How can we know that the Bible really is God’s word and it what it says is true?
Well, first of all, because the Bible says so.
Whoa! Hold the phone! The Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true? That’s a circular argument!
Listen, it’s perfectly reasonable.
If we said the Bible was something the Bible didn’t say that would be a problem, wouldn’t it? But even on its own, the reasoning isn’t circular. The Bible is self-affirming. We use history to examine history, right?
Well, like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, we can use scripture to affirm scripture.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went to the synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, and they received the word wit all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)
The Bible is…
And yet, it consistently tells the same story with God as its author.
It’s writers were not aspiring to write canon. They wrote what God told them to. The Bible reveals the fallenness of man and our need for redemption; and the holiness of God and His plan of redemption!
That’s exactly the kind of book you’d expect God to write!
We know that the Bible is true because…
The apostle John said that the Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and it is greater than any witness of man.
The Spirit is the one who testifies because the Spirit is truth… If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that He’s borne concerning His Son… And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (1 John 5:6-12)
There are things that may affirm the Bible outside the text, but the Bible affirms itself just fine when we understand the text.
(Many of the Bible stories and verses we think we know, we don’t! When We Understand the Text is an internet-based video ministry committed to righting some of the wrong understanding of scripture, all while advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out more at WWUTT.com!)
To purchase the entire DVD set of the Summit Lecture Series, visit summit.org.
Now, remember that Muslims believe that the Gospels are the inspired word of God. They refer to the story of Jesus Christ as the Injil, and it is one of the four Islamic holy books. And, when we take a look at what Jesus said and did, as well as what others said about Him and how they reacted to Him, it becomes very clear that Jesus did claim to be God.
In Mark 14:62, the Jewish High Priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus’ response is, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
When we read Jesus’ words today, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. But, when we read it from the perspective of a first century Jew, it makes all the sense in the world.
Jesus starts out by saying the words, “I AM”. These are the same words God answered with when Moses asked Him, “Who are you?” as he stood before the burning bush. Many other times throughout the Old Testament, God uses the words, “I AM” in reference to Himself. Then, in John’s Gospel, we see Jesus using the same words in reference to Himself.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”
57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” (John 8:56-58)
But, John isn’t the only account that quotes Jesus in this way. We read Mark 14, and earlier in Mark’s Gospel (chapter six) when Jesus’ disciples saw Him walking on the sea of Galilee, they were filled with fear. But, Jesus’ response to them was, “Take courage. I AM.”
Now, in most English translations, we read Jesus’ words as, “Don’t be afraid, it’s Me.” But, when we look at the original Greek writings describing this moment, it says “Take courage. I AM.”
This matters because the Old Testament says that only Yahweh can walk on water:
He alone has spread out the heavens
and marches on the waves of the sea. (Job 9:8)
Yet, we read in both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels about Jesus walking on water. Then He referred to Himself with “I AM”.
Going back to Mark 14:62, Jesus went on to say, “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power…”
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man” more than anything else. This particular time, He is once again referencing the Old Testament, going back to one of Daniel’s visions:
13 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.
And that’s the Guy who Jesus claims to be!
Jesus also claims to be the One sitting at the right hand of Power, which is a reference to Psalm 110:1,
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
In addition to what Jesus said, lets look at what Jesus did.
He forgave people’s sins. Yet, the Old Testament says that only God alone has the prerogative to forgive sins.
5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:5-12)
Jesus also performed miracles in His own Name. Throughout the Old Testament, whenever someone does something miraculous, they pray in God’s name in order for it to be done. But, when Jesus raised a little boy from the dead in Luke 7:11-17, Jesus used the words, “I say to you, arise.” (Not “in the Name of God, arise”, as Old Testament prophets would have said).
“Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (Luke 7:14-16)
Also, in Matthew 9:27-31, when two blind people approached Jesus and asked Him to heal them, He asked them, “Do you have faith that I can do this?” They respond, “Yes. We have faith that YOU can do this.”
Jesus then told them, “By your faith, it shall be done.”
Did you catch that? Not by their faith in their Creator, but faith in Him… Jesus! Jesus did something no one has ever done… He performed Godly miracles in His own Name!
Also, what other people said about Jesus throughout the Gospels indicates that Jesus claimed to be God as well. In John 20:28, the Apostle Thomas stood before Jesus after His resurrection and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
And, of course, we see Jesus being worshipped as God throughout the New Testament. Additionally, the Jews killed Him for the crime of blasphemy. The only way that He could be found guilty of that is if He claimed to be God.
