Tag Archives: Savior

Really Good News

The town of Raqqa, Syria, used to be a pretty nice place to live.  That is, before ISIS marched in and took over.  Now everyone is forced to live under their draconian laws.  No one is allowed to leave.  A squad of goons patrols the town, looking for people to arrest.  Commonly, those arrested, even for minor offenses, are publicly tortured, mutilated, beheaded or crucified.  In other words, life in Raqqa is not much different from life in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  Particularly with the public floggings and crucifixions.

Consider that, and read this:

Luke 2:10 — 11 
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good news?  Really?  Suppose you  lived in Raqqa, trapped and terrified, and an angel came and said, “Good news! A savior has come!”  But then he tells you the savior is an infant, so you are going to have to be patient…   Would that really seem like good news?  Wouldn’t you rather have a savior who was special forces and flew a helicopter? 

Most people felt the same way back in first century Bethlehem.  They didn’t realize their captivity was not primarily to the Romans but to their own self-destructive, sinful urges. As awful as it was to be under the thumb of cruel, pagan conquerors, far worse was the threat of eternal damnation.  Jesus was born as a baby and lived a normal and yet sinless life in order to be qualified to set them (and us) free from captivity to sin.

Joseph received this angelic message in a dream:

Matthew 1:21
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I am certain there are people in Raqqa today who are discovering this Savior, just as some did in Bethlehem.  His salvation is just as powerful today as it was then, bringing peace and freedom despite dark and desperate circumstances.  Jesus gives eternal life that not even ISIS can destroy.  And that really is good news for all the people.”

Words of a Stranger

Perhaps he was known by most as “that crazy old geezer.”  But he was not crazy; he was eccentric – dialed in to a different station.  Luke says “The Holy Spirit was upon him.”  Wow…   Think of the turmoil in Israel during that time, as everyone had to register in his family home town.  Roman soldiers were stomping around, belligerently exercising their positions of privilege and power.  It was not a time to be expecting anything hopeful.  Most people were focused on simply getting through the day without running afoul of the guys with the whips and crosses.

But not this guy.

“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:26)

Knowing that the Messiah was about to show up, he spent his final days hanging out up at the temple.  Watching.  Waiting.  And, somehow (Holy Spirit again, no doubt), when Mary and Joseph brought their 8 day old Son to be consecrated, the “crazy old geezer” knew Who it was.  How many people were thronging through the temple that day?  How many babies were being carried through that massive courtyard?  What can you see of a baby who is wrapped up in “swaddling clothes?”  But Simeon was watching, waiting and he knew Who the baby was.

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”” (Luke 2:28-32)

Again, Wow!   Imagine what was going on in Joseph and Mary’s hearts at that moment.  How amazed and exhilarated…    But Simeon was dialed in to a different station and he was not done.  After praising God for this Good News, he chilled their bones with this:

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”” (Luke 2:34-35)

I wonder who it was Mary told about this astonishing and yet horrifying encounter.  I can’t imagine how she felt that day.  Or, how she felt, calling those words to mind when they had been violently fulfilled.

Oh, wow…

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Proof in the Doing

Jesus didn’t behave.  The religious people couldn’t get Him to act the way a Savior was supposed to act – that is, how they thought a Savior should act!  They wanted to call the tune and make Him dance,  They wanted to be in control.  In His defense, Jesus said;

“… wisdom is proved right by her actions.” (Matthew 11:19b)

Translation: i know you don’t think I’m doing the right things, but you will discover the wisdom that guides Me when you see the results of what I do.  Doesn’t look right to you now, but you don’t know what I know.  Simply put, “Oh yeah? Watch this!”

Is your mechanic good?  Does your plumber know what he’s doing?  Has your doctor read the test results correctly?  All these questions are ultimately answered by the results of what they do.  Wisdom is proved right by her actions.  The proof is in the doing.  And in how well it works.

Jesus’ actions didn’t make sense to the hyper-religious, because He didn’t follow their rules.  He had an occasional drink. He wasn’t afraid to touch the lepers.  He was compassionate with broken sinners.  He hung out with the boys.    But those religious critics hadn’t seen anything yet.  He allowed them to crucify Him.  He called out for their forgiveness from the cross.  He died.  What kind of a Savior does that?  But wisdom is proved right by her actions:  He came back to life after being buried.

Most people have the same trouble with Jesus today.  He doesn’t behave.  They want Him to stay up on the crucifix, silent and safe.  They want to approach Him through religious ritual.  They want to polish their shoes, sit in a pew, hear about Jesus and sing about Jesus, say the prayers about Jesus and then go on about their life.  But Jesus doesn’t behave.  He isn’t on the wall and He isn’t in the grave.  He comes to us personally.  

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

That may seem like the wrong way for a Savior to act.  But if you open the door and let Him in, if you allow Him to sit at your table, eat with Him and talk Him in all transparency and honesty, if you trust Him and do what He tells you to do, you will discover something astonishing:

“Wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

All the Way – Part 1

You ain’t Carl Douglas!”  (Remember Carl Douglas?  He had a hit single – Kung Fu Fighting – in 1974)  That cry, hollered by a large and angry woman, seated 5 rows back from the stage, brought that concert to an abrupt and ugly end.  The impostor had demonstrated some blazing Kung Fu fighting moves – he was wowing the crowd and doing okay – but when he tried to sing, his voice gave him away.  The whole crowd knew it: “He ain’t Carl Douglas.”  We didn’t stick around to see what happened next.  it was getting pretty exciting as we packed up our sound equipment and exited, stage left, as fast as we could.

How do you know that Jesus was the real Savior, the One promised by God through His prophets, the One Who was eagerly anticipated by a conquered and suffering people?  Jesus was not the only one who claimed to be the Savior.  Israel had been disappointed and disillusioned before.  How could they identify Him?  For that matter, how can you be sure?  Wikipedia gives a long list of people who have made the claim, dating from 4 BC up through our own day.  How can you tell who is the real Savior?

John gives three reasons to believe Jesus is the One – water, blood and the Spirit.   Confused?  Join the crowd.  Here is what he said:

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  (1 John 5:6)

Because John used cryptic terms, perhaps understood by the people in his day but puzzling to us, there have been various interpretations of what he meant.  Here is the one that makes the most sense to me:

By water” means that Jesus began His public ministry, standing right next to you, getting baptized.  Deep in our hearts, we understand that we don’t deserve to be rescued by God.  If anyone knew me like I know me, he would also know I don’t deserve anything from God.  And God knows me better than I do.  He knows you, too.  As people in Jesus’ time got more in touch with how unworthy they were, John the Baptist invited them to be baptized.  As they went under the water, it was a symbolic, public expression of their desire to die to their old, corrupt life, to be cleansed and to emerge into a better life.  It was a meaningful and very popular ritual – John touched a real nerve – but a futile one, as anyone knows who has made a New Year’s resolution.   Jesus had no sin to repent of, but He began His ministry of rescue, identifying Himself with you, standing next to you in those waters.  Jesus did not come for those who thought they were pretty good on their own.  He came for those who despaired their inability to live up to what they knew was right and true.  He came to save.  

And He came all the way.  When you need a rescue, you don’t want a cheerleader from the stands, or even a condescending hand reaching down from above.  You want someone who will come to you, stand with you and walk with you.  That is the reason alcoholics have the most success helping other alcoholics.  They can relate, and the ones they are rescuing know it.  Jesus began His ministry on your level.  In the water.  He came all the way.

Stay tuned…  next time we will consider what “blood” means.