Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jesus’ First Sermon

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (RSV)

Empowered by the Holy Spirit and passing the test of pure evil (Mark 1:9-13; Luke 4:14), Jesus gives His first sermon in Galilee. Jesus proclaimed, “The time promised by God has come at last . . . .  The Kingdom of God is near (arrived)! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT). These first words spoken by Jesus give the theme and centerpiece of Jesus’ preaching and teaching (see also Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ teaching and preaching focused on the Kingdom of God, the need for repentance, and belief (trust) in the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14-15). More than a hundred references to the Kingdom of God appear in the New Testament Gospels, many in Jesus’ parables (e.g., see Matthew 13:24, 31-33, 44-47; Matthew 20:1; Matthew 22:2; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:1).

The Gospel is called “the Gospel of God” because the Gospel comes from God and reconciles (unites) us to God through wholehearted faith in Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; see also Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17). Also, the Gospel is “the Gospel of the Kingdom” because faith (trust) in Jesus brings you into God’s Kingdom, into God’s family, and brings eternal life (John 1:12-13; John 3:15-16). Gospel is the usual New Testament translation of the Greek word “euangelion.” The word Gospel simply means “Good News.” The Gospel is the Good News that God's unique Son (Jesus Christ) has come into the world to bring salvation (Matthew 1:21). Through belief (faith or trust) in God’s Son and repentance, our sins can be forgiven, we can be reconciled to God, and declared God’s child (e.g., see John 1:12-14; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Even more, the Gospel is God’s proclamation victory over sin, death, and hell (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 51-52; Galatians 1:1-9). The Gospel is the power of God’s Holy Spirit to raise the dead, to bring new life, and release bondage from sin (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Most important, JESUS IS THE GOSPEL OF GOD! In Jesus is the fullness (totality) of God with all God’s powers and attributes (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).

With the arrival of Jesus, the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:15). The only response to the arrival of God’s Kingdom was to first repent and second trust (believe) in the glorious Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom of God. Like the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist, God’s unique Son Jesus also preached the necessity of repentance (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; see also e.g., Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 2:12-17; Amos 5:4-6, 14-15). Repentances mean wholeheartedly turning our hearts and minds away from sins and genuinely seeking God. God always grants forgiveness when there is honest repentance.

Next, the idea of God’s Kingdom is central to Jesus’ teaching and preaching. What does “Kingdom of God” mean? The basic meaning of Kingdom of God means the reign or rule of God. The Old Testament contains no specific references to the Kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God takes its initial shape from Israel’s understanding of God as King (e.g. see 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 47:2, 7-8; Psalm 146:10; Isaiah 52:7; Revelation 4:9). In the Old Testament, God is spoken of as ruling and reigning (e.g. see Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:17, 25-37). As Creator of the world, God is exalted above all creation and rules in majesty. The arrival of Jesus ushered in the eternal and heavenly reign of God throughout all the earth.

The proclamation of God’s Kingdom by Jesus meant “the time has come” (Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul calls this moment the “fullness of time” or “just the right time” (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10).  In Greek language, there are two words for time. The first is “chronos” which means progressive time, quantity of time, or chronological time. Second, mean “kairos” which means “critical or opportune moment” and this form of time requires an immediate action or an immediate response to a significant moment in time. So when Jesus said “the time has come,” Jesus was declaring the right “kairos” has come and you most do something now (Mark 1:15). The rule or reign of God’s Kingdom had now come into the human world and the Kingdom will also arrive at the second coming of Jesus (e.g., Matthew 25:1-46). So the Kingdom of God is the rule (reign) of God which He extended over human lives through the ministry of Jesus (Mark 1:15); and the Kingdom of God is also is God’s rule which will be consummated or made complete in the future.

