“…HOW HE WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD AND HEALING ALL THAT WERE
OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, FOR GOD WAS WITH HIM.”
How could such guilt be charged to such innocence? It is so ironic that even the Jews, who were Christ’s arch-enemies, said of Him in Mark 7:37,
“…HE HAS DONE ALL THINGS WELL…”
Then there was pathetic Pontius Pilate, who though he played his part in taking from Christ His life, yet could not take away His innocence. He said of Jesus in John 18:38,
“…I FIND NO GUILT IN HIM.”
One has only to watch Mel Gibson’s film The Passion Of The Christ, with James Caviezel as Jesus Christ, Maia Morgenstern as Mary, and of course the raging bloodthirsty mobs, to have all of the questions reawakened in one’s heart and mind all over again. Everyone should see Gibson’s vivid and gripping film more than once, for time has a way of dulling us, so that the mere reading of the Biblical passion accounts is no longer able to stir our deepest feelings.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? I must honestly say that I never really trembled at Calvary, until I saw The Passion Of The Christ. I have wept at Calvary before, but now I have trembled. We must climb Calvary again and again! We must worship there daily in holy trembling.
Then when those aforesaid questions confront me again so powerfully, as they have many times before, I want my mind to be stripped naked and not prepossessed by anything that I have heard second hand. I want all former notions to be set aside, and my mind to be as bare as Jesus was on the cross. I have quit on these questions too many times before in frustration and overwhelming emotions which in turn have numbed my mind. Yet as often as I have quit on them, they never quit on me. I have never been able to silence them. Why did the Jews reject Jesus? Why did they time and time again seek to kill Him (Matthew 12:14, John 5:16-18, John 7:1, John 19:7), and over and over again cry out, “Crucify Him?” Would we do the same to Him if He walked American streets today?
Much of the modern church has invented a contrived Jesus designed to suit their own carnal and fleshly desires in the name of religion. But would she do the same today to Jesus as the first century Jews did, if the real Jesus walked in the flesh into the modern church scene as He did into Judaism over two thousand years ago? Would she be infuriated by Him and want him dead and gone too?
These questions are too frightening to ask let alone attempt to answer. But they must be asked and answered if we are to be completely honest with God and with ourselves. So we shall humbly and prayerfully try. Admittedly it will take lots of courage, for many are not secure enough to allow the least bit of conviction, guilt or shame to reach them.
1. EVERY PROPHECY FULFILLED IN CHRIST
What more could the first century Jews have needed? The Old Testament prophecies and their exact historic New Testament fulfillments are so overwhelming and far more than sufficient proof of Christ’s Divinity and Messiahship! The countless Old Testament prophecies have all come to life in minutest detail in Christ, and are therefore so powerfully convincing all by themselves by any standard. More than ample proof! Much more!
This then is exactly where the restlessness of my questioning and troubled mind will not subside. With all of the Divine predictions of the coming Messiah finding their 100% detailed completion in Christ, how could they react against Him with such rancor and disbelief? It can and must be said of the Jewish Old Testament prophets over and over again when they pointed forward to Christ, “This is exactly what they said, and this is exactly what they got.” And the Jews didn’t get it then, and they still don’t today!
We don’t have time or space to deal with all of the O.T. prophecies that were bulls-eye, dead-center fulfilled in Christ. We really should do that on our own as a separate study. It would be absolutely thrilling! But one stands out in my mind as particularly powerful and it is found in Micah 5:2,
“BUT AS FOR YOU, BETHLEHEM EPHRATHAH, TOO LITTLE TO BE AMONG THE CLANS
OF JUDAH, FROM YOU ONE WILL GO FORTH FOR ME TO BE RULER IN ISRAEL.
HISGOINGS FORTH ARE FROM LONG AGO, FROM THE DAYS
Micah prophesied this, as best as we can tell, well over seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. You’ve got to be kidding! No we are not! A fifth-rate little village on the road to nowhere, hosting Heaven’s first-rate child as His birth place! It became in the fullness of time the center of the universe. The miracle star pointing the way to what was suddenly not just another place! Angels singing, wise men worshiping, and shepherds rejoicing, all celebrating what had taken place in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Yes, Bethlehem had a last name – Ephrathah, which means Fruitfulness, or Fruitful Land. The entire earth is still spiritually eating of its saving fruit to this very day. The forgiving fruit of Ephrathah which cancels out the condemning fruit of Eden.
How could Micah have ever known centuries before the perfect fruit of Heaven grew in Bethlehem Ephrathah? Did you ever hear of such a lucky prophetic arrow traveling hundreds of years and then hitting such a small target bull’s-eye dead-center? Too remarkable to be written off as a chance fulfillment? Yes, but there is more!
Oh, by the way, little ole Bethlehem did and does still exist to this very day. It is not and never has been some sort of mythical “Oz” just over the rainbow. Bethlehem is geographical and historical, and still is indeed a comparatively tiny village on the map. You can get there by a small plane if you have the money and don’t get hijacked first? Then suddenly that diminutive no-place of a place became the place where God became incarnated, just like Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 said He would.
Bethlehem still becomes the center of the earth every Christmas! Why Bethlehem? Because history, that is, His-Story, is made up of fine print, not of banner headlines; of the small grass-roots villages too little to mention, and not the blare and glare of metropolitan fame and notoriety. That is so often how God writes His greatest non-fiction, not in headlines but in footnotes!
Matthew 2:5 records the chief priests and scribes who responded to King Herod who had asked about where this King of the Jews was born by saying:
“…IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA, FOR SO IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN….”
For so it has been written! Where and by whom? By Micah in Micah 5:2! All so precise in promise and fulfillment! Today heathen people spell Christmas – Xmas. As if X marks the spot, X being an unknown. No unknowns here! Any travel agent will tell you how to get there.
