The Triumphal Entry

Jesus enters Jerusalem

What Happened

It was the time for the Passover, so Jesus and His disciples went to Jerusalem. The reception Jesus received was grand indeed, as people spread palm leaves and cloaks over the rode as He entered. The large, cheering crowd welcomed Jesus, who immediately recognized the sadness of the moment and as He approached Jerusalem, He wept in sorrow.

He knew that the city would come to ruin because they did not recognize God’s coming to them personally. By 70 AD the temple would lay in ruins, as the city was completely overtaken by the Roman army.

Why it matters

For a short moment, during a very busy week in Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted as a king. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, people worshiped the Messiah’s entry into the city. This would all change too quickly.

His entry illustrates His true standing as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but the emotional reaction is shallow, like the adulation for a movie star or celebrity.

What matters here is the truth of who Jesus was and is, something that got lost in the shuffle as the events of the week progressed. His entry was triumphant, but by the end of the week, He was tried, beaten, dragged through the streets of the city, and crucified.

Bible Verse

37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Luke 19:37-38

Why it matters to you

Interestingly, there were people who greeted Jesus like a rock star of His day and were excited upon His entry into the city, but many of those same people turned their backs on Him in just a few, short days.

Bowing to the political will of the religious authorities, they went from cheering His entry into the city to shouting for his crucifixion. The truth didn’t matter. They got caught up in public opinion and were easily swayed. People today are not any different.

Description

Just as crowds had gathered across the country to see Jesus, they were waiting for Him at the gates of Jerusalem. For those who regarded Him as the Christ, there was cheering and the spreading of palm leafs on the path where He rode into town on the back of a colt.

Shouts of “Hosanna” (acclimation and praise) greeting Him along the way. The triumphant entry did not escape the eyes of the Jewish elite. They wanted Jesus arrested and prosecuted, as they considered Him a huge threat to Jewish laws and traditions.

The Romans were actually not that interested prosecuting Jesus, as long as there was law and order and no disturbances. When Jesus went before the governor Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader could find no fault with Jesus, under Roman law.

But the Jewish elite insisted that Jesus be found guilty. Pilate tried to avoid the miscarriage of justice by offering to let the crowd choose between the criminal Barabbas and Jesus. The crowd chose to have Barabbas go free and shouted for the crucifixion of Jesus.

What you may not know

It was customary for Jews to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and visit the temple to make their sacrifices. The city would swell in population during the week.

Passover was a great opportunity for merchants to make money, selling doves and animals for sacrifice, or changing money at the temple for people who came from distant lands. The commercialization of Passover angered Jesus, who in a fiery rebuke, overturned the tables of the money changers.

In much the same way today, the commercialization of Christmas has all but taken out the true meaning of the birth of the Messiah.

The events of the Passover week were watched carefully by the religious authorities, as any disruption of business would be an expensive inconvenience. They gave His disciple Judas Iscariot 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus and help the guards arrest Him.

Even though Jesus attracted crowds, His appearance, according to the prophet Isaiah, was ordinary. Because He didn’t stand out, they needed someone to identify Him for the authorities.

Jesus speaks many parables

The prodigal son

What Happened

During his ministry Jesus would attract large crowds to hear Him teach. The vast majority of these people were poor, uneducated and illiterate. To illustrate a point, Jesus would use a parable, which is, simply put, a short story to help the listener understand a greater meaning.

Jesus did not give them theological concepts, scholarly dissertations or any deep intellectual thought. He told stories to make his message simple to understand. However, His parables were deeply theological, intellectual and have been studied in seminaries for centuries.

Why it matters

Parables help people understand important concepts. While it is good to learn versus of the Bible, it is more important to learn and understand the greater meaning of its passages. Jesus used the parables to bring home a much larger point.

Therefore, Jesus’ use of parables was a well-planned and necessary strategy to connect with the common people. Some of the parables were also a triggering point for confrontations with the religious elite.

Bible Verse

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.

