Finding Jesus...Again

Dr. Brian Allison

Who is Jesus Christ to you? For a Muslim, Jesus was a notable prophet. For some Jewish sects, Jesus was a deceived renegade. For a Buddhist, Jesus was a noble teacher. For an atheist, Jesus was the scam artist of the ages. Maybe for you, Jesus is Saviour and Lord. Now, saying that Jesus is Saviour and Lord is often the typical response given by evangelical Christians (and it is a good response); but sometimes the manner of response seems to be no more than a programmed, mechanical one. It seems that we can just as easily (and often flippantly) say that Jesus is Saviour and Lord as to say 'hello' in answering the telephone. But Who is Jesus Christ to you? For a Muslim, Jesus was a notable prophet. For some Jewish sects, Jesus was a deceived renegade. For a Buddhist, Jesus was a noble teacher. For an atheist, Jesus was the scam artist of the ages. Maybe for you, Jesus is Saviour and Lord. Now, saying that Jesus is Saviour and Lord is often the typical response given by evangelical Christians (and it is a good response); but sometimes the manner of response seems to be no more than a programmed, mechanical one. It seems that we can just as easily (and often flippantly) say that Jesus is Saviour and Lord as to say 'hello' in answering the telephone. But try to think a bit more deeply about this question: Who is Jesus Christ to you? What does it mean for you to be in an experiential relationship with Jesus Christ? What is the nature of your personal and present connection with Jesus Christ? How does the person of Jesus Christ really and actually figure into your daily living? Who is Jesus Christ to you?

Let us turn to the Gospel accounts. If we are to know real growth in our faith, if we are to know spiritual revival of heart, then we must acquire a fresh vision of Jesus; who He really is and what He has become to us by grace through faith. Let us focus particularly on John 4:46-54. It reads,

[Jesus] came again therefore to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." The royal official said to Him, "Sir, come down before my son dies." Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, "Yesterday, at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives"; and he himself believed, and his whole household. This again, a second sign which Jesus had performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Background to the royal official's faith

Jesus, after His baptism, had entered into Galilee from Judea for the first time (see Jn. 1:29; 1:43). He arrived at Cana where He performed His first miracle – "And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there...This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him" (Jn. 2:1,11). The term 'sign' simply means an 'attesting miracle'. It is a miracle that has spiritual significance and consequence; it confirms a spiritual fact – and in this case, the true identity of Jesus.

Jesus then traveled to Capernaum from Cana (Jn. 2:12), and then to Jerusalem for the Passover (Jn. 2:23). From Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples began baptizing in the region of Judea, though Jesus Himself did not baptize (Jn. 3:22). Jesus then left Judea and departed again into Galilee, passing through Samaria (Jn. 4:3). From Samaria, Jesus again entered into Galilee and "the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast" (Jn. 4:45).

An impossible situation: the context for faith

Apparently, the fame of Jesus had spread abroad; reports of His miraculous feats had been conveyed by the Galileans who had witnessed them in Judea. Accordingly, when Jesus again came to Cana of Galilee, a Jewish royal official (most likely of the administration of the tetrarch Herod Antipas) traveled from Capernaum (some 30 kilometres from Cana), seeking the help of Jesus – "When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea, into Galilee, he went to Him and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death" (Jn. 4:47). One of the most painful of human experiences is knowing that your son or daughter is about to die. For instance, the grief of Abraham Lincoln and his wife were unbearable and inexpressible when they lost their son Willie in 1862, twelve years after losing their son Edward. Needless to say, this royal official was distraught and desperate.

For this desperate father, the 'big lady was about to sing'; the 'curtain was about to drop'; the 'farm was about to be sold'. Now the practical point that we can learn from this man's example is that when all else has failed, and all human ingenuity, human resources, and human help has been exhausted, Jesus is still able to help. Do you believe that? Jesus is the God of the impossible. Do you believe that? When you are at your wits end, when you have run out of options, when you are pushed flat up against the wall, are you convinced that Jesus is still able to help? Jesus uttered some rather convicting and penetrating words to another man whose son was demon-possessed. This father had brought his foam-spewing, teeth-grinding, body-stiffening, often convulsing, mute son to Jesus in order for him to be healed. We read, "And [Jesus] asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. And it [a demon] has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!'" Jesus seemed to respond with indignation, "If You can! All things are possible to him who believes" (Mk. 9:21-32). The statement seemed incredible to Jesus. Jesus' statement implies the unacceptability of any doubt or uncertainty.

In your impossible situation, do you believe that God can help? Do you believe that God will help? Often we may believe that God is able to help, but we are unsure that He actually will. (To believe that God will help is not necessarily presumption, but rather the assurance of strong faith.) Notice how this particular father responded to Jesus' statement of indignation (and of hope). He cried out, "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mk. 9:24). We can believe that the Lord can help, yet doubt that He will. Is that your response sometimes? You believe, yet you also have unbelief. What is your impossible situation right now? Maybe it is a work situation. Maybe it is a family situation. Maybe it is a financial situation. What have you been stewing over and wondering about, trying to figure out and resolve? What is weighing heavy on you? What is preoccupying your thoughts? What is causing you anxiety as you consider how the future is going to unfold? Jesus is the God of the impossible What is impossible for a human being is possible for God. In our impossible, desperate situation, would Jesus have to rebuke us by saying, "If You can!"

Faith in the miracle-working power of Jesus

Apparently this royal official who came to Jesus believed that He could surely help him; that explains why he would even go to Him. He believed that Jesus could heal his son from the fatal illness. He believed in the miracle-working power of Jesus. Jesus can work the same way today. We readily acknowledge this fact, we give hearty intellectual assent to it, but do we really believe it? Jesus is the same! He has not changed, yet sometimes we entertain the wrong idea that Jesus manifested His glory and power in ancient days, but does not do so today. We may argue, "God does not do these kinds of miraculous works today." Why not? He is the same Jesus. Here is a principle of the kingdom: All things are possible to him who believes. I have seen the display of the miracle-working power of Jesus in people being delivered from demonization. I have seen the Lord heal mental problems. I have heard of people being healed of cancer. Who is the Jesus whom you worship? Is He the same Jesus of John's Gospel?

