Christianity 201

April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday: There Has Never Been Such a Silence as This

This day.

This day that is not Good Friday, not Easter Sunday.

In many respects, the Roman Catholic Church somewhat owns today in the sense that some of our best available commentary and liturgy is from Catholic sources. Today’s words are recent writings from a variety of Catholic and Evangelical sources.

From writer Hayden Royster:

Today, in many liturgical churches, there’s no service or liturgy on Saturday; instead, they’ll wait until evening to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass. These vigils begin the lights extinguished, the holy water drained and the tabernacle empty. Some traditions will actually perform a funeral service using the​ E​pitaphios,​ ​an embroidered cloth that depicts a buried Christ​. In Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries, sorrow takes a more explosive form: people will purchase large, ugly effigies of Judas Iscariot (Jesus’ betrayer), string them up on lamposts, attach firecrackers to them and light ‘em up…

Holy Saturday is also, traditionally, a day of triumph. According to the Nicene Creed, Saturday is the day of the Harrowing of Hell, that spectacular event wherein Jesus descended into Hades, gathered all of the righteous people, and “opened Heaven’s gates for those that have gone before him,” in the words of the Catholic Catechism.

Now, not every Christian tradition holds to this piece of the Easter story; admittedly, the scriptural evidence for it is pretty sparse. But even those who don’t believe in the Harrowing still view Holy Saturday as a day of great expectation…

From John 19, NIV:

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

From the Video Channel of Fr. William Nicholas:

How do we understand and observe the Day before Easter, between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? Father Bill discusses a useful outlook and ways to remember and observe the “time in between” before launching into the 50 Days of Easter.

From the website All About Jesus Christ:

Jesus’ Tomb – The Stone

The stone at Jesus’ tomb serves as a reminder of other elements of Christ’s life. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus is asked to turn a stone into bread (Matthew 4:3). Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35) as well as the living Stone (1 Peter 2:4, NIV). In Mark 12:10, Jesus refers to Himself as the stone that the builders rejected, which becomes a capstone. If necessary, stones would cry out, proclaiming Jesus the King of Kings (Luke 19:40). Jesus appeared before Pilate, who sat upon the judgment seat, the Stone Pavement (John 19:13). It is not surprising, therefore, that a stone should serve as a phenomenal part of Jesus’ tomb. Upon Jesus’ death, the earth convulsed violently — rocks split, tombs opened, and bodies were raised from the dead (Matthew 27:50-54). This was certainly a prelude of things to come.

To assure that Jesus’ tomb . . . and its contents . . . remained undisturbed, Pilate ordered a large stone positioned against the entrance. A sloped channel assisted the guards in rolling the boulder. A deep groove cut in bedrock at the tomb’s entrance firmly settled the stone. At the urging of the chief priests, Pilate further secured the Jesus’ tomb by placing a Roman seal on the stone, stationing four Roman soldiers at the entrance. To guarantee maximum security, every three hours fresh, alert (i.e. not sleeping as indicated in Matthew 28:13) guards would be exchanged.

From Romans 6, NIV:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

From another Roman Catholic website, Aleteia:

…For many centuries there was even a strict fast on Holy Saturday, permitting no food to be eaten in observance of this painful day. Many would stay in the church throughout the night of Good Friday, keeping Jesus company in the tomb.

A homily from the 2nd century confirms this general atmosphere in the church, “What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.”

One of the reasons for this “great silence” is to enter into the pain of Jesus’ death and the loss the apostles must have felt. Think about it for a minute.

While Jesus taught them continually about his resurrection, the apostles likely had some doubts, seeing the death of their master. They might have thought to themselves, “If he is the Messiah, why did he die? I thought he said he would rise from the dead?” In this way Holy Saturday is that day of doubt and sorrow, not knowing what to do or what to believe.

Even the Easter Vigil begins in silence, in the complete darkness of the church.

However, the good news is that Jesus, the light of the world, has truly risen and dispels the darkness and any doubts we may have had. The church erupts in pure joy at the Easter Vigil and music, bells and light lift up our hearts to God.

Only after experiencing the silence of Holy Saturday can we truly appreciate the loud and joyful celebrations of the Easter Vigil…

This day.

This day that is not Good Friday, not Easter Sunday.

But something is about the take place.

Something is about to happen which will change the course of history.

April 19, 2019

Final Words to Friends

An excerpt from Peter Marshall –The First Easter (McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 16-19

The eleven men who were left were very quiet. The voice of Christ was very soft and low — tender with farewell.

It was now only a matter of hours until Christ and his disciples would be separated. He wished to fill those last hours of fellowship with the tenderest and most significant of His teachings.

The most sacred… the most tender… the most heart-felt emotions… are those expressed at the end of the letter…

The tenderest caress comes just before the parting. The softest word just before the conversation is ended… before the train pulls out… before we turn away.

We seem to catch the quiet intimacy of that fellowship. Unforgettable words of parting and comfort were spoken by Jesus to His friends. Jesus has written them out for us:

  • “Little children … a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you … By this will all know that you are my disciples…”
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; … In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you…”
  • “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you…”
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches… Abide in me, and I in you…”
  • “these things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world…”

Overcome the world? When the one who spoke was so soon to fall under the power of Caesar? Yes, for in reality we must remember that Jesus could have escaped the cross. No one compelled him to go to Jerusalem on that last journey. Indeed His friends and apostles urged Him not to go.

Watch Him, in the bitter hours that lie immediately ahead, time after time taking the initiative in deciding His own fate.

Christ had begun His ministry by telling His apostles that the Son of many must suffer many things. Must — there was no other way. It was for that purpose that He had come into the world.

“For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up .. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There was Light in the little room that night. But beyond the light lay a death-ridden world…

  • in the midst of the military might that was Rome where life was cheap
  • in the philosopher’s porticoes of Athens where the mind found no hope
  • in the dangerous living of the great shipping centers of Asia Minor to the disease infested alleys of old Jerusalem —

Men feared death, dodged its hideous grasp, could nowhere find respite from their fear.

But here was something new… Here was one facing death — not afraid but confident … already triumphant … already speaking about seeing His friends again … about never leaving them…

Strange words … about being with them to the uttermost parts of the earth and to the end of time.

How? Why? Because He alone knew the Father’s eternal purpose for what it was — the determination once and for all to destroy the power of death — once and for all to deliver men from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.

