Archive for the ‘JesusLifeAndTeachings’ Category

Matthew Chapter 5 verse 5; Is meekness weakness as Aristotle thought or is it a powerful force to be reckoned with in the Teachings of Jesus?

February 25, 2022

So, last we found out that the intentions of Matthew and Luke were not the same.  One focused on compassion while the other on holiness.  For the time being I will focus on Matthews Gospel first. 

Reminder and discussion

To remind ourselves again, Matthew started his beatitudes by speaking about the quality of being poor in spirit and those who mourn.  These qualities are qualities that a lot of head strong citizens would reject straight away.  After all who in their right mind would take on these weakling qualities.  Let us reflect on this:

The opposite of poor in spirit is to be full of pride and that one in their own strength without the need for outside help can do very well.  It is true that these sorts of people can become very rich and wealthy but that doesn’t mean that they will be ‘happy’.  To get to the top of the food chain they probably walked over people, knocked them metaphorically speaking out of the way.  This sort of living can have serious detriments to one’s psychological and spiritual health.  As Christians we follow the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus.  In Christ by the Holy Spirit our minds and reasons for living left this road for a road of love.  Our consciences day by day get better and better until we finally meet our Lord.

From poverty of spirit, we realize that God had to become a man and to die in place of us at the cross.  God the Son who is pure love had to take on human flesh and to die in our stead.  Who is this Trinitarian God?  He is the God that spoke, and the universe was created.  The God who breathed into Adam and made him live.  The God who became Adam’s friend and walked with him in the Garden. 

What did God get in return?

Adam and Eve who turned their backs on this friendship and wanted to take on divine status by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  We as human beings individually and corporately have also sinned.  Yet God in his love for us by the Holy Spirit shows us what our sin did. 

Coming to a place to see how much our actions have hurt Him and his creation in Christ he gives us a second chance and God’s Kingdom is within our reach by His gift of grace by the Holy Spirit!

We mourn because we have seen the destruction and death, we have caused in our own lives but also the destruction caused in the world.  God does not come to us with a punishing road but on the contrary in Christ we have real comfort.

As come closer to God through Christ by the Holy Spirit the scales from our eyes metaphorically speaking fall from our eyes. The next step on this road is humility, gentleness and meekness as Matthew says:

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness in the real world can be looked down on as a quality:

“Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

5. the meek] Psalm 37:11. “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” See note Matthew 5:3. Meekness is mentioned with very faint praise by the greatest of heathen moralists, Aristotle. He calls it “a mean inclining to a defect.” It is indeed essentially a Christian virtue.”  From  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/5-5.htm

God’s way of seeing this quality is quite different:

3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Numbers 12:3

This is an absolutely amazing statement but in the context of humility this is what God said about Moses!

“4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So, the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, 6 He said,

“Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

I shall speak with him in a dream.

7 “Not so, with My servant Moses,

He is faithful in all My household;

8 With him I speak mouth to mouth,

Even openly, and not in dark sayings,

And he beholds the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid

To speak against My servant, against Moses?”

9 So the anger of the LORD burned against them, and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous… Numbers 12:4-10”

The world might see humility as a weakness, but God sees humility otherwise.  We can see that our Lord took this saying from the Psalms:

“11 But the humble will inherit the land

And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Psalms 37:11”

Let us take a definition of Meekness then:

“The quality or state of being meek: a mild, moderate, humble, or submissive quality” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

On this website someone posted the following:

“While studying scriptures I had been reading in the Bible (KJV) where meekness is a quality of a Christian. I wanted to know how this characteristic fits my person. I understand after reading this definition it aligns with the Bible as the quality of a believer in Jesus. In Ephesians 4 the writer is the apostle Paul speaking to the gentiles about the unity of the spirit of Christ: 4:1-2 I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith us are called, With all lowliness and meekness.” The unity of the spirit of Lord Jesus teaches believers to walk in this manner in the spirit of humility, meekness with patience bearing others burdens in love to one another.” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

When looking at meekness, gentleness, and humility then we see that the context is in ‘love’.  If love as found in the first and second great commands is not the driving force, then it is not the type of meekness that Jesus is speaking about. Meekness has to be grounded in the love of God and our love for each other.

The world probably has counterfeit types of meekness.  There might be a post for a better paying position, so they pretend to be submissive.  once they get into that position perhaps, they start to boss others around with an air that they are better than everyone else.  

Moses was not like that.  He loved his people and on more than one occasion was willing to take God’s judgement on himself to save his people.  He was a prayer warrior.  He wasn’t perfect and sometimes he wasn’t very gentle and in his earlier day he murdered an Egyptian soldier our of rage for what was happening to the Israelites in captivity.  In the long run however, God saw the potential in Moses and made him leader. 

Reflection.

When the Holy Spirit reveals to us our sin it brings us to a place of mourning. God shows us how our wrong doings have hurt God, our neighbour, and the world that we inhabit.

