Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Frustration Of Jesus

THE FRUSTRATION OF JESUS

Life with Jesus’ disciples was not all perfume and roses. The one thing that frustrated Him above everything else was their persistent unbelief. There were times when His patience ran out; like the time when He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration to find them battling to get a demon out of an epileptic boy. I wonder if they eventually reverted to the tactics of the prophets of Baal when the stubborn demon would just not come out!

When Jesus arrived on the scene, He was met by an equally frustrated father. He expressed His impatience with His disciples in no uncertain terms!

‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ (Matt. 17: 17)

Eugene Peterson captured the sense of Jesus’s words beautifully in his paraphrase:

‘What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.’ (Matt 17: 17, The Message)

When the disciples questioned Him later about their powerlessness to drive out the demon, His reply was blunt and to-the-point.

‘Because you have so little faith.’ (Matt. 17: 20a)

Their faith must have been non-existent at that point because He went on to tell them,

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ (Matt. 17: 20b)

Some manuscripts add:

‘But this kind does not come out but by prayer and fasting.’ (Matt. 17: 20 – margin)

The amount of faith was not the issue. In the end it was the object of their faith that counted. What did Jesus mean by “prayer and fasting”? Was this a particularly nasty and tenacious demon that needed more than mustard-seed-sized faith? Did prayer and fasting have to do with the authority that comes from submission? Jesus spent forty days in prayer and fasting while the devil tested His submission to the Father. The authority He exercised after that episode startled the people. Whatever He meant, the disciples were still in kindergarten as far as authority was concerned.

Another time they were on their way across the lake when a massive storm hit. Where was Jesus? Amazingly enough, asleep in the back of the boat! The disciples battled to keep the boat from capsizing but, in the end they panicked. What was wrong with Jesus? Didn’t He realise the danger they were in? They woke Him with a sharp rebuke. Nonchalantly Jesus got up and spoke to the wind. As suddenly as the storm blew in, it blew away. Silence! Calm!

The disciples were stunned. How did He do that? His retort? “Not, ‘what’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Where is your faith? Don’t you trust me?” They were supposed to be His disciples – people who trusted their rabbi implicitly. It was going to be a long journey for them – to learn to trust what He said even when things appeared to go wrong especially as they began to realise that He was no ordinary man.

What was the goal of His relationship with His disciples? Unlike any other rabbi, He craved to be one with them and that they be one with Him. Without the union of His Spirit with theirs, and the intimacy that this union would produce, His mission on earth was doomed to fail. Union and unity was the hallmark of the Godhead. For Jesus, His goal for Himself and His disciples was no less.

He used a beautiful image to describe the intimacy of that union.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)

The fruitfulness of their lives was to be much more that preaching, teaching and doing the works of Jesus. Their fruit was to be the evidence of their union with Him, like the fruit of a tree is evidence of the nature of the tree.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14: 15)

Their love for Jesus, evidenced by their obedience and submission to Him, would be the glue that bound each one to Him. The surprising question Jesus asked Peter after Peter’s lamentable denial was not, “Peter, are you sorry for what you did?” or “Peter, do you promise never to do it again?” but “Peter, do you love me?” Jesus knew that only true love, the love that valued Jesus and what He stood for enough to lose everything for His sake, was what would keep the bond intact.

To be one with Jesus meant that they would allow Him to be their source – under His authority, submitted to His will and obedient to His instructions. Like the branches in the vine, the life of the vine flowing into the branches would sustain the branches and provide the nourishment to produce an abundance of fruit.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

The Tenderness Of Jesus

THE TENDERNESS OF JESUS

How tender Jesus was towards them in His last hours with them! His language betrayed His feelings – sorrowful, compassionate, and protective. Look at the way He spoke to them. John 14-17 is full of His tender tones. He was aware that they had not grasped the implication of His many warnings that He was going to suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders. Their ears and their understanding were closed until after the resurrection.

They would feel abandoned when He was torn from them and nailed to a cross. This was not how it was supposed to be. They had each other, but of what use was that when their rabbi was gone – dead and buried.

