The Enigma of Jesus
The Lord Jesus is the most phenomenal individual in world history. His legacy does not just survive—it thrives. Jesus stands alone in history as Truth Incarnate. His popularity two millennia after His resurrection can only be explained by the fact that He lives today. The miracles of Christ have stood the test of time because they complement contemporary miracles. An examination of His character verifies He cannot be classified with ordinary men, for His personality is extraordinary. Jesus’ names and titles include the Alpha and Omega, the Bright and Morning Star, the Daystar, the Door, the Good Shepherd, Emmanuel, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the Lord of Lords, the Master, the Prince of Life, the Prince of Peace, the Word, Wonderful, Counselor, the True Vine, the Son of Man and the Son of God. He is the one person who can always be respectfully described in language that is never too extravagant.
The word “Christian” means “imitators of Christ,” a blanket term used to describe His followers. The foundational theology of Christianity is centered on the worship of one Person. He has millions of followers because He is indeed the singular, unique Son of God. Christianity is a supernatural organism, not a human organization. That Christianity has flourished for two millennia is itself a miracle.
The Gospels and Jesus
It is impossible to mistake the Hero of the four Gospels. But is Jesus a fictitious character? If Jesus is fictional, some questions must be asked. Who could create such a character? Ordinary men with common occupations like the disciples could never have created an imaginary person of this magnitude. Educated men such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees would not have done it, for such men are depicted as opposing Jesus. If the Gospels are fictional, how could it be possible the true origin of such works is unknown to us? No writer who ever lived is capable of conjuring up an individual such as Jesus Christ. Logic demands He exist and that the four Gospels are the accurate record of His life.
What is even more amazing is that each of the Gospel writers adds such intricate yet diverse details to the portrait of Jesus. As they do so, the picture of Jesus that emerges further clarifies His character and mission. The Gospel of John adds over 90% new material to what Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote some forty years earlier. The character of Christ is further enhanced by the Spirit of God, the true artist behind this magnificent masterpiece. The solution to the literary mystery of the Gospels is not found in human literature, but in the Person of the Holy Spirit who authored them. It would require more than human talent to forge such a painting. Indeed, such forgers would be more interesting than Christ Himself. If the Gospel writers invented His miracles in an attempt to glorify their hero, it fails to explain how they invent a hero that perfectly fits such miracles. The truth is simple: the Gospel writers do not create a character, but simply record the exploits of the greatest Person who ever walked the earth.
Add to this the inability of anyone to explain the survival of the four Gospel records. The fact they have endured for twenty centuries intact is a miracle of literary achievement. God has safeguarded the preservation process. The astounding thing is not that Christ’s legacy has survived throughout history, but that anyone can doubt His deity. It is the living presence of Jesus today that best explains why the four Gospels are so perfectly preserved.
The life of Christ would play like a Shakespearean tragedy had it ended at the cross. Science has many mysteries to solve, but the Gospels have the answers that really matter. Each new generation must discover the realities behind the Gospel records by discovering the living reality of Jesus Christ. For those who seek a comprehensive knowledge of the Master, the Gospels are the only accurate and divinely-inspired record. These four books are like a city with four gates. Though her gates have been battered by destructive critics throughout the centuries, the city still stands.
Some argue the chronological order of the Gospels is confusing. However, Gospel truth is unaffected by chronology. Events in Jesus’ life are often clustered, as if they all happened in the same day or the same week. The writers are recording truth, not writing daily journals. Differences in arrangement are inevitable, but not relevant. Four authors all contributed to one story. No single writer could have accurately transcribed all of Jesus’ teachings. When we add up the verses in all four Gospels we find about one third are dedicated to Jesus’ death and resurrection. This tells us a great deal about God’s priorities.
What some call contradictions, inconsistencies, mistakes or inaccuracies in the Gospel records are harmonized when one puts all four pieces of the puzzle together. Everything written in the Gospels is priceless information, for God’s Son is the main attraction. For example, we would never have known from reading Matthew, Mark and Luke that Jesus has the habit of going to Jerusalem for the great feasts. This we learn from John. The reason is that John favors writing about events in Judea, while the other three tend to write about events in Galilee.
