Jesus

“. . .the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth”  John 1:14b

Who is this Jesus?

Matthew said He is “God with us” – “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23).  For thirty-three years He was “God-in-the-flesh with us,” walking among His people, touching them with hands they could feel, speaking words their ears could hear.  Yet He was very much God, performing miracles and speaking with divine authority.  Twice Matthew reports a voice from heaven saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased” (3:17; 17:5).

Mark expands the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, showing His uncommon power to heal, raise the dead,  give sight to the blind,  multiply a few loaves and fishes, calm the raging sea, and drive out demons who recognized Him as “the Holy One of God” (1:24).  He also shows Him to be a King who endured uncommon suffering to rescue His people from the sentence of death.

Luke revealed Jesus as the salvation of all people (2:32).  He wrote to give an ordered account of Jesus from reliable eye-witness testimonies.  Luke offers the most detailed version of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, and tradition holds that these were Mary’s own memories.   How incredible that we have the testimony of Jesus’ Father, and the recollections of His mother to confirm that this Jesus was fully God and fully man.

From his opening testimony – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1) – John most powerfully proved Jesus as the Son of God, the One and Only, divine in nature and one with His Father.  John records Jesus’ “I AM” statements, a direct connection to God’s own self-revelation (Exodus 3:14). He recorded Jesus’ statement:  “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9).  John also devotes half of his gospel to Jesus’ final week, His death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. (John 12-21).

Paul said that He is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and the writer of Hebrews said “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being’ (Hebrews 1:3).  Jesus. “God with us.” “The Son of God.” “The Salvation of God.” “The Word of God” “One with the Father.” “The image of God.” “The radiance of God.” “The exact representation of God.” And that barely scratches the surface. Jesus is . . . everything. Beloved, what more do you need to believe?

Jesus is . . .

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“We’re New Testament people, we don’t need to read the Old Testament.” “I just want to know about Jesus, so I’ll stick with the New Testament.” Ever thought or said anything like that? I’ve heard it many times. As Christians – Christ’s followers – we are focused on only what Jesus did and taught.  But the Old Testament looks ahead to Jesus Christ.  Check it out:

In Genesis, He is the Seed of the woman who will one day crush the head of Satan.

In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb and the one who leads His people out of bondage.

In Leviticus, He is the great high priest and the perfect sacrifice.

In Deuteronomy, he is the Great Prophet to come.

In Joshua, He is the Captain of the Lord’s host.

In Judges, He is the one who faithfully delivers His people from the cost of sin.

In Ruth, He is our Kinsman Redeemer.

He is the anointed King in the line of David in the books of Samuel.

In the books of the Kings, He is the Spirit filling the Temple.

He is the great Teacher in Ezra and the Restorer of broken walls in Nehemiah.

He is the Interceder for His people in Esther and the coming Redeemer in Job.

He is the Shepherd in Psalms and the Source of all wisdom in Proverbs.

He is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes.

He is the Beloved Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.

In Isaiah, He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Suffering Servant.

In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He is the Man acquainted with sorrows.

In Ezekiel, He brings life to dry bones.

In Daniel, He is the Ancient of Days.

He is the faithful Husband in Hosea, the Hope of His people in Joel, the Judge of the nations in Amos, and in Obadiah the One who warns of coming judgment.

In Jonah He is the preacher of the Good News, in Micah He is the Ruler from Bethlehem.

In Nahum, He is the judge of His people’s enemy,  the Sovereign Lord in Habakkuk, and in Zephaniah, He is the God who is mighty to save.

In Haggai He is the Glory of the House of God, in Zechariah He is the Royal Priest and in Malachi Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.

Beloved, if you want to know Jesus, read the Old Testament. He is all over the place.  Then read the New Testament with a fresh understanding of Jesus who was and is and is to come.

Hebrews: Jesus the King

The British royal family has had quite a struggle in the past several years. Being royalty doesn’t always guarantee that everyone will behave well and be happy. Because every member of the royal family is a sinner, just like every “common” human being in the world. This is why the author of Hebrews points to the heavenly throne of Jesus as further proof of who He is. “But about the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God,  your God, has set You above Your companions by anointing You with the oil of Joy.’” (vv. 8-9).

These verses are taken from Psalm 45, a wedding song, and they depict the ascension of Jesus to His take His throne. Yes, Jesus is a king, but He didn’t become a king at the whim of humans. Remember the scene at the royal palace when Pilate mockingly called Jesus a king? The Jewish religious leaders replied, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:1). The people refused Jesus as their king, but it didn’t change who He was because it was God who enthroned and anointed Him.

And what made Him worthy of an eternal throne? He “loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” A lot of kings and queens have come and gone through the ages, some were very good, some were rotten to the core, but none loved righteousness – the standard of God – but Jesus. And none went to the lengths to exalt righteousness that He did. Other kings make laws that demand and enforce a measure of civil behavior, but Jesus gave His life that men might be right before God. There is a huge difference between behaving well and being righteous. It’s an eternal difference.

Everything that earthly royalty is not, Jesus is. Holy. Divine. Humble. Perfect. The author of Hebrews wants us to understand that He is the only hope we have for eternal life and real Joy. He rules over a never-ending kingdom. Beloved, does He rule over your heart and life?

