We continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called Epic!
You can also watch previous messages in the series at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
Here are some of what I shared this past Sunday:
Suppose there was a king like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, he had the strength to crush all his opponents. He had more wealth and splendor than any king ever had. He had everything he wanted except one thing. He was not married and He had fallen in love with a very poor, daughter of a carpenter. He knew he could get her to marry him, there wasn’t a woman in all the land who would resist his proposal. He was powerful, wealthy famous, and desirable. But how would he know she truly loved Him? In an odd sort of way, his very majesty and splendor tied his hands. If he tried to elevate her to his grandure by bringing her to his palace, crowning her with jewels and royal robes, letting her enjoy all of his wealth, she surely wouldn’t resist. But would she love him? Would she love him for who his is, not just what he did for her?
If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with his army in escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject who would obey out of fear. He didn’t want someone living with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she left behind. He wanted a lover, an equal.
The king wanted her to forget he was a king, and she was a poor carpenter’s daughter and let love cross over the gulf between them. Convinced this could never happen by elevating her to his level without crushing her freedom, the King resolved to descend. For the sake of love, he humbled himself, clothed as a poor servant, in a worn cloak and tattered rags. He asked her father if he could become their servant working for him as a carpenter in exchange for room and board. Thinking “if I descend to live in her world, and she learns to love me there, then I will know her love is freely chosen—not forced or coerced. I would know she loves me for who I am.”
The king renounced the throne and became a servant to win her love.
This is a paraphrase of a parable told by theologian Soren Kierkegaard to explain why God, in all His majesty, would descend. This is the motive of God revealed in the scriptures. Love for you is the motive behind all that God does including the reasons He doesn’t force His will on you, so quickly deliver us from the suffering and evils of this world gone astray, and the reason he doesn’t overwhelm us with his presence. Instead God unobtrusively woos us. Because of God’s love, He descended to bridge the Grand Canyon of difference between a perfect God and very imperfect people. Now those whose hearts were truly seeking Him could know Him intimately and live in His kingdom now and forevermore.
We’ve been going through this Epic Big Picture of Scripture, and today we look at the coming of the Messiah. If you’ve been here the past 4 weeks, you’ve realized that 2000 years of prophets and history foretold this time of Jesus’ coming.
Around 430 years before the time of Christ, the prophet Malachi says the Messiah (the Annointed One who brings a covenant) will come to His temple.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 3:1, 430B.C.
Josephus, the Jewish Historian explains that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple completely in 70 A.D.. It has never been rebuilt even to this day. According to this last prophecy from the Old Testament, the Messiah would come sometime between 430 B.C. and 70 A.D.
The prophecy gets even more specific than that.
The story of the Old Testament includes the story of God’s chosen people. God set apart His people for a specific purpose – to preserve record of all He would do for the sake of all the nations through the Messiah.
All the way back in Genesis, nearly 2000 years before Christ, Jacob declares this prophecy about his son Judah:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” Genesis 49:10 (1500-2000 B.C.)
For 2000 years before Christ, the Jewish people understood this to be a prophecy about the Messiah. The scepter, like a King’s Staff, stands for authority or Kingly Rulership. The Jewish people understood that rulership and authority over all the nations belonged to God alone through His Messiah. This prophecy says the Messiah’s lineage would be through Judah, which Jesus was descended from Judah. They also understood it to mean that the Messiah would come before rulership or authority was taken away from the Jewish people.
Now, here’s what’s amazing about this: a Jewish king ruled Israel all the way until Herod the Great became king during the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod the Great was the first King of the Jews who had no Jewish blood. He ruled until 11 A.D.
Even more amazing, in the Talmud (Jewish historical commentaries), Jewish rulers record the time the Roman rulers stripped away authority for capital punishment from them in 7 A.D.. (This power was not restored until 1948. This is why their successors needed Pilate’s permission to put Jesus to death for blasphemy). The Jewish Rulers wrote:
“Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken from Judah, and the Messiah has not appeared!” Talmud, Sanhedrin, 7 A.D.
Did you catch this? The Jewish Religious Leaders in writings outside the Bible bemoaned that this prophecy had occurred, yet they felt the Messiah had not come. They expected a powerful and political Messiah would overthrow Roman Oppressors. They were not looking for a humble servant.
Those whose hearts were open would see 23 years later that the Messiah was growing up among them, disguised as a carpenter who came to serve.
Divine Humility, motivated by love is so easy to miss in our self-consumed, power hungry world where we are obsessed with seeking approval from others more than seeking to know and follow the God who created us.
From the time of Malachi, in 400s B.C. until John the Baptist, the messenger hailing Messiah’s arrival, no prophets came. Amos foretold this:
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11
John the Baptist drew such large crowds because he was the first prophet since Malachi.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” Malachi 4:5 (450 B.C.)