He reassured them, time and again that this was not the end.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me . . . I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. (John 14: 1; 3b)

This was much bigger than they ever imagined. He was not just any rabbi about to leave them unexpectedly. He was Jesus, their Messiah, the Son of God, and what He said had huge implications for them and for their future. They needed to understand that this was only a part of the process that was going somewhere, and they were an integral part of it.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14: 18)

What did that mean to them? Jesus had spoken often of the Father. They knew that God was His Father, but what about them? He had often taught them that God was their Father. They were to address Him as Father in their prayers. But, at the same time, it was Jesus who represented the Father to them. What would happen when He was no longer there? Would they lose the sense of God’s acceptance of them as His sons? Would they once again feel like orphans?

Jesus read their hearts. They needed to know that, even if He went away, He would not leave them fatherless. He would send one who would take His place and do what He did. The Holy Spirit would be in them to reassure them that they were the true sons of the Father, no matter what.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Rom. 8: 15)

He knew that they could not handle any more teaching. By this time they were bewildered by their circumstances and beyond absorbing what Jesus had to tell them. He would first allow them to get over the shock of His sudden arrest and the terrible things that would happen to Him, and His even more shocking resurrection. He assured them that the Holy Spirit who was coming in His place, would pick up where He left off and take them on beyond where they were at that moment in their understanding.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will only speak what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16: 12-14)

Jesus understood their human frailty. He rebuked them for sleeping while He was agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had asked them to stay awake and keep watch while He prayed but instead, they fell asleep. Who could blame them? It was late at night. They had just eaten the Passover meal and drunk wine. They had been through an emotional “wringer’, with Jesus saying and doing things that made no sense to them.

They saw their Master in deep emotional agony, serious, urgent, agitated, but they could not figure out what it was about. They did not understand the significance of the moment. So they went to sleep. Hadn’t Jesus many times gone off alone to pray while they took the opportunity to catch a nap? So what was so different about this time? They had no idea what awaited Him or them, in the next few hours.

But His sharp rebuke was followed by tender words.

Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not watch with me for one hour?’ He asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.’ (Matt. 26: 40-41)

It’s almost as if He were saying, “I understand, guys, that you are tired. I know that your intentions were good but your flesh caved in. But, at a time like this you need to stay awake because the time for testing is on us. It’s not the time to sleep now.”

“Tenderness is what happens to you when you know you are deeply and sincerely liked by someone. If you communicate to me that you like me, not just love me as a brother in Christ, you open up to me the possibility of self-respect, self-esteem and wholesome self-love.” (Brennan Manning, The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Ch. 1, page 25).

In Jesus, the disciples found not only one who loved them, but one who liked them, enjoyed their company, loved their banter, wanted to be with them, dealt gently with them, understood their weakness, believed in them, stood by them, rooted for them and, in the end, gave His life for them.

Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15: 13-14)

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

The Patience Of Jesus

THE PATIENCE OF JESUS

Jesus spent many hours with them, on the road, around the fire at night, in the villages and in the country, in formal and informal teaching sessions, explaining the meaning of parables, teaching them about the kingdom of God, demonstrating how the kingdom worked by doing miracles and showing mercy to all people, especially those whom society in general and the religious people in particular, despised and marginalised.

They watched in amazement at what He did, and at times were dismayed by the things He said, especially to His opponents whom they knew were gunning for Him and looking for an opportunity to get rid of Him. On one occasion they tackled Him after He had been particularly explicit about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees:

Then the disciples came to Him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’  (Matt. 15: 12)

Jesus was not perturbed.

‘Leave them; they are blind guides.’ (Matt. 15: 14a), He responded.

Time after time He had to go over the same thing with the disciples. They just did not get it that the kingdom He was introducing was not the revived kingdom of David, free from the Romans and under their own rule. They were continually at it, squabbling about positions in this new kingdom. Every time He overheard them, He patiently taught them about the difference between worldly authority and the true authority which came from submission to God’s authority.

Did they finally get it? No. Not until after Pentecost when the promised Holy Spirit fell on them in such power that they were completely renewed in their understanding, and began to live out their new authority, conferred on them by Jesus before He left them.