The Gospels are four separate accounts, written to different audiences for different purposes. It is unlikely any of the disciples take notes when Jesus teaches. Only once does Jesus write anything—when He writes in the sand (Jn. 8:6). We have no record He writes anything else. Jesus never appoints a biographer. The Gospels are the result of memories the Holy Spirit brings to the remembrance of the writers.
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a seed. Only a rich harvest can interpret the true value of the seeds. In a similar way, because of the timeless benefit of all four Gospels, millions have been harvested for the Kingdom. “The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11).
The Childhood of Jesus
The mystique surrounding Jesus is compounded by the almost total absence of information about His upbringing. He is not a pureblood Jew. He has a Jewish mother, but God is His Father. Jesus is robed with the flesh of a Jew, but both Jews and Gentiles are related to Adam. Birthed into our world as a human being, He honors the entire human race, not just the Jewish race. We know He is found among the learned men at age twelve, both hearing and asking questions (Luke 2:46). In Jewish culture, young men entered maturity at age 30. Were His questions and teachings not scholarly, these elders would have been offended. However, the effect is quite the opposite: they are amazed at His comprehension (v. 47). This flash of insight into Jesus’ adolescence is our first glimpse into “His Father’s business” (v. 49). The gospel writers give us this solitary snapshot of his boyhood.
Jesus grows in a four-fold way: physically, spiritually, academically and socially (v. 52). Young people should ask themselves:
What will improve my body? (physically)
What will improve my mind? (academically)
What will improve my spiritually? (favor with God)
What will improve my relationship with others? (favor with man)
Jesus is born a helpless infant. He learns to walk, talk and read. He knows hunger, weariness, disappointment and temptation. He prepares for His mission through the normal human channels of childhood, boyhood and youth. Jesus grows up during the darkest period in Jewish history. He identifies Himself with God’s people by practicing Judaism. In accordance with Old Testament prophecies, His Davidic decent is a prerequisite for Messiahship.
The Lord’s three years of teaching have done more for the human race than the entire global collective wisdom. No philosophy or religion has regenerative powers. But the personality of Jesus is so powerful that every generation inquires about Him. When Plato describes his idealistic “perfect man,” he unknowingly describes the character of Jesus. Plato did not know the only one who can perfectly model manhood is Jesus Christ. Our Lord never makes a mistake, retracts a statement, or makes an apology.
The Integrity of Jesus
We must rid from our minds a romanticized, stained-glass picture of Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). No one has the right to modify the picture painted by the Gospel writers. God comes to earth represented in human form in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “He who sees Me can see the Father in Me.” (Jn. 14:9). Every detail of His life helps us better comprehend what God is like.
Only one who understands the value of truth can speak as Christ does. Had He kept silent, He might have avoided the Cross. When Pilate suggests a loophole, Jesus replies that everyone who really loves truth will listen to Him (John 18:37). Pilate indicates truth is elusive, as if to say no truth is worth dying for (v. 38). Christ comes into our world for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth. Because the Gospel writers understand this, their pens cannot be silenced.
Truth does not manifest itself accidentally or haphazardly. Truth prevails only as it is propagated, defended, and proven. God’s plan of salvation is verified through centuries of evangelism, martyrdom, persecution, and the lives it changes. Jesus comes to us as the great Revealer of truth. Only He can truly say, “I am the Truth” (Jn. 14:6). The Son of God is the only One who can begin to explain the Father to the human race. He informs us of our origin, reveals our destiny, and indicates this life is only an introduction to eternal life. Revealing mysteries about God is a dominant theme in His teachings. Yet Jesus is a pragmatist; most of His teachings inform us how to treat one another.
Jesus is a Person who understands His purpose. He knows who He is and therefore is driven with a sense of destiny. He never wavers in His mission or disobeys His Father. He ministers to some people who are hostile to Him, suspicious of Him, and envious of Him. What He teaches is a threat to the hypocrites. It is inevitable He will be a marked man.