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

Then, Jesus follows with two requirements of the Kingdom of God:  (1) repent and (2) believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Entrance into God’s Kingdom require repentance (forsaking and turning one’s heart and minds from sin) and belief in the Gospel of God, which is Jesus! In His preaching, Jesus invited people to enter the Kingdom of God. We must make the Kingdom of God our first priority and seek the Kingdom ahead of everything else and turn from evil (Matthew 6:33). Righteous living (turning from evil and seeking God) was also the continued central teaching of Apostle Paul and the other Apostles (e.g., Romans chapters 12 through 15; 1 Peter 1:13-25).

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. Romans 14:17-18 (NLT)

Throughout the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, there are direct references to the “Gospel of God,” “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” or the “the Kingdom of heaven” (e.g., see Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 9:1-2). Jesus prophesied this same message shall be taken to the ends of the world (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) and Jesus commissioned His disciples (faithful followers) to continue the message of the God with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:3-8). Clearly, the early church proclaimed the same message Jesus Christ preached, that is, “the Gospel of the Kingdom of God” and the need to turn away from sin and turn to God (see Acts 8:12; Acts 19:8; Acts 20:25; Acts 28:23, 30-31). 

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike — the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21 (NLT)

Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Kelber, Werner. Mark’s Story of Jesus (Houston, TX: Fortress Press, 1979).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized Him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on [into] Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy.” The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of Him. Mark 1:9-13 (NLT)

At Mark 1:9, Mark tells us Jesus came from Galilee and He was baptized by John the Baptist (see parallel at Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22). Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry on earth. Jesus began His public ministry in AD 27 when He was approximately 30 years (Luke 3:23; see also Numbers 4:3). Prior to the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus worked in a small-town carpenter's shop and waited for God’s divine timing before beginning His ministry. Before His public ministry, Jesus spent most of His life in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:23). Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown (Matthew 21:11; Matthew 26:71; Luke 2:39; Luke 4:16; John 1:45-46). Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem just outside Jerusalem, He was brought up in the city of Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:22-23; Luke 1:26; Luke 2:39). Nazareth was a small town in the Galilean region (northern Israel) located about between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.

You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:37-38 (NLT)

The account of Jesus’ baptism by John created controversy in the early church as seen in early church writings. The early church had to wrestle with this issue of Jesus’ baptism. In the early church, some argued that Jesus was just like any other human with sins. Christians understood baptism not a baptism of ritual cleansing but a baptism that marked a newness of life, a turning from sin and an acknowledgement for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:8). If baptism is a sign of new life and acknowledgement for forgiveness of sins, the early church wanted to know why Jesus had to be baptized. The four Gospels do not answer this controversial issue regarding Jesus’ baptism but simply gives Jesus’ baptism as a statement of fact (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34). Also, Matthew’s Gospel states Jesus’ baptism fulfilled “all righteousness,” which means to accomplish God's mission or will (see Matthew 3:15). The Holy Scriptures amply confirmed that Jesus was sinless and holy (e.g. see John 1:29, 36; Acts 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Although Jesus did not need forgiveness of sins, He was baptized to begin His Messianic ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people through faith. Also, by allowing John to baptize Him, Jesus identified Himself with sinful humanity whom He came to seek and save. Jesus’ baptism completely identified Himself with humanity’s sin and failure.

Immediately, after Jesus came out of the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit appeared (Mark 1:10; see also Isaiah 42:1-2). The Holy Spirit normally was not discussed much with Mark’s Gospel. However, the Holy Spirit is heavily associated with Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts, which is also written by Luke. Luke emphasized the Holy Spirit not only in His Gospel (e.g., Luke 1:35, 41, 67; Luke 2:25-27; Luke 3:16, 22) but also in the Book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit is mentioned fifty-seven times. Yet, Mark prominently mentioned the Holy Spirit. With Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon or into Him and anointed Him for His public ministry (see Luke 4:18, 21; John 1:32-33). Also, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to empower Him for His missionary work as Messiah (the “Anointed One”) (Acts 10:37-38; see also Isaiah 61:1-3). At Jesus’ baptism, all three Persons of the Trinity were present: (1) God the Father spoke, (2) God the Son was baptized, and (3) God the Spirit descended onto Jesus (Mark 1:10-11). As a side note, all faithful followers (disciples) of Jesus are also anointed with the Holy Spirit through their genuine love, faith, and obedience to Him (John 14:15-17; John 15:26-27; John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20).

