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  

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  

Ancient Door

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too?

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
    the world, and all who live in it; 
2 for he founded it on the seas 
    and established it on the waters. 

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
    who does not trust in an idol 
    or swear by a false god. 

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord 
    and vindication from God their Savior. 
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, 
    who seek your face, God of Jacob. 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is this King of glory? 
    The Lord strong and mighty, 
    the Lord mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    lift them up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is he, this King of glory? 
    The Lord Almighty— 
    he is the King of glory. 

This Psalm is talking about opening the ancient doors in order to bring the Ark back into the Temple. It says that those carrying it must have clean hands and a pure heart.   

According to Charles Spurgeon, the ancient doors are the doors of our hearts.  

“There is no passage that says, ‘Down with your heads, ye gates, and be ye fast closed, ye everlasting doors!’ Not a word of that sort, Heaven’s gates are open wide. What then is shut? Why, the gate of the human soul, the door of the human heart. There are many gates and doors, bars of iron, and bolts of triple steel that stand in the way of Christ.”  — Charles Spurgeoni 

These are the doors closed at Eden. Yes, God, with a broken heart, barred the gates to Eden. But, only after his people had closed theirs on him. The doors our Lord has been knocking on ever since.  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 

The Psalm says that we must be those who do not “trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Yet when the joyful shout comes to lift up the ancient doors, the antiphonal retort comes back, “Who is he, this King of glory?” 

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too? The question implicit in the garden? 

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

Who is this God who enters the garden gate and walks in the garden? Is he one you can trust, one who cares for you and loves you, who delights in your presence? Or, is he a self-serving manipulator? Is he keeping you from good things? Is he keeping you from your real destiny, your true freedom? Can he really help and keep you, or do you have to do it yourself? 

They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert? Psalm 78:19 

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes (is persuaded, places confidence in, entrusts himself to Christ).” Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus came to show us who this King of Glory really is. He came to reveal and restore knowledge of the Name that we might again trust Him and walk with him in the garden of our hearts. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26 

The ancient knock on the ancient door. The ancient question, “Who is he, this King?” 

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29 

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1 

i Charles Spurgeon, A Triumphal Entrance https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-triumphal-entrance/#flipbook/ 

Image, “What’s Behind the Door?” By Chris Healy https://flic.kr/p/xLfx9e  

Listening to the Bells

“When was the last time you heard the bells of your Great High Priest?”

And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. Matthew 14:35-36 

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. Luke 8:44 

These verses prompted me to wonder, what is the significance of “the edge of his cloak” or the hem of a garment or mantle? What I found is amazing hidden treasure! 

In the New Testament the word translated “edge” is kraspedon (κράσπεδον). It means the extremity, edge, skirt, margin, the fringe or tassel of a garment, border, hem. In the New Testament it is the little appendage hanging down from the edge of the mantle or cloak, made of twisted wool, that Jews wore to remind them of the commandments.  

“The edge of his cloak refers to the kraspedon, the blue tassel on the garment that symbolized a Jewish man’s obedience to the law (cf. Num 15:37-41). The woman thus touched the very part of Jesus’ clothing that indicated his ritual purity.” — The NetBible Study Notes   

In the Old Testament the corresponding Hebrew word, kanaph, includes the meaning of wing. Its definition is wing, extremity, edge, winged, border, corner, skirt, corner of garment. 

It is the same word as here in Psalms: 

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (kanaph) from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. Psalm 17:8-9  

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings (kanaph). Psalm 36:7 (NASB) 

There are three areas of truth revealed in the cultural meaning and symbolism found in the Bible occurrences of these two words. All three point to Messiah and form a beautiful portrait of Jesus. Jesus the Bridegroom, Jesus the King, and Jesus our High Priest. 

Marriage – Jesus is the Bridegroom.  

Spread the corner (kanaph) of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.  Ruth 3:9 

Spreading the corner, hem, or wing of a garment over a woman was a euphemism for marriage – another way of saying that you marry or take responsibility for a person’s care and protection. When Ruth asks Boaz to spread the kanaph of his garment over her, she is asking him to marry her, and so take care of and protect her and Naomi.  

Again, in Ezekiel 16:8, God says to Israel, speaking of their beginnings, “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love (or old enough to be married), I spread the corner (kanaph) of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.” 

Jesus is the Bridegroom, come to be the kinsman-redeemer, who wants to take us under his wing. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). 
 

Authority – Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train (hem) of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1 

The second truth revealed through the symbolism of the edge, or hem, of the garment is authority.  

“In ancient times, tassels were part of the hem of a garment, and the hem symbolized the wearer’s authority.” — Rich Robinsoni 

In the book of Ruth, Boaz had the legal authority as kinsman-redeemer to help her. Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer and has the legal authority to heal, help, protect, redeem and marry us – the Bride of Christ.  

