Jul 252014
 

man of sorrowsHe was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

Famous men throughout history have had titles that they are associated with, but few as well known as this particular ‘name’ or ‘title’ of Jesus. This is because so much of Jesus’ earthly life was highlighted by sorrows of many kinds. In comparison to Abraham Lincoln, for example, whose biography dedicated just 25 pages out of 5,000 to his very famous death, large parts of the gospels concentrate on the final week of Jesus’ life. One third of Matthew and Mark, a quarter of Luke and a half of John’s gospel are taken up with Jesus’ last traumatic and sorrowful week. This amount of space devoted to Christ’s suffering and death is disproportionate to the rest of His life; there is no mention of His childhood or youth (save being left behind at the temple), nothing of His teens and nothing of His twenties either. We are only left to speculate. But when it comes to that last week we have a daily update, a full graphic account of every painful experience. Is it any wonder He is known as the ‘man of sorrows’?

God becoming man is incredible enough, but God suffering so much pain and anguish is almost beyond comprehension. It is a subject so amazing it would take an eternity to try and comprehend. His physical suffering went almost beyond human endurance, but it wasn’t just the physical pain we should consider. Many people have written of the graphic horrors of crucifixion and I don’t propose to repeat them here. But as if that were not enough, He had many more reasons to be sorrowful:

  • Jesus more than likely lost His earthly father before He was thirty. Joseph is not mentioned at all during Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had quite a number of brothers and sisters so when Joseph died (or left) Jesus, being the eldest, took on the responsibility of providing for the family and providing the emotional support needed by His mother, all the time Himself grieving at the loss of His father.
  • He was not accepted by the religious leaders, the very people who should have been waiting for His coming. They missed completely who He was and instead hounded Him wherever He went, constantly watching, continuously trying to find fault.
  • He felt the fate of lost sinners, those who were clearly told the truth but refused to listen and believe. We can see this in the account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 who went away sorrowful. Jesus was more sorrowful because He knew what the man’s fate would ultimately be.
  • He knew what was going to happen to Him a long time in advance. He had to live with the full horror of this fact on a daily basis, continuously casting a shadow over Him.
  • He was frequently misunderstood by the people and His very dull disciples. He had to repeat himself again and again and appeared quite frustrated on occasions.
  • He felt the pain of His friends when Lazarus died. One of the most poignant verses in the bible is the simple phrase ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).
  • The bible describes Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as being in anguish and overwhelmed with sorrow as He faced up to the full enormity of what was about to happen, asking the father if there was any another way possible.
  • He was abandoned by His best friends who had been with Him for 3 years sharing life together in the deepest way. The only one left was John but even he looked on from a distance, unable to help.
  • But perhaps the most terrifyingly sad time was on the cross, when the father turned his face from Him as He bore the full weight of every vile and disgusting sin that has ever been committed. He had always had the father’s presence, always enjoyed the father’s love and affection, until now. Eternity is a concept we are unable to grasp. The agony of eternal unity broken, excruciatingly and intolerably alone, Jesus hung on that cross; broken, despised and humiliated; abandoned and alone.

He was beset on both sides. As fully man He experienced every pain and every emotion, just as we do. As fully God in a fallen world He felt the full horror of sin surrounding Him on a daily basis.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

I want to end this blog on a positive note though, so let’s consider that the sorrow that Jesus went through was for a purpose. It was so that we could have a relationship with our heavenly father. He loved us that much that He considered all that sorrow to be worth it. Consider that you can please Him and make Him smile by living a life of obedience to Him; by every right choice you make on a daily basis and for every person you tell about Him. Let’s go into this week trying to make His smile as broad as possible!

 July 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 182014
 

ServantThis is one of the most amazing names and titles of Jesus. If you were to invent a story about God, the creator of the universe, the one who spoke life into being, visiting this planet, you would more than likely imagine Him making His entrance at a palatial mansion; a place full of opulence and grandeur; a myriad of servants at His beck and call. I think this is one of the major stumbling blocks for people to believe in Jesus and take Him seriously. Why would the creator of the universe choose to serve us? Why would He choose to be born in a smelly cattle shed in a third world country?

