It was a sunday morning in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth and Jesus had just gotten up to read out a prophecy from Isaiah concerning the savior of the world. At the end of that he says the prophecy is fulfilled. The Sunday crowd becomes indignant and puts Jesus down saying “isn’t he the son of the carpenter Joseph who lives on 2nd street?” Jesus then has a few choice words for them mocking their unbelieving and self confident ways. They then become enraged and bring him out to a cliff to throw him down. Wow. The text in verse 30 says he walks right through them and went on his way.

How did he get away?

Jesus is fully human and fully God. In the temptation of Jesus by Satan in Luke 4 verse 2, it says he did not eat for 40 days and was hungry. He is affected by the laws of the world. He did not pass through the crowd like a ghost.

Matthew 24:36 (and Mark 13:32) tells us, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Jesus did not deliberately put himself into harm’s way as well, he gave up his divine power to come save us. He gave up omnipotence and did not know what this rage filled sunday crowd was going to end up wanting to throw him down a cliff.

Since Jesus was a carpenter he must have been quite strong physically. Lifting heavy equipment and stones must have made him quite powerful. Even though he was about 30 and most likely past his physical prime he must have been quite a solid man. I do not think he used his strength to threaten the religious leaders, BUT I am sure it helped that they were probably quite a bit weaker than Jesus if most of them stay in the temple. I am also guessing that there were not that many people in this town so it was not a huge crowd in the synagouge, but when they were bringing him to the cliff, I think other townspeople would have followed them because of the commotion and Jesus’s popularity. (Luke 4:15 “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”)

I am sure there were bigger guys in the temple that were the enforcers. These were probably younger guys that Jesus may have known when he was a child and they felt wrong about this. If that was the case, a staredown from Jesus would have frozen them and if no one made a first move (I am sure it takes quite a bit of strength to throw someone down a cliff) then they would not have. Murder is murder, no one wants to get blood on their hands. Everyone can talk big but when the time comes, no one wants to kill. The religious leaders probably would not want to get physically involved as a strong Jesus could in their eyes throw them over easily if he wanted to.

Thus Jesus walks through the crowd, down the hill and leaves the town.

 

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In this passage, a group of people Luke labelled as “they” came to circumcise Elizabeth and Zechariah’s baby and it seemed like quite a ceremony, with “them” trying to give the baby a name which Elizabeth rejects and announces the baby’s name to be John as the angel Gabriel had commanded her.

This did not sit well with “them” and they went over to Zechariah who had lost his ability to speak and probably hear as well (as they were signing to him) to ask him what the baby’s name should be. Zechariah had lost his ability to speak and hear about a year ago when the angel Gabriel visited him and told him he was to have a baby even in him and his wife’s advance age. He doubted the angel and questioned him and because of that he got punished and lost the two senses until the events (baby born and named) happen.

This is something that Luke included in his account to the “most excellent Theophilus” and took up precious real estate of his book so there must be great significance.

Back in the day women have a lower standing than men in society and these guests must have been shocked that she was such convicted that the baby’s name was to be John. They went over to Zechariah and signed to him, asking him what they should name the baby. Zechariah seemed to not be as involved with the ceremony probably because he was unable to speak or hear. It must have been amazing for him to write the name John on a tablet (a stone one, not an i product) without hearing the conversation the others were having.

In that time the name of your son was a major thing. Naming him after the father meant that the son would carry the torch and continue on in their father’s footsteps. In this case, Zech’s baby boy should have became a priest but since he was named John, and they did not have relatives with that name it meant he was going to do something different, which would have come to quite a shock to those people. This was definitely not the norm in that era. John’s purpose was not to become a priest like his father before him, but to prepare the way for Jesus.

I find that if I read the text slowly I realize there are many interesting incidents that I miss, such as this one and how significant they are. I intend to write regularly about passages that stump me, hope it helps others.
Cheers!

Wow, minutes ago I just confessed a sin I have kept to myself for the longest time. I did not know what I could do to make it right, but now I realize God’s perfect love, grace and forgiveness is what makes covers it. I can not do anything myself and I definitely am not able to fix any sin I have committed. No, there is one who has already done that for us.

Jesus died on the cross, for OUR sake.

As followers of Christ, we are called to love one another and forgive each other. I was worried about what she would think and how she would react. Instead, she forgave me without a second thought and began comforting ME instead. When we strive to be like Jesus, we begin to smell like him. This is how Christ taught his followers how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13)

Confessing our sins to one another is actually commanded in the bible.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

The following is paraphrased from her words. Sins and guilt weigh down on people. To be truly free, we have to show our weaknesses and that sometimes means bringing to light our shame.