And oh yes, don’t forget, “For so it has been written!” By the way, three hundred and twenty four times some form of that rock-solid phrase “It Is Written” confirms the New Testament fulfillments of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus was born, lived, died and arose again in the Old Testament long before He was born, lived, died and arose again in the New Testament. It is like reading the same book twice, one in the future tense, and the other in the present tense. And yet to the Jews, future or present tense, it is all still nonsense!
It happened, as the Bible says, in the days of Herod the King. We read in Matthew 2:1,
“NOW AFTER JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA
IN THE DAYS OF HEROD THE KING….”
Oh yes, let us be careful not to forget about Herod the King. He wasn’t Roman or Greek mythology either. You can read all about Him in the history books. You will find his dates and deeds, the size of his palace, his cruelty, craft, and cunning. It all happened in Herod’s lifespan, but it happened in Bethlehem. In case we haven’t gotten that by now, it just continues to be repeated over and over as if we still didn’t know.
Then the wise men found the Virgin Mary and her infant son, just as Isaiah had prophesied in another incredible prophesy in Isaiah 7:14,
“THEREFORE THE LORD HIMSELF WILL GIVE YOU A SIGN: BEHOLD A VIRGIN WILL
BE WITH CHILD AND BEAR A SON, AND SHE WILL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL.”
Sure!? Likely prophecy!? No, let’s face it, totally unlikely! A foolhardy prophecy to be sure! None of us like our minds being made fools of. A virgin shall conceive? Are you serious Isaiah? When is the last time you saw anything like that, let alone even thought it? Frankly, the last time was the first time and the only time. Men over the years have had great trouble believing that Jesus was born of a virgin. Therefore they had difficulty in believing that He had been born at all. It is embarrassing to have your mind exposed to superior intelligence and power. Who would have even dared to prophesy a thing like that? But because it has been written, it came to pass just as what is prophesied in Scripture always does.
And the virgin mother shall call His name, “Immanuel – God With Us.” God is everywhere all at once, and yet He was born here. Almighty God got as close to earth as anyone could get. He was born here of one of our young virgin women. Her name was Mary
As a matter of fact, so dominating and precise are the prophet Isaiah’s Messianic predictions, and so detailed and accurate were his prophecies concerning the birth, atoning sufferings and death of Christ (Isaiah 7, 52, 53), that throughout the ages church fathers have likened his writings to the Apostle Paul’s Christology and Soteriology in the New Testament. They even referred to Isaiah as Paulus Propheticus, which is to say that Isaiah’s prophecies were Paul’s Christology and Soteriology in advance. In fact, if you really want to understand the Apostle Paul, read Isaiah.
Tragically, amidst the glaring light and inescapable proof of it all, still the Jewish people will not believe in Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah. Is it due to ignorance of their Bible? No, not as a general rule! There are many Jews today who are well versed in the Old Testament Messianic Prophecies, but they will give you in every case an interpretation of each one that does not at all relate to Jesus Christ.
I can feel my mind swirling again as I ponder how to begin to give an even slightly plausible explanation for all of this. How? Why? Help! It becomes even more mind-numbing in that while the Jewish people rejected and stained their hands in the shedding of Christ’s blood, yet when several quack messiahs rose up after Jesus ascended into Heaven, as they are still rising up today, these false messiahs were embraced by many Jewish people as authentic. Their own Jewish historian Josephus tells us so! Incredible!
2. PROPHETICUS EXACTUS
A dear friend of mine, Jim Dressander, who served as my most capable district elder at Grand Rapids First Assembly of God, had a unique way of expressing his certainty about things. Together we would watch Tri-Unity Christian High School play basketball, and when he was sure of the victory, He would assuringly look at me and say, “You can put it in the book.” I like that, for it reminds me that if it is in God’s Book, you can take it to the bank! The true prophets of God didn’t and don’t ever miss. Not once! Not ever! That is if they are indeed bona fide prophets of the living God.
If you call yourself, or allowed yourself to be called a prophet or prophetess these days, as far too many are doing, you are going to have to bat 1000%. Not just about! Not approximately! Not so-to-speak! Still want the title of prophet? After all, that is the Bible’s objective litmus test of the true prophets of God. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! We read in Deuteronomy 18:22,
“WHEN A PROPHET SPEAKS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, IF THE THING DOES NOT
COME ABOUT OR COME TRUE,THAT IS THE THING WHICH THE LORD HAS
NOT SPOKEN. THE PROPHET HAS SPOKEN IT PRESUMPTUOUSLY;
YOU SHALL NOT BE AFRAID OF HIM.”
End of story! In other words, if a so-called prophet is blowing hot air, that is, his prophecy goes “poof” in a “puff” of presumptuous prophetic smoke, we are not to fear him, i.e. not hold him or her in reverence as an authentic prophet or prophetess of God. Our grass-roots parishioners must know this! Now! Immediately! For often they are the worst in the world at distinguishing between the real and the fake, because they have not been taught the many characteristics of truth and false prophets in the Scripture. God’s people are not only destroyed for lack of knowledge, but they are deceived by fake predictors.
No, no, no, in the true calling of a prophet of God, practice does not make perfect. If you are claiming to be or allowing yourself to be called a prophet or prophetess, you are going to have to back up your claims with perfect accuracy from the very start and all the way through. Perfection in the prophetic gifting from God is not a goal to be achieved, but the very launching pad from which God sends you forth. There is no such thing as prophets getting progressively better as they learn how to prophesy and up their prophetic batting averages.
