Jesus had lived as a son, brother, neighbour, friend or acquaintance for 30yrs in Nazareth. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus nearly 900yrs before;
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2)
Jesus was remarkably normal to those around Him, Jesus was fully man. But as his public ministry begins and as John begins to testify about Him John records the early moments and in John 1:35-51 there are six adjectives that help to answer the question; Who is Jesus?
The Lamb of God
This phrase sums up Jesus’ purpose. He came to give His life as the ransom price for all those who would put their faith in Him. Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole sacrificial system of worship, repentance and forgiveness, He is the only sacrifice that ever gave His life willingly and the only perfect once and for all sacrifice.
This phrase describes Jesus’ role. He came to deliver and redeem His people. Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and amazingly even in these first encounters the disciples had some revelation that this is who Jesus was.
Jesus of Nazareth son of Joseph
This description sums up Jesus’ humanity. Jesus is and was a historical figure, known by those who lived at the time, known in a time and place. Jesus is not some mystical figure but was so human some of those eyewitnesses battled to believe He was God.
We know from numerous accounts in the Gospel’s that Jesus was a gifted and authoritative teacher. At times Jesus let people use this title for Him as He taught a lot about the kingdom yet occasionally Jesus rebuked those who used it in a way that limited His deity and authority (The rich young ruler). Jesus is the omniscient God, no wonder He taught with authority on all topics He chose to.
The Son of God
This title speaks of Jesus’ primary relationship & His identity. He is the second member of the Trinity, begotten and beloved Son as the Father exclaimed from heaven more than once to those present to hear. The gospel of John makes Jesus identity as the Son a central theme.
The King of Israel
This title speaks of Jesus’ kingly position. As the revelation of the disciples grows Jesus becomes seen to them not just as the King of Israel but the King of kings, Lord if all!
Behold Jesus! What a Saviour, what a King!
As we start December, what a fitting way to begin contemplating who Jesus is and why He came to earth.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
God became flesh. Creator God entered His creation. God moved into the neighbourhood of people like you and I. God who is not constrained by time and space constrained Himself to time and space. God, who does not change, became like us so as to communicate with us, be understood by us, and ultimately so that He could die for us in our place for our sin! God the immortal One, took on mortal flesh so as to give us immortality.
Behold Jesus! Mystery, wonder, awe, worship…
And why? Why did God do this? Why did Jesus enter our humanity?
So that He could become the sacrificial atoning Lamb of God who could take away the sins of the world (vs29). He had to become like us, so that he could die for us in our place for our sin.
So that God could adopt as His own beloved children all those who believe in Jesus (vs12).
Jesus we stand amazed. Jesus there is no one like you, no one who can compare, no one who has gone to such great lengths to love us – we worship You and adore You.
Read and re-read and re-read John 1:1-34. Be in awe and wonder, worship and delight in Jesus, in God.
In Mark 14 the central figure is Jesus. The Mark’s Gospel slows down in these final hours of Jesus’ life, earlier chapters sometimes covered multiple days but now it’s slowed right down, these final moments matter, these events show us who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for you and I.
The writer like a modern day director of a video, keeps switching perspectives, revealing how a whole variety of people saw Jesus, what they understood about who He was and what He had come to these final moments to do.
The Murderers (vs1-2)
Ever since Mark 3:6 thoughts about how to capture and kill Jesus were real. When the chief priests and scribes saw Jesus all they wanted to do was kill him, Jesus filled them with rage and fury – that was their perspective. It is possible to feel right about the wrong thing! They were convinced they were doing a right thing in planning to kill Jesus, felt justified in their actions, felt they were even doing a good thing. Is there anything you’ve convinced yourself of that you feel right about, but maybe is in fact wrong to do?
The Worshiper (vs3-9)
In sharp contrast we have the woman who boldly approaches Jesus lavishly pours out her love and thanks and devotion to Jesus in an act of worship fit for a king. He is worth it, her love for Him is worth expressing in this way, it is not wasteful as some felt, it is an entirely justified act of lavish beautiful worship according to Jesus (14:6). Does ‘lavish’ describe your devotion to Jesus Christ?
