In May, we started watching the Bible Series again. This time with our church family at Grace. I wanted to share a few reflections on each episode.
There is much said about prophecy in this episode, particularly the prophecy that the Messiah would come and that His coming would be accompanied by a sign. I find it interesting that it is the magi coming from a distant eastern land who are asking about the sign that they saw in reference to the Old Testament prophecies. This indicates two things for us about God. He was never only the God of the Hebrew people. He has always been the God of all people. Furthermore, people in distant lands somehow had access to the Old Testament Scriptures. This probably had something to do with the various exiles of the Hebrew people. By this time, ten tribes had even been lost and only those who were considered to be Jews remained. Though we are tempted to see this a bad news, it is proved that God was working all things together for His glory throughout the whole world. As a result, easterners came seeking the Messiah because of the predicted sign before the Jews even recognized what was happening. God is interested in revealing His plan, not concealing it. He has made known exactly what He is doing through redemptive history. He has done so in Scripture. Here are the prophecies that are referred to in this episode:
Genesis 49:10, “The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until He whose right it is comes
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.”
Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now;
I perceive him, but not near.
A star will come from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.
He will smash the forehead of Moab
and strike down all the Shethites.”
Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.”
Micah 5:2, “Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
Specific prophecies were written at least 1,500 years before the coming of Christ (spoken before this since the time of Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:15) and Israel was reminded over and over again that there would be a king reigning forever whose origin is from antiquity, from eternity. Even in the book of Job, which was written 600 years before the book of Genesis, Job, who probably lived after the flood but before Abraham, that God will testify on Job’s behalf before God (Job 16:18-19) and Job longs to know this redeemer, who is merciful (Job 23:1-7). God has not hidden His plan.
Mary and Joseph probably lived in Bethlehem with Jesus for a couple of years before the Magi arrived and they fled to Egypt. Not everything happened in such a short period of time and we don’t usually think about Jesus in His terrible twos. Because Jesus is perfect, we can presume that He wasn’t the same as every other two years old.
The revolt following Herod’s death is not recorded in Scripture, but it is recorded in the Roman history of the Jews. Josephus recounts that those who revolted were still angry about the golden eagle that rested upon the temple. Rome really did deal as severely with the revolution as depicted in this episode. This helps us to get a sense of the context of Jesus’ ministry. He grew up in this type of environment. The Jews really did hate the Romans. The Romans considered the Jews to be a nuisance and struggled to keep peace in the region. This region was more hostile than most because of the Jewish zealots.
Were the temptations designed, as suggested in this episode, to prepare Jesus for the challenges to come? If not, why the temptations? Scripture does not give us a specific reason. I presume, since Christ was led into the wilderness for the specific purpose of being tempted (Matthew 4:1), that it was to prove Christ’s authority over sin and to make evident His righteous character to us, unrighteous people prone to sin. God did everything to provide us sufficient reason to believe in Christ and receive redemption, yet most reject Him and His righteousness even in spite of everything God did to ensure that we could draw no other conclusion than that Christ is the Messiah and the necessary mediator.
Why are we so prone to have a low view of God and a high view of self? Even in the series, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I worship God, my God, and serve Him only.” In Scripture, we see two things. Satan tempts Jesus and Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘ you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). After the final temptation, Jesus replied, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus claimed to be God and then claimed that Satan was a subject of God. Satan had no power and no influence, here. Jesus not only would not be swayed, but He could not be swayed. So many see Jesus as a good teacher or one who died for people, but not really having all authority. Jesus is greater than what the world has made of Him. What surprises me often is how little so many churches have made of Christ. The reality, He is everything. All of history proclaims Him. He proved His authority. By this authority, He alone gifts faith and imputes His righteousness, that we might have life in Him. He is preeminent. Why do we continue to make much of ourselves as if we deserved everything we want. That is the promise of Satan (Matthew 4:9), and he doesn’t even have the kind of authority to promise all things as he does. Life is only found in Christ, and we should have no doubts about that with the lengths God has gone to ensure that we have every reason to believe. In our disbelief, we prove our unrighteousness and our inability and our shortfalleness. Who will rescue us? Only Jesus.