Each of the four gospels tells about the ministry of Jesus, but each comes at the story from a different angle, being aimed at a different audience, and for a different purpose.
Matthew describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Jesus walking along the sea shore encountering a group of fishermen cleaning up after a night of fishing, and shouting, “Follow me!” Peter, Andrew, James, and John immediately abandon their boats and nets and fall in behind Jesus – seemingly without a clue of who Jesus was or why they were going with Him.
Luke goes into much more detail, starting with Jesus going home with Peter (then called Simon) for a meal and healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. In a later incident, Jesus was teaching one morning along the sea shore where these four fishermen were mending and drying their nets. He asks Peter to take Him in his boat out a short distance from shore so He could speak without the crowds pressing in around him. Peter complies. Afterward, Jesus tells Peter to let his nets down for a catch. Continue reading Stepping Stones
Jesus was a Jew. He was born into the nation of Israel to Jewish parents. He was raised in the belief and traditions of Judaism. When Jesus taught about God and His Kingdom to come, he addressed, almost exclusively, the nation of Israel. Jesus brought His message of salvation to the chosen people of God first.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would free them from Roman bondage and make their nation great among the nations of the earth again – as it was in the days of David.
When John the Baptist began his ministry, he announced the arrival of their king. When Jesus began working miracles and teaching the people amazing things, they knew He was someone special, and they followed him around in droves. Continue reading Jesus, Judaism, and Belief
These days many people claim to be Christians and speak out on social issues claiming to be imparting a Christian stance. Some people point fingers at one another and say, “I am a true follower, you are an imposter.” How can we decide who is truly a follower of Jesus Christ and who is using that personification to promote their own agendas?
I John 2:3 gives us a very simple test that can be used to validate (or invalidate) a claim of being a true follower of Jesus. I would suggest, however, that we all use this test on ourselves before attempting to quantify anyone else.
1 John 2:3-5 (NKJV)
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. Continue reading The Test of Knowing Him
Just as Jesus once slept peacefully in the stern of a boat while his disciples fussed and fretted over the raging storm, He also rested in a tomb as his followers dealt with a storm of confusion, disappointment and fear. A day after his death, these emotions cycled endlessly through their minds. Memories of the time they spent with him, planning and hoping for the new order they expected Him to lead them into played there too. Memories of what it felt like to walk upon a rolling sea, to feed five thousand people with the lunch of one small boy, to see Lazarus’s burial clothes left in the dirt, no longer needed. No doubt they were heartsick with confusion. What had gone wrong? Continue reading Good Friday
Today is Good Friday so I thought I’d share a piece by my friend and mentor Dr. Calvin Metcalf about why the resurrection of Jesus is important. For Christians, the events of this weekend are the nail upon which our entire belief swings. For us it has nothing at all to do with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, peeps or baskets filled with candy. All of these came from an ancient Celtic rite of spring worshiping the goddess Esther; the goddess of spring and rebirth. For us it is the self-sacrifice of Jesus and his rebirth that matter. If you don’t choose to believe as I do, that’s your choice; peace be with you.
The spiritual and emotional energy for Christianity comes from the Resurrection. No other event is as pivotal to the expression of our faith. It is the focus of our theology. We may disagree on the particulars of our faith, but we cling to the Resurrection. Our day of worship coincides with Resurrection day. For most Christians the Sabbath gives way to Sunday simply because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Some of our most optimistic and powerful hymns feature the Resurrection. Gospel sermons resonate with a strong emphasis on the risen Christ. It is an inescapable fact that Christians are an Easter people. We are nurtured in the Resurrection conversation.
Because of the Resurrection we are not worshiping a dead hero, but a risen Savior. Our Lord’s teaching and example were good in and of themselves, but the Resurrection gave impetus to all He said and did. It validated who He was and gave credence to His proclamation. His whole life pointed to this ultimate miracle. Without it His followers could have been disillusioned by seeming defeat. Without it Christianity might not have survived the first century and the memories of those closest to Jesus.
There is a tremendous note of victory produced by the Resurrection.
From the despair of Good Friday the disciples rejoiced in the presence of the risen Christ. Because Jesus survived death, hell and the grave they began to feel it was also possible for them. Because of the Resurrection there is the feeling of eternity about our life in Christ. The future loses some of its mystery because death cannot keep it prey. We began to sense that life is headed somewhere. We are not on a dead-end street identified by a grave marker. We too anticipate a resurrection.
The Resurrection is a strong reminder that evil will not have the last word. Although it seems to prevail in this life, we are moving toward its defeat. People who hate and murder, lie and steal, or cause confusion and discord are not an Easter people because Easter people rejoice in good and not evil. No one deserves it, but everyone is invited to God’s great Easter party. Come, let us celebrate. He has risen. Indeed He has risen.