Messiah, the Lord

Luke 2:11

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (NIV).

Jesus is the Messiah, or what most Christians are used to saying, the Christ. Both Messiah and Christ mean “the Anointed One”. Jesus is the Chosen One of God (Luke 23:35). He is the One sent to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

He is also the Lord.

Much of Christmas thinking is wrapped around the idea that Jesus was born as a very human baby, wrapped in strips of cloth, and laid in a manger by his virgin mother Mary. All that is correct certainly, but it is insufficient, if that is as far as one’ thoughts go. We read our granddaughter the children’s book The Bible in Picture for Little Eyes (the old edition with realistic pictures), and it talks much about how Jesus came as a baby. It also stresses that Jesus is God’s Son. That is good.

It is also good to know that he is the Savior. God the Father sent his one and only Son to save or rescue us from the guilt, pollution, and penalty that we fully deserve. We lived in rebellion against God and were liable for eternal punishment. But thanks be to God, in his amazing mercy he provided an Almighty Deliverer for us.

All that Jesus is able to do for us is possible because he is the Lord. He is the great I Am, the Creator and Controller of all things, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. This is what we have trouble thinking through with our small brains. The Chosen Savior, God’s Prophet, Priest, and King; yes, we know that. But to comprehend that the little baby in the manger, the firstborn son of a young Jewish woman is also the Firstborn over everything (Colossians 1:15), that makes us pause and wonder.

The Lord blessed my wife and I with three children. How I remember holding each of the three infants on my forearm with their heads safely cradled in the palm of my hand. They were so tiny, yet very real people! Now think of Joseph holding Mary’s newborn son in the same way. Yes, that is easy to imagine. But that newly arrived infant is also the Lord. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah said of the Lord. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12 ESV) The Lord is so immense that he has measured the universe with the span of his hand! Yet he was at the same time a very small baby! The fragile human frame that Joseph supported with his forearm and hand at the same exact moment was holding the universe together. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3a CSB; cf. Colossians 1:17).

Jesus, Messiah and Savior, is also the Lord of glory! Meditate on this awe-inspiring reality as you walk through the tattered remnants of the year 2020. Focus on him as you long for hope for your future. Jesus Messiah is the Lord of all!

By the way, he is also the Lord of your life. 

Grace and peace,

Who, Then, Is This? (Part Eight)

Luke 9:28-36

While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen (9:34-36 CSB).

Next, we will consider three truths God the Father affirmed. However, we need to stop for a moment, or we will miss something significant. The previous section spoke of the confession of the apostles that Jesus was the Messiah. Most thinking on that section and the current one has focused on the human responses to Jesus’ words and the event of the Transfiguration. Certainly, our response is important. But it ought not to obscure the action of God the Father in both. There, we saw the Father as the source of spiritual knowledge and faith. Here, we see the Father affirming the Son. So we ought to have a God-focused view of both passages.

Having said that, notice whom the Father spoke about: his Son! The Father stepped into human history to speak in one of those rare moments in the Bible, and when he did, he spoke of his Son and fixed human attention on the Son! The Father receives glory through the Son. As the cloud of divine glory covered them, the Father focused on the Son. Let us learn the mission of the Triune God. Almighty God’s plan is that glory will come to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.

The Father affirmed his Son’s person and calling.

Jesus is God’s unique Sonmy Son.” Earlier in Judea, the apostles had heard Jesus assert his relationship to God the Father. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him (John 5:19-23 NIV). The Father confirmed what Jesus had claimed about his relationship with God the Father. This confirmation shaped Peter’s world and life view from that point forward. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV). The events of redemptive history are intended to transform how we look at the world and live our lives in it.

Jesus is God’s Chosen One. This is another way the Spirit of God refers to the Messiah, the Anointed One. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 NIV). Notice that even the Jewish religious leaders, who were opposed to Jesus, understood Messiah and the Chosen One as equivalent. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35). The Father in heaven made the link between Jesus as his Servant and his chosen one. What was Christ chosen to be? He was chosen and sent by God to be the Prophet, Priest, and King. He is the final word to people (Hebrews 1:1-2). He is the great high priest (Hebrews 4:14), who offered the final sacrifice for sin. He is King over all (Revelation 19:16).

The appropriate response is to bow in worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They were afraid as they entered the cloud of glory. May we have holy reverence for the Messiah. He is God’s Son, and all that we are and hope for depends on his majestic greatness and the surpassing value of what he did for us in the gospel. He is King over humanity during this time of the corona virus pandemic. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Exploring Matthew 11-12

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 CSB).

These are some of the most beloved words of Jesus. By the Spirit, countless people have been brought to faith in Christ through this “great invitation”. It was one of the passages through which the Lord first spoke to me. It has spoken peace and spiritual refreshment to generations of followers of the Lord Jesus.

