“I Shall Bear the Blame.”

When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” 16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’

“When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’

“Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” – Genesis 44:14-34 ESV

The brothers of Joseph have been accused of stealing – again – and the evidence is not in their favor. They were caught with the money intended to pay for their grain still in their sacks. Not only that, the diviner’s cup that belonged to the governor was discovered in Benjamin’s sack. Of course, they had been set up by Joseph, but they were not yet aware of that fact. All they knew was that they were in deep trouble. They were non-resident aliens accused of stealing from the second-most powerful man in Egypt. And when they were brought before this man, it was Judah who did the talking. He felt a special responsibility because he had been the one to convince Jacob to allow them to return to Egypt with Benjamin, just as the governor had commanded.

Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.” – Genesis 43:8-9 ESV

Now everything had gone south. The worst that could happen had happened. They were standing before the governor accused of being thieves and the case against them was strong. Once again, the brothers found themselves bowing down before Joseph, just as his dreams had foreshadowed. When confronted by Joseph about their crime, Judah speaks up, but does not waste time trying to deny the facts of the case. He admits that they are guilty and all worthy of judgment. They deserve to be enslaved. Even though it was Benjamin in whose sack the governor’s goblet was found, Judah includes all the brothers in the guilt. They all agree to accept the blame and the punishment. But the governor has other plans.

“Far be it from me to do this! The man in whose hand the cup was found will become my slave, but the rest of you may go back to your father in peace.” – Genesis 44:17 NLT

As part of his test for his brothers, Joseph informs them that it is only Benjamin, their youngest brother who will remain behind as a slave. They are free to go and return to their father, Jacob. Again, this is a Joseph’s way of assessing the integrity of his brothers. Would they take advantage of the opportunity and hightail it out of town, leaving their brother a slave in Egypt? Or would they do the right thing and do whatever it took to protect their father’s favorite son? Judah provides the answer. He steps forward and takes the responsibility to appeal to the governor, keeping the commitment he had made to his father. He is going to do whatever he had to do to make sure Benjamin was returned to his father, even if it meant that he would take Benjamin’s place, remaining in Egypt as a slave. This selfless, sacrificial act should have a familiar ring to it. Judah was offering himself as a sin-substitute, willingly expressing his desire to suffer for the sins of another, so that they might set free from guilt and condemnation. Judah pleads with the governor:

“Indeed, your servant pledged security for the boy with my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame before my father all my life.’

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.” – Genesis 44:32-33 NLT

Judah was willing to become a slave for another. He was giving his life as a ransom, a payment for someone else. Sound familiar? It should. It would be Jesus, a descendant of Judah, who would say: “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45 NLT). Unknowingly, Judah was exhibiting the character of Christ, by leading through serving and loving through sacrifice. It would be a long time before the apostle John penned the following words, but they are exemplified in the life and actions of Judah:

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:10-11 NLT

Judah was loving his father and his brother the best way he knew how, by offering his life as a sacrifice. This action did not go unnoticed by Jacob or by God. Years later, on his deathbed, Jacob would bless Judah, making the following prediction: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10 ESV).  It would be through the tribe of Judah that the Messiah would come. King David would come from the line of Judah, as would Solomon. Israel’s greatest days would be under the reigns of these two kings. And it will be under the Messiah’s kingship that the people of Israel will rule and reign once again. Centuries later, the angel, Gabriel, would tell Mary:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1 30-33 ESV

Judah’s willingness to give his life as a ransom for his brother was a sign of something far greater to come. The Son of God coming to earth to give His life as a ransom for many – the sinless for the sinful. Unlike Jesus, Judah was a sinner and deserving of judgment. But his willingness to love his brother unconditionally and give his life sacrificially, is a picture of the love of Christ for mankind. As Jesus Himself would one day say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

 

 

He Died. We Live.

For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.– Hebrews 9:16-28 ESV

All throughout this section of his letter, the author has been attempting to establish the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. His death ushered in a new and better covenant. The shedding of His blood was necessary for that new covenant to replace the old one. The author reminds his readers that the original covenant God made with Israel was also inaugurated with blood. Moses sacrificed unblemished animals and sprinkled their blood on the book of the law, the people, as well as the tabernacle and its contents. For, as the author writes, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness os sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). In the same way, the new covenant went into effect when Jesus sacrificed His life and allowed His blood to be poured out as a spiritual offering to God on behalf of sinful mankind. As Jesus told His disciples at the last supper, “this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many” (Matthew 26:29 NLT).

The sacrifice of Jesus was better and more effective. He “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26 ESV). And His sacrifice was not offered in some tabernacle made with human hands, but it was accepted by God Himself in heaven. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24 ESV). Jesus did something no other sacrifice had been able to do. He died and was brought back to life by the power of God’s Spirit, which signified that His sacrifice had been acceptable by God. Jesus did not cease to exist after death, but His earthly body died. It remained in the grave for three days until God, through the power of His Spirit, raised it back to life. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, they fully recognized Him because He was, in a sense, His old self. His body even carried the holes left by the nails in His hands and feet and the wound from the spear in His side. As the author makes clear, Jesus was not going to have to die again. His sacrifice was fully sufficient. “…he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began” (Hebrews 9:25-26 NLT).

Paul would have us remember the incredible nature of the power that raised Jesus back to life, because we have that same power available to us in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That power not only brought the body of Jesus back to life, but raised Him back to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. – Ephesians 1:19-21 NLT

And just as Jesus came the first time in order to die for the sins of mankind, He is coming a second time to complete what He began. We all still face the reality of death. It is inevitable and inescapable. But the author of Hebrews gives us the good news regarding the death of those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT). Jesus is coming again. And to all those who have placed their faith in His substitutionary sacrifice, He will provide victory over death. They will receive new, resurrected and redeemed bodies, free from pain, suffering and sin. Those under the old covenant who depended on the blood of animals to cleanse them from their sins, received a temporary atonement. They lived to sin again. They enjoyed forgiveness for the moment, but would eventually be required to offer another sacrifice. And they had the constant presence of their guilt before them and the fear of death facing them. But because of Jesus’ death, those of us who call Him Savior no longer live with the condemnation of sin or the fear of death. We are forgiven. We have a promise inheritance. Our future is secure. Because we have placed our hope in a better sacrifice.

Blood Bought.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. – Hebrews 9:11-15 ESV

To understand this passage, it is essential to understand God’s view on blood. For those of us living in the 21st-century, the very idea of a blood sacrifice is appalling and distasteful. It sounds barbaric and cruel. But you have to go all the way back to the book of Leviticus to get God’s view on blood and its role in the sacrificial system He established for Israel. “And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people,  for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible” (Leviticus 17:10-11 NLT). The blood was a symbol of life. Without blood, life would be impossible. So when innocent animals were sacrificed on the altar of the tabernacle, they were acting as substitutes for the people of Israel. Their blood was spilled so that the guilt of the sinful Israelites could be atoned for. The Israelites, like all people, sinned regularly, and their sin, according to God’s law, deserved death. So God allowed an unblemished animal to serve as a substitute. But the atonement the Israelites received was temporary and incomplete. It could not fully cleanse them from sin. The life on an animal could never fully replace the life of a human.

So the sacrificial system and the tabernacle were both symbols of something greater to come. And the high priest, who acted as a mediator on behalf of the people, was also a type or imperfect representation of someone else to come – namely Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus came to die. Yes, He was born of a virgin, grew up to be a man, performed miracles, taught His disciples, raised the dead, walked on water, and spoke often about His Kingdom. But His mission was to die – to shed His blood, to offer Himself as a substitute for the sins of mankind. The author makes this perfectly clear. “With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12 NLT). The sacrifice Jesus offered was not made in the earthly temple and was not done using the blood of bulls or goats. He shed His own blood. It was just as He had told His disciples the night they shared their final Passover meal together. “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20 NLT). The blood of Jesus had to be poured out on behalf of all men in order for complete atonement to be made. Jesus was sent by His Father to be the atoning sacrifice, just as John the Baptist had prophesied. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). The prophet, Isaiah, recorded these powerful words centuries before Jesus appeared on the scene.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. – Isaiah 53:7-10 NLT

Jesus came to earth in order to take on human flesh and do something no other man had ever done: Live in complete obedience to God. Paul tells us, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT). His perfect obedience made Him the perfect sacrifice. He was the “spotless lamb”. So His blood was an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of man. His atonement was permanent, not temporary. His death was able to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14 ESV). No longer do men have to carry around a sense of guilt and apprehension because they worry whether they have done enough to please God. They don’t have to wonder if their sacrifice was acceptable. They don’t have to live with a sense of impending doom because they of their inability to stop sinning. The sacrifice of Jesus covered the sins of men completely and permanently. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV).

