Christianity 201

December 25, 2022

After a Time of Silence, A Prophet Speaks

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Whether you prefer to think of the time leading up to John the Baptist as a period of absolute silence, or a period of relative silence, there is a ‘calm before the storm’ that ends when the prophet John announces the coming of the Messiah, and the day after directly points him out.

NIV.John.1.26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” …

…29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

But there’s a small microcosm of the time of silence vs. speaking when John’s father, Zechariah, goes mute for a period of several months, culminating in the naming of John. In December, 2019, Clarke Dixon wrote, “We might expect Zechariah to gush over this new baby boy, and he does gush, but not over his own child. He gushes over someone else’s, a child yet to be born.” These are his words:

NIV.Luke1.67b “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

This passage is often skipped over in our reading — some people just want to cut to chapter two, the birth of Jesus — and several times I’ve shown it to people without the chapter of verse references to see if they can guess what’s being cited. Try it some time, the answers you get are often interesting.

For me, the distillation of the gospel in this passage is clearest in verses 69 and 70

He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago. (NLT)

The writer of Hebrews mentions the prophetic line as well:

The Message.Hebrews.1.1-3 Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words! 4 After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule.

The wording of verse 4 is similar to one of my favorite scriptures, Hebrews 10: 11 and 12.

CSB.Hebrews.10.11-12 Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in.

My point is that you don’t have the incarnation of Christ without a look forward to the atoning work of Christ that in our church calendar, we observe just a few months later.

I can’t think of these passages without leaving you with another of my favorites, also about the “fullness of time” when the Messiah appeared, from Titus:

NASB.Titus.3.4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…

This is the message of Christmas, and of the gospel.

 

 

December 11, 2022

Waiting for ‘The One’

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our third time with Rev. John Partridge, the pastor at Christ United Methodist Church (UMC) in Alliance, Ohio. His website for sermon content and blog articles is PastorPartridge.com. If you’re reading this on December 11th, it appeared earlier today. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Are You the One?

Isaiah 35:1-10                         Matthew 11:2-11                    James 5:7-10

In the blockbuster 1999 movie, The Matrix, Keanu Reeves, as the character Neo, is awakened from a pod and discovers that his entire life had been lived inside of a computer simulation. Over the course of the movie, Neo, and the audience, discover that he is the person known in their modern legend as “The One.” Although computers have taken over the universe, the computer program that makes the simulated world possible requires, as part of its vast program, an anomaly, a glitch, that is both necessary to making the whole thing work, and problematic to the machines that want to subjugate humanity.  That glitch, that anomaly, is that one randomly selected person, known as the Prime Program, or The One, carries a special piece of program code that gives them superhuman abilities in the matrix.  These abilities give that person the power to bend the rules of the matrix simulation, allowing them to ignore physics, gravity, and any other laws of nature.

In scripture, we also find a world that is waiting for the arrival of “the One.” In this case, we are dealing with the real world and with a spiritual world, and not a fictional computer simulation.  But the movies have borrowed from this scriptural tradition and have created parallels that we see in both the theater and in the stories of the Old and New Testaments.  What we find is that God, through his prophets, promised that one day he would send a messiah, a rescuer, and a redeemer, who would come to save Israel from their enemies and save the entire world from destruction, sin, and death.

But as the centuries passed, Israel asked the same question that the characters in the Matrix movie were asking.  Is the story real?  When will we see the One?  And whenever they met someone who impressed them, they might even ask themselves if he might be “The One.”  We begin this morning with Isaiah 35:1-10, as we hear God’s prophet tell of the things that the Messiah would do:

35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

It was these words that were repeated, taught, and remembered, when people thought and dreamed about the coming of the messiah. And so, when John the Baptist sees that Jesus isn’t doing the things that he thought that he would do, he begins to wonder if Jesus is really “The One.”  And so, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus that very question, “Are you the One.”   Matthew 11:2-11 records Jesus’ reply.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

It was a fair question.  It’s always been a fair question. We have been reading the promises of God in the writings of the prophets for thousands of years.  Like many of Jesus’ own disciples, John thought that the Messiah should behave differently, and do things differently than Jesus was doing them. And Jesus’ reply was to echo Isaiah and say that the eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame are healed, the mute speak, the good news is proclaimed to the poor, and even the dead are raised.

But two thousand years later we are still asking the same question.  Was Jesus really “The One”?  If Jesus were really the Messiah, shouldn’t he have returned to do the rest of the things that Isaiah and the other prophets said that the Messiah would do?  It’s a fair question because two thousand years is a long time.  The people who had seen Jesus, even some of his disciples, were convinced that Jesus would return in their lifetimes.  And then they were sure that he would return before the Apostle John died.  And then they thought he would certainly return before the year 100, then the year 1000, then maybe it should be the year 2000.  But the calendar keeps turning and we keep asking the question, “Is he really “The One”?”  And that is exactly the question to which Jesus’ brother James was responding in James 5:7-11 when he said:

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

As in many other things, patience is the key.  Students of a foreign language do not learn to speak fluently overnight, nor do students learn to play a musical instrument well during their first lesson, or even during the first year. In Star Wars, Master Yoda repeatedly admonished Luke Skywalker to have patience, and that is something with which we all have struggled. Like all these things that I mentioned that make sense to us, James uses an agricultural illustration that made sense to his audience.  When we plant our gardens, or when a farmer plants an entire field, we cannot harvest until the appropriate time has come.  We wait for sunshine, warm nights, and the rains that water the earth because plants have needs that must be met just as we do, and they need time to grow to maturity. In the same way, James tells us that there will be an appropriate time, that Jesus will come, and that his coming is near.

Rather than grumble and fight, we must be patient with one another, love, nurture, and support one another, and persevere through whatever this life throws at us. Rather than impatiently questioning whether Jesus is “The One,” we should remember the perseverance of Job and many others that we know from scripture, people who patiently endured and persevered through their trials and through their lives so that we could look back and see what God accomplished through them.

As we wait for the return of “The One” let us be patient in our waiting, patient with one another in our struggling, and remember the examples of scripture of those who struggled like us, but who endured so that God could demonstrate what could be accomplished with his help.

December 8, 2022

The Grinch that Stole Hope

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

What are you hoping for this Christmas? To prepare the perfect Christmas dinner? To find the perfect gift? To experience the perfect Christmas family gathering? To ensure loved ones experience the perfect Christmas? The word “perfect” is showing up there a lot, how about we try one without it: world peace?

Whatever you are hoping for this Christmas, when these things fail to happen our hope can turn to cynicism, disappointment, and even despair. We light the candle of hope during church on Sunday morning but then we snuff it out and head home to the real world where our hope gets snuffed out, sometimes as fast as the candle.

It is not just the Grinch that can steal Christmas. Our expectations for the future can steal our hope for the future. Our hopes can fade to disappointment when the hope of Christmas is stolen by unmet expectations. In fact our disappointment at Christmas may be a symptom of a bigger problem; disappointment with ourselves, others, or with God.

So what are we to do?

We ask if our expectations are wise expectations. If they are not, they will steal our hope, replacing it with disappointment. Do we have wise expectations of ourselves, others, and of God?

