Categories
Son of God

Joseph the Just

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is quite popular.  All Christians admire her.  Some Christians even pray to her.  She has statues, artwork and stained glass windows depicting her.  On the other hand, little is said of Joseph, Jesus’ legal father.   We will see that Joseph was a courageous, just, strong, and gracious man and even a model for us. 

 

You know you are generous when…

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul encourage the Corinthian Christians and us  to grow in God’s grace by giving more to gospel ministry and by being generous to Christians in need.  It is so informing that the Apostle views financial generosity as a demonstration, display and expression of the grace of God!

 Paul reminds the Corinthians of the grace-filled generosity of the Macedonian churches as he collected money for the struggling church in Jerusalem.  So, how do you know if you are generous?

 

1. You give even though you don’t have much

Verses 2-3 say, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.

 The Macedonian churches were struggling because of persecution and poverty, and yet they were generous.  They gave according to their ability and even contrary to their ability!

 

2. You view giving as a privilege

Verses 3-4 say,, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

 Paul was not going to ask them to give as they were desperately poor themselves.  However, when they heard of Paul’s fund raising project they begged Paul to allow them the grand privilege of giving to gospel ministry.

 

3. You’ve given yourself to God first  

Verse 5 says, “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”

 The Macedonians first surrendered themselves to Jesus and then, out of their devotion to Jesus, gave generously.

 

4. You give more than you gave last year

In verse 7 Paul has this to say to the Corinthian Christians, “But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

 Giving is connected to our sanctification (our becoming more like Jesus).  Paul expects Christians to grow and excel in financial generosity as much as they do in other areas of their Christian life.

 

5.  You give because Jesus was generous to you

In verses 8-9 Paul gives the supreme motivation for given, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.   For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

 Christians don’t give because they feel guilty to give or are manipulated to give.  Christians are generous because Jesus was generous to them.  God the Son, who is rich beyond our imagination, assumed poverty so that we could become eternally rich and share in his wealth.  Because Jesus humbled himself and became a man who was willing to die, we can be forgiven and cleaned and restored.  No-one was richer than Jesus and no-ne became poorer than Jesus.

 

6. You give to meet the needs of your church and other Christians

Verse 13 says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

Paul is not promoting communism, but community.  He desires, as should we, that everyone’s needs are met.  Jesus has promised to supply the needs of his children and they way he normally does that it through the generosity of his people (see v15!).

Death is sleep

In Mark 5 Jesus raises Jairus’ dead daughter to life.  A little while before Jairus, a synagogue ruler, approached Jesus, the itinerant preacher, for help.  The request was highly irregular:  Jairus was a respected, honourable man in that culture.  Yet, he falls (quite unceremoniously) at the feet of a homeless, poor, miracle worker’s feet and begs Jesus to heal his desperately ill daughter.  Jesus agrees to go with Jairus to his house.

On the way they hear that the girl has died.  Jesus surprisingly says that she isn’t dead, but only sleeping.  Why did Jesus say that? Was he mistaken? 

Jesus wanted to make a point about death.  Human beings view death as permanent and sleep as temporary.  You go to sleep expecting to wake up.  You anticipate being alive the next day.  Death is the opposite. It’s permanent. No anticipation. No expectation. You’re dead.

 

 Next Jesus goes into the girl’s room and takes her by the hand. This was a controversial act as Jewish law said that a corpse was ceremonially unclean and anyone touching a corpse became unclean.  Jesus then says, “Little girl, I tell you, get up”.  As we see throughout Mark 4-5, creation must obey it creator.  The storm must quiet down, the legion of demons must leave and the little girl must become alive again.   Mark wants us to understand that Jesus is not a spiritual teacher, but God with us, in the person of his Son, Jesus.  Jesus is God.  All other views about Jesus are blasphemous.

