Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jesus the Messiah

One of the many reasons we have four accounts of Jesus' life on Earth is that each of the writers; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were writing to different audiences.

Mark is written mainly to Gentiles, Luke to a possible defense lawyer named Theophilus, and John to second generation believers. But Matthew is tailor made for Jewish listeners. There are several aspects of that gospel account that present Jesus of Nazareth as the prophesied Messiah that the Jews were so longing for.

I want to look at just one of those "Jewish" parts of Matthew, and it's one we can contrast with how Luke presents the same material.

Look at Luke chapter 4:1-13. This is the temptation of Jesus and Luke puts the temptations in this order: stone to bread, all the kingdoms of the world if He bowed to Satan, throw yourself down and angels will save you. As far as Luke goes, I believe that he started telling the temptations in the wilderness and proceeded to the Temple of Jerusalem itself as a small illustration of Jesus' life and where His ministry would eventually lead him.

But, when we read Matthew, the temptations are in a different order: stone to bread, throw yourself down, and then all the kingdoms of the world. Now that's a subtle difference and, to a Gentile, it might not matter at all. I want to try to show you why a Jew would look at this as significant.

Let's take Matthew's order one at a time:

Chapter 4: 3-4 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Chapter 4: 5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angles concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Chapter 4:8-10 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Now that order, specifically Jesus' answers are paraphrased as this: "God's word is bread, God is not subject to our whim but is our Lord and Master, and God is to be worshiped alone."

It bears a striking resemblance to the Shema found in Deuteronomy chapter 6:5. "Hear O Israel! The Lord (is) our God. The Lord is One (The Lord alone)." Let me try to make this argument as follows:

Hear O Israel! This statement is a command for Israel to not only give God attention, but to give God the primary place, to give God's words that followed such reverence that they would become more important than air or water or BREAD! Jesus, I believe, calls the devil's attention to the command of God that man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. That is to truly hear!

The Lord (is) our God. To put it bluntly: God is not here for us but we are here for Him. To throw yourself off a wall and demand that God save you is not only arrogance it is dangerously close to blasphemy. God loves us and cares for us enough to send His only Son, but He is God and we are not. God is not to be put to our tests. Sometimes He tells us to try Him as in Malachi 3:10, but those times are purely by His grace, not the normal attitude we should have. The attitude Jesus had was that God's sovereignty should not be put to the test, but God should be honored in all things.

The Lord is One (The Lord alone). The Hebrew here is a warning against idolatry. The Lord is our God and no one else. This is obviously what Jesus is referring to when He rebukes Satan's attempt for his own praise with the words from the same scroll page as the Shema: Deut 6:13 "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.."

A Jew reading the temptations of Jesus would see One who could keep the entire Shema. They would see a man who loved His God with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His might. They would see the Messiah.

I hope that you see Him too. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

There's a stranger at the door

The story is told of a little girl who was taken to an art gallery by her father. The young girl showed very little interest in the masterpieces hanging on the walls until they came to a painting of a small country home. The inside of the house was visible even as the perspective came from the outside as the view was of a family sitting around a dinner table, clearly caught up in a joyous occasion.

Outside the door to the home was a tired looking older man who was knocking on the door trying to get the attention of those inside. The girl was fascinated with the poor beggar because those at the dinner table showed no interest in letting the man in.

"Who is he?" she asked her father.

The hesitation that her father showed in answering only increased her interest. "It's Jesus." he said after a long pause.

"Aren't they going to let him in?"

The father paused, then: "No. They aren't going to let him in."

"Is he bad?" the girl asked immediately.

"No! No, he isn't a bad man."

The girl stood still, her eyes fixed on the risen hand that knocked on the door. "Well, why won't they let him in?"

The father who clearly was uneasy about his daughter's questions tried to gruffly end the inquiry: "How should I know! It's just a silly painting."

The girl's attention was unfocused for the rest of the day as she clearly knew that her father was hiding things from her. During the ride home and that evening at home, there was tangible tension in the family. The daughter could only think of the tired, lonely, sad man at the door who only wanted to be let in.

Over dinner, her father asked her about everything else that happened that day but her attention was still on this Jesus character. After dinner, in her pajamas, she hopped on her father's lap and after a kiss on the cheek, she stated: "We'd let him in, wouldn't we, daddy?"

The girl blessedly didn't wait for an answer from her father but jumped down and ran to bed satisfied that her father was better than those who ignored Jesus.

But the words of his daughter had cut the father to his heart. "We'd let him in, wouldn't we, daddy?"

That's the question. Will you let Him in?

Revelation 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."