The Mother of My Savior

There’s something wonderful about being a mother.

When I held my son for the very first time, everything about my precious boy amazed me.  His fuzzy head, his tiny nose, his grey-blue eyes, his fingers and toes. I kissed every part of him and prayed that his hands would be lifted in praise to God and his feet would walk in the way of Jesus.

I imagine Mary also marveled at her baby boy as she kissed His downy head.  I am sure she gazed at His face as He slept and her heart was awash with Mother-love.  But when she pondered where those feet would go and what those hands would do, surely the words of the angel echoed in her heart: “You will give birth to a son . . . He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33). 

Her son was destined for greatness – but she could never imagine the path He would take to get there.  Rejection, persecution, suffering, and death would mark Jesus’ earthly life.  He would wear a crown of thorns rather than a crown of gold and His hands and feet would be nailed to a cross rather than kissed in adoration.

But there, in the smelly stable, she kissed that sweet face and caressed those tiny fingers, knowing in her heart that her life would never be the same.  He would one day “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), but this little one needed her now.  The helpless future King was depending on His mother to feed and nurture Him until He fulfilled God’s purpose.

Babies bring out the tenderness in a mother’s heart and no doubt Mary felt the sweetness of her newborn son even as she wondered about the angelic announcement.  His life held the greatest purpose imaginable.  He was destined to be a King, but not tonight – tonight He was her baby boy with tiny fingers and tiny toes.

Child of the King

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Esther knew that her people were in danger and only the king – her husband – could undo the evil plan against them. But no one dared to approach the throne without a summons. Not even the king’s wife. If she did, and it displeased him, she would be put to death. It was a risky proposition, but it was necessary.  She prepared herself and put on her royal robes and when the king saw her standing in the court, he welcomed her. Esther’s bravery saved the lives of the Jews in Persia.

I’ve often envisioned myself standing outside the doors of God’s throne room, my heart hammering in my chest, dressed, not in royal robes, but in the torn, tattered rags of my sinfulness. I come with a heavy burden and a desperate need that is almost always the result of my own sin and foolishness. Do I dare push open that door and approach the holy and pure God of heaven and earth?

According to Hebrews 4:16, that is exactly what I am invited to do, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The confidence I have to come to God isn’t something inside of me, but it is because I am accepted in the blood of Jesus. While I see myself clothed in dirty rags, God sees me clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I see the mud of the world clinging to my hands, but God sees the “clean hands and pure heart” of one who has been redeemed by His Son and cleansed from sin. I see myself as a stumbling, sinful woman, but He sees me as a beloved child. Imagine that. I am a child of the King of the universe. Timothy Keller said: “The only person that dares wake up the king at 3:00 a.m. for a glass of water is his child. We have that kind of access.”

What do you need today? Encouragement? Hope? Provision? Healing? Help? Forgiveness? Peace? Joy? Your broken heart mended?  Beloved, lift up your head and step into your Father’s presence. He will not only receive you but He will throw open His arms wide to you. That’s His promise. That’s your confidence. That’s your place as a child of God.

Thy Will Be Done

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I’ve been in many worship services where “The Lord’s Prayer” is recited by the congregation and I often wonder if the pray-ers are aware of what they are saying.  One part in particular always makes me want to shout, “Wait! Do you understand these words?  Is this really your heart’s desire?  “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  Have you ever stopped to think about what that means and why Jesus included it in His model prayer?

I believe Jesus wanted us to recognize God as King and His rule as sovereign. The king’s will is the law of the land he governs. God is Creator and King of the entire universe – He governs the heavens which includes the angels and the earth which includes human beings. In heaven, His will is the absolute priority of every celestial creature. When we repeat this prayer we are saying the same of ourselves, that His will is our absolute priority, that we have no other will except His.

The question of God’s will has been a constant theme for generations.  We want to know God’s will for our lives, but this verse invites us to look for the bigger picture and how we fit into it.  While God does have a will – a plan and purpose – for our individual lives, that will is encompassed by the greater will of God: to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under the sovereign authority of Christ (Ephesians 1:10). The ultimate purpose of all existence is the Lordship of Christ Jesus. God’s plan was firmly fixed from before time began. All of human history has been moving toward one result: the coronation of Jesus Christ as the King of kings with “authority, glory and sovereign power, everlasting dominion, and a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

So when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (emphasis added), we are surrendering our will to the will of God and committing to being part of ushering in the Kingdom of God and Christ.  Like the angels in heaven, we are swearing our total allegiance to the authority and rule of the only rightful Ruler of the universe.  This is God’s will for your life. He created you with so much more in mind than you can conceive.  He created you to be part of His eternal kingdom.  As you consider the words of this prayer, ask yourself, “What would the world look like if God’s will were done on earth as it is in heaven through me?”