During the baptism, God spoke directly from heaven declaring Jesus as His unique and beloved Son (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Also, the Gospel writers recorded God’s voice from heaven addressing Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35) and in the Temple area during Jesus’ final week on earth (John 12:28-29). Jesus’ declaration as God's divine Son is the foundation of Mark’s Gospel (e.g. see Mark 1:1, 11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 12:1-11; Mark 13:32; Mark 14:61-62; and Mark 15:39). Mark did not write his Gospel about just any man. He wrote his Gospel about Jesus – the very Son of God who came from heaven to die for the sins of the world!

Based on this scene in Mark, only Jesus sees and hears God’s glorious voice speaking from heaven. Mark gives no account of John the Baptist or the people seeing and hearing God’s voice because Jesus is central to this scene in his Gospel. For Mark, John the Baptist was just a vessel, an instrument, or messenger as Jesus is central to his Gospel. However, John’s Gospel records both Jesus and John the Baptist hearing God’s voice and seeing the Holy Spirit descend onto Jesus as a dove (John 1:29-34). God’s declaration from heaven reminds us of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1.

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. Mark 1:12-13 (NLT)

One of the most fascinating features of Jesus’ baptism and temptation is the Holy Spirit’s compelling of Jesus into the wilderness. Immediately (Mark’s favorite term), Mark notes “the Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12 NLT). Matthew and Luke’s Gospels said “Jesus was lead out” into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). But Mark’s Gospel said Jesus was “cast out” or “compelled” into the wilderness to be tempted and tested. Compelled reflects Mark's forceful style, while the other Gospel writers use "led"). The Greek word is “ekballō,” which may be translated “lead.” Mark translate the Greek word “ekballei” or “ekballō” as a forceful thrust of Jesus into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the same Holy Spirit that endowed and equipped Jesus for His Messianic ministry also “casted” or “compelled” Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted and tested. This is Mark's way of showing the intensity or immediacy of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had no time to bask in the glory of the heavenly voice or the presence of the heavenly dove. Instead, Mark shows Jesus’ active ministry in first century Galilee. As typical with Mark’s Gospel, Mark’s account of the temptation is the briefest of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Matthew and Luke give more details surrounding Jesus’ testing and temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13).

Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into heaven, let us hold on to the faith we have. For our High Priest is able to understand our weaknesses. When He lived on earth, He was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NCV)

Jesus was tempted and tested for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). However, Jesus did not sin but remained faithful and obedient to God (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15). The forty days of testing and temptation recalled the experiences of Moses (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) as well as the forty years of Israel’s temptation (testing) in the desert. The Lord God led Israel into the wilderness (desert) forty years. Jesus was subjected to a similar test as Israel and showed Himself to be the true Israelite who lived “on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Although Israel of the Old Testament failed when they were tested, Jesus succeeded victoriously by triumphing over evil and temptation. The second picture of the wilderness scene was that of the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The first Adam was tested in the beautiful Garden and failed. However, Jesus as the “second Adam” won the victory over evil and temptation through obedience and faith in God (Romans 5:12-21). Jesus was faithful and demonstrated His qualification to become Savior of the world. As the One who remained faithful and obedient to God in temptation and testing He became the Model for all believers when we are tempted and tested to remain faithful and obedient to God.

Moreover, the Scripture referenced that Jesus “was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). This reference that Jesus “was with the wild beasts” is only recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Some biblical scholars comment that because there is no parallel in the other three Gospels that Jesus was “with the wild animals” or “wild beast” is Mark’s deliberate allusion to Nero’s persecution of Christian in Rome. During Christian persecution in the AD 60s, Roman Emperor Nero draped Christians with the skins of wild animals and the Christians were treated like a sport. Roman athletics would fight the Christians as wild animals until their death. Thus, this reference to the “wild beast” or “wild animals” is similar to Christian persecution by Nero and is a deliberate allusion to Mark’s audience who were suffering unjustly at the hands of Nero. Yet, Mark also said “angels took care of Him” as a reference of encouragement (Mark 1:13 NLT). God will take care of His people during times of suffering, trials and mistreatment in the wilderness.