Jesus speaks in common terms which permeate His teachings. He uses words working-class people hear every day. He speaks of deserts, clouds, lakes, salt, wind, weather, famines, thorns, corn, lambs, snakes, doves, camels, wolves, roads, gardens, streets, markets, clothing, candles, tombs, purses, lamps, swords, wages, water pots, temples, children, and widows. To illustrate His teachings, Jesus uses the scenery of daily life. He speaks of earth and sky, land and sea, trees and flowers, hills and mountains, sun and moon, seed and soil, storms and lightening, sunshine and rain, silver and gold, wheat and weeds, reaping and harvest, the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, roots and branches, fishermen and boats, plows and yokes, oil and lamps, brides and grooms, husbands and wives, marriage and divorce, weddings and funerals, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, hunger and thirst, eating and drinking, borrowing and lending, music and dancing, kings and queens, sickness and health, war and peace, thieves and robbers, life and death, and joy and sorrow. Such familiar sights, emotions, and images are all terminology used to communicate His great theme: the Kingdom of God. It is no wonder “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mk. 12:37). He appeals to our logic. He appeals to our hearts and to and to our conscience. His appeal is eternal because He is eternal. Jesus’ comments are not always lengthy…but He always says enough.
Christ goes to Calvary to die, but takes three years to arrive. He prolongs His journey to the cross so He can teach us. As He journeys, He is baptized, performs miracles, and heals the sick. As a traveling teacher, He speaks of prodigals, wise virgins, hidden treasure, vineyards, a woman who looks for lost coins, and a shepherd who seeks lost sheep (Luke 19:10). He takes criticism, debates with hypocrites, selects twelve disciples, heals men born blind, and raises Lazarus from the dead. He watches a widow put her offering into the temple treasury, and speaks with a woman at a well. He prays in a garden, is betrayed by a friend, beaten, mocked, tortured and crucified. How He finally dies is avoidable, but to be the sacrifice for sin, the end is inevitable. The only Man without sin dies for the sins of all men. The one Person who does not need atonement for sin provides it for everyone else (Rev. 5:9). Three days later, He walks out of His grave and into the hearts of millions.
Jesus is passionately compassionate. His heart is filled with the desire to help people. He unashamedly confronts demons and disease. He conducts no seminars. He does not consult his disciples or a committee. In the case of the men who bring the girl caught in adultery, the Lord demonstrates the compassion and mercy that naturally flows from the character of God. In the presence of The Sinless One, they drop their bricks and leave. In the presence of perfect health, sickness departs. In the presence of God’s Son, demons flee. In the presence of perfect peace, the storm is neutralized. In the presence of perfect honesty, betrayers like Judas walk away.
Jesus uses no manipulative psychology. He simply tells the truth. He does not play mind games, but prompts people to think. His perpetual focus concerns character development. Throughout His teachings, He emphasizes inner attitudes, not outward performance. Our relationship with God is closely connected with our relationship with other human beings. Jesus tell us to love God and our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-39). Jesus comes to show people how very valuable they are to the Father. We are to connect with God and then with everyone else. True salvation is verified by how others are treated. Though we may be tempted to try to love God more than people, the Holy Spirit will not allow this. We must find outward expression for the love of God we receive. Jesus teaches we must allow that love to flow to everyone. Those who reject Jesus fail to see humans as God sees them. His sharpest rebukes are reserved for those who will not allow their hypocrisy to be exposed. In the end, they kill Him for it.
If we want to know Jesus’ value system, we must study Jesus Himself. Our faith in Him and knowledge of Him only comes through praying in the Spirit and by reading God’s Word (Jude 20 & Rom. 10:17).
The Greatness of Jesus
The concept of Jesus’ superiority over everything is not new. Jesus teaches that He is greater than Solomon or Jonah (Lk. 11:31-32). The book of Hebrews echoes this theme, proving Jesus is superior to anything or anyone. The writer of Hebrews addresses the better covenant He mediates and the better sacrifice He offers (Heb. 10:1-10). Christ is better than angels (1:4-14), Abraham (7:2), Moses (3:1-6), Joshua (4:8), and the entire Levitical priesthood (4:14-16). Jesus is above any person, institution, ritual or sacrifice. Whereas the old covenant was imperfect and unable to eliminate sin, Jesus is perfect and able to “save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (7:25). Jesus has a better name (1:4), offers a better hope (7:19), gives better promises, has a better ministry (8:6), and takes us to a better country (11:16).
