Think on These Things
A Turning Point in Life
By Colly Caldwell
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them... And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41, 47).
You may or may not know the name Jack Welch. Two weeks ago, Mr. Welch died on March 1 at age 84. A huge turning point in his life came when he was named CEO of General Electric. He took it from a $14 billion dollar company to a $410 billion dollar conglo-merate in the twenty years he was overseeing it (1981-2001). But his personal life was full of other turning points that even he had to see as changing his future character. From a child he claimed to be a Catholic. With Cardinal Dolan present at his funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, however, a former Boston Globe columnist friend Mike Barnicle said of his life that at some point Welch “went AWOL” from the Catholic church. In 1995, Jack underwent a heart event that led to very serious open-heart surgery. He could have died. Following the surgery, it is reported that he was asked if he had any “epiphany” moments or turning point thoughts of how he would live having
faced his own mortality. He is said to have responded, “I didn’t spend enough money.” He went on to say that he would never drink another bottle of wine that cost less than $100. There was another turning point in his life when he met and married his third wife, Suzy Wetlaufer. She came to interview him for a piece in the Harvard Review, they had an affair, and he soon divorced his second wife to marry her. Jack Welch did not measure turning point experiences by Divine values. Now he has passed out of this life and left behind his more than $700 million dollar estate.
Let me remind you of another kind of turning point experience in the lives of at least three-thousand Jewish people on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts, chapter two. Have you ever thought about those people getting up that day to attend the Pentecost celebration at the temple. Life was simple. They came expecting what had happened every year of their former experience. They were, no doubt, in a much larger crowd when they witnessed sudden miracles and heard an astounding message. That message turned their lives around. When they returned to their homes that evening they were unexpectedly different. What an amazing change.
Years ago it was common to see changes in people during church services. People listened to sermons and reacted with repentance and obedience on the spot. There may be many reasons for that not being a part of the culture in churches today but it is a shame we don’t see it as often. What would it take to see a return. Perhaps we should look more closely at our preaching. It takes true Gospel preaching. But it also takes three things on the part of those present who must experience a turning point.
First is faith. That involves insight, acceptance, and belief. There must be an awakening or realization that the message being taught is true and applies to me. Belief in Christ, i.e. faith is essential. We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). Those people on Pentecost were convicted with acceptance that Jesus is Lord and Christ. It was a true turning point for them because they had formerly been complicit in crucifying the One they now had come to accept as their Savior.
Second is repentance. That involves honesty and responsibility. Repentance by definition is a turning point. It is turning around and going in another direction. It begins with coming to be sorry for one’s sins. Sin separates us from God and hides His face from us (Isaiah 59:1-2). The Bible calls that kind of separation from God “death.” That should terrify us. We should be honest enough to recognize our own sins and resolve to abandon them for a reformed life. Peter reminded those people of the terrible nature of their sins and called upon them to repent.
Third is baptism. That involves action. It involves responding to the means Christ has chosen for change in the relationship we have with God. It is a one-time activity that manifests one’s willingness to be obedient. It symbolizes the person’s faith in what Christ did for us (he died, was buried, and rose again). We die to sin, we are buried in the water, we rise again to new life (Romans 6:1-17). This having been accomplished, we are given a new relationship to Christ and are added to Christ’s body (acts 2:47).
When you read subsequent chapters in Acts, you will see clearly what a turning point in their lives that day was. You can have such a turning point in your life.
Our Light Has Come
By Colly Caldwell
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep dark-ness the people: but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the bright-ness of your rising” (Isa. 60:1-3).
In 1975 an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico tipped over in a storm and crashed into the sea. A worker (not our Mark McBride) was trapped inside a room on the rig. As the rig sank, the lights went out and the room began to fill with water. As he thrashed about in the darkness, he came up into an air bubble in the corner of the room. For the next twenty-two hours he clung to life praying while the oxygen diminished and hope vanished. Suddenly, he thought he saw a faint glim-mer of light. Was he hallucinating? The light was real. It shone from a diver’s helmet. He was rescued.
Isaiah prophesied long ago that the light, the spiritual light meaning the Messiah and His kingdom, would come and man would be rescued from the darkness that covers the earth. Darkness, of course, is a Biblical symbol of sin, of a world drowning in sin, and the resulting separation from God.