Let’s turn to a hope filled passage of the Bible, specifically, Isaiah 11:1-9, and ask if Isaiah’s expectations were wise.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:1 (NRSV)

David’s family is described as a “stump” in a way that signifies that God’s people will face tough times, even destruction, interpreted by the prophet as being the judgement of God. By speaking of new growth from this stump Isaiah expressed hope that what could be perceived as the end would give way to a new beginning. This new beginning would come about with a “shoot” that represents remarkable new leadership, a great new king:

2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

Isaiah 11:2-5 (NRSV)

Isaiah had hope that there would be good governance, marked by the presence of God, taking direction from God, and in good relationship with God. The new king would be righteous, helping the disadvantaged and bringing justice to those who are evil.

Those who first heard Isaiah’s hope would hardly be thinking of Jesus, but looking back, we who are Christians can not help but see Jesus and the coming Kingdom of God.

Isaiah continues with the theme of hope:

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (NRSV)

With animals getting along together who normally would not and children playing safely among violent creatures, Isaiah is expressing the hope that in this new beginning there would be a great sense of security. Some take these verses literally and look forward to a day in which such animals really will live together without bloodshed, but others take this as symbolic of the sense of security, peace, and safety that the hoped for new king would bring. Either way, Isaiah has great hope for the future.

But are Isaiah’s expectations wise?

Does Isaiah have a reasonable hope, or is he setting himself up for disappointment by having crazy expectations for the future?

Isaiah had great expectations for the future, but they are expectations of God and what God can do. God is the Creator, it is no trouble for God to be a Re-Creator. God can send a new king and establish a new kingdom. Our hope for the future as Christians may seem like “pie in the sky after I die” to some, but this is God we are talking about. God can do it. It is wise to have great expectations of God.

This brings us to our first word of caution as we consider wise expectations. God can fulfill sky high expectations, we cannot. We can expect God to be God. We cannot expect ourselves, or others, to be God. Might we need to lighten up a bit with regard to our expectations of others, and what we expect of ourselves? Our expectations may be unwise.

And now a second caution, our expectations of God are only wise when we expect God to do what God wants to do. If God has promised to do something, then our expectations are wise and we can have great hope. Sometimes, however, we expect God to do what we want God to do, or what we think God should want to do. We can make assumptions about what God wants to do. This can lead us to unwise expectations.

I might expect that God wants me to be pain free. Recently I have been overly active, plus doing things that I don’t normally do, like installing flooring, and moving appliances which lack handles for proper lifting technique. Add in a lack of good stretching and needless to say my muscles are not happy with me. This led to a sleepless night and a repeated prayer for relief from the pain. Should I expect the Lord to answer such a prayer like some kind of divine pharmacy? Perhaps I should learn to take better care of myself.

While I could not sleep due to a physical plain, there are those who cannot sleep because of emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain. Expecting God to simply lift such pain in the immediate future may be unwise, for God has not promised to do that. Expecting that God will simply lift all pain may just leave us disappointed with God and cynical about faith. Expecting God to journey with us in the pain, however, and to release us from all pain in the resurrection, is wise. We can have great hope. God has promised a King and a Kingdom. To have great expectations about that King and that Kingdom is wise.

We come to church and light the candle of hope, then go on our way and pin all our hopes on people who can’t meet our expectations, including, and especially, ourselves. Or we go on our way and pin all our hopes on unwise expectations of God. Hope gives way to cynicism, disappointment, and even despair when our hope is based on unwise expectations of ourselves, others, and God. Let us have wise expectations, and let us be hopeful!


Before appearing here, Clarke Dixon’s condensed sermons appear at his blog, Thinking Through Scripture.

December 6, 2022

Something Different is About to Happen

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Today we’re featuring a writer for the first time. Rev. Dan Balsdon gives leadership to three Methodist communities in West Sussex, which is the south-central coastal area of England. For this Advent (Christmas) season, he’s focused on the theme “There is No Room…” and by clicking the title below you can read today’s thoughts where they first appeared or click on this blog link.

Prepare the way: There is Room for Difference

In my first year of secondary school, there was a woodland behind the school, and in the woodland lived ‘Knocker’. Knocker got the nickname because, as the story goes, he hid in the woods and knocked on the trees to scare people away.

He was different, lived differently, and was shunned, gossiped about and avoided. but looking back, I have no idea what sort of person he actually was. All I knew about him was based on the bias I’d unconsciously built up through stories others had told, regardless of what the truth actually is.

John the Baptist is one who may well have stimulated similar reactions.


John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 

Matthew 3:4


The point Matthew is making is that John the Baptist was different. In his lifestyle. In his appearance. And in his message.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

Matt 3:2-3


For 400 years – the period between the Old and New testaments, there had been a perceived silence from God. No prophets, no message. Then from the wilderness comes – the literal wilderness John lived in, and the metaphorical wilderness of this silence, comes a voice saying:


“Prepare the Way!
The Promised One is coming.
Something is about to happen. To change. To transform.
Are you ready?


John the Baptist, in his difference and diversity, is a trailer for the God who is about to do something different. Radical. Revolutionary. To come and dwell with us, as Immanuel, a baby who changes everything.

In doing something different God doesn’t thrown the past out with the bathwater, but takes the story into a new chapter, where prophecy is fulfilled, when the promises of God are made known differently, where the message of love and grace is repacked and transformed – into a living, walking, breathing human being.

In Christ, God did something different.
And still today, God is at work, moving among us many ways.
Known and unknown.
Expected and unexpected.
Making Room for diversity and difference.
Because in God’s story,
When God reigns,
There is room – for difference.

God makes room for you. For me. For us. for all.
Those like us,
Those different to us.

Those like John the Baptist. Those like ‘knocker’ who are different to us, seem strange, unpredictable or unusual.

So In our story,
Will we let God reign?
Will we prepare the way to make room for the difference of God?
The difference of one another?
The transformation that comes from embracing the radical and unexpected of God and God’s kingdom.
Will we make room for difference?


C201 contributors live in different parts of the world. Do you have someone whose writing you’d like to see shared here? Use the Submissions and Questions and Contact (Oh, my!) tab.

November 16, 2022

John’s Gospel Has a Prologue; So Does Luke’s

One of the books in my possession is an early copy of what would later become The Message of Luke in “The Bible Speaks Today” series from IVP. My copy has a larger title, Savior of the World.

In the section dealing with chapter two — appropriate to the season of the year we are approaching — author Michael Wilcock notes that there are three stories presented revolving around three key characters:

  • the angel
  • the prophet
  • the child himself

and also three sayings from each of them:

  • “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  • 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” …
    34 …“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
  • 49 “Why were you searching for me? … Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the latter, Wilcock writes:

…So the first recorded words of Jesus are a statement about himself, and a claim to a relationship between himself and God different from, and deeper than, anything that has been known before. Furthermore, it is a relationship into which he is going to bring all others who are prepared to put their faith in God through him. He will teach them to address their prayers regularly to their ‘Father’ (11:2), and they will learn to use the affection, intimate name of ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’) which he himself uses. Thus early in his Gospel, Luke introduces the great object of the divine plan of salvation, just as John does, in his own way, at the beginning of his story of Jesus: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”

Both these truths, that he is the son of God, and that he has come into the world so that others might become sons of God are implied in his words in 2:49. For to be “in my Father’s house” really amounts to the same thing as to be “about my Father’s business”: where my father is, where he centers his activity, there I am always to be found as well. (Again, this is Luke’s equivalent of some of the great sayings in John: “I and the Father are one…” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does that the son does likewise… I always do what is pleasing to him.”) But the Father’s work, as we have seen, is the work of salvation; so this is the work in which the Son also “must” be engaged. Thus, early in his career, does Jesus express the compulsion that is upon him to be at one with his Father in the saving of men.

So we have Luke essentially including this passage as if to offer a parallel to what we normally refer to as John’s prologue.