12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

13 This is why I speak to them in parables.

Matthew 13:11-13

Why it matters to you

The meaning behind the message is where the real “gold” of the Bible is found. Regardless of intellect or educational achievement, even the best and brightest may not fully grasp the significance of one of these parables.

While others may nod their heads in agreement and enjoy the story, those who truly understand why it is being told and how it applies to their life, reap the most benefit.

Description

The disciples lived and traveled with Jesus, and every day had access to his teaching, yet they did not fully understand what He was doing, or why. They asked Him directly why He spoke in parables. Jesus explained that the people did not know what they knew.

The disciples were learning from Him daily and were able to explore the deeper meaning of things, but Jesus had to get his point across to the crows quickly and effectively. The stories helped.

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Parables

Gospel of Matthew

The Parable of the Sower (Mt13:3-8), The Parable of the Weeds (Mt 13:24-30), The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mt 13:31-32), The Parable of the Yeast (Mt 13:33), The Parable the Pearl (Mt 13:47-50), The Parable of the Fishing Net (Mt 13:47-50), The Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-31), The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Mt 22:1-14), The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13).

Gospel of Mark

The Strong Man (Mk 3:23-27), The Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:3-8), The Parable of the Seed that Grows Itself (Mk 4:26-29), The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk 12:1-9), The Parable of the Fig Tree (Mk 13:28-31)

Gospel of Luke

The Parable of the Patch (Lk36-39), The parable of the Sower (Lk 8:5-8), The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 25-37), The Parable of the Rich Fool (Lk 12:16-21), The Parable of the Faithful Servant (Lk 12:35-48), The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Lk 13:18-19), The Parable of the Leven (Lk 13:20-21), TheParable of the Great Banquet (Lk 14:16-24),

The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:4-7), The Parable of the Lost Coin(Lk 15: 8-10), The Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32),The Parable of the Shrewed Manager (Lk16:1-13), The Parable of the Persistant Widow (Lk 18:1-8), The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk18:9-14), The Parable of the Ten Minas (Lk 19:12-27), The Parable of the Tenants (Lk 20:9-16)

What you may not know

Parables are just stories to illustrate a point and do not point to a particular person, time or place. When Jesus tells of a specific person, with a name, that is not a story, but a true account of a real person.

For example, in Like 16, Jesus talks about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. He names Lazarus. It is not a parable.

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus at the sermon on the mount

What Happened

Jesus had been going from town to town in Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and healing the sick. Word traveled fast and crowds would gather. One day, when he saw the crowd gathering, he went to a mountainside, sat down and began to teach.

His disciples were with Him and listened along with the masses. The account is a quote from beginning to end, not a report. Matthew, inspired and directed by God, gave his account.

Why it matters

The Bible is a handbook for the human condition, and in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks to the human condition. It was a message for all people, regardless of their walk of life, in all places and for all times.

The sermon brings out the differences between the strict legalism of the Jewish tradition, and the new way of faith and trust in God. God as our Father is highlighted by His sermon.

Jesus knew that he would someday be sacrificed, making this message even more poignant. His gentle, loving invitation for people to come to God is in direct contrast to the harshness of Jewish law.

Bible Verse

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mathew 5:3-10

Why it matters to you

The Sermon on the Mount is about the ethics of the Kingdom, as Jesus talks of purity of heart and the standards of righteousness before God. We are taught the “Lord’s Prayer” in this dissertation and Jesus teaches about God’s Law. It is a gentle, but very clear illustration of God’s expectations.

Jesus tells the people that he has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. He added that until heaven and earth are gone, every letter of the law is in place. Jesus gives an invitation to ask God and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.

Those who seek God will find Him, but it is an individual journey. Each person has their own, unique relationship to God.

Description

The main thrust of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was to herald the Kingdom of God. Jesus offers eight blessings, known as the Beatitudes, which are later chronicled in the Gospel of Luke.

