My wife and I love the show This is Us. I am not saying that I agree with the spiritual lives or beliefs of any of its characters. I am saying that I think it is a remarkable television show. It is remarkable in that it captures a critical insight that I believe I often miss. I think we all miss it sometimes. That crucial truth? Everyone has a backstory. And, everyone’s backstory is different.
For those of you who’ve never watched This is Us, the show constantly pivots between the past, future, and present in the lives of every character introduced. The central figures are the members of the Pearson family. Jack and Rebecca are father and mother to three siblings, Kevin, Kate, and Randall. Kate and Kevin were fraternal twins, and their mom, Rebecca, lost the third child she was carrying during childbirth. Randall had been abandoned at birth and was left in front of a fire station before being brought to the hospital with the same birthdate as Kevin and Kate. Jack and Rebecca decide to adopt Randall. There are over 10 other characters because each of these people have relationships with others either in the past, present, or future.
The acting, script, intensity of relationships, the good and the bad (although Jack is written to be the most flawless human male I’ve ever encountered—despite his alcoholism), are all amazing. But, I think that what impresses me most about the show is that the writers recognized that what people experience in the here and now is the result of not only the circumstances in the moment, but also all of our backstories. The show takes us through what was behind the development of the psyche of each character and even what was behind the “demons,” vices, or neurosis of each character. It also shows those things that may have driven them to succeed, or to have unhealthy ideas of what success is.
I love this show because I have a backstory. You have a backstory. We all have backstories and no one’s is the same. Even the three kids who grew up with the same parents, in the same house, have different backstories. As I make my way in the world I am becoming more and more convinced that considering others’ backstories is a key to being a conduit of God’s grace. We never know what the person next to us has gone through. Even if we have an idea of circumstances they have faced, we don’t live in their skin, with their temperament. I think I have often assumed that everyone has had the same kind of day, week, month, LIFE that I’ve had. They haven’t. Grace. Grace. God’s grace. We all need it. Before I get angry or hurt in relationships Lord help me remember we all have backstories. This is us…people who need Grace.
When I was a young man I often wondered what God’s will was for my life. When I got a little older, I wondered what God’s will was for my life. Now, that I’m probably well past halftime in my life, I think I’m starting to understand God’s will for my life. I think there are general truths that are applicable to everyone.
Love God. Love others.
Jesus said as much Himself, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I experienced true life-change and a commitment to knowing and following Jesus when I was 17. On August 17, 1984, I decided I wanted to live my life for the purpose that God created me. That being said, I don’t think I had a clue what that purpose was in any specific sense. My dad, of whom I’ve written about extensively in two books (Woodlawn and Always Fall Forward), was a football coach. He pushed his players and me (I played for him) very hard. He made us work very diligently and I’m glad he did. Still, I can’t help but think that some of my thoughts of God are related to how I perceived my own earthly Dad…that somehow God’s plan for me would be extremely painful and not enjoyable in the moment.
So, I spent my college years “seeking God’s will” for my life. Then, I got out and started working, just a job though….probably not “God’s will.” I knew that “God’s will” would be something that He shared with me in a burning bush moment. I also kind of suspected that God’s will for me would probably be something really difficult, no fun, and almost like penance. I think my thoughts of God and His will were probably not too dissimilar from lots of folks' ideas about God these days. These thoughts are that God is some sort of Cosmic Killjoy who will let you into Heaven through faith in Jesus, but who wants you to prove that faith by living a life devoid of fun and enjoyment.
Today, I’d like to share what I believe is a Biblical view of God’s will.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Those three verses tell us things.
1. God does have plans for us and they are for our good, to prosper us, and to give us hope.
2. We should make plans and if we get off-track, God will re-direct us.
3. Trusting God above our own understanding will help keep us on the right path.
Some additional things about God that have helped me see more of Who He is and what His will is for me.
God invented fun.
God invented laughter.
God gave us tastebuds and mouths to eat instead of just having us plug into a wall or something for our needed nutrition.
God invented SEX! All these things should direct our gaze back at the one who gave them to us for our enjoyment within His boundaries. He wants you to enjoy Him through these things!
And, God made you. He made you unique. You are an exclusive blend of talents, temperament, gifting, likes, and dislikes.