Do you remember the star that led the wise men to where Jesus was after His birth (Matt. 2:1-12)? The light from that star led them to the Lord. We do not know that there were three of these men. There could have been more. From what we are told we usually assume that they were Gentiles because they came to Jerusalem from a far country to the East. They must have come some time later than His birth night and to some place other than the manger setting in Bethle-hem. We are told that they came into “the house” where the “young Child” was. He is not even referred to as a baby in the text. But they came, fell down, and worshiped Him bringing expensive gifts. They fit the picture portrayed by Isaiah of the many who would come to the light. They followed a star-light being directed by God to the true Light.
Isaiah must have been enthralled with this image of light as he was guided by the Holy Spirit. In chapter nine of his prophecy, he said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (vs. 2). Matthew says that this state-ment of prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus came and dwelt in Capernaum (Matt. 4:12-17).
In introducing Christ in his Gospel narrative, the apostle John said, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3). He went on to say that John Baptist was sent to bear witness of that Light that “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (vss. 8-9).
What a blessing light is to mankind. After bringing the heavens and earth into being, the first recorded words of God in Scripture are “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). I marvel at the wisdom of God. In bringing the universe out of darkness, he said, “Let there be light.” And in bringing us out of spiritual darkness, he sent His Son to be THE Light of the world. He said, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Have you heard of the Luxor Sky Beam. It has shined straight up from thirty-nine xenon lamps on top of the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas since 1993. On a clear night it is said to be seen by aircraft 275 miles away. It has become a backup to the planes’ highly sophisticated navigational tools. It is also said to be a “waypoint” that serves as a GPS landmark. Now, I am not excited about a beam of light, however powerful, over “Sin City.” But I am excited over the solitary Light that points the way for all mankind to be saved. Jesus Christ is our Light. He is our real, authentic “waypoint” to lead us out of darkness to God’s glorious presence.
You know how miserable it is when your electricity goes out. Some of us spend large sums of money to connect generators to prevent the inconveniences and loss caused by being without power. One customer called the electric company following a storm that left them without lights for several days. She was out-raged and blamed the customer service person using very bad language. When she finally ran out of dia-tribes, she demanded, “Well, how will I know when my lights are back on?” Think about that one! Duh!!! I believe your faith, hope, and love will let you know when the Light of God is truly in your heart.
God Can and Will Keep His Promises
By Colly Caldwell
“1 The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord God, You know." 4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 'Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord." 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophe-sied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. 9 Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!'12 "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up fromyour graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it" says the Lord" (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
Do you remember the little children’s spiritual song: “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone... now hear the word of the Lord.” That song was inspired by this amazing illustration God used to show His prophet Ezekiel that Israel had sinned, was being punished, but would rise again so that God’s promises would be fulfilled. God wanted Israel to have faith and hope even in one of the most critical times in its history. Judah had been besieged and conquered by the mighty army of Babylon. Jerusalem was in ruins. The Israelites’ center of worship was destroyed. They had been carried away into captivity. Can you imagine being a refugee, having lost everything and not knowing where to find family and neighbors? How could they ever rebuild their lives? It was as if they were dead. But God sent a prophet with a message of hope.
If God sends a message, there is still hope. Some see the prophets as messengers of doom. It is true that God’s prophets sometimes had to bring warnings of catastrophic punishment and often those penalties were inflicted. But if God had completely given up on His people, He would not have sent Ezekiel with a message of hope. God can and will keep His promises.
God had long ago made a promise that through the seed of Abraham all nations would be blessed. That blessing would come through God’s Son. Jesus of the seed of Abraham had not yet come. God could figuratively take up fallen Israel, put flesh on its dead bones, breathe into it renewed life, and bring forth their seed to fulfill His promises. At the sound of the Lord’s voice through Ezekiel,, the dead bones moved. The rattling of bones was heard as the bones came together. Muscles and flesh came upon them, skin covered them, and the Lord caused a wind that made breath return to them. God raised the dead!
A man died and as visitors came to sympathize with the family, one asked the man’s son in what way would he most remember his father. He thought for a few seconds and then said, “He was a man of his word. He could always be counted on to keep his word. He would say, “Because I said I would.’” The son reminisced about that conversation overnight and so the next day at the funeral, he passed out small cards to everyone present. They were printed with the words, “Promise Card: ‘Because I said I would.’” In honor of his father, he asked each of the mourners to write a promise on their card and to make a steadfast commitment to keep that promise. It was an inspiring service. From the dead man came a lesson in integrity, honor, and character.
