How Have We Been Called to Follow Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: 1 PETER, 2 PETER

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.21-22)

Peter says servants should be subject to their masters. Yes, be subject to the good master, although this is relatively easy and does not give you much, if any, credit or glory. But, be subject also to the unjust, harsh, or crooked master. For, if you do good while suffering for it, then that is a a gracious thing in God’s sight. In other words, doing good while suffering is a thing that God rejoices over.

Peter says this not as an endorsement of the master-servant relationship. He is not saying that the servant must remain subject to his master forever without exception. Peter is not saying that the servant is forever forbidden to seek freedom.

Peter says this for one reason only. Doing good while suffering, being a servant to an unjust master, is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christ did good while suffering, leaving us an example to do the same.

Peter then tells us exactly what the example is we are to follow.

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22)

Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53.9. His quotation is fairly close to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “Because he committed no lawlessness, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” The Hebrew version is similar, saying, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

So, we have the terms violence, lawlessness, and sin all used in the same place. Therefore, on one hand, these words interpret each other and may even be somewhat interchangeable. On the other hand, I think we can see a progression in the thought there Jesus did no violence, no lawlessness, no sin.

The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. It means violence and by implication wrong. According to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) the word implies “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy, kill, often implying a lawlessness, terror, and lack of moral restraint.” Interesting, as that is exactly what many Christians think Jesus is going to do upon his second coming. Even though Isaiah 53.9 says that God’s servant, his messiah, “had done no violence.”

The first time hamas is used in the Bible is Genesis 6.11-12, which says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” The earth was filled with violence that was direct result of mankind, all flesh, corrupting his way of living.

In all the Old Testament there is only one that ever commits violence  – mankind. And, mankind’s violence returns upon its own head throughout the Old Testament.

“His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” (Psalm 7.16)

“No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58.2)

“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalm 73.6)

“The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you.” (Habakkuk 2.17)

Not one time does the Old Testament say that God did violence. However, God is said to save and deliver us from violence.

“My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my savior, you save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22.3)

“You delivered me from men of violence.” (2 Samuel 22.49)

“From oppression and violence he redeems their life.” (Psalm 72.14)

Even though the Old Testament speaks of violence done through trade and divorce, it’s easy to construe it as speaking of physical violence only. Then, those that want an excuse to soften the example that Jesus gave us to follow always ask, “What is violence?” In other words, “How can I physically harm someone and have it not be considered violence?” Or, they ask, “What about violence done in self-defense?”

Here’s where the Septuagint begins to provide a progression of what encompasses violence. For, the Septuagint replaces violence with lawlessness (anomia in the Greek) in Isaiah 53.9.

Lawlessness simply means without law.

But, what does that mean in the context of Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?

Matthew 22.36-40 says, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘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.”

Jesus simply defined the law as love – first for God, second for your neighbor. Therefore, to be lawless, to be without law, is to not love, to be without love.

Peter takes it even a step farther by replacing lawlessness with sin. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It’s enlightening to see where the hamartia might have come from though. According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible, hamartia is from the Greek word hamartano. Harmatano is perhaps from the negative particle a, meaning not, and from meros, which means to a division or share (to get as a section or allotment). Hamartano properly means to miss the mark but with the idea of to not share in the prize.

Many Christians are aware of sin, hamartia, as missing the mark. But, seeing the possible derivation of hamartia, reveals that sin, by missing the mark, can be seen as a not sharing in the prize?

What is the prize?

The divine nature.

God’s life.

When we sin, we miss the mark and fail to share in the prize that is God’s life, the divine nature.

Therefore, Peter writes in 2 Peter 1.3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”

To sin is to be lawless and without love.

To be without love is to be violent.

We are violent because of our sinful desires.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

That Christ did no sin, now lawlessness, and no violence, and had no deceit in his mouth is exemplified in his crucifixion.

The cross is the epitome, the fullest revelation, of Jesus and God.

“But we preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.23, 24)

On the cross, sin was crucified.

Jesus bore our sin in his body. And, his body that bore our sin was cursed, hung on a tree, and crucified so as to kill every sinful desire that when they conceive give birth to sin and mature into death.

On the cross, love was fully displayed.

Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men, men without law, without love. But, love, God, was manifested when Jesus laid down his life to be crucified on the cross.

On the cross, God put to death the idea that he was in any way violent.

Jesus did not do violence of any kind during his life. And, he most certainly did not violence on the cross. Instead, he suffered every form of violence on the cross.

He was mocked.

He was derided.

He was spat upon.

He was slapped in the face.

He was stripped naked.

He was tortured.

He was crucified.

On the cross, Jesus suffered everything from evil words spoken against him to being killed.

Yet, he did nonce of those things.

What then is the violence we are to not do as the example Jesus set for us?

Everything from not speaking against someone to killing someone.

It’s all violence. It’s all lawlessness. It’s all sin.

Notice what Peter goes on to say after he said Jesus’ example was he did no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2.23)

When evil words were spoken of Jesus, he spoke no evil words in return.

When Jesus suffered, that is when he was crucified, killed, murdered, not only did he not do any violence in return, he did not even threaten those who crucified him. He only commanded (the Greek verb is in the imperative) his Father to forgive them.

He did not even threaten those killing him.

Why was Jesus able to do this?

Because “he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus just shared in the divine nature, lived out love, laid down his life for the whole world.

He simply obeyed the commandment to speak eternal life, forgiveness, his Father had given him.

But, Jesus left the outcome in God’s hands.

Why do we not follow Jesus’ example?

Why do we ask, “What is violence?” so that we can follow Jesus without picking up our own cross daily?

Why do we seek to justify our violent response to those seeking to kill us?

Why do we seek to justify speaking evil word to those harming?

Because we haven’t entrusted ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t given ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t put the overcome in God’s hands.

Instead of simple obedience, we want to control the outcome.

We want to save our life. But, we will only lose it in the end.

Instead of losing our life now to gain the very life of God.

But, this is the example Jesus has set for us.

This is how we have been called to follow him.

The Way of Life is Surrender

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 18-21

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war.” – Jeremiah 21:8-9

Jeremiah prophesies that there are two ways we can go – the way of life or the way of death. These two ways are polar opposites. They have nothing to do with each other.

The way of death is to stay in the city and die by the sword, by famine, or by pestilence.

The way of life is to go out of the city, surrender to the enemy who is persecuting you, and gain your life as a prize of war.

These are the words of Jesus!

How so?

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In this verse, Jesus presents to the two ways. One is the way of Satan, which is to kill and destroy and is therefore the way of death. The other is the way of Jesus, which is to give life and is therefore the way of life.

In John 10:17-18, Jesus elaborated on what the way of life looks like, saying, “For this reason the Father loves me, because i lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus presented us with the choice of the way of life or the way of death. He said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Looking back to Jeremiah, to save your life was to stay in the city, in Jerusalem, to fight for your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. But, to stay in the city and fight, which is what the Jews wanted to Jesus to do, is to die at the hand of the enemy by the sword, famine, and pestilence. If you try to save your life by fighting, by war, by the way of the world, then you lose your life. You will die spiritually.

But, if you lose your, then you will find it. Based on what Jesus said in John 10:17-18, to lose life is to voluntarily lay it down. Losing your life means you give up your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. You voluntarily lay it all down. But, in this case, you spiritually come to life.

In Jeremiah, losing your life is going out of the city and surrendering to the enemy. Therefore, notice what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Where was Jesus crucified?

Outside the city. Jesus went outside the city and laid down his life. He surrendered to the enemy. But, this was the victory of Jesus because he had both the authority to lay down his life and pick it up again.

And, Jesus asked us to follow him. He asked us to follow him outside the city and take up our own cross. Jesus asked us to voluntarily surrender to the enemy and lay down our lives.

How else can we love our enemies but by surrendering our lives to them?

Why don’t we do this?

Because we fear that by surrendering our lives – our pride, our will, our kingdom, our rights, our possessions – we will die. We fear we will end up with nothing.

Paul explained clearly that there is no need for this fear that if we voluntarily surrender to the enemy that we will die. In fact, Paul said it was just the opposite.

“For if we have been united with him in a death life his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus did not crucify himself. He surrendered, willingly, to his enemies, and was crucified by them. But, he was resurrected.

We are to do the same. We are to follow Jesus and be united with him in his death. We are to lay down our lives, to surrender to the enemy. We don’t crucify ourselves, but we are crucified with Jesus. And, if we die a death like Jesus’, then we will certainly be raised in a resurrection like his too.

