Jesus – The Messiah

Matthew’s Gospel demonstrates over and over again that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Over and over again He points out all the prophecies that He fulfilled.  His genealogy tracing back to David, being born of a virgin, being born in Bethlehem, going to Egypt and then to Nazareth.  Being confirmed by the Father and the Holy Spirit at His baptism and His later transfiguration.

He had the correct supernatural message and proved His deity over and over again by demonstrating complete power over all disease, sickness and other physical afflictions, including death. He had absolute authority over both the natural and supernatural. He even had authority to forgive sins. Jesus fulfilled all of the Mosaic Law and taught the true meaning of that Law with an authority that they had not seen before. 

So when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, described in Matthew chapter 21, the crowds shout,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Did the people really understand what they were saying?  No doubt what they were shouting was true, but I don’t think that they really fully understood it or believed it.  They were still looking for a king who would save them from Roman oppression, not someone who would bring them salvation from the oppression of satan and sin.

What an opportunity for those present that day to say something about Jesus to those who were looking on. You see, those in the crowd praising Jesus and shouting, “Hosanna,” were either from Galilee where Jesus had done the majority of His miracles, or they were the ones present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  These people had seen so much evidence demonstrating who Jesus was, they had heard Him teach in a way no mere man could teach. Yet, instead of boldly proclaiming Him the Son of David, the Messiah, the promised one, this was reduced to “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

True, Jesus was a prophet, but He was so much more than that, and they failed to recognise it. The King of Kings was there.  The prophecies were fulfilled.  The Messiah had come and… they had even shouted that out themselves, yet they still failed to truly discern who He was.

There is not much difference today. People say all sorts of true things about Jesus, but many, including those who call themselves Christian, do not really believe it.

Some call Jesus a great teacher, yet they do not study what He taught nor follow His teachings.

He was a great example, but they do not follow it.

Many people claim Jesus as their Saviour, yet are still busy striving to save themselves through whatever means by which they think they can earn it.

We cannot earn His favour; it comes by His grace:

“Not by works which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5-6)

Some people, convicted of a need for Jesus, claim to love Him, yet they refuse to give up their sin and really follow Him 24/7. Such people are liars because Jesus Himself said in John chapter 14:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

There are others that may even really believe Jesus is who He claims to be, but out of fear, they will not share this belief with others.

I am sure there were those in the crowd that did think Jesus was the Messiah, but were afraid to say so for fear of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees.

Do not let that fear control you, if you do, it says a lot about what your really do believe, namely that Jesus is not worthy of your being possibly persecuted and ridiculed.

Jesus gives us a stern warning,

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33).

Particularly at this time don’t be like the fickle crowd that surrounded Jesus that day, proclaiming one thing but not acting in accordance with what you say. If you know Jesus, then boldly proclaim Him to everyone.  Don’t forget you are called to be a living Bible.

(Based on a sermon from Palm Sunday, 5th April 2020)

Jesus: Our Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

You stumble on the scene of a bully who has just beaten someone up. They’re lying on the ground hurting and pleading for your help with the attacker still there. What would you do?

I remember stumbling across someone who had been beaten up.  I was with a group of friends and when we went to assist, the girlfriend of the person who’s been attacked, whom we didn’t know, told us to leave as the attacker was still there… it was quite tense!  The girlfriend pleaded with us to go in case the aggressor started on us.  We left the scene.

Our Gospel reading is one of the most famous stories Jesus ever told.  A stranger helps a man left for dead when his own people disdain and forsake him.  Those who ignore his sufferings are Levites and Priests – the holiest of the holy.  The stranger is a Samaritan – from that race of hated half-breeds to the north.  Nonetheless he shows incredible compassion.  And Jesus ends with that famous imperative: “Go and do likewise.” (v37).

It is generally assumed that this is a simple morality tale.  We conclude that Jesus wants us to copy this good ethical practice.  Or He wants us to break down racial divides and show that love is the heart of it all.  Or…  well, what is the point of this parable?

Do we pay much attention to the questions that prompt the story?  An expert in the law asks ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And then goes on to ask ‘Who is my neighbour?’ (v29).  When Jesus finishes the story He asks the question ‘Who was a neighbour to the one left for dead?’ (v36).   From this we can ask ourselves the question:  With whom is Jesus asking us to identify?  The priest? The Levite? The Samaritan?