Only false prophets, of which Jesus strongly warned would one day be many (Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24), practice to be perfect! Practice does not make perfect here! There are no Doe Ray Me Fa So La Tee Doe prophetic scales to practice. Sorry! It is not a learned skill but a Divine gifting. There are no average prophets. There is no prophetic amateur hour. There are no good prophets. And there are no excellent prophets. There are only A’s and E’s, perfection or total failure.
Moreover, the church of Jesus Christ is going to inevitably and deservedly be viewed by the world as false if she indeed makes false predictions. Always remember this simple but profound principle in this misleading age of multiplying so-called prophets:
“THE WORLD WILL CONSIDER OUR RELIGION A LIE IF WE
LIE IN THE NAME OF OUR RELIGION.”
Such is the pitiful, harmful and tragic case far too often these days. Jesus said it would be exactly that way. Everybody and their uncles and aunts are claiming to be apostles and prophets. Today, so much of the charismatic religious scene has prophetic crystal ballitis!
As was the case when a well known healing evangelist prophesied several years ago, “The Spirit tells me – Fidel Castro will die – in the 90s. The Holy Spirit just said to me, it could be worse than any death you can imagine.” Frankly, Castro for years has looked like death warmed over, and has appeared like he might drop dead at any moment. Still, ole Fidel has outlived the death pronouncement, and like Commodus said to Maximus in Gladiator, “You simply won’t die.” Castro is still kicking. The prophecy not only died, but the prophet’s prophetic respect died with it. It was not the Holy Spirit! It was but a false prophetic hiccup miscarried in the false prophet’s mouth. The Holy Spirit never miscarries what He prophecies. It is always birthed in its time.
Or again, the same person prophesied on TV in the 1990s, “The Spirit of God tells me an earthquake will hit the east coast of America and destroy much in the nineties. Not one place will be safe from earthquakes in the nineties. These who have not known earthquakes will know it.” Of course, earthquake predicting has a strong chance of coming true anyway, for earthquakes these days around the world and home are constant. The National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado will tell you that there were no major earthquakes on the east coast of America in the 1990s. Recently however the gigantic and devastating cyclone and earthquakes in Burma and China remind us of Jesus’ infallible prophecy as to the signs of His coming in Luke 21:11,
“…AND THERE WILL BE GREAT EARTHQUAKES.”
In 1996, another famous religious TV personality prophesied that whoever would be elected as president of the United States, and whoever would be elected to the U.S. Congress, “Would hear and obey the voice of God for the next four years.” Bill Clinton’s term in office degraded the White House and the presidency of the United States, and dragged it down to an all-time immoral scummy low. Four years, not of hearing God’s voice and walking in obedience to it, but four years of moral debauchery. The exact opposite of the prophecy took place. Sorry! No such margin of error allowed here in the Divinely prophetic! No reporting to mission control from some prophetic spaced-out ship, “Houston, we have a problem!” None of God’s authentic prophets ever embarrassed Him! They never will!
This sort of heresy is what gives the Christian Faith and, I might add, Biblical Pentecostalism a very bad name. I am a Christian and a Biblical Pentecostal, and I am deeply grateful to God to be both. Tragically and so sadly however, there are those who parade around in front of television audiences portraying themselves in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as those who have direct pipelines into the secret counsels of God. (Deuteronomy 29:29) They prophesy things such as that God will destroy the homosexual community in America by fire no later than 1994 or 1995. This same guy told his television audiences to lay their dead loved ones in front of Christian television for 24 hours so they could be resurrected. No one seemingly holds these false prophets accountable and takes them to task because they have independent ministries and are beholden to no one. They think they are getting away with this:
It all becomes so destructive for those of us who are trying to convince our very wary religious families that Biblical Pentecost is for today, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available and real, and that God still gives prophets to the church today. I personally have been praying, toiling and sometimes what seems like hopelessly plodding, to convey to my loved ones that Biblical Pentecostalism is not a fallacy but the glorious truth of God’s Word to us. Then when a prominent Pentecostal personality like Oral Roberts tells his supporters and the entire world that if they do not send in 10 million dollars to his ministry, God is going to kill him, well, I am set back eons in my struggle. To my family it all then becomes an elaborate nutty scam. I have had enough!
Frankly, the noun “Prophet” should have an intimidating and even fearful sound to our ears, and appear at least 10 sizes too big for our heads, if we truly understood the gravity of the prophetic spirit and voice in the Bible. A Biblical prophet isn’t somebody who unfolds the future willy-nilly on a hunch and tells people sweet nothings. That is fortune telling! Moreover, the prophet of God does not even major in forth-telling, but much more in speaking forth the Word of God in an interpretation of history as it unfolds. He then strongly calls the people of God to come out of their backslidden, immoral and idolatrous state and return to serving the Lord, or else this or that will happen. If they don’t, it does! Always! Listen:
“THE CHIEF FUNCTION OF A PROPHET OF GOD IS NOT
TO PREDICT BUT TO CONVICT.“
This sets the prophetic voice of Scripture’s prophets worlds apart from what is sickly being passed off as the prophetic today.
Get ahold of this if you can. I am not sure that I can each time I read it. In Isaiah 30:10 we read what the Jewish people of Isaiah’s day were demanding of their prophets, if you can believe it:
“YOU MUST NOT PROPHESY TO US WHAT IS RIGHT, SPEAK
TO US PLEASANT WORDS, PROPHESY ILLUSIONS.”
The King James Version translates it:
“PROPHESY NOT UNTO US RIGHT THINGS, SPEAK UNTO
US SMOOTH THINGS, PROPHESY DECEITS.”
If you will:
I am sure you have heard of Pig-Latin. You have just read Bob-Latin. First of all, they commanded the prophets to speak what they were told to speak by the people. That will be the day when I pastor a church where the people order me what to preach instead of the Holy Spirit. Dear God, coming to think of it, that already happened to me. De ja vu!
