Tag Archives: authority

The Miracles of Jesus (29/35)

In the previous miracle I said Jesus was picking a fight. One of the reasons we can conclude this is what Jesus did on His very next miracle. Once again, He healed someone. And once again, He did it on the Sabbath.

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. – Luke 14:1-6, ESV

Why is Jesus picking a fight? This isn’t grace, kindness, tenderness, peace, and all those other things we usually say about God. So why did Jesus behave this way? Jesus behaved this way because it is in His nature and His character to love us. Too often we characterize love by the stuff we like: when we’re the center of attention, when everything is just perfect, when we get that gooey feeling like a melted chocolate chip, when it’s about tenderness and the like. But sometimes love is about taking a stand, even when it’s not what the other person wants. For instance, if I catch my son lying, as a loving parent, what should I do? Should I say, “It’s okay, I love you, and we’ll just forget about this lie,” or should I instead respond with, “Son, lying is wrong. And when we do things wrong, there are consequences,” and then follow up with the appropriate consequences? If I love my son, I’ll do the latter. Ignoring the issue just makes things worse. Now, at the time he is caught, which one would my son say he preferred? Likely the former, because none of us like getting into trouble.

God’s nature is love. And that means doing what’s best for us, even if we don’t like it at the time. Jesus healed this man because He loved him. He healed this man on the Sabbath because He loved the “lawyers and the Pharisees.” What? Absolutely, because He was trying to confront their man-made rules and expose them as the fallacies that they were. They didn’t provide any holiness. We have no holiness. Our holiness comes strictly from God through the shed blood of Christ. Oswald Chambers said this, and he’s exactly right, “Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God.” You want holiness? seek to better know (and not just know about) the God who can provide it. Jesus was showing them that what they had placed their future in fell apart with the simplest of arguments. Before he used animals as his counter. This time he raised the stakes and include “sons,” because he so wanted to get their attention and cause them to think. He was basically saying, “Think about it. Your son is in trouble. It’s the Sabbath. You mean to tell me you won’t lift a finger to help him?” We know the answer to that. Of course they would. And that revealed the folly of what they had placed their trust in.

Sometimes God has to do this in our lives, too. We’ve held on to a mistaken belief or we’ve understood something in the wrong way or we don’t battle something because we don’t think it’s that bad and He has to show us the truth. A lot of times this is painful. But it would be better to know the truth, wouldn’t it? After all, we say we serve a God who is truth. Why would we want to cling to anything else? I know poets and romance writers may sometimes wax poetic about it being better not knowing the truth, but that would be choosing against the very nature of God. Not a wise choice. Also, once we begin lying to ourselves about one thing, we have to keep lying to ourselves about other things to protect the first lie. This never ends well.

Love sometimes means making that hard choice. Jesus will make that hard choice every time for the ones whom He has called. We have to accept that hard choice, especially when it requires a major change in our lives. This could be breaking with a prejudice. It could be fighting an addiction. It might even be reconciling with someone who has hurt you deeply. Whatever it is, when Jesus takes the step to reveal to us our folly, we should have a better reaction than the religious leaders did. We should acknowledge His authority and wisdom and seek to bring our life and our thoughts in line with His. He is truth, and He is love. Together that means that when He confronts us, He is right and we need it. Let us respond, “Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much you’re willing to confront this stubborn fool of a sinner so that I might be more like You.”

Advertisements

Comments Off on The Miracles of Jesus (29/35)

Filed under Devotional

The Miracles of Jesus (11/35)

If Jesus didn’t have the power over life and death, the His promise of salvation and eternal life wouldn’t be very believable. In the previous miracles we’ve seen healing, we’ve seen exorcisms, and we’ve even see a case of transmutation (water to wine). But Jesus also wanted to ensure that those who chose to follow Him understood that He could deliver the promise that He was making. But before He could do that, they had to understand He had control of the current life. And that’s one of the reasons this miracle is so important:

Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”

And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”