Initially, I don’t think any of the above, because I wonder if Jesus wants us to see ourselves as the man left for dead.  If we do this, we can then assess who is a good neighbour.  Let’s explore putting ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man.

Why do I say ‘fallen’?  Well the man’s fallenness is triple-underlined in v30.  He “goes down” from Jerusalem.  In biblical imagery Jerusalem is an earthly counterpart to the heavenly Zion, so he is falling from heaven!  When you also look at the area you will see that he is heading due east, towards the outskirts of the land (Jericho).  He is leaving this mountain sanctuary (echoes of Eden?), which involves a “fall” of about a thousand metres in the space of 23 miles.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the man then “falls” among robbers.  He is stripped, beaten and abandoned half-dead.  So here is the man’s predicament: three falls in one verse.  Jesus wants us to see that this is also our predicament, for we too are fallen.  So what hope do we have?

The priest?  No, no hope there.  The Levite?  No chance.  What about “a Samaritan”?  This Samaritan is the answer to the fallen man. This man is nothing like the religious people.  In fact, he would have been totally shunned by the priest and Levite.

Yet this Samaritan “took pity on him” (v33) as he comes across the man left for dead and, for emphasis, we are told twice that he goes to the man (v33 and 34).  The outsider identifies with the spurned and wretched.

Now remember whose shoes we are in as Jesus tells this story.  We are meant to imagine ourselves as this brutalised, fallen man.  So there you are in your half-dead state.  Religion has been no help to you, but this stranger does everything.  He comes near, takes pity, heals, carries, cares and pays for it all.  A denarii was a day’s wage (Matthew 20:2).  The inn keeper was given two denarii.  We therefore assume that when he “comes again” it will be the third day.  Then he will bring to completion the work he has begun.

Are we still in the picture?  Have we put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen man?  Have we appreciated the love of the good Samaritan?  Well then, now; Go and do likewise. (v37).

But don’t first conjure up the character of the good Samaritan.  First be the fallen man.  First experience the compassion of an Outsider loving you.  Then go and do likewise.

So I don’t think that this is a simple tale of morality.  The centre is not our resolve to be good Samaritans.  The Centre is Christ Himself.  If we miss Him in any part of Scripture, we turn the gospel into law and blessings into curses.

Jesus is teaching that He is the Good Samaritan.  Jesus is always ready to stop at once and minister to our needs.  He carries us and takes us to a place of safety, and he makes himself responsible for the cost of our fallenness.  Furthermore, He continues to pay for this as long as is necessary for our total recovery.

Have you allowed Jesus to have pity on you, bandage your wounds, having poured oil and wine on them, and then let Him carry you to a place of security where He continues to care for you, regardless of the cost to Him?

Based on a sermon fro Sunday 1st March 2020.

Speaking prophetically

Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42 )

Image by Baudolino from Pixabay

It was unusual for Jewish people to walk through Samaria.  Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans, they avoided any possible contact with them.  So why did Jesus walk there? 

As with many situations when groups of people don’t like each other, it goes back centuries.  In this instance ever since some the Jewish exiles had come back from Babylon they found that their ancient territory was occupied by a group of people who claimed to be the true descendants of Abraham.  These people opposed the Jewish return, the end result being that the Jews chose not to mix with these people in any way, especially if it came to sharing eating and drinking vessels with them.

It was unusual for Jewish men to talk to a woman who was on her own for they tried very hard not to be alone with a woman.  If it was unavoidable, they would certainly not enter into conversation.  The risk was just too high, the risk of impurity, of gossip, of being drawn into immorality.  And to talk to a Samaritan woman was even worse!

It was unusual for a woman to come to a well at midday.  If a woman did this, it often meant they were of bad character.  Going at midday meant that you were least likely to meet anyone else, hopefully no one who knows about your dubious lifestyle.  Any right-minded woman would not want to rub shoulders with a woman of immoral status.

Yet Jesus breaks all convention.  He walks through Samaria.  He talks to a woman, – a Samaritan woman!  He knows what kind of woman she is, and yet he still asks her for a drink.  The conversation He has is teasing and full of double meaning.  He often did this because He spoke from both a natural and heavenly perspective, frequently at the same time.