Within a matter of hours, Christ Himself was to become the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

September 18, 2018

Jesus Guards His Disciples

This is our 9th time highlighting the ministry of Gordon Rumford and his devotional website.  Click the title to read at source.

Can I Help You?

“Jesus…went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’”
John 18:4 (NIV)

Jesus and the eleven disciples had left the Upper Room and gone to the sacred place of prayer where He and they had often gone to pray when in Jerusalem. Judas, the twelfth apostle was off doing his infamous deed of betrayal.

When they entered the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus had dropped off eight of the apostles and took Peter, James, and John farther into the recesses of the place and spoke to them.

He told them (Mark 14:34 NIV)

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”

The frightened disciples had never heard such words form the Master and it confused them as to what was about to happen.

Jesus then went further into the Garden alone and prayer three times. After the third time of prayer Jesus sensed danger. Perhaps He had heard the crunching of the soldiers’ nail spiked sandals, or else in the darkness saw the light from the torches and lanterns. But there was danger coming and Jesus rose to meet it.

The fascinating thing is that the soldiers and the arresting mob had planned for Jesus and the apostles to offer one of two alternatives. They came with torches in the event Jesus would flee. They also came with weapons in the event of physical resistance being offered. Jesus, however, presented them with a third alternative that caught them off guard. He came forward and asked them if He could help them in their mission.

Jesus put Himself between the disciples and the threat to them. His body became a shield if you will to ward off an attack. This is a beautiful symbol of what Jesus has done for His people of all ages. He came between them and the threat of eternal death. His offering of Himself on the cross has prevented His people from suffering for their sins.

When it was determined that they wanted Him Jesus did a remarkable thing. He agreed to go with them but ordered them to let the disciples go. This is tantamount to telling a police officer on the side of the road what he can and cannot do with you. If the officer says you and your passengers are going to the police station you do not tell him that is not happening. You may protest, but you go.

Here Jesus shows He is in control and His will shall be done and they can like it or lump it. The amazing thing is that Jesus gets away with it. They do exactly as He commands them to do.

So we see that when threats come to God’s people, Jesus controls how and if the disaster will strike and how much damage it will do. Jesus puts Himself between His child and the problem and shields His loved one from the opposing forces.

Do you know such protection by Jesus? Is He standing guard for you? This work He does is free to all who humbly come and ask Him for it.

Will you come and seek His grace today? He waits to hear from all who come and will never turn you away. Come, and come today.

View in your web browser | View a PDF version

September 6, 2018

When the King is Rejected

by Clarke Dixon

Editor’s Note: Clarke is away this week. This post was taken from the large number available at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, which includes many which have never been published here at C201.

In the beginning we see the King. God created it all and clearly was ruler of all. But a few pages into the Bible and already the serpent is looking to take God’s place not to mention Adam and Eve looking for more than just tasty fruit. And the King is rejected.

At the exodus we see the King. God rescues His people and though Moses and Aaron are the spokesmen, God clearly is the King. His authority as King is proven with the awful plagues and the awesome parting of the Sea. But the people begin to whine that Moses is taking too long and before you know it, a golden calf is presented for worship. And the King is rejected.

In the early days of Israel, we see the King. Though things are not always rosy as the young nation of Israel becomes established among bigger, nastier, and more powerful peoples, God protects His people through raising up judges to deliver them. But the people of God see how the other nations have a king and so they want one too and go to God’s servant Samuel “and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’.” (1 Samuel 8:6-7 NRSV) And so the King is rejected.

In the presence of the prophets we see the King. The prophets warned the rulers and people when repentance needed to burn, and encouraged when hope needed kindled. Though the people got their wish for human kings, God remained in their lives as the true King showing real concern through the prophets. But the words of the prophets often fell on deaf ears: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NRSV) The prophets were often killed and the King is rejected.

And standing before Pilate, bloodied and bruised with a crown of thorns and a makeshift robe we see the King. What shall be done with Jesus? “Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). What shall I do with your king asks Pilate? The chief priest respond with the most tragic words in all of history: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15)

This is already a dark moment in history with Jesus mocked by Rome and rejected by his own people. But here we see the depth of the darkness that has descended on humanity as the chief priests affirm that the Roman emperor is their real king. “We have no king but Caesar!” These are the chief priests, the very ones who should have been leading the people of God to know that God Himself was the true King of the world and of history. These are the very priests who should have been teaching that this King had promised and covenanted to bless His people, and through His people, to bless the world. And this was the festival of Passover, the very time they were to look back and see God, like a true and benevolent ruler, delivering His people from the enemy at the Exodus. But no, according to the chief priests, Caesar is king, and Caesar’s power will deliver us from the pest called Jesus. And so the King is rejected.

We have dark moments also. We have no king but Caesar when:

► Fear controls us.
► Emotions overpower us.
► Our logical minds overpower us.
► Drama, whether our own or not, consumes us.
► Situations determine our fate for us.
► Addictions ruin us.
► Religion enslaves us.
► World-views fail us.
► The people we want to please, own us.
► We try to be king or queen.

And in all this the King is rejected. We demonstrate that have no king but Caesar.

We see the King in the beginning and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people at the Exodus and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people through the judges and He is rejected. We see the King in the presence of the prophets and He is rejected. And we see the King standing before Pilate and the people in a crown of thorns and mock robe. And “He was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NRSV) What happens next?

Easter happens next and the rejected King becomes the welcoming Saviour on the cross. Easter happens and the rejected King takes His place as the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we have seen, so often the King was rejected. Now you get to write a part of the story. By you the King is _________.


originally published in 2014 as “We Have No King But Caesar! – Ouch! (John 19)

 

April 2, 2018

Judas!

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles
– Luke 6: 12-13 NIV

The name Judas is certainly evocative to Christians. Nobody names their kid that. Surely it would make a better swear word than that of Jesus, wouldn’t it?

But as Philip Yancey points out in The Jesus I Never Knew, in terms of the twelve disciples, Judas was incredibly ordinary.

Chosen by Jesus – Scripture tells us (see above) that Jesus chose his disciples after a long night of prayer. This wasn’t a random act. It was divine providence. At The Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson writes:

The book of Zechariah divides itself into two major portions. Chapters 1-8 deal principally with events contemporary with the prophet, while chapters 9-14 sweep across the centuries, and have a decidedly “messianic” thrust. With this brief word of explanation, we now focus on a most remarkable prophecy in chapter 11 of the prophet’s composition.

