Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how God in the Old Testament (OT) sometimes seems different from the God Jesus came to make known. I know that He is not different because God does not change…“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). The Bible also reveals that Jesus is God…“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), and that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So why does it seem like God was more stern in the OT, whereas Jesus makes familiar a God of love, patience, mercy, and forgiveness? First, I need to say that the OT is not without examples of the love and forgiveness of God…I just get more insight into the gentleness of God, in Jesus. So this is a question I will continue to ask God about. But one thing I do know. I know that God is love…“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). And I have experienced His love first hand, when at times I have acted less than loving toward Him and He has made it known to me, whether it was through something I read, something someone said, or just a reassuring thought, that He was still there and was present with me. Through Jesus, God forgives us our shortcomings and not only that, but like the prodigal son, He sees us from a “long way off” and is “filled with compassion” (Luke 15:20).
Jesus stressed the importance of humility. When He and His disciples feasted with Matthew and Matthew’s friends, the Pharisees and teachers of religious law questioned the disciples, asking why they would eat with “scum.” Jesus responded, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:29-32). Jesus made it clear that God was searching for those who were willing to admit that they had problems, their fundamental problem being that their sin separated them from God. It can be tough to view ourselves as sinners who need to be reconciled with God, but the way I see it, none of us can really say that we’ve never fallen short of even our own standards of what “good” is, and because God is perfect and Holy, it would be tough to claim that our “goodness” lines up with His righteousness. Also, when we give it thought we realize that sometimes the things we think, say, and do, surprise even us, which can serve as more confirmation that we are in need of new hearts that are God-facing. Like the Pharisees, we can view Jesus as a radical troublemaker, or like Matthew and his friends, realize that we are in need of a savior, find a spot at the banquet table, and feast.
When Jesus approached the disciples in the boat, and was walking on water, Peter asked Him if he could join Him. Jesus answered affirmatively, and Peter jumped out the side of the boat. Things started out okay, but as Peter continued to walk his fear got the best of him, and he began to sink. Peter shouted to the Lord to save him, and Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him.” (Matthew 14:31) This made me think more about how being in a relationship with God does not exclude us from moments of sinking. But when that happens, we can follow Peter’s example and cry out to God. After the sinking incident, Jesus asked Peter why he had doubted Him. This would indicate that Jesus considered Peter’s fear, while in Jesus’ presence, to be doubt. I think that is key, that because Jesus was present, Peter did not need to worry. I know that Jesus is present in my own life because I have asked Him to be, and the next time I am fearful I will think of Jesus’ words to Peter.