In Jeremiah, it says that those who outside the city and surrender will gain their life as a prize of war. In the Hebrew, “a prize of war” is just one word. It means booty, spoil, goods that have been plundered.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:29, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus, has fought the strong man, the enemy, the Sata. Jesus won that war on the cross. By winning the war, Jesus freed us from our bondage to Satan. And, Jesus plundered the goods, our very lives, that were in Satan’s house, Satan’s kingdom.

So, there is the way of death, the way of killing, which is the way of Satan. This is the way of fighting for what is ours. This way leads to death.

And, there is the way of life, the way of dying, the way of surrendering, which is the way of Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life. This is way of voluntarily surrendering everything we have to be united in the death of Jesus so that we can live a resurrected life like he lives.

This is when the last enemy, death, has been truly been defeated.

Follow Me: Caleb and Joshua as a Picture of Jesus

TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 14-15

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Found in Matthew 4:19, these are the first words that Jesus directly spoke to any of his disciples. Not coincidentally, Matthew records Jesus’ command to “follow me” immediately after the first words of Jesus’ ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In the gospels, there are 22 verses were Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Whenever Jesus finds a disciple, he says, “Follow me.”

To find your life, you must lose it.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

In Matthew 10:38-39, Jesus says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

To come after Jesus, you must take up your cross.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for my sake will find it.”

To inherit eternal life, you must sell all that you have.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Mark 10:21 says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

To not walk in darkness, you need the light of life.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

To believe, you must be a sheep that hears the shepherd’s voice.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

In John 10:25-28, Jesus says, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life, and they will never perish, and no on will snatch them out of my hand.”

In order for the Father to honor you, you must serve Jesus.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

In John 12:26, Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

“FOLLOW ME” INTO DEATH TO HAVE LIFE

In Numbers 13, Moses sends 12 spies into the land of Canaan to see if it is as God promised. In the land, the spies found a single cluster of grapes so large that two men carried it on a pole. They also found pomegranates and figs.

After 40 days, the spies brought back with them the fruit of the land to show Israel. In Numbers 13:27, the spies said, “We came to the land which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” There was life in the land.

But, there was a problem. There were people in the land who were strong. They were giants. Ten of the spies said it “is a land that devours its inhabitants.” The ten spies knew they were going to die in that land. Those 10 spies caused the whole nation of Israel to grumble. In Numbers 14:2-3, the whole congregation says, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and out little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back t o Egypt?

However, two spies saw something different. These two spies focused on the fruit and not the giants in the land. These two spies focused on the life and not the death. In Numbers 13:30, Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

Why was Caleb able to say this? The answer is in Numbers 14:24, which says, “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.”

There was death in the land. But, there was also life. Caleb heard the call of God. He heard God say, “Follow me.” Therefore, Caleb went into death. He picked up his cross. He lost his life so that he and his descendants after him could possess God’s life.

Earlier in Numbers 1-2, we read about all the men of war age 20 years old and upward. All these men grumbled against God. They did not hear God calling, “Follow me.” Therefore, they could not enter the land of Canaan. But, there were two exceptions – Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

“FOLLOW ME”: 2 COMMANDS VS. 10 LAWS

10 vs. 2

How interesting!

Moses gave ten laws on tablets of stone in the old covenant. Jesus summed every law up in two commandments that are written on our hearts in the new covenant.

In Matthew 19:16-22, the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. So, the rich young ruler asked which ones. Then, Jesus basically listed the last six laws of the ten laws Moses gave. These six laws pertained to how we treat others while the first four pertained to our relationship with God.

The rich young ruler said he had done all those. He asked Jesus what he was still lacking. And, Jesus said sell everything you have and “Come, follow me.” It’s easy to see this passage focusing on material possessions and earthly wealth. But, to sell everything you have means to sell your whole life. Lose your life. Pick up your cross and deny yourself. The rich young ruler was unwilling to sell everything he had to follow the first four laws of Moses.

But, isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ initial response was six of the laws from Moses? The rich young ruler was doing those but knew he didn’t have eternal life. He knew it wasn’t the law, the ten commandments, that would lead him to eternal life.

In Luke 10:25-28, Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Notice carefully what Jesus asks the lawyer. Jesus asks him how does he read, or understand, the law. He doesn’t ask him simply to recite the law. Jesus asks the lawyer to tell him what the law means.

