luke 4:3). Satan wanted Jesus to disobey God the Father’s will by using His powers for selfish purposes. He also wanted Jesus to doubt God the Father’s love and care. Jesus, however, is the beloved Son who always does the will of the Father (John 8:29). Luke 4:4 shows us that Jesus answered satan by using Scripture “'Man does not live on bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3). This reveals that while physical food is necessary, it is more important to be sustained by the authority of Scripture. For Jesus, instead of relying on His own power to create food, it showed His trust in God the Father to take total care of Him.

Second temptation (Luke 4:5-8) – This is satan’s encouragement for Jesus to engage in false worship, challenging him as it does to break the commandment “You shall have no other gods but me” (Exodus 20:3). Satan says it’s all yours if you just bow the knee and worship me. Of course satan is as always telling a deceiving half-truth. Though satan has great power (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4), he has no authority to be able to offer Jesus everything he said he would give. He is also not worthy of worship, as his power is always destructive and leads to wanton disobedience and unfaithfulness. This reflects satan’s self-delusion of grandeur. Jesus’ reply again is from Scripture, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only'" (Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus here is saying that He will only serve one Master, and that is God the Father.

Third temptation (Luke 4:9-13) - Here, satan encourages Jesus to take God the Father up on His promised protection. “Throw yourself off the top of the temple. If God is faithful and true, God will catch you and protect you as you start off on this ministry of yours!” Satan also here quotes Scripture in order to make the temptation much more appealing (Psalm 91:11-12). However, this is a misquote, because he doesn’t add “in all your ways”. Jesus however, being always wise, quotes Scripture back “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). In quoting Scripture back, Jesus gives balance to the total expression of God’s will and not just part of it. Jesus refused to acquiesce to the lures of satan, and his demands to test God the Father’s faithfulness on his own terms.

The first temptation is echoed within us, when we try to do things in our own strength and power instead of relying on God’s power and strength to achieve much more than we can hope for or imagine.
The second temptation here echoes James 1:14-15 where desires and lusts lure the Christian Disciple into sinning against and disobeying God.
The third temptation occurs for us when we test God. Christian Disciples, who actively disobey God, subsequently fall into trouble and then expect God to rescue us, are testing God. An example of this is in Exodus 17:1-7.
Jesus emerged from the desert experience, the victor, and to continue his ministry. Satan skulked off for his next opportunity. As Christian Disciples we need to be aware of the schemes of satan, and learn to fend him off, just as Jesus did in the wilderness and in all subsequent encounters during his earthly ministry.

How satan tempts the Christian Disciple

Accuse them (Rev 12:10)
Devour their testimony for Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8)
Deceive them (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Hinder their work (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

The Christian Disciples’ response to satan should be:

To recognise his power and deception (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11)
Stay with the faith (1 Peter 5:9)
Wear the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Resist him openly by submitting to God and he will flee (James 4:7)
Not to give him opportunities (Ephesians 4:27)

Probably the best way to oppose him is to grow as a Christian Disciple and submit all to God. We must remember that our love for God must always be stronger than our love for the world. If we love somebody, we do not want to hurt that person. When we go against God and sin, we are hurting our relationship with Him. He is a holy God and cannot abide any sin! Therefore, as we grow as Christian Disciples we grow more in love with God, and therefore our desire to sin grows less. By having faith & trust in God to provide needs and protection and worshipping and serving Him alone, the Christian Disciple grows in spiritual maturity and will also not succumb to temptation to sin and disobey God.

For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Ask yourself the following questions 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. How can these examples given by Paul help me not to disobey God?
Q2. In what areas do I think I am standing firm and do I always recognize the way of escaping temptation?
Q3. What do Jesus’ experiences of temptation tell me about his humanity and how I too can stand up when tempted?

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WOW Jesus 05

Tuesday May 08, 2012

Tuesday May 08, 2012

5. Jesus’ Mission

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Luke 4:42-44 - At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Jesus’ public ministry on earth has begun! These verses at the end of Luke 4 tell us that His mission is to preach God’s Kingdom. A reluctant John the Baptist baptized him and the crowds heard God the Father speaking to Him. He underwent temptations by the arch-seducer, satan, and emerged victorious from that ordeal. Now Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, has returned home to Galilee (Luke 4:14).

