What Did Jesus Do?

Move from asking “What Would Jesus Do?” to asking “What Did Jesus Do?”

What did Jesus do?The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” was popularized in the 1990s. Often epitomized by colorful bracelets that bore the acronym WWJD, the concept was intended to serve as a constant reminder for followers of Jesus to act as he would act. Therefore, in any given circumstance the goal of WWJD is for us to ask ourselves, what would Jesus do in this particular situation? Then we should act accordingly.

I like WWJD as an ongoing nudge to always strive to behave in a manner consistent with Jesus. However, this requires that we presume to know how Jesus would act today. This necessitates interpreting his actions from two thousand years ago and projecting them into our modern culture, which we invariably do through the lens of our personal experience. Some call this contextualizing. The problem in doing so is that we make assumptions and might be in error.

Instead of presuming to know what Jesus would do, it might be better to look at the Bible to see what he actually did.

In reading the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the biographies of Jesus—here are some of the things that Jesus consistently does:

Jesus Loves Everyone: The Bible shows Jesus loving everyone, especially those on the fringes of society, the people who “good” folks avoid. Jesus does the opposite, going out of his way to love those who few people love.

Jesus Questions Spiritual Conventions: A paraphrase of a reoccurring teaching of Jesus is “You have heard it said ____, but I say ____.” It seems Jesus consistently challenges the beliefs people have and the way they act. His teaching delights the common people and frustrates the people who think they have everything figured out about God and what he expects.

Jesus Heals People: Jesus goes around healing people of their physical infirmities, from removing fevers to raising people from the dead. In this spectrum of need are people with odd afflictions that the Bible calls evil spirits. It matters not if these people are really possessed by demons or if their struggle is actually mental illness. The reality is that Jesus heals them; he solves their problems.

And for those who claim that miraculous healing doesn’t apply today, check out Jesus’s future-focused statement in John 14:12: “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.Jesus healed people and said that his followers would do the same—and more! Click To Tweet

Jesus Feeds People: On two occasions Jesus feeds hungry people, miraculously multiplying a measly amount of food to feed a multitude. Before you assume you can’t do that, go back to read the above verse in John. Of course we don’t always need a miracle to feed people. We can just do it the normal way and feed hungry people from the resources we have.

Jesus Opposes Religiosity: Jesus opposes the religious status quo. Though Jesus clearly loves everyone, one group consistently earns his criticism: the spiritual leaders who follow regimented religious rules. They adhere to a spirit of religiosity. Though they are devote in their righteousness and adherence to their traditions and interpretations of the Bible, Jesus consistently has to correct their errant thinking.

These are the things that Jesus does. May we go out and do the same, to do what Jesus did.

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Do You Go To an Acts 2 Church?

I recently visited a church that upheld Acts 2:42-47 as their model for church. Shocked, I checked the passage to make sure I remembered it correctly.

Here is what the Acts 2 church looks like:

Their Four Keys: The church in Acts 2 has four priorities: studying good teaching, hanging out, sharing meals, and praying (verse 42).

That’s a great start, but many churches today don’t even do that, not really.

Their Miracles: Amazing supernatural things occur. People are amazed (verse 43).

Today, most churches don’t encounter anything supernatural; they forgot how or never learned. And for those that do walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, their focus is on the experience, not on people’s reaction. Their emphasis is backwards. The purpose of “signs and wonders” isn’t to gratify themselves; it’s to show God’s power, pointing outsiders to him, not delighting insiders.

Their Finances: The kicker is that they pool their resources; they even sell their possessions to give to everyone in need. The church takes care of their own (verses 44 and 45).

Too many churches today do not even care for the needs of their members; they expect government or some other organization to. And I’ve never encountered a church that shares all their material possessions. That’s just un-American!

Their Pattern: They continue to hang out – every day – and share food. They are delighted (verse 46).

I don’t know of any church family that meets every day, but the Acts 2 church did.

Their Results: Because of all this, others esteem them and they grow (verse 47).

Too often today’s churches don’t have the respect of society but quite the opposite. Too many churches aren’t growing; they’re not even maintaining; they’re dying.

However, none of the things the church did in Acts 2 are commands for us to follow. The passage is descriptive; it shows what the church did and the outcome they enjoyed. It may be a viable model for us to follow. Unfortunately, many churches today don’t even practice these four key actions; supernatural results are rare; and sharing everything is virtually nonexistent.

Is it any wonder why churches aren’t respected by society or growing? Perhaps they’re doing church wrong and not more closely following the Acts 2 model.

[Acts 2:42-47]

Should churches follow this model? What could yours do better?

Have You Run Out of Wine? A Metaphor of God’s Provision

Last weekend, my wife and I attended a wedding. The minister reminded us of when Jesus was at a wedding, too.

In his first recorded miracle, Jesus doesn’t address a big need, such as healing someone of a life-threatening illness or debilitating condition; he just turns some water into wine. Although this kept the host from suffering an embarrassing social blunder, it falls far short of Jesus’ purpose to heal and to save.

Today we trust Jesus to save us and may look to him for healing, but what about more wine?

Sometimes we try to handle the small things ourselves, turning to God only for those big items or when we’re in a jam we can’t fix ourselves. But Jesus is interested in the lessor things too.

If he can provide some extra wine at a wedding, what else can he do for us? If we don’t ask, we’ll never know.

His answers may just surprise and delight.

[John 2:1-10]

We Often Criticize What We Don’t Understand

Once Jesus drove a demon out of a man. The man had been mute, but when the evil spirit was exorcized, he began speaking.

The people should have been in awe of the power Jesus displayed. They were not.

Instead they chose to be critical. Some questioned the source of his power and others insisted he do another miracle, as if the first wasn’t enough.

Things aren’t much different today. When someone comes along with a variant understanding of God, lives life in a different manner, or walks with a greater degree of spiritual power, the common response is criticism.

People tend to fear what challenges their status quo, to vilify what is different. They criticize what they don’t understand. It was done to Jesus two millennia ago and it’s still being done today.

Instead of looking for what makes us different, the better response is to focus on how we are the same. Pursue unity; avoid division. Celebrate diversity and embrace variation. I think that’s what Jesus would want us to do.

[Luke 11:14-16]

Bookends to the Desert Experience

After the Israelites left Egypt, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert. This was because of their lack of trust in his pledge to provide for them as they entered into the land he promised. This meant that what should have been an eleven day journey, ended up being a 40-year desert experience — which for most, literally lasted a lifetime.

While their desert sojourn was marked by complaining and disobedience, there were a couple of significant bookend events to their time of waiting.

First, they celebrated Passover for the first time just before they left Egypt to head to the desert. Then they celebrate it again, 40 years later after they leave the desert. The first Passover was marked by God’s provision for them to leave Egypt, while the subsequent ones were intended as a reminder of the first.

Second, two miracles occurred, allowing them to enter and later leave the desert. After leaving Egypt, and being pursued by its army, God parted the sea so they could escape attack and enter into the desert. Forty years later, when it was time to leave the desert, God parted the Jordan River — at flood stage — allowing them to leave.

So their desert experience began with Passover and the parting of the sea; it ended with the parting of another body of water and another Passover celebration.

[Leviticus 23, Joshua 5:10, Exodus 14:21, Joshua 4:18]

There’s More to Discover in the Bible

Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:

Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit).  Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.

Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.

1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.

2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.

Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.

Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.

Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.

The End of John the Baptist

John (referred to as John the Baptizer) was Jesus’ cousin and a couple of months older. John preceded Jesus in ministry, pointing people to Jesus.

John did his work admirably and without fault, albeit amidst criticism. He was eventually imprisoned because of what he said.

With all the amazing things Jesus did and the miracles he performed, you’d think that he would have freed John from jail. He could have, yet he didn’t. At least he could have visited his cousin, yet that doesn’t appear to have happened either.

So, John is sitting in jail, pondering his fate (he would soon be executed); his faith in Jesus begins to waiver. We know this because in what is likely the darkest days of his life, he sends his followers to Jesus, asking if Jesus is the “one” or if they should be expecting someone else.

John seemingly wants validation for his work and confirmation that his life of service to Jesus was not in vain.

Jesus replies, providing John with the assurance that he sought.

Sometimes God acts strangely, not giving us what we want or expect, but he does give us what we need — just like he did for John.

[Matthew 11:3-6]

Miracles and an Ant Farm

If you accept that God exists and exercises providential care over his creation, it is, therefore, reasonable to expect that from time to time, miracles will occur – either for our own good or for his pleasure.  As such, an occasional divine intervention is not an irrational desire, but a reasonable expectation.

At the risk of trivializing God and his care for us, consider a person wishing to enjoy an “ant farm.”  That person would need to first establish the ant colony and would therefore understandably opt to do what is needed to ensure its ongoing survival.  At the same time, he or she would also seek an overall “hands-off” mentality in order to most effectively enjoy the ants in their natural, everyday existence.  In other words, the ant farmer would intervene (that is, do an “ant miracle”) when there was a prevailing reason to do so, but not as a matter of course.

Although God is much more generous and caring then an ant farmer, the analogy is nonetheless helpful in understanding the possibility of miracles occurring in our world today.

Book Review: Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics

Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics

By John Crowder (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The subtitle of this book serves as an apt description of what to expect: “How to Become Part of the Supernatural Generation.”  Building upon the understanding of a Christian mystic to be “one who lived a life of deep, extensive prayer,” Crowder expands that definition to encompass “miracle workers and all who pursue a supernatural journey of divine experience.”

Towards that end, this book is essentially education by example, with over 50 mystics from the past two millennia being exposed and elucidated.  The accounts of their lives, spiritual devotion, and God-powered accomplishments are inspiring and motivating.

Although a common thread among these mystics is the intentional, dedicated, and purposeful pursuit of God, the point is made that “there is simply no formula for hearing God.”  Nevertheless, if you want to pursue a mystical adventure, this book will get you started.

[Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics, by John Crowder. Published by Destiny Image Publishers, 2006; ISBN: 978-0768423501; 391 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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Book Review: Diary of God’s General

Diary of God’s General: Excerpts from the Miracle Ministry of John G. Lake

By John G. Lake (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

This small book is a quick read, yet filled with amazing stories and accounts of God at work through his servant, John G. Lake.  This work was compiled by Lake’s son-in-law and takes the form of a first-person narrative.

Trained to be a minister, Lake instead opted to start a newspaper.  When his wife was miraculously healed from a prolonged illness by John Dowie, Lake was forever changed and went into the ministry.  This book chronicles his life’s works as a minister, revivalist, and healer, as well as providing the biographical framework in which these events took place.

Though the accounts may seem incredible to the modern thinker, many have been documented and verified by others.  For the post-modern spiritually inclined, however, these descriptions of the supernatural give cause for excitement and the realization that there is so much more available to those who diligently follow Jesus.

[Diary of God’s General: Excerpts from the Miracle Ministry of John G. Lake, by John G. Lake. Published by Harrison House, 2004; ISBN: 978-1577945284; 96 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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