Jesus talks of his fulfilling the Law, which is essential to man’s chances of being in God’s Kingdom. Man cannot, by his sinful nature, fulfill the Law. Therefore, God had to do it.

Just as God had supplied the sacrifice to Abraham and spared Isaac, God spared man and sacrificed His son. He talks of social issues, such as murder, divorce, taking oaths, caring for the needy, loving your enemies, not judging others.

What you may not know

The writer of this Gospel, Matthew, was writing to Jews, as evidenced by his references to Jewish Law and his using the term “Kingdom of God.” As a tax collector, Matthew was given a quota to collect for the Romans. Anything above that quota was his to keep.

The irony is apparent, as this beautiful Sermon on the Mount is shared by a Jewish outcast, one who was hated by society. Matthew is writing to prove to Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus Testifies to the Samaritan Woman

Jesus with woman at the well
Jesus Testifies to the Samaritan Woman

What Happened

Jesus was walking through Samaria and sent his disciples to get food. He went to a well outside the village of Sychar located near the ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. The well was Jacob’s well, and likely more than 1900 years old from the time God created Israel.

It was mid-day and Jesus was tired. He sat at the well. A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. (John 4) She was shocked by this, because Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other.

They had an amazing conversation and Jesus told her things about her life that only God would have known. She was completely captivated by his gentle approach to the events of her life.

Excited about the good news He had shared with her, she ran to the village and told everybody about the man she met and his message. That marks the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

Why it matters

The good news that Jesus preached was not exclusively for the Jews. He took in the undesirables, like a tax collector and a Zealot, but his message was for the world. No matter what the circumstance in someone’s life, Jesus showed the way into God’s Kingdom.

The Jews and Samaritans were enemies, so a Jew would not talk to a Samaritan, let alone minister to them. But Jesus chose the woman at the well to bring his message of salvation to the Samaritans.

That same message would later be carried to all nations, all types of people. God cuts through all the insignificant details that separate one person from another, and unifies.

Bible Verse

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:7-10

Why it matters to you

The woman at the well was an outcast. She had five husbands and was living with a man. She was at the well at mid-day when no one else was there because it was so hot. Most of the women would go to the well in the morning, but she was an outcast among her own people. She went alone.

The message Jesus gave her was so liberating and so exciting that she ran back to town and told everybody. There is no social situation that God cannot overcome. In God’s Kingdom, there is no separation, no social strata. She was a part of the community again.

Description

Jesus cuts through the life history of this woman and gives her “living water” that will never cause her to thirst again. It would have been very strange for a Jew to talk with a Samaritan.

Jesus began his conversation with her by asking for a drink of water. He then got her to open up to him and tell of her husbands and of the man she was currently living with.

Throughout this amazing conversation, Jesus never rebuked her, scolded her or judged her. He shared the message of salvation with her, and openly identified Himself as the Messiah, something he had not shared with anyone, publicly, to that point.

What you may not know

Samaritans are Semitic people, like the Jews, only separated by political and social barriers. Samaritans only red the first five books of the Bible and rejected the prophets. Israel had been divided in two. Of the 12 tribes, 10 were in the north and 2 were in the south, the south was called Judah.

Samaria was the capitol of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12). There was animosity and war. The people of the north would no longer travel to Jerusalem to go to the Temple because Jerusalem was in Judah.

Northern resident had set up their own idols. When the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, the Samaritans were their adversary in their attempts to rebuild Jerusalem. That was a source of great hatred. Jews called the Samaritans dogs and half-breeds.

This is what makes Jesus’ choice to begin his public ministry with an imperfect woman from Samaria so interesting and meaningful.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

Jesus with Disciples

What Happened

After being tempted in the desert, Jesus began his public ministry. There was no mass communication at the time, no newspapers, television or internet. Jesus needed to assemble a team to do the work. He called poor working men for the most part, men who were not educated or well connected in society.

They may not have been the most qualified, but they were willing to follow. They were “teachable” and eager to learn. His first two disciples were Peter and his brother Andrew, who were working at the time, casting their net into the lake (Sea of Galilee).