Jesus at home (Luke 4:14-30)
Jesus is back in home territory and because of the power of His teaching, He is becoming known as a great teacher (Luke 4:15). Jesus spent some time in Galilee, became known and aroused the interest, curiosity and excitement of people.
Worshipping (Luke 4:14-18) – It was Jesus’ habit to attend public worship wherever he was.
A typical synagogue service
Opened with a prayer for God’s blessing
Traditional Hebrew confession of faith (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21)
Prayer and readings from the Law and the Prophets
Brief sermon given by one of the men or a visiting rabbi (Acts 13:14-16)
Benediction or prayer

Because of His growing renown as a teacher, it is no surprise that he should be asked to read the Scripture and give a short teaching session regarding it. Here in Nazareth, Jesus declared that the day for demonstrating God’s salvation had arrived and the day the prophets looked forward to, was going to be fulfilled in Jesus Himself (Luke 4:20). He was the Servant Isaiah had talked about long ago (Isaiah 61:1-2). His ministry was divinely directed; it was a ministry of hope for all people and a ministry to free the spiritually oppressed (Luke 4:18).

Acceptable Year of the Lord (Luke 4:19)
When Jesus said in Luke 4:19 “to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour”, Jesus was referring to the “Year of Jubilee” (Leviticus 25). Every fiftieth year, this special year was the balancing of the economic system.

Slaves were set free and returned to their families
Property that was sold back to the original owners
All debts were cancelled
Land lay bare to rest and rejoice in the Lord

The local reaction was at first one of astonishment (Luke 4:22) and telling each other he was the son of Joseph! But Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but rather the Son of God, the new Adam and the founder of a new humanity as he goes on to explain.

Rejected (Luke 4:20-30)
They saw Him as the son of Joseph. Admiration turned to anger, because Jesus began to remind them of God’s goodness to the Gentiles:

The prophet Elijah bypassed all the Jewish widows and helped a Gentile widow in Sidon (1 Kings 17:8-16)
Elisha healed a Gentile leper from Syria (2 Kings 5:1-15)

Whilst those in Nazareth could only see Jesus in the local setting, He told them His mission was for all Israel! And if Israel rejected this message of Good News, then the Gentiles would be blessed by it (Luke 4:25-27). Upon hearing this, the astonished admiration turned to furious anger (Luke 4:28-30)! Salvation is no longer restricted to Israel but for every child of Adam – every human. Jesus’ mission was not only to be Israel’s saviour but the world’s saviour.

When Jesus quoted the proverb “no prophet is accepted in his hometown”, he revealed his knowledge of Old Testament history. He knew that God’s messengers often were rejected, and even as God’s Son, he was rejected as well.

Jesus away from home (Luke 4:31-44)
Now Jesus walked through the rioting mob and went to Capernaum and here he engaged in public ministry:
Preaching (Luke 4:31-32) – Jesus sets up headquarters in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-16) and started teaching in the Synagogue. People were astonished that he taught with such authority.
Rebuking (Luke 4:33-37, 41) – Our Lord did not want the demons to bear witness to Himself and His identity (Luke 4:34,41). Again people were astonished at Jesus power and authority.
Healing (Luke 4::39-40) – People bought their sick and asked Jesus to help them.
Praying (Luke 4:42-44) – He was up early the next morning to pray (Mark 1:35). It was in prayer that He found his strength and power for service, and so must we.

During this period:
No new teaching – He has God’s authority to do what He is doing – preaching, healing and releasing.
God desires humility – Jesus is looking for people to acknowledge their spiritual blindness and poverty, so that he may liberate them.
God’s Word is important – In the previous verses, Jesus counters the devil by using God’s Word, and he continues to do this throughout His ministry. He teaches and preaches in the synagogues (Luke 4:32, 44); rebukes demons (Luke 4:35, 41), and heals diseases (Luke 4:39); all with the authority of His word.