Another example of the hem of the garment symbolizing authority is in 1 Samuel 24:4-20. It tells of David hiding in a cave from Saul when Saul comes into the cave to relieve himself. David sneaks up and cuts off the edge or corner (kanaph) of Saul’s robe, symbolically cutting off his authority as king. Later Saul says about it, “Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand.” 

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, all authority has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). In Revelation the hem of his garment, symbolizing his authority, fills the Temple. We, as his temple here on earth, have been granted to share in this authority (Luke 10:19; Matthew 16:19). 

Mission and Selfless Service – Jesus is our High Priest. 

Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Exodus 28:33-34 

In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. John 17:18-19 (Message) 

This is the part that amazed and blessed me the most. The bells and the pomegranates on the hem of the High Priest’s robe. What could they mean?  

The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year carrying the blood of the Atonement and the incense of intercession for the people. This mission was life and death to the nation. As the kraspedon reminds of the commandments, the bells reminded the priest of this vital mission. Rabbi Moshe Kempinski writes that “the ringing bells help the Kohen Gadol be consistently aware of his mission and purpose. In addition it reminded the other Kohanim that he was in the Heichal (the Holy) on their behalf.”ii  

Hebrews says that Jesus, our High Priest, offered his own blood as the atonement sacrifice and is continually interceding for us (Hebrews 7:23-27). J. Vernon McGee urges us to be reminded of what Jesus did and is doing for us by “listening to the bells.” 

“When the high priest went into the holy place to function, the people could not see him; but because they could hear the bells, they knew he was busy ministering on their behalf. When was the last time you heard the bells of your Great High Priest? No wonder today many believers are confused; they haven’t been listening to the bells. Our Lord is in yonder at the throne of the Father, busy for us today, and the bells are on His garment.” — J. Vernon McGeeiii  

Interspersed between the bells on the hem of the robe were wool pomegranates. The symbolism of the pomegranates is breathtaking. Pomegranates were generally symbolic in ancient times of life because of all the seeds. But Rabbi Kempinski points out a further, wonderful, meaning. 

“The Pomegranate is a Biblical sign of blessing. Most fruits are made up of pulp and seeds. The pulp of the fruit is what the fruit uses to sustain and ‘feed’ itself. The seeds of the fruit are what the fruit uses to bring new fruit into the world. The seeds, then, are all about granting further blessing. 

The pomegranate is a fruit that is made up mostly of seeds and contains very little pulp. Therefore it symbolizes a fruit with the unselfish desire to grant further blessing in the world without being too concerned with itself and its own needs.”iv 

Doesn’t that sound like our Great High Priest? Unselfish, not concerned about self-preservation, but intent on giving his life away? Unconcerned with his own needs, but determined to serve unreservedly? Completely focused on his saving, redeeming mission? 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:25-27 

i Rich Robinson, The Tallit and the Tzitzit https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-sep-1993/the-tallit-and-tzitzit/ 

ii Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, A Bell and a Pomegranate (https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/18543

iii Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Golden Bells and Pomegranates https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mcgee_j_vernon/eBooks/golden-bells-and-pomegranates.cfm 

iv Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, A Bell and a Pomegranate 

Photo of pomegranate by Psyberartist https://flic.kr/p/BffZS1  

Who Will Rescue Me?

(A Good Friday Reading)

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Romans 7:24-25

The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:2-3

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way. Isaiah 53:6a

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Romans 7:25

When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Isaiah 49:2

He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intercede; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. Isaiah 59:16

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Romans 7:25

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NASB)

The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6b

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:2

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Romans 7:25

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

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. Psalm 22:16-18

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. John 3:16 (TPT)

They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! Psalm 22:31

It is finished! (completed, accomplished, paid in full) John 19:30

 

 

All verses from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Image in the Public Domain

Gethsemane

Jesus was pressed there at Gethsemane, the pure olive oil for the Light of the world, for the sanctification of those who would follow Him.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36[i]

Do you know what the word Gethsemane means? The place where Jesus prayed that the cup would pass from him; the place where he sweat great drops of blood?[ii] Gethsemane comes from two Aramaic words. The word for wine press, and the word for olive oil. Gethsemane means an olive press. The place where the olives are pressed to get olive oil.

Pure olive oil was used in the Tabernacle for the oil lamps which were to burn continually.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. Exodus 27:20

The lamps that never went out are symbols of Jesus, our Light perpetually, faithfully.

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

The pure olive oil was also made into the anointing oil used to sanctify, or consecrate, the Tabernacle and the priests.

Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them … He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. Leviticus 8:10, 12

Jesus came to sanctify, consecrate, set apart a “kingdom of priests,” and a Temple in which he can dwell.