The author of Hebrews depicts Christ as the bridge between the temporary Old Testament and the permanent New Testament. Jesus is humble, reverent and obedient (5:5-8), yet is sinless (4:15), all powerful (1:3) and perfect (7:26). The writer shows Jesus’ absolute superiority over all creation. He is worthy of worship, for He alone is the Heir, the Creator, Ruler, Revelator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and God’s own Son (1:2-14). Jesus is our great Shepherd (13:20), offers a great salvation (2:3), and a great reward (10:35). The Lord is eternal (7:16), continuous and unchangeable (7:24). He mediates His new covenant (12:24) by a new and living way (10:20). We must look to Jesus alone as the Captain of our Salvation (2:10), our great Apostle, our Great High Priest (3:1), and the Author and Finisher of our faith (12:2). Through such dynamic contrasts, the writer shows how the Old Testament builds the case for the greatness of Christ revealed in the New Testament.
The Masculinity of Jesus
Jesus’ life and teachings illustrate how a man can be meek without being weak. His straightforward statements in Matthew prove His boldness and masculinity:
“Love your enemies” (5:44).
“You cannot serve God and money” (6:24).
“Do not cast your pearls before swine” (7:6).
“Let the dead bury their dead” (8:22).
“I came not to send peace, but a sword” (10:34).
“The violent take heaven by force” (11:12).
“He that is not with Me is against Me” (12:30).
“If your eye offends you, cut it out” (18:9).
“Many are called, but few are chosen” (22:14).
Unfortunately, men often equate masculinity with sexual attractivness. Paul informs us it is better to marry than to burn up with lust (I Cor. 7:9). However, Jesus never lusts. He is tempted in all points, like we are, yet is sinless (Heb. 4:15). The desire to marry is a natural human desire, but Jesus is supernatural. Although Jesus often teaches about marital issues, He remains single. Had Jesus married, He would have left behind a widow and perhaps children as well. The Son of God would never have put a woman in that situation. If Jesus had married, His widow would have received more attention than the Virgin Mary. His mission is to travel, teach, and ultimately die for the sins of human beings.
The Son of God is in perfect control of His passions and emotions. Jesus consistently conducts Himself as a gentleman. He treats men and women with equal respect. In the cases of both the woman of Samaria and the woman taken in adultery, his conversations are personal, yet always in a public setting. Indeed, Jesus is never behind closed doors alone with a member of either sex. He never allows Himself to be in a situation where He can be accused of immorality.
On canvas, many have tried to paint Jesus as effeminate. But this is not how the Gospels portray Him. Raised in a carpenter’s home, He probably has a strong constitution. Had He been weak, He could not have been mistaken for Elijah, Jeremiah, or John the Baptist (Matt. 16:14). Because He is perfect, Jesus is the only man that can epitomize perfect masculinity. Those who desire to know what real manliness means need look no further.
The Consistency of Jesus
Jesus is presented to us a being purpose driven, not ego driven. He is resolute and does His Father’s will. Jesus is not stubborn. Stubbornness bespeaks an irrational unreasonableness, whereas Jesus is always rational and reasonable. He is sweet tempered within the limits of His personal code of conduct. He will neither allow women to be exploited, the poor to be neglected, nor His Father’s house to become a den of thieves.
His inflexible approach is seen in His persistent opposition to hypocrites. The finer points of the Law, such as washing of one’s hands, strict observance of the Sabbath, and eating with sinners, are of no interest to Him except to expose their inadequacies. He is brave, but never obstinate. He is determined, but not obnoxious. He does not waver. He never downsizes His principles. His personality never changes. He maintains His integrity. His consistency is further demonstrated by His refusal to perform even one self-serving miracle (Mt. 4:3).
Jesus is straightforward with everyone. His teachings provoke much opposition, but this does not influence His opinion. His determination is proven by his victory over Satan early in His ministry (Lk. 4:13). He withstands the hatred of envious Pharisees. Jesus suffers for what He teaches, but never complains. He refuses to compromise and ultimately seals His message with His own blood.
The Lord does not regret anything He says. Jesus never rewords anything. He is unconcerned about political correctness. He dies, rather than recant anything. He will not change His methods or His message. Christ refuses to be a celebrity on earth or let His disciples fight for Him (Jn. 18:36). His opposition to sin is adamant. He is unbending and unbendable. Dedication and determination to the will of the Father is His portfolio: nothing else and nothing less.
