All Along

Jesus had been very clear right from the first.

“Who are you?” they asked. 

“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. John 8:25 

I truly believe that everything that Jesus did and said here on earth was proclaiming himself to be Lord, Messiah, the great I AM. 

And in the verse above Jesus said that he had been proclaiming it all along. That word translated “all along” is the Greek word arche (ἀρχή) which means the origin, commencement, beginning. It is the same word as is used in this verse about the creation of the world: 

In the beginning (arche) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning (arche). Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3 

The Word has been going out from the beginning, the origin, the commencement, all along. And the Word was going out as Jesus walked here on earth. And the Word continues to go out, creating and declaring, life springing up wherever the Breath of God is received – the Word proclaimed through the prophets, the Word written down, the Word-created creation itself a proclamation. 

The heavens declare the glory of God … Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1, 4 

The Word demonstrated by Jesus. 

The Jews gathered round him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. John 10:24-26 

When John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was “the one,” i.e., was he the Messiah, Jesus answered, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22 

According to the NetBible study notes for Luke 7:22, Jesus was paraphrasing Messianic prophecy, various OT descriptions of the time of promised salvation: Isa 35:5-6; 26:19; 29:18-19; 61:1. Jesus is answering not by acknowledging a title, but by pointing to the nature of his works.” 

This would have been especially apparent to the scribes, Pharisees and experts of the law who had been studying the scriptures since their youth. Maybe not at first, but it began to dawn on them what Jesus was saying/doing/being and this realization was reflected in their increasing hostility. 

Because Jesus had been very clear right from his first recorded public reading of the great Messianic passage by Isaiah in the synagogue. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
    because he has anointed me 
    to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
    and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free, 
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21 

There were many other scriptures and Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during his ministry, but let’s just look at one section of Psalm 118:19-27. 

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.   
20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 (NIV) 
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.   
22-23 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Matthew 21:42  
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. John 8:56 
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna (oh save us)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13 
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13:35  
27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!  
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12  

Jesus proclaimed himself the Gate, the Savior, the Cornerstone, the coming One, the Light. And that last verse – “Bind (tie, bind, imprison, take prisoner) the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!” – Jesus demonstrated for all eternity by allowing himself to be taken prisoner, bound, and nailed to the cross. He is our festal sacrifice, our Passover Lamb. 

He is what he said he is. Enter through the Gate and be saved  Salvation 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? Isaiah 40:21

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. Psalm 40:7 

This post is also available as a free-to-use Bible Study here https://hiddentreasurebiblestudies.home.blog/2021/07/29/all-along-bible-study/

Shards on the Ground

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us.

Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 

“A potsherd among the potsherds” NetBible translates this “a mere shard among the other shards on the ground.” That really hit me when I read this verse. We are mere broken shards laying on the ground. Wow, that is a very humbling picture. But the wonderful thing is that Jesus, Messiah, was described the same way. 

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Psalms 22:15 

Psalm 22 is the great Psalm describing the Crucifixion. It includes “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” 

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us. Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Human likeness, like the other shards on the ground.  

The Hebrew word translated potsherd is cheres or heres (חֶרֶשׂ). It means both an earthenware or clay vessel, and a broken shard or potsherd. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) includes this definition: 

“This word, which occurs seventeen times, represents the potter’s product (Isa 45:9) which is dried and fired (Psa 22:15 [H 161), or even glazed (Pro 26:23). Bottles (baqbuq), bowls (ke li), and pots/pitchers (nebel) are made of it. It is in vessels made of heres, that documents were stored (Jer 32:14). heres can apply generally to a vessel (Pro 26:23), or it can mean pieces of potsherd at least large enough to use to carry a coal from a hearth or dip water for a drink (Isa 30:14).” 

As I read this definition, I realized that Jesus was all of these for us. He was a clay pot (a human being) in which the Word was stored. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to carry the coals from the altar of sacrifice. The coals that cleanse like the angel did for Isaiah. 

With it [the live coal] he [the angel] touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:6-7 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to give us his living water. 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 

Cheres is a variation of a word whose root is “to scrape,” and means itch and an eruptive disease. Job took a shard of broken pottery – a cheres – to scrape his boils of the “serous or lymph-like fluid” [which] is occasionally “acrid and offensive.”i 

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. Job 2:8 

In like way, Jesus touched the lepers. He puts his healing hands on us at our most needy and disgusting. 

