Jesus' Footprints

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Acts 13:13-52

900165955_466ceaa8d7_mAt bedtime, I read to my son the scriptures where Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading from the Law and the Prophets,  the rulers of the synagogue asked them if they had any words of encouragement for the people.  What struck me is when Paul stood up, he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus.

He didn’t start off talking about Jesus.  Instead, he gave a brief summary of Israel’s history beginning with when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years.  He spoke about how the Jewish people were ruled by judges until the prophet Samuel and how they wanted to be like the other nations who had kings ruling over them.  They wanted a king too even though God was their King.  They got their wish when Saul, the son of Kish was chosen to be their king.  However, God removed him because of his disobedience and chose David to be his successor.  Then, Paul introduced Jesus, saying,  “From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise.”

He spoke of the role the people had played in the arrest and death of Jesus. By doing these things they had fulfilled the Word of God.  The Good News, though was that God raised Jesus from the dead and through Him are the forgiveness of sins.  Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus and not by the law.  His words encouraged the Gentiles who begged him to preach again to them the following Sabbath.

Has God given you an opportunity to share the Good News about Jesus with others as He did with Paul?  Would you do as Paul did and share your faith so that people will come to know the Savior who died for them as well?  You don’t have to give a history lesson like Paul did.  You can share your own testimony of how you came to know the Lord like the woman at the well.  She told her community that Jesus must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for because He knew everything about her.

What about the challenges you will face when you share the Gospel?  The following Sabbath when Paul and Barnabas returned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were met with opposition from the Jews who were envious.  They contradicted what Paul said but he and Barnabas didn’t allow them to spoil things for them.  Instead, they boldly declared to them that since they rejected the Word of God which was supposed to be given to them first, it would be given instead to the Gentiles for the Lord commanded them, “‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  Verse 48 says that when the Gentiles heard this, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Don’t be discouraged when people oppose you and contradict what you say.  It’s Satan, your enemy at work, trying to prevent you from doing what God has called you to do.  Like Paul and Barnabas did, act boldly, knowing that the Lord is your side and He will not allow His work to be hindered.  Share the Gospel for the sake of those who will gladly receive it. Don’t let the Satan or anyone put out your light.  Keep it shining for those who will come to it and receive salvation through faith in Jesus.

Today, if God gives you an opportunity to encourage people with the Good News about Jesus, grab it.  And don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit has that covered.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – Romans 1:16

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Let this mjesus-crossind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

When I read this the other day, it hit home that Jesus didn’t think anything of leaving the glory of Heaven and coming to earth to live among His creation.   He had no problem setting aside His nature which made Him equal with the Father and taking on the form of sinful man.  Why did He do this?  1 John 3:8 tells us why.  “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  Jesus came to undo the work of the devil which he started in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve and succeeded.

Jesus wanted to defeat sin in the flesh because it was through the flesh that sin entered the world. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12).   Sin is like an epidemic, a cancer and Jesus is the only One who could completely destroy it.  So, He came into the world as an infant, born to a virgin.  He lived a simple life, worked as a carpenter before He began His ministry.  Throughout His life here on earth, Jesus lived in total obedience to the Father and humbly.

In His humility He defeated the devil in the wilderness, using, not His divine power, but the Word of God to counter each temptation until the enemy had no other choice but to go away.  In humility, Jesus allowed the religious leaders and the roman soldiers to mock, spit, strike and humiliate Him.  Not once did He complain or call down the angels to help Him.  In humility, He carried the cross to the place where they would crucify Him.  On the way, women bewailed and lamented Him but He didn’t think about Himself.  He foresaw what would befall them and warned them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

I always wondered what Jesus meant by “green wood and dry” and today I learnt that green wood is not used as fuel for fire, whereas, dry wood is perfect for that.  And Jesus is represented by the green wood, as the One undeserving of the cruel treatment He was receiving from the people.  And the people who were fanning the flames, pushing for Jesus’ crucifixion, after requesting that, Barabbas, a criminal be released, were the dry wood.  They were deserving of the Divine judgement that they would one day face.  Jesus was telling the women to cry for these people.  The people who continually reject Christ and His work on the cross are the ones we ought to mourn for the time will come when they will be judged and will be cast into the lake of fire.

In humility, as He hung on the cross, He asked God to forgive the very people who wanted Him dead.  He was dying for them too.  The cross is where we ought to go when we find it hard to forgive those who hurt and humiliate and mistreat us.  In humility we realize that Jesus hanging on the cross in our place is what made it possible for God to forgive us too.  We too are responsible for Jesus becoming a curse for us. Humility is about acknowledging that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory and that we have a Saviour who thought nothing of emptying Himself.

In humility, Jesus thought nothing of the shame of the manner of His death, endured the cross, because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).  He wasn’t thinking about the shame but the salvation that would be offered to all those who accepted His ultimate sacrifice.  Through His death, many would receive life eternal.  And through His death and resurrection, many would have the same victory over sin and death.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for humbling Yourself and becoming one of us so that You could defeat sin and death.  Sin had separated us from our Father but Your death on the cross, reconciled us to Him.  We will never be able to repay the debt You paid with Your precious blood.  We can honour You by loving others and sharing the Good News about what You did for them on the cross.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

“He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” – Luke 23:35

031211_0125_CITIZENSOFA14As Jesus hung on the cross, soldiers cast lots for His robe and the people passed by, blaspheming Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” The chief priests and scribes jeered Him among themselves, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:29-32).  The soldiers mocked Him, saying that if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself.  One of the criminals blasphemed Him, telling Him that if He were the Christ, to save Himself and them.  As He hung there, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34-37).

