Overpowering #likeJesus

A subtle, generally overlooked moment happens in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas leads the Jewish leaders and guards there to arrest Jesus.

“Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’  ‘Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.  ‘I am He,’ Jesus said.  (And judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”

Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him.  He had been telling His disciples since Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ!” in Caesarea Philipi.  The Father revealed His plan to the Son.  It’s tempting to look at Jesus “knowing” here as being attributed to His divine omniscience, but Jesus was continually going to the Father.  He said He would only do what He sees the Father doing.  He would allow the Father’s plan to be revealed.  He would walk in obedience to the Father’s will.

What I’m struck with is the reaction of the crowd that came to arrest Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am He.”

They drew back and fell to the ground.

Why would they react this way.  It seems to be a response of fear, yet they came together as a lynch mob, armed with  clubs and swords.  Humanly speaking, what would they have to fear?

As I try and picture the scene, here’s what I see.


Jesus speaks.  He was there at creation.  He spoke.  The earth came into existence.  He was there at Lazarus’ tomb.  He spoke.  Lazarus walked out of the grave alive.

I imagine Jesus simple declaration, “I am He,” being spoken with such force and such authority that they knew they were in the presence of the divine.  The “I AM” statement is a declaration of divinity.  I imagine the Father echoing Jesus’ words, just as He had thundered, “This is my Son.”  

Jesus’ declaration reverberated in their souls.  It shook them to the core.  They fell to the ground.  The reality of God’s presence was so overpowering, they could not stand.  They became weak-kneed.

If the crowd responded to Jesus’ “I am He” declaration like this, what impact did it have on the disciples?  You’d think it would strengthen their faith and fill them with confidence.  “He IS the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”   But no.  They fled in fear.  The disciples scattered.  Peter denied even knowing Jesus.

Jesus spoke with authority, power and glory.  He still does.  When He speaks to me, what is my response?  Like Isaiah, does the weight of His words bring me to my knees?   Do I worship?  Do I recognize His glory, His authority, His power?   Do I recognize my sin?   Do I submit my life to His will?  “Here am I.  Send me!”

When I read God’s Word, what weight does it carry in my soul?   Is it just a great book with instruction and counsel, or is it the Word of God?

“For the Word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12


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Revealed #likeJesus

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”

Wow!  The resurrection.  Stunning.

One would assume that the angel rolled away the stone so that Jesus could get out.  Since we later see the resurrected Christ passing through walls or closed doors, it’s clear that Jesus didn’t need the stone rolled away for Him to exit the tomb.  The stone wasn’t rolled away so Jesus could get out.  It was rolled away so we could get in.  It was rolled away so the world would know “He is risen!”

I wonder if the earthquake was actually caused by the resurrection itself?  It’s not completely clear.  Did the angel cause the earthquake to remove the stone?  Couldn’t an angel possess the strength to move the stone without an earthquake’s assistance?

Just before reading of the earthquake, we read that the women were on their way to the tomb, wondering who would roll away the stone.  Did they feel the earthquake?  How much did they see?

I wonder who told the gospel writers about the earthquake, the angel with lightning-like appearance rolling away the stone and sitting on it, and the reaction of the guards?  Did one of the guards secretly believe and tell the disciples what had happened?  If so, you’d think we would read about it.  Were the women witnesses to all this?  It appears that when the women arrived at the tomb, the guards had already fled.  Did the angel tell the women or Peter and John?   We don’t know how this report was gathered.  Maybe it was the Centurion who stood by the cross and proclaimed “Surely this man was the Son of God” that discovered the truth from the guards and passed it on?  Maybe Jesus Himself had told the disciples?

From what Matthew records in Matthew 28:11-15 about the soldiers being paid off by the elders and chief priests to spread a rumor about the disciples stealing Jesus’ body, it doesn’t appear that any of the guards broke ranks and told the truth.

This is amazing to me.  How could these guards feel the earth quake and witness an angel rolling away the stone…  and NOT put their faith in the resurrected Christ?  What greater proof did they need?

Are you ever amazed when someone hears the gospel or sees God at work and doesn’t believe?  I am!  It’s almost as if some people refuse to believe.  They’ve made up their mind to not believe regardless of what they see or hear.

God draws men to Himself.  He woos.  He convicts.  But we must respond.  Sometimes I wonder, “How can anyone believe?”  Other times I wonder, “How can anyone not believe?”

One thing is clear though.  We, like the guards, are without excuse.  God has revealed Himself to us.  Those who don’t believe, like the guards, reject the truth God has revealed to them.   In doing so, they reject God Himself.


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Simply Obey #likeJesus

What Jesus asks of us is usually pretty simple.  Easy?  Not always.  Simple.  Yes.

Jesus approached Jerusalem.  It was Passover week.  As they approached Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jeaus gave these instructions to two of His disciples.

“Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back shortly.'”

Who were these two disciples that Jesus sent?

Peter?  John?  We don’t know.

What did the two disciples do?  Jesus’ instructions were simple.  Easy?  Take a colt from someone you don’t know…  without first asking?  I think even in that culture they might be suspected as thieves.

