Jesus, On His Journey to Jerusalem

With the words of the great hymn “How great thou art”, still ringing in my ears, I see in my mind’s eye a stream running down over stones in little waterfalls, the water crystal clear, a beautiful tinkling noise in the background. Soft vegetation and ferns abound around it. “That is a picture of the ‘Water of Life’, which you have drunk from – it has given you eternal life – but continue to drink from it, as it continually washes you clean.” The Father then takes me by the hand and leads me into the forest. The environment, trees, shrubs, flowers, beautiful and so peaceful – yet there are thorn bushes between and snakes lurking. “I am walking with you as I did with Adam in the Garden, but here I need to guide you – here are all sorts of threats – I am leading you to a garden where we can have pure communion without the threats – forever – close to Me and My love. My love now is very real – but for now you must receive it by faith – until then when you will be able to see it with your own eyes, when you are finally in My full presence”.

My reading today is Luke 13:31-35. It is of course to be read in context, especially of the previous story in 13:22-30. We must also remind ourselves that Luke is describing Jesus on a journey which will end in Jerusalem, cf 13:22. So, what can this little story about Herod and his tricks and Jerusalem and Jesus’ longing to gather His chicks, have to say to us – to you and I today? Why don’t you read it through and jot down what you are seeing in it? Remember we need to first establish what it meant to the people of that time, before we can understand it for ourselves now.

So firstly we are reminded through Herod, of the threat that is hanging over Jesus’ head of His death. But notice v 32b “On the third day I will reach my goal”. This reminds us of two things: 1. Nothing would stop Jesus from reaching His goal. (remember Peter in Acts 2:23) 2. So what is His immediate goal? Well that has to do with HIs destination – Jerusalem. So what does Jerusalem represent?

Firstly Jerusalem was God’s city. It represented God’s presence among His people – the temple. It was the focal point of God’s Kingdom here on earth as described under the Old Covenant. But now it is to be the focal point of a new work of God. We have already seen in vv 18 and again 20 a reminder that, that kingdom was now breaking into the world and was going radiate into the rest of the world (from Jerusalem). So what does this passage say is going to happen in Jerusalem that will be the fulcrum that will launch the kingdom? Firstly because the children of Jerusalem have rejected the King, their house will be left desolate. v 35 a. So the old purpose of the temple as the center of the kingdom, is being done away with, because the chicks were not willing to be gathered – ie. judgement. What is going to happen now is always presented against the background of God’s judgement?

So what is going to happen to launch the kingdom? See the last phrase in v 35 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, gives us the clue. The people at that time would have been familiar with that statement, but are you? As it shows in the NIV margin it comes from Psalm 118:26., but appears to have been a common slogan. If you look at that vs in Psalm 118 and notice the vs before – vs 25. What does it say? What is He, who comes in the name of the Lord (the Messiah) going to bring? Well folks the mystery is out, that is what the people at that time were looking for, what they regarded as the ultimate blessing when Messiah would come. Can you see it? Salvation. However their expectation was another sort of salvation. Notice also the strange reference to ‘the third day’ and the very real threat to Jesus’ life. So the mystery still has to be completely unveiled, as we proceed in Luke.

For me today: as I meditated on this passage – firstly God has an unswerving purpose, which is involved with His kingdom, starting with salvation for each individual who will be part of the Kingdom. Nothing, no matter how severe, no war, no earthquake or storm nor a Covid pandemic can prevent that – so I can have complete confidence in His completing this plan and my part in it. Secondly I have to take note of the fact that many people choose to reject this message of the reason for Jesus’ coming. Pertinently, as is also warned in the previous story, these are often the very people who think they are OK. Often sitting on the church bench next to you. This means they will face judgement. From my perspective it encourages me all the more to share the gospel, at the same time understanding and expecting rejection often. Thirdly – I need to remember there is only one place where salvation was won for mankind, The old temple has been desolated and the new temple is Jesus Himself where I meet with God. And the plan for me and the world is securely tied up with Him in His plan.

Happy digging in His garden for His treasures, which are there for all those who seek diligently and then you will hear Jesus speaking to you.

Repentance – How do You understand it?

Yesterday afternoon my eyes flew open when I realized that I had allowed myself to drift down into a deep dark pit of lustful thoughts. Despite immediate confession I still felt contaminated this morning, so this is what I heard the Lord say. Then notice how today’s reading fits the situation like a glove.

