Posts Tagged ‘The Messiah’

Matthew 16:13-20 (Part 2)
Peter Says Jesus Is the Messiah

Who do you say that I am? This is the question about Jesus Christ that we must answer. It seems on this side of eternity that you answer to the question does not have any impact at all. However, when it comes time to meet our Maker or when Jesus returns to wrap things up here on earth, the answer has eternal implications. Peter’s reply to the question is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. It is upon this profession of faith that Jesus will build his church. The faith of Peter and the faith of the disciples were the building blocks of what we know now as Christianity. On their faith profession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jesus built his church. After his ascension, their faith created a firestorm of faith that spread quickly through the Roman Empire. So impactful these guys were, the Christian faith became the official religion of the Roman Empire within 3 centuries of Jesus’ ascension.

It reminds you that decisions that we make about Jesus are eternally impactful, but there are also decisions that we make here on earth that have far-reaching implications. I think of my own life in this regard. There were a series of pivotal events during 1976-1980 which forged the course of my future more than any others. Outside of my accepting Christ as my Savior in December 2000, the pivotal decisions of Travelers Rest on the future of my life cannot be understated. Even the timing of my acceptance of Christ as my Savior is, in part, affected by 1976-80. What if my dad had not been moved by the SC Methodist Church from Anderson to Travelers Rest in the summer of 1976? What would my life look like now? It was in Travelers Rest that met my first wife, married her, had children with her. What would my life look like now if the Methodist Church had moved us to another town? It boggles the mind to think about it at times. It makes you wonder if you would have had the same heartaches, pains, choices, results, etc. had we moved to another town. I loved my situation in Anderson when I was 13 going on 14 and I got yanked out of it for a new town. What would life have been like? Another pivotal decision was about college a few years later. Because of my relationship with Lisa, who would become my first wife, I chose to stay in Travelers Rest and go to nearby Furman University for college. What if I had chosen to go to one of the other two colleges that had given me acceptance letters, Clemson University and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV)? What if I had decided to go to Clemson, just an hour away from home, but far enough away where I would have had to live on campus or in an apartment in Clemson. How would that decision have changed my life? I am certain Lisa and I would not have gotten married after my freshman year in college. I am even more certain that we probably would have drifted apart as I would have begun immersing myself in the college life. What if I had the guts to have decided to venture out to UNLV, across the continent from Travelers Rest? What would my life be like now? These thoughts boggle the mind sometimes. The what if’s of life. It is amazing how there are those pressure points in life where a decision not only affects your immediate future but has a profound impact on the rest of your life. The decisions that I made between 1976 and 1980 still affect me to this day. Everything that has happened since that time has been a result of, a reaction to, or the consequences of that time frame. What if I had chosen Clemson instead of Furman? What if I had chosen UNLV over Furman? Where would I be today? Would I be sitting here in a house in Duncan, SC at age 53 writing this blog? Our lives right now are the culmination of the major decisions of life and in small part to the little decisions as well, too. Where we are right now can be traced back to a few pivotal events.

Just as we have a few pivotal events in our own lives, this moment in Caesarea Philippi is a pivotal moment for Peter and the disciples. Everything hinges on this moment. Peter and the disciples probably looked back at this moment as the moment that changed everything. It changed the course of their lives. No, they were not just hanging out with the coolest, newest, latest prophet to come along in Judaism, they were hanging out with Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of the living God. That’s a whole lot different from hanging out with the latest rage in prophet-dom. Pivotal events that change everything. Pivotal events that send us down a road chosen that cannot be undone. No turning back after such events. The choice to choose one road over another often has long-ranging, overarching impact. So, today we look at what the results Peter’s revelation did for the disciples and what our same decision about Jesus Christ does for us.

 
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 
Here Peter and the disciples are in a pagan town hanging out with their mentor and teacher, Jesus Christ. Up to now, they have seen a lot of things and witnessed miracles and listened to Jesus mesmerize crowds with His eloquence and with His understanding of Scripture. But til now, they have been on the sidelines. They have not been confronted with the head-on question from Jesus that they have surely pondered in their mind but have refused to answer to themselves. Here, Jesus forces the issue. What say you about Jesus? He asks them point blank, “who do you say that I am?”. Not what other people say. What do you say? It is Peter’s response that profoundly changes everything for the disciples. Peter says it. He verbalizes it. He says what the others were afraid to say. He says that Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Messiah. It is from this point forward (with a whole bunch of mistakes and errors along the way) that these guys changed the world. It is these bumbling, clueless fools who become the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. It is this faith statement by this one man and subsequently but these other men upon which Jesus built his church and continues to build it today. It is through this faith statement by Peter than Jesus grants Peter and the disciples the authority to build His church on earth after He returns to heaven. It is from this point that they will begin to understand who Jesus is and why things happened the way they did. It is from this faith statement that they were willing to die for the sake of Jesus Christ. The gates of hell could stop them from living a life of faith in Jesus Christ and made them willing to die some gruesome deaths to expand the kingdom of God. Pivotal moment. Road chosen. Life changed forever. Each one of these guys I bet when sitting around campfires years later pointed back to this moment as being the one that changed everything.