Yet how much do we know of the other passages in Matthew 11-12? Through many years of preaching and teaching God’s word, I cannot recall anyone ever saying that their soul was restored and reinvigorated by reading Matthew 12. I do know that the earlier parts of Matthew 11 have caused debate and that parts of Matthew 12 have garnered what little attention they have received for that same reason. While some sections of the Scriptures are hard to understand, we should still receive hope, joy, and peace from our meditation on them. So then, let’s go searching for what the Spirit can use to strengthen us. At a recent wedding I attended, the appetizers were at different bars around the entrance to the dining room (salad, pasta, mac & cheese, etc.) In this article, I want to point out where the “bars” are, with the intent that you will approach each one for spiritual nourishment.

Before I point out the “bars”, and I know some of you are looking for the dessert bar already, we should think about what the Spirit has breathed out in these chapters for our benefit. Chapters 11-12 develop the teaching in chapter 10 about varying responses to the good news about Jesus. Matthew chose several incidents that show questions, opposition, and acceptance to the message. All this will lead into chapter 13, where the Lord will explain what happens when the message of God’s kingdom is proclaimed. The two chapters are a bridge between what is taught in chapters 10 & 13.

The “bars” or records of responses to the Messiah are arranged in three groups of three. The last in each group provides a message of salvation and hope to followers of the Christ. Let’s take “a stroll around the room” to see what’s there.

First triad (11:2-30)

  • John the Baptist sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah (11:2-19). This also has three parts: the apparent doubts of John the Baptist (or perhaps his disciples had doubts and John sent them to Jesus for answers), the testimony of Jesus about John, and the rejection of Jesus and John by the people.
  • The lack of repentance by towns in Galilee (11:20-24). Notice that in Jesus’ opinion, which is correct, their rejection of Jesus put them in a worse spiritual position than Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom!
  • Encouragement to Christ’s little ones; that is, those who trust in him as Lord and Savior (11:25-30). This encouragement is provided in three parts: teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation, the glory of Christ, and the great invitation.

Second triad (12:1-21)

  • Rejection of the Messiah as Lord over the Sabbath (12:1-8). Notice how Jesus claims to be greater than the law covenant and its temple.
  • Rejection of the Messiah as the compassionate physician (12:9-14).
  • The Messiah is the humble Servant of the Lord, who will bring God’s victory to the nations (12:15-21). The opposition of the world cannot defeat the plan of God. Christ’s people can be sure of his tender care.

Third triad (12:22-50)

  • Controversy about how Christ did his mighty works (12:22-37). Notice that when the people started to think of Jesus in messianic terms, their religious leaders could not deny his power; they only railed against it. Jesus calmly answered their criticism.
  • Controversy over the Sign of Jonah (12:38-45). The religious leaders would not recognize the clear proofs that Jesus gave of his identity (cf. 11;4-6), yet they asked for another sign. Jesus had no reason to start a circus, so he told them to wait for something that would demonstrate that he is the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord.
  • Jesus’ true family (12:46-50) is not a matter of physical relationship, even close physical kinship, but depends on a believing response to his teaching that results in the doing of God’s will.

We have walked “around the room” and have seen where the various “bars” are located. Now, it is up to you to walk up to each one and learn from the words and actions of the Lord Jesus. As you do, be sure to see his glory displayed throughout these chapters.

Grace and peace, David

In the Days of Herod

img_4560Luke 1:5-10

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:5-6 ESV).

Luke opened his account of Jesus, God’s Anointed One, and the good news with these words. They also begin his telling of the Christmas story, which is part of God’s great story. I do not think that most people consider this part of the Christmas story, but it provides the setting in which the story occurs. In fact, if we listen to and learn this part of the story, we gain important information to understand the whole story.

Consider the historical setting. In the days of Herod… He was a ruler noted for his cunning, cruelty, and constructions. He was called Herod the Great for the last of these, for he built many fine buildings, including the rebuilding of the Temple. He died in early 4 B.C., which means that Jesus was born sometime in 5 B.C. (Yes, the calendar is off by five years. People, not God, make calendars.) Jesus was born in the full light of human history. Luke tells us of two people, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who, although not in the line of the Messiah, had an important role in the early part of the story. Notice the details. Zechariah was in the eighth division of the priesthood that had been established by King David over a thousand years before that time. Zechariah and Elizabeth were godly people; they were fully committed followers of the Lord. However, there was an emptiness in their lives. Elizabeth was barren, and since they were advanced in years (probably their later forties), there was little human hope of having a child. One of life’s mysteries is the experience that many people who would love to have children have none, while others who do not seem to care for children easily have them. Both situations produce many tears. This is history in agony. People need a Savior for many reasons.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense (Luke 1:8-10 ESV).

The Christmas story is connected with the old covenant and its worship. Priests and the temple are found throughout Luke 1-2. Worship of God fills both chapters. It was the time of the law covenant that pointed to the coming Messiah in all its types and shadows (cf. Hebrews 10:1). The curtain started to fall on that era when Zechariah went into it to offer incense as prescribed by the law. However, on that day no one anticipated the supernatural event about to happen. Zechariah was merely one of a long and large company of priests that had offered incense over a course of nearly fifteen hundred years. A crowd of faithful people had gathered for the event. During a time of Gentile rule over God’s covenant people, they remembered the God who had called them to be his people and who had promised the Messiah, the one who would set them free. But on that day, no one expected God to speak. He had not spoken in four hundred years, but they still had gathered to pray to wait on the Lord. Faith.