The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”
– Luke 7:12-16, NASB

There are a couple of striking things about this miracle. The first is that Jesus raised a person from the dead. This had happened before in the Old Testament, but always involved the prophet calling upon God to do so. Jesus doesn’t do that. He simply commands the dead person to arise. *He* was the One making the resurrection happen. *He* was the One who had the power. That was different than in the Old Testament and that’s why fear gripped the people who were witnesses of the miracle. That’s why they began glorifying God. They had not seen such power. Now it’s really easy to miss how great this event was because we’re reading it and we’re not seeing it live. Now imagine you saw someone who you knew was dead being brought back to life right in front of you. And I don’t mean through medical means, like when they shock the heart of someone who has no heartbeat. I mean by a man saying, “Get up!” and the person coming back to life. We’d be absolutely shocked with amazement. But for Jesus to claim He can save us from our sins, He had to show us He had this power, the power over death. And this miracle demonstrates that clearly and conclusively.

The second thing that is striking is that we see Jesus acting out of compassion. We’ve hit this before. It’s easy for folks to claim that we have a God that doesn’t get involved in the affairs of Man. And it’s easier to attack such a God and say, “Well, He might exist, but He might as well not.” This is the soft position some agnostics take. However, our God is active and He is involved and He does act out of compassion. He acts out of love. And therefore if you’re going to argue against the God presented by the Bible, you have to deal with the fact that the BIble claims He is intimately involved in our lives and in the existence of all of His creation, and not only that, but also that’s He’s a loving and caring God. That’s why He came to die for our sins in the first place. That’s why He works everything for the good of His people.

Now, if the awesomeness of this miracle hasn’t washed over you yet, let me see if I can rephrase things in a way that makes this miracle so amazing. God Himself, the one who has control over life and death, who needs us not, has such compassion and such love for each one of us. Do you have compassion for an ant? We are a whole lot closer to the ant than we are to God. Yet just as most folks think nothing of squashing an ant, realize that God does think very carefully on everything about us. He knows us in a way we don’t even know ourselves. This is Almighty God, perfect and holy and just, who looks upon us, stained in our sin, an abomination in His sight, and determined to deliver on a plan to cleanse us and restore us and restore fellowship with us, though we were the ones who broke it. That plan was costly, it cost Him His life, but He did it anyway.

Comments Off on The Miracles of Jesus (11/35)

Filed under Devotional

The Miracles of Jesus (9/35)

Do our traditions and observances keep us from doing the right thing? Do we trap ourselves in our own restrictions when we know in our hearts we should act? Or are we so caught up in our traditions and observances that we cannot see what is right? That is what is at the heart of the miracle we’ll look at today.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!”

And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
– Mark 3:1-6, NASB

The first thing to notice about this miracle is that Jesus initiated the whole scene. We don’t have any indication that the man with the withered hand came up to Jesus. What we do see is that Jesus knew He was surrounded by enemies. He was surrounded by people who clung so tightly to their own traditions and interpretations that they could not see the truth of Jesus’ words. This would be a recurring theme in the rest of Jesus’ ministry and it is a recurring issue in our churches today. Jesus asks a simple question which basically amounts to, “Can you do something good to help someone on the Sabbath?” His question goes beyond trivial matters and cuts to something really important: a person’s life. He’s trying to get them to wake up and think. But they are only caught up in one thing: is Jesus going to heal on the Sabbath? Let’s take this apart, shall we?

The Sabbath was established by God. Healing would have to come from God. Therefore, if Jesus were able to heal on the Sabbath, that meant God allowed it. God permitted it. In other words, it was not in conflict with God’s establishment of the Sabbath. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Not with these guys. They expected Jesus to heal on the Sabbath. They were waiting on Him. And when He did, they were going to start planning to get Him. After all, He was violating the rules they had established on the Sabbath. He was challenging their authority. The fact that He was acting under God’s authority was irrelevant to these guys. Whoa. Stop right there. When did our authority ever become greater than God’s? And that’s the point Jesus was driving home.