Jesus’ mission was to be the saviour of the world as God’s Son (John 3:16) and the Servant of the Lord. His mission was to give a message of hope for the spiritually poor and spiritually oppressed people - people not only in his hometown, nor only in Israel, but rather for the whole world. People have two choices when faced with this fact: accept or reject. There is no other option. That is why as Christian Disciples we are to be actively engaged in evangelism, to tell people of this news about Jesus Christ.

For more to think about please do read Luke 4:1-44. Ask yourself the following questions 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. How does knowing Jesus’ mission help me in my life as a Christian Disciple?
Q2. Where does the authority for my ministry come from?
Q3. What encouragement can I take from Jesus’ behaviour to those who rejected His message?

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WOW Jesus 06

Wednesday May 09, 2012

Wednesday May 09, 2012

6. Jesus’ Twelve Disciples

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Matthew 4:18-22: - As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Who were Jesus’ Disciples?
There are three main lists of disciples (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16) who were chosen near the start of Jesus ministry. The Gospel of John offers no comprehensive list but does refer to them as “The Twelve” (John 6:67, John 6:70, and John 6:71)

Andrew: he was a fisherman from Bethsaida (Matthew 4:18). It was he who introduced his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). He was a disciple of John the Baptist.
Bartholomew: he was the son of Talemai and possibly was also called Nathaniel (John 1:45-1:51)
James: he was the son of Alphaeus. He is also know as James the Less (Mark 15:40) or James the Just. He would later be the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts)
James & John: the sons of Zebedee. Both were fisherman (Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11) and Jesus called them the sons of Boanerges or sons of thunder (Mark 3:17)! John is known as the “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7 & 20)
Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:13, 16): he was the son of Simon (John 6:71 & John 13:26). He was the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11) and was replaced after the Resurrection by Matthias (Acts 1:26).
Matthew: he was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9) and the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14. He also authored the gospel by the same name (Matthew 1:1)
Philip: from Bethsaida (John 1:44; John 12:21). Notably, it was he who introduced Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22)
Simon: also known as Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4) and possibly from Jerusalem.
Simon: brother of Andrew and also an uneducated fisherman from Bethsaida (Matthew 4:18; Acts 4:13). Later, he was renamed Peter by Jesus (John 1:42) and would later lead the disciples (Acts 1:15-26). He wrote 2 of the books of the New Testament known as 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
Thaddeus: listed as a disciple in Mark 3:18 and also known as Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3) and Judas brother of James (Luke 6:16)
Thomas also known as Thomas Didymus. Didymus means ‘twin’ and it is conjectured that he was a twin of Matthew. He is best known however, as doubting Thomas for initially disbelieving the resurrection of Jesus before he saw the Lord and proclaimed Him as such (John 11:16, John 20:24, John 21:2).

How were they chosen?
In the time of the New Testament, it was usual practice for a disciple to take the initiative and choose his master and then voluntarily join that school. However, in reverse of this practice, Jesus Himself chose those who were to follow him by issuing a command to “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:21; Mark 1:17; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; Luke 18:22). Jesus chose them after a night of prayer and were given to Him by God (John 17:9). The reason that God gave them to Him as His disciples was so that they would produce fruit for God’s Kingdom (John 15:16). Jesus also placed some demands on those who wanted to follow Him. For some these demands proved too much so they went away, like the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). Others, who were initially attracted to Jesus, left saying “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? (John 6:60).

What were they chosen for?
As we read the Gospels, we know that they often got things wrong. Jesus often rebuked them, such as when the storm hit when they were in the boat. He rebuked them for panicking (Mark 4:38) and for fearing and lacking faith (Mark 4:40). This, in spite of having seen Jesus do the things He had done. In Matthew’s Gospel the disciples mistake Him for a ‘ghost’ as He walked to them on the water (Matthew 14:22-36) and Jesus rebukes Peter for lacking faith, as Peter looked at the storm (Matthew 14:30) rather than to Jesus Himself. When Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross, Jesus’ subsequent rebuke was meant for all the disciples and not just Peter (Mark 8:33). They did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory. By the time Peter had written 1 Peter, he did (1Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter4:13-5:10).

