christ israel

Jesus In the Midst

Mark Kolchin

Before they entered land of Canaan, Israel was promised a future leader
by Moses when he said: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the
midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken…” (Deut.
18:15) From then on, Israel looked for this great Prophet that God would raise up?the
Messiah?someone similar to Moses who was appointed by God to lead the nation.

of this Person were specific: 1) God would raise Him up and 2) His ministry would be like
that of Moses and 3) He would come from one of the tribes of Israel?”from the
midst of thee.” Not only would He come from Israel, but He would be active within
their midst. With this latter detail, they were assured of seeing Him since His ministry
would be conspicuous and central to the nation. So imbedded was this in the national
mindset, that centuries later when people witnessed the ministry of John the Baptist they
asked him directly “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21). Later, after John was
beheaded by Herod some ascribed this title to the Lord though stating it with some
uncertainty “It is the Prophet or like unto the prophets.” (Mark 6:15) But when
the Lord fed the multitude, the fickle but satisfied crowd confidently proclaimed
“This is truly the Prophet who has come into the world” (John 6:14) Yes, the
Lord Jesus was the Prophet promised to Israel long ago, the One who would be raised up by
God who would minister in their midst so there would be no mistake as to who He was.

One of the first instances of Jesus? ministry “in the
midst” of Israel can be found in Luke 2. In verses 41-52 we read about the Lord
traveling to Jerusalem with His parents at twelve years of age to participate in the feast
of the Passover. In keeping with this custom, the family made the long, arduous journey
from Nazareth to Jerusalem?a distance of approximately 65 miles. After the feast days
were completed a week later, the large caravan of family and acquaintances began the
journey back to Nazareth. But after a day of travel, it was discovered by His parents that
He was not in the crowd so they immediately returned to find Him. Upon the third day after
an apparently extensive search, the anxious couple found Him in the Temple “sitting
in the midst” of the teachers both listening to them and asking them questions”
(v. 46)

This passage (which contains the first recorded words of our Lord and
is the only chronicled event in the Gospels between His birth and earthly ministry) is
significant in a number of ways. First, it demonstrates that the Lord even as a young
child clearly understood His destiny and mission. “Know ye not that I must be about
my Father?s business?” (v. 49). His words reveal that there was no
“identity crisis” with the Savior. Later He would say “My Father worketh
hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17). He came to complete the Father?s work of
redemption?a work that began after His seventh day rest, when sin was introduced into
the human family by Adam and Eve. The Lord?s question to Mary and Joseph “Why
did you seek Me?” was not one of insolence, but a mild rebuke to those who should
have known better rather than spending the better portion of the day searching for Him in
places other than the Temple. After all, they understood more than anyone His divine
origin?where else would He want to be? Secondly, it demonstrates His humility, wisdom
and understanding. Respectful, He asked questions of the teachers although the knowledge
that He possessed far surpassed these venerable leaders of Israel. Verse 47 states
“they were astonished at His understanding and answers”?proof that they
asked Him questions. But what is most striking however is the scene that is depicted. The
Lord is “sitting in the midst” of this great company of people. Being in their
midst, He was central to their conversation. Sitting, He was assuming the posture of One
with authority as all respected teachers did. Surrounded by the representatives of the
Law, He was the centerpiece. This is exactly how God wanted it to be then and how He wants
it today. He is the central theme of the Scriptures, as often stated, “In the O.T.
concealed, in the N.T. revealed.” God would have Him to be the center of each
one?s discussions?including ours!

In Acts 2, we are reminded of the Lord working “in the midst”
of Israel. One of the key components of Peter?s address to Israel on the day of
Pentecost was the indisputable evidence of Christ?s works done in their presence.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among
you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye
yourselves also know:” (Acts 2:22) Everything that the Lord did pointed to the fact
that He was the Promised One of Israel and validated His credentials as Messiah. He healed
the sick, the lame, and the withered. He cleansed lepers and raised the dead. He showed
His power over death, disease and demons. On numerous occasions, He demonstrated His
authority over the natural and the supernatural. After calming the Sea of Galilee that
threatened the life of the disciples, He went over on the other side of the sea and calmed
a man of Gadara who was tormented by demons. As Romans 1:4 states: “He was declared
to be the Son of God with power.” His works distinguished Him from all others before
Him?He was God?s Son! He did these works in their midst as proof that He was the
Son of God and the Prophet that God had pledged. And He is still doing those wonderful
works in lives today in the midst of an unbelieving world as proof that He is like none
other and that His words can be trusted. No one has a legitimate excuse for not believing
in Christ since His work has been clearly performed in their presence as it was with

John 19 includes another reference to Jesus in the midst. In this
chapter, the scene at Calvary is vividly described in verses 17 and 18: “And He
bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in
the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side
one, and Jesus in the midst.” What a scene this is! The Lord, the Son of God, the
Creator of the Universe lifted up between two thieves!! Yet, this is how God deigned it:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be
lifted up…” (John 3:14) On one side was an unrepentant, unregenerate criminal being
executed for His crimes. On the other, was someone also being executed for his crimes, but
with a completely different destiny?he was reconciled to God. He had admitted his
sin, acknowledged the sinless character of Christ, and demonstrated saving faith so that
the Lord could say of him?”Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” As it
was then so it is today that the Savior divides mankind into two camps?the saved and
the lost. There is no middle ground in salvation apart from Christ?He is the middle
ground and people are either on one side of Him or the other. In Rev. 5, the scene in
heaven depicts the Lamb of God as the central figure through all eternity. John exclaims
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and the four and living
creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as though it had been
slain…” (Rev. 5:6)

The culmination of the Son?s work is a kingdom that will last
forever, given to Him by the Lord God. From that throne, He will rule and reign
perpetually over the house of Jacob and the nations of the world. (Luke 1:32-33) No longer
will He be a byword on the lips of the unsaved, but He will rule with a rod of iron and
His scepter will be one of righteousness?unbending in integrity and justice in a
world that now specializes in deceit and unrighteousness. In every way, He will be
“front and center” and the wounds that He received at Calvary will be
prominently seen?the emblems of His unchanging love. The spotlight of all eternity
will be on “Jesus in the midst”!

The Lord?s ministry is not only evident in the midst of Israel and
this world, but He is also actively at work “in the midst” of His Church?to
help, strengthen, guide, and chasten. After the Lord?s resurrection, when the
disciples were huddled behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, He “stood in the
midst” bringing words of peace in the midst of fear (John 20:19). Sometime later,
when Thomas was doubting and confused He too was consoled as the Lord stood “in the
midst” bringing words of peace in the midst of doubt. (John 19:26) This example of
the Lord Jesus as the shepherd can be a great help and encouragement to His people,
especially in times of crises and confusion.

In Heb 2:12, we are reminded that the Lord leads the Church in worship
and praise: “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the
church will I sing praise unto thee.” As the Head of the Church (Eph. 5:23), He is to
be the central focus of its worship and adoration. He is to be the center of its affection
as a bride is to her husband. Paul reminded the Colossian believers: “And He is the
head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in
all things He might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18) Not only should He be the central
object of the Church?s affection and activity, but He should be given His place to
lead the congregation in acceptable worship that is pleasing to the Father.
“Therefore by Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is,
the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Heb 13:15). Finally, in Rev. 1 we
see the chastening work of Christ in the Church as He walks “in the midst” of
the candlesticks evaluating the heart and work of the local assembly. He commends that
which is of the Spirit and that which is done in His name with a pure motive. He condemns
activities and events that are carnal, worldly, and impure. Each assembly is responsible
to the Lord alone and is evaluated by the One whose eyes are “a flame of fire”
(v. 14). He is able to expose the deepest secrets of the hearts of each one in the local
meeting. He judges and evaluates the assembly as a whole. He also rewards or cleanses it
in accordance with His Word.

From one end of the Bible to the other, we see that it is God?s
desire to have the Lord Jesus in the midst of all that takes place. May that be the case
in our lives as well.

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