How would they respond?  Would they question Jesus?  Would they look for further clarification?  Would they drag their feet?  Would they knock on the door and ask for permission to take the colt?

“The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them”
Matthew 21:6

“Some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’  They answered just as Jesus told them to, and the people let them go.”
Mark 11:5-6

Jesus’ instructions were simple.  The disciples response was immediate, unquestioning obedience. They did exactly what Jesus asked of them, when He asked them to do it. They spoke exactly as Jesus instructed them.

Obedience really is simple.  Easy?  No.  Simple?  Yes.

Just do and say what Jesus says, when He says to.

Obedience reflects trust.
Obedience demonstrates love.
Obedience proves we are His disciples.

I can’t call myself a Christ-follower…  and not follow.
A non-obeying disciple is an oxymoron.

Disciples follow Jesus.
Disciples do what Jesus did.
Disciples do what Jesus asks.
Disciples say what Jesus said.
Disciples say what Jesus asks.
Disciples offer Jesus their unconditional obedience.

Am I His disciple?


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Worship the Christ!

The story of the Magi from the East who came to worship baby Jesus can get lost in the Christmas story.  Songs like “We Three Kings” paint a certain picture for us, and rightly so, the focus comes right back to Jesus.  That’s where they put their focus.  It’s where we should put ours as well.  But today, I’m choosing to look a little harder at these wise men.

First of all, while we are led to believe there were three, we’re never given a number.  We get the number three from the gifts they brought:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.   Also, we call them “kings,” when in fact they were Magi (where the words magic and magician come from), or wise men.  They were diviners, astrologers, reading the stars for messages from God.

They came from the East.  We don’t know exactly where, but speculation is that they came from Persia, modern day Iran.

The three gifts are viewed symbolically.

The Gold represents Royalty.  Jesus is King.
The Frankincense represents Worship.  Jesus is our great High Priest.
The Myrrh, used in embalming, represents Sacrifice.  Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Of the Magi, we read in Matthew 2:1-12 that they arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

These Magi must have studied the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah.  They were looking intently for Him.  The star was their confirmation.  He is here!

I love the response of the Magi to the star.


Their example is one all seekers must emulate.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.  Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Overjoyed beyond measure!  Is that how I feel about Jesus?

Falling to their knees!  Is that how I respond in His presence?

They worshiped Him!  Is that how I choose to live each day?

They opened their treasures!  Is that how I prioritize what I treasure?
My time, talent and treasure…  do I lay it at Jesus’ feet, offering Him my all?

Overjoyed beyond measure, on my knees, worshipping, laying what I treasure at Jesus’ feet.  That’s how I want to live today!



Indignant #likeJesus

Indignant  -adjective
feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base. 

What makes me indignant?  Do my feelings mirror those of Christ?

There are only two times in the gospels (NIV translation) where it speaks of Jesus being indignant.  Certainly there were more than two occasions where Jesus felt this emotion.  Wasn’t it indignance He felt when He turned the tables of the money changers over and chased them out of the temple… twice?  Wasn’t it indignance He felt when He rebuked the Pharisees with seven woes?  Yet only twice do the gospel writers say Jesus was indignant.

While Matthew and Luke use the word to describe the feelings of the disciples, Pharisees and synagogue leaders, only Mark records Jesus being indignant.

Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
Mark 1:41

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mark 10:14

Two times we read of Jesus being indignant.  Both times it is because people were being prevented from coming to Him.

The man with leprosy was a social outcast.  He wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near Jesus.  Timidly, but desperately, he asked, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  It says Jesus was indignant.  Who was He indignant with?  The man with leprosy?  I don’t think so.  The onlookers who stood there with disgust on their faces?  Probably.  The injustice of a system that would treat a person in need of grace and compassion with fear and rejection instead?  Definitely!

Indignance drove Jesus to action.  He reached out His hand and touched the untouchable.  “I am willing.  Be clean!”

Passover week was fast approaching.  Thousands were making their way to Jerusalem for the festivities with family in tow.  Parents were bringing their little children to Jesus for Him to bless them.  The disciples chased them away.  In their minds, Jesus shouldn’t be bothered with little children.  He had important Messiah stuff to be doing, right?

Jesus again was indignant.  Don’t stop anyone from coming to me, especially the little children!

Indignance drove Jesus to action.  He took the little children in His arms, placed His hands on them, and blessed them.

Jesus became indignant when religious types shut out those who needed Him.  When grace and compassion are needed, but instead fear, rejection or ambivalence are given, indignance is in order.

And when indignance is in order, it’s not meant to be bottled up.  What’s bottled up turns sour.  Indignance is meant to be a fuel for righteousness.  Indignance must ignite action, or it will burn us up inside.

What makes me indignant?

Does my indignance drive me to action?


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Unmatched #likeJesus

What would Jesus think?  Was the world He lived in as crazy as ours?  I’m reading the Gospels this morning, but my mind can’t stop thinking about the bloodshed in Baton Rouge.

