When I’m struggling, it’s too easy for me to look for relief in the wrong place, or to assume relief would come if only…….
The Jewish people had been under Roman rule long enough. Most of their history they’d been under someone’s rule. If only Messiah (leader/savior in Hebrew) would come! He would be the kind of ruler that could crush Rome.
There were rumors that a young man from Nazareth was healing the sick all over the region. When he spoke, it was with the authority of God, unlike the daily fare the people were used to from the local religious leaders. Why, even the demons obeyed and fled at his word!
Also, unlike the religious leaders, he spent time with everyday folk. He loved even those any good Jew would consider “unclean”. Tax Collectors, lepers, prostitutes. Why, among his closest followers were local fishermen, former tax collectors, and political zealots!
So much of what he said and did sounded like something the Messiah would say and do. His authority was reminiscent of the prophets of old. Could this be the Messiah the Torah scriptures had foretold hundreds of years ago?
He’d even fed 5000 hungry men, along with women and children, after teaching them for hours, with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Thinking he might be “the One”, crowds hounded, wanting to make him king by force. They could get behind a king who could dole out food like they’d just seen!
However, Jesus told them their priorities were wrong – rather than clamoring for him to feed their bellies, they needed him to feed their souls and spirits, for he himself was the bread that would satisfy their deepest need.
The people thronged Jesus, but the religious leaders were more and more antagonistic, the atmosphere becoming volatile. Jesus spoke of life and freedom found only through following him. He spoke of the opportunity, through him, to actually have an intimate relationship with God; unlike those who passed themselves off as God’s representatives. The religious leaders demanded their converts keep rules and regulations piled deep, meant to keep people in line. There was, with them, no talk of intimacy with God, nor freedom.
Amazingly, Jesus backed all he said with a power and authority only God could give. His miracles were more numerous than could be written. Yet he was humble. Nothing like the leaders they were accustomed to daily.
He even proclaimed himself to be the Messiah whom they’d waited for. His converts and their changed lives attested to the truth of his claims. Why, even his cousin, John, who’d been baptizing people in the Jordan for years said he was given a vision from God stating Jesus was who he claimed.
Jesus knew he’d come for battle, but not one that would win him political contests. His battle wasn’t with religious leaders or political ideologies. He’d come to battle the serpent who’d long ago urged Adam and Eve (and all since) to rebel his heavenly Father’s authority. His very life was part of the battle – as God in human flesh, he exhibited daily, through lavish grace and love, the character of his heavenly Father, dispelling the serpent’s lies spoken long ago in mankind’s ears. He set captives free from sin and its consequences by speaking truth with healing power, transforming the lives of those who’d been caught in the serpent’s chains.
He was and claimed to be God in flesh, but never acted on his own for his own benefit. His whole earthly life was one act of obedience to his Heavenly Father. “He learned obedience by the things he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8 NLT) Many times he could have used his authority as God’s Son to destroy his enemies. Rather, he chose to love them. He could have proclaimed himself king a million times over, with grand gestures of power and might, but rather he humbled himself like a servant.
All to restore a relationship long ago broken by mankind’s rebellion.
Now, he would finish the battle. Now was time to once and for all crush the serpent’s head. One last blow.
Yet, it wouldn’t be as anyone would imagine. Great warriors slay their adversaries and walk away. Yet, this time, the great warrior would die. He had to.
Jesus came not to temporarily relieve us but to permanently free us, at the cost of his own life.
Tomorrow, “The Battle”
With love and prayers,
You may also be interested in reading: One of Us
p.s. If you are interested in the scriptures used to write today’s entry, please go to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament of the Bible. John is a wonderful book to start with. Each book was written either by men who witnessed the events personally, or with Luke, a physician who heard eye-witness accounts.