This is Jesus; Hear Him!

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Have you ever said the wrong thing?  Several years ago, I was on a mission trip to El Salvador.  We were touring a region of the country visiting with several local churches.  One day, we visited the pastor of a church and saw his home.  We saw the fruit trees, the garden, and a few chickens.  Three chickens to be exact.  We left to tour the town with an invitation to return for dinner.

When we returned, we all sat outside and had a wonderful, Salvadoran meal of chicken, soup, tortillas, and some fruit.  We ate this mean in the pastor’s yard surrounded by the fruit trees and a couple of chickens.  That’s two chickens.

As we ate, one member of our group said, “I didn’t see a grocery store in the village, I wonder where they went to buy this chicken?”  She then began to prod the translators to as our hosts where they went to buy the chicken for the meal.  Everyone sat quietly, stifling smiles.  Our team member was a little embarrassed to learn that the family did not purchase the chicken.  They butchered their own that afternoon.

We have probably all been in that situation.  We blurt something out without thinking, only to be embarrassed when we do.  It happens.  It happened to the apostle Peter quite a bit and in one case, shows us a little about losing our focus.

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)

Some have said that what happened at that moment was one of the most significant moments in history.  It is as though we have come to the intersection of Heaven and Earth.  There, it was possible to see Jesus in His glory, as we might see Him in Heaven.  Peter would later use this incident as proof that he was not just following a fable, but that Jesus was truly God.  It was here that some realities about who Jesus is became clear.

Seeing Jesus in His glory proved to Peter that Jesus is not just human, but God as well.  He is fully God and fully human.  Further, this moment proved the eternal nature of Jesus.  Jesus often talked of Moses and others from the Old Testament as though He knew them personally.  He claimed that Moses knew of His coming.  Seeing Jesus in His glory at this moment showed that eternal reality.  There He was, speaking with Moses and Elijah in the Heavenly realm.  Finally, as Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah about his coming death in Jerusalem, we realize that His death was a part of the plan; a part of the purpose of Christ.  So, it is at this intersection of Heaven and Earth that we see the humanity and deity of Jesus, the fact that He exists eternally, and that His death was a part of His messianic purpose.

Of course, those things might not have been obvious the exact moment Peter saw them.

32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 33 Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. (Luke 9:32-33)

Peter, who has been napping, suddenly wakes up and does what Peter does best:  he says the wrong thing.  He commits a faux pas; a big one.  He suggests worship for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  This is a mistake that is made throughout history.  He wants to worship what seems good, but that is idolatry.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 36 When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36)

Now, Peter, James, and John stand in the presence of God and get one instruction:  Jesus is the Son: Hear Him!

Make no mistake, what is being said here is that Jesus is set apart from all others.  He is not a creation of the father as you and I are, but rather He is the Son.  He is unique.  There is nothing like Him.  He is not just a teacher or a good example.  He is not just a prophet.  He is the Son of God and as such, we are to follow Him.

Now let us look at this from Peter’s perspective.  Consider ourselves in his place.  Luke seems to make and excuse for him.  He was asleep.  He had just awoke (note: he was awake, so he really is without excuse) and saw something he did not understand.  We have all been there.  We wake up from deep sleep and have to take a moment to know what is going on.

As I read this, I think this explains a lot of our problems as modern Christians.  We are lazy in our walk and spend most of our time napping.  Think of it this way: We taken in much more than we give out.  Just listen to how we talk about worship:  “I didn’t get anything out of that!” “I don’t like that song, I do like that song” “I don’t like that preacher.”  We make everything about ourselves and what we get.  We gorge ourselves spiritually.

Think back to Thanksgiving.  You ate and ate and ate.  You took in and took in until what?  You fell into a turkey coma.  That is what happens to us as Christians.  We take in and take in.   We stuff ourselves and fall into spiritual comas.  Then something happens.  The Spirit speaks.  God moves and suddenly we wake up and miss the point.  Instead we desire the event and we miss the point completely.

Sure, we can go into some advice about staying awake, but the most important thing to note here is the words of the Father:  “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35)  It is as though God is telling us to ignore everything else.  Here is Jesus, follow Him!  Nothing else is good enough.  Nothing is close enough.  Jesus is it!  Listen to Him!

Ultimately, Christian, you must focus on Christ alone.  Several years ago, a popular movement swept through Christianity called “WWJD:  What would Jesus do?”  It was an interesting question and a very weak movement.  It was weak because people became more interested in saying “What would Jesus do” than they did in actually following Jesus.  At some point, we must realize that Jesus is it and follow Him!

In Surveying the New Testament, I have learned that the largest collection of the words of Jesus is found in the book of Matthew.  Matthew wrote five sections of discourse; teachings of Jesus.  I want to challenge you this week to set aside some time to read those five sections.  They are:  Matthew 5-7, Matthew 10, Matthew 13, Matthew 18-20, and Matthew 24-25.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Let us hear Him!

