In Romans 9:1-16, we learnt that God is mercifully sovereign in choosing anyone to be His people.
(Romans 9:16-18): God’s sovereign choice of actions is not limited. God works in all of human history; God even works through evil despots for the purpose of His will – “that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (vs17). God is free as the sovereign One to have mercy on those He chooses to and to harden whomever He wishes for the broader purpose of His will.
God is not unjust in acting in this way. After all, as Paul demonstrated in the early chapters of his letter, that all human beings are sinful and guilty in God’s sight (3:9,19&23), nobody deserves to be saved or chosen by God. “Therefore, if God hardens some, He is not unjust, for that is what their sin deserves.” – John Stott
(Romans 9:19): But if God is so much in control and since we cannot resist His will – then the question arises; “How can God find anyone guilty?” The answer to this question completes the verses of the chapter.
(Romans 9:20–23): Scripture never defends God’s sovereign free will to choose to show mercy or to express His righteous wrath and to still hold people accountable for their sin. Instead, Scripture insists that we, as finite human beings, are totally out of order rebelliously questioning God’s ways! When we do so, we are like the clay disrespectfully calling the potter to account for his actions in choosing to make what He wanted to out of the clay. “God created a world in which both his wrath and his mercy would be displayed. Indeed, his mercy shines against the backdrop of his just wrath, showing thereby that the salvation of any person is due to the marvellous grace and love of God. If this is difficult to understand, it is because people mistakenly think God owes them salvation! ” (ESV Study Bible)
(Romans 9:24-29): In his grace and mercy, God has called people to himself from both the Jews and the Gentiles just as He promised He would do through the prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:23 & 1:10). God did this to illustrate His stunning undeserved grace. All people who are called by God are sinful underserving people; God has shown His grace to the Gentiles just as He showed His grace to Israel by saving them and choosing them as His own even though they were all undeserving. Anyone being chosen by God for mercy and not wrath is pure mercy on the part of God!
(vs27-29) Remember that not all of ethnic Israel was saved, or were truly God’s people, but only a remnant was the true Israel of God as was prophesied in Isaiah 10:22–23 and experienced salvation and not God’s judgement (Isaiah 1:9).
Are you battling with some of what’s revealed about God in Romans 9? Ask yourself why you’re battling? Is not all of Scripture God-breathed and useful to teaching and rebuking us (2 Timothy 3:16)? Are you not in danger of being the clay screaming at the potter about what ought and ought not to be? We need to be so careful that we do not elevate our thoughts or questions above the revelation of Scripture in such a way that we end up judging Scripture rather than allowing Scripture to interrogate our hearts and minds!
Spurgeon once said when asked about defending the Bible;
“Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it, and it will defend itself.”
This is the revelation of Scripture regarding God’s sovereign merciful free will in choosing some and not others to be saved. May we, may I humble ourselves grateful that God elected to choose to show mercy to us and may we rejoice in His gracious choice and worship Him for His mercy.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What does this passage teach me about God & faith?
2. What does this teach me about myself, what is God saying to me?
3. What should I do as a result?
We sinned, Jesus died. Why did Jesus do this for you and me? Could it be that we were somehow worthy of this incredibly selfless act? Paul is at pains to show that we did not merit this act of selfless love. He describes the state we were in at the point when Jesus chose to die for us in four ways;
– we were utterly helpless, unable to help ourselves (vs6)
– we were ungodly/wicked/irreverent (vs6)
– we were sinners entrenched in our rebellion against God (vs8)
– we were the enemies of God (vs10)
How worthy were we of this selfless act on the part of Jesus?
Jesus died for us ‘at just the right time’. Waiting any longer would not have helped matters. We were not going to improve our situation with more time none of the four characteristics Paul used to describe us would have changed with more time. But, what made it just the right time?
Jesus’ coming was preceded by the entire history of the people of God, the choosing of Abram, the covenant and the promises, the formation of a people, the exile, the giving of the Law & the system of atonement for sins & worship, the journey to the Promised Land, Israel’s rejection of God as King followed by one failed king after another, Israel’s continued cyclic disobedience and God’s grace & mercy and forgiveness & God’s sending multiple prophets to speak to His people of another era to come & more specifically of the coming Messiah God’s King of kings – all this made the timing of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death & resurrection just the right time.