Through this poverty and mourning we can only fall flat on our face before a Holy God, and we are grateful for the love by the Spirit he has poured into our lives.In the eschaton even now, (end times) we enter the kingdom of God.  Now we mourn but, in the eschaton, we will laugh with joy of happiness before our Lord.  We now walk in humility, but the promise is that in the eschaton we will inherit the earth.

To sum up, the believer now and in the eschaton:

  • Will enter the kingdom of heaven
  • Will be comforted
  • Will inherit the world

Why do I speak about the end times?

The reason I speak about the end times is because in the second part of the main beatitudes the tense is ‘future’.  The future is something that hasn’t happened yet but will take place.

I could also speak about ‘what Land’ they will inherit.  Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics; Volume 4; around page 719 gives us somethings to think about. However, I will save this for another blog because he goes into a lot of detail, and I have now run out of time.

So then what is your understanding of meekness?

Meekness is a quality that very few people have.  From a world perspective it can be seen as a weak and low quality. 

As Christians we ought to follow the example of Christ.  Jesus was Meek but he certainly was not weak especially when he stood up to the leaders of the time and even turned over tables in the Temple area in Jerusalem.  Meekness is a state of being that God values.  When we stand before a holy God we are standing before Majesty.  As Christians the driving force of meekness was not weakness but rather genuine love for God, his neighbour and dare I say it love of enemies for them too to come to know the Saviour and taste this love.

The Two Emphases of Matthew and Luke on the Compassion and Justice Of God in the Sermon on the Mount

February 19, 2022

I have been asking God for wisdom when looking at our Lords teachings.  The SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) are some of the most profound teachings for living the life of faith.  I was asking my self the question why is the mood and feeling of the SM so different in Matthew and Luke whilst it is the same teaching?

I think that this is a very important question.  The greatest preacher who ever lived was God who became a man in the person of Jesus Christ yet in this recorded sermon by Matthew and Luke, they are so different.  As I was typing and pondering these thought it dawned on me that for example; there can be two people who hear a sermon, but each person will pick something different out of the same sermon and interpret it differently, yet it was the same sermon!

Jesus gave a sermon and there were two people who heard or read about it (Matthew and Luke).  They walked away with different interpretations, but the husk of the sermon is still the same.  This is the main reason I felt it important to try to pick out some salient features from these two Gospels.  When I have completed picking out the salient features I will continue going through the text.

The Salient Features of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew writes over 111 verses on the Sermon on the mount.  Luke writes about 25 verses and then Luke at the end of his beatitudes adds the woes.  So, the question for me is; What is driving these writers to write so differently on these passages?

I just recently acquired a commentary on Luke’s Gospel by one of my University Lecturers Judith Lieu.  It is the best answer I have found so far as she writes:

“That God is rich in compassion is fundamental to the OT (Ex. 34.6); whereas Leviticus had called for holiness (Lev. 19.2), and Matthew for perfection (Matt. 5.48), in likeness to God, for Luke the divine norm is to be compassionate. This means – v.36 should be taken with vv.37-38 not to judge, or condemn, but to pardon and give in abundance. Again there is no reflection on the certainty that God will judge, nor on the circumstances in which judgment is necessary. These are not maxims to be applied generally without discrimination; they explore what it means to say love your enemies, and, in a world where reciprocity was the norm which bound some together and separated others, explore an alternative model of relationships.” (From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; page 52 Epworth Commentaries)

As Dr Lieu says Compassion is fundamental to the Old Testament:

6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; Exodus 34:6

Dr Lieu also quoted Leviticus 19.2:

2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2

It is interesting that she chose these two passages because I got an email from the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust in which Rabbi Sacks reminded us of some important things here:

    “Ex. 34:6-7

This passage became known as the “Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy.”

The Sages understood this episode as the moment in which God taught Moses, and through him all future generations, how to pray when atoning for sin (Rosh Hashanah 17b). Moses himself used these words with slight variations during the next crisis, that of the spies. Eventually they became the basis of the special prayers known as Selichot, prayers of penitence. It was as if God were binding himself to forgive the penitent in each generation by this self-definition.[1] God is compassionate and lives in love and forgiveness. This is an essential element of Jewish faith.

But there is a caveat. God adds: “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” There is a further clause about visiting the sins of the parents upon the children which demands separate attention and is not our subject here. The caveat tells us that there is forgiveness but also punishment. There is compassion but also justice.

Why so? Why must there be justice as well as compassion, punishment as well as forgiveness? The Sages said:

 “When God created the universe, He did so under the attribute of justice, but then saw it could not survive. What did He do? He added compassion to justice and created the world.”

    See Rashi to Genesis 1:1.

This statement prompts the same question. Why did God not abandon justice altogether? Why is forgiveness alone not enough?”