The Universality of Jesus
The fundamental message of Christ is global: God so loved the world that He sent His Son (Jn. 3:16). However, the world Jesus is born into is unsympathetic, biased, and racist. The Jews view all Gentiles as dogs and women are considered second-class citizens. The educated Pharisees and Sadducees are unloving, heartless legalists. The Jews are proud of their history, religion, and genealogy. Traditional trifles and technicalities are their focus; not God or the common people (Lk. 11:46). They are enamored with their titles and pedigrees (Mk. 12:38). Palestine is their universe, therefore the rest of the world means little to them.
Someone as loving as Jesus could not have been produced in the cold Rabbinical schools of Palestine. The Messiah is heaven sent. Jesus does not just talk to people but communicates with them. While no Pharisee allows even his robe to touch a tax collector or harlot, Jesus eats with them (Mk. 2:16). He refuses to restrict Himself to any particular race. What He teaches is too extraordinary for any single nation. Jesus enters His ministry with a message for the entire world, not just Judea.
While the Rabbis of Jesus’ era despise the poor, Jesus loves them. He comforts them, holds their children, raises their dead, teaches them, feeds them, talks with them, and forgives them. He touches lepers, washes feet and ministers to harlots. In parabolic teachings, He praises the Good Samaritan and welcomes home the prodigal. The Messiah announces a universal mission for Israel: His disciples are to go into the entire world and preach His Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20). The religious bigots refuse to accept the Father’s compassionate worldview. Their response to God’s love is to ridicule, torture, and crucify His only Son.
Jesus’ influence is not restricted to Palestine for His teachings are universal. Nothing He proposes becomes irrelevant later in history in any country. The Golden Rule and the Beatitudes are always current and apply to everyone in every nation. He lays down global principles that work as effectively in the first century as they do in the twenty-first.
The Humility of Jesus
Jesus brings the world a new set of values. Among them is the concept of humbleness as an attribute. In Jesus’ day, meekness is viewed as weakness. Jesus models humility when He says, “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). Jesus teaches, “If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last” (Mk. 9:35). We are instructed to learn from Christ, for He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Like Christ, we are not to seek our own glory (Jn. 8:50). He promises only those who are “poor in spirit” are blessed and that greatness in the kingdom of heaven depends upon childlike humility (Matt. 5:3 & 18:4).
True humility involves knowing who you are in Christ. To know God personally does not make one cowardly, but neither should it make one proud. We are to boldly proclaim the Gospel, not develop an inferiority complex. Jesus courage does not diminish His humility, teaching us that both attributes can co-exist. When He performs miracles, outwits His accusers, or heals someone, He never boasts of His accomplishments.
Jesus’ consistent humility is most clearly seen by the way He endures undeserved hatred and brutality. He is slandered (Mk. 15:31), called a madman (Mk. 3:21), demon possessed (Jn. 7:20), a blasphemer (Mk. 14:64), a drunk and a glutton (Lk. 7:34). He is humiliated, beaten, and spit upon (Mk. 14:65). Yet none of these atrocities provoke retaliation from the Son of God.
Jesus comes to minister to others (Matt. 20:28). This is proven when the Son of God stoops to wash His disciple’s feet (Jn. 13:5). His humility is best understood by the manner in which He divests Himself of all prerogatives and privileges and takes the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-11). The characteristic of servanthood is demanded of us as well. It must become part of our “spiritual DNA” and consistently occupy our innermost thoughts.
The Inner Peace of Jesus
Christ presents Himself as one who exhibits perfect self-control. He is never stressed. Jesus does not worry about anything, exhibiting a majestic calmness in every situation. He is in absolute control of His emotions at all times. He never acts on impulse or is anxious. When His disciples suggest Jesus call down fire from heaven on some Samaritans, He calmly dissuades them (Lk. 9:54-56). Although it is recorded that “Jesus wept,” this does not mean He sobs uncontrollably (Jn. 11:35). When He drives out the money changers, nothing indicates He flies into a violent, uncontrollable rage (Jn. 2:15).
When they seek to force Him to be their king, He simply withdraws to a mountain alone (John 6:15). Before the next dawn, He is calming the fears of His disciples on the lake (6:20). On another occasion, Jesus is sleeping during a storm. When awakened by frightened disciples, the wind and waves become quiet at His command (Matt. 8:26).