If you’re looking to go a little deeper into a particular book of the Bible but want something that has content accessible for laity — i.e. not written for scholars or academics — I do recommend The Bible Speaks Today series from InterVarsity Press (IVP). Additionally, you might want to look at the Life Application Commentaries from Tyndale House, and also consider a series of commentaries by Warren Wiersbe which all begin with the word “Be” (David C. Cook Publishing).

One of the challenges of our present publishing environment is that if you only purchase books online, you can’t see titles in these series in order to make a comparison. If possible, find a brick and mortar book retailer where that is an option. Even if they only 3 or 4 selections from each series, it will give you a much better idea of what you’re getting.


John’s gospel is generally considered the oldest of the four. Luke wouldn’t have had access to it, and wouldn’t be writing in response to it; so as we tease out the idea of Luke 2 being Luke’s prologue, we should still keep in mind that Luke’s goal was to summarize the life of Christ after considerable research and part of good research is organization of the material. We can think of chapter 2 as being a precis of what follows.

The origins of the synoptic gospels are the subject of much academic writing and even though this is Christianity 201 and not 101, it’s beyond the scope of what we talk about here. However, Wikipedia has a chart I thought regular readers here would find interesting:

Source — Wikipedia article on “Gospel;” image link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Relationship_between_synoptic_gospels-en.svg#/media/File:Relationship_between_synoptic_gospels-en.svg

April 14, 2022

Triumphant, or Hopeless?

Thinking Through Luke 19:28-40

by Clarke Dixon

Do you ever feel like it is just plain hopeless? It will never work out. It might be your health, career, a relationship, or your hope for world peace. Concern weighs our hearts down, grinding down our hope and joy along with it.

Not only will it not work out, it may seem completely beyond your control. You didn’t sign up for that illness. You were not the one who introduced a mess into the relationship. Vladimir Putin didn’t ask you if he should invade Ukraine. If it makes you feel better, he didn’t ask me either.

Today we are taking a break from all that hopelessness by looking back to a moment of great hope and joy:

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem….

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

Luke 19:28,36-38

We call it the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem but we could just as easily call it the hopeful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

That moment was a break from hopelessness for the people of that day. The people needed a break, something to celebrate. Rome was in charge and everyone knew that was not the ways things were supposed to be. God’s people were meant to be a free people living in the land promised to them.

Making matters even more frustrating for the the regular person, the leaders could not agree on the best thing to do about it. The Pharisees were saying something different than the Zealots who were saying something different than the Sadducees who saying something different from the Essenes who were just telling everyone to give up listening to anyone and join them in the wilderness. The best experts could not agree. Perhaps that sounds familiar.

There was hope

Hope flickered like a small candle for many years, hundreds of years in fact. There was the hope that God would send a Messiah, in Greek, a Christ, meaning an ‘anointed one.’ Though there were many pretend leaders through the years, from not-appointed-by-God kings like Herod, to Roman appointed governors like Pilate, some day God would send the true king. That king would be someone from the line of David, the king from Israel’s “glory days,” who would bring the people into new glory days.

At some point people began to wonder if Jesus might be that hoped for king. Yet somehow Jesus didn’t fit the expectations. He had the wrong kind of accent for one thing, coming from Galilee. But people wondered. The disciples knew, but Jesus told them to be quiet about it. Then Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Jesus orchestrated the way he entered Jerusalem to make absolutely clear that he was the true king, the hoped for Messiah. The flickering candle of hope became a raging fire. The people welcomed Jesus with great joy and celebration!

Yet there was an ominous note:

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

Luke 19:39 (NRSV)

That ominous note of opposition would get louder until it was replaced by the shouts of “crucify him,” by the end of the week, then by the sound of nails being driven into a cross, then by the sound of struggling for breath, then silence.

Life is like that.

There is hope, then hopes are dashed.

Hopes were dashed at the cross

So how did the people go from “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” to “Crucify him! Crucify him!” in less than a week?

When the people saw this Jesus who gave the clear sign that he considered himself to be the the true king who would rescue them from Rome, in the hands of the Romans, clothed in purple, with a crown of thorns on his head, Roman soldiers mocking him, and Pilate joking “here is your king,” well then hope went out the window.

Most reasonable people would discern that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. No one was saying “Don’t do that to our king,” they would have been saying, “That is not our king.”

The miracles and teaching of Jesus had captured the imagination of people and filled them with hope. However, his inability to pull together an army, or to bring the Pharisees, Sadducee’s, and Zealots together on any kind of plan to beat the Romans had people thinking he was a fraud. The true king would get the people out from Roman captivity. Jesus, however, was in Roman captivity more than the people.

If he was a fraud, then he should be crucified. So “crucify him!”

Except he wasn’t.

That was Friday

On Friday Jesus was arrested, tortured, dead, buried and obviously not the Messiah, the promised king. So back to life under the thumb of Rome, with Jewish leaders that can’t get their act together, and back to a small candle of hope. Maybe someday God would send the Messiah. But not today.

That was Friday. On Sunday Jesus is alive. Yes he really is the Messiah, the promised king, the true king.

Jesus defied expectations of what the true king should do and be like. He not only defied expectations, he blew them wide open. Never mind being king of the Jews, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Never mind a rescue from the Romans, this is a rescue for all of Creation, including the Romans!

Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords and no one could change that. Even killing Jesus could not change that. What had always worked for bringing about a change in leader, namely killing him, did not work this time! The Romans with all their power and the terrifying control they held over people by the threat of crucifixion could not change the fact that Jesus is the king, even the king of Caesar!

Our struggles are real, but they cannot destroy hope

Jesus is King, and his vision for the future is the vision that will come about. Not the vision of the religious leaders, nor the Romans, nor yours, nor mine, nor any person, disease, bully, nor any world ruler no matter how many nuclear arms may be at that ruler’s disposal, but the vision of Jesus, that is what shall be.

This is good news. Jesus is King, and the king is for us and not against us.

The struggles are real, the wounds are real, the strikes against hope are real, but they are never fatal. With Jesus as king, our wounds can never kill hope. Remember when the Pharisees told Jesus to stop the people celebrating as he rode into Jerusalem?

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Luke 19:40 (NRSV)

The celebrations could not be stopped. Hope could not be destroyed.

The opposition Jesus faced between his entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion was real. The opposition was real but it could not destroy hope. The struggle was real, but the defeat wasn’t. The wounds of Jesus were real, but even though they led to death, they were not fatal.

That is true for us.

The struggles are real. We can’t just gloss over life’s struggles as if they don’t exist. When we gloss over the struggles, we fail to reach out for help. We may need the presence of a caring friend, a trained counselor, or a psychiatrist. Being a Christian does not absolve us from struggle.

The struggles are real, but defeat isn’t. The wounds are real, but they are never fatal. They can never override God’s will for us.

Hope may be stifled for a season, by a bully, a fool, a disease, an accident, or a tragedy. But it cannot be destroyed because Jesus is King, and he is for us and not against us.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. His writing, based on the previous week’s sermons, and featured here most Thursdays is from his blog, Thinking Through Scripture.

December 14, 2021

If Dead, Jesus Couldn’t Save Anybody

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” – Mark 8:27

[Jesus] I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.John 3:46

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:28

This is our fourth time with freelance writer and editor Rebecca LuElla Miller, whose blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction is about topical issues, Christian fiction reviews, and occasional devotional insights. Clicking the link which follows takes you there directly.

Who Is Jesus?

