Note: Andrew Burns sponsored a series on Bible characters, going from A to Z, on his website and invited a number of people to choose a letter. I got in quickly and chose “J” for Jesus, without wanting to diminish, in any way, his preeminence by including him in the list of Bible characters. On the contrary, my desire was to honor him as the One and Only. The original post is no longer online. It’s below, as originally published.

Jesus is God in the flesh, unique, without sin, the perfect sacrifice for man’s restoration to God. Almost all information about him is found in the Bible. The reliable history of his life and mission are recorded in the four accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in the New Testament. There are but a few historical references to him outside of the Bible, but eyewitness accounts are found only there.

Jesus was born of a virgin. His deity is central to his mission and message, Jn 8.24. It is also part of the core gospel, demonstrating that attempts to pare down the gospel only to the death, burial, and resurrection are amiss. Continue reading

cup of sufferingWhen Jesus assembled all his disciples around the table to remember his death, so do we.

When Jesus served the bread first and then the cup, so do we.

When Jesus prayed and gave thanks for the bread and the cup, so do we.

When all the disciples ate and drank to remember Jesus’ death, all of them, so do we.

When Jesus broke the bread, so do we (sometimes).

When Jesus explained the meaning of the supper, we don’t. Why is that? Continue reading

famousCelebrity today is the continual process of attributing divine qualities to an interminable series of human beings, whose deeds call attention to themselves, but whose errors soon disqualify them. Celebrity has risen in modern times because people do not recognize in Jesus the person of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.
John 1:1 NET

Fred Allen joked that a celebrity is one who works hard all his life to become known and afterwards uses dark glasses to avoid being recognized.

The Word (John’s term for the eternal Jesus) became known by assuming the human condition. He always desires to be known by all, for through knowing him, we know God.

Eternal God, thank you for allowing us to know the Word, the perfect expression of your mind, constant presence among us.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you?
Luke 6:46 NET

Just talk. That what the person does who calls Jesus Lord without doing what he orders. Without obeying Christ’s commandments, faith is vain.

The words of Mary still apply: “Whatever he tells you, do it” (John 2:5).

The parable that follows Jesus’ question reveals destruction for those who ignore his words. Continue reading

“Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized.” Luke 3:21a NET

At first glance, one might think, from Luke’s words above, that the Lord Jesus just went along with the crowd, since everyone else was being baptized. But Luke is merely recording a fact, not registering a motivation.

In fact, Christ does what everyone else does, but with a significant difference. While they, supposedly, sought John’s baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sins, our sinless Lord requested baptism because his Father had commanded it. Though he personally did not need it, he wanted to do right in every way. Continue reading

Our good brother Weylan Deaver has an excellent article on “Intercession and Mediation.” Here’s a hefty part of it, but not near all of it, which deserves calm and careful study.

There is nothing in either the concept of intercession or the biblical context of intercession to limit it to a single party. In point of fact, as these examples show, multiple parties are involved in interceding.

Mediation is a different story. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator [Gr. mesites] between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). A mesites is a go-between, belonging solely to neither party, but who represents at least two parties, each to the other. Think of it this way. An intercessor pleads on another’s behalf (imagine an arrow pointing one way, from the intercessor to God). But a mediator represents two parties to each other (imagine arrows pointing both directions, from saints to God and from God to saints). Being God, Jesus is perfectly qualified to present God to men. And, having become a man, Jesus is perfectly qualified to present men to God. Christ’s station is unique. He is the gateway to atonement, the door to redemption. As mediator, Jesus is the conduit of two-way representation, bringing God and redeemed man together. No one else could. This is why there can be multiple intercessors, but only a single mediator. Let us thank God for both! –via Intercession and Mediation

Weylan does a good job of helping us to get a handle on two important, yea, essential, concepts of Scripture.

Wonder if he’ll let us translate it into Portuguese?