This past week the grandmother (adoptive mother) of two little boys (preschool and kindergarten) passed away suddenly. It was devastating. At the boys’ school, the teachers made a “promise tree.” Each teacher put a promise note on the tree. One teacher, for example, promised the departed mother that she would bring cupcakes for their classes on the boys’ birthdays. How sweet promises can be. How important they can be to recipients when they are remembered and the promises are kept.
God also wants us today to know that He will never forget His people and He will never forget promises He has made to us. He has said, “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Across every page of the Bible is written, “Because I said I would.” God has promised us, as He promised Israel, that “I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land (heaven, cgc). Then you shall know that I, the Lord have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.”
Two Named John Who Introduced Jesus
By Colly Caldwell
“Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
Do you sometimes feel socially awkward introducing yourself to a total stranger. Or maybe you even have a difficult time introducing a family member or friend to another person who doesn’t know him/her. You want to say something nice that will identify and/or compliment but you stumble to find just the right words. I have been in those situations often. Sometimes it has been helping two individuals get to know one another. Often, it has been publicly introducing a speaker to an audience of several hundred people. What do we say in each circumstance to help others know the one(s) we are introducing?
When I read the first chapter of the fourth Gospel narrative, I am struck with the fact that two men named John were charged with the monumental task of introducing Jesus to the world. John the Baptist
was a forerunner preparing the people to recognize Jesus when He came and to prepare within them-selves the way of the Lord (John 1:23). And later, John the Apostle was guided by the Holy Spirit to introduce “the Word” to all mankind through a written Gospel narrative by exalting Jesus’ Divine nature (John 1:1).
Actually, we also have an obligation to introduce Jesus to others. Before He returned to heaven, the Lord gave a “great” commission to His apostles: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19-20); “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15-16). The apostles did that and by extension Paul instructed us, “the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
There is a sweet story about a young Asian girl named Yi (pronounce “Yee”) who came into contact with Christians who gave her a King James New Testament. She read through the gospel of Matthew and as she came to the end of the last chapter, she read, “Go Yi therefore and teach all nations.” Can you imagine how she internalized that statement. She didn’t know that in older English, “ye” means “you.” She only saw her name there. Shouldn’t we see our names there? “Go Colly...;” “Go Jon...;” “Go, Jane...”
So how did the two disciples named John introduce Jesus? John the Baptist announced that He is the “Lamb of God.” He is our sacrifice who will take away the sin of the world. John the apostle introduced Him as the “Word” (communication from God) who is “God” and who is full of “grace and truth.” (John 1:1-
3, 14-18). John the Baptist introduced Jesus in the wilderness of Judea to Jews who would see Jesus in the flesh. John the Apostle introduces us to Jesus today who although we have not seen Jesus, we believe in Him and are blessed (John 20:29).
Now, imagine yourself in their shoes (sandals). How would you introduce Jesus to people who do not know Him? If we are looking to praise Him by setting forth His economical wealth and possessions, educa-tional credentials, and occupational positions while on earth, we are going to be without much to say. He was not wealthy in earthly terms. He did not gain his amazing knowledge and wisdom from attending élite universities. And He did not attain his kingdom with military might or political savvy.
We only have much to say, when we frame our introduction as the two named John did in the first chapter of that Gospel narrative. First, we answer the question, “Who are we introducing?” John the Apostle would answer, “We are introducing the Divine God who came to earth and took on flesh as we have flesh. Second, we answer the question, “What do we need to know about Him?” Again, John would answer, “He is full of grace and truth.” Third, we answer the question, “Why are we introducing Him and what is He here for?” John the Baptist said, “He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
When we introduce Jesus as we should, people will take notice. What we are saying about Him is real. Jesus is full of grace (merciful loving-kindness) and truth (not hidden, evident, trustworthy reality). Man can depend on our speaker. Introduce Him with fervor and listen to all He says.
By Colly Caldwell
“If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39; see also vss. 35 and 37).
The last few years I taught college Bible classes, I had almost daily “déjà vu” experiences while taking the role. You see, I had taught long enough that some of my students were children of former students. Often they almost appeared as clones of their parents. I would look up and see them at the start of class and have major flashbacks. Sometimes it made me smile. That was good. Sometimes I would call them by their mother or father’s names and they would look at me like, “How old are you, really?” That wasn’t so good!