In his best-selling book, “First Break All the Rules,” Marcus Buckingham shares with us that people are most satisfied, and enjoy their work the most, when they are doing what they are most uniquely gifted to do. Mr. Buckingham is on to something!
God designed you to do what you are most uniquely gifted to do. What do you love to do? What are you passionate about? Think about this line from Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Liddell from the 80’s classic movie “Chariots of Fire,” when he explained to his sister why he was delaying joining her on the mission field in China:
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Have you found that thing that when you are doing it, you feel God’s pleasure? Explore your gifting. Explore your passions. What activity makes you happiest? Investigate that! You may have discovered God’s vocational will for your life. I have a deep desire to help people discover this for themselves. If you want to talk to someone about your own gifting or vocational ideas, just drop me a note.
Billy Graham once said, “Can you see God? You haven’t seen Him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.” Several times over the last several weeks I have sat and listened to the wind. For the last four or five years I have gotten a strong impression that I have been too “busy.” Busy with work. Busy with driving. Busy with playing. Busy with kids. Busy with hobbies. Busy with television. Busy with radio. Busy with internet. Busy with Social Media. Busy-Busy-Busy!
Two people come to mind when I consider my busy-ness. Mary, of Mary and Martha fame is one. Luke tells of a time that Jesus came to visit these sisters of Lazarus, the man who Jesus would later raise from the dead. Martha was busy-busy-busy! She was getting everything ready for their big dinner party. Mary was just sitting there with Jesus. Listening. Talking. Developing a relationship. Martha was working. Work is a good thing. Yet, when Martha complained to Jesus that she was doing all the work and wanted Him to tell her sister to help, His response wasn’t what she was looking for.
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
The second person I think of is David.
The Lord has searched for a man after his own heart. The Lord has appointed him as ruler of his people… I Samuel 13:14
I think most of us who know David’s story have been amazed that a man with the kind of baggage he carried would be considered “a man after God’s own heart.” On the other hand, I think it tells us about the graciousness, mercy, and passion of our God. David didn’t do anything halfway. He was all in. He was passionate. And, He really, really seemed to not only love God, but also to know that God really loved Him. How did he get to this point? Biblical timelines and the description of David as the youngest of eight sons tells us that after his anointing he spent the next 15 to 20 years developing. He still hadn’t “arrived,” when he became king as evidenced by his moral failing with Bathsheba and his subsequent murdering of her husband. Still, his heartfelt repentance when confronted with his sin and steadfast pursuit of God are inspiring to me.
So, why all this about David in a post about listening to wind? I have a sneaking suspicion that David spent many days alone in the pastures with his sheep listening to the wind. Birds. Sheep. Silence. I believe David spent many nights alone in the pastures staring up at the sky. Silence. Breeze. Sheep. Silence. Stillness. David wrote from his experiences--
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Psalm 19:1-3
David spent many days and nights running for his life from someone he had been completely loyal to. King Saul, blinded by a jealous rage was intent on killing David. David poured out his heart to God while hiding out in silence in caves, in the wilderness, alone. Even in these times of frantic activity, David never lost sight of relationship. Perhaps, like Mary, he had learned that sitting still with God was the most important thing he could do. Like Mary, doing nothing, but being with her/his Savior was the One thing he couldn’t do without.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! Psalm 63:3
I need to stop. I need to do nothing. I need to be with my Savior. So, I look forward to listening for the wind today. I hope to see some stars tonight. I want to know my Savior. I know He is there. I just need to be still and listen for Him.
As a 12 year-old sitting in a Birmingham theater, the words of the Jedi Master, Yoda, rang in my ears. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda has just told Luke Skywalker to lift his “X-wing Fighter” from a swamp. No machinery. No physical movement. Just use “the Force.” Luke tells him that he’ll try. Luke’s answer is what any normal human being would say when faced with a task beyond human capabilities. Yoda’s answer is more aligned with someone who knows nothing of physical limitations.