So then compassion and holiness are important things that God is really interested in and from my point of view it shows how these to lines of theology; namely compassion and holiness work together.  So then let us now look at the next two quotes from Dr Lieu:

Matthew says,

48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Luke says,

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:36-38

Reflection

So then Rabbi Sacks and Dr Judith Lieu have taught us two important strands found in the Old Testament (The late Rabbi Sacks) and the SM (Judith Lieu).   I have a lot of respect for these two profound teachers of the Bible. Anyhow for me this is a profound and accurate answer for understanding the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and why they seem so different on the surface.  So then perhaps as I continue now in the Sermon on the Mount, we needs to take these differences in our stride and our walk of faith. 

Next time I will return to the Sermon on the Mount and start to inquire with what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ wants us to understand.   

I feel that we are now armed with the keys to the SM.  We will be able to unlock these spiritual truths and grow closer to our Lord and Saviour and also have more compassion for our neighbours no matter what their background, race, religion et al.

I hope that you will follow me on this quest for finding Gods Truths about Himself, the Trinitarian God that we worship.

The Sermon on the Mount; The Poor and those who mourn (In this blog I will use ‘SM’ for Sermon on the Mount)

February 13, 2022

These three chapters take us to the heart of Jesus teachings, and it is so much more than just ethics and living a good life.   Before we start, I want to look at the structure of these chapters.  The late Graham Stanton in his class notes to us (1993-1994 King’s College London) showed us that Matthew writes 111 verses on the SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) whereas Luke writes a measly 30 verses. 

Below when looking at the various themes of the SM one can see straight away that Matthews order of the teachings and that of Luke do not follow a chronological order.  You can see this by looking at the verse orders from the notes.  From my my notes on the Harmony of the Gospels I also learned that the Didache (The Teachings of the Apostles) has a very early date (scholarly consensus ad 50 -70!) and this writing seems to know Matthew!

Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}

Ancient Christian Writers; volume 6; Translated by

James A Kleist; page 17;   The Didache can also be found at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

However here the reference is 3 12. 

IS THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT RELEVANT FOR THE 1990’s?

1 THE ORIGIN, STRUCTURE AND PURPOSE OF MATTHEW’S SERMON

(i) The SM as the first of 5 impressive discourses:

5-7; 10; 13; 18; (23) 24-25 (NB 26.1)

(ii) Matthew’s SM has 111 verses. Luke has a shorter Sermon in chapter 6

with (30) verses most of which are found in Matthew’s SM.

Luke 6                                    Matthew 5-7

beatitudes                                        20b-23                                  5.3-12

love of enemy                                 27-36                                     5.38-42

golden rule                                       31                                           7.12

not judging                                       37-38                                     7.1-2

splinter and beam                          41-42                                     7.3-5

tree & its fruit                                 43-45                                     7.16-20

Lord, Lord                                         46                                           7.21

house & the storm                         47-49                                     7.24-27

(centurion’s servant)                     7.1-10                                    8.5-13

Matthew has expanded considerably the Sermon from Q – a collection of

sayings of Jesus shared with Luke.

(iii) The structure of Matthew’s SM:

Narrative opening 5.1-2

I Prologue 5.3-16

II Central Sections: 5.17 – 7.12 (law & prophets)

1. Preface 5.17-20

2. 6 antitheses 21-43

3. 3 religious practises and your father’s will 6.1-18 (During prayer and fasting)

4. New attitudes to God (6.19-34) and neighbour (7.1-12)

III Epilogue 7.13-27

Narrative conclusion 7.28-29

NB 7.12 as the climax and the Lord’s prayer 6.9-13 as the centrepiece.

Matthews Purpose:

Is the SM for crowds or disciples?  for Christian believers or for

all?  ethics without Christ? – Son of God

For Matthew the nations are to be ‘discipled’ and taught to observe

the commands of Jesus (28.18-20)

The words of Jesus in the SM are to be heard and obeyed: 7.24-29!

(These notes above were giver by Graham N Stanton in class)

We have touched on some very interesting themes.  The consensus of scholars is that Mark was the earliest (Ad 66-74).  However, we find a reference in the Didache dated at ad 50 -70 quoting Matthews Gospel.  These scholars who honestly have argued for Matthew to be later use the internal logic to come to a mysterious other source that all the Gospels used, namely Q.   This throws a spanner in the works for the Q theory.  I’m not a Q expert but perhaps Stanton was correct to hold to Matthew being the earliest Gospel.  If it is the earliest or not the earliest doesn’t really matter because it is Scripture (God’s word in written form)

Lets move on:

From the above image you can already see that there are stylistic differences to how the beatitudes were presented in both Matthew and Luke.  Luke builds a picture of what the scene was like before Jesus started to teach his disciples (The writing in white).  Whereas Matthew was more interested in the content of the teachings (colourful writing).