The brothers dropped what they were doing and went with Jesus. Others would follow as word got around. Jesus would hand pick these men and did so according to the plan of God the Father.

Why it matters

People are often reluctant to serve God by being an active part of a ministry. They do not feel qualified. Jesus said “follow me” and communicated rather effectively that this ministry would be about Him and not about the abilities or inabilities of his followers.

It was an invitation for seemingly insignificant men to be a part of the greatest movement in human history. God’s unfolding plan was coming to it’s most dramatic chapter and regular people, ordinary men and women, would follow the plan. God was in control.

It was all by design. Most of them were willing followers, but did not understand what was really going on. Some doubted Jesus. Still another would betray Jesus to the religious authorities, who would turn him over to the Romans.

Some who were the most unlikely people to play a significant role in the ministry were men who made the greatest impact.

Bible Verse

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4: 18-22

Why it matters to you

God uses regular people to do His work and advance his Kingdom. It’s not how smart, or how rich or how important they are. It’s all about a person’s willingness to follow and serve.

The disciples that Jesus selected were not at all impressive, but like other men that God has called, they were willing and obedient. They learned “on the job” and asked a lot of questions. Jesus was a patient and thoughtful teacher, allowing them to be themselves.

Description

After being tempted in the desert, Jesus returned home, to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He spotted two fishermen and called to them to follow. That was the beginning. From there, he gathered ten others to follow him and be a part of his ministry.

They were: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James Zebedee, John, Levi (Matthew), Philip, Nathaniel, Thomas, James Alpheus, Judas Alpheus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot.

What you may not know

In Israel, during the time of Christ, it was customary that only the best and brightest would study to be a Rabbi. Students came to the Rabbi and were selected according to their abilities, and of course, their ability to pay for the educational opportunity.

The students would live with the Rabbi, study every move and mannerism, and in many cases become a kind of clone of the teacher. Jesus, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. He gathered from poor fishermen, who were rough around the edges and not educated.

He even called a tax collector, who was the scourge of Jewish society, a social outcast. He also called a Zealot, who was fiercely against the Roman occupation of Israel and the Zealot would have hated the tax collector.

He selected ordinary men to do an extraordinary job.

Temptation of Jesus

Jesus is tempted

What Happened

After He was baptized by John, Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. It was a difficult time of fasting and dealing with the elements. Jesus spent forty days in the desert with no food or water.

During this time, Jesus was visited by Satan, who would relentlessly tempt Him. Satan (the tempter, the accuser) would taunt Him, saying that if He was the Son of God He should tell the rocks to turn into bread.

Satan took him to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem and told him to jump off, knowing that the angels would catch him. Satan then showed him the kingdoms of the earth and told Jesus that if he would bow down, Satan would give all of them to Jesus.

Instead, Jesus quoted scripture, saying that He needed more than food, He would not put God to the test and to worship the Lord your God only. Satan left Him alone and angels came to attend to Him.

Why it matters

Peter writes that all temptation is common to man. There is no temptation that we experience in life that Jesus was not tempted with in the desert. It was essential that Jesus stood strong and did not give in, even though He was tired and hungry.

Jesus put His Father first and remained obedient and submissive. By resisting evil, Jesus remained pure and flawless.

Bible Verse

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Matthew 4:4-10

Why it matters to you

Men and women and children all struggle with temptation. Jesus had to experience this as well. As a man, He fully understood the temptations of life, but he did not give in to those temptations. It was necessary for Him to remain strong and pure to be our Messiah.

Description

The temptations of Satan chronicled in the Bible were only three, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that the temptations were greater in number and more constant than depicted. But we are given the basics, food, protection and ego.

We are all more easily manipulated when we are tired and hungry. We all want to put God to the test by asking Him to prove Himself by doing something for us. People want to be respected, recognized and sometimes be rich and powerful.

We are all tempted by things of this world, but as Jesus did, we must turn away from those temptations and towards God instead.