In calling them to Himself, Jesus called them into a common discipleship of which they are to “love one another” (John 15:17). The reason for this is so that people will know they are His disciples, by their love for one another, (John 13:34, John 15:16) and this will produce the desired fruit for God’s kingdom and an effective prayer life (John 15:16).

Take up your cross: In Matthew 16:24, Jesus called his disciples to take up their cross, just as he was going to be taking up his cross at Calvary. By this he meant that his disciples must be prepared to sacrifice and be willing to suffer and die.

Called to a life of repentance: Symbolic of this is Peter who, when first encountered by Jesus in Luke 5:1-11, declared of Jesus "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
Called to a life of obedience: Jesus called for obedience of God (Matthew 7:21, Luke 6:46). This obedience means to follow him in all areas of life.
Called to a life of service: When they were sent out in Matthew 10, the disciples were to: tell the Good News’; heal the sick; raise the dead; drive out demons and freely give.
Called regardless of background: The disciples were from a broad cross-section of society. Some as we have seen were fishermen, another a tax collector (who were thought of as traitors to Israel!), others zealots or sons of zealots.

For more to think about please do read John 15:18-24. Ask yourself the following questions 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. Looking back on my life, how did Jesus choose me to be His disciple and why?
Q2. As I continue my life as a Christian Disciple, what things are holding me back from total obedience and service to Him?
Q3. Do I truly show love towards others in my life as a Christian Disciple?

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WOW Jesus 07

Thursday May 10, 2012

Thursday May 10, 2012

7. Jesus’ Identity

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Mark 8:27-33: Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

This section of the Bible contains the verse, which divulges Jesus’ identity, when Peter calls Him the Christ or Messiah or Saviour (Mark 8:29). In the preceding few verses Jesus and the disciples were in Bethsaida and there is the incident where Jesus healed the blind man.

See who Jesus is – (Mark 8:22) reveals that the faith of others apart from the blind man was also involved

There are two very obvious questions that come out of this.

Why did Jesus touch the blind man twice to heal him? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that Jesus kept on until the man could see clearly. There are two things to remember. Firstly that Jesus was unable to do miracles because of people’s lack of faith. Secondly, we also need to remember that God does things in His own time and for His own purposes always acting in order to tell us of His love for us.

Why does Jesus tell the man not to tell anybody? Jesus didn’t want to be seen as only a healer and miracle worker.

Confession of who Jesus is

Now we come to a climactic part of the Gospels when Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do people say that I am?

John the Baptist

Jesus and John had been seen together in public and they were different in personality and ministry.
John came ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17), in a ministry of judgement, whereas Jesus came in a spirit of meekness and service.
John performed no miracles (John 10:41), but Jesus was a miracle worker.
John even dressed like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6)

Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14)

Jeremiah was the ‘weeping prophet’, and Jesus was the ‘man of sorrows’
Jeremiah called the people to true repentance from the heart, and so did Jesus.
Both men were misunderstood and rejected by their own people.
Both men condemned the false religious leaders and the hypocritical worship in the temple.
Those in authority persecuted both men.
In both His works and words, Jesus gave evidence to the people that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, and yet they did not get the message.
Why did Jesus tell the disciples to keep quiet about Him?
Disciples had much to learn about him and what it meant to follow him. The Jews were expecting a victorious Messiah (Isaiah 11:1-5). But they had forgotten that the Messiah must suffer and die (Isaiah 53:1-12; Luke 24:26). The Jewish people thought that the Messiah would set up an earthly political kingdom, but Jesus came to set up a spiritual kingdom that would last forever (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 1:33; Revelation 11:15)

What was the purpose of the Messiah? (Mk10:45)
Jesus’ mission was to be the Servant of the Lord, and therefore, the saviour of the world as God’s Son (John 3:16). His purpose as the Messiah was neither that He be served nor that He will lead a political overthrow of the Roman government as some had hoped. Rather, His purpose as the Messiah was to be God’s servant and give a message of hope for the spiritually poor and spiritually oppressed people.

