Jesus Moved On

“They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes” Mark 1:22.

In the synagogue they were astonished with the manner of Jesus’ teaching for He spoke with authority and did not appeal to the writings of men. In this He was quite different to the scribes. The essence of Jesus’ preaching and teaching at this time is recorded in verse fifteen, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” That He had this authority is revealed in the rebuke of an unclean spirit (v 25), healing Peter’s mother-in-law (v 31), the many healed and demons cast out (v 34) and the healing of a leper (v 42). All these, and the many other miracles of Jesus, serve to reveal who He is.

At first the teaching got the attention of people but that was soon overridden by the miracles. Word quickly got around and Jesus was virtually mobbed, not for His teaching but for miracles (1:32; 3:7-12). For this reason Jesus departed. He is not a travelling circus. He has a message for people (v 15) and when people are distracted and not listening to the message, He moves on (v 35) to other places to preach His message (v 38). Even though there were many more sick people and demon possessed people, He moved on. The Gospel message is far more important than physical healing. He still moves on when our churches are distracted by clamouring for temporal miracles.

When Jesus healed the leper He asked him not to spread it around. The leper did not obey and soon Jesus was mobbed again (1:45). People mobbed Him not for the message but for healing. With the change of focus the message was lost so Jesus moved on.

There is a clamour for healing in many religious circles including many Christian churches today. When people are distracted by the potential for miracles they do not give attention to the Gospel message. Satan has been counterfeiting Christ and corrupting His message for two thousand years and isn’t about to give up this successful distraction and diversion (Mark 13:22; Matthew 7:22-23). We are all glad when God does heal someone or delivers a person from demonic influence or possession – but we must be careful that we don’t lose the message of the most important deliverance, “Repent and believe the gospel.” The miracle of new birth is the only one that matters (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:1, 8-10).

When He Comes

Jesus said to His disciples, “You shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Matthew 23:39

Jesus told His disciples on at least three occasions that He would die and rise again. He now says to them that this will be His last Passover with them until He returns. John also records Jesus telling His disciples that He is going away but that He would return for them (John 14:2-3). Now that His departure is imminent the disciples have a couple of questions for Him: When will He return and what sign will accompany His return?

Matthew 24 and 25 record Jesus’ response. He doesn’t give a date but He does describe conditions in Israel and the world more generally. The only date He relates is that which Daniel informs us is mid-tribulation (24:15 cf. Daniel 9:27).

The conditions during the first half of the tribulation are recorded in 24:5-8. They are similar to what we are experiencing now but during the tribulation they will be more intense and more frequent. It is possible that we are observing the prelude and build up to these conditions. Just as Noah warned people, we have God’s faithful messengers today warning people. Sadly most people reject the warning, as they did Noah’s warning, and carry on in ignorance (Matthew 24:37-44). Fortunately God is still rescuing people who will receive His word. They will be delivered just like Noah and his family.

At the mid-point of the tribulation the Antichrist will stand in the newly built temple in Jerusalem and declare himself to be the Christ (24:15). From that day Israel will suffer unprecedented persecution (24:16-21). The world will be at war and Jesus says that war would end in annihilation of all mankind if He did not intervene (24:22). In order for God to fulfil His covenant with Abraham and King David, Israel must survive. This is why Satan has repeatedly attempted to destroy Israel. This last attempt will also fail.

The only sign that will precede Christ’s return is given to us in 24:27 & 30. This will be at the end of the tribulation and reminds us of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul saw his experience as foreshadowing Israel’s experience when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 15:8).

Misplaced Sentiment

“Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’” Matthew 16:22

In the following verse Jesus attributes these words of Peter as having their source in Satan. This same Peter had just spoken words that had their source in the Father (vv 16, 17). This is an indication of what happens when we allow sentiment to overshadow the words of Jesus and the plan of God. Sentiment is a good attribute but like all good things it can be expressed wrongly.

Many people are expressing this kind of sentiment when they advocate euthanasia. From a sentimental and a godless world view this seems logical. The value of every human life is seen in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Our value is in the love God has for us. Man was created in God’s image to live forever.

