37. Missing the Point

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 37. Missing the Point

Mk 2:6-8 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?

When we allow prejudice to reign – for whatever reason – we take on a form of blindness. This is illustrated in these three verses. Bear in mind the fact that Jesus has been ministering for some time all over Galilees, large crowds have been getting healed and it has all been happening in the open. Nothing has been done behind closed doors! So these ‘teachers of the law’ must have known all about it, must of known all about the amazing healings that had been taking place, and must have already discussed among themselves the phenomenon that was Jesus of Nazareth at work!

If you and I had been there we might have simply wondered about this amazing miracle worker from Nazareth and that is all. However, we would not be Jews of that day, and especially those trained in the Scriptures that today we call the Old Testament. If we had been, we would have known the many Scriptures that pointed to a coming One, One promised by God, a deliverer from heaven – those are just some of the descriptions found in the Old Testament.

So, if we had been such trained individuals and IF we had open hearts and minds, we might be open to wonder what else God would permit His Anointed One (or Christ) to do. Perhaps He might even delegate authority to this One to forgive people. After all John the Baptist came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1:4)  In other words John came bringing as method of getting right with God which produced forgiveness of sins, so what was so different here?

The point that most of us miss is that the interpretation that these teachers of the law put on Jesus’ words is particularly antagonistic and looks, at the minimum, at stopping Jesus’ ministry, and at worst, killing him (for blasphemy was a capital offence under the Law). Yes, it was the truth – Jesus had come from heaven as the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh – but that wasn’t the only interpretation you could put on his words.  The crucial point here was how open were these teachers to the possibilities about the Coming One and especially in the light of all Jesus was doing and saying? Answer: they weren’t!

14. Fulfilment

Jesus in John’s Gospel : 14 : Jesus, fulfilment of prophecy

Jn 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

If there is one thing that comes over very clearly in the Bible it is that the coming of Jesus was no accident, no last minute idea of God, but part of a long-stated plan of the Godhead, formulated long before in heaven.  For the educated people of Jesus’ day the fact that God had spoken in the Old Testament period about a Coming One is quite clear, so let’s consider some of the prophetic verses that they knew about.

Gen 3:15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” i.e. someone in the human race would crush the work of Satan yet be injured by him in the process.

Gen 22:18 through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed i.e. the earth will be blessed by a descendent of Abraham’s family.

Gen 49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his i.e. a ruler will eventually come from the tribe of Judah who will rule over the nations.

Deut 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.” i.e. God will raise up a great prophet out of Israel.

2 Sam 17:12,13 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” i.e. from David’s family will come an eternal ruler.

Psa 2:2,6,7  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One..…I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill… You are my Son” i.e. God has an anointed one, a king, His Son who is coming.

Psa 110:1,2 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” i.e. God has a ruler who will come from heaven.

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanueli.e. a coming son will be called ‘God with us’.

Isa 9:1  in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan i.e. Galilee will be a place of special blessing.

These are just a sample of what some suggest are at least three hundred prophetic references in the Old Testament to the coming Messiah. It seems almost that every time prophets got tuned into heaven something of the theme of the Coming One broke through. It was almost as if it was something constantly there in the background of the Father’s mind, so even when He was sharing with His servants other present day issues, something of the blessing He had planned for the earth through His Son broke through in His thoughts. Throughout the whole of time prior to two thousand years ago, the Father had it in His mind, something they were constantly working towards. The Son leaving heaven and coming to the earth to save mankind was THE big event in the hearts in heaven, and then two thousand years back, all of the past planning came into being. He came!

12. The Messiah

Jesus in John’s Gospel : 12 : Jesus, the Messiah

Jn 1:41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

Messiah has been incorporated into our language to simply mean a liberator. Its use, strangely you might think, is very limited in the Bible. In the New Testament it is only here and in Jn 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. In the Old Testament it only appears in older versions twice in Daniel 9:25,26, although modern versions tend to simply translate it as the “Anointed One”

Now in the New Testament, ‘Christ’ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, ‘Messiah’ and messiah in the Old Testament simply meant ‘the anointed one’. So then we have to go back and consider what anointed meant. The first reference to anointed comes in Gen 31:13, I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.” When we go back to Gen 28:18  to see what this referred to we find, Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.” Anointing was this pouring oil on. Why did he do that? Presumably to make the pillar special, holy.

It would seem that Jacob caught something of what God would instigate later on: Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lamp-stand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.” (Ex 30:25-29) Thus the anointing of the tent, the utensils, the garments and the priests was to separate them out as holy, made for a special task.  The same thing subsequently happened in respect of kings, Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?(1 Sam 10:1) Prophets were also considered ‘anointed ones’, Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” (1 Chron 16:22)

The ‘Coming One’, the Messiah, we have already noted is seen in Daniel: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven `sevens,’ and sixty-two `sevens.” In Psa 2:1,2 we find,Why do the nations conspire….. against the LORD and against his Anointed One” Is this simply God’s king on the earth, or a coming one?  In Isa 61:1,2 we read, The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Here the Servant, the Lord’s Coming One, shows us the meaning of the oil. It is a picture of the enabling Holy Spirit coming on this Coming One. The Christ (used over 500 times in the NT) in the New Testament is thus the “Anointed One”, one sent for a purpose, with the Holy Spirit upon him to enable him to serve God and fulfil His tasks. Perhaps we link the two words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ so naturally that we forget the implication: He is “Jesus anointed one”, or “Jesus the one sent by God, and empowered by the Spirit to fulfil God’s purpose”. Christ is therefore shorthand and we should never forget what it is shorthand for, for it goes to the heart of the activity of God.

