In this letter to the Hebrews, we see the Son glorified above all else and I just want to bask in his glory as I read these words. It says that Jesus is the heir of all things. It sounds impressive to be heir of all things but the glory that Jesus has in that title isn’t his own, it is that of his Father. To be heir means to be a person who inherits. That means that God chose Jesus, his Son, as his heir to inherit all things. Only God has that power and he chose to bestow it upon Jesus.
It also says that God created the world through Jesus. This sounds like 1 Corinthians 8:6 where it says all things are from the Father and all things are through the Son. This, again, is such an honor that has been given to the Son to be used in this way where all of creation can only see God through Jesus. The relationship between Jesus and God is so much more than I can even fathom or explain. That the Father loves his Son so much to give him all these gifts, and give us gifts through him.
The Son is the radiance of the glory of God. What a beautiful image! If God is the sun, then Jesus is the light that we see on earth. You can’t look at the sun, but you can see the light everywhere during the daytime. In the NRSV translation of this verse, it says that Jesus is the reflection. If God is the sun, then Jesus is the moon, reflecting the light of God even at night when we can’t see the sun.
Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. This makes me think of those concrete handprints that kids make when they’re little. That piece of concrete is nothing but an imprint, and yet it looks exactly like the hand that formed it. Jesus is the imprint of God’s nature, we can see God exactly through him.
Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. To think that the man who was mocked, beaten and given a criminals death would be given this power. In Genesis, we see God creating the universe with nothing but a word. In the gospels, we see Jesus performing signs and miracles with nothing but a word. He commands a lame man to get up and walk, and the man gets up and walks. Jesus is truly the heir of all things, he inherited even the power of God’s word.
The Son is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. There can be no position more glorious than this (besides the position of the One to whom Jesus is sitting to the right of). Even the angels who dwell in heaven don’t have this honor. Truly Jesus is much superior to the angels. The name that Jesus inherited is more excellent than theirs. In Revelation 19:12, we see an epic image of Jesus arriving with a host of angel armies wearing a cloak dipped in blood. It says that he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. And his name is called the Word of God. This is what Jesus is called in John 1, the Word of God. Jesus has been given this name and the power and the majesty and the glory. Stand in awe of the Son of God.
Verses 5-14 go on to use the scriptures of old (see Hebrews 1:1) to show how much greater the Son is than the Angels. It says that Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God (John 3:16) and that God is his Father. Even the angels bow down in worship to this Jesus while they are merely messengers, like winds and fire. It says that Jesus is anointed, chosen by God and given a kingdom and throne that will last forever. It even uses passages that we would attribute to the Father to describe the Son. We know that the Father founded the earth and the heavens are the work of his hands, but the Son has come to inherit these things as well. Jesus remains even as the earth wears out like clothing and his years will never end.
Reading these verses makes me feel that the glory of Jesus is so much more than I can fathom. I believe it all and yet I still struggle to follow him with all of my heart. I can only imagine that though my head knows these things to be true, my heart doesn’t fully believe it. Do you believe it? Do you act as if you believe it? I pray to God that you and I will have our hearts changed so that we truly believe the incredible words written here and that we are moved to action, to fulfill Jesus’ commands to go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Which image or description of Jesus do you find most powerful or most helpful in attempting to understand the high place God holds for Jesus?
What might receiving this letter (the book of Hebrews) have meant to the original audience – Jews/Hebrews who had become Christians?
If you were to write a letter to Jesus, how would you address him? Are there any questions you would ask him? How would you revere him?
