Son of Man: Who Is He? And who do You say that He Is?

Jesus often referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Why?
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16, NIV)

This passage is perhaps better known for Jesus’ answer to Peter’s declaration, in which he told Peter he would receive the “keys to the kingdom” because of his testimony. That statement has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as being their charter and establishing Peter as the original leader for the church in Rome. You could therefore make the case that Peter’s simple declaration changed all of history.

son

But to me, the substance of Peter’s confession is even more intriguing than the result. The title “Son of Man” was a phrase that had profound prophetic implications in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was well-known to any Jewish person looking for the Messiah.

“Son of Man” is used by the prophet Ezekiel 93 times, emphasizing his humanity in the presence of God’s revelation. It is probably best known from its use as a Messianic reference in Daniel 7:13-14: “I looked, and there was before me one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The teachers in Jesus’ day had varying opinions about who this prophetic figure represented. Some thought he was one of the prophets; some thought maybe it was John the Baptist. Jesus often used this title to refer to himself (it appears 81 times in the gospels), and it was never attributed to anyone but him in the gospels. Stephen used it while he was being stoned to death to describe who he saw in heaven in Acts 7:56.

Almost every Hebrew churchgoer had some knowledge of the phrase, and the disciples’ mixed response about it in verse 13 is probably typical of the different opinions people had about who the Son of Man might be. Peter’s bold declaration was a leap of faith, and connected the dots between Daniel’s prophetic vision and the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

It’s also interesting that it is Jesus’ most common way of referring to himself: it encompasses his humanity as a son of Adam (which was proclaimed in Luke’s genealogy), but it also refers to his divinity as the Son of God. It is a title expressing humility because he is fully human, but at the same time it refers to one whose Kingdom will never be destroyed. It is an explicit reference that springs from Old Testament prophecy about Israel, eschatology (the last days), and the Messiah. Peter’s brazen testimony shows that he connected the dots, and that he suddenly gets it.

The only other question is, Have YOU? Do YOU?

That Prophet

Of all the titles, “Son of Man” is one connected to God’s plan,
In ancient prophecies foretold in Scriptures from the days of old…
It speaks of Jesus eloquently, divinity and humanity combined in personality
Expressing his authority for all of human history extending through eternity!
The complex span of God’s redemptive plan, the title of the only one who can
Be fully God–and somehow fully man–the only Son of God, the Son of Man!

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The Roman Centurion at the Cross: Same Job, Different Day

Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54 NASB)

This is one of the most unsolicited and surprising eyewitness testimonies about Jesus. Take a look at the one who spoke. A typical Roman centurion: 1) was not Jewish, so he didn’t know about any of the ancient prophecies and certainly wasn’t looking for a deliverer from Rome; 2) was probably accustomed to crucifixion as part of his job, so he should have been harder to impress by any run-of-the-mill Crucifixion; 3) was a military commander based on merit, so they usually rose through the ranks and were experienced, competent men; 4) had usually been on campaigns (and was probably here) far away from home, so his level of worldly understanding was probably greater than the average villager’s.

This centurion had probably not personally seen Jesus’ miracles or heard him teach. (Why would he? He had been doing his job, occupying Judea, not following Rabbis around…) In all likelihood the only exposure he ever had to the Son of God was as a battered, humiliated criminal who was facing his last hours on earth.

He was not steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures or looking for a Messiah, and of all the people Jesus encountered he perhaps would have known the least about Jesus’ background, reputation, and wisdom. It just wasn’t in a Centurion’s job description to know. He never sat in the temple courts and listened to this Rabbi, and he never saw him turn water into wine or calm the wind and the waves…

It’s likely, though, that while doing his job he HAD seen other crucifixions: messy, drawn-out, boring events with the same inevitable outcome, where the soldiers were so bored with death that they whiled away the time gambling for the criminals’ meager possessions… Yet somehow THIS crucifixion was different. This crucifixion challenged the centurion’s view of the world, and made him look at Jesus differently as well. It may have been the earthquake and the upheaval surrounding Jesus’ death that changed his perspective, but I think it was more than that.

centurion

Perhaps it was the dignity that Christ carried with him to the cross; perhaps it was the things Jesus said to the criminals who were being crucified alongside him; or maybe it was the fact that he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Perhaps it was merely the look in Jesus’ eyes that challenged and convicted third-party observers to see him as more than a convict getting his just reward…

Whatever it was, the Roman centurion went from seeing Jesus as a common Jewish criminal to seeing him as the Son of God. Think about those days in Jerusalem, with all the different observers of the events surrounding Jesus’ death, along with all of the different players that participated in the crucifixion, not knowing it was an event that signaled the end of an empire and the beginning of a kingdom.

