Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Face Of Jesus

Down through the ages, skilled artists have attempted to capture the face of Jesus either on canvass or in sculpture. Some have depicted Him in great agony; others with great compassion. Lately, “scientists” have attempted to depict the face of Jesus through forensic reconstruction of first century Semite skulls. Ever since 1898, when Secondo Pia made a negative image of the Shroud of Turin, many people have held it to show the face of the Saviour. But if we really want to see the true face of Jesus, we must go to the Bible. For example…

In Luke 9:51-53, we see the face of Jesus as the face of duty. The Bible tells us that Jesus stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). At that time, our Lord’s death was only a mere six months away in that very city. Furthermore, Jesus knew exactly what was going to befall Him there for He warned His disciples in order to prepare them (Matt. 16:21-23, 20:18, 26:2). The Lord, even with this knowledge, went willingly to the city and to the cross (John 10:18). He could have called twelve legions of angels to deliver Himself, but He did not (Matt. 26:53). Though Jesus despised the shame of the cross, He still endured it for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:1,2). How do we face our duty, however unpleasant it may be, as Christians?

In Matthew 17:2, we see in the face of Jesus the face of majesty. The Bible tells us that Jesus was transfigured and that the “fashion of His countenance [was] altered” and His “Face shown as the sun” (Luke 9:29; Matt. 17:2). At the same time, Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Jesus of His impending death (Luke 9:30,31). While Peter tried to honor all three, God spoke with resounding clarity that it was His Son alone Who was to be heard (Mark 9:7; Heb. 1:1,2). When Peter later recalled the incident, he said the apostles were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16-21).

Again, we see in the face of Jesus the face of humanity. In Matt. 26:36-(39)-40, the Bible tells us that as Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemene He fell on His face in solemn, ardent prayer. He prayed to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” We know of the divinity of Jesus (Matt. 1:23; Phil 2:5ff; Acts 20:28; etc.) but the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that He was also fully human. Paul describes Jesus as praying to God with “strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7,8). In these actions, Jesus shows us that He identifies with all our trials and temptations because He, Himself, was human (Heb. 2:14-17, 4:15). “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22).

We see in Jesus also the face of rejection. The Bible tells us His enemies “spit in His face” (Matt. 26:67). Jesus suffered every kind of indignity imaginable. They spit upon Him, smacked Him in the face, left Him unclothed, beat and mocked Him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him (Is. 53). He endured the cross, yes, but He despised the shame (Heb. 12:2). Jesus lived what He taught: “Blessed are ye when ye are persecuted” (Matt. 5:10-12). He suffered for us, leaving us an example (I Pet. 2:21-25).

In Jesus countenance we also see the face of pity. The Bible tells us that Jesus turned and looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61). Peter had earlier affirmed that he would die for the Lord only to be told by the Lord that, on the contrary, that very night he would deny Him thrice. Picture in your mind the “trial” of Jesus. Can you imagine that Jesus and Peter are far apart? There is much going on in the hall. It is full of people. Full of noise. It is unlikely that Jesus could audibly hear what Peter might be saying to any man or maid. But when the cock crew, Jesus turns from His accusers and, knowing just where to look, looks back at Peter across the great hall just after he denied the Lord for the third time (Matt. 26:69-75)! “What a holy power is in this silent glance.”

In the face of the Lord we also see the face of transformational Truth. In the New Testament we behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3:18). While the Jews still had a veil over their eyes, as did Moses when he came down from the mount, and thus have their minds blinded, we have no such veil but with open face behold the glory of the Lord. We are changed into that same image. God shines in our hearts, through His word, to give light in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6).

Three quick final points. We see in Jesus the face of justice. His face is against them that do evil (I Pet. 3:12). It is not that God cannot hear the sinner, but He does not listen with a view to answering their prayers (John 9:31). In the face of Jesus we see the face of judgement. We are told by John that heaven and earth will flee away from the holy face of Jesus Christ as He sits upon the great white throne to judge the world (Rev. 20:11). Finally, we see in Jesus’ face the face of glory. We shall see His face (Rev. 22:4) and when we do we shall be like Him (I John 3:1-3).

Do you want to know what Jesus looks like? Then look into the mirror of God’s word and be changed into the same image as the glory of the Lord and you will have the “light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 3:18-4:6; James 1:25).

Eric L. Padgett

A FOOL AND HIS MONEY

Jesus warned “beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:13-21). Covetousness (pleonexia) is “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice” (Websters, 1828). Strong defines it as “avarice, i.e., (by implication) fraudulency, extortion.” It is translated “greediness” in Eph. 4:19 and Paul equated it with idolatry (Col. 3:5). It also carries with it the idea of being a lover of money (philarguros). As if to stress how sinful it is, the Holy Spirit often associates it with what we would consider some of the worst sins, like fornication, adultery, uncleanness, thievery and wickedness (e.g., Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3; Mark 7:22).

Covetousness is one of those many sins which can creep up on a person unawares, at first. Thus, Jesus warns special precautions need to be taken to fight against it. “Take heed,” He says, “and beware.” Not being content with what we have may lead to covetousness (Heb. 13:5). Achan committed this sin even though he was warned against it because of his greed (Josh. 7:21). If we incline our hearts unto the Testimonies of the Lord, we may avert covetousness (Psalm 119:36). If our hearts are in the wrong place, however, we can easily be defiled by the sin of covetousness (Mark 7:22).