The Betrayer (vs10-11 & 44-46)
Was Judas one of those who protested at this woman’s wasteful worship? A whole years wages wasted on Jesus. Maybe he was happy for Jesus to be a good teacher, a miracle worker, but for people to worship Him in this way – inappropriate, too much, wasteful and wrong…? He is not with Jesus, his heart has shifted, and so he decides to betray Jesus for a some of money. How could someone be so close, in the tight circle with Jesus and yet be unmoved by Jesus at a heart level? Proximity to Jesus does not guarantee faith in Jesus and love for Jesus.
The Friends (vs12-21)
It’s festival time, it’s that time for meals with close family. The close friends and followers of Jesus want to prepare a meal for the Passover. Jesus knows it is His last meal with these ones He has shared His life with, these ones He has invested the most in, and these ones He is about to leave to continue the Father’s will on the planet. They share a meal but there is an awkward moment in the meal as Jesus reveals to them that one of them has it in his heart to betray Him.
The Inner Circle (vs32-42)
The three closest to Jesus are called by Jesus to follow Him into the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus calls them to watch and pray. Jesus is not Himself, they see Jesus distressed, troubled, saying disconcerting things… ‘What’s going on?’ they must have wondered but exhausted they fall asleep more than once leaving Jesus alone in His hour of need as He cries out to the Father if there is any other way. How alone Jesus must have felt, even His closest disciples aren’t there when He needed them. Graciously still, Jesus knows, their hearts are with Him but their bodies are weak (vs38).
The Father (vs36/39)
Was the Father crying with Jesus? What was it like for the Father to hear His Son crying out, Father “remove this cup from me” and to remain silent because there wasn’t another way. Oh how deeply our salvation cost the Father and the Son! Did the Father look away because He could no longer look on His Son, writhing in prayer? Oh what pride and love must have swelled in the heart of the Father to see and hear the Son say; “Yet, not what I will, but what You will.” (vs36)
The Deserters (vs43-52)
Everyone left Jesus, abandoned Him. Not one remained. Alone.
The Accusers (vs53-65)
Jesus – arrested for nothing, falsely accused with trumped up charges that weren’t even consistent. He remained silent before them, didn’t try to defend Himself like He could have and only answered when the High Priest said; ‘Are you the Christ?’ “I AM” Jesus said. I am God, I am the Messiah and you will see it in time to come Jesus went on to say. For which they began to beat Jesus and spit on Him and mock Him.
The Denier (vs66-72)
Although he had deserted along with the rest of them, Peter loved Jesus and so followed at a distance, looked on at His trial. But when challenged regarding his relationship with Jesus he too deserted Jesus denying Him with his words, over and over again. He believed he wouldn’t, believed he would risk all to follow Jesus, but he didn’t and it impacted him deeply.
Who is Jesus to you? What’s your perspective?
Do you truly see what He has DONE for you?
Will you live your whole life as a lavish worship response?
To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments. We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.
The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues. However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!
Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst. Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.
And Jesus connects this with how we treat others. If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us. This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.
Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven. That’s true godliness, true holiness. That’s what we should be majoring in!
And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God. And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response. #moreinawe
Jesus is characterised by the unexpected. The Jesus of Scripture doesn’t fit into the box of neatly arranged human expectations. Some people walk around with “WWJD” rubber bracelets with the intention of suggesting we should live like Jesus, but what would Jesus really do in many situations?
For example: if you come across a deaf guy with a speech impediment like Jesus did in Mark 7:31-37. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well Jesus stuck His fingers in the mans ears, spat and then touched the mans tongue and he was healed!
Or again, if you come across a blind man like Jesus did in Mark 8:22-26. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well again, Jesus spat, this time on the man’s eyes, laid hands on him and he was healed after praying initially and then praying again.
I would hazard a guess that these are not suggested methods in many; ‘How to heal manuals’. You can’t put Jesus in a box you’ve made for Him.
Seeing all that Jesus was doing, people began to have growing opinions regarding who Jesus was and what He had come to do. Was Jesus, John the Baptist raised from the dead or Elijah or one of the other prophets raised from the dead? Why was Jesus here, what had he come to do?
In that moment, Peter has a revelation and exclaims; “You are the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 8:29). In that moment, God the Father reveals to Peter WHO Jesus really is (Matthew 15:17), the long-anticipated Messiah.
But still Jesus will not be boxed by our limited expectations regarding what Jesus had come to do. The Jewish people had been anticipating the Messiah for hundreds of years, they had hoped that the Messiah would deliver them from human oppression and the national disgrace they’d endured under foreign ruling powers. Peter and others expect that the Messiah will deliver them from Roman rule and oppression…
And so when Jesus starts to teach about how he is going to suffer and be rejected and be killed…Peter can’t handle it! You can imagine him crying out; “No, Jesus”, ”This is not how it is supposed to be”. He wants Jesus to fit into his box, but Jesus won’t.