Follow who Jesus is
When Jesus rebuked Peter, he was also telling off the other disciples (Mark 8:33). They did not yet understand how suffering and glory were in relationship with each other. However by the time Peter had written 1 Peter, he had correlated the two as being in harmony with each other. (1 Peter1:6-8, 1 Peter 4:13-5:10). Some Jewish leaders taught of 2 Messiahs – one to suffer and one who would reign (1Peter 1:10-12)
There is a price to pay for being true followers of Jesus:

We must surrender completely to him.
We must identify with him in his suffering and death.
We must follow him obediently, wherever he leads.

What is the reward for the true disciple of Jesus?

Satan promises glory now, but in the end suffering comes.
God promises suffering now, but the suffering turns to glory.

Spiritually, at this time, the disciples were still blind to who Jesus was, just as the man who was physically blind.
Our confession of Jesus is a matter of life and death (John 8:21;1 John 4:1-3). Confession of Jesus as Lord is necessary for salvation (1 Corinthians 12:1-3), when that confession is from the heart (Romans 10:9-10). Christians are called to follow Jesus, to take up their cross and this could mean nothing less than being ready to suffer and die for Jesus. If we are ashamed of him on earth, he will be ashamed of us when the end of the world has come. He will reward those deserving the reward, and deny those who deny him.

For more to think about please do read 1 Peter 1:1-12. Ask yourself the following questions 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. What does Jesus’ revealed identity as Saviour offer me as a Christian Disciple?
Q2. How does knowing Jesus’ identity help me as I undergo trials, suffering and bad times?
Q3. What part does each member of the Trinity play in my life as a Christian Disciple?

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WOW Jesus 08

Friday May 11, 2012

Friday May 11, 2012

8. Jesus’ Teaching

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Luke 4:31-32 - Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

This event in Capernaum was not a one off occurrence. Frequently the writers of the gospel remark how people viewed Jesus’ teaching as authoritative. But what was it that made his teaching authoritative?

1. How he taught with authority:
Jesus’ manner of teaching shared much in common with other teachers of 1st century Palestine. His teachings frequently included Old Testament texts; exaggerated hyperbole, telling of parables, rhythmic poetry aiding memorisation and the predicting of future events, were common teaching practice at the time in both religious and secular circles. Most of the teaching we have in the Gospels did not arise out of formal settings but rather through personal encounters, engaging with the religious leaders and the inherent need to teach his disciples. However, it is not so much his manner of teaching that created the air of authority about him, but rather what he taught that did (Matthew 7:28-29). Saying as He often did, “But I say to you…”, was in direct opposition to the method the Rabbinical teachers employed. This also caused astonishment and amazing from those who heard him. Additionally, Jesus often sat down to teach, and this signifies formal instruction, as was the custom at the time.
2. What did he teach?
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus appeals to the Old Testament scriptures in every facet of his teaching. Founded on Old Testament texts, his moral and legal teachings (Matthew 5:148), the historical stories (Matthew 24:27-29) and in his debates with the religious leaders, Jesus frequently used Old Testament Scripture (Mark 7:6-13).
Quite possibly, the supreme example of his teaching can be found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). Whilst mainly speaking to his disciples, he allowed the crowds to listen. In this discourse, all of Jesus’ teachings are exhibited. Key themes from the Sermon on the Mount include: a Christian Disciple’s character, influence, righteousness, religion, devotional life, ambition and relationships.

The Kingdom of God
Jesus preached that entrance to the kingdom of God was through repentance (Matthew 3:2) and this repentance led to a spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8). He calls all Christian Disciples to seek it first (Matthew 6:33) and to pray for it (Matthew 6:10). But what is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus, was not a political uprising against the Romans, as thought by James and John (Mark 10:35-45) and nor is it the church. The kingdom of God was and is both a personal inner spiritual relationship with God as ruler over the life of the Christian Disciple, but also the Christian Disciple exhibiting this relationship with God in a visible new society (Matthew 25:34; Luke 13:29). Parable such as the corn and weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) and the mustard seed (Mark 4:3-32) typify Jesus teaching on this.