Jesus’ coming to die in our place for our sin wasn’t just at the right time it was the primary demonstration of the love of God! (vs8)
The cross of Christ is the zenith of the demonstration of God’s love for you and me. Yes, we feel loved when there is an answer to some prayer of ours, or we feel God’s protection or provision or blessing. But these are secondary demonstrations of the love of God; nothing can compare with the cross as the ultimate expression of His love for us. Later in the letter, Paul will use this same argument, saying if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how much more will God not then also along with giving us Jesus give us all these other little things we need (Romans 8:32).
Don’t ever wonder whether God loves you – Jesus died on the cross for you! He did this while you were still an ungodly, helpless, sinner, who was His enemy! And now that you are no longer ungodly but righteous, no longer a sinner but a saint, no longer an enemy but a reconciled son or daughter of God & now that you are no longer helpless but have the Holy Spirit as your Helper – how much more will God not pour His love into your life (vs6)?
So when circumstances appear to shout that God doesn’t love you when your enemy the deceiver shouts God doesn’t have your best interests at heart (just like he did to Adam and Eve) – don’t listen, look again at the cross of Christ. Ponder what Jesus did for you while you were his enemy. Know that He loves you with an everlasting love and that this tough or confusing situation can’t mean that God doesn’t love you because nothing can unravel the zenith of God’s love demonstrated for you on the cross.
Friend, the future is impossibly bright for the believer. If you consider how God treated you while you were His enemy, can you imagine how God will overwhelm you now with His love since you have been reconciled back into right relationship with Him! (vs 9-11)
To underline his point, even more, Paul contrasts the results of the death of Jesus and the life of Jesus. Since the result of Jesus’ death that we were reconciled back to a right relationship with God, how much more shall our lives be healed & restored and our relationship with God be deepened as a result of Jesus’ resurrection life! Jesus resurrection life is what makes Jesus what Hebrews calls, the guarantor of a better covenant;
“This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25)
Because of Jesus’ eternal life, He is able to save us to the uttermost, to save us completely. And because of this, we rejoice!
Every person on the planet has to answer that question at some point in their life. Jesus is the central figure of all of human history, Jesus is the one person of whom it is not possible to have no opinion of or to ignore forever.
Those around Jesus in the crowds and amongst the pharisees, even the disciples themselves were all trying to work Jesus out! A man claiming to be God’s Son, the promised Messiah? Could it be? And if you think about it for even a moment, I believe that the vast majority of us would have been the same quandary.
Jesus knows this, and so probingly He asks the disciples; “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) The answer is diverse because the theories were diverse – no one really had a good handle of who Jesus was.
Some said Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (Matthew 14:1-2), some thought Jesus was the fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy (see Malachi 4:5) or maybe Jesus was in fact Jeremiah or one of the other prophets..?
All those responses were interesting but Jesus, getting right to the point then asks His disciples; “But who do you say that I am?” There’s no wriggle room here, they are on the spot…
All of us will face a moment just like this one at some point in our lives – “Who do you say that I am?”. In that moment there will be no referencing others, just the need to give an account for what we have believed about Jesus for ourselves.
I am certain there was a moment of silence before the disciples all felt a wave of relief wash over them as they heard Peter limbering up to speak first…
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” – Peter said to Jesus (Matthew 19:16)
Nailed it! Peter in a moment of revelation given to Him by God Himself (vs17) sees Jesus in splendid clarity. Jesus is the Messiah (the meaning of ‘Christ’), Jesus is the begotten Son of God. Truly God, truly man – what a mystery revealed. Peter didn’t just see Jesus in that moment, but Peter also believed what He saw about Jesus.
Who do you say Jesus is? You can delay your answer for a period of time. But in the end of the day, everyone of us will have to answer that question ourselves before Jesus.
So, what’s your answer?
