We all know that Jesus had to die.

Here’s something you may not have known. If the High Priest and Great Sanhedrin—the Jewish Supreme Court—followed their own laws they would have had to let Jesus go! They broke so many of their own laws that, if the Judge was truly impartial and just, he would declared a mistrial and let Jesus go free. For example,


  • All meetings of the Court were to take place in the Hall of Hewn Stone IN THE TEMPLE. It was forbidden to hold Court anywhere outside this Hall. The first two of Jesus’ Jewish trials were held in the homes of Annas and Caiaphas.
  • The meetings of the Court were to be held in the Temple in order that the meetings be public and open to the people. Jesus’ trials before Annas and Caiaphas were held in private.
  • The law forbade the Court from passing and imposing the death sentence before it even arrests, indicts, and tries the accused. Death could not be meted or imposed before the accused has had a chance to defend himself before the Court. Jesus was condemned to death before He was even arrested.
  • The death sentence was passed only as a last resort. A cardinal rule of law was that the Court was to be consumed with life and not with death. A single reasonable doubt—even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary—was sufficient to spare the accused from death. The Court was to make every attempt, exhaust every means, to preserve the life of the accused. The Court in this case made absolutely no attempt to preserve Jesus’ life.
  • Jesus’ arrest was conducted by night. According to law, it was forbidden to conduct any criminal proceedings after sunset.
  • The arrest was conducted with the aid of a paid accomplice, hence involving bribery. The giving and receiving of bribes was expressly forbidden by law.
  • Some members of the Court, who themselves were judges, participated in the arrest, hence prejudicing them against the Lord.
  • Contrary to law, Jesus was arrested without a charge and without evidence or witnesses against him. There was no legal grounds to arrest Him, therefore, He should not have been arrested.


  • Jesus’ hearing before Annas was conducted privately in Annas’ palace. The law required all trials to be held in public. A defendant could not be tried in private.
  • A defendant in a capital case could not be tried, judged, or condemned by one judge. A minimum of twenty-three judges was required.
  • Annas sought to obtain a charge against Jesus without the law’s requirement for witnesses.  
  • Annas tried to get Jesus to incriminate Himself. By law, no man could testify against himself, hence, such testimony would not be admissible in Court.
  • It was unlawful to abuse a defendant during the trial. Jesus was slapped without reprimand from the High Priest.
  • It was unlawful to detain a person without charge, evidence, or witnesses against him. Instead of letting Jesus go, Annas sent Him to Caiaphas for further trial.

THE PRELIMINARY TRIAL BEFORE CAIAPHAS IN CAIAPHAS’ HOUSE, Matthew 26:59-68, Mark 14:55-65, Luke 22:63-65

  • The appointed meeting place of the High Court was in the Hall Of Hewn Stone in the Temple. Any meeting outside this Hall was deemed illegal. Caiaphas brazenly held court in his house.
  • The High Court could meet only during the day. Trials in a capital offence could not be conducted by night. Jesus’ trial was conducted in the darkness of night.  
  • The Court could not hear, or try, a capital offence on the day before Sabbath or a feast day. Jesus was tried the night before Passover.
  • The judges were disqualified from judging our Lord because they were already determined to put Jesus to death. The verdict and sentence had already been determined—even in the absence of a formal charge and witnesses.
  • In the absence of valid witnesses, the law ordained that the defendant be immediately released. Caiaphas did not do this as required by law.
  • Caiaphas stepped outside the boundaries of the law by interrogating Jesus and acting as prosecutor against Him when, as yet, Jesus was not charged with any criminal mischief.
  • Caiaphas asked Jesus a question that the law forbade him from asking. By the use of adjuration, he forced Jesus to answer it. And, in the process, he got Jesus to incriminate Himself. By law, a defendant could not be asked to incriminate himself.
  • Although Jesus was charged with blasphemy, He was not formally tried on that charge. He was condemned without being put on trial for blasphemy.
  • By law, once witnesses were found, the trial must proceed with arguments for the defense. Prosecution could not begin until the defendant presented his defense. In Jesus’ trial, no witnesses were summoned in His defense. He was charged and condemned without being given the chance to defend Himself.
  • The judges in Jesus’ trial acted as witnesses and prosecutors against Him. Their job was to defend Him, not prosecute Him.
  • The decision to convict and condemn our Lord was unanimous, which automatically rendered it null and void. The law stipulated that at least one judge must vote to acquit the defendant.  
  • By law, the death sentence could not be passed anywhere except in the Hall of Hewn Stone. In Jesus’ case, it was passed in Caiaphas’ house.
  • The death sentence was passed on the same day as the trial. Legally, it could not be passed until the next day. The law required that the Court take a whole day to consider the punishment when the defendant’s life was at stake.


  • It was forbidden for the Court to meet in session during a holy day.
  • The trial began with the verdict and sentence already determined. The judges were already prejudiced against the defendant before the case was heard in Court.
  • It was unlawful for the Court to act as prosecutors in a life-and-death trial.
  • No witnesses were called at this trial. No charge was preferred against Jesus. He was unindicted, hence, innocent in the eyes of the law.
  • Jesus was condemned solely by His own testimony. By law, a man’s confession—apart from the testimony of eyewitnesses—can’t be used against him to condemn him to death.
  • Jesus was charged and condemned for blasphemy, but He was never tried on that charge. The Court did not investigate the falsity or truthfulness of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. By law, a man could not be condemned if he was not tried.
  • Jesus was not given the opportunity to defend Himself against the charge of blasphemy. No witnesses were called in His defense, which automatically rendered the trial null and void.
  • The Court convicted Jesus on the same day as the trial—something it could not do legally. Conviction had to come the day following the trial.
  • The death sentence was executed on the same day as the trial—something it could not do by law. At least a full day had to pass before the death sentence was carried out in order to give the Court every opportunity to spare the life of the defendant.


  • Upon conviction in a capital trial, the Court was to remain seated and convened in the hopes that new witnesses or evidence could be found in favor of sparing the defendant’s life. In Jesus’ case, all seventy-one judges vacated their seats and escorted Jesus to Pilate.
  • When new witnesses or evidence presented themselves before the Court in favor of the defendant’s innocence, the Court was obliged to summon the defendant back to Court for another hearing. The High Court failed to do this when Judas stepped forward with his confession of Jesus’ innocence.
  • Whereas it took two or three witnesses to condemn, it only took one witness to acquit. By law, Judas’ confession alone was sufficient to acquit and free our Lord. But the chief priests and elders refused to bring that confession to Court and to light.
  • The Court was obligated to execute false witnesses and set a condemned defendant free. The Court did neither.

So what’s the point in all these? Beside the obvious one that I mentioned at the start of this post, if Jesus was a chicken and wanted to save His own skin, He could have  argued for a mistrial and conceivably, or justly, gone scot free. By law He should have been freed!

But instead of insisting upon His rights and going free, He willingly chose to suffer the injustices and abuses of the Court so that He could save you! Friend, do you grasp the extent of Christ’s love for you? He could have walked out of court a free Man! But He didn’t! Do you know why? Because He loved you and felt that you were worth dying for and saving. Calvary is  irrefutable proof that God loves you. Don’t let the devil, anyone, or yourself, tell you otherwise.