I have a relationship with the only being in history who could truly act with Yoda’s principle as His modus operandi. God doesn’t try. He does. There is a well-known Christian song by Don Moen entitled, “Ah, Lord God.” The chorus says, “Nothing is too difficult for Thee….” These lyrics are true. Kind of. The word “too” needs to be removed. Nothing is difficult for God. God does what should be done, period. When we humans endeavor to accomplish BIG things we have to think through motives, ramifications, upside/downside, profit/loss. God knows all of those and controls them as a part of His nature. He isn’t taxed by anything. With God, He does or He does not. There is no try. There is no wondering if it is a good decision. God knows what is best. God knows all. There is nothing He doesn’t know. There is nothing He can’t do. And, all that He does is good.
God spoke the universe into existence. There was nothing. Then, there was everything. Why do we doubt God? Mankind’s fall from perfect, sinless, unity with our maker came as a result of our doubting that God knew better than us. Then, because God also loves us completely. God rescued us by taking on human flesh. He then sacrificed Himself to take away the sin that separated us. Then, after tasting death, our God overcame death for us by raising Jesus from the grave.
Recently, I have had a couple of life situations come up that made it clear that God was in control. It helped me to remember,
that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I had an opportunity to develop a relationship with someone I admired and respected that apart from God’s hand, could have never happened. This person is someone who has encouraged me through his teaching, writing, speaking, and life. He lives nearly 800 miles from me. We don’t run in the same circles…Until, God decided we should be friends. He works His plans and will not be thwarted. We cannot prevent God accomplishing His purposes.
Another friend of mine was very unhappy in a job situation and had been looking for another job. The job she really wanted looked to be unavailable. Still, she trusted that God was in control. Out of the blue (but not to God) she got a call offering her the job she really wanted including a big raise. She wanted to figure out a way to spend some time with her family prior to starting the new job. She couldn’t afford time off without a paycheck, so she thought she’d just have to work through til the new job started. A month prior to starting the new job, she received a call from her then current employer letting her know that she was being let go. However, they were going to pay her two months severance. How in the world can this be seen in any way other than Someone else is in control and truly wants to care for and provide for His children.
What God has been impressing upon my heart is that He wants good for us even more than we do. As limited beings, we wonder: “What job should I have?” “What path should I take?” “What should I do with this relationship?” “How are we going to make it?” God doesn’t wonder. God doesn’t try. God does. He is always working. And, He is always working for the good of those who belong to Him.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Is. 55:8-9
When life is crazy I have to remember, God is in control. He doesn’t try to be in control. He is in control. He doesn’t try to work things for my good. He does work things for my good. When I can’t see a way for Him to work and my eyes and my mind tell me I have to do this myself. I must remember, His thoughts and His ways are higher than mine! He sees all. He knows all. And, even the crap I go through on this side of Heaven will be used for my good and His purposes.
God’s ways are the ways of one who is never defeated. God’s ways are the ways of one who always does good. God’s ways are the ways of one who knows all, sees all, and controls all. He is also a God who loves completely and purely. Because He is God, I can approach Him knowing that if it is best for me, He will do it. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Christmas has passed but I have continued to think about its meaning and what it tells us about our God and His heart for His children. I’ll start with an amazing story of love and devotion despite unthinkable infidelity.
Many years ago, in Israel, there was a young prophet named Hosea who was marrying age. God spoke to him and told him that he was to marry a prostitute. Despite the obvious heartache it may cause him, he knew that God had always been loving, kind, and good to him. Even as Hosea trusted and obeyed, his Father went on to explain that his wife would continue to be unfaithful and that some of the children she bore for him would be conceived out of wedlock. At this point I would be thinking, “Okay, surely this isn’t God speaking to me. There is no way that God would ask me to do such a thing.” Nonetheless, Hosea continued to listen to God and was able to learn an amazing truth by listening and obeying even when he may have been grieved by what he was being asked to do. Everything played out exactly as God had told him. Hosea’s wife, Gomer was continually unfaithful to him. Yet, time and time again, Hosea went after her. God taught Hosea that God will continue to pursue unfaithful Israel even as she continually turns to other “lovers.” Ultimately, God will be united to Israel as we read in Hosea 3:5
But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king.[g] In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.
Despite God’s anger over the unfaithfulness of Israel, He still tells of a time when the relationship will be restored.