I pray that you might have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that You may know Jesus fully (Ephesians 1:17) and I pray that you might have power to grasp the magnitude and magnificence of Jesus and His love for you. So that you like Peter would be filled with revelation knowledge of Jesus, and that as a result you might be filled to overflowing with the fullness of God in your life! (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Jesus is the Messiah, the only One worthy of all our worship and adoration. May you see those truths, may they transform you from the inside out, may they impact your life 24/7 and forevermore.
Lastly, if you already know Jesus as Messiah and Lord of your life, why don’t you choose three people in your life who wouldn’t yet answer Jesus as Peter did. Why not beginto pray for them. Start by praying the prayer I’ve prayed for you in the paragraph above. Pray that they would come to know and love Jesus. Then in addition to praying, invest in their lives relationally, and look then invite them to contexts that would help move them towards faith in Jesus.
Ten people all in a desperate situation. All outcasts excluded from society, from relationships and normal interactions. Everyone of them with their lives on hold because of a circumstance brought on by a physical condition. They all needed God.
One day none other than Jesus walks on to the horizon of their lives. Can you imagine the conversations bouncing around this motley gathering of people, united by misery?
“Is that Jesus of Nazareth?” “Isn’t he the man they say raised the young girl back to life?” “I heard he healed a man born blind” “Isn’t he the one they say calmed the storm on the lake with one command from his mouth?”…
It’s not hard to imagine the conversation excitedly ramping up then to something like;
“Guys this is our moment! If the stories about him are true maybe he will perform a miracle and heal us!” And so they cry out; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13)
Testimonies, God-stories about others encountering God can have an effect on our own faith. There is no evidence that this band of 10 believed at all in Jesus prior to this moment. But when Jesus was present, the testimonies of others primed their own faith causing them to believe that Jesus could have mercy on them and free them from their painful circumstances.
Jesus sees them. Jesus acknowledged these people who were outcasts and untouchables in that society. Jesus gives them dignity by responding to their cry for help. Jesus stops his journey to speak with them, Jesus is not too busy, not too self-important to stop for them. Jesus is amazing!
Just the other night I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of being totally unlike Jesus was here in this encounter. I had taken my wife out for a date and we had just had a nice meal. A man I had not seen before appeared out of the shadows near our car as we tried to get into it (as often happens in South Africa). He was looking for some money, which I was going to give, but then as we got really close he started suddenly pleading urgently and awkwardly and I baulked, got in the car and drove off – I am sad to say. In the moments that followed my sense of having not been like Jesus increased and so I repented and asked for God’s forgiveness. Now one could make arguments against giving in certain settings, but that’s not the point – the point is Jesus stopped and still stops for people and I want to be more like Jesus!
Jesus tells these 10, to go and show themselves to the priests which in our day equates to Jesus saying, “Go, get checked out by the Doctor and you’ll find you’ve been healed and can re-enter normal life!” (see vs14) They must have looked down at their various sores and lesions which Scripture did not say were healed instantly, rather it says; “And as they went they were cleansed.” (vs14)
It appears as though the healing required a second step of faith. Step 1 was believe Jesus can heal you and cry out to Him. Step 2 seems to have been for them believe Jesus that you won’t be wasting your time getting checked out to see if you’re healed because I am going to heal you. Step 3 “and as they went” they were healed. They had to take a step of obedient faith and then they were healed.
All 10 are healed as they go on their way and it seems 9 of the 10 just keep going and never come back to thank Jesus.
Sadly I have seen this pattern repeat itself over and over again over many years. We have prayed for countless unemployed people, or people wanting a better job, or marriages that are in need….and then when God breaks into people’s lives, in the moment that they should be thanking God, telling the God-story for God’s glory and then continuing to live for God – they disappear. God warned Israel of doing this to Him in Deuteronomy 8:11-20 saying; “take care lest you forget the Lord your God” (vs11) when God answers your prayers for a Promised Land, “beware lest you say in your heart, my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this” (vs17).
But one of the men did return to Jesus, fell on his face before Jesus’ feet and gave thanks worshipping Jesus for the miraculous and instant healing he had received. May we be like this guy! May we be those who honour God as the source of all good gifts to us.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
May we be those who don’t only remember God when we feel like we need Him, but who remember God when we need to praise, honour, worship and thank Him. After all God is worthy of praise always, everyday, for giving us Jesus who died on the cross for our sins and healed us not of some disease but delivered us from sin and sin’s punishment to come. Live your whole life as a response of love to Him.