Covetousness has been the source of many family problems. The incident that precipitated Jesus’ teaching regarding covetousness was incubated in the bosom of a family. “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Similarly, a rift developed between Jacob and Esau because Jacob wanted the birthright and the blessing (Gen. 25:31; 27:36). Jesus’ own disciples were troubled by this kind of selfish attitude. The mother of James and John wanted Jesus to grant them the positions at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20,21). This caused the other disciples to be displeased with these two brothers (Matt. 20:24).

It is important to understand that Jesus never condemns being rich. There were many rich people who followed God and God made them all rich (e.g., Job – 42:10,12; Abraham – Gen. 13:2). The Bible does not say that being wealthy is a sin. What is condemned is the love of money (I Tim. 6:9,10). It seems, however, that, like a horseleach (Prov. 30:15,16), the more some people have, the more they want and the more they worry about keeping it. This rich man wanted bigger and better barns to store his increased substance (Luke 12:18).

The biggest problem with the rich man was that he looked upon these things as his (“my goods”), not gifts from God (James 1:17). He was confident in himself, and in his material wealth. Paul, did not condemn riches per se, but condemned trusting in those riches. “Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not highminded nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us all things freely to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). The rich man erred when he trusted in himself and not God.

But man has but very little control over his life or world. We do not know when our end will be (James 4:13-17). That very night, when the man waxed confident in his possessions, the Lord required his soul (Luke 12:20). He did not know the day of his demise and may not have even expected it. “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). What good will all those riches do for us when we face the tomb? “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7).

God does want us to be rich–spiritually. He wants us to store up treasures for ourselves, only He wants those treasures to be spiritual and not material. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19,20). Those who do lay up for themselves spiritual treasures will lay up a different and unwanted kind of “treasure” (Rom. 2:5).

Such is the fool and his money

Eric L. Padgett

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The sermon on the mount is recognized by all serious Bible scholars to be a statement of the very essence of Christian conduct and living. In this blog, I depart from my usual practice of writing and commenting to give you some quotes about the sermon on the mount. No quote should be taken as an endorsement of any of the other teachings of those quoted.

“There is no portion of the Bible that plays a more central role in the history of the Church than the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7, with some parallels in Luke 6 and 11). From the days of the Church Fathers on, these three chapters have been the most frequently quoted and commented-on portion of the Bible. The Sermon has constantly received high praise as a model for the Christian life, the essence of true religion, and the epitome of Jesus’ teachings. These sentiments come not only from Christian interpreters but from many outside the Church as well, where the broader impact of the Sermon is still seen through cultural mantras such as ‘The Golden Rule’ and ‘turn the other cheek.'” — Jonathn T. Pennington Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

“The Sermon on the Mount compared with the summaries of moral duty belonging to other religions is comprehensive while they are fragmentary. No moral code can be produced which approaches this in completeness or depth. There is no other moral code belonging to an accepted and ancient religion for which any educated European could even claim finality and completeness. We know what John Stuart Mill, though not a believer, said about our Lord’s moral teaching. He said ‘Not even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete, than to endeavour so to live that Jesus Christ would approve our life.’ And Dr. Pusey commented on that by saying ‘If men would set this before themselves, there would be fewer unbelievers.’ There is then, I say, no other moral summary belonging to an ancient religion on behalf of which a man of modern enlightenment could, with a reasonable chance of being listened to, make the claim that its principles can never be outgrown or found insufficient for any race of men. This is to others as the comprehensive to the fragmentary.”

“Lastly, it differs from other codes by the authoritative sanction which is given to the words by the person of the speaker. ‘He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes.’ All the weight of His mysterious person, all the majesty of His tone, His demeanour, His authority, go to give sanction to this law which He uttered: and not only to give it sanction, in the sense of making men feel that they were dealing with one whose mysterious power it would be better not to offend: His person gives sanction to His words also by inspiring the profoundest confidence that He who makes the claim will also provide strength to correspond with it.” — Charles Gore, M.A., D.D. EDIN.

“The magna charta of Christ’s Kingdom: the unfolding of His righteousness; the sublimest code of morals ever proclaimed on earth; the counterpart of the legislation on Mount Sinai; Christ here appears as Lawgiver and King; Moses spoke in God’s name; Christ speaks in His own.” — Philip Schaff

“We have only to read these ‘instructions’ carefully to see that they bear the mark of Jesus’ genius. Running through them like a golden cord is the handprint of the Master. No man ever spoke like this man. Classic literature is in one sense very little different from ordinary literature in that the words used are the same. But it is the way in which those words are put together, and the ideas that they convey, that make the difference. And that is why they are remembered and become world changing. It is the same with this message. It is more than a classic, it is a work of genius. It is not a question here of selecting out from His material something here and something there, and trying to find from it something spectacularly new. It is a matter of seeing the whole. For the whole is, in its presentation, spectacularly new, even though it is firmly based in the Scriptures. Nothing like it can be found before or since. It presents a total picture that has astounded the world throughout the centuries, including many of differing religions and no religion. Any view of it that does not recognise this element of genius within it can be dispensed with immediately. To suggest therefore that it could be the invention, or even part invention, of a committee or ‘school’ (apart from that consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is so absurd as to be ludicrous. For it hangs together as one whole and has far too much quality for that. It contains ‘the ring of truth’ and ‘the mark of its genius’ throughout. It bears the stamp of a unique personality. It is not only unique in its generation, it is unique in every generation. — Peter Pett