Surely, as they reflected later on the punishment of this rabbi from Galilee, it was something they remembered the rest of their days. They looked back at the cross and remembered his composure and his countenance. When you look back at the crucifixion, what do you see?

The Centurion’s Job

The Roman soldier watched the prisoners die;
This was just a job he had to do.
He listened and he heard a prisoner cry,
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He turned to look at Jesus as he died,
And saw forgiveness written on his face;
He knew he’d never be the same inside,
Since he encountered Jesus face to face…

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Give me what I Deserve! But Are you sure that’s What you REALLY Want?

Do you Really want What You Deserve? Stop and think about that before you answer too quickly… Take this story, for example:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

deserve

The “thief on the cross” is perhaps the last eyewitness to talk to Jesus before his death. There is a little semantic disagreement about the two thieves’ crime in the Gospels, since Matthew calls the two men crucified with Jesus “robbers” and Luke calls them “criminals”. Most scholars simply agree that they had apparently committed a crime worthy of capital punishment, and this criminal in particular supports that because he says to the other: “we are getting what our deeds deserve.”

Here are a couple of observations about this unknown eyewitness: 1) he had a realistic view of his own situation, and was honest even to the point of saying that he was getting what he deserved. Tell me, what would the outcome be like if each of us got what we deserve? What if you were judged TODAY based on what you deserve? Do you have any selfishness, anger or pride? Any secret sins or prejudices? People on trial in our culture today would try to shift the blame, or put it on their upbringing, but he was accountable for his actions without pointing fingers or making excuses.

2) He saw something in Jesus that impressed him so much that he was convinced of His righteousness.

3) He called Jesus by name. I don’t know how much he knew of Jesus, but his direct address speaks of personal connection and faith.

4) He saw Jesus as a future king, and asked to be included in his future kingdom.

Jesus then told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. This is perhaps the most obvious explanation of Grace in the entire Bible. There is no doubt in my mind that this criminal was forgiven for his crimes, and redeemed from sin’s marketplace into God’s kingdom.

So what are the dynamics behind this criminal’s redemption? He could not point to a life of good deeds. If good works were required to make it to paradise, then this conversation could NOT have happened. He came to Christ “just as I am”. He had faith in who Jesus was, and acknowledged him as king. He was given assurance that he would see Jesus in paradise that very day.

Here’s the deal: NOTHING about that has changed in over 2,000 years: none of us is good enough to earn our way into heaven; each of us stands condemned for what we’ve done; but if we come to Jesus in simple faith and ask him to be king, we will be with him in paradise. No matter who you are or where you stand today, I hope to see you there!

Be Careful What You Ask For

Do you really have the nerve to ask for what you just deserve?
Think of it before you start: what really lurks within your heart?
Are you righteous? Are you sure
That what’s within your heart is pure?
Where final justice is concerned,
I will not ask for what I’ve earned!
Just like the thief on Calvary,
I’ll ask: “Lord, Please remember me!”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Criminals in the Kingdom

Jesus of Nazareth was crucified between two criminals. They were two different men with different attitudes, and two different outcomes. Their story, however, leads me to one conclusion: someday, there will be Criminals in the Kingdom of God.

criminals

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NASB)

This is another snapshot of an eyewitness report about Jesus, from another unlikely place. After he was unjustly tried and condemned, Jesus was taken to Golgotha, where he was crucified between two other men, both criminals who apparently had qualified for capital punishment. (Matthew calls them “robbers” but since theft did not warrant such a severe penalty, scholars say they must have been insurrectionists or repeat offenders. Luke calls them “criminals”.)

