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THE GOSPEL OF MARK – A PROPHET IN THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH

A PROPHET IN THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13

It must have been a very difficult period in the disciples’ lives. They were in the thick of something that made no sense to them at all. Prophecies were being fulfilled under their noses after 400 years of God’s silence and apparent inactivity, and mind-blowing, supernatural events were happening right in front of them that left them speechless or, like Peter, blurting out silly things for the sake of something to say.

Jesus knew that they had no idea what was going on and He warned them to keep quiet until they understood the whole picture. One wonders whether they did any better than the ones who had been healed! Despite Jesus’ cautioning, the ones who were healed did not keep quiet and consequently people followed Him for the wrong reasons.

The question the disciples asked Jesus about Elijah was legitimate, especially after Elijah’s appearance with Him on the mountain. However, since they were told not to talk about it, how did this match with the idea perpetrated by the religious scholars that Elijah had to precede the Messiah? Who was this “Elijah” and had he already come since they were becoming convinced that Jesus was the Messiah they were expecting to come?

Jesus assured them that “Elijah” had already come and gone and that, true to form, he had received the same treatment He, Jesus was about to receive – rejection and execution for preaching the truth. Matthew (Matt 17:13) comments that the disciples understood that He was talking about John the Baptist. At least they got one thing right!

John the Baptist, so much like Elijah in his appearance and ministry! A wild, rugged,  to publicise what they had seen and heard before they understood what was going on, they would have misinterpreted their experience and communicated erroneous ideas to the people around them which they could not take back.

fearless man who took on the authorities and paid for it with his life. However, that was not his main ministry. Although he prophesied for only six short months, Jesus called him the greatest of all the Old Covenant prophets, For what reason? John was the bridge between the Old and the New, the herald of the arrival of the greatest king who was promised from the beginning.  Yes, indeed, Elijah had come and gone, his work complete. It was time to listen to the King.

Why would Jesus caution them to keep quiet until after the resurrection? If they had begun

This is a warning to us as well. Wait until the revelation is complete and understanding clear before we share it with anyone else or we will communicate error or half-truths which we cannot take back

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED

“When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them. A man called from out of the crowd, ‘Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He’s my only child. Suddenly he’s screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black-and-blue before it leaves. I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn’t.'” Luke 9:37-40.

This is strange. Not long before this, the disciples went out on a preaching tour, authorised by Jesus, and were very successful. They did everything He sent them to do including casting out demons. Why were they incapable of evicting this one?

The description of this demon’s vicious activity in the boy seems to indicate that it was a particularly nasty and tenacious spirit that had hold of him. It was not about to give way easily and it made its intentions known. The disciples were obviously intimidated by its resistance and perhaps believed that it was more powerful than they were, and they gave up.

The boy’s father was relieved to see Jesus and wasted no time in pleading for His help. Jesus’ reaction to His disciples’ failure revealed His exasperation with them. They had been with Him long enough to know how to deal with the opposition from the dominion of darkness.

“Jesus said. ’What a generation! No sense of God! No focus in 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 your son here.'” Luke 9:41.

This paraphrase captures the essence of the disciples’ failure and Jesus’ frustration. He perpetually lived in the environment of God’s presence. His God-awareness kept Him from being intimidated by apparently uncontrollable circumstances and enabled Him to restore to wholeness what the evil one used to destroy people. Demons were part of the devil’s arsenal of destructive weapons against people whom they had overpowered but Jesus easily overpowered them because He, not the devil, is Lord.

Jesus knew that the power of God and the kingdom of God were greater than Satan’s power and in that awareness and environment He ordered demons to leave. The disciples, on the other hand, were yet to live in the mind-set of God’s presence and power. They had not yet grasped His authority them.

“While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness, God’s majestic greatness.” Luke 9:41-42.

This demon was a show-off! He had to have his last fling before he left. But leave he had to, because he knew who had authority over him. In Mark’s version of the story, after this final thrashing, the boy seemed to be dead but Jesus had him up on his feet, healed and delivered, and handed him back to his relieved father.

The disciples were puzzled, according to Mark (Mark 9:28-29). Why did they have no power over this demon? Jesus’ reply is equally puzzling. The implication of His response seems to be that, before they could cast out the demon, they had to spend time in prayer. But that was not practical.

Prayer is essentially not about getting our needs met. Jesus said that that was the Father’s responsibility. Prayer is about developing a God-awareness that places us, like Jesus, in the environment of God’s presence and power.

Circumstances overwhelm us because they are more real to us than God. The more time we spend engaging with God and opening our spirits to His Spirit, the more real He becomes to us in the difficult circumstances of our lives. This is the essence of faith – and the outcome is God’s intervention to bring us a step closer to wholeness.

