Why did Jesus speak in riddles?

Why did Jesus speak in riddles?

Jesus used a variety of ways to speak to people, but he didn’t use riddles. He spoke in parables and used illustrations to get certain points across, but he didn’t play mind games with those to whom he spoke. In fact, about the most important work he came to do, he was plain-spoken.

Early in his ministry, Jesus did not want to reveal himself to authorities as the son of God, because he had work to do to train disciples and give religious leaders time to recognize their sin and repent, so he used stories to allude to his work without being as clear as some wanted to hear, but the religious leaders understood what he was saying and didn’t like it. For example, when he spoke parables about sheep and shepherds, he wasn’t trying to get people to think about farmers out in the countryside, he was citing the revered scripture about the failure of religious leaders to lead the people in the way God directed them. (Ezekiel 34:1-6)

Sheep are woven into the fabric of the Bible story dating back to the first murder that took place when God favored the sacrifice of a sheep over that of grain. From the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed (Exodus 12:1-30) to John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who declared Jesus the Lamb of God, (John 1:19-34) sheep have figured prominently in God’s story. Jesus’ many audiences knew well what he was saying when he used stories about sheep (the average citizen) and the shepherds (religious leaders) who were leading them to slaughter (away from God).

Where Jesus was very direct in teaching, some, even his closest disciples, refused to believe or accept what he was saying. On three occasions Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be killed and would be raised from the dead. (Mark 8:31, Mark 9:30-32, Mark 10:32-34) But when that came to pass, they had trouble believing it.

While the Bible can sometimes be hard to understand, once we ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to open our spiritual eyes, we will gain insights and understanding that will lead us to acknowledge Jesus as the Lamb of God whose sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead offers us assurance of eternal pardon for our sins and an eternity in God’s presence free of guilt, pain, suffering and death.

Should Christians celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Should Christians celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

It depends on what you mean by celebrate. There may be little harm in drinking green beer, eating corned beef and cabbage, and dancing an Irish jig, but a better celebration would be remembering who Patrick was and what he did for God.

Most people know that March 17th is a day for celebrating Irish national heritage and a man who is said to have rid Ireland of snakes. Many may assume because the title of Saint* precedes his name he was a religious fellow, but few know the real story of Patrick and the role he played in bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Patrick’s story begins sometime in the 5th century. From some of his writings we glean a story of a boy who was raised during the Roman occupation of the British Isles. His father may have been a church leader and a minor community official in Scotland or Wales. When Patrick was a teenager, he was captured by Irish marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. There, he spent 5 years tending sheep and using his solitude to pray and sing and develop a close relationship with God. He also mastered the Celtic language that became vital for his missionary work later in life.

He escaped from slavery, returned to England and began formal study. Later he traveled to Auxerre in present day France and studied religion under St. Germain. Eventually he was promoted to the priesthood. He believed that an angel told him that the pagan people of Ireland were calling out for his return. With the blessing of the Pope in Rome, he sailed for Ireland and began telling the Druids of the true God and redemption bought at the cross by Jesus. Legend has it that he used the three-leaf shamrock to help explain the Trinity. Legend also says that he drove the snakes from the island, though scientists tell us that there were probably no snakes on the island since the end of the previous ice age.

It is not the legend we celebrate, but rather Patrick’s boldness and fearlessness in preaching the Gospel among a very hostile, pagan people. His missionary efforts led thousands of non-believers to give up their idol worship and become followers of Christ. By the time of his death at the end of the 5th century, the majority of Celts had become Christians.

So Christians and Irish Christians in particular, have good cause to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, because they are celebrating the life of a man that God ordained and commissioned to carry His good news to a spiritually dark corner of the world.

*Ironically, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and one of the world’s best known saints has never been canonized by the Catholic church and therefore is a saint in name only.

How should a Christian respond to COVID – 19?

How should a Christian respond to COVID – 19?

At a time when Coronavirus dominates the headlines, and our economy is disrupted with travel restrictions, closures, cancellations, Christians must be proactive. We are not called to withdraw and distance ourselves from others.

Sure, it is prudent to take precautions that slow the spread of the virus, but Christians must remember that we have been called to care for others. In the book of Matthew, we read these words of Jesus:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’“

Matthew 24:34-40

In practical terms, this means looking out for our neighbors, particularly those who are already ill, or those who may be quarantined. Are the elderly and infirm in your neighborhood being looked after? Are their families that need child care because the schools are closed? Are there individuals who need food or medicine but are unable to get it? Are there others who can’t afford their rent or mortgage payment because they have been laid-off? What about the students that are supposed to be engaged in online learning, but don’t have internet connections in their homes? Each of these situations provide opportunities for Christians to serve.