One of them taunted him skeptically and challenged him to save them from crucifixion, while the other observed his behavior and declared that Jesus was guiltless. Three crosses: one man in the middle, two opposite opinions on either side. It’s a telling reminder that two people can see the exact same thing and disagree about what it means. One criminal looked at Jesus and exercised skepticism, demanding proof and instant gratification: “Save yourself and us!” The other exercised faith and saw Jesus as a king: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”

Hmmm… I wonder where those two guys are today. Come to think of it, where are YOU are today? Are you skeptical? Do you need instant gratification? Do you sometimes look at how difficult your circumstances are and shake your fist at God? Or do you say, “Lord, remember me”? No matter how tough things get, don’t lose faith. The King established his kingdom, and he has promised us a place in it. Therefore, remember Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” As one hopeful criminal to another, I’ll see you in the Kingdom someday!

Criminals in the Kingdom

When Christ was being crucified,
There were two thieves on either side.
One mocked him, but the other cried,
“Remember me in Paradise!”
Jesus heard his dying plea
While paying for his penalty,
And told him, “Son, you soon will be
In paradise today with me.”
If into heaven he was let–
A sinful man with much regret–
Because the King forgave his debt,
Then perhaps we’ll make it to heaven yet!
The only way to heaven is to bring
Our sin before the gracious, loving King.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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A Sentence that wasn’t a Sentence: Pilate’s Backhanded Compliment to Jesus

One of the most unusual testimonies about who Jesus was is expressed in a short sentence that wasn’t a sentence: “I find no fault in this man.” Consider the reactions of Pontius Pilate and his wife:

“While he [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19 NASB)

So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:3-4 NASB)

sentence

Not all of the testimony in Jesus’ favor came from friends, or people he healed… You’d expect those folks to say that Jesus was somebody special, but why would someone from outside this inner circle say good things about him? These two Romans, who had no real personal concern about Jewish claims or religious arguments, encountered Jesus and evaluated him based on face value.

Pontius Pilate’s wife called Jesus a “righteous man”, and Pilate himself found no fault in him. Instead of finding an arrogant upstart or a shrewd political operator, Pilate found a humble, quiet man who refused to pontificate or even dispute the scurrilous claims against him. Jesus’ simple affirmation of the truth and his quiet dignity unsettled Pilate so much that he washed his hands of Jesus’ blood in front of everyone. Ironic that he wanted no part of Jesus’ death, but still sent him to the cross…

Here at the end of Jesus’ kangaroo court trial, Pilate uttered a sentence without ever actually pronouncing a sentence on the defendant. I’ve often wondered if, years later, retired and sitting on his porch in Italy, Pilate thought about Jesus and reflected about the things he said. “My kingdom is not of this world.” “I bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” “You have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above…” (John 18:36, 37; 19:11)

Did his wife ever say, “I told you so! I told you not to have anything to do with that rabbi!”? Did he ever experience anxiety over the role he played in sending Jesus to his death? He encountered the Son of God face to face and then still became culpable in his crucifixion. Can you imagine? But if you stop and think about it, isn’t that what many do today? Technically, isn’t that what we ALL have done? Since Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for sin, doesn’t that mean that all of us sinners participated in sending him to the cross? Don’t end up retired somewhere thinking, “Wow, I knew there was something different about Jesus. I should have treated him a little differently.” You’ll regret it.

A Most Uneasy Retirement

In an assignment far from home, caught between the Jews and Rome,
As politics and eternity swirled
in events that surely changed his world,
Pontius Pilate tried to choose, when any way he went, he’d lose…
Pilate tried to wash his hands of the Jewish King, this innocent man.
Events began he couldn’t halt, and so he said, “I find no fault!”
He knew the sentence wasn’t fair, but left his sentence hanging there
To add to Christ’s validity, recorded for posterity,
And echoed through eternity…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Curiosity Killed the Cat. Be Careful that it Doesn’t Have the Same Effect on You

As his ministry expanded, Jesus did some things that made folks curious. Because of their curiosity about who Jesus was, large crowds began to follow him, hoping to see a sign, or perhaps to get a free meal…

curiosity

When he challenged them to make a commitment, their curiosity wasn’t enough to keep them around. John pointed this out in Chapter 6: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69 NIV)

