Daily Discipline #117
By Colleen Donahue
Through the long history of the Israelites and the creation of the Jewish race (from the Tribe of Judah) we have a great shift in world thinking. The world view prior to the history of God's chosen people was cyclical - without beginning or end. It was like a wheel going round and round. It was filled with many gods fulfilling many functions for man -- if man placated them. Man was a part of a life cycle much the way a butterfly has a cycle.
But thinking today in the west is very different from this cyclical view. The Jews brought to the world the idea that there is only ONE GOD and that God is a Creator. Time has a beginning and it will have an end. Therefore decisions that we make today do matter. There will not be an opportunity again in the same way as what we have today. Man has been made in this God's image and therefore he is not just like all the other animals. He is cherished by his Creator, cared for, and loved.
This true God that the Jews lived under and spoke about to the world, is a God of justice, and compassion totally unlike all the preceding gods. And what is even more incredible is that He expects His creation "man" to be the same to one another. This "Jewish" world view is at the base of all Western thinking. We believe that every life is important -- with meaning and value. We are not just a bit of matter floating through the earth in a cycle. Rather, we were made with great care and thought; made especially for this one true God. Whether we admit it or not, there is something inside of us that makes us feel that we was made for something-- we were made to make a difference to somebody. We all feel this "greatness" within ourselves.
Now, this one true God has much more to say to us than He could ever speak through His prophets. In revealing Himself through Jesus, we find the most complete and final revelation of God. Jesus is the key to rightly interpreting the Old Testament. His words shape our values and priorities (even without consciously realizing it). Jesus spent only 3 short years, teaching the people around his home countryside. But what He taught created an explosion that is still going on today. What Jesus taught is completely foreign to our human nature! Should we really exchange success for servanthood? Am I to abandon my pride for humility? And what about rejecting materialism for spiritual values? Isn't that a bit outrageous?
In upcoming studies we want to look at what Jesus taught and see how it applies to our own lives. But, before we can start looking at His teachings, I believe we have to answer this question.....
Why Should We Listen To Jesus?
Day 1- Moses, the great leader of the Israelites had some definite instruction for the people on who they should listen to and heed in their lives. He starts however, telling them who they should not listen to.
Day 2- God's people were never to look to any occult source for guidance. These words spoken by Isaiah the prophet tell what the outcome will be for those that consult mediums and wizards.
Israel's guidance was to come to the people in one of three ways:
A) The written word
B) The Urim and the Thummin (symbolizing yes or no) and
C) The prophets
Day 3- Who does Moses tell the people that they should listen to?
Day 4- Moses specified three tests that would mark a true prophet.
A) He would be a Jew.
B) He would speak in the name of the Lord and
C) What the prophet speaks would happen.
When Jesus came to earth, He met these three criterion.
Day 5- Jesus was first of all a Jew and Matthew in writing for the Jews, traces him back to Abraham.
Luke, in writing for all men, takes his lineage back to Adam.
Day 6- Jesus clearly spoke in the name of God whom He claimed as Father. He had come to earth to speak for Him and carry out His will. Thus Jesus met the second criteria for a true prophet.
John 6:38-40/ John 7:28-29/ John 8:42/ John 10:36/ John 14:7-10/John 17:8, 21
In fact, He had come to fulfill what His Father had begun with Moses.
Day 7- The third test of a prophet was also met by Jesus. When He commanded, it happened- not just once --but over and over. Here are only a few examples.
Matthew 8:2-3, 26 / Luke 5:4-6/ Luke 7:11-15/ Luke 24: 6-8 / John 4:46-54
Day 8- The fact that Jesus met the three criterion for a prophet was undeniable. But, was Jesus "The Prophet" whom Moses said would come? This is what John the Baptist wanted to know when he asked this question....
Christ's response made it clear that the signs and wonders which He performed had NEVER been done like this before. These wonders were reserved for "The Prophet like Moses". Therefore, He was not just another prophet. He was indeed THE prophet.