God is as real and powerful to us as we want Him to be.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – IT HAD TO COME OUT!

IT HAD TO COME OUT!

“About eight days after saying this, He climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John and James along. While He was in prayer, the appearance of His face changed and His clothes became blazing white. At once two men were there talking with Him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah – and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over His exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:28-31.

Exodus – a strange and unusual word to describe what Jesus was soon to accomplish in Jerusalem. This was obviously a reference to His death and resurrection, but why “exodus”? Luke is the only one of the gospel writers who used this word. Did he understand something the others hadn’t grasped?

This was a highly significant event. Why did it happen? Of what value would it have been had Jesus been alone on the mountain?

Let’s answer the second question first. Did Jesus need the affirmation of His Father? He had received the Father’s blessing at His baptism and, on the strength of that, He had launched into His public ministry, having passed the test of true son-ship during His forty days in the wilderness. He had lived in close union with the Father and learned the lessons of obedience by obeying Him in every detail of His life. He knew He was loved and He lived out of that assurance. No, He did not need another affirmation of his identity as the Son.

It would seem that this was about the disciples; they needed this revelation of Jesus to cement two things in their minds, His identity and His mission. The appearance of Moses and Elijah and Peter’s reaction would help to put Him in perspective. Two of Israel’s most important and revered historical figures in company with Jesus?

It is clear that the disciples overheard the conversation – His exodus in Jerusalem. The exodus from Egypt, of course, was inseparably linked to Moses. Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into a covenant relationship with God. Elijah’s ministry was a powerful attempt to lead the people of the northern kingdom of Israel back to God out of their slavery to idols.

What was the meaning of Jesus’ exodus? Did it refer only to His departure from the world of humans back to the Father? The exodus from Egypt was a type of a greater deliverance – from slavery to sin and into a new covenant, sealed in His own blood, that was be a better covenant, based on better promises and sealed with a better sacrifice, guaranteeing a better hope.

This was an experience Peter and John never forgot and which helped to shape their conviction that Jesus was God’s Son and the promised Messiah. Peter wrote of this revelation: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He received honour and glory from the Father when the voice came from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV).

John’s testimony is similar: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV).

It was imperative that these men, who were to testify to the world that Jesus was God’s Son, be so convinced in their hearts that they would be willing to give their lives for the truth they would proclaim. And they became eyewitnesses of something that no one else had ever seen.

We may not see the glory of Jesus in His visible form but with the eye of faith we have seen and believed. Have you?

Jesus Did Not Curse The Fig Tree Because He Was In A Bad Mood

JESUS DID NOT CURSE THE FIG TREE BECAUSE HE WAS IN A BAD MOOD

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to find out if it had any fruit. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for fruit. Then He said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And His disciples heard Him say it. (Mark 11:12-14)

Well, Jesus, I didn’t know that you were also given to bad moods! But wait a minute. Had He ever given evidence of being in a bad mood before? No-o-o-o. So what’s this all about, then? Surely He knew that a fig tree in leaf was an indication that it was not time for fruit. What a capricious action! Was it just an outburst of frustration because He did not get what He wanted or was there something deeper in His action?

My husband used to sing a corruption of an old song, “I talk to the trees, that’s why they put me away.” And here’s Jesus talking to a tree! Perhaps He needed to be put away. After all, He often did very strange things like spitting on the ground and making a mud ball to smear on a blind man’s eyes. Wasn’t he blind enough already without getting mud in his eyes?

But Jesus never said or did anything without a purpose. What could His purpose possibly by speaking to a tree?

One of the rules of interpreting the Bible is called “the law of first mention.” The meaning of something that is mentioned for the first time in Scripture governs its interpretation every other time it is mentioned thereafter. Where, in the Bible, are fig leaves first mentioned? Way back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. We often joke about it, but it was their puny attempt to cover up their disobedience. It did not work and God was not impressed. He had to sacrifice a lamb to provide His own covering for their nakedness.

The fig tree was often used in Scripture as a symbol for Israel. Was God saying that, like the leaves that offered no covering for the first pair, their puny efforts at trying to make right by their rules and rituals offered no solution to their sin. Just as God had provided a lamb for Adam and Eve’s nakedness, so He would provide His Lamb to cover the sin of His people.

Jesus used a perfectly natural situation to drive home the point for His disciples. They, of course, didn’t get the message at first. They were astonished when they saw the dead tree the next day. What on earth happened to it? It had shrivelled up and died for no other reason than that Jesus had spoken to it.

