Matthew 11:20-24: A False Facade

Read: Matthew 11:20-24
A common objection to belief often used to create a façade of credulity often goes, “If God would only show me a miracle, I would believe.” The problem with this is that even in the day of Jesus, those who witnessed miracles abundantly still did not repent and believe the gospel. This is precisely why Jesus starts pronouncing judgement on cities in Israel where he had performed miracles. Jesus mentions three cities all relatively close to one another on the north side of the Sea of Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Chorazin is only mentioned here and in the parallel passage in Luke, so what miracles were performed there is unknown. But Jesus did perform miracles near Bethsaida such as feed the 5,000 (Luke 9:10) and healing a blind man (Mark 8:22). In Capernaum, he healed the centurion’s daughter (Mathew 8:5) a paralyzed man (Mark 2:1) an official’s son (John 4:46), and many others (Luke 4:38-44). All in all, the miracles that Jesus had performed in the area would have been well known.

Even with the miracles though the people did not believe. Jesus says that there will be more mercy on Tyre and Sidon, two cities north of Israel in Phoenicia, that were known for paganism. Jesus had ministered in this region when he healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21–28). There he says that he was sent to the children of Israel, but nevertheless heals the woman because of her faith. Moreover, Jesus likens Capernaum to Sodom. Sodom was an Old Testament city that was destroyed in Genesis 19 for their sin, and even so Jesus says that they will receive more mercy than Capernaum because Capernaum did not believe. These harsh pronouncements against the cities comes on the heels where Jesus talks about John’s message not being received and before Jesus calls those who are not “wise” to rest.  Jesus himself was not accepted in his home town as a prophet either (Luke 4:14-30).

Miracles in Jesus’ day were given as way to vindicate his message, yet even with the miracles people did not believe. Even today though, people will still not believe. It’s not for lack of evidence though. God has made himself known in history (Hebrews 1:1), through creation (Romans 1:2), and through conscience (Romans 2:14-15).  All in all, the myriad of was God is revealed makes his existence plain and the need for repentance clear. If this is so then, whatever objections one might give to not believe and repent are largely a façade for a deeper problem, a sin problem that keeps one from acknowledging sin, repenting of it, and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness. Christians should not lose heart though. Even when many won’t believe, some will. And odds are, it will be the least expected ones who will come to faith when they do!

Lord, you have made yourself known

Help the lost to so they can believe!

Luke 1:5-38: “May It Be”

Read: Luke 1:5-38

Gabriel was a messenger from God and describes himself as one who “stands in the presence of God”. To even be in the presence of God would be something of note, but to stand in God’s presence indicates that Gabriel was an angel of great importance. He was previously sent in Daniel to explain to Daniel the significance of the rams and goats and give the 70-week predictions (Daniel 8, 9).  He was dispatched to deliver the news concerning two great men: John the Baptist and Jesus. John would prepare the way as a prophet for Jesus, the Lord.

The angel Gabriel appeared to two different people – Mary and Zacharias. Luke notes that Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, was barren and could not have children. Nevertheless, Zacharias continued to pray for a son and God answered this prayer. Elizabeth conceived and had John. Although Zacharias and Elizabeth were both described as blameless and God-fearing, Zacharias when he has the vision asks for a sign, because he didn’t believe Gabriel’s message. Because of this, Zacharias became mute. On the other hand though, when Mary was told that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked how, but didn’t ask for a sign from God on the matter. Rather, she believed it and said let it be so.

Jews during Jesus’ day were always looking for signs and wonders as proof. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when they asked for a sign and said that the only sign he would give them would be the “Sign of Jonah”, which is a rather cryptic response. He was referring to himself in that Jesus was calling them to repent and predicting his death and resurrection  as Jonah was in the fish for 3 days, Jesus was in the ground for 3 days (Matthew 12:38-41, Matthew 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-32). Jesus was the sign, and after Jesus ascended he gave the Holy Spirit to open the minds of Christians to the things of God so that they can know the truth (1 Corinthians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 2).

God is still communicating with people today through his word, which is “God breathed” (3 Timothy 3:16-17). Asking for additional revelation as Zacharias did doesn’t seem too harmful, but the evidence was standing right before his eyes (as if the presence of an angel wasn’t enough!) Rather than ask for a sign one should ask for wisdom and understanding as Mary did. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the minds of Christians can be illuminated to understand the truths in the scriptures, and respond to the commands of Christ as Mary did, saying “may it be”. It is okay to question God when one doesn’t understand, nevertheless asking for more proof that what is given shouldn’t be necessary, because enough proof already exists.

Lord, when you speak, help me say, “may it be”.

John 12:37-43

Read: John 12:37-43

With ample evidence standing right in front of them, people refused to believe in Jesus even then. The Pharisees refused to believed because they feared that they would be kicked out of the synagogue if they did because they loved the praise of men. They knew they would be expelled from a place of power by the Romans if Jesus was to become too popular (John 10:48). Because they feared to lose power, they refused to believe rather than following the evidence were it lead, which was to the truth of the claims Jesus was making concerning himself about being one from God.

John says that their refusal to believe was a fulfillment of what Isaiah had spoken in Isaiah 53:1. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 reports of a man who was without sin that died for others and was then resurrected from the dead. This could be none other than Jesus, but even so, Isaiah asks, “who has believed their report?”  John then refers to Isaiah’s commission and message. Isaiah had just seen the glory of God and was cleansed. He was then told to go tell the people a message, but knowing that they their eyes would be shut and their ears closed. This was not the case because they couldn’t hear the message, but that they refused to believe it, otherwise they would be healed. The Pharisees just refused to believe even when some of the “rulers” (that is some members of the Sanhedrin, perhaps Nicodemus from John 3:1) believed in him.

In the world today, one of the most often cited reasons for not believing in God is that there is no evidence for the existence of God. Many even go further, saying that Jesus did not exist. The problem with saying this is that it is simply not true. Jesus’ existence is well documented as historical facts by both biblical and extrabiblical sources.  Prominent non-Christian historians and figures like Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and the Emperor Hadrian all acknowledge Jesus’ existence. One would have to deny both the biblical and extra biblical evidence to deny the existence of Jesus. But affirming Jesus as a man does not affirm him as God. One would have to accept the existence of Jesus but deny other historical evidence that affirms his divinity (such as the resurrection) to say that Jesus was merely a man. All in all, evidence for Jesus’ existence would be evidence for God’s existence. The Pharisees had the evidence revealed to their own eyes and would not believe because they had some other motive not to believe, and this is probably the reason that many refuse to believe in God. If one is truly open to where the evidence leads then it can only really lead one place: Jesus. Christians need not fear being wrong about what they believe because what they believe is true and affirmed by facts.

Lord, the truth can only be found in you! I believe and know it to be so!