I recently heard a speaker recount a situation in which a young adult was asked, Who is Jesus? The responder started some nebulous answer, then stalled out altogether. Simply, he didn’t have a clear answer. Was Jesus a religious figure, the founder of some new religion? Was He a good teacher who pointed people to a more loving way to live? Maybe He was nothing more than a cute baby that came into the world a long time ago so we could all have Christmas.

Just exactly who is Jesus? It’s an important question and one each person needs to be able to answer. Of course there are the answers skeptics give—a fairly unimportant first century Jewish rabbi whose followers turned into a cult figure people started to worship. Something along that line. It’s hard to deny that he did in fact live, though some atheists go so far as to ignore Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence to the contrary.

The people of His day actually struggle with the question, too. Who is this man? Some said He was a prophet, maybe Elijah. Herod wondered if He was John the Baptist come back to life. More than one person, though, thought He just might be the Messiah, the Christ of God.

After all, the Jews had been waiting and looking for this Promised King. They believed the Messiah would free them from pagan rule. The current pagan rule was Rome, though the Jews had been conquered and enslaved by various other nations. But at the time that Jesus came on the scene, it was the Romans they hoped He would defeat.

But to be honest, “they” didn’t all hope Jesus was the Messiah. In fact the contemporary Jewish leaders contended with Him at every turn. At one point they accused Him of doing miracles by the power of Satan. Ultimately they became so jealous of His following and so fearful they would lose their own positions of authority, they conspired to have Him killed. At that point, they actually didn’t care if He was the Messiah. Maybe they had even stopped believing that God would send a Messiah.

Certainly when Jesus was executed, when He hung on the cross, dying, I’d venture to guess that close to 100% of the people stopped believing that this Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, was God’s Messiah. I mean, how could you have a dead Messiah? How could He save anybody if He was dead?

What they all missed, even Jesus’s followers, was that the very act of dying was the means God chose for their salvation.

In many ways, it’s more surprising that the Jews missed it because their whole history was littered with sacrifice: Passover lambs for the life of the first born in every family; sacrifices for the sins of the people; scapegoats for the sins of the nation; a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac. All through Jewish history, sacrifices to save. But along comes Jesus who dies, and they miss who He is, what He’s doing.

Actually, one of those hated Roman soldiers understood better. As Jesus asked God to forgive the men who were killing Him, or perhaps when the earth shook or the sky went dark in the middle of the afternoon, this centurion figured out that Jesus was not just a run-of-the-mill guy. “Surely, this was the Son of God,” he concluded.

What did he know about God? About His Son? Had he been in Jerusalem when Jesus caused the lame man to walk? Did he hear the rumors about Lazarus coming back to life? Or about Jesus multiplying a few loaves of bread and a couple fish so that He could feed 5000 people? We don’t know. But this Roman “pagan” was convinced, as Jesus breathed His last, that this Man was indeed the Son of God.

But that brings us back to the point that had the Jews stumped: how could Jesus save anybody if He was dead? Besides what we can see more clearly in hindsight—that Jesus in fact saved by dying—it was a realistic question. I mean, the Messiah was to be a king, to reign forever. So a dead man wouldn’t qualify, would he?

That part they got right.

Which is why Jesus didn’t stay dead…

… He is risen. He is risen indeed! Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ of God, His very Son is risen and alive and will one day return to take His rightful throne.


Related: From Christmas two years ago, check out This Is Why Jesus Came.


I Peter.1.3 …It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.


Subscribers: There was an editing error in yesterday’s devotional which has since been corrected. In the phrase “you shall have no other Gods,” verse 23 of Exodus 20 says “alongside me” or “to rival me” while the shorter version often quoted as part of the Ten Commandments just says, “no other Gods,” full stop. The paragraph which follows was clear that the shorter reading “appears to create an either/or situation. In verse 3 it’s going to be Yahweh, and nobody else, but in verse 23, it’s picturing a situation where there are competing gods both vying for attention at the same time.” Obviously both situations can occur in the lives of different people.

February 8, 2021

God’s Gift: At First Impractical, In Balance, What We Needed

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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NIV.Mark.14.3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. [Read the whole narrative here.]

HCSB.Mark.12.1 [Jesus:] “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went away. At harvest time he sent a slave to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the farmers. But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another slave to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. Then he sent another, and they killed that one. He also sent many others; they beat some and they killed some…” [Read the whole parable here.]

What follows has been in my files for a long time. It’s the manuscript for a sermon given in a United Church in Morrisburg, Ontario on the day before Christmas, 1989. The pastor was Donald C. Smith. Beyond that, I don’t have much information. He began with a look at the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song and how of the 12 gifts, only 3 were remotely practical. Then he looked at The Gift of the Maji, by O’Henry and how in that story what started out as practical gift was rendered impractical by the sacrifice of the other. Then he continued…

You will remember that there was a day when Jesus was a guest in the home of a Pharisee and while he was eating his meal a woman of bad reputation came and brought an alabaster flask of very precious perfume; she broke it open and anointed his feet with her tears and with the perfume. There were three distinct reactions to what happened. Some of his critics refused any contact with her. A disciple, we are told, immediately pointed out that the perfume was extremely costly and should not have been wasted in this way; it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus accepted both the woman and the gift because he realized that this was a beautiful act that does not have a price.

You may remember that Jesus spoke about an absentee landlord who had rented out his vineyard and who at harvest time sent servants to collect his share of the enterprise. One by one the servants were ill treated; some were spurned, some were beaten but all were sent away empty handed. Finally he decided to send his son with the expectation that they would have respect for him. On the contrary, they decided to kill the son. The hearers of the parable were angry and upset because they knew exactly what Jesus was saying.

The nation Israel had been given God’s good earth to tend and he had sent his messengers, the prophets, to collect his due, their love and their worship, but all had been badly treated. Finally he decided to send his son and they were on the verge of killing him. It was one of those few times that Jesus laid claim to sonship. When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate God’s rather impractical gift, but we understand that by Jesus’ coming into the world he was showing his unsearchable love.

In so many ways God’s gift was totally impractical and was not what most people were asking for. Most of the peoples of the world were not expecting anything from God because they did not know about him. The one nation that was expecting a gift was expecting a messenger with a totally different agenda from the one Jesus had. Some wanted a messiah riding on the clouds of the heavens throwing around heavenly thunderbolts to get instant obedience to God’s commands. Others wanted a military ruler to rally the troops and deal with the Roman overlords and all other conquerors. They wanted a second David to make the borders strong and extend them.

Instead God sent a baby. What possible use could that be? And he sent the baby to Bethlehem, a little town where only a few shepherds shopped. And he sent an angel choir to announce the birth to some shepherds, probably not even the owners of the sheep, probably hired men without seniority, doing the night shift. I can imagine that when God told the angels to go and sing at Bethlehem they must have thought it strange. Shouldn’t they go to Rome or Alexandria or Athens but not to Bethlehem. Surely they should go to kings or governors, not shepherds. But the baby was to grow into a man and what a man! His birth was to be a sign of the extravagant love of God.

Occasionally I find it good to say what I am not saying. I am not saying that an impractical gift is always better than a practical one. I am not saying that the gift must be more than one can afford. I am saying that the gift must be an expression of love and a demonstration that one cares about the person receiving it. God loved and gave his own son, in effect a bit of himself, because he loves his people.