It is the same for you and for me. When we see Jesus as just one of many options, just another in a long line of prophets, it does not really change anything. We are still in control. We can pick and choose, as we said yesterday, from what we want from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Confuscianism, and Christianity among others. It is our menu driven spirituality where we are in control. Jesus is just another prophet to us. He is just a radical rabbi, a political revolutionary, a great philosopher, an accepter of all people and behaviors. That way we don’t really have to address the issue of who He is when we make Him just one of the boys, one of the greats in spiritual history. But He will ask you at some point in your life or when He returns in His glory, “who do YOU say that I am?” That’s the question. That’s the one question that changes everything. We will have to answer to Him one day. He is God in the flesh and won’t a lot of people be surprised when they find out that this thing was for real! It takes faith to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It changes everything. When we finally see Jesus as the Savior that He is, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit we learn of the sins that we commit that grieve the heart of God. We submit to His authority and begin turning away from our sins one by one as we mature through the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect. We are works in progress. But the decision to see Jesus as the One and Only Messiah, the Son of the one and only True God opens our eyes. We see Him as having died for our sins on the cross so as to reconcile us the Father in heaven. A Father in heaven that by His nature cannot allow sin and imperfection to be in His presence which then counts us out because we are stained by our first sin and any sins after that. We need rescue and that comes in the form of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We see that without Jesus’ sacrifice that we are lost in sin. Without his covering, we are ugly, stained, sinful beings. When we see Jesus as who He says He is, we see that we are no longer in control. We see that we depend on his grace and not our effort. It is the most pivotal moment in our lives. It changes everything. Nothing is the same after that moment of salvation, that moment when we proclaim Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, that moment when we proclaim Him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Just as the decisions of Travelers Rest from 1976-1980 are the pivotal juncture in history upon which everything after it in my life hinges and just as Peter admission of Jesus’ identity is the moment at which everything after it hinges for him and the disciples, so it is in our lives when we finally answer the question that Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” Everything hinges on that moment and how you answer that one simple question.

Amen and Amen.

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Luke 24:44-49 — In this next to the last passage of the Book of Luke, Jesus explained the prophecies that He fulfilled, that He was the suffering Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (OT), and that this fact must be preached to the whole world because it is through His sacrifice that all the world may come to salvation and restoration to a right relationship with God. Jesus is the point of it all.

This scene reminds of those post-game shows after a major college football game where the analysts try to tell what the implications are for the winner and the loser of the game. Here, Jesus is telling them what all of the past three years were about and what the implications for the future are.

None of the past three years would have made any sense if Jesus was not the Messiah, the promised Savior. Jesus walked them through the OT. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15, 19), check. He showed them that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in a triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9), check. He demonstrated that the Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:1,3), check. He even showed them that the Messiah would be betrayed by one of His own followers (Psalm 118:22, 41:9), check. The Messiah was to be tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8), check. The Messiah was to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), confirmed. The Messiah was to be struck and spat upon by His enemies (Isaiah 50:6), yes that happened. The Messiah was to be mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8), yep. The Messiah was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16-17), that’s an affirm. The Messiah was to suffer as and with criminals and yet at the same time pray for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12), this is recorded. The Messiah was to be offered bitter wine as He was dying (Psalm 69:21), got it. The Messiah’s clothing would be subject of gambling bets among His captors (Psalm 22:18), check. The Messiah’s bones were not to be broken (as was often the case in crucifixion to hasten on death) (Exodus 12:46), yes. The Messiah was to die as a sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-12), we know this. The Messiah was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10), we are reading about it right now.

Jesus showed them that He was the fulfillment of all OT scripture. He was the Messiah. He was all the things that God promised. That’s the point. Anything else, his 3 year mission was too short, his death was meaningless, and his resurrection from the dead unneeded. He is not just another prophet. He is the Messiah who came to earth for the express purpose of fulfilling prophecy which includes Him being the sacrifice once and for all time for our sins. When we believe in the Messiah, we are restored to a right relationship with God. That’s the message. That’s the good news!