The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
my love will know no bounds,
for my anger will be gone forever. Hosea 14:4
Next we go to a dinner party where Jesus had been invited by a prominent religious man (a Pharisee). While there, some of the religious leaders and teachers began to talk about how Jesus was welcoming and even ate with sinners! Jesus shared the following story:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 5:4-7
There is a lot of irony in what Jesus says here. The “religious” people didn’t know that they too were lost sheep. They needed to repent as much as the “sinners.” Still, Jesus paints a brilliant picture of a Good Shepherd who goes after His lost sheep.
These two stories tell me so much about Christmas and about the heart of God. They tell me of the amazing truth of the Gospel, that God graciously came after us! We were lost and didn’t even know it. We thought we could make it on our own. Silly sheep. We need a good shepherd. We run after things constantly because we think they will make us happy. We prostitute ourselves instead of resting in the arms of our loving Husband (stick with me guys—we are His bride). Silly Bride. We need our Groom.
Story of Stories—who’d have ever come up with the plan that God had. Our Groom would come after us. Our Shepherd would carry us. And, that He’d leave Heaven to be born into a cold, probably stinky, animal stall, and would live a life of pain, rejection, and perfect devotion and obedience to His Father so that He could be with us forever. Amazing.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For this reason he had to be made like them,[k] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14, 15, 17, 18
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Despite major delays due to health and family issues, here is the conclusion to our series on building a Christian worldview.
We started at whether truth was knowable. If so, how? Is there a God? How can we know, or rather, what does the evidence show? We looked at the laws of thermodynamics, evidence from cosmology, teleology, and scientific and historical methodologies for discovering truth. Upon determining that there is good evidence for a powerful first cause for the universe, we began to narrow it down to determine if the God of the Bible fits the description that the evidence reveals. Finally, we arrived at Jesus of Nazareth. He is the central figure of the Bible. Ultimately, His identity determines whether the Bible is an amazing book of history and other stories from our ancient past or the primary means through which the God of the universe reveals specific details about Himself, His character, His plan, and His design for how we, His creation can live life as it was intended.
The previous four entries dealt with the only options we have regarding the identity of Jesus.
1. Jesus intentionally deceived humanity by conscious fraud.
2. Jesus was, himself, deluded or deceived.
3. Jesus was Divine.
or, 4. That the biblical narratives that we read about were just made up by the writers.
All of these possibilities are addressed in abundant detail in the previous entries. We've arrived at the evidence pointing to Jesus as being the Divine Son of God as foretold by the Jewish Prophets. (Please refer back to those entries of you'd like to weigh the evidence I've presented--if you have things to add, or would like to challenge the data or my conclusions, please do so--respectfully of course.) Still, after presenting a multifaceted evidential look back at the historical Jesus, I felt there were three more miracles that I should share to give further insight into the character and identity of this man Jesus.
The story of Jesus walking on the Sea (Lake) of Galilee is shared by Matthew, Mark, and John in their accounts in the New Testament. Looking at Matthew's account we get some additional details about this miraculous occurrence that give us further insight into Jesus.
1. Jesus had just performed a miraculous sign by feeding 5000 people and He and the disciples were now traveling across the lake to go minister to some other people.
2. Jesus tells his disciples to go ahead without Him. Jesus needed some "alone" time to pray. This taps in to the intensity of the relationship Christ had with His Father, as He followed up on an outrageously amazing miracle with going off to be alone with God.
So, Jesus was left by himself while His disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus needed time with God, and Jesus needed a means to meet back up with His disciples so that He could go meet the needs of the people in the next town.
3. Jesus through whom the Bible says that all things hold together, overcame the natural limitations of the physical universe and began walking to His disciples across the lake!
Something even more miraculous occurred. As He approached the boat, the fearful disciples wondered if He were a ghost. Peter volunteered, "If you're Jesus, tell me to join you ON the water. Jesus did, and Peter stepped out onto the sea. His eyes were locked on Jesus and he actually began to walk ON the water. Suddenly, the waves and winds distracted Peter and He began to sink. Jesus pulled Him up into the boat. Then the wind stopped and the disciples were amazed apparently not understanding that as the Creator of the physical universe, God can miraculously feed people, or walk on water. They aren't tricks. It isn't hard for Him. He is not limited by the physical universe. Additionally, He called Peter out to join Him! He expects that as we put our faith in Him, we will be able to do these things as well! In John 14:12 Jesus makes it clear, He tells His disciples, "you will do greater things than these."