I hasten to add that a great deal of gift giving falls short of this standard. Some is self serving. It is giving in order to get another person obligated to us so that some day the debt can be called and some demand can be made on the other person. A lot of criticism has been leveled at the affluent nations for giving their surpluses of food and their technical expertise to the developing nations in the third world in such a way that they will gain as much or more than the recipient gets.

Paul Tournier tells in his little book The Meaning of Gifts of a child who was promised a little money if she did a certain task but when she received it she was told she must donate it to a certain good cause which her parents had chosen. It was meant to be a learning experience whereby the child would come to learn the joy of giving, but what she learned was that people can be manipulative in their gift giving. Every family where the parents have gone through the sadness of breaking up knows something about the temptation to use gifts as a way of getting the children on the side of one the parents. The child usually learns that the gift is not an expression of love but that it is rather part of the tug of war and feels not the love that is expected but a lack of respect for the one who is being self serving.

Sometimes gifts can greatly complicate relationships, they can be divisive as well as being the means of cementing warm relationships. As a prospective grandparent, I suspect grandparents need to have a well defined statement of family policy because it is possible for them to be much too lavish in their giving. The parents may have decided that it is not safe for a small child to have a  bicycle until legs have grown long enough to reach the pedals with ease, but a grandparent can’t wait to see the child glowing with joy on finding such a gift under the tree. The parents may feel that too much at any one time can breed a materialism that does not fit with the family values but the grandparents may have their own needs to appear as lavish givers and may be more interested in meeting those needs.

I am sure gifts have even been used to express hostility as well as love. An article of clothing can be chosen with the expectation that someone with poor taste in dress will enjoy a gift that the giver feels is in good taste and dress more acceptably in the future. On such occasions the gift is given to change the person, not to make him feel loved and accepted.

What I have been trying to say is that there are faulty human ways to give and there is a divine way to give. The divine way means that the gift is an expression of love, it is a way of communicating love, and it is a way of making a deeper relationship than could otherwise exist. After all there are times when words fail. Even God does not rely on verbal communication. We cannot find a different way each day to say to the ones we cherish that we love them, so we use the non-verbal communication of gifts. God started it, we respond to his love by loving one another. His gift was in many ways extravagant and impractical and surprising, but the important thing about it was that he was self giving. God was giving his son; as the New Testament says, God was in Christ.

Receive God’s gift and respond with love to others.

December 26, 2020

They Had a Better Greeting Than ‘Merry Christmas’

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today another new writer for you to meet. Carolyn Kincaid writes at Carolyn Kincaid’s Potpourri for the Soul where her tagline is, “Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance of Christ.” May that be said of all of us. Look for her book online, Praying Prayers God Answers.

Savior—Messiah—Lord

NIV.Luke.2.10-11 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This exclamatory announcement is so much greater than our simple, “Merry Christmas!” This proclamation was significant; it was a message that stated three consequential declarations.

One, our Savior was born. The One who would be able to reconcile us with God. God is holy and cannot abide wrong-doing, so we have a sin problem. We have a giant chasm between us and God that nothing up to this point could cross. The SAVIOR, born to make a way beyond the chasm, is born today.

The second declaration is that the Messiah was born. The Messiah, the Anointed One was long awaited by the Jewish community. All their hope rested in the coming Messiah Who would come and rescue Israel. What this means to us non-Jews is that the Messiah, who is a liberator has come to liberate us from the bondage we have to sin. It’s not that we will never sin again having accepted Him, but that we no longer are bound to sin. We now can choose through the power of our Liberator to walk, not in defiance to God, but in obedience to God.

The most important declaration the angel made was that the Lord, Immanuel had come to live among men. Immanuel means God with us. This announcement proclaimed Jesus to be God, Lord, Master. And through the Holy Spirit, God continues to live with us.

Today as you celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior, Messiah & Lord take a moment to assimilate the totality of Who He is into your worship. Don’t miss the opportunity to have an encounter with your Savior, your Messiah, your Lord.

   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6


C201 Archives:

The People Who Walked in Darkness

December, 2014

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
 ~Isaiah 9:2

Light is an image that is often present in the story of the incarnation.  Christmas is reminiscent of the star that pointed to Bethlehem, and in our times, the bright artificial lights reflecting on the snow at night. Even our music is ‘bright’ as brass quartets and bells — not usually part of church worship — are heard.

The coming of Christ follows what we call the intertestamental period, where some would say that the prophets went silent. I believer personally that while there are not recorded prophetic words that are part of our scriptures, God always has a people, and that his man or woman, in the right place at the right time, was ministering to the needs of ones and twos and small clusters of people, using what we would call the prophetic gift. While historically, there was a great silence before the downpour of heaven in the incarnation, that does not mean God was not still involved; still working in hearts.

Some characterize the coming of Christ as God “breaking in” to our story. A Canadian writer, Tim Day, recently released a book titled, God Enters Stage Left. In a way, this is what happens, God breaks in; he becomes part of our story.  These elements — the breaking in, and the light imagery — combine together in a verse toward the end of Luke’s first chapter that is often missed:

78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

This is why Christ has come. To shine on those living in darkness, and guide our feet to a new way, a new hope, and a new peace.


Read more: Also from December, 2014, Clarke Dixon reminds us that Jesus’ birth certificate allows for our adoption papers. Check out Adopted into the Family.


C201 is always looking for both submissions and suggestions for sources of material. Use the submissions page in the margin.

December 12, 2020

Find Joy in the Story!

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today’s writer came recommended. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ United Methodist Church (UMC) in Alliance, Ohio. His website for sermon content and blog articles is PastorPartridge.com. As usual we strongly suggest reading this at source. (You’ll find a tab which takes you to a section of articles about John’s hearing loss; good reading if you know someone considering a cochlear implant.) Click the header below to read at his site.

Passing the Joy Test

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11              1 Thessalonians 5:16-24;       John 1:6-8, 19-28

It is probably no surprise to anyone to hear that we are living in an unusual time in history.  But what I mean in saying such a thing, is that we are living in a time when we can see the freight train coming.  We are as an American society in the twenty-first century, very much in the position of the damsel Nell Fenwick who has been tied to the railroad tracks by Snidely Whiplash and is desperately hoping for the arrival of Dudley Do-Right to come and rescue her.  We can see the freight train of rising virus cases caused by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year gatherings and we can anticipate the terrible consequences but there is little, or nothing that we can do to stop the train.  The only things that we can do… is hope.

But, as unusual as this might be, it is not unique in history.  …The prophet Isaiah lived in just such a time.  In about 700 BC, Isaiah and the people of Israel watched as the Assyrian Empire grew in power, influence, and military might and the Assyrian King Sennacharib had already brought his armies to the gates of Jerusalem.  Through God’s grace, Israel was saved, but Isaiah knew that those armies would be back, that Israel and Judah would be captured, marched to Babylon, and held in captivity for seventy years.  They saw the train coming down the tracks, they could anticipate the terrible consequences, and they were tempted to despair.  But, as difficult as it must have been to hear about God’s judgement and the impending destruction of their nation, because Isaiah also prophecies their eventual return to Israel and proclaims Israel’s rescue and the coming Messiah, Isaiah’s message is ultimately a message… of hope.

Even though they saw the train coming, and they knew that hard times were coming, they knew that God cared about them and that God had a plan to rescue them.  We hear a part this message in Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11:

61:1 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.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah speaks about the coming Messiah, we hear a message that we will hear again from John the Baptist, and we hear a message from a God who loves justice, and who loves and cares for his people.  And that message, given to a people who watched as the freight train of the Assyrian army grew ever closer, shined like a beacon on a dark night and for hundreds of years, through invasions, captivity, destruction, suffering, sorrow, and death, this was a place where they could find hope.

