Thursday, January 12, 2017

Amazement or Anger?

When Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) we get to witness a crowd go from amazed at the words of Jesus to angry at the words of Jesus in a matter of minutes.  The crowd in the synagogue knew Jesus because he grew up in Nazareth and probably attended this synagogue since it says in verse 16 that it "was his custom."  The scene is very interesting because Jesus was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and intentionally finds Isaiah 60:1-2a to read:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Jesus rolls up the scroll and hands it back to the attendant.  As was the custom of the rabbi he would then sit down to teach.  The eyes of all in the synagogue are on Jesus as he sits down.  "And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (4:21).  Luke then tells us, "Al all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth" (4:22a).  Based on what we read of the crowds reaction it seems they may have understood what Jesus was saying.  But what they had in mind was a leader who would lead them over Rome.  They were thinking politically not spiritual.  They had temporal issues on their mind not eternal issues.  Doubt begins to arrive as they start asking, "Is not this Joseph's son?"  We have seen him grow up in this place and it did not seem that there was anything special about this boy.  Their amazement quickly turns to doubt.  Doubt leads them to unbelief.

Jesus then cuts to the heart of the issue which has to do with their sin of unbelief.  Jesus says, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard (not believe) you did at Capernaum do here in your hometown as well" (4:23).  Jesus reveals his deity by telling them exactly what they will do in their rejection of him as the Christ.  The proverb, "Physician, heal yourself", is fulfilled when this same crowd screams for Jesus to be crucified says to him while on the cross, "He saved others; let him save himself, is he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One" (Luke 23:35)!  Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him.

Next he teaches them about two prophets who were rejected by the Jews, Elijah and Elisha.  These two prophets were rejected so God sent them elsewhere.  Elijah went to save a widow during the time of famine who lived in Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  Elisha saved a leper named Naaman who was a Syrian (2 Kings 5).  May not sound like a big deal but these were Gentiles God chose to rescue because of Israel rejection of his prophets.  Gentiles were consider unclean dogs by the Jews.  Jesus was showing this crowd their damning sin of unbelief.  It may not make sense to us Gentiles but these synagogue goers hear his message loud and clear.  How would they respond?  "When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath" (4:28).  Jesus struck their hardened hearts.

These in the synagogue loved the idea of Rome being overthrown.  They were amazed by the idea of Jesus leading a revolution.  Finally someone would free them from their oppression.  But Jesus came for a greater freedom.  He came with better news.  He came to set them from their slavery to sin.  He came to bring them an eternal kingdom.  But when confronted their sin they became angry rather then repenting and believing in Christ.  Had it been Jesus' time to die they would have killed him on the spot (Luke 4:29).  But when it was his time to die he did.  He chose to come and die for hard-hearted sinners like those in the synagogue that day and us reading this post right now.  Sin has separated us from our Creator but the Messiah has come to reconcile us to our great God.  There are two responses each of us could have either amazement which will produce repentance and belief or anger which will produce rejection and unbelief.

Be amazed by Jesus!

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Help My Unbelief

Do you ever feel that your faith is weak?  Do you feel like the dad in Mark 9 whose son had an evil spirit that said to Jesus, "if you can do anything"?  Jesus kindly responsds, "If you can!  All things are possible for the one who believes."  There is only one response back to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).  It's easy to theologically criticize this dad who doubted that Jesus could heal his son.  In our pride we may read the story wondering how this dad could ask such a question to the soveriegn Creator of the universe.  "Doesn't he know who Jesus is?"  Yet if I take the time to examine my life and my heart I quickly realize that I ask the same question to Jesus myself.

How do we build stronger faith?

The way to build stronger faith is getting to know the object of your faith better.  Faith means nothing apart for the object which you place your faith in.  If I have faith in a broken object I am going to discover disappointment and suffering.  But placing faith in an object that has been proven good time and time again will produce an ever increasing faith.  This is why we must know the object of our faith or our faith will be weak.

The object of faith that will not disappoint is Jesus.  That statement means I am saying all other objects to which you place your faith will fail.  Jesus never fails.  How can I make such a claim?  That claim is backed up by truth which we find in the Bible.  Jesus never once failed in one promise he made.  He can never fail in fulfilling a promise he has currently made.  When the Bible says he is coming back (John 14;1-6) that is his promise he will fulfill.  When the Bible says trust him with your life that is a promise we can cling to with all our heart.  When the Bible says to repent and believe in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven (Romans 10:9-13) that is a promise he will not break.  When Jesus says, "All things are possible for the one who believes" he is making a promise that he will never break for those who believe in him.  "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Jesus, the covenant keeping God cannot break a promise.  Every promise in the Bible has been fulfilled already, is being fulfilled now or will be fulfilled one day.  We old tight to his promises while he gives us ever increasing faith as we see more of his goodness and kindness to us through his promises.  "Lord, help us to trust your promises because they are promises made that we know will be kept since you are the covenant keeping Christ."

Grace upon grace,
JRL