The next miracle is the raising of Jesus friend Lazarus. Again, power, purpose, emotion, and the heart of our Savior is revealed. Jesus is sent word from Martha and Mary, Lazarus' sisters that Lazarus is sick "unto death." He responded that the sickness was meant to bring glory to God and stayed where He was for two more days. He then told His disciples that they needed to go to Judea that Lazarus was asleep. This got the disciples hot and bothered because the Jews had tried to kill Jesus the last time He was there. And, besides that, if he's asleep, he'll be fine. No need to put ourselves in harms way! Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew His mission and He told them it was time to hit the road. When they arrived to Lazarus' family let them know that Lazarus had passed away and that he'd been dead four days and was entombed. Jesus looked around at the sadness. He recognized that death had encroached upon one of His friends. This broken world with sickness, pain, and death brings such pain to people. In this moment, Jesus' heart was broken and the shortest verse of scripture was written.
Jesus wept. John 11:35
Despite knowing that He was about to raise Him from the dead, He wept. Jesus could have come in with trumpets and beating chest, telling everybody to chill. "Everything's gonna be fine!" "I got this!" Instead, Jesus wept. He entered into the hurt and pain that everyone else was going through. He goes there with them...us. He isn't just a fixer. He goes through the rough stuff with us. Then, because from the get-go, God's plan was to be glorified through the situation with Lazarus, Jesus called a man dead 4 days out of the grave and back to life. He does this today. Apart from Jesus, we are dead. We need Him to call us out of our self-styled tombs of everything we think we need, to Him, the only One we really need.
Finally, the one that seals the deal. If Jesus had done all the things we read that He did and was crucified dead and buried, and remained in the grave, we'd have nothing. We'd be left scratching our heads about who this person was and how He did all these great things, but was gone. Paul states it well in 1 Corinthians 15.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
THE RESURRECTION is the greatest event in the history of the world. Our hope is not futile. Our hope is alive. His name is Jesus. He is no longer in the grave!
The blog will be changing in the coming days/weeks.
I have a final installment to do on the series we've done on developing a worldview. The final entry will discuss three miracles of Jesus that give us insight into Who He was. Meanwhile, I am pretty well recovered from three surgeries I had during August. Two were on my back, and one was on my left knee. I also started taking some classes at night at Highlands College. Stay tuned. The next entry will be in the next day or so.
Over the previous three posts asking Who Was Jesus?,we discussed the words Jesus shared with His followers as well as His enemies. We shared a wide variety of issues that were addressed by Jesus. The words He shared revealed a person who didn’t show signs of delusion. He confronted difficult facts of His own life and future that a deluded person would have pushed out of their awareness. Jesus also displayed an uncanny understanding of human nature. Jesus words were at times, an indictment of his friends and followers, and at others, his detractors and those out to get Him. Jesus words also displayed a morality that actually raised the bar on moral norms of His day. His strongest pronouncements were often criticism of the religious “elite,” as He saw the hypocrisy of their lives.
Based on the discussion of His words, it appears unlikely that He was a deliberate fraud. And, it appeared unlikely that He was deluded Himself. And, due to the inclusion of the messy stuff, that was either hard to understand or difficult to accept, it appears unlikely that the story as told in the Gospel accounts is inaccurate. Still, the case for who Jesus was has its final “smoking gun.” Jesus did things that other people have rarely or ever done. We will look at several of these as well as some of his words related to these miracles.
Miracle: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
There are many claiming to come from a “scientific” worldview who a priori rule out the possibility of the supernatural. As a result, they have eliminated the historical method and witness testimony that may refute their closed-system, materialistic view of the universe. (Note: materialism here refers to the view that all that exists in the universe is the material. It is often linked to secular humanism as a world view).
