by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 7/6/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
(Sorry, the YouTube video for this sermon is not available. But you can listen to the audio by clicking the little white triangle on the line below.)
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 1.
When I was a farm kid growing up on the prairies of South Dakota, I don’t think I knew what the word “archaeology” meant. But for part of one afternoon – it must’ve been summertime, and I must have been 13 or 14 – I became a minor archaeologist.
All around our farmhouse, in four directions, stretched flat fields of prairie grass. Once in a while I would simply climb over a barbed wire fence and walk across those fields, and I would come to a stop and say to myself, “I wonder if any other human being has put his foot on the exact same spot where I’m standing right now. Could I be the first?”
And a chill ran down my back as I realize that yes, the chances were excellent that I was indeed the first person to stand still on that exact spot. I had heard of other farm boys, exploring other prairie pastures, who had found actual Indian arrowheads lying on the ground, which meant that they had discovered a buffalo hunting area, maybe by a stream where the animals had come to drink.
But on one particular summer afternoon, walking through a pasture not too far from the gravel road that ran past our farmhouse, I made an amazing discovery. It was what was left of a small basement which had been beneath a little house.
The house was long gone, and nobody that I knew of remembered a house in that location, which meant that this must’ve been a long time ago, maybe even in the late 1800s. And the basement had been pretty much filled in by erosion, and by now was only about three or four feet deep.
But what caught my attention was a blue glass bottle half-buried in the dirt. I tugged at it, and pulled it loose, and discovered there was nothing in it. But somewhere I’d learned that some medicines had to be stored in bottles made of dark glass so that light would not destroy the effect of the medication.
So somebody, long, long ago, had lived in a little house – probably just a shack – over this tiny basement, and had taken some kind of medicine, or maybe given the medicine to a child, and then left this empty bottle behind.
Standing there with that little bottle in my hand, I looked around to see if I could see anything else that might belong to these people. I saw the bottom of a rusty tin can, but I couldn’t tell what had been in the can.
I remember looking around for more items, but couldn’t find any. I never did go get a shovel and do some digging, because I figured it might be a lot of work for nothing. People who live in tiny Dakota shacks normally do not have treasure to bury. But I will always remember that afternoon when I discovered the mysterious “footprint” the stranger had left on the prairie, evidence that he or she had been there.
I think that one of the most surprising Bible discoveries I ever made is that Jesus has left His footprints over the entire Bible, not just from Bethlehem on. Sure, His sandal-clad feet traced many a path up and down Palestine. In fact I have a Bible with maps in the back that show all the places Jesus traveled when He was on this earth. And the artist actually drew tiny footprints rather than dotted lines to show where He’d walked.
But that was a New Testament map. Over the next several months I would like to go back through the Old Testament and trace Jesus’ footprints there. Because He was there – not merely in a few Messiah-prediction texts.
I still remember how amazed I was to discover this, probably in seminary. Remember how, on the Sunday afternoon of the day He rose from the grave, Jesus showed up as two of His disciples were taking a six-mile walk from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus? In Luke 24, it mentions how Jesus somehow disguised His appearance, and when the two disciples shared with this stranger how discouraged they were that Jesus had been executed, He told them that if they had studied the Scriptures carefully, they would have found the whole story there. And then Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
So Jesus’ footprints were all over the Old Testament–in the books of Moses, and in the books of the prophets. And as we’ll see in a minute, Jesus was present in ways far beyond the texts like “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”
So where did Jesus place His first footprints in Old Testament history? Let’s start with the first verses of the Gospel of John.
John 1:1 – 2 [NKJV]: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
Okay, who’s this mysterious “Word”? Glanced down at verse 14:
Verse 14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
So now we know who the Word is. It’s Jesus Christ. The Bible doesn’t say why John calls Him the Word. John could’ve made it simpler and said, “In the beginning was Jesus,” and so on. But he chose “Word,” instead, maybe because Jesus was God’s most articulate communication about who He, the Father, was.
Over in John 14, verses 9 and 10, Jesus says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” and “the words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority,” but those words are from the Father, whom Jesus said dwelt in Him. In verse 11, He says “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” (John 14:11)
And that, as far as I’m concerned, ranks right up there with the Bible’s most important verses. We have John 3:16, but right there beside it we should put John 14:11. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.”And the Bible is very clear that this is not just true after Jesus became human. Let’s go back up to John 1:1.
John 1:1 – 3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life . . .
So let’s start putting down sermon points. What does the Bible say about where in the Bible Jesus started making footprints?
First, Jesus is our life-giving Creator.
That’s kind of surprising to think about, mainly because it’s a thought we don’t often have. These verses say that Jesus seems to have been the one who was the active Creator. That means that Jesus definitely didn’t just stand off to one side and applaud His Father’s creative artistry. Instead, these verses say that without Jesus, nothing that was made got made.
So that means that when we look around this sanctuary, and see the wood, and the metal, and the masonry, and the glass, and the colors, and the electricity that powers the lights and the sound system, Jesus was the one who made those elements.
And He made them well. My dad was not an expert woodworker or metal craftsman, but he knew how to build things to last. I was with dad when he strung barbed wire. The first thing he did was to plant three railroad ties in cement at each corner of the pasture, and even after he made sure these were solid, he would crisscross wire between them for greater stability. Dad knew he could depend on the materials he had selected to last. And I don’t know whether he ever thought of it in these terms, but he personally knew the Creator of the elements that could form well-set cement.
We need to give credit to Jesus for His creative work. As you continue glancing around the sanctuary, you see people, people of all ages. Jesus was most likely the one who knelt in Eden’s dirt and sketched out the human form. Each baby that’s born, each of the body’s systems that senses a blood-producing scratch and then springs into action to heal it, each hair upon the head, each fingernail that grows mysteriously from the ends of our fingers (always on the tops, never on the bottoms), these were Jesus’ designs, His metaphorical “footprints,” on our human existence.
So what should I do, now that I know this?
I need to thank the Savior and Creator for His wonderful works. Each time I gaze into the eyes of a little baby, and see their dazzling beauty, I need to thank Him. Each time my body’s reflexes work to avoid an injury, I need to thank Him. I’ve gotten into that habit. I thank Him all the time. I thank Him for smart phones. I thank Him for our two cars. And on and on. What if we – and what if what we own – had been created by an inferior craftsman designed electrons and molecules impoerfectly?
And another thing I need to do is remember verse 4: “In Him was life.” Remember how, in John 11:25 and 26, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live . . . .” And remember how, in verse 43, He stood facing Lazarus’ tomb and called, “Lazarus, come forth”?
And remember how, in John 5:25 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live”?
See what I’m saying? The more earnestly I believe that Jesus is my life-giving Creator, the more calmly I can face my own mortality, and any crisis which might happen to me.
But that’s only the very beginning of the story of Jesus’ footprints in this world. For something at least as thrilling as what we’ve just read, turn over a few pages to John chapter 8.
But before we read a couple of the verses here, put some kind of bookmark here and turn back to Exodus chapter 3.
The scene is a bit of mountainous pastureland in the country of Midian. An 80-year-old man has been keeping an eye on a flock of sheep. Not too far away, a bush has suddenly burst into flame, but it’s not burning up. It just stands there blazing away.
But Moses isn’t paying attention to the bush anymore. His attention is riveted on the amazing and seemingly preposterous comments that are being spoken to him from the bush by God Himself.
God has just told Moses that this old shepherd needs to return to Egypt and persuade the entire Hebrew nation to pack up and leave. And while this frightening challenge is gradually sinking in to Moses’ consciousness, he is frantically asking clarification questions.
Exodus 3:13 – 14: Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Can you imagine what Moses must have been thinking as he heard what God was saying? The gods and goddesses of Egypt had striking and dramatic names, which probably expressed their qualities. But here, the greatest God of them all – the God who was really a God and not a human invention – this God preferred to be simply known as “I Am.”
Isn’t that interesting? It’s a beautifully understated way of rebuking gods like Baal, Moloch, Chemosh, Ashteroth, Zeus, Mercury, Athena, and all the others. God’s name says, “I am. I really exist. I’m not a stone statue—I am someone who really creates, who really loves.”
So with that humble but emphatic name “I Am” ringing in our ears, let’s go back to John chapter 8.
Jesus is in an intense discussion with some of the Jewish religious leaders. He has just told them that Abraham rejoiced to see the time when Jesus would arrive.
In these religious leaders try to pin Jesus to the wall with this comment.
John 8:57: Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
Here it comes—Jesus’ mind-blowing claim.
Verse 58: Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
And as those religious leaders stagger back from this audacious blasphemy, they quickly decide that talk must stop, and stonethrowing must begin.
Verse 59: Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
You see? They knew exactly who Jesus was claiming to be. In fact, here comes Sermon Point Two.
What else does the Bible say about where in the Bible Jesus made footprints?
First, Jesus is our life-giving Creator. Second, Jesus is the Old Testament’s “I Am” God.
To me, this was one of the most powerful Bible truths I had ever learned. I believed in God, of course, and I believed in Jesus, but now I was hearing Jesus claim to be the “I Am” God of the Old Testament.
You know what that means? That means that it was Jesus speaking to Moses from that burning bush. And from this, we can assume that it was Jesus who parted the Red Sea and guided the nation through to freedom. It was Jesus who spoke the 10 Commandments aloud from the top of Mount Sinai. If Jesus is the “I Am” God of the Old Testament, that means that every time you see the word “LORD” in little capital letters in the Old Testament, that is talking about Jesus.
Somebody might ask, “But what about God the Father? What is He doing?” It seems that the Father remains in heaven, no doubt supervising the universe and providing power for Jesus’ work on earth. The Holy Spirit tries to influence people back in God’s direction. But Jesus has evidently been the one to interact with humanity, both in the Old and New Testaments.
That can be kind of a breathtaking idea to swallow, at first. (It was for me.) Let me show you another couple of verses. The first one is in Deuteronomy 32. Moses has come to the end of his long and distinguished ministry, and he is about to die. But before he does so, he recites some poetry which has come to be known as the Song of Moses. Look at how it starts out:
Deuteronomy 32:1 – 4: “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
And if you get a chance sometime, read through that entire long poem. It brings up the “Rock” metaphor a couple of more times, and it basically tells the story of how the Lord, the Rock, devoted a lot of energy to leading His people, disciplining them when they needed it, comforting them when they needed it, and doing His best (in spite of their rebellions) to shepherd them through to happier places.
Now with the “Rock” in mind, let’s turn to some very interesting comments that Paul makes, in First Corinthians 10. The little Christian church in Corinth had a lot of problems, and to help them realize how serious their rebellion was, Paul was telling them about the history of ancient Israel, the people Moses was dealing with. Paul wants the Corinthians to realize just how close God had been to those ancient people, and how much He cared. But watch what happens.
1 Corinthians 10:1 – 4: Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Isn’t that powerful? And wasn’t that a perfect way to remind these believers in Corinth that the Christian faith they had accepted was not simply a new and interesting philosophical sect which had arisen? Far from it. The same Jesus Paul had taught them to worship was actually the very “I Am” God of the Old Testament, the “Rock” Moses spoke about.
So is it really true? Was Jesus the “Lord” of the Old Testament? Is Jesus divine? Doubting Thomas finally decided that He was, once that disciple had lost his doubts. In the last few verses of John 20, when Thomas finally met the resurrected Jesus face-to-face, he called him “my Lord and my God.”
So, what should I do now that I know that Jesus claim to be the “I Am” God of the Old Testament?
For one thing, I can now go back to the Old Testament and re-read the stories about what the Lord did. I would suggest that a good place to start would be to go back to Deuteronomy 32 and read it, realizing that it’s talking about Jesus.
Sometimes when we read the Old Testament, we shrink back in distaste from some of the things God is said to have done. But now, when we reread these stories, rather than just flinching away with some such idea that God the Father must’ve been more quick on the temper-trigger than his milder son Jesus was, rather than recoiling, we need to slow down and get a good grip on the context of those stories. And we’ll find that God the Father – working very definitely through His son Jesus – was never given really good options about how to deal with this or that rebellion.
So over the next few months, we’ll be looking at one Bible book per week, tracing the footprints of Jesus, and discovering more about how deep His love truly is. The first book we’ll be looking at is Genesis, but we won’t be covering it until July 27.
So you will have plenty of time to skim through the book – and I would suggest that’s what you should do. Read Genesis quickly, read the stories, and as you do this, as you watch God at work, remember that this is Jesus. Jesus claimed to be the “I Am.” So let’s try to discover what those two travelers to Emmaus heard from the lips of Jesus Himself, how Moses and all the prophets speak of Him.
And let’s resolve to trust our hearts, and our lives, and our future, to Jesus our Creator.