Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DON'T HAVE A BOXHEAD

True believers in Christ have at their disposal the Bible to read and study.  They also have a plethora of resources to compliment their study of any particular passage or verse they are focusing on.  Last, only in mentioning, true believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit within them to "lead them into all Truth" (John 16:13).  When all three of these are combined in one sitting the experience can be very enriching.  However, the enrichment could be so much more and that is what God recently taught me.

In the light of a variety of reasons, I don't have a big enough picture of my God.  I have assigned to Him parameters that I feel have been defined in His Scripture.  However, while the The Bible speaks Truth about God that I accept as such, I believe the Holy Spirit is telling me He is even bigger.  I am reminded of John 21:25 - "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."  With Jesus being the Word of God in flesh, the Creator of all things, and with Him doing as many more wonderful things that are suggested in John 21:25, how much more can I expect my God to keep me in amazement.  I have got to get rid of my God Box.

Two men that I have read about recently who illustrate this point well are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.  Both stay in the shadows of the Scripture until their part to play in the story of Christ is revealed.  Let us place Joseph under the magnifying glass first.

"It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body." - Mark 15:42-43

An introduction to Joseph of Arimathea....
  • He appears on the scene "as evening approached" on "the day before the Sabbath".
  • He is from the city of "Arimathea".
  • He is a well respected member of the Sanhedrin ("Council")
  • He is a man actively "waiting" (prosdechomai - Greek) "for the kingdom of God", personally looking into the affairs of this man called Jesus of Nazareth.
  • He "went boldly to Pilate" suggests he bravely went because of the opinion held of Jesus by the rest of the Sanhedrin.  It also can be applied to how Joseph approached Pilate - firmly, but with respect.
  • He "asked for Jesus' body" reveals that he loved and believed in Jesus and His teachings.  The King James Version says that Joseph "craved the body of Jesus", reaffirming the strong desire he communicated to Pilate for the release of Christ's body to him.  For a prominent member of the Council to ask for the body of Jesus and then place him in his own tomb was a high risk move to his reputation.
Now let us place Nicodemus under the magnifying glass.

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." - John 3:1-2

An introduction to Nicodemus....
  • He was a Pharisee.  Pharisees believed in the supernatural, Saducees did not, that is why they were Sad-u-cee.  (A little Holy Humor for today)
  • He was "a member of the Jewish ruling council" which you can imagine made him a prominent, influential, and wealthy man just like Joseph.
  • He was secretive concerning his relationship with Jesus for "He came to Jesus at night..."  Still focused on his reputation Nicodemus was not ready to lay it all down yet.  However,........
  • He made a great stride toward true freedom and he showed his hunger and flexibility in receiving it when he called Jesus "Rabbi" or Great Teacher.  "For Nicodemus to call Jesus 'Rabbi' was remarkable indeed.  The Jewish leader would never have used that title unless he had already heard Jesus interpret the Law and thereby judged His ability to do so."  (Sparkling Gems From The Greek, p.278, Renner)
"Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds." - John 19:38-39

Now the two become a dynamic duo for the Lord.

"Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." - John 19:40-42

I love how Mr. Renner said it....

"This is an amazing story of two men who dearly loved Jesus.  Although Joseph and Nicodemus lived in circumstances that made it difficult for them to publicly follow Jesus, they chose to follow Him to their fullest capability.  When Jesus died, they continued to demonstrate their deep love for Him, treating His dead body with tender care and using their personal wealth to bury Him with honor.  As far as they understood at the time, this was their last opportunity to show Jesus how much they loved Him, and they were going to take full advantage of it." (p.279)

"This means that Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was open-minded enough to receive from people who were 'outside the circle' of what most religious people viewed as acceptable.  In fact, Nicodemus was so hungry to find a touch of God that it appears he himself visited Jesus' meetings that had just been conducted in the city of Jerusalem." (p.278)

God had men inside.  Joseph and Nicodemus just had to play everything out to find out "the men inside" were them.  I feel certain that they both knew The Law of Moses like the back of their hands.  But where The Law dropped off and left Joseph and Nicodemus still feeling lack, The Holy Spirit prompted them to seriously consider - Jesus of Nazareth.  There had been many false messiahs that had come through Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.  So, this Messiah who fulfilled every prophecy of their Bible and fulfilled every letter of The Law seemed to be a wonderful candidate to place their reputations on and hopes in.  They kept their options for God to move in a fresh, new way open and judged Jesus by the fruit of His actions.  They did not close off their mind and heart to Him simply because Jesus was new and maybe a threat to their little click.  No, just the mere possibility that Jesus could be The One outweighed all risks and Joseph and Nicodemus were handsomely rewarded for Not Placing God In A Box.