Jesus had just fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and many took it as a sign that he was the Messiah. Curiosity-seekers hung around hoping for another free meal, so Jesus challenged all of them by teaching about the bread come down from heaven, and compared himself to manna—God’s miraculous provision for Israel in the wilderness. Each time they questioned him, he turned the conversation up a notch. He wasn’t there to satisfy their curiosity, He was on a mission. If you read through John 6, you can see the progression; when they asked Jesus how he got there, he challenged their motives for seeking him. When they asked him to show them a sign, Jesus claimed to be the bread come down from heaven.

curiosity

When they murmured among themselves, He said that he had come to be a sacrifice, and that salvation was only possible by partaking of his body and blood. To the Hebrew mind and sensibilities, this concept was forbidden and revolting, akin to cannibalism at best and heresy at worst. As Jesus began to teach more explicitly about who he was, many of his followers took offense. This wasn’t the kind of bread they were looking for! The curiosity seekers left, which was perhaps to be expected, but so did a number of disciples, people who were more familiar with Jesus and closer to his inner circle.

After they left, he turned to the twelve and offered them a chance to leave as well. At that point, they had a choice; they could move on, or they could move beyond curiosity to commitment. Peter’s somewhat bold personal testimony about Jesus is important: first, it indicated his belief that this man, who he saw and heard every day, and with whom he ate and lived, was indeed not just a carpenter from Galilee. Peter called him “the Holy One of God.” To me, that’s very explicit evidence from an eyewitness about who Jesus was.

Second, it is the statement that shows why a group of fishermen, some ordinary citizens and a tax collector left all they had to become transformed into men whose dogged faith would one day spread like wildfire, toppling the existing world order and replacing it with mere Christianity.

You can ignore the evidence and forget all about Jesus, if you want to. But to whom shall you go?

Are You Curious About Evidence?

Sometimes curiosity can lead us all astray,
While sometimes its attractions simply lead us all away.
Be careful that your constant search for instant gratification
Does not preclude your taking part in your beatification…
If you look hard at what he did, I’m sure that you will see
That Jesus was much greater than a curiosity…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Gratitude: Is It Something you Expect? Is It Something You HAVE?

Why do some people show gratitude, while others don’t?

“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood in the distance and cried out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them he said, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12-16, NIV) Ten lepers, who were outcast and marginalized men who could not mix with healthy people, were out on the outskirts of a village.

gratitude

They asked Jesus for mercy, and he gave them instructions that would both heal them and prepare them for reentry into everyday life. Once the priests saw they were free from leprosy, they could once again mingle with friends and family, hug their kids, and have a chance to live normal lives.

Doctor Luke points out that only the unclean and socially unacceptable Samaritan gave credit to God for his healing, while nine other men went on their way, probably too excited about going back to society to stop and say thank you. It may be that they felt entitled somehow, finally getting what they deserved after years of presumable injustice. It’s surprising that there wasn’t more gratitude expressed, but people can be a little self-absorbed…

Two things here: Not everyone who meets Jesus is grateful, even when they experience healing because of Him. Sometimes we get so busy living our lives or even going to church that we forget how much we have to be grateful for. (How about this: DON’T FORGET! Have an attitude of gratitude!)

Secondly, some of the people you help along the way will not thank you for it. Jesus healed all ten, even though he was aware of their heart attitudes before he acted. Gratitude doesn’t always manifest itself the way we think it should, but remember: we shouldn’t do good so that someone says, “Thank you”.

Our motivation for helping others is often wrong. We do good things in order to receive recognition, or to feel good about ourselves. Paul said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Like Paul, we should perform acts of kindness for the Lord’s sake, not for men’s approval. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he taught that our devotion to God should not be a matter of public pride, but something best kept between Him and us. Matthew 6:4, 6 and 18 all point to the same outcome: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Acts of kindness should be done for our Father with an expectation of gratitude, or regard for human response. Go out and commit some today.