THE GOSPELS AS SOURCES FOR CHRIST'S TEACHINGS
In quoting from the four gospels, we are quoting from writers that relied on their own personal experience with Jesus such as Matthew and John. In Mark we have the recording of the life of Jesus according to the eye-witness account mainly given by Peter - one of Christ's closest disciples. And through Luke, we have the investigative reporting and interviewing of those who had seen and heard Jesus personally. (Luke 1:1, 2)
Each gospel was written to a different audience. All accounts are accurate, but they differ from each other in that the author sorted events to best communicate to the audience they wrote for. Matthew wrote to the Jews and therefore he quotes often from the Old Testament which was the source book for Jews. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, and the promised king who had come not to establish an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one.
Mark wrote for the Romans. These were men of action, task oriented, and decisive. They led lives marked by accomplishment. Therefore this gospel is short and to the point. "Immediately" is a key word. In Mark we see Jesus as a man of action.
Luke wrote for the Greeks who were a people taken with excellence and perfection. He presents Jesus as the ideal human being. Jesus has achieved excellence, not through selfish striving, but in living a selfless life. In this gospel we see Jesus as representing all that each of us yearn for and ought to be.
John writes what is called "the universal gospel". He doesn't write to any particular cultural group but rather focus's our attention on Jesus as the Son of God.
Each gospel writer is describing the same man, Jesus, and the same events. However, they are all writing from a different viewpoint and may appear to us as discrepancies. It is a little like four views of an elephant. The 2 viewing the sides may have similar accounts, but the one viewing the head and the the one viewing the tail end will be very different. Are they wrong? No, just a different viewpoint. The important thing to see is that the four gospel writers together make the fullest and most accurate picture of Jesus.
JESUS TAUGHT FIRST BY EXAMPLE
Day 8- One of the reasons to listen to Jesus is because He faced temptations just like we have and yet He came through them without sin. He teaches us by example first, making us more likely to listen later.
Matthew 4:1-11 / Also recorded in: Luke 4:1-13
Day 9- In the first temptation, the bread symbolizes maintaining our life in this world. Since we are spiritual beings first we are to look to God to guide us and not be driven by our needs or wants.
Deuteronomy 8:3/ Matthew 4:4/ Luke 4:4
Day 10- In the second temptation, Jesus was being challenged to prove God's presence was with Him when the devil said "If you are the Son of God". Jesus knew that God was with Him whether His human nature could sense it or not. He knew that it was wrong to test God and spoke the word back to the devil just as we should when we are being tempted.
Deuteronomy 6:16 / Matthew 4:7/ Luke 4:12
Day 11- In the third temptation, Jesus is being challenged to choose something good over something that would be the best. He knew that the Cross had to come before He could receive the crown. However "good" a choice might be, we are to choose God's will.
Deuteronomy 6:13/ Deuteronomy 10:20/ Matthew 4:10/ Luke 4:8
WHO DID CHRIST CLAIM TO BE SO THAT ALL MEN WOULD LISTEN? FIRST, HE CLAIMED TO BE THE MESSIAH.
Day 12- Jesus, in visiting a synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth read a Messianic prophecy from the book of Isaiah. (Isaiah 61:1-2a). He then rolled up the scroll and startled them all!
Luke 4: 14-21
Their reaction? Well, at first they marveled and were somewhat neutral!
But then Jesus spoke this truth about them.
And what was their reaction this time?
Luke 4: 29-30
Day 13-In Jesus's time a Samaritan was considered by a Jew to be a pagan and a woman was considered to be the snare and source of all temptation. So, Jesus's conversation with a Samaritan woman was indeed a marvel to his disciples.
In the course of Christ's conversation with her, he clearly tells her that He is the Messiah.
Notice her reaction which is a great contrast to how the Jews reacted.
John 4:28-30, 39-42
SECOND, JESUS CLAIMED TO BE THE SON OF GOD AND SAVIOR OF THE WORLD
Day 14- In a private discussion with Jesus, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader among the Jews, gave a confession. What did the Jewish leadership know for certain?