Jesus is unruffled by false accusations, facing the hatred of His enemies with quiet dignity. When they accuse Him of inciting a rebellion, He says He has always taught publicly and has nothing to hide (Lk. 22:53). After He is arrested and beaten, Pilate seems amazed Jesus does not defend Himself (Jn. 19:9-10). To Herod, He says nothing at all (Lk. 23:9). He teaches people not to cast pearls to pigs, proving that silence does not necessarily mean cowardice (Matt. 7:6).
His calmness of character is seen in His final hours with His disciples. He speaks words of peace to them. “Let not your hearts be troubled…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again for you, so you can be with Me…I will not leave you comfortless…because I live, you will live also” (Jn. 14:1-18). As He carries His cross to Calvary, He tells women not to weep for Him (Lk. 23:28). Without an argument or a struggle, He is crucified. Jesus’ serenity is based in His trust in the Father and He commits His spirit to God (Lk. 23:46).
The Forgiveness of Jesus
The laws of the Old Testament make no provision for absolving someone of a personal offense, only how to make restitution to someone who has suffered a loss. “An eye for an eye” is still Jewish law when Jesus begins His ministry (Matt. 5:38). He is born into a race slow to forgive others for anything. The imprecatory Psalms tell how the Jews hate God’s enemies with an adamant hatred (Ps. 139:22). Although the Jews wanted to take revenge on the oppressive Romans, their Messiah came to teach forgiveness to a vengeful people.
Throughout Jesus’ teachings there is no trace of animosity or hatred. Unconditional forgiveness is a concept foreign to Jewish thinking. We are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Every disciple is to love his neighbor as himself (19:19). Jesus teaches us we should love one another as He loves us, and that we are His disciples only if we exemplify such love (John 13:34-35). God’s love includes the willingness to die for someone else (15:13). Jesus introduces the world to new laws of grace and compassion. The one who pardons must have the willingness and the means to forgive the one who repents.
The enemies of Christ are right when they say only God can forgive sins (Mk. 2:7). What they do not realize is that the power to forgive sins is vested in Christ alone (Matt. 9:6). Instead of repenting, the religious leaders reject and persecute the only One who can forgive them (Acts 3:15).
There is no place for hatred in the Kingdom of God. Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek, suffer wrongs, and go the second mile for others (Matt. 5:39-41). He introduces a concept of forgiveness unknown to the entire human race. But Jesus taught God’s forgiveness is conditional, depending upon one’s willingness to forgive others. If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive you (Matt. 6:14-15). Eternal forgiveness works in tandem with eternal life. Forgiving others in the spirit of Jesus is an essential characteristic Believers must adopt. His commands concerning forgiveness are not optional and non-negotiable.
The Prayer Life of Jesus
Let’s look at some facts:
Although we are inclined to think Jesus did not need to pray, He often did.
His prayer-life was much more than an illustration of our need to pray.
Jesus prayed because He was in a strong relationship with His Heavenly Father.
He prayed because He wanted to communicate.
He prayed only to the Father: never to angels.
He prayed only during His incarnate state…..
….in the book of Revelation, we do not see Jesus praying in heaven.
He prays confidently, knowing the Father always hears Him (Jn. 11:42).
He prays habitually.
He prays in total submission to His Heavenly Father.
He prays specifically.
He prays with sincere gratitude (Jn. 11:41).
He prays selflessly for others.
He prays the Father will glorify His Son (Jn. 17:1-5).
He prays all night before selecting disciples (Lk. 6:12-16).
He prays after He is rejected in several towns (Mt. 11:20-26).
He prays His disciples will be sanctified (Jn.. 17:6-19).
He prays His disciples will have strength (Lk. 22:32).
He prays Believers will be united (Jn. 17:20-26).
He prays with perseverance and encourages us to do the same (Lk. 18:1).
He prays as the Holy Spirit comes upon Him in the Jordan River (Lk. 3:21-22).
He prays with His disciples just before He is transfigured (Lk. 9:28-36).
He prays before He feeds the 4,000 (Matt. 15:36-38) and before He feeds the 5,000 (Jn. 6:10-11).
He prays when others are grieving – before Lazarus is raised (Jn. 11:41).
He prays on the mountain before He walks on the sea (Matt. 14:23).
He prays for His murderers as He dies on the cross (Luke 23:46).
