Read: Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-15
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. (Luke 4:15 ESV)
I can’t speak for you, but most of the time when I think about the life and ministry of Jesus I wind up dwelling on his miracles. There were so many, and they are awesome stories of the restorative nature of his redemptive love for mankind. If I’m not meditating on or studying about one of his many miracles I am usually thinking about the final moments of his ministry that led up to his torture and murder, or of course the act of his execution itself. Then there is always that intriguing time after his resurrection where he lived among his followers before eventually ascending into Heaven.
To be honest, I find myself spending the least amount of time dwelling on what may have very well been the aspect of Christ’s ministry that occupied the largest amount of his time. Jesus was first and foremost a traveling preacher. In today’s lingo, he was essentially a missionary. All of the awesome stories we read about his life and works exist within the context of a man who regularly traveled across very rugged terrain to share the redemption story of the Kingdom of Heaven.
He went from town to town speaking in their synagogues. If there wasn’t a nearby synagogue he looked for something else to speak from like a hill, or boat. Luke’s gospel captures this wonderfully. Luke the physician recorded more of Jesus’ words than any other gospel.
We live in an age when words seem to carry little weight sometimes. Actions are held to a higher level of credibility. Indeed Jesus’ incredible acts of mercy were miraculous displays of kindness. However, they were made even more impactful by the accompaniment of his message. He preached that God’s Kingdom had returned to man through mercy, grace, and repentance. He spoke and he acted on it. He didn’t do either alone. He preached repentance and then became the sacrifice to pave the way.
Read: John 4:1-42
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” ( For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9 ESV)
Cultural, racial, and spiritual differences have existed for thousands of years, rooted in the inherent wickedness of men. Jesus ignored all of that the day he sat at Jacob’s Well and chatted with the Samaritan woman. His willingness to ignore social taboos and ridiculous cultural differences gave him a platform by which he ministered to many people during his earthy ministry.
We should love people. All people. Regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or even religion. If we are to follow in the steps of Jesus we have to love that way. He did.
Sometimes that means crossing literal physical boundaries. Other times it may mean crossing cultural or social boundaries. The end result is always the same. It creates an opportunity to show the love of Christ to someone that is in some way different than we are. We have no right to judge the value of person simply based on their difference to us. Just thinking that way lends itself to incredulous arrogance.
Love people and love God. Let Him work out any changing on their part that might need to happen. Our job is just to help thirsty people discover the well of eternal living water that exists in Jesus Christ.
Read: John 3:22-36
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30 ESV)
John the Baptizer had already explained numerous times over that he was not the messiah. He had been baptizing people in droves when someone pointed out to him that Jesus had also begun to baptize people nearby. John was not jealous. He was ecstatic. The final fruit of his ministry was drawing near. Jesus was taking the forefront even as John was diminishing. Jesus was increasing in fame, following, and favor as John was decreasing.
John had the right of it. Even aside from his part in God’s redemption story for mankind he knew that in order for his life to achieve its full potential he must decrease as Christ increased. The same thing is true for us today.
If you and I are to find fullness in Christ we must relinquish control of our lives. We must take the humbly reverent approach that looks first to Jesus for answers. This brings a unique sense of joy to life as we learn to lean on God. Over time we replace our selfish wants with selfless wants. We reject arrogance for humility, and insecurity for steadfastness. We decrease. Jesus increases.
Read: John 3:16-21
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17 ESV)
Most of us have seen them, read them, or played them. So many works of fiction revolve around the idea of saving, either our world or one imagined, from some cataclysmic force. There is something somewhere inside us that deeply connects with the idea of this world needing to be saved.
In truth, that is exactly what Jesus came to do. Humankind had derailed this creation from the perfection of God’s course for the world. Jesus came to fix it. By our inherited sense of wickedness we had fallen out of right standing with our Heavenly Father and joined a rebellion. The sentence was death as a wage for our sin, but God enacted another plan. A plan set in motion before its necessity ever became a reality.
Jesus stepped out of the eternal into finite history as a man. The Light, Word, and Son of God made flesh. While he had every right, and all authority, to pronounce incredible judgement upon humanity, he instead worked, lived, and was persecuted under amazing grace. He who knew no sin, took our sin. He who knew no death, took our death. He returned to us forgiveness, mercy, and life. In short, Jesus saved the world.
Read: John 3:1-15
Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7 ESV)
Nicodemus, himself a religious leader of the Jews, came in secret to Jesus to confess his acknowledgement of Jesus as a messenger and teacher sent from God. He didn’t acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, only as a miracle worker who clearly had the blessing of God upon his ministry. Jesus responded with a teaching that has become a permanent part of traditional Christian vernacular. He told the Pharisee that he could not be part of God’s kingdom unless he was “born again.”
This was a new idea to Nicodemus and he confused Christ’s meaning with one of earthy implications. Jesus’ frustration with Nicodemus’ lack of understanding was apparent. How could someone who professed to be a follower of God and a teacher of the Law so easily confuse or misunderstand the path to God?
I don’t know what you’re background is. I don’t know your religious history. All I know is that like the Pharisee did we need to humbly approach Jesus and seek answers. In terms of rebirth we need to submit ourselves to the kind of spiritual rebirth that can only be experienced through the supernatural miracle of salvation. We all must be born again.
Read: Isaiah 9:1-7 & Matthew 4:12-17
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)
Early in his ministry Jesus’s cousin John was arrested for boldly declaring King Herod as a sinful ruler. Shortly after Jesus left his hometown of Nazareth and made his way to Capernaum, a place which would become his headquarters for much of his ministry. It had been prophesied hundreds of years prior by Isaiah. The messiah would be for all people. He would shine as a light into darkness.
For the Christian, Christ has exposed our inner darkness and returned us to a place of restoration and salvation in him. For the unbeliever that has yet to happen, but Jesus still illuminates. He still points us to our need for him. Because in truth we do all need him.
As a believer what do you do with the light of Christ? Do you allow Jesus to shine through you? Do you allow him to work in and through you in a way that illuminates our deep need for him?
It’s not always easy. The darkness is no fan of the light. But it is necessary. We are all people who walk in darkness without Christ. In Christ, we are to shine a light which is the hope for the world.
Read: John 2:13-25
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. (John 2:15 ESV)
The system was completely ridiculous. The religious elite had turned the Temple, meant to be a connecting point between God and man, into a religious market. It came complete with a pyramid scheme and fraudulent money conversion system. Herod and the Chief Priests were making an exorbitant fortune.
Jesus got mad. He didn’t go sit in his room and think about it. He didn’t blog. He didn’t write a sad song or rebel against his family. He made a weapon. He crafted a whip out of chords. He took time to fashion the instrument he would use to deliver justice. He thought about his course. He acted upon his anger.
The difference between Jesus’ anger and mine is not only how he did what he did, or what he actually did, but why he did it. Usually if I get mad it is rooted in some kind of pride. Jesus’ anger derived from his understanding of the terrible corruption taking place in God’s house. My anger usually erupts when something that I would typically just tolerate somehow begins to affect me. Jesus’ anger boiled over at the injustice being done to the hundreds and thousands of people coming to the Temple. Jesus anger was righteous. Mine rarely is.
Jesus’ active anger resulted in the righting of grievous wrongs. It’s ok to get mad. It is even ok to act on your anger. It’s not ok to act out of selfishness, pain, or pride.