Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who Is Jesus

A Quick Look: Matthew 16: 16 – 17, 24 – 26

Really Read It: Matthew 16

Memorize: Matthew 16: 25

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. NLT

Who Is Jesus?

The question “Who is Jesus?” is answered again and again throughout the entire Bible. Every new answer shows more about him, and even if you think you have seen something about Jesus before, you can learn the exact same thing again and it will get bigger and better and mean more in your life. You can never stop finding the answer to “Who is Jesus?” This is not the whole answer, but Matthew 16 has four little stories and each one answers this question.

Jesus is Life From the Dead. Matthew 16: 1 – 4

The Pharisees and Sadducees demanded that Jesus show them a sign. There are some lessons in the bad example of these guys, but today is “Who Is Jesus?” day so I will focus on Christ’s words. He said, “the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” This tells us that Jesus IS life from the dead. Jonah was a dead man in many ways. He was dead because he was running away from God. He was pushing away the only giver of life. He was running from life; that was death. Jonah’s next death was water. The Bible doesn’t tell us how well Jonah did in swimming lessons as a kid, but Jonah’s swimming doesn’t really matter. If he couldn’t swim, he went go under in 1½ seconds. If he could swim, he went under in 1½ hours. But either way, all that water meant death for Jonah. Then came the fish. Bible scholars refuse to guess about the species of this large water creature, but we can be sure it had several death providers available to Jonah: teeth, tongue, throat, suffocation, stomach acid.

Jonah was as good as dead inside that fish for three days. Then God brought life from the dead. For Jonah the most important part of his new chance at life was that he ran toward God instead of away; that’s life. But God also gave him life through vomit. The sickness of that poor fish got Jonah out of the fish and out of the water.

Jesus was telling the stupid religious people that He would be dead for three days and then live again. Jesus was telling them that He was, He is life. They didn’t get it. Do you?

Jesus is the Great Giver. Matthew 16: 5 – 12

The next answer Matthew gave to the question, “Who is Jesus?” came as Jesus stopped a fight. His men were fighting just as foolishly as boys in the back of the minivan or men in the back of the church. Their fight was about food. One guy said, “You were supposed to bring the bread.” And the next guy said, “No I wasn’t. You were.” And ten more men joined in and on and on it went until Jesus stopped them all. He didn’t even tell them how foolish they were to fight like spoiled kids. He answered a more important question as He told of the times He had fed thousands.

Don’t be foolish like the guys with Jesus. Don’t fight when you don’t have what you need. Jesus has it all. Jesus gives it all. You must know how to call out to him.

Jesus is the Son of God. Matthew 16: 13 – 20

Matthew’s next answer for, “Who is Jesus?” comes from the mouth of Peter. Peter is well known for messing up. This time he got it right. Jesus asked the disciples what the people were saying about him, and he got a few answers. But Peter said, “You are the Son of God.”

Jesus is the King, the Maker of everything and everyone, the richest, the smartest, the most powerful of any person that ever walked the earth.

Jesus is our Sacrifice. Matthew 16: 21 – 28

Right after Peter’s best words, Matthew gave us some of his worst. I would have said that Peter wasn’t too smart to tell Jesus He didn’t have to die. Jesus wasn’t so gentle about it. Jesus called Peter the devil for trying to fight against God’s plan. Jesus said that he must die as the sacrifice. The best, the final sacrifice. The guys with Jesus knew about killing animals in the temple to worship God. They knew the many different reasons for it and the power of it.

The final answer to, “Who is Jesus?” was that He was and He is the one who died for us. He died to take away the gap between you and God. Jesus died so that a messed up person can come close to a perfect God.


Nathan is amazed to see God move in power every week at his church. You can see what is happening:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on these sites:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Right Fight

A Quick Look: Genesis 27: 33 – 35 and Genesis 32: 26

Really Read It: Genesis 27: 1 – 40 and Genesis 32: 22 – 32

Memorize: 1 Timothy 6: 12

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. Don’t fight. No tricks. No games. No anger.

I am not the first one to give you this list. You heard it from your mom, your dad, your schoolteacher, your Sunday school teacher, your aunt Virginia from Maryland, and your great-aunt Maryland from Virginia. Not to mention Barney, Big Bird, and a myriad of cartoons including squirrels, bears, vegetables, and cars.

But they were wrong. (Sorry, Aunt Virginia.)

They were partly wrong.

Jacob got to be God’s favorite person while he was a cheating, lying, fighting trickster. Part of that is because God is the boss, but there was something about Jacob that God loved, and we should copy it even if Barney doesn’t agree.

Jacob fought.

Many times Jacob fought the wrong way. But he fought for the right thing, and it always worked for him. When he fought the wrong way with tricks and lies, he had to live with the bad side effects. He tricked other people over and over: the stew for the birthright, the Esau costume for the blessing, the goat trick to his boss. His tricks seemed to get him what he wanted. He got stuff with his tricks, but he lost friends and upset family. He had to move across the country to get away from an angry relative. Twice.

The tricks Jacob played on other people were nothing compared to the tricks that came back at him. You get back what you give out could be a whole lesson by itself, and Jacob is a great example of this. Laban tricked Jacob into marrying the wrong girl. I don’t even want to go on vacation with someone I didn’t pick. Jacob got stuck married to Ms. Not-my-choice. To fix it, he just added extra wives. The wife Jacob did choose was a thief and an idol worshiper, but she didn’t tell Jacob about it. Her tricks caused trouble for the whole family. But the final trick was the worst. Nine of Jacob’s sons sold Joseph as a slave. They tricked their dad into believing that he had been torn to bits by a wild animal. Jacob believed the lie and cried over Joseph for over 20 years.

The bad results of Jacob’s tricks cannot be ignored, but don’t let them distract you from his strength. He fought for the blessing of God. He fought to find God. He grabbed on and he held on with all he had. He convinced God that he really wanted Him.

And that is what you must do.

If you fight for a goal on the soccer field but show no fight for God, you don’t really want Him. If you yell with all of your heart at the big show but show no heart for God, you don’t really want Him. A mumbled prayer and a sleepy song show God that you don’t want Him. And God doesn’t push His way in where he is not wanted.

Why does the wimpiest boy always get the Sunday school award? Is it because he is the kid who does the least amount of talking, lying, and fighting? Jacob never would have won that award but he won the favor of God.

God is looking for kids who fight for the right things. God will come close to the kid who fights for Him. The kid who fights to get close to God will see God come down. That kid will be close to God. That kid will get life from God even if Aunt Maryland puts him in time out.