Implicit in Mark’s Gospel is the question of unjust suffering. Mark wrote His Gospel message to Christians living in Rome and their only crime was their faith in Jesus Christ. Even today, some people that believe and follow Jesus are subjected to mistreatment and injustice and their only crime is faith in Jesus. As Mark tells his story of Jesus, Mark’s audience was suffering even though they are following God. In Jesus Himself, Jesus had a most glorious experience with a declaration of being God’s Son. Then immediately, Jesus is in the wildernesses facing temptation, testing and suffering. Many Jewish sources believe that the wilderness was a place of abandonment by God as the wilderness is a place in testing and temptation. Also, the wilderness alludes to the book of Numbers and Israel’s testing in the wilderness. Thus, Mark’s Gospel shows the readers Jesus’ highest point (God’s declaration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit) and Jesus’ lowest point (Jesus’s testing and temptation in the wilderness). Mark shows his readers that they too will experience highpoints and low points as genuine followers (disciples) of Jesus. As Jesus was tested during the wilderness testing and temptation, we must follow His example of continual trust, dependence and faith in God and God’s Holy Spirit.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NLT)

Believer’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Messenger

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, and he will prepare Your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for Him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is Greater than I am — so much greater that I am not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of His sandals. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” Mark 1:1-8 (NLT)

All four Gospels give the account of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-11; Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:2-16; and John 1:6-9, 19-34). John’s ministry represented the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. John appeared preaching like an Old Testament prophet, similar to the Prophet Amos and the Prophet Elijah (Matthew 11:9; Mark 11:32). Like Old Testament prophets, John called for repentance of the people, which meant a wholehearted turning to the true and living God to experience His mercy and approval and away from sin to avoid God’s wrath and punishment (Matthew 3:2, 6, 8, 11; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; see also 1 Kings 18:18-39; Amos 5:4, 6, 14-16). Jesus said of John, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). He was the last and greatest of the prophets (Matthew 11:13–14).

John the Baptist ministered “in the spirit and power of Elijah (see Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:13-14; Matthew 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13). John was not literally a reincarnation of Elijah (see John 1:21), but John did fulfill the function and the role of the Prophet Elijah as he preached repentance, moral renewal, and wholeheartedly turning to God (see Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13; Luke 1:17; see also 1 Kings 18:16-46). Similar to the Prophet Elijah, John spent his time in the desert and he was clothed with camel’s hair, wore a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey (2 Kings 1:8; see also Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6 Luke 1:17). In essence, John reminded the people of Elijah because of his dress and behavior (Matthew 11:14; Mark 9:12–13).

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him . . . .  “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. . . . ” Luke 1:11, 13-17 (NLT)

John was the messenger and his job was to announce the coming of the Messiah (the Christ) into the world (Mark 1:2-3; see also Luke 1:76). Old Testament prophecies predicted that just before the Messiah’s arrival, God would send a special messenger first to announce and prepare the world for the Messiah’s coming (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:10-13; Luke 1:17). John prepared people's hearts for the Messiah by urging people to repent because repentance was necessary to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John’s preaching and baptism was tied to Jesus, who was Greater and Mightier than John (Matthew 1:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). As John baptized the people, John proclaimed:  “Someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am, so much greater that I am not even worthy to be His slave. I baptize you with water but He will baptize you with God’s Holy Spirit!” (Mark 1:7-8, TLB). Therefore, John represents a kind of bridge to what God did for His people in the Old Testament and what God would do through Jesus the Messiah. John’s singular ministry was to announce Jesus’ coming into the world (John 10:41).