“So the Sermon on the Mount is not a disconcerted jumble of fine sayings, but exhibits remarkable unity as a discourse, as will be observed when I briefly state the outline and analysis of it. Indeed, I much question if any speech has ever been delivered more remarkable for unity than the Sermon on the Mount.” — B. H. Carroll

“It is simple, familiar, direct, sententious, paradoxical, startling, illustrative, conversational, practical, and authoritative.

“It is a simple talk. I mean that every one in that audience could understand it. There was no attempt at big words; the language of the common people, as they spoke it and as they understood it, was used by our Saviour. It was familiar in that it was as homely in its phrases as if he were sitting by the fireside or out on the housetop in the cool of the evening or on the curbing of the street and talking with the passing people. It was not an oration, for there is an utter absence of declamatory, theoretical elocution, and rhetoric, as there must be in all great teachers. I mean to say that there is not an indication of a single strained mental effort after rounded phraseology, euphonious diction, rhetorical effect, dramatic gesticulation. It is direct. I mean to say that it does not intend to reach things by cannoning, hitting here and intending by glancing shot to strike out yonder. He moves right straight forward to the accomplishment of his object.

It is illustrative. The illustrations do not have to be explained, as some men’s illustrations. They illustrate. They preach a sermon by themselves – that is, they carry in their familiar imagery their own application. He selects objects that are perfectly well known to the people and so thoroughly familiar that when used as an illustration there can be no misconception as to the meaning. Sometimes he illustrates by a hen and chickens, sometimes by a lily, other times by rocks and thorns and sheep and birds. It is conversational in its style, . . . But the distinguishing characteristic in style is that which most impressed his audience, because of its intrinsic power and of its marked dissimilarity to the methods of their ordinary religious teachers. He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees. The style then was authoritative . . . But Jesus spoke with authority – authority vested in himself. He leaned on no human buttresses – did not attempt to defend his doctrine, nor to vindicate it. He spoke as God speaks, and without stopping to give an explanation of his manner – and so ought men always to speak who speak for God. Let him speak as the oracles of God. Now as to the rank of this Sermon. Daniel Webster says that no mere man could have produced the Sermon on the Mount. . . Old age and wisdom bow before the simplicity and sublimity of this incomparable teaching. Little children sweetly imbibe its spirit as if it were milk, and aged saints draw from it the strong meat which supplies their sinews of strength. Babes in Christ by it take their first step in the practical walk of Christian life while the men or women in Christ Jesus by it soar on eagles’ wings into the anticipations of the heavenly world. It is peerless, matchless, divine. — B. H. Carroll

Eric L. Padgett

THE HOUR IS COMING

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).

Unless gravely ill, the young rarely think seriously about the fragility of life and the reality and certainty of death. As a person ages, he see more of his friends and acquaintances growing more feeble and many of them passing from life to death. Death is a curse that causes many hearts to break and tears to flow continuously. If this life was all that there was, Thomas Hobbes’ assessment might be correct: “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But the teaching of Jesus provides both a warning and hope for those who face the turmoil and travail of life. This life is not all that there is. There will be a resurrection from the dead and for some this will be a blessing. For others it will be an eternal curse.

The certainty of the resurrection

Jesus’ language leaves no doubt about the certainty of the resurrection–“the hour is coming” and they “shall come forth.” The apostle Paul affirmed that God had given us “assurance” of the judgement, consequently of the resurrection, when He raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:30,31). Even back in the patriarchal dispensation Job affirmed the resurrection when he said “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou shalt have a desire to the works of Thy hands” (Job 14:14,15). He affirmed a bodily resurrection when he wrote that in his flesh he would see God, his Redeemer, for himself (Job 19:25-27). The fact that many cultures believe in some kind of future life shows that they have a rudimentary, though limited and faulty, knowledge of the fact of resurrection.

Universal resurrection

Jesus said that “all that are in the graves” shall come forth. It will be a wondrous site to behold when all the dead, small and great, from all the ages, are raised up to stand before the throne of Christ to be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:11-15). Some have used I Thessalonians 4:14-17 to argue that the righteous will be raised separately from the unrighteous, because the unrighteous are not mentioned there. Neither are they mentioned in I Cor.15. But the purpose in these passages is to inform and encourage Christians. Elsewhere, Paul describes a single resurrection of both the good and the bad. For instance, Paul, in defending his actions before Felix, affirmed that there would be “a {i.e., singular – ELP} resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). There is nothing in Paul’s teaching that contradicts the Lord’s plain statements regarding the universality of the resurrection.