Regarding Himself
Whilst Jesus never directly claimed to be God, he did things only God could do. He claimed authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-7). He also claimed that He, and He alone, was the only way to the Father when he said in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” His claim to be the Messiah, or Son of Man, is an appeal to Old Testament texts and their subsequent fulfilment and completion in him (Mark 8:29-33). Primarily His teaching that the Messiah must suffer and be glorified was also an appeal to Old Testament scripture (Luke 9:31; Luke 12:50; John 10:11-15).

3. The prime method He used was with parables
Throughout the Gospels, we see that Jesus spoke a lot in parable form. A parable is an allegory or picture story. He did this in order to get his message across completely. The parables as recorded in the Gospels mainly fall into four categories:
Society and its God – an example of this would be the parable of the sheep (Luke 15:1-7) whereby God is seen as a God of grace.
Society and the individual – an example of this would be the parable involving the rich fool who thought his wealth would make God love him more (Luke 12:13-21).
Society and the community – an example here would be the parable of the Good Samaritan whereby everyone is to show love, even for their enemies (Luke 10:25-37).
Society and the future – an example here would be the parable of the great feast whereby the future climax of the kingdom is seen (Matthew 25:31-33).

4. Who did He teach?
The Gospel writers attributed Jesus as a teacher (Mark 5:35; John 7:15) despite his lacking the formal requirements usually attained by rabbis. The Gospel writers also refer to him as a prophet (Luke 7:16; John 6:14), and he was recognized as such by people (Mark 6:15; Mark 8:28). There were three main groups of people that Jesus interacted with and taught. There were large crowds, his twelve disciples and the religious leaders.
The Crowds - Sermon on the Mount
When Jesus taught large gathering of people, it was always based on evidential facts and it was always as Luke described “good news” (Luke 4:18), because God gave it to Jesus. Crowds recognized that Jesus had a confident manner of speaking (Mark 1:22). It must be noted that in the presence of crowds, Jesus didn’t actively reveal who he was (Mark 1:44; Mark 3:11-12; Mark 9:9).
The Disciples
Many of Jesus’ recorded teachings were to his disciples, but in the midst of crowds, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1; Matthew 7:28). However on more precise requirements of discipleship, or about himself or the future of God’s Kingdom, Jesus usually only taught his disciples concerning his true identity, even though they failed to grasp it (Mark 8:27-33).
The religious leaders
Because of Jesus’ popularity and the activities He was involved with, the religious leaders soon took notice of him. Jesus respected the Law of Moses and Moses authority (Mark 1:22). He gave his own unique interpretation and as such attracted the opposition of the religious leaders who had taught a different interpretation. An example of this is in Jesus interpretation of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-38); the healings he performed (John 5:1-18); fasting and ritual cleanliness (Mark 7:1-5) and for consorting with sinners (Luke 7:34). Jesus criticised the religious leaders for amongst other things: their lack of compassion and the weighty burdens they placed upon others (Matthew 23; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:37-54).
For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions 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 Matthew 5:13. How can I as a Christian Disciple be salt and light to my community?
Q2. Read Mark 4:10-20. How does Jesus speak to me as a Christian Disciple and how does the Holy Spirit help me to interpret what Scripture says?
Q3. Read Matthew 7:24-27. In what ways am I as a Christian Disciple sometimes like the wise builder and at other times like the foolish builder?

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WOW Jesus 09

Saturday May 12, 2012

Saturday May 12, 2012

9. Jesus’ I AM statements Part 1

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Exodus 3:13-14 - Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’
God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’

Isaiah 41:4 - Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord – with the first of them
and with the last – I am he.’

John 8:58-59 - ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

On seven other occasions in John’s Gospel, John records statements where Jesus said “I AM”. These are unique to John and are not recorded in the three other Gospels. For this Podcast we will look briefly at four of them and the next Podcast will discuss the remaining three. Here Jesus is reinforcing his claims to be God because, when he says “I AM”, he is referring back to the time when God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 and through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 41:4. That’s why in John 8:59, they picked up stones in order to kill him for blasphemy. This was in accordance, so they thought, with Deuteronomy 13, which dictates that anyone who tries to turn people away from the living God is to be stoned to death. They knew Jesus was claiming to the very God they thought they worshipped.

