As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you).
Last week, our Bible read took us through more examples of what Jesus really thinks of Good Religious People and their rules and rule-following. And we also learned who Jesus really gets mad at – and how it's always the Good Religious People, and never "regular" sinners (even though that's exactly opposite what Good Religious People have always taught the rest of us).
Today we're at the start of Jesus' greater teaching time – the times when huge numbers of people were following Him and eager to hear what He had to say about the real way to please God and how to be part of His team. Go read today's Scriptures, then come back here to continue!
Jesus was exciting - before the Good Religious People got hold of His image
By now Jesus has gotten pretty popular. Huge numbers of people from all over really wide geographical area are seeking Him out, because they'd heard about the healing and other miracles He'd performed. Can you imagine the excitement they must have felt? Today, of course, we've suffered under 1,900 years of fake-Jesus miracles and false-teachings shoved in our faces and down our throats, so we're justifiably cynical (and safer being cynical, emotionally and spiritually). But these were Jewish folks who's ancestors had seen God in action in their lives, but who hadn't seen God do anything in their world for about 400 years. No prophets. No miracles. No sign of the promised Messiah. Nothing.
And then there's this guy who's doing all they've been waiting for – and more!
Some today feel that because there are no miracles today as were seen 2,000 years ago, that either means those miracles didn't exist at all (even back then), or, God is no longer active in our lives today. However, to believe either is to miss the reason for God acting in the world through so many miracles back then: they were signs the Jews would demand (as God had told them to demand, in the Old Testament) to PROVE that something more than a human huckster or a lying Good Religious Person was at work here. That was a place and time for miracles back then because it was THE place and time for them.
Today, though, while we do see miracles (when we're willing to), they have a different "function" or "meaning" in our lives and in God's scheme of things than they would have then. God no longer proves Himself at work in the world through miracles like people saw 2,000 years ago. Today, He proves Himself at work through His Holy Spirit, at work in people's hearts and lives. He does still bless us with healing and other miracles sometimes today (I've certainly received them!). But the time to "Wow!" us with them, as if we were children at a circus and not now grown-ups, is long past.
How has God blessed your life with miracles? How has He acted in your heart to prove Himself at work in the world and interested in your life as part of His plan?
Jesus is the biggest miracle we'll ever receive
Matthew reminds us that what Jesus was doing was all part of what God had promised the Jews hundreds of years before (though God had also promised Jesus to the whole human race, through Eve, at the beginning of the human race, as well). God intended to comfort them in their hard times back then as they dealt with the consequences of their evil actions and rejection of God's good, so He gave them a description of what they would see when their Messiah showed up:
- Though many Good Religious People 2,000 years ago would eventually accuse Him of being "ungodly", Jesus was God's servant, loved by God, giving God great delight.
- Jesus, full of God's Spirit, would proclaim justice to everyone – but God's kind of justice, and not the easily corruptible and always faulty human kind of "justice". This would be a justice those who want real justice could actually count on, no matter what!
- Despite the militant warrior so many Jews dreamed their Messiah would be 2,000 years ago (just like so many "Christians" do today), they'd recognize Jesus because He'd be soft spoken, refusing to fight or argue or scrap to accomplish His way.
- They'd also see that Jesus was gentle – until it was time to do the final making-things-right in the End Times – which would be when He established God's justice for all.
We're often promised "justice" by politicians (on the "Left" and "Right"), by the legal system, by the police, and so on. And that "justice" always – always! – fails. "Justice" never materializes when the voting is done. The poor, racial and sexual minorities, and other oppressed people are punished for stealing $100 while the well-off steal millions and aren't even prosecuted. Racial minorities and nonconformists are attacked and threatened by those who are supposed to protect them. But God's justice is different. God's justice isn't bribable, doesn't turn on ego, isn't run by sociopathy. God's justice judges by the heart – and not by what someone looks like, or how much money they have, or what neighborhood they live in. What are some ways you need God's justice in your life? What ways can you imagine the world when Jesus returns to make God's justice "The Law of the Land"?
Jesus arranges for 1st-hand witnesses to what He wants us to know
Jesus had a lot of followers, beside the huge crowds following Him. But out of those He chose twelve to be His special representatives – to learn first hand from Him and be the major actors in spreading His message to the world. They were to be the people others went to to make sure what someone was saying Jesus said was indeed something Jesus had actually said. As we'll see later in the Gospels, at no time did that mean these were the only people appointed to take Jesus' message to the world, or even that these people were leaders of any kind. It just meant we were given a reference to come back to. A way to double-check - and boy-howdy, have we needed a way to double-check the last 2,000 years!
Jesus was doing something else here, as well. Remember in our reading how Jesus has been building over and remaking the past human religion into something new and like God wants (the "new wineskin" we're to use instead of the old)? Well, the old religion was founded upon twelve physical brothers, and people belonged to God or didn't belong to God based on whether they were physically descended from one of those brothers. Jesus, however, created a new start - twelve new people who weren't related physically (except for the two brothers James and John, but their siblingship was completely immaterial), but spiritually.
So, in Jesus' new way, people belong to God or not based on what's in their hearts, and no longer on what's in their DNA. So whether we were born into one of the tribes of the man named Israel, or born into one of the thousands upon thousands of other peoples throughout history and over the planet, we all have equal standing before and equal belonging to God, through Jesus.
Once they were fully trained in Jesus' way and full of the Holy Spirit (which didn't happen until after Pentecost, after Jesus was resurrected)), none of the apostles ever allowed anyone to hold them in any high regard, or to treat them special, or do anything else but consider them as first hand witnesses to Jesus who had wisdom to share. What, then, can we understand about "apostles" (and "pastors", and "prophets", etc) today (and in the last 1,900 years) who allow or even seek out special honors, titles, chairs, podiums, speaking privileges, control over others' lives, etc? Why should we listen to or trust/follow those who claim the role (or who have "earned" it through seminary or "laying on of hands") but who by their day-to-day lives prove they haven't actually absorbed Jesus' REAL way and are blocking the Holy Spirit from their own lives?
Next week, we'll start what's been called "The Sermon on the Mount" – the longest, continuous teaching of Jesus about God's REAL way. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it outside of how nearly all "churches" teach us to understand it, I think you'll be (mostly pleasantly :) surprised.
See you then!
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can always contact me (Lynne) at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.