God who encountered Moses in the burning bush moment, God who revealed Himself to Moses using the name; “I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:14) is the unseen Almighty God of Scripture. John in his gospel reveals that Jesus is the visible, tangible, personal revelation of that same unseen God, Yahweh (John 1:18).
In this encounter, Jesus is engaging with the Pharisees & Scribes who had just prior to his brought the adulterous woman to him in an attempt to catch him out and have him arrested. Jesus authoritatively restores the woman to a place of dignity and challenges them regarding their self-righteousness and spiritual blindness.
They’re still standing there in what appears to be a hostile mood and so Jesus engages them in some verbal jousting. Jesus is provocative! He uses a phrase translated “I am” 13 times in this single encounter. Now in one sense he is just using an ordinary phrase; “I am going” but He knew what He was doing. He was making a point implicitly which he eventually makes explicitly in vs58.
The Greek translation of the Hebrew OT (called the Septuagint) uses the same phrase Jesus uses 13x in His conversation with the Jews opposing Him here in the Genesis 3:14 account of God with Moses.
Here in John 8, the Jews are demanding that Jesus answer the question; “Who are you?” (vs25) and throughout this conversation Jesus is hinting at Exodus 3:14 until eventually He says it explicitly in John 8:58 and when He does they immediately picked up stones to stone Him on the spot as they got it – Jesus was claiming to be the same God who encountered Moses in Genesis 3:14.
Who is Jesus?
This is the question that every person on the planet needs to answer at some stage in their life or ultimately on the day Jesus Himself returns. And when it comes to this question, we really only have three options;
- Jesus is a ‘Conman’
- Jesus is a ‘Madman’
- Jesus is ‘God/man’
Some people would want to add that maybe Jesus was a simply a ‘Good man/Good teacher’ but that’s not an option really if you consider that we don’t call people who have delusions of deity good and would not encourage people to sit and learn from such people either – we would resign such a person to the Conman or Madman categories!
When Moses encountered God in the burning bush moment, God told Moses; “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) and in that moment in response “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6) Similarly, when Isaiah encountered God and saw a vision of God in glory in heaven, he crumpled before God falling on his face keenly aware of his sinfulness and God’s greatness (Isaiah 6) – this is who Jesus was claiming to be.
Friend, although Jesus was and is a man, don’t for a minute loose sight of the fact that He is one and the same God of glory, majestic and mighty, holy, or as Colossians 1 says of Jesus;
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
So, worship Jesus, stand in awe and wonder at Him, bow before Him and surrender your whole life to Him and then live the rest of your days for Him and for His purposes alone. Amen.
In Mark’s Gospel account, just after Jesus multiplied the five loaves and the two fish to feed the thousands, Jesus then encouraged the disciples to get into a boat and travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He stayed to dismiss the crowd.
Jesus created this God-moment! He did so by sending the disciples on before Him so that He could then walk by them on the water. Why?
Was it so that He could continue to answer their question recorded in Mark 4:41; “Who then is this; that even the wind and the sea obey him?” which had not yet fully answered by Him?
Do you ever get that feeling? Like God has organised things, events, timing, meetings with people, conversations and there is more going on that what’s maybe visible on the surface…? God does this all the time actually.
Here in Mark 6, we get to observe from the outside – and so it is relatively easy to spot God’s hand in the circumstances. However, it is not always so easy when we are in the thick of it.
Why did Jesus create these circumstances? Jesus wanted His disciples to know Him, to know His deity, His power over creation and the laws of nature (multiplying food, walking on water, healing diseases…). And so Jesus sent them ahead in a boat, fully intending always to catch them up by walking across the water, walking past them (vs48) so that they could see Him.
And when they do see Him, their first thought is not; “Hey Jesus!” Their first thought is more like; “WHAT! A Ghost!” Aren’t you and I like that?
