Archives For Jesus

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus felt the full force of all temptations. The ones that we feel and cave upon he felt to the highest level–and prevailed victoriously.

You might be saying, “It was different for Jesus–he is the Son of God! How can he really understand me?”

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Does Jesus lack compassion? The question sounds ridiculous and at best has a whiff of being irrational and at worst dishonoring. But it is a helpful question to ask and answer in light of his words in Matthew 15.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what this saying?” He answered, "Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Mt. 15:12–14)

On its face this instruction to “let them alone” seems a bit heartless. After all, they are heading towards a pit. What’s worse, they are leading others there as well. Does this advocate an anti-evangelism? Should we just leave people alone? And above all, was (is) Jesus lacking compassion?

No. And, no. Let me explain.

1. Jesus is the Incarnation of Compassion

His entire mission leaves in its wake the foamy waters of compassion. B.B. Warfield observed that the most common description of Jesus is that of compassion. Whether we are talking about healing the lame, raising the dead, or simply preaching the truth of the kingdom, he exemplified and was characterized by compassion. Remember, he came to save sinners (Lk. 19:10). This is compassion on steroids.

2. There is a Greater Context Here

The setting in Matthew’s narrative comes after some very dramatic and important scenes. In chapter 12, verses 22–32 the Pharisees (those referenced here) witness the miracles and heard the preaching of Jesus and they made a stunning conclusion. He is Satan or he works for Satan. They attributed the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to be the demonic working of the Devil. This led to a very stern exchange with Jesus in which he pronounced judgment upon them (v.32). They have had the privilege of the curtain being pulled back and the Holy Spirit working right before their very eyes only to attribute the work to Satan. This conclusion brought judgment from Jesus. He then began teaching them in parables (Mt. 13, especially Mt. 13:10–14). Jesus is compassionate, he is also a judge. One does not eclipse the other.

3. There is an Immediate Context Here

You might say, “That is still pretty harsh. They didn’t get it and he blows them up.” Well, let’s remember the immediate context: Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (Mt. 15:1–9). This admittedly blistering exhortation is directed at the Pharisees. He is talking to them clearly and biblically. He is isolating their heart idolatry and laying it bear in the light of the Scriptures. While being firm it is still a very compassionate thing to do.

So, does Jesus lack compassion here? I do not think so. If anything we are to marvel at his persistent compassion in the face of such bald rebellion. While being the Priest who is compassionate, he is still the Prophet who declares and the King who demands obedience.

As i like to do about this time of year, I am reading through the classic The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. In addition to having the best nickname in church history, “The Sweet Dropper” this book is great. Sibbes throws strikes while encouraging, confronting, conforming and comforting us with Christ.

Here is a sample from what I read this morning: How Should we Think of Christ?

When we think of Joseph, Daniel, John the Evangelist, we frame conceptions of them with delight, as of mild and sweet persons. Much more when we think of Christ, we should conceive of him as a mirror of all meekness. If the sweetness of all flowers were in one, how sweet must that flower be? In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet. How great then must that mercy be that lodges in so gracious a heart?

Whatever tenderness is scattered in husband, father, brother, head, all is but a beam from him; it is in him in the most eminent manner. We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us. A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak?

None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fullness, as he is ours. He was love itself clothed with man’s nature, which he united so near to himself, that he might communicate his goodness the more freely to us. And he took not our nature when it was at its best, but when it was abased, with all the natural and common infirmities it was subject to.

Let us therefore abhor all suspicious thoughts, as either cast in or cherished by that damned spirit who, as he labored to divide between the Father and the Son by jealousies, by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God’ (Matt. 4:6), so his daily study is to divide between the Son and us by breeding false opinions in us of Christ, as if there were not such tender love in him to such as we are. It was Satan’s art from the beginning to discredit God with man, by calling God’s love into question with our first father Adam. His success then makes him ready at that weapon still. (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed< /a>), pp. 62-63

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2.7)

This is a familiar passage to be read and considered during the Advent season. It is embedded with so much rich theological beauty and truth for the Christian.

Here we have the Son of God become the son of a virgin. The one who swaddled the stars with darkness (Job 38.9) is now swaddled in cloth as a baby. This is such mind bending, heart melting truth! Christ, the Lord God, becomes a man, and dwells among us (John 1.14).