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself that I didn’t know before. Here, let me give you a snippet of the Jesus I never knew.


Hello. My name is Simon the Pharisee. As you can tell by my surname, I’m not one of Jesus’ followers. Many of my brothers in the fraternity had already made their minds up about Jesus. As far as they were concerned, Jesus was no prophet or messiah. If anything, he was possessed by the devil himself.

Their assessments of Jesus stood in stark contrast to the guy’s popularity and following. Wherever he went the people clamored after him. He was, after all, a miracle worker. And everybody needs a miracle.

As for myself, I wasn’t at all sure about what to make of Jesus. In all fairness to him, I decided that the only way I was going to know for sure was for me to invite him over to my house for a meal. Jesus graciously accepted, so I started making my supper plans.

Things were going well that evening. Then, to my horror of horrors, an adulteress entered my house! The entire scene was brought to a standstill. No one said a word. No one moved. We were all dumbfounded and frozen in time by the sinner known to all as such. Normally, she wouldn’t have been allowed in my house. She was an adulteress and her very presence would render my house unclean. She ought to have known that an adulteress would never be welcome in the house of a Pharisee. She was audacious and my blood started to boil. I was incensed!

But there was nothing I could do! A famous rabbi was in my house and, under such circumstances, it was customary for people to drop by and hear whatever the rabbi had to say. Grudgingly, the sinner was within her right to drop by. But I still didn’t appreciate it and I found myself starting to get volcanic at the sight of an adulteress in my house.

Things soon turned from bad to worse when the adulteress started sobbing profusely for no known reason. She didn’t utter a word. She came in the dining room and, when she saw Jesus, she just broke down and sobbed as if a levee had been breached. She fell at Jesus’ feet and, with her tears, started to wash his feet.

Then she did the unthinkable. She removed her head covering, loosed her hair pin, and with her long hair she began to dry Jesus’ feet. Now I don’t know if you know anything about our Jewish ways. But when a woman let her hair down or showed her hair in public this was an act of lewdness and immodesty. No woman with any sense or propriety would dare do such a thing! Especially in the presence of a rabbi! And most definitely not in the home of a Pharisee! I was beyond volcanic! But I found myself strangely speechless and unable to move.

When she was done drying Jesus’ feet, she took a small vial of perfume that hung around her neck. She opened it and poured it on Jesus’ feet. She rubbed it on and just knelt there, transfixed, as if everything was honky dory.

By now it became painfully obvious to me that if Jesus was truly a prophet he would not have allowed this sinner of a woman to do what she did to him. It was a common understanding we had amongst ourselves that no man of God who would allow a woman to touch him in public. And definitely not a sinner! More than anything else I’d heard about Jesus, his reclining there and letting the adulteress carry on the way she did proved to me that there was no way this guy could be a prophet.

As I was formulating my settled conclusion about Jesus in my mind, he looked at me and asked, Simon, do you mind if I tell you a story?

Not at all, I said. I’m all ears.

Jesus started in. Two men owed a moneylender some money. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other owed him fifty.  (42)  When they couldn’t pay it back, the moneylender kindly forgave both debtors and told them they didn’t have to pay him back. Now who do you think will love him the most (Luke 7:41-42)?

Well, that was a no-brainer for me. The guy who owed him the most would love him the most, I replied. What, I was wondering to myself, was Jesus getting at? I didn’t have long to wait on the answer.

You’re right, Simon, Jesus said. Then He turned to the woman and asked me, Have you noticed this woman? When I came into your home, you didn’t give me any water so I could wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  (45)  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  (46)  You didn’t even pour olive oil on my head, but she has poured expensive perfume on my feet.  (47)  So I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love. But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love. (48)  Then Jesus said to the woman, Your sins are forgiven (Luke 7:44-48).

I was volcanic with the adulteress. But Jesus’ words so totally crushed and humiliated me. He was right! When he came to my door I should have greeted him with the customary Jewish greeting or kiss. I should have washed his feet. And I should have sprinkled cologne on him. These were customary things that were done for every visitor and guest. But I failed to show Jesus common human decency and respect.

Worse yet, the adulteress showed me up. She did what I had failed to do!

I was so ashamed of myself, so humiliated in the presence of my friends, and so volcanic with the sinner, that I wanted this meal to end. Thankfully, it ended rather quickly, in cold silence, and I was relieved when everyone left me to myself.

I thought Jesus wasn’t a prophet. No way was he a prophet! But he knew what I was thinking about him. I thought he didn’t know about the woman’s sinful life. But he knew her many sins. Turned out, he really was a prophet! I hate to admit that. But in knowing people he really didn’t know from Adam, people such as this adulteress and me, Jesus showed himself to be a prophet.

So take it from me. And remember that I’m not a Christian who’s telling you this. Just when you think you have Jesus all figured out and think he can’t possibly be the guy that Christians are making him out to be, you’d better think twice. Jesus is so much more than you think he is. If you think I’m wrong, have Him over for supper.



How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Hi guys. I wish I had some uppity-up things to say to you today. I’d like to cheer you up. But I’m in need of cheering up myself. I’m about to lose my head. Literally. And, as you can imagine, I’m not too thrilled about that. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Here. Let me start over and introduce myself.

I’m John the Baptist. And here’s my story. As many of you know, I’m the forerunner of Messiah. For those of you who don’t know what that means, for hundreds of years our prophets told us about the Messianic King who would come to Israel and rule the world. Messiah had to be preceded by His forerunner. This was the guy that went before Messiah and announced His coming. We Jews have been longing for Messiah for hundreds of years. When the forerunner appeared we knew Messiah was not far behind.

Well, before I was born, an angel appeared to my dad while he was serving as a priest in the holy place in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 1:5-17). He told dad that I would be Messiah’s forerunner! I was special! God Himself trained me in the desert where I took up residence. When it came time for me to make my move, I started preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River. Then I told everybody the great news. Messiah has come! I even know who He is! He’s Jesus of Nazareth! So, from an advertising and PR point of view, you can say I’m a pretty important fellow. I’m a pivotal figure in Jewish history (if I may humbly say so myself).

We all knew that Messiah would be a political, militant, conquering King. He would come to Israel, free us from Roman domination, and restore Jewish independence and sovereignty. From here He would go on, with us as His followers, to conquer and rule the world. He would establish the worldwide kingdom of God on the earth. And we, of course, would help Him rule the world. We lived for this dream and this day! And now that Jesus was in our midst we were pumped up with excitement and the realization that we were uniquely blest by God to live in such a signal moment of history as now.

I was at the crest of my popularity when Herod Antipas caught me baptizing in Galilee and had me arrested. Herod was the Governor at that time and, seeing that he was in an adulterous marriage to his sister-in-law Herodias, I spoke out against him and that’s why he busted me and threw me in the dungeon at his palace fortress in Machaerus.