The chapter begins with an ominous prophecy of a coming destruction that would vanquish the nation of Israel. This devastation would be a judgment from God because of the Jewish people’s rejection of Jehovah’s royal King. The description previews the Roman invasion that would culminate in A.D. 70 (cf. Matthew 22:1-7).

Out of this background comes the following prophecy.

“And I said unto them, If you think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah” (Zechariah 11:12-13).

This is a stunning text; indeed, it is a powerful example of the minute details that characterize the prophetic literature of the Bible. Zechariah, speaking on behalf of the promised Messiah, makes the following points.

(To discover the detail of seven things predicted here, click this link.)

Trusted by all – At Desiring God, Jon Bloom writes:

Jesus could have given the moneybag to Nathaniel, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there [was] no deceit” (John 1:47), or to John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), or to Levi, who had extensive financial experience (Luke 5:27). But he didn’t. Jesus chose Judas to be the treasurer of his itinerant nonprofit.

One is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship. Donors were supporting this ministry financially (Luke 8:3), and Jesus appointed the one guy he knew was a “devil” (John 6:70) to manage the money. But this was not poor judgment on Jesus’s part. It was deliberate; Jesus knew Judas was pilfering. Why did Jesus allow it?

(For his answer to that question, click here.)

Honored by Jesus – In a world where “sitting on someone’s right” or “sitting on someone’s left” was a place of prominence, Judas was sitting near Jesus. Ann Naffziger fills in some details including a prophetic word from the Psalms:

Throughout human history, the act of sharing food together has suggested a level of bondedness between the people sharing the meal. Some of the significance has been lost in this day and age of American drive-throughs and eating on the run, but certainly in the Jewish culture of the Middle East at the time of Jesus, a shared meal connoted a level of intimacy between eaters. (For this reason Jesus was consistently criticized for sharing food and drink with tax collectors and sinners.) The Passover ritual that Jesus celebrated as his Last Supper included the practice of sharing food from common bowls, not unlike in various cultures and ethnic restaurants still today. In this sense, Judas can be accused of betraying not just the bond of people who eat together but a bond which should have been stronger between those who celebrated a religious feast together. The text in Matthew which identifies Judas as the one who dipped his hand into the bowl with Jesus (Mt 26:23) might also be an allusion to Psalm 41:9: “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

John’s gospel is slightly different in that it indicates that Jesus dipped his bread in the bowl and then gave it to Judas. There is a tradition that the host gave the dipped bread to an honored guest as a sign of affection. So perhaps John highlights this detail to even further heighten the act of Judas’ betrayal.

So then why did he do it?

Why did he betray Jesus? In Chapter 10 of the book, Yancey offers five possibilities:

  1. He would do anything for money.
  2. He was looking out for himself, knowing Jesus enemies were closing in.
  3. He was disillusioned; Jesus should be taking on Rome not clearing the temple.
  4. He had “no patience for a slow, nonviolent revolution.”
  5. He was doing all this “to force Jesus’ hand. If Judas arranged an arrest, surely that would prompt Jesus to declare himself and install his kingdom.”

Yancey points out that the difference between Peter and Judas. Their responses are the same in kind but not the same in degree.

Have you or I ever betrayed a church leader? As someone who spends time each week documenting some of the transgressions of Christian pastors and authors as part of my tracking of news events in the Christian community (on my other blog) I am acutely aware of the responsibility of not stooping to gossip or reporting on events in an irresponsible way that could bring damage to the cause of Christ. If I do, I am betraying Jesus.

Furthermore, as we consider the Passion Week narrative, we need to keep in mind that Christ offered up his life. While his flesh had misgivings at one point, Jesus was in charge and in control of all that was unfolding.

 

 

March 30, 2018

The Time When Even Jesus Said, “Darkness Reigns”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This is today’s reading from the devotional that I read, Daily Encouragement.

When Darkness Reigned

This is your hour–when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).

Today we, who hold to the Christian faith, look back nearly 2,000 years ago to the ultimate Sacrifice. On this Good Friday we solemnly remember that our Savior breathed His last at the hands of wicked men. We also realize this day is good because God showed us the full extent of His love by making restitution for our redemption.

When He was arrested Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, “This is your hour–when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).  This hour of darkness, which we believe included the period of time between His arrest and resurrection, appeared to be a hopeless situation, an excruciating time in the cosmos. Again consider, this was the period when our Lord Himself declared, “darkness reigns”!

Pastor Grant Gunnink observes, “It must have been agonizing for Jesus – the Word of God made flesh – to acknowledge that in what was about to happen – the powers of darkness, which He could have no doubt thrown back with a single word – had been given free reign.”

Although we believe Jesus was primarily speaking of spiritual darkness a physical darkness was demonstrated at His death during His final three hours on the cross when “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining” (Luke 23:44,45).

However, of vital importance is that although darkness reigned, God ultimately reigns. (It’s so important to also realize this during the seasons in our own life when darkness seems to reign.)

In a much earlier time period evil was also present in the dark deeds inflicted upon Joseph by his eleven brothers when they plotted his death. Consider the merciful perspective expressed in Joseph’s response to his wicked brothers after many years, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

This took on much greater fulfillment, in the person and work of Christ, as Christ poured out His goodness on those who sought to do Him evil. Yes, surely God intended the cross for good. He even used evil hearts to bring about His set purpose. He was not overcome by evil, but He overcame evil with good. God’s plan of salvation was divine in nature, but He also helps us every day to overcome evil with good. We walk in newness of life and in the power of His resurrection.

We were blessed yesterday when we saw the message on the sign … “Only A Living Savior Can Rescue A Dying World”.

This Good Friday let be very intentional in praising God from whom all blessings flow as we remember the greatest Sacrifice of all time. Let us give deep, heartfelt thanks to God for His incomparable love and the demonstration of His love as seen in the One impaled on a bloody cross.

Amazing love, O what sacrifice,
The Son of God, given for me;
My debt He pays and my death He dies,
That I might live, that I might live.

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.