Jesus' response to this father initially seemed rather strange. We read, "Jesus therefore said to him, 'Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe'" (Jn. 4:48). Apparently, this royal official did believe that Jesus could heal his son. Why else would he be asking Jesus to come down and heal his son if he did not have some belief in the miracle-working power of Jesus? Jesus, however, was here referring to another kind of belief, a different object of belief. The father believed in what Jesus could do, but he did not yet believe in who Jesus really was. This discrepancy certainly appears contradictory because what Jesus could do was designed to reveal and confirm who Jesus really was, namely, the Messiah, the Son of God. So Jesus was saying, in effect, "Unless you people see signs and wonders you will simply not believe in me, in my Name, in who I really am."

For the Jews, one's God-commissioned, God-appointed ministry, was to be confirmed and validated by extraordinary works. So we read, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.' They said therefore to Him, 'What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?'" (Jn. 6:29); again, "They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. But many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, 'When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?'" (Jn. 7:30,31). Again, the signs that Jesus performed clearly indicated and confirmed His true identity. The attesting miracles authenticated this divinely appointed messenger; but further, these attesting miracles had the design of evoking faith in Him, by providing proof of His true identity. So we read, "This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him" (Jn. 2:11); again, "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding His signs which He was doing" (Jn. 2:23).

Now, apparently Jesus was exasperated that such proof was required in order to evoke belief, rather than simply believing His words, and that is why He said, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." Is that true of you? Do you need to see the miraculous working of the Lord before you will believe in who He is and what He says about Himself. I have heard Christians say, "I just want to see one miracle and all my doubts will be dissolved; just one miracle and all my uncertainties will disappear." Do you talk like that?

If you are looking for that one miracle in order to support or solidify your faith, then you are asking for that which virtually contradicts and nullifies faith. Sight excludes Biblical faith. Faith needs no proof; faith carries its own proof. Faith is self-validating. I wonder whether Jesus is exasperated with us when we require or seek a miracle in order to have assurance that He is present or is ready to help.

Jesus, however, understands our weakness. He is patient and accommodates Himself to our unbelief. Thus, He said to His disciples who had heard His words for over three years, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves" Jn. 14:10,11). Jesus was concessional. Though He wanted His disciples to believe His words on the basis of their own merit, He invited them to believe Him because of the works that bore witness to Him. Accordingly, we are to believe Christ because of what He has said, requiring no proof. We should rest in the Scriptures.

Faith in Jesus' miracles vs. faith in His name

This father was insistent – "The royal official said to Him, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.'" Jesus had just implicitly rebuked this man, but apparently it had no effect. He could not 'hear' because he was consumed with the need of his son. He was a believing man, but he was not yet a true believer. He believed that Jesus could heal, but he had not yet come to believe who Jesus really was. He believed that Jesus was a miracle worker, but he had not yet come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

There are people today who believe that Jesus can work miracles, that He can do great wonders, and yet they do not really believe in the true identity of Jesus. Many Jews believed that Jesus could restore hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, and mobility to the lame, but they did not really know Jesus. This is a wake up call for us. We can affirm all the stupendous statements and claims concerning Jesus and really not truly know Him, that is, understand and believe in His true identity. Again, this is an apparent contradiction, but, no doubt, is the experience of many. People make empty promises to God, fueled by fear or guilt, for self-expeditious reasons. God, supposedly, is the Great Quick-fixer. Many have typically prayed something like this: "God, I am in a real jam. If you just get me out of this mess, then I promise to keep my nose clean. Lord, just help me this one time, and I won't do it again," only to turn to their wayward deeds again. One's motivation is not to please God and live for Him, but rather to ease life's stress and to satisfy selfish needs. There is no conception of who the true God is. Jesus wants us to believe in His mighty works, but He would rather we believe in His mighty name; and the result of belief in His name is eternal blessing. So, we read, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (Jn. 1:12).

From faith in miracles to faith in Jesus

Regardless of this royal official's misdirected object of faith, Jesus nonetheless had compassion on him. For Jesus, there are no strings attached; He is pleased to honour faith. He simply feels the need, and He responds to it – "Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your son lives.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off." This father believed that his son was going to be healed. Now, Jesus helped this man in such a way as to evoke faith in Jesus' true identity. Notice that Jesus did not go with the man. Jesus healed from a distance. Jesus did not often heal from a distance during His earthly ministry, but He did here. This was truly a glorious miracle! The world has known many healers, but the astounding thing about Jesus was that He could heal from a distance – a revelation of His deity.

Interestingly enough, though this father left Cana, believing Jesus' word of healing, apparently he still harboured some unbelief. He sought verification from his slaves – "And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living...So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said, therefore to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.'" Why did he inquire? He wanted to make sure that it was indeed Jesus who healed the lad. Conceivably, the lad may have begun recovery even before Jesus had spoken the word.

Do you see what that is saying practically? Often belief is mixed with doubt – "Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief." We are an anomaly. We are a mixture of good and evil; of righteous and unrighteous; of faith and doubt. As with this man, we believe, yet we do not believe.

Why does doubt arise? Simply because of the lack of proof. Doubt begs for proof; and so the question is: How can we be assured in our faith? Answer: God must prove Himself; the Holy Spirit must give that inner certainty, which means that we are wholly dependent upon God not only for faith itself, but also for the assurance of faith. You cannot simply manufacture or whip up true faith, merely convincing yourself to believe. It cannot be done. Through the Spirit's power, the strength and fruit of faith are realized. You need to ask God to strengthen your faith. You must cast yourself upon Him for a pure faith.