If you’ve never been in solitary confinement in a cold, damp, dark dungeon you wouldn’t know or understand the doubts that began to run rampant in my mind. Jesus was the Messiah. I knew that beyond all shadow of a doubt when I saw the Spirit of God descend upon Him like a dove after I baptized Him in the Jordan River. But persecution and suffering have a way of getting you to doubt things that you never imagined you would doubt. Jesus was out there. I’m in here. Why hasn’t He come to free me from his hell hole in the ground? He wouldn’t begin the liberation of Israel without me, would He? Even if He did, He’d still come and get me, wouldn’t He? I am, after all, His PR man. He needs me! I served Him faithfully. I even put my neck on the line for Him. No way is He going to let me rot or hang in here! But if He’s the Messiah with the power to conquer the world, why hasn’t He come for me? Why am I still in here? Could it be He’s not the Messiah after all?

When I couldn’t bear it any longer, I sent some of my disciples who had come to visit me to go find Jesus and ask Him if He really was the Messiah.

When my disciples came back a few days later you should’ve seen them. They were all pumped up about Jesus! He did all sorts of miracles that you wouldn’t believe. The blind saw. The deaf heard. The dumb spake. The paralyzed moved. Demon-possessed people were set free. Jesus did all these, and more, for my disciples to see. He was doing exactly what the prophets said Messiah would do when He comes to Israel. The miracles were Jesus’ way of letting me know that, yes, He was still the Messiah! Then He told my disciples, Go and tell John what you see. And give him this message from me, Blessed is he who doesn’t stumble over Me (Luke 7:19-23).

You’d think I’d be jumping over chairs with jubilation about the miracles Jesus did. I was. I was relieved to hear it straight from Him that He was truly the Messiah. But, and this is what I asked my disciples, Did He say anything about coming to get me? Is He going to get me out of here? Is He on His way? When is He going to rescue me from Herod’s dungeon?

The jubilance of Messiah’s miracles was instantly changed into a deafening silence. Somberness instantly set in and heaviness hung in the air. It was as if death itself had come into my dungeon cell riding his pale horse.

Turned out Jesus didn’t say anything about coming to rescue me. If He was going to do it you’d think He would’ve said something to my disciples. His silence was ominous. 

Even more ominous were His words the longer I thought about them: Blessed is he who doesn’t stumble over Me. They were cryptic at first. But the longer I thought about them the realization finally hit me: Jesus wasn’t going to come to the rescue! Why in the world not? That didn’t make any sense at all to me! Jesus needs me! I did my part serving Him! He owes me! You bet I was starting to stumble over Him. He was tripping me up royally! I was a fuming and a flipping! God, I just don’t understand what you’re doing! And why!

After I settled down and dried my tears, the words of Jesus came back to me. One word in particular. Blessed. It’s as if Jesus knew I was going to flip out over Him not coming to get me. He would still bless me if I could just pull myself together and stay loyal to Him no matter what. Even in His abandonment He would bless me. I won’t be resentful or hateful. I won’t turn my back on Him. I’ll be blessed.

As you would understand, Jesus’ answer was not the one I wanted to hear. I fully expected Him to tell me He was on His way. He’d get me out of this hole in the ground. Freedom would be my reward for my faithfulness. Of course I was disappointed. Big time! I thought God let me down. He didn’t come through for me. He was a No-Show when I really needed Him the most.

But I had it all wrong! It was what I wanted, not what God wanted. Anytime we want things our way we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment because God doesn’t always do things our way. He sees the big picture. He knows what’s good for us. And He always does what’s good for us. Yeah, He may disappoint at times. But even in disappointment He speaks comfort. He’s the Comforter. And He knows how to cheer us up if only we’d listen.

Want to feel better? Take it from me. Listen to God speak and you’ll be feeling a whole lot better a whole lot sooner. Stick to your ways and you’ll be in the dumps. Trust God’s goodness, let Him have His way with you, and you’ll be victorious over life’s disappointments.

I thought I had Jesus all figured out. He was gonna come get me because He was the political, militant, conquering King. He was. He still is. But He’s also the sin-saving Savior, the spiritual Messiah as the prophets also prophesied (which all of us Jews conveniently forgot). We wanted our King! God would give Him to us. But first He would give us our Suffering Servant and Sin-Savior. He wasn’t going to rescue me because He wasn’t going to reign. The cross had to come before the crown. I didn’t understand this at first. But now I do.

I’m going to lose my head. That’s a tough way to go out. But I’m going to stay faithful and true to the end because I want to be blessed. I know you probably won’t understand me, but I value faithfulness now more than freedom. I value loyalty more than life itself.

I thought I had more to do for Messiah. I guess not. God’s done with me. I’ll die holding my head up high, privileged to have been Messiah’s forerunner. I won’t get a chance to read my obit, but I know Jesus will say something good about me. I AM blessed. So don’t feel sorry for me. The good thing about losing my head is I’ll be with God in glory. And you can’t be any more blessed than that!


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Hello there. I’m one of the many nameless folks in Scripture and you probably wouldn’t know me even if I told you my name. So instead of giving you my name I’ll just tell you who I am. I’m the widow of Nain. Everybody knows me by that. You’ll find my story in Luke Chapter 7. But, if you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you the story myself.

My husband died a few years back and that was a real blow to me. I didn’t know how I was going to make it without him. When you lose the love of your life it’s like you’ve lost yourself. You’ve lost your life. Many of you know what I’m talking about, so you’ll identify with the load of grief I carried. Before he left he gave me a son and my boy became my world, my life, my source of hope and joy in a world of grief and sorrow.

Life was difficult for a widow in my day. You’ve got to remember we didn’t have Social Security, Welfare, Food Stamps, Public Housing, or Financial Assistance. We lived off of the charity of relatives, friends, and neighbors. My son was growing up and, until he could get a job, we lived from day to day as best we could. We had each other and that was the only consolation we had in life.

Things took an unimaginably terrible turn for the worse when my son got sick. I prayed. I asked God to heal him. I gave him what meager medical care I could afford and get my hands on. But in spite of my frantic efforts and pleas, nothing worked. My son died. And with him, my faith, my laughter, my joy. God had taken everything near and dear from me. I couldn’t understand why. It seemed like such a cruel thing for a widow who’s already suffered enough to experience the added loss of an only son. Life was just so unfair!

As we set out to go to the cemetery to bury the light and joy of my life, I was going there to bury all my hopes and dreams, my faith in God, my joy and peace, my very being. When my son died I died with him. I knew there was no more living left for me to live. Honesty, I didn’t want to live at all. What was there to live for? Even God had turned His back on me. Life just seemed so pointless. God, so useless.

As we neared the cemetery outside town we were met by a huge crowd. A Man in particular, at the head of the crowd, came closer and closer until He stood right in front of me. I didn’t know Him from Adam. But there was something definitely different about His demeanor that arrested my attention. The funeral procession came to a standstill and the mournful dirges were silenced, as if on cue.

The Stranger told me not to weep. Easy for Him to say! He’s not the one who’s lost an only son. I stared at Him in sheer disbelief. I found myself starting to get really pissed.

He probably sensed what was coming from me next. So, before I had the chance to blow up in His face He stepped away from me, touched the bier, and commanded my dead son to get up.

Before I knew what was happening, my son—my dead and only son—sat up and started talking! I couldn’t believe it! In a moment, my anger towards the Stranger was turned to praise and adoration! No one in Israel had been raised from the dead for 900 years. Only the prophets Elijah and Elisha performed this awesome feat. And, in a totally unexpected moment, a Stranger raised my son back to life! We all knew right then and there that He was a Prophet and we hailed Him so.

Amidst all the hoopla and shouting, my tears of sorrow were turned into tears of joy as I hugged my son and held him close to me. I couldn’t stop crying! And I wasn’t about ready to let him go. Suddenly, life seemed good again. I thought God had forsaken me. And, in my heart, I knew I was forsaking Him too. But as unworthy and undeserving as I was, God, for some inexplicable reason, had mercy on me and gave me back my boy. And in doing so, He restored my faith, my joy, my laughter, my peace. He brought my son back to life and brought me back too. The gloomy, laughless future that I faced was suddenly brightened by a Stranger they called Jesus. I call Him Brightener because that’s what He was to me.

The thing that really amazed me about the Brightener was that I was a total stranger to Him. He didn’t know me. We’d never met before. But in the moment that He stood before me He knew everything about me. Everything I’d gone through. And He cared for me! Why should He care? Who was I to Him?

When He told me to stop crying, I thought He was cruel and heartless. But, in hindsight, He said it because of what He was about ready to do. He was about ready to bring my son back to life.


Like me, some of you are heading out to the cemetery to bury your son. I’m talking in a manner of speaking. Bad things have happened to you. You’ve made mistakes in life. You’ve made some wrong choices. And, as a consequence, your life is all messed up now. You don’t see any way the future is going to improve. You don’t see any hope of change or of a better day coming. Like me, you’re heading out to the cemetery to bury your hopes, your dreams and aspirations, your joys and laughter, your peace of mind, your faith in God, your sanity, your very life. You’ve consigned yourself to a hopeless, laughless, depressing today because that’s what all your tomorrows look like.

Friends, instead of going to the cemetery you need to go to God! Bring Him your bier of broken hopes and dreams. God is the Mender of the past, the present, and the future. He can restore what’s been lost or taken from you. He can give you a future and a hope. He can resurrect your dreams. Revive your laughter and joy. Resuscitate your peace. Restore your faith. And breathe the spirit of hope into your darkened soul and make you live again. Don’t resign yourself to a life of depression, despair, and death! You don’t have to live that way! Not with the loving, caring, powerful God that you have.

I thought I had God all figured out. I thought He’d forsaken me. Didn’t love me. Didn’t care about me. Wasn’t interested the least bit in me. Wow! Was I ever wrong! To this day I can’t believe how much He loved Me that He would come from afar to give me and my son life.

The present and the future doesn’t have to be dark and bleak. Jesus is the Brightener. Let Him do what He does best for you. He really does love you! He wants the light of His love to brighten up your day and all your tomorrows. Look! He’s heading your way! Turn to Him. Cry out to Him. The Brightener wants you to live, and love, and laugh again!


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Howdy do, y’all. My name is Simon Zelotes and I’s one of Jesus’ apostles. You probly didn’t know dat Jesus had a blind murderer for an apostle, but dat’s exactly what I wuz in a manner of speakin’. Here, set yourself down and let me tell you my story.

‘Fores Jesus called and chose me, I wuz a Zealot. “A what?,” you ask. Well, us Zealots disappeared from off da face of da earth when da Romans crushed da Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. Soon after dat, we all fell at Masada and that wuz da end of us. But back in da day, us Zealots wuz Jewish freedom fighters. We hated da Romans cuz they wuz runnin’ us. Do you know how humiliatin’ it is for proud folks like us to be pushed around and treated like dirt? It’s mighty tough, I do declare!

Some of us guys decides we wuzn’t gonna take it no more. We wuz all so zealous for a free and independent Jewish state dat we wuz known as Zealots. We wuz aimin’ to kick the Roman devils out of our land. You heard of stealth planes dat can’t be seen on radar. Well, dat’s what we wuz on land. We wuz the unseen enemy—attackin’ and killin’ da infidels, den disappearin’ without a trace. We got to be so good at it dat da devils decides they wuz gonna take us on and whup us. “You go ahaid and try,” we all said. We knowed we wuz whuppin’ em good. You can’t imagine how proud we wuz to be fightin’ da world’s most powerful army and causin’ em untold grief.

Somewheres ins between da fightin’ I come across Jesus. You know hows when a purdy gal lays eyes on a guy der ain’t no lettin’ go, right? Dat’s what Jesus’ sermonizin’ done to me. I got hooked. Next thing I knowed, I wuzn’t fightin’ no more. I wuz followin’ Jesus. And dat’s how I wuz called to be an apostle.

Anyways, one day Jesus wuz goin’ ‘bout His way when a Roman centurion comes up to Him and asked Him to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-6). I wuz livid at da sight of da devil dat I just about got my dagger out to kill da varmint. You see, I wuz blind with hate. Alls I seen wuz a  Roman devil. He wuz da enemy. And as an army officer he wuz definitely nears da top of my death list. Golly, I really wanted to kill da varmint! But somewhere inside me I just froze up. Guess it wuz da hand of God stoppin’ me from doin’ a fool thing.

I just stood there dumbfounded cuz Jesus and I clearly wuzn’t seein’ da same guy. I seen a Roman. He seen a lover of us Jews (Luke 7:5). I seen a devil. Jesus seen a decent man. I seen an enemy destroyin’ our nation. Jesus seen a Jew-lover buildin’ us a synagogue. I seen a heathen. Jesus seen a believer. Imagine dat! Confound it, da devil had the most faith of any guy that Jesus ever met. Jesus Hisself said so (Luke 7:9). I wuz plump dumbfounded! We wuz both lookin’ at da same devil and we wuz both seein’ a totly diffrent fella.

How could I be so blind and wrong? It wuz hate doin’ dat to me. Dat’s how I wuz blind and a murderer (1 John 3:15). It wuz all cuz of hate. I couldn’t see what Jesus wuz seein’ cuz He seen with eyes of love. And when you sees with eyes of love you sees people diffrently dan with eyes of hate. When Jesus done healed da devil’s servant, He done healed me too. He took da hate out of my eyes, put love in my heart, and now I ain’t da rascal that I once wuz. I’m a totly diffrent fella cuz of Jesus and love.

You see, I didn’t knowed Jesus da way He really wuz cuz my eyes wuz all messed up with hate. But when I seen Him with eyes of love, den I seen Him as Love Incarnate. And dat’s when I started seein’ people diffrent too. Cuz of Jesus and love, I ain’t no blind, murderin’ fool no more. Yeah, ole Newton sure got it right: “I once wuz blind, but now I see.” Tank God Almighty I can see. Dat’s my story and nows you know.


We all like to hear good things said to us or about us. The positive words of encouragement do us a world of good.

I know the words that I’d like to hear God say to me when I stand, or rather, lie prostrate, before Him at the judgment seat. I’m hoping He’ll say Well done, thou good and faithful servant!  These have got to be the sweetest words I’ll ever hear God say and I’m really hoping I’ll hear Him say them to me one day.

Unfortunately, God doesn’t only say good things all the time. He’s got some harsh words to say too. And the scariest of these words that I definitely don’t want to hear Him say to me are, I never knew you. Depart from me, you worker of iniquity! Friends, when you hear God say that to you, you’re as good as toast!

These words of our Lord are taken from His sermon on the mount. Here’s the fuller version of what He said: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  (22)  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  (23)  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity, Matthew 7:21-23.

These 3 verses, in my opinion, are the scariest verses for a Christian because they tell us that many professing Christians who believe they’ll go to Heaven when they die will have a rude awakening and the shock of their life when our Lord sends them to hell instead.

Why will the Lord send these Christians to hell? (1) Because they’ve not done the will of God. They lived their lives in disobedience to God and neglected, or refused, to do His will; and (2) they worked iniquity, that is, they continued to live a life of sin, continued to live like the heathen. Instead of quitting sinning, they persisted in sin.


Two things shock and frighten me about the Christians who God will send to hell. (1) These unwary, unsuspecting hell-bound Christians called and considered Jesus their Lord; they worked for the Lord, engaged in Christian ministry or leadership; they prophesied and preached the word of the Lord; they cast out devils; and they did many wonderful works—not just a few or a handful, but many—they performed lots of signs and wonders; they did miracles of healing, deliverance, and who knows what else.

Jesus didn’t deny that they did these things. So what these Christians said and did were true. They did all these things that they said they did. So they were very effective in Christian ministry and many people were saved, healed, and delivered through them.

Most frightening perhaps is the fact that these people did way more for God than most of us have done to date. They did many things that most of us have not done even once as far as healing or casting out demons is concerned. These hell-bound Christians put us to shame by how much they did and how successful they were in their witness and ministry.

Yet, in spite of all they accomplished, they find themselves barred from Heaven because they lived a double life. They worked for the Lord and continued to sin on the side. They professed to be Christians, yet continued to live and act like heathens.

(2) The second thing that really frightens me about these hell-bound Christians is the fact that they are not a handful or an insignificant minority. They are not a few among many. They are not the oddballs or the exceptions to the rule. Jesus said many shall say unto Me. Brethren, there are many among us who will not step on streets of gold, who will not live in heavenly mansions, who will not spend eternity in Heaven.

And if there are many among us, then we must ask ourselves, “Am I one of the many Christians who will end up in hell?” That is truly a scary thought and it ought to motivate us to do everything in our power to make sure we are not one of the many who will be barred from Heaven, but one of the few who find, and walk, the strait and narrow. Jesus said in Matthew 7:14, Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life; and few there be that find it.


This stands in stark contrast to the only condition that many Christians believe is the only thing you need to do to be saved and go to Heaven, and that is, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31); whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13); and  whosoever believeth on Jesus shall not perish but shall have life everlasting (John 3:16).

Of course, all these verses are true. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ will get you saved.

But God couldn’t say everything at one time or in one verse. Believing and receiving Jesus into your heart and life is just the beginning. Salvation isn’t just an act or a conversion experience. It’s a life. And it’s a life that’s lived in obedience to God’s will. These verses that we just read in Matthew 7 bear this truth out.

Here are some of the things God wants all of us to do. These are the things that will get us to Heaven. And failing or refusing to do them will imperil our soul and cause God to utter the scariest words that none of us want to hear God to say to us.

  • Do the will of God. Matthew 7:21, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
  • Abstain from sin and iniquity. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  (10)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Walk the strait and narrow. Matthew 7:13-14, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  (14)  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
  • Don’t believe wrong doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
  • Live a holy life. Hebrews 12:14, Follow peace, and holiness, with all men; without which no man shall see the Lord.
  • Confess the Lord before men and not deny Him. Matthew 10:32-33, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  (33)  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
  • Live the crucified life. Luke 14:27, And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Galatians 6:7-8,  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  (8)  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
  • Be spiritually fruitful. John 15:2, Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
  • Persevere or endure to the very end. Matthew 10:22, He that endureth to the end shall be saved.

The point is, many people limit salvation to believing on Christ. And since that’s all they need to do to be saved, then there’s nothing else they need to do to be saved. They’re saved already. They’re going to Heaven. So now they can relax, breathe a sigh of relief that they’ve escaped the fires of hell, then go back to living the heathen lifestyle that they’ve always lived.

Jesus is here correcting this mistaken notion of salvation and He’s telling us as clearly as He can that, yes, salvation and Heaven begin with believing. But it doesn’t stop there. You need to mix actions with your faith. You need to act like you believe. You need to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You need to live your life in obedience to God and do His will.

DISOBEDIENCE IS DAMNABLE.  One act of disobedience may not necessarily be damnable. Just because you sinned once doesn’t mean you’re going to hell. Repentance and forgiveness are God’s provision to save you from hell and avert the hellish consequences of sin and disobedience.

But one continuing act of disobedience—if you spend the rest of your life disobeying God; then that life of disobedience is certainly damnable. And the only thing that will save you from hell—the only life-saving thing you can do for yourself—is give that sin up, turn away from it, then spend the rest of your life in obedience and holiness unto God.

IF YOU PERSIST IN SIN, THAT SIN WILL KILL YOU. And the fact that you consider yourself a believer, the fact that you’re a minister, or a successful Christian worker or an effective witness or evangelist; the fact that you call Jesus your Lord and consider yourself a Christian; the fact that you fully expect to go to Heaven when you die; will not save you from hell. Sin will send you to hell and the only way it won’t is if you give it up, quit doing it, and start obeying God. Sinning might be cool with the crowd you hang around with. But, believe me, you’ll be hot as hell itself when payday comes, as it surely will. YOU JUST CAN’T SPEND YOUR LIFE DISOBEYING GOD AND EXPECT HIM TO BE NICE TO YOU ON JUDGMENT DAY!

So do you want God to say to you on Judgment Day Depart from me, you worker of iniquity? These are definitely the scariest of words to hear when hell is only a judgment sentence of God away. If you don’t want to hear God send you to hell with these words, then do the smart thing and quit sinning. Spend your life serving and obeying God and you’ll definitely not hear God say these scariest words to you on Judgment Day.


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Hi guys. My name is John. I’m the writer of the Gospel According to John. If you think you have Jesus all figured out, let me be the one to tell you, you’re all wet. I know. I was once like you. I had my own ideas of what Jesus was like, or what He should have been like.  Then Jesus comes along and shatters the fancy notion I had of Him. Here’s a good example.

As I was writing the Gospel I remembered the time when Jesus caused a big ruckus in the Temple. You may remember my previous blog on The Mad Man In The Temple. Anyways, when Jesus came to Jerusalem the first time (after He started His ministry) He cleared out the Temple and got the priests hopping mad. Well, several months later, Jesus came back a second time and, wouldn’t you know it, He got the religious cops hopping mad again!

He’d gone to the Pool of Bethesda and healed a man whose legs had been crippled for 38 years (John 5). He told the guy to get up, carry his bed, and walk. The guy did as he was told and, to everyone’s amazement, the guy’s legs were instantaneously healed! You should have seen the guy tearing through the Temple, yelling and screaming to high Heaven.

Well, this all happened on a Sabbath. And when the cops saw this fellow carrying his bed they pulled him over for questioning. Don’t you know it’s against the law to be carrying your bed on the Sabbath?, they asked. Sorry, sirs, the guy replied. He was so happy to be healed and walking again that he’d forgotten it was Sabbath. The Guy who healed me told me to carry my bed, he remembered and said. Who told you to carry your bed?, they asked. Well, the guy didn’t know Jesus from Adam. So he rightly couldn’t give them a name. So the cops gave him a warning and let him go. Course, the guy had to leave his bed right there on the spot and come back after Sabbath to pick it up.

Shortly after this, Jesus came to the Temple and found the guy that had been healed. After exchanging names and pleasantries, Jesus told the guy to Go and sin no more, lest something worse happens to you.

I’m not exactly sure what was running through that guy’s fool head. Maybe he wanted to score some brownie points with the cops. Anyways, he ran down to the station and ratted on the Lord. It was Jesus who healed me and told me to carry my bed!, he says. He even told them where Jesus was! What a rat!

Well, the cops caught up with Jesus and the Master was in big trouble. Not only did He break the Sabbath by healing the crippled guy, but He also encouraged the fellow to break the Sabbath too by telling him to carry his bed.

Now if it was up to me, I’d have kept my mouth shut and go along my merry way. But Jesus did something that made me pop my mouth in sheer disbelief. He talked to the cops (John 5:17-30)! And talked. And kept on talking. The Guy had a big mouth. And the more He talked, the more trouble He got Himself into. He told them that God was His Father. His Father worked on the Sabbath, so that’s why He worked too. Then He told them that God gave Him the power to raise the dead and judge all men. In other words, Jesus was telling them He was God! The cops were so incensed by His talk that they tried to kill Him!

Now you’d think that Jesus would high tail it out of there and save Himself before He got Himself killed. Well, He didn’t. He just stood there calm as a lark and talked some more! This time, He really got to meddling (John 5:31-47). He told them that they didn’t believe God. Or Moses. Or the Scriptures! The Guy had nerve! He clearly wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. As you can imagine, the cops were so humiliated in front of the people right there in the Temple. They were so hopping mad that they tried to get their hands on Jesus. But Jesus beat it out of there and got on the next train to Galilee.

This wasn’t the only time Jesus sparred with the powers. If you read the 8th chapter of my Gospel you’ll see that Jesus got into another verbal scuffling match with the powers. He told them they were damned (John 8:21,24); they weren’t Abraham’s children (John 8:39); their father was the devil (John 8:44); then He repeated His claim to be God (John 8:58). The priests were so intoxicated with anger that they tried to stone Jesus right there in the Temple (John 8:59)!

I mean to tell you, when you pushed Jesus’ button He really got going. He even called these cops names! He called them hypocrites (Matthew 16:3); a wicked and adulterous generation (Matthew 16:4); blind fools (Matthew 23:17,19); blind guides (Matthew 15:14, 23:24); serpents (Matthew 23:33); vipers (Matthew12:34, 23:33); children of murderers (Matthew 23:31). They weren’t saved (Matthew 23:13). They were proselytizers of hell (Matthew 23:15).

Now you know me as the apostle of love. I’m all for being peaceable. Humble. Loving. Kind. Considerate. Respectful. Conciliatory. Friendly. Not a trouble maker. Or a sower of discord and strife.  Not being offensive. Provocative. Critical. Judgmental. Antagonistic. Alienating. This was the Jesus I thought I was following.

But if you’d been with us for those 3½ years  you’d have seen a Jesus who was divisive. Confrontational. A trouble maker. The cops saw Him as a blasphemer (John 10:33, Matthew 26:65). Arrogant. Presumptuous. A Samaritan (John 8:48). A deceiver (Matthew 27:63, John 7:12). A devil (Matthew 10:25, Luke 11:15). Like I told you earlier, Jesus got the cops so mad at Him that, when their conversations were over, they wanted to, no, strike that, they tried to, kill Him. He definitely knew how to bring the hate and murder out of them!

No, Jesus wasn’t like this all the time. He was different with everyone else. He loved people, He reached out to them, and helped them. That’s why He was so popular in Israel and that’s what kept Him from getting crucified or killed before His time.

But when it came to the self-righteous religious folks, Jesus was definitely different. He wasn’t easy with them. And He didn’t go easy on them. He pulled out all the stops, loaded both barrels, fired away, and kept on firing, until the poor priests and Pharisees couldn’t take it any longer and tried to lynch Him on the spot.

Listen, Jesus is going to speak the truth no matter what. He isn’t going to sugar coat the truth. He’s not going to mislead you and make you think you’re alright if you’re not. If you’re wrong, He’ll tell you to your face. He’s out to help you. Save you. Change you. And He can’t do that by hiding the truth from you. He may be hard on you at times, but it’s because He loves you and it’s for your own good. He’s trying to keep you out of hell.

But, like these priests and Pharisees, if you show yourself an inveterate critic and enemy, if you insist on fighting Jesus all the way; He’ll fight you back. Let me tell you right now, that’s one fight you’re never ever going to win. He isn’t going to hold back any punches. He’ll knock the living daylights out of you. You’re going down! And there ain’t no mistaking that.

Don’t let the fact that Jesus is Love fool you into thinking He won’t damn you. He’s the Judge. And if you insist on going to hell, not even Jesus’ Love is going to stop you from going there. Think about it. Jesus has a big mouth and His mouth can send you to hell. This was the Jesus I didn’t know. But now I know. And the sooner you know it the better off you’ll be.


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew. 


For those of you who have real, true love—the love of family and friends—you are so blest. You are richer than the richest guy around! Here, let me tell my story.

My name is Legion. And for as long as I can remember, no body loved me or wanted me—not even my family. Of course, I was a nut case and there really wasn’t much to love about me. That’s because I was a demoniac. I had all kinds of demons living inside me. You may scoff at the idea and think I’m off my rocker. But believe me, and you can ask my parents and all the townsfolk, I was possessed. That’s why my name is Legion—because there were gobs of demons living inside me. (Just so you know, a legion of the Roman army in Jesus’ time was about 600 soldiers.)

Anyways, I very clearly wasn’t normal. I was full of demons. I’d act like an animal and howl like a hyena. I’d constantly be hurting myself, cutting myself. No, I wasn’t suicidal. But long before Leopold von Sacher-Masoch came along, I was the ancient poster child for masochism. Every part of my body was tattooed with the scars of self-inflicted abuse. I looked like a monster right out of a horror movie. I was a danger to everyone. That’s why nobody wanted me around. They were all scared of me. They tried all sorts of ways to restrain me. One time, people even tied me up in chains. But I tore the chains apart as easily as if they were made of paper. That’s the kind of power I had because of these devils. That’s when my parents and the townsfolk decided that I couldn’t live among them anymore. I was so strong and violent that I was a real danger to everyone. So, in one of my saner moments, they took me to the cemetery at the outskirts of town and that’s where I lived.

As you would imagine, I didn’t get very many visitors. People didn’t want to die because they didn’t want folks coming to the cemetery. I guess I can’t blame them. It was a pretty lonely life. It was just me and the demons, constantly hurting me and driving me nuts, that I really wanted to die. It’s a miserable way to live. What’s even more miserable is not being able to die. The devils got a big kick out of hurting me that there was no way they were going to let me kill myself.

One day, several guys came by the cemetery. I was genuinely surprised! It wasn’t a funeral. There was no bier. No women wailing. They were headed my way! It was like they were coming to see me! One Guy in particular, at the forefront, seemed unafraid and intent to see me. I didn’t know Him from Adam. But strangely, at the sight of Him, I ran towards Him. When I reached Him, I promptly fell prostrate at his feet and said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I beg you by God, please don’t torment me (Mark 5:7).

Apparently, the demons in me knew who the Guy was and they were genuinely scared of Him. Imagine that! Demons scared of a Fellow! It was always the other way around: it was always people who were afraid of demons. But, for the first time in my life, these devils inside me were genuinely afraid of the Guy! He must have been someone special. Someone powerful.

The Guy started talking to me. What’s your name?, He asked. My name is Legion, because we’re many, I said. Really, it was the devils in me that were speaking. Anyways, Jesus looked me straight in the eyes and commanded all the demons to come out of me. I couldn’t believe it! No one had ever done that to me before! I didn’t even know it could be done! I always thought the devils were gods that couldn’t be pushed around. But here was this Guy, telling these demons what to do. And He was calmly standing there, waiting, and expecting, these demons to comply with His order. He definitely acted like He was the Guy in charge. No wonder the demons in me were afraid of Him!

To make a long story short, all the demons came violently out of me and headed towards a herd of swine nearby. The pigs all ran off a cliff and drowned in the Sea. But I felt a strange calm and relief. For the first time in my life, I felt peace and rest. I was a human being again! I laid there in the dust, savoring a peace that I’d never known.

Jesus picked me up and, for the next few minutes, we talked. The love and care that He had for me brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t think anyone could ever love me. I didn’t think anyone cared. For some unknown reason, I mattered to Him.

The townsfolk came up a short while later. They were shocked to see me in my right mind! But they were afraid of Jesus and they asked Him to leave. I guess they didn’t want any more pigs getting killed: that would surely ruin the town’s economy.

So, like a Gentleman, He complied with their request and He, His disciples, and I started walking back to the coast where Jesus’ boat was moored. I wanted to get in the boat with Jesus and serve Him. But Jesus told me I could serve Him more by going around the district and telling everyone what He did for me. So, with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart, I waved them off and thanked God Almighty for setting me free.

No one ever loved me the way Jesus did. I didn’t think this kind of love was possible, or that it even existed.

I forgot to tell you that Jesus lived in Capernaum across the Sea. He sailed across the Sea last night and a furious storm arose that nearly sank their boat. Come to find out, it was the devil trying to kill them and stop them from coming to me. Anyways, Jesus knew what was happening. So He rebuked the storm and there was an immediate calm on the Sea Mark 4:34-41).

Anyhow, He came to see me. He set me free. Then He got back in His boat and sailed right back to Capernaum. In other words, as busy a Teacher and Healer that He was, He dropped what He was doing and made a special trip across the Sea—and nearly got Himself and all His disciples killed—just to set me free!

That, dear friends, is love. And who was I? I was a nobody. A worthless reject. A vile sinner and abject demoniac. I walked around in the buff: I was stark naked. I hadn’t had a haircut or shave since time immemorial. I didn’t shower or clean up after myself, so I stunk to high Heaven. I was truly a sight to behold. My scraggly looks and body odor would have driven everyone away!

But Jesus came and loved me! He saw worth in me! And He went through death’s doors to save me, give me back my humanity, and make my life worth living. I’ll never forget Him. I’ll never stop serving and praising Him. I never knew this kind of love existed.

I know He loves you too! Jesus is Love Incarnate. He can help you, save you, and change you. Like me, He’ll give you a life who’ll never forget or regret. I didn’t think life could be so fun. So meaningful and worthwhile. That’s because I didn’t know Jesus. But thanks to Him, now I know.


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Many of you know Nathanael. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. When our Lord first saw him, Jesus said, Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile (John 1:47). Nathanael was a pretty upright fellow. When I think of him I think of someone who’s squeaky clean. Not perfect or sinless by any means. But a cut above the rest. Righteous in every way.

I’ve lived my life pretty much like Nathanael. I walk the straight and narrow. I love the Lord. I’m thankful for all He’s done for me. And I’ve given my life to serving and glorifying Him.

The down side of being a goody two-shoes like me is you start thinking you’re high and mighty and you start looking down on people who aren’t toeing the line. If Nathanael was like me, then here’s how this story might have unfolded.

Hi. My name is Nathanael. I’m honored to be one of Jesus’ earliest disciples. I’m a pious Jew and I don’t make any apologies for that. I love the Lord. I love the Scriptures. And I enjoy living a clean and upright life. I find it so satisfying and gratifying to be faithful and obedient to God. Temptations abound. And it’s so much easier to just give in and live a carnal, sinful life. But sin has never done anything good for me. I found that out early on in life. So I steer clear of sin and live by the Good Book.

Anyways, I’d like to tell you about a time when I was really ignorant, self-righteous, and had major problems with the Lord. We were in Capernaum one day when Jesus decided to take a stroll down by the seaside (Luke 5:27-28). Nothing wrong with that. It’s good exercise and the fresh air works wonders on a body. Jesus headed to the tax booth that was down by the harbor and, to everyone’s shocked surprise, Jesus called the publican to follow Him. The guy’s name was Levi. He also went by the name of Matthew.

Anyway, the guy’s a publican. Do you know anything about publicans? No, they’re not the ancestors of the Republicans. And they weren’t Democrats either! Publicans were tax collectors. They made their living by collecting taxes for the Roman government. The only thing about it was the Romans didn’t pay them to do that. They got their money by charging more tax than what the Emperor actually charged. If the Hot Shot in Rome charged $10 tax on a produce merchant, the publican would charge at least $30! He’d give $10 to the Romans, $10 to his boss the chief publican, then he’d keep the rest for himself. There were no set rates for publicans to follow. Every publican charged however much he wanted to charge. The really greedy ones charged exorbitantly. And since the merchants had no recourse or choice, they paid what was charged. And in so doing, they got robbed and the publicans got rich. Filthy rich.

If there’s any one thing you need to know about publicans, it’s this. They’re crooks! They’re all crooks! Us Jews really hate and detest these guys. They may be Jews. But we hate them because they’re unscrupulous. They’re wicked and vile. Our religious leaders wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Why, they won’t even accept tithes from publicans! That’s how bad our leaders detested these crooks. These guys are bad and we make it our practice to stay as far away from them as possible.

You can imagine how horrified I was when Jesus called a publican to become a disciple. I was ticked! Up to now, all of us disciples were clean, upright Jews. Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip, and myself, were all honest, hard-working, righteous men. We were upstanding pillars in the community. We got along well because we all believed in hard work and clean, honest living.

Suddenly, without warning or consultation, Jesus brings a publican on the bus. Do you know how bad that makes us look? The guy’s got a reputation. A bad reputation. People don’t like him. And with him on board they’re not going to like us either.  They’re going to wonder if Jesus has lost His marbles.

You know how a politician’s going to be judged by his reputation or past. If he’s got skeletons in his closet, believe me, they’re going to come out no matter how hard the guy tries to keep them hidden. People are going to talk. They’ve got big mouths. And they’ll sink any candidate for office who’s got dirt in his history.

That’s what’s going to happen here. People are going to talk and they’re going to question Jesus’ smarts. Let’s face it. A publican’s bad news. Everyone knows that. We’re going to get flack for that.

The guy threw a big party for the Lord and invited all his publican friends. Well, you guessed right. Like we knew would happen, the Pharisees showed up and excoriated us for the bad choice of company. Everywhere we went it was going to be like this. People just aren’t going to appreciate seeing a publican so close to Jesus.

I tried reasoning with the Lord. We were all concerned about our reputation. About Jesus’ reputation. We didn’t want anyone messing up our reputation. We were out to win the world. But that would be a very hard thing to do as long as we gave people cause or reason to criticize us. I advised Jesus to rethink this decision and let the guy go. But my pleas fell on deaf ears. Jesus wasn’t budging. He let me know in no uncertain terms that the publican was on board to stay. I certainly didn’t agree with the Master. But I had no choice. Grudgingly, I let the publican take his seat on the bus.

The more I followed Jesus the more I understood Him. We’re so wrapped up in what other people think. But I learned that Jesus wasn’t like that. He didn’t care what other people thought or said. He was out to obey the Father and He did that no matter how bad that made Him look.

The  nail that crucified and changed me was this: God often doesn’t think the way I think! Paul said it so well in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29,  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  (27)  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  (28)  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:  (29)  That no flesh should glory in his presence. That’s just another way of saying that God doesn’t choose who I would choose.

Turned out, the publican proved us all wrong. More than anyone of us, he worked the hardest to convince our countrymen that Jesus really was the prophesied Messiah. He wrote a Gospel. And, instead of driving a lot of people away from Jesus like we thought he would do, the publican brought them to the Lord.

I’m ever so glad I was wrong about him. I’d hate to think what would have happened if Jesus listened to me and booted the publican off the bus. Christianity wouldn’t be the same. Our Bible wouldn’t be complete without the publican’s Gospel. I thought Jesus was making a big mistake. I flew off the handle when I found out Jesus called a publican. It was bad for publicity. It was a poor reflection on Jesus. Jesus was wrong. Boy was I ever wrong! Just goes to show that God doesn’t make any mistakes in who He chooses. Jesus knew what He was doing all along. I didn’t know. But now I do.


How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Placing myself in John’s sandals, Hey guys. It’s me, John the Beloved, the Lord’s disciple. If you think following the Lord was all peachy and hunky-dory, well, you got it wrong. Us disciples had our times and disagreements when we didn’t see eye-to-eye with the God Man. I wished He’d listen to us sometimes. But He didn’t. And we all, especially Him, got in a heap of trouble for it.

Let me tell you something that happened that sent the scribes thru the roof. You know who the scribes are, don’t you? They’re the guys who copied the Scriptures by hand. Because of their job, they knew every jot-and-tittle of the Scriptures. They knew it more than anyone else around or alive. So everybody, including us Christians, respected them as experts and scholars of the Scriptures.

Well, Jesus was home in Capernaum one day and the house was crammed full of folks who wanted to hear Jesus teach. I’d never seen such spiritual hunger before. No joke, there wasn’t any space left to get another soul in that house. In fact, there was a lot more people outdoors and everyone was just itching to hear what Jesus had to say. Among the privileged folks who got to have a seat in the house was a handful of scribes who’d come from Jerusalem to see what Jesus had to say.

Anyways, things was going along just fine, Jesus was preaching away when, suddenly, bits and pieces of the roof started falling on us like hail from the sky. We all looked up, flabbergasted, as we seen four guys tearing up the roof. I kid you not. These guys were taking the tiles off the roof! It looked like the Lucas Oil Stadium on a hot Sunday afternoon. I guess everyone of us was shocked—not even the homeowner said anything about it. We just sat there, dumbfounded, that these guys had the nerve to tear someone’s roof apart. What in tarnation were they up to? That’s what we all wanted to know.

Before long, here comes a stretcher down thru the roof. On it lay a paralyzed fella. He looked about as shook up as we all were. Betcha he was relieved just to be back on solid ground. I can imagine how scared he must have been to get carried up there, then lowered thru the roof. His buddies tried to bring him thru the door, but there was just no letting them in. There wasn’t any room. So they climbed on the roof—stretcher and all—and tore the roof apart to get the hapless chap to Jesus.  Obviously, they wanted Jesus to heal him.

I wish the God Man didn’t do what He did next. This is one of those times when we just didn’t see eye-to-eye. Anyways, the God Man looked at the guy on the stretcher and says, My son, your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5). This is when, in the spirit, I seen these scribes go right thru the roof like a rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral. No one can forgive sins but God alone!, these scribes said quietly to themselves. This Guy’s a blasphemer! He’s no Man of God!

Well, Jesus knew plain as day that these scribes were sitting right in front of Him. And He knew full well that He’d get flack for saying something like this. Why couldn’t He have said that quietly instead of out loud? If He’d done it like I would have, He wouldn’t have riled these scribes up and sent them thru the roof.

You know me. I’m the apostle of love. If it was up to me, I’d work with these scholars, patient and gentle like. I’d try to convince them that I really am the God Man. Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6-7 talked about Me. The prophet told us, and the scribes would have remembered it once I reminded them about it, that God would one day come into our midst as a Man. He’d come as a Jew, looking like any other Jew. Except He’d be God. Well, I’m that God Man. And that’s why I can forgive this guy’s sins. So it’s not blasphemy for Me to do it. If Jesus had only done it my way, we’d have won these scribes to our side and, man, what a witness that would have been! It’d have been a whole lot nicer to have these Scripture heavyweights on our side, instead of against us. But, we lost them that day, no thanks to Jesus.

Just so you know, I’m not a God Man. I don’t know everything. And I need to be reminded, from time to time, that My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord (Isaiah 55:8). I guess I learned that day that the God Man isn’t out to win everybody to His side. He didn’t do that for the religious leaders in Jerusalem, nor for the Pharisees, and now for the scribes. He knew who His inveterate critics were and He didn’t try to win them. Truth is, most of them would never be won. They had their minds made up about Jesus and no one, not even the God Man, was gonna change them. At the start, I had this picture that Jesus was gonna win everybody. He wasn’t gonna make enemies. He was gonna be peaceable-like and not send anybody thru the roof. Boy was I wrong! I just didn’t know Jesus that good. But thanks to Him, I know Him better. And, yes, take it from me. The God Man knows best. His ways are better than ours. And none of us is smarter than Him. I thought I was. But I ain’t. Now I know.

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