He instructs His disciples that demons are cast out through prayer and fasting (Mk. 9:29). Jesus teaches us the reverential attitude we must have toward God when He gives us The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9). This model prayer instructs us that intercession is both a duty and a privilege. It encourages us to be thankful, obedient, and full of praise.
Jesus does not expect people to mindlessly recite formal prayers. In fact, He warns His followers about empty, repetitive entreaties (Matt. 6:7). This verifies God is not manipulated by pious platitudes. He wants us to communicate with Him in personal, spontaneous dialogue.
Jesus provides no magic formula for successful praying. One’s posture in prayer is unimportant. He prays standing (Jn. 11:41), kneeling (Lk. 22:41), and on His face (Matt. 26:39). The time of day we choose to pray is irrelevant: Jesus prays both morning and evening (Mk. 1:35 & 6:46-47). Although He instructs us to pray in a private place (Matt. 6:6), we can pray publicly as well (Acts 20:36). No one should flaunt his prayer life as a badge of pride, but rather have sincere and honest conversations with God (Matt. 5:6).
In the garden…..
Before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays for strength for Himself, the ministry, and for others (Mt. 26). In the garden, He prays so fervently, He sweats blood (Lk. 22:44). He prays there “with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7-8). Jesus validates that stress and anguish are reasons to pray. He indicates even one hour of prayer is not too much to ask (Matt. 26:40).
Why should we pray….and for what?
for forgiveness for ourselves
for grace to forgive others
for spiritual strength
to overcome temptations
to overcome satanic influences
The Gospel writers refer to the prayers of Jesus so frequently, we know prayer is an intimate part of His lifestyle and worldview. Jesus’ disciples observe His consistent prayer life and know He is sincere about conversing with His Father. Jesus instructs us to pray in secret – in our prayer-closets (Mt. 6:6). If Jesus has a heartfelt need to pray, you and I should count it a privilege to follow His example. His disciples never asked Jesus how to preach….only how to pray (Lk. 11:1)
The Love of Jesus
Love is not sympathy, empathy, sentimentality, or emotion. Love is a character trait of God, for God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Love is His fundamental, abiding quality and the basis of His relationship with us. Love gives its energy to the object of its affection. One who truly loves will always seek the best interests of the one who is loved. God loves so fervently, He sends His Son to die for the sins of human beings (Gal. 2:20). Love is epitomized in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
As we study the teachings of Jesus, we find love is a foundational element in all of them. It is on the basis of love Jesus rebukes the hypocrites, for unless they repent, they cannot be saved from hell. Jesus says the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others (Matt. 22:37-40). Love is to be our prevalent and persistent attitude. He gives us a new commandment: love one another (Jn 13:34). An honest love for others begins with an honest love for God.
Jesus’ parables overflow with love. The parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates the love of God for the wayward. The story of the Good Shepherd demonstrates God’s love for the lost, giving His life for His sheep. The miracles of Jesus also reveal His love. The deaf hear, the blind see, and the lame walk (Matt. 11:5). Healings prove only God can make certain things right that cannot be made right without Him. The miracle of the loaves and fish show God’s love includes supplying what we need. Someone once said – “Love is like a basket with loaves and fish: it is never enough until you begin to give it away.…then it multiplies.”
Love defines the Kingdom of God, for hate is foreign to heaven. We are commanded to love even our worst enemies (Matt. 5:44). Nothing displays the wonderful love of God more succinctly than His death on the Cross. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends” (Jn. 15:13). The teachings of Christ are incredible, but the love He demonstrates on a daily basis is absolutely fantastic.
Jesus understands us, for He ran the entire gauntlet of human suffering. To understand Him, we must become born again (Jn. 3:3). Jesus’ days on earth show how the deepest human need – the need to love and worship God – can be met. But there is a price to pay:
You will be unpopular.
You will have to change your thinking.
You will have to take a stand.
You will have to take risks.
You must count the cost.
You must make decisions that have eternal consequences.
You must surrender your life to Him completely.
You must take His yoke upon your shoulders and learn about Him (Matt. 11:29-30).
You must obey His commands in order to live with Him forever (Jn. 8:51).
However, awesome and tremendous blessings, more than we can ever ask or calculate, await all who live the self-sacrificial life He exemplified.
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