Monday, December 15, 2014

Identity - Part 2

As we have already seen, the very first two chapters of the New Testament are clear about Jesus' true nature. He is God – no question about it! That's what the angel told Joseph, that's what Micah prophesied about the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, and that's why the Magi fell down and worshiped him. But there's so much more support for this. The incredible truth that God became a man is the central theme – not just of the New Testament, but of the entire Bible!

The Messenger

Before Jesus began His ministry here on earth, someone had to come first. We know that man as John the Baptist. “Baptist” of course is a description of what he did – baptizing the people into repentance. His job was to turn the people's heart to God's way of doing things...and he did this by preaching repentance.
Jesus had this to say about Jon in Matthew 11:10 “For this is he of whom it is written; 'Behold I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.'” Jesus tells us that John was a fulfillment of a prophecy made hundreds of years earlier – by a man named Malachi.
For further clarification, let's read Malachi's prophecy in Malachi 3:1 Behold, I send My messenger and he will prepare the way before Me. When Jesus quotes this in Matthew, He tells us that God sent a messenger to prepare “Your way before You” - meaning this applied to the Messiah. And yet, when we read the original prophecy, Yahweh is sending the messenger before Himself. So just who was John preparing the world for? The next sentence in Malachi 3:1 tells us...”And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple.” John came to prepare the way of Jesus – but then Malachi says that the one coming after the messenger is the One that the temple was built for! Just Who was this One to come?
Mark gives us a little more information on the messenger, John. Let's read Mark 1:2-3 - As it is written in the prophets: “Behold I send My messenger before your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” - “The voice of one crying in the wilderness; 'Prepare the way of Yahweh; make His paths straight.'” Now we see that there was more than one prophet that spoke of John. Mark's first quotation was what we just read from Malachi – but His second was from the prophet Isaiah. Like Malachi, Isaiah is clear that the messenger would be preparing the way for God Himself.
This is the complete passage from Isaiah 40:3-5 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Now we see that John came to prepare the way of God, and after his ministry ran its course, the glory of God Himself would be revealed to humanity. Let me ask you a question, what happened as John's ministry was winding down? Jesus began His ministry and the glory of God was revealed!
What am I saying here? That John was the messenger that was sent to prepare the way of God Himself. We learned already that Jesus was God Himself in the body of human. After John fulfilled his calling – Jesus began to reveal His glory – the glory of Yahweh – to “all flesh”.

To Clarify the Confusion

We see then that John knew who he was – the messenger of Yahweh. This also means he knew Who Jesus really was – after all, it was John who pointed Jesus out first!
Later on though, John began to have doubts. While he was in Herod's prison, it seems as if John began to feel sorry for Himself. He knew what his calling was, but now it appeared as if nothing he expected to see from Jesus was happening. So a downcast John sent two of his remaining disciples to ask Jesus point blank: “Are you the one we are expecting, or should we start our search all over again?”
In response to John's question, Jesus didn't spend any time explaining Himself or trying to reassure John's doubts. Instead, Jesus simply told the messengers to watch for a while. Later we read in Matthew 11:4-6 Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see; the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'” Jesus' reply to John was to focus his attention on the signs that He was working.
But there was more to Jesus' signs that merely observing the miraculous. Jesus was referring John to what the Jews called “the signs of the Messiah” in Isaiah 35:5-6. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing..” This list of miracles were known to be the signs of the Messiah's coming...and Jesus referred to it as a reminder of what John already knew.
But there is so much more to Isaiah's prophecy than this. Isaiah wasn't just telling us how we would recognize the Messiah, He told us the Messiah's true identity. Look at verse 4, the the previous verse, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, 'Be strong, do not fear! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.'” You see? Jesus – the one named “Yahweh saves” - is called God in this verse! This is what Jesus was reminding John of!

On Who's Authority?

In Jeremiah 23, God calls out a group of false prophets – those who were prophesying without being sent by God. Using no uncertain terms, He declares in verse 16 that these false prophets were making God's people worthless! What made these prophets false? The answer is in verse 21, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” These preachers were false prophets because God didn't send them. 
In fact, throughout the book of Jeremiah, God alone had the authority to send prophets. Just look at these passages:
Jeremiah 7:25
Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them.
Jeremiah 25:4
And Yahweh has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them...
Jeremiah 26:5 heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you...
Jeremiah 29:19
...because they have not heeded My words, says Yahweh, which I sent to them by My servants the prophet. 
In the Old Testament, if anyone took it upon themselves to prophesy in God's name – without being sent by God – they were considered a false prophet and executed for their lies. The point is simple, Yahweh alone had the authority to send a prophet!
And yet, look at what Jesus claimed for Himself in Matthew 23:34: “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes...” In light of what His listeners knew about prophets, they must have been wondering “Who does this Man think He is?” Because He is God, Jesus does have the authority to send out prophets – and apostles, and evangelists, and pastor/teachers. (As a side note – even in the New Covenant, no one should dare to assume a ministry gift for himself. It is still true that God alone has the authority to send out minsters on His behalf!)
God is the ultimate authority. When He says anything, that's the end of the discussion. His Word is true, and will remain true forever. In Isaiah 40:8 we read, “ The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” His Word is the only eternal and unchangeable word – no one else's word even comes close! And yet we read twice (once in Matthew 24:35 and again in Luke 21:33) that Jesus made this claim - “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
What gave Jesus – a man – the right to take on Himself the same authority that God alone possesses? The claim to have an unchanging word, the authority to send out prophets - no mere human teacher would be right to take this on Himself. Jesus knew Who He was! What's more, He made it clear to us...Jesus is God!

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