What’s the point of all of it? What are the implications for the future? Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus fulfilled all of the above OT prophecies and others that are not named above. He is the real deal. He is the Son of God. He was the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. He is the point of it all. Jesus came to be the agent by which we can be restored to a right relationship with God. This is what the OT predicted. God has been working His plan through the ages and Jesus was the culmination of His Promise and His Plan. God never does random. There is purpose. Jesus is the way in which all things are culminated and He is the way in which we are made right with God.

What are the implications for the future? Jesus tells us right here that we must go forth and share the story of redemption through Himself. Without the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus, there is no hope for our eternity. With and through Jesus, we have hope. We are made right with God through Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah. God keeps His Word. This is the message we must share with the whole world.

Unless it is about leading people to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise as the Messiah, the Savior, the Anointed One, there is no point. We can touch the world around us with nice acts of charity and do big free events to get people in our doors, but if the end game is not about showing them the Messiah, showing them the Jesus who died for their sins to make them right with God, then, there is no point. Close the doors. Send everyone to charitable agencies and to the kindness of the good people out there. The point of Jesus’ church as Jesus Himself says in Luke 24:47 is that “it was also written that this message be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem.” We have our charge from our boss, and that’s the point.

Luke 19:28-40 — The first thing that comes to mind here when you read through it when you try to compare it to something you know today is the Tiger Walk on fall Saturdays at Clemson University. The football team walks from Jervey Athletic Center across to Death Valley. All Clemson fans that are tailgating stop what they are doing and form two lines on either side as the team passes through. It is a celebration of the team. It is pretty cool. You get to high five with the players as they pass buy and you get to see them in their suits and ties for a moment rather than hidden behind a football uniform and helmet. It is a celebration of Tiger spirit. At that moment, the game has not yet been played and the air is full of hope. The game is still to come. Everyone is “all-in” at this moment. The question then becomes, if Clemson loses the game played out on the gridiron within the confines of Clemson Memorial Stadium, are you still full of Tiger spirit then? Are you still “all-in”? Before the game, it takes no great effort to be part of the crowd that is cheering on the Tigers as they pass. After a tough loss, that’s when you know who the true Tigers are. These are the ones who greet the players and hug them and tell them that we still support you guys no matter what. There are those of us who simply love the school win, lose, or draw. These are the true members of Tiger Nation. I think today, there is a similarity between the illustration. At this point, on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday, we are in the pregame festivities of Passion Week. It is easy to be a Jesus fan on this end of Passion Week. When we get to crunch time, when the game is played out in Jerusalem, everyone’s true character will be revealed. Is Jesus the true Messiah, the suffering servant? Is Jesus the conquering political figure? Is Jesus the threat to traditional power? In our day today, we must decide whether or not we are “all-in” with Jesus or not.

The first thing that I think we should notice here is that Jesus is no longer trying to conceal that He is the Messiah. In many of his miracles, He asked that the healed person be quiet about what was done because He did not want His message to be overshadowed by the miracles. In each miracle, He always checked on a person’s spiritual health first before providing the physical miracle, so that was the real point was the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation with God. That was the message. In Matthew 16:20, after Peter reveals his belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, The Messiah, Jesus ordered them to keep quiet about it. It was not yet time to publicly proclaim it. But, here we are, as Rafiki says to Simba in the Lion King at his coronation ceremony, “It is time!” It is now the time, according to God’s plan for Jesus to publicly embrace the mantle of the Messiah. There no mistaking to Jesus and to any Jewish person that was there why Jesus chose to ride a donkey the remainder of the way to Jerusalem. In Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, he says:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus is publicly and intentionally annoucing to the world that He is the Messiah. No longer is He trying to keep it concealed. All of the angling toward Jerusalem that Luke starts each new passage with is now about to be completed. He is almost to Jerusalem now. It is time to reveal who He really is to the world. It is during this week that the people had to make a choice as to whether they were true fans of this Jesus. He would proclaim that He is the Messiah. He would proclaim that He is God in the flesh. The gloves are off. This is the week that choices are made. Passion Week is what separates us today between believers and non-believers. The non-believers just as most of Jerusalem will fall away and many do today when Jesus proclaims He is God. This riding of the donkey is the pregame festivities to the hard work of the coming week in Jerusalem. Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that He was the scriptural Messiah? Do you believe that He died for your sins on a cross outside the city?