In realizing the glory of this miracle, this father came to believe in the true identity of Jesus. He came to have faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord – "So the father knew that it was at the hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives'; and he and himself believed [in His name], and his whole household." Faith can have different objects. This man initially believed in the works of Jesus; he came to believe in the name or person of Jesus.

Consider your own faith

Now, this historical account does raise some searching questions concerning our faith. Sometimes we do not look at this matter of faith closely enough to recognize that we can truly believe and still be spiritually 'off track'. We can believe some things about Jesus and yet be 'outside of the fold'. We need to believe in what Jesus has done and can do, as well as understand and believe who He really is. God is pleased to work in our lives so that we may realize who Jesus really is. For example, when Saul (i.e., the apostle Paul) traveled on the road to Damascus, Jesus broke into his life and experience, revealing Himself for who He really was; and Saul's first response was, "Who are You, Lord?" Similarly, when Jesus breaks into our life and experience, revealing to us who He really is, our response should be similar. When we begin to see Jesus for who He really is, we will marvel. When He encounters us, then faith will be brought to birth or solidified and confirmed, and we will stand in amazement and say, "Who are You, Lord?"

Maybe you are wrestling with an empty, weak, or cold faith. Be honest with yourself. One helpful thing that you can do in order to strengthen your faith is to meditate on the miraculous works of Jesus. Again, one of the primary designs of the signs or attesting miracles of Jesus was to evoke faith in who Jesus really was. We read, "Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (Jn. 20:30,31). So we need to meditate on the miracles of Jesus, and acquire a fresh vision of the Saviour. Again, who is Jesus Christ to you?

Again, we are considering the question: Who is Jesus Christ to you? The more insight that we acquire concerning His person, the more deeply we may plunge in intimately knowing Him and experiencing His fellowship. What was the controlling principle of Jesus' heart with respect to His ministry to people? What moved Jesus to reach out to the needs of people? The controlling principle and primary motive that impelled Jesus was love, revealed particularly in compassion. Compassion means bearing or suffering with; it may be defined as the "sympathetic consciousness of another's distress, together with a desire to alleviate it." The expression of compassion presupposes neediness, misery, or misfortune. Let us consider a Gospel account that concerns the compassion of Jesus, as we seek to understand this Jesus better.

The last healing miracle (according to Matthew's Gospel) in the ministry of Jesus prior to His trial and crucifixion is recorded in Matthew 20:29-34:

And as they were going out from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And the multitude sternly told them to be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

In making His last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Jericho. The city was about eight kilometres west of the Jordan and about thirty kilometres north east of Jerusalem. Now, there was an old Jericho and a new Jericho. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Jesus leaving Jericho and then performing the miracle of healing. The Gospel of Luke records Jesus performing this miracle of healing while approaching Jericho. The different Gospel accounts are not contradictory; Matthew and Mark record the event in relation to old Jericho, the Canaanite or Israelite Jericho, and Luke records the event in relation to new Jericho, the Herodian Jericho (that is, the Jericho built by Herod). The event took place while Jesus was traveling from old Jericho to new Jericho.

Now, a great multitude followed Jesus, most likely people from Perea, and Galilee. This great cavalcade of people was traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover, with Jesus leading in procession. Apparently, there was an expectation and stir in the air: "Is this Jesus going to bring about social and political changes? Is this Jesus really the Messiah?" Jesus' popularity had apparently reached a high point, just a week before His betrayal and trial. As an aside, His popularity rapidly changed within a matter of days. Jesus went from popularity to notoriety. Indeed, people can be so fickle. They are easily swayed. Apparently the Jewish people were governed by casual preference, rather than by solid conviction. They were persuaded by the religious leaders to change their opinion of Jesus. Are you governed by preference or conviction in your faith toward Jesus? If you simply have a preferential faith, rather than a convictional faith, this same Jesus may one day be reduced from the status of popularity to one of notoriety in your experience.

Bold faith focuses on Jesus

As Jesus left Jericho, followed by that calvacade of enthusiasts, the positive air was interrupted by cries for help – "And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!'" Now, Matthew records that there were two needy men. The parallel Markan and Lukan accounts record that there was only one. Apparently, Matthew has presented the full account, whereas Luke and Mark are somewhat selective. In fact, Mark actually names the blind man, Bartimaeus (probably someone who was a known disciple in the early church). For Matthew, perhaps the reference to two men (that is, a double witness) served to highlight or confirm the truth about Jesus' real identity. Further, these two blind men were also beggars. Matthew does not report this, but Luke and Mark do. Now, the people of the East viewed beggars as offensive. They were considered disreputable characters.

These blind beggars must have received some reports about the extensive healing ministry of Jesus. Accordingly, in faith, they cried out to Him for mercy (i.e., compassion in action), as well as in hope. Seemingly, these two beggars were oblivious to the mood and concerns of the crowd. They were yelling for Jesus. They sought His attention. They apparently had no reserve, compunction, or hesitancy. They were not concerned about image; they were not concerned about reputation. They did not care about social etiquette, standards, or expectations, and thus they were not bent or controlled by any kind of social pressure. They were only concerned about getting the attention of Jesus. They were completely focused on Jesus, and thus everything else became oblivious and secondary to them.

Do you sense the boldness and intensity of the faith of these men? Their environment exerted no determinative influence on their behaviour. When you are completely focused on Jesus, you too will be oblivious to the expectations of the crowd and the controlling influence of social pressure. Your image will no longer matter; your reputation will no longer matter. Your only concern will be to secure the attention of Jesus, that is, to experience intimate and vital fellowship with Him. When you are focused on Jesus, being religiously proper will no longer be an issue for you. The way you appear to others will no longer carry any determinative value or real meaning. To be completely focused on Jesus means to be completely free in Jesus.

These two despised outcasts realized who Jesus really was. They perceived His real identity. They called Him the Son of David. The title 'Son of David' was a clear reference to the Messiah. So, for example, we read, "Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, 'What do you think about the Christ [i.e., Messiah], whose son is He?' They said to Him, 'The son of David'" (Mt. 22:41f.). These blind men made a rather remarkable utterance. They were professing publicly and unreservedly that Jesus was the Messiah. What an expression of bold faith!