Because of what Jesus has done, we can serve the living God, both in this life and in the life to come. We have forgiveness of sins. We have been made right with God. We have the assurance of our salvation and the promise of eternal life. Not based on anything we have done or will do, but based solely on the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Once, For All.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. – Hebrews 7:23-28 ESV

The sacrificial systems of the Jews (and the priests who administered it) was designed to be temporary or impermanent, not only in its duration, but in its efficaciousness. As the author clarifies in chapter ten, “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Why? “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NLT). He goes on to say that God never really wanted and was never pleased or satisfied by the sacrifices that consisted of the blood of bulls and goats – even though they were required by the law of Moses (Hebrews 10:12). They were intended to be a foreshadowing of something far greater to come. The blood offerings were meant to demonstrate the costliness of sin. Which is why the author says, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV).

Even the priests who ministered under the old covenant, the covenant of law, were impermanent, hampered by the reality of their own mortality. And as long as they lived, they had to continually offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could come into God’s presence on behalf of the people. Their own susceptibility to sin and vulnerability to death made them less-than-perfect representatives for the people. They couldn’t stop sinning and they couldn’t keep from dying. And eventually, with the destruction of the Jerusalem and the captivity of the people in Babylon, the temple would become non-existent and the priesthood, non-essential.

So back to chapter seven. Jesus is a better high priest. And while there were many priests under the old covenant, there was only one necessary under the new. Jesus was enough. He was sufficient. And the sacrifice He made was a one-time sacrifice, never needing to be repeated. His offering, the spilling of His own blood, completely appeased or propitiated the requirements of a holy God. “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27 ESV). His sacrifice was efficacious or effective. It accomplished exactly what was intended, paying the penalty for man’s sin and securing a verdict of “not guilty” from the lips of the Judge of the universe.

Jesus did not need to offer a sacrifice on His own behalf, because He was without sin. And the sacrifice He made was His own life. He was both the priest and the offering. He gave His life so that we might live and never die. Peter tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 NLT). The bulls, goats and lambs that were sacrificed on behalf of the people of Israel died permanent deaths. But Jesus died only to be raised again to life by the power of the Spirit of God. Paul would remind us, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22 NLT). Now that’s a better high priest. He has done what no other priest before Him had ever done. He has reconciled sinful men to a righteous, holy God. He made fellowship with a sinless God possible for sinful people. No more trying to earn our way into God’s good graces. No more striving to keep the law in an attempt to keep God satisfied. “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him.” (Hebrews 7:25 NLT). But there’s the rub. We have to come to God through Him. It has to be based on His efforts, not our own. Salvation is the result of the work of Christ, not our human effort. As Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). Jesus is our high priest. He has offered Himself as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. He has paid the debt we owed. And as John so clearly reminds us, “We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true God. We are in union with the one who is true, his Son Jesus the Messiah, who is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ISV). We need no other priest. God requires no other sacrifice. There is no debt still owed. Jesus has taken care of our sin problem, once for all.



Galatians 3:15-22

The Promise & The Law.

Galatians 3:15-22

Why then was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. – Galatians 3:19 NLT

From the very beginning, God had intended for man to be made right with Him through single individual who would somehow satisfy His just and holy demands. God had made a promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. He had promised Abraham that his “seed” – singular – referring to a single individual, would be the source of this blessing. From the family tree of Abraham would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would bless the nations with His provision of salvation through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross. Paul makes it clear that this promise of the coming Messiah was given 430 years before the law was given at Mount Sinai. And the law did not replace the promise. “The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise” (Galatians 3:17 NLT). In other words, God would be changing the rules in mid-stream. Rather than God making a promise or covenant that was unilateral and unconditional, He would be placing impossible conditions on our ultimate salvation. But the covenant God made with Abraham did not include conditions. It was not dependent on Abraham’s actions or behavior. It was purely based on the faithfulness of God. So then why did God bother to give Moses and the people of Israel the law? Paul has made it clear that the law was never intended to save mankind, so what was its purpose? Again, Paul tells us, “It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins” (Galatians 3:19 NLT). He clarifies this thought in his letter to the Romans. “…it as the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, ‘You must not covet.’ But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of coveting desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power” (Romans 7:7-8 NLT). The law was given to make it clear what God’s holy and righteous requirements were. The law put in writing what God’s expectations of man were. And by revealing His expectations, it also revealed man’s limitations. It showed man just how impossible it was to live up to God’s standard. When men tried to obey the law, it actually resulted in more sin, rather than less. Knowledge of God’s demands revealed an inherent desire to break those demands. Our own sin natures rebelled against God’s law.