I see a bright light, like a lighthouse shining in the dark – ” I am that light – I don’t only shine on you from the outside, but light-up your heart and soul from the inside, as well. Reaching into those darkest spots – to cleanse you and set you on the right road again. Everyone – everyone who is human has areas like that where they are weak and need cleansing – judgementalism, legalism, muttering and complaining, joylessness, lust, greed, pride – desire to be noticed and recognized and admired, whether for physical attributes or some skill or ‘achievement’ – all those seeds are in everyone – you too, so you need My holiness – to be totally holy. It does not mean that you should not be striving in your own life for holiness – but in reality you are always seen by Me as ‘in Jesus’ who is absolutely holy. Now here is My grace – I lavish My grace on you for redemption of sin and sins through the blood of Jesus”.

My reading is Luke 13:1-9. This is a discussion and then a little parable which seem to have one main message. I wonder if you can see what that is. So lets tackle the discussion first (1-5). What is the point that Jesus is making? There is a repetition of some words and ideas which should point you to the answer.

Firstly vs 2 “do you think these Galileans were worse sinners? And vs 4b do you think they were more guilty….? What is He saying? Obviously the answer is no in both cases. Conclusion? Bad things happening to people is not necessarily a sign of sin or even more sinfulness. In other words the real message is that all people are equally sinful. This is confirmed by the instruction Jesus gives after each example. Do you see it? “Repent or you too will perish”!

So what is the little parable in vv 5-9 saying? It may seem simple at first glance but I came across 5 different things that commentators suggest come from it. But this is about what Jesus is saying to you and me today so let’s look at the simple straight-forward meaning. So how do you read it? Well it seems the Owner of the vineyard has a clear problem – there is a fig tree that has not produced fruit for three years. The Owner wants to pull it out, but there is a Gardener who intervenes and asks for another year’s grace. The real point behind the story, of course is that a fig tree only has value if it produces fruit. So how do you interpret it?

Seen in the light of the previous section and instruction on repentance it seems the real sign of true repentance is the production of fruit. We see this principle repeatedly in the NT Remember the parable of the sower? The sign of good soil is it helps the seed to grow and produce fruit. The three years here seem to indicate the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth and so who is the Gardener? Surely, Jesus Himself, acting as advocate which will only happen after His death and resurrection. Then of course we see that the action of the Gardener is to treat the tree so that it will produce fruit from now on. It is also a picture of God’s patience with us, not judging us immediately when we sin but giving us time to repent and here we have the help of Jesus, as advocate in the matter.

Now I found myself meditating again on the true nature of repentance. What do you understand by that term? The word is translated from the Greek word “metanoia”, which means to change one’s mind. Easy? Well maybe not so fast. You see, faced with our sinfulness or a specific sin situation, we can make up our minds to stop it. But that does not always really help does it? Because we are weak and likely to fall back into the same trap again. So this is how I see it. We sin because we like it. It is attractive to us and we enjoy doing it. So, to find true repentance from our hearts, not just our minds, we need to focus on something or rather Someone who we can enjoy more than our sin. So true repentance starts with our recognizing the immensely greater value of Jesus than our sin and the fact that He can give us far greater joy than the temporal enjoyment we get from our sin. So we need to regularly turn to Jesus and find Him giving you more joy than anything in this world and finding His beauty and majesty so much more desirable than what the world can give. And of course, being the Gardener He will help us in that quest because that is why He has come.

Frightening words “repent or you will perish”. That is why repentance is such an important first step to becoming a Christian. But although our initial repentance is absolutely vital, we need to continue on a daily or even more often than that, path of repentance and the way to make that second nature, is we should cultivate that relationship and joy In Jesus.

Where is your treasure?

Before I start to-day’s blog, some house-keeping. Just a reminder that part of the exciting journey I have been having is to experience a growing ease with the concept of “listening prayer”. I don’t want to repeat what I have already written so I invite you to visit my blog of the 21st Dec, to read more about it. To find that blog tap the title of this blog. It will open up a new section below it and if you scroll down you will find a section headed “archive”. If you tap Dec it will open all the Dec blogs and you can scroll down till you get to the 21st. So welcome anyone who is new to our blog family and feel welcome to just read or to contribute if you would like.

Now to what I received from the Lord yesterday: “It is ‘I Am’ talking to you – I am talking to you just as I talked to Moses from the burning bush – only now Jesus is replacing the burning bush. I am talking to you through Him. Just as I used mighty works to release the Israelites from slavery in Egypt – so Jesus used mighty works – only they were in His own body – His death – on your behalf – His resurrection – His action as the ‘Sacrificial Lamb’ that set you free from the slavery of Satan and sin – now I am leading you through the desert. Jesus is acting like Moses He is the Leader, He is the Pillar of Smoke, He is the Pillar of Fire by day and by night – He is the Tabernacle – He is the High Priest, the Sacrifice and the Prophet all these in His majestic hands – as you travel as a stranger through the desert, He will provide water – Living water, He will provide manna, He is your Manna. He will protect you against the snakes that Satan will send at you – just keep looking up at the brass snake on a pole – look in faith to Him – He is your shield to protect you from sickness and pandemic. He has appointed you as an elder to serve under Him…..just be obedient and stay close to Me and I will give you daily bread to feed those whom I have given you to minister to”.