Ever since Yogi Berra said, “Déjà vu all over again, comedians have made jokes about this phrase. One said, “Right now I’m having amnesia and dévà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.” “Déjà vu” is a French term meaning “already seen.” It refers to the strange feeling that you have experi-enced this moment before. Someone has said it’s like what happens to those who only go to church on Easter and Christmas. They say, “Doesn’t the church ever talk about anything else: Jesus’ on the cross or Jesus in a manger. I’ve heard this before.” Déjà vu!
Something stands out in the verses we have cited. Perhaps it is because they hark back to the very begin-ning of Jesus’ ministry when he went into the wilder-ness and the devil repeatedly tempted Him by saying, “If you are the Son of God” (Luke 4:1-13). In Luke 23, the rulers, the soldiers, and even one of the thieves crucified alongside Jesus threw that same caustic challenge at Him: “If you are the Son of God...” Jesus had heard that before. Déjà vu!
Isn’t that the same charge that many people throw at belief in Jesus today? “If you are the Son of God, do this for me.” “Do that for me.” “Show me a sign.” It seems people are still challenging faith in Jesus with this same issues of unbelief. We ask, “If you are the Son of God” why didn’t you save yourself? Why did few people recognize you then. Why so only a very few people in the world recognize you today?
Let’s go back to the cross(es) on Golgotha that day. There were three crosses. Of course, the significant one to us was the one on which Jesus was hanged. But there was an unbeliever there and also a believer beside the Lord. One of the criminals hurled this challenge at Him: “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” The other responded, “Do you not even fear God?” And he pled, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (vss. 40-42).
What did that believing thief see? He saw a king who was sent by God on a special mission. To him that was apparent. To the other, it was not recogni-zable. How could that be?
Did you know that the Queen of England is not required to have any form of ID, not even a drivers’ license. Police officers are not allowed to ask her for identification. Everywhere she goes, everyone is expected to know who she is. Perhaps it is both a blessing and a curse to be so famous that everyone in the world recognizes you the moment they see you. It seems Prince Harry and Megan have had to wrestle with that very issue in their young marriage.
Now here is something interesting about the Son of God. Jesus was King. He was the Son of God. But only those who believed in Him recognized Him for who He was. And only those who live by faith accept Him as King today. In His day, the devil did know who He was but the rulers, soldiers, and the mocking thief did not know Him even though He had the power to do what they required for belief.
Jesus proved His identity by fulfilling His mission. Jesus called Himself the “good shepherd.” He said, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18). His mission based on the love and grace of His Father climaxed by His resurrection proved Him to be the Son of God.
The first thief wanted to be saved from his situation. That is understandable but he was not asking to be saved from his sin. He failed to recognize who Jesus really was and he said again what taunting mockers had repeated in Jesus’ ears since the devil did it in the wilderness at the beginning of His great trials on earth. Déjà vu!
The Good Shepherd - 2
By Ferrell Jenkins
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14; also 11).
One cannot imagine Jesus saying “I am the good preacher, engineer, plumber, contractor, administrator, secretary, psychologist, attorney...” Jesus constantly made use of vivid metaphors. The first great state-ment made about Jesus by John the Baptist was “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29. Later in His ministry, Jesus announces, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14). The same shift in imagery is made in the book of Revelation where the slain but standing Lamb of 5:6 becomes the shepherd who guides to springs of the water of life in 7:17. When Jesus began His ministry He saw multitudes as “distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36). He was just what they needed and just what we need.
The Shepherd’s Work in Psalm 23
This beautiful and comforting Psalm is written from the perspective of the sheep. David, who had much experience working with sheep, views himself as a sheep and the Lord as his shepherd.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures” (v.2). Grass was not plentiful in Palestine and it was necessary for the shepherd to find a place for the sheep to eat and rest.
“He leads me beside the quiet waters” (v.2). Sheep are terrified of noisy, rushing water. The shepherd finds a place where they can be refreshed. The book of Revelation says “the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life...” (7:17).
“He restores my soul” (v.3) This is done even when it requires lifting the sheep out of the pit on the sabbath day (Mt. 12:11).
“He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (v.3). A shepherd had to build a reputation (a name). He could not afford to lead the sheep into areas of danger and thus risk his own good name or reputation.
