Christianity 201

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
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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
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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
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•••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

September 10, 2012

The Wonder of the Cross

Today for the first time, a worship song repeat.  But first, a poem:

The Ironies of the Cross

 o

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him
Raucous laughter in a barracks room
Hail the king they sneered while spitting on him
Brutal beatings on this day of doom
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme
Jesus reigning from a bloody cross

o

Awful weakness marks the battered god-man
Far too broken now to heist the beam
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree
God’s own temple’s down he has been destroyed
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod
But the temple rises in god’s wise ploy
Our great temple is the Son of God

o

Here’s the one who said he cares for others
One who said he came to save the lost
How can we believe he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross
Let him save himself, let him come down now
Savage jeering at the king’s disgrace
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the king of grace

o

Draped in darkness utterly rejected
Crying why have you forsaken me
Jesus bore God’s wroth alone dejected
Wept the bitterest tears instead of me
And the mockers cried he has lost his trust
He is defeated by hypocrisy
But with faith’s resolve Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me

o

The preceding poem is a transcript made from a recording of an excellent D.A. Carson sermon called the Ironies of the Cross. (from a D.A. Carson sermon archivesourced at a 2007 post at Homeward Bound.

And now the song, from Robin Mark, The Wonder of Your Cross

Learn more about the song from its first appearance here one year ago.

August 26, 2012

All My Sin Had Brought a Price To Pay

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:58 pm
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This is one of the songs we posted as part of our YouTube project, collecting “lost songs” that haven’t heretofore been posted at the popular site by anyone else.  The annotation reads,

…This is an amazing song by the otherwise heavy metal Christian band, Scarlet Red.

As they brought him up the roadside
Many people came to see
The one who taught us all to trust in God
They wondered as they saw his misery…

Blood ran down from off his fingers
Where he wiped his bloody eyes
As they threw him down and drove those nails
I heard the painful sounds that Jesus cried

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

I cried as I walked home that evening
Couldn’t see how it could be
If God is fair and just to all mankind
Father God how do you look at me?

As I walked I thought about Him
His words were ringing in my ears
Could it be that this was God Himself
Come to bear the sins of all my years.

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

It wasn’t long before I saw the painful truth before my eyes
All my sin had brought a price to pay
And I knew it was for me that Jesus died.

And I said, ‘I know why my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And then You’ve let Him die
I know why, I know why’
I know why, I know why’

June 19, 2012

Now Versus Then

This appeared earlier this week at the blog at Blue Letter Bible, an online Bible search engine, where it was titled, As-He-Is vs. As-He-Was.

  1. As He is. He is walking in majesty in the midst of the Churches. “…who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1).
    As He was. He was seen in humiliation, and in the midst of two thieves, crucified. “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19:18).
  2. As He is. He is seen in garments of glory, representing the glory of His person. …clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Revelation 1:13).
    As He was. He was stripped of His garments, and made a spectacle to men, demons, and angels. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts” (John 19:23).
  3. As He is. His eyes are as flames of fire―reminding us of His all-seeingness. “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
    As He was. Those eyes lost their brightness in death, and closed under the load of sin. “…and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
  4. As He is. His feet are as burning and polished brass―telling us of His durability and deity. “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. Those feet were nailed to the Cross. “See my hands and my feet…” (Luke 24:39).
  5. As He is. His voice is as the sound of many waters, reminding us of the power of His word. “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. His voice was hushed in death. “…they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead…” (John 19:33).
  6. As He is. His hand is mighty to hold, and to help us. “In his right hand he held seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. Those hands were pierced, and nailed to the accursed tree. “…they have pierced my hands and fee…” (Psalm 22:16).
  7. As He is. Out of His mouth, goes a sharp two-edged sword―telling us of His power to destroy His enemies. “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. He opened not His mouth, but was smitten by the officer over the mouth. “…so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
  8. As He is. His face is as the sun shining in his strength. “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. That face was marred, spit on, the hair plucked from, and the rude hand of man insulted. “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah52:14).

