TRUHT FOR TODAY - BIBLICAL ESSAYS BY PASTOR PAUL MIZZI

The ministry of Christ

The rich ministry of Jesus the Christ is encapsulated for our profit in the Four Gospels. It is our joy to discover the significance of the various facets of His servitude during the days of His humiliation.

a. Capernaum.

"And you, Capernaum, who art exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades..." (Matthew 11:23). Jesus performed numerous miracles in Capernaum and Chorazin, yet they persisted in unbelief. But this shows that all the same his miracles were never "wasted." For his works stimulates men to trust him all the more and at the same time hardens unbelievers.

b. The Cana miracle.

Basically this beginning of signs was performed so that he might manifest his glorious excellency, to prove who he really was. For who except God could do creative acts such as changing water into wine? John indicates such a purpose specifically in John 2:12.

c. The Nicodemus incident.

This nocturnal confrontation demonstrates the basic difference between religious moral persons who are still lost, and those who have been made alive by the Spirit of God.

Nicodemus was a model of ethical behaviour in the eyes of society and yet Jesus, penetrating to the heart of the issue, immediately tackles his grass-root problem, "Ye must be born again." In front of such a spiritual operation in the soul, the lost, intelligent and educated as they may be, show no real experiential knowledge.

d. Jesusí behaviour on the Sabbath.

His Sabbath activity was as normal as could be, I mean it was in perfect conformity to the Law. Only it was abnormal and even blasphemous in the eyes of hypocritical religious folk, who continually assailed him with the accusation that he was breaking the Law (an accusation that some Evangelicals today describe as valid, saying that Christ broke the Sabbath: such is an absurd position. It can only be recommended that Christ's disciples keep the Sabbath the way he kept it (Isaiah 58).

e. His miracles on both Jews and Gentiles.

This shows the extent of his mercy and grace, for though he came to confirm the promises made unto the patriarchs, yet the Gentiles rejoice in the overflow of his wondrous outreach to them too (Romans 15:8-11).

f. His disputes with both Sadducees and Pharisees.

It was inevitable that with the coming of the True Light the darkness should be exposed for what it really is, even though it poses as light. Whilst Christ had it in mind to fulfil the Law and honour it in every way, in its genuine exposition and in practising it, the religious leaders made a mockery of it, toned it down and brought it to no effect by their doctrinal inventions. In no way could Christ maintain the status quo; he had to proclaim truth but in so doing all formalism and dead orthodoxy had to be attacked.

g. His healing of the lame, blind, deaf and dumb.

Evidently these were works of mercy and compassion as is stated explicitly several times in the Gospels, but more significantly than this, these mighty works prove to be a token of Christ's holistic redemption on behalf of his own. "He himself bare our diseases...." The fact that he healed bodily is a guarantee that his own will one day be healed of all sickness and distresses: the redemption of our body. In such a hope we are saved (Romans 8).

h. His discourse on the Bread of Life.

While there is bread for the belly, which we do need for daily sustenance, and while the Father was gracious in providing his children with manna during their wanderings in the desert, yet all this is but a faint shadow of what we really need. Earthly realities and typological significations find their real and deeper meaning in Christ: "I am the bread of life." And, as he explains, we profit spiritually be partaking of him ("He who eats my flesh..."), i.e., by trusting him as our all-sufficient redeemer ("He who believes in me has eternal life.").

i. His transfiguration.

This special occurrence in the presence of his three most intimate disciples signifies how the Law and the Prophets find their terminus in Christ. It is only thus that the Scriptures make sense, for they point incessantly to Jesus Christ. As Peter later testified: "We saw his majesty when we were with him on the holy mount." Christ, in his atoning death and resurrection, is the core of what has gone before; he is the all in all for the observing disciple.

j. The confession of Peter.

Though others before had already confessed Jesus as the King of Israel, as the Son of God, as the Messiah, special focus should be given to Peter's confession for this came only after Jesus specifically asked his own about their convictions concerning himself. It is a highlight in his ministry for upon these two primary truths, i.e., that he is the prophesied Messiah, the Son of the living God (his deity), that his church is built. It shows all the more how those who follow Jesus do so not because of any innate wisdom but only by the revelation of the Father.

k. Jesusí attendance at Jewish feasts.

"Christ was born of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law..." During his humiliation he was obedient to all aspects of the divine Law, whether in its moral, civil or ceremonial aspect, such as the feasts were. The feasts, as such, pointed towards better things to come, that is, to the fullness of revelation and redemption by his blood, and the eternal inheritance through his Name. But his humility is such that though he is our Passover, he attended the Passover and other feasts.

l. The raising of Lazarus.

Christ raised a number of dead persons back to life during his ministry. Lazarus particularly was raised a few days before his own passion and death; this was to confirm the faith of the disciples who were to witness his extreme humiliation at the hands of sinners. Though he had to die, he himself was the resurrection and the life, and as a sign, he raised his friend back to life.

He went about doing good

The gospels are replete with incidents that confirm how Jesus came to minister and serve others with a willing and loving heart. Here are some incidents highlighed.

1. The healing of the paralytic demonstrates how Jesus not only ministers but ministers in the best possible way, and is concerned not only with the outward and patent needs of man, but also, more importantly, with his spiritual needs. In the case of the paralytic it was his forgiveness of sins that he needed most urgently. But Jesus grants him a holistic treatment, his bodily healing being a proof of his ability to deal with the soul.

2. His sending out of the twelve. Jesus ministered primarily by his teaching and preaching of the gospel, urging men to repent and come to him to find rest. But the task being so formidable, Jesus, as a master strategist, trained twelve men to be with him so that eventually they might be well equipped to be sent out to preach also. In so doing he duplicated his ministry, in a sense, many times over, so that instead of reaching a small group within his compass, many others might be touched as well.

3. Those who needed comfort received comfort from him; those who needed to be established received the right treatment from him, and this in a most sensitive and personal way. A case in point is the Baptist doubting as he sat in prison. "Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?" Jesus ministered to the greatest born of women as his lowest ebb. And he sent to him a delegation to report the kind of mighty works he was performing, in fulfilment of messianic prophecy. Thus he reaffirms his faith and strengthens him in his weakness.

4. Even when it appeared that he cared not, it turned out that his care and compassion is beyond comprehension. A case in point is the Syrophoenician woman who pleaded with him on behalf of her daughter. Jesus graciously responds only after it was clear that the woman had no presumption of deserving the blessing promised to Israel; rather, she hoped to benefit from the overflow of those blessings. And her expectation was not dashed to the ground, for grace abounds. His ministry was not confined to the Israelite nation after all; "I have other sheep which are not of this fold..."

5. We cannot leave unmentioned the feeding of thousands of people on at least 2 different occasions, in both of which Jesus was moved with tender mercies towards the crowd that looked to him as sheep having no shepherd. And since the good Shepherd cares for the sheep, he did not send them away, but rather feed them, though as he had to explain on the morrow, the real food they needed was not the food that filled their bellies, but rather the bread that comes down from heaven. His ministry is never superficial, never patchy, but intensively and extensively effectual.