March 29, 2018

Can a Dead Messiah Be the Real Messiah?

by Clarke Dixon

We may be surprised to discover that not everyone was wondering if Jesus could be the Messiah as he went around teaching and working miracles. When Jesus asks the disciples who people think he is, notice what does not make the list:

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:27-30 (NLT emphasis added)

Why did “Messiah” not make the list of who people thought Jesus might be? Jesus was not fitting their expectations for a Messiah. Jesus was going around teaching and doing amazing love focused things. But he was not building an army. A Messiah was expected to prepare for and lead a revolution, a rebellion against Rome, not a revolution of the heart.

Expectations also come into play during the week before Jesus’ execution. The week begins with Jesus clearly and loudly declaring that he is the Messiah by the way he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. And Jesus could not be more clear before the high priest:

61 Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62 (NLT)

The high priest, of course, does not agree that Jesus could be the Messiah, and neither do the crowds shouting “crucify him” at the instigation of the religious leaders (Mark 15:9-14). The people are expecting a revolution and some kind of shock and awe from the Messiah. Wasn’t that what the Old Testament promises were pointing to? Shouldn’t the Messiah be like Moses and the splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the enemy armies? Never mind destroying the enemy, standing before them was a seemingly weak and pitiful man in the custody of the enemy. Then he was executed. The suffering and death of Jesus seemed to be a contradiction of the what the Messiah was expected to be about.

Who was right? Jesus, or the religious leaders and crowd?

When looking at expectations, we should recognize that Jesus himself, on several occasions, tells clearly and also insinuates that he is to suffer and die. (See 8:31, 9:30-32; 10:32-34; 12:1-12; 14:8; 14:17-25; 14:27-31). At his arrest, Jesus makes an important observation about this suffering and death:

48 Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.” Mark 14:48-49 (NLT emphasis added)

As we read about the death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, we begin to see how much a suffering Messiah is intricately connected with the Old Testament. There are quite a number of references and allusions which help us make the connection between the death of Jesus and the promises of the Old Testament Scriptures:

  1. In Mark 15:24 there is an allusion to Psalm 22:18: “they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
  2. In verse 26 the inscription “King of the Jews”points us to the prophecies of a coming king.
  3. Bible scholars teach that verse 33 and the darkness coming over the land points us to “the Day of the Lord” spoken of in Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9; and Zephaniah 1:15.
  4. In verse 34 Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1.
  5. In verse 38, immediately following the last breath of Jesus which is the most significant moment in Mark up to this point, the curtain of the temple tears from top to bottom. This is symbolic of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a New Covenant and a new way of relating to God.
  6. In verse 42, the mention of the Day of Preparation reminds us that all this is happening on a significant Jewish holiday, the Passover. We can think of the words “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). A just and holy God must bring judgement against sin. However, Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. The whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament therefore points to the Messiah.

All this goes to show that the suffering and death of Jesus is not a contradiction of the Old Testament promises, but part of the fulfillment of them.

Following Easter the disciples were very certain that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that the Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to him as Lord and Saviour. How were they so sure? And how can we be sure? One simple reason: Jesus rose from the dead. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, they would most likely have admitted that the religious leaders and the crowds were correct. Instead, they were willing to die for what they knew to be true. While we do not have time to unpack it all here, from a historical perspective there are good reasons for us today to believe Jesus rose from the dead. We do not just hope it is true despite the evidence. We can have hope, knowing that it is true based on the evidence.

Further, Jesus reinforced to the disciples following his resurrection how he is the fulfillment of the OT promises:

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 (NLT emphasis added)

No doubt Isaiah 53 would have been a part of that, and I encourage you to read it.

Who was right? Jesus, who said he was the Messiah? Or the high priest, religious leaders, and crowd shouting for his execution? Could a suffering and dead Messiah be the real Messiah? Here is our answer: only a suffering, dead, and risen Messiah could be the real Messiah.


All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (24 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

March 22, 2018

Would Jesus Have Been Betrayed, Condemned, Denied, Mocked, and Beaten Today?

by Clarke Dixon

Betrayed, accused, condemned, denied, mocked, insulted, and beaten. Would this treatment of Jesus prior to his execution have happened today? Let us consider this question as we follow the path to crucifixion as told in the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus was betrayed by a close companion and disciple; Judas (14:43-46). Mark does not tell us why Judas betrayed Jesus, but in John 12:2-8 we learn that while Judas seemed concerned over waste, as treasurers often are, he was really more concerned with padding his own pockets. Jesus did not fit his agenda. So Judas kept to his agenda and sold Jesus to the authorities for a sum of money. Would this have happened to Jesus today? Jesus is betrayed by people, even Christians, who prefer to set and keep their own agenda. Jesus is betrayed today.

Jesus was accused by authorities bent on finding evidence against him (14:55-59). However, there was none that would hold up. Eventually they use Jesus’ own words against him since there was no other evidence to be found. Apart from his own admission of being the Messiah, the authorities could find nothing. Would a conspiracy against Jesus have been made today? Authorities still try to find evidence against Jesus. There have been many books written (and therefore much money made) featuring this or that theory as to who Jesus “really may have been”. However,  evidence against the reality of Jesus as Lord and Saviour is still hard to find. In fact the diversity of such theories is evidence in itself that none of these theories fits the evidence well. Often the simplest explanation is the best. The explanation that Jesus is the Messiah who died and rose from the dead fits all the evidence the best. Jesus is often dismissed, not because of the evidence, but because people simply do not want it to be true. There are conspiracies against Jesus today.

Jesus was condemned by the highest religious authority (14:63–65). Here we have a religious leader, the High Priest, who should have been pointing people to Jesus as God’s Messiah, pointing at Jesus and calling him a fraud instead. Would this have happened to Jesus today? Unfortunately, some who call themselves Christian leaders today view the Bible as being unreliable regarding the identity and reality of Jesus. I once took a multi-denominational pastoral care course where only two out of the six of us believed that Jesus literally rose from the dead. Christian leaders who should be pointing people to Jesus instead are pointing at him. Jesus is condemned as a fraud by religious authorities today.

Jesus is denied by a close friend, Peter (14:66-72). Peter means well, he does not want to deny Jesus and even affirms his commitment to him. However, he also does not want the danger present in being associated with Jesus. His commitment to Jesus is strong, but his fear is stronger and wins out. Would this have happened to Jesus today? We, who call ourselves Christian, may do the same thing. We mean well, but we don’t want what comes with being associated with Jesus. We honour Christ in his presence, in worship and in our personal times of prayer. But apart from him we go with the crowd. We fear what the crowd may think. We may even remain silent while people around us malign Jesus. Jesus is denied by close friends today.

