Tag Archives: Messiah

Today’s Scripture – April 13, 2018

Luke 19:45-46 (NIV) Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”

The market in the temple court, actually in the large Court of the Gentiles which surrounded the inner complex where the Jewish people could enter in to worship, was started for good reasons. If someone traveled too far to bring an animal to sacrifice, or if the animal that they brought was defective in some way and couldn’t be offered, having a stock of acceptable animals that could be purchased, sheep, goats, bulls, and even doves, was a good thing. And having tables where people could exchange their Roman denarii , unacceptable for temple offerings because they bore the image of a pagan emperor and pagan gods and temples, for good Jewish shekels without those kinds of images, was a good thing.

The problem arose when the Jewish leadership realized that a handsome profit could easily be made from those good things. Raising the price just a bit above retail on the livestock that was sold (after all, every animal was officially certified to be acceptable to God, which was worth something) could bring in a tidy sum each day. And there was now strong motivation to closely inspect animals that had been brought to sacrifice. Was that a discoloration in the wool? What that hoof a bit malformed? Better to buy an animal that was certified than run the risk of your sacrifice being rejected by God!

And the same thing happened with the money changers. Instead of providing a straight-across trade, weight for weight, the tendency was to charge an exchange fee that was increased occasionally (due to inflation, of course).

Add to that the fact that this livestock market and trading floor, along with all of the noise and smells that went along with it, were taking up a lot of room in the court of the gentiles, the only place non-Jews could come to learn about the true God, and you could drive someone like Jesus right over the edge, which is exactly what happened.

Now that Jesus had taken up the title of Messiah, the first thing He did was to cleanse the temple of all that was worldly and not of God’s design. Of course all of this put Him on a collision course with the Jewish leadership. He was cutting into both their income and their authority structure that had been built up over centuries.

Father, we don’t often see Jesus angry, but we definitely do here. And it is good to understand that it was worldliness and greed in a place that was designed by You to be a place for prayer, worship, and even outreach, that drove Him there. Because none of those things could effectively happen when worldliness and greed had taken control. Help us to keep not only our church buildings, but our hearts as well, free of all of those things, so that You can use us effectively for Your agenda. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 9, 2018

Luke 19:39-40 (NIV) Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

To these Pharisees, the shouting and overt joy of the disciples seemed inappropriate. After all, the whole crowd, walking into the city of Jerusalem, the throne of God, for one of the most awesome remembrances of the year, was being swept along in their enthusiasm, and even joining in with the chanting.

And what chanting it was! It seemed to them that Jesus’ disciples actually believed that Jesus Himself was the Messiah! That was entirely inappropriate, not to mention dangerous! They themselves, while they couldn’t deny that Jesus’ teachings were amazing and His miracles spectacular, had rejected Him as the Messiah because He didn’t fit their expectations. But now here He was allowing His followers to get the whole crowd stirred up, believing that He was the Messiah riding into the city to take over!

Something had to be done before things got entirely out of hand. So they demanded that Jesus silence His disciples, that He stop them from proclaiming Him the Messiah!

Jesus’ response is one of His most clear acknowledgements that the Messiah was precisely who He was: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” The Messiah was finally arriving to set men free from the mastery of sin and death, in fulfillment of God’s ages-long prophecies And that required celebration. If the humans were prevented from raising their voices to celebrate it, God would cause the very stones of the city walls to cry out the glad tidings!

Father, this far removed from the event, we have a hard time realizing just how big a deal this entry of Jesus into the city really was. And it is amazing to me that, in spite of the mountain of evidence, the powers that be refused to accept who Jesus was, instead of simply falling on their faces in worship. Help us, Lord to recapture the awe and wonder for ourselves of who Jesus is, and to continually raise our voices in praise, so that the rocks won’t have to do our job for us. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 8, 2018

Luke 19:28-38 (NIV) After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Despite the fact that Jesus’ role as the Messiah was FAR different from what the Messiah had grown to be in the minds and hearts of the people, it must never be forgotten that He did come to fulfill that role as God had defined it over centuries. This included the combined roles of prophet, one who spoke to God’s people on His behalf; priest, one who presented the blood sacrifice before God’s throne; and king, the ruler of God’s kingdom on earth, who would rule forever.

One of the signs of the Messiah that God had given to the people through the prophet Zechariah (9:9) was the image of the Messiah coming into the city of Jerusalem in triumph on a donkey colt, as opposed to riding on a horse like a warrior. And it was now time for that sign to be fulfilled.

All lay in readiness for Jesus’ arrival. Just ahead, right on the near edge of the village of Bethany, was tied a donkey colt. Jesus instructed two of His disciples to fetch it. And when they brought it back, Jesus mounted it, and started down the Mount of Olives into the gates of Jerusalem.

The crowds going down the road into the city for the Passover was enormous, and those around Jesus, caught up in the moment, began singing Messianic verses from the Psalms, and praising God aloud for the great miracles that they had seen through Jesus’ ministry. Word quickly spread among the crows of who this was riding into the city on the donkey, and the imagery was not lost on them. They quickly took up the chants, laying branches and their own cloaks on the road ahead of Jesus as He passed by (Matthew 21:8-9).

This was a pivotal moment for the Jewish people. In fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, the Lord Himself was coming into Jerusalem to begin the process of purifying for Himself a people, the core of His kingdom. And the fate of the whole city depended on their reception of Him.

Father, unfortunately for the high priests, Pharisees, and teachers of the law, they were all blind, and could neither see who Jesus truly was, nor what He was doing by riding into Jerusalem in this fashion. And the consequences were indeed horrific: they ended up murdering the Son of God, and drawing down consequences on themselves that included death for multiplied thousands and the complete destruction of the city and the temple. Help us, Lord, to have eyes that clearly see, and hearts that quickly receive and fall into line behind You in whatever You are doing. Amen.

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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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