Today’s devotional homes in on the word “leave” (Gr., apheimei) as Jesus used it in Matthew 15:13-14. It can be taken in several senses. Harold Fowler thought it could be read in four different ways, and his third option seems the way to go:

Give up on the Pharisees, because they are incorrigible. Stop worrying about what they think, because there comes a time when you must “shake the dust off your feet against them” and abandon them to their wilful blindness and self-chosen fate (Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 3, Bible Study Textbook Series [Joplin MO: College Press, 1978]: 363).

He leads one to believe all his options may be valid, among which is the sense of “forgive,” but then he comes back with the following thought, which sounds more like the option quoted above: Continue reading

Stumbled across this comment on Matthew 12:16 from The Lutheran Study Bible:

As on previous occasions (e.g., 9:30), Jesus downplayed His ministry of physical healing so that His disciples would better understand that He came, above all, to bring spiritual healing.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that a Brazilian colleague has written that the miracles are parables, too. So perhaps Jesus didn’t “downplay” his healings so much as attempt to interpret them for the people and, when he couldn’t do that, sought to keep them from being broadcast without proper context. With that tweak, I do appreciate and agree with the sentiment of the quote.

Preliminary ideas for a sermon on the baptism of Jesus, from Matthew 3:13-17. Here’s the text in the NET Bible:

13  Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. 14  But John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” 15  So Jesus replied to him, “Let it happen now, for it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John yielded to him. 16  After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him. 17  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.”

Jesus’ baptism clearly shows his uniqueness: he is without sin. He is God, evident from the three persons of the Godhead being present. But for all that, there are also parallels between Jesus’ baptism and ours.

Opposition: John resisted, however lightly, Jesus’ request for baptism. Our Lord had to reason with him before he yielded. We may encounter light or heavy resistance from others as well, for various motives. We should try reasoning, but insist on obedience whether others accept or not.

Beginning: Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of his ministry. Ours also marks the beginning of our life in Christ and service to God. Continue reading

William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary on the gospel of Matthew, wrote, “Men were waiting for God and the desire for God was in their hearts.”* Is it not ever so? Indeed, times there may be, such as at the birth of Christ, when that wait reaches fever pitch and that desire burns hotly within. But in all man’s searching, in all his clamor midst the crockery of life, and even in his negation of God, underneath simmers the plea for the divine presence.

Undoubtedly, Christ came “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), at that point in history specially prepared by the Father, when all the conditions were ripe and the millennial plans of heaven bore their sweetest fruit, when across the empire hearts looked for another hope, a stronger peace, a stabler government, a wiser leader, a higher purpose.

Even in the worst of times, however, when the hearts of men grow cold and love, except for self, turns stale, that inner void for eternal things still aches, the dead soul whimpers still, for no physical comfort nor carnal thrill can quench the thirst for the Creator. That divine image stamped upon the human psyche, engineered as part of his molecular state, calls to him; the shadow cannot stray from the body, nor can the breath subsist when the chest fails to rise and fall. As much as he may try, as far as he may run, man cannot flee from God and his inner being can never squelch completely the consciousness of the Lord.

David, king and psalmist, poignantly expresses in Psalm 139 that consciousness as one who rejoiced in God’s presence:

Where can I go to escape your spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?
If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me.
If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you.

In God’s permeation of all creation David rejoices, while others — atheists, agnostics, rebellious — rail or lament, and ultimately deny it. But their denial permits the truth to raise its head, and in their perennial dissatisfaction they confess what their lips deny.

God give us strength to proclaim Christ in such a way that, whether men wait and watch for his saving hand to appear, whether they desire it openly or feel, in spite of declarations to the contrary, the merest twinge and slightest wish to fill the void, the message of God in the flesh, come to dwell among men and restore in them the divine intention, may extract the confession of Jesus as Lord and prompt obedience to that perfect plan so well adapted to man’s ultimate needs.

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*William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, rev. ed., Daily Study Bible, vol. 1 (Philadelphia PA: Westminster, 1975): 27.