Jesus Has All Authority

Jesus Has All Authority

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Jesus has come to Jerusalem and taken the gloves off. By His unparalleled authority, He is directly challenging the religious establishment whose shallow righteousness has been rejected by His Father. He has come to take the Old Law out of the way and establish His church. It’s teaching like this parable in Luke 20:9-18 that will provoke those leaders to the point that they will trump up charges and bribe false witnesses to arrest, try, and have Him crucified. This parable is stark and shocking, and the moral as heavy as an anvil. Notice.

THESE LEADERS WERE GUILTY OF IMPROPER STEWARDSHIP (9). The “man” in the parable represents God, the Father. He made Israel a nation and gave the Jews a Law to follow and keep. The Jews, particularly the religious leadership, were entrusted with faithfully carrying it out, but they did not. 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF TAKING WHAT DIDN’T BELONG TO THEM (10). In fact, these leaders–dubbed “the vine-growers” by Jesus in this parable–thought that they were in charge. They sought to make people subject to them, to follow their rules (cf. Rom. 10:3-4). The end result was vain religion (Mat. 15:8-9).

THEY WERE GUILTY OF ABUSING THOSE SENT TO THEM (11-15). The “slaves” sent to them were presumably prophets and teachers, no doubt inclusive of John the Baptist. These were the Father’s spokesmen, come to teach and correct them. Each one sent was treated the same, sad way: they “beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” Last of all, the son was sent (13-14). The “owner” (the Father) sent Him, saying, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (13). Instead, seeing Him as the heir, they plotted to kill Him (14). Obviously, Jesus is referring to Himself and the very thoughts these religious leaders were thinking as He told the parable! 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF LOSING WHAT WAS ENTRUSTED TO THEM (16-18). Instead of being convicted by this parable, these religious leaders recoil at the moral of the parable: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others” (15-16). Their emotion boils over and they audibly reply to Jesus’ parable, “May it never be!” They missed the travesty of the behavior they and their forefathers had shown to God’s messengers and the sin they were about to perpetrate on His Son. They didn’t want to lose their grip on the power and influence they had taken. But Jesus doubles down, changing the imagery from a vineyard to building construction. They were going to reject Jesus, the stone, but He would be made the chief corner stone. He would judge and destroy them, if they did not abandon their rebellion.

Jesus is full of love, kindness, and peace. But, that’s an incomplete picture of Him. He came to establish His rule and reign. He must be King and Lord of our lives. We must submit to His way and truth to enjoy His life. 

Open Bible on a black table with book marker and pink highlighting
Jesus Has All Authority
A Bear Attack And Two Blind Men

A Bear Attack And Two Blind Men

Thursday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Hugh Glass decided to live the difficult and adventurous life of a fur trapper and pioneer. He embarked on an expedition to North Dakota in early August, 1823. The vast wilderness of the Badlands set the stage for the events that transformed him from a man to a legend. North Dakota, also known as the “Rough Rider State,” would not reach it’s statehood for another sixty five years. In these wild days thousands of buffalo still roamed the endless plains and were hunted by the Native American tribes, of which were the Mandan tribe. Hugh Glass and his men would encounter the Mandan early on in their expedition and a skirmish would ensue. Hugh would emerge alive, but not unscathed. Before his wound had time to heal, the largest predator on earth, the Grizzley Bear— nearly takes his life. The nature of his gruesome injuries were such that two men were ordered to remain with Glass until he met a seemingly inevitable end. Due to either their impatience or threatening weather, the two men hurriedly dig a shallow grave, lower Hugh inside— and leave. But Hugh wasn’t dead. He claws out of his grave and over the next two months he would make a grueling three hundred mile trek to Fort Kiowa near modern day Chamberlain. His will to live was matched by his determination to wreak revenge on the two who had prematurely laid him to rest. For the time being, however, Hugh found himself on his hands and knees making agonizingly slow progress but— he inches forward. 

In the months to follow Hugh Glass would make a full recovery and in that time, he also forgives the wrongs that were done to him. He had buried his grudge and unlike him— it would remain buried (source). 

While the long journey of Hugh Glass took a great deal of grit and resolve, the journey Jesus made from Jericho to Jerusalem is far more inspiring.

 When we get to Matthew 20 the cross is already on our Savior’s mind. The following chapters will focus on the teachings of Jesus and the moments leading up to the His ultimate sacrifice. We won’t read about miraculous healings after this point, but the final healing that Jesus makes on that walk from Jericho to Jerusalem, is a special one. 