It was raining and overcast like I always remembered back in my hometown. As I took a final walk around the neighborhood, I came out of a passageway, turned a corner, looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow. The sight of it rising from the houses in the distance into the cloudy sky was quite something I could not put into words. I snapchated it and I guess it was powerful enough for me to write about it.

Snapchat-6523618101693332988

A massive flock of birds were flying in a spiral pattern, apparently enjoying themselves, with the rainbow superimposed behind them. It was perfect harmony, nature and God. I thought of the song Multiplied by Need To Breathe and wanted to burst into tears. I usually take this walk when I am mulling over my life. Seeing the rainbow reminded me that God is in control and that I only need to put my trust in him and in the end, everything will be all right. All my worries will vanish when I meet Jesus in heaven:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)

For those who are curious, here are the song lyrics I sang on the way back home:

Multplied

Artist: NEEDTOBREATHE

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wildfires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
These Hallelujahs be multiplied

I always thought that no one would ever want to go to hell. I was new to the city at a young adults meeting with about 60 other people when the pastor asked us this question. I raised my hand when he asked who believes that no one wants to go to hell. He told us otherwise and I was shocked.

First, lets define what hell means : To be apart from God.

A world without God. Does that sound familiar? I’m sure we all know friends who want this. It doesn’t matter if the evidence for God existing hits them in the face, they refuse to and do not want to believe it. They want to be the masters of their own fate, even if it means living a meaningless life, suffering for their sins and then ceasing to exist. Even if they know God exists, they do not want to bow down to him.

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. James 2:19

It is not enough to know there is a “God” out there somewhere, God sent his son Jesus to come down from heaven fully human and fully God to take our place on the cross and defeat sin and death. Jesus did not know everything that was going to happen, he was God, but he came in a form (a human) that we could understand and experienced all that we experienced. Physical and emotional so that we could understand what he actually feels. He was physically tortured, felt pain and ultimately died. He also felt extreme emotions, weeping for his friends, for example, John the Baptist when he was beheaded. He showed us how to live by example and showed love, asking God to forgive the ones who hung him on the cross as they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). He did not want to die on the cross for us, he asked God if there was any other way and if they could change the plan and not go through with the cross. Ultimately he obeyed and hung on the cross, God let death take him, but three days later, he overcame the grave defeated death and sin and rose to heaven. All this is written in the gospels in the bible, read that and non-Christian sources to figure out how Christianity grew. A following where you give up your life and are asked to become the servant.

A world without God can be glimpsed everyday on heartbreaking news. Heaven on the other hand was alluded to by Jesus’s miracles. They are a pointer to Heaven showing that he can heal anybody and anything, everything on earth is temporary but what is coming is forever. Even though Lazarus died and Jesus raised him from the dead, Lazarus had to die again. In fact, you could argue that it was worse for Lazarus that he was risen again since he had to live out the rest of his life instead of being with God earlier, but Jesus did this and many other miracles as a signpost of what is to come:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4

If there is no God, we might as well be minutes from dying as it makes no difference what we do when we’re alive. Christians have a hope in the cross, you could say they have an anchor for their life knowing God will accept them as they are, that we do not have to have done some great thing or been a perfect person to enter into God’s kingdom. In fact, all our “righteous” acts are like filthy rags or dirty tampons to God (Isaiah 64:6). This includes the prophets that were chosen by God. This is the grace of God that he can and will forgive all sins if only we decide to believe in him.

Had a nice dinner on Monday and listened to a talk on the 5th beatitude which is as follows:

Blessed are the merciful; for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

It was an interesting talk, discussing whether this verse was a descriptive (describing an event) or prescriptive (prophesying what is to come) verse. Ended up that the beatitudes were both, but it was important to choose a way to look at it. The speaker chose to look at it from a prescriptive point of view and what he said helped me understand mercy a lot better. Mercy is the act of letting a transgression pass. The due consequence of an action going unpunished. An example that comes to mind would be  the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) that Jesus talked about.

Any ways, what the speaker said was that to show real mercy, we do not show it to another from a position of power, but from the depravity of our soul when we think about our life compared to God. God can make all things right, we have seen evidence of this from the miracles that Jesus performs, as a signpost of what is to come in heaven. We show mercy because we ourselves need mercy, not because we sit higher than another in the food chain and can “afford to” lose some money, or property or time. It is because we know that as imperfect beings, one day we ourselves will need mercy from others and from God. We might not get it from others, but God will definitely extend his grace when the time has come for us to stand before the gates.