Finally, throughout the New Testament, there are quotations of things that were written before the New Testament. For instance, Philippians 2:5-11 tells us,
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 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. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,10 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, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
These words in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi aren’t his own. Paul is quoting Daniel 7 as well as other Old Testament writings. Paul is also saying that, by His very nature, Christ is God. Paul quotes Old Testament writings regarding Jesus’ death, deity, and His resurrection.
Also, many scholars believe that Mark’s passion narrative – his account of Jesus’ beating, crucifixion, and death – predates the rest of Mark’s Gospel. It also testifies to Jesus’ death, deity and His resurrection.
Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth – believed by scholars to be written less than two years after Jesus’ death says,
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
The earliest stratum of Christian history that we have proclaims Jesus’ death, deity, and His resurrection. That is something that we all ought to take with us. The core of the Christian faith is the very first thing that we ever had: Jesus is God, He claimed to be God, He died for our sins and He rose from the dead.
Christianity and Islam have one central pivot point. That is the person of Jesus.
Islam says you can believe all the things that the Bible says about Christ: He performed miracles, He’s a prophet, He’s the Messiah, He was virgin-born, and is coming at the end of days.
However, Muslims cannot believe that Jesus died on the cross as stated in Surah 4:157,
“And because of their saying: we slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them…”
Muslims cannot believe Jesus rose from the dead, and they cannot believe that He is God. (Surah 5:1-16 and 5:17-23).
Yet, the Christian faith says that in order to be saved, you must believe Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead and claimed to be God – the very things Islam prohibits.
The exact things that Christianity deems as necessary for salvation are the things that Islam denies.
This is no accident.
We know through secular historical documentation that Surah 4:157 is simply not true. In fact, there is so much evidence concluding that Jesus Christ was put to death on the cross that even the most skeptical modern scholars agree that if we can know anything about Jesus Christ, it’s that He died on the cross under Pontius Pilot. It’s the most firm fact that we have regarding the life of Jesus.
Therefore, when we consider what the Qur’an has to say about Jesus’ death, it ignores all the historical evidence that the world has collected over the past 2,000 years. And, this evidence isn’t exclusive to Christian testimony. Jewish writings, such as the Talmud and the writings of Josephus also attest that Jesus was killed on the cross. If anything, you would think that Jewish historians would also deny the historical death of Jesus Christ. Yet they agree that He did die on the cross. There are also pagan Gentile historians like Tacitus that claim the exact same truth regarding Jesus’ death.
All these historians, from Jews to Gentiles, Christians to Pagans, all know that no one survived a full Roman crucifixion. No one ever did.
Yet, Muslims have come up with alternative theories on how to explain what happened to Jesus. There’s the Substitution Theory – that it wasn’t actually Jesus that was put on the cross, but someone else. But this isn’t even theologically possible. If God allowed someone else to die on the cross, that means that God caused the Christian religion. Christians all believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead because the earliest Christ-followers saw it happen. But, if God was the one who pulled one over on them and had someone else die on the cross so that Christ-followers would believe that He died and rose again, then Muslims would have to conclude that it was Allah who caused Christianity.
Then there’s the Swoon Theory – that Jesus actually survived the crucifixion, but was unconscious and near-death and then revived. But, firstly, history proves that not a single person ever survived a full Roman crucifixion. Secondly, if He revived while inside the tomb, it would be impossible for Him to have the strength to roll away the stone from the inside of the tomb and take on the Roman centurions standing guard outside.
But, most important to me is the fact that Jesus did claim to be God. The Qur’an says in Surah 5:72,
“They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! Whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise). His abode is the fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers.”
According to the Qur’an, God is saying here that if you believe that Jesus is Lord
(ascribe partnership with Jesus and God), then you will go to hell. And there is not help for you at all. This is the only unforgivable sin in Islam.
Then, in Surah 5:116, the Qur’an says:
“And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? He saith: be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in thy mind.”
In other words, the Qur’an is describing the Trinity as: Father, Son and Wife; and Jesus very clearly denies that He ever claimed to be God.