For the one without Christ bodily death is the beginning of eternal suffering, not relief from suffering. Those who choose euthanasia are in for a catastrophic disappointment. End of life suffering may be the motivation for many lost people to turn to Christ at the last minute.

John 3:18 tells us that people who are condemned to an eternity of God’s wrath are those who have not believed the Gospel of Christ. It tells us that condemnation does not begin at death or the judgment; they are already condemned and waiting for the sentence to be carried out. The reason they are condemned is not because they told a lie, robbed a bank or murdered someone. It is because they have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. As long as they live that Door is open if they will enter it (John 10:7-8).

We must be careful not to make ourselves judges of God through our exercise of sentiment. Is God good? Is God kind? Is God love? Is God just and righteous? Is God Holy? The answer to all of these is, Yes, and He is always exercising these attributes. The world without God comes to the conclusion there is no God of love because of all the suffering in the world. Let us not be among them lest we find ourselves joining them in calling God unloving. Sin’s origin is in Satan and man not God. God, in love, provided redemption (Romans 5:6, 8).

Appealing to Pride

“We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God” Daniel 6:5

Because Daniel was faithful in all his service and work (v 4) he was much liked by king Darius (v 3) and he was raised to authority over all other leaders and governors (vv 1 & 2). This aroused jealousy and greed in those under him and they formed a lobby group to plot his demise. They could find no just accusation against him to present to the king so they had to manufacture one and they knew that it would have to be in relation to his worship of his God.

Their scheme involved deceiving and manipulating the king by appealing to his pride. Satan has used this tactic frequently through history – because it worked and still works. Only a person who walks humbly with God (Micah 6:8) has any protection from this tactic.

Pride allowed the king to be deceived and manipulated into signing what was essentially Daniel’s death warrant. Satan’s goal has been and remains to utterly destroy Israel. If Israel is destroyed then Messiah will have no kingdom to return to and God will be proven unfaithful to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Protection of Daniel meant protection of Israel.

In recent years we have seen a lobby group seeking the demise of God’s faithful people. Like the governors of Daniel’s day they could find no legal reason to silence them so they sought to bring into being a law that would put God’s people at odds with the government. They deceived and manipulated political leaders and the people in order to have laws passed that they hoped would silence God’s people. Whether their appeal was to pride or greed in our politicians could be debated. Either way, the politicians wanted to be re-elected. Satan wants to destroy the faithful church as well as Israel.

Daniel was delivered from the lions’ mouths and the faithful church will be delivered from Satan’s power and from God’s wrath that is to come (Revelation 3:10). Those who plotted against Daniel were all destroyed (Daniel 6:24) as will all who plot against Christ’s church. To plot against Christ’s faithful church is to plot against the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-5; Colossians 1:18) and, like king Darius, He will turn judgment back on those who plotted against Him.

Following Jesus

“Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men” Mark 1:17

The Gospels record Jesus calling men to follow Him several times. At times it was just one person being called at other times more than one.

The initial call to follow Jesus is that one may learn who He is and learn His ways but Jesus attached an outcome for those who genuinely followed Him – they would become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). They would reproduce. In order for reproduction to occur several things need to be in the heart of the disciple.

Not everyone will accept Jesus’ terms. Some make excuses (Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62). Some weigh the cost and see it as too high, preferring the riches of this world rather than riches in Christ. The rich young ruler was this kind of man (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22).

The cost of self sacrifice, taking up one’s cross, is too much for many, even many who claim to be followers of Jesus. How can one be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and not be willing to become a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1)? Jesus willingly went to the cross and died for our sin so how is it possible to refuse to follow His lead to be a living sacrifice and still call ourselves followers of Jesus?

The great commandment is that we love both God and our fellow man (Matthew 22:37-39). The kind of love that we will have when following Jesus is His kind of love described in 1 John 3:16“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” and John 3:16. To refuse to love in this way is a refusal to follow Jesus.

Recorded by all three synoptic Gospel writers are Jesus words, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). That they all recorded this surely means we must accept that this is a water-shed condition of any disciple of Jesus especially if we wish to work with Him in making more disciples (Matthew 28:19).

Many of us want to choose our own place of sacrifice and ask Jesus to come along and bless it but for us to be followers it means discerning the place of sacrifice that He has chosen for us and follow Him there. As Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 12:26).