Another senseless killing of police officers.  First, five gunned down in Dallas.  Now three in Baton Rouge.  And this right on the heels of the Islamic Jihadist terrorist attack killing 85 on Bastille Day in Nice, France.  Oh, and of course the coup attempt in Turkey where at least 265 were killed.  Over 200 people were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in Baghdad and another 40 in Balad, Iraq. And then there was the bombing in the Istanbul airport that killed 36 people.  And the gunman in the Orlando nightclub that killed 49 people.  And the terrorist attack in the Brussels airport that killed 32 people.  And the coordinated terror attack throughout Paris that killed 147 people.  And the Jihadist couple in San Bernadino that shot and killed 14 people.  And…

So much violence.  So much death.  All fueled by a boiling cauldron of hatred.  Muslim extremists hate Christianity, the nation of Israel, the West and everyone who sympathizes with us.  Black Lives Matter hates law enforcement.  We’re at war with ISIS.  Where will the Islamic Jihadists strike next?  We’re at war within.  Where will the next ambush take place?

In the midst of all the hatred and violence, it’s easy to throw up our hands and scream, “What’s this world coming to?  This is hopeless!”

What’s this world coming to?  Well, we know what this world is coming to.  We’ve read the end of the story.  It will go from bad to worse.  There will be wars and rumors of wars.  There will be no real peace until the Prince of Peace returns.

Our hope is not in our economic strength.  Our hope is not in our military might.  Our hope is not in our great government.  Does anyone really believe Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can lead us out of this mess?  Our hope is not in the values and ideals of America and its people.

Our hope is in Christ!

Jesus infuses hope into what otherwise seems like a hopeless cause.

Lazarus was dead.  Four days dead.  That’s pretty hopeless.  But what did Jesus tell Martha?

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Jesus could have healed Lazarus from his sickness.  He could have returned before Lazarus died.  He could have performed a long distance miracle.  He didn’t though.  He delayed His return.  He let Lazarus die.  Why?  Because when the situation is most hopeless, when it’s beyond our control and we’re helpless to change the outcome, that’s when God gets the most glory.

Death was no match for Jesus!  

“Lazarus, come out.”

Death was no match for Jesus!

“He’s not here.  He is risen!”

Hopeless?  Never!  Not with the guy who conquered death.

My faith is in Him.  I’m ready to see the glory of God.

As hopeless as the world around us looks, it feels like we’re primed for a miracle!


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Truly Free #likeJesus

The truth will set you free!

These are powerful, oft repeated words.  We find them in John 8:32.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had just heard His teaching during the Feast of Tabernacles and believed in Him.

Even as He spoke, many believed in Him.  To the Jews who had believed in Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you really are My disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death.”
John 8:30-32,51

At first glance, it might appear that Jesus is promoting obedience or commitment as the means of salvation.  One could certainly argue from words like these that Jesus expects us to make Him Lord of our life if we are to truly be saved.  But is that what Jesus meant?

What were these Jews in bondage to?  What did they need to be set free from?

They were in bondage to sin, yes.  Jesus said as much.  “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  But how would truth set them free from sin?  They lived in a religious system that put them in bondage to the Law.  They were slaves to the Law.  They couldn’t keep it perfectly, so they were condemned by it.

Would it make sense, then, for Jesus to replace a strict keeping of the Law of Moses with a strict adherence to His own teaching as the means of salvation?  In the Apostle Paul’s words, “God forbid!”

These Jews have just “believed in Him.”  What does that mean?  Based on John’s use of the word ‘believe’ we must assume that these Jews had placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah.   But if that’s the case, why does the conversation go the direction Jesus takes it from here.  He calls them “children of the devil” and tells them “they do not belong to God.”  Is this because the crowd is mixed?  Some have believed, some have not?  And by the end of the conversation, they are picking up rocks to stone Him for blasphemy because He claimed to be God, saying, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!”

Remember, in John 6 many disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.  Did He have them in mind when He spoke to this group?

“If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples.”

Can we make a distinction between “believer” and “disciple?”  Did Jesus make a distinction between the two?  He certainly never seemed to be concerned with just getting people saved, making converts.  His chief aim was to make disciples.  That begins with conversion, but it doesn’t end there.

It must be asked, what is the truth Jesus speaks of here, and what is that truth setting us free from?

In John 8:51, Jesus says, “Whoever obeys my word will never see death.”  Because Jesus says “word” and not “words” I believe He is speaking about a singular part of His teaching and not all of His teaching.

In Matthew 7:24, Jesus concludes His Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…”  “Words.”  Plural.  The totality of His message.

But here in John 8, “word.”  Singular.  A specific message.  Jesus’ specific message here is about His identity and His purpose.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be…”
John 8:28

The phrase “lifted up” refers to how Jesus will die.  It is a phrase Jesus uses with Nicodemus in John 3.  It is a phrase that refers back to Moses lifting up the snake in the desert…  a statue of a snake atop a pole that the Israelites were told to look upon to live after they’d been bitten by venomous snakes.

The singular message, the “word” they are to obey, is the message of the cross.  To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “You must be born again.”  Would he obey by placing his faith in Jesus sacrificial death on the cross?  Would he “look up?”  Will they?


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