Despite knowing this, they would become His most bitter enemies.
Day 15- In this private discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus discusses the importance of being "born again". Man was to be transformed by the infusion of new life by God's Spirit. This was a rejection of a fundamental Jewish belief - i.e. that a man's claim to favor with God was based on his physical descent from Abraham as well as careful observation of the law. Nicodemus had obviously forgotten these words written by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Jeremiah 31:33/ Ezekiel 11:19-20/ Ezekiel 36:26-27
The finale of this private talk is Jesus telling Nicodemus that He has come down from Heaven!
Day 16- In this next example, Jesus identifies Himself as God's Son and Savior of the world in public. The story is in John 5:1-9. At an annual religious festival in Jerusalem, Jesus heals a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years. But... He did it on the Sabbath, outraging the religious elite! Notice in these verses the build up of logic...
My Father is at work.... and I too.
Jesus's actions were in complete harmony with God because His Father was working through Him.
The Father loved the Son and was revealing Himself through Him.
Jesus, like His Father is able to give life to whomever He chooses.
The right to judge humanity has been passed from Father to Son.
And now for the finale.....
If you don't honor the Son, then you don't honor the Father who sent the Son!
Day 17- Jesus now goes on to present Himself as Savior....
Day 18- .... and Jesus's claims are authenticated.
If Jesus just testified about Himself it wouldn't be valid.
Jesus could point to John the Baptist as a witness but He doesn't, because human testimony only won't compel belief.
It is Christ's own miracles (his "works") that are a witness that God has sent him (John 3:2).
The very scriptures (that the Pharisees and Scribes based their lives upon) testified of Jesus.
CHRIST'S THIRD CLAIM IS THAT HE IS THE BREAD OF LIFE. HE HAS COME FROM HEAVEN TO PROVIDE ETERNAL LIFE.
Day 19- In John 6:1-13 we have the account of how Jesus fed a crowd of about 5,000 after blessing a few loaves and fishes. From this amazing event, the crowd thought surely that this man was "The Prophet" Moses had spoken of.
Day 20- It was a common Jewish thought that Moses had given them bread from Heaven. Physically, this was done by giving them the manna in the wilderness, but spiritually he did so by giving them the law.
But Jesus emphatically refutes their belief. The Mosaic law is NOT the bread of God for it is not capable of sustaining spiritual life.
Jesus Himself is the ONLY ONE who sustains life and gives eternal life.
Our part is only to believe. Anyone coming to Jesus in belief will be accepted.
Day 21- Christ's claim to have "come down from Heaven" was met with disbelief. Wasn't He after all just an ordinary man with known parentage?
Jesus will only be recognized by those who are responsive to God.
Then, we have Christ's own statement about His incarnation. Although He was born a man, His origin was Heaven.
Day 22- Are we to become cannibals when Christ tells us that we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood?
John 6: 53-56
To eat and drink is to take part in that which sustains life. In "eating and drinking Christ" He becomes as vital and inseparable a part of our spiritual life as food becomes to the body. We partake of Jesus Christ by faith, and as we do, we become a part of Him and He of us.
Day 23- Christ's command to "eat His flesh and drink His blood" was too much for many that were following Him. John tells us that they turned back. The Lord's closest twelve disciples were also finding understanding difficult, but Peter spoke for them all when he said, "Lord to whom shall we go?" They had come to see that only in Jesus was truth to be found.
John 6: 60-69
THE FOURTH CLAIM OF CHRIST IS THAT HE IS LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Day 24- Jesus, in claiming to the "the light of the world" was implying that only those that follow Him might truly understand the issues of life.
The Pharisees reacted with hostility. They objected on legal grounds that a claim supported by one witness was not valid.
When Jesus pointed out that God the Father also bore witness, He got a sarcastic retort.
They did not know Him because they really didn't know His Father.
And to add insult to injury He predicts that they will die in their sins.