At Odds With God

Thus says the Lord God: “Because you clapped your hands, stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain for the land of Israel … I will stretch out My hand against you … I will cut you off from the peoples, and I will cause you to perish from the countries; I will destroy you, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 25:6-7

This proclamation was made against the people of Ammon, descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot. It should be fair warning to the nations of the world who find pleasure in any pain Israel suffers. The Lord had allowed Assyria and Babylon to take Israel and Judah captive as a means of chastisement but always with the goal of their repentance and restoration. This is yet to be accomplished but the Lord frequently asserts that it will. This chastisement will bear fruit in its time to the glory of God.

The accusation that Jews killed the Son of God and therefore have been rejected by God forever is false. The Jews did not kill Jesus and neither did the Romans. They wanted Him silenced by death but they did not kill Him.

As pictured when Abraham offered up his son Isaac, it was God the Father who killed the Son. Like Isaac, Jesus gave himself into the hands of the Father (Luke 23:46). Unlike Abraham, the Father took the life of His only Son to satisfy the debt of sin (John 18:11).

People who find pleasure in Israel’s continuing chastisement and suffering can expect to receive the same judgment as the people of Ammon. The reason being is that they have not believed the word of God regarding God’s mercy toward Israel.

One cannot call God a liar and go unchallenged by God. Many nations and kings have discovered this to their demise and destruction. The mighty empires and nations that did so are all gone and those currently lifting up their hearts in pride against the Lord will likewise come to an end. This is the prophetic revelation of Daniel 2 & 7.

Sadly some in the professing Church find pleasure in Israel’s suffering. Unwittingly they have placed themselves at odds with Jesus Christ whom they claim to serve.

Speaking of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out … and I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and will bring them to their own land'” (Ezekiel 34:11, 13).

The Insanity of Idolatry

“It is the land of carved images and they are insane with their idols” Jeremiah 50:38

The reason for God’s judgment of a nation is expressed in several ways but it always boils down to man’s pride.

Against the people of Moab Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being arrogance: “Because he exalted himself against the Lord” (Jeremiah 48:42). The people of Moab are not alone in this. Satan’s lie (Genesis 3:5) is gladly consumed these days although the source of the lie is denied. In order to do what seems right in their own eyes people declare they are answerable to no one. Exalting themselves against the Lord they deny His existence and His word. In doing this they confirm their enmity with God. Mercy, love and forgiveness are available through Jesus Christ but when God’s existence is denied all these provisions are also.

Against Babylon Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being idolatry (Jeremiah 50:38 quoted above). We still observe people worshipping the works of their hands. The objects of worship may not be in the form of statues of wood, stone or metals. The things that are idolised may be cities, buildings, ships, bridges and other structures. There are TV programs that assist in worshipping these works of the hands of people. Likewise people may worship the talents of athletes, singers and actors.

Rarely does anyone give God the glory for these abilities and talents because they prefer to exalt themselves above the Lord. They forget that it is God who “made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heaven by His understanding” (Jeremiah 51:15). It is the Lord who created all the materials, laws and principles in creation that people use to make their objects or perform their art yet they will not give Him the glory. We ought to remember that our next heartbeat and our next breath are at His pleasure.

The last time God judged the whole earth He sent a flood. The rainbow is both a sign that He has judged and destroyed the whole earth, except those on the ark, and that He will not do so again by flood. Next time it will be by fire (2 Peter 3:7, 12).

Jesus gives us the principle that we should follow: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Silencing Christ

“Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up …” Jeremiah 32:3

We use the phrase, “Shut up” to mean “be quiet” and that is the reason King Zedekiah had imprisoned Jeremiah. Zedekiah only wanted to hear good forecasts and no bad forecasts. The king’s own prophets only prophesied good things; they claimed they came from the Lord, but they were lying. Jeremiah did receive prophecies from the Lord – which was proven when his, and only his, prophecies came to pass.

The nature of sin has not changed since Adam, and remains the same now. People don’t want to hear that which is unpalatable to them. Fortunately God is pursuing people and some do relent and repent. I shudder when I think of what my destiny would have been had He not pursued me!