Furthermore, it is this same Jesus who was swaddled in the garments of humility who will soon swaddle his own children in the merit of his righteousness. This Jesus will, by his perfect obedience, earn the everlasting righteousness that will be credited to a sinner like me.

I cannot stare at the scene of the manger without seeing the looming shadow of Calvary descending upon it. This Jesus was born to die (Matt. 1.21). I see the baby here, swaddled in rags. But in due time he will be swaddled in the rags of my demerit, my sin (Is. 64.6; 1 Pet. 2.24; 2 Cor. 5.21). This he did that I might be clothed in his righteousness (Rom. 4.4-5; 5.1; 2 Cor. 5.21).

This is one reason I love the Christmas season. It forces me to be reminded again of the depth of Christ’s condescension for a rebel like me. The depth is infinite because my sin is infinite. And his righteousness is infinite because his value is infinite. Therefore, praise is befitting for those who have received such grace (Ps. 147.1)

From a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon, entitled, He Shall Be Great:

Brothers and Sisters, I admit that there are many points in which He is greater to you than He is to me! But yet, to me He is higher than Heaven, vaster than eternity, more delightful than Paradise, more blessed than blessedness itself!

If I could speak of Him according to my soul’s desire, I would speak in great capital letters and not in the small italics which I am compelled to use. If I could speak as I would, I would make winds and waves my orators and cause the whole universe to become one open mouth with which to proclaim the praises of Emmanuel! If all eternity would speak as though it, too, were but one tongue, yet it could not tell all the charms of His love and the sureness of His faithfulness and His truth! We must leave off somewhere, but, truly, if it is the point of our estimation of Him, we can never express our overwhelming sense of His honor, His excellence, His sweetness!

Oh, that He were praised by every creature that has breath! Oh, that every minute placed another gem in His crown! Oh, that every soul that breathes did continue to breathe out nothing but hosannas and hallelujahs unto Him, for He deserves all possible praises!

Do you hear the crash of the multitudinous music of Heaven? It is like many waters and like the mighty waves of the sea—and it is all for Him! Can you hear the charming notes of “harpers harping with their harps”? Their harpings are all for Him! Can you conceive the unutterable joys of the glorified? Every felicity of eternity is a song to His honor! Heaven and earth shall yet be full of the brightness of His Glory! Who can look the sun in the face in the height of his noontide? Who can tell the illimitable greatnesses of the Son of God?

ship

Like many, I wake up and think about what I need to get accomplished today and how I am going to do it.  My mind begins to infiltrate the various areas and sub areas of responsibility.  However, I am aware, even at this early hour of contemplation, that I am not going to get it all done.  And furthermore, that what I do get finished will not be without flaw.

In what can only be described as the grace of God, my mind was quickly drawn to Hebrews 7:

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. (Heb 7.25)

The beloved Savior and High Priest does not, like the other priests, die.  Furthermore, he does not need to atone for his own sins (7.23ff).  As a result we have a perfect and eternal high priest who offered a perfect and eternally acceptable sacrifice to the Father.

I need to remember that even on my ‘best’ days I need to have my beloved high priest fervently, faithfully, zealously, and successfully pleading the merits of his righteous life and sacrificial death in my stead.  There is not a second that I live here on earth when I am not dependent upon this glorious work.

And furthermore, there is not a second throughout all eternity that his saints will not depend upon his gloriously flawless work!  This Jesus will not only be the song of my praise throughout eternity but also be the substance of why I can enjoy the presence of God throughout all eternity!

It is the flawless work of Christ that we now and forevermore will depend upon.  All of his ransomed saints will forever cling to his high priestly garments like barnacles upon a great ship.  Indeed the captain of our salvation will successfully navigate us to the celestial port.

In this his flawless person and duty are seen to be so attractive and refreshing to the sin plagued conscience.

“I am not saying my theology is 100% right, I’m just saying I don’t know where I am wrong!”

I have heard this statement repeated many times. Each time the implication is: if we knew where we were wrong then we would change.

While we cannot prevent the fact that we are and will be wrong on occasion, we can work to prevent the wrong responses. I believe there are some basic guidelines for being open to theological examination.

Read the rest of this article at my new monthly column on Christianity.com