What Is Our Only Hope? – Why Jesus’ Humanity Matters…

What is our only hope?

We are faced with a crisis of hope in America today. Fewer people have true hope than at any time in the past. Two or three people have committed suicide since this service began, and before it ends, several more will have committed suicide. Someone commits suicide every fifteen minutes, twenty-fours a day, seven days a week, and one out of five is a Veteran. Suicide is the ultimate expression of hopelessness. Why are so many people living without hope?

We see hopelessness in divorce courts. Over fifty percent of the people who say “I do” will say “I don’t” sometime in the future. Those marriages may last for many years before they dissolve or just a few days as my most recent one did. Why do people say “I do” and then say “I don’t”? Why was there so much hope when they said “I do” and yet they are hopelessly broken when they say “I don’t“. “Til death do us part” has become “Til death or disconvenience do us part“. Why this epidemic of hopelessness? What has caused all this hopelessness?

Could it be that throwing God out of America has real consequences?

Could it be that when people say “I don’t want anything to do with God“, He gives them their wish and turns them over to the worst to torture themselves for all eternity.

The Bible will provide the answers people need, but only if they are willing to get acquainted with its Author. Are you living without hope? If so, I hope that you will stay tuned as we look at “What is our only hope? Why Jesus’ humanity matters“.

We are broken people, living in a broken world, and if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is far more brokenness in us than we would like to admit, which is why we act like we are “okay” even when we aren’t. We have learned to put on a “happy-face” even when we are crying inside because we don’t want those around us to know how broken we are. Only God can heal our brokenness and make us whole again, but we have to trust Him to do what we can’t do for ourselves. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became a man so that He could bring us back into a right-relationship with God and with one another. He IS our ONLY hope.

We often ask “Where was God when…?“, and we can list a thousand-and-one events when God was seemingly-absent, but was He? If we don’t really know who Jesus is, we would be tempted to think of God merely as a detached observer, but we couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Four major traumatic events are etched deeply into my memory, and beg the question Where was God when…?

Where was God when the Space Shuttle Challenger became a ball of fire?

Where was God when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed?

Where was God when the Twin Towers fell?

Where was God during the Pulse Nightclub massacre?

While I was somewhat “detached” from those events, every one of them left grieving family and friends behind, and I was deeply-shocked by them. The Pulse Nightclub massacre struck way too close to home, since I live fairly close to Orlando. Where was God when those events took place?

Getting more personal…

Where was God when my wife committed suicide?

Where was God when my brother Darrell died of cancer?

Where was God when my mom died?

Whether it is a major-event or a personal-tragedy, our deepest desire is to know that God cares, that He understands our pain and suffering. While we might think that God was “detached” from those events, as we will see from John 11, God was very-much present during and after those events. This should give us hope, both for the present, AND for the future.

The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-44)

In our era of instant-communications, we barely remember when all news from friends and loved-ones came by “snail-mail“, so it is hard for us to fathom that it could have taken several days for Jesus and His disciples to have found out about Lazarus’ sickness, but it did. At the end of John 10, Jesus had escaped Jerusalem with a price on His head and headed East to beyond the Jordan River where it was a bit “safer“. Jesus and His disciples were there when they heard the news that Lazarus was sick. “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.

Jesus was deeply-relational. Mary, Martha and Lazarus weren’t merely “friends“; they were virtually “family“. Jesus’ love for them transcended “friendship“; it was a deep, intimate love, which was reserved for those who were closest to Him, such as John.

I have no biological siblings, but I have a few dear friends who have become “family” to me. We care about each other on a far-deeper level than mere “friendship“. Maybe you have some of those too.

Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus, but He didn’t respond immediately. He stayed where He was for two more days. Oh, He could have spoken the word and Lazarus would have been healed immediately, but He didn’t. He waited until after the funeral. Jesus tells us why He waited in verse 4, But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

Lazarus being in the tomb for four days was proof-positive that he was actually DEAD. He also wasn’t in a coma or merely sleeping. He was stone-cold DEAD. Bethany was close enough to Jerusalem for her to have friends there, and many of them had come to console Mary and Martha, and while funerals happened very quickly, public-mourning continued for quite a while.

Martha was reeling from the death of her brother, but Jesus could have prevented his death. She expresses a curios mix of scolding and confidence. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Jesus begins to show her that, while He was too late to prevent Lazarus’ death, it WASN’T too late for Him to do something about it. Jesus wanted her, and us, to realize that God doesn’t operate on our time-schedule. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha, unlike the Sadducees who didn’t believe in a resurrection, DID believe that Lazarus would be raised when the final-curtain was dropped on this phase of our human existence. However, she still didn’t have any confidence that Lazarus would rejoin their family. It seemed that death had still gotten the last word…

This is where Jesus begins turning the tide. 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; Standing before her was the very Creator, the ultimate Author of life. He had breathed life into a pile of dust and given Adam life. He was also the ultimate Authority on resurrection, because if He could breathe life into mankind, He could also breathe new life into a man. He was also making an explicit-claim to Deity because only God could raise the dead.