When we look at the pronouns in the two Gospels you can also see stylistic differences.  They both put the pronouns in the plural, but Matthew preferred the third person plural pronouns and Luke preferred the second person plural pronouns.  

It seems to be that Luke focused on the nuts and bolts of the teachings of the beatitudes and wanted to make these teachings more personal.  Matthew however is giving us the nuts, bolts, roof and side paneling of the Gospel.

GOING DEEPER

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:3

“…Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20b

Here we see a difference in style, but they are saying the same thing.  Here in Matthew Jesus’ teachings are more formal and emphasises the psychological (in spirit).  A new attitude has to start from within a person’s mind and soul.  God has to bring the realization of the kingdom of God to the mind and heart of the person.

Luke is saying the same way but in a more informal way for perhaps those who do not have any rabbinic background (the commoner, the poor.). Luke write,” you who are poor”. 

We are all different in our temperaments.  There are those who are book worms but there are also those who are more feeling full and emotional. In God’s Kingdom the Gospel is open to every type of person no matter who or what they are.  We need to come to a realization that before God we are sinners and that we cannot help ourselves.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21

The order between Matthew and Luke have now changed.   In Matthew the ‘hungering comes after the mourning’.  So here we are focusing on:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

“…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”. Luke 6:21b

These notes didn’t really tell me a lot, but Vine said Matthew uses the more general word for mourning whereas Luke uses a stronger word weeping (for the dead). From expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87

Then we also have the other two words, comforted and laughing.

I kind of agree with Judith Lieu that Luke’s Gospel is more interested in the socio impact of Luke’s teachings.   We have only looked at these two verses, but we can already see differences in style.  From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Reflection

As disciples of Jesus, we need to pray and meditate on his words.  The beautiful thing that we have seen is that Matthew is giving us a deeper incite into the new attitudes that are found in the Gospel.  Luke is saying the same thing, but he is interested in the nitty gritty of the everyday life of the follower of Christ.

When we think about poverty, the reality of poverty is that it brings the person in it to a point of helplessness.  Poverty means there isn’t enough food on the table.  It means that one cannot go on holiday and have the ‘best things life has to offer’.  Poverty in that sense is a type of prison that stops people from reaching their dreams.  An effect of poverty is to indeed crush the spirit.  Both Matthew and Luke are correct on how they look at the poor.

Luke is also correct because God has commanded his church to care for the poor and the orphan, the needy whoever they are. Compassion and mercy are an integral part of Jesus teachings. As James reminds us the outflow of our faith ought to some how show in the real world (fruit of the Spirit).  When I was reading Herman Bavinck in his reformed Ethics, he said that the root is faith, and the fruit are works. 

We have all sinned before God and we all need to find forgiveness for our sins.  We cannot save ourselves but, in these verses, we see Jesus giving us a blue print for some core new beautiful attitudes through the act of repentance that can bring us into a true and liberating life through obedience, by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Notes KCL lessons from Graham N Stanton
  • Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}
  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87
  • Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Notes

Notes on mourning and weeping from Olive Tree

Matthew Gospel

g3996. πενθέω pentheō; from 3997; to grieve (the feeling or the act): — mourn, (be-)wail.

AV (10) – mourn 7, wail 2, bewail 1;

to mourn to mourn for, lament one

Lukes Gospel

g2799. κλαίω klaiō; of uncertain affinity; to sob, i.e. wail aloud (whereas 1145 is rather to cry silently): — bewail, weep.

AV (40) – weep 39, bewail 1;

to mourn, weep, lament weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified (i.e. for the pain and grief) of those who mourn for the dead

to weep for, mourn for, bewail, oneNotes

Matthews Gospel

g3870. παρακαλέω parakaleō; from 3844 and 2564; to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): — beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort(-ation), intreat, pray.

Luke’s Gospel

g1070. γελάω gelaō; of uncertain affinity; to laugh (as a sign of joy or satisfaction): — laugh.

AV (2) – laugh 2;

to laugh

The prelude to the Sermon on the Mount. 

January 29, 2022

Why did the Sermon on the Mount take place?

What led to the Sermon on the Mount for it to take place?

What was the feeling within the Jewish communities in Galilee?

These are important questions before we move into the greatest sermon ever preached. It is the greatest sermon because in it are the words of life from Christ himself. Remember that the Apostles only gave witness to Christ, the One who can take away the sins of the world; The true Lamb of God that takes away our sins. This is the One who spoke these words of life or death.

In the middle of a foreign powers occupation of Galilee something big was going to take place something much bigger than anything in world history.  This event had started, and a part of this event would mean great Rome would crumble and fall as Daniel had prophesied.  In the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament indeed there had been many deliverers such as Moses, the Judges even the Maccabees but these deliverances did not last.  In the past deliverances a lot of the time had been at the edge of the sword.  How would this time of God’s visitation be any different?