Christmas is a season of waiting, not for parties, programs, and presents. It is the time to wait on the Lord in worship. Many waited for Messiah’s first coming; we wait for his second coming. They waited in the rituals and regulations of the first covenant; we wait and watch in the Holy Spirit in the second covenant. They gathered in worship; we should also gather together to worship in love, joy, and peace. The days of Herod are long past. We live in the last days. Does an attitude of hopeful worship fill our souls this Christmas season?

Grace and peace, David

The Messiah and the Holy Spirit

The Bible tells us about God, the Maker, Preserver, and Ruler of everything else. It is God telling who he is, what he likPicture1es, and what he has done, is doing, and will surely do. The infinite God tells us that he is a Three Person Being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is very hard for us to understand, yet it answers many questions in the story God tells in the Bible. In Isaiah 42:1 we hear God the Father speaking of the One that he calls his “Servant” and which the New Testament Scriptures tell us is his one and only Son. And we hear him talking of Another, whom he calls “my Spirit”, whom he will put on his Servant. So then, in this text we encounter the Three Persons of the Trinity.

But more than that, God the Father tells us through Isaiah the prophet what his Son and Servant, the Messiah, would do. Before he announces the main points of the plan, he exalts the Servant as the one he upholds, his chosen one and the one in whom he delights, and the One on whom he puts his Spirit. We looked at the first three points in a previous post on Isaiah, and now we probe into this fourth point. It is not something in God’s story that we ought to rush past or to forget, because it helps us understand the good news better, as well as the Christian way of life.

Christ, the Servant of God, would have the Spirit as his “inseparable companion”. Consider three stages of the Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus the Messiah.

The Spirit was there at his virgin birth and growth. The Holy Spirit came upon her and his power overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). Though the Spirit enabled many barren women in Old Testament times to conceive and bear children, in making true humanity for the Son of God he works through a virgin woman. This is the first work in the new creation. The first Adam was made from the dust of the ground, but the last Adam comes from the Spirit through a virgin, so that he can be holy, without personal sin, guilt, and condemnation. Consider what John said of Jesus (John 3:31). Since Jesus was truly human, he went through the normal process of human development. In all this the Holy Spirit rested upon him (Isaiah 11:2; Luke 2:40, 52).

The Spirit was with him at his baptism, temptation, and ministry. The Holy Spirit came down from heaven like a dove and remained on Jesus at his baptism. Three lines of OT teaching converge in this coming of the Spirit on him. As the Spirit hovered over the waters of the old creation (Genesis 1:2), so he comes down as Jesus was in the water. Second, as the dove returns with a symbol of new life to Noah (Genesis 8:11), so he points to Jesus as the source of new life. Third, a dove was a sin offering for the poor (Leviticus 5:7), so Jesus would be the sin offering for the poor. This descent by the Spirit also testified that Jesus was the Son of God (Luke 3:22; John 1:32-34). Immediately after his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to do spiritual battle against the devil (Luke 4:1). When Jesus had defeated Satan, he went from place to place, preaching the good news and doing many miraculous signs by the power of the Spirit of the Lord (Matthew 12:28). All this was evidence that God’s kingdom (saving reign) had come and that the promised time, the year of the Lord’s favor had arrived (Luke 4:19-21). So then, the Lord’s Servant Jesus (Acts 3:13) served God with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).

The Spirit acted powerfully at his death, resurrection, and ascension. When our great high priest Jesus offered himself as the final sacrifice for sin, he did it through the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). When he rose from the dead, he was declared to be Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). The age of the new covenant and Christ’s powerful lordship began! And so he poured out the Holy Spirit on his believing people as evidence that he reigns on David’s throne at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:29-36).

In Jesus and his inseparable companion, the Spirit, the age of fulfillment arrived. As Paul says, “Now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the time for you to be reconciled to God.

Think also about the Messiah and his anointing by the Spirit (Isaiah 61:3; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Jesus is our prophet. His teaching forms the basis of our lives. This is what we see first in the Four Gospels. He taught God’s message about his saving reign (kingdom), and his miraculous signs performed by the Spirit testified to him as the great prophet of God. Jesus is our high priest. His atoning work secured our salvation, and his intercession guarantees our forgiveness. The events of his crucifixion and resurrection are the key events of the Four Gospels. His finished work provides righteousness for everyone who believes in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is our king. He rules over us and defends us. In the Four Gospels we see evidence of his authority over all things, and in his ascension we
see that he is Lord and reigning on David’s throne. As Ascended Lord, he poured out the Holy Spirit on his people—those who repent and believe in him.

In the Anointed Jesus, we have every benefit we need. As we start this work week, I ask you, “Are you in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith?”