In the morning, as they went along, they found the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. (Mark 11: 20-22).

The plot thickens, as they say. What had Jesus’ reply to do with a dead tree? What was the connection? The fig-leaf covering the first pair used to try to obliterate their sin did not work. They could not fool God with their self-effort. Union with God by faith was the only answer to their plight.

How did Jesus connect the response of the fig tree to His words about prayer? Adam and Eve had destroyed their union with God by their disobedience. They tried to cover it up and pretend it didn’t happen but they could not fool God. What would have happened had they confessed their sin and come clean with God? Instead they played the blame game and were driven from the presence of God to go it alone in the world. They made their own rules and thoroughly messed up their lives and the lives of their descendants.

Was Jesus implying that, once again God would provide a Lamb, Himself, as a covering for the sin of His people? This time His blood, not the skin of the lamb, would not only cover but remove their sin forever, reconnecting them with God and re-establishing their union with the Father. Out of this oneness with God they would be able to fulfil their mandate to rule over the earth. Whatever got in the way of God’s purposes would dry up and disappear as surely as the tree dried up in response to Jesus’ command.

This is the kind of “authority” Jesus intended His people to have – not the “name it and claim it” kind of faith so that we can get everything we want to make our lives cushy and comfortable, but the faith partnership with God which gets rid of the obstacles that hinder the doing of God’s will on earth.

Jesus’ instruction to “speak to the mountain” implies that our union and intimacy with Him will produce such confidence in Him that we allow nothing to interfere with the His desire to reveal His glory through us to the world, not even, or should I say, especially the notion that somehow our pathetic efforts to gain His approval will contribute to His purpose.

The “fig tree” approach to our lives as believers in Jesus will just not work. Self-effort must die just as the fig tree died and give way to the only way in which the life of Jesus in us will make any impression on a rebellious world – the “vine” image.

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

Only intimate union with Him will produce the kind of faith that can remove obstacles with a word. No, Jesus was not having a “bad hair day” when He cursed the fig tree. He was using a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to teach His disciples a profound lesson. Did you get it?

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

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Elijah Has Come

ELIJAH HAS COME

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked Him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restore all things. Why, then, is it written that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.’ (Mark 9: 9-13).

What an unending struggle Jesus had with these twelve men! Their mental block to His talk of His suffering shut them off from understanding much of the prophecies associated with the Messiah.

Malachi’s prophecy is clear.

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes (Mal. 4: 5).

Of course, Elijah would not come literally because he belonged to another era and he had been dead for many centuries. But God would send another prophet in the spirit of Elijah. Who would not have recognised John the Baptist to be that one? If the disciples had any sensitivity to the times, John’s dress and demeanour would have alerted them to something unusual. They had seen and recognised Elijah on the mountain but they had not recognised his spirit in John.

Yes, “Elijah” had come and, like many of the other prophets before him, he had been silenced for speaking the truth. His was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Why did Malachi call it “that great and dreadful day of the Lord”? It was the day – the time in history – when God would judge sin once and for all. Every word that came from John’s mouth and from the mouth of Jesus pronounced judgment, and the eventual violent death of both forerunner and Messiah sealed that judgment on all mankind.

Darkness had tried to extinguish the light but Jesus rose from the dead to proclaim forgiveness for all mankind. Sin was finally judged, once for all in the Messiah. Those who killed Him thought that they had silenced Him forever but no one can ever kill truth. ”Elijah” came and Herod shut his up, but he still speaks because he spoke the truth. Jesus came, and the whole world, in those who represented us then, tried to shut Him up but He lives and speaks today.

People may ignore Him, deny His existence, lie about His person, deny that He died and rose again, create their own theories and religious systems and believe the nonsense they have fabricated but, sadly for them, Jesus just not go away. Sin was judged on the cross but those who choose not to receive the forgiveness His death purchased and the real life He offers in union with Him, will face the alternative. Their sin will not go away. It’s Jesus and eternal life or sin and eternal destruction. Everyone has a choice.

People did to “Elijah” whatever they wanted. They took him from the earthly scene but they could not erase him from history or deny what he did. People did to Jesus whatever they wanted but in His dying He paid the debt of sin and overcame death. We can ignore Him, deny Him, ostracise Him, write Him out of our history books, constitutions, governments, schools, homes and lives but He will never go away.

What is the alternative? Submit to Him now and enter into everlasting life or bow to Him as Lord on judgment day and be sent away into everlasting punishment. Whether you are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic, atheist or any other variation of God-denying religion, the outcome will be the same.

Who, being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death in a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father  (Phil 2: 6-11).

Scripture 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 new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

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

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com