Secondly, the people ordered them to tell them lies. In other words, tell us what we want to hear, and not what we need to ear. Don’t give us reality, but rather, give us illusions! Deceive us please! Flatter us! Tell us how great and good we are! Enchant us with your pleasant words. It gives a whole new meaning to, “Boy, is he ever smooth or what?”
In other words, oil the razor for us, and then let us alone to cut our own throats. If they didn’t give them smoothies, the Jewish people killed them, even as they killed them in Christ’s day. So Jesus said to them in Matthew 23:37,
“O JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM, WHO KILLS THE PROPHETS
AND STONES THOSE WHO ARE SENT TO HER….”
Their demands for smoothness, pleasantness and illusions were prophecies in themselves pointing forward to our time. Our day has fulfilled their demands as no other day in history. In addition to false prophets, smooth and pleasant preachers abound! Like those preachers and authors today who tell their people and readers that Jesus never referred to anyone directly as a sinner, and neither should we. Man is not totally depraved, just disabled. The church should be chiefly an enabler of man. Illusions! Deceits!
In addition, there are major TV ministries and ministers who maintain that historic “Christian Theology” has grievously erred in its being God-centered and not man-centered. Unimaginable statement! My, my, there you have some all-day “Smoothies” and “Slurpees” to drink down and suck on. And as the church drinks and sucks, she is being poisoned to death.
So the beat goes on. A mega-church pastor tells his parishioners and TV audiences that they should not call people sinners nor dangle them over the fires of Hell in our preaching. We must instead only preach on the goodness of God, for that leads to repentance. More illusions! More deceits! This doesn’t hold up well under Christ’s relating to us the story of the rich man and Lazarus, where Jesus dangles us all over the fires of Hell. In fact, He makes it so real, that with the rich man we all find ourselves asking for a drink. I don’t have space here to show you how all of this is a rape of Scripture. But then again, it should be obvious to you. There isn’t enough true Gospel in much of today’s TV preaching to fill a thimble, and that is an understatement.
It is shocking in a way that a nation like America can be so honeycombed with churches and other religious agencies, and yet be such a moral sewer. It is because many of those same churches are often being pastored by smoothies who do not decry the moral permissiveness of our day. And those who do decry sin and lift up Divine moral standards with prophetic moral guts and stamina are called fanatics and ostracized if not worse.
A true modern-day prophet is David Wilkerson. God has given David Wilkerson to the modern church and world. In his faithful warnings and calling America and the American Church away from sin and back to God and righteousness, he prophesied for some time that a great calamity was coming upon New York City, and that the housing market would collapse. One has happened, and the other is presently happening. I have never known David Wilkerson to be off target. He would not call himself a prophet, but he surely is. In David Wilkerson the true prophetic voice and spirit of the Bible is fully evident. As with all of the true prophets of God, he makes God too real for comfort, and too relevant for ease. In his humility, I am sure that the title of prophet sounds at least 20 sizes too big for his head, and several more sizes too large to cover anything he envisions himself being.
But in today’s glut of self-acclaimed prophets and prophetesses, one size seems to fit all, and the many false prophets concerning whom Jesus warned us have degraded the prophetic ministry to the level of “Confucius Says.” Many of them have no more veracity than fortune cookies. Charlatans are now a dime a dozen, just as Jesus said they would be. If they had been the Old Testament prophets prophesying about the coming Messiah, He would have never come.
For that matter, not just the Jewish people, but mankind in general has every valid reason to disbelieve Christianity if they are listening to what today passes for the prophetic. In the Bible, when God’s prophets prophesy, their prophecies are a certainty and a requirement that it will happen. In fact they are Divine mandates which will and must be fulfilled!
Well now, we have been warned. Listen! If the Jews could believe in false christs soon after they had crucified the only authentic One, we surely are not above being lured by false prophets, as millions today are, even after we have been warned by Christ again and again about them.
3. CHRIST CONFIRMED BY HIS MIRACLES
Jesus very soon in his earthly ministry identified himself. It was to a woman at a well. She was the first one to be so informed. Jesus said to her in John 4:21,
“…WOMAN, BELIEVE ME….”
The Greek word used for woman there is “gunai” which is a term used lovingly as a greeting of endearment. It can also be translated special lady. Here then is what is really shocking: Jesus used the same term for this woman that He used for His mother, Mary, at the wedding in Cana, and on the cross. Imagine that! He called a woman who was regarded in her own village as hardly better than a prostitute, a special lady. And He treated her exactly that way even though He already knew that her lifestyle had to change.
This woman said to Him in John 4:25,
“…I KNOW THAT MESSIAH IS COMING (HE WHO IS CALLED CHRIST); WHEN
THAT ONE COMES, HE WILL DECLARE ALL THINGS TO US.”
Jesus quickly responded to her in John 4:26 by saying:
“I WHO SPEAK TO YOU AM HE.”
The Jews increasingly put the pressure on Jesus to identify Himself. In John 10:24 they impatiently pressed him:
“…HOW LONG WILL YOU KEEP US IN SUSPENSE? IF YOU ARE THE CHRIST
(ANOINTED ONE), TELL US PLAINLY.”
Then in John 10:30 He said to them,
“I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE.”
Is that plain enough for you? You see, the Jews believed that the true Messiah would be authenticated by Divinity. They did not believe that the coming One would be the Son of God because he was the Messiah, but that He would be the Messiah because He was the Son of God. Jesus totally affirmed His Messiahship and Divinity which infuriated His Jewish questioners to the point that we read in John 10:31 that they immediately took up stones to pummel Him to death which they had threatened to do before.
When was that? Well you see, previously one day He was again being confronted by the Jews who of course prided themselves in being descendants of their great patriarch Abraham. Jesus looked at them and said in John 8:58,
“…TRULY, TRULY, I SAY TO YOU, BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS BORN, I AM.”