The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” That is exactly the two commandments that Jesus fulfilled in his life and exactly the two commandments that Jesus told us to follow. Jesus said to the lawyer, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Entering the land of Canaan is a picture of entering into eternal life. Jesus tells us that we enter life by following his two commandments of perfect love for God and neighbor and not by following Moses’ ten laws.

“FOLLOW ME”: 2 SPIES VS. 10 SPIES

Ten spies gave a bad report that caused the whole nation to grumble against God. But, two spies saw the fruit of the land. To enjoy the fruit of this land, these two spies were willing to die. These two spies knew the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for my sake will find it.”

What two tribes were these spies from?

Caleb was from the tribe of Judah. And, Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim. Recall the sentences spoken over Judah and Ephraim when they were born.

Judah – “I will praise the Lord.”

Ephraim – “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Do you see what God is saying through the chiefs of these tribes that were willing to go into the land?

I will praise the Lord because he gave me life when I picked up my cross and heard his call, “Follow me.”

The chiefs from two tribes entered the promised land, eternal life, while the chiefs from 10 tribes died in the wilderness. All the people that entered the land, the wives and the children, followed the two chiefs that were willing to fall by the sword. All that people that entered Canaan, eternal life, followed Caleb and Joshua. Caleb and Joshua are a picture of Jesus.

“FOLLOW ME”: CALEB THE SON OF JEPHUNNEH

Caleb means faithful servant.

In Matthew 3:17, when Jesus was baptized “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”

In Matthew 17:5, when Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration and Moses and Elijah disappeared “a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'”

Jesus, the beloved Son, is a faithful servant to the Father.

As a faithful servant, Caleb gave a good report about the land of Canaan. He was a faithful witness to what he saw.

Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus is the faithful witness. Jesus truly revealed the Father, the God who is life.

Jephunneh is an interesting name. The root word that forms the name is pane, which means face. As a verb, it means to turn to. Pane is the root word for pinnah. One of the meanings of pinnah is cornerstone. The “Je” at the beginning of the name is a syllable found in many names that means the Lord or of the Lord. So, a possible meaning of Jephunneh is the Lord of the cornerstone.

Caleb is the faithful servant, the son of the Lord of the cornerstone.

Caleb is a picture of Jesus we are to follow.

“FOLLOW ME”: JOSHUA THE SON OF NUN

The name Joshua comes from the root word sawa, which means to call for help. His name also has the prefix that means the Lord or of the Lord. So, Joshua’s name means to call to the Lord for help or the Lord saves.

Nun is both a Hebrew letter and word. It means to propagate or increase. The pictograph, the symbol, for the letter nun is a sprouting seed. One possible translation of “the son of Nun” is “the son of life.”

Joshua gives us another beautiful picture of Jesus. Here we see Jesus as the Lord that the saves, the son of life.

Notice too that Joshua was Moses’ assistant. He was always with Moses – on Mt. Sinai when he received the ten commandments, in God’s presence in the tent of meeting, etc. Moses represents the law. Joshua represents the Lord that saves. Moses dies, unable to take the people into the land of Canaan, eternal life. But, Joshua, the Lord that saves, the son of Life, leads the people into eternal life.

“FOLLOW ME”: FALL BY THE SWORD

Recall that the nation of Israel was reluctant to go into the land of Canaan because they thought that God was bringing them there to “fall by the sword.” They refused to go in because of this. But, Caleb and Joshua were willing to walk right into that sword.

What is the picture here?

Canaan is a picture of eternal life. To enter eternal life, Jesus says, “Follow me.” But, to do so we have to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives so that we can find them.

We need to face the sword that is the land of Canaan willingly. But, that sword is Jesus. By falling under him, we can partake of all the fruit of eternal life.

In Hebrews 4, we read that Joshua actually failed to take Israel into the true rest of God. It was just a picture of what is possible for us. But, it wasn’t the true rest as there still remains a Sabbath for the people of God. Hebrews 4:11-13 says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God [Jesus] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.”

Did you notice that the writer said the word of God that divides soul and spirit is a he – “no creature is hidden from his sight?”

Jesus, the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, separates all that is of the earth in us from all that is of heaven. It’s a profound truth that God creates by separating. Just look at Genesis 1 and John 1.

So, let us hear the words of Jesus, “Follow me.”

Let us willingly come to Jesus, the Word of God. Let us fall under the sword so that we can lose our life to find his in us.