Every year around Christmas we see nativity scenes. The details of the scenes differ but all of them show the baby Jesus in a manger with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men either standing or kneeling around him. These scenes serve a useful purpose by reminding everyone that Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa Claus. Unfortunately every nativity scene I have ever seen promotes an error. They show the Wise Men being present at the birth of Jesus. In fact they were nowhere near Bethlehem then and didn’t arrive until much later.
Here is Matthew’s description of the birth of Jesus.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)
He doesn’t give any details about the birth except to tell us that Mary was still a virgin.
Luke 2:1-20 gives a more detailed description of Jesus’s birth. Joseph and Mary were forced to go to Bethlehem because of a decree by Caesar and Jesus was born there and placed in a manger. An angel revealed to a group of shepherds that the Messiah had been born and they came to see him. Read the rest of this entry
There is disagreement as to whether Jesus was God. Some who deny his deity say that he never claimed to be God. The fact is Jesus said several times in the gospels that he was God.
If you begin reading the gospels, beginning with Matthew, you will come to a section known as the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7. He stated three times in this sermon that he was God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
He equated being persecuted for the sake of righteousness with being persecuted for his sake. Only God, the source of all righteousness, could make such a claim. Read the rest of this entry
Crucifixion is one of the most painful methods of execution ever devised. Here is an article that describes Christ’s crucifixion and also the suffering he experienced before it.
He knew before his arrest what he would endure. Is it any wonder that he prayed that God would enable him to avoid it if that were possible?
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
He wanted to avoid the pain of being crucified but he wanted even more to do God’s will. His death was the only way human sin could be atoned for, so in the end he submitted to being put to death. Read the rest of this entry
When Jesus was being crucified his enemies added insults to the injuries he was suffering by challenging him to prove the claims he had made about himself by coming down from the cross. Even the two criminals who were being crucified with him joined in.
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself, and come down from the cross!”
So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”
Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
A short time later one of the criminals experienced a change of heart.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
You have probably heard the phrase “Doubting Thomas.” It originated with this incident in the life of Thomas, one of the twelve apostles.
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
All most people know of Thomas is that he wouldn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw him with his own eyes. There is an earlier mention of Thomas that sheds more light on what he was like. Read the rest of this entry
Are you blind? If you were asked this question I think all of you would answer “No”. After all, you are reading this page right now so that proves you can see. But the Bible has some things to say about blindness that might make you change your mind.
God revealed to Elisha the plans of the king of Syria and Elisha in turn warned the king of Israel.
Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.
2 Kings 6:8-10
The king of Syria learned that Elisha was responsible for his failure to defeat Israel so he decided to capture him. Read the rest of this entry
John’s gospel records what Jesus taught his disciples at the Last Supper. After he finished he and his disciples left and went to the garden where he would be arrested.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
There was a brook called the Kidron between the room where the Last Supper was held and the place where Jesus was betrayed. Of course they had to cross it. At first this seems like an unimportant detail, but there is an incident in the Old Testament which shows the significance of going across this brook. Read the rest of this entry
Jesus made an astounding prediction.
But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
Aside from Jesus himself everyone who was there is now dead, so this prophecy must have been fulfilled. But just when did its fulfillment take place? The prophecy appears in three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in all three is immediately followed by the event known as the Transfiguration.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
A large crowd of people went to listen to Jesus speak when he was in a deserted area far from any towns because they saw the miracles he had done in healing the sick. At the end of the day they were hungry but there was no place nearby where they could buy food. There was a boy in the crowd who had five loaves of bread and two fish. He shared what he had with his immediate neighbors. By giving each person one loaf of bread or one fish he was able to feed himself and six other people. The rest of the crowd went hungry.
Have you ever read this story in the Bible? Neither have I, but there is one that is very similar to it. The only difference is what the boy did with the food he had. Read the rest of this entry
Gehenna was the name of a valley near Jerusalem which, in the time of Jesus, was used as a garbage dump. Even the bodies of convicted criminals were disposed of there. A fire was continually burning to consume the trash. Jesus spoke of Gehenna several times but the word is usually translated as “Hell.” Did the translators make a mistake or was Jesus applying the name of the valley to a place of future punishment? Many false teachers who deny the existence of Hell claim that Jesus was only talking about the valley. The best way to answer this question is to look at what Jesus said about it. Read the rest of this entry
Luke’s gospel describes something that happened when Jesus was 12 years old.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
The next thing Luke tells is the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of his public ministry.
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age.
A lot of people have wondered what Jesus was doing in the 18 years between these two events. Here are two of the theories they have come up with. Read the rest of this entry
When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush he revealed his name to him.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
The Bible says nothing about any king named Joseph. The Jews had 23 kings, beginning with Saul and ending with Zedekiah. The ten tribes that broke away had 20 kings, beginning with Jeroboam and ending with Hoshea. Many foreign kings are mentioned by name. None of these kings is named Joseph.
But there is one person in the Bible who had the right to call himself King Joseph.
Every year before Christmas we see many displays of the birth of Jesus. The display normally consists of a baby in a manger with Joseph, Mary, some shepherds, and the Wise Men gathered around him. The birth of Jesus was an important event in history and it is appropriate that we should remember it but our traditional picture of how it happened is inaccurate. The Wise Men were not there. They were probably still in their home country and hadn’t even started their journey to Bethlehem.
Most of the elements in the traditional manger scene are taken from Luke’s gospel. He tells us why Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place and that they had to lay Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. He describes the visit of the shepherds to see the baby. But he never speaks of the Wise Men here or anyplace else. Read the rest of this entry
If you read the Bible regularly you know that much of it consists of genealogies. Many of us find them uninteresting; we skim through them and wonder why they are in the Bible at all. But if we believe the Bible was inspired by God we must also believe that the genealogies are important or God wouldn’t have included them in the Bible in the first place.
We live in a culture which emphasizes individual rights and freedoms. Sometimes we focus so much on individuality that we forget we are also connected to others. The genealogies remind us of one of the most important connections, that of family.
Jesus gave two commands that on the surface seem to contradict each other.
Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
What is the point of owning a sword if you are forbidden to defend yourself against an attacker?
Chapter four of John describes a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
Here is what Wikipedia says about the shroud of Turin.
The Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. There is no consensus yet on exactly how the image was created, and it is believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.
Scientists have studied the shroud and haven’t been able to determine whether or not the image is that of Jesus but there is another way to answer the question. That is to study what the Bible says about what Jesus was buried in and see if it matches the description of the shroud. John’s gospel give us the information we need.
Shortly before his crucifixion Jesus gave this command to his disciples.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
In order to carry out this command we must take a look at how Jesus loves us. There are two places where he describes his love.
The first one is well known.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.