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matthew 8: 3 

But the most wonderful, the most amazing thing about the heres is this: 

“Being porous, it [heres] absorbed the fat of holy things and the uncleanness of unclean things. Thus it was to be broken when contacted by either holiness or uncleanness (Lev 6:28 [H 211; Num 15:12).” — L.J.C., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Jesus was both. He was a pottery jar carrying God’s holiness, but he was also a pottery jar which absorbed and carried the uncleanness of our sin. He was broken after coming in contact with our uncleanness. We are broken when coming in contact with his holiness. 

Oh Lord Jesus, let us be broken with your holiness! Let us be like you, Jesus, storing the Word in our hearts, touching the lepers, offering the life-giving water, carrying the live coals of your righteousness and sin-cleansing power of the blood. Let us be broken with you as shards on the ground.  

Image from WikimediaCommons, Broken vases on Holy Saturday in Corfu 

i Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Your Love is Captain

Your compassion is great, O LORD …  Psalm 119:156 

Your compassion is great (Hebrew = rab), much, abundant, strong, greater, enough 

Your compassion is rab, captain, chief, shipmaster, prince 

Your compassion is rab (Greek = rabbi), Master, Teacher, Christ 

Your compassion (Hebrew = racham), tender love and mercy is The Rabbi

Your tender love and mercy is Master, Teacher, Shipmaster, Christ 

Your tender love and mercy is Jesus 

Your love is Captain  

Image, Gandalf’s Gallery, Ludolf Backhuysen – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee [1695], https://flic.kr/p/22qS8Sx  

Jesus in the Middle

You know what is the most amazing and wondrous example of Jesus in the middle?

Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:18 

Jesus in the middle. It seems like Jesus was always in the middle. The Greek word translated “in the middle” is mesos – the middle, the midst, in the midst of, amongst, between. It comes from meta, which means “with,” “denoting accompaniment,” “amid.” 

That’s why he came – to be with us, among us, in our midst. That was his mission and his passion. From the beginning to the end of his life on earth when he died still in the middle of sinful man. 

[When he was 12 years old:] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among (or, in the midst of) the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46 

[His last night on earth:] For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 (ESV) 

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, God revealed to John the Baptist that Messiah was coming and that he was in our midst, not like John himself, who had kept himself separated. 

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.” John 1:26 

So many times, the Bible tells of Jesus in the middle of the crowd, being grasped at and jostled, so that in the crush his disciples would be astonished that he could ask, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45) 

And Jesus touched them, and held them, and he mingled with them, and he ate with them, and he welcomed them – much to the consternation and distain of many. 

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the crowds were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Luke 19:6-7 (NLT) 

Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 (NASB) 

 But you know what is the most amazing and wondrous example of Jesus in the middle? It’s in Colossians: 

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away (out of our mesos = midst, out from amongst us), nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 

Do you see it? He took out from our midst all our sins, all that stood against us, all that opposed us, all the kept us separated from the love of God. And he replaced it with Himself. One of the meanings of mesos is “between.” Jesus stood between us and the just wrath of God. Like Aaron the High Priest, a type of Jesus, who ran into the midst of the assembly with the censer, stopping the deadly plague (Numbers 16:44-50). Jesus in the middle. 

And he is still in the middle, still in our midst, still interceding for us. His blood shed on the cross for all time has stopped the deadly plague of sin and death if we will but look to him in faith. 

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Luke 24:36  

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20 (ESV) 

… and in the middle of the lampstands [which represent the churches] I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. Revelation 1:13 (NASB) 

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Hebrew 2:11-12 (ESV) 

This post is also available as a Bible study at https://hiddentreasurebiblestudies.home.blog/2021/06/03/jesus-in-the-middle/

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) 

The Potter’s Mark

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) 

Maybe I have been watching Antiques Roadshow too much, but when I read this verse recently, I immediately thought of the potter’s marks that are impressed on the bottom of clay pots. Many times, there are fake marks on pots to make them appear authentic and more valuable than they are. 

The word translated above as “the exact imprint” is the Greek word charakter (χαρακτὴρ). It is where we get the English word “character” from.    

Strong’s Concordance notes that the word can mean a graver (the tool or the person), the engraving, the figure stamped on something, an exact copy, the express image.  

