Genesis 2 has the creation complete. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done”. God has spoke the world into existence, and now takes a day to rest. Six days he worked, and then He rested. We learn elsewhere in scripture that this is also God’s plan for us – to make the Sabbath a day of rest. It is important for us and our human condition to take time to rest and refresh. Not something many of us do well, but definitely part of God’s plan.
God created the Garden of Eden and placed man there. “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. God has a plan for man – and “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it”. God created a beautiful place and in it puts some special trees that were off limit to man. He tells the man to care for the garden. But God also very clearly gives a command to man.
“Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”. Is there any part of this command that seems difficult to understand? God tells man to leave the tree of knowledge alone. The rest of the garden is at his disposal, but this one tree is off limits. It Is not for man to touch. But Adam struggles to do that as we’ll learn in another chapter. God does look at man and determines “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”.
God doesn’t want man to be alone. He creates woman form the rib of Adam and soon there is a helpmeet fit for him. And God defines what should happen in the relationship between man and woman. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. Leave, cleave, and become one flesh. It is God’s design for marriage. We are to leave home, put our total focus and affection on our wife and become one. Self no longer is in control. The focus is on us, not me. Marriage is God’s idea. So is sex. Both are perfect when done in His plan His way!
Genesis 1 is all about creation. Scripture is pretty clear – creation was God’s deal. “In the beginning, God created”. He didn’t enable. He didn’t help. He didn’t allow. He didn’t only plan. God created. And this chapter has the things that happened during those six days of creation from nothingness, to the creation of man himself. God did it all. He alone, without any need for a big bang or any other scientific theory. Scripture is very clear – “God said” – and things happened. God spoke creation into existence.
It is interesting that God did not lift a finger to make creation a reality. God simple said the words and it was. It is amazing to realize the power our God has. We wonder at times if He has the power to answer prayer. All we need to do is review Genesis 1 and realize that God has the power to do anything He desires. There is not a limitation on His power. The only question is whether we will ask Him. God said, and there was the earth and sun and waters and land and animals and vegetation and all living things.
Each day, after God created, he said it “was good”. That is, until day six when He created man and He throws in the adjective “it was very good”. God had finished His creation, and the grand finale was creating man in His own image. God doesn’t make any junk. Every part of His creation was perfect and happened according to His plan. He was the designer, He was the orchestrator, He was the creator. And we need to be grateful for how He created His world, and us as a person made in God’s image.
God gives man one command. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”. Man was commanded to fill the earth – and we’ve certainly managed to do that one and in some areas – maybe over excel. But the second part of that command was to handle the earth that God created for us to steward, and we haven’t always done so well with that one. But it is the charge God gave us and we need to take care of His creation!
John 21 has Jesus appearing to the disciples again. This time seven of them were out fishing in the Sea of Galilee in a couple boats. They had been out all night and caught nothing. Jesus was on the shore and as the sun came up, called out to them but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus told them to “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens. They did what he said”. It is interesting that they listened to this man on the shore they didn’t recognize. But they were willing to try most anything to catch something.
They throw the net and immediately they had it filled with fish. They then recognize the voice as that of Jesus, and Peter in his normal way, throws on his clothes and swims to shore leaving the others to drag in the net. When they finally got it in there were “153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip”. Another miracle of the Master. Jesus had already prepared a fire and was cooking some food for their breakfast. “This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead”.
Jesus loves these men. He didn’t just show himself once and expect them to get it. He does it now a third time to be sure they understand. And during this visit he questions Peter, the one who denied Him three times earlier in the garden the night before His crucifixion. Jesus asks Peter “do you love me” three different times. It is interesting that is the same number of times that Peter had earlier denied Christ. Each time Peter says yes, and Jesus tells Him to feed or shepherd His lambs or sheep.
Jesus was making a point with Peter, and you and me. Our walk with Jesus is based on love. It is a relationship we choose to have, and the outcome should be that of caring for the people in our patch. We are to be Christ Followers. Jesus said what He did to Peter to prepare him. “He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God”. Having recently been in Rome and seeing the place Peter was crucified upside down on a cross makes this very real. Peter asks what will happen to John to which Jesus replied “what’s that to you? You–follow me”. How we live as a Christ Follower is not about how we compare to others. It is about how we live in relationship to what God has asked us to do. It is about me and Jesus. How’s your walk?
John 20 is one of the most important chapters to our faith in Christ. He has been crucified and placed in a tomb with a large stone put in front of the entrance. In other accounts, we know soldiers had been stationed to keep guard so the body could not be moved. “Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance”. It’s interesting that Mary Magdalene is the first to arrive at the scene. And when she does, the stone has been moved. The tomb is open.
She runs back to find the disciples. “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him”. Simon and another disciple run to check out her story. We aren’t told who this second person is. There are many conflicting views with often John being the one most considered. But no matter who it was, the two find the tomb empty and the linen cloths left behind. “The disciples then went back home”. Sort of an interesting move. But at this point they hadn’t figured out that Jesus had to be raised from the dead according to the prophecy of scripture.
Mary hangs around the tomb and sees the angels, and then Jesus Himself appears to her. It’s interesting that the first person Jesus appears to is a woman, which seems strange for those times. But she was there, standing at the tomb, looking for the Savior. Jesus asks her to go tell the others. “Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: I saw the Master”. Can you imagine the doubt the disciples must have had? Jesus comes to them later in the day to remove all that. “Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side”. Jesus knows they would have a difficult time believing. This was way outside anything they expected or had experienced before.