But right now, in this passage on this first of all Palm Sundays, it is easy to be a Jesus fan. Right now, instead of the Tiger Walk, we have the Jesus Ride, the disciples are high fiving people as they pass. The people are shouting praises of Jesus name. It is a big party and its easy to join in with the crowd. The crowd is shouting that He is king. The people who were praising God for giving them a Messiah (they recognized the significance of the donkey) King. But they had forgotten Scripture and they expected the Messiah not to be a suffering servant but rather a conquering hero. They expected Him to be a national leader who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. They were deaf to the words of the prophets and blind to the mission of Jesus. So, right now Jesus represented liberation from Roman rule. He represented not the reconciler of man to God through His suffering, but rather someone who would provide them immediate benefits. How quickly they would turn once they realized that Jesus was not going to lift them out from under Roman rule! They were fair weather Jesus fans. They wanted to be on the bandwagon. It is like those that become fans of a college team that has put together a string of successful seasons but those same fans will jump ship when the team has a losing season or a less than stellar season. The true fans of a school’s football team are those that love them through thick and thin, whether the team is 7-6 or 11-2, whether the team is 2-10 or 12-0. How are you about Jesus? Do you drift in and out of a relationship with Him? Do you cry out to him when you are in a jam and then forget about Him after the crisis has passed? Or do you celebrate Jesus’ influence in your life when times are good but throw Him to the curb when times are bad? Jesus calls us to be “all-in” all the time. He wants our allegiance every minute of every day whether it be good times or bad. Do you see Jesus as a vending machine to give you what you want or do you trust Him with your whole life all day every day?

Finally, we see the Pharisees trying to quell the noise of the crowd. They now see how wildly popular that Jesus is becoming. They didn’t want someone challenging their power and authority and they didn’t want a revolt against Rome that would bring Roman military might down on Jerusalem. They knew the significance of the donkey and they saw Jesus as wanting to usurp their power. They could not see the Messiah. They could embrace Jesus as what God had promised throughout Scripture. It is like a fan of one team always negatively referencing the capabilities of their arch-rival. They try to tear down the victories of the archrival and glorify the losses. It is also like traditional churches trying whatever they can to discredit a new fast growing non-traditional church. All of it represents a threat to that which we hold dear. Instead of embracing Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture they were more concerned with preserving their own team. When we get so self-involved with the things we hold dear we cannot see beyond ourselves. Jesus is OK as long as He doesn’t have to be a part of all of my life. There are things that I want to keep separate from Jesus. These are my own little thrones over here. You can have the rest Jesus, but not these things. Giving you my complete allegiance would mean that I have to change my lifestyle. Many of us want to dabble with Jesus but not give Him our whole life. We want to be on His bandwagon until it costs us something. Real life change. Real obedience to God’s Word. Accepting all of Scripture as requiring our obedience. Willingly submit control of our entire lives to the Messiah! Man, that’s too much of a threat to the things that I have grown accustomed to! Do you see Jesus as a threat to your lifestyle? Does He represent the threat of truth against the lies and twisted truth that you have constructed for your life?

Jesus proclaims that He is the Messiah. It is all out in the open now. How are you going to react? Are you all-in? Have you placed your faith in Him. From this point forward in the book of Luke there is no turning back. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and change the history of mankind forever. He will go there to die for our sins just as had been predicted in Scripture. Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Do you believe that He was just some great rabbi philosopher? Well, from here on in Luke, you have to get off the train. Everything else from here on in requires faith that Jesus was who He says He was. It is easy to be on the bandwagon when you can make Jesus out to be what you want Him to be. However, to be a true fan of Jesus, you must make the choice as to whether you believe He is the Messiah foretold in Scripture.

To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that He had to go to Jerusalem and die on the cross. To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that his death on the cross was more than an execution of a political threat. You must understand that it represents the once and final sacrifice for sin. You must understand that you are sinner no matter how good you true to be. You must understand that one sin is all it takes to separate us from God. You must understand that we cannot erase our nature and that because of that we are condemned to hell for our sins without this sacrifice on the cross. You must understand that Jesus on the cross took on all the sins of the world for all time that day. In that, you and I have a chance to reconcile ourselves to God and have eternal life. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins on the cross so that you may have eternal life. Are you all-in? Are you a true fan? Or is this where you jump off the bandwagon? If you are feeling the stirrings in your soul that you want to be a true fan of Jesus, call on his name now. He did all the work of the Passion Week already. Your sins are forgiven once you ask Him into your life! You become a member of the family of the Jesus team. We have our own logo like all good teams do. It is the cross. Come join our team! Jesus wants you to be all-in!

Luke 18:35-43— Careful what you ask for, the old saying goes, you just might get it. We often think we want something but when we find out what it takes to get it, we give up on it. I think this concept plays into what we learn from today’s passage.

There are several things that jump out at you in this passage. First, it takes a blind man to see the Messiah. Second, he would not be turned away very easily because he repeated his request. Third, why does Jesus ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Isn’t it obvious?