Today I am reading Luke 12:22-34 (but this is actually part of a larger section so maybe add vv 13-21 to that if you are joining me). So read through the passage to get a broader perspective before we focus on individual things. What do you think is the key vs of this section which reveals to us what the central message is (the telos)? This is obviously about priorities, so why are they so important to God? In what way do our priorities towards our possessions and our security in this world, tell us about our relationship with Jesus? Now within this passage what do you feel Jesus is saying to you today? I am going to share some of what He spoke to me, but first do business with Him in the passage above if you want Him to speak to you today.

So to me the key vs is v 34 “where your treasure is there also your heart will be”. This is almost a barometer of your progress with Jesus, something like what fruit you produce. The hyperbole of the first parable should not put us off considering in what ways we perhaps are being rich towards ourselves instead of God. How much, even a tiny bit, is there of covetousness still lurking deep down?

Of course then the section from vs 22 shows us the benefit of trusting God completely for all our needs. So are you able to put all your living concerns completely in God’s loving hands? One of the most comforting verses in the bible is vs 31, “seek His kingdom, and these things will be given you as well”. I have often reminded myself of this vs when faced with difficulties

So for me, I have to remind myself every time I come to a passage like this that although the passage may be familiar, to what extent am I really believing it and living it out in practical trust. We will always fall short of the perfection that God plans for us, but it is our desire and preparedness to grow and change that is the measure of our genuine trust in Him.

The spirit of the Pharisees, Lives on in the Church.

“Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus”.

“Open your eyes – I am all around you – I am especially present in My Word – but I am also present in My creation – and in the love shown you by others. I am present but you can only see Me with the eyes of faith, hear Me with the ears of faith, feed on Me and obey me with the heart of faith. I am there with you ‘active’ in My Word, as in Hebrews 12, like a two-edged sword.”

Yes Lord I want to meet with You, not just in the written word, but in the Spirit who inspired that word, to understand the purpose, the ‘telos’ of each passage- verse- word – story – injunction. The written Word must lead me by the hand to meet the majesty of the Author of the Word – spoken to all, jointly – but to me personally – to meet me at the point of my need and instruct me. So Lord please continue to open your word to me, so that I may enter your rest (Hebrews 4:3, 11) that I may fully experience the state of blessing I am in.

My reading in Luke today 12:1-13, is a continuation of the confrontation that Jesus is having with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The various specific sins Jesus highlights are not difficult to understand. As I meditate on this whole section, it comes to me that it is often the “religious” people who are the biggest problem in the church and the world. Their witness is distorted by hypocrisy – the danger of their teaching is that they twist the word of God, taking away its power to liberate and laying burdens on people’s backs. It is the religious people who often turn on each other and tear each other apart, often over unimportant points of doctrine. It is they who seek to form cliques of “like-minded” individuals, effectively excluding others from the gospel. It is the religious people who so distort the word of God to make it suit their particular petty sins eg the whole gay issue.

My unbelieving son Jean recently made a telling statement: I asked him how the people in England are taking “Brexit”. His answer was it is a fait accompli, now people either believe in it and embrace it or reject it completely. It is like religion he said. In other words you either believe in “religion” or you don’t. How much of a role have religious people played in causing him to make choice not to believe? So the outsider often sees the church as a sea of frowning religious faces looking down on them, ready to condemn them, instead of a kaleidoscope of beautiful flowers in the garden of God, ready to enfold and welcome others into the warm embrace of a relationship with the Father.

The frightening thing is that the seeds of the Pharisees lie within each one of us, hypocrisy, showing one face to the world and the church and having another private one, the seeds of pride, wanting to be seen doing good works to get accolades from others and maybe even from God, The seeds of legalism, finding your Christianity a burden and laying burdens on other’s backs and so on, the list is there in Luke. The solution is simple yet difficult to maintain. The writer to the Hebrews writes “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…..” (Heb 4:11) Yes the abundant life, the life of God’s promise is described as that rest, where we cease from striving to please God, but the apparent contradiction is that we must make ever effort to enter. There are so many forces working against our entering His rest on a daily basis, that we need to face them head on, with the knowledge that we have the full power of the Holy Spirit with us. Without being constantly alert we will fall into the trap of become legalistic, becoming religious.

Friends, let us go out there and become part of the solution and not part of the problem. We have the potential, through God’s Spirit of being the most beautiful, desirable flower in His garden.