For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:19

Jesus was pressed there at Gethsemane, the pure olive oil for the Light of the world, for the sanctification of those who would follow Him.

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

Thank you Lord Jesus for yielding to the press at Gethsemane that you might bring us light and life and freedom from sin. Let us pray for his strength to yield with him to our own press, following him to the cross, that we might be little lights in a very dark world.

Pray for strength to say with Jesus, Father may your will be done.

 

Image By Gold2874Hans Lie (according to Exif data) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24742929

 

[i] All Bible verses taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

[ii] Luke 22:44

Isn’t This the Carpenter?

All they could see were the calloused hands and the things he had made with his father in that little, backwater town.

When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter (worker in wood, craftsman, builder)? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. Mark 6:2-3 (NIV)

Isn’t this the carpenter? This is one of those breathtakingly ironic questions, from our point of view now, aimed at Jesus in the Bible. Like Pontius Pilate asking Jesus, “What is truth?” or Nathaniel musing, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” So, in his own hometown, the people who thought they knew Jesus the best were offended at him and scoffed, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”

Isn’t this the carpenter? Yes, more than they could realize, he was, and is, the Carpenter! The Craftsman, the Builder. Jesus, the prophesied Messiah.

When He [God] prepared the heavens, I was there … when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him as a master craftsman (architect, master workman, skilled workman). Proverbs 8:27, 29-30 (NKJV)

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 (dwelling, habitation, temple) for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. 2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV)[i]

For He [Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Hebrews 3:3-4 (NASB)

Jesus was this Carpenter, this Master Craftsman, this Architect. But all they could see were the calloused hands and the things he had made with his father in that little, backwater town. Can anything good come from Nazareth?

Jesus brought the Majesty and the Glory, the Redemption and Salvation, and the Authority and Kingdom of heaven down to us; made it our size. Something people could see with their eyes, but sometimes not understand, because they were looking for power and greatness and deliverance as the world sees it. They overlooked the Creator of the universe who had come as a simple carpenter, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords wearing a crown of thorns, the very Son of God as the ordinary son of Joseph and Mary, modeling obedience and honor to his parents, the loving Father come as an itinerant rabbi.

Isn’t this the carpenter? Yes, this is the Carpenter who came to build God’s house, God’s family of sons and daughters, God’s temple in us. Jesus may your calloused hands build your house in me.

For more about the Carpenter see The Craftsman

 

[i] “The earliest reference to a prophetic son of David is found in 2 Samuel, approximately 1000 BC. During David’s reign, his court prophet Nathan declared to him, ‘When your days are done and you lie with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you . . . and I will establish his kingship. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish his royal throne forever’ (2 Samuel 7:13-14, JPS).” Jews for Jesus

 

Come For To Die

I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky[i]

Looking back, I am always amazed that I went to church my whole life, I was in the choir and loved the old hymns, and I sang all the Christmas songs in the candle-light services. I heard the story about his birth, and about there being no room and the shepherds and wise men and angels. I stood transfixed before the pathos of the manger scene in the park across the street from the church – but I never really knew why Jesus came. I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

It wasn’t until I was 21 years old, and I heard a message about the blood of Jesus, that I finally understood.

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I

Believe it or not, I had never got the message about the necessity and power of the Blood. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all us “poor on’ry people.” The blood sacrifice, once and for all, for the sins of all the world that were ever committed, or ever would be. Prefigured in the Old Testament in the Passover in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over the house painted with the blood of the sacrificial lamb (Exodus 12:22-23). Prophesied in Isaiah 53 that He would carry our sins and pains and sicknesses to death.

From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins––that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. Isaiah 53:8-10 (NLT)

“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him.” That was the plan all along, and he knew it. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV) He didn’t come to be a good role model – though he was, the best. He came to set us free from the overwhelming burden of our guilt and sin, to reconcile us to the Father, to bring us home where we belong.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” Hebrews 10:4-7 (NLT)

Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord Jesus that you came for to die! Thank you that you came to be the offering for sin that I might be a child of God and heir to your Kingdom! I will forever be in wonder at the miracle of your amazing grace!

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you. 1 Peter 1:18-20 (NLT)

[i] From I Wonder as I Wander, by John Jacob Niles

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Therefore

The “therefore” at the beginning of the verse said to me, look at the context. And the context is very interesting.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (NASB)

At Christmas time we see this verse a lot on memes and Christmas cards and in sermons. But today the “therefore” at the beginning of the verse said to me, look at the context. And the context is very interesting.

Israel is under attack by two kings, and Isaiah is instructed by God to go to King Ahaz with a message. So, Isaiah tells Ahaz, one of the most wicked kings in Israel’s history, to “‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood’” (Isaiah 7:4). He assures Ahaz that what these two kings have in mind for Israel will not happen. And then, Isaiah gives Ahaz a blank check to ask anything he wants as a sign that God is telling the truth:

“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

But Ahaz refuses.