Before Adam, before the fall, there stood Christ. While his life wouldn’t begin for another 4000 years, God had already set salvation in motion. It is why the stars and the sand could speak to Abraham. It is how Isaiah could see visions of one crying out, “prepare the way”. It was the fabric that held two genealogies together to come crashing into miraculous birth in Bethlehem. It is the very dead Jesus being raised by His Father to be the firstfruits of the resurrection and giving him preeminence as a King in the life to come.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17
Jesus Christ wasn’t Plan B because of a fall of man in the Garden of Eden. He wasn’t a contingency plan to be used in emergencies only. He is the culmination of God’s love for man and the inevitability of the selfish nature of freewill. In him, through him, and for him, ALL things were created. Things of heaven. Things of earth. Things we can see. Things we can’t. And it all makes sense because of his life. God, the Father of Jesus, is the author of providence and will. Jesus Christ has been given the place as the executor, the head, the mediator, our way back to God after wandering in the desert, ritualistic religion, or feeling foreign in our own body.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. – Colossians 1:21-23a
The fullness of the word of God is revealed. It isn’t a mystery. It is available to anyone, anytime. No matter the amount of struggle or hate we fortify and reinforce in our minds, our hearts are attuned to Jesus because he is stitched and woven into every creation, including each one of us. Oh, how God was mindful of us. He knew. His creation surrounds us and testifies of His glory, which in turn, is distilled in Jesus Christ. My prayer is we all recognize that the glory of God can exist in each one of us when we live as Jesus lived, placing the Firstborn of Creation into our hearts, and embracing the very context for existence.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:1-4
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How would you describe Jesus, The Creator’s Firstborn, to someone who has never heard of him before?
What does creation teach you about the Creator and His plans?
What does it mean to you to be reconciled to God through Christ?
When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top).
That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.
Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.
On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.
The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They told Jesus that some people believed He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. At that time there was a lot of speculation and incorrect information about who Jesus was.
But Jesus cuts through all those wrong assumptions of his identity to ask the disciples a couple of important questions. Questions that they personally needed to answer with what they knew to be true of Jesus. Questions we need to ask ourselves. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Peter was certain. His understanding of Jesus had been established beyond doubt. Christ then provides Peter with His new identity. He blesses him, confirms that his beliefs are from God, and gives him a new name. Who wouldn’t want to be named the Rock? Jesus established his church. Jesus also gives them authority to carry out spiritual work. They were to continue Jesus’ work of making disciples, baptizing, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. Opening up the Kingdom for generations of followers of Jesus Christ.
So with all this in their grasp, what could possibly lead the disciples to later desert and turn away from Jesus (Matt. 26:31, 56)? An angry mob armed with swords and clubs. We are often faced with a similar dilemma. It may not be an angry mob, but when we stand for Jesus Christ we may face rejection. We may face trials and temptations and we need to hold on to the truth of who Jesus Christ is. We need to remember who we are because of our relationship with Christ. It is easy to speak boldly about the truth of Jesus when we are not in dire circumstances, but we need to learn from the disciples’ situation. No matter what circumstances this life throws in our way, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. As we are promised in verse 27, when Jesus returns He will reward each person according to what they have done. You can be at peace knowing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
If Jesus were to give you a new name that represented what you do for the church now what might it be? What would you like your new name from Jesus to be if it were based upon what you could and would do for the church? What steps do you need to take to earn that name? How will you continue the work of Jesus?
Jesus says, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (vs 11). And in Matthew 13:33 he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” What is the purpose of yeast? What are some examples of negative yeast in your life? What are some examples of positive yeast?
How would you describe who Jesus is? Who do you know who needs to know who Jesus is? How can you share what you know?
How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?
What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?
John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.
John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.
John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.
It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.
John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.
So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.
So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).
Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.
Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.
In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.
Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.
We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.
I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 19-20 and John 1
Have you ever looked at yourself through the mirrors in a funhouse? Maybe they made your legs appear shorter or your figure much rounder. Of course, just because the mirror makes you look one way doesn’t mean that you actually look like that. Sometimes people seem to see us through funhouse mirrors; they get a distorted image of who we actually are.
Jesus, too, was often seen through funhouse mirrors. Many people perceived him to be a traitor and criminal. Yet, standing in front of the mirror was actually the begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah.