One of the learnings from this account is that death to Jesus and to the Christian is sleep.  Death is not the end and it’s not permanent.  It is temporary and transitory.  Jesus died and rose again on the third day destroying the power of death over his people.  When we finally lay down our heads it is in the expectation and anticipation of being in the presence of Jesus.  We remember that Jesus said to the dying man next to him on the cross: Today, you will be with me in paradise.

 

Categories
Satan

Jesus and animal activism

Don’t misunderstand me. God cares for animals and part of our cultural mandate as human beings is to be good stewards over the earth, including the animal kingdom. Cruelty to animals is wrong. The last verse in the book of Jonah tells us that God was concerned for both the people and the animals living inNineveh.

Mark 5 contains therefore a very surprising account of Jesus’ encounter with a demonized man. In fact, the naked, bleeding, howling man is possessed by a legion of demons. The demons immediately recognise who Jesus is and beg Jesus not to send them to hell (the place of ‘torment”, v7). Jesus instead sends the demons into a herd of two thousand pigs, which then immediately run off a cliff and drown. Animal activists might be upset at this point.

 

Human beings more important than animals

Why did Jesus do this? Did Jesus dislike pork? Firstly, I think it must be said that we must acknowledge that according to the Bible human beings are more important that animals. Humans are made in the image of God, not animals (Genesis 1). Rather than getting worked up over two thousand dead pigs, we should thank God for the saving of one precious life created in his image. One person is worth more than two thousand penguins or two thousand dolphins. Perhaps we need to re-prioritise our thinking at this point.

 

Operation destroy

Secondly, I think that the reason Jesus diverted the demons into the herd was to visibly show his disciples and us what Satan’s intention was with that man – and every human. Satan’s aim is to kill and destroy you and your children (John 10:10). That’s why the man was cutting himself with sharp stones. Satan may use direct possession, or he may use lust, drugs, jealousy, divorce, money or something else – but the overall goal remains the same.

Yet, after the man’s encounter with Jesus he is totally transformed. He is sitting down, dressed and in his right mind (v15). He is forgiven and freed.

 

You may not be demon possessed, but without Jesus you are also in a desperate situation. Satan is seeking to destroy you. Jesus is the one who has conquered Satan through his death for sin and his resurrection to new life. Like that man, you need to have an encounter with the stronger man who binds up Satan (Mark 3:27).

A mustard seed Kingdom

Jesus said that God’s Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, is like a mustard seed – it starts small and ends big.

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mark 4:30-34
 

 

 

 

If you were a Jewish person living in the first century you may have had a herb garden with a mustard bush. You would have known that a mustard seed is very small, and you would know that the shrub hardly has branches big enough for birds to sit on. You would have found Jesus parable very interesting.

Superpower
In the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel the superpowers of the day were symbolically referred to as huge trees with braches that even the birds of the air could sit on. Babylon and Assyria were the great kingdoms and indeed superpowers, wielding great strength and influence.
 

According to Jesus, the kingdom of God may appear weak, insignificant and negligible, but we need only wait. The Kingdom of God is growing as people hear and accept the word about Jesus (Mark 4:1-20) and after the growing is done the Kingdom will be established in all its fullness at the “harvest” at the end of this age (Mark 4:26-29).

Daniel referred to the kingdom of God in a similar way in Daniel 2. He said the kingdom it like a small rock that ultimately destroys all the kingdoms of this world. The small rock grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth!

Supernatural
Of course, mustard bushes don’t have big branches. I think Jesus is saying that the growth of this kingdom is not due to our planning or strategies or programmes, the growth of this kingdom is supernatural, God does it! We are to be faithful and sow seeds, but its up to God to make the seed grow and to that end we must be depending on God in prayer.
 

The kingdom of God is coming. We will need to be patient. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be fooled into thinking Christianity is worthless. The kingdom may appear weak and inconsequential at the moment, but have no fear! When God’s kingdom finally comes in all its fullness we will be amazed and astounded at it bigness, powerfulness and all-encompassing influence.