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jesus

May 08, 2009

This morning I came across the name Jason Dunham and spent a few minutes reading about his life and death. In 2004, Dunham was a twenty-two year-old Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, serving in Iraq. He became the first Marine since 1970 to earn the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest award for battlefield heroism—for actions in combat.

On April 14, 2004, he was manning a checkpoint near Karabilah when an Iraqi man whose car they were searching, suddenly grabbed his throat. As Dunham wrestled the man to the ground, the Iraqi dropped a grenade with the pin removed. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. He saved the lives of several of his fellow soldiers. Dunham died of his wounds just a few days later without ever regaining consciousness.

The official Marine Corps citation says, “By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

Such gallantry is amazing, inspiring. It should awe us that a man would so selflessly give all he had for his friends.

And yet what Christ did was greater still. As William Farley says in Outrageous Mercy, “At the cross God threw himself on a grenade to save the enemy soldiers…” We would not wish to downplay the gallantry of Corporal Dunham who made the ultimate sacrifice. But neither can we escape the fact that Jesus Christ died for those who were not his friends, but his enemies. What love this is! Even in the greatest of human sacrifices we see just a pale reflection of the depth, the magnitude, of the sacrifice of the Son of God.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
June 09, 2008

For the past few months our pastor has been using Sunday mornings to lead us through the gospel of John. It has been some time since I’ve been able to sit through an expositional series on one of the gospels and I am enjoying learning ever-more about the life and ministry of Jesus. Yesterday we came to John 9, the chapter which is often under a heading such as “Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind.” You know the story, I’m sure. It is the one where his disciples, as they passed a man who had been blind since birth, ask Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replies “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He then spits on the ground, makes mud, anoints the man’s eyes with it, and tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. As soon as the man washes away the mud, he receives his sight and testifies to the work of God. As usual, the religious leaders are furious and prove themselves to be the ones who are truly blind and ignorant haters of God.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to so suddenly gain sight? Imagine what it must have been like to go from darkness, from nothingness, to suddenly seeing clearly and with crystal perfection. Imagine for the first time seeing your parents and friends and seeing the place you had sat and begged day after day. Imagine seeing your first plants and animals and gasping in wonder at the sheer beauty of creation. Imagine seeing your own reflection and learning what you look like. Imagine suddenly becoming aware of all you had missed for so long. In the days and hours after the miracle, this man had seen so little. His mind must still have been reeling as he tried to make sense of so many new sights. It’s almost unimaginable.

As we drew to the close of the chapter there was once sentence and one phrase, really, that gave me a brief but glorious glimpse of the Lord’s work. It comes after the man returns from the pool at Siloam, and after he is interrogated by the Pharisees and cast out of the temple for testifying that only God could perform such a work as instantly and perfectly healing eyes that had never seen. Having heard the news, Jesus seeks out this man. When he finds Him he gets right to the point. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” he asks him. The man replies, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” And here are the words that thrilled my heart. “You have seen him,” says Jesus. “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

You have seen him.” What a delightful choice of words. This man had seen so little, but one of the few things he had seen and experienced was the most important thing of all. He had seen the Lord. Had he seen his parents yet? We don’t know. Had he seen his own reflection or had he glimpsed his brothers and sisters? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that he had seen the Lord.

Do you remember that tacky old song (Aaron Neville, isn’t it?), “I Don’t Know Much?” I couldn’t help but think of that song yesterday, or the chorus to it at any rate. The lyrics of the chorus say, “I don’t know much / but I know I love you / That may be all I need to know.” That man, born blind but miraculously healed, could testify, “I haven’t seen much, but I know I’ve seen you. And that may be all I need to see.” Though his eyes had been opened for so short a time, they had already beheld the Son of Man, the Son of God. He had seen the best thing of all and something so many had waited so long to see.

If you have been blessed by God with the gift of spiritual sight, you know what this man was feeling. When God opens the eyes of a person’s heart, suddenly he can see and perceive what before was hidden. That new Christian does not know much—he is still a novice in the faith and still has so much to learn—but he knows the most important thing of all. And as that Christian grows in his knowledge of the Lord and as he becomes more familiar with God and His ways, he will understand that even the greatest amount of human knowledge is but a drop in the ocean. He will know even better that he sees so little and knows so little. He will testify that he hasn’t seen much, but that, thanks to the miraculous, eye-opening, life-giving, heart-melting work of God, he has seen the most important thing of all.

