Since the dawn of man, our pursuit has been captured in myths and fairy-tales. There is one thing we ultimately seek. Immortality. The question we have never stopped to answer is what we would do with it. What is life without the impending doom of death lurking at the door? We find it very difficult to imagine. In this, we are not alone.
The Disciples’ experience.
The disciples face this same dilemma when Jesus starts teaching them about his approaching death and resurrection.
The book of Mark gives us some clues:
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must [of necessity] suffer many things and be rejected [as the Messiah] by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and must be put to death, and after three days rise [from death to life]. 32 He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back]. Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him.
The again Mark 9:7-10
7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and [a]a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him and obey Him!”8 Suddenly they looked around and no longer saw anyone with them, except Jesus alone.
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus expressly ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they [carefully and faithfully] kept the matter to themselves, [b]discussing and questioning [with one another] what it meant to rise from the dead.
Again – Mark 9:30-32
30 They went on from there and began to go through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know it, 31 because He was teaching His disciples [and preparing them for the future]. He told them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed and handed over to men [who are His enemies], and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise [from the dead] three days later.” 32 But [a]they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him [what He meant].
And a fourth time:
27 Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away [and be ashamed and be afraid to be associated with Me as disciples], because it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have been raised [from the dead], I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
These are the times Jesus “told them plainly” excluding all the parables and other teachings and still John 20:9 tells us:
9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.
This is in reference to amoung others, a Messianic Psalm of David. Psalm 16: 10:
For You will not abandon me to Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead),
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Finally, after appearing to them in person after His resurrection, and teaching them about the kingdom of God numerous times in the 40 days before His ascension, they grasp it.
The whole gospel, the good news, is the resurrection, not the crucifixion.
This is made evident in Acts before the disciples start their ministry:
Acts 1:3 Amplified Bible (AMP)
3 To these [men] He also showed Himself alive after His suffering [in Gethsemane and on the cross], by [a series of] many infallible proofs and unquestionable demonstrations, appearing to them over a period of forty days and talking to them about the things concerning the kingdom of God.
22 beginning with the baptism by John [at the outset of Jesus’ ministry] until the day when He was taken up from us—one of these men must become a witness with us [to testify] of His resurrection.”
Where does this leave us?
It took 3 years of personal teaching from Jesus, then another 40 days post resurrection teaching for the disciples to grasp the full effect of ‘death being defeated.’
We have neither of those opportunities. Where does this leave us? They knew Christ in the flesh and they struggled to understand. This leaves us with doubt.
Where does doubt come from? Doubt comes from not knowing the outcome.
Fortunately, we have access to the full Word of God.
2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible (AMP)
7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].
Romans 12:2 Amplified Bible (AMP)
2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [a]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
What is the difference between us and the disciples?
Hebrews 11:39-12:2 Amplified Bible (AMP)
39 And all of these, though they gained [divine] approval through their faith, did not receive [the fulfillment of] what was promised, 40 because God had us in mind and had something better for us, so that they [these men and women of authentic faith] would not be made perfect [that is, completed in Him] apart from us.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [a]witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, 2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].
They saw, we take a leap of faith. They were empowered with the spirit to take out the message, we are empowered by the Spirit to believe.
What does faith look like?
The most misunderstood topic of our time. Faith.
We are well acquainted with all the theory, yet we see no mountains move? Alas, the world is intrigued by this concept of faith. We experiment with it, we test it out, we get it right, then we don’t then we do. We develop theories.
- Power of positive thinking
- The Secret
- Prophetic declarations
- Self-fulfilling prophecies
Once again, the Word of God tells us this will happen.
1 Corinthians 13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
The Excellence of Love
13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [a]love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction].2 And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing.3 If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [b]to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. 10 But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 13 And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.
Faith is trust.
We trust what we know, not what we see. For us to understand faith, we must first know the person we are meant to trust.
Psalm 1 Amplified Bible (AMP)
The Righteous and the Wicked Contrasted.
1 [a]Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of [b]scoffers (ridiculers).
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.
And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].
Matthew 21:21-22 Amplified Bible (AMP)
21 Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Mark 7:15-23 Amplified Bible (AMP)
15 there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. 16 [a][“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”]
17 When Jesus had left the crowd and gone into the [b]house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you, too, so foolish and lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile and dishonor him, 19 since it does not enter his heart, but [only] his stomach, and [from there it] is eliminated?” (By this, He declared all foods [c]ceremonially clean.) 20 And He said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. 21 For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). 23 All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man.”
Rising to the challenge:
Rom 12:2, one we read so often, and probably know. What we miss sometimes is the context:
Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible (AMP)
12 [a]Therefore I urge you, [b]brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
This takes us to a place of Fatherhood where we need to raise up a following generation to live by faith. Understanding that faith requires sacrifice. It requires me to surrender the crown I received at the feet of Him who crowned me. This is my reasonable service.
The Final warning:
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets].
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.22 Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
We are given a criteria to judge. Not the works as evidence of the faith, but the fruit. There exists an imitation. Designed on the theories of faith developed by the world, outside of the context of relationship. Although the works may be impressive, the fruit will be rotten because the house was built on sand and will not stand.
An unfulfilled Mandate:
Matthew 17:19-21 Amplified Bible (AMP)
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 He answered, “Because of your little faith [your lack of trust and confidence in the power of God]; for I assure you and most solemnly say to you, [a]if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and [if it is God’s will] it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 [b][But this kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting.]”
“The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.”
May you be such a man.