You may have watched in the past some Jesus films and perhaps they try to show the Galileans craving and cramming to see Jesus.  This is partly true.  Even today one sees rock stars getting lots of adoration, but I have to say it is not the same!

  • First of all, a rock star cannot save you!
  • Secondly Jesus preaching brought about a spiritual awakening to the truths of Holy Scripture. 

Here before the Jewish nation and Gentile nations was the Messiah and the expectations of salvation would be turned upside down and inside out.  There was a time in world history that Jewish and Gentile Christians were brothers and sisters but by the time of Justin Martyr there was hostility between the Church and the Jewish community.  We know this because St Paul raised money in Corinth and the local churches and sent the money to Jerusalem to help the Jewish Believers there. 

These are important questions.  It is wrong and a great sin to hate Jews which culminated in the Holocaust.  The root of hate towards the Jews can be traced all the way back to Martin Luther and it ended with Adolf Hitler:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism

As Christians we must remember that Jesus in his humanity was Jewish.  We must remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbour no matter who they are (enemies or friends!).

From Olive Tree Bible software.

Let’s begin by looking at Marks Gospel:

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Mark

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

Here we see that Jesus had a mission from God.  When he got up early in the morning it was still dark.  While everyone was still sleeping, He was praying and communing with God the Father.  Luke says ‘when day came’ but he didn’t go into any details.

36 Simon and his companions searched for Him;

Peter and his companions couldn’t find Jesus straight away!  Obviously, he disappeared while they were still asleep. 

37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

What an anti-climax!  ‘Everyone is searching for you’.  ‘Everyone’ means the crowds.  They were hungry for God’s word.  Jesus’ preaching was different because it touched the core of the human being, their person-hood, their soul.

38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

Here it says may preach. The word ‘may’, isn’t found but the use of ‘hina = ‘in order that’ and the ‘I may preach’ is in the subjunctive form. 

Luke’s version has a stronger intention.  He uses ‘δέω= bound’.  It is much stronger. 

https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/deo

Stylistically there is a difference, but the meaning is the same.  Jesus has a purpose from the mandate of heaven ‘for that is what I came for.’ 

The mandate from heaven was for Jesus to preach that the kingdom of heaven was here now, live on earth, die on a cross, be resurrected and open the doors of salvation to the whole world through and in him.  This mandate started from a backwater of the Roman Empire and the world would never be the same again. 

39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Galilee was actually according to Josephus a very productive area.  It has a large lake that has a record of being a freshwater lake below sea level (the lowest in the world!).  There were cities and towns on both side of the lake and I can imagine Jesus jumping in boats and crisscrossing the lake on a regular basis preaching the Gospel. 

While doing this ministry of preaching his Apostles were learning how to preach.   The rest of the New Testament is an explication of these teachings that have now changed the world.

REFLECTION

Let us walk in love towards everyone.  Every human being including those who lost their life through abortion were created in the image of God.  Love can take on various forms, but it ought to show respect towards the other person no matter who they are.  This can be difficult at times as some people pull away from society and do atrocious acts.  We can still show love and follow Jesus’ example by praying for them that God’s will, God’s kingdom could also break into them and change them inside out by the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus was a man who was driven by the mandate of heaven.  He was preaching in those cities because out of these cities many people would repent and become children of God.  2000 years later and here we are still preaching the same Gospel Jesus taught.  Jesus was special because while he walked this earth, he was like a mirror that showed people exactly what they were.  They came face to face with their sins.  It is by grace that we are saved.  We cannot save ourselves.  We are helpless.  How helpless is the human race?  The human race is completely helpless before a holy God and God started this plan from the time of the Fall of the earliest human beings found in Genesis. 

Next time as we go through the Sermon on the Mount you will face a mirror that shows you your true self.  My friends we have all turned away from God.  As we look at the sermon on the mount we will be faced by the true ugliness of sin.  We will also be faced with the opportunity to follow Christ into the celestial city. 

Jesus farewell to Nazareth and Mission Impossible to Jerusalem

January 16, 2022

Jesus moving away from his hometown and into Galilee part 1

Like Moses our Lord had to go through a Wilderness experience only to come out of it in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The world would never be the same again and the gates of salvation would be opened up to the whole world.  This world-shaking event would not happen through the use of swords, siege engines, political intrigues et al.  No my friends it was going to happen through the prince of peace.  In other words, this world changing event would happen through God’s love for his creation.  This world changing event would happen through humility, even to the point of our Master dying on a cross.  Let us read about the beginnings of this ministry even before the first disciples were called.