After Jesus’s arrest, he stood before government and religious officers, as was customary. Jesus was beaten by the guards, accused by the leaders, and ridiculed by the crowds. It’s a disgustingly difficult chapter to read because of the undeserved nastiness towards Jesus.
So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Luke 23:3)
Jesus didn’t deny Pilate’s allegations. If I were Jesus, I would probably burst into tears shouting, “It’s not fair!” After all, he had never sinned, nonetheless committed a crime worthy of death on a cross. Yet, he continued to refrain from defending himself.
He (Herod) plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:9)
Jesus’ goal wasn’t to appease man but to please God. God already saw the real Jesus, the one standing in front of the mirror. Let us learn from Jesus’ example: You don’t have to get the last word. It’s okay to be misunderstood. There’s no need to get even. You have nothing to prove.
Because God sees you—the real you.
I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139 from The Message)
I love to plan parties! I’m usually up late the night before a big party getting all the details just right—making signs, assembling favors, and arranging decorations. Meanwhile, my God plans parades centuries in advance! He planned the famous parade we commemorate each year on Palm Sunday: Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Daniel received a vision about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, about 600 years before it was to happen:
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” (Daniel 9:25)
It’s important to note that the ‘sevens’ described by Daniel are each periods of seven years. The math makes my head spin (not everybody used the same calendar back then… talk about confusing!), but historians have found Daniel’s vision astonishingly accurate. The time between the issue to rebuild Jerusalem went out (Nehemiah 2) and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is just as God said it would be, to the very year. God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail.
In the book of Zechariah, the world’s best party planner gives even more insight into how this day would unfold:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
And so it came to be—Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The gospels contain several descriptions of that bitter-sweet day—Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12. Up until this point, Jesus kept his status as the begotten Son of God a secret, urging his disciples not to reveal his identity to anyone (Matthew 16:20). On that day, however, his disciples shouted among the masses, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). In that same city, in that same week, the cries of “Hosanna!” would turn into shouts of “Crucify!”
As we wave our palm leaves at church this morning, remembering Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem years ago, let us also remember the parade still to come. Close your eyes and imagine the grandeur of Jesus’ second coming—the roar of the trumpets, the raising of the dead, and the overwhelming noise of centuries worth of believers worshipping at the feet of Jesus. No more death, no more crying, no more pain:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:2-4)
God’s timing is perfect and His plans always prevail. 2,000 years ago Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem to die. Soon he will return to Jerusalem again to bring life everlasting.
In each of our passages that we read today is the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus had just asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” The Jewish people revered Moses and Elijah as great prophets of God. I believe that this vision was a way to show them that Jesus is even more than a great prophet. To the Jewish people God was always associated with the cloud. In Exodus, He was in the cloud that was leading them through the desert; when He talked to Moses, He appeared in a cloud; when the glory of the Lord was in the tabernacle, it was covered in a cloud, and when they dedicated the temple, the glory of God was associated with a cloud. 1 Kings 8:10 says,”When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.”
The transfiguration is showing them that Jesus is to be more honored than both of these men. Mark 9:7 says, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’” God is telling them, and in essence telling us, to listen to what Jesus is saying. To take his teachings to heart. Jesus is not trying to lift himself up and tout his own glory. He is trying to glorify the Father, and teach others about the kingdom. Acts 3:22 reads, “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.” Yes, they had other prophets but they paled in comparison to the Son of God, and we are told to listen to everything that he tells us. We need to make sure that we are reading and closely following what Jesus was teaching them. Today, there is a “Be Kind” movement. Jesus started that movement years ago, it’s just now catching on. He said to “Love God, and Love others.” Pretty simple and straight forward. The world would be a much better place if we would all listen to the words that Jesus spoke. But we can’t just listen, we also have to act on the words that he said.