Jesus is discarded by the people, through Pilate (15:1-15). We normally think of Pilate being the one who “pulls the trigger” in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus, but actually he allows the people to make the decision. They could have chosen to set Jesus free and crucify Barabbas instead. But they want Jesus dead. Would this have happened to Jesus today? We enjoy a secular democracy where the people ultimately decide on the values. I fully support our nation’s identity as a secular democracy. Religious perspective should never be forced and therefore being a Canadian should never mean instant association with being a Christian. That being said, our nation is founded on Judea-Christian values. However, the people have spoken and our society is slowly turning away from those values. Every society is marked by values, there is no such thing as a free nation, a nation free of values. But without God, where do the values come from? Jesus is being discarded by the people today.

Jesus is mocked by the soldiers (15:16-20). When the Roman soldiers mock Jesus, it is not really about him. Yes, he is the one they dress up as a king complete with purple robe and a crown of thorns. But really they are mocking the Jews whose land they occupy. “Your king is a weak wimp! We are great and powerful!” Their mocking is not a result of reasoned thinking about who Jesus is. Their mocking is a boast flaunting their power. Would this have happened to Jesus today? In our individualistic culture people have a sense of individual power. This is not a bad thing. However, Jesus is mocked by people today who have not given proper thought to who Jesus is. Some will utter his name all day long in cursing who have never applied their minds in an investigation of who he really is. They may just be unknowingly flaunting their own sense of power like the Roman soldiers. Jesus is mocked today.

Would Jesus have faced the same dire treatment today before his crucifixion? 2000 years have passed and not much has changed. Jesus is beaten up on a regular basis throughout our world, and right here in the nice town of Cobourg by very polite Canadians. Even the nicest Christians will do a Peter, keeping quiet to feel safe, or a Judas, keeping to their own agenda.

What can we do about that?

It begins with prayer, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Or sometimes, “Father, forgive us, for we don’t know what we do.”

It continues with a loving defence:

So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. 1 Peter 3:14-16 (NLT)

When Jesus is maligned and Christianity is dismissed, rather than get defensive, or even worse, offensive, we can be ready to give a defence and enter into a loving and intelligent conversation. It can begin with something like, “Jesus, whom you dismiss is not easily dismissed. Their are good reasons many brilliant people are Christians”. Of course this means knowing those reasons!

It ends with helping people know the Lord:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)

When we witness Jesus being beat up today, when we see society drifting away from Christian foundations, when we find ourselves being more like Peter or even Judas than like Christ, we ought not to run and bury our heads in the sand. Let us instead stick close to Jesus, helping people know the love and grace of God. Jesus has promised to be with us no matter how much He gets beaten up along the way.


All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (31 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

March 15, 2018

Preparing Like Jesus? Or Like the Religious Leaders?

by Clarke Dixon

What are you preparing for? You don’t need to tell us, we can tell by your actions. If you are buying a crib and setting up a nursery you are probably expecting the arrival of a baby. Likewise if I grab my motorcycle helmet and jacket I am likely expecting to go motorcycling. Our preparations show our expectations, what we believe to be next.

There is a lot of activity in Mark 14:1-42 which we can describe as preparations. In verses 1,2 the chief priests and scribes are preparing to eliminate Jesus.

The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; Mark 14:1

In verses 3-9 Jesus speaks of his body being prepared for burial.

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Mark 14:8

In verses 10-11 the preparations by the religious leaders to eliminate Jesus continue with the cooperation of Judas.

When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:11

In verses 12-25 preparations are made for the Passover which become preparations for Jesus becoming the Passover lamb. During this celebration Jesus prepares the disciples to expect his death (verses 22-25), and the New Covenant (verse 24). Later he prepares them to expect his resurrection (verse 28) and that they will be at their worst (verses 26-31).

And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mark 14:27

Finally, Jesus prepares himself for what is ahead through prayer (verses 32-42).

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36

There is an obvious contrast in the preparations between the religious leaders and Jesus. That contrast in preparations reflects a contrast in expectations. Since the religious leaders see Jesus as nothing but a troublemaker, they expect nothing but trouble. We learn more about this in the Gospel of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” John 11:47-50

Since the religious leaders expect Jesus to bring trouble they prepare to eliminate him. In contrast to this are the expectations of Jesus;

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for manyMark 14:24 (emphasis added)

Jesus expects God’s purposes of reconciling people to Himself will be fulfilled through him. Therefore, while the religious leaders prepare to take a life, Jesus prepares to give his life.

What are our expectations for the future? Specifically, we might ask what are our expectations when we die? How do we prepare?

Most religions are based on a sense of cosmic or divine judgement. If you expect to be reincarnated, you will prepare by working off bad karma. If you expect to stand before a God in divine judgement, you will prepare through striving to be good enough to be declared innocent. Most religions are based on the notion that you get what you deserve.

Or we can consider those who would deny, or be apathetic toward, any kind of divinity or afterlife. If you expect nothing at all when you die, you may prepare by striving after some sort of immortality through significance, fame, or children. Or you may prepare by trying to reconcile yourself to a universe that lacks meaning and purpose. On a purely  materialistic model not only will your life end, but so will all life eventually.

All these world-views are based either on getting exactly what you deserve, or there being nothing to deserve.

While many think that the Christian worldview is based on divine judgement, fact is, the Christian worldview is based on divine grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

This does not mean there are no preparations.

  • When we expect to enjoy the presence of God for eternity, we prepare by spending time in His presence now, through worship and prayer.
  • When we expect to experience God’s perfect justice in His Kingdom coming, we prepare by seeking justice now.
  • When we expect to enjoy forgiveness and reconciliation, we prepare by being a people of forgiveness and reconciliation now.
  • When we expect to experience God’s love, we prepare by leaning into love now.
  • When we expect God to surprise us with things that are currently mysteries to us, we prepare by trusting God with all that we cannot comprehend now.
  • When we expect to see the wonders of God’s re-Creation, we prepare by standing in awe of the Creator and enjoyment of creation now.

If we were found within this passage of Mark, where would we be? Would we stand with the religious leaders and Judas, making preparations to eliminate Jesus? Or would we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus actively preparing for God’s will to be done, His purposes to be accomplished, His promises to be kept?



All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (33 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

April 16, 2017

Why Good Friday is Good?

by Russell Young

This being Easter weekend, I was compelled, like most, to consider the events that took place more than two millennia ago. The immense importance of the passion of Christ can never be taken for granted, but perhaps the exact events, those hidden from view, can escape our appreciation. I have discovered that reflecting on the sacrificial offering of Christ has given clarity to other biblical teachings.

Accepting that Christ died for my sins is humbling and awe-inspiring. Appreciating the unseen dynamics is enlightening. For instance, how did his death “destroy the work of Satan”? The Lord’s death was not a simple trade of his life for mine.

Christ came “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) Trading lives would not have accomplished the destruction of Satan’s power. His power rested in his ability to make people sin, bringing about their death and ultimately defeating God’s plan to have a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. The defeat of Satan’s work could only be accomplished by eradicating sin and the death that accompanied it. It is transgression of the law that comprises sin-the law of Moses. Paul wrote, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56 NIV) And, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15 NIV) The law had to be satisfied and terminated. That is what Christ accomplished.

It is true that I deserved death for sin just as do all of humankind. I had been caught in Satan’s deceits and those practices that were offensive to my creator and sovereign. Had justice been served neither I nor anyone else would have survived. Satan would have won. There would not have been a single person suitable for God’s presence. Had Christ died for my sins and for those of all of humanity, the devil’s work would still not have been completed since sin would have reared its ugly head again during the remaining part of my life.

Some teach that all sin was forgiven at the cross but this is not so. According to Hebrews 9:15, “[Christ] died as a ransom to set [believers] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” If at confession of faith, only my past sins had been forgiven, I would have still been at the mercy of the devil since my evil nature would have compelled me to continue in sin.

Christ not only provided my pardon, he defeated sin by destroying the law that defined it. Christ brought to an end the Old Covenant, the covenant of the law of Moses, the covenant that kills. (2 Cor 3:6) There can be no more sin under its jurisdiction. (see again Rom 4:15) This is Christ’s great victory over the devil. He robbed Satan of his power. Again, the writer of Hebrews stated, “For this reason (to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death) Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The writer also stated, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first obsolete.” (Heb 8:13 NIV) Believer’s are no longer under the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant and the evil one can no longer use its laws to cause sin and to bring about death.

That is not the end of the matter, however. John wrote of The Lord’s victory and of his proclamation: “I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18 NIV) The one who holds the keys has the power to control their use. That is, Christ has the power to determine who will die, who will be sentenced to Hades, and who will find eternal life. These are his determination!

The sacrificial death of Christ, in itself, does not fully meet the need of believers. The Lord holds the keys, and the matter of righteousness has not been concluded as some suppose. God still has requirements for those who are to dwell with him throughout eternity and the issue remains a “law” issue, not the law of Moses but the law of the Spirit. (Rom 8:2) “For the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”(NIV) The issue remains one of obedience, and God’s righteous requirements still exist; Christ is the means of accomplishing them, however. Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and he must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) Fortunately for me and for all who claim the name of Christ, the law of the Spirit is embodied in the Spirit and he gives the power to accomplish his law and to achieve victory over Satan for the believer. (2 Pet 1:3) I have been freed from the death I deserved and from the weakness of my sinful nature. I walk cleansed and in the power and authority of the Spirit of Christ. Greater is he that is in [me] than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4 NIV) I have a better hope of victory because I have Christ and his presence in me. (Col 1:27)

In the end those who have claimed belief will face Christ at judgment to determine their reward or judgment in compliance to his rule. Freedom from judgment comes from allowing the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer so that he or she does not commit practices that are offensive to God. Believers are compelled to walk in the light-in obedience to the Spirit-or as Christ walked. (1 Jn 2:6)

The great work of the cross was the destruction of Satan’s power by instituting a new and better covenant empowered by Christ, and the cleansing of believers from the sin that they carried while under the Old Covenant.

October 29, 2016

Words That Knock You Down

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

As we mentioned yesterday, devotions and studies here often begin with the words, “Today we return to the blog of ______ …” as we catch up with writers we’ve used in the same month, but previous years. Yesterday and today we’re taking the liberty of running two posts from B.J. Richardson at The River Walk. Click the titles to see these at source, you can also click the “merch” link to find out about owning copies of his studies in John’s gospel. Each devotional also has a related music video which you can see there.

Two Words

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)
As Jesus said I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground!
John 18:4-6

Read: Acts 14:21-28, Galatians 1:1 – 3:23

Relate: Ego Eimi. I exist. It is I. I am. However you want to translate it, the words out of Jesus mouth threw the others to the ground. Judas, the betrayer, was there. A delegation from the priests and the Pharisees was there in all their stuffily religious zeal. A detachment of soldiers was there armed to the teeth. It doesn’t matter. With two words, “I AM” they all fall down.

These men came to arrest Jesus. They wanted to control Him, to stop Him, to silence Him. They wanted to put Him in chains and take Him where He didn’t want to go. They thought they were in control of the situation. The religious delegates felt that they were the ones running the show. The soldiers felt they could handle anything that came their way. Judas thought… well, who knew what Judas was thinking. He clearly wasn’t. No matter. With two simple words, in Greek, “Ego Eimi” in English, “I AM” Jesus set them straight. The road He walked to the cross was completely and totally His choice. It was not forced on Him. He never lost control. What He did, Jesus did willingly.

React: Am I like the soldier? Do I think I can force the issue? If I have the right tools, the right weapons, I am the one in control? If only I am strong enough, if I undergo enough training or preparation, then I can be the one running the show. This is a popular lie from the world. If one has enough education, or self discipline, if one knows the right people then they can be the one running the show.

Am I the religious delegate? Do I think that by virtue of my self earned righteousness that I can be the one running the show? We would never couch it in those terms, but how often do those in the religious world buy into this lie? If only I pray more, or fast more, then God must listen to me. If I stop what I am doing and bow my head to the east with every call from the minaret then surely God will listen to me? If I read my Bible more often, how could I not earn His favor? How dare He deny my request?