John 6:35, 48, and 51: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Three times in this passage, Jesus refers to himself as the living bread. By this he meant that he was the only one who could gratify the appetite and yearning of every person’s spirit. For those he was speaking to, bread was a basic staple food for living, just as it is for millions of people today. Jesus indicates when saying he is the bread of life, that he will supply all needs! Just as he said to the woman at the well in John 4:4, that whoever drinks his living water, shall never again go spiritually thirsty. When Jesus referred to the manna in the desert (John 6:49) he talked of it being merely temporary, despite being a gift from God. He however, as the true bread of life, would give permanent satisfaction and life everlasting to all those who believe and follow him (John 6:51)! But this bread he offers, has to be eaten; has to be taken up by the person wanting spiritual life! Note the inference to His impending sacrifice on the cross at the end of John 6:51!

John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles! One of the great symbols of that feast was Light! At the end of the feast, when the lights are extinguished, Jesus said that he was the light of the world! Throughout the Old Testament, light is an important symbol. There is the pillar of fire and cloud leading the nation of Israel on their journey (Exodus 13). In Psalm 27:1, the psalmist describes God as “my light”. The nation of Israel was to be God’s light to all the world (Isaiah 49:6), so that God would be the world’s light (Isaiah 60:19-22). So, by referring to himself as the light of the world, Jesus is saying it is he who shines light into people’s spiritual eyes and gives them understanding, which in turn leads to them seeing their need of God and His ability to satisfy their spiritual needs.

John 10:7-11 and 14-15: Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Throughout the Old Testament, God is seen as a shepherd and His people are the sheep of his keeping. The sheep are always God’s, even though He temporarily entrusted them to people such as Moses to care and tend them. Therefore Moses and others like him, such as the true prophets, were forerunners to Jesus. Here Jesus proclaims that he is the door or gate to salvation! It is through Jesus that salvation is found and through him alone as the door or gate that people are led safe and sound into spiritual freedom, spiritual light and spiritual sustenance. Unlike others who come only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus offers spiritual safety and nourishment. Jesus does not just offer a way out, but also a way in! The security offered by Jesus is because he is always in close proximity to those who follow him. Jesus calls all those who follow him by name (John 10:3) and they know each other.

Jesus is the great shepherd only through the sacrifice he must make for his sheep. Here Jesus is looking ahead to the sacrifice he will make on the Cross. His love for all of humanity compels him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Just as all shepherds will endanger themselves for the safety of their sheep, so too will Jesus endure the pain and suffering of the Cross, so that people can be led into the safety of God’s kingdom. It is in this role of shepherd, that Jesus exhibits true leadership, which is self-less and sacrificial. Ezekiel 34:11 tells of God searching out for his sheep among all nations, and this is fulfilled through Jesus. Through his perfect, obedient and voluntary sacrifice on the Cross, not only will salvation be available to the Jews but also to those of other nations (John 10:16).

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions 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 John 6:25-59. How does Jesus being the bread of life encapsulate His whole message?
Q2. Read 1 John 1. If Jesus is the light of the world, how am I to live as His follower?
Q3. Read John 10:1-21. As a Christian Disciple, what benefits does Jesus as the shepherd offer me?

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WOW Jesus 10

Sunday May 13, 2012

Sunday May 13, 2012

10. Jesus’ I AM statements Part 2

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Isaiah 5:1-7 - I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
my loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
‘Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.’
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

We have already seen that Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate and the shepherd – all the things the nation of Israel was to be but failed to do so. This passage in Isaiah starts out as a love song between God and His chosen people, Israel. Israel was to be a vineyard, and despite all the love God had given tending to her, she had only produced bitter, sour fruit. This bitter sour fruit is described in Isaiah 5:8-25. Therefore, God will abandon her. So, if this vineyard is abandoned, will God raise a new vineyard? What of the other Jesus’ “I AM” statements.