Jesus rebukes Peter, calls him out as doing Satan’s work in resisting what Jesus is saying is his ultimate mission. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)
We do this at times don’t we? We want Jesus to fit into the box we have made for Him? I sometimes encounter people who will use the phrase, “Well my Jesus wouldn’t do that/say that/expect that…”
But if He is YOUR JESUS then He is not the Jesus revealed in Scripture. Reading the Gospels it is apparent to me that the disciples were on a journey of discovery, learning more and more (often in unexpected ways) about WHO Jesus was and WHAT Jesus had come to do on planet earth.
May I, may we remain humble, open to the real Jesus revealed in Scripture.
May we always be in awe & wonder at WHO Jesus is & WHAT Jesus did for us.
And then may we worship Jesus with our whole lives.
Why trumps what! Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.
The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.
These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!
Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).
So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.
You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.
God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.
This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;
‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel
God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!
So, gaze again at Jesus! Consider who He is and what He has done for you. Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you. What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.
Psalm 84 was written in the era of the old covenant when God’s presence was tied to a place but now in this era of Jesus having come, the temple curtain having been torn and the Holy Spirit having been sent by the risen Christ this is my re-mix version of the Psalm especially in the light of John 1:1-14 & 1 Corinthians 6:19. Original in italics, remix in bold.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
How special & privileged are all people in whom Your Spirit dwells now, God almighty!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;
My soul longs for, yes even despairs when I am not intimate with You Father;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
My heart, my whole being responds to your tangible presence, God who is alive in me.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even sparrows have a place they belong, & swallows a place of safety for bearing young
at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. In Your presence O God almighty
They’re in Your presence continually almighty God, my King and my God
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah
Blessed are those who live aware of your presence, they will always be worshipping You!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
those whose hearts are set on eternity with You now and forever.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
Because You’re with them, even in them, even desolate hard times & places can be transformed into times & places full of the life of God & refreshing;
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
Those who walk with You and with You in them are getting stronger each day until each one appears in glory in Your glorious presence at Your appearing at the end of the age.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
God almighty, Father God, God of covenant promises please hear my prayer now.
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
I speak to myself saying; ‘Behold your defender, God with you’. Father please see me now.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Father God, better is one day with You, in your presence, having You within me than thousands elsewhere far from You.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
The allure of the world has no allure for me I am content to know You, to know Your presence to know I am your child, I don’t need fame or fortune when I have You.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.
God You’re the One who gives me life, You’re my protector, You bless me again and again and care about my honour.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
God, You are better than I could have ever imagined, more gracious, loving, generous & kind towards those who have put their faith in You.
12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
God almighty, blessed is anyone who puts their trust in You!
And so we encounter the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.
In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham leaves the young men travelling with them behind with these words: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (my emphasis).
This chapter (Gen 22) is an amazing picture (shadow) of the sacrificial journey of Jesus:
He is the only Son of God, just as Isaac was the son of promise, the heir.
Abraham placed the wood for the sacrifice onto Isaac’s shoulders, foreshadowing the way Jesus’ cross was placed on His shoulders and He had to walk with it through the streets of the city to Golgotha.
Isaac cried: “My father!” and received the comfort of his father’s reply: “Here am I, my son” (verse 7). In contrast, Jesus called out in anguish and pain, forsaken by God (Matt 27:46) so that we never have to go through the utter desperation of ever being without our Father.
And then there is Abraham’s profound answer to Isaac’s concern about the absence of a sacrificial animal: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (verse 8). God, the Father asked His Son, and Jesus offered Himself, to once and for all atone for the sins of the world.
What great courage, what great FAITH! No wonder Abraham is mentioned several times in the faith hall of fame as described in Hebrews 11! He was willing to literally sacrifice this son for whom he had to wait so long!
Abraham had an absolute trust in God – that He would provide an outcome. In Hebrews 11:19 it says that Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham understood something of the awesome power of God. Some say that he saw a vision of the future redemptive and death-conquering work of Jesus – the Lamb of God, on the cross. He didn’t look up to see the ram God provided, because it was caught in a bush behind him (verse 13).