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It Can’t Be Done!

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I recently heard a pastor talk about his golden retriever.  It is a great breed with a glorious reputation.  The golden retriever is bred to wait by a winter river; to leap into the icy waters and catch game to bring back to its owners.  Now this pastor’s dog never did any such thing.  The instincts were there, however, and each day the dog would go off in the woods and come back with a box turtle.  The pastor said it was always so proud of what it caught, that they didn’t want to tell the poor dog that there is nothing special at all about catching a box turtle.

I begin to think about that.  As a Christian, I meant for great things; miraculous thing; things that will bring glory to the One True God.  Yet, in much of my life I am satisdied doing what is most comfortable; what is easy.  I find my niche and enjoy myself.  There are times when I step out on faith and it is those times where I find myself amazed at the Lord.  It is those times where I feel like Isaiah as he stood in God’s throne room.  Still, when called to step out on a limb, I am likey to worry and say, “I can’t do that!”

10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11)

The twelve returns from being sent out.  They have been healing and casting out demons.  They are amazed at everything they have been able to do.  Jesus takes them aside to deal with them.  This is a normal part of the Christian life.  There are times when we must be out on mission, but we must also regroup.  Jesus would often spend time alone in prayer.  Other times, he would gather just his immediate followers to minister to them and fellowship with them.  Still, other times he would minister to the masses.

As Jesus gathers with His followers, the masses come.  So He begins to teach and to heal.

12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” (Luke 9:12)

The crowds are there and the day is getting long.  A problem presents itself.  There is no food around.  If anyone is going to eat today, they will need to leave and go into the towns.  The idea is simple, let them go and get what they need.  They can always come back later.  However, if they remain, they will probably expect to be provided with some food.  The disciples see the problem and bring a solution:  send them away.

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. (Luke 9:13-14a)

Jesus challenges them with the impossible:  “You give them something to eat”

What?  Now this is crazy.  There are more than 5000 people here.  How is it that Jesus would expect the disciples to feed them.  Forget for a moment that it cannot be done.  Is it even fair that Jesus would expect this?  After all, wasn’t this supposed to be the disciples time to refresh and renew themselves?  This should be a rest for them, and now Jesus is telling them to feed 5000 people.

They point out the obvious.  They have no more than two loaves and two fishes.  That will not feed the crowd.  They would have to go buy food, which for 5000 people would be pretty expensive.  In other words.  This is not possible.  It cannot be done.  The disciples are saying, we cannot do this!  You ask too much!  This is not my job!

But the fact is, Jesus called his followers to do the impossible.

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 So they all ate and were filled (Luke 9:14b-17a)

Jesus is unfazed by their objections.  He offers no argument, He just continues to tell them what to do.  He acts as though their abilities are not even a factor.  He tells them to prepare the people to eat.  What an interesting moment that must have been.  The people are hungry.  The disciples have no food. Yet, now they have to sit the people down to get ready to feed them.

Then, much to everyone’s surprise, there is food.  Jesus blesses the meal and the disciples begin to pass it around.  There is enough for everyone to eat until they are full.

Jesus commanded his disciples to distribute.  He multiplied the food.

and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. (Luke 9:17b)

Twelve baskets are left over.  In other words, the disciples finish with far more than they started with.  They will not again be able to say, “we only have…”  It always works that way.  When you step out beyond your ability and act in faith, your faith is increased.

Imagine being one of the disciples.  You have a small lunch.  There are 5000 people.  The problem is simple:  There is not enough food to go around.  It is impossible to feed all of these people.  How can it be done?  Well, you can send the people home.  After all, who says you have to feed everyone, right?  Or, maybe, arrangements could be made; food could be purchased.  Then, maybe, you could feed everyone.  This is really the only way that’s going to work.

And we do the same today.  We look out at our city, our country, and our world and we see that many people need to hear the Gospel and feel the love of Christ.  The problem is simple:  you are not the person to do that!  We come up with the same arguments.  We think, its not my responsibility.  We think, maybe something could be done, but as it is, no it is impossible.

Yet, then Jesus says to do it.  When he asked the disciples to feed the people, He did not even consider what they could or could not do.  He just said, “give them something to eat.”  When He told all of his followers to Go and tell; to make disciples of all nations, he did not consider your ability either.

Thus, we struggle with the fact that Jesus seems to call us to do something that we are unable to do.

Jesus will call you beyond your abilities but well within His.  We do not find in the Bible, men and women of faith doing normal things.  We find them doing great things.  We do not look through history and see people that turned the world upside down for the Gospel by doing the same ordinary things that they always did.  Some will confuse faith and foolishness.  They will say it is foolish to do something you know you can’t do.  They are right.  But it is not foolish to follow the Lord into what we know He can do.