Our next one is

John 11:25: Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

This exclamation by Jesus is highlight of this passage of Scripture. Lazarus has died (John 11:15) and will be raised back to life again (John 11:43-44). Why does Jesus say that he is the resurrection and the life? He is the giver of life itself. He gives eternal life to all who will believe in him. Resurrection and life are inextricably tied together. Resurrection and life harmonize each other because resurrection precedes life and the new life of a Christian disciple is the result of resurrection. Remember Jesus’ mission was to go to his death on the cross and be resurrected three days later. Not a resurrection like that of Lazarus, who would later physically die again. No, Jesus’ resurrection, as we will look at in a later study, is one where death is ultimately conquered and Jesus has a glorious new body. Those who choose to be Christian Disciples by faith in the risen Christ, only have new life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross. That is why Jesus can exclaim with authority “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Moreover, this resurrected life is not just for the future but it is also for the present, and only through the risen Jesus Christ.

John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When Jesus issued this statement, the stress of the sentence automatically falls on the words “the way”. This is because Jesus is answering a question posed by Thomas (John 14:5). Jesus Christ has exposed the barrier of sin and death, which prevents a person from entering God’s presence. He explodes this same barrier when a person entrusts in Him for their eternal salvation. He is, as he claims in Matthew 7:14, “the road that leads to life”. Not only is he the way, but he is also the truth and the life. All of God’s truth is embodied in Jesus Christ who, as both fully God and fully human, was also the ever-living God. Nobody can claim access to God the Father, except through Jesus himself. Other religions and other so-called paths to God may contain some element of truth about God, but there is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ. He is the means of access to God for all people of all cultures and all backgrounds. Jesus welcomes all, so that in his singular exclusive claims there is an inclusive embrace of all. As Jesus goes on to say in John 14:7, because we know him we also know God the Father.

John 15:1: "I AM the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was to be a vine or vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7, Ezekiel 15:1-6). Juxtaposed against Israel’s failure to be a vine, Jesus states that he is the true vine. Jesus was the reality, whereas Israel was the symbol. As the purpose of a vine is to produce fruit, the focal point is on what it takes to produce fruit (John 15:2). As Christian Disciples, we are to bear fruit by remaining close to Jesus, as He is the vine and we are the branches. And why is the Christian Disciple to bear fruit? As a means of bringing glory to God the Father (John 15:8) and thereby proving their Discipleship. As part of the ultimate mission of Jesus to glorify God the Father (John 12:28, John 17:4), it is imperative that Jesus’ disciples be fruit-bearers. This means that all Christian Disciple are to be his witnesses and therefore a commitment to mission and evangelisation is necessary. That is why the Christian Disciple prays in the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10)

So there are the seven “I AM” statements. As well as equating himself with God as the “I AM”, Jesus is also promoting his exclusivity as the only Saviour. He does not say I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life. Nor does he say I am a resurrection and a life. He does not say I am a door to life, just as he does not say I am a shepherd, a light or a bread of life. No – Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the one great shepherd and the only door to life. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only true bread of life. As his disciples currently in the Western world, we get shouted at and criticized for holding such exclusive views. But if Jesus was not God and He was only one path to God, would Jesus have needed to go through the agony of the cross, as payment for the sins of the world? Of course he wouldn’t have needed to. That he did shows that he is the only path and only means of access to God. It is only through the resurrected Jesus that salvation can be assured and then only by a childlike faith and not by any other means. That is why we should not capitulate to current trends to unite all religions, which say that all paths lead to God. Jesus Christ himself as we have seen has said that he and he alone is the way to God and salvation is only through his work on the cross for all those who trust and believe in him.

For more to think about please do read John 15:1-27. Ask yourself the following questions 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. How is my inward relationship with Jesus reflected and shown to those who do not know Him?
Q2. How do I as a Christian Disciple, stay close to Jesus as my Master and my King?
Q3. Is there any correlation between Jesus’ exclusive claims and why the world hates His disciples?

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