Hear His voice – He is the authority

Jesus said those in the graves shall hear “His” voice. While Jesus was on earth, everything was subject to the voice of Christ. Evil spirits obeyed His voice and came out of those whom they possessed (e.g, Mark 9:25). Even the wind and the sea obeyed His voice (Mark 4:41). The ears of the dead also heard His voice obeyed (Mark 5:41,42; John 11:43,44). God the Father commanded all to heed the voice of His beloved Son (Matt. 17:5). When the Lord returns, He will descend with a “shout” that all shall hear and obey (I Thess. 4:16). In fact, all those who refuse to obey the Saviour this day, will one day bow the knee and call Him Lord, submitting to His authority (Phil. 2:9-11).

Two destinies – life and damnation

Jesus also clearly lays out only two possible destinies for man: life and damnation. The fact is we are all created, immortal souls; we will spend eternity somewhere. Elsewhere, Jesus describes these two destinies as life and destruction (Matt. 7:13,14). Again, Jesus describes these two destinies as “life eternal” and “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). The words “eternal” and “everlasting” are translated from the same Greek word and show us that what is true of one regarding it’s length is also true of the other–“punishment” will last just as long as “life.”

Eternal punishment is a scary prospect. Jesus described this punishment as “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). He further describes it as a place where refuse is being burned with a fire that never shall be quenched, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48). This burning lake of fire is described as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14). On the other hand, eternal life is described as a place where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). The contrast between these two destinies could not be any more stark.

Moral objectivity – Good and evil

Our eternal destiny is determined by what we do in this life. Jesus said some will do “good” and others will do “evil.” The world sees good as a fluid concept. One of my secular professors once told me that good was a negotiable concept. Men and women decide what is good or what is evil. The Bible, however, tells us that good is defined by the character and nature of God (Psalm 25:8; 34:8; 119:68). Only God is intrinsically good (Matt. 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). His word is also good (Psalm 119:39; ). Goodness, therefore, is not some ever changing, negotiable idea, it is an objective standard unalterably set by the nature of the Creator of all that is.

The day of the Lord will come as thief in the night (II Pet. 3:10). We do not know the day of our Lord’s return. But it is coming. Even if we are in the grave at that time, you and I will nevertheless answer His call and come forth. But to what end? Will it be life or death? We both will decide that for ourselves in this life.

Eric L. Padgett

BE THOU CLEAN

Man full of leprosy

Both Matthew and Mark simply call this man a “leper.” Luke, being a physician, records that he was “full of leprosy,” being more precise medically as to his condition. He wasn’t in the beginning stages of leprosy but had been afflicted with this condition for some time for it to have advanced to this state. One can only imagine the physical and emotional toll this disease caused in its victims and it’s victims family. Mosaic Law required that the man thus afflicted be separated from everyone else (Lev. 13:4, et. al.). He also had to go around announcing his condition by declaring himself “unclean” (Lev. 13:45).

The leprosy of the Bible was apparently a term that encompassed a wider variety of conditions than the modern term leprosy conveys. When we think of leprosy today, we usually think only of Hansen’s disease which causes a loss of sensation in the nerves which leads to disfigurement. While today this condition can be treated, it does not heal itself. In the Bible, however, occasionally this disease would go away after some time (Lev. 14:1-3), not so of Hansen’s. The plague of leprosy could also be found in a woolen or linen garment (Lev. 13:47ff), which also would not be true of Hansen’s disease.

Though never expressly stated in the Bible, leprosy can be a type of sin. Leprosy made one unclean (Lev. 13:3). Sin also makes one unclean (Is. 6:5-7). Leprosy was deeper than just skin level (Lev. 13:3). Sin is also deeper than just the skin, it comes from within man, from the heart (Matt. 15:18). Leprosy required separation for the preservation of purity (Lev. 13:4). Sin requires separation to maintain purity (II Cor. 5:4-7). Leprosy could ultimately only be removed by a sacrifice of blood (Lev. 14:23). Sin can also only be removed by the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:12). So in many ways, the account of the healing of this unnamed leper also teaches us about sin.

Seeing Jesus

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him (Matt. 8:1). Jesus’ fame had spread abroad and the multitudes knew Jesus could heal their infirmities (Matt. 4:23-25). The leper came at the same time as this great multitude, even though the law required him to announce his uncleanness (Lev. 13:45). When the leper knew Who Jesus was, he sought Him out. Undoubtedly, there were many who saw the leper and recoiled in disgust at his appearance. Perhaps some, recognizing their own need for healing, overlooked the leper’s condition and paid no attention to him. But the leper disregarded all that the world thought of him that he might see Jesus.

Please note the leper’s confidence in Jesus. “Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matt. 8:2). He did not say, “If I had enough faith” or “If it were only possible.” He was confident that Jesus could heal him and did everything within his power to see Him. It seems that he had heard Jesus’ teaching, or, at least, had heard about His teaching and knew of His power. We need to show the “same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” because we are not of them that draw back to perdition but of them that believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 6:11; 10:35-39). Let us have the leper’s confidence.

Notice also the man’s humility. He fell on his face before the Lord and besought the Lord for an answer to his need (Mark 1:4). As he prostrated himself before the Lord, in front of all the multitude, he worshiped Him (Matt. 8:2). Far too often today men seek to find Jesus without humility. They refuse His word, and substitute their own (Matt. 15:9). It is “My will” not “Thy will” be done (Matt. 26:39). But the Lord resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10).