Then Jesus gives them this command: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you”. The job of being a disciple was really just getting started. He is sending them off to share the good news of His resurrection. Over the days ahead He’ll make that more clear, but this isn’t the end, but rather the beginning. Thomas struggles to believe since he wasn’t there when Jesus came. “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it”. Jesus didn’t write him off as a disbeliever. He came again and showed Thomas personally the very holes and cut in his side. Jesus equips us and prepares us for the work He has for us to do. He has done the same for you and me. “These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it”.
John 19 has the crucifixion of Jesus occurring. Pilate has been delivered Jesus by the Jewish leaders who want Him dead. They brought Jesus as a common criminal “whipped….braided a crown from thorns….on his head….a purple robe over him….slaps in the face”. Jesus was beaten and mistreated as the leaders of the day try to get rid of Him. But Pilate is in a tough spot. He knows Jesus has done no wrong. So he “went back out again and said to them, I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime”. Jesus was innocent, there was no guilt in Him. He was pure and free of any sin.
The Jewish leaders got the crowd in a frenzy and wanted Pilate to crucify Christ. Pilate talks to Jesus, but He is not impressed. “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven”. This is not about power of government, but God’s plan to redeem the world. Jesus death was a choice, not a decision by a Roman leader. Pilate knows it is wrong and tries to reason with the crowd. But they continue and shout him down. Then what often happens when we follow a crowd occurs: “Pilate caved in to their demand”.
Jesus is sent to be crucified. “Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him”. He went willingly, without so much as a word. While hanging on that Cross as a common criminal, “Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross”. And John was there too, and even as Jesus was in the final stages of life, he looked down and asked John to care for His mother. His love never ends. He cared for those around Him to the very last breath.
Jesus died that day on the cross. He said “It’s done . . . complete. Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit”. The soldiers came to break the legs of those on the crosses that day to speed the death process since it was the day before Sabbath and they wanted to get the bodies down sooner than later. But when they got to Jesus, He was already dead so they didn’t have to break any bones just as scripture had prophesied. Joseph and Nicodemus, two somewhat secret followers, came and took the body and prepared it for burial. They had come to Jesus under darkness before, but “came now in broad daylight”. Do you come to Jesus in broad daylight, in front of all those in your patch? Or are you afraid to let your faith be known?
John 18 has the story of Jesus path to the Cross. He has just spent time pouring truth into His disciples and is now in the garden late at night. Judas hands Jesus over to the soldiers who were sent to capture Him. “So Judas led the way to the garden, and the Roman soldiers and police sent by the high priests and Pharisees followed”. This is one of the 12 that Jesus selected to follow Him. Judas betrays Him for personal gain and due to the disappointment that Jesus was not setting up an earthly kingdom and taking advantage of the power that could have been His.
The disciples were with Jesus as He is confronted and captured. “Simon Peter, who was carrying a sword, pulled it from its sheath and struck the Chief Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Malchus was the servant’s name”. Peter is always the one who is a bit out of control and out front of the rest. He decides to take matters into his own hands. But Jesus tells him to put his sword away. This is the time that has been appointed for Jesus to go to the Cross and He knows the plan well. So they drag Him before Annas and then Caiaphas the Chief Priest.
Peter and the rest are hanging around, and three times Peter gets asked if he is one of Jesus disciples or knows Him. “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” He denied it, Not me”. Jesus had predicted earlier that Peter would deny Him three times before morning, and that is exactly what happens. Each time someone asks Peter about Jesus, the disciple distances himself and denies that he even knows Jesus. Immediately after the third denial it happened. “Just then a rooster crowed”. What do you say when someone asks you about Jesus? Do you deny your faith, or live it boldly, even if it costs you something.
The interaction between Jesus and Caiaphas is short and he sends Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor of the area, to deal with. Jesus again has few words and nothing that made Him guilty of anything except fear from the Pharisees that He would take away their power and control. Jesus makes it clear that He is King and those that love Him know His voice. “Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice”. Pilate just wants to get this off his plate so he can move on. So he asks the crowd what to do, and the crowd, led by the Jewish leaders who were far more interested in protecting their turf than the truth, convince the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. Do you know Jesus’ voice? If so, it is important that we follow closely and stand firm in our faith!
John 17 is Jesus prayer for His disciples as He ends His time on earth. He reveals His heart and plan for us as Christ Followers. Jesus came “so he might give real and eternal life to all in His charge”. His mission was to bring us the opportunity for a relationship with the living God and to be able to address our sin problem through His shed blood so we can have eternal life. And He goes on to define what that means: “And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.
Eternal life is about knowing God, the one and only, and Jesus. It is about a relationship, not how we live or what we do. It happens when we believe in Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. It is trusting in the Savior who came to take away the sin of the world. Jesus also reveals that His life was “on display for them”. We can get a model of what life should look like by studying His. The Bible gives us that view, and we need to study and understand what Jesus did and how He lived.
Jesus also makes it clear that He cares for us. He asks God to “guard them as they pursue this life”. He knows that we are under the attack of a very real enemy who doesn’t want us to succeed in walking with Him. And as He prays for us to “be one heart and mind”, He lets us know that the challenges we face will be around relationships in many ways. It is the people stuff that is often where the enemy strikes and wins. He divides families, couples, friendships, business partners and every other kind of relationship. And that is particularly evident in His body, the church. But His desire is for us to be unified and of one mind and heart.
He also prays for our protection from persecution. It is coming if it isn’t already here. “The godless world hated them because of it, because they didn’t join the world’s ways….I’m not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One”. We must prepare for the persecution of the world. Walking with Christ causes others to feel uncomfortable. It brings light on things they would rather have kept in the darkness. Being a Christ Follower will carry a price and we need to be ready for that!