But they didn’t get it. In fact, after He challenged their authority, and angrily at that, they decided to plot with the Herodians for Jesus’ death. We don’t know much of anything about this group of people, but we can gather from the name they were friendly with Herod or favorably disposed towards Herod’s rule. In other words, the Pharisees began conspiring with folks who should have been their enemies in order to have Jesus killed. Think about how far they’ve gone down the road of disobedience. Not only are they openly opposing Christ on the matter of the Sabbath, disregarding the clear sign of God at work, but they are even now conspiring to kill the one chosen by God. How then could they have ever considered themselves holy in God’s sight? Yet they did.

It’s easy to point fingers at the Pharisees and say, “Look at how horrible they were!” But the fact of the matter is that we can be just as blind. We can miss what God is doing because we’re caught up in our own trappings. This is true whether we’re talking about the Church, about an individual church, or about an individual. The key here is to to really think about what God is saying through His Word. Just about every gifted Bible teacher I’ve ever read has pointed out that it takes more than just sitting and hearing the Word preached on Sunday mornings, or even reading through the Bible. It takes sitting down and really chewing on the Word. We don’t like that word meditation because of the images it brings about, but they say that it takes meditating on the Word in the traditional sense. In other words, reading over Scripture, carefully considering it, weighing it against our own lives, and seeing how we measure up. This is something that as the Church we’ve lost sight of for the most part, and it’s telling. If we’re not doing this, we’re making the same mistake these Pharisees did.

Here’s the good news we can take away from this miracle. No matter what obstacles Man puts in the way of God, our Lord will accomplish His will. And we know that means He will continue to provide guidance, He will continue to meet our needs, He will continue to help us deal with tough situations, and He will continue to be there right beside us, every step of the way. Nothing and no one can stop God. Just because we can be hard-headed and fools, that doesn’t mean that God stops looking at what’s the best thing for us. In other words, God continues to overcome our faults not because we deserve it, but because He chooses to extend grace and love for those whom He has called. We serve an awesome and mighty Savior, one who takes care of us in spite of our sometimes misguided efforts that get in His way.

Comments Off on The Miracles of Jesus (9/35)

Filed under Devotional

The Miracles of Jesus (7/35)

Which is the greater gift, giving a man the ability to walk in this life, or saving his soul for the next? We often ask why Jesus allows certain things to happen. Why are good people affected? If we understood good from God’s perspective, the first conclusion is that no one is good. That’s not a popular message, but it is a truthful one. And because we are not good, because we are sinful, because we are sinners, we deserve eternal condemnation. We deserve the punishment our sins warrant. But through God’s matchless grace, we escape condemnation and punishment! He took them upon Himself when He went to the Cross. Everything else we receive from Him, as they say here in the South, is gravy! And that’s the message delivered in this miracle:

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”

Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
– Luke 5:17-26, NASB

The paralyzed man’s friends were thinking of his immediate, but not greatest, need. They only saw the paralysis because that was what was staring them in the face. They did not consider his standing with God and often, if we are honest with ourselves, this is what we fail to focus on, too. Why doesn’t God help her beat cancer? Why did than man, who has been a bastion of integrity, lose his job? Why did those men have to be trapped with little hope for rescue? We don’t focus on the far more important question, “Are their names written in the Book of Life?” This is where Jesus’ primary focus was. And that’s why He responded the way He did. He wanted everyone there that day to understand that salvation was far more important than physical healing, that being righteous before God was of eternal importance, while being able to walk was a temporal one. And that’s why Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

Naturally, the religious types that were there went, “Blasphemy!” And that’s when Jesus delivered the punchline. Would God allow Him to heal if He were speaking blasphemies? Absolutely not. And that’s why He proceeded to heal the paralytic. Now truth be told, He could have done things in reverse order. But then the message wouldn’t have been delivered. Salvation is our greatest need. Everything else, even the ability to walk, pales in comparison to it. Our God is interested in our needs, especially in our greatest one. He takes care of what is most important, not what is most visible.