This particular title – Son of David – was rarely used of Jesus in the Gospels. It is interesting to notice who were the ones who actually used this title of Him. Matthew 9:27 reads, "And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David.'" Did these two blind men who were healed spread the word about Jesus to others of their own kind (an interesting hypothesis)? Matthew 15:21 reads, "And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.'" Notice that those who addressed Jesus as the Son of David, prior to the last week of His earthly ministry were the infirmed and a Gentile – physically blind beggars and spiritually blind beggars. Ironically, the social outcasts, the religiously despised, the mercilessly rejected plebiscites could see who Jesus really was, while the others remained in darkness – "but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God" (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Did the bold faith of these two blind beggars inspire the subsequent public pronouncement of Jesus' true identity (though many, perhaps, did not realize what they were saying)? Maybe. Thus, we read, "And the multitudes going before Him [after leaving Jericho and approaching Jerusalem], and those who followed after were crying out, saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David'" (Mt. 21:9a).

Bold faith invites reaction

So, these two beggars yelled for the attention and compassion of Jesus, and they were sternly rebuked and told to be quiet. Now, why do you think the multitude became upset with these men? Maybe they were embarrassed with their enthusiasm, abruptness, or outspokenness. Maybe they were offended with their impropriety, indignity, or rashness. Maybe they were just too callous; maybe they just did not care about their plight. Now, here is an important point: In your intense and sincere faith, you too will receive unjustified reaction. Intense and sincere faith makes people uncomfortable; it makes them uneasy. For instance, family members may charge you with being a 'religious fanatic,' saying that the earnestness of your faith, and your involvement in Christian service, is abnormal. They may make you feel guilty and ashamed; and do you know what the result will be? You will lose enthusiasm, become indifferent, and eventually drift away from the faith. Intense and sincere faith, which may make you look like a fanatic, will invite a reaction. How will you respond to that kind of reaction? Be honest. Have you had that kind of reaction? What has been your response? Incidentally, there is a problem with the Church today, and that problem is that we are too comfortable; we are simply maintaining the status quo. What would the Church of Christ look like, and what would it accomplish, if its members were really fanatics – 'fools' – for Christ's sake?

These two beggars refused to conform to the demands of the crowd (which could have easily become a mob scene). They responded to the crowd's demand with non-compliance, yelling even louder to Jesus. What courage! Two weak, infirmed, beggarly men were prepared to take on a mob. The expression of bold faith is the act of true courage; you will challenge every obstacle and seek to defy all odds. What moved them, what inspired them, to challenge the multitude? Again, they were focused on Jesus, and He is all they saw. They saw Him as the man who could help them; and rather than be deterred or dissuaded by peer and social pressure, these men were stimulated, and became more enthusiastic – they yelled even louder.

Bold faith flourishes in the face of opposition and persecution. It brooks no opposition; it knows no barriers; it cannot remain quiet. For these men, Jesus was the only one who could help them. Are you in a difficult situation which seems impossible and apparently only Jesus can really help? If you really believe that Jesus is the only one who can help you, how does that faith work itself out in actual experience – its intensity, its perseverance, its endurance? Do you (if I may spiritualize) yell even louder because you want to get His attention?

Bold faith arrests Jesus and receives its desire

Even over the din of the multitude, Jesus heard the pleas uttered out of faith for an act of demonstrated compassion – "And Jesus stopped..." The noise and bustle of the crowd did not drown out the voice of faith. Jesus called these beggars to Him and asked what they wanted (though assuredly He already knew). They, of course, asked to receive their sight. Why did Jesus ask the question? Most likely, He just wanted to encourage the display and expression of their faith. The intensity or boldness of faith is revealed in the extent of the conviction in asking. We observe the demonstration of the intensity or boldness of the faith of these two men in that they would not be deterred by the crowd, and persisted in asking mercy from Jesus. Do you have bold faith? What is the extent of conviction in your asking God to help or heal you? Does your faith propel you so that you do not let God go until He blesses you? Do you persist in asking in faith until Jesus 'stops' for you? In faith, Jesus will come to you, in His Spirit, and ask, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus responds to the boldness (perseverance, persistence) of faith, and we realize the reality of this boldness when it drives us, compels us, to continue to ask with conviction.

Jesus healed these two men – "And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him." Faith secured the compassion of Jesus. These two men were propelled by their faith and would not be denied, and Jesus honoured their faith. As Luke's account records, Jesus said, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well" (Lu. 18:42; cf. Mk. 10:52). Now, all of us stand in need of the compassion of Jesus; and our persevering faith shall also secure that compassion.

Compassion marked the ministry of Jesus. For instance, we read, "And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt. 9:35,36); again, "Now when Jesus heard it, He withdrew from there in a boat, to a lonely place by Himself; and when the multitudes heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick" (Mt. 14:13,14); again, "And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, 'I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way'" (Mt. 15:32). Compassion governed and guided Jesus. Do you know what it is like to be governed by compassion, especially when you look on a needy world or a needy church? True compassion will not let you be indifferent. Compassion will not allow you to be complacent. It will compel you to reach out. Are you moved with compassion?

Jesus is still governed and guided by compassion. He is our compassionate High Priest; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; He cares. He is pleased to respond to our misery and burden. As you enter each new day, remember that the Lord of compassion goes with you. In your perseverance in crying out to Him, Jesus will 'stop,' and will come to you in Spirit and ask, "What do you want me to do for you?" In your boldness of faith, you will enjoy His rich and medicinal compassion. As is your faith, so will be your blessing.