The bible mentions the fact that Jesus was a servant in a number of places. His purpose was to serve, but it took His disciples quite a long time to grasp this concept. I find the account in Matthew 20 quite amusing: Jesus has just told His disciples that He is going to suffer and be crucified. Quite a bombshell! But without seeming to have heard what Jesus has just said, the mother of James and John asks Him that her two sons be given the best positions in heaven. (James and John are referred to as the ‘sons of thunder’-not so thunderous really if they get their mum to speak for them!). Rather than rebuking her Jesus uses this opportunity to describe what true servant leadership is all about: “….whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

The most outrageous statement we could ever utter is that the God who created us chose to be our slave. No wonder people have a hard time believing it! The disciples had a hard time believing it so Jesus demonstrated His servanthood to them on many occasions. One way that really shocked them was when Jesus washed their feet: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. (John 13:3-5).

Then later on in verses 12-17: “he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Throughout His life Jesus demonstrated these humble, servant qualities. He never lorded it over anyone but always found ways to serve people. He was a servant to the father by only doing what the father asked Him to. He served the people by healing them and giving of His time, and He ultimately served us all by voluntarily going to the cross and deliberately taking the place for our sins.

Jesus never sought glory for Himself but always looked towards others. This is why the father glorified Him. He would never seek it for Himself but God the father was waiting to give Him the glory that He deserved. In one of my favourite passages it says: “Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11).

We follow a humble servant, a leader who would never ask us to do something that He was not prepared to do Himself. Now He is the sort of leader I am happy to follow!

I’ve included a lovely Youtube video below on this theme. I hope you enjoy it

 July 18, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 112014
 

physicianJesus twice referred to Himself as a physician. One time He was referring to the rejection of Himself in His native town: “and he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” (Luke 4:23). This may just have been a passing reference or turn of phrase, though it is worth noting that Jesus had just been reading in the synagogue from Isaiah (Chapter 61) about God’s servant being sent to proclaim liberty, recovery, and healing.

The second time He is recorded as calling himself a Physician can be found in three of the gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. On this occasion Jesus is at Matthew’s house, dining with “tax collectors and sinners”. The Pharisees are grumbling and they ask Him why He eats with such people. Jesus replies; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

These two occasions tell us the following:

  • Jesus equates sickness with sin, therefore implying we are all of us sick.
  • Jesus equates healing from this sickness with repentance.
  • Jesus declares Himself to be a physician, in fact the only physician who is capable of dealing with the sickness of sin.

Of course Luke, being a doctor himself, would have been more acutely aware of just what Jesus did. Jesus was a doctor who didn’t need medicine. His word was enough. He spoke and sicknesses left. It wasn’t just physical sicknesses either, He healed those oppressed by demons; He saw body parts grow back, blind eyes see, deaf ears open. He even had control of death itself, commanding Lazarus to come out of a tomb after he had been in there dead for 4 days. That is some power!

The gospels are packed with accounts of Jesus healing people. Jesus loves people, He has so much compassion. On many occasions during His life He would have been tired to the point of exhaustion but He kept going because of this love. We must never lose sight of this reality – God loves people. He loves them so much He gave up His life for them.

We looked recently at the power of the actual name of Jesus. We as Christians have been given the authority to use that name. As apprentices of this great physician we have been commanded to do the same things He did-we can see the sick healed in his name!

Jesus as the author of creation has provided for healing through what is called ‘common grace’. This is the healing grace that is available to all and can be seen in the following:

  • The natural world. There are literally hundreds of plants and herbs containing healing qualities within them which herbalists over the years have used for thousands of remedies.
  • The modern day herbalists we know as chemists have created all sorts of drugs for the healing of many maladies. God has given them this skill.
  • Doctors in the same way have been given skills to diagnose and cure sicknesses, diseases and all manner of other afflictions of the human body. These skills have been developed and improved over the centuries and life expectancy has gradually risen.
  • The body itself has written within its own amazing DNA code the ability to heal itself, continually defending itself against disease and infection.

