No one can appropriate good news unless that news gets to them. In the information age, it is easier than ever to share information. However, on the other hand, it is more difficult than ever to get information in front of people. We have too many people, organizations, and mediums fighting for attention.
Paul of Tarsus became one of the biggest antagonists of the resurrection message. He persecuted those who believed Christ had risen from the dead, hunting them down and throwing them into prison. But after Paul came to believe it himself, he held on to the resurrection message with his dear life. He even gave his life to tell others about it.
Knowing the time of his betrayal and death drew near, what did Jesus do? He sat down to have one last meal with his disciples, a Passover meal.
The symbols Jesus used at that meal were common to Passover. This Passover bread was called the Bread of Affliction. Unleavened bread represented the affliction Israel endured as slaves in Egypt and their haste in leaving. Jesus gives this bread a new level of meaning. He would soon be severely afflicted by the breaking of his body to deliver his people from the greater slavery of sin (Matthew 26:26; Romans 8:2).
It is good to hear what other faithful followers of Jesus say about him. But, unless you take the first steps to encounter Jesus yourself, you cannot truly know him.
Jesus saw the disciples of John the Baptist following him and asked them, “What are you seeking?” He asks, in a way, an existential question. What are you seeking? Success? Money? Love? Community? Creative outlet?
Implicitly or explicitly, we are all pursuing something in life. Call it a life mission, overarching goal, reason for living, or what have you, we all have one. In one sentence John the Baptist made his life mission known.
Can you experience rest without obtaining it? It turns out you can, if you know your ultimate rest has already been secured. Even when life becomes hard, you can rest in the awareness that things at the very end will turn out well.
What a wonderful day it must have been when Israel settled Canaan. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.” (Joshua 21:43) Yet Canaan was only a foretaste of a greater land. There remains a more blissful land for the people of God. We call this land heaven, or, to use the Apostle John’s terminology in the Book of Revelation, the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).
Many Christians do not think about their celestial homeland as much as they ought. Some Christians even talk about heaven as if it is some boring place, where a bunch of chubby babies sit on clouds playing little harps or where a bad worship service goes on ad nauseum. The Bible presents a dramatically different portrayal of heaven. While our present minds cannot fully comprehend the glories of heaven, the Bible gives us ample fuel to imagine it.
Deep down in the recesses of the human psyche we long for a better home. The broken relationships, the societal strife, our own emotional turmoil, and our estrangement from our Creator well up in our hearts a longing for home.
The Bible often captures this longing for home with the word “land”. In Joshua 10:43, it says, “Thus the LORD gave Israel all the land he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it and settled there.”
Notice the dynamic. Though Israel had to take possession of the land and settle it, ultimately the LORD gave Israel this land.
Israel could not have taken that land on her own. The former occupants of that land possessed greater strength and might than Israel. Neither could Israel say she was morally superior to those who formerly occupied it (see Deuteronomy 9:4). Israel received her long-awaited home purely as an act of God’s grace.
We do not come home, spiritually speaking, by trying to find our own way home. We may need to enter into our home through repentance and trusting in the gracious provision God has given us in his Son, Jesus Christ, but ultimately our homecoming comes as an act of God’s grace. We can no more make a home for ourselves than the prodigal son could make a habitable home for himself by taking his father’s inheritance and going off to a far-off country. When we go off trying to make a home for ourselves, we end up like he did: homeless.
The Lord says to Joshua in Joshua 10:8, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” It was the Lord’s way of saying, “Yes, this is of me. March on, and do not be afraid. Victory is mine.”
When we trust in the God who is always faithful, we know we are never left to fight on our own. The battles we face in life are great; sometimes there are even casualties. Yet, we need not fear, for God fights for us. Not even death can cut us off from the faithful promises of God. He has given us his Son to secure our victory once and for all.
I remember many years ago late one Sunday night watching Charles Stanley on TV. I cannot remember what text he was preaching on, but it was about letting the Lord fight your battles. The aged Charles Stanley, speaking from years of experience, said: “I have never needed to fight my battles on my own. I never needed to force things to happen. Every time, I let the Lord fight my battles, and every time victory came, though sometimes not how I expected.” When we trust in the faithfulness of God, it changes the way we live. It changes the ways we fight our battles. He will provide exactly what you need – maybe not what you think you need – but what you need at the right time.
We respond to the things we hear. News of spy balloons covertly flying over the US will create a different response than the news that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. One will require the US Military to deploy weaponized jets, the other will lead to either celebration or consternation in your household depending on what team you were rooting for.
In the Book of Joshua, the Hebrew verbs translated “hear” has special significance. In Joshua 9:3, “the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai…” In Joshua 10:1, “Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai […] as he had done to Jericho and its king […].”
Both the Gibeonites and Adoni-zedek heard similar things, but each responded differently. The Gibeonites beg for mercy and ask Israel to make peace with them (Joshua 9:3). Adoni-zedek makes an alliance with other kings and rises up against Israel (Joshua 10:1). The Gibeonites were shown abundant mercy, but the military alliance of Adoni-zedek was destroyed.
We see something similar happening in the gospel accounts of Jesus. When people hear of Jesus healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sin, stilling storms, and more, they either come to him looking for favor or they rise up in opposition against him (see Mark 2 for some examples).