The Real Jesus

Matthew is one of only two gospel writers to mention the birth narrative.  He wrote to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah of old.  He included details that were pregnant with Jewish prophecy. Luke wrote his gospel account via careful investigation and eyewitness testimonies (Luke 1:1-4). Church tradition maintains that the story of the nativity in Luke came directly from Mary’s remembrances, which is why his gospel is rich with the details of the event. Mothers remember everything about their children’s birth. It’s interesting to me that Luke, writing from Mary’s perspective wrote about lowly shepherds who visited the holy family in the mean stable, while Matthew wrote about wise men – probably wealthy Persian kings – who followed the star to worship the then-toddler.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew reaches back to Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith, and identified David, the chosen king of Israel. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage back to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:37). Matthew wanted to show Jesus as the rightful King of the Jews.  Luke wanted to show Him as the God-Man, who lived and died in humility among humanity. So was Jesus a King or a common man? Yes and yes. To have a full understanding of Him, we must see Him as both. And as more.

He is the Baby in the manger. He is the itinerant preacher. He is the dead man on the cross. He is the risen Lord. He is the Son of God, seated at the Father’s right hand. He is the Redeemer of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one who is, was, and is to come. He is part of the Triune Godhead. He is the soon-coming King. He is the Victor who crushed Satan’s head. And He is my Savior. Is He yours?

From Your Lips to God’s Ear

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“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray.” Psalm 5:1-2

I have returned to a discipline I loved but pushed aside for the sake of time – journaling my prayers. This was the tool the Lord used early in my Christian walk to grow and strengthen my faith. I set it aside when my mornings got so packed. It’s just quicker to speak my prayers than to take the time to write them. But I missed it. I’m so glad that the Spirit called me back to pen and paper. One part of my prayer journaling each day is to write out a verse of Scripture, a word of praise or thanksgiving, or something that reflects my heart. This morning I chose Psalm 5:1-2. The sighing resonated with me. I do a lot of sighing these days.

But as I wrote these words something else struck me. Look at the three names David used to identify the One to whom he prayed: Lord, King, God. I don’t know about you but I can hardly get my own family to listen to me, and I know the President isn’t likely to take time to hear me out. But the Lord, the King of the Universe, Almighty God does! And all three of the verbs, “give ear, consider, and listen” don’t just mean that the sound of our voice vibrates God’s eardrums – it means He listens – He pays attention in order to respond. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think? He who is seated on a throne in heaven cares about us and our needs. And one more thing – how close do you have to be to hear someone’s sigh? That’s how close God comes to you and me.

I took great comfort this morning in this verse as I wrote each word. The Lord, the King, God gives ear, hears, listens – to me. Beloved, I hope you also find comfort, strength, peace, and hope this morning in the realization that the Sovereign of Creation has drawn near to you, turned His head so that His ear is next to your lips, and is listening with a desire to respond to your cries – even your softest whimper. Oh, how He loves you!

When My Spirit Grows Faint Within Me

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.”  Psalm 142:3

Have you ever gotten weary?  Weary is more than just tired.

Weary goes down into the bones and drains your energy and hope.  Weary affects body, mind and spirit. You know what I mean.  When the stack of bills gets higher but the job prospects are shrinking, when you take your child to one more specialist, only to hear him say, “I don’t know how to help her.”  Maybe you are in a difficult marriage, have an elderly parent you are trying to care for, or are dealing with an adult child who can’t find his way in life.    Perhaps your work is pulling you down or you are struggling with a particular sin you cannot break free of.  You are weary.

David, the author of Psalm 142, understood weary.  At the time of this writing, David is hiding in a cave from the current King of Israel, Saul, a jealous and unstable ruler.  Though he is an innocent man, he has been running for his life for many long months.  He feels all alone – listen to verse 4-“Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” He describes his situation as “desperate,” (v. 6) he sees himself like a prisoner (v. 7).  He is tired, he is lonely, and he is weary.

But he is also wise, because he knows where to go for strength.

He turns to the Lord.  In this Psalm he says; “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord,” “I pour out my complaint before him,”” (v. 1, 2) Because David is confident of God’s mercy (v. 1), he confesses his weakness and finds the strength he desperately needs in the face of his troubles.  He remembers who God is and encourages himself as he declares that God is his refuge (v. 5), God will rescue him (v. 6), and set him free (v. 7).

The amazing thing about this Psalm is that David knows his destiny is not to run and hide forever.  His destiny is the Throne of Israel; for God, through the prophet Samuel, has already anointed him. He cries out to God, and trusts Him to fulfill what He had already promised.  God knew “the way” he was taking , and He knew the way to bring him to the palace.

David is a wonderful example for us.  He took his needs and his feelings to God. He didn’t put on a brave face before God, but was open with his pain and loneliness. He recalled God’s character and His promise to be David’s refuge and helper.  Did you notice that as David focused his mind on God, his lament turned to praise?  Now David is speaking of his rescue as if it has already happened, and he is planning the testimony he will share on the other side of this difficult time.

Are you weary today? Has the path of your life taken you into the wilderness?  Turn to the Lord, and cry out to Him for strength and hope.  Remember his character and His promises.  Remember that, in Christ, you are a child of the King, and your destiny is eternal life with your Father.  Yes, God knows the way you are taking now, and He knows the way to get you where you belong.

He knows the way home.

Holy Father, when the struggles of this life make me weary, You know my way – because You are right beside me, leading me home.  Amen.