Ahead of Jesus and one excited crowd, are two men intently listening on the side of the road. They’re blind. They survive off of the charity that’s shown to them by a minority. As Jesus draws ever closer they begin to yell in desperation for His attention. There are some in the crowd, perhaps those closest to them on their side of the road, who scold them. 

Can’t these sad beggars see that Jesus has more pressing matters on His mind? 

The rebukes don’t quiet the men from calling out; in fact, they raise their voices above the crowd. Christ wasn’t lost in any thoughts about a military takeover, but we can assume that Calvary was on His mind. Now Calvary— that was a pressing matter. 

Nobody would blame Him for ignoring two blind men. After all, the crowd didn’t need to witness some miracle to solidify their belief in His power (John 6.30), and beggars on the side of the road were a common sight. 

Even so, Jesus stops. 

He calls out to them and then asks, “What would you like me to do for you?” 

The blind men respond with, “Lord, we want our sight.” 

These men should have been paying attention when the Rabbi’s read from the scrolls of Daniel or Isaiah. The Jewish people had hundreds of years to piece together the true nature of the Messiah’s mission. 

Yet, the response of Jesus is compassion and it’s followed by His touch. 

That masterful plan was set in place the foundations of the earth were waiting to be laid. A plan that involved Jesus trading heaven for earth in order to answer the call of two blind men. He created time for them and He proved it by making time for them a second time— so that they could see it. 

He would make a special stop for you, too. 

“Received Up Into Heaven” 

“Received Up Into Heaven” 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

With the death of Nero, a path to the imperial throne was opened to Vespasian by those soldiers serving under the former’s command. Vespasian had made a reputation for himself in the conquest of Britain and the subjugation of Jewish revolts beginning in AD 66. Thus, given the opportunity by his men, Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty, which his son, Titus, would succeed. As emperor, Vespasian left the task of quelling the Jewish rebellion to his son, Titus. Thus, Titus remained in the theater of conflict while his father returned to Rome.

In AD 70, Titus crushes the Jewish rebellion by destroying Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Vespasian dies from an illness within a decade, opening the throne to his son, Titus. As emperor, Titus completed the Roman Colosseum and dealt with the crisis of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Upon his death, Titus’ younger brother, Domitian, became emperor and built the Arch of Titus in AD 81 to commemorate Titus’ conquest of Jerusalem. Titus serves only about three years as emperor.

It is of note that the triumphant arch Domitian dedicates is to Titus, who only completes his father’s work in Judea and Jerusalem. No doubt, Vespasian would have approved seeing as he desired to lay the foundation for his family’s rule. In life, Vespasian had likewise sought to emphasize his son’s actions. In other words, though ambitious, Vespasian was generous enough to share the spotlight with his son to further his machinations. As homecomings go, Titus was a son well-received by his father. One can question if the son was as accomplished as his father, given the brevity of his reign. If for no other reason than establishing the desired optics, though, Vespasian knew to give Titus a grand reception upon the completion of his task on the battlefield, since it glorified himself as well.

I recently completed a study on the Harmony of the Gospels; that is, the complete narrative one finds when fleshing out the revealed narrative of Christ by coalescing all four gospel accounts into a single account.  I noted that despite being the shortest gospel, only Mark ends in a manner consistent with the once-coveted literary “happily-ever-after.” Indeed, Mark 16.19-20 has Jesus returning to the Father and the disciples carrying out their Master’s work. Matthew ends his gospel with our Lord’s promise to remain with us. Luke ends his thoroughly-researched gospel by showing the rejoicing disciples continuing in their praises to God. John ends the last written gospel by telling us that despite not having a complete record of Christ’s life, we have enough information to develop a saving faith.

As a Christian, I appreciate the perspective of each inspired gospel author. I have always been partial to John’s gospel with its unique approach, but now find myself most enamored by Mark’s inspired conclusion. In stark contrast to the prodigal son, in which a rebellious son squanders his father’s inheritance in the far country, but finds a gracious, welcoming father upon his repentance, we have in Mark’s closing an obedient Son returning triumphantly to the deserved adulation of His Father. The text is simple enough. The New American Standard Version states, “…He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16.19).