We are all too often filled with fear not faith, doubt not delight. If they had been on land they would have probably run for their lives, but they were captive on that boat, captive to the circumstances. Sometimes we are in the midst of a circumstance God Himself has orchestrated but we don’t see God or His handiwork, we just see dimly and have a tendency to freak out like they did.
Jesus didn’t want to make them afraid, and God’s not playing with your emotions either. And so, as soon as Jesus sees their fearful terrified response He spoke to them calling out to them; “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid!”
Friend, God is always with you, even when you can’t see Him obviously, even when you can’t feel His presence or hear His voice above the storm and the winds of life. In those moments remember what God has promised; “never will I leave you and never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)!
So call out to Him, He is there and when you do call God will come rushing to you and will speak to you, comforting you as He comforted them with His words of affirmation, with His presence (Jesus climbed into the boat with them – vs51).
Just like the other storm which was calmed by Jesus authoritative words (Mark 4:35-41), this storm too suddenly abated and peace was restored. The disciples are dumbstruck, they are in awe and wonder, astounded (vs51) at who Jesus really is – God almighty.
God arranges moments in our lives that will help us to see Him more clearly, moments that will demonstrate who He is to us in ways that no sermon or song could ever convey.
So, next time there is something of a storm in your life, ask yourself whether God might be in the storm in some way? Ask whether God might be wanting to reveal something more of Himself to you? Call out to Jesus, He is there with you already, but He will come rushing to show Himself to you and to speak words that calm you just like He did for the disciples. Trust Him that He can silence wind and calm waves with one whisper of His voice. Worship Him, be amazed at Him, trust Him, grow in your love and knowledge of Him continually. Amen.
Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus! In Matthew and John’s accounts, at least 7 people have an encounter with Jesus, and in each person’s case that encounter transformed their lives forever.
Simon & Andrew were fishermen. Fishing and sea was their livelihood, it was what they did. They didn’t wake each morning wondering what to do, this was their income, it was even their defining identity. But with just one encounter, hearing Jesus’ compelling and challenging words; “follow me” they immediately left their nets, left their livelihood, left their identities as fishermen all in order to respond to Jesus.
Shortly thereafter, their business partners (James & John) similarly hear Jesus’ call to follow Him, and Scripture says that immediately they too left their nets, their identity, even their father and their servants (Mark 1:19) all to follow Jesus. Luke records summarily, “they left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).
The Gospel accounts don’t record much conversation really. And yet Jesus was so compelling that when He called them to follow Him, they answered and they did so wholeheartedly! Jesus redefined each of these four men. They had been ‘doers’, fishermen, defined by their work. Now they were in an instant defined as ‘followers’ of Jesus, new lives, new identity…
What did they encounter in Jesus that caused this reaction?
John’s account of the same events is full of revelation. John exclaims; “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:35). John in that moment has truly seen who the real Jesus is. Having spent some time with Jesus, Andrew finds his brother exclaiming; ‘we have found the Messiah’ (vs41), likewise Philip finds Nathanael and says in effect; ‘we’ve found the one the whole Law and the Prophets speak of – the Messiah’ (vs45) and Nathanael himself cries out; “Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (vs49). All these people encountered the real Jesus, the King of kings, the Messiah, the got it in those moments…
Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus!
None of them are left unchanged. Jesus changes their vocations, their identities, their relationships even their names! Following Jesus must have been exhilarating yes but it also came at with a high cost, with risk even. All these people have to leave things, people, what they knew for the unknown of following Jesus. They all paid a price in some way or another, and we too will be called to leave or let go at times as we follow Jesus.
Following Jesus was costly, following Jesus came with misunderstanding from others (imagine the thoughts, feelings and questions of the father of James and John’s, imagine their families, those who worked with them and those who knew them as fishermen…), and yet they never regretted it for a moment!
Those who truly encounter Jesus are transformed by Jesus. In fact if your life is not being transformed, if you haven’t felt the call to leave certain things behind, you have to ask whether you’ve met the real Jesus yet?
Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you again and again, in all His glory and majesty.
Hear His words to you; “Follow me”.
What do those words require from you right now today, at this moment in your life?
Is there anything you need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly?