Who is He?

In Mark 3, part of today’s reading from the One Year Bible Plan, several ideas are given as to the character of Jesus.  All agree that he is no ordinary man.  The disagreement is about what exactly makes him so unusual.

Crowds Follow Jesus (Mark 3:7-12)
Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.
          Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him.  He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

Jesus and the Prince of Demons (Mark 3:20-22)
One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.
          But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

The teachers of religious law believe he’s possessed by Satan. His own family concludes that he’s gone mad.  The evil spirits that he casts out shriek, “You are the Son of God!” 

C. S. Lewis fans will see in this the Lord, Liar, Lunatic options that the author once suggested.  Lewis’s point was that no one can consider Jesus a great man or a wise teacher and actually take him seriously.  He’s either something much more or something much less.

The identity that Jesus claims for himself is found in Mark 3:12, where it says,  “But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.”

Wisdom

The Book of Proverbs continuously reminds us of the value of wisdom.  For example:

My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:1-5 (NLT)

One awful tendency I’ve noticed in myself, however, is that when I pray for wisdom, I often begin to doubt whether the Lord is really hearing that prayer.  James offers a straightforward cure for this malady: “Stop doubting.”

If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do. – James 1:5-8 (NLT)

The application of wisdom requires confidence – confidence that we really know what we’re supposed to do, confidence that gives us a settled state of mind, confidence that leads to action when action is needed.  This is not self-confidence, but the certainty that God loves us, lovingly leads us, and graciously gives us the wisdom that we need.

The Best Kind of Righteousness

“But I warn you – unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”– Matthew 5:20 (NLT)

The teachers of the law and Pharisees made it their goal to be as righteous as humanly possible.  But the key word in that sentence is humanly.  Jesus demands that our righteous be better than theirs if we expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is not humanly possible.  Happily, the Scriptures clear up this conundrum for us.  Paul explains it using the case of Abraham to illustrate:

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What were his experiences concerning this question of being saved by faith? Was it because of his good deeds that God accepted him? If so, he would have had something to boast about. But from God’s point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.” – Romans 4:1-3 (NLT) 

He then takes that wonderful truth and applies it to us.  The best kind of righteousness is ours when we put our faith in Jesus. 

Now this wonderful truth-that God declared him to be righteous-wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. – Romans 4:23-25 (NLT)