As we prepare for Holy week, we are reminded again to reflect on one of the most incredible or greatest stories in human history. Roughly 2,000 years ago God sent His son Jesus to live among us. He was incarnate, fully God and fully human. The fact that God would humble himself and take the form of humanity with it’s all its frailty, vulnerability, and mortality is pretty amazing.
Even more surprising is that Jesus didn’t necessarily want to draw too much attention to the fact that He was God. He never comes right out and says, “I am God”, right? Or does He? Jesus does refer to Himself as “I am” in John chapter 8.
I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24 NIV
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:58 NIV
This is significant when you see the Jews reaction to His claim to have existed before Abraham was born. How is that possible? The Jews don’t think so and have a fit. The are getting ready to stone Jesus to death. Why? We know from the Old Testament encounter with Moses and the burning bush that God refers to Himself as “I am”. Moses needs to know what to tell the Israelites when asked, “who sent you”? Moses needed a name. God gives Him one.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:14 NIV
When Jesus says, “I am he”, it’s pretty clear to the Jews who He is claiming to be. They’ve been taught what that means. Jesus is aware that the Jews knew what He meant too because it says that Jesus hid himself or slipped away. He pulled a disappearing act and vanished. Sure, he probably could have diffused the situation by saying, “Hold up dudes I didn’t mean it like that. I mean, seriously. Is that what you thought I was saying? I think there has been a misunderstanding. Why don’t I buy you guys a drink, and we’ll forget the whole thing”? But He didn’t. He meant what He said.
The word for “I am” in the Hebrew is “Ehyeh”, which can be used as a “statement of incomparability” like, “I am without equal”. He may not have said it, but He was implying that He was equal to God. Even though Jesus was “without equal” or God Himself, He didn’t use that as an advantage while He was Immanuel or God with us. He didn’t use His equality as an entitlement.
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8 NIV
Grandstanding and drawing attention to Himself wasn’t His style. It wasn’t the purpose of His mission. He came to serve, proclaim the good news, glorify His Father, conquer death, and break the chains of sins control and dominion over us forever. Hallelujah!!! He proclaimed a new covenant that would be sealed in and with His blood. To me, Jesus willingness to humble Himself is one of the greatest things that draws us to Him. If we’re paying attention, it is our greatest tool for drawing others to Him.
Have you ever watched “The Greatest Story Ever Told”? It was a 1965 film about Jesus life, death, and resurrection starring Max von Sydow as Jesus. The story has been told over and over again for over 2,000 years. According to the New Yorker Magaizine article in 2016, “The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the United States is a virtually impossible task, but a conservative estimate is that in 2005 Americans purchased some twenty-five million Bibles—twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars.” However there has been a decline in Bible sales due to the decline of Christianity and the church in the U.S. in recent years. It is getting harder and more challenging to not only share the good news, but to find people who will listen and respond.
Evangelism, the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness, is our primary vehicle for sharing our faith and the good news of the Gospel. We have been commissioned. Jesus has passed the responsibility of sharing the good news to us.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
The reason I’m sharing all this is because it is easy to get discouraged when our culture seems to be growing more and more disinterested and even hostile to our message, disciple making, and evangelism. Even those within the body of Christ are deconstructing the faith and message to the point where it is almost unrecognizable and incompatible with scripture.
So this devotional is self-encouragement. I’m giving myself a pep talk. I’m clinging to God’s word, promises, and strength. Just as Paul, who endured great hardship in ministry, encouraged Timothy, may it encourage us all in our ministry and disciple making.
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:11-14 NIV
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” St Francis of Assisi
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management