None of those jeering at Him realized that He had fulfilled the purpose for which He came.  He was not going to save Himself.  He was there to save them and the world so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.  He became a curse for our sake.  Nicodemus must have reflected on these words as He witnessed the crucifixion,  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).

Jesus had to be lifted up so that all men would be drawn to Him.  Just as the Israelites looked upon the serpent in the wilderness and were saved so will those who look upon Him in faith.  The heavenly King to give His life a ransom for many.  The rulers seem to have forgotten Caiaphas’ prophetic words, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John wrote that the high priest prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:49-52).  Thus Jesus would die not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.  And it was expedient that He should die.  There is no remission for sin unless blood is shed.  The blood of the Lamb of God had to be shed for the sins of the world.  Without His death there would be no reconciliation with God for sin had separated us from Him.

Ironically, the other thief on the cross, who was also cursed because he was hanging from a tree, he realized that Jesus was innocent and undeserving of such a humiliating death.  He acknowledged his own sinfulness in the face of our Lord and asked Jesus to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  Jesus promised him that day that he would be among those who were resurrected on that glorious day when Jesus would come again to gather His people to Him and take them to Heaven.  That thief gave his life to the King of Kings and in return received the promise of eternal life. 

Thankfully, Jesus did not come down from the cross as He was goaded into doing.  Instead, He cried out, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” and died.  Even nature responded to the death of its Creator.  There was darkness over the earth and the sun was darkened.  The veil in the temple tore, signifying that the old sacrificial system was obselete now.  “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).  Only the blood of Christ can take away our sins.  He offered Himself once and for all on the cross. 

Another important point that should be made is that the tearing of the veil also signified the tearing down of the partition which separated us from God.   We read in Hebrews 10:19, 20, that we can boldly enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus and by a new and living way which He consecrated for us through the veil which is His flesh.  So, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are now able to boldly approach the throne of grace.  In the old system, “when a sacrifice was offered for the sins of the entire congregation, the blood was taken by the priest, who represented Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil which separated the two rooms. The presence of God dwelt on the other side of the veil” (God Drew the Plans, Amazing Facts.  In the tearing of the veil, we see Jesus in His roles as our sacrificial Lamb and our High Priest.  Through Him we can go directly to God and confess our sins.  We don’t need an earthly intercessor.  The Bible clearly teaches that there is one Mediator between God and us and that’s Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  He is the only way to the Father because of what He did on the cross.

The King of Kings stayed on the cross until He was able to say, “It is finished.”  He had accomplished what He came to do.  Hebrews 10:7 states that He came to do the Father’s will.  Isaiah 53:11, 12 explain what that will was:  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.  And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.”  It pleased God to give His beloved Son so that the world would be saved through Him.  And the Son was willing to lay down His life. 

When the centurion saw the veil tear in two from top to bottom, he declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).  Here we have a Gentile, a Roman soldier who acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God while many of the Jews rejected Him as their King and their Messiah.  This centurion declared that Jesus was a righteous Man and glorified God (Luke 23:47).  He believed that Jesus was the Son of God.  This was a confession of faith.  He was drawn to the King who was lifted up.  Jesus said of Himself, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Today, reflect on the King as He hung on the cross, cursed for our sakes so that He could redeem us.  Thank God for loving you so much that He sacrificed His Son so that you could be reconciled to Him.  Thank Jesus for laying down His life for you.  And rejoice because the King is now in heaven sitting on the right hand of the Father.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore” – Psalm 16:11

Once we are aware of how faithful God is, then we could achieve what He calls us to do with confidence and trust.  He promised Moses that He would be with him throughout his mission to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh and to the Promised Land and He kept His promise.  He promised Gideon that He would defeat the Midianites with just a few Israelites and He did.  He promised Abraham that He would give him a son and He did.  He promised David that he would establish his throne forever and He did.  He promised He would send us a saviour and He did.  Throughout the Bible, God made promises and He kept them.  He was faithful to the faithless.  He was the stronghold for the weak and the downtrodden. He remembered Hannah and opened her womb.

God doesn’t ask us to do His work and not give any guidance.  He said to Joshua who had to take over when Moses died, “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)  He was with Paul during his ministry and He was with His son during His.  When we pray to Him, we should believe that what we ask for, we will receive.  David prayed to the Lord daily because he knew that only He could help him and deliver him from his enemies.  When David was in the wilderness, Saul sought him everyday but God did not deliver David into his hand.  God took care of David while he was hiding in the wilderness from Saul. 

Peter trusted Jesus when he walked on the water towards Him but, the minute he became afraid because of the wind, he began to sink.  He cried out to Jesus to save him and Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.  Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got back into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:28-32)  Peter feared the wind and started to sink. 

For us, that wind is failure.  We fear that we will fail God and we sink into doubt and hopelessness but, if we cry out to God before we allow ourselves to drown in these feelings of self-defeat, He will stretch out His hand and catch us.  God would not call us to do something He does not think we are capable of doing with His help.  But, if He could turn an unbeliever like Paul into a believer, what can’t He do with us who are already believers?  God never fails and neither will we once we let Him guide us through whatever it is that He calls us to do. God is our lifesaver and as long as we hold onto Him we will never sink.



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