What is is that Jesus is calling you to that you know is beyond anything you can do?  Perhaps it is that first step of faith in beginning that relationship. Perhaps it is making your decision public.  Perhaps you have been living a safe Christian life, and you know you are called to much larger things.  You may be saying, “I can’t do that.”  You are right.  But Jesus can do whatever He calls you to do; and that is what counts.

Who Are You Seeking?

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I was once watching a show called Undercover Boss.  The point of the show was that the CEO of a large company would spend a week working entry level jobs within the company without anyone knowing who he was.  Of course this set up for some very funny moments.  For example, one CEO was fired on his first day and told that he just couldn’t cut it in that business.  Many times, you almost felt embarrassed for the people.  They would say things about the corporate office and you just knew that at the end of the show they would find out who they were talking to.  At some point, they would realize that this was not just some new hire, this was the boss; this was their boss’ boss’ boss…or even higher they were talking down to.

I wonder if we aren’t in the same position sometimes.  We talk a lot about Jesus.  We talk about Him in pithy little comments on facebook.  We talk about him with one another.  We toss around His name (maybe even as a swear word).  We come to church and use His name as a half hearted answer.  What I wonder, is do we really understand who He is or do we get confused about who it is we are dealing with?

Herod Antipas (or Herod the Tetrarch) was the third son of Herod the Great and not his father’s first choice as heir.  Upon the death of Herod the Great, Ceaser Augustus divided the kingdom into three areas and put one of Herod’s sons over each.  The son over Judea died before the time of this text and was replaced with a Roman governor.  At times, Herod Antipas was a hero for the Jews.  For example when  Pilate first came to Rome, there was an uproar over the shield that were hung in Jerusalem.  They were idolatrous to the Jews and it was Herod Antipas that came to the rescue and had them removed.  Other times, Herod was not well received at all by the Jews.  First, he built his city of Tiberius over a cemetery making it unclean.  He also married his brother’s wife.  That brought the attention of John the Baptist who preached against it.  Consequently, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him (Luke 9:7a)

  What had he heard?

It was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. (Luke 9:7c-8)

Herod is no doubt, hearing all kinds of things that Jesus is saying and doing.

And so, “and he was perplexed” (Luke 9:7b)  He is confused.  He even says “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” (Luke 9:9a)  He is perplexed; he is puzzled.  Who is this man?  Is he a problem he cannot silence?  Is he a prophet to lead the people?  The reality of Jesus has always troubled people.  He wonders who Jesus is, because more than anything He wonders what Jesus will mean to Him.

Herod decides he must see Jesus. “So he sought to see Him.” (Luke 9:9b)  Herod did finally get to see Jesus during His trial.

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. (Luke 23:8)

Apparently, Herod simply wanted to see Jesus do a miracle; a trick.  He wanted to be entertained.  Throughout history, men have sought Jesus only to see what Jesus could do for them.

And what happens when Herod finally does get to see Jesus?

“Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. 11 Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.”  (Luke 23:9-11)

Jesus does not do a miracle, He does not offer proof of who He is, in fact, Jesus does not even speak to Herod.  Why?  We do not know for sure, but we know this:  Jesus does not owe anyone an explanation for Himself.

It is easy to condemn Herod, here.  It seems he only expected Jesus to do a trick.  We look at that and say, “how foolish!”  Did he know who it was he was seeking?  Did he know who it was that was brought in to him?  Yet, Herod is no different here than most people.

We have all heard many things about Jesus.  Some have heard all the stories in the Bible.  We have heard it said that He was God incarnate, that He was God’s only begotten son; that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, showed power and authority over the natural and the supernatural world, died on a cross for our sins, and rose again conquering death.  And we get curious and wonder, what will he do for me?

We face this same dilemma.  We wonder, “who is this?” and we eagerly wait to see how He will perform for us.  Some protest.  They say, no, I just want to see something so that I can believe.  Who would you believe in?  Who is it you are seeking?  Are you seeking a cosmic servant; someone who will perform for you and grant you wishes?  Are you seeking the Lord of all creation?

You must understand that Jesus does not exist for us, but we exist for Him.  I know that many will say, “wait, did not Jesus humble Himself to serve us?”  Yes, but that is what is absolutely amazing!  There is no big deal at all to some sort of cosmic butler serving me. Yet the idea that the creator of all things would stoop down for me…that is incredible!

Sadly, many never grasp that amazing part.  That is why worship seems empty and why we confuse a worship service for entertainment.  If you struggle with the idea of becoming a Christian or if your Christian walk has become dry, it may be that you aren’t grasping what is so amazing.

Yes, you have heard some wonderful things about Jesus.  Yes, you may desire to see these things for yourself and to meet Him and get to the bottom of what this is all about.  Now imagine, that there is no question of “Who is this.”  Rather, the one you want to know more about; the one that you are seeking is the Lord.  You seek nothing less than the one true God who created you, who loves you, who gave Himself for you.  When you realize who it is that you are really seeking, you are blown away by His love.  Worship is no chore, and a life for Him is not dry.  You must understand who He is.