"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
I Corinthians 13:12
It's time for a new devotional theme. I am naming this series, "Portraits of Christ". I am not an artist, but I plan to use the scriptures to paint pictures of Jesus that I hope can give us a greater feel for how He lived as He walked on this earth. Let's look at His surroundings and some of the places He went. Let's listen to His teaching and zoom in on some of the people around Him to learn more about His love and compassion.
1. Pictures, Today And Yesterday
Today we can take pictures and immediately send them across the web for our friends to see. "Selfies" have become popular with the easy to use cameras on cell phones. Just hold your phone out in front of your face and shoot the picture. Taking pictures is so much easier with the advanced technology we have today. When my children were young we made an appointment to have a family portrait taken. We dressed up in our finest clothes, waited in a small room for what seemed like hours, then went into a smaller room with the photographer who tried to get everyone to look and smile at the same time. I don't mean to complain, I like to look at those pictures of days gone by. I also enjoy looking at pictures that were painted in ancient days and I often wonder, "Did they really look like that?" In some of my research for my personal Bible study I have seen photos of archaeological finds of places that we read about in the Bible and it helps clarify the pictures I have in my mind. The pictures, though expressive, still don't give us clear portraits of what people really looked like, how they dressed, and how they lived. Sometimes I think about heaven and I wonder if we will know Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Ruth, Mary, and the many other people we read about. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain and Jesus was transfigured before them they knew them. "And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:3-5) I believe that when I get to heaven I will know Jesus, my Savior. He loves me so much that He died for me, so I am sure He will let me know who He is.
2. Before He Was Born
As we begin our look at "Portraits of Christ" let's think back to before He was born. Mothers today can have sonograms taken and see an image of their babies before they are born. We can also find images of Christ as we look back in the Old Testament. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:6-7) Parents get to pick out a name for their baby. They often hear from family and friends who want to help name the little one. Our Lord was also named before He was born. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS." (Luke 1:31) Many times a mother-to-be will choose where she wants to birth her baby. God spoke through the prophet Micah that His Son would be born in Bethlehem. "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Most parents have great hopes and plans for their children. They want them to accomplish great things in this world. Well, there was no greater born than Jesus Christ! He left His home in heaven to be born of a virgin and give His life for all who believe. He gives hope to the hopeless. He loves the unlovely. And He has boundless mercy and grace for those who put their trust in Him. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
3. The Fullness Of Time
After giving birth to five children, I can say that one of the hardest parts of my pregnancies was waiting for the time to come. The last month always seemed really long and there was nothing I could do to speed up the process, so I waited. And I waited, and I waited. The Children of Israel had also waited for their Messiah. They had the prophecies which told them that He would surely come. There were probably many who thought He would be born during their lifetime, but they were doubtless disappointed. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." (Galatians 4:4-7) When did God send His Son? "When the fulness of the time was come". We can't put God on our time tables. God always does things in His time frame. Luke also gives us an interesting expression of the time of our Lord's birth, "the days were accomplished." To accomplish is to finish something, or fulfill. Mary's time of carrying our Savior was over, but His days on earth were just beginning. He came to redeem us and make us His sons, and that was also accomplished on the old rugged cross about thirty three years later with His final words, "It is finished." (Luke 19:30)
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:4-7)
4. The First Visitors Of The Christ Child
When my children were born, family and friends came to visit, many bringing food or gifts for the baby. I have many happy memories of those days. Mary also harbored the memories as we read in Luke 2:19, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." This verse follows the recording of the first visitors.
"8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." (Luke 2:8-12 & 15-16)
This is our first portrait of the new born Christ, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, surrounded by the lowly shepherds. What could be more fitting for the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"? (John 1:29)
5. Gifts Fit For A King
I know that Christmas is several months away, but in looking at "Portraits of Christ" we are going back in time to the beginning of His time on earth. Today we see wise men from the East bringing gifts fit for a king. In the typical nativity scenes there are three wise men, but I believe that there were many more than three. Would Herod have been so worried by three travelers that he would kill all the babies in Bethlehem from two years old and under? I imagine a whole caravan of magi traveling across the deserts on camels, seeking the King, following a star which "went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:9-11) A few years ago I heard a song by Downhere which I would like to share today.
"How Many Kings?"
by Marc Martel
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we've projected
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child
Is this who we've waited for?
Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he'll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we've waited for?