Thayer defines it as “the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile).”i  I never thought of being a facsimile in a positive light, but this article from StudyLight.org was enlightening: 

“The word ‘express image’ in our text is once again a metaphor and suggests the idea of a visible outward reproduction of the inward nature of that which is original. A similar idea is illustrated in a fax machine. A fax is the outward visible form that we can examine in order to see all of the characteristics of the inward image stored in random access memory that the human eye cannot possibly otherwise behold. The application the inspired Hebrew writer wanted his readers to recognize is that Christ metaphorically is our ‘facsimile’ of the Father. Through Him we are able to see all of the divine qualities that make up the natural essence of the invisible God.”ii — Rick Calvert 

Jesus came as a “facsimile” so that we could see and come to know the invisible, unseeable God (Exodus 33:20). He came stamped with the exact character of God. God’s character has been much maligned of late, actually, from way back in the Garden. But look at Jesus and you see God.  

“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. John 12:44-45 

Or as the Message translates it: Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. Jesus came to earth as a human being to show us what God is really like.iii Who He really is. 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18 

Jesus was the exact charakter/character of God expressed in a man here on Earth. He bore the true Potter’s mark. The way he did that was to completely and utterly yield and submit to the will of the Father, for he said, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30).  

He loved people, he healed people, accepted the rejected, he spoke the truth in love, he offered second chances and mercy, he knelt down and washed their dirty feet, he touched their open sores, he suffered their pain with them, he was angry at sin and oppression and hypocrisy, he was passionate for the holiness of God and His temple. He accepted the suffering and humiliation of the cross and died for us all. 

And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too if we, like Jesus, yield to His forming hands and submit to His will. If we take up our cross and follow Him. Otherwise, we may have an imprint on us, but it won’t be the charakter of God. We will be a fake, a forgery, a counterfeit.  

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB) 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV)  

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:13-15 (ESV) 

Image: Judith Pearce, Ian Sprague. Bowl. Marks https://flic.kr/p/cPjZ9C  

i Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901)  

ii Greek Thoughts by Rick Calvert https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts.html?article=34   

iii for a fuller and excellent discussion of why Jesus came see Why did God send Jesus at gotquestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/why-God-sent-Jesus.html 

The Blind Man

The one who was blind was the one who saw. 

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Luke 18:37-38 

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Did you catch it? When the blind man asked what was going on, the people in the crowd answered, “Oh, that guy – that celebrity, that new teacher and healer – Jesus from Nazareth is passing by.” But what did the blind man cry out? “Jesus, Son of David!” 

To the Jews, “The Son of David” identified the Messiah. 

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. Matthew 22:42 

“It was part of Jewish Messianic expectation that the Messiah should be a descendant of King David, Israel’s ideal king.“i The Son of David would fulfill the prophecy given to Solomon in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: 

When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

Many of the people in the crowd were following a popular new megastar who performed miracles, who healed people and gave away free food, and (best of all) put down those holier-than-thou, stuck up priests. But the one who was blind was the one who saw Him for who he was. And it got Jesus’ attention. In all the clamorous crowd, one cried out to the “Son of David” for mercy. And it stopped Jesus in his tracks.  

“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Luke 18:41 

Just before the incident with the beggar, Jesus had been approached by another kind of “blind” man.  

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18 

Jesus picked up on the word “good” and challenged the man, saying “you call me ‘good.’ But only God is good.” In effect, Jesus was asking, “Are you saying I am God?” But I don’t think the man caught the implication. To the rich young ruler, Jesus was an excellent and distinguished teacher. A didaskalos in the Greek – an instructor and teacher with a small “t.” 

He was fine with Jesus being an excellent teacher, but when challenged to make Jesus his Lord – “Sell everything you have and … come, follow me” – he balked. Yet, here is this blind beggar sitting in the dust, one whom many considered cursed, identifying Jesus as Messiah and Lord. And while the rich man walked away, the beggar followed. The one who was blind was the one who saw. 

The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:45-46 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20 

Lord, I want to see. 

i Oxford Biblical Studies Online http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e490

Read more about Jesus as the Son of David here at GotQuestions.org What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?  https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-son-of-David.html  

Image, Blind Beggar 1949 Kenya, by Sydney Oats https://flic.kr/p/68ZJYY  

Mending Our Nets

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride?

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40 

I realized as I read this verse recently that I have been taking it out of context for a very long time. Actually, kind of skipping over it because of the more dramatic content that is around it. But I realized that it is like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that completes the picture. So, what comes before and after this verse? 

Before the verse Jesus asks, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

And then right afterward there is another saying that I have taken out of context: 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41-42 

I have been taking all of these verses as stand-alone and out of context. But what Jesus has given here are two verses about being blind sandwiching a verse about being fully trained to be like the teacher. What does this mean?  

The Greek word translated “fully trained” above is katartizo. It means to render, sound, complete, to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair, to complete, to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust, prepare, restore, make perfect. 