The first thing that strikes me here is that this blind hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He immediately begins shouting (not speaking but shouting), “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!” It is so interesting that immediately upon hearing the name of Jesus, he recognizes that he is the Messiah. He calls Him Son of David. Son of David was a reference to the fact that the predicted Messiah in the Old Testament was to come from the lineage of David. Son of David then became an equivalent term for the Messiah. A blind man could see the Messiah but many of the religious leaders of the day could not see this fact even though they had sight. As a beggar, the normal operation was to beg passersby for money. But this blind beggar did not ask Jesus for money. He asks him for mercy. That means that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Have mercy on me. Show concern for me. Grant me relief. The beggar must of heard of Jesus’ ministry for him to ask Jesus for mercy. Mercy would be to lift him out of the state of life in which the beggar finds himself. He had heard of the wonderful miracles of Jesus. He was willing to throw himself at Jesus feet and ask for mercy. The lowly and humble seem to be able to see the Messiah more easily than the proud and self-sufficient. It was the pride of the religious elite that prevented them from seeing Jesus as the Son of David and throwing themselves at His feet and ask for mercy. Are you to proud to see the Messiah? Do you have a sense of self-sufficiency that prevents you from humbling yourself before the Lord? This beggar was able and willing to cast aside any pride and throw himself at the feet of Jesus. When we find ourselves mired in the sins of our lives, will we finally cry out to Jesus for mercy? How deep does your pit have to go before you cry out to Him?

The second thing that you will notice here is that after the recognition and pursuit of the Messiah, the beggar is told to keep quiet. He told basically not to continue trying to reach the Messiah. He is, thank goodness, persistent in the effort to reach the Messiah. He not only shouted once. He kept on shouting. He was told to keep quiet. Isn’t this also like the situation we find ourselves in when we first seek out Jesus. We see the mess of our lives and we begin to seek out for something more than the mess that we are in. We begin to seek out this Jesus thing. Many though will see our sin, our history of bad behavior, our history of not being good enough, our history of turning our nose up at God in our blindness, and will tell us to keep away from the Messiah. We don’t deserve the opportunity to address him. Either our old playground’s playmates will try to draw us back into our old lifestyle or the new playground’s playmates that we are trying to enter will appear to or may actually reject us trying to enter their playground. Beggars want us to stay with them begging. At the same time, many will not believe that we are serious about seeking the Messiah. You know that old beggar. He will be back to his old ways in no time. Let’s not accept him because we can’t waste our time on fakers. He just had a spiritual warm-fuzzy experience. He was not truly saved. Just watch. Help us Lord to leave our old life behind and be persistent in our pursuit of our new life. We must continue shouting His name. We must continue pursuing Him. We must focus on Him. Just as Peter could walk on water when he was focusing on Jesus ahead of him and fell into the water when he looked away. We must always keep our pursuit of Jesus as the forefront in our mind and soul. We cannot let detractors bring doubt into our mind. When we worry about what others think and say, it takes our focus off Jesus. Let us keep on invoking the name of the Messiah. Let us shout His name constantly. Never let anything deter you from pursuing the Son of David.

The final thing that is striking here is that Jesus asks the beggar a seemingly silly question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Duh, Jesus! The man is blind. What do you think He wants? Why does Jesus ask this question? Jesus is the Son of God so He already knows what the man wants. He sees his heart. I think Jesus asks the question for the benefit of the blind beggar. It will help him articulate what he really wants from Jesus. Sometimes, we cry out to Jesus but we really don’t want to change our situation. Some of us have become so comfortable in the culture of dependence that we have created that to change it would be too radical. Think of someone you know that seems to use their disabilities as a way to keep people doing things for them. They manipulate people through pity by using their disabilities to get what they want. We all know the type. Some of us too are comfortable in our sins. We pay lip service to wanting to change but we are rather comfortable with our favorite sins. We want to follow Jesus but it would mean to us that we would have to give up playgrounds and playmates that we don’t want to give up. Just as in the previous passage about the rich young man where the young man did not really want to fully sell out for Jesus because he was addicted to his wealth more than He wanted to follow Jesus. Sometimes, we cry out to Jesus but are not willing to let go of that which has become our custom, our god, our crutch, our schtick, our thing that identifies us, the thing in which we find our identity. To accept a new identity in Christ might me too much for us. We want to follow Jesus but…Here, Jesus wanted the beggar to vocalize his faith. The beggar wanted to see. There is more than sight here. He wants to change is his life. He truly wants to follow Jesus. His faith changes him. Jesus grants his request. The beggar then immediately becomes part of the family of Jesus and follows him. Leaving his old life behind immediately. In contrast to the rich young man, he accepts what Jesus offers and does not look back. He follows Jesus immediately. His faith is evident in the following immediately. He praises God for what has been done for him. No looking back. Only praising. Are you willing to give up your old life and follow Jesus? Are you the rich young ruler who can’t or are you the blind beggar who can?