It's who we've waited for
How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me
All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you
6. Simeon And Anna
I really enjoy times of fellowship with other Christians. Especially those who have walked with Christ for many years, their faith strengthened by storms and trials. And their hearts filled with thanksgiving from God's countless blessings. They are living examples of God's mercy and grace, and their lives radiate with His love. Such are the two people who meet Baby Jesus in our story today. After the days of Mary's purification were ended (eight days for circumcising the child and thirty three more per Leviticus 12:5) she and Joseph took the Baby to the temple to offer their sacrifice according to the law of the Lord. While in Jerusalem they met Simeon, who was filled with the Holy Ghost which revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
"27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. (Luke 2:27-33)
Baby Jesus was almost six weeks old and this elderly man took Him in his arms, and I imagine he looked into His eyes and the Holy Ghost smiled back through the eyes of the Christ Child. And Simeon blessed them. Then they met Anna, a prophetess and widow of about eighty four years. We are told in Luke 2:37-38 that she "departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." I am sure Joseph and Mary carried those memories back with them to Nazareth and cherished them for many years.
7. Prophecy Fulfilled
After the visit of the wise men, God warned Joseph to take Mary and Baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod's destruction. "When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Matthew 2:14-15) After the death of Herod, Joseph moved to Nazareth. "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23) If we turn over a couple of chapters to Matthew 4:13-16 we read, "And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." In each of these three moves God was fulfilling prophecy. This teaches us that God is in control and nothing ever happens that surprises God. From the beginning of man's sin in the Garden of Eden God had a plan to offer forgiveness and reconciliation. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." (I John 4:9) I believe that the fulfillment of prophecy was also for those who looked for His coming. Those who knew the holy scriptures and sought the Lord, found Him. There were many more prophecies of our Lord. Many were filled during His life on earth, and many more were fulfilled at His death. So, the portrait of Christ we see today is the Fulfiller of Prophecy. And just as God has been true to His Word in the past, we can be sure He will always be faithful to His Word!
8. Twelve Years Old
Now that we have looked at all the pictures of Christ as an infant, let's move on to the next scripture reference when He was twelve years old. You may remember this story. Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover and after the celebration they started back home. They were traveling with family and friends and they thought Jesus was among them. They went a day's journey and probably started settling in somewhere for the night and could not find Him. After searching among their kinsfolk and acquaintances they went back to Jerusalem.
"46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (Luke 2:46-52)
I have had many nightmares in which I lost a child and I always awoke in sweat and tears at the terror of the thought. I was so relieved that they were just bad dreams. I can understand Mary's sorrow and fear at the thought of losing God's precious Son. Let's look at this picture of Jesus. Here is God's Son, twelve years old, sitting in the temple among the wise men, "hearing them, and asking them questions." This seems to indicate that He is learning from them. But look at the next verse, "And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers." This seems to show that they were also learning from Him. I don't know how much Jesus had to learn as a boy, and how much He already knew in His relationship with God the Father. But we do know that He was in God's will as He said, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" He was preparing Himself to fulfill God's will for His life on earth. Our children are never too young to learn about Jesus. We used a Bible story book that had short simple stories from the Bible for our family devotions when the children were young. At the end of each story were three questions that we asked them. We also taught them to memorize Bible verses and pray. And now, it is such a joy to hear our little grandchildren pray, quote scriptures, and tell us Bible stories. This is the only account we have of Jesus from His childhood, so I believe that it is a very important picture of His life as a boy, growing "in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (For the young person reading this, please notice that even though Jesus was perfect and His parents were not, He "was subject unto them." This means that He listened to them and obeyed them. If it was important for Jesus to obey His earthly parents, then it is important for you, too.)
9. The Baptism Of Jesus
Let's begin today with a look at John the Baptist. He was born to a priest, Zacharias, and his wife, Elisabeth, six months before Jesus was born of Mary. Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and told him that they would have a son and name him John. He would be great in the sight of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Ghost before he was born. John was sent from God to prepare the way of the Lord. Remember that when the wise men came to search for the new born King, Herod had all the babies two years old and under killed. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, and it is probable that Zacharias and Elisabeth also had to flee and hide John. Since they were old and "stricken in years" they may have died when John was still very young so we should not be surprised to find him preaching in the wilderness with "his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4) He preached repentance and many people went to Jordan to be baptized by him. Jesus also went to John to be baptized, as we read in all four of the gospels. We will look at Matthew 3:13-17.
"13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
In this "Portrait of Christ" we see the Trinity. We see Jesus the Son, doing His Father's will. We see the Holy Spirit, coming down from heaven. And we see the presence of God the Father in the voice from heaven. This is important to us as we read the parting words of Jesus after the resurrection in the end of the book of Matthew. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20) The words of John are still true today. Confess your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you can be saved. You can know God the Father, through the Son, and have the peace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in your heart.
10. Jesus Was Tempted
Matthew and Luke give about a dozen verses to describe the temptation of Jesus. Mark sums it up in one verse, "And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him." (Mark 1:13) I like the fast pace of the gospel of Mark, but today I think it will help us to look more closely at the temptation of Jesus. Look at Luke 4:2-4, "Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." We often read of the three different temptations of Jesus but this scripture seems to indicate that Jesus was tempted for forty days before the final three examples are given. We can find help in this as we read I Corinthians 10:13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Jesus overcame temptation by the Word of God. As we study and hide God's Word in our hearts, it can help us escape temptation. Our second example of temptation... "And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Luke 4:5-8) Again the Lord used the Word of God to overcome this temptation. A preacher once pointed out that it only took a "moment of time" for the devil to show Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world." We will have all eternity to look over the kingdom of God. Since Jesus overcame temptation with the Word of God, the devil decided to use the scriptures against the Lord, but Jesus prevailed. "And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season." (Luke 4:9-13) We also see that the devil departed for a season. Just because we don't fall to temptation today does not mean that we can let our guard down. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (I Peter 5:8-9) Another encouraging thought we find in the scriptures is that we are not the only ones that face temptation. Many times when something happens we feel like saying, "Why does it always happen to me?" Stay strong! Temptation comes to everyone. And because Jesus was tempted just as we are, we can find help when we go to Him. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
11. Why Did The Apostles Follow Jesus?
As I was reading to prepare for this series on "Portraits of Christ" I came to these verses in Matthew 4:18-22 and I started wondering why these fishermen left their nets, their way of life, and followed Jesus. Let's look at a few reasons that may have influenced their decisions.
"18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him."
Could it have been the anticipation of His promise? He promised to make then "fishers of men". Did they understand what Jesus was saying? Many times the apostles asked Jesus questions which shows that they did not always understand what He was trying to tell them. So maybe they didn't fully understand how they could be fishers of men, but surely they wanted to follow through in expectation and anticipation of His promise. We can come to Jesus without knowing a lot of scripture. All we have to do is believe He died to pay our sin debt and trust Him as our Savior and we will learn more about Him as we grow spiritually. Was it the marvel of His miracle? Luke 5:1-11 tells of the people pressing up to Him to hear the word of God and Jesus got in Simon's ship and asked him to go out a little from the land. Jesus sat down and taught the people from the ship. Afterwards, he told Simon Peter to "launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake." They called to James and John, their partners, and filled both ships with fish. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:" Notice that Simon Peter had been on the ship while Jesus taught the people, and he believed in Him after this miracle and confessed his sin and called Him Lord. Those are the steps of salvation. Was it the witness of John? John 1:32-42 begins with the prophet John baptizing and telling others, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Two of John's disciples followed Jesus and stayed with Him that day. Andrew, one of them, went to find his brother Simon and said, "We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." John witnessed of Jesus, and when Andrew knew who Jesus was he went and witnessed to his brother. This shows how important it is for us to tell others about Jesus. How long has it been since you introduced someone to Christ? I have already gone quite long but I wanted to mention other possibilities. Was it the wisdom of His words? Could it have been the power of His presence or the presence of His peace? How about the love and compassion in His look? And maybe even greater, the fullness of His forgiveness? All of these things can bring a soul to Christ. What made you follow Jesus?
12. The Blessed
Jesus called His disciples to follow Him and He began "teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan." (Matthew 4:23-25) Chapter 5 begins, "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, ..." (Matthew 5:1-2) Multitudes have followed Jesus to hear His Word and be healed by Him. I imagine He went a ways up the mountain and sat down above the people so they could see and hear Him. As He looked out over the crowd He saw the poor and lowly. He saw the tired and weary, the lonely and sad. He knew the heavy hearted and heavy laden. They had come to Him for help, and hope for their troubled lives. So He opened his mouth and spoke words of kindness, words of love, words to comfort them. As you read these verses of blessings to those followers, remember that the Word of God is still as true today as it was those two thousand years ago.
"3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:3-12)
13. Moved With Compassion
One of the beatitudes we looked at yesterday is, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." (Matthew 5:7) There is no one as merciful as the Lord Jesus. Let's look at the compassion He showed to the helpless and hopeless. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (I Peter 1:3-5)
"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36) He had compassion on the multitudes and became their Good Shepherd. "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11-15)
"And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." (Matthew 14:14) To the sick Jesus became the Great Physician. "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." (Matthew 9:35)
"Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way." (Matthew 15:32) He fed the hungry and became the Bread of Life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:47-51)
"So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." (Matthew 20:34) And finally, He opened blinded eyes and let them see the light. "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12) Have you seen the Light?
14. Meekness Does Not Mean Weakness
Today we are looking at another one of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Many see meekness as a sign of weakness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look at Moses, that great prophet of God who stood up to Pharaoh and demanded that he let the Children of Israel go free, and led those 600,000 (as some estimate) through the wilderness for forty years. "(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)" (Numbers 12:3) God said of Moses, "With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (Numbers 12:8) Because Moses had this close relationship with God and saw how great God is, he saw just how small he was. But this did not make him weak. He was a great man, strong in the Lord! As we look at our Portrait of Christ today we see His meekness. He said in Matthew 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." I once worked for a man who was meek and a great boss. It was hard to believe that in his younger years he had been an FBI agent, tracking down hardened criminals. I stress again, meekness does not mean weakness. We see the contrast in Matthew 21:12, "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them." Bold enough to cleanse the temple, and meek enough to heal the blind and lame. Jesus was busy teaching, preaching, and healing those in need but He took time to bless the children as we read in Mark 10:13-16. "And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." This same Jesus who took the little children in His arms, spread out those same arms to give His life for me and you. As the Good Shepherd, He said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17-18)
15. The Great I AM
"And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:14) If I said to you, "I am," then you would want me to finish the sentence, like "I am hot", "I am tired", "I am hungry", etc. Only God can say, "I AM THAT I AM". As we continue with our look at the Portraits of Christ I want to visit the book of John and see the "I ams" of Jesus. Jesus fed the multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread and the next day they looked for Him. Jesus told them that they sought Him because they ate the breat and were filled. Then they asked Jesus for a sign that they could believe on Him, like their ancestors ate manna in the desert. "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6:32-35) Jesus is the bread of life! The next "I am" is found in John 8:12, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Jesus is not only the Bread of Life, but He is also the Light of the world. For the next two, I can imagine Jesus sitting on a hillside, and maybe He used a short rock wall of a sheep fold for His seat. The people gathered round about Him listening. Maybe there are shepherds among the crowd, with their sheep grazing nearby. "Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." John 10:7-9) Jesus is the Door to life eternal. Not only is He the Door, but He is also the Good Shepherd. "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:11 & 14015) At the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus told Martha, "...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26) See how all of these statements point His followers to salvation? He could not have said it more plainly than He did in John 14:6. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Our last great "I Am" is found in John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
16. The Master Of The Sea
We find our picture today in Mark 4:36-41. As He had done before, Jesus got into a ship and sat and taught the people that gathered on the land. He told parables to the multitude and they listened as they stood on the shore. "Behold, there went out a sower to sow seed..." (Mark 4:4) The people could relate to this story. They did not have the modern conveniences of fast food restaurants and grocery stores that we have today, so they probably raised their own food. His parables were based on ordinary things. "Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?" (Mark 4:21) He taught in parables to the people, and maybe He explained them to the disciples as they sat on the boat. He had chosen twelve to follow Him and He took time to help them understand. But, as we continue in Mark 4 we see that even those closest to Him did not really know Him at this point in time.
"36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
Only the Creator of the universe could have power over the wind and the sea. Only God could give peace in the midst of the storms. Just as the disciples learned that day that there was nothing to fear when Jesus was in their ship, we also need to put our trust in Him. He has the power to calm the storms, and He has the power to calm us in the midst of the storms.
17. A Picture Of A Servant
The background for our next picture is an upper room, where Jesus and His twelve disciples have just finished the last passover supper. Let's listen as John tells us what happened next.
"1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." (John 13:1-5)
In verse 1 we see that Jesus knew He was about to give His life on a cruel cross because of His great love. He was not taken by surprise. He even knew that Judas Iscariot betrayed him. I like verse 3, "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;" Jesus knew where He came from. He knew who He was. Jesus also knew that He was going back to God. He had humbled Himself to come to earth, and He was about to give the disciples a lesson in humility. The next verses tells us that He took on the job of a servant to wash the disciples' feet. Mark 14:15 and Luke 22:12 tell us that the upper room was furnished. I heard a preacher say that the basin, towel, and water were there when they went in. Either one of the disciples could have washed their feet, but that was the role of a servant. When Jesus began washing their feet, I wonder how many of them thought, "I should have done that." When we stand before the Lord to be judged for what we have done for Him, and what we neglected to do, no doubt we will also think, "I should have done that." If Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, can take on the role of a servant for others, then surely we can give ourselves to serve others in our service for Christ.
18. "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled"
At the Last Supper Jesus told the disciples how He had come to give His life and be taken away from them. They had put their trust in Him to become their King. ("And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory." Mark 10:35-37) They trusted Him to redeem Israel as we see this in the words of Cleopas after the crucifixion in Luke 24:19-21. " Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done." They were surely troubled at the things Jesus told them, but He cared for them and spoke these loving words...
"1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:1-6)
Many are troubled today. The cares of life can really drag us down. Let Jesus speak to your heart today, "Let not your heart be troubled..." Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, invite Him into your life and put your trust in Him. Find hope in the Word of God. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (I Peter 5:7) Jesus can give you peace in these troubled times. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
19. Christ On The Cross
I don't think any of us could imagine the sorrow Jesus felt on the cross. "As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:" (Isaiah 52:14) It was so bad that God turned out the light and sent darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour. So we know that the picture of Christ on the cross would be horrifying. But, let's look at the words He spoke and we will see an amazing portrait of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:43) Jesus went through all the pain and suffering for me and you. And He did it alone. Once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I received that promise that I would never be alone. He is always here for me, even through the worst of times, the Lord promised never to leave me nor forsake me. But, He was forsaken. He was left alone to bear the sins of the world. How did He feel toward those whose sins He bore? Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God." (Luke 23:34-35) He did it all with a forgiving spirit. He could save himself, or He could die to save others. I am so glad that He chose to save others. Jesus even saved one from the cross. He was burdened down with our sin and yet He was still God, with His saving power! "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43) "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:26-30) And from Luke 23:46 "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Before closing I want to look at the centurion. He had probably overlooked many crucifixions. His heart was probably hardened to the screams of the defenseless victims hanging in agony. But even this calloused man saw a difference. "And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God." (Mark 15:39) Do you believe in Jesus, the Son of God?
20. The Risen Lord
There are several resurrection portraits we could use for Christ. In John's gospel we see Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb. "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:15-17) When Jesus called her name, "Mary", she recognized Him as her Lord and Master. I am glad that I answered when the Lord called me to be saved! We can find another picture of Christ standing on the shore after the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. "Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord... As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise." (Portions of John 21:5-13) I don't think it will be very long until we will hear the Lord call to us, "Come and dine" for the marriage supper of the Lamb. The last one I want to mention is when the two disciples were on the way to Emmaus. They were talking about all that had happened in Jerusalem and Jesus started walking along with them. "But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel:..." (Luke 24:16-21) Jesus explained the scriptures concerning Himself and when they reached their destination He ate with them. "And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them," (Luke 24:30-33) Do you think they saw the nail prints in His hands as He broke the bread? Maybe He blessed it in the same way that they had heard Him before. For whatever reason, their eyes were opened and they said, "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way..." I am grateful for the times my heart burns within me as I talk with the Lord along the way.
21. "He That Hath An Ear, Let Him Hear"
For our last look at a "Portrait of Christ" I turn to the last book of the Bible. After the seven letters to the seven churches we see Jesus, standing outside the church door, knocking. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:20-22) For many years I thought of this verse as Jesus knocking on the door of a lost sinner's heart, wanting to give salvation to whosoever will. As I got older I realized that Jesus is speaking to the churches. Many churches go on week after week without ever inviting the Lord to their services. Where is the Lord Jesus in your life? Is He Lord of all? Does He have the preeminence in your church? We close this series with the closing words in the Bible.
"16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Revelation 22:16-21)