That was what Jesus eagerly anticipated. The Hebrews writer said it was this impending joy enabling Him to endure the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12.2). If Titus deserved a triumphant arch for doing his father’s bidding, shouldn’t a much more deserving Son receive from His Father the name above all names? (Philippians 2.9-11) No Christian doubts Jesus was worthy of this honor, but is there not something uplifting about reading the confirmation Mark provides? Given what Jesus accomplished, we relish this affirmation since we know His vicarious sacrifice enables us likewise to join Him in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5,8-9). We can see by faith Stephen’s vision granted him before his martyrdom of the Christ standing at God’s right hand, looking at human events intently (Acts 7.56). Truly, He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4.14-16), interceding for us (Romans 8.34).

Further Reading:

Wasson, Donald L. “Vespasian.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2020,www.ancient.eu/Vespasian/.

Chilver, Guy Edward Farquhar. “Vespasian.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 June 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Vespasian.

Wasson, Donald L. “Titus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2020, www.ancient.eu/titus/.

“Arch of Titus.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Titus.

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What To Expect When You Build 

What To Expect When You Build 

Neal Pollard

The old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” seems applicable to time, place, and action. Though the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day stretches back 2500 years and occurred in a totally different culture about 7000 miles from here, it is amazing how what they faced and how they faced it is similar to our world and work right now. What can we learn from the physical building of Nehemiah to help in our spiritual building in the church today? Let’s look at Nehemiah four for the answers.

  • There will be opposition. Then, the opposition was from unbelievers who are introduced to us as those who “mocked and despised” (2:19). They will be driven by emotion (4:1,7). They will actively work to undermine and upset the work (4:8). They will actively work through verbal assault (4:2-3). They will succeed in striking fear in the hearts of some of God’s workers (4:11ff). If we can settle it in our hearts that the devil will never be satisfied until he defeats every faithful work for God, we will expect opposition to exist. The key is not to put the focus on the opposition.
  • There must be devotion. Nehemiah, who narrates much of this Bible book, shows us how you defeat opposition. You depend on God through prayer (4:4-5,8). You trust that God is at work in answer to prayer (4:15,20). You keep the focus on His power (4:14). If we can remind ourselves that “our [great and awesome] God will fight for us,” we can keep going through the most frustrating failures along the way.
  • There must be direction. Someone has to lead people to focus on God rather than His enemies. Nehemiah exemplifies godly leadership. As noted, he led the people to rely on God when doing His work. Notice that he also communicated to the leaders and workers (4:14). He reminded them of their motivation (4:14) and gave them a tangible plan (4:19-20). He also led by example (4:21-23), rolling up his sleeves along with the rest of the people. Such servant-leaders inspire and encourage success.
  • There must be action. Though their success ultimately came about because of God’s power, this did not nullify their need to work. They built because “the people had a mind to work” (4:6). The late Wendell Winkler was known to say, “Programs don’t work. People do!” Walk through Nehemiah four and observe the action verbs. You see them “each one to his work” (15), “carrying on the work” (16, 21), and “doing the work” (17). So it is today.

These were ordinary folks. They faced fear, doubt, and discouragement. They had limitations. But they “built the wall” (4:6). In other words, they succeeded in the task God gave them to do. We are not inferior to them in any way unless it is in execution. We have opposition. We can defeat it with proper devotion, direction, and action. The work God has given us in His church today must be done, but it can be done! Let’s do more than believe that. Let’s embody it!

New Horizons humanitarian assistance in Haiti

THE TACTICS OF TROUBLEMAKERS

THE TACTICS OF TROUBLEMAKERS

Neal Pollard

When you come across Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the unnamed others of Nehemiah six, you can’t help but be struck by how timeless some things are.  The book of Nehemiah recounts the great construction project led one of the Bible’s great leaders, Nehemiah.  In fact, this Bible book is a great instruction manual on great traits of leadership.  Despite his skill, though, Nehemiah faced several obstacles.  He had overcome poverty, internal strife, and discouragement, only to encounter the opposition of troublemakers at this stage of the work. Notice what they did and how great leaders respond to such tactics.

He faced insincerity (1-3,10-12).  The aforementioned men tried to pull Nehemiah away from wall-building under the guise of a “meeting.”  Yet, the text says they sought him harm.  Later, we see that these troublemakers have hired an associate of Nehemiah’s, who fabricates a story meant to frighten him.  Both times, Nehemiah saw through the deception.  His answer was to focus on the work, refusing to leave it to become trapped in their snare.  When we are engaged in great works for Christ, there will be those, either out of jealousy or their own heart problems, who don’t want it to succeed.  Perhaps even despite an air of piety or “righteous concern,” they are willing to twist the truth to undermine our work.  Like Nehemiah, we must refuse to leave the work to be dragged into unproductive distractions.