What you may not know

Jesus had to reject the temptations of Satan to be the perfect, flawless, Lamb of God. Interestingly, when Satan told Jesus that he would give Him all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus did not correct him.

Jesus knew that Satan had the power to do what he said. It is a direct contrast to Jesus himself, who would be crowned King of Kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus knows that Satan can direct men and women to do his bidding by giving them something they desire. Jesus had to resist Satan, otherwise He would have disqualified Himself from being God’s Anointed One and our Savior.

The Baptism of Jesus

Baptism of Jesus

What Happened

John the baptist had been preaching in the wilderness for several months. Jesus was just beginning his public ministry. He had been living in Nazareth with his mother and earthly father Joseph, working as a carpenter.

When it was time for him to begin his public ministry, it was necessary to go to John, whose ministry would soon come to an end. He met John at the Jordan River and was baptized.

John foretold of Jesus, who would now begin to usher in the Kingdom of God.

Why it matters

Jesus did nothing out of impulse. It was all by design. It was all in obedience to God, His Father. People heard the preaching of John and were hearing the message. Jesus, although fully God, was also fully man.

Therefore, he would do what others did in submitting to baptism. John was actually taken by surprise and said that Jesus should, by rights, baptism him. Jesus declined and said He would be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In front of the people, Jesus was baptized.

Bible Verse

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.

John 1:29-34

Why it matters to you

Jesus did not need to repent for sins, because he was without sin. He did not need to be baptized at all, but did it as an act of obedience. Baptism does not wash away sins and is not a necessary element for salvation. It is an act of obedience to God.

Baptism is important because it is a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew writes that people should be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, is our high priest, and as a man, he was obedient.

Jesus does not ask anything of us that he is not willing to do himself. Interestingly, Jesus was baptized as an adult, a believer. He was not baptized as a baby, but taken to the Temple to be presented for circumcision.

Description

John had been out in the wilderness, preaching to the people about the need to repent and turn to the Lord. His preaching was fiery and often offended the religious authorities. John even rebuked the king, an offense that would later cost him his life. But John was preparing the way for the Messiah, and boldly proclaimed Jesus as the promised savior.

John was reluctant to baptize Jesus, telling Jesus that he should be the one to baptize him. Jesus told him to proceed and submitted to the baptism. John knew that his ministry must decrease and that Jesus was one the people should follow.

This was the changing of the guard, the handing of the torch. John had foretold of the coming Messiah, and now Jesus the Messiah was here with us. It was the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry… the ministry that would change the world.

What you may not know

John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin and six months older. John was the son of Elizabeth, who was either a cousin or an aunt to Mary.

John was a kind of miracle baby, as Mary and her husband Zechariah, a priest, did not think they could have children. But God had other ideas. John, in obedience, would be the man God used to tell people of the coming of the Messiah.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus

What Happened

For centuries the prophets of Israel had predicted the birth of the Messiah, the Anointed One. Jesus would be a first born, male and without flaw. He was carried by a virgin girl, but not conceived in the regular manner, as His mother Mary, was never touched by Joseph. Rather, God Himself, created her baby.

Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem for the census. That is where she delivered Jesus. There was no place for them to stay, so they took refuge in a stable. In those times, it was common for animals to be kept in a stable, which was the ground level of a house. Living quarters would have been on the second level.

The Messiah, Jesus, has now been born and all of human civilization will never be the same. And as John so eloquently wrote:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Why it matters

The Biblical story moves into the critical final events with the birth of Jesus. All the previous events of the Bible including: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, lead up to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the focal point of the Bible, as everything is about Him, everything is written for Him and everything centers around Him.

Without Jesus, the promise of the Messiah remains unfulfilled, man’s chance to be reconciled to God is ripped apart and there is no promise of eternal life. Without the birth of Jesus, the Bible is just another religious text, but not the transformation of the entire human race.

Because of Jesus’ birth and eventual resurrection, the Bible becomes the most important book in all of human existence.