Father, oh Father, give me the faith of the blind man to pursue you with all my heart. Father, help me to see that I must always keep my focus on you no matter what Satan tries to say to me directly or through other people. Help me to lay down all my pet sins and follow you with all my heart each and every day. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 — The timing of God is so completely awe-inspiring at times. I call it God’s synchronicity. He teaches me things in small windows of time with the same message from multiple different sources in many different ways.

Yesterday, I got to take part in honoring the life of a dear friend of mine, Marvin Williams. I was given the honor of speaking of Marvin’s life since I was his small group leader, not the main sermon but about a 5-6 minute speech about the man that I knew. The burden that was placed on my heart from the time that I knew I had to speak was the comparison of Marvin’s life to that of the Apostle Paul. The similarities are there. Paul was a highly religious man who knew Scripture frontwards and backwards. He was high up in the ranks of the Jewish religious power structure. He studied under the greatest biblical scholar of the day, Gamaliel. He knew everything there was to know about what we call the Old Testament. He was scholarly with much religious zeal. He was enamored with His own understanding of Scripture. But yet, he could not see the Messiah. He was so zealous in defense of his way of life, his power, his pride that he persecuted, literally, those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life. The Damascus Road Experience we call it. It was not until he had a vision from our Savior Jesus Christ that His life took a 180 degree turn.

Marvin’s life was similar. He was in church all his life. He knew Scripture well. He could have biblical debates with the best of them. He even taught Sunday school. There were even young men who had been in his Sunday school class that went on to be pastors. Yet, for all his doing the right stuff. He could not see the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life to see that all the things that he had talked about all his life were real. He had to pull his car over on the side of the road to finally see Jesus. To finally see he needed Jesus. It was until this side of the road experience that he finally accepted Christ as his Savior at age 65.

Today, in this passage, I see Marvin pre-salvation and I see Marvin post-salvation. The Pharisee was Marvin before salvation. The Pharisee did not go to the Tempe to pray but to announce to all within earshot how good he was. He wanted people to see his puffery. The Pharisee was proud of who he was and how devout he was. Aren’t many of us like Marvin. Aren’t many of us like the Pharisee. We do all the right things. We say all the right things. We go to church. We serve at church. We participate in community events held by the church. We might even help a family in need. As many of you who read my blog may already know, my wife and I are the directors of the community outreach activities of our church. At one of our events, a person at our church got mad at me for having placed her in what basically amounted to an out of sight position at a community event. It was our Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway where we giveaway complete meals to the needy in our community. They come by and pick up a turkey and a full bag of groceries so that they can have a family Thanksgiving in their own home. Since this person had not participated in any of the planning or training meetings for the event and just showed up the day of the event, I assigned her the job of helping keep the bags of groceries stocked for the ones who actually gave the bags to the recipients. This person actually got mad at me because she was not put in a visible position basically. She wanted to be seen by others. A lot of us put on a show of religiosity but do not know the Messiah. Marvin was not alone in this. The Pharisee was not alone in this. We get so busy doing the right things we mistake this for salvation. It becomes all about earning brownie points. It becomes about the heavy burden of being better than the next guy. Do you do all the right things but yet do not know the Messiah? Do you think that this is salvation? Do you know the Messiah? Is he in your heart?

What does it take to know the Messiah? The hated tax collector knew. He went to the Temple recognizing that he was a sinner. He recognized that he needed mercy. There are none of us that can do enough good things to earn our salvation. We must throw ourselves at the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Marvin arrived at this destination on the side of the road one day at age 65. For all his churchiness before this day, Marvin realized that day that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He had been blind to the Messiah. Now, he saw Him on the side of the road. Like Paul’s Damascus Road Experience, Marvin had his Side of the Road Experience. Like the tax collector who saw himself honestly and humbly as unworthy of the Father in Heaven, Marvin laid it all bare inside that car that day. His pride, his bravado, like that of the Pharisee in this parable, were all laid to waste. He was transformed from the prideful Pharisee to the lowly, humble tax collector. Gone was the pride. Gone was the checklist of doing the right things. Gone was the Paul-like pre-salvation arrogance. Gone was the ambition and zeal for self-serving. The reality that Marvin met with that day was that he was destined for hell because of his sin-filled nature. There was nothing that he could do to change that. All he could do was, like the tax collector in this parable, was to beg for mercy. There is the moment that we see the Messiah.