I met a lovely young woman this past weekend who we shall call “Monique”. She is divorced with a young daughter. Her husband left her two years ago for another woman. He moved out of their home they had bought together, and right into the new woman’s house. Monique had to short sell her home due to the divorce and chose to move into a two-bedroom apartment. She has suffered a lot of loss. The death of her marriage, selling her beautiful home, and the loss of time with her daughter.
Anyone who has been cheated on can identify with this type of hurt and betrayal. What happened to “til death do us part”? The emotional crisis that can arise comes with questions like “Am I enough?” Or “What does she have that I don’t?” or “Why did he fall out of love with me?” All of this is enough to tear a heart a part.
Monique’s parents were divorced when she was young, so she remembers what it is like for the child of divorced parents. It’s hard. You love both of your parents and you just want them to like each other. Her dad and stepdad hated each other but the mistake they made was to let Monique know this and she felt put in the middle.
Put in the middle of adult issues. Is that fair? Of course not. No child should have to shoulder the burden of their parent’s decisions and try to fix them. Why? Because they can’t and emotionally they are not developed enough to carry adult size problems.
This amazing young woman decided a year after their divorce to take some time for herself and figure out what she wants to do with her life. She examined her own heart and she made some very hard choices.
She decided, for her daughter’s sake, that she is going to be friends with her ex-husband. She determined that her daughter, as far as she can help it, will not be put in the middle. Her daughter will be allowed to love both of her parents and enjoy her time with her daddy without being pumped for information. So she called her ex and asked if they could get a cup of coffee together. She asked him to forgive her for her part in the break up of the marriage and she told him that she has forgiven him. She said, “For our daughter’s sake, I would like for us to be friends and be friendly toward each other.” He agreed that would be healthy for their daughter.
They recently attended a school program together and their little girl was so delighted…she exclaimed with a big smile on her face “You and Daddy are really coming together?”
This woman could have chosen to become bitter – and really, who would have blamed her? She was dumped on. But she chose the higher road and because of that, her daughter is the winner. When we get caught up in hating our exes, the only ones hurt from that are our children… and perhaps our own hearts. A bitter person becomes an ugly person no matter how pretty they may be on the outside. And no one wants to be around a person like that for long. I have no doubt whatsoever, that this young woman will find another partner at the right time. Someone who will cherish her for the woman she is and the choices she has made.
Our human nature wants to take the road of getting even, lashing out and bad mouthing our exes. That’s our sin nature and it can be determined to get it’s own way. But the strength and character Monique has displayed will benefit not only her daughter but also herself. She is being a healthy example of how to love, forgive and let go.
“ Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
If you are finding it difficult to forgive your ex for whatever reason, then maybe you just need someone to come alongside of you and walk with you for a season. Sometimes our hearts are so wounded we seemingly can’t let go. I have walked the journey of choosing to forgive so I understand and can help you in your journey to freedom of the past. Don’t let someone else’s bad choice hold you back any longer.
Please contact me here or at nouveaulifecoaching.com
We have been looking at the following scripture up close and personal.
Isaiah 26: 3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you!!
Last week we got up to “him whose mind is steadfast. This week we are starting with:
“Because he trusts in you”….. the Hebrew word trust is batach, to attach oneself. To confide in, feel safe, be confident, secure. Picture a baby with her mom or dad, don’t we want to trust God like that child who is utterly dependent.
Now let’s look at this word out of 2 Corinthians 10:5
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
When did you last break a stronghold in your own strength and end up feeling powerless and totally defeated? Do you see any patterns?
Think about a stronghold you have experienced my friend. What part did insecurity play in it?
Insecurity played a major part in the strongholds the enemy built in my life. An important part of learning for me to live in victory has been discerning the heart rumblings of insecurity.
I had to learn to pour out my heart to God and acknowledge every hollow place. I had to surrender my eating habits to Him every day
“When you make a daily practice of inviting His love to fill your hollow places and make sure you are not hindering the process, God will begin to satisfy you more than a double cheeseburger.” …Halleluiah!!
We left off last week by considering together this most enigmatic verse:
“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)
If you are at all uncomfortable with that, then the rest of this story will make no sense, and will leave you with an even greater discomfort.
But if you are willing to allow for the fact that “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered,” then you are in for this great big blessing: The grand and glorious realization that Jesus, just like you and just like me, learned in real time what it means to live a life of obedience to God the Father.
We stressed last week, and I will ever-so-briefly remind you now, that Jesus was fully human, just like us.
