Category Archives: Life of Christ

Pain

Studies in Genesis 3

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

God now turns His attention to the woman. His curse for the serpent was that it would crawl on its belly and eat dust. His curse of the Deceiver is that the offspring of the woman, someone down the line, would crush its head while it vainly struck at His heel. God’s judgment to the woman is two-fold, that she would have pain in childbirth and that her husband would rule over her even as her desires would be contrary to his.

Life, after the fall, is filled with suffering. I am a man and have no concept of the pain experienced in childbirth. Yet, the life of a child moves from the safety of the womb to the harsh environment outside the womb. But it is not the life and pain of the child God is addressing but the pain the woman will experience by having children. Her suffering begins during pregnancy, spikes during delivery, then continues throughout the life of the child even when the child matures into an adult.

When God declares “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” the word pain is also translated toil, sorrow, hardship, hurt. This word is used only three times in Scripture. God uses the word to describe the pain of childbirth in this verse. God also describes the pain of eating the fruit of the man’s labor in the next verse, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” Genesis 3:17 ESV). The word is then used in Genesis 5:29, the hopeful prophecy of Lamech for his son Noah, to bring relief from the painful toil of work.

Jesus talks about the pain of childbirth as preceding the joy the child brings to the parent. In the context of His statement He alludes to the pain of losing Him to death is similar and will bring eternal joy of having Him after His resurrection.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20-22 ESV)

Why pain in childbirth? Is the pain supposed to be a reminder for all women that their first mother rebelled against God? Is the pain supposed to point to the sentence of the Deceiver, who will strike out at the children of the woman and hurt them, or Him, but will then be crushed? Can we assume there would have been no pain in childbirth had the first couple had children before rebelling? According to Jesus, the pain of childbirth points to the pain of His passion, for Him and for those who are His, because it also points to the eternal joy of being with Him (see also Romans 8:18).

Please note, neither the woman or the man are cursed. They are judged and sentenced. They will die physically because that was the determined consequence for eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They will bear the consequences of their actions and those who follow them will also suffer because of their rebellion. One of the consequences of their rebelling is pain, suffering and sorrow for all, including Jesus who was fully God and fully man the way God originally intended.

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Head and Heel

Studies in Genesis 3

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

What does the word “seed” or “offspring” mean? How is it used in relation to both creatures? What does it mean to “bruise” heel and head.

For the woman, the word offspring means children. But not just the immediate children of the woman. It means all of the descendants which will come from her because she is the first woman. It could also mean one individual who will come from her somewhere down the line of descendants.

For the Deceiver, the word seed or descendants is not it’s offspring through physical union of male and female but those who decide to follow, emulate and be trained by the Deceiver to hate God. Many of the descendants of the woman will also be descendants of the Deceiver.

To bruise means to fall upon or crush. God, through one of the descendants of the first woman, will finish the war begun against Him. The Deceiver will strike out and hurt the One who is coming. It will wound Him but will not defeat Him. He will fall upon the Deceiver’s head, crushing it and ultimately defeating the being who rebelled against God.

We now know this statement is a prophecy of Messiah, fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the moment Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit the Deceiver began its assault against Jesus in the vain exercise of trying to kill Him.  From requiring a pregnant woman to move a great distance riding a donkey, to Herod seeking to kill Him when he was a child, to the temptations of Christ and His passion, the Deceiver sought ways to stop God from fulfilling His promises. Nothing can hinder God’s will. He used all of the devious tricks of the Deceiver to fulfill prophecy and finish His will.

Ultimately, the Deceiver struck at Christ’s heel, hurting Him but not killing Him. Jesus was tortured to death on a Roman cross. But His resurrection followed His death and finished His work of redemption.

We are still deeply embedded in a struggle, a rebellion, fueled by the hatred of the Deceiver. God has tried, judged and sentenced the Deceiver, who is not awaiting the execution of the sentence. During this time, the conflict rages as God separates those who are not His from those who are.

Enmity

Studies in Genesis 3

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

Does God create hatred and loathing? Is hatred part of His eternal character?

When God stated that He placed enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, or the serpent, He is speaking about a level of hatred that moves beyond simple displeasure. This hatred and loathing is the deepest and longest lasting antagonism coupled with a desire to destroy and annihilate. The woman wants the Deceiver destroyed. The Deceiver want anything and everything God has done corrupted, unusable and taken away from HimimH.

There is an eternal difference between the “hatred” of God and that of His creatures who have rebelled against Him. God’s hatred is against sin. Scripture is replete with instances of God declaring His hatred and loathing for sin and for those who refuse to repent, who actively and purposefully rebel against Him, and who promote sin in others.

If a man does not repent,
God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:12-14 ESV)

In the Gospels Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders by saying they are related to the Deceiver, telling them their father is the Devil. It, the Deceiver or the Devil, slanders man to God and God to man. It, the Devil, is both a murderer and a liar. Those to whom Jesus is speaking do the exact things done by the Deceiver.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)

God is not the author of sin. He did not decide to corrupt the heavens and the earth He created. Nor, was His objective that Man rebel against Him when He created Man in His image. Yet, He did foresee from the beginning the reality of sin in His creation. There was darkness on the first day of creation (see Genesis 1:1-5) and then God created light, and separated the darkness from the light. From the beginning, God separates darkness from light whether in the spiritual realm or the physical. If I am correct in my thinking that God created the physical realm with representative characteristics of the spiritual then from the beginning God’s plan and decree was to swallow darkness with light.

When God declared enmity, hatred and loathing between the woman and the Deceiver, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Deceiver, He announced the outcome of the conflict between those who love and those who hate Him. God is completely and ultimately in control.

Breath of Life

Studies in Genesis 2

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7 ESV)

God filled Man’s nostrils with a puff of His breath and the dry clay and dust He formed into the shape of a Man came alive. That which was not alive, lived.

Ezekiel had a vision of a valley of dry bones. It was not uncommon for a victorious army to take their captives to the top of a cliff and throw them off. Exposed to the weather and the carrion it would not take long for the flesh to be stripped off the bones and the sun to bake them dry. God showed Ezekiel a pile of that which had lived but was now dead.

God’s question suggests a “yes or no” answer. “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’” But that is not the answer Ezekiel gives. “And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know’” (Ezekiel 37:3 ESV). Ezekiel cannot bring these who have died back to life. No one created by God can bring back to life that which has died. Does he think God cannot? Though we carry the image of God we are not God. Only God can give life.

Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones. A prophet tells the truth, whether about what is before them or about the future. Only God can give the truth about the future. When God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy He was telling him to tell the truth about what will happen to these dead, dry bones.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:4-6 ESV)

 God assembled the bones into people and covered them with muscle and flesh. But they were not alive. They were still dead.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9 ESV)

“Breathe on these slain, that they may live.” “Breathe” is the same word used in Genesis 2:7. “Live” is closely related to the word “living” used in Genesis 2:7.

God told Ezekiel to tell the truth about what God was going to do and then did. Only God gives life. Yet, God uses people to deliver His truth and act upon His will.

Jesus, when He sent out the twelve, instructed them to tell the truth about the coming of the kingdom of heaven. He told them to announce “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7 ESV). He then gave them authority to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8 ESV). His disciples raised the dead. Those who died and could not live were given the breath of life and lived.

God tells us the truth throughout Scripture. He took a handful of dust and breathed on it and Man lived. Adam, the first Man, knew God. He told Ezekiel to tell the truth and those who were slain were given life. When they were raised they knew God. “And you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:6 ESV).  Jesus gave His disciples authority to tell the truth and raise the dead. Jesus told the truth about His death and His resurrection. All of the circumstantial evidence, from the beginning of the history of Man to now, tells us the truth of His resurrection and validates every word God has said. Jesus’ disciples know God and are His witnesses of truth to the world.

God Rests

Studies in Genesis 2

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

God finished His work and then He rested. Do not think God is exhausted from His work or that He needs to sleep so He can get up after the weekend and do it all again.

We need to have an understanding of God’s work for us to understand God’s rest. God worked in creation. His work is everything He does which is natural to His being. He does not work for someone else but acts according to His eternal nature. What He begins He finishes, perfectly completing all He determined to accomplish. He then ceases working on creation. He finishes creation, because there is nothing left to do. His finishing creation and ceasing to work He calls “rest.” God “rested.”

“Rested” is a verb and means to cease or desist from labor. It is the word shabat from which is derived the noun shabbath translated Sabbath. So, on the seventh day of creation, the sabbath, God rested, shabat.

One of the questions which arises is whether after God rested He again began to work. We are told God finished His work. If He were to begin working again it would be to do something different, unrelated to that which He created. A new project. We don’t know about God’s “projects” other than the space-time universe in which we live. Yet, Jesus tells us He and His Father are still working. “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:15 ESV). John uses a word for “work” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “work” used in Genesis 2.

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders are incensed. One of the rules the Jewish leaders extrapolated from Scripture was no one was to “work” on the Sabbath. Apparently healing a person on the Sabbath was considered “work.” That, and Jesus told the man healed to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV), which is also considered work by the Jewish leaders. Not only was Jesus working but encouraging others to work on the Sabbath. How scandalous.

Jesus’ response to the superstitious tradition of not doing physical labor on the Sabbath was that God works and is still working, regardless of the day of the week. These Jewish leaders misunderstood what it means to work and rest. They also have a skewed understanding of God. They do not know Him either intellectually or intimately.

Jesus is God. It was He who created the heavens and the earth, every atom in the universe, accomplishing exactly what He intended. It was He who wrote the Scripture, inspiring the writers to record, in their own voices, that which He wanted. It is He who declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” “for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 ESV). It is He who created the beginning of the space-time universe and it is He who will bring it to an end.

God’s rest is in our future. He is not constrained by the space-time universe He created but exists outside of it. Those laws which hold the universe together are sustained by Him until He decides to bring the universe to an end. The laws of the universe, like the moral laws, are a reflection of Him but do not control Him. Scripture tells us He rested after He finished His work. Those who are His know how to rest in Him because they are looking forward to His rest in eternity.

Blessed

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

God blessed those He created in His image. This is the second of three times the word “blessed” is used in the Creation story. God blessed the sea creatures and the birds of the air in Genesis 1:22, telling them to be fruitful and multiply. God blessed the seventh day “and made it holy because on it God rested from all the work He had done in creation” in Genesis 2:3.

God blesses Man, who is created in His image. Man is male and female.

To bless means to kneel before, but not as one subservient to another. There are two images which may help us understand the use of the word. First, think of a father kneeling before a child to give the child a gift. Secondly, imagine one serving another by kneeling before them to deliver a service. In both instances, the one kneeling is not subservient but greater. With the father and child analogy, the father is greater than the child and is giving a gift the child needs but may not understand. In the second illustration the servant, or better, the one serving, is offering an act of mercy and compassion. In both instances the idea of blessing by kneeling strongly implies the greatest love of one for the other.

Part of the image of God is the desire to serve God and people and in doing so love them. Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is twofold.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

God declares His eternal love for people when He kneels before them as a Father giving the greatest gift needed through the greatest act of service imaginable. He gave His image. Then, He gave His Son.

God Only Sustains Life

An Essay on John 4:46-54 

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. (John 4:46-50 ESV)

Even though Jesus regularly performed miracles, John identified only a handful as signs. His first sign was done at a wedding in Cana, a day’s walk from Capernaum. While at the wedding, Jesus turned water into wine. He did something only God could do. He created one thing out of another thing. Water is made from three atoms, two are hydrogen and one is oxygen (H2O). Water is essential for life but is not itself life. Wine comes from grapes which are the seed of grapevines, which are life. Jesus took that which was not alive and created a product of that which is alive. Only God can create one thing from another.

His second sign was healing a royal official’s son, who was on the verge of death. Jesus sustained the boy’s life. Only God can sustain life.

This man came to Jesus begging Him to come with him and heal his son. He had travelled a day to get to Jesus, walking or riding over twenty miles. Jesus’ response sounds like a rebuke. Still, the man pleads with Jesus to come but Jesus does not go. He sent him away with the assurance his son would live. Returning home the next day the official discovers his son is healed. At the exact time Jesus said the boy would live the fever killing him broke and he started getting better. Because of this miracle of healing the royal official’s whole house, everyone within his family including servants, believed Jesus.

Who this royal official was is never indicated in the passage. He was not himself royal but worked for or was related to royalty. In that area Herod was the only royal official we know of at that time. We also know that “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager” (Luke 8:3 ESV) provided for Jesus and His disciples “out of their means.” Was it Joanna’s son who was healed by Jesus after Chuza journeyed from Capernaum to Cana to fetch Him? We do not know. Chuza was a royal official and his wife, Joanna, followed Jesus.

Was Jesus’ comment, “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” truly a rebuke? Jesus did more than heal people. He taught them about God and how they should live for God. He demonstrated God’s love for them by more than miracles. He didn’t just heal lepers. He touched them and healed them. He didn’t just talk to people. He ate with “tax collectors and sinners” (see Luke 7:34). He is much more than a performer of miracles and wonders. He associated with those the righteous Jews considered under God’s wrath. He came because they were under God’s wrath.

Are Jesus’ words a rebuke? In Cana, at the wedding, His mother came to Him and told Him there was no more wine. Jesus’ response to her appears as a rebuke to our western ears and mindset, but actually was not. His mother knew what He was capable of but He would not let her control His timing and actions. He traveled around the nation, going to Jerusalem and returning to Galilee. Again in Cana, Jesus is surrounded by a multitude of Galilean’s who had watched Him in Jerusalem during the feast. “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast” (John 4:45 ESV). When the official, the father of the dying son, asked Jesus to come Jesus spoke to everyone present, including the royal official, the Galileans and His disciples.

One of the implications of this observation by John was Jesus had performed other miracles and healings while at the feast in Jerusalem. John tells us “now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing” (John 2:23 ESV). Jesus did more than drive the money-changers out of the temple or predict His death and resurrection. He healed people. John does not tell us about those healings but the people who traveled from Galilee saw them and mobbed Jesus when He returned.

Most probably the royal official had seen Jesus heal someone or heard He performed miracles. His son was dying and he reckoned Jesus could save him. So he traveled a day on a desperate mission to find Jesus and persuade Him to come and heal, like He had done in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ statement is not a rebuke but a statement of fact. Knowing the hearts of those surrounding Him He told them why they were there. They had seen miracles. They wanted to see more miracles. For them Jesus was entertainment. Yet, there was a part of Jesus’ statement that thrust a verbal blade to the tender core of their motivation. Unless they saw more miracles they would not continue to believe Jesus. Once He stopped performing miracles they would leave and find something else to tickle their senses.

He heard Jesus say these words to the crowd. We do not know how many people Jesus healed that day. We know He was in Cana. We know the people there had seen and heard Jesus do wonders. But, this man was not there to watch Jesus perform. He was there to beg Jesus to come and heal his son. Perhaps he was grasping at the last possibility, desperate to do something which would help his son live. He was a day away from home, constantly aware of the suffering his wife and family were enduring as they watched a loved-one die. He was not there for entertainment but to bring his last hope back.

But, maybe the words were for him. We think Jesus has to be present to work. Present as we demand present. Tangibly present. Though Jesus is fully man, those around could touch Him, He is fully God, untouchable by anything sinful. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’” Unless you can touch the tangible evidence of a miracle you will not have faith. Jesus uses the word pisteuo, which means to believe the evidence and trust the object which did the deed that left the evidence behind. Yet, there is an implication in pisteuo of obedience. There must be action as well as intellectual assent and emotional acceptance. Unless you see you will not actively believe. And even if you see you may only believe for a while and then forget and stop believing.

“Sir, come down before my child dies.” He believed Jesus could heal his son. He did not believe Jesus could do anything after the child died. But, before he died, Jesus can do a miracle.

Jesus knows Himself. He also knows the heart of the father standing before Him and the deepest motivation of all those standing around waiting for Him to do something spectacular. Faith is a moment by moment link to God. Even when there are many moments when it seems there is no connection there are still a few moments of faith with a firm and solid connection. God knows Himself. Where we waver He never falters.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”

When God speaks what He speaks happens. He spoke creation into being. He spoke light. He spoke the separation of waters from dry land. He spoke life and life covered the planet. When He changed water into wine He didn’t speak to the water but to the servants who knew the difference between water for washing and water for drinking. And they drew out water which became the finest wine.

Jesus spoke to the father of a dying son. Go home. Start now. Your son will not die but will live. I can visualize the father staring into the eyes of Jesus through tears and fear and seeing in those eyes certainty and truth. So he turned and went home. He pistueo, believed the evidence of Jesus’ works and words and emotionally trusted Jesus as the object and walked his faith home in obedience. He would walk home the rest of that day, spend a night somewhere and finish walking home the next.

As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. (Joh 4:51-54 ESV)

But the story doesn’t end with a healed son and a comforted father. He was met by other servants before he arrived home. They came to him bearing news. His son was well and would live. When Jesus spoke to the father the previous day his son immediately began to get well. “The fever left him.” His son had an infection and his body was fighting it and losing. Jesus spoke and the infection ceased. At a specific time the fever broke. When he arrived home and told his story, about meeting Jesus and what Jesus said, his family and those bond-servants in his household believed, pisteou, also.

What did they believe? Did they believe Jesus could heal over distance? He can. Did they believe Jesus’ teaching? If I am right, the wife of Chuza, the head of Herod’s household, began following Jesus and providing for Him and His disciples out of her means. She probably would not do this without her husband’s approval. They believed the evidence of Jesus’ words and works and trusted Him showing their faith through their actions and obedience. There is more to this story but we do not have all of the facts. We have enough.

“This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee” (John 4:54 ESV). Jesus did many miracles, healed many people, even raising some from death before His resurrection. Yet, John identifies this healing as “the second sign” with the first sign the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

As with His first sign, Jesus here does only that which God is able. At the wedding He created something out of something else. Here, He sustains life. Facing eminent death Jesus spoke and death fled. Yes, the wine eventually ran out. Yes, the boy, and his family, would face death and finally die. But John is telling us about who Jesus is and why we should believe, trust and obey Him. Jesus did that which only God can do. He took upon Himself our sin and covered us with His righteousness. He took us, dead in sin, separated from God, and recreated us, giving us life He will sustain for eternity. Only God can do this.