Again, who is Jesus Christ to you? A typical (and good) response by evangelical Christians is that Jesus is Saviour and Lord. But, considering Jesus as Lord, we may ask: What does Lordship entail? Lordship entails authority. There are many voices that speak into our lives with authority, demanding and expecting the responses of compliance and obedience. Jesus, for the Christian, is the ultimate authority, or at least He should be. So, in asking the question: Who is Jesus Christ to you?, we may rephrase the question: What is Jesus Christ saying to you? There are many people who say good things, but Jesus says needful things; there are many who say interesting things, but Jesus says truthful things. We need to spiritually hear Jesus. I believe that Jesus wants to speak to us spiritually. I believe that He wants to speak right into our lives, into our hearts, into our experience. I believe that He is speaking. We simply need to listen. With the authority of Jesus in view, let's consider Matthew 21:23-27:

And when He [Jesus] had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" Jesus answered and said to them, "I will ask you one thing too [in the original – "I will ask you one word." Jesus was only intending on asking one word], which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John [that being the salient part of his ministry] was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him.' But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet." And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than the prophet Jonah, greater than the wise man Solomon, greater than the temple, greater than the Sabbath (Mt. 12:6,8,41,42). Further, in this Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the King of the Jews: "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN'" (Mt. 21:5). Moreover, from Matthew 21:23 to 22:5, we can identify five controversies with respect to Jesus' authority.

Now, the fundamental issue that defines one's relationship with Jesus Christ is that of authority. In truly acknowledging and accepting the authority of Jesus, you will be prepared to follow and serve Him; and in denying and rejecting that authority, you, in effect, extol and serve self. The authority of Jesus is critical to His true identity.

The setting of this controversy over authority

The temple in Jerusalem provides the physical and spiritual setting of this particular controversy between Jesus and the Sanhedrin deputation over the question of authority – "And when He had come into the temple." Most likely, the actual controversy occurred in the outer most courtyard of the temple, probably within the Herodian Portico. Now, the temple was the focal point of the ministry of Jesus. For example, we read, "And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves" (Mt. 21:12); again, "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them" (Mt. 21:14). God's special abode is the specific sphere of Jesus' Messianic work. Again, when Jesus visited Jerusalem for the Passover at the age of twelve, His parents and the accompanying pilgrims set out to return to Galilee. Jesus remained in Jerusalem. Eventually, Jesus' parents discovered that He was not with them, and they returned to Jerusalem and hunted for Him for about three days. They finally found Him in the templeand asked Him, "'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.' And He said to them, 'Why is it that you are looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?'" (Lu. 2:48,49).

Jesus taught the truth with authority

While Jesus was in the temple, the Jewish religious leaders confronted Him – "The chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching." The religious establishment reacted to the ministry of Jesus. They reacted particularly against His teaching. They apparently wanted to set Him straight. Jesus had no official credentials. He had no recognized rabbinic status. He was teaching on the religious establishment's turf. What apparent gall! Yet, Jesus was propelled by truth, and thus He was constrained to teach.

It takes courage to teach the truth. It can become very risky, and even dangerous, when you become propelled by truth, for the truth may take you somewhere where you do not want to go, and make you deal with uncomfortable issues that you do not want to deal with. Though you may disagree with the teaching that Malcolm X espoused and articulated, he was, nonetheless, a man propelled and controlled by his understanding of truth; it took him to a place where he really did not want to go – ostracism, persecution, and death. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also propelled and controlled by truth, and it took him to a place where, I am sure, he did not want to go – militant racism, bitter hatred, and assassination. This past week, nine human rights activists were murdered in Nigeria. They pursued truth, as they understood it, and it took them to a place where they really did not want to go – execution by a military regime.

When truth grips you and begins to control you, it may take you to a place that you do not want to go, as was true of Jesus. Jesus' life was one of teaching, being motivated by truth. As I try to understand the human heart of Jesus, I realize that He deeply wanted people to find the right path. Being Himself sold out to the truth, He wanted people to find God.

While Jesus was teaching the truth, the religious leaders challenged that teaching – "By what authority are You doing these things [i.e., cleansing the temple, healing in the temple, but especially teaching in the temple], and who gave you this authority?" This was a loaded question. If Jesus did not answer them, then His prestige and integrity, no doubt, would have been diminished in the eyes of the Jews (and being an advocate of the truth would not allow Him to keep quiet at this time); and if He were to answer that He was doing these things through divine authority, then He would have been charged with blasphemy.

These religious leaders were simply asking two interrelated, but similar, questions in order to make their concern clear. Their twofold question was well crafted. They were hoping to trap Jesus. To paraphrase the questions, they were asking, first, "Who are you answerable to? Who is backing you? On what basis do you do these things?"; and second, "Who commissioned you? Who actually invested you with authority? In order to appreciate the interrelatedness of the two questions, let me give an example. I have been licensed to solemnize marriages. If you were to ask me the question, "By what authority are you doing these things?" My response would be, "By the authority of the government of Ontario." If you were to further ask me, "Who gave you this authority." My response would be, "The office of the Registrar General."

Now these religious leaders did recognize that Jesus' teaching was characterized by authority. When Jesus taught, He always taught with authority. For example, when Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount, "the result was that...the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mt. 7:28,29). Now the point is this, if Jesus was teaching with authority, then it was teaching which demanded the response of obedience and compliance, rather than judgement, scrutiny, or indifference. With teaching that is authoritative, the only acceptable response is that of submission. For example, a number of weeks ago, I was in the United States taking a few courses. I had the opportunity to sit under someone who had many years of experience in his field. This professor had tremendous insight and understanding. He spoke with authority, and hearing (supposed) truth spoken with authority, my only response could be that of acceptance. Such was the case with Jesus. Now, Jesus still teaches with authority today. What does that mean for your life? What are the implications of that fact for your life? When He speaks into your life by His Word, how do you respond?