Bible Verse

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11

Description

The Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that God had chosen her to carry His son. Mary was engaged to Joseph and was a virgin. Knowing that Joseph would probably not understand, God came to him in a dream and explained what had happened.

Joseph, by law, could have called everything off, but he didn’t. The two lived in Nazareth, and like most small towns, word would have gotten around quickly that something was not right. Joseph and Mary had to suffer through that difficult humiliation.

Then, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus decreed that a census was to be taken, so everyone had to return to their town of origin to be counted. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, his birthplace. It was there that she delivered the child that they called Jesus just as God had instructed.

God, as promised, delivered His only son Jesus, to be with us. Jesus was both man and God, and throughout His life offers us a path away from our sin and destruction toward salvation.

Why it matters to you

The coming of the Messiah marks the final chapter in God’s plan of salvation for man. Since the Garden of Eden, God had made covenants with man and had guided man through periods of prosperity, followed by periods of separation.

Man cannot save himself. Only God can save us.

The Holy One of Israel will not allow imperfection into His Kingdom, and man, by his very nature, is imperfect and has turned away from God in one way or another.

The Holy and Almighty God, will never and cannot ever go back on His word. Therefore, sin must be punished. Rather than destroying all of mankind, which He nearly did with the flood, God chose to allow His own son to take the punishment.

Jesus led a perfect life, a sinless life in obedience and service to His father. Led to the slaughter, as Isaiah wrote, Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. Only Jesus, fully man and fully God, could have offered this sacrifice.

His laying down of His own life, by choice, was his gift to man. Jesus said, “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

What you may not know

Jesus was not born on December 25, but most likely during the lambing season (December-January) in Israel, as the shepherds described in the Gospels.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus but likely is not exactly on His birthday. Conversely, Easter is celebrated during the Jewish celebration of Passover, and does represent the exact date that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Jesus fulfills more than 400 prophecies

The question of how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled is difficult to answer exactly. But what is clear, is that much of what Jesus did and said and what happened to Him

while He was living as a man in Israel, fulfilled exactly what had been predicted in the Bible since Genesis.

Joseph could not be the father of Jesus

We also learn that Joseph could not be the father of Jesus, because Jesus would be the one to take the throne of David and rule eternally. A king in Joseph’s bloodline, Jeconiah, turned from God. Because of his transgression, God cursed his bloodline and that demonstrates that Jesus was not in that bloodline.

Matthew’s gospel shows the bloodline to Joseph, while Luke’s gospel shows the bloodline to Mary. The line of succession to the throne from David to Jesus, goes through David’s first son, Nathan down to Mary. Joseph’s line comes from Solomon. Interestingly, God makes sure we know this.

Daniel Survives the Lions’ Den

Daniel survives the lions' den

What Happened

Israel is exiled from their promised land to Babylon (modern day Iraq), the major civilization of that time. Israel lost their land because they constantly disobeyed God. Daniel was different and totally honored God in everything he did.

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, asked all of Israel to renounce God and worship him, Daniel refused. The king wanted to kill Daniel for his disobedience, but God intervened and Daniel survived being thrown in the loins’ den.

Daniel then tells the king that God told him the Babylonian empire is about to fall. Daniel is right in everything he predicts, because his prophesy comes from God.

Why it matters

The story of Daniel shows us that in all things and in all situations, God is in control. The theme of Daniel’s prophesy centers on the sovereignty of God. Daniel interprets dreams for the king and in every case, those dreams signal the absolute authority of God.

Daniel’s “interpretations” are what he was shown by God, so it is God using those dreams to predict future events. Nebuchadnezzar was deeply moved by God through Daniel’s explanations and made a remarkable turnaround. When his son turned away from God, the empire was doomed.

Bible Verse

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14

Description

Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians and Daniel was living in Babylon in service to its king Nebuchadnezzar. When Daniel and his friends refused to bow down and worship the king, there was a death penalty. His three friends were thrown into a furnace to perish in the flames, but even though they were tied up and helpless, the flames never touched them.