The Messiah died for our sins so that we would not go to the fiery pit permanently separated from God forever. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are made clean. We are made a child of God. We are raised into new life. That was the joy of the remainder of Marvin’s life. It fueled his life. It changed his life. He lived a life of joy his last 7 years (even though the last couple of months were full of physical suffering to the point he was just ready to go home to his Father in heaven). He served in those last 7 years not because of duty but because it was the least he could for the Savior that saved him. Are you like old life Marvin, straining under the heavy burden of checklist religion. Are you straining under doing the right thing. Are you like pre-salvation Paul who knew Scripture and did all the checklist “right things”. Man, is that tiring trying to be the proud Pharisee. It is tiring trying to be good and making sure others see us being good even though we are sin-filled inside. We are in need. We have a need. We need a Savior. Do you know Him, really know Him?

We are all the tax collector. We need mercy. Marvin found his. He saw the Messiah that day on the side of the road. He was relieved of his burdens that day. He lived a life of joy that surpasses all understanding the rest of the way. He now rests in his mansion of glory with His Savior. Are you tired of trying to be a Pharisee when you are really a tax collector. Call out in humble honesty to Jesus that you are a sinner and no matter how good you try to be you are imperfect and always will be. Call out to Jesus and tell him that you know what your fate is without His help. Call out to Him to save you from your fate. Call out to him to take over your life and be your Lord. Call out to Him now! Marvin did, so can you!

Luke 2:25-35 — Simeon’s Song. Are you ready to die in peace? Have you seen what you need to see? Done what you needed to do? For Simeon, everything had been accomplished. He had seen the Messiah and he now knew that the Messiah was the salvation for all people.

According to the opening of this passage, Simeon was a righteous and devout man who eagerly waited the coming of the Messiah to rescue his people, Israel. When the Messiah Child comes into his presence, he says first, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace as you have promised.” Simeon was content. He knew that his life was complete. It got me to thinking about whether my life was complete and whether I am ready for death when it comes. Sure, there are selfish reasons to not want to die just yet. I haven’t accomplished everything I want to accomplish in my life. As well, there are those that I love that would be left without me. My wife would be devastated. My daughters would be lost without their daaaaady. These are reasons to not be ready for death. Many of us, even Christ followers, who don’t even like to think of the prospect of death. However, death comes to us all. It is as inevitable as the tax returns that we have to file each year. Are you ready? Am I ready? As Christ followers, we should be like Simeon here. He is contented. He has seen the Lord. Death is welcomed because he had full confidence that he had done everything and seen everything. He was a righteous man. When a person is mentioned as righteous in the Bible, it means that they pursued God daily and lived their life to please Him. Here, he has seen the Messiah and he immediately knew this child to be his salvation. Nothing else need be accomplished in life. He had done what needed doing in this life.

Are you afraid of death? Do you want it delayed as long as possible, even as a Christ follower? I am not suggesting that we go around wishing for death. Each day that God allows us to remain on earth means, as the old Christian saying goes, “He’s not done with me yet!” Our lives should continue until our appointed time. We should pursue righteousness daily as Simeon. We should follow our calling from the Lord. We should share the gospel with a lost world. We should love our families, and friends. We should love our neighbors. We should live life that is pleasing to the Lord. We should live life as God perfects us daily as we progress in our walk with Christ. However, as Christ followers, one thing we should not do is…fear death. We have seen the Messiah. He is that salvation that Simeon says is the salvation of all people. When we got saved, our eyes were opened to the Messiah. We have seen Him. We continue to see Him as we walk this Christian walk. Therefore, we should be like Simeon. We should not fear death. We should welcome it when it comes. We know where we are going. Death holds no sting for us. We get to live in the presence of God for eternity in a perpetual state of praise and joy. We will be praising our Savior daily. We get to move to the best neighborhood EVER! Life on this earth is nothing compared to what awaits us there in heaven. In the meantime, though, God’s not done with us yet. Let it be said of us like Simeon that we are righteous and devout. I don’t want my life’s byline to be anything other than that — for it to be said of me that I was a righteous and devout man. I have a ways to go on that. God’s not done with me yet. One thing is certain though, I know where I am going at death. Mission accomplished. As I mature in Christ, may I become less and less fearful of the end coming and more and more content that I have seen what I have needed to see in this life. I have seen the Messiah and in that I can die contented.

