Names of Jesus: Alpha and Omega

It is the nature of God in its simplest form. Eternal. No beginning or end. Not bound by earthly time. Everlasting. The first and the last. The alpha and omega.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

Jesus did not just come into the world as a baby, but He existed from the beginning.  In Genesis 1:29, it is written: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  That is not simply a grammatical error in writing.  Every word in the Bible has meaning and purpose for us.  It is the only book which records the history of our world and mankind from beginning of time. It is the best seller of all time, the most debated and scrutinized of all time, and yet, it still cannot be disproven. When Moses wrote the book of Genesis thousands of years ago, he would not have known who the “Us” was in that statement, yet he wrote it anyway.

In Revelation 22:12, Jesus says, Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Only God Himself could make such a statement, and only Jesus has made this claim. He was there in the beginning, and He came humbly into this world as a baby to show the world who God is. God is in the first verse of Genesis and the last verse of Revelation. It is not by accident. God is everything. His Word is the beginning and the end.

Along with all the Christmas celebrations, gift-giving, and decorations, this is the time of year to find out just who Jesus really is and claims to be.

Leah, the Unloved – a Christmas story

I’ve discovered a little known part to a story that often gets overlooked in the amplified fairy-tale type stories we usually like to hear.  At this time of the year, squeezed in between the endless Christmas tunes and the joyous family images we are constantly presented with, there’s a lot of heartache and loneliness for many people.  Even the psychologists have recently stated that too much Christmas music can be bad for your mental health, which reaffirms what many of us already know and feel this time of year.

This a story for all of us – a reminder for some and a hope for others.  It is about Leah, the unloved one.  I have never thought of this particular story in this way before.  If you are familiar with Bible stories, then you have probably heard of the love story between Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 28-29.  Jacob, who is also known as the father of the nation of Israel, is the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.  Jacob fell in love with his boss’ daughter Rachel at first sight.  She was “shapely and beautiful”, while her older sister Leah had “ordinary eyes”.  It was not the custom back then for the younger daughter to be married first, so Jacob agreed to work for their father for seven years so he could marry Rachel.  After he finished the seven years, he was tricked into marrying Leah instead.  Jacob had to agree to another seven years of labor so that he may also marry Rachel, which he did.  In telling this story, we often focus on Jacob’s love for Rachel and his sacrifice, but what about Leah?  How did she feel?  She was forced into marrying a man who did not love her or want her.

As the story continues, when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb and she produced four sons, but Rachel was unable to conceive.  Each time Leah said, “surely my husband will love me now.”  But the beautiful Rachel may have started to become bitter, because when she saw that she was not bearing any children to Jacob, she began to envy her sister Leah.  She demanded that Jacob give her children, of which Jacob became angry with her and replied, “Am I in God’s place, who has withheld children from you?”  So Rachel instructed her slave to sleep with Jacob instead, and they had a son named Dan (who is later associated with pagan practices).

Fast forward a little through the turbulent life of Jacob and his twin brother Esau, and his demanding father-in-law, until we get to the end of Jacob’s life.  He eventually has a son with Rachel named Joseph, who has an incredible story all of his own in Egypt, but this little known story is still about Leah.  On Jacob’s deathbed, he gathers all his sons together to tell them what will happen to each of them in the days to come.  As a side-note, Jacob’s twelve sons will become the twelve tribes of Israel, who later fight and split apart into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.  Jacob begins to tell each of his sons their fate – some good and some bad.  But it is Leah’s son Judah who receives the best blessing and prophecy:

Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
Judah is a young lion—
my son, you return from the kill.
He crouches; he lies down like a lion
or a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until He whose right it is comes
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.
He ties his donkey to a vine,
and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine.
He washes his clothes in wine
and his robes in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49)

It is through the lineage of Leah, the one who felt unloved, from her son Judah that the line of David will come and the birth of a Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in the end, it was Leah that Jacob honored in her death by being buried with her in Abraham’s burial site.

Then Jacob commanded them: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.  This is the field Abraham purchased as a burial site.  Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there, Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried there, and I buried Leah there. (Genesis 49:29-31)

If we only look at life from the short view, it can often seem very unfair and full of disappointments and sorrow.  But we must look at life with the long view in mind just as God does.  We are all beautiful in God’s eyes – with true beauty.  God has something special in mind for all of us whether we see it in this life or when we get to heaven.  I believe that Leah was loved after all.  And from her offspring, came Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ Words: I am willing. (Mark 1:40-45)

I am willing.  What comforting words to hear.  Whether it’s from a friend we call when our car breaks down late at night, or a big favor we ask of someone and they agree to our request, or hearing those words from a future employer willing to give us a chance, it causes us to breathe a sigh of relief.  I am willing to help you.  I remember clamoring for last-minute transportation to and from my son’s school when I was stuck at work or had to go in for an early meeting all the way across town.  For me to hear someone on the other end of the phone say, without hesitancy, I am willing, just because they care and even though it is an inconvenience to them, is priceless.  This type of willingness can’t be bought, it can only be given.

This is how Jesus is.  He is willing to come to us in our time of need, regardless of how we got ourselves into our current situation.  He opens his arms with a smile.  Even better than friends or family or co-workers, Jesus has the power to fix anything.  Sometimes he chooses immediate healing and sometimes he takes the time to work with us for a while.  But either way, Jesus is always willing.  And we have two responses: we can walk away, or we can stay.  I think I will stay and see what Jesus is willing to do.

~ Mark 1:40-45  Cleansing a leper ~

Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Jesus and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed. Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once, telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly.  But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere.

In Jesus’ Words: This is why I have come (Mark 1:21-39)

Mark continues writing his fast-paced account and concise words from Jesus.  He shows Jesus on the move with a mission.  Matthew wrote about Jesus’ compassionate sermons, parables and dinners with sinners.  Mark gives us a glimpse of the man who had a single, divine purpose for being here.  Even the demons recognized who Jesus was and why he was here.

~ Mark 1:21-28   Jesus in Capernaum ~

Jesus went into Capernaum and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach.  They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.

Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, “What do You have to do with us, Jesus – Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”

But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. Then they were all amazed and began to argue with one another saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” His fame then spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.

From there Jesus went to Peter’s house where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  By the evening, the whole town was at his door.  Jesus healed many, but he would not permit the demons to speak.  The demons wanted to destroy his ministry.  They knew the truth but rejected it.  And by early morning, Jesus had gone out to a deserted place to pray.  The disciples found him and said, “Everyone’s looking for you!”

~ Mark 1:38-39  Jesus in Galilee ~

And Jesus said to disciples, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too.  This is why I have come.”  So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Everything Jesus did had a purpose and a reason.  His healing was immediate.  His confirmation of people’s faith was immediate.  He didn’t require the people do certain rituals first or show their extensive knowledge of the Torah.  Jesus came to serve mankind, to teach them about life, and ultimately lay down his life as a sacrifice.  And  Mark is telling us: Exciting things are happening fast!

In Jesus’ Words: A new era of God (Mark 1:1-20)

Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”  (Mark 1:14-15)

A new era of God’s relationship with mankind had begun, just as it had been promised to Abraham’s generation.  The time had come for mankind to make a decision.  The Old Testament sacrifices and laws were now represented through the long-awaited Messiah.  The Kingdom of God was present on the earth, and this certainly was good news!

The last prophet was John the Baptist.  He was the messenger sent ahead of time to prepare the people for a new era, a new way.  Mankind’s only required response to receive God’s salvation: Repent and Believe.  It sounds simple, and it really was.  Jesus would take the place of the sacrifice.  A new era had begun and it changed the world in a very short time-frame, unlike no other ever has.

But even in today’s more-sophisticated climate, repentance seems hard for people.  It requires admitting our faults, admitting there is a higher power than ourselves, and admitting that we cannot be our own savior.  But Jesus says this is Good News!  Take a look around at our world.  The probability of us doing very well in this life (and death) by our own power are not very high odds.  Every day I pass by car accidents, or hear of friends and family with sudden health problems, and I’ve lived long enough to see people at the top of the world one day only to fall so hard the next.  The good news is that we do have a higher power who is compassionate, merciful and only has our best interest in mind.  It would be very frightening to live in this world without having a stronger help than myself, someone I can call out to anytime.

“Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!”  (Mark 1:17)  I imagine Jesus saying that with a smile and delight.

Jesus did not ask the people their qualifications, where they came from or what they had done.  He wanted to have a relationship with them, teach them, and show them what life was really meant to be.  Mark’s first recorded words from Jesus says almost everything we need to know about Jesus’ message in this new era of God: “Repent. Believe. Follow Me. It’s good news!”