Be Grateful

People are amazing. Sometimes, helping them exposes
That some will offer thanks, while others just turn up their noses…
Some will smile with thankfulness that bubbles up inside,
While others turn aside from their entitlement, or pride.
I pray that I may never be the one with such an attitude–
For health, for all I see, Lord, help me worship you with gratitude!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Resurrection: is It Quantity or Quality of Life That’s More Important?

Lazarus died, and his sister Martha was upset that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him. She made a bold request: Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this?” She saith unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21-27 KJV)

(Sometimes I just have to keep some King James Version in here because I like rocking it old school. It’s what I grew up on as a Christian, and I still love its lyrical anachronisms…but I digress.)

When Mary and Martha sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited two days before coming to them in Bethany. In the meantime, Lazarus died. It’s not hard to imagine the scene at their home as the sisters waited anxiously for Jesus to come heal their brother, only to watch him slip away. They thought they had things under control, but their plans didn’t work out. It had to be emotionally devastating.

Ever been there? Things didn’t work out like you planned, and God didn’t do what you expected Him to? Lazarus had just died, and his sister Martha was distraught. (Her tone is even a little accusative, like “why did you take so long?” Have YOU ever asked God, “WHY?” Have you ever accused God of failure?) Martha let Jesus know he could have done better.

Even so, she expresses her confidence that Jesus has such a connection to God that he can do something miraculous, perhaps even a resurrection from the dead. Jesus comforts her with the statement that her brother will someday rise again. She believes in a traditional Jewish way, that Lazarus will experience resurrection at the last day. (Resurrection was a hot topic of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees—the Pharisees believed in it, but the Sadducees did not, which I’ve always heard is why they were Sad, you see…)

Jesus challenges her traditional faith and asks her if she believes in HIM. Now, her brother is dead, and she has no way of knowing, like we all do, that Lazarus will come back to life. But she looks Jesus in the eye and gives testimony to who He is. “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

resurrection

You know the rest of the story. Lazarus came back to life after three days in the grave. He experienced new birth, new life, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that Lazarus’ resurrection was not eternal. He still lived a normal life and then died. But do you think perhaps that he appreciated life a little more the second time around? That he hugged a little harder and enjoyed his friends and family a little more? Experiencing resurrection–being brought from death into life–should do that, shouldn’t it? In that sense, EVERY believer is Lazarus, able to find joy in the resurrection that changes the quality of their lives…

In this case, Jesus changed the quality of Lazarus’ life and provided a solution outside of Martha’s control. Her lack of faith was keeping her from seeing the things that are possible with God. What is your traditional faith holding you back from? What have you lost that you wish you could have back? Why wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by? Eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is a QUALITY of life, and it has already been given to you. Look Jesus in the eye and let him know what you want. Something dear to you that you thought was lost might just come forth and live again. It might be time for a new beginning.

Eternal Musing

Will we be spending endless time just sitting on a cloud?
Will we employ eternity to sing our hymns out loud?
Or will we find that life is life with nothing now to bind it,
Just filled with God’s eternal growth around it and behind it?
For us to learn God’s heart and mind, the riches of His love,
I think eternity itself will not be long enough…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Proof: Some People Need to See It Before They’ll Believe in God

In today’s marketing consumer-driven world, people who sell products run focus groups and test markets to make sure they have all the proof before they go to market. Then they invest resources on the outcome. When they believe they have a winner, then they put their faith into their ad or product. So does faith come from proof? Or does true faith come BEFORE the proof is evident? Apparently faith back in Bible times was not as sophisticated. Here are three examples of how that is so:

“And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean…” (Matthew 8:2, KJV)

“(And) The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed…” (Matthew 8:8, KJV)

“And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-29 KJV)

proof

Matthew 8 records three very different testimonies about Jesus. There is a leper asking to be cleansed; a Roman centurion who asks that a servant of his be healed; and two men possessed with demons who recognized Jesus and who identify him as the Son of God. These testimonies revolve around life-changing healing events, which certainly deserve our attention.

Even though they are eyewitness accounts from people who come from very different elements of class and culture, all of them are notable for the same reason. Do you see what it is? Read the three verses again and see if you catch it. In each case, they affirm their utter belief that Jesus can do something miraculous BEFORE he has acted on their behalf. He had not yet healed the leper; the centurion’s servant was still at home sick; and the possessed men cry out about who Jesus was from the midst of their affliction.

