Tag Archives: Messiah

Today’s Scripture – October 4, 2017

Luke 9:18-20 (NIV) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered,
“The Christ of God.”

The time was drawing near for Jesus to finish His work on earth and return to heaven. He had healed thousands, had set hundreds free from demon possession, and had worked tirelessly to tell everyone He had contact with about the reality of the kingdom of God.

But He had not publicly claimed to be the Messiah, except to a very few, and those predominantly in private situations away from the crowds. The word “Messiah” had grown so many meanings in the minds and hearts of the Jewish people, many of them with strictly political overtones, that Jesus didn’t want His claim on that title to be tainted by those views. So He had not yet claimed that title for Himself, preferring the title “Son of Man,” which had messianic implications without the political overtones.

But with the approach of His suffering, death, and resurrection so near, He needed to know if His closest followers, at least, had connected the dots. So He asked the question, beginning with the less threatening, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

The disciples had been among the people in the crowds as Jesus worked, so they had heard the speculation: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, the same list of opinions that had gotten back to Herod (Luke 9:7-8). Jesus smiled. All of those guesses were in the ballpark, but so far off from home plate.

Then Jesus asked the disciples, the Twelve, who they believed Him to be. At this stage of the game it really didn’t matter who the crowds thought Jesus was. But if His own followers hadn’t come to the right conclusion, that was serious.

Peter acted as the spokesperson for the group: “You are the Messiah of God.” (“Christ” is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Both mean “anointed one.”) The rest of the disciples nodded in agreement. They had reached the same conclusion. Jesus was greatly relieved; they had figured it out!

Father, the early disciples figured out this truth after living with, traveling with, and serving alongside Jesus. But we, Your people of today, need to know this truth ourselves. There is no room in the Church for a purely human Jesus, a good man, a gifted teacher. Instead, we must know and clearly proclaim the scriptural truth that Jesus is the living Son of God, the Messiah who came to earth to die for us, to rise and defeat death, and to save us. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 12, 2017

Luke 4:16-21 (NIV) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus finally made it to His hometown. Word about Him had preceded Him, and all of the people were packed into the synagogue, waiting to hear what this hometown boy turned wonder worker had to say.

Jesus didn’t get to pick the scripture that He read that morning. The law and the prophets were set up on a regular cycle to be read in the synagogue services, which is why the Isaiah scroll was handed to Him. He unrolled it to the marker for that day, which “just so happened” to be right where He needed to read to bring God’s message to the people. (“Just so happened” is code for God working behind the scenes!)

In context, this passage from Isaiah is right in the middle of a section (Chapters 60-62) where the prophet is talking about the restoration of Israel, and the remaking of the people into a holy people of God. This process would begin with the appearance of the Messiah, and then continue until God’s people filled the whole earth, resulting in the wholesale transformation of people, governmental structures, and whole societies.

Chapter 61 is significant because it begins with signs that God’s kingdom is becoming a reality. First, the Messiah, filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, will arise, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to the poor and disenfranchised. This Jesus was already doing (Matthew 4:17), and the poor and disenfranchised were believing and acting on this good news.

Next, the Spirit-anointed Messiah would proclaim freedom for the prisoners. This is a broad term that included releasing the sick, even the long-term sick, from their prison of disease and disability, as well as releasing those trapped in a cycle of sin, freeing them from their prison of helplessness and self-destruction, and inviting them out into the fresh air of forgiveness and spiritual freedom.

The Messiah would proclaim recovery of sight for the blind. This absolutely included those who were physically blind, even those blind from birth, who would be given their sight. But it also included those who were spiritually blind, whose eyes were closed to what God was doing due to the impact of sin in their hearts. Through faith in Jesus, these could be given spiritual eyes that could see the spiritual dimensions of life and the spiritual truths that could enable them to live lives of purpose and power.

The Messiah would also proclaim release for the oppressed. This was not referring primarily to physical oppression, but to spiritual oppression, brought about by demonic influences. When Jesus came, He found many people whose lives had been totally wrecked by demonic possession. But He released those people with a word that sent the demons running for cover.

Finally (in this shortened version, there is more in the original Isaiah passage), the Messiah would proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, the message that God had not forgotten His people, but was in fact acting now to save them and reconstitute them as His people after a 400-year silence. Jesus actually embodied that message as He moved among the people., taught them in ways that no one else ever had, and doing amazing miracles.

When Jesus declared the words, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” He was saying much more than simply claiming to be the Messiah (although that was definitely a key part of His message that morning). He was also telling all of those gathered there that in Him God was on the move to finally make real all of the promises He had made through Isaiah 700 years earlier. The Messiah was now here and, through Him, God was actively restoring His people and remaking them into the holy people of God, a process that would not stop until God’s people filled the whole earth.