Matthew:  Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; Matthew 4:12

Mark: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

Luke: And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding districts. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. Luke 4:14-15

John:   After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country. 45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. John 4:43-45

After the tests that our Lord went through it is recorded that Jesus went into Galilee.  We have the same story in all four Gospels, but they used different verbs for the movement of Jesus.  This is very interesting because by following these various emphases we get a better picture of the intention of Christ:

  • In Matthew Jesus ‘withdrew’ into Galilee   This emphasizes is on sadness of Jesus (John’s arrest)
  • In Mark Jesus ‘came’ into Galilee   This emphasizes Jesus coming into Galilee, and we have a perfect tense in ‘fulfilled’.
  • In Luke Jesus ‘returned’ to Galilee in the Power of the Spirit.  This seems to emphasis that Jesus has been in Galilee before but this time it was different.  Having been through baptism and the tests Jesus was in Galilee to do God’s work, and nothing was going to get in the way of this divine plan.
  • In John Jesus ‘went forth’ into Galilee: Seeing himself as having a prophetic role even as John had. He was received in this region as a full-fledged Prophet. 

This is a very important event as it is recorded by all for Gospel Writers.    Although Jesus being human like the rest of us.  He felt sad that John had been arrested.  John knew that when Jesus came his ministry was going to take a back seat.  Jesus this time came to Galilee in fulfillment of what God had said to previous prophets of the Old Testament.  This time was different Jesus came in the power of the Holy Spirit and this meant that God’s kingdom was now ushered in through the work, life, death, and resurrection of the promised Messiah.    Jesus was on fire for God’s will to be done and he preached everywhere. 

In our spiritual walk with God perhaps we too have very large decisions to make.  We need to follow the example of Christ.  We ought to seek out more time to pray in quiet places listening to the voice of God and to find out what his will is for our lives.  However, God has given us guiding principles we ought to stay in:

  • Love God
  • Love our neighbour
  • Live by faith by God’s grace and trust him in everything.  For some people they are looking for the ‘Mission Impossible’. 

It may be that you are a person searching out God’s will.  You may have been called to do mission impossible, but you may have also been called to be faithful in your local church and do boring things like putting chairs out.   We all have a place in God’s will.  If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and you are faithful, it means you are already in Gods will.  In God’s will through Christ, we can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the direction he wants us to go.  Some of us have faced martyrdom for the faith others of us will be called to put chairs out on a Sunday.  In the household of God, we are both in the will of God.   Don’t fret too much about the future as Jesus said you are better dressed than the lilies of the field!

Reflection

In this story we see that Jesus made ‘the big decision’.  He would never live in Nazareth again.  By the Lake of Galilee and from the surrounding area Jesus would call his seventy disciples and his 12 Apostles.  The next three years these chosen boys would become men of God and by the Holy Spirit the world would never be the same again.  Some would live a long life such as John, but others would have a quick execution under the corrupt despots around that area.  Jesus knew the heart of the Father.  Jesus’ face would be set like flint to Jerusalem and death on a cross. We know this to be the case for the heart of the Gospel points to death on a cross and the resurrection. 

The Temptation of Jesus and our walk with God

January 9, 2022

Here we find the true identity of Jesus as he passes all the trials that prove Jesus to be the Son of God, the True Messiah and the Kings of all kings:

5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’;

and

‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,

SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11

Last time we looked at the baptism of Jesus and his identity was made public that indeed he was the Son of God.  One also needs to remember that John was seen as a Prophet, the forerunner to the Messiah coming.  It is John the Prophet who validated Jesus’ identity.  It was time now for our Lord to go into the barren wilderness to be with the rocks and the snakes.  It is unfortunate that Jesus’ testing times are seen as temptations.  In English ‘temptation’ has negative connotations.  The Greek certainly favours ‘test’.  The meaning certainly does carry ‘Temptation’ as “to make someone want to have or do something, especially something that is unnecessary or wrong:” (From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tempt)

Satan was indeed trying to knock Jesus off the narrow track of God’s will.  In that sense it is a temptation.  Temptation as ‘a feeling to be naughty’ is not there.   However, it is also a test.  Our Lord and Saviour was keeping in step with the Father at every twist and turn.  These were real tests.  Notice that Satan only came to our Lord Jesus when he was at his weakest point physically.   

We need to remember that Satan wants to destroy God’s work as he is an accuser.  Satan was jealous of God and that is why he got kicked out of heaven in the first place.  In the Fall, he led Adam and Eve up the garden path thinking that they too could be like God.  This is spiritual warfare my friends.  We need to take note of Job too when he lost his family, and everything was taken from him.  In any warfare there are casualties, and it was time for John the Baptist to go to the other side and sleep with the beloved saints.  A holy and righteous man who prepared the way for the true king of Israel, the Messiah, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Having done his work at the baptism we find straight after this story he would be arrested by those evil leaders under the control of Satan.  Nothing can get in the way of God’s will.  There would be other times that Satan would come to lure Jesus away from his path.  The road was set God’s will would unfold no matter what happens, and the flood gates of salvation would break into this world through the death and resurrection of Christ. 

