John Bradshaw - Man of Faith
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. There's no other place like it in the entire world. People flock here from all around the planet, pilgrims, many of them. They come to walk where Jesus walked, to see places spoken of in the Bible, to see where Jesus died, or, just a few miles away in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Unlike some historic sites in the world, there's no doubt that this one is legitimate. Jesus, the Son of Mary and Joseph, the Son of David, the Son of God lived here.
Now, He didn't spend as much time here as many people think. Matthew 9:1 describes Capernaum as Jesus' own city. It was there in Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee and in other places nearby that Jesus cast out demons, healed the mother of Peter, healed the man who was lowered through the roof of that home. It was in Galilee that many of the disciples were called. Some were fisherman, and they fished on the Sea of Galilee. It was there, 70 miles from Jerusalem in a straight line, and, of course, much further if you walked, like Jesus did, that Jesus walked on water, that Peter walked on water, that Jesus calmed the storm. When Jesus spoke of the future of the church and told Peter that He would build the church upon a rock, the rock being Jesus Himself, that was north of Capernaum in Caesarea Philippi.
The Sermon on the Mount on a hillside in Galilee, not here in Jerusalem. But there was something in Jerusalem that drew Jesus here often: the temple. The temple in Jerusalem was first built by Solomon and was destroyed some years later by Nebuchadnezzar. That temple was rebuilt by exiles who returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity. It was refurbished by Herod the Great, the ruler in Israel when Jesus was born. That's the man who was so alarmed by word that a king had been born in Bethlehem that he ordered the killing of every baby boy under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. Herod was ruthless, and an incredible builder. He built the fortress at Masada. He built the royal complex called Herodium, another colossal palace, fortress-type building, where his own tomb was located by archaeologist Ehud Netzer. He built a lot more, all of it grand, including that third temple. He was determined to make it a huge complex.
So he constructed, or at least he had constructed, the Temple Mount, an enormous platform upon which the temple would rest. Enormous stones were used in the wall of the Temple Mount, many of them weighing an estimated 120 tons, or almost 109 tonnes in metric. And some of those stones, much more. He built the Western Wall, where Jews still come to worship today. When Jesus visited the temple during Passover, it's said in John 2, verse 20, that the temple had been under construction for 46 years. When it was destroyed in 70 AD, it's thought construction had been fully completed only a few years earlier.
Visit the Temple Mount today and you're able to see prophecy fulfilled. Of course, there's no temple on the Temple Mount now. Jesus, speaking to His disciples in Matthew 24 from the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from here, told His disciples that the temple would be destroyed to the extent that there would not be one stone left upon another. I've been asked about that by people many times who see the wall, very much intact, stones on top of stones, and they wonder whether that prophecy failed. But no, Jesus was speaking about the stones in the buildings of the temple complex. And if you come here today, you're able to see some of those same stones, pushed off the Temple Mount, lying in piles today.
In the 2nd century AD, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a temple for the worship of Jupiter on the Temple Mount, later demolished by the emperor Constantine. The area later became a rubbish dump. But today, the Temple Mount is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, considered to be the third holiest site in Islam, and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. It was completed in around 691 AD and then rebuilt a little over 300 years later. It's the most recognized landmark in Jerusalem today. Now, there's no shortage of controversy and tension in Jerusalem concerning the Temple Mount. There are some Jews and some Christians, too, who believe that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt here.
Now, the question is asked, how can that possibly happen when the site is currently under Muslim control? That's a fair question. And then there are those who ask whether the temple even needs to be rebuilt, considering that Jesus brought about an end of the sacrificial system when He died on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus came and went from the temple that stood on the Temple Mount during His life and ministry. It was there that Jesus overturned the money changers' tables. It was on the steps just in front of the Temple Mount that Jesus anointed a blind man's eyes with dirt and saliva and had him go and wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam, which the man did, it was very nearby. The man received his sight.
It was on that same Temple Mount when, as a 12-year-old, Jesus engaged the religious leaders in a discussion. His parents had left town, not realizing that they had failed to bring Jesus with them. That was all right there. But another very significant event happened on that same spot 2,000 years earlier, an event that prefigured the coming of Jesus to this world. Let's take a look at that story now. It's a story of faith, great faith. Well, some great faith and a fair amount of faithlessness. But it's a story in which faith triumphs. It's a challenging story. But this story announces that Jesus would come to the world to save us from our sins.
God promised elderly Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, that he would have a son. In fact, God told the old man that his descendants would become a great nation. The Bible says the Lord visited Abraham in Mamre, which was located southwest of Jerusalem, down near Hebron. "And He said, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.' (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)" That's Genesis 18:10. The next verse says, "Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing". God stated a physical impossibility, and Sarah reacted as many people do when they're confronted by God's power, God's promises, God's Word. "Oh, there's no way in the world a big fish could possibly have swallowed up Jonah". "How could a virgin possibly conceive"? "Really? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead"?
There are a lot of doubters. "How could God possibly forgive me of my sins"? Same thing. When God speaks, and He has spoken, the right way to respond is by exercising faith in God's Word. But that's not what Sarah did. "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?' And the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, saying, "Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old"? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.'" Now, there's a question: Is there anything too hard for the Lord? God had spoken, so, it would happen. There's nothing too hard for the Lord. Believe that and you'll be in good shape. I'll be right back.
Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Jerusalem, the city of peace. Well, of course, over the last number of years it hasn't been a city of a lot of peace. Jerusalem, most of it, was under the control of Jordan until the Six-Day War in 1967. At that time, a large amount of territory was taken, including the old city of Jerusalem. Jews hadn't held the old city for hundreds and hundreds of years. And when Israeli soldiers made it to the wall of the Temple Mount, they wept. Which is why the Western Wall is referred to today as the Wailing Wall. And since then, there hasn't been anything resembling real peace, in spite of many attempts at securing peace. Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace, and you're left thinking that surely the only way to real peace in this part of the world is Jesus Himself. And this is a city of miracles, and a city where great faith was demonstrated again and again in Bible times.
The Pool of Bethesda is here in Jerusalem. It's been excavated, so it's possible to see just what it was like in Bible times. In John chapter 5, we read an account of a man who was at the Pool of Bethesda waiting for, as the Bible says, "the moving of the water". He'd been suffering from a physical problem for 38 years. And Jesus saw him there. Now, keep in mind, Jesus didn't go from Galilee to Jerusalem for the purpose of healing. He was there, well, here, for the feast. But He saw this man suffering, and His heart was touched. Jesus' heart is still touched by suffering. It was touched by the plight of this man. And if you're going through something, remember, He's touched by your plight as well.
There's no hardship that you go through that Jesus doesn't notice, that doesn't touch His heart. And on this day at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus' heart was touched. He said to the man, "Do you want to be made whole"? And here's where the man told Jesus about this interesting tradition that when the water was troubled in some mystical way, that the first person put into the pool would be healed. But here was the source of life and healing, the Creator and Re-Creator, and He longed to give the man true healing. Jesus said, "Rise, take up your bed, and walk". Now, what would you do if you were in the man's situation? You've been ill or disabled for 38 years, and someone you've never met says to you, "Take up your bed and walk".
You might doubt. You might think the man was out of his mind. But this man exercised faith. He heard the word of Jesus and believed it, acted upon it. He heard the word, and he did what the word said. That's faith. And as he exercised faith, the Bible says, "Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked". And there's another great story of faith that has its culmination in Jerusalem. It started a couple of hours away in a place called Mamre. God spoke to Abraham, known today as the "father of the faithful," and told Abraham that he would become a father, and that his elderly wife would give birth to a son. When God told Abraham that, Abraham was flabbergasted. Sarah, previously Sarai, laughed. You might understand why. They just couldn't understand how, at their advanced age, they were going to welcome a baby boy into their home. But God said they would, and the same God had asked the question, "Is [there] anything too hard for the Lord"?
Now, that's something you want to remember. When you get into a scrape, when you get into a tough place, when it seems like things aren't going well, remember that God is with you. And that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Now, why did God choose Abraham for this? Genesis 18:19 tells us, "I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and [judgment], that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him".
You know, it's interesting that Abraham wasn't always a man of great faith. He went to a place called Gerar. Of course, Sarah was with him, but he explained that his wife was actually his sister. As a consequence, the king, Abimelech, took Abraham's beautiful wife to be his own. It wasn't until God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him that he had taken another man's wife that he returned Sarah and rebuked Abraham. Seems Abimelech acted with more honor in this situation than Abraham, the father of the faithful, did. You see, Abraham evidently was scared that his wife would be forcibly taken from him and that he would be harmed in the process. Seems that in Abraham's mind, it was preferable that his wife be violated rather than him. The father of the faithful?
Seems like he wasn't acting that way, except we'll remember a couple of things. People grow in their faith, and people of faith can make mistakes. But when God brought the big test to Abraham, Abraham didn't stumble. I'll have that in just a moment. Passing his wife off as his sister wasn't the only serious mistake Abraham made. This happened because Abraham and Sarah decided that God needed some help. They knew that God had said Sarah would have a baby in her old age. But Sarah figured that would never happen. So she suggested that Abraham take her handmaid Hagar and have a child with Hagar. Now, Abraham very obviously should have told his wife that that was a terrible idea, but instead he agreed, and Ishmael was born. But immediately this caused all kinds of problems. And it still does.
The descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been at each other ever since. The trouble in the Middle East today? Isaac's descendants against Ishmael's descendants. If Sarah hadn't tried to help God, history would have turned out very differently. Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. Sarah was 90 or 91. When they believed God, trusted God, they demonstrated faith, and their faith in God was very clearly vindicated. Sarah had a baby boy, and he was the child of promise. Ishmael could never be the child of promise because taking Hagar was not an act of faith. God said Sarah would give birth. He didn't say anything about Hagar. As impossible as it seemed, when God said, "Sarah will bear a child," all they needed to do was believe that, and it would be done, because God had said so. And that's faith, believing that what God says will happen because God said so. You don't need further evidence, just faith that God can do what He says He can do.
But it's in Genesis chapter 22 that things really get tough for Abraham. Based on his previous failures, you might think he'd fail here. God brings a severe test. Starting in verse 1: "Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'" Imagine that. God said, "Sacrifice your son".
And in spite of his previous failings, Abraham doesn't fail this time. Verse 3 says this: "So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him". Verse 4: "Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off". The place he saw was Mount Moriah, which is where the Temple Mount stands today.
And so you can imagine, Abraham having traveled about three days with his son, now starting slowly to ascend the mountain. In fact, it's, it's really little more than a hill. So he's traveling up the hill with his son, with a heavy heart, knowing what he has to do. Interestingly, Muslims believe it was Ishmael that Abraham took to the top of Mount Moriah to sacrifice. But the Bible says it was Abraham and Isaac. "And Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.'"
Now, that's interesting. He knew what God had asked, but he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead. It says this in Hebrews 11: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense". But still, this was a colossal struggle for the loving father Abraham.
Back to Genesis chapter 22. "So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' Then he said, 'Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'" Now, notice these beautiful words: "And Abraham said, 'My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.' So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son".
So how do you do that? Well, faith. God had said Isaac was the child of promise. So, very clearly, the boy's life couldn't come to an end. God had spoken, and Abraham believed God. As Romans 4, verse 3 says, "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'" And as Abraham was in the throes of taking his son's life, God intervened. "The Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' So he said, 'Here I am.' And He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'" "Now I know...you fear God".
And why was that? Because you believed, and you demonstrated that belief by your actions. You believed, and you obeyed. You believed, and you showed that belief in your life. So how are things with you? Are you living a life of faith? Are you living "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"? That's what faith is. It's trusting God. It's taking God at His word. That's what Abraham chose to do. Now, if you'd like another example of great faith, think about Isaac. A young man more than likely in his late teens. His father says, "God has told me to sacrifice you".
Now, what would you have done? No one would have blamed Isaac if he'd jumped up and, jumped up and run off and said, "Dad, you're crazy"! But that's not what he did. He submitted to his father. Which tells us at least three things. One, he loved his dad. Two, he trusted and respected his dad. And three, Abraham had lived the kind of life as a daddy that inspired faithfulness in his son Isaac. I think there's a lesson there for parents everywhere. And the story ends with a truly beautiful verse. Abraham had said to his son, "[My] God [shall] provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering". That's exactly what God did.
Genesis 22:13, "Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son". And what was this? This was prefiguring Jesus, who would die for the sins of the world. God did give Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering: Jesus, God in the flesh, who died for the sins of the world. And He did so pretty much in exactly the same place that Abraham offered that ram.
A beautiful story, a story of faith. Is anything too hard for the Lord? No, nothing. An elderly woman giving birth? If that's God's will, sure. A patriarch choosing to offer up his son? Yes, because the man had faith. Do you have faith in God? Real faith? Not just church-once-a-week faith, but real faith? I've decided to follow Jesus. His Word is my will. When the Bible says it, I believe it. And I want God's will done in my life. What a beautiful story of faith. And Abraham's story of faith can be your story.