“The valley of the shadow of death” (v.4). There are many such valleys where the wadis of Palestine run. Wadis are those places of least resistance where the rain which falls upon the central mountain ranges finds its way to the lower elevations. Each rain erodes the hillsides and makes deeper valleys. Stephen Haboush writes of such places in My Shepherd Life in Galilee. “My sheep would sense the danger and gather closely to my side. My continual calling and the sense of my presence gave them confidence and allayed their fear.”
“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me” (v.4). Shepherding was a dangerous profession. There were wild animals, thieves and robbers, and some means
for defense was needed. The shepherd would carry the rod and staff for the protection of his flock. The rod (Hebrew, shēbet) was a short club about 30 inches long made from an oak sapling. The bulging head was shaped out of the stem at the beginning of the root. It was especially used as a weapon against men and animals who might threaten the flock. The staff (Hebrew, mish’eneth) was a straight pole about six feet long.
“Its service was for mountain climbling for striking trouble-some goats and sheep, beating leaves from branches be-yond the reach of his flock, and especially for leaning upon. As he stood clasping the top of his stick with both hands, and leaning his head against it, his conspicuous and well-known figure gave confidence to the sheep grazing around him among the rocks and bushes of the wilderness” (G. M. Mackie, “Rod,” A Dictionary of the Bible, 291).
“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v.5). Because there were noxious weeds and dangerous snakes the shepherd had to find safe place for his sheep to feed.
“Thou has anointed my head with oil” (v.5). When the sheep sustained injuries the shepherd had to apply the medication.
Some scholars suggest that Psalm 23 consists “of two major scenes: the shepherd metaphor and the banquet.” Fowler sees verse 5 as a “celebration of some great victory which the heavenly king has given His earthly vassal.” He says the mention of “anointing” fits well with the kingship theme. This may be the correct understanding of verse 5 rather than the points we have made on the verse.
Special thanks. (Ferrell Jenkins, “Jesus: I Am the Good Shepherd,” (Florida College Annual Lectures, 1993), 65-67.
The Good Shepherd - 1
By Ferrell Jenkins
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14; also 11).
The most sheep I have seen was in New Zealand (1984, 1992). The country is said to have about 3.4 million humans and nearly 60 million sheep. We visited the Agrodome in Rotorua, New Zealand, where a dozen or so varieties of sheep which have been bred to feed or clothe the people of the world, were exhib-ited for us. We stayed overnight on a sheep farm with more than 5,000 sheep. We saw the sheep dogs at work, moving the sheep from one paddock to another at the shepherds’ will. In Australia,, a country also noted for its sheep, we visited a sheep station and watched the shearing of sheep.
All of this was impressive, especially this most recent trip while I was preparing this lesson. Shepherds are necessary in Australia and New Zealand, but they are of a different sort than those we read of in Scripture. These shepherds live in nice houses, own vast acres of abundant, green, fenced pastures. They grow their sheep to sell or shear at various ages. These owners do many of the same things Biblical shepherds did but they do them in a different way and there is much less personal attachment to the sheep.
My most vivid memories of shepherds and sheep come from my visits to the Bible lands, especially Palestine, over the past quarter of a century. Some of these scenes are, I think, indelibly fixed in my mind. In cities like Hebron and Jerusalem, amid the ruins of ancient cities like Jericho and Samaria, in the hill country of Judea and Samaria, from the wilderness of Judea to the mountains of Lebanon I have been privileged to witness these magnificent panoramas of life as it was in Bible times.
In Palestine there are no fences and little grass. The shepherd must personally guide his sheep to the best place for food and he must guard them against wild animals. No sheep dogs are used to round up the sheep or to move them from one paddock to another. The shepherd is not only a leader of his sheep, but also a progector and a caring companion (Huckle 141).
Shepherding Was an Honorable Profession
Many things indicate that shepherding was an honorable profession in the ancient world. One evening last May (1992), Elizabeth and I attended the Sound and Light performance at the famous temples of ancient Karnak in upper Egypt. There, amidst the ruins and in the cool wind of the desert evening, we heard the story of the Pharaohs of Egypt told in word and music as colored lights played across the columns, pillars and obelisks of that once-glorious center of Egyptian power. As we stood in the courtyard in front of the two great pylons, the lights flashed across the beautiful granite statue of Ramses II. The Pharaoh was considered to be the son of the god Amun. The story began with the Egyptian account of creation. We heard these words concerning Amun: “The Father is like unto an aged shepherd. His right hand holds the shepherds crook that gathers in the dust of the stars. His left hand fondles a wild ram walking with him. He is the god of the first day. It is he who is called Amun” (Bonheur).