We now turn our attention to the three tests that our Lord overcame.  Jesus Passed the litmus test of devotion to his Father, Our Father who is in heaven…

In the book of Hebrews in our last series, we saw that as believers we ought to live by faith and trust.  In this story we see a prime example of how faith works through the most difficult of situations from the life of Christ our Lord.  In each of the tests Satan says, ‘If you are the Son of God’.  Satan was attempting to feed a seed of unbelief into Jesus that he was not the Messiah, he was not the Son of God.  He was attacking the human side of Jesus, looking for a crack.  Notice that throughout this testing Jesus did no miracles and proved that he was the man of God, the Messiah. 

TEST 1

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”

Jesus was hungry, he had not eaten for forty days or nights and then his first attack is to do with food!  William Barclay said that in that hot desert there are rocks that look like small loves of bread.  This was an attack on Jesus’ hunger pangs, but Jesus proved that faith is a lot stronger.  Jesus always prayed, he always found quiet places to pray.  This was Jesus’ The desert was a Temple of Prayer for the King of Kings.   Jesus was being tested on his humanity and Satan was picking on the lowest points just like he did with Job.  By asking Jesus to turn stones into bread, Satan was asking Jesus to do a divine act but if this happened it would be an act of disobedience to his heavenly Father.  An act of disobedience from the Son of God would be a sin. 

TEST 2

5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’;

and

‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,

SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

In this attack Satan was attacking Jesus’ personal security and the Trinity itself.  Here we see Satan attempting to Force God the Fathers hand to do something against the Divine Will by saving Jesus’ life.  Jesus’ answer makes this very clear.  In the story as a whole Satan is referred to as the tempter πειράζω, He was goading not only Jesus the Son of God but also his heavenly Father.  When Jesus said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”  The word here is ‘ἐκπειράζω’ (put to the test).

TEST 3

8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”

Here we see the true nature of Satan, the jealous Satan.  Satan had influence over the whole world, and he was wallowing in the delusion of his controllability to the extent that if Jesus would bow down to Satan and worship him.  This is a cheap barter.  God had commanded that every human is to keep the first command ‘Obeying and worshiping only God’.  We need to remember that the Trinity was involved in the creation of the world and before sin entered everything was ‘good’.  In a twisted way he was attacking the heart of God ‘the Love of God’ for his creatures.  God became a man to save us.  This is real love. 

Satan offered a warped short cut to free people from their bondage to sin, in actuality, I don’t know what would have happened if Jesus caved into this request.   Jesus again did not sin but stayed faithful to his Father.

The Aftermath (Satan leaves, angels look after Jesus and John the Prophet is imprisoned)

11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11

11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

At the end in this text Satan is referred to as διάβολος the ‘devil’ the slanderer.  Angels came to look after Jesus because he was too physically weak after this test.  Perhaps these tests were preparing him for the cross.  Let us not think too much about Satan but rather let us focus our life of faith on prayer and getting closer to our Heavenly Father. 

Postscript

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In the book of Kings, we have the story of Elijah.  In the story Elijah defeated by God’s hand the prophets of Baal.  The ordeal brought him to a place in which he asked God that he would die.  Elijah ‘was spent’:

Then Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14

John the Baptist was taken prisoner, Jesus’ cousin, and Jesus too ‘was spent’.  A place of loneliness, feelings of abandonment… In English we may sometimes say ‘we had a desert like experience’ in which we cannot find or feel God close.  Jesus experienced all these feelings of abandonment too.  Our Lord did not give in, he found his sustenance through his prayer and devotional life. 

Questions

Explain to yourself what the three tests were.

What aspects of Jesus’ humanity did Satan attack?

Looking at the example of Jesus; Why should we pray regularly?

Reflection

As believers and for that matter as human beings we will all face desert like experiences.  We need to remember that if we truly trust in Christ, we are not alone.  In prayer we get closer to God and by the Holy Spirit and through his Word Jesus our Lord we can find a place of refreshment and divine community.  We are not alone, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. 

This test proves beyond a shadow a doubt that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  He was revealed at the baptism, and he went though the litmus trials being proven to be the Son of God.  Jesus defeated Satan’s taunting through Jesus’ human life, Although Jesus is also fully divine, he did not rely on his divinity but his humanity to defeat Satan the accuser.  When God became a human being, he was obedient even to the cross and death on a cross.  Yet three days later he came back to life.   This story is a precursor to what Jesus would do in the future.  So much pain and suffering but our Lord walked the walk of faith, and he did the talk of faith to the very end.  As believers in Christ, we too will go through trials.   Let us stay faithful to the end even as our Lord stayed faithful to the end.