Blasphemy! Fully identifying Himself as the great “I AM” of the Old Testament, He declared to them both His divinity and His eternity. Of course, only God predates Abraham, and Jesus tells them that He predates Abraham and therefore He is God Himself. They took up stones to kill Him, but Jesus hid Himself, and then slipped out of the temple another way. Jesus had to be a first century Houdini, but in fact, a far greater than Houdini had come.
Then at the Sanhedrin trial before the high priest and the elders, He was asked in Mark 14:61,
“…ARE YOU THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE BLESSED ONE?”
In other words, “Are you the Christ (Messiah-Anointed One), the Son of God (Divine)?” Jesus answered them in Mark 14:62,
“…I AM; AND YOU SHALL SEE THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND
OF POWER, AND COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
When Jesus affirmed His Messianic role and Divine Sonship not only, but that He both had come and was coming again in celestial glory, the high priest tore his robe in enraged disgust. They with one voice condemned Him, as well as some spat at Him. Then they blindfolded Jesus and began to beat Him with their fists. When the officers took Him away, they also slapped Him in the face. In fact, they nearly beat Him to death then and there. If we didn’t know better, we would read all of this and react to it in Shakespearean disgust:
“As a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.”
It doesn’t make any sense does it? On top of all of the fulfilled prophecies, weren’t His miracle deeds the overwhelming and irresistible proofs from Heaven, and the undeniable arguments of His claims? To prove those claims he cured the lame and the blind, raised the dead, stilled the winds and the seas with a word, fed five thousand with two loaves, and fed the four thousand with four loaves. All of this and much more, so much more that there are not enough volumes in the world to contain them. (John 21:25) Surely this must have been such convincing and overpowering evidence!
Even Christ Himself appeals to those signs and wonders to vindicate Himself. I can feel so strongly His impassioned plea for believability in John 5:36,
“FOR THE WORKS WHICH THE FATHER HAS GIVEN ME TO ACCOMPLISH, THE
VERY WORKS THAT I DO BEAR WITNESS OF ME, THAT THE FATHER
HAS SENT ME.”
I mean, their eyes and ears were not playing tricks on them! They had more hard eyewitness evidence than anyone could have dreamed of. Jesus fed their eyes with bushels and boatloads of undeniable facts. So then again in John 14:11 He in essence tells them that no one would be under necessity to believe Him if it were not for His miraculous acts. They are the clincher! He put it this way:
“BELIEVE ME THAT I AM IN THE FATHER AND THE FATHER IN ME; OTHERWISE
BELIEVE ON ACCOUNT OF THE WORKS THEMSELVES.”
I can hear in His words the thoughts, “Certainly the Father did not send Me to confirm a falsehood by My divine power, but in fact to confirm that I am the Son of God, even as I have said I am!” This all by itself over the years has seemed to me to be so nine months pregnant with undeniable proof, so full of convincing evidence, that it leaves Jews and unbelievers alike then and now inexcusable.
Today, even some Muslims and Hindus are coming to Christ because of His modern miracles right before their eyes. No small accomplishment! This makes the Jewish rejection of Jesus all the more unfathomable. Just recently missionary friends of ours with Serve India Ministries told us about a man in central India who had severe problems with one of his legs. He went to several doctors, but none of them could help him. Then he went to the magicians and to some temples where he offered sacrifices of chickens and a goat. Nothing worked. At last he was completely bed-ridden and could not eat anything. His condition worsened.
Some days ago ten pastors in his area were meeting together for their monthly accountability, training and prayer. When the people in that village came to know about the pastors’ meeting, they brought the man to them. They carried him on his cot to them, just like in the Bible, and set him before the pastors as they were about to leave and asked them to pray. The pastors joined hands together around the dying man and prayed for the sick man to be healed in Jesus’ name. As soon as they had finished praying, the man got up as if he had only been resting.
Using this opportunity, a crowd of about 45 people who knew about this man and saw him healed in Jesus’ name were confronted by one of the pastors who said to them, “You have to make a choice between your tribal gods and Christ, because it is now evident that your gods could not heal this man, and Jesus has.”
The leader among them immediately responded, saying that he and the people that came with him carrying the man would accept Christ. A few days later a meeting was held in that same village and 38 people stood up to receive the Lord. They have now been added to the local congregation. To God be the glory!
And Jesus said, “Believe Me for the works sake!” Shame on those pastors today who tell their congregations that the days of miracles are over! Not only is it totally unbiblical to say such a thing, and a big fat lie, but they are robbing Jesus of the powerful force of His own witness. Many in fact did and do believe on Jesus through His miracle proofs.
The same thing must be said by the blessed Holy Spirit, “Believe Me for my gifts sake!” There are those in modern Christianity who teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, discernment, tongues, interpretation etc. have been done away with. There is nothing in the Bible that even comes close to that bogus teaching, and it is fact a damnable lie. Shame on those liars!
One of the earliest stories I ever read about the gifts of the Holy Spirit was told by Dr. Peter Wagner about a severe drought in the city of Santa Rosa, Guatemala in Central America. It was 1965, and the people were leaving the city by the droves. Business men were going bankrupt. Crops were perishing. Animals were dying. Special efforts were made to bring water in, but it was scarce as hen’s teeth everywhere. Catholics were holding special masses. Evangelicals were holding prayer meetings. There was no rain and no water.
In a small Pentecostal meeting, where some believers from the Principe de Paz churches had assembled for their regular worship service, the Spirit of God moved in a very powerful way. There was a message in tongues and a few moments later there was an interpretation. It simply went like this, “Dig a well in the pastor’s back yard, for there you will find water.” There was much opposition and ridicule from other churches as the deacons, elders and pastor began to dig. They thought that these people were fanatics and/or were hallucinating – especially seeing that the pastor’s backyard was on a hill. A well would never be dug on a hill, as the water runs low. But the pastor, deacons and elders all continued to dig.