Jesus first miracle occurred at a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. One thing that is noteworthy about all of Jesus' miracles is that they weren't like "parlor tricks." He met real needs with the miraculous works He performed. On the occasion of His first recorded miracle in the New Testament, we find Jesus attending a wedding. In Middle Eastern culture in that day, a wedding feast was given over several days. There were strict cultural norms attached to hospitality in that society as well. The concept of reciprocal hospitality was an understanding that if you attended a wedding ceremony and ate and drank to your heart's content, that if you gave a wedding, your feast would provide the same type of experience to your attendees. Running out of food or wine reflected very poorly on the Groom's family (the hosts) and on the couple getting married. With that in mind, when told of the situation, Jesus fixed it. No fanfare. No pyrotechnics. He pointed out 6 twenty to thirty gallon clay "jars," (more like barrels to me!). These jars were normally used for ceremonial cleansing prior to eating meals. Jesus had the servants fill them with water. Upon drawing the water out of the jars, it had become fine wine. The wine was so good that the master of ceremonies commented about how good it was. This miracle helped celebrate marriage, bringing joy to the attendees and provided where there was need, thus preventing the subsequent shame of the hosts of the ceremony. (John 2:1-11)
In John 4:46-53, we read where a governmental official comes to Jesus asking Him to come to his home to heal his very young son who was deathly ill.
The official pleaded, “Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.” Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man believed what Jesus said and started home.
Again, no fanfare. Jesus simply spoke the word and sent the man home. When the man arrived home, his young son was well. He asked those who'd been attending to him when he recovered and he was told that it was at 1:00 pm the previous day. The man realized that was the exact time he'd been talking to Jesus. Important to note, I believe, is the length the man went to exercise his faith. He walked for an entire day, one way, to reach Jesus. Jesus saw the need and heard the desperation in this father's pleas and He acted.
In Luke 5:12-15, we read of Jesus healing a man with an advanced case of leprosy. People with leprosy were considered unclean and were often left to live alone in isolation or with other people who had the disease. No one wanted to be with them.
When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
Again, no fanfare, no hype, just compassion and a reversal of the natural processes that had brought this man to this place in his life. Jesus instructed the man to go through the normal process for ceremonial cleansing that was required and to tell no one that He had healed him.
There are thirty-seven miracles recorded in the four Gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). John states matter-of-factly that there were many more miracles performed that weren’t included in his narrative. We will conclude this series with a final look at three particular miracles as recorded in the Gospel accounts that I find compelling in describing the identity and character of Jesus. In this entry, we’ve established that Jesus was able to circumvent the natural order to accomplish His purposes. And, we also saw that Jesus heart was compassionate and that He desired good for those who came to Him. I hope this sampling of just a few of Jesus’ miracles stimulates thought, wonder, and maybe some good conversations with friends or family!
In Part 1 Who Was Jesus?, we covered the possibilities of His identity.
He was a fraud who was intentionally deceiving those who followed him.
He was deluded himself, and thought he was the Son of God, but wasn't.
He was Divine.
Additionally, we covered the possibility that the Gospel narratives were legendary, fictitious accounts that didn't accurately describe who Jesus really was. We provided good rationale for discounting this assertion.
In Part 2, we discussed Jesus own self-perception. We provided abundant testimony from Him and from His enemies (and/or the reactions to Him) as to Who He claimed to be. As we stated earlier, He was killed for something, and it wasn't for being a “good moral teacher.” He was killed for claiming to be God.
Part 3 will discuss other things Jesus is recorded to have said that may affirm His claim to be deity.
Matthew 5:3-12 commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, expresses how one should approach life with all its difficulties and how God responds to His people. The discourse is profound in its simplicity and sobriety as to what we face during our time on earth.
Matthew 5:17-6:18 details a higher moral law than had previously been given to the Jewish people. His words made people consider their heart attitudes and motivations rather than just the outward behaviors. His moral law dealt with WHO we are as human beings and not just what we DO. His teaching here even gets into religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness, things that people who hate religion talk about these days. Jesus decried it Himself 2000 years ago.
In chapter 6 of Matthew Jesus discusses how important it is for us to guard what we allow to enter our bodies through our eyes. He discusses man’s tendency to become anxious over physical provision and encourages us to trust God’s provision. He also makes it clear that greed prevents us from serving God.
Matthew chapter 7 contains one of the most often quoted passages in the Bible.
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Most people stop the quote after the first verse. Jesus words are more in line with the “Golden Rule,” which follows in verse 12 of the same chapter. Here he teaches us to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” He is simply advising us to examine ourselves and to avoid making rash judgements of people. Instead, He instructs us to judge fairly as we would want to be fairly judged.