Note: the image was taken from wikipeadia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temptation_of_Christ#/media/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness(J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert)-_James_Tissot-_overall.jpg

Jesus Baptism and His Fully Divine and Human Identity

December 27, 2021

We are now on the verge of the new year, and I have decided not to move on from Hebrews to other parts of Scripture. Over Christmas time, we were reminded that in Jesus we see God taking on human form. In other words, Jesus was not a pretend man but a real man. Yet in another sense he is fully God and Fully man. We accept this by faith. Not much is said about Jesus apart from when he was 12 years old until he turned 30! John was sent in the tradition of the Prophets, and he prepared the peoples hearts for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was baptized by John the Prophet in order to fulfil all righteousness. We know the story; Jesus was baptized and at this public ceremony The Holy Spirit took on the form of a dove that landed on Jesus while God the Father spoke of Jesus being his beloved Son. Here we have a picture of the Triune God:

Matthew 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17


Mark 9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11Luke 21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

As you can see this story is found in all the three of the synoptic Gospels. All three Gospels talk about the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. This is true also in John:

32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34”

There is a fourfold public agreement on the offices Jesus was called to do. As we saw in the Book of Hebrews Jesus is Prophet, Priest, King and the ultimate sacrifice for our sins as well as being the 2nd Person of the Trinity, so that we can have eternal life.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

The Greek text here is moving very fast and the verbs are either in the present or the aorist. The aorist does not exist in the English language, but it is an event that is punctiliar. It happened and that is it.

Verse 13

Jesus coming from Galilee (present tense). He is already there by the river Jordan. This event is happening and being recorded on the spot.

Verse 14

John the Baptist felt so unworthy that he tried to prevent Jesus’ baptism because he felt it should be the other way around. This event was a lot bigger than John because it was a sign to the world that Jesus indeed was sent from God. Jesus is God’s message to the world.

Verse 15

The rationale for the baptism is that God had planned this from eternity. This moment has historical significance for God’s justice and righteousness.

Verse 16

As soon as Jesus came up from the water ‘immediately’ God spoke. God’s authority rested on Jesus. The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove has a fourfold lock on it. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have all verified that this took place. In any law court of any time and place this evidence would be taken as fact that it actually happened. Obviously the character of the witnesses ought also to be looked at. In any case they were willing to die for Jesus. This would validate the facts even more.

What about the character references of these Apostles:

  • Matthew (Levi): Martyred about 60 AD by being staked and speared to the ground. Preached the Gospel in Ethiopia (Africa) and was killed for questioning the morals of the king.
  • Mark (John Mark): Was dictated to writing the Book of Mark. Martyred – dragged to death.
  • Luke: The Physician. Wrote Luke and The Acts. Was hanged on an olive tree.
  • John (The Beloved) (son of Zebedee / brother of James) : Natural Death The only apostle who did not meet a martyrs death. Banished by Roman Emperor Domitian to Isle of Patmos where penned Revelation, the last book in the Bible. Was later freed & went to preach in Turkey and died at 100.

(I got this information from “…csmedia1.com/thexenaproject.org/week-01-how-the-disciples-died.pdf”)

Jesus has his vindication that indeed he is the Son of God. He is then sent to be tried and tested in the desert like Moses and Elijah were.

THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION

Historically something was happening at the time of Christ in the area of Israel and the surrounding districts. The time was ripe for the Messiah to come. I think one of the main questions would be:

What would the Messiah be like?

We do know that the dead see scrolls looked for a powerful leader. We know there was a cultus that was an alternative to the Temple of Jerusalem with serious washing facilities discovered by archaeologists!

https://www.britannica.com/place/Qumran#ref259042

This does not surprise me because the Romans chose corrupt leaders to do their dirty work for them. Herod is a case in point and then his children took his place. Part of this Judaic community opted out of this decadence for simple obedience for the God of Israel. They knew that the Messiah the true king of Israel would come into the world to save them. From a Christian perspective they looked in the wrong place. They looked for a powerful king who would trample their enemies into the ground.

Jesus did not come into the world as this powerful king who would trample their enemies into the ground. No! He was the ‘prince of peace’ born outside of any comforts and shared an area with the farm animals in a shed sleeping inside the feeding trough for the animals. How humbling how different to human logic. God’s logic is always greater than human logic as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians.

Jesus was indeed the Messiah:

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You. Psalms 2:7

And then again in Isaiah

1 “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold:

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him:

He will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

How do we know this?

Only look at the story of King Saul and king David. Saul was the people’s choice. He was tall, good looking and he could fight.

Look at David! He was but a youth but had a heart to obey God. When he made mistakes, he would repent and be sorry for his sins.

Moses as well is recorded somewhere that he was the humblest man in all the world even though he was a leader.

REFLECTION

From what I have said Jesus is indeed the king of Israel and the world. Jesus was there at the creation of the world with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus did not come into the world with all of the regalia but rather the opposite. He humbled himself to sharing space with farm animals and died on a cross like a common criminal. This is seriously humbling. Yet death could not hold him and he was resurrected from the dead which gives us hope in the face of death that we too can be resurrected like him and live forever in God’s presence.