Soon one of the deacons became upset. “Why is it in the pastor’s backyard,” he asked, “why couldn’t it be in mine?” Another elder thought that perhaps the tongue and interpretation was biased. One deacon gave up digging and went home. Then an elder left. But there still remained a group ready to press on. Because of the drought the land was hard so that digging progressed very slowly. On the fourth day they encountered a big buried boulder. It was so large that they thought that they had hit solid rock. They kept on digging around the boulder until finally after two days they were able to remove it. And as they did, a mighty gush of water came forth. It was rich and plenteous, and they all began to drink and drink.
For many in that community, it was a remarkable sign of God’s favor. What the miracle of the boulder-well did to the growth of that church was remarkable. The number of conversions to Christ was staggering. Church membership grew from a few dozen to over nine hundred within that same year. Church people today have in their own way crucified the Holy Spirit and those that He fills because of His gifts. Shame on you! Believe Him for the gift’s sake. I have seen a man come back from the dead, those about to die healed in an instant, and the demon-possessed set free. So will you if you repent of your unbelief and open yourselves to the blessed and gift-giving Holy Spirit.
Well then, how did the Jews explain away His signs and wonders, as in the case when Christ had driven a demon out of a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, and now could see and speak? It was one of those signal miracles of His ministry? It was a compassionate and wonderful deliverance and healing. Not all sickness is demon possession. Sometimes it is. The Pharisees said in Matthew 12:24,
“…THIS MAN CASTS OUT DEMONS ONLY BY BEELZEBUL
THE RULER OF THE DEMONS.”
They denied these overwhelming testimonies to Christ’s Divinity and Messiahship. But instead they charged Him with having a demonic power in His own life that was more potent than the demon that He had driven out of the blinded and muted possessed man. In fact, they said that Jesus was possessed with the head devil – Beelzebub (lord of the flies). In other words, Hell was driving out and defeating Hell through Christ. If you will, through Jesus, Satan was beating up himself. To which we cannot help but respond, “While Satan is indeed rotten to the core, one thing he is not, and that is stupid.” Jesus responded to these babbling idiots in Matthew 12:26 by saying:
“AND IF SATAN CASTS OUT SATAN, HE IS DIVIDED AGAINST HIMSELF;
HOW THEN SHALL HIS KINGDOM STAND.”
The Lord’s wisdom was flawless and beyond rebuttal as usual. It only incensed them more against Him! But why? We have not yet begun to understand the reasons for all of this.
4. A CARPENTER-KING – THE BIG TURN OFF
One can feel it very strongly at various times in the New Testament narratives, and I am sure it played its huge part in their hostility to and hatred of Jesus Christ. What are we talking about? The Jews were locked into a persuasion that had sunk into the very marrow of their bones. It ran through their veins. It had over the years become a fundamental doctrine of their Messianic Creed. And what was that? That their long-awaited Messiah would be a mighty monarch who would subdue all nations, particularly the Romans, and bring them all under the Jewish scepter and rule! That was there Messianic expectation and demand.
Frankly, their modern posterity cannot be talked out of this notion to this very day. They fancied then and still do today that they would and will follow their conquering King into triumphs and trophies, and that all of the nations would and will bow in the dust before them and their mighty Messiah/King.
But particularly that He would free them from the Roman yoke, make the Roman Senate servants to their Sanhedrin, and the capital of Rome pay homage to their temple in Jerusalem. You can taste this same leaven of religious/regal pomp and power-hunger in Christ’s disciples as their minds and imaginations danced with those same fancies of a universal earthly kingdom. We will see that definitively in a moment or two.
But before seeing that literally played out, we must look at what led up to that revelation. James and John the sons of Zebedee one day confronted Jesus in a most striking way. So striking that we are forced to deal with it in Mark 10:35 when they said to Him,
“…TEACHER, WE WANT YOU TO DO FOR US WHATEVER WE ASK OF YOU.”
Read it again! Amazing, isn’t it? Boy, they didn’t mess around did they? It is one thing to tell the prophets of God what to preach, it is quite another to tell the God of the Prophets what to do. Many today will eagerly put James and John’s imperatives in their name-it claim-it mugs and gulp it down!
Can you imagine this? Of all the unmitigated gall! Look closely! They were not asking him to simply grant one request. No, no! Nothing that limited! They were demanding of Him to grant any and all requests that they made of Him. Do for us whatever we ask of you! It really was not so much a request as it was a blatant order – whatever we want you to do, do it! Clunk! Does that sound eerily familiar? It sounds exactly like so many charismaniacs in the modern church world today. They are forever demanding their rights as privileged followers of Christ in His supposed earthly kingdom of health and wealth. Do for us and give to us whatever we ask (command)!
We must stay with this for a moment! In this warped concept of an earthy and temporal kingdom, you can get whatever your little heart desires as long as you have the right formulas and use them correctly. For James and John and their kingdom of privileges, the formula was simple:
“CHRIST, DO WHATEVER WE ASK OF YOU!”
No sense in beating around the bush! Do whatever we ask (demand)! Terse! Haughty! Gross! Sick! When we say jump to Christ, then He must ask us how high! Hey, that will always get the job done.
Many TV religious teachers today go so far as to teach that, “Never, ever, ever go to the Lord and say, ‘If it be Thy will….’ Don’t allow such faith-destroying words to be spoken out of your mouth.”