Sometimes we, just like the disciples, have a hard time living what Jesus was teaching. It goes against our natural desires, which is to look out for ourselves. Jesus tells them once again about his impending death and resurrection, and he sees them having a conversation. He asks them, even though he knew, what they were disputing about as they walked to Capernaum. They would not answer him, because they had been arguing over who would be the greatest among them. This story always reminds me of one of my children and their first cousin. When they were together, they always wanted to be first at everything. The first to get their food, the first to finish eating, the first in running, etc. So one day I told them, “In the Bible it says, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Then they both decided they wanted to be last, so they would then be first. They may not have learned the true meaning of these words. Mark 9:35 says “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” With these simple words, Jesus has given us a fundamental truth. So many of the world’s problems would be solved if we would take these words to heart. If we would try to make others’ lives better instead of making our life better. If we would become the servant of those around us. Jesus typified this when he washed the disciple’s feet. He could have sat down and demanded that someone wash his feet, because he was the Son of God, but instead he showed true leadership by serving them. With his death he was serving all of mankind so that we would have a chance to share in the kingdom when he comes back as the King of Kings.
Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?
You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod didn’t appreciate John pointing out Herod’s many sins.
With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)
And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).
In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.
In the rest of this chapter Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 11
Tomorrow we will read Matthew 12:22-50 & Luke 11 as we are reminded again of the saving work of Jesus – and how he calls us to be yoked to him.
In Jerusalem there was a pool, called Bethesda, where blind, lame, and paralyzed people would gather. My Bible has a footnote that says John 5:4 isn’t in the most reliable manuscripts. John 5:4 says “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.” If this verse isn’t legitimate, the rest of the story doesn’t make sense, so I’ll assume it is valid.
Anyway, there was a man there who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. This seems like a strange question to ask someone who was an invalid. But who knows, maybe he was making a good income begging, and wanted to stay in his condition.
Instead of saying, “Yes!”, the man started making excuses – he replied that he didn’t have anyone to help him into the pool when the water was stirred, so he never got into the water first.
Jesus then told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
This is a curious miracle. The man didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. The man didn’t have faith that Jesus could heal him – when asked, he didn’t even know who had healed him. Also, there were many sick people there, and Jesus only healed this one man. First, I do have to acknowledge this is a tremendous example of grace. But I do have to wonder, why did Jesus heal this man?
If we keep reading the story, we find that instead of being happy for the man that had just been healed, the religious leaders criticized him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He told them he was just doing what he was told by the man who had healed him. When asked who that was, he didn’t know.
Later, Jesus found him again and told him to stop sinning or something worse would happen to him. (We can assume Jesus meant the final judgement, but we’re not told.) After this, the man went back to the religious leaders to tell them Jesus had healed him – on the Sabbath.
Now, I think we are finally at the point of understanding why Jesus healed this man. I wonder if Jesus wanted to shake up the understanding of the religious leaders of his day, and this was a good way to get their attention. He told them, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Notice that Jesus said “My father” instead of “our father”.
The Jews recognized that Jesus was telling them that He is the son of God. In this chapter, He also called himself the “Son of Man”, which they would have recognized as a messianic reference from Daniel 7:13l. They were furious that not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, he was claiming that He was (is) the son of God. And they made the mental leap to say that if Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, he was claiming to be equal with God.
They studied the scriptures regularly, and thought they would “earn” eternal life because of that. Jesus pointed out, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day couldn’t accept what He was telling them. Instead, they just wanted to kill Him. What about you? Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who will one day judge the living and the dead? To paraphrase James 2:19, the demons acknowledge this too – and shudder.
If you do acknowledge Jesus, what are you going to do about it? I would encourage you to take a cue from the man who was cured, and obey what Jesus said. No, don’t pick up your bed and walk – instead read your Bible to understand all Jesus taught about, and obey all of that. Finally, we should all take to heart Jesus’ warning to the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Because, as we’re reminded in John 5:28-29, “… for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 5
Tomorrow we read Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3, and Luke 6 as we continue in our Bible reading plan.