14. Jesus, the Ultimate Gem

Meditating on the Gems of the Bible:  14. Jesus the ultimate gem

Mat 1:20,21  “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

The name Jesus or Jeshua was fairly common and is akin to Joshua of the Old Testament and it means deliverer. The thing about this particular baby, this particular Jesus, was that he would not deliver people in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. The claim of the angel speaking to Joseph in a dream was that this Jesus would come and do something that no other person on earth could do, he would deliver people from their sins. Now when we think about that we realise that it must mean that he will deliver them from the guilt and punishment that their sins deserve AND he will deliver them from the actual sins, from continuing to do them. That is what salvation through Christ does, and just in case you have never seen it like that before, let’s repeat it: he delivers form the guilt and punishment of sins AND from the ongoing having to continue to sin. The first is what puts us right with God and the second is the life we live out subsequently with Him. This, as briefly as possible, is what Jesus has come to achieve, and he has done it for millions and millions of people.

How, again as briefly as possible, did he go on to do it, this? There were two parts to his ministry. First of all, for three years he lived out a period of ministry from about the age of thirty, revealing his Heavenly Father’s nature. In the words of the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, he was revealed as a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him,” (Acts 2:22)  Later on, to Cornelius and his Gentile family and friends Peter declared, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)  Jesus himself had declared to John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:4,5) In the things he did he revealed Himself as a unique being.

Three times his Father testified to the wonder of who he was. First at his own baptism, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:16,17)  The second was on the Mount of Transfiguration: “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7) The third time appears to have been on Palm Sunday, as recorded by John, “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” (Jn 12:28,29)

The second part of his ministry was dying on the Cross to take the punishment for our sins. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he allowed this to happen: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) Also “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Mt 20:18,19) He spelled out the purpose of this at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28) The apostle Peter also spelled this out: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:30,31) God raised Jesus from the dead and then took him back to heaven with him, confirming who he was and his purpose.

This is the unique ministry of Jesus Christ, the revealed Son of God. After he ascended and returned to sit next to his Father in heaven, ruling at His side, we find there are three people who saw him there. First there was Stephen just before he was stoned to death as the first Christian martyr (see Acts 7:56). The second was Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6) and the third was the apostle John in his revelation on the isle of Patmos. In the first part of the vision he saw Jesus as the one holding the seven churches of Asia Minor in his hands – the Lord of the Church (Rev 1:12-18). In the next part of the vision he saw him before the throne of heaven, as the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world (Rev 5:5-10).  In the latter part of Revelation he saw him as the returning conquering king (Rev 19:11-16).

So when Joseph gets this message from the angel in a dream, we have all this wrapped up in a short description. The wonder of the New Testament is that being opened up and revealed to us in much greater detail. Of all of the gems we might find in the Bible, this surely has to shine the brightest.

22. Signs & Wonders?

Meditations in Acts : 22 :  Signs & Wonders?

Acts 2:18-20    Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

We cover these three verses together purposely because there a flow which is important to note. In verse 18 there is a reiteration of what has been said in the previous verses, that when the Spirit comes there will be an outpouring of revelation in the form of prophecy but, more than that, the Spirit will come on both men and women and both men and women will know the fruit of the Spirit coming and will prophesy. It is as if the Lord wants to reiterate this so that the male dominant Jewish society could not fail to see this significant working in the new covenant period. Thus verse 18 is a clear reference to what is just happening there on the Day of Pentecost. There can be no question that it applies to THAT day.

But when you come to the end of verse 20 we find a reference to “coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” Was that a reference to the Day of Pentecost? Was the presence of the Spirit on the earth sufficient to describe is as a great and glorious day? Well in spiritual terms it might have been for something very great has just occurred, God has come down to indwell ALL Believers, but wherever else in Scripture that sort of description is given, it seems to clearly infer the day on which God winds up everything, a day of great judgment. Now it is clear that the Day of Pentecost was not that and nor has such a day occurred since. In other words, it is still yet a day in the future.

So we seem to have bookends to the period of Church history, the Day of Pentecost starting it off and the Last Day winding it up, and in between we have this period I have been referring to as the period of Church history during which the Gospel is preached, believers are created and then indwelt by the Spirit to become children of God.

Now between these two ‘bookends’ that I have referred to we have this somewhat bland statement (bland in that it is a very basic description), that says that BEFORE that Last Day arrives there will be wonders in the sky and signs on the earth. Now what is the difference between these two terms? A wonder draws attention to something. The burning bush that Moses encountered (Ex 3) was a wonder. It drew his attention to it so that he paused up and went and had a look at it. A sign is always informative, it points towards something. Yes they are very similar and are both used by the Lord. A wonder can be observed by all, but it becomes a sign when people realise that it is pointing to something.

For example: “The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do.” (Ex 4:21) the miracles that Moses was going to perform were wonders but previously we find, “Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” (Ex 4:8,9). So these wonders were also supposed to act as signs of God’s sovereign presence to Pharaoh – but he refused to see them.

So, says the prophecy, things will happen in the sky that will be clearly visible to all and will grab your attention. Then there will be things happening on the earth that will act as signs pointing to the coming of the Lord, because that is what will happen at the end of this period.  These may be things that happen in a variety of forms throughout the period of Church history or they may be things that will only happen in the period immediately preceding the Lord’s coming.

Now we could speculate what these things mean, and plenty of commentators do, but it will be pure speculation, but it may be wiser simply to ask, are we alert to the moving of God and what God is doing?  Are we aware of the judgment of God as it has come upon Western nations in particular for their clear ungodliness? Do we see anything that happens in the realm of ‘nature’ as warnings from God, things sent by Him to challenge or soften the hearts of those who are open to have their hearts softened? Remember, all such things are signs that seek to point people towards the Lord. Knowing Him is THE most important issue in all of history. We should not be surprised, therefore, if He uses signs and wonders in this time of Church history to try to catch people’s attention and draw them back to Himself. Are we open to the teaching of the Bible in this respect?

And what does this aspect of this Spirit-anointed sermon say to us about the very act of preaching? It tells us, even more clearly than we saw in the previous meditation, that preaching should make sense of the world and the times in which we live. It explains the prophetic that is seen in the Scriptures and it places our lives in context in God’s plan of history. It makes us realise that we are part of a plan that God is working out and often, that plan means us living through materialistic and godless times where we are called to remain faithful. Thus preaching bring assurance in difficult days and hope for days yet to come.