Am I Judas? Everyone thinks I am a follower of Christ. I believe I’ve got everyone fooled. Even God. Even perhaps myself. Yet even as my words and my appearance is that of being a friend of God, with my actions I betray Him. I think I’ve got everything under control. I can stop doing it anytime I want. As long as I say I’m sorry, He has to forgive my most recent betrayal. I think that an apology has it covered and that repentance is far too radical a step. “I’m in control” I think as I betray Him with a kiss.

Then He speaks two words…
All illusions are shattered.

Respond: God, shatter my illusions. Knock me off my feet. That misconception of control, that idea of freedom, that I can do my own thing. Erase it from my mind. Forgive me for the audacity in thinking that if somehow I might be a little more righteous I might somehow control You. Forgive me for the temerity in thinking that I can be OK even as I betray You with my sin. Forgive me for thinking that I can run things with just a little more self discipline or force of will. You are in control. You are God. You are, “Ego eime.” Jesus, You are I AM.

 

 

March 23, 2016

Jesus, Some Greeks, and Your Agenda

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , ,

•••by Clarke Dixon

As Jesus enters Jerusalem he is faced by many people who want much from him. There are the crowds shouting 

Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel (John 12:13 )

They were waving palm branches, often a symbol of victory in ancient times, but in the hands of Jews living in a land occupied by the Romans, a symbol of a coming victory, and therefore symbol of rebellion. That is what they want and expect from this miracle working Jesus, the leading of a rebellion to kick the Romans out.

The Pharisees also want something from Jesus:

The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.’” (John 12:19)

They already do not like Jesus for his blasphemous teachings and religiously incorrect acts. Now they are worried that things will become too exciting and the Romans will come and shut the city down. They want Jesus to disappear, or at least be quiet. If only he would just teach some nice things and do some nice miracles, at the proper times of course, so not on the Sabbath, then everything will be okay. How some things never change as many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, would prefer a quiet unoffending Jesus.

Then there are the Greeks who come to see Jesus:

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus. 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

What do they want from Jesus apart from the opportunity to meet him? We don’t know, we are not told. And we do not hear about the Greeks ever again. They almost seem to stick out in John 12 like sore thumbs, as if they have nothing to do with Jesus entering into Jerusalem on His way to the cross. Indeed it once bothered me that Jesus “answered” Andrew and Phillip but then seemed to go on teaching without really responding to the Greeks at all. That was my misunderstanding. As we read on we do find out what Jesus wants Phillip and Andrew to tell the inquisitive Greeks. In fact, while the crowds and the Pharisees are looking to get something from Jesus, in responding to the Greeks Jesus makes known what God wants for them, and from them.  Let us see what he has to say;

“Jesus answered them [Phillip and Andrew], ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’” (John 12:23 )

In referring to himself as the “Son of Man” Jesus is taking us back to Daniel 7 where Daniel has a vision of four beasts, each representing an empire marked by inhumane leadership. But then,

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV italics mine)

In this vision the oppressive kingdoms of the world are replaced by the good and Godly Kingdom of the Son of Man. The Good News coming through Israel and through this one Jew, Jesus, is Good News for all the world. Tell the Greeks that. This is a blessing the Lord has in store for them.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

Jesus is about to declare that he will be killed. His death will bear much fruit, it will bring many blessings worldwide. Tell the Greeks that. Through his death Jesus will bear much fruit, so much in fact that all the world will be invited to eat of it.

Whoever serves me, the Father will honour (John 12:26 )

The “whoever” is very important here. It is not “God’s set-apart people, the Jews who serve me,” it is not “people from a certain ethnic and/or religious background who serve me.” It is “whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” Tell the Greeks that. The opportunity is coming for them to know the blessing of being honoured by God.

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)

We normally think of judgement in negative terms, but the judgement of the oppressors of the world and the driving out of Satan, the current ruler of this world, is a good thing for all the world. Tell the Greeks that. Jesus has come not to rid Jerusalem of Romans, but to rid all the the world of evil.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. (John 12:32-33)

Death by crucifixion was in view here and we therefore have an admission by Jesus that the Romans, the very people the crowds are hoping Jesus will kick out of the land, will see to it that he dies. The startling bit is that having been killed Jesus “will draw all people” to Himself. Yes, all people, even the Romans who crucified him. Yes, all people, even the Jewish religious leaders who led him to Pilate.  Yes, all people, even the crowds who misunderstood him. Yes, all people, including the Greeks who were asking to see him. Tell the Greeks that. Let them know God has a plan of salvation for them. Jesus has entered into Jerusalem so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of God’s love, can go out to all the world.

These are the things that God wants for the Greeks. These are the things God wants for you.

But Jesus also speaks about what God wants from the Greeks:

24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. (John 12:24-26)

Dying to self. Bearing fruit. Changed priorities. Serving and following Jesus. Tell the Greeks these are the things God is wanting from them. Don’t tell them to become observant Jews. Tell them to center their lives on Jesus. That is what God wants from them. That is what God wants from you.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem there are a lot of people wanting a lot of things from him. We often talk about Jesus entering into our hearts. Perhaps we do the same thing as the crowds, saying something like “Now that you are here, let me tell you what I want.” What if we were the Greeks in John chapter 12? Do we come to Jesus with an agenda, with a list of what we want? Or do we come with a blank sheet and pen in hand ready and waiting to hear what God wants for us, and what God wants from us?

(All scriptures are taken from the NRSV unless otherwise stated)

January 4, 2015

Contrasts of the Cross

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 5:2 NLT

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
2 Cor. 5:14 NASB

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
 2 Cor: 5:21 NET

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
 John 15:13 NIV

 

I tried to find this online or some other information about it, but was unsuccessful. My beloved wife agreed to type this out manually. The copy we have attributes it to T. G. Low. As you study this, you might think of some key scriptures that come to mind beyond the four we’ve started with above.