Often when He spoke at a heavenly level, the people listened at a natural level.  They missed the point!  You see the point of Jesus’ work was to bring the life of heaven to earth.  So, Jesus asking for a drink tells the woman that she should have asked Him for one, but she only thinks in the natural – “you have nothing to draw water with” (v 11).

The clue she missed was in Jesus’ use of the phrase “living water” (v 10).  Here “living water” means running water, fresh water.  Wells held standing water that sat around going stagnant.  Jesus’ double meaning is that as “living water” He brings new life to all who receive Him as “the Saviour of the world” (v 42).  You see, all the water on the earth is just a signpost, a pointer, to who he is.

The amazing truth of Jesus being this “living water” is that it will not only quench your thirst for spiritual things so that you are never thirsty again, it also becomes a spring bubbling up inside you, refreshing you moment by moment with this new life that Jesus brings. 

So Jesus is teasing and testing the woman, but it appears to be enough for her.  She doesn’t know exactly what Jesus is talking about, but her appetite is wetted.  She starts to take Jesus seriously.  But she’s in for a shock – as is everyone who starts to take Jesus seriously.  For being the “living water” He starts to change every area of your life.  Are you drinking moment by moment from Jesus’ “living water”?

This woman was beginning to bring both her outer and inner life into the light of Jesus the Messiah as things were beginning to become clearer for her.  This clarity involved Jesus administering a sharp jolt to her life.  His light shone brightly upon her.  When this happens the effect is to kick start the brain and moral compass into working properly for the first time.

So, the woman asks for this “living water”, this running fresh water to bubble up inside her.  To do this she is going to have to get rid of the stale stagnant water inside her that she has been living off.  For her this was her attitude towards married life – or more to the point, her unmarried life!  Here Jesus speaks prophetically into her life – much to her amazement and astonishment.  In the heavenly realm Jesus saw that she was living in sin, and just like all sin, no matter how small or insignificant we feel it is, how much we justify it to ourselves as not being that much of a sin, if we don’t deal with it, it becomes harder and harder to sort out and overcome.  You take the baggage you carry from sinning once with you when you commit the same sin, or any other sin, again.  The more you commit a particular sin the more baggage you will end up carrying, and the more difficult it will be for you to function with decent morality.  This is when your sin becomes an unhealthy burden, dragging you away from God. 

As often is the case when people are confronted with their repeated sin pattern, they try to change the subject – here it goes from morality to religion (v 19ff).  Yet somehow through the work of the Holy Spirit this woman wants to give up the stagnant water she is living off and come to Jesus for the running fresh water that He alone offers.

If we are called to model Jesus ministry here on earth then I firmly believe that we are to speak prophetically over other people, just as Jesus did.  What I mean by this is that we are to speak Spirit-inspired words that wisely interpret Scripture, circumstances, and the needs of people.  If we are going to speak prophetically over someone it is utterly essential that we apply gospel truths in order to:

  • Build faith
  • Encourage hope
  • Arouse love for God

Prophesy, therefore, could be described as to speak the right word at the right time to a person or group.

True and authentic supernatural divine prophetic words have to be:

  • Completely Scriptural: They should abound in messianic promises and scriptural allusions.
  • Personally relevant: Consider Zechariah (Luke 1:67ff), he revealed that God was fulfilling all his redemptive promises to his people through the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
  • Deeply hopeful: They should assure the person receiving such words that God’s presence will be with them through all the stages of their life.  They should point towards the truth that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and help the recipient to experience the redemptive love of God.
  • Transformational: The goal of redemption is that “we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

True and authentic supernatural divine prophetic words should not be judgemental and fearful.

Whilst we are fallible, we can be inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak in a scriptural, relevant, hopeful, transforming and loving way. Genuine loving, prophetic words are guaranteed to build faith, encourage hope, and arouse love in those we spend our time with. 

Jesus’ work, which we continue through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, is to bring the life of heaven to earth.  So, drink from the “living waters” of Jesus and not from the stagnant and stale wells of the world so that you play your God-given part in freeing others from every obstacle to fearless, holy, loving service.

In the name of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Based on a sermon from Sunday 23th February 2020

Question: Are our minds and hearts Scripture-saturated?

Question: How well do we discern what God is doing and saying to this person on this day?

Question: How can you help others understand that God’s purpose in their lives is not just to change their circumstances, but to free them from every obstacle to fearless, holy, loving service?