Jesus' wise response to the challenge to authority

Jesus did not directly answer the questions of these religious leaders, but countered with a question – "And Jesus answered and said to them, 'I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things? The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" With this response, Jesus was not trying to dodge the issue or to elude His critics. Jesus, though meek and gentle, never yielded to social pressure to give an appeasing apology, either disguised or obvious. Again, He was controlled by truth. Jesus was simply engaging in the standard format or method of rabbinic debate, which these leaders would have readily accepted and appreciated. Rabbinic debate employed the method of question and counter-question as a means of extracting truth, by challenging and cornering your opponent with an unanswerable question.

Now, I also believe that Jesus countered with a question because He was trying to lead these religious leaders into belief in Him and confession of His name. It was in finding an answer to Jesus' question, that they would secure an answer to their own original question. What I have discovered as a teacher is that students learn better when they have to find the answer for themselves, rather than me or any other teacher telling them. When you have to research something out for yourself, when you have to expend energy and effort in discovering the truth, you are impacted by what you find. Accordingly, Jesus wisely frames a question, in response to their question, so that in the discovery of the answer, they would have also received the answer that they were seeking; and hopefully in the process, discover Jesus; but they 'blew it.' They blew it because of the hardness of their hearts.

These religious leaders failed to discover the truth, because they failed to be honest with themselves. The pitfall to real spiritual or personal growth is the failure to be honest with yourself. Real honesty demands that you may have to change. Real honesty means that you may have to make some significant modifications in your life; and often we do not like that; it is too threatening. Some may have the query, "If I were ever to admit the real situation, if I was ever ready to throw off this cloak of denial, do you know what that would mean? Do you know what that would cost me?" We are not prepared to lose; we are not prepared to give up; we are not prepared to have our lives thrown into upheaval. The problem is that we do not want to be disturbed and so we become content in the security of self-deception. We want to remain in our comfortable little bubble where we have no commitments, no demands placed on us, and life is reasonably easy. Yet, if you are controlled and led by the truth, then you will be willing to be uncomfortable and disturbed.

Failure to respond to Jesus' authority

These religious leaders seemed to be close to the truth, but fell short of it – "And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, 'If we say, "From heaven," He will say to us, "Then why did you not believe him?" But if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet.'" Here was the golden opportunity to be finders of truth, to discover God. Jesus had set the stage for them. They just needed to respond with integrity. If they had accepted and acknowledged that the baptism of John had been commissioned by God, then they would have been finders of truth, and most likely would have discovered the real Jesus, because John pointed to Jesus; and the source of Jesus' ministry was the same as that of John. In denying or rejecting the truth, these religious leaders were sealing their own tragic fate, for each time the truth is (deliberately) denied or rejected, the subsequent securing of the truth becomes more difficult because we become more confirmed in our blindness, and thus truth becomes more elusive.

These leaders failed to discover the truth, and thus Jesus, for two reasons; two motivations governed them. The first motivation was pride (vs. 25b). They did not want to be exposed; they did not want to admit that they had been wrong about this Jesus. They did not want to be self-condemned. Their stumbling block was one of personal image and control. The second motivation was fear (vs. 26). They did not want to court the displeasure of people. They were people pleasers; they were men of expediency, rather than men of integrity, and that path always leads away from truth. These leaders were self-ambitious; they had desires for self-survival and for power, and those desires blinded them so that they failed to discover the real Jesus. What a tragedy!

You do not find Jesus through control or dominance or fleshly power. We find Jesus in the context of personal meekness and humility. We find Jesus 'in the stable,' not 'in the king's palace.' What is motivating your heart. What is driving you? – self-ambition? status? position? If these things are controlling you, you will not spiritually find Jesus. You may be a good Christian, you may even read your Bible and pray every day, but you will not find Jesus. Jesus reveals Himself in the context of contrition and humility, regardless of how faithful you are, or how determined you are to be a good Christian.

Responding rightly to Jesus' authority

The only proper response to Jesus' authority is the road of self-denial and submission – "And answering Jesus, they said, 'We do not know.'" I think that this was more a response of diplomacy, than of uncertainty. Do you respond with diplomacy so that you may continue to appear decent and good in the public eye, but really you are walking the line of compromise and betrayal. Do you have slick answers and clever strategies and ploys because you are concerned about appearance and image? When you use the tactic of diplomacy in order to keep up appearances, you really reveal that you are self-centred and fearful. Such was the case with these religious leaders. They were not honest ministers; but they were expedient manipulators. Are you in the Church for ministry – reaching out to others in need, denying yourself, picking up the cross to follow Jesus; or are you in the Church to manipulate – wanting people to meet your needs?

These leaders, through their own stubbornness, failed to find truth – "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." They refused to enter through the 'door', and as a result Jesus closed the 'door'. With their diplomatic (and thus wrong) response, they proved, one, that they did not have the right to know by what authority Jesus was doing these things; and, two, that they had forfeited the right to challenge Jesus for what He was doing.

Of course, we know that Jesus performed His ministry by the authority given by God; God had commissioned Him. Is Jesus speaking into your life with authority? On the Mount of Transfiguration, God spoke perhaps the most critical words in all of the New Testament. We read, "While he [Peter] was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!'" (Mt. 17:5). Are you listening to Jesus? I am convinced that if you are a Christian, Jesus has said something to you this past week, and perhaps on more than one occasion. He still speaks with authority. He is Lord.

About a week ago, I was speaking informally to a faithful elderly Christian believer, and she said that she was feeling very troubled. Apparently, she had no sense of intensity and freshness in her Christian life and experience. She lacked real excitement and sincere enthusiasm concerning her Christian walk with Christ. Apparently, she had lost the sense of marvel, the sense of wonder, in being in relationship with Jesus Christ. Her desire for such spiritual vitality was clearly evident, but in actual experience, she suffered from spiritual lethargy and complacency, and that for some time.