And then, in John 1:6-8, 19-28, Isaiah’s vision becomes reality as John the Baptist announces the imminent arrival of Jesus.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John proclaimed that the time had finally come for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, and that while he was not the messiah that God had promised, that messiah was already standing “among” them.  After hundreds of years and many generations, the prayers of Israel’s people were being answered.  God’s rescuer and redeemer had arrived, and the hope of the people was transformed… into joy.

Well, at least it did for some of them.  John rejoiced, as did many of the people, but not everyone.  It was the people that Isaiah had talked about who found joy in the coming of the messiah.  It was the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, prisoners, those in mourning, the grieving, the people who suffered from injustice, robbery, and wrongdoing, it was the outcasts, the least, and the lost who rejoiced.  But the wealthy, and those whom the system served, and whose success had been tied to the success of the system saw the coming of the messiah as a threat to their success and to their way of life.  This disconnect between the haves and the have-nots grew until it exploded into violence, crucifixion, and death in the Easter story as the system struggled to maintain the status quo.

And later, long after the resurrection of Jesus, the church remembered the lesson of joy and in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and gives them these words of instruction:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Rejoice always.  Find joy in the story, in the message of Good News, and in the prophecies of God.  Give thanks, at all times, for the things that God gives you, even when those times are difficult.  Do not cast aside the prophecies and promises of God just because you think that God is taking too long, or that there is too much pain, or too much suffering, or that your circumstances are too hard.  Instead, test the prophecies of God to find the truth.  Test them against what you know about God.  Hold on to what is good because we know that God is good.  Reject every kind of evil, because we know that God is never found in any kind of evil deeds.  Our God is a god of peace who is always faithful and who always keeps his promises.

In some ways, our joy is a test.  The coming of Jesus was intended to upset the apple cart and to disrupt the status quo.  We are called to rejoice in that disruption and not be so married to our success, to our wealth, our culture, and to the status quo that we become like Israel’s leaders and reject Jesus simply on the basis that his existence will be disruptive and make our lives more complicated.  Secondly, we are invited to test all of God’s prophecies because we know that God is always good and so we know that what God wants for us is good and that we can reject anything that is evil as not being godly.

The coming of Jesus at Christmas is intended to bring good news of great joy.

Let us rejoice.

But let us remember to find joy in the right things.


From the same author, check out Peace in the Present Promise.

April 13, 2020

On the Cusp of the Four Cups

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:23 pm
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Okay, I don’t know why I chose that title for today’s devotional, but there is definitely something afoot in Luke 22: 13-23 about cups. We join the Passover meal (aka The Last Supper) in the middle of the story, where Jesus takes the second of four cups. Then the third. Bread in between. Only Luke offers this sequence.

That there are two cups in this story probably confuses new Christians who are accustomed to the Communion or Eucharist where there is one instance of bread and one instance of cup. The cup-bread-sequence needs to be understood.

I was thinking about this reading Devotions by Chris by Chris Hendrix in a post entitled The Promise of Redemption.

A traditional Passover meal, called a Seder, is a meal to commemorate the Israelites leaving Egypt. They recline to eat instead of sitting in a chair, eat matza (unleavened bread), bitter herbs and four cups of wine. The first cup of wine represents sanctification, which is the process of being made holy. It’s to remember that God’s people are to be set apart. The second cup represents the joy of Deliverance, a reminder that we are no longer under the yoke of slavery. The third cup is the cup of redemption. It was after eating the lamb as a reminder of the price paid for redemption. The fourth cup is the cup of restoration, a reminder that God would make His people a nation.

Think back to the night Jesus was betrayed (Good Friday). The disciples prepared the Passover meal where Jesus had told them to (Matthew 26:19). There’s no recording of the first cup of wine, but in Luke 22:17 we see the second cup where Jesus says He won’t drink it again until the Kingdom has come. We then read where Jesus broke the matza and blessed it. In verse 20 it says He lifted up another cup (third – redemption) and told them that He was making a new covenant confirmed with His blood as the Passover lamb. Matthew and Mark then say the went to the garden after this cup. While Jesus was on the cross, John 19 records that Jesus said He was thirsty. They lifted up sour wine to Him (fourth cup). Verse 30 says when He drank it, He said, “It is finished” and died. He finished the Passover meal and the fulfillment of it in that moment to redeem us and to restore us to God.

This drove me deeper into tracking down the cups in a Jewish context which took me to Chabad.org and this article which states,

G‑d uses four expressions of redemption in describing our Exodus from Egypt and our birth as a nation:

1. “I will take you out…”

2. “I will save you…”

3. “I will redeem you…”

4. “I will take you as a nation…”

Our sages instituted that we should drink a cup of wine, a toast if you will, for each one of these expressions. We recite the Kiddush over the first cup, we read the Exodus story from the Haggadah over the second cup, we recite the Grace after Meals over the third cup, and we sing the “big Hallel” (Psalms and hymns of praises to G‑d) over the fourth cup.

 There are a number of explanations as to the significance of the various stages of redemption conveyed through each of these expressions. Here is one:

1. Salvation from harsh labor—this began as soon as the plagues were introduced.

2. Salvation from servitude; or the day the Jews left Egypt geographically and arrived at Ramses.

3. The splitting of the sea, after which the Jews felt completely redeemed, without fear of the Egyptians recapturing them.

4. Becoming a nation at Sinai.

During the Seder we can experience these elements of redemption in a spiritual sense.

Another article by a different author at the same website offers various interpretations of the four cups.

We were liberated from Pharaoh’s four evil decrees: a) Slavery. b) The ordered murder of all male progeny by the Hebrew midwives. c) The drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptian thugs. d) The decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.


The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exiles: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and our current exile which we hope to be rid of very soon with the coming of Moshiach.


The words “cup of wine” are mentioned four times in Pharaoh’s butler‘s dream (Genesis 40:11-13). According to the Midrash, these cups of wine alluded to the Israelites’ liberation.

The website of Chosen People Ministries shows each of these fulfilled in Christ:

The ministry of Messiah speaks to each of these four promises:

Messiah sanctifies us – “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19).

Messiah delivers us – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Messiah redeems us – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Messiah is our joy – “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

But the view suggested at the top of today`s devotional, that Jesus completes the Passover meal with the wine mixed with vinegar on the cross is occasionally challenged. Religion professor Jonathan Klawans states,

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples did not take place on the first night of Passover. There is a real difference between John and the synoptics on this question, and John’s chronology continues to make much more sense to me: Jesus was tried and killed before the holiday began. By Seder time, he was buried.

Which begs the question, was this truly a ‘second cup, bread, third cup’ scenario? I would argue that it was a Passover meal. The notes in most Evangelical study Bibles would argue that it was, indeed a Passover meal, but suggest that the completion takes place at The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Notice the parallel lamb reference.)

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
 – Rev. 19:9 NLT

Back to Luke, I believe this ‘third’ cup is indeed Jesus of Nazareth saying, “I will redeem you.” He redefines both the bread and the wine, and most importantly, becomes our Passover lamb.

But that doesn’t dismiss Chris’ idea quoted at the outset, because you could accept that the wine/vinegar mix is cup number four if you are still anticipating cup number five. Yes, five.

You see, I didn’t give you the entirety of the first quotation from Chabad.org and I’m going to give them the last word, because I think the imagery from a Christian perspective is rather obvious!

There is actually a fifth expression in the above mentioned verses: “And I will bring you to the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance.