John lived in the Judean wilderness (Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4) and he preached near the Jordan River. He taught that all should be baptized as a public announcement of their decision to turn from sin and evil, so that God could forgive them (Matthew 3:2, 5; Mark 1:4). When the people confessed their sins, John baptized them in the Jordan River. With John’s preaching, people from Jerusalem and from all over Judea traveled to come see and hear John’s preaching and also to be baptized in the Jordan River (Mark 1:5). John’s preaching was connected to baptism. However, John’s baptism was not a baptism of ritual cleansing but a baptism that marked a newness of life and a turning from sin (Matthew 3:8).

Baptism was not a creation of John the Baptist or Jesus but a common practice of Jews in the first century. In the first century, Jews commonly performed baptism as a form of ritual cleansing. Also, a group of Jews called “Essenes” believed in ritual washings for ritual cleansing and their communities were filled with baptism pools. The Essenes where constantly engaged in ritual cleansing in these baptismal pools. Some commentators argued that John the Baptist was associated with the Essene communities until he become a follower of Jesus. Both John and the Essenes lived in the wilderness and performed baptisms. However, John’s baptism was not a baptism of ritual cleansing but a baptism connected to repentance and for the forgiveness of sins.

John lived and baptized people in the Judean wastelands or desert (Mark 1:5). “Desert” can also mean “wilderness” or a “dry place.” Palestine is already dry and hot. But the implication of “desert” in the Gospel means abandonment, particularly abandonment by God. From first century Jewish sources, demons and unclean spirits lived in abandoned desert places. Thus, the wastelands or desert was not just a hot dry place but a place where of demons and unclean people lived. For the most part, righteous and godly people stayed away from deserts.

When John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, all of Judea and all of Jerusalem came out to see and hear him. Itinerant or traveling preachers were not new in the first century. The appearance of traveling prophets, rabbis and preachers in the first century was very common. However, all four Gospels proclaimed that John’s preaching was different and authoritative. The people of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, saw something new and powerful with John’s preaching that had not been present for over 400 years! The Jews had not heard a true prophetic Word of God since the Prophet Malachi around 430 BC. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, prophecy would reappear (see Joel 2:28-29; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6). When John the Baptist burst onto the scene, the Jews were excited as John represented the power and Spirit of an Old Testament prophet.

There was a view in the rabbinic world that God had lifted His Holy Spirit from His people during the Jewish exile. The Jews believed God lifted His Holy Spirit after the Babylonian exile in 586 BC due to their punishment for disobedience to God’s Covenant and idolatry. God’s lifting of His Holy Spirit from the Jews did not mean God had abandoned the Jews. The Jews still believed they found God in the Holy Scriptures, the Law, and the Temple. For the Jews, the prophets spoke in the Old Testament only because the Holy Spirit gave the prophets words to speak. For example, Amos prophesied in the 8th century and Amos’ entire authority was “Thus said the Lord.” Within this view, there developed the belief that prior to the coming of the Messiah, which would be the coming of the Kingdom, God would pour out His Holy Spirit back upon His people as predicted by the Prophet Joel (see Joel 2:28-32) and the Spirit of prophecy would returned. The Jews believe that they would know that God had poured His Holy Spirit back on the people through the appearance of real prophet of God.

With the appearance of John the Baptist, the people believed he represented God’s Holy Spirit returning to all of Judea and Jerusalem (Mark 1:5). The Holy Spirit’s presence in John accounted for the great response to John’s preaching and baptism (Luke 1:15). Apparently, there were many people leaving Judea and Jerusalem to come see John. John’s presence, power, and authority of his preaching were evidence that God was pouring out His fresh Holy Spirit on the people and He was fulfilling His Old Testament promises. With this outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, the people also believed that God was about to bring in His Kingdom and the Messiah into the world. Amazingly, all of the excitement and the returning of God’s Holy Spirit were occurring not in Jerusalem and the Temple but in the wilderness – the abandoned place and the place of unclean spirit. The people saw John as an authentic prophet of God (e.g., Mark 11:32). Clearly with John’s appearance, there was an awakening among the Galilean people of an expectation of the coming of the Kingdom. John’s ministry was a sign of God and a sign that God was about to do something new and the Kingdom was about to come.