This is all totally, recklessly and devastatingly contrary to God’s Word which tells in James 4:15,
“INSTEAD, YOU OUGHT TO SAY, ‘IF THE LORD WILLS,
WE SHALL LIVE AND ALSO DO THIS OR THAT.”
Hello! Well then, that pretty well covers it. Life and all of its issues, whatever they may be, must be submitted to the Lord’s will! But you see, in this modern religious “Fantasy Disneyland Kingdom,” God exists for us, and not we for God! Do for us whatever we ask! Here it absolutely must be discerned that the Kingdom of God in historic Christianity and the Kingdom of God in modern charismania are totally antithetical. It can be put this way:
“IN THE FORMER GOD USES MAN, WHILE IN THE LATTER MAN USES GOD.”
Huge difference! Gargantuan! In the former it is God’s will that is normative, while in the latter it is man’s will that is normative. That is exactly where we are at today. The first is Christianity while the latter is cultic.
It is a small wonder therefore that Jesus emphasized first off again and again that if we are to be His disciples, we must deny self! (Matthew 16:24) Today in modern Christianity, the emphasis is not self-denial but self-affirmation and self-realization and self-indulgence. That is why today’s Christianity in many sectors is a counterfeit. The problem with counterfeits is that thy look, feel, and sound so much like the authentic. But they are not! They are fakes. James and John had not yet denied themselves, and therefore wanted this miracle-working Jesus to serve them and grant them their demands. They were at this moment at least counterfeit disciples. They would by God’s grace grow into authenticity. There is still hope!
For Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller in their positive and possibility kingdoms, the formula is:
“CONCEIVE POSITIVELY, DREAM BIG, WISH HARD, AND ACTUALIZE IN SPADES.”
For Norman Vincent Peale the human imagination was the magic-carpet ride to success in his magic kingdom. For Robert Schuller, positive thinking is the greatest power in the whole world. Of course, to put our trust in our thinking and imagining is pretty well canceled out by the Word of God which says in Proverbs 28:26 that:
“HE WHO TRUSTS IN HIS OWN HEART IS A FOOL….”
For others such as Kenneth Hagin Sr., Kenneth Copeland and their ilk, the well known formula is:
“BELIEVE IT STRONGLY, SPEAK IT POWERFULLY, CREATE IT ABUNDANTLY.”
It is a kingdom of faith-power speaking, or faith-force words. In that kingdom God has faith and lives by faith just like we have faith and live by faith. (Kenneth Copeland) And if we exercise our faith in spoken-word-power as He did, and faith-force-words like He did, then we can create too just like God created. Wallah! Of course, rattling around in all of this are the false teachings that we are little gods, and as gods we should be able to do what God does. But bear in mind that it takes practice, and God has had much longer to get good at it than we have. But we are gaining on Him!
Don’t believe a word of it! God does not have or live by faith, we do! Why would He have faith which is the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen? (Hebrews 11:1) After all, He sees all things, and everything is eternally accomplished before Him long before it is in time. Furthermore, He is the believed-in One, and we are the believers. He alone is the Creator and we are His creatures. The major premise of Copeland’s kingdom is false, and the entire kingdom syllogism is bogus.
Now then back to James and John and the Jewish concept of their Messiah’s earthly universal Kingdom. Not only did James and John have their formula for getting from Christ what they wanted, i.e. the Sons of Thunder believed in a “We Command – Jesus Does Kingdom,” but they also believed that they would have seats of seniority and supremacy in Christ’s earthly kingdom of world dominance. We hear them saying to Jesus in Mark 10:37,
“…GRANT THAT WE SIT IN YOUR GLORY, ONE ON YOUR RIGHT, AND ONE ON YOUR LEFT.”
Bingo! There it is! Their “Mighty Messianic Monarch” ruling the world and subjugating it under Jewish rule with both of them as His Dick Cheneys, vice-regents, with the second greatest offices and positions of authority not under Him, but next to Him. Same-level thinking which we see so much of in today’s charismaniac circles. James and John were microcosms of this Jewish mentality. The Jewish people had been feeding themselves over the centuries with these fancies and expectations of high cabinet positions. Their minds and imaginations were filled with the grandeurs of an earthly kingdom with themselves at the center of earthly sovereignty with their Messiah.
Now we see the problem developing and their hostilities against Jesus rising! After all, how could they receive a person who confesses Himself to be the Son of God and the Messiah, and yet He comes in the lowly profession of a mere carpenter, Himself a carpenter’s son from Nazareth which was on the wrong side of the tracks? So we read of their growing offense at Him in Matthew 13:55,
“IS NOT THIS THE CARPENTER’S SON?….”
That was not a question, but a sneering slam! They would refer to Him as Jesus of Nazareth with the same derogatory spirit. Should we receive this low-life Nazarene as our Messiah, a commoner Who is better fitted to wield a hammer and a hatchet than a scepter? Certainly this fellow is completely unfit to step into the Throne of David, redeem Israel, and subdue Roman power! No, this cannot be! It is all absurd, unreasonable, and impossible. For them, to be in bondage to the Romans would have been considered a much higher honor compared to being ruled by the hand of such a despicable and hugely disappointing low-life Jesus of Nazareth.
So you begin to sense the disgust building toward this threadbare Messiah. His lowly pedigree and their highest requirements were the elements for the perfect storm. Then add to this that while the Jews and their leaders were looking for pomp, power and plush, this Nazarene comes along preaching humility, self-denial and a contempt for all of those temporal glories. Trouble in kingdom city! Jesus’ very demeanor and teachings were the antithesis to their preconceived notions and values. They were then the miserable servants of Rome, and their Messiah would come and make them lords of the earth. That was their great anticipation out of which James and John asked for the highest seats on His earthly staff. Then Jesus responds to all of this in Mark 10:43-44 and says degrading and completely opposite things like:
“…BUT WHOEVER WISHES TO BECOME GREAT AMONG YOU SHALL BE YOUR
SERVANT; AND WHOEVER WISHES TO BE FIRST AMONG
YOU SHALL BE SLAVE OF ALL.”