While the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation were permanent, we have yet to be brought to Israel on a permanent basis.

In honor of this verse we have a fifth cup at the Seder: the Cup of Elijah. This cup is set up for Elijah during the second half of the Seder, but we do not drink it. Elijah will announce the arrival of Moshiach1, who will bring all Jews to Israel, for good.


1(lit. “the anointed one”) the Messiah. One of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith is that G-d will send the Messiah to return the Jews to the land of Israel, rebuild the Holy Temple and usher in the utopian Messianic Era.

 

December 20, 2019

The Anointed One Who Was To Come

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NLT.Jn.4.26 Then Jesus told her, I am the Messiah!”

NLV.Phil2.10-11 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Almost exactly one year ago, we introduced you to Michael James Schwab who has lived in Oaxaca, Mexico since March, 2005; “cooperating with God” at a home for needy children called Cristo Por Su Mundo (Christ for the World) operated by Foundation For His Ministry.  He blogs at ToEnjoyGod.com. Click the header below to read this one at his blog.

Advent – Waiting for the Messiah

I recently read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’ve read it many times. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Every time I read it, something new stands out. This time I was struck by Paul’s use of the word Christ. He uses that title for Jesus over and over. 38 Times in this short, four chapter book. He uses the word Christ more than he uses the name Jesus.  When we study the Bible, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves is “What did these words mean to the person that wrote them?” So, what did Paul have in mind when he wrote the word Christ? What is his concept of Christ?

We have to remember that Paul was thoroughly Jewish. His concept of almost everything was informed and shaped by what we call the Old Testament or, more accurately, the First Testament. The word we read as Christ, comes from the Greek word Khristos, which comes from the Hebrew word khriein, which means to anoint, translating the Hebrew masiah or Messiah. Paul was totally steeped in the Hebrew language, and every time he wrote the word Christ, he was probably thinking of the Hebrew word khriein or masiah.

The picture of someone being anointed in the O.T. is someone having olive oil poured on their head. This was a sacred rite reserved for three types of people: prophets, priests and kings.

The prophet Elisha was anointed by Elijah (1Kings 19:16).

The first priest, Aaron, was anointed by Moses (Exodus 29:7).

King David was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1,13)

Most of the O.T. Prophets spoke and wrote about an anointed One that was to come. One that would restore peace, prosperity and wholeness to his people, his Chosen Ones. This person was commonly referred as the Messiah.  This Messiah was sometimes referred to as a great prophet, or a priest, or king, like King David.

Most of the post exilic Jews longingly looked for, prayed for, and hoped for this Messiah. Paul was no exception. He fervently and zealously awaited the Messiah and did everything in his power to bring about the soon return of this exalted Prophet, Priest and King.

There was always the questions among the Jews, “When would the Messiah come? ” “What was taking him so long?” What was the cause of his delay? “

The more zealous of the Jews, like Paul, thought they had the answer.  It was the Jews own fault. The Jews that didn’t take the law of God, or the Torah, seriously enough. They failed in so many areas of keeping the Law.  They were lax in their commitment to and obedience of the Law.  If only these slackers could be convinced or coerced to do better, that would surely hasten the Messiahs  appearance and rule and liberate the people from the despised Roman oppression.

And then there was The Way.  The Way was a group of Jews who proclaimed that the Messiah had come in the person of a man named Jesus. Not only was he the Messiah, but they claimed he was the Son of God.  Blasphemy! Obvious blasphemy!  This Jesus was shown to be a fraud and a heretic and hung up on a cross to die.  The Law said, “Cursed is any man hung on a tree!” This man Jesus was not the blessed Messiah, but a man cursed by God to die a humiliating death. Perhaps if there was one main reason the true Messiah would not come soon, it was due to the rabble called the Way, and Paul set out to do something about it!

He set out toward Damascus to persecute, jail, and maybe kill some of The Way, as those zealous for the Torah did to Stephen, one of the Way’s leader’s.  On the road to Damascus, a strong light and a voice from heaven caused Paul to fall to the ground. The voice called out to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me!”

Paul said, “Who are you?”

The voice from heaven basically said, “I am Jesus, the Messiah.”

After that, Paul’s world was never the same.  It was turned upside down and inside out. Indeed, the Messiah had come. Paul had to admit it. And he was glad. The long foretold  and divinely sent Prophet, Priest and King had truly come.  That fact totally transformed and revolutionized Paul’s outlook and worldview.

Paul’s new mission in life would be to proclaim the Good News that the Messiah, the Christ, had really come to earth to set up a new kind of kingdom, one that gave sight to the blind and set the captives free! Paul could now see the truth and live in true freedom! He was now living in right relationship with God and was filled with joy and peace.  And it was all due to the Messiah, Christ Jesus!

We are in the Advent season. Advent is a time of hopeful expectation. Paul spent the first part of his life in hopeful expectation, waiting for the Messiah to come. He spent the rest of his life rejoicing that the Messiah had come. In this period of Advent, we too can rejoice with Paul and be glad that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, has come, and because of that we are a new creation, living in His love and loving others.

Advent is also a time to remember that we are living in the Already, but Not Yet. We already are experiencing the blessings of being Kingdom dwellers, but the Kingdom is still growing and not yet complete. We already have that peace that surpasses all understanding, but we do not yet have world peace. We already have a new life within, but we are not yet free from pain and suffering; we have not yet had every tear wiped away by the gentle hand of Jesus.

We are still waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for his return. When he comes he will not come as a baby in a manger, but as King of kings and Lord of lords, coming with the blast of a trumpet on clouds of glory. This time he will not be humiliated and crucified, but will rule with justice and righteousness and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

 

December 8, 2019

Only One Generation Saw the Promise Fulfilled

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Last year at this time we introduced you to a site where one wouldn’t expect to find devotional insights, at least based on its title. Rebecca LuElla Miller is a freelance writer and editor whose blog has the title, A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She had me from the opening sentence of what follows. Click the header to read this at her page.

And We Wait

There’s only been one generation in all of history that actually waited for the promised Messiah and saw Him come. All the rest of us wait. The people who believed God before Jesus came, waited for the promised Messiah.

We know this from Scripture but also from history. Any number of false messiahs claimed they were the one promised by God, and for a time groups of people believed them. Until Rome killed them.

From the early pages in Genesis, God promised to crush Satan’s head, the very thing Jesus did by defeating death, by freeing us from sin and guilt and the Law.

Many prophecies told the Jewish people to expect a King, but also to expect a suffering Savior. The King, they embraced. The suffering Savior, they overlooked.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem before His last Passover on earth, the people flocked to Him, expecting Him to declare Himself the promised King. They had waited and watched, and many thought Jesus was the One.

People had asked John the Baptist if he was the one. They wanted so much to see the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in their time. They wanted to have a King that would defeat Rome and free Israel once and for all from political tyranny. John said no, he wasn’t the one. But of Jesus he said, Behold, the Lamb of God.

The Lamb? Not, the King?

Not the King, yet.

So many missed the bigger picture. They missed that the Messiah was not just for Israel. They missed that His Kingdom was not an earthly or a political kingdom. Yes, they waited for the Messiah, but in some measure, they didn’t understand what they were waiting for.

A handful of people got the message—pretty much hand delivered to them by God. Mary received the announcement that Messiah would be her son. And the angel Gabriel also told her why the Messiah was coming: “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:33)

Interestingly, her soon-to-be husband received even more information:

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Matt 1:21-23)

Then there were John the Baptist’s parents. And the shepherds and the prophetess Anna and the godly priest Simeon and the magi traveling from the east. All were looking for and expecting the Messiah. And all saw the promise fulfilled. Their wait was over. Sort of.