In addition, we should be praying; praying against the fear that permeates the hearts and minds of many, praying for the healing of bodies and hearts, praying for the protection of healthcare workers, emergency responders, people providing transportation and serving the public in stores, gas stations, and restaurants.  And, we should be praying for the grieving—those who have lost loved ones, and those who are cut off from loved ones.

Finally, as Christians we should be praying that we would be drawn closer to God so that we will hear and respond to his call to us during these difficult times.

Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

Why did Jesus turn water into wine?

Why did Jesus turn water into wine?

John, one of the disciples of Jesus, records this story of a wedding feast in which Jesus turns water into wine:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

John 2:1-10

 While this appears to be a miracle like the ones recorded in the other books about Jesus’ life, John makes clear that this is not just a neat trick, but rather has a very specific purpose. It is the first of seven signs that John describes to help his readers see that Jesus is God. In verse 11 he clearly states:

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:11

For John, sharing his eyewitness account of life with Jesus is all about showing Jesus as divine—the Son of God who was himself God.

As you read the story, you might miss the symbolism. This is not so much about great wine for revelers during a week-long wedding feast. Rather, it’s about how the containers that had been filled with water for making the Jews ceremonially clean were going to be filled with the best wine, a symbol of the blood that Jesus would shed on the cross to provide an eternal cleansing of the filth of sin.

This is the first of seven signs that John writes about so that all will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the savior of mankind.

 

Ash Wednesday isn’t in the Bible, so why do Christians observe it?

Ash Wednesday isn’t in the Bible, so why do Christians observe it?

Since the Apostolic period of the Christian church—the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus—believers have engaged in a period of focus on their sin and God’s forgiveness of that sin. This period of reflection is called Lent or Fortieth and is a period of 40 days leading up to Good Friday and Easter.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, and in many church traditions is a time when Christians gather for corporate confession and individual repentance. At the end of the service, priests, pastors, or church leaders place ashes, in the sign of the cross, on the forehead of believers while saying “from dust you have come, to dust you will return.”

This is a reminder that one’s physical body is temporal, while the spirit is eternal. Therefore, a Christian is asked to reflect on his or her relationship with God and possibly set aside a habit or a pleasure for 40 days to help one focus on Jesus, his sacrifice on our behalf and on his commands to worship God and love and serve others.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

What does it mean to be ‘Poor in Spirit’?

What does it mean to be ‘Poor in Spirit’?

What does it mean to be ‘Poor in Spirit’?

The first recorded teaching of Jesus is found in the book of Matthew.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV)

This is considered by many scholars to be Jesus’ most important teaching. The requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven—to be with God forever—is being poor in spirit. This idea is contrary to what the world teaches, and in his day, in particular, this teaching of Jesus was revolutionary.

Many believed that being blessed was to be powerful, rich, and self-sufficient. People who were poor or lacked power, or were afflicted in one way or another were seen as not being blessed. Jesus flipped this script by pointing out that to be truly blessed one must first become poor. In order to be rich in things of the Spirit, one must become poor in things of the flesh.

The Biblical meaning of “poor in spirit” is to empty oneself. Before we can be filled with God’s blessings, we must first be emptied of our self-centeredness. We must recognize that our sin, our rebellion against God, and our pride makes us worthy of condemnation by the God who created us. When we confess that we are spiritually dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1) then we become truly “poor in spirit.”

We must understand that it is impossible to live the Christian life and to follow the teaching of Jesus on our own. If we think we are good and can follow Christ by our own strength, then we are not being poor in spirit. Now this doesn’t mean that we are to be fearful, or shy, rather poor in spirit suggests that we are to be inwardly humble.

God accepts into his Kingdom only those who truly humble themselves before Him. In the old Testament book of Isaiah, the prophet records these words of God:

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. ( Isaiah 57:15).

Remember that in God’s sight we have nothing to boast about. We cannot boast of our wealth, our intellect, our education, our skill, our lineage or our station in life. All these things are worthless and vain. We can bring nothing to God. We can only come to God as empty beings relying on God’s mercy to fill us with spiritual blessings. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit.

Are you ready to humble yourself and submit to God, praying that in due time he will lift you up and make you truly blessed?