The kings of Mesopotamis, such as the legendary Gilgamesh, fifth king of Uruk, Sargon of Akkad and Hammurabii, are described as the shepherd of their people (White; Priitchard 73, 164). Numerous other kings of the ancient near east are so designated (Vancil 1188-89).
The Old Testament prophets described the Lord as the shepherd of His people Israel (Jer. 31:10). The Lord called Israel “My sheep, the sheep of My pasture” (Ezek. 34:31). The Psalmist said, “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Ps. 95:7). When Moses knew that He would not be permitted to enter Canaan he asked the Lord to “appoint a man over the congregation who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd” (Num. 27:16-17). That man was Joshua. The Lord commanded the judges of Israel to “shepherd My people” (1 Chron. 17:6). When the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron to anoint him as king over Israel, they described him as the one who “led Israel out and in.” The Lord said to David “You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel” (2 Sam. 5:2; cf. 1 Chron. 11:2). In the days of Ahab, king of Israel, the prophet Micaiah said “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd.” The Lord described them as having “no master” (1K 22:7; cf. 2 Chron 18:16).
(Ferrell Jenkins, “Jesus: I Am the Good Shepherd,” (Florida College Annual Lectures, 1993), 62-64.
First the Bad News – Then the Good
By Colly Caldwell
“Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, ‘As for these things which you see, the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.’... Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:5-6, 28).
A boy called his dad at work. “What’s up son?” “Well, I have some good news and some bad news.” “Okay,” said the dad, “What’s the good news?” The boy responded, “Dad, the air bag works really well.”
As is so often the case with us, the one choosing wanted the good news first. In our passage, Jesus delivered some terrible news to His disciples first and then He told them the good news.
Jesus and the disciples were standing in the Temple courts and his followers could not help remarking on the beauty of the place. The Temple courtyards covered approximately thirty-five acres of land. The
giant stones were dazzling. Most were white marble and some were gold plated reflecting the sunlight. From a distance, the whole complex must have looked amazing and from up close, it no doubt was the most impressive sight these poor Jews from Galilee had ever seen.
Jesus had the sad task of telling his disciples that this magnificent center of Jewish life and faith was destined for destruction. Do you remember the fire that engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last year? Many followers of the Roman Catholic church were devastated because they had vested so much of their faith in the relics housed there. But what Jesus said about the Temple was so much more devastating by far. It would come as a result of the deliberate vandalism of a Roman army bent on destroying the Jewish heritage. Jesus was telling them that life as they had known it was about to fall apart and be destroyed. In addition, the disciples would suffer persecution and violence against their physical well-being because of their commitment to Him.
We put so much stock in the things we can touch, observe, and even purchase to own. We find security and significance in our homes and our church buildings, in our appearance and our possessions. I wonder how many of us ever stop to think that these are superficial and often even fake. Do you know how large the market is for counterfeit purses, counterfeit watches, counterfeit shoes, etc. Some predict it to be more than two trillion dollars per year soon. So much is fake in this world! And even what is authentic, is not of real value when placed alongside eternal, spiritual blessings distributed to us in Christ. That is the bad news, the fleeting worth of material things.
The good news was that God would take care of those who believed in Him even through all the bad. The good news was that from the beginning of His ministry on earth, Jesus had envisioned a heavenly kingdom in which all people from all nations would find identity and security. He would open that kingdom to men on Pentecost having returned to heaven to sit down at the right hand of God in His glory. The good news was that holiness, justice, righteousness, and peace would come again and would rule in our hearts.
Isn’t that the message of God’s word to us today? We speak of the “gospel.” That word means “good news.” It provides the redemption we need from our sins. The bad news is that all of us sin and come short of the glory of God. The good news is “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jesus sent out his apostles with the commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (good news) “to every creature. He that believes and is baptized will be saved. He that believes not will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
The working air bag truly was good news. You may have read the joke and thought, “Oh, my, that’s terrible.” Yes, and there was an accident. Bad news. But what if there had not been that air bag to stop him from crashing into the steering wheel or wind-shield and losing his life? Our sin is bad news...terrible news. But what if the good news of our Lord coming to save us was not available to us today? Don’t ever lose sight of the importance of the gospel. Good news.