Are you kidding? That’s what they considered themselves to be now – servants and slaves of the Romans. So it was that they scorned, persecuted, spit on, and derided Jesus long before they crucified Him. Between the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth and the place of the skull called Golgotha, a thousand flouts and derisions were thrown at Him as they reacted to Him in disdain and growing rejection.
That is why they were and still are blind to the fact that He literally, and to the minutest detail, fulfilled the prophecy in their Scriptures of their Messiah’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Here we go again! Remember Zechariah 9:9,
“REJOICE GREATLY, O DAUGHTER OF ZION! SHOUT IN TRIUMPH, O DAUGHTER OF
JERUSALEM! BEHOLD,YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU; HE IS JUST AND
ENDOWED WITH SALVATION, HUMBLE, AND MOUNTED ON A
DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A DONKEY.”
I rest my case? Zechariah was like an on-location reporter conveying what was going on as it happened. But the fact is that he was prophesying many centuries before the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Granted, he sounds more like a newscaster at the scene than he does an ancient prophet.
And so it was that Jesus came into Jerusalem, just as it was written. They saw Zachariah’s prophecy enacted before their very eyes. Jesus did not enter the Holy City on a charger, a fine Arabian mount, or a military steed. Zechariah had it right to the last detail. When He came on a donkey, He was saying, “Let us be done with all of this conquest, revenge and armed might. Let us be done with chariots and horses. Let us ride on simple lowly donkeys to show men that they have nothing to fear in us. Let love reign over us.” There was the rub!
But they did not want love. Like so many, they were afraid of love. People by nature, including the Jews, are impressed by force, by big battalions, by the leader who carries a big stick, even if he gives them some clouts on the head with it, and makes them pay for his power with higher taxes. It always takes more courage to believe in love than to believe in power.
Wouldn’t you just know it? When He fulfilled Scripture on Palm Sunday, it was the children that made the biggest noise and ruckus, and called attention to Him. Except you become as a little child. You know kids, perhaps attracted by the donkey, they started cheering Jesus. Kids just love parades! In fact, it got so terribly noisy and boisterous that the temple bigwigs in Jerusalem asked Jesus to quiet the children. They had hoped all along that Jesus and His followers would quietly fade away. But we read in Matthew 21:15-16,
“BUT WHEN THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE SCRIBES SAW THE WONDERFUL THINGS
THAT HE HAD DONE AND THE CHILDREN WHO WERE CRYING OUT IN THE
TEMPLE AND SAYING, ‘HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID,’ THEY
BECAME INDIGNANT, AND SAID TO HIM, ‘DO YOU HEAR
WHAT THESE ARE SAYING?’
AND JESUS SAID TO THEM, ‘YES; HAVE YOU NEVER READ, OUT OF THE MOUTH
OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABES THOU HAST PREPARED PRAISE
Near the end of the Second World War, American glider pilot Marion Case was captured during the invasion of Holland. Case was sent to a war camp in Germany. He was hustled into the barbed-wire enclosure by a gauntlet of SS guards with the snarling German shepherds. He noticed immediately the emaciated inmates – mostly Frenchmen – devouring chocolate bars distributed by the Red Cross. Suddenly someone pointed to the American flag on Case’s sleeve, and riotous elation swept through the camp. At long last here was living proof of the much-rumored arrival of American troops in Europe. The starving men showered Case and the other captives in his group with their candy bars. The guards yelled “Halt!”
But like the ticker tape in a parade, the candy bars continued to rain down on the American pilots. The Germans suddenly opened fire, killing two of the French prisoners at point blank range. Still, the candy bars kept coming. Case and his comrades screamed, “Stop, stop!” Finally the jubilant prisoners stopped. Case, for many years afterward, always flinched as he recalled this suicidal act of defiance on the part of those prisoners in that camp.
Such was the scene of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many of the children and adults of Jerusalem greeted Jesus with that same kind of desperate enthusiasm, with the Jewish SS – the Pharisees – shooting their indignation at the crowd. Instead of chocolate bars, the people waved palm branches. They greeted Jesus as their Deliverer – not from the power of sin, but from the power of Rome. So they shouted their “Hosannas” which meant “Lord, Save us now!”
Nowhere in the Roman Empire was there more resentment at Roman domination than in the sacred city of the Jews. Here came their new King – the one who would lead them to victory over their despised enemy. Thus Jesus was accompanied by a jubilant parade of admirers, disciples, and well-wishers as He made His way into the Holy City. It was a day of hopeful victory. Might He be the One? The donkey didn’t make sense for a conqueror, but they celebrated nonetheless.
Let’s face it, Jesus intentionally here declares to the world the proper nature of His kingdom. It would be wholly without the pomp and glitz of human royalty and the splendor of human courts. In Luke 17:20 we read of Jesus saying to the Pharisees:
“…THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT COMING WITH SIGNS TO BE OBSERVED.”
That is to say that the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation! If you will, it comes with very little by way of outward appearances. Those who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” thought that He would raise invincible armies to advance His scepter and His rule. But the truth is, here in this world He wields no sword but that of His Spirit, no scepter but that of His Word, and has no domain but that of the human heart. And so He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” That is, God, daily increase your Kingdom within us.
Christ rejected the kingly government of the Jews, because it crossed and contradicted the very design of the Kingdom that he was about to establish. Tit for tat! So they rejected Him. But this does not yet explain the intense hatred that the Jews had for Jesus. Rejection is one thing, murderous rage is quite another. (Please go on to Pt. 2!)