We’ve heard this

Psalm 37:1-17

Yesterday, I preached a message based on the first twelve verses of Matthew 5. They make up what we call the Beatitudes. There was something I wanted to remind the congregation that I forgot to mention.

It was the unoriginality of the beatitudes. We often hype the message of Jesus as something completely new. Indeed, the kingdom of God was manifesting itself in a new way in Jesus. But when we listen to him, we often hear him repeating what we, as God’s people, already know.

There are times he interprets what we’ve heard. There are other times he turns what we thought we knew on its head. Many Christians miss a lot of that. We aren’t as familiar with the Hebrew Bible as Jesus obviously was. 

So, it might surprise us to realize so much of what Jesus taught comes from scripture. The Beatitudes, for example, are not new. They were how Jesus began his sermon to remind people of God’s care and priorities.

Read through them and then consider some of these words we read in Psalm 37. Do not fret because of the wicked. Do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. The meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The Lord upholds the righteous.

Do you see it? Did you notice the parallels? That this is a sermon Jesus “went up on a mountainside” to give also deepens those connections. It ties him to Moses.

Now, none of that lessens what Jesus said. It reinforces what God has already said. It helps us look to notice how Jesus would fulfill what God already said. We get to discover how Jesus would do that.

At the onset of his ministry, Jesus went about “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). And one of his first priorities was to ensure the people. Ensure them that God was now doubling down on what had always been promised. So, we do not fret because we are blessed.

Stay blessed…john

Keep it all

Hebrews 10:1-4

I’m not sure there are many Old Testament Bibles for sell. But Christians give New Testament Bibles out all the time. You can find New Testament only Bibles almost anywhere.

Christians, of course, focus a lot on the New Testament. Some even call themselves New Testament Christians. What they desire, I assume, is to follow the way of Christ presented in the second half of the Bible.

On the surface, that makes sense.

The first four books are specific to the life and ministry of Jesus. It stands to reason that’d be a good place to start to learn about him. The rest of the second testament is a reflection on what it is to live as God’s people in light of the revelation of Jesus. So, one wouldn’t want to miss out on that either.

But in that idea is the assumption the Hebrew Bible doesn’t carry much weight. Or, at least as much weight. We don’t even notice the slight of calling it the Old Testament.

Out with the old, in with the new, right?

Some of the New Testament writing adds to this idea. And that’s the struggle.

When God gave the law, there was no sense it was temporary or limited. The longest chapter of the Bible is Psalm 119. It’s full of praise for God’s law. And it isn’t the only writing to offer such admiration. Plus, Jesus doesn’t put down the law. He said he came to fulfill it, not abolish or belittle it.

Hebrews 10 is one source New Testament Christians might use to suppress the Hebrew Bible. It sounds like the sermon is criticizing the law of God.

I’m not so sure it is.

Instead, it’s elevating the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 10 is the culmination of a larger point the writer has been making. Jesus offered the sufficient and permanent sacrifice for sin. Himself. Nothing else compares to his sacrifice.

But don’t throw out the Hebrew Bible. It’s not secondary. That’s not what Hebrews is saying. You won’t understand a lot of the book of Hebrews without the Old Testament. You’ll miss a lot of the New Testament without it! Do the hard work of learning the stories and reflecting on how they tell the story of God. And learn to see how the life and ministry of Jesus reflects what’s there.

Stay blessed…john

Who you want to be

Matthew 12:15-21

We’re used to hearing preachers admonish us to spread the good news. Tell the world about Jesus!

So, it feels strange to hear Jesus order people to not talk about what he had done for them. There are several gospel references to this. One is in Matthew 12. A group of Pharisees decided to conspire against Jesus. When he found out, he left the place where they were. But he did not stop doing what got him in trouble with them.

He healed all people that came to him. And, according to Matthew, “he ordered them not to make him known” (12:16). That not only sounds strange, it feels impossible. If I left home, let’s say, demon-possessed and came back in my right mind, people would notice. They’d wonder what happened.

Where did I go?

Who did I see?

How could Jesus expect anyone to keep such a thing from spreading?

Was is that Jesus worried about the religious leaders after him? I’m not so sure. Jesus seemed to know the cross was coming. There would be no easy way of fulfilling his mission. His clash with the religious authorities would end in violence.

Considering that assurance, one idea is that Jesus wanted to wait for the right time. If Jesus wanted to wait for the Passover to face the cross, he couldn’t let things get out of control now.

That makes sense, of course.

But Matthew tells us plainly why Jesus gave his strange order. It was to fulfill an image given by Isaiah. The prophet saw a humble and compassionate figure leading God’s people. And that is the model Jesus embraced. He didn’t want the notoriety, publicity or acclaim that came with being a healer. He wanted to offer rest for weary souls (Matthew 11:29).

Jesus read the Bible and it inspired the kind of shepherd he would be. Often, Christians speak of Bible study as information acquisition. We want to learn more about the Bible. That is, of course, a noble goal. But a better way for us to read the Bible is for transformation and inspiration. That still includes learning, but it also goes deeper.

Isaiah’s picture of God’s servant inspired Jesus to be all that we know him to be. So, if reading the Bible is less about information, an important question arises. As we learn more of the Bible, what kind of people are we choosing to become as a result?

Stay blessed…john