Last week we discussed some of the implications of Hebrews 4:15, where the writer emphatically affirms this ever-so-comforting reality:
Jesus “understands all of our human weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings and temptations we do, yet He did not sin.”
Jesus experienced every human emotion, felt keenly every human feeling — including our feelings of fear, insecurity, uncertainty, abandonment, betrayal.
I mean, you just wait until we get to the Garden of Gethsemane, at which time there will be no doubt that in Jesus 100% deity meets 100% humanity, with all that that word humanity implies.
As we saw so vividly last week, life threw at Jesus unexpected challenges, unanticipated conflicts, undeserved difficulties, uninvited troubles… Just like life throws at us.
Jesus learned, just as so many of us are now learning, that sometimes, perhaps even most times, our richest life lessons can be taught only in the crucible of calamity.
By the reading of books our minds become broad. But it is only as we walk the pathway of pain that our souls become deep.
Something that Jesus learned. Something that we are each learning.
“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.”
Some people who are “Born Again”… and KNOW that they are born again… You see, you’ll know that you know when you are. But, when you’re not sure, then you probably aren’t. But some people who are and know that they are are what I call a “Point In Time” Christian.
A Point in Time Christian is someone who may not remember the exact date, but they remember the circumstance – it may have been at a revival meeting or Harvest Crusade, it may have been kneeling beside your bed with your Grandpa, it may have been at camp, or even in front of your television… either way, you remember the circumstance when you prayed and asked Jesus Christ to enter your life.
This accounts for about two-thirds of people who claim to follow Christ.
But here’s the problem with being a “Point in Time” guy: there are more of them than there are what I call “Process Christians”, so therefore, Point in Time Christians tend to want Process Christians to have a time, date, and place. Why do they want this for them? Because it’s the way that they got saved, so Point in Timers want to make sure that Processors are in fact saved so that they can be sure that they are in… as if the Point in Timers are fruit inspectors at the holy gates or something.
So, Point in Timers make life really tough for Processors.
Now, Process Christians are people who acknowledge that at some point in time they were born again, but they are not exactly certain when that was. All that they know is that right now they know that they know that they know. They’re just not sure when it happened.
Either way, the Bible is very clear that if we want to spend eternity with God and be saved from an eternity without Him, then we must be born again.
In John 3:9-15, we learn that this didn’t make sense to Nicodemus. He asked Jesus,
“How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak that We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that it, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
In other words, Jesus said, “I’m putting it as plainly as I can. I know what I’m talking about here. I am God!” Jesus continued:
“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.”
Jesus comes right out of left field with this line.
Consider your basic, everyday, run of the mill snake.
In the Old Testament, Numbers 21 tells the story that Jesus is referring to. You see, every time that the Hebrews messed up, God had to lay a heavy on them to get their attention. At one point, they grumbled about the food He had provided for them, so He laid a real big heavy on them. He sent some little red snakes to bite them.
Every time a little red snake bit somebody, they would die.
The Israelites cried out, “Oh, Moses! This is the heaviest heavy that God has ever laid on us. Go pray like crazy and ask God to lighten up!”
Moses returned with some good news and some bad news: The bad news was that God was not getting rid of the snakes. Every time God got rid of the snakes or their equivalent, the people stopped trusting God. The good news was that if they made a bronze stick with a golden snake on it and if they looked on the snake after getting bit, they would be healed and would not die. God gave them the world’s best snakebite kit, but he didn’t get rid of the snakes.
The Hebrews had four responses.
Some refused to follow God’s instructions, followed their own thinking, and died.
Some thought that there must be other options to being healed from the snake’s venom. There’s no way that God’s instructions are THE ONLY way to be saved. They died.
Some took off and ran far away from where all the snakes were thinking that they could run away from the situation at hand. But the snakes were there, too and they were bit. But by the time they turned to look for the golden snake, they had wandered so far away that there were hills between them and camp. They couldn’t see it. They died.
But, some, after being bit by the snakes, did as God told them and immediately looked upon the golden serpent. They didn’t die.
They did things the way that God said to do them.
And, Jesus, who is God, said, “You must be born again.”
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you!!” (Isaiah 26: 3 )
Let’s take a look at this word up close and personal:
3. “Him whose mind is steadfast”. We see events from our own perspective and context. Have you noticed how two people can look at the same experience so differently? They put the picture of what happened in different frames and act accordingly. Our reaction depends on how we framed the event.