One can be a dutiful Christian, a faithful Christian, and even a committed Christian, but still lack the sense of wonder, the sense of awe, in knowing and worshipping Christ. The sense of vivid, spiritual aliveness may be absent. The Christian life may be come a ho-hum experience. I believe that many Christians, for one reason or another, have lost this sense of wonder or marvel in being in relationship with Jesus Christ. As you think about your relationship with Christ, are you emotionally impacted by the fact of such a relationship? As strange or as contradictory as it may sound, you may have feelings of appreciation that God has saved you; you may have feelings of closeness with Christ; you may have feelings of assurance that you are on your way to glory, and yet have no sense of wonder, that is, no overwhelming realization of the grandeur and greatness of the spiritual reality into which you have entered.

What a wonder that the God of the universe should enter both human history (by way of the incarnation, which preceded His death and resurrection) and our personal history (by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit by grace through faith). God is pleased to sustain a spiritual communion with His once fallen, sinful creatures. He allows us to enter into His glorious presence and revel in the riches of His grace. What a marvel!

Many Christians are thankful that Christ has saved them. They may be endeavouring to live obediently under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Yet, they have no sense of wonder. Their Christian experience has the flavour of mere routine. The Christian life, at times, seems boring. God seems distant; a spiritual coolness characterizes daily devotions. Jesus Christ is known by name, but not in person and in power. One comes into a worship service and enjoys a nice, pleasant experience, but not a powerful one. There is no sense of standing in the presence of God, being filled with awe. Worship, if we are to be honest with ourselves, is often more of a religious ritual, rather than a profound spiritual experience and encounter in which we stand in wonder as we spiritually gaze upon Christ's beauty.

I have a friend who is a retired missionary, and what impresses me about this man is that every time he is in a worship service (as far as I can tell), he is struck with wonder and awe when he opens up his Bible to read. He reads it (in his own words) 'with fear and trembling.' He has the sense of being in God's presence. He is experientially alive to God.

Christ's miraculous power evoked wonder

How can we secure or regain the sense of wonder or amazement in being in relationship with Jesus Christ? Let us consider a few slices from the life of Christ in which people responded in wonder, and let us see what we can practically learn from these accounts. What evoked the response of wonder from those who actually encountered Jesus? First, Jesus' miraculous power evoked the response of wonder. We read, "And departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up to the mountain, He was sitting there. And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them, so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel" (Mt. 15:29-31). How often do we read these kinds of accounts and remain unmoved? Seemingly, we are no longer impressed in considering the extraordinary acts of Christ. We tend to read these accounts with a passive acceptance; we acknowledge the miracle that is accomplished, but often we are not emotionally impacted, we are not arrested. Why? At least two reasons explain our indifference. The first reason is familiarity. Many have often read or heard the different Bible accounts. How many times have you read or heard that Jesus healed the paralytic man, that Jesus walked on the water, that Jesus turned the water into wine, that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, that Jesus fed the five thousand with a few fish and some bread? We are familiar with these accounts, and with the familiarity, we have lost the sense of wonder.

The second reason we no longer marvel at theses extraordinary accounts of Jesus Christ (and it is a subtle one) is because we have acquired an inappropriate mindset in approaching these accounts. We certainly acknowledge that these events occurred in the past, but we insist on calling them stories. Now, the term 'story' conveys different connotations than the term 'history.' We teach our children 'Bible stories,' and children make certain associations with this term. We say, "Let's read the story of the nation of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry land," or "Let's read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand," or "Let's read the story of Jesus healing the man born blind." The term 'story' implies the element of fantasy or make-believe, even though we know that these events occurred in the past. The use of the term 'story' promotes a particular attitude in the actual reading of a Bible account. Why do we not use the phraseology: "Let's read Bible history"? This subtle change of language, this minor adjustment in communication, would definitely affect our attitude in reading and listening to the Bible accounts.

A real appreciation of these historical accounts of the miracles of Jesus Christ should evoke wonder from us. If I were to fill up the baptistry tank and walk on the surface of the water, the members of the church would marvel. If I were to go to someone's relative who just died, and were to touch him or her, and say, "Get up, and live," and he or she did, people would marvel. If I were to ask someone to give me a cup of water, and I handed the same cup back to him or her changed into wine, people would marvel. Yet, we can read the historical accounts of Jesus, and we no longer marvel.

As you try to secure or regain the sense of wonder, I would suggest that you re-read the Gospels, self-consciously reminding yourself that you are reading history, God's special history. Try to promote a literalist mind-set, rather than a story mind-set. These events and happenings in the life of Jesus Christ are historical facts. With that change in attitude, you will begin to wonder. An appreciation of Christ's miraculous power does evoke the sense of wonder. In this connection, Hugh Martin (1821-1885) writes, "According to our spirituality of mind and in proportion to the vigour and activity of our faith, the narratives of the Evangelists (i.e., the Gospels) are to us the Galleries of the King, replete and lighted up with living and presently subsisting revelations of our Lord...For our mental position and our privilege in reading these narratives are, in that case, entirely different – different not in degree merely, but in nature or kind – from what we experience in reading other histories...He presents Himself to us – a very specific and quite unique phenomenon, if I may say so...Does not God in very deed still dwell with men upon the earth?...And shall He not fill His own Gospels with His presence – these galleries of the King with His glory? Shall they not have – one might almost say – a preferential claim?" (The Abiding Presence, 53f.).

Christ's profound wisdom evoked wonder

Christ's unusual and unique application of knowledge caused people to marvel. For instance, we read, "Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar or not?'" (Mt. 22:15-17). These men were trying to trap Jesus in His words in order to have a charge or fault against Him. The posed question centred on the issue of loyalty. If Jesus responded, "No, you do not have to give a poll-tax to Caesar," then He could have been charged with treachery and rebellion, by not showing allegiance to the state; and if He responded, "Yes, you do have to give a poll-tax to Caesar," then it could have been construed as a betrayal against the Jews who, at this time, were oppressed and dominated by the Roman government. Now, we further read, "But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, 'Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.' And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar's.' Then He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.' And hearing this, they marveled, and leaving Him, they went away" (Mt. 22:18-22). Do you marvel at this account? Be honest. We often do not stop to really meditate on the wisdom being revealed because, again, we have become numb to the truth through our familiarity.