The Lord’s complaint against Judah was, “This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts … is profitable for nothing” (Jeremiah 13:10); they had forgotten the Lord and “trusted in falsehood” (Jeremiah 13:25). Unfortunately there are those who claim the name of Christ who refuse to take God at His word but distort, revise or spiritualise it with the result that they speak lies in His name. Jeremiah lived in this kind of society.

Because the king and other leaders of Judah did not want to hear the truth they moved to silence Jeremiah. If the general populace heard the truth they might believe it and that would undermine the authority and economics of the king. Their way to silence him was to imprison him. Many countries around the world are imprisoning God’s messengers and we are not immune. The upside is that the Gospel is being preached in prisons.

Jesus’ followers were tested when He was taken prisoner and even more so when He was crucified. Many stopped following Him. Those who later followed the risen Christ were often imprisoned, and faced or suffered death because of their faith in Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees wanted to silence Jesus permanently so they sought His death.

Jesus warned that we should expect similar persecution and tribulation. We don’t seek it – but because we faithfully speak His word some people will seek to silence us. We would be following a growing list of faithful men and women of which some are mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven.

Humble in Heart

“On this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” Isaiah 66:2b

We all desire that other people see us in a favourable light. What other people think of us has power over us; but we may discover one day that few thought much about us anyway. There is only one person’s favour that is worthwhile and that is God’s.

The world holds in high esteem the bold, the brave, the talented and the prominent; but the news in recent times is that many who were once held in high esteem have a dark past which is now coming to light. People who held sway over the opinions of many are being revealed as unworthy of that esteem.

If we want God to look favourably on us we need to know who He does so regard. In the verse above He gives two of the qualities absolutely vital to receiving God’s favour: a poor spirit and a contrite spirit. There are others not mentioned here but mentioned in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

One who is poor in spirit is one who knows they are absolutely bankrupt when it comes to God’s righteousness. The proud and arrogant person knows nothing of this and continues to show God and everyone how self-righteous he is. The measure of righteousness that qualifies for heaven is Jesus Christ Himself. Though some seem to think they do, no man measures up to God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:20).

One who is of a contrite spirit is one who has a repentant heart toward God because of his poverty of spirit in righteousness. Instead of trying in vain to measure up he accepts that he falls short of God’s righteous measure and seeks God’s mercy, forgiveness and righteousness as a gift by faith (Romans 3:19-31).

God says through Isaiah that He will not look favourably on the self-righteous but will look favourably on the person who acknowledges their sinfulness and bankruptcy in righteousness. Such a one is in a blessed place because he/she will seek God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Only a person humble in heart will tremble at God’s word and, with a repentant heart, seek and receive His forgiveness. The proud and arrogant do not do so because they don’t believe they need it.

No Disappointment

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure” Isaiah 46:10

There are many ways that people have sought to discover future events in their lives but all fail. Fallen mankind will look for knowledge of the future everywhere except to their Creator. Yet God is the only one who is outside time and therefore knows in detail all that is to come. This is why He said through Isaiah, “To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me that we should be alike?” (Isaiah 46:5). We have tried to place our astrologers, crystal ball readers and the like on an equal footing with God. Think about this from God’s view point. In Psalm 2:4 we read, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.”

One of the key reasons that the Lord has made so much mention (much of it in considerable detail) of events, future to the time when given, is so that people will know the truth of Isaiah 46:9 when it comes to pass: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.” People may like to arrogantly argue and may think that they can find excuse but the Lord says, “I will not arbitrate with a man” (Isaiah 47:3). The Lord says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning … Suddenly I did them and they came to pass … I have declared it to you; before it came to pass … lest you say, ‘My idol has done them’ … I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 48:3-5, 11).

The reason the Lord tells us things to come is so that, when they happen in the detail He has given, we will know that He alone is God.

For now the world mocks those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even some Christians cast doubt on God’s faithfulness to His word especially in regard to His covenant with Abraham and King David. In Isaiah 49:6 the Lord promises to redeem both Israel and Gentiles. When this is eventually fulfilled everyone “will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23). Those who deny God’s faithfulness to His word will be greatly ashamed when He fulfills it in all the detail He has revealed. Those who live in expectation and faith that the Lord will fulfil His word will not be disappointed even if there is what we consider a long wait.