There are two major themes in this passage, the recurring theme of gentiles being preached the good news of Christ and how the door of heaven and invitation being opened to them. They also talk about how misguided the Jewish church at that time was. Paul said that yes they were very energetic and gung-ho about God but were showing it the wrong way. The Pharisees at that time (powerful religious priests organisation) taught that they would find salvation by following rules. The problem was, this was their own set of contrived and complicated rules.

What they didn’t and failed to realize was that it is actually Christ who saves and we cannot do anything to earn it. Paul brings up Moses and a variety of old testament quotes about how we would only live righteiously if we follow the law, which is a good thing to do, but God’s word is all around us (Isaiah) and that it is with our hearts that we believe and Paul goes on to talk about how it is with our mouths that we confess Jesus Christ is our Lord.

That is the main point, that our savior Jesus died on the cross in our place and all we have to do is believe in Him, but that is a hard thing for most people as our egos get in the way. If God had us go on a heroic journey I’m sure most people would go for it so in their vainness they can feel like they accomplished something to warrant entering heaven. What God asks for is something harder for most people to do, which is submit to God and kneel down before him and confess that we are all sinners and need Christ to be complete. This is trusting by faith that Jesus saves, we are hoping for it – not knowing when, but having faith and hope that one day Jesus would come and welcome us into his new kingdom. It has to be this way because no one hopes for what they already have. What we see on earth is God’s creation but it is in a broken world. We see glimpses of heaven sometimes from kindness and love but there’s something not quite right about it when we put that beside death and selfish greed. The love we see in the world are little peeks into what is to come in heaven.

Paul is teaching in Rome and talks about sovereignty, that God is all powerful and in control of everything that was, is and will be happening. He brings up the Moses, Isaiah and Abraham. This passage is indirectly related to the story of the Vineyard, one of the parables that Jesus taught with.

Paul talks about how God creates each person for a purpose, that way no one can boast that they were more righteous because of their works. Moses can’t say he was chosen by God because of his people and leadership skills. In fact, I think it is a miracle that God chose a stuttering murderer to do his work, but that is the beauty of God. He uses the unlikely. Paul argues that God is God of mercy and compassion and he uses who he wants to use. He also pits them against people he has chosen. The Egyptian king, or Pharaoh, was carefully brought up as God’s enemy. We little humans cannot fathom what plans God has in mind. Maybe God had patiently endured the Pharaohs wickedness so that he could show his power through him, or maybe Pharaoh was just chosen because he was in the position of power and that’s why God had to harden his heart to show the Israelites God was there in a way that they could understand. Remember the Israelites were all slaves, and there were very little people who could read and write. They did not have the bible, but had the stories that were passed down by word of mouth.

Paul also brings up the analogy of God being the potter and us being the clay. He had a plan for us before we even had form. Some he would shape to be common tools while others for more grand purposes.

Couldn’t there have been an easier way?

John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I was preparing for a session on this topic and I realized I could not myself give a clear answer to some questions, notably “why couldn’t he have just forgiven us and wave our sin away?” Why did he have to send his son to die in such a horrible way?

The following are some points that I researched and discussed with others.

First we have to define sin. Sin is something that breaks a divine law, most notably the ten commandments.

Adam and Eve first brought sin into this world by breaking the greatest commandment “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your Mind”. They loved themselves more than God, who gave them everything by disobeying him. Right after that, they broke the second most important commandment of “Love your neighbour as yourself” with Adam blaming his (only) neighbour Eve AND God, accusing her (this woman YOU put here with me…) of eating the forbidden fruit and offering him some. They were separated from God, but it is by God’s grace that they were kept away from the tree of life and banished from the garden so that death entered the world.* They would not live forever as sinful beings but that one day they might be able to be reunited with God in heaven.

For that to happen, there has to be forgiveness of sin. Matthew 18:21 provides a very good definition of what forgiveness is. We MUST forgive each other from the bottom of our heart. Sin must be paid for and this shows how serious sin is. In this parable, the king cancelled an unpayable debt that his servant owed him and the king forgave the servant and cancelled the debt, taking the loss. The servant on the other hand went out to find another servant which owed him money. The servant did not forgive his colleague and threw him into jail. This is interesting in that there is no way for his colleague to ever pay him back in jail. When we forgive someone, it must be for real, or else we end up locking someone in a position where he or she can never repay you. Both are hurt, you are owed a debt and the other person is in pain and tormented in a sort of hell. Forgiveness has to happen and accounts must be settled afterwards. The story also goes on to talk about how the King was furious after he found out and threw the original servant into prison and tormented until he could pay back what was owed. This is the real hell, a separation from God which would last forever, because that servant would never be able to pay back what was owed prison.