Day 25- Finally the Pharisees ask Jesus this crucial question which is the same one that all of us must ask today.
-Those who take the Lord's words to heart and live by them are truly His disciples. They will know the truth and living by the truth will set them free.
These words Jesus addressed to those in the crowd that believed in Him. But this implied to the Pharisees that they were slaves! We become slaves with a decision to submit to another master other than God. This is what happens when we submit to sin and act as if we were a slave. Jesus is clearly speaking of a spiritual bondage and not a political one.
Day 26- There are two families of mankind: those who recognize God as their Father and those who follow Satan. While the Jews might be biological descendants of Abraham, spiritually they bore no resemblance at all.
The Jews were reacting with rebellion just like Satan had done.
Unable to argue with Jesus, they try to discredit Him.
John 8:48 But Jesus repeats His claims adding one more......
John 8:49-51 (especially vs.51b)
Day 27- This claim that whoever keeps Christ's word would not see death, caused another angry round of reaction with more incredible answers by Jesus.
This time in His "finale" statement we have Jesus claiming to be the great "I AM".
It was the same words His Father spoke long ago to Moses.
Thus Jesus is saying to them that God Himself has come to earth in the flesh to live with them. He has done this through Christ's own life who operates as a light in our world.
FINALLY JESUS CLAIMS TO BE "THE GOOD SHEPHERD"
Day 28- In talking of sheep and shepherds, Jesus relates to men on the ground on which they lived. They could well relate to these words, while today we need a little more explanation.
Notice first that Jesus entered "by the door". In winter time sheep were within walls with only one door to get in. Jesus had come as the Old Testament had predicted and authenticated his entrance with miraculous signs.
John 10: 1-2
Notice secondly, that Jesus is recognized by the doorkeeper and the sheep. In winter time several flocks could be in the same pen. The doorkeeper was a shepherd whose flock was in the pen. A shepherd knew and named each of his sheep and they in turn knew his voice. When Jesus appeared, those who were truly His, recognized His voice. The fact that the elite didn't respond to Him shows that they were not God's sheep at all.
Day 29- "I Am the Door" (or the gate).
What does this mean? When the sheep were not in the fields they were usually put in a rough pen of thorn bushes. At night the shepherd slept in the doorway to protect them from harm. His own body served as the door. In a similar way, Jesus comes to save and protect us so that we can live life to the fullest.
Day 30- In these next verses about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, He is contrasting Himself with the religious leaders (or hirelings).
John 10: 11-18
A. Jesus gives His life for us (John 10:11, 15) but, the religious leaders didn't really care and would abandon us (John 10:12-13).
B. Jesus knows the sheep and they recognize Him (John 10:14). It is implied that this is not so with the hireling.
C. Jesus is loved by His Father because He lays down His life (John 10:17) but it is implied that this is not the case with a hireling.
D. Jesus sacrifices His life voluntarily (John 10:18) but again it is implied that this is not the case with a hireling who would flee for his own life first. Notice in John 10:15 that Jesus speaks of "My Father". He claimed both to be known by the Father and to know Him.
Day 31- "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us openly!" And so this question asked by the Jews is answered by Jesus patiently and clearly.
John 10: 25-38
Why should we listen to Him? The answer is simply put in John 10:30. "I and the Father are one". Jesus has come from Heaven to reveal His Father to every life on this earth. As our good shepherd He has come to lead us back home to His Father and to protect us along the way. There will always be those that will disregard Jesus as we have seen with the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees, they may even see that "Jesus is the Christ" but choose to disregard Him anyway in search of their own pleasures and pursuits. This is tragic. For just as Jesus has come to give us an abundant life on earth, and life eternal after death, so there is an eternal hell waiting for all the sheep that are not His. We are the ones who choose the flock that we will belong to when we reject the voice of the Shepherd. As for Jesus, He wants all of us to belong to His flock.
For those of you that will choose today to listen to Him, I hope you will go on to study with us about what Jesus taught so that we will know how we are to live.
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