Included in this podcast is my stronghold of weight story I have been sharing each week.
Write these scriptures down and meditate on them.
You are deeply and completely loved. (Romans 8:38–39)
You are totally and completely forgiven. (1 John 2:12)
When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
You mean the whole world to him. (John 3:16)
He thinks you are beautiful. Right now. (Song of Songs 4:1)
He is committed to your restoration. (Romans 8:29)
You are not now, nor have you ever been, alone. (Hebrews 13:5)
Meditate on these scriptures friends. They will completely change the way you think about yourself.
For more information, visit ReflectionsOfGraceHome.com
Nobody consulted you and asked you if you wanted to be born.
They just “had” you.
Then, a generation later, you had your kids. You didn’t consult them beforehand, either.
So, when we are born, we have life. And, one of these days, each and every one of us are going to die. Therefore, life is basically the dash between two dates. We see it on tombstones across the globe. Another definition for life is this: Life is a sexually transmitted disease that is 100% fatal!
The bottom line is that life is the period of time that you get to solve the problem of being born spiritually dead.
We are born physically alive. But because we are born in Adam’s sin, we are born spiritually dead. So, the thing that you don’t want is for physical death to catch you spiritually dead. You want to solve that problem while you can. And you can solve that problem while you are physically alive, but you cannot solve the problem when you are physically dead.
Eternity hangs in the balance.
Now, there are some people – very noteworthy, educated folks like theologian John Stott – who have put together a very convincing argument for something called “Annihilationism”. What they present is that eternal punishment is contrary to God’s nature of being eternal love, and that rather than having to spend eternity in conscious awareness in hell, since fire has the property of consuming that which it encounters, people cease to exist as an entity and are annihilated.
But, I’m afraid Annihilationism is pie in the sky because it doesn’t hold to Scripture. I wish it were true. It seems to be a better alternative than eternal torment, but I’m not God, so I can’t make the rules… and neither can Mr. Stott.
The Bible supports the concept called hell. And, the Bible states that if physical death catches you spiritually dead, then you spend eternal awareness in the absolute absence of God.
Now, that’s minimal. I don’t know about the fire part, or the whaling and gnashing of teeth, but minimally, you will spend eternity in a timelessness where there is the absolute absence of God.
But, if while you are physically alive, you solve the problem of spiritual death, and are “born again”, then you spend eternity with God.
You see, you were born physically – that’s the first birth; “born again” – that’s the second birth, which is spiritual birth. So, when you see the term “born again”, you can better understand it now. And the Bible says that this spiritual birth has to happen before we die physically.
If it does, then we spend eternity in the presence of the living and loving God.
John 3:8 says:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Have you ever stood in the wind? When you feel the wind blow across your face, you don’t know where it comes from, nor where it is going. We know, scientifically, that it may have been derived from a high pressure zone overhead and gravitated toward a neighboring low pressure zone, but its original location and final destination are unknown. But, you do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, where it is when it blows across your face.
That’s the way it is when you are born again.
It’s tough to describe, but you’ll know that you know that you know when you know. But when you don’t know, then there’s no way of knowing.
This is what John 3:8 is talking about.
Welcome to one of the strangest stories — many would call this a troubling tale — in Jesus’ entire life and ministry.
As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, what happens here in Mark 7, and its parallel passage in Matthew 15, seems highly uncharacteristic of Jesus; uncharitable to a tragically needy-yet-remarkable mommy; and unnecessarily cold and calloused as far as a Jesus is concerned.
A Jesus, I will humbly remind you, who defined Himself as “gentle” in Matthew 11, and who described His mission as one “to seek and to save the lost in Luke 19.
As you read this story, at first blush anyway, Jesus was Anything. But. Gentle in the way He spoke to this panic-stricken mother who was understandably distraught over the condition of her daughter.
Tell you what: If His mission was to seek and to save the lost, you couldn’t find anyone more lost than this woman.
As we read this story together (it’s only 8 verses in Matthew’s account), you tell me if you find this encounter between Jesus and this mom at all unsettling or unnerving. Put yourself in the mom’s sandals for a second and imagine that Jesus is talking to you about your little girl.
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)
A happy ending to be sure.
But what an insensitive, ungracious, uncaring way to get to that happy ending..
You talk about showing a little kindness (as we did last week), there was no kindness shown to this woman; no kindness of any kind was shown to her at all. Until the very end.