Jesus said about John the Baptist:
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:13-15
Jesus grew up in a carpenter’s family, but not much is known about his childhood except Luke records how he got lost in Jerusalem at age 12 and was found teaching in the Temple. Jesus laid low until about age 29, when he had John Baptize him. For the next 3 1/2 years, He traveled between Jerusalem and Galilee, teaching, healing, drawing huge crowds because of the miraculous things he was doing.
Jesus claimed some pretty radical things—without a doubt. In fact, most people don’t realize what he claimed, and when they do—unless they have an open mind—many are unwilling to even consider if it could be true. So I’d ask you to have an open mind this series, and see what you discover.
Jesus claimed to reveal God.
That’s what the eyewitnesses claim he taught, that’s what even secular historians report got him crucified (for blasphemy—making himself out to have the authority of God).
This tripped people up even in Jesus day:
Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?” Matthew 13:54-56
Jesus taught with a wisdom and authority that he claimed came from God, and He demonstrated God’s authority by doing miraculous things.
At the same time, he was fully human. People knew his parents, his brothers and sisters, and this confused people. Until the last 3 years of his life (when he began his ministry), he was a very humble, ordinary carpenter.
In those last 3 years, he did things only God could do—miraculous things.
Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. Matthew 9:2-8
Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins—to absolve people of wrongs they’ve done to restore them right with God!
Jesus did miraculous things that demonstrated his authority. Not only did the eyewitnesses who wrote the 27 books that make up the New Testament claim Jesus did miraculous things – even some secular historians from Jesus’ time inadvertently did as well. Josephus, a Roman/Jewish Historian in Jesus’ day writes:
“Now there arose about this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works, a teacher of men who gladly welcome strange things. He led away many Jews, and many Gentiles. He was the so-called Messiah. Pilate…condemned him to the cross.” – Josephus, Antiquities 18 (A.D. 93)
Josephus reported common knowledge of Jesus as a wise teacher, who people claimed did miraculous deeds and was crucified on charges of blasphemy—for claiming to be the Messiah, God’s self-revelation in a form with whom we could relate.
Miraculous events seemed to surround Jesus’ last three years. Eyewitnesses recorded them, others noted them. Interestingly, none of Jesus’ miracles were done to gain power, or prestige, or vindication before his enemies (things we would use power to do), Jesus miracles were all about restoring people to the way God intended.
Jesus taught that God’s Kingdom has come near (God’s will and ways) were being demonstrated through him. When God’s will and ways came near:
- People were restored to health.
- People who felt condemned were forgiven.
- Prostitutes and tax collectors who had been outcast were brought into hope-filled community and began to live in new life-giving ways.
Jesus taught with authority, and common people were attracted to his wisdom, so much so, they’d follow him just to listen and learn. He gets in a boat, goes across Sea of Galilee. The Scriptures say:
“Many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them…so he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:33-34
Just imagine this—there were about 10-15,000 people running all morning to sit and listen to Jesus’ wisdom. There must have been something pretty amazing, pretty attractive, compelling, and life-giving for them to do that.
Jesus’ teaching was not loved by all. The people Jesus clashed with most were the pride-filled religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus’ popularity and his denouncement of their lack of love and compassion for people. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that they burden people with religious rules and they pride themselves in following their rules, but their hearts were far from God. They weren’t open or seeking to do the will of God. They used God for their own selfish motives.
So even seeing Jesus miraculous works, the religious leaders said:
“He’s a magician—he’s demon possessed, that’s how he heals people.”
“I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me…I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”
Jesus wasn’t talking about physical death, but the wisdom of God that gives an eternal quality to life starting now and forever more.
Unfortunately, they refused to hear it which led to this remarkable exchange between the religious leaders and Jesus:
Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied…“My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself.” John 8:49-59
There was no doubt to them what Jesus was claiming. When Moses asked God in the vision of the burning bush: “Who do I sent me to set the slaves free?” God said: “I am!” “Ego Eime” – “I am the self-existing one—the eternal one.” Jesus says: “Before Abraham, the father of the Jewish and Arab nations was born, ‘I am.’ The religious leaders picked up stones to stone him to death for blasphemy.
Jesus claimed to be Messiah, the one foretold by the prophets, who would reveal the heart of God, the wisdom of God, and the love of God.
Some may say: “Well, big deal! Others have made whacko claims to be God, or Divine, or the Messiah, or Son of God. That proves nothing.”
That’s true. Let’s consider some of the people throughout history who have claimed such things. See how many you recognize from 2600 BC until now:
Imhotep, Krishna, Julias Caesar, Commodus, Guan Yu, Hassan-i-Sabah, Manco Capac, Father Divine, Juanita Perez, Yahweh ben Yahweh, Sangjenim, Sai Baba, Jim Jones, and David Koresh.