So, worship, in this context could be interpreted as submission to the will of God, a picture of humility before the sovereign King. The Greek word “shachah” (worship), used here, speaks of a posture of homage, bowing down in worship to God as a response to His great power.
“This act of worship is given to God because He deserves it, and because those who are speaking are people of His pasture” (Strong’s Concordance).
There is a special, priviledged relationship between God and those who are called as His own. As believers, we have the intimacy of children with their father, but we always, always have to remember with reverence that our Father is the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, Immutable God!
We have free access to the innermost parts of the throne room, and our response is to bow down, to submit in immediate obedience, to pay homage to our Great God.
“Shachah” is more than a posture of the body, it is a position of the heart, which influences the actions, words, thoughts and lifestyle of one who worships God. It is a life focused on God.
by Lise Oosthuizen
A lot can be said about what praise is – what does it mean in our context of following God, to praise Him? One definition that makes a lot of sense to me is “to tell of all the wonderful things God has done”, to testify. So praising God has an aspect of reminding the next generation of how great, powerful and faithful God is, and so encourage and strengthen their faith.
We learn more about the person of God each time we experience His living involvement in our lives – we get to know Him uniquely as Saviour, Provider, Friend, Father, Counsellor… Some of those moments or glimpses of His care and love may fade or even go unnoticed, but nothing sticks in the mind like a miracle!
Psalm 66:5 – 7 is a song of praise – it says: “Look what God has done!” So I had a look at the two parallel miracles that verse 6 speaks about:
“He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot.”
Exodus 14 tells the story of how God did the amazing miracle of parting the Red sea so that the Israelites could escape the pursuing Egyptian army, trekking through the sea on dry land.
“Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses” (v 30-31).
Exodus 15 records a song of praise by Moses and a praise dance and song by his sister Miriam. These songs probably became part of the cultural heritage of the Jews, so that the generation who experienced the wonder, could inform and encourage their children.
Unfortunately this generation was destroyed during their 40 year wandering in the wilderness, and when the next generation is standing at the threshold of their inheritance – the promised land, God renews their faith by doing the miracle that probably immediately brought back their parents’ testimony – He dried up a path for them to cross the Jordan river!
At the Red sea God protected and saved them from the pursuing enemy. At the Jordan river God promises to “without fail drive out from before you the (enemy)…” (Jos 3:10). He affirms His protective involvement with His people.
These two miracles gave the nation of Israel an amazing testimony. But God’s work is never one-dimensional and for both Moses and Joshua these miracles were God’s confirmation to them and to the nation that God elected them to lead His people.
Let us hold on to the miracles God performs in our lives. They may be little things that happen in answer to heartfelt prayer, they may be breathtaking and make us want to run out and tell everybody. I make a point of sharing my big and small testimonies with my children, but I’m challenged to also record what God does in my own and my family’s lives, to be able to carry the testimony to the next generation. Each testimony strengthens our faith in the living God we serve!
by Lise Oosthuizen
We don’t always feel like worshipping. When the circumstances of our lives are dire, when we are feeling attacked by others or crushed by the pressures of some circumstance, we might not ‘feel’ like worshiping but that is exactly the moment we could to choose to worship God as David did from the cave of Adullam.
In this moment in David’s life he was being accused and persued by his own people as an outcast. Psalm 57:4 captures the feelings he was experiencing;
My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts – the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords (Psalm 57:4)
In moments like this when it feels like everyone, everything is against me, it is possible to be overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings regarding your plight, in moments like these we are often more inclined to grumble concerning our plight…
But not David in this psalm. David might feel desperate but he chooses to worship God in the midst of his trial, in the midst of the very real and present threat of danger he is in.
In verse 1 in prayer he throws himself into God’s mercy and declares that God is his refuge, a safe place to shelter in until the storms pass by. But by verse 5 begins to worship, he might not feel like worshipping but worship he does;
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalm 57:5)
He contrast between vs4&5 is extreme. David has chosen to worship God, his eyes have lifted from his circumstances so that he sees God again as He is, exalted as the glorious One in the heavens!
Worship is a choice, not merely a feeling. And when we choose to worship even in the midst of perplexing and or challenging circumstances we have chosen wisely. We see more clearly, we get perspective, we get reconnected to the experience of God’s love for us.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! May we choose to worship not just when we feel like it but because God is worthy of our worship because of who He is and what He has done.