Jesus (apparently) ignored her (“Jesus did not answer a word.”), then (apparently) refused and rebuffed her (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”), then (apparently) belittled her (“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”).
Curiously enough, that’s it as far as Jesus’ road trip up North into what is today Lebanon, what was then Phoenicia, was concerned.
This one strange story.
And as always, my friend, we have much to talk about.
You see, when I try to understand what Jesus was doing in this scene of His life, I start with the question: How human was Jesus?
While Jesus was on earth, He – out of necessity – laid aside the independent usage of many of His divine attributes. Most notable of these are the three “omni’s”: Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience.
For example, Jesus exercised His omnipotence (all-powerfulness) when He stilled the raging storm. But then, He immediately laid it aside afterward when He got exhausted and fell asleep in the back of the boat. How could someone be omnipotent and exhausted simultaneously?
He also, quite obviously, laid aside his omnipresence since He was localized to wherever His one body traveled. He couldn’t be two places at one time.
He also laid aside His omniscience – knowing everything… sometimes.
When He spoke to the women at the well, He exercised His omniscience. He told her things about her personal life than only omniscient God could know. But there were times when He laid aside His omniscience and there were things that He didn’t know, including the day that God will return to earth, as we read in Mark 13:32 –
But no one knows the day or the hour. No! Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows.
So, when Jesus was born, He did not possess a mental checklist of events that needed to occur between the manger and the cross. He knew He was going to the cross. He knew when He was going to the cross – Passover. But there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that He had every single event of His life completely laid out for His knowledge and understanding. Therefore, there were times when He would be caught by surprise.
Examples: Did Jesus know in advance that He would be rejected in Capernaum and have to leave His hometown? Did He know that He would be totally and completely rejected in Nazareth? Did He know that John the Baptizer was going to be murdered? If He did know, then why did the news of the event shake Him to the core?
So, getting back to this week’s story in Tyre, if you are willing to accept that Jesus was fully God AND fully human, then I believe that these events were unexpected to Jesus and He was simply trying to get His legs back under Him, just like we experience when unexpected events rock our world.
Therefore, maybe – just maybe – Jesus understands our personal dilemmas more than we give Him credit for. Because His world got rocked, too.
Jesus was trying to get away. He hid out in a house, trying to escape for a bit. Then, this heartbroken mother sought Him out and invaded His schedule. She came shouting loudly, begging for mercy, telling Him about her little girl’s suffering.
And Jesus did not answer at all… not a single word.
I don’t believe He did this out of rudeness. If you look at how she was shouting – “as if from a long way off”, then she wasn’t nearby enough for Him to speak to her. He would have needed to shout back… from inside the house that he was retreating in.
He couldn’t answer her. She was too far away.
When she finally came closer, then He spoke with her.
Well… actually, when He first spoke, He didn’t answer her. She was still too far away. He answered His disciples.
In fact, I believe that He was still processing – out loud, even – what was occurring in this foreign land and how these events were going to affect the mission He was sent on – to save the lost sheep of Israel. He had ministered to Gentiles before, but they had always come to Him in Israel, for all of Israel to see, hear and learn from.
Once she approached Him, then He spoke with her. And His words seem quite cold and calloused… unless you understand the rabbinic teachings of Jesus’ faith tradition. The rabbis said:
“As the sacred food was intended for men, but not for the dogs, so the Torah was intended to be given to the chosen people, but not to Gentiles.”
That’s what Jesus was taught in Sabbath School.
But, Jesus misquoted them. He changed the word for “dog”. Instead of the word meaning wild mongrels, he used the word meaning a dog who is loved, accepted and treated like a member of the family.
It’s as if He were going back and forth with the should I / could I debate as he processed her request, and where and when it was made.
After thinking it through, when He arrived at the answer, He told her, “You have mega-faith! Your request is granted!!” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
In other words, Jesus didn’t know exactly what to do at that very second. He needed a second to pray, seek God and assess the situation. He’s a lot like me… and I love that!
And I believe that all this explains an otherwise tough-to-understand in Hebrews.
Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
Jesus suffered rejection in Capernaum, rejection in Nazareth, rejection by Herod Antipas, the murder of His beloved cousin John the Baptist, attacks from Jerusalem rabbis… and this was just the beginning!
In these chapters, we are watching Jesus – even though He was fully God – learning to walk in obedience to the will of His Father.
Just like you and I need to learn how to do.