Father, this prophecy is full of amazing promises that are for us as fully as for the people of Jesus’ day. I am struck by how far below our potential the average Christian seems to live. We tend to live lives that are little different from the average person, instead of living the life of the kingdom, a life that is characterized by real freedom, genuine spiritual awareness, power against the darkness, and joy inspired by knowing that You are on the move, transforming our world right now. Help me, Lord, to live that kind of life today and every day, a real AD kind of life, living consciously in the Year of the Lord, so that everyone can see the difference. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 30, 2017

Luke 3:15-20 (NIV) The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

John was the most amazing person most of the people of that time had ever seen. It was like one of the prophets had walked right out of the pages of Scripture and was now holding forth at the Jordan River. It is no surprise that many of them wondered if this could be the Messiah Himself.

The Pharisees were the most direct, asking him straight out if he was indeed the Messiah (John 1:19-27). But John answered them just a clearly with a resounding “no.” As impressive as John was, the one who would follow him, the real Messiah, would be ever more so. John baptized in water, but the Messiah would baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire. John’s job was to get the people ready, but the Messiah would separate the wheat from the chaff among the people, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

But John’s preaching was not all fire and brimstone. He absolutely preached the truth about who the Messiah was, and what He would do when He came. And he urged the people to not only toe the line with regards to their actions, but to truly repent so that their hearts would be ready to receive Him when He came.

But John also preached the good news to the people. The good news had three aspects to it. Aspect one was that God had not forgotten His people, but had finally sent His Messiah to them (Luke 3:16). The second aspect is that the Messiah would bring real forgiveness of sins so that people could once again have true fellowship with God (John 1:29). And the third aspect was that, with the coming of the Messiah, God’s kingdom was becoming a here-and-now reality (Matthew 4:17).

All of these aspects were indeed good news to those who were hoping and praying for them. But they would also prove to be a real existential threat to those in the power structure of Palestine, from the king to the priests, whose security and power lay in maintaining the status quo. That was why Herod ended up throwing John into prison – John’s clear confrontation and proclamation of his sins put his very station at risk, and Herod couldn’t risk that.

Father, it’s an interesting point that this threefold good news is only good news to those who don’t have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to protect their self-interests. To them, even good news can be seen as a threat, and move them to quash things before they get out of hand. We can see this dynamic working clearly in the Jewish leaders in their dealings with Jesus. Help me, Lord, to clearly see anyplace that I feel threatened by the truths in Your word, so that I can immediately repent, and fully partake of ALL of Your good news. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 20, 2017

Luke 2:15-20 (NIV) When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

After all of the light, the loud singing and chanting of praises to God, the night now seemed more than just empty. It seemed vacant, hollow. The shepherds, still breathless from their encounter with a whole sky full of angels, spent only a few moments looking at each other before one of them spoke up: “We should go to Bethlehem and see for ourselves the things that the angel told us about.” And it was decided.

It was easy to find the house in which a birth had occurred that night, because Bethlehem was a small village of only a few hundred people, and everybody knew everybody’s business. When they got to the house, they were directed to Mary and Joseph, and there, swaddled in a manger, just like they had been told, was the baby.

The thing that struck them the most about the baby was the fact that He looked just like a normal baby. They weren’t sure what they expected Him to look like. Maybe bigger than normal, or with some kind of glow about Him. Or maybe they thought that He would have eyes that shone with supernatural wisdom and power. But this child looked just like a normal, tiny, helpless baby – one you would never have picked out of a crowd.

They started to tell the people there about what they had seen and heard out in the fields, timidly at first, but with increasing enthusiasm as the people began to hang on their words with ever-increasing interest. As they spoke, from time to time, the people’s eyes broke away from the earnest faces of these simple shepherds to the faces of Mary and Joseph, who were listening with as much interest as anyone. And then they would look over at the small form lying quietly in the manger and just ponder.

The word Messiah was used frequently by many of these people, always in the hope that God would send Him soon. But now the word seemed to strike with fresh import. Was this baby really the long-awaited Messiah? Was this really happening right now in front of their own eyes? They, like the shepherds, searched for some sing in the face of the child Himself, but found nothing but the innocence of a newborn baby. But  there was something in the faces of Mary and Joseph, a strange sparkle in their eyes, the deep looks that passed between them as they listened to the shepherds unpack their story, that made the people think that this wasn’t’ the first time that they had heard these things.

As the shepherds left, still excitedly reliving their experience with each other, an awed hush fell over the house. Such strange events! Such hope! This child was going to bear watching!

Father, even though Jesus looked to earthly eyes like just a normal newborn, for those with eyes to see, the glory of heaven itself was hidden just below the surface. But it does remind me that, in moving Your kingdom forward, You don’t choose superheroes or mutants with strange powers. You choose regular, ordinary people who are surrendered to Your will. A Mary, or a Joseph, or even a group of ordinary shepherds. Thank You for allowing even a plain person like me to play a role, even a small one, in Your plan. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 7, 2017

Luke 1:26-33 (NIV) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Luke is always quite precise about his dates. He can be, because he researched carefully everything that he included in his gospel. Six months after Elizabeth conceived John, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus.

Luke is careful to point out that Mary was both a virgin and engaged, which would make the guarding of her virginity even more vital, since her wedding night was approaching, and there would be strong negative consequences if Joseph did not find her to be a virgin.

Joseph was a descendant of King David, as well as being a completely righteous man (Matthew 1:19). Mary herself was a devout and righteous young woman and, just like God had chosen Zechariah and Elizabeth to be the parents of John, He chose Mary to give birth to Jesus, and Joseph to be His earthly father, tasked with guiding Him, teaching Him, and protecting Him.

Gabriel’s greeting, which made Mary wonder what exactly was going on, was actually very straight forward. Mary was indeed highly favored, because she had been chosen to be the instrument through which the Son of God would come into the world. And as such, God really was with her, present in her life and in the events that would soon take place in a unique and unprecedented way.

The description of the child that Mary would bear left no doubt as to who He would be. Even His name, Jesus, or Yehoshua in Aramaic, meaning “the Lord is the Savior,” painted a clear picture of what He would accomplish (outlined even more clearly in Matthew 1:21: “You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”) The child would also be called the Son of the Most High, which clearly identified His divine origins. He would rule over God’s people, His rule being symbolized by David’s throne, even though Jesus’ kingdom would ultimately extend over the whole world, something that neither David nor any of his successors ever imagined. And finally, Jesus would not be the beginning of a dynasty; He Himself would reign over God’s people forever.

All of these element combined to form a very clear picture in Mary’s mind: the baby that she was going to give birth to was going to be the long-awaited Messiah! People had been waiting for Him for centuries, and the time had finally come. And she was going to be His mother!

Father, the way You do things is amazing. You continually work the plan You have designed until every single element falls into place. You choose exactly the right people to be the key players in Your plan based on their hearts, not on the externals. And those You choose, You bless with Your presence. I praise You today for who You are, and for what You are doing, even now! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 23, 2017

Matthew 22:41-46 (NIV) While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘  If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Pharisees had all gotten together to see if there was a way to refute Jesus’ teachings at the temple.  But His teaching on the greatest and second greatest commandment was not only unassailable, the Pharisees found themselves actually agreeing with Him.  Now Jesus took them on an investigation into the person of the Messiah – who He was supposed to be.

One of the most confident teachings that the Pharisees had about the Messiah was that He would be a descendent (or “son”) of king David, a descendent in the direct line of the ancient kings of Israel.  Thus they looked for a person with a clear pedigree, who would come to Jerusalem one day as a mighty ruler.

Jesus didn’t disagree with the theology of the Messiah’s descent.  He knew that the Scriptures clearly foretold that the Messiah would come from David’s line.  And He had no problem fulfilling that prophecy, as He was Himself from David’s line through both His mother and Joseph. (See Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38.)  But to the Jewish people, “son of” included the subtle understanding that the son would be less than the father.  They looked forward to being ruled again by a Davidic king, but they saw David as the epitome of kings that would probably never be matched again.

But Jesus, the Messiah, was not only as great a leader as David, He was infinitely greater, being in fact God in the flesh.  To support this, Jesus pointed back to Psalm 110, a psalm written by David Himself, and widely accepted to be a prophecy about the Messiah.  Jesus pointed out that David talks about how “the LORD” (the divine name of God) spoke to the Messiah, but calls the Messiah “my Lord,” or “my master.”  Jesus’ point was that if David calls the Messiah “Lord” or “Master,” He must be greater than, not less than, David.

The Pharisees couldn’t argue against Jesus’ logic.  It was at that moment that they realized that they would never be able to trap Him in His words or trip Him up in His theology.  He was just too good!

Father, Jesus really is greater than David, or any earthly king precisely because He was and is God in the flesh.  If even David accepted Him as Lord, we can’t claim to be too good to receive Him as such ourselves.  Help us to do precisely that.  Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – March 9, 2017

Matthew 21:14-17 (NIV) The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

The chief priests and teachers of the law found themselves in a real spot.  For a couple of years, as Jesus’ popularity increased, they had denounced Him as a charlatan, whose miracles were, at best, fakes, and at worst, were the work of the devil.  But now, after He had made a scene in the temple courts that they were anxious to denounce, here He was healing multitudes right in front of their eyes.  They would never be able to deny these miracles!

So instead, they seized on the cries of the children (imitating the cries of the crowds that had swept Jesus into the city just a few hours before) appealing for Jesus, as the Son of David, the Messiah, to save God’s people.  Their accusation was, how could Jesus let these children go on calling Him the Messiah?

Jesus’ answer stunned them.  Referring to Psalm 8:2, He not only completely owned the title of Son of David, but justified the children’s cries as legitimate praise by the innocent hearts of children and infants.  The religious leaders were stunned speechless by His response, and left powerless as Jesus finished healing those how had come to Him, and then left the city for Bethany.

Father, these guys just didn’t get it!  Their pride and protectionism had completely blinded them to what You were doing through Jesus, so they were stymied.  Even today, Lord, there are people who refuse to accept who Jesus is, and who plot against Your people.  I pray that all of their eyes would be opened, so that they really can see, turn, and be saved.  If they refuse, then work so powerfully through us that they are stymied in their plans, and left speechless and powerless in the face of Your power.  Amen.

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