Jan. 4, 2017

What if Jesus were here today?

Matthew 4:12-25 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.


There is a notion, or I might say a delusion that if Jesus were here today, if He walked with us, in our society and our culture, in our present time, that He would have little or nothing to do with the church. People like to speak of Jesus association and interaction with outcasts, sinners and the unlovely of society in His day to prove that He would prefer to be with them rather than to be with those who are in the church. It is perhaps true that as He did in His day, Jesus would have many areas of disagreement with the institutional church and its leaders. But to think that He would avoid organized services and places of worship is completely contrary to what we see in scripture. Throughout His ministry scripture testifies that Jesus did in fact attend religious gatherings and associate with religious people. In today’s text it says:    Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.     In Luke 4:16-21, we read Luke’s account of the beginning of Jesus ministry:     And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed,  To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”       In addition, throughout His life, even to the last Passover meal, Jesus also held to the God ordained traditions of the Jewish religion, practicing and participating in the feasts and honoring God the Father in worship.

Scripture does also bear witness that much to the dismay of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus did associate with outcasts and sinners. He was criticized and ridiculed for eating with and associating with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners of all kinds. Here is the truth though, in Luke 19:10, Jesus Himself says who it is that He came to minister to. He says:   “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”      Jesus purpose was to seek and save those who are lost. Jesus purpose today remains to seek and save the lost. Jesus did not come to save the institutional church. Many in His day thought the Messiah would come to save and deliver the nation from its political foes and bondage. Jesus didn’t come to save the institution of human government. It is neither the institution of the church or the government that Jesus would be concerned with today. Jesus came to seek and save lost people. Today’s text tells us what Jesus message was from the beginning. It says:   From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus was not and would not be more concerned with one group of people over another. John 3:16 says:  “For God so loved the world, (all the people)  that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.      Those who think that Jesus would only minister to and associate with the same group of people they do, are sadly deceived. Jesus did not and would not avoid the people in the church. He would seek them out, He would teach them, He would discipline and rebuke them as needed, but He would love them with unconditional love and He would call them to Himself, to repent and believe. In the same way, Jesus would, as He did in His day, much to the dismay of religious people, associate with the outcasts of our society. Jesus would minister in the streets, in public buildings and in parks, wherever people could be found. He would eat with prostitutes, drug addicts and sinners of all kinds. It is not though that He would prefer that lifestyle or even their company over the lifestyle and company of others. It is because to those too, His message would be repent and believe. Jesus would not seek out the lost that they would remain lost. In the same way that Jesus cannot save institutions, but individuals, He did not redeem sin, but rather sinners. To think that Jesus would ignore, tolerate and embrace the very things He came to free people from, is to believe a lie.  

In truth, while the world we live in has changed tremendously from the world that Jesus lived in, nothing has changed with the kingdom of heaven or with the purpose of Jesus and the will of the Father. As it was then, religion still cannot save people. Human institutions whether religious, social or political do not have the ability to redeem people. Additionally while no human institution could or can save people, just as it was, so it still is, sin could, did and does destroy people’s lives. Roman 6:23 says:   For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.      I believe, because of the testimony of scripture, that if Jesus were to come and walk among us today, He would love people, religious people and unreligious people and He would call them to Himself that they would be saved and not lost in sin.

Thank You heavenly Father, that because of Your great love, You sent Your Son Jesus, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish in or for their sin. While sin can destroy us, no human institution can save us. Only through Jesus and the power of the cross are we set free, redeemed from sin. You don’t prefer one class or one group of people. Your desire is that all would come to know Jesus Christ. Thank You Jesus my Lord, My Savior, You alone save the lost. I believe.     Amen