We have many social gurus today, like Anthony Robbins and Shirley McLaine. People marvel at their insight for living and for how to succeed in the world with confidence. Yet, disinterested listeners said of Jesus, "Never did a man speak the way this man speaks" (Jn. 7:46). We can marvel at the wisdom of the various social gurus, and yet have only a very polite, pleasant response to Jesus' wisdom. Again, if you are to secure or regain that sense of wonder, then you will have to acquire a new approach in your understanding of the Scriptures; you will have to acquire a new attitude. We must approach the wisdom of Christ with a meditative understanding. We should not read these passages cursorily, but rather we should self-consciously pause and deeply reflect on the wisdom presented. We must allow the wisdom of Christ to 'speak to us.' When that happens, we will then begin to wonder.

Christ's insightful teaching evoked wonder

Jesus was (is) the Master of teachers. For instance, we read, "But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, 'How has this man become learned, having never been educated?'" (Jn. 7:14). The world is graced, and has been graced, with great educators, deep thinkers, and penetrating philosophers, but none has lived, is living, or will live, who is comparable to Christ. He is in a class all His own. The works of Plato, for instance, consist of massive volumes of teaching which contain tremendous insight, material that stretches the mind. In my second year of university, I took a course in Plato's philosophy. We had to read various writings by him. One of my fellow students remarked at the time, "Why do we not have, in our day, people who present such profound teaching as we discover in the works of Plato?" This student marveled at the insight and the massive intellect of this ancient Greek philosopher; but the teachings of Plato are insignificant and paltry in comparison to those of Jesus. How is it that we can marvel at the insights of the intellectual giants of our age, and in ages gone by, like Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, etc., but when we come to the Gospel accounts, we are not moved? What is wrong? Again, we need a new attitude, a new approach, in reading the Scriptures. If we want to acquire that sense of wonder, we will have to approach the teachings of Jesus with a studious attitude. We must be willing to study His teachings, and not simply superficially read them. We must diligently mine the rich ore of Jesus' teachings in order to discover the depth of His insight and understanding.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is seemingly simple and straightforward teaching. Yet, we read, "The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Mt. 7:28,29). Try this interesting exercise. Consider the Sermon on the Mount. Do not simply read it, study it. Examine it in detail. The result, most likely, will be a sense of wonder. You will learn to marvel at the Lord's teaching.

Christ's virtuous character evoked wonder

Christ's character was impeccable and admirable. He epitomized the virtuous. We read, "Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' And Jesus said to him, 'It is as you say.' And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, 'Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?' And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was quite amazed" (Mt. 27:11-14). The governor was struck with the power of the virtuous character of Jesus Christ. Jesus' meekness is particularly highlighted here. The normal, typical human response in a pressure, self-threatening situation like this one is to justify one's self, to defend one's self, to speak good of one's self. But not Jesus. The governor marveled at such a sterling character. Many people admire such personages as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Do you admire the sterling character of Jesus Christ? Do you marvel at the person of Christ?

If you would acquire a sense of wonder, then, again, a change in your attitude is required. You need to contemplate the virtuous character of Christ. You must take time to contemplate. One of the curses of living at the end of the 20th century in a technological and affluent society is the loss of personal time. We are too busy, and we fail to simply stop, rest, and contemplate (or meditate) in order to marvel.

Christ's glorious resurrection evoked wonder

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central and pivotal fact of history. The disciples of Christ realized how momentous and startling this historical event was. We read, "And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet that it is I myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?'" (Lu. 24:36-41). The resurrection is not simply an event; it is the event. What is your response, right now, to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? We marveled at the first landing of a man on the moon. We marveled at the first flight and return landing of a Shuttle spacecraft. We marveled at the first heart transplant. How much more should we marvel at the resurrection of Jesus Christ? One day Christian believers will see the Lord in the integrity and reality of His person. They will hear Him; they will interact with Him. In truly appreciating this glorious thought, one cannot help but wonder.

Nurturing the sense of wonder

When you truly realize and appreciate afresh these five truths concerning Christ, as stated above, you will begin to marvel. You will be filled with amazement. You will enjoy the sense of wonder of being in relationship with Him. The result will be a new spiritual infusion and impetus. You will live in the state of 'believing in disbelief.' You will then exclaim, "Wow! Is this true? Did this really happen? This is incredible, beyond description." As John Owen (1616-1683) aptly wrote, "A steady view of the glory of Christ by faith, will give...a gracious revival from inward decays, and fresh springs of grace, even in...latter days" (The Glory of Christ, 432f.).

Now, again, the great obstacle that prevents us from knowing the sense of wonder is our familiarity with the Bible accounts. Some of us have become too familiar with them. One of the dangers of growing up in a Christian home is that one becomes familiar with spiritual things. So, as mentioned, we need a fresh appreciation and approach to Christ and the Scriptures. Return to the Gospels and approach them as a new adventure. Approach the Gospels as if you are reading them for the first time. Forget about the theology you were taught and the books you have read, and assume the attitude that this is the very first time you are considering this material. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Let me quote Hugh Martin again, "In short, the Lord's revelation of Himself in the days of His flesh, in all its essential features and details, is, by the gospel history which lives and abides for ever, projected on the plane of every generation as it passes. And when the Spirit is given to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, the projection starts forth, to the eye of faith, with the stereoscopic, statuesque fulness and solidity of actual reality. More than that, Jesus – by His Spirit adjoining Himself to His own representation of Himself in His biography, looking out from that true-to-life picture, with His own living countenance of majesty and love, and speaking with His own never-dying Word – is truly with us" (ibid., 58).

In coming to the Scriptures again, demonstrating an attitude of discovery by carefully, meditatively, contemplatively, and studiously interacting with its history and its truth, you will foster and promote the context in which you will experience the sense of wonder. Only with an attitude of discovery, will there be the possibility of that experience of wonder. Won't you respond to the challenge now?