Basically, the law was intended to show us our desperate need for a Savior. Trying to obey the law showed men that they were incapable of saving themselves. The couldn’t live up to God’s standard, so God provided another way. He sent His own Son to live as a man and do what no other man had ever done: keep the law to perfection. Jesus became the fulfillment of the law. He was completely obedient to the law, resulting in a sinless, spotless life. He kept the law. He met the standard. He fulfilled the requirement. And therefore, satisfied the just and righteous demands of God. So Paul asks, “Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:21-22 NLT). For Paul, it always goes back to this one thought, this one truth. Man can’t save himself. Man can’t live the kind of life God requires on his own. He needs a Savior. The law shows us our desperate need for a Savior. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:23-25 NLT). God gave the promise before He gave the law. And God will fulfill the promise because His son fulfilled the law. We have nothing to add except our faith.

Father, I have no problem admitting or acknowledging my sinfulness. It is painfully clear to me. You have shown me my sin, but You have also revealed to me the solution. And it has nothing to do with my effort to stop sinning. It is solely based on the sacrificial death of Your Son in my place. You promised to bless all mankind and You have. You have provided a way to be made right with You and it has nothing to do with my ability to earn or deserve Your favor. It is all because of what Jesus Christ has done on my behalf. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 12 – Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-34

And So It Begins.

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-34

“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29 NLT

More than likely, John the Baptist did most of his preaching and baptizing along the Jordan River in the region known as Peraea, just east of Jerusalem. It is a wilderness area, but close enough the capital city that crowds could make their way there to see this unusual phenomenon, this prophet named John. It is in this semi-remote region that God chooses to launch the earthy ministry of His Son, the Messiah. After nearly 30 years of relative obscurity living in the city of Nazareth and within the environs of Galilee, Jesus makes His way to the River Jordan where John is baptizing all those who have repented of their sins. That day, in the crowd, John sees Jesus, his own cousin, and immediately exclaims, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus asks John to baptize Him, but John tries to talk him out of it. He tells Jesus, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14 NLT). He knew that Jesus’ baptism was different than his own. He had been telling the people, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11 NLT). But Jesus insists, because He knows this is all part of God’s divine plan for Him. He tells John, “It should be done, or we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15 NLT).

What a fascinating scene. Here is John, this wild-looking prophet of God, dresses in camel’s hair, surrounded by a crowd of anxious onlookers, having an intimate and animated discussion with Jesus. To the crowd, He was just another man. Despite John’s pronouncement that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, they did not comprehend who Jesus was. This appears to be an exchange between the two cousins. Two men who had been set apart by God prior to their own births as part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Somewhere in the wilderness on the banks of the Jordan River, God inaugurates His Son’s public ministry. And He does it by having Jesus identify with the people by following in the same act of baptism John had been calling them to. While Jesus had no sin to confess or repent of, as God’s representative for mankind, Jesus acknowledged the sins of mankind by submitting Himself to John’s baptism. He was modeling for the people obedience to God’s will and encouraging them to return to God in repentance and submission. Jesus was the ultimate substitute for mankind. His life would be lived on their behalf. His death would serve to replace their own need to die as payment for their sins. His baptism was a public declaration and confession of mankind’s sinfulness and need for repentance.

And Matthew, Mark and Luke each tell us that as soon as Jesus came up out of the water of the Jordan, something remarkable happened. “As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.'” (Mark 1:10-11 NLT). It is amazing to think that the very Son of God received the Spirit of God as a part of the launch of His earthly ministry. Jesus, the God-man, was filled with the Holy Spirit and would be directed by the Spirit throughout His earthly ministry. And as the water continued to drip off of the face and clothes of Jesus, God the Father acknowledges His love for Him. God broadcasts His love for Jesus for all to hear, but it was mainly for the ears of Jesus. And it is interesting that this expression of love proceeded what was going to be one of the most difficult periods of Jesus’ life, His own temptation in the wilderness. God loved His Son, but was still going to require that He undergo a very difficult trial at the hands of the enemy. How often do we doubt God’s love in difficult times? How easy it is to feel unloved by God when things don’t go quite the way we would like them to. But God let it be clear up front, that His Son was beloved and loved. Everything that was about to happen during the next three-and-a-half years was within God’s loving plan for His Son. And so it begins.

Father, what a way to start a ministry. Your Son, identifying Himself with the common, sin-suffering man. But that was His role. He was the God-man. He had been born like a man, raised like a man, worked like a man, and would spend His next three years living like a man in the midst of all the sin and suffering this world had to offer. He was going to live the life that You required and that no other man could live – sinless, perfectly obedient, and in complete submission to Your will. All so that His ultimate death would be totally sufficient to satisfy Your demand for justice. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org