Contrasts of the Cross

Contrasts of the Cross

We see the son of God, who created all things, hanging between the heaven and the earth which he created;

We see a man who loved the whole world, but was hated by his own people;

We see the light of the world, but he is dying in total darkness;

We see the Messiah, or the Christ, the anointed of God, wearing a crown of thorns;

We see the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords as a common criminal;

We see the healer of the sick the lame, the deaf and the blind suffering Himself in deepest agony;

We see the one who is served by millions of angels dying all alone;

We see the one who saved others with infinite power now weak in his own body;

We see the only person who lived without sin hanging between two thieves;

We see hands and feet that only brought blessing nailed to an old rugged cross;

We see He who set men free as a prisoner himself;

We see the king of the Jews treated by the Romans as a slave;

We see the innocent, holy, blameless lamb of God shedding His own blood to fulfill the will and purpose of God;

We see God, very God in Jesus Christ, crucified for his own creation;

We see the One who ordered the total universe dying amid great confusion near Jerusalem;

In the cross God sees life, but we see death;

In the cross God sees the healing of the nations but we see great suffering;

With human eyes we see the greatest tragedy of all time, but God in the cross sees the greatest victory that has taken place in heaven or on earth.

T. G. Low

April 9, 2014

Deeper and Deeper: Into the Heart of Jesus

Eph. 5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I mentioned on the weekend when we looked at “Devotions from the Hymnbook” that we would take some time to look at a single hymn that so well expresses the Good Friday / Easter story.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with this song, and the YouTube videos for it are either instrumentals, or take a 1950’s ‘gospel’ approach to it. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the church founded by Oswald J. Smith, the writer, so I got to hear this the way his own church first heard it.  My suggestion is that you find the print music and get someone to play it for you.

I hope this also benefits any of you who would desire to write lasting Christian material.

The process here is simple: Each verse is a snapshot of Jesus’ road to the cross.  The first verse is general, but includes the picture of Jesus stooping. Is this a reference to Jesus washing His disciples feet? I think that was in mind.

The motif is a basic principle: As I get to know more about why, as I pray to be a better follower, as I experience Christ’s own prayer time in the garden, as I experience personal resurrection, and as I respond with worship and praise; as I do all these things listed in the third line of each verse, then what happens?

Then I find myself in the state mentioned in the last line of each stanza: I return to Jesus, I am shaped and molded, I am the beneficiary of grace, I am supported and sustained, I am ecstatically lost in thanksgiving and adoration.

So the song moves from the washing of the disciples feet, to the breaking of bread (‘take,’ ‘break’), to Gethsemane, to the betrayal and arrest, to “the world below,” (a reference to the worst this world can offer, or the Hades of the Apostles Creed, I’m not sure), to rising from the dead, to the complete recognition of all this lifts us from our sin with reverberations into eternity.

1. Into the heart of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Seeking to know the reason
Why He should love me so,
Why He should stoop to lift me
Up from the miry clay,
Saving my soul, making me whole,
Though I had wandered away.

2. Into the will of Jesus,
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praying for grace to follow,
Seeking His way to know;
Bowing in full surrender
Low at His blessed feet,
Bidding Him take, break me and make,
Till I am molded, complete.

3. Into the cross of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Following through the garden,
Facing the dreaded foe;
Drinking the cup of sorrow,
Sobbing with broken heart,
"O Savior, help! Dear Savior, help!
Grace for my weakness impart."

4. Into the joy of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Rising, with soul enraptured,
Far from the world below.
Joy in the place of sorrow,
Peace in the midst of pain,
Jesus will give, Jesus will give;
He will uphold and sustain.

5. Into the love of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praising the One Who brought me
Out of my sin and woe;
And through eternal ages
Gratefully I shall sing,
"O how He loved! O how He loved!
Jesus, my Lord and my King!"

So is this just a classroom exercise in poetry analysis? There are some principles here.

  1. If we wish to write things that will endure, things with substance we must begin with scripture.
  2. If we wish to depict Christ — in words or in visuals — we need to take our cues from the narrative that already exists; in other words, the gospel writers give us a beautiful picture and nothing should be added or subtracted from it.
  3. We must remember that what Christ did, is part of what had already been planned, and has ramifications for what will take place, including our standing side-by-side with saints from decades and centuries prior.
  4. Songs (and poems) can teach. The Christian songwriter is part artist, part Bible expositor.
  5. As we said on the weekend, many of the older hymns seem to implore the hearer to make a response, but any song of proclamation (i.e. not a ‘vertical’ worship song) should cause us to want to respond. Here, if you are not struck by overcoming thanksgiving — “O how He loved!” — then your life stands in contrast to that of the hymn-writer. So you don’t need to beg hearers to respond, a person who truly sees the passion in the song will be broken by it.

John 20

30  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

August 19, 2013

Family Ties

Most of you are familiar with the story of Peter’s denying Jesus, and most of you are familiar with the overall story of the arrest and trial of Jesus; but until the weekend, I had missed one connection.

I was reading a sampler of The Gospel of Mark published to promote the study Bible edition of The Common English Bible, when I came upon this passage:

CEB Mark 14:66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

68 But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.

69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.

Okay, but I still didn’t get it until I looked down to the study notes:

Caiaphas’ household is involved at every turn in the plot against Jesus.

Wow! I never thought of that before. And it was the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter cut off.

CEB John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

It’s amazing how one family can make a difference. When it came to church hierarchy, this family had a lock on the job that counted. It would be like having a father and son both being President of the United States. (Oh wait; that happened…!)

NIV John 18:12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Annas and CaiaphasLuke, who you would expect to be a stickler for accuracy, refers to their dynasty as a single reign:

NIV Luke 3:2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

This passage often confuses. The Reformation Study Bible is helpful here:

The Jews had only one high priest at a time. Annas had been deposed by the Romans who appointed instead Caiaphas, his son-in-law. The Romans saw to it that Caiaphas exercised the official functions, but many Jews still considered Annas the true high priest.

Family ties can reflect positively or negatively. Some of you have grown up in Christian denominations where certain family names were a running theme. If you see the surname, and have a bit of context, apart from any clues related to ethnicity, you already know if the person referred to is Pentecostal or Methodist or Salvation Army. But for others, a family name can be tainted; it’s hard to hear that particular surname without negative associations.

For me, the tie in between the Caiaphas and Annas dynasty also adds to the complexity of the Passion Week story. Here the actions of one particular family overlay on the many prophecies fulfilled during Jesus arrest and crucifixion. Time and again, I am responded of the Walter Wink quotation, “If Jesus had never lived, we would never have been able to invent him.” Or in more modern language, “You just can’t make stuff like this up.”

So what does the high priest and his servants represent here? Certainly all those who are opposed to the Kingdom of God; but in this case God used their actions as part of the orchestration of His higher, divine plan.

~PW

Next Page »