Some undoubtedly began a new wait, the one we share today—the wait for the Messiah to return.

I know, kind of crazy to talk about the return of the King during Christmas time when we celebrate His first coming. But I think seeing the promise of His first arrival come to fruition gives hope as we wait for His second coming.

We live in a day that was similar to what the first century people waiting for Messiah experienced. There were problems morally, socially, even within the ranks of religion. They wanted a King who would set things right.

And so many people today want the same thing. They are empty, without purpose, filling their lives with pleasures that grow stale, thinking there should be more.

And there is. Waiting for the Suffering Savior to come as the triumphant King, is an awesome joy. It’s like the bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to show in one of the parables. Or for the tenant workers waiting for the landowner to show and evaluate their work. It’s a glory and an honor to be found when the King comes, faithfully carrying out the tasks we’ve been assigned.

That’s why Scripture says over an over to stand firm, to “hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (Heb. 3:6b). It’s why we’re not to grow weary in well-doing. We have the promise that Christ is worth waiting for.

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4)

So yes, we wait, just like those Jews so long ago waited for the Messiah to come. And because Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Suffering Servant, because He came as an unblemished Lamb and shed His blood for the sins of the world, we can know with certainty that He will also come again.

God doesn’t do things half way.

December 2, 2019

In The Fullness of Time

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:57 pm
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Today it’s a joy to once again highlight the writing of Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement.

Lessons From A Blank Page

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4).

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent when we especially give attention to the first advent (coming) of Christ.

There’s a page in each of our Bibles we don’t read and probably have never given any consideration to. It’s the blank page found in many Bibles separating the Old and New Testaments. Now to be sure there may be another reason printers use this blank page and as more and more people read their Bibles on devices the concept of this blank page may not be apparent.

Today let us consider this wordless blank page and what it represents. There was a 400 year period that separated the final record in the Old Testament (Malachi) from the events in the New Testament beginning with Matthew’s Gospel. In secular history this was when Alexander the Great lived during the Greek Empire and the ascent of the Roman Empire. There are also some extra-Biblical records during this period recorded in the Apocrypha.

The blank page represents several things I can think of such as silence, hope and waiting, which we will consider today.

Do you have a hard time waiting? Are delays difficult to deal with causing you stress and anxiety? For most of us the answer is “yes.” God had first promised the Messiah after Adam and Eve’s transgression in the garden. Over the next several millenniums there was a growing body of Messianic promises that the Jewish people were given. But they waited and waited and waited.

At the time of Christ’s birth two elderly Jewish people are mentioned in Luke who had waited for the Messiah’s coming. Simeon had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, and Anna spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

In the daily text the Apostle Paul is reflecting on the events of Christ’s incarnation. He uses an intriguing phrase “But when the fullness of the time came” to describe that wonderful moment in space and time when God acted on our behalf in sending His Son for our redemption. The long wait was over. The faith of devout people like Simeon and Anna and others like them was now reality. God kept His promise.

And God still keeps His promises. He always will. He’ll keep everyone of them. We have the perspective of looking back and seeing the fulfillment of the greatest of God’s promises when “God sent forth His Son”. This occurred after a long wait and not until the fullness of the time came.

We must recognize that it’s the fullness of God’s time, not ours. Many of us are waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled in our lives. The wait is very trying. Many are living with an ongoing burden for spiritually wayward family members, others have a long-standing physical ailment in their lives or in someone they love. And on my heart this morning are so many of our dear brothers and sisters living in very oppressive conditions. And we all wait for that next great cosmic event when Jesus again keeps His last word to us when He declared, “Yes, I am coming soon”.

God has fulfilled the biggest promise. Let us wait with faith and assurance that “in His time” He will also take care of the scores of other matters we all deal with. He is faithful!

In His time, in His time;
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord, please show me every day
As You’re teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say in Your time.

Daily prayer: Father, we know that Your time table is pre-ordained in the events that make an eternal difference in our lives. Thank you that when the fullness of the time came, You sent forth Your Son in the first advent. In this age help us to patiently wait for Your will to be fulfilled in our personal lives, in the lives of our loved ones, and in the world around us. May we be found steadfast, sober, expectant and alert awaiting the day of your second advent, your promised return. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

June 9, 2019

Jesus in the Psalms

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:48 pm
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John 5:39:

You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me (BSB)

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!   (NLT)

■ Worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson:

The Son of God
Comes in name of the Lord
Praised by children
Delights in God’s Word

Mocked by enemies
Accused by liars
Hated without cause
Betrayed by friend
Prays for enemies

Lots cast for clothes
Given vinegar & gall

Hands & feet pierced
Bones unbroken
Forsaken by God

His betrayer replaced
Rises from death
Ascends to heaven

A priest forever
The Chief Cornerstone
Ruler of all
The Eternal King
Rules over His enemies with justice

■ From Nick Batzig at The Place for Truth

Athanasius once made the following statement about the book of Psalms: “While the entire Holy Scripture is a teacher of virtues and of the truths of faith, the book of Psalms possesses somehow the perfect image for the soul’s course of life.” The Psalter has a unique place in Old Testament revelation in that it really is a sort of miniature Bible. Every systematic and biblical-theological truth of Scripture is found, in seed form, in the Psalms. It should not, therefore, surprise us that the New Testament writers cite the Psalms more than any other book of the Old Testament. Neither should it surprise us that, in each citation, Jesus and the Apostles teach us that the Psalms are Messianic in nature. In so doing, they teach us the principles that we must follow as we seek to discover Christ in all the rest of the Psalms.

■ Timothy Keller at Crosswalk

…Most of all the psalms, read in light of the entire Bible, bring us to Jesus. The psalms were Jesus’s songbook. The hymn that Jesus  sang at the Passover meal (Matthew  26:30; Mark 14:26) would have been the Great Hallel, Psalms 113–118. Indeed, there is every reason to assume that  Jesus  would have sung all the psalms, constantly, throughout  his life, so that he knew them by heart. It is the book of the Bible that he quotes more than any other. But the psalms were not simply sung by Jesus; they also are about him, as we will see throughout this volume.

■ Nicholas Davis at Core Christianity

…At first glance, Psalm 1 doesnt look like a Messianic psalm. Theres no mention of a king or of a kingdom like we see in Psalm 2 or Psalm 110. There is nothing that ties the psalm directly to the suffering work of Jesus Christ as in Psalm 22. Psalm 1 looks like its just about any Israelite who is given the basic instruction to follow the Torah (the Law). But if we look at it again, we see something else. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus taught his disciples how to read the Bible. In Luke 24:44, he claimed that the whole Bible is about himself. This means that even all of the Psalms are ultimately about him.

■ Jeffrey Kranz at Biblia (Noting that the connection runs both ways; the Psalms point to Jesus and Jesus points to the psalms.)

…People didn’t follow Jesus only because of his miracles—they also followed him because he knew how to handle the Old Testament…

…Psalms is the most-read book of the Bible, and it’s the one Jesus quotes most often.

The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs and poems written to God. David penned half of them, and the rest were written by temple worship leaders (like the sons of Asaph), wise men (like Solomon), and some unknown poets (like . . . well, I don’t know).

Jesus quotes the Psalms on 11 occasions:

 


Go Deeper: Click the individual links to read more of each article by each author.

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