"Searching For Jesus" (January 2008)
We just celebrated Christmas a month ago. Christmas, of course, is about the birth of Jesus, but in the Christmas story we see several wonderful events that surrounded His birth-- no room in the inn, His birth in a manger, angels appearing to the shepherds. Another part of the story was one about the wise men who traveled from afar to seek the Christ child. Inspired by the “wise men” we have coined a phrase in modern day Christendom-- “Wise men still seek Him.” This month I would like to talk about three different groups in the Bible that went “seeking” for Jesus. From their search for Him we can learn much to help us in our search for Him- where He can be found, and how to go about searching for Him.
The first group is the wise men. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have see his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Matt. 2:1,2) The wise men knew, having seen the star, that a king had been born so they left their country to search for this new king. They also knew that he was to be born in Bethlehem, so when they got to the city they went to the king’s palace to present to this newborn king their gifts and pay him honor. You know the story, they didn’t find him in the palace. Instead they found him in the home of Joseph and Mary and discovered that he had been born in a stable. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.” (Matt. 2:11a) It was only natural for the wise men to look for a newborn king in Herod’s palace- after all, isn’t that where you’d find a king? Through the experience of the wise men we are taught that when you search for Jesus, you won’t always find Him in the most obvious places. We won’t always find Him where we assume He’ll be. They assumed He was born in a palace, but He was born in a manger instead. When He walked the shores of Galilee they didn’t find this Rabbi/teacher “camped out” in the temple, they found Him teaching from boats, in the houses of those who would invite Him in, walking the streets of the cities, going throughout the country side.
The Pharisees made the mistake of thinking they knew where to find the Messiah. They thought that He would be found among the religious crowd, with the “holier than thou” group, with the self-righteous ones. But He wasn’t. He was where the lowly, downcast, hurting and abused were. “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” (Matt. 9:10-12) “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) He wasn’t on a mountain top looking down on the people, He was in the valley with them.
I think many times we make the same mistake of looking for Jesus in the places we ‘think” He’ll be. We tend to think that He is only found in the good times, the blessing times, the times of peace and prosperity. When things go wrong in our lives or bad things happen, isn’t the first thing we do is question, “Where are You, Lord?”, like Mary and Martha did. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11:21,32) Jesus is found in the good times of life but He’s also found in the “not so good” times. You’ll find Him in places of grief and sorrow. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3a) He was found at the tomb of Lazarus where He wept. (John 11). He is found in times of trials and testing. The three Hebrew children found Him in their “fiery furnace” trial. “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:24,25) You’ll find Him in your times of failure when you need restoration like Peter. “Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.” (John 13:38; 18:27) “And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:29-31) You’ll find Him when you have sinned and need forgiveness like the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:10,11) You will find Him when all hope is gone and you’ve tried everything and nothing works like the woman with issue of blood. “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up.” (Mark 5:25-27,29a) You’ll find Him when others have rejected you, given up on you, when you’re tormented, when the past haunts you, when you feel like you can’t go on. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
The next person I want us to look at is Mary Magdalene. After Jesus’ crucifixion she went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body. When she and the other women got there they discovered that Jesus’ body was gone. Mary Magdalene went searching for Jesus at the tomb, but she didn’t find Him there. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) She didn’t find Him in the tomb because it is a place for what is dead- Jesus was not dead. But she did find Him in the garden. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15) The garden is the place where things grow, and anything that is growing is alive. Mary Magdalene hoped to find Jesus in the tomb but found Him in the garden instead because He is always found where there is life. If we aren’t careful we will do the same thing she did- look for Him among the dead. Jesus told the disciples that He would rise from the dead on the third day and He did what He said. Mary was searching for Jesus but she was searching for Him in the wrong place. She was searching for Him through the intellect of the flesh- the five senses. To find Him you have to search for Him through the Spirit.
What does it mean to search for Jesus among the dead? It means to put your hope in assumption (promises that He never made), to have a lack of faith in what He said, to forget His word. It also means to put more importance and emphasis on religious practices, traditions of men, vain rituals and the world’s philosophies. “for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Cor. 3:6b) We search for Him among dead when we think we can find Him by doing enough good deeds and good works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) The Pharisees were like this. They thought that they would be heard by God for their much speaking. They held their traditions and law in esteem above a relationship with the living God. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matt. 23:23)
If you want to find Jesus, you have to look among the living. Jesus is life, not death. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6a) “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:3) You have to look for Him where faith is present. “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, ‘Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel’”. (Matt. 8:10) You have to follow the Spirit. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26) You have to abide in Him and let His word abide in you. If you want to find Jesus you can’t hold on to traditions that were man inspired instead of God inspired. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 16:25) Mary Magdelene did not find Jesus among the dead, we won’t either.. He is not there. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matt. 22:32)
The last group I want to talk about is Mary and Joseph. When Jesus was twelve years old, He and His parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover. When the Passover was ended, they left to go back home. It wasn’t until the end of a day of traveling that they discovered that Jesus was not among their group. They went back to Jerusalem to search for Him. “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.” (Luke 2:43-45) When they finally found Him, three days later, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)
Where did Mary and Joseph find Jesus? They found Him in the temple- in the church, in His Father’s house. Although, we can find Jesus many places, the one place we should always be able to find Him is in the church. Sadly, this is not always the case. I have noticed something in the church that has alarmed me. I have noticed a lack of preaching about Jesus. It seems like most of the sermons we hear are about finances, self esteem, wealth, blessings, prosperity and material gain. But not much about Jesus.
Jesus has always been the theme of the church-- until recently. How many sermons have you heard lately about the cross, the resurrection, salvation through the blood of Jesus? While we are suppose to preach the whole word of God, we can’t leave out the most important part-- Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no gospel- no good news. Without Jesus there is no church, there is no redemption, there is no hope for mankind. Without Jesus we have nothing to preach.
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42) There has always been a battle over the name of Jesus. The early church was commanded not to preach in His name, and today we are seeing the same thing happen. The world doesn’t mind if you talk about “God” because “God” can be anything or anyone you perceive him to be. But when you start talking about Jesus and proclaiming that He is God, then they want to rise up and silence you. It seems like the church is following the world and removing Jesus from our services. Many “Christian” churches are denying the virgin birth, or the resurrection and they teach that Jesus was a good man but not God.
If we don’t preach Jesus- the cross, His suffering, His redemption- people will never receive eternal life. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18) It’s as we lift up Jesus that the lost are drawn to Him. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) Once upon a time, the song “Jesus Loves Me”’ was the anthem of the church. Now, we have become embarrassed to sing it any longer.
“And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.“ (Matt. 21:13) I wonder what those who come into the church searching for Jesus like Mary and Joseph did will find. Will they find self-help programs, how to manage your finances or how to get rich quick schemes? What will they find? Will they find Jesus at all or go away still searching?
There is one important fact that we can learn from each of these groups. Although they may not have all started off looking for Jesus in the right place, they each found Him. You can always count on finding Jesus when you search for Him. “If thou seek him, he will be found of thee.” (1 Chron. 28:9ff) “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Do you need to find Him today? Start searching, you’ll find Him.