6. The Messiah?

SON OF GOD MEDITATIONS 6 of 20

Luke 2:8-12 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Today’s verses, our friendly sceptic will soon notice, doesn’t actually proclaim Jesus as God’s unique Son, but we include it for another reason. Yes, this passage does speak more about the Messiah or Christ but we should consider what that reference to Jesus meant, and also take note of what was happening as recorded in the events surrounding his birth.

First of all let’s consider the question of Jesus as Messiah or Christ. They are simply Hebrew and Greek terms for the same role, that of “the anointed one”, for that is what both words mean, one anointed by God to perform a special task. Jews today will naturally deny that Jesus was their Messiah and still expect their Messiah to come. This is somewhat natural because they, as a people rejected him two thousand years ago and were part of the partnership (Jew & Gentile partnership – the Romans being the Gentile partner) that rejected, falsely tried and crucified him. This together with a desire for righteousness by good deeds has produced what the apostle Paul, a Jew himself, called ‘a hardening’ (Rom 11:25) which continues to reject Jesus as Messiah. We should always remember that this is them as a nation and not individuals, because the whole of the early church was initially made up of Jews and still today Jews become ‘completed Jews’ or Christians.

Throughout the Old Testament period there had been disputes about the nature of ‘the Coming One’. The prophetic Scriptures clearly indicated there was going to come one from God who would save His people, but the nature of this ‘Coming One’ was unclear. Some Scriptures seemed to describe him as a suffering servant, while others described him as a conquering king. The academics never realised that he would, in fact, be both and that Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of these prophecies of which there are over three hundred in the Old Testament.

So there might be a case to be made that Jesus was simply to be the Saviour of the Jewish people. Indeed Matthew, recording the dream Joseph received, seeing an angel come to him, records Joseph as hearing the angel say to him, “you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21). Jesus is the Greek form of ‘Joshua’ which means ‘the Lord saves’, so they could have understood that Jesus just came as a deliverer, to save the literal people of Israel, and only them, but therein there is a problem! He didn’t. When he died the people, as a nation, were unchanged. They were still under the occupation of the Roman oppressors. So if he was to be a Messiah who delivered the nation of Israel from under the hand of Rome, he certainly failed!

But this also ignores another key point that comes out in the Old Testament, that Israel were supposed to be a light to the rest of the world. Again and again we come across this, a declared intention on God’s part to reach out and reveal Himself to the rest of the world through Israel. Surely, if there was to be this ‘Coming One’ he would further that desire and bring about a revealing of God to the whole world, not just to one small nation. Seen like that, the word to Joseph we saw above, becomes a reference to all God’s potential people from around the world, a promise to deal with the ‘sin problem’ (we are separated from God by our sin).

But then we are confronted with an even bigger problem: how could a mere man deal with the sin of the whole world? The answer that the New Testament gives us, is that the man was God in disguise; only God Himself is big enough to deal with this problem – but we’ll see more of that later. The point that we would make here is that references to the Christ or Messiah were, in fact, references to One who had to be far more than a mere man. Jesus is either a failed Messiah or a Messiah for the whole world and who has achieved the plans of heaven. The testimony of the rest of the New Testament and of subsequent Church History, is that he gloriously achieved God’s purpose, and countless millions have since been brought into a wonderful relationship with God because of what Jesus did.

There is one other small (!) point to be made in passing, about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. There are three facets of what happened that make his arrival on earth a clearly unique event, and one has to ask why this is so if he was just an ordinary man? The first facet is the past prophetic aspect of it all. Matthew, writing particularly for the Jews, points out how everything that was happening, was fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. This was all very specifically working out a divine programme, declared centuries before. The second facet is that of present divine guidance that is involved in the accounts. There is the communication from heaven with the main participants – John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, then Mary mother-to-be of Jesus, and Joseph, guardian of Jesus, not to mention the shepherds in our verses today, the Magi who we’ll consider tomorrow, and two godly people in the temple. In all of these cases there is amazing guidance in a variety of forms that means that these are people who are motivated and energised by God to play their parts. The third facet is the supernatural nature of all that was going on: an elderly lady conceiving after decades of inability to conceive, a young virgin conceiving without male help, angelic appearances one after another and incredible guidance of clearly divine nature.

For the materialist this must be one of the most upsetting areas of Scripture, so full is it with divine appearances and happenings. Why, we have to ask again, should there be all this incredible heavenly activity if Jesus was to be merely a prophet – no other prophet has ever received this attention? If, on the other hand, this is the Son of God, coming from heaven (which Scripture says it was), then it makes perfect sense. Not conclusive evidence but a strong piece of the puzzle that ‘fits’ the big picture – this IS the Son of God arriving.