June 02, 2008

For the past few weeks I’ve been transfixed by a word. That may sound a little bit strange but it is exactly what’s happened. It keeps coming to mind and I keep pondering it, trying to gain a sense of its meaning. Though the word appears just three times in Scripture, twice in Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of Christ and once in Matthew in the fulfillment of that prophecy, it’s a word we have all used and a word whose meaning most of us know. Our children read about it every Christmas and our pastors mention it in their Christmas sermons. That word is Immanuel. God with us. God is with us.

I sense there is a lot to this word and to the truth behind it that I’ve never thought about before and I know that there must be great application to my own life. I hope to spend more time studying it and discerning how God wants me to live based on the awesome fact that “God is with us.” But even now as I’ve meditated upon this word I’ve been profoundly moved. How can we ever exhaust the wonder of God, the One who created the heavens and the earth, taking on human flesh? And even then, how can we but marvel that He did not come in the form of a great and mighty warrior, but in the form of a tiny, helpless baby. God in flesh; God in human flesh. Like every baby before and since He entered this world through pain and agony, sweat and blood. Though He was the power that had created the world, He depended upon His mother’s breast for physical sustenance. Though He upheld the creation by the Word of His power, He needed His parents to protect and nurture Him as a helpless infant.

What mind could conceive of a God who would walk this world and be so misunderstood? Why would God come to earth only to have almost everyone He encountered ignore His divinity? How could people see God and not understand?

Yesterday my pastor preached on John 8, one of two chapters dealing with Jesus’ time at the Feast of Booths. Here, as in so many passages of the gospels, we see people trying to figure out who this person is. They accuse Him of being a Samaritan and of being possessed by Satan: “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” They wonder how He could claim to know Abraham: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” They ask if He is going to commit suicide: “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” They are utterly bewildered, blinded by their own ignorance and their own hatred of all that is good and true. Before them stood “God is with us” and all they saw was a wicked and perverse man who blasphemed their faith.

As Jesus’ ministry continued, people continued to seek but not find His identity. Even as He stood trial the questions continued. “Are you the King of the Jews?” asked Pilate, and then “So you are a king?” Pilate was incredulous, unable to understand who this man was. Even His beloved disciples wondered and wavered.

As I sat in church yesterday and pondered the mystery of so many who were unable to see that God was with them, standing before them, I was struck by the fact that this will not always be so. Jesus came to earth incognito, announced only to a group of shepherds as they tended their flocks in the night. Suddenly the dark night was disturbed and God’s glory shone all around. An angel announced the birth of Jesus and immediately a host of angels poured forth their praise at the wonder of it all. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” To so many others, though, Jesus appeared just as a man, walking the dusty roads of Israel. No angels foretold His coming; no trumpets blew as He approached. Even today, Jesus is present with us through the Word of God. He is quietly but powerfully present there, though just as when most people looked at Jesus and saw only man and not God, today most people look at the Bible and see words but not Word.

But this will not always be. God gives us today, He gives us now, to understand who Jesus is and to humble ourselves before Him. He tells us that today is the day we need to put our faith in this God who came as man. When Jesus returns to earth, He will not come incognito. He will come with all of the power and the glory and the honor that are rightly His. When He returns to earth, there will be no mistaking who He is. When He comes again, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. And God will be glorified in every one of us. There will be no mistaking who He is.

March 30, 2008

Some time ago my mother made me aware of a poem her grandfather had written many years ago. My great grandfather was an Anglican minister somewhere in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and, to be honest, beyond that I know very little about him. But I really enjoyed this poem (which would have been ideal to post a week ago, perhaps on the Saturday before Easter).

O little child of Salem
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle master
Who wiped my tears away.
Last night in Joseph’s garden
All cold and white he lay,
And now my heart is breaking
While other children play.

O little maid of Jairus,
Why weep ye so today?
Your dusky lashes trailing
The cheeks of ashen grey.
I weep the mighty master
Who waked me from my sleep,
But now in Joseph’s garden,
He slumbers, still and deep.

O Mary, timid Mary,
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle Saviour,
Who took my sins away.
My spices all are gathered
To grace the rocky bed,
For now in Joseph’s garden,
My Lord is lying dead,

O child, O maid, O Mary,
Lift up your eyes and see,
The lilies all a-rocking,
In winds of Araby.
The turtle-dove is calling,
The birds are singing gay,
And there in Joseph’s garden,
The stone is rolled away.