I will. Be thou clean.

Jesus’ willingness to cleanse the leper is not to go unnoticed, either. Jesus was not only willing but reached out to this disfigured, mangled body, and he put forth His hand and touched him (Luke 5:13). In a similar fashion, the Lord left the glories of heaven, made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself and was made in the likeness of men, partaking of flesh and blood that He might deliver us from sin (Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:14ff). As under the law of Moses the priest could pronounce someone clean (Lev. 14:14-20), our High priest is moved by our infirmities (Heb. 4:15) and touches our lives with forgiveness (Heb. 2:17,18).

“Immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Luke 5:13). Jesus’ miracles were immediate. Simon’s mother-in-law was immediately healed (Luke 4:39), as was the young maiden (Luke 5:54,55) and the nobleman’s son (John 4:50-53). Can you imagine the sight of a man long deformed by leprosy being instantaneously healed! Body parts may have been restored that were not there before, right before everyone’s eyes! In the same fashion, sin is immediately forgiven, as well. Right before everyone’s eyes, the sinner is made a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). The penitent alien sinner is immersed beneath the water and a new man emerges (Rom. 6:1-4). Let us learn the lessons of the leper.

 

Eric L. Padgett

Cana

Jesus was invited (“called”) to a wedding, both He and His disciples. Not only was Jesus’ mother there, but the suggestion is that His whole family was there (2:12), leading some to believe that this was the marriage of either a close friend of the family or a relative. This view seems strengthened by the fact that Mary had intimate knowledge of the logistic problems of supplying the feast (2:3) and she appears to have had some power or authority over the servants, who obey her commands implicitly (2:5). It is a view further strengthened by the fact that the early disciples, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael and probably James and John, all knew one another and Jesus and the one being married was likely familiar with them all.

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that John, Mary’s sister’s son (cf. John 19:25; Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), was the one who was being wed, but there is no real proof of this. John does relate the story with first-hand, eyewitness knowledge (cf. 2:11). But other than these facts, all questions as to who was married are just speculations. Jewish practice required virgins to marry on a Wednesday, but the festivities lasted a full week (cf. Judges 14:12,15). Whether Jesus was called from the beginning or came later with His disciples is not clear, either (at least to this author).

The wedding was in a little village called Cana of Galilee, just under four miles north of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, if the traditional site is accepted (and we do). Joseph was not mentioned as being present at the wedding, having died some time after Jesus’ twelfth year. This left Jesus responsible for supporting His family, being the oldest male, and He undoubtedly continued in the trade of Joseph, being Himself called “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3), until Mary’s other children were old enough to start helping support the family.

Mary’s statement to Jesus seemed designed to solicit His help in some way (John 2:3). Her subsequent command to the servants that they should do whatever Jesus told them seems to suggest that she expected Him to do something extraordinary (2:5). Perhaps Mary, who had hidden in her heart all of the remarkable incidents concerning His birth and all the things that were said about and by Him (Luke 2:19,51), was eager for Him to make known who He really was. She was attempting to insinuate herself, albeit out of love, into matters she could not possibly understand.

Jesus response to her was not mean, but stern. While Jesus had been subject to Mary and Joseph as a son in their household (Luke 2:51), now He was going to be executing the Father’s will. This expression, “Woman,” is the same term of respect He used in addressing the woman He healed which had been afflicted of an infirmity for eighteen years (Luke 13:12), He used it of the woman at the well (John 4:21), of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:10) and when addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15). This was not a term of disrespect but of honor and esteem. But He did not address her as “mother” either indicating something was different (cf. Mark 3:31-35).

Indeed, there was going to be a difference in their relationship from that moment on. Jesus said, “What have I to do with thee?” (2:4). This was not meant in a ugly, vicious way but, as Shcaff observes, “whoever makes use of the phrase rejects the interference of another, declines association with him on the matter spoken of. Hence the words reprove,—though mildly” (cf. Josh. 22:24; Judg. 11:12; II Sam. 16:10; 19:22; I Kings 17:18; II Kings 3:13; 9:18; II Chron. 35:21; Ezra 4:3 Matt. 8:29; 27:19; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:34; 8:28).

Neither was “Mine hour is not yet come” meant to say “I will do nothing.” At least Mary did not understand it this way for she immediately commands the servants to do whatever Jesus commands them (2:5). Apparently Jesus did not mean it that way for He actually does do something about the situation. We are not told when He did something and it may have taken time for Him to do something, waiting until the exact moment that was appointed. But he was going to obey the Father.

Much has been written on the miracle of turning water into wine. It is not even clear that this miracle was widely known at the time it occurred. The servants knew about it, as did Mary, and the disciples but the governor of the feast did not know of it even after it was done (2:10). Perhaps the people did know exactly what happened at first. Undoubtedly, it was spoken about after by those who knew and news of it probably spread abroad very quickly. This act, His first miracle, demonstrated His power over the natural world.