Now, this is what I think of why Jesus died on the cross.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God 

  1. God is Holy and can not do anything that contradicts that: For example, God is all powerful but he can not lie or make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift. In the same way, when you sin, there must be payment for that sin.  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), which Jesus died on the cross to pay. His innocent blood paid for all our sins. This also shows us how serious and horrific sin is.
  2. Relationship: God could have been a distant judge sending the unworthy to hell and the select to heaven, but that would not have been a loving relationship. He decided to come down to earth and become personally involved in our suffering. He came down as a human and shared in our pain. He felt everything that we feel: temptation, pain, sickness, hunger, loneliness….all emotions. Imagine someone losing their own life in an effort to save ours. When you love someone with a problem, you share it with them or take their place and help them solve it.God does not like the lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). He promotes hot or cold, and in the same way he goes all in to save us because of his love for us; even to the point of sacrificing his one and only son Jesus Christ. When it’s the birthday of someone you love, you do not just wish them a happy birthday with an imaginary cake because “they won’t mind, they know I love them”, you sacrifice something that you own (money and/or time) to either buy or make a cake for them. In the same way, in order to save us, God gives up himself.
  3. Replacement: We replace God with ourselves while God replaces where we we should be (in torment) with himself. God did not require the murder of Jesus, but we did. Adam and Eve’s blame and cain’s murder brought us to murder God. We required the death of Jesus, not God. This is the revelation of God on the cross: he would rather die then kill his enemies. Rather, he forgave us before we asked for forgiveness.  He gave us a free gift, a pass to heaven because of his love. The cross is what God endured as he absorbed our sins and rose again 3 days later to say “peace be with you”. The cross and all he endured also shows us that being a Christian would not be a easy thing.

John 15:20

‘A servant is not greater than his master. ‘ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

He’s not asking for us to suffer more than he did, but he warned us that he did suffer at the lands of lawless men and since he gave us free will, sin abounds on earth and trouble will come. We have the hope in Jesus Christ that in the end, everything will be all right. If it is not all right, it is not the end.

There was no easier way to save us, since he is a loving God, he wanted to have a personal relationship with us. He gave us free will because he did want to create mindless robots but for us to choose rather or not to follow him in paradise. The God who created the universe and everything in it came down to earth to teach us and to show us that death has no power over him and took the sting out of it with the promise of eternal life. He broke the separation in the garden of Eden and gave us a way to reconnect with God in a personal relationship.

That is all I got on this that topic, thanks for reading!

When we did the session, two other great questions came up:

1. Are there different levels of sin? (both sides were argued)

2. How do we define murder? Is killing in self defence justified?

I’ll tackle these in a future blog post, those were excellent questions that I’ll save for next time.

CC

* An interesting aside: In the first session that we had, we talked about the purpose of life and death was brought up. I was surprised by non-christians in the group saying that they would not want to live forever in this sinful world. Even if it was for only a couple thousand years they said they would NOT want to live that long. Its as if they know innately that we are only here temporary, that we are aliens here and without a real purpose on this earth, life is empty.

Choosing to really follow God is not a ticket to magical happy land. It is rather the beginning of an hazardous journey filled with obstacles and suffering, even to the point of death. Why would anyone choose that? It is because of the hope in Jesus Christ, the faith we have in our Lord that we will one day be reunited with our Father in paradise. This does not mean throw our lives away needlessly or a race to heaven. God is the one who uses us and we must be willing to listen to him. In fact we are called to image God, live as much like Jesus as possible, loving and caring for others. We are also called to witness to and bring as many people to Christ as possible.

Trusting in God can bring dire consequences. We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When I say persecution I do not mean the coworker that makes fun of our faith or the snide comments demeaning Christianity. I am talking about being tortured, our loved ones being hurt and death. Most recently we can see this in the middle east. The Christians there being beheaded for their faith. That is the ultimate test, which we can only pass by trusting in the Holy Spirit. As Paul said, only in our weakness can God work through us. That is when his power is made perfect. When we let God in and trust in him to guide us in the hard times in life.