The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Christ was tempted the way we are, yet our temptations are never as strong as His. That’s because we give in before they reach their full strength. Then temptation is no longer temptation, it’s sin. The extremes of Christ’s temptations are something we would never experience, because we are too weak. Yet He can sympathize fully with our own struggles with temptations. He is our example of ultimate endurance, and He is our source of comfort and mercy in our time of need. In order to find that comfort, we have to seek to draw near to His heart.
To understand better, let’s examine the wilderness temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The first part of that temptation was to turn rocks into bread. The miracle itself of turning rocks to bread wasn’t the sin that Satan was tempting Christ to. It’s the trust in bread to fill Christ’s hunger that was the temptation. Jesus had to resist the temptation to believe that the bread itself was His greatest need, and we have to resist the same temptation. Humans are amazing at taking the most mundane things and believing they are of the utmost importance. But Jesus reminds us that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The question is, are you present as you are hearing the Word of the Lord? Are you paying attention? It’s easy to live the church life and ignore the reading of Scripture, and we forget that the Creator of all things is lovingly speaking directly to us. Don’t get distracted, don’t zone out, don’t forget where life actually comes from.
It is an awesome responsibility to sit in the pews of the House of the Lord and have the King of kings and Lord of lords speak directly to our hearts and offer us His salvation. What a privilege that we don’t have to go to great lengths to search for the Word of the Lord. He gives it directly to us! What a gift! Don’t lose sight of how precious that is!
God makes His Word accessible and present to us. Pay attention!
As we continue our Lenten journey seeking to draw near to the heart of God, I want to ponder the glory of Christ. One good definition of the word “glory” is, “the visible manifestation of the attributes of God.”
The Transfiguration is one of the very few instances where a human was allowed to actually see the glory of God. One is Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33-34), another is Elijah at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19), and then there was Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9). They saw the full divinity of Jesus revealed, and it was staggering!
The full revelation of the glory of God gave Moses direction and determination, it gave Elijah courage and purpose, and it filled the disciples with all they would need to face the ordeal that Jesus knew was coming. Jesus knew that you can’t receive the full glory without first enduring the cross.
Our sin and shame keeps us from fully embracing the revelation of God’s glory, and it causes us rather to hide in fear. However, now that Christ’s work as our Great High Priest has been completed, we no longer have to hide from the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul reflects on the way Moses could see the Lord face to face, but the rest of the Israelites could only see Moses’ reflecting the glory of the Lord from behind a veil. Paul says that through Christ, the veil is removed, and we can stand fully in the presence of the Living God.
In order to go from fear to the fullness of God’s glory, the action we need to take is to turn our faces to Him – repentance. We have to say along with Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John, “I want to see your glory!” Let’s seek Him with unveiled faces and repentant hearts.
Christ’s sermon in Luke chapter 6 is full of surprising statements that seemed to his listeners (and even to us!) to turn the world upside-down! He was tearing apart the assumption that there is a connection between material blessing and spiritual blessing. Just because someone is rich doesn’t mean they are spiritually blessed. In fact, Christ says it is the poor who have a claim in the Kingdom of God. That’s not to say that all poor people are saved and all rich people are lost. It just means there is no connection between economic status and spiritual status.
Paul’s and Silas’ missionary travels outlined in Acts 16 demonstrate that there is no single type of person who follows Christ. In just one city called Philippi, we see Lydia, a wealthy merchant, following Christ. Then, between Lydia’s house and the synagogue, Paul and Silas speak to and convert a slave girl, for which they get thrown in prison. Then, when God opens the doors of the prison, the jailer also is converted! Talk about three people from three very different walks of life, all brought into fellowship with Christ and each other through His saving grace! In the next chapter, when Paul and Silas have moved on to Thessalonica, they are described as “the men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
We need to be aware that following Christ will almost certainly change our lives drastically. We might change careers and income brackets, and most definitely our relationships will change – friends may become enemies and enemies will become friends.
But Jesus defines all this upheaval as blessing! “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
So regardless of how your life is now, whether you are experiencing material blessing or hardship, remember that this life is only temporary. God is preparing to turn this world upside down, and material status will not mean anything in that day. Your responsibility now is to steward any material blessing in such a way that the Kingdom of God will flourish in spiritual blessing to all those around you. We are first and foremost citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, and we hold all the things of this earth loosely, in the hope of being used mightily for God’s eternal purposes.
Many times when reading the dramatic telling of this story of when Christ declared His identity in the synagogue at Nazareth, we skip straight from Christ’s speech to the crowd wanting to throw Him off the cliff! When we skip the middle dialogue of this story, we lose what is really happening, and we think that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff because of His declaration. However, that is not the case. When He first made His declaration, they accepted it. In fact, they “spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22).
The problem arose when the people began to take a “What’s in it for us?” attitude toward the fact that the Messiah was a hometown boy. They began to expect that they were going to start seeing all the perks of the Messiah centering His miraculous ministry in Nazareth.
However, He perceived the thoughts of their hearts, and the self-centered view that they took of the Messiah, that He was only for them. So He told two Old Testament stories of the blessings of God being shared with people outside the nation of Israel. When they realized that He was saying, they got angry, and this is what caused them to reject Him.
Self-protectionism is a very natural human response. We experience the same phenomenon when a weekday ministry at our church begins to grow, and suddenly there are no good parking spots left, and someone has drunk all the coffee in the kitchen, and someone has used up all the toilet paper in the bathrooms. When blessings begin to spread and ministry begins to enlarge, it can become inconvenient for the in-crowd, and it takes an intentional effort to resist becoming insular, accept the inconveniences that come when ministry is enlarged, and rejoice in seeing the Kingdom of God grow.
When we get too narrow-minded and comfort-focused, we lose the heart of God, which is focused on the people of the world. Endure the discomfort and inconvenience, and rejoice when the outsiders become your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus is not just our Messiah, but He is the Messiah for all!
Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee
In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate the glory of God in the revelation of the plan of salvation through his son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle John weaves a wedding theme throughout his writings to help us understand Jesus as a glorious bridegroom who delights in his bride the church. We first see a glimpse of his glory with Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
Following John 2 and the very first miracle at the wedding in Cana, turn to John 3, where John the Baptist describes himself as a the “best man” who announces “Here comes the groom!” Then in John 4, Christ uses the Samaritan woman at the well’s series of failed marriages to demonstrate her need for the love of of the true groom, a love that will ultimately satisfy her deepest longings. In John 14, like a bridegroom, Jesus promises to come to claim his Church (bride) and take her back to live with him forever in the home that he has prepared for her with his father.
Finally, in the Book of Revelation, chapters 19 and 21, John envisions the wedding day as the Church, the beautifully adorned Bride of Christ, loved, purified, and perfected by him forever is married to her beloved savior and husband.
When it comes to weddings, timing matters, and the Bible assures us that Jesus is working out his perfect timing of his marriage to his bride. He promises abundant life, beyond all we can ask or imagine, just like he saved the best wine for last in his wedding miracle! He promises living water overflowing out of our souls. What a glorious bridegroom!
Our response in all this is to trust him, to give him our lives and believe in him as the one who will ultimately satisfy all the longings of our hearts and ultimately unite his church to himself in glorious consummation at the end of the ages.