According to W.E. Vinei, the Greek word katarizo “is used of mending nets, Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19.” Wow, did you get that? Jesus is talking to his disciples here. “Looking at his disciples, he said:” (Luke 6:20). He was talking to learners, pupils, some may have thought “rabbis-in-training.” The underlying assumption seems to be that these disciples would go out and be leading – “can a blind man lead a blind man?” They would also become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10) – and they needed their nets mended. Jesus had just finished some hard sayings: 

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ... Luke 6:27-35 

Be merciful … Luke 6:36 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

I’m pretty sure that, like me, their thinking needed to be adjusted. Their nets needed mending. (Isn’t it amazing and symbolic that when Jesus called James and John, they were mending their nets?) When Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead?” he was using the word tuphlos, which can mean physical or mental blindness. Significantly, it comes from tuphoo, which means to be enveloped with smoke (so as to render blind), to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride, inflated with self-conceit. 

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride? But what did Jesus say?  

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

There’s a whole lot of judgment and condemnation going on out there. Let’s allow our Lord to adjust us, to repair and restore us, to mend our nets, so that we can be like Him in mercy and love and light. 

“The Lord is very ready to forgive; it is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master. He is always willing to receive us when we come to Him, and to blot out our transgression.” — Charles Spurgeon, God’s Fatherly Pity

Read more about God’s net of everlasting love here (I will throw my net over them

Photo used with gratitude: Fish nets by John Levanen https://flic.kr/p/8yYErh  

If You Are

Did you ever realize that when the devil tempted Jesus with the question, “If you are?” – Jesus already was? Everything the devil tempted Jesus with in the wilderness, Jesus already was, already had been from the beginning before time and would be forever.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3 

For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Acts 4:11 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world … “if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-6  

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15 

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16 

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.” Luke 4:9 

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:18-19 

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Matthew 28:5-6 

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58

Image, free photo from pixy.org

By His Stripes

The God-Man, Jesus, standing there taking it for us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

God showed me something about Isaiah 53:5 that has been helping me a lot lately. The verse says by his stripes we are healed.   

by his stripes (bruises, stripes, wounds, blows, blueness, weals, black-and-blue marks, hurts) 

we are/were/have been healed (healed, made healthful, cured, repaired, made whole)   

He stood there and he took it. He allowed them to whip and beat on him. He did not have to do that. When they came to arrest him and one of the disciples drew his sword to fight back, Jesus said, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). 

I guess this part never really sunk in for me like it has lately. He was beaten black and blue and bloody for us. I don’t usually like to write like this, but I think that we are so far removed from the reality of what went on that night that it has become just words.  

Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”  Matthew 26:67-68 

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. John 19:1 

“Three forms of corporal punishment were employed by the Romans, in increasing degree of severity: (1) fustigatio (beating), (2) flagellatio (flogging), and (3) verberatio (severe flogging, scourging). The first could be on occasion a punishment in itself, but the more severe forms were part of the capital sentence as a prelude to crucifixion. The most severe, verberatio, is what is indicated here by the Greek verb translated flogged severely (μαστιγόω, mastigow). People died on occasion while being flogged this way; frequently it was severe enough to rip a person’s body open or cut muscle and sinew to the bone. It was carried out with a whip that had fragments of bone or pieces of metal bound into the tips.” — NetBible Study Notes on John 19:1 

This sort of punishment was very real to the early disciples. It happened right where they lived. They had seen it, and some of them would go on to experience it first-hand. But I am sure that they were bewildered when it happened to their leader, their Lord, the Messiah! Why didn’t he call the angels down? And later, why didn’t he come down from the cross? 

But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Matthew 26:54 

Going back to Isaiah 53:5, “by his stripes we are healed,” the Hebrew word translated “healed” is rapha. It means to mend, to cure, to make whole. This healing includes literal physical healing of persons, but also, figuratively, the healing of personal distress, like anxiety and depression. And, it can also refer to “national hurts” according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

In this time of schism and hurt, of pandemic and anxiety, depression and fear – how we need this word! We need to meditate on it. We need to remember and proclaim it. We need to ask God to make it real to us over these thousands of years. The God-Man, Jesus, standing there taking it for us. 

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds (bruises, wales, wounds that trickle with blood, blow-marks) you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 

“I gave my back to those who struck (smote, beat, scourged) me.” Isaiah 50:6 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you stood there and took the punishment that we deserved. Thank you that by your stripes we are healed.

Image, Passiflora, or passion fruit flower, by Heidi & Matt https://flic.kr/p/fZ2nn  

“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r