Some have used this miracle to justify drinking alcoholic beverage, but Jesus would not have created well over one hundred gallons of intoxicating alcohol to give to His neighbors (cf. Hab. 2:15). Furthermore, it took many hours to become inebriated with the wine of the first century (cf. Acts 2:15). Rather, Jesus blessed this house and marriage with His presence, and manifested His glory. More today need to invite Jesus not only to their wedding, but also to their homes.

Eric L. Padgett

WHEN THE TEMPTER CAME

When Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan river, continuing to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended in a bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon Him. Magnifying this already awesome event, the voice of God spoke from heaven saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). It was immediately after this that the Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). There Jesus fasted for forty days and was hungry and weak (Matt. 4:2). During these forty days in the wilderness, the tempter came to Him. The following are at least some of the lessons we can learn from this account.

First, the tempter comes to us at our weakest moments. It was not a coincidence that the tempter came to Jesus when He had been fasting for forty days and was surely in a weakened condition. Generally speaking, experience has taught us that forty days nears the limits of man’s ability to safely fast. After this, serious health issues arise and death is a real possibility. Jesus was physically and mentally exhausted. When this particular temptation was over, He apparently needed the assistance of the angels, for they are found ministering unto Him (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13). But even in this depleted and weakened condition, Jesus was still able to overcome these temptations.

Second, the tempter comes to us when we least expect it. These temptations came right after Jesus had received approval from God in heaven. It was a glorious moment for the Lord, quite unlike His time on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:45,46). Here, God proclaimed His approval for His beloved Son, as He did at the the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff). It was similar to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when all men proclaimed Him as Messiah. Yet very soon afterword, they were calling for His crucifixion (Matt. 21:8-11; 27:20-25). It was soon after this emotional, glorious and joyous event that satan attacked. Be sober for your adversary as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour ( I Pet. 5:8).

The tempter hits us at our weakest points. Due to His fasting, Jesus was particularly hungry during His wilderness stay (Matt. 4:2). It is no wonder then that the tempter tempted Him to make bread out of stones. Perhaps, in the Lord’s mind, as hungry as He was, when He saw a stone it resembled bread to Him and the tempter used this association to get Jesus to think about actually giving in to this urge. On another occasion, Jesus was anxious about going to Jerusalem and suffering many things at the hand of the priests and being crucified (Matt. 16:21). When Peter urged Him not to go, it was a great temptation to Him and He rebuked Peter for it (Matt. 16:23). He did not need the further hindrances to His work.

The tempter is the tempter, not God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:13,14). Two things to note. First, the devil actively tempts us. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, not God. God does not tempt any man. It is God Who makes a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Second, man, himself, is also responsible, for it is his own lusts that lure him into situations of temptation.

The tempter does not quit tempting. Luke tells us that the tempter departed from Jesus after these temptations but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus said the apostles had continued with Him in His “temptations,” plural, not singular (Luke 22:18). The devil does not let up on us. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Paul says we need the shield of faith to quench, not just one single dart, but “all” the fiery darts (plural) of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We must resist him steadfast in the faith because he will not let up on his attack (I Pet. 5:9).

The tempter can be resisted. In every case, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations. Some have said He could do this because He was divine. But if that is the reason, then He can no longer be our example, for we are not divine (at least not in the same sense He was). Jesus took on Himself the seed of Abraham, being made like unto His brethren in all things that He might destroy the devil and his work (Heb. 2:14-18). He was tempted in all points “like as we are,” touched with every feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

When the tempter comes, what will we do? God commands us not to sin (I John 2:1). Our human weaknesses, however, often give us trouble. We have the example of our Saviour who overcame temptation. Temptations will surely come but as Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We have but to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

 

Eric L. Padgett

CORNELIUS

Luke highlights the conversion of Cornelius because of its value in describing the universality of the gospel, but in so doing he also describes in one man a series of admirable qualities, those to which any sober-minded man would gladly aspire. By virtue of being a Roman centurion, he had to possess in himself unmistakable and remarkable qualities of leadership and submission. William Barclay quotes an unnamed ancient historian who describes the qualifications of a Roman centurion: “Centurions are desired not to be overbold and reckless so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive to start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their posts.”

A Roman legion consisted of six thousand men. Each legion was then divided into ten cohorts of six hundred men. A cohort was divided into three bands and each band into two centuries. As a centurion, Cornelius was over one of these centuries, or one hundred men (eighty soldiers and 20 servants), and demonstrated both submission to authority and leadership skills. The band to which Cornelius was attached was called the Italian band, probably because it consisted of those who were from Italy. There was a well known and esteemed patrician family in Rome by the name of Cornelia and many commentators suggest the possibility that Cornelius was connected with that family.

Cornelius was not only a capable military leader, but he had personal qualities that endeared him to the people. Luke records that he had “a good report among all the nations of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). Luke further records that he was a just man, and one that feared God, gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway (Acts 10:2, 22). This was not altogether uncommon, for another centurion during Jesus’ day had supported the Jews and had even built them a sysnagogue (Luke 7:1-5). It was said that he “loved our nation” and was worthy to receive an answer to his request (vv. 4,5). Cornelius was also such a man.