He faced insistence (4).  They sent this same message at least five times!  Imagine Nehemiah and the others, up on the wall, finishing the job as the troublemakers keep pestering them with the same mantra.  Look at what Nehemiah does.  He sticks to his guns.  What grit and determination!  We should know that troublemakers often have nothing better to do.  They aren’t working on their own “walls,” so they choose to do nothing better than try to tear down the walls of others.  We must be prepared to keep working, however much they pester.

He faced insinuation and invention (5-7).  This is a favorite weapon in the troublemaker’s arsenal. They used talebearing, slander, gossip, and the like to try and undermine the work.  You can imagine the sneaky, slithery way in which they did it, can’t you?  “It is reported.” “Gesham says.”  “We’re going to report you to the king.”  What Nehemiah did in response is such a lesson for us.  He didn’t wring his hands or spend a lot of time with counterarguments.  He had truth on his side and did not feel compelled to wallow in the mud with the mudslingers.  He knew he was doing right, and he simply told them so.

He faced intimidation (9).  God gives us insight into the motivation of the troublemakers. Nehemiah says, “They all were trying to make us afraid.”  Why these mean-minded men were so obsessed with halting the work is not exactly clear, but pride and self-importance seem to play a part.  Nehemiah counteracts their bullying by going way over their head! He took it to God, praying for strength to overcome their pressures and threats. Obviously, as we read, God answered Nehemiah’s noble prayer.  When we face such intimidation, we have access to the same power!  That’s the first place we should turn when bullied by troublemakers.

How incredible that something which happened 2500 years ago can be so relevant to us today.  The old adage attributed to Aristotle is true: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”  Well, for Christians trying to do God’s work today, “nothing” is not an option.  We must be ever at work building His kingdom.  Thus, expect trouble and troublemakers.  Then, look to Nehemiah for the strategy to overcome them!  It still works.

What The Blood Of Christ Meant

What The Blood Of Christ Meant

Neal Pollard

  • To Christ, an expression of love (John 15:13)
  • To God, an appeasement of His wrath (Rom. 5:9).
  • To the Devil, the scribes, and Pharisees, a sign of their supposed victory (Heb. 2:14; John 19:6ff).
  • To the mob, apparent weakness (Mat. 27:42).
  • To the disciples, seeming defeat (John 21:3).
  • To those who lived rebelliously, nothing (1 Cor. 1:17).
  • To those who died in disobedience, an essential but missing element (cf. John 6:53).
  • To those who lived obediently, atonement (Eph. 1:7).
  • To those who died having walked in the light, everything (1 Jn. 1:7).

Untold millions are unaware of the value of the blood of Jesus. You and I must decide what the blood of Jesus means to us. Interestingly, in four different ways, the Bible tells us that what the blood does for us we obtain the benefit of through baptism.
—The blood of Christ sanctifies (Heb. 13:12). We are sanctified by baptism (Eph. 5:25-27).
—The blood of Christ washes away sins (Rev. 1:5-6). Sins are washed away at baptism (Acts 22:16).
—The blood of Christ remits sins (Mat. 26:28). Sins are remitted through baptism (Acts 2:38).
—Jesus shed His blood in His death (John 19:34). We contact the dead of Jesus at baptism (Romans 6:3-4).
The Bible makes clear not just what the blood of Christ means to our souls, but also how we get the benefit of that blood. May we do what God says do to receive the benefits of Jesus’ blood and continue to walk in the light of Christ in order to have that blood continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:7).

Warming Up The Cold Shoulder

Warming Up The Cold Shoulder

Neal Pollard

Occasionally, a Christian who has fallen away and is approached by a concerned elder, preacher, or other Christian will respond by saying the people at church were cold, unfriendly, or unwelcoming.  They complain that they get the “cold shoulder” from the folks in the congregation. Could most of us try harder to reach out to each other, as well as our visitors?  Undoubtedly!  Of course, all of us know that this is a pretty flimsy excuse for forsaking the One who suffered and agonized for each of us in order to make heaven a possibility for us or the One who provides us with such abundant blessings throughout every day.

However, the Bible does seem to show us a pretty clear case of a new Christian who dealt with the collective cold shoulder of the very first congregation of the Lord’s church.  In fact, he also knew that those from his former religion were trying to kill him.  Suffice it to say, he faced some enormous pressures and adversities as the result of his obeying the gospel of Christ.  As he lived out the rest of his life, he suffered a lot just for teaching and preaching Christ, like being stoned, shipwrecked, scourged, slandered, and scrutinized.  People questioned and doubted him.  He did jail time.  But in his early days while still a new convert, he felt the effects of the cold shoulder.  The Bible says, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).   Imagine trying to place membership at a local church and having people avoid you, doubt your conversion, and rebuff your attempts to fellowship them.  That would be devastating.  Would you continue worshipping at a place like that?  Saul did.  How did he warm up the cold shoulder?

First, he had help (Acts 9:27).  Thank God for people like Barnabas, whom the Bible calls “the son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).  He intervened.  He took the new Christian under his wings and brought him more into the fellowship of God’s people.  God always needs and makes use of willing Barnabases who will help those on the outside looking in to “come inside” more fully.

Second, he spent time with the leadership (Acts 9:27b).  Barnabas takes Saul to the apostles.  So far as we know, churches at this time were not yet organized with elders.  The apostles were the first leaders in that first church.  Saul got to know them, and they got to know him.  Luke, in Acts 9:28, simply says Saul “was with them.”  God’s leaders are a crucial part of integrating those feeling the chill of the cold shoulder.

Finally, he proved his worth as a Christian (Acts 9:28-29).  He was active.  He reached out.  He was involved.  For Saul, that meant speaking boldly in Jesus’ name and defending His word.  There is absolutely no proof that Saul ever lamented or complained about how the Jerusalem Christians were treating him.  He just got busy.  What was the effect of that?  The first time Saul has a need, “when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out toTarsus” (Acts 9:30).  They reached out to him.

Ever think you see a spot of frost or icicle on the shoulder of a brother or sister in Christ?  Consider several things.  First, you may be “reading” him or her wrong.  Second, they may be carrying some huge burdens that effect both their countenance and their demeanor.  Further, even if you are right and are experiencing a Frigidaire moment from the faithful, remember the warmth of God’s love.  It’s His church, part of His eternal plan, to which you have been added.  He will never give you the cold shoulder.  Then, remember Saul.  Even if you don’t have a Barnabas, reach out to your elders.  No matter what, remember that you serve the Lord and for that reason must keep your shoulder warm!

Better Than The 9-Year-Old Stowaway

Better Than The 9-Year-Old Stowaway

Neal Pollard

In a post-9/11 world, how does a 9-year-old boy slip through TSA, a gate agent, and the flight attendants to board a flight from Minneapolis all the way to Las Vegas before being discovered?  That’s what everyone wants to know, but that is what the “street smart” minor did.  Only well into the flight did flight attendants have sufficient suspicion to take action, having him delivered into protective custody once in McCarran Airport in Nevada.  Back in Minnesota, surveillance video showed the boy talking to a gate agent and when she got busy doing something else, he walked down the jet bridge and boarded the plane (some info via http://www.aviationpros.com).  While that might shake our confidence in airport security, we have to be pretty impressed with the savvy and moxie of the little boy to get as far as he did.  He outsmarted a pretty sophisticated series of security measures into which the U.S. Government has poured billions of dollars since 2001.

Can you imagine what the reaction was in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago, when Jesus stayed behind instead of returning with His family’s caravan back to Nazareth.  It took everyone a full day’s journey before detecting that Jesus was not in the group. After three days they found Him in the temple.  Here was Jesus, “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:46b-47).  Of course, the sinless Christ had committed no crime or sin.  His answer to His questioning parents was both respectful and logical (Luke 2:49). “He continued in subjection to them” (Luke 2:51).  How many 12-year-olds would have thought to do what Jesus did, much less in the masterful way in which He did it.  Looking back, we know this was but one of an endless list of things Jesus did which points to His Deity.  In fact, thanks to it being preserved in Scripture, we still talk about this 2,000 years later.

It is remarkable to see what young people can do. It shows how we can underestimate them and sell them short, though we should not. What the boy on a plane did was incredible, but illegal.  What Jesus did in New Testament times was unsurpassed, but not unlawful.  May we hold up the latter as a role model to spur our youth on to dream bigger dreams and do greater things to the glory of God, “wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Rom. 16:19; cf. 1 Cor. 14:20).