It’s not, “Wow, Lord, thanks for what you did. NOW I believe.” It’s, “Lord, I believe, (Or, in the case of the possessed men, “I acknowledge who you are”) so I know you are going to do something amazing.” Over and over, curiosity seekers and Pharisees asked Jesus to “show me a sign”, and skeptics would hold back their faith, waiting for Jesus to prove who he was. People still do it today. But these people came to Jesus believing in him and confident that he could solve their problems. Then he did it.

Maybe we’ve got this faith thing backwards, and we are supposed to believe in Jesus not because of what he’s already done, but because of what he is about to do. Would your life change if you approached him the same way? “Lord, I believe. If you would just take me as I am, I know you can do something amazing.” Why not try it? It’s worked before.

Proof

“Show me proof of God”, they said, “Just show a little sign.
If there is a Creator, where oh where is the design?
You say that in the Bible I can find the Gospel truth:
I’ll believe in Jesus when you show a little proof!”
Faith dependent on results is just not faith at all;
Faith believes when evidence is really very small.
A miracle may help you see that Jesus is the one,
But faith believes in miracles before they’re ever done.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Eyewitness without Eyes: we didn’t see THAT Coming

There is a great website called “I Am Second” that offers hundreds of personal eyewitness testimonies from people about what it’s like to encounter Jesus and to put him first in your life. It’s filled with people from every walk of life, including both celebrities and everyday people. They tell their stories simply and in the first person narrative, saying “this is what happened to me”. Some of the first-hand reactions to Jesus are surprising, but they are compelling in both their content and presentation.

In the Gospels there are also some great snapshots of eyewitness reactions to Jesus of Nazareth, including this one, which provides testimony from a place you’d least expect it: “Then he [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:31-34, NIV)

eyewitness

The eyewitness in this passage is not one of the people in the synagogue, even though they were amazed at his teaching, and it’s not Luke, who recorded it later for posterity. It’s not even the poor man who was possessed… For a clue as to its identity, read verse 34 again.

This eyewitness appears on the scene from almost out of nowhere with a startling affirmation about who Jesus was. It’s not surprising that people were amazed at his teaching—He spoke with authority, and what He said contained so much truth that even the small portions of it we possess are still amazing to us today, twenty-one centuries later. (Small portions, you ask? Don’t forget that John ends his Gospel with this: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25)

What’s significant about this passage is the fact that He was recognized by the spirit who possessed a man in the Capernaum synagogue, who called him by name and identified him as “the Holy One of God!” Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36 that He came to usher in a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one, so I guess it makes sense that a spirit would recognize a spiritual king and know about who he was. You may not acknowledge a spirit world, but I’ll tell you this: the spirit world acknowledges you.

How often have you seen evil in our world that seems beyond human comprehension? (Think: Holocaust, mass murderers, senseless shootings…) Why are there those who worship Satan or practice dark rituals? I don’t think most of us even begin to know about places that Satan and his minions touch our world, but I bet you’ve seen evidence of it. We see inhumanity because that’s exactly what it is–humans motivated to be “inhuman” by forces beyond themselves.

I’m sure that onlookers in the synagogue at Capernaum had to be asking themselves, “Who was this man who taught with authority and was known by name to even the spirit world?” Do you ever wonder about that yourself? It’s a great question—read a few snapshots about Jesus this week and answer it for yourself.

Moving Time

I made my home here years ago, so cozy and secure;
I found myself a helpless host whose motives were impure,
Who followed my suggestions, stepping deeper into sin
So smoothly that he didn’t hesitate to let me in!
Capernaum has really been a great place to reside.
The coastal vibe is nice, and there are places we can hide.
The synagogue gives handouts, and they think my host is crazy–
Though truth be told, he’s really just inhabited, and lazy…
Wait! Who is THAT?! He hurts my eyes! My heart is seized with fear!
The Holy One of God?! What is HE doing way out here??
I’ve never felt a spiritual force so powerful and big;
I guess I’m gonna have to go and find another gig…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread