Jesus was purposefully walking towards Jerusalem…”His face set like a flint.” Isaiah 50:7 tells us…and His disciples were stunned, shocked, & stupefied. Didn’t Jesus realize how determined the Jewish leaders were to kill Him? And now here He was leading them back into the city and a likely ambush? No wonder they were terrified & fearful. Even though the Lord had explained what was to happen…the disciples couldn’t comprehend it, let alone put all the pieces of the puzzle together to get the big picture. All they could do was follow Him. Many times in our life we’ll find our self in the same place…nothing makes sense…we’re frightened out of of mind…and all we can physically muster is to slowly plod behind Him as Jesus leads the way.
This is known as a Pilgrimage Psalm…where the writer is expressing his longing to be in the presence of God. Now as Christians today, we no longer need to travel to a special place in order to experience God, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit,(John 4:21-24) but the importance of being in Church & serving in any capacity is evident here by the writer’s yearning. He likened one day as a insignificant Temple gatekeeper to be the ultimate joyful purpose of his life. But can we say the same? Are we happy to serve in positions never seen by the congregation? Or do we allow self-importance, pride, & vanity rule the places we choose to serve in Church? Charles Spurgeon once wisely said, ” Do not desire to be the principal man in Church. Be lowly. Be humble. The best man in the Church is the man who is willing to be a doormat for all to wipe their boots on, the brother who does not mind what happens to him at all, so long as God is glorified.”
The heartfelt obedience that’s required by God is a moment by moment series of choices on our part. We can either submit our will to God’s as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as You Will.” Or we can stubbornly stand on our own rights & ambitions…insisting we’ll do what we want. But when we come to that fork in the road & our choices have taken us farther rather than closer to God…we need to repent of our defiance & ask the Lord to open our eyes and ears to His truth. (Isaiah 35:5) It’s then we’ll see that God’s Will for our life is only a good thing. (Philippians 2:13)
From the very beginning Satan has been the chief instigator of evil in the world… his two main characteristics being lying & murder. In the Garden of Eden the serpent twisted the truth & caused Eve to doubt God, and later Cain became envious of his brother Abel’s offering and murdered him. And thus Satan’s reign of terror began on earth. So as Jesus is telling us in this verse, we have two options…we are either children of God or children of Satan. If our inclination & impulsive urges are unrighteous, deceptive, and false…we follow after our father the devil. But as I John 3:8 says, if we do what is right & love one another, we are children of God. Satan’s original language is lies…the total opposite of God’s truth, and murder is not just being guilty of killing someone. for both Galatians 5:19-21 and Matthew 5:21-22 both speak of the evil works of the flesh & specifically Matthew 5 show us that anger & hatred towards a brother is considered murder in God’s eyes & thus subject to judgment.
The Jews were arguing with Jesus that Abraham was their father, and thus based their deliverance on ancestry. They had traced their descent back to the Patriarchs and were smugly using their pedigree as their key to heaven. But Jesus quickly pointed out that their father Abraham had been obedient to God no matter what God had asked of him…even to offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice. So in other words, true sonship with their heavenly Father would never be defined by biology & ancestry, but only by obedience.
Jesus was drawing the analogy between freedom & bondage…slaves & freemen. In the Greco-Roman society of the time, slaves were considered property and the lowest strata in society with no rights…living under the absolute dominion and control of their masters. But for the Jews, their customs were much more personal in respect to slaves…regarding them as a limited part of the family, but without rights to an inheritance as a lawful son would have. So by making this comparison between freedom & bondage, Jesus was simply saying that slaves obey their masters, whether it’s the cruel master of sin or the Lord God Almighty. And this bondage to sin keeps us fettered in slavery…clouding our minds, degrading our feelings, and enslaving our will. But true freedom in Christ, accomplished through the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, liberates & breaks the chains of slavery to sin…allowing us to freely serve God and fulfill His plan & purpose in our life.
The biggest difference between the twelve disciples & the Jewish crowds who put their faith in Jesus was that for many their profession of faith was only superficial. It lacked real perseverance, commitment & endurance to Jesus’ teachings. Something Jesus reminded the twelve of in John 15:7 when He said, “Remain in Me and My Words.” That’s because to have a fruitful life in Christ there must be obedience, dependence, & communion. And out of this saving truth comes freedom…setting us free from slavery to sin through this vital relationship with Jesus. II Corinthians 3:17 tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom.” Through Jesus Christ & the Holy Spirit we are no longer in bondage to death, sin, & the hopelessness of trying to make it on our own…the heavy yoke has been lifted off our shoulders and we are liberated. Or as John 8:36 says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
If we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and emulate His character for the world to see…these verses have much to teach us. Jesus never spoke on His own accord, blurting out His personal opinions or biased remarks, but rather as John 14:24 tells us He said, “The Word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” In other words, the ear of the Lord was so well attuned to His Father’s voice it was all He heard. Next, Jesus never was willfully rebellious of His Father, but always submitted His Will to the Father’s in total agreement, without any hint of competition or disagreement. (John 6:38) So we are also to be obedient, desiring to please God. (I John 3:22) Finally, Jesus never doubted God…even though for one brief moment at the crucifixion He did feel the separation from His Father, (Matthew 27:46) Jesus ultimately knew He would glorify God in the end.
Jesus came to earth in total conformity & utter submission to the Will of His Father. It meant He followed His Heavenly Father’s agenda, timetable, teaching & doctrine…and not the world’s. For Jesus knew God’s ways were perfect and His Words were flawless. (Psalm 18:30)… and that God was always upright and just in all His actions. (Deuteronomy 32:4) Jesus was then confident that His appointed time would happen within God’s perfect timing, and because of this Jesus placed all His trust under His Father’s authority & control.
Again Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees about their willful rebellion and refusal to listen to the truth. From the very first time Jesus revealed Himself as the coming Messiah to the woman at the well in John 4:26, to His use of Old Testament “I AM” language in these verses, He was illustrating how far apart heaven & earth were & how far apart the knowledge of the Pharisees and the truth was. In John 3:31 John the Baptist distinguished Jesus from all other human beings as coming from above… and of being in the world, but not of it. The Pharisees trusted in their technical knowledge of the Scriptures & would die because of it…but Believers who place their faith & trust in Jesus will experience saving knowledge of their Lord & Savior and receive eternal life.