These and many other ways are evidences of God’s common grace and His desire for us to be well, healthy and whole.

But greater than our need for physical healing is our need for a cure to the greatest illness of all; our sin. Every person healed by Jesus eventually dies; their healing is only temporary. They may live a full and contented life for many more years but they will eventually succumb to the disease that affects every single person: death. Death is the consequence of sin.

As the greatest doctor who ever lived, Jesus knew that the only prescription which would bring a complete cure was His own death. Jesus defeated death (and sickness) at the cross by becoming sin for us. He offered the full medicine at the cross and in doing so defeated death forever. Of course we will still die, but for a Christian this is now described as simply falling asleep; the power of death has been broken. Our death will transfer us directly into the arms of Jesus who paid the full price for our sins.

 July 11, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Healing, Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 042014
 

CarpenterYou might think that Jesus being a carpenter was just another job title. The fact that He was a carpenter gives us yet more wonderful insights into His character and how He relates to us.

As we have seen in this series, many words used in the bible don’t quite translate exactly into an English meaning. Most of us probably understand carpenter as a person who deals exclusively with wood; a ‘chippy’ on a building site who works alongside plasterers, roofers, bricklayers etc. The word used in the bible is ‘tekton’ which actually means ‘one who is an artisan, a craftsman or a builder’. Jesus may just as likely have been a stone-mason due to the fact that His village in Nazareth was near to a new city with plenty of buildings needing to be built of stone. That is where a lot of His work would have come from. This would also explain I Peter 2:4-8 which contains numerous references to building, especially Christians being built together as stones with Christ as the ‘chief cornerstone.’ Having said this, living in a small town Jesus would have probably done all manner of building tasks with all sorts of materials.

There are actually only 2 references in the bible which suggest Jesus was a “tekton”. The first is Matthew 13:55 where it says He was Joseph’s son (Joseph being a teckton) and Jesus would have almost certainly continued the family business. The second is in Mark 6:3 where the people in the synagogue were astonished and said “Is not this the carpenter?’.

But whatever Jesus did, it is amazing to think that this ordinary looking man who carried out manual tasks for a living was the same one who created the heavens and the earth (and all the materials He was now working with). He spent the majority of his life doing this mundane, hard work in obscurity. What a task for the king of heaven! This is a clear sign of His ongoing humility; He didn’t want to draw attention to Himself. Even when His public ministry started He was still much more interested in drawing attention to the heavenly Father.

His earthly father, Joseph, more than likely died fairly early on in Jesus’ life, therefore Jesus in His trade would have had to provide for His mother Mary and His numerous brothers and sisters. I imagine it was only when He reached the age of thirty that His younger brothers would have been old enough to take over the family business, which would then have released Him to go about the task of saving the world.

Jesus wasn’t some effeminate hippy character but a rough tough workman and I can imagine the disciples being initially impressed when He called them to follow Him. They could follow Him with confidence and respect. This was a “man’s man”, although they were to appreciate His other tender and caring characteristics a lot more later on.

This is also another reason to be sure that Jesus understands our working life; the toils, deadlines, sweated brows and not a few challenging days. He can identify with us and knows just what we are going through because He has walked that path Himself.

If Jesus did work with wood, I would have loved to see the craftsmanship with which He skilfully made each item. A beautifully finished table, or a polished smooth yoke for oxen, each item lovingly crafted. If it was anything like His initial creation it would have been a thing of beauty! This craftsman who once skilfully built with items of wood and stone now shapes lives for His glory and transforms us from rough ‘off-cuts’ into useful instruments for His kingdom.

 July 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »