A SHOT ACROSS THE BOW
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Who Do Men Say That I Am? (Luke 9:18b)
It has long been a practice of warships to fire a shot in front of, or “across the bow,” of a suspicious ship to get its attention and thus demonstrate a willingness to engage it in battle. But even though the Lord’s intent in the incident we are about to discuss was not meant as a threat, it was definitely designed to get the attention of some priests who were about to become hostile toward Him. And as a result it caused them to be confronted with a priestly duty that, as far as we can determine from the Scriptures, had not been necessary for the better part of 850 years. (For that reason they probably scrambled around like the “Keystone Kops” trying to determine what they were supposed to do!)
“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter” Mark 1:40-45 (KJV, emphasis mine).
The setting of this passage is very early in the Lord’s
That is why the Lord gave the formerly leprous man such a stern admonition (“straitly charged him”) about telling no one and going to present himself to the priest—i.e. whoever was on duty in the Temple at that time. Under the Law of Moses a leper who had been healed was supposed to ask the priest to inspect him for signs of leprosy and if none were found the priest was supposed to go through a ritual pronouncement that the disease had been healed. And its primary purpose was to serve as a testimony to the entire priesthood that the Messiah had arrived.
We know that one of the Messianic signs to
“Now when John in prison heard about the activities of Christ, he sent a message by his disciples 3 And asked Him, Are You the One Who was to come, or should we keep on expecting a different one? 4 And Jesus replied to them, Go and report to John what you hear and see:)5 The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed (by healing) and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have good news (the Gospel) preached to them. Matthew 11:2-5 (Amplified Bible).
And we know John had proclaimed Jesus was the Messiah because of a statement he made just prior to baptizing Him:
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” John 1:29 (KJV).
But because of a fallen and depraved human nature John’s faith wavered when he was facing a death sentence at the hands of Herod. And the Lord gently reassured him by instructing his followers to go back and tell him about the miracles they had seen and what the people were saying about them. In other words, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating!”
Yet in spite of such dramatic and irrefutable proof that He was the Messiah of Israel, the vast majority of the people remained unconvinced and unconverted! Great crowds followed Him everywhere He went and listened intently to everything He had to say, eagerly anticipating the next demonstration of miraculous power. But the point we do not want to miss is that such things do not—indeed can not—change the human heart! No matter how powerful and persuasive the evidence may be (and at that time it certainly could not have possibly been any greater!), those who are spiritually dead cannot be brought to life by merely convincing them of their need to be saved. Neither before nor since have men been so privileged as to hear from the lips of God Himself such awe-inspiring preaching and demonstrations of supernatural power—yet the biblical narrative indicates only a relative few responded with saving faith.
When I was a young Christian I often wondered why the Lord did not just come right out and tell them He was God. But over time I finally learned that He had done so repeatedly! The seven “I AM” statements found in the Gospel of John are prime examples of statements asserting His deity, but since the Jews were expecting a human Messiah they concluded that He was either deluded or blasphemous in making such claims. And even some of His closest intimates, the Apostles, did not believe He was God in the flesh until after His resurrection! (e.g. “Doubting Thomas” in John 20:28).
What I am trying to say is this: After
being confronted by God in the flesh, hearing the greatest Preacher ever to set
foot on this earth, and witnessing miraculous demonstrations of supernatural
power that authenticated His messages, the spiritual condition of the majority
remained unaffected by it! And the children of
Was the personal faith of those few superior to that of all the others? If we mean by “superior” that it was different, then yes, it was! But the million dollar question is why? The answer may come as a surprise to some:
“For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him” Romans 12:3 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
“And that we may be delivered from perverse (improper, unrighteous) and wicked (actively malicious) men, for not everybody has faith and is held by it. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
Fast forward to fifteen hundred
years later and we find the Messiah has presented Himself to
So what took place next was the result of divine knowledge concerning those whom God had given to Him.
“All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]” John 6:37 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
While on another occasion He had this to say to those who did not belong to Him:
“And Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Porch in
the temple area. 24 So the Jews surrounded Him and began asking Him,
How long are You going to keep us in doubt and suspense? If You are
really the Christ (the Messiah), tell us so plainly and openly. 25
Jesus answered them, I have told you so, yet you do not believe Me [you
do not trust Me and rely on Me]. The very works that I do by the power
of My Father and in My Father’s name bear witness concerning Me [they
are My credentials and evidence in support of Me]. 26 But you do not believe and trust and rely
on Me because you do not belong to My fold [you are no sheep of Mine]. 27 The sheep that are My own hear and
are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow
Because there were now so many “goats” among the sheep (or tares among the wheat), the Lord decided it was time “to clean house!” So He confronted the crowd with teaching that intentionally scandalized them:
“I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, he who
believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, relies on, and has faith in
Me] has (now possesses) eternal life. 48 I am the Bread of Life
[that gives life—the Living Bread]. 49 Your forefathers ate the
manna in the wilderness, and [yet] they died. 50 [But] this is the
Bread that comes down from heaven, so that [any]one may eat of it and never
die. 51 I [Myself] am this Living Bread that came down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and also the Bread that I
shall give for the life of the world is My flesh (body). 52 Then the
Jews angrily contended with one another, saying, How is He able to give us His
flesh to eat? 53 And Jesus said to them, I assure you, most solemnly
I tell you, you cannot have any life in you unless you eat the flesh of the Son
of Man and drink His blood [unless you appropriate His life and the saving
merit of His blood]. 54 He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood
has (possesses now) eternal life, and I will raise him up [from the dead] on
the last day.55 For My flesh is true and genuine food, and
My blood is true and genuine drink. 56 He who feeds on My
flesh and drinks My blood dwells continually in Me, and I [in like manner dwell
continually] in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me and I live
by (through, because of) the Father, even so whoever continues to feed on Me
[whoever takes Me for his food and is nourished by Me] shall [in his
turn] live through and because of Me. 58 This is the Bread
that came down from heaven. It is not like the manna which our forefathers ate,
and yet died; he who takes this Bread for his food shall live forever. 59 He
said these things in a synagogue while He was teaching at
The reaction of those Jewish “camp followers” concerning eating flesh and drinking blood was similar to them finding a dead rat in the punch bowl! But their revulsion was exactly the response the Lord intended:
”When His disciples heard this, many of them said, This is a hard and difficult and strange saying (an offensive and unbearable message). Who can stand to hear it? [Who can be expected to listen to such teaching?] 61 But Jesus, knowing within Himself that His disciples were complaining and protesting and grumbling about it, said to them: Is this a stumbling block and an offense to you? [Does this upset and displease and shock and scandalize you?] 62 What then [will be your reaction] if you should see the Son of Man ascending to [the place] where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life. 64 But [still] some of you fail to believe and trust and have faith. For Jesus knew from the first who did not believe and had no faith and who would betray Him and be false to Him. 65 And He said, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father. 66 After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him” John 6:60-66 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
However, please note that a faithful few remained! And when asked if they too would leave, the Apostle Peter spoke for them all with these words:
”Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life. 69 And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God” John 6:68-69 (Amplified Bible).
You see, those men (and women) were not scandalized by what He said and stayed with Him because they had been enabled by God the Father to do so. They clung tenaciously to Jesus Christ because of the deep and abiding faith that God had given them. And the miracles they had witnessed only strengthened that belief—not form the basis for it.
The life and ministry of Jesus Christ serves as a “shot across the bow” for each and every one of us. It is a both a warning and a way of escape. Will you yield to His infinitely superior power, or foolishly ignore the warning and ultimately suffer the consequences?
Blindly following a preacher because of their personal charisma or popularity of the “plans and programs” of their church is similar to the crowds of unbelievers that followed the Lord. They enjoyed themselves because of externalities that titillated the senses of their unregenerate flesh. But when faced with something that appeared to be contrary to their “denominational position,” they literally turned their backs upon God the Son and walked away.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. Matthew 16:24 (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
Are you clinging to the cross of Christ and entrusting your eternal destiny to His care? Or are you trying to “do the best you can?” My friend the very best day you will ever see on this earth in terms of what you can do personally, can never get the job done! Please do yourself a favor and wake up to the fact that only God can save sinners like us. Heed His “shot across your bow” and plead with Him to forgive you and save your eternal soul. My prayer is that you will.
Be advised that God’s clock is still ticking, but a day is rapidly approaching when He will once again separate His sheep from all those who do not belong to Him.
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.
Finally, we would love to hear from you. You can write us at:
Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466
You can also E-Mail Pastor Ronald Riffe regarding questions or comments about this article.
God bless you.