Father, you are the One who sent Jesus to be my salvation, the salvation of all people. Thank you for the love that You have shown us God in sending your Son. Thank you for the assurance that I can never be snatched from your hand when I accept your Son as my Savior. Help me to seek righteousness daily. Help me to do the work now that you need me and have appointed me to do. Help me to know that when the work is done that I am coming home. Help me to understand that death has no longer any sting for me. I will be coming home. I have seen the Messiah and in that I can die contented. Death should not be wished for but welcomed when it comes. Help me to know and believe that daily so that I am ready when it comes. Amen.

Luke 2:8-20 — Often we miss what the angel of the Lord said here. It is important for us to really get what is said. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David. And you recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (vv. 10-12, NLT).

Do not be afraid. The Shepherds were afraid. The angel reassured them that they did not have to be afraid. It reminds us of the assurance that we have in God. Our God is not out to squash us like bugs. He wants us not to be afraid. Although God is a God of justice and evil cannot stand in His presence, God is not out to punish us. He does not want us to be afraid. He wants us to come to Him. He calls out to us. Do not be afraid. God is love and He loved us so much that He pursues us through the person and work of Jesus Christ and through His Word. He does not want us to be condemned by His perfect and fair justice. He wants us to open our eyes and not be afraid. We all stand condemned and should be afraid but God provided the answer to the fear in this innocent child lying in a manger.

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Notice how broad is the angel’s message. It’s not for just the pious or the Jew, but “for all the people.” What wonderful news for those who are estranged from God. Great joy for all people. The shepherds are great examples of a whole people group that had been written off as unworthy and unsavable by their Jewish brethren. The birth of Jesus being announced here changes everything. The game will no longer be the same. Jesus came for everyone. His actions from birth to death and resurrection are for all, even for unbelievers. All you have to do is believe that He is the Son of God who died for our sins and who was raised from the dead to give us our eternal hope. This is good news. No one is too far from the grace of Jesus Christ. No one. Liars, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, drug addicts, adulterers. All are welcome at His table. All we must do is receive the grace that already exists in Jesus Christ. All we must do is confess our sins. All we must do is humbly ask Jesus to come into our lives and change us from the inside out. All we must do is realize that our way is the road to destruction but humble submission to the Lord is the way to permanent life change and eternal life. This is the good news that is great joy. This is the good news that it is for all people. Not just the pious few but for all people.

The Messiah has been born. The Savior. The Messiah. The Lord. He is all of these things. Having all of these descriptors used together at one time. Those who study Hebrew understand that the angel is making sure that those who read the text understand that this is no ordinary baby. He is God himself in the flesh. No ordinary baby. Jesus, part of the eternal trinity of God, coming to earth as a baby born in the usual way. He is the horn of salvation for all people. This act of coming into human history forever alters the course of human history. You cannot have the cross without the manger. He had to come and do it in the way that He did. He came to show us how much God loves us. He came to sacrifice Himself for our sins, past, present and future. He came to finish. He came to put and end to the hopelessness of our sin problem. This birth is the most necessary thing ever. The Messiah has been born. The Messiah has been born. Announce it! We would have none of our favorite hymns, favorite contemporary Christian music. We would not have churches. We would have none of it if God did not choose to send Jesus. This is the most loving thing ever. This is the most important thing ever. The Messiah has been born.

You will find a baby. You will find a baby. Jesus came to earth as a baby. He could have come as He will in the second coming in the clouds with trumpet sounds. But, the first advent is a humble one. He came as a baby. A child. Can you imagine the God of all things in a baby’s body? I bet Jesus was thinking, wow, this is pretty limited! LOL But back to the point. Jesus came as a child just like you and I are born as babies. He was a baby. He crawled. He learned to eat food. He learned to walk. He learned to be a part of a human family unit. He learned to do chores. He learned love. He learned physical pain. He learned emotional pain. He learned his father’s trade. He lived as a man. He knows. He knows. He knows what it is like to live the human experience. Jesus is our advocate with the Father because He knows what it is like to live in a human body. All of it. From birth to death. He lived the human experience. He knows. Because he came as a baby. So, when you think that God will not understand what you are going through or feeling, think again. Jesus knows. Jesus knows your troubles. He knows how you feel. He can more than just sympathize. He can empathize. He lived the human experience. He walked among us. He knows your hurts, habits, and hangups. He knows. He came to us as a baby. He did not magically appear. He lived the whole human experience. Never think He does not or could not understand. He knows. He came as a baby.

Father, thank you for the good news that makes us no longer afraid. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Him to us to deliver us from our condemnation in our sin. Thank you for sending Him to live the life that we experience. Thank you for His understanding of the human experience by coming to earth in the way that we do and living the life that we live. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.