In Matthew 10 Jesus speaks of the cost of following Him. It is apparent He isn’t selling His followers on wealth, fame, or adulation.
“and you will be hated by all for my name's sake.” Matthew 10:22
Likewise, in Mark 10:44 Jesus says:
“and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.”
These are not the words of a megalomaniac. These are sober words that Jesus spoke so that His followers might understand that the Kingdom He often referred to was not one of earthly riches or power.
In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus explains to His disciples that soon He will be executed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. The disciples are still thinking that His kingdom is going to be an earthly one and one of them, Peter, rebukes Jesus for saying that these things were going to happen. Jesus firmly let Peter know that Peter’s motivations weren’t the same as His. That Peter had set his mind on human power and prestige. He actually called Peter Satan in this exchange and then told His disciples the following:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
The verses I’ve shared in this entry do not prove that Jesus is God. That wasn’t my intention. I used these to rule out that He was a fraud or that He was deluded. A fraud wouldn’t have painted such a gloomy picture of what the future held. His words were rooted in a very sane understanding of what was facing Him and what would face His followers. There wasn’t a grandiose attempt at luring people into His “cult.” He spoke sober, sane, words of truth. Part 4 of Who Was Jesus? will focus in on the alleged miracles Jesus performed and the words He spoke in conjunction with these events.
History reveals that Jesus was arrested, flogged, and crucified by Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of Judaea serving under the Emperor Tiberius. Depending upon the historical documents reviewed, you will deduce that Jesus was executed for one reason or another. The four New Testament accounts of the life and death of Jesus agree that he was killed due to being falsely accused of blasphemy by the Jewish religious leaders who then reported to the Roman authorities that Jesus was leading a revolt of some sort. Christians believe that Jesus was God in human flesh and that He willingly allowed Himself to be executed as a means for mankind to be reconciled to God.
Whatever version of accounts a person chooses to believe has to take into account the historical fact that Jesus was killed for some reason. The Jewish religious leaders, nor the Roman government would have executed a “good moral teacher,” without some sort of provocation. The Jews must have thought Jesus claimed something of Himself beyond what a “good moral teacher,” or simple Rabbi would have said. The Romans must have believed or been told something else as well. What makes the most sense? What did Jesus claim for Himself? Who did He say that He was? There are a number of places in the New Testament documents where Jesus made explicit claims as to His identity.
John 10:28-30 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Mark 2:5-11 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
The Jewish religious leaders knew what Jesus was claiming when He told the man that his sins were forgiven. Jesus didn't deny it. He didn't say, “No, I didn't mean it that way. What I was saying was...” Instead, He was even more emphatic, saying that as only God could forgive sin, likewise, only God could heal a paralyzed man. He then told them in essence, “I am God! I can heal and I can forgive.”
Jesus also claimed that He was the Good Shepherd, and that His Father commanded Him to give His life for His sheep. He claimed the ability to give up His life and to take it back again.
“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10:17-18
There are a number of additional passages where Jesus claimed to be God. There are many where He described Himself as “The Son of Man.” As opposed to this being a a mere expression for Jesus humanity, it is actually an exalted title for the coming Savior, or Messiah referred to by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 7) some 600 years before Christ.
Perhaps the most striking claim to me is found in John chapter 8, when Jesus uses the name God called Himself when speaking to Moses in Exodus 3. Moses asks what to tell Pharaoh when asked Who sent him to bring the Israelites out of from their captivity in Egypt.
God replied to Moses, "I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you." Exodus 3:14
In an interaction with the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus tells them,
“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
Again, the Jews weren't confused about what Jesus was claiming. They knew exactly what He was saying, and Who He was claiming to be. That's why they picked up stones to try to execute Him. It seems that He must've determined that it wasn't yet time for Him to die. So, whether naturally, or supernaturally, He hid Himself from them.
My intent in today's post is to make it clear that Jesus knew His identity and made it clear. It was for His claimed identity that He was executed. Nothing else makes much sense in my opinion. It is clear that He claimed to be God. What did His other words and deeds reveal about His identity? We will further explore these clues as to the identity of Jesus next time.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.