“No man ever spoke like this man” … or prayed … or healed … or listened … or cared like this man. He could confront hypocrisy with perfect judgment yet offer love and forgiveness to the worst of sinners. No doubt about it: Jesus was (and is) in a class of His own.
I sometimes forget how unique He is. Who else would have the audacity to say the things He said to the Pharisees … the religious leaders of His day?
- I am the bread of life … the true manna from heaven.
- Whoever who hears my word and believes has eternal life and will not be judged.
- You are from below; I am from above. You don’t know me because you belong to your father, the devil.
- Can you prove me guilty of sin? I always do what pleases the Father.
- Before Abraham was, I AM.
- I lay down my life, no one takes it from me. I have authority to take it up again.
- You study the Scriptures to find eternal life … but they testify about me.
This is a spiritual boldness that’s hard to grasp. It’s not arrogance but supreme confidence in who He was and why He came. I imagine the early disciples were stunned when He suddenly turned the Passover feast – which for fifteen hundred years had been celebrating the nation’s deliverance from Egypt – into a commemorative feast about HIM. Who else could or would do that? Only the Son of God who came to change everything.
No wonder the New Testament is full of His preeminence and glory.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
“God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Yes, we serve an amazing, a glorious King. But as I begin a new year I’m asking myself – a follower of Jesus – some hard questions: Does my life reflect the preeminence of Jesus Christ? Is He first in my focus and my priorities or is He relegated to a spot near the bottom of my to-do list? I don’t know about you, but I often am amazed at what I give my time to. Things that will not matter a few days from now, let alone years down the road. Does it really matter if I attend that meeting or get the best deal at that sale? Do I need to give hours to a TV show or scroll through videos posted by people I don’t even know?
In all my busyness I can forget about the One who brought me into God’s kingdom and continues to provide all I need. He’s not just the author but also the finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). I can do nothing of significance unless I abide in Him (John 15:1-8).
Nothing focuses our attention on what really matters like a sudden illness or catastrophic event. I’ve been spending time with a neighbor who was just diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumor. I’m providing support and help to her but the truth is, she is powerfully ministering to me as well.
I’m getting to watch firsthand how someone who knows Jesus intimately reacts to this kind of news. Since becoming a Christian relatively late in life, she has from the beginning invested heavily in His kingdom. She’s been a successful businesswoman but nothing in her life has been allowed to distract from her foremost priority: knowing and obeying Jesus. She has unashamedly shared the Gospel with everyone she encounters, whether at work or at home.
Now that she’s facing a potentially terminal crisis, she’s experiencing all the usual fears and concerns, but along with those she also has incredible peace. Her intimate relationship with God gives her strong faith and confidence that Jesus will guide her through this challenge in the best possible way. Her main concern is for the people in her life who aren’t Christians. When I pray with her she is mostly focused on the spiritual needs of family, and friends. Of course she would like to be healed, but it isn’t her main prayer concern.
This is what it looks like when Jesus’ followers make Him their primary focus. It’s as if she’s taken His command to “Seek first the kingdom of God” and really put it into practice. How inspiring she is!
I knew another woman many years ago who also had a brain tumor. In her case, when I met her, she was dying. Following surgery and all the other treatments the doctors tried, she went through “death therapy” to accept her end of life situation. In spite of the grim prognosis, someone loved her enough to bring her to a Bible study being held in my home. Marsha had been an atheist all her life and had no real interest in becoming a Christian, as far as we knew, but her Christian friend wanted to make sure she had the opportunity to receive Jesus before she went out into eternity. During the weeks she came her heart was slowly changed and one day she prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. To our utter amazement, He healed her that day and she slowly recovered her health and strength.
Like my neighbor, Marsha’s heart was firmly fixed on knowing and serving the Lord. He was the preeminent relationship in her life. Although she couldn’t read or write because of her brain surgery, she discovered He could meet her needs through His body of believers. I loved spending time with her because she reminded me of an important fact: All that’s required to be a joyful and fruitful Christian is to trust the One who is and has everything we need. The One who’s in a class all by himself.
Jesus is the hope and light of the world. Do I believe that? Sometimes I wonder. The early disciples were close enough to the resurrection to be stirred by it. They went everywhere proclaiming how unique Jesus’ life was and how He had risen from the dead. Two thousand years later the new life we have in Christ is just as wonderful as theirs, but somehow we’ve lost the wonder of the Good News.
Hopefully it won’t take anything catastrophic to bring me back to the most important relationship in my life. I can begin today to make Him my first and highest priority. By spending time with Him (abiding in Him) I can be a bold witness to the truth. I don’t need some special spiritual gift. I just need to care about the ones who will perish without Him.
From Jesus’ perspective my role – your role – as His disciple is very simple. “Freely you have received; [now] freely give” (Matthew 10:8).