May 28, 2012

His Own Received Him Not

Back at Easter, C. Baxter Kruger posted two consecutive pieces dealing with the rejection of Jesus.  The first was titled Who Rejected Jesus? (You are encouraged to click the link and read this at source.)

“Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). 
 
“For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). 
 
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify him…” (Matthew 20:18).
The inherent legalism of the Western Church trains our eyes to see Jesus’ suffering as the judgment of God upon our sin, and virtually blinds us to the more obvious point that Jesus suffered from the wickedness of humanity. It was the human race, not the Father, who rejected his beloved Son and killed him.  The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, but in ours.  The humiliation that Jesus bore, the torment that he suffered, was not divine but human. We mocked him; we detested him; we judged him. We ridiculed him, tortured him, and turned our face from him. It was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who abandoned Jesus and banished him to the abyss of shame; it was the human race. We cursed him.
Either the Father, Son, and Spirit were caught off guard by our corporate rejection of Jesus, or there is a redemptive genius at work here that is too beautiful for words. Was the Jewish and Roman rejection of Jesus not foreseen by the triune God? Was the Father surprised when we killed the solution? Was Jesus bewildered and the Holy Spirit shocked when things went south and the crowds turned against him? No, of course not. The animosity of the human race towards the Father’s Son was anticipated, and indeed counted on, and literally incorporated (See Acts 2:23) as the critical part in bringing about our real relationship. Here is amazing grace. In breathtaking love, the Lord’s way of relationship and reconciliation involves the shocking acceptance of our cruelty. The Incarnation involves the inconceivable submission of the Trinity to our bizarre darkness and its bitter judgment.
And the point of such shocking grace is to find us, to meet us, to relate to us and to embrace us as we really are as broken, deceived, wounded, terror-filled, and rebellious creatures.  Here is the heart of the grace of the blessed Trinity.  Jesus bowed to suffer from our loathsome enmity.  He took a dagger to the heart.  He willfully and astonishingly submitted himself to us in our profound darkness—and we damned him—and in submitting himself to us he embraced us at our very worst.
What does this mean?  It means that Jesus took our treachery, our betrayal, our murder and turned them into the way of his Father’s embrace and into the Holy Spirit’s anointing.  We killed him.  Jesus is saying to us on Good Friday: “I can take your murder, and I can let it happen, and in so doing I am accepting you as you are, and I am bringing my relationship with my Father, and my anointing with the Holy Spirit into your murderous darkness.  I use your murder to be the way I bring you into real relationship with my Father and the Holy Spirit.
Our contribution to our adoption was to pour our wrath out upon Jesus.  And on this day we did.  Jesus took it, and drew us in all our anger and brokenness and sin into his Father’s arms.  Shocking, stunning, beautiful grace. It is not ‘dark’ Friday, but ‘good’ Friday.
The second post was titled The House of His Father. (You are encouraged to click the link and read at source.)
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2COR 8:9).
In the genius of the blessed Trinity, our cruel rejection of Jesus became the way of our adoption; our bitter abuse became the way of the Father’s embrace and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. For how could our unfaithfulness and contempt and treachery, or the enslaving lie of the evil one, or death itself break the love and oneness and life of the blessed Trinity?  In dying at our hands, Jesus brought his life into our death, his relationship with his Father into our gnarled pathology, his anointing by the Holy Spirit into our twisted darkness. Out of his boundless love “he was dishonored that he might glorify us,” (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, I.5.) “he endured our insolence that we might inherit immortality”( Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, §54). Suffering our abuse to give us grace, he met our cruelty with his kindness, our rejection with his merciful acceptance, and our dead and despairing religion with his joy.  By accepting us at our very worst, by submitting himself to us in our great darkness, he entered into our world with his, thus transforming the shack of Adam’s horrid fall into the house of his Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In a variation on St. Paul’s great statement we might say, “For you know the stunning grace of the Father’s Son: that though he was rich in the shared life of the blessed Trinity, yet for our sake he became poor, suffering our wrath to meet us, and that now through his suffering we who were so poor have been included in Jesus’ own rich relationship with his Father in the Spirit.”

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