There has been much discussion over the religious state of Cornelius. Some have tried to make Cornelius a Jewish proselyte. But the truth of the matter is the Text no where states that Cornelius was a proselyte to the Jewish faith. In fact, it rather states the opposite. Albert Barnes outlines the reasons well: “But there is no sufficient evidence of this. The reception of the narrative of Peter, Acts 11:1-3, shows that the other apostles regarded him as a Gentile. In Act 10:28, Peter evidently regards him as a foreigner – one who did not in any sense esteem himself to be a Jew. In Acts 11:1, it is expressly said that ‘the Gentiles’ had received the Word of God, evidently alluding to Cornelius and to those who were with him.” The Pulpit Commentary observes, “he is spoken of simply as a Gentile and uncircumcised. . .he was in no sense a proselyte.”

And yet the Text speaks of him as a “devout” and “just” man and as one “that feared God” and “prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:1,2,22). His prayers went up to God as a memorial (Acts 10:4). Since he wasn’t a Christian yet, and since he wasn’t a proselyte, then how could he be described as devout? Brother Woods answers that “the only conclusion harmonizing the difficulties of the case” is that Cornelius “was worshipping God under the system of patriarchy” (Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, 1976).

It does seem either that 1) Cornelius was under the law of patriarchy and his prayers were offered while he was still amenable to that system, and God heard them with a view to answering them or 2), his prayers simply went up to God as a memorial and God arranged mercifully in His providence for Cornelius to hear the gospel of Christ, as He does for all those that seek Him (e.g., II Pet. 3:9). For more discussion on Cornelius and his prayer see Does God Hear The Alien Sinner’s Prayer?

Regardless of the answer, it is significant that God chose Cornelius of all the Gentiles in the world to be the first to be brought into the body, thus fulfilling the mystery that “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6). This alone speaks volumes of his character. God only chooses the right people for the job, and Cornelius was that man.

The Lord’s approval of him, and all those that likewise trusted in Him there that day, is seen in His bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius even before he had obeyed the gospel (Acts 10:44-48). This pouring out of the gift of the Holy Ghost (not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was reserved for the apostles alone – John 14:26; 16:13), without the laying on of their hands (Acts 8:18), demonstrated that God had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). The conversion of Cornelius demonstrated to Peter that God was “no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him (Acts 10:34,35).

Eric L. Padgett

PONTIUS PILATE

Did Jesus stand before Pontius Pilate or did Pilate stand before Jesus? Of course, the Bible states that Jesus stood before Pilate (Matt. 27:11; I Tim. 6:13), and from the perspective of the world, this is what happened. Jesus stood before Pilate and was judged by him. Pilate even tried to reiterate to Jesus the power he thought he had over Him by reminding Him that he had the “power to crucify” or to release Him (John 19:10). But Jesus meekly declared that “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Pilate unwittingly played an important role in the unfolding scheme of redemption.

The name “Pontius” was an old name among the Samnites in central Italy, and it may be Pilate’s family came from this region. He was from the upper middle class (Equestrian). He became procurator of Judea in 26 A.D. and continued thus till 36 A.D. As Procurator or Governor, he had four main duties. He was responsible for the collection of taxes for the emperor (supervising the local Judaean tax collectors or publicans), he managed the provincial books, he was the supreme judge of the province and he commanded a small army. He was under the Governor of Syria and when he needed military help he could call on him for aid. For the first six years of his administration of Judea, however, the Syrian governor was absent and Pilate was on his own.

Five major historical sources give us information on Pontius Pilate. The first and most trustworthy is the Bible, the second is Josephus, the third is Philo, the fourth is Tacitus and the final source is an inscription in stone called the Pilate Stone. The latter is a moderately sized solid block of inscribed limestone that was discovered in 1961 in Caesarea Maritima. The inscription, though somewhat damaged by time, describes Pilate as the prefect of the province of Judaea, confirming the Biblical account. Tacitus refers to the fact that Christ “suffered the extreme penalty…at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (The Annals, 15, 44), not only confirming the historicity of Pilate, but also of Christ.

The references to Pilate in Philo and Josephus are not very kind. Philo, if we can trust his as an unbiased assessment, describes “his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity” (ON THE EMBASSY TO GAIUS 40:XXXV:III:302)  Josephus is far less explicit but does seem to place Pilate in an unfavorable light, as when he describes how Pilate provoked the Jews to riots by using temple treasure for an aqueduct and then beat them down to quell their protests.

The Pilate revealed in the New Testament, however, is much less depraved than he is depicted in the external sources. The scriptures in no way absolve him of the role he played in the crucifixion of Jesus. An event not recorded by either Philo or Josephus is included in the New Testament which suggests an act of great violence on his part (Luke 13:1). But as corrupt and insolent and insulting as he may have been, Pilate seemingly wanted to set Jesus free because he saw no fault in Him (Luke 23:4). It suggests that he maintained some sense of justice. In fact, Jesus stated that those who delivered Him to Pilate had the greater sin (John 19:11).