Every rabbi chose disciples in whom he had confidence that they would become replicas of him, both living and teaching his yoke. It was no different with Jesus. When we look at the men He chose, we wonder whether He really knew what He was doing. But Luke assured us that He chose His disciples after a night of prayer.

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them whom He also designated apostles. (Luke 6: 12-13)

Either both He and God the Father were wrong, or they could see the potential in these men which no one else could see, and chose them for what they would become.

After an extended period of teaching and training, He sent them out to do what He was doing.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9: 1-2)

Later on, they returned with great excitement to report that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus was as excited as they were. They had finally got it. His confidence in them had not been misplaced.

He always spoke to them as though He trusted them. He spoke of the future and told them what they would do. The only one who would fail Him completely was Judas, although He gave him opportunity to change his mind. Even Peter would come back after his denial and become a leader among the disciples.

He coaxed and urged them to trust Him even when they showed their mistrust time and again. He knew that, in the end they would come to the party because the Holy Spirit was coming.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

Jesus Loved His Disciples

JESUS LOVED HIS DISCIPLES

How did Jesus relate to His disciples as opposed to the way the other rabbis related to theirs? Was His relationship with them formal and impersonal, like students in a classroom who were there to learn but not to know their teacher intimately? We have nothing in Scripture to tell us about the relationship of, say Hillel or Shammai to their disciples but there is much in the gospels that bear witness to the way Jesus related to the Twelve.

First of all, there is no doubt that Jesus loved His disciples, passionately and completely. He affirmed and verbalised His love for them over and over again. He did not leave them to guess that He loved them. He told them! He wanted His love for them to be the model and motivation for their love for one another.

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

This would be the hallmark of His disciples – not how well versed they were in the Torah or how well they performed under the anointing of the Holy Spirit or how many spiritual gifts they had, but how much His love for them was mirrored in their love for one another.

John was the one who recorded these words. What? John! The one who, with his brother James, was nicknamed Boanerges – sons of thunder! Hot heads! They wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans for not offering hospitality to Jesus. They wanted to stop a man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus because He was not one of them. What happened to you, John?

Perhaps the best way to find out what happened to change him is to be a fly on the wall in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on Passover evening. The disciples were arranged around the supper table, lounging on cushions or mats on the floor. No chairs. Judas was sitting on the left of Jesus in the place of honour so that he could converse freely with the host. John was seated on His right. John took pains to tell us that he was leaning on Jesus’s breast.

Instead of protesting, “Hey, you are invading my space!” Jesus said nothing and did nothing. He didn’t move away. He allowed John to lean on Him, to put his head on His chest, to listen to His heartbeat.

John took a huge risk. What if Jesus had rejected him, moved away in irritation, protested against his presumption? Nothing happened. Jesus accepted his weight, the discomfort of his body pressing down on Him. What was He saying? “Lean on me, John. Put your full weight on me. I accept your gesture of trust. I love you, John.”

Was this the moment when the realisation hit John, not just in his head but in his heart. “Jesus loves me!” From then on he called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. That’s how he identified himself. Not “John”; not even “the son of Zebedee” or “the brother of James” but “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. What a life-transforming moment! Boanerges became the apostle of love because he experienced it and felt it. That’s how Jesus loved him.

Jesus also wanted his disciples to experience the Father’s love just as He did. He revealed the Father to them at every opportunity – by making them aware of the Father in Him, and how He referred to and related everything He said and did to the Father. This was in preparation for something much bigger that was to happen to them. He was about to do something that would change their status completely.

God was not only the Father of Jesus; He was their Father as well! After His resurrection, Jesus specifically stated that God was their Father. They would not be sitting outside, looking through the window at a family’s festivities; they would be part of the family of God now, reconciled and brought in through His sacrifice for them. He sent Mary, the first to greet Him when He emerged from the tomb, with a message for His disciples.

Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ (John 20: 17)

Did you get that? Their relationship had changed. He was no longer only their rabbi but also their brother as well. God was His Father and their Father, His God and their God. Did that mean that Jesus and His disciples were now on equal footing? In a sense, yes! The writer to the Hebrews picked up on this thought:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Heb. 2: 10-11)

Wow! Now not only disciples but brothers! O yes, Jesus was elevated to the highest place and given a name above every other name, but He also invited His disciples (and that includes us if we are truly His followers) to sit on the throne with Him. James and John wanted the places of honour beside Him in glory. They had to learn that not only they, who selfishly wanted the best places, but also all who are “in Christ” will share that position with Him.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2: 6)

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

Jesus And His Intimate Companion

JESUS AND HIS INTIMATE COMPANION

What was Jesus’ relationship to the Holy Spirit? As unique as His relationship was with the Father, so unique was His relationship with the Holy Spirit. In the Trinity they were equal in essence and in glory. He was one with the Spirit as He was with the Father, but in His earthly life and in His mission He was completely submitted to the Spirit.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross. (Phil. 2: 6-8)

The Holy Spirit was God’s agent to energise and empower Jesus for His life on earth as a human being and as the Son. Everything pivoted around His relationship to the Father as a perfect son. Where Adam failed, Jesus had to succeed because He was to undo what Adam did by a life of obedience to the Father and by His sacrificial death as our substitute. Whether His work was accepted by the Father or not depended entirely on His qualification to be a perfect Son and an atoning sacrifice by His perfect obedience.

The Holy Spirit was His hands-on companion from His conception to His resurrection. Without the same submission and obedience to the Spirit as to the Father, His life and work would never accomplish what God sent Him to do. We would assume, then, that Jesus loved the Holy Spirit as fervently and passionately as He loved the Father. He did everything in tandem with the Holy Spirit. Just as He and the Father were one, so were He and the Holy Spirit one – so that He could say.

I will ask the Father and He will send you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth . . . I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. (John 14: 16-17a; 18)

Jesus spent the last hours before His passion preparing His disciples for the momentous event when the Holy Spirit would come to replace Him as His “other Comforter”. How did He know what He was like, and what He would do? Had He not lived in intimate union with Him from birth?

Jesus was a man, as human and vulnerable as the rest of humanity. He needed the power of God to live His life in obedience to the Father as surely as we, fallen human beings do. He was like us in every way. The Spirit was the Father’s representative to empower Him to do what the Father commanded Him to do. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit to energise Him just as we do. He had to learn to be a Son, though not by trial and error, as we do. He could not afford to live in error or unbelief because He would have been instantly disqualified from being a perfect lamb. He learned obedience through obeying in the midst of suffering.

Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him . . . (Heb. 5: 8-9)

The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism in visible form. He was His close companion throughout His public ministry, pouring life and power through Him to accomplish God’s will. Jesus submitted to His leading no matter what the Spirit wanted Him to do. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He followed where He was led and did what He was led to do without questioning or wavering.

Just as we can do nothing without Jesus (John 15: 5) so Jesus could do nothing without the Spirit. He acknowledged Him as the source of His power. The Pharisees accused Him of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub. This was ludicrous! How could a kingdom divided against itself hope to stand?

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand . . . If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt. 12: 25; 27-28)

He disclosed the source of His power. It could not possibly be the power of the devil because the devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8: 44). He was no restorer. His role was to do as much damage to people as he could, not to get rid of the very demons who were wreaking havoc in people’s lives.

We can only conclude, then, that the love and the unity Jesus experienced as the second person of the Trinity and that He enjoyed before His incarnation did not change and was not interrupted during His earthly interlude. Because of His love for the Father and the Holy Spirit, He willingly subordinated Himself to the will of the Father and to the authority of the Holy Spirit over Him as He navigated His journey from His conception to His resurrection.

Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the Holy Spirit’s role in His life as the Ebed Yahweh, the Servant of the Lord, perfectly expressed Jesus’ attitude to the other members of the Godhead.

. . . And He will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Isa. 11: 3a)

As the Son of God, Jesus lived His earthly human life not under obligation to, but in the delight of the fear of the Lord. It was the motivation for His obedience – because He was passionate about the Father. He expressed His reverence for and awe of the Father and the Holy Spirit by implicit and unquestioning obedience, and willing submission to their will and leading.

His testimony about Himself was absolutely and unquestionably true:

I and the Father are one.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.