How many of those names do you know—and of the ones you know—how many keep on making the cover of Time, Newsweek, yearly Documentaries because their lives changed history for the better?
There’s no other historical figure who claimed such outrageous things, made such an impact in history globally, who has had more hospitals founded, more acts of compassion done in his name, more people claiming their lives have been redirected by his Love.
If you’re seeking Wisdom, why wouldn’t you start with the teachings of Jesus?
No one else has made such claims, and made such a positive impact on history, or taught and demonstrated an other-worldly love, a sacrificial love. Jesus came to give life – to help us know how to live life with God, who wants to help us with our problems.
We all have problems. We all need wisdom in living. So where will you go? Who will you learn from? Who will you trust?
Dallas Willard USC prof notes: “One thing is sure: You’re somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for, human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live.”
Whose disciple are you? Part of wisdom is learning to reflect on who or what shapes us most. Whose wisdom are we currently obeying? Is that the wisest course to follow?
Jesus’ claims that God has been revealing his wisdom to us all along. Jesus claimed God has engaged with humanity throughout history. Jesus actually claimed to be the fulfillment of all God’s been saying through numerous prophets down through the ages. He encourages us to read and pay attention to the words of the scriptures:
“I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven..” Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus claimed that the wisdom of God has been revealed through Moses and the many prophets who spoke from God. God has not left us in the dark. He’s been providing wisdom and guidance for all who will seek Him.
Let me ask you: Where do you seek wisdom for living? Do you read the Scriptures. If not, why not? Do you know, if you seek wisdom by reading the top 10 most influential books in history, guess what makes the list every time? The Old and New Testament. It’s not just reading, but it’s reading with a willing heart. If you read to seek God with an open willing heart, God will meet you and lead you.
Jesus said willingness to do God’s will is key:
“Jesus told them, ‘My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.’” John 7:16-17
Pride says “I can do it on my own. I’ll figure it out. I don’t need anybody’s help, not God or anyone’s.” Truth is worth more than pride. Truth comes with willingness. Jesus taught that those who are willing to humbly seek God’s wisdom and follow it. Those who seek Him with humility will find blessing in life.
One day as Jesus was teaching, “A woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’
It takes some investment of time and energy to read, study, and learn who wrote this, what’s the context, and how does it all fit together. Even still, there is blessing for those who are willing to not only read and study the Scriptures.
Jesus also demonstrated how God would redeem humanity and bring an end to injustice.
Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:27-33
What does He do if He loves us and wants us with Him, yet we’ve all turned from Him and wronged him? He pays the price his own justice requires so we won’t have to do so.
As they nailed Him to the cross, Jesus said:
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
After crying out in the 1000 year old words of Psalm 22 “My God why have you forsaken me,” Jesus experienced our spiritual and physical death saying: “It is finished.”
History tells us at that moment that darkness covered the earth and an earthquake occurred just as God had foretold in 760 B.C.
“The earth will tremble for your deeds…at that time,” says the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth while it is still day…you will wear funeral clothes and shave your heads as signs of sorrow, as if your only son had died.” Amos 8:8-10, 760 B.C.
Only God could foretell and pull this off – to darken the sun at noon as his son dies? Yet biblical and secular history confirms that’s exactly what happened. At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…then Jesus shouted out again, and he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart…” Matthew 27:45-51
Thallus, a contemporary of Jesus wrote a history around A.D. 52. His works have not survived except as quoted in later works. Julius Africanus quotes Thallus as he is talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and the darkness explaining it away as an eclipse:
“Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably…it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.” Thallus (A.D. 52 quoted in Africanus, A.D. 221)
A solar eclipse cannot take place during the cycle of a full moon because the moon’s on the wrong side of the earth to be able to cause an eclipse. What’s significant is that a non-Christian, non-Jewish historian of the time admits there was a darkness during Jesus crucifixion and seeks to explain it away.
Phlegon, a Roman historian writing around A.D. 140 mentions this unaccounted for darkness. Reference to his works are quoted in three other writers:
“[Phlegon] records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth [noon until 3pm].” Phlegon A.D. 140 (in Africanus, Origen, Philopon)
All of this really happened. This was the most central event of all of history. Jesus really was the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, who was raised from the dead as David foretold 1000 years before:
For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.” Psalm 16:10, 1000 B.C.
Jesus not only died to pay for your sins and wrongs against God, but He also rose from the grave, proving he has power over life and death. Jesus can give you life with God, now and forever more – even beyond the grave. We cannot earn it. Jesus paid the price himself because we cannot.
The simple humble faith of a child opening our hearts saying: “I want what Jesus did to count for me because I need your forgiveness and I need you in my life.”
There is no greater love! On that day that divided history, God’s love and justice met on the cross in this act of Amazing Grace. Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his lineage. The last book of the Bible it says of Jesus:
“You were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9
God’s love for all people revealed through the Messiah – Jesus!