For example, on the recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate could have legally acquiesced to their demands and sentenced Jesus to immediate death. Instead, the Record shows that Pilate tried multiple times to spare Jesus from that capital penalty. The Jewish leadership clamored for Jesus’ death and stirred up the people to call for Jesus to be crucified (Luke 23:21). It was only when Pilate’s opposition to Jesus’ death was used against him to suggest Pilate was no longer Caesar’s friend that, Pilate, in fear, relented of his opposition and washed his hands of the whole matter (John 19:12).

Perhaps Pilate’s great sin in the matter of Jesus was weakness. He did not possess the moral courage to stand against the pressure exerted by the Jewish council. His own wife called Jesus a “just man” and implored her husband to have nothing to do with Him (Matt. 27:19). He knew Herod had found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:13-16). He knew the charges against Jesus were false and that the council’s only motive was envy (Matt. 27:18). Even when he could find no fault in Jesus, he allowed Him to be crucified. Yet, even in this, how much different was he than the apostle Peter who denied the Lord even though he knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-19)?

Peter, who had first hand knowledge of these things, said that while Pilate was “determined” to let Jesus go the “men of Israel . . . desired a murderer to be granted” freedom, meaning Barabbas (Matt. 27:21; Acts 3:13,14). Nevertheless, he doesn’t leave Pilate without culpability. He next quotes the second Psalm which describes the kings and rulers of the earth taking counsel against the Lord and against His anointed and applying this to Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles and the Jews (Acts 4:24-30). We are all guilty before the Lord (Rom. 3:23).

Two thousand years ago Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, in his judgment hall and received the biased judgement of men. Sometime in our future Pilate, Herod, the Jews and all men will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth in the Day of Judgement and receive the righteous judgement of God (Rev. 20:11-15). We will not be able to wash our hands and declare our innocence but we will need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).

Eric L. Padgett

EZRA

Ezra was a good servant of the Lord and he was also a brilliant scholar of God’s word. He was described as “a ready [or brilliant or diligent – ELP] scribe in the Law of Moses” (7:5), a “scribe of the law of the God of Heaven” (7:12,21), and “a scribe of the words of the Commandments of the Lord and of his statutes to Israel” (7:11). He was multi-lingual and able to translate Hebrew into  Aramaic so that the people, which had for decades been in captivity and had forgotten much of their native tongue, could clearly understand (Neh. 8:8).  His ability to expound upon the meaning is also suggested.

He traced his lineage back to Aaron, brother of Moses (7:1-5), and was the descendant of Hilkiah the priest which found the book of the law of Moses in the temple ruins during the days of King Josiah (7:1;II Kings 22:4-1). The name Ezra means “help,” though it probably is a shortened form of Azariah, which means “God has helped.” His skills as a scribe were undoubtedly derived from natural abilities he already possessed, and from gifts with which the Lord had blessed him, but they also resulted from the fact that he had “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord” (7:10).

One hundred and forty-eight years prior to Ezra’s work, in 606 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem and put king Jehoikim in chains (Dan. 1:1,2; II Chron. 36:6-8; II Kings 24). Seventy years later, in 536 B.C., Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the temple (II Chron. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-4), just as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 25:8-12; 29:10-12). Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, led a group of captives back, laid the foundation of the temple and built the altar and then completed the temple around 515 B.C. (5:2). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied during this time (Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1) and the events of Esther took place (cir. 479 B.C.).

In 458 B.C., Ezra led a smaller group of captives back to Jerusalem. He assembled his contingency by the banks of the river Ahava for three day and fasted and sought of God the right way to proceed (8:21). As Ezra left to return back to Jerusalem, he put his trust in God for his protection. He felt ashamed to ask the king for protection, for he had boasted to him that God would deliver them and would protect them (8:22,23). It took four months for Ezra to make the journey and God did watch over them (7:9).

When Ezra made it back to Jerusalem, he found that the people had not separated themselves from the people of the land and were continuing their ways which led to the captivity in the beginning. He rent his clothes and plucked his hairs because of the sins of the people in marrying into the heathen culture and practicing their evil ways. Ashamed of their sins, he cried out in prayer to God. He observed that God had been merciful to them and that they had been punished less than their sins deserved (9:1-15).

As Ezra was praying and weeping before the house of God, he was pleasantly surprised by a large group of Jews who also come weeping and lamenting their sins (10:1). Then one of them, one Shechaniah, encouraged Ezra and desired the Jews to put away their strange wives and the children born to them. How difficult it must have been for these men to put away their wives, and in some cases their children which they had by these women. But this is what they did because they wanted to serve the Lord and be right with Him.

At this point the account of Ezra goes silent for a little over a decade. It is not until the wall is completed under Nehemaiah that Ezra makes another appearance (Neh. 8). He is called upon by the people to bring the book of the law of Moses and read it before the people (8:1). But because the people had been so long in captivity, they did not understand their own native tongue and as Ezra the scribe read from the law, standing on a pulpit of wood, he had to translate it for the people to understand (Neh. 8:1-8).

The time in which Ezra grew up saw an increased emphasis upon learning and scholarship. Ezra is a case in point. It was during his days that the synagogue was probably formed and, according to Jewish tradition, Ezra was responsible for helping to collect and edit the Old Testament canon as we know it.  Clearly, by the time of the Christ, the canon of the Old Testament was settled (Luke 24:44).

Eric L. Padgett