Take heart that our Savior cares so much for us that He went to the Cross to meet our greatest need: forgiveness for our sins. The only way He could meet it was by sacrificing Himself for us. And He went as a willing sacrifice, enduring all the condemnation men could heap upon Him in addition to the condemnation our sins had already piled on His back and shoulders. He meets our other needs, too. Everything good that we have ultimately comes from Him. Even the very breaths that we take are due to Him. Jesus on that day demonstrated that not only could He heal us of our hurts and infirmities, not only could He make well that which we couldn’t, but that He was willing to do so out of His great love. He has continued to do so every day since. And He will continue to do so until He returns. We, as His people, are so very blessed. We, as His people, receive so much more than we ever deserve. It starts with salvation. Everything else is a bonus to it. And that is why we should bow down, nut just physically at an altar, but also at the altar of our hearts, and give Him the worship and praise He so richly deserves.

Comments Off on The Miracles of Jesus (7/35)

Filed under Devotional

The Miracles of Jesus (4/35)

Jesus was not an ordinary man. And He wasn’t just a prophet. Nor was He just a rabbi. He was and is the very Son of God. So when we hear others try to find common ground with Christianity but reduce Christ to anything less than God Himself, we need to draw the line. After all, our faith is based on Him honoring His promises for our salvation. And He can only honor those promises if He is God. The Scriptures testify to the fact that He was not just a man, such as in this miracle:

And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm.

And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.”

And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.
– Luke 4:31-37, NASB

This miracle is all about authority. The type of authority a man does not wield. First, notice that when He taught, Jesus didn’t teach like everyone else. His teaching was amazing, because He didn’t just go over the Scriptures and give rabbinic tradition from the Talmud or give an interpretation that could be argued with. He taught the Scriptures as He intended them to be understood, for He is the Word and the author of all Scripture. And because He is the author, He taught with authority and those privileged enough to hear Him teach realized they were witness to something special. Think about that… God Himself teaching you what He wrote. That’s what they received. But you know, we have that, too. We have the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide and He will teach us “what He hears,” meaning the Scriptures (John 16:13). So though we can’t be in the physical presence of God like these men, we still have God as our personal tutor. But here’s the catch, as students, we have to be ready and willing to learn from Him.

Second, notice that the demon knew exactly who Jesus was. Moreover, the demon believed that Jesus was the Holy One. Faith is more than believing that Jesus is who He said He was. Faith is about acting on that belief. While actions don’t save us, if we say we have faith but there is no sign of it, then we’re not telling the truth (James 2:17). Confessing Christ as Lord is only part of it. We are told that we must believe in our hearts, too (Romans 10:9-10). And if we believe with our hearts, that means we’ll begin to change. We’ll begin to care about the things He cares about. We’ll begin to act like He acts. And we’ll begin to yield ourselves in surrender to His authority. That means we begin to want to do His will. If folks claim to have faith in Christ but we don’t see clear evidence that these sorts of things are taking place in their lives, we cannot rightfully draw the conclusion that they have received grace and been adopted by God and are indeed granted salvation. Likewise, if we don’t see these things in our lives, it either means we aren’t saved or it means we have issues with sin we’re not dealing with.

Finally, note that the demon had to respond to Christ’s command. Everyone will one day (Philippians 2:9-11). Nothing in Creation has power over Christ. Rather, Jesus has power over everything. This is something we can take great hope in. If He calls us to something, any obstacles or challenges that lay before us are not impossible. While we may not be able to accomplish or overcome them alone, we can with Jesus’ help. Every aspect of Creation must obey Him. And that’s something that we can use to help us respond faithfully to His call. He doesn’t call us to something we can’t meet. But He will call us to things which require us to exercise our faith.

We serve a Savior that loved us so much, He went to the Cross for us. But He’s not just any Savior. He’s God Himself and everything is under His authority. Therefore, we can take great encouragement from the fact that we don’t walk this life alone, but if we are His, He walks it with us. And as He walks with us, we will change (and want to change). We will become more like Him. We will begin to slowly but surely resemble our Savior. As He performs that change in us, nothing can resist Him. He is the Almighty in every sense of the word. So whatever others may see as an impossible task or mission we can know it isn’t. At least, not for us and Jesus together. And if we keep this firmly in mind and heart, there’s no valid reason for not living out our faith to the fullest.

Comments Off on The Miracles of Jesus (4/35)

Filed under Devotional