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Youngblood, Ronald. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1995).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Who Is Jesus? He Is the Son of God!

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. . . . One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized Him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy.” Mark 1:1, 9-11 (NLT)

The Gospel of Mark opens with a clear announcement:  “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1, NIV). Near the end of the Gospel, Mark gives another clear announcement: “When the army officer who was standing in front of the Cross saw what happened when Jesus died, he said, ‘This Man really was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:39, NCV). “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54, NIV).

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book (Gospel of John). But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His Name. John 20:30-31 (NLT)

The Son of God expresses the holy being of Jesus as the one, unique Son of the true and living God (John 3:16; John 10:36). Other references Scriptures in the Old Testament and the New Testament refer to Israel, angels, and humans as “sons of God” (e.g., see Genesis 6:1-4; Psalm 29:1; Psalm 89:6; Psalm 82:6; Hosea 1:10). In fact, Israel is referred to as God’s firstborn son or simply as God’s son (see Exodus 4:22-23; Jeremiah 31:11; Hosea 11:1). Also, all faithful believers of Jesus are sons and daughters of God (Matthew 5:9, 45; Mark 3:34-35; John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7). However, only Jesus lives in a unique relationship with God (John 1:18; John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). God was in Jesus (John 10:30, 38) to summons the world to repentance, to belief in the Good News and to reconcile humans with God (Mark 1:14-15). Frequently, Jesus referred to God as “My Father” (e.g., see Matthew 7:21; Mark 8:38; Luke 2:49; Luke 10:21-22; John 5:17; John 10:18; John 15:15). At Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration, God the Father identified Jesus as His beloved Son (see Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:21-22; Luke 9:34-36; John 1:31-34). God the Father’s announcement from heaven reminds us of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. Also, demons and other evil spirits recognized Jesus as God’s unique and Holy Son (e.g., see Matthew 4:3, 6; Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11-12; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28). When the high priest asked Jesus, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One” Jesus answered, “I AM” (Mark 14:61-62, NLT). Even as a Boy at the age of twelve, Jesus recognized God as His Father (Luke 2:29). Prior to Jesus’ birth, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her Son would be “great and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . . the Baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:32, 35, NLT). After seeing Jesus, John the Baptist – the prophet God sent to prepare the way for His Son – testified to his disciples “this is the Son of God” (John 1:34, NIV). Jesus’ disciples and faithful followers that witnessed the historical Jesus declared: “Truly, You are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33; see also Matthew 16:16; John 1:14, 18, 34, 49; John 11:27). Even after Jesus’ death and ascension, the faithful followers of Jesus continued to proclaim to the early church that Jesus is the one true and unique “Son of God” (e.g., see Acts 9:20-22; Romans 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:28; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 1:1-4; Hebrews 5:5).

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The Good News is about His Son, Jesus. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-4 (NLT)

The “Gospel of Jesus Christ” is the Good News that God's very holy and unique Son has come from heaven to live as a human, to die for the sins of the world and to gain our victory over sin, death, and hell (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 51-52; Galatians 1:1-9). “God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. . . . He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9-10, NLT). We can be forgiven our sins, receive God’s grace and be united into God’s family through our faith in God’s one and only begotten Son, Jesus (see John 1:12-13; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:23-25; Galatians 4:4-7). Mark and the other Gospel writers did not write their books about just any Jewish servant but declare Jesus as the unique Son of God (Mark 1:1, 11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 12:1-11; Mark 13:32; Mark 14:61-62; and Mark 15:39). Jesus’ announcement as God's divine Son is the foundation for all we read about Jesus in the New Testament.

Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets [in visions, dreams, and even face to face], telling them little by little about His plans. But now in these days He has spoken to us through His Son (Jesus) to whom He has given everything and through whom He made the world and everything there is. God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks Him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of His command. He is the One who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven. Thus He became far greater than the angels, as proved by the fact that His Name “Son of God,” which was passed on to Him from His Father, is far greater than the names and titles of the angels. Hebrews 1:1-4 (TLB)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).