I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” (7:11-12)

I will not – Ahaz continues his rebellion against the will of God. And then he puts on a fake and hypocritical religious posture in order to cover his fear and lack of faith in God, and to make himself look good – I don’t want to put the Lord to the test. After all, he could have added, isn’t that what the law commands? “Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16).

The word translated “test” in both these verses is the Hebrew word nasah (נָסָה), which means “to put to the proof or test.” In the wilderness God was asking them to trust Him to take care of them, but they refused to trust and demanded that He prove it. Here in Isaiah, God wants Ahaz to put Him to the test. This verse reminds me of Psalm 34:8 (NIV).

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

But Ahaz does not want to taste, he refuses. God is offering Ahaz the world, anything at all, but Ahaz does not want to know the goodness, the power, the authority of this God. He doesn’t want to have his eyes opened to “see.” He wants to stick with his own ideas, his own feeble religion.

Doesn’t this kind of describe the whole human race from the beginning? Rebellion, fear, mistrust, unbelief, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, willful blindness. And yet, what is God’s response to all of this? Yes, Isaiah is more than a little irritated at Ahaz, exclaiming, “Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” But what does God say?

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

What is God’s response? Mercy, redemption. God says, you don’t want to know me, you don’t want to see, you refuse all the good I long to give you, but I’m going to give it to you anyway! I will give you the deepest depths and the highest heights, I will give you Wonderful, I will give you Truth! I will give you Life! I will give you the Way out of your mess, the way back. I will give you all my love, all my goodness, all my power and authority! I will give you Myself. Me with you and you with Me – always!

Therefore, let us – all us rebels – take God up on his offer. Let’s put God to the test. Let’s taste and see that the Lord is good. Let’s open our eyes and see and receive how much he loves us. Here is the sign. Here is the miracle. Here is the Gift.

Immanuel!

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

 

Image, photograph taken by ESA/Hubble Telescope, NASA

 

The Brokenhearted

Jesus’ heart was broken to bring life to the world. We follow in His brokenhearted footsteps.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

I received this verse three times in two days recently. My sister sent it to me as a comforting prayer. A favorite blogger wrote about the verse the next day. The third time I heard it was later that day at the funeral of a young mother, taken too soon. She was only 39. She leaves behind a grieving husband and two small daughters.

Jesus applied these verses to himself in Luke so we can see them as prophetic words of the Messiah. This verse was quoted by Jesus when he got up in the synagogue to read the scroll. But when he read the passage, he left out some parts. For one thing, He stopped at “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and left out “the day of vengeance of our God.” He came the first time to proclaim favor, the Good News, the freedom of captives and release of prisoners. The day of vengeance would come later when he returns the second time at the last day. I understand that.

But I’ve always wondered why the part about binding up the brokenhearted was left out. We are brokenhearted down here. We need – so many need – binding up. But the passage in Luke leaves out the promise to the brokenhearted. Why?

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:16-19 (NIV)

Commentators and theologians have argued about if this omission was a mistake, added back in by scribes later, or was in the original. Many later manuscripts include the phrase “to heal the brokenhearted” but in the earlier, important ones it is lacking. I don’t think it was a mistake, though I can understand wanting to put it back in. I want to put it back in. But I think Jesus left it out on purpose, just as he left out the “day of vengeance” part. This world that we are in is a place of broken hearts, of too-early deaths, tragedy, a place of tears and trouble. That will not change until Jesus comes back.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NIV)

For some reason we are “filling up the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). Jesus’ heart was broken to bring life to the world. We follow in His brokenhearted footsteps. Somehow our brokenness is like that broken alabaster jar filling the house with fragrance (Mark 14:3), and like the life-giving springs bubbling up in the dark valley.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! Psalm 84:6 (NLT)

Those other brokenhearted ones, who come after us, receive life and comfort from our brokenness if we keep walking; if our broken hearts, all our broken hopes and dreams, are squandered on him as fragrant offerings.

Ann Voskamp has conjectured that maybe we are made to be broken. It sure seems like it. “We are made in the image of God. And wasn’t God’s heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.”[i] A container for the fragrant, precious, glory of God. But it seems that the container must be broken for the glory to be shared.

I think we have to wait for the binding up part, but it will come. Someday, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4 NIV) and he will show us how all of those bottles full of tears that he has been collecting (Psalm 56:8) became pools of blessing.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.   2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

Image of tear under a microscope: “Psychic tear: This tear is harvested after an emotional response,” by Maurice Mikkers, https://medium.com/micrograph-stories/imaginarium-of-tears-10263c866ee1

 

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life.