Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Who IS Jesus? What did He come to do … and why?"

Day #262

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 14 - 16 ...

Every human being who has ever lived, who is living now or who will live before Jesus returns must answer the question Jesus asked His disciples: "Who do you say I am?" (16:15).  Reading through the Gospel of Matthew and the rest of the Gospel records of Jesus’ ministry is not like reading anything else in the world!!  As part of God’s Word, the words written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record for us the words of life spoken by God in the flesh, Jesus, the Christ. 

At the end of his gospel, John writes, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs … but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).  If your life is going to have meaning and purpose and lead to eternal life in God’s presence you need to read the words of the Gospel writers and the rest of the Bible and be convinced that Jesus IS who He says He is:  the “Christ,” the Messiah, the promised Savior, who is coming again to reign over all the nations of the earth!!!

At this point in Matthew’s account, Herod, the ruler over Judah at this time, was afraid of who Jesus MIGHT be.  He had put John the Baptist to death and now was afraid that perhaps he had come back to life!  That's what guilt will do to you!!  But he wasn't the only one who wondered who Jesus was.
The disciples were walking through the countryside with Jesus and they were seeing one astounding thing after another.  He was feeding thousands of people with small amounts of food.  He was walking on water.  He was healing the sick and casting out demons.  And he was challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the Jews.  Not even the Pharisees could figure out who this man was and why He was making such a commotion throughout their nation.

So finally, Jesus comes right out and asks the disciples:  "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (16:13).  Were the disciples listening to the questions people were asking?  Suppose someone today came into your community and started doing these same things; what do you think people would say?  The disciples repeated some of the answers they had heard:  “John the Baptist” was a popular guess, along with Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But then Jesus made it personal:  "Who do YOU say I am?" (16:15). There is the question every person who has lived since that day must answer!  And Peter responds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" (16:16).

It is questionable whether Peter even realized what he was saying.  Jesus explains, "This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven" (16:17).  Then Jesus points His disciples to the REAL purpose of His coming:  to build the CHURCH -  the "ekklesia," a group of people "called out" of the world to be a part of the kingdom of heaven, GOD's kingdom, His eternal kingdom.  Jesus came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of heaven and did miracles to prove who He was.  It was for this purpose that Jesus would go to the cross, to give His life as a ransom, as the only sacrifice the Father would accept for the sins of those Jesus came to save.  As the Apostle Paul would write later, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).

Like the Pharisees at the beginning of chapter 16, people today are all about signs and wonders.  The truth is, NO ONE has done what Jesus did.  While the disciples healed some people, no one has ever done the things Jesus did as He walked through the land of Israel and Judah.  The fact is, there was NOTHING He COULDN'T do!  Yet His purpose was found in His teaching and ultimately in His dying on the cross in the place of those to whom God chose to reveal Himself, to give new life through His Spirit, and to save by His perfect sacrifice.  This is more than a story!

As Jesus began to explain what was about to happen, Peter took him aside and rebuked Jesus.  Really, Peter?!  But Jesus told him, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (16:23).  "For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done" (16:27).  Jesus IS the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the promised Savior!  It is upon this confession, this truth, that the true Church is built and people are brought out of the darkness and spiritual bondage of sin and death and brought into the kingdom of light, the eternal kingdom of God!!

As in Jesus' day, SO MANY PEOPLE still want Jesus to do what THEY want Him to do – be like a genie in a bottle to fulfill their every wish.  Yes, God still does miracles today and shows His power and love and grace in a multitude of ways.  But Jesus came to bring eternal life!  He displayed His power to prove who He was, yet it was always about the cross ... about overcoming the barrier that stands between us and God.  It was always about the Church ... about those whom God would call to Himself through the Gospel to receive forgiveness for our sins and everlasting life!!

So Jesus calls to those who would be His disciples:  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (16:24-26).  Could it be any clearer?  You and I need to focus today on who Jesus is, what He came to do and WHY.  He came to save His chosen people from the just judgment of God against our sins.  And He will come again to establish His kingdom on the earth and we will reign with Him!!

Thank you, Jesus, for Your sacrifice in coming to earth, in giving Your life as a sacrifice for sin!!  Amazing grace!  You ARE the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Savior and my Lord!!!!!

"Father, as You sent Your Son into this world to reveal Your glory, I thank You for Your grace in sending Him to be my Savior and Lord.  I believe the testimony of Your Word and Spirit that He IS the Messiah, the promised One, who came to suffer and die in my place, that I may have life.  Oh, Lord, my God, I give you my life, that I may find in Jesus REAL life - forever! In Jesus' name, Amen"

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