The king watched in astonishment as the three men, plus another man, walked about unharmed. Even guards outside the furnace were killed by the intense heat. Who was that fourth man? Later, in an effort to have Daniel killed, the king’s men trumped up charges against him and Daniel was thrown to the lions’ den. However, the lions left Daniel alone and he survived.

Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream and sent for Daniel to interpret them. Daniel told of the kingdoms of the world, represented by a giant statue in the king’s dream. He told of how each would fall. When the king’s son saw” the handwriting on the wall” that said both he and his kingdom were finished, Daniel was predicting the downfall of Babylon.

Why it matters to you

Throughout history, God has laid down a track record for man to follow, to determine whether or not the truth is being told and what a reasonable expectation of events might be ascertained. Can you trust God to be in control regardless of your circumstances? Does God abandon people when the going gets rough?

What you may not know

The Book of Daniel is studied side-by-side with the Book of Revelation in seminary classes, as the events and descriptions line up with amazing consistency. The book contains writings in both Hebrew and Aramaic and was likely finished about 530 BC.

Isaiah’s Prophesy of Immanuel

Isaiah's prophesy of Immanuel
Isaiah’s prophesy of Immanuel

What Happened

About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah made a bold prediction—God would send His own son to earth and He would be known as Immanuel (God with us). The prophet also wrote of the death of this man, with amazing detail (Chapter 53).

Isaiah wrote about the both the grace and the wrath of God. Even his name means “the Lord saves.” The prophet warns a sinful and idolatrous nation that God’s wrath will surely come. He follows that with the hopeful foretelling of the coming of Christ, the Messiah.

It is a remarkable book which encapsulates the entirety of God’s unfolding plan of salvation.

Why it matters

Isaiah warns that God will punish those who are rebellious, but also explains that God will redeem them. If God says it, He will do it.

Isaiah refers to God as “the Holy One of Israel.” Every detail Isaiah shares has either come true, or will come true. God has never gone back on His word.

Isaiah said the King would come from the House of David and Gospels would later outline the complete lineage of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke will show the royal linage of the Messiah. Isaiah also wrote of the virgin birth.

Isaiah’s name “God with us” is particularly interesting because that is exactly what Jesus was and is. God with us.

Bible Verse

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7: 13-14

Why it matters to you

The Bible’s story hinges on an accurate accounting of events. If an account is found to be inaccurate, or false, or if an event is nothing more than a fabrication, the truth of that will shatter the rest of the story.

The Bible is an unfolding story, an event-by-event account of man’s relationship with God. It’s not the whole story, but it’s the important pieces of the story.

Therefore, if the story is true, it matters to you because it was written to you, for your benefit. Isaiah accurately predicts the virgin birth and the crucifixion of Christ, some 700 years before it happened. The book is a microcosm of the Bible.

Description

Isaiah gives a remarkably accurate account of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, in Chapter 53, giving a physical description, writing:

“ He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Isaiah goes on to write of the crucifixion, predicting that the nation would turn on the Jesus:

“ He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

He predicts the trial and execution of Jesus. God’s grace is also brought out by the sacrifice of one man for the world:

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”

The beauty of God’s grace is illustrated through His understanding of human nature. Isaiah writes:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Isaiah tells of the willingness of Jesus to die on the cross, 700 years before it happened. God’s judgment of man is carried out on His own son. Isaiah writes:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

God’s wrath and God’s grace, the evil acts of men against good people are repeated in this book. But the prophet writes, in Chapter 61, the words that Jesus will repeat when making his formal announcement of his ministry:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn…”

The prophet tells of the coming Kingdom of God, when Israel will be restored to its full glory, after God’s vengeance is satisfied and He has redeemed His people.

What you may not know

Isaiah refers to himself as “the prophet” and the book might have been written between 740-686 BC. He uses both prose and poetry, which help to punctuate the message and bring home important points about the birth of Jesus and that He continues to be with us.