His next claim either confirms His place in the looney-bin or completely-separates Him from the rest of humanity. “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” He is either who He says He is, the Incarnate Son of God, or the biggest fraud that ever walked the earth, because He is claiming that those who truly believe in Him WILL have eternal life.

Do you believe this?” This is the reality-check. Does Martha believe in Him? Her answer shows that she was willing to risk believing His claims and lay skepticism aside. She knew that, standing before her, was the ONLY person who could alter the course of history, who could make their family whole again. 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” She affirms that she believes that He is the long-awaited Messiah.

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. Mary didn’t waste any time going back with Martha to where Jesus was.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

Two sisters, same exact statement to Jesus, but He gave two very-different responses. Why? Both sisters expressed confidence that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying if He had been there. How could He confront Martha one moment and bawl like a baby with Mary the next? He was strong one moment and vulnerable the next. He was either a deluded, wacko nut-case, or He was who He said He was, the Incarnate Son of God. He revealed both His true Deity and His true Humanity by His responses to Martha and Mary. He is both fully God and fully human, the perfect God-Man. His favorite title for Himself was “Son of Man“.

When we look at Martha, she is almost angry at Jesus because He allowed Lazarus to die. Had He gotten there sooner, He could have healed Lazarus, rather than allowing him to die. Mary approached Jesus with pleading-humility, falling at His feet. Why did Jesus answer Martha rather harshly, while He entered Mary’s grief and broke out in tears?
Jesus demonstrated both “sides” of His personhood, that He is fully-God, and at the same time, fully-human. His deity allows Him to claim, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” , while His humanity allows Him to enter into our pain and grief.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” We may be wondering why Jesus didn’t know where Lazarus was buried, but that may have been in deference to His friends.

35 Jesus wept. This is the shortest verse in the Bible, and it should cause us to pause and rethink our doctrine of Christ. He was God, enshrouded in human-flesh.

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus hurt with Mary, Martha and their friends as they came to Lazarus’ tomb, which was simply a cave with a stone rolled in front of the entrance. It was, in most cases, reusable, because in that desert climate, bodies dried out very quickly, leaving nothing but bones, allowing other family members to be buried in it also. Joseph was buried in Egypt, but he bound his family with an oath that they would take his bones with them when God liberated them from Egyptian domination. (Genesis 50:24-26). He didn’t want to be interred permanently in Egypt.

39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Only dead bodies decay, proof that Lazarus was really DEAD. The stench of death was going to be replaced with the joy of resurrection.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Jesus, speaking as God Incarnate, was going to reveal the glory of God in a dramatic way.

Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus’ prayer may sound strange to us a first-glance, but it reveals something very profound about who He is, His intimate connection with His Father. He wasn’t just a man with an elevated “God-consciousness“; He was the Incarnate Son of God. He was God in human-flesh. He had a perfect “hotline” with His Father far beyond our wildest imaginations.

When Jesus walked up to the tomb, He didn’t have a look of glee on His face. No, He had tears in His eyes, and righteous-indignation in His heart, because Sin, the Fall, and the Curse had robbed Him of one of His dearest friends. As Creator-God, He never intended for Lazarus’ story, or anyone else’s story to end this way, in death. We are created to live, not to die.

Was He already starting to feel the icy-jaws of death close around Him? He knew that in order to raise Lazarus from the dead, He would have to die for the sins of His people. In order to interrupt Lazarus’ funeral, He would have to be buried too, and only by His own glorious resurrection would He be able to secure Lazarus’ resurrection. He was only a few days away from the cross…

We can almost hear the anger in His voice and see His rage as He bellowed-out “Lazarus, come forth.” Death was not supposed to claim the lives of those we love, but it had claimed the life of one of His dearest friends, Lazarus. They were virtually family. He was staring in the face of the vilest result of our fall into sin, death. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan. Death came as the ultimate curse of the Fall. It wasn’t “natural“, it wasn’t “normal“, even though we have come to think of Death as being both “natural” and “normal“.

How many people have you known who have slipped the bonds of this life and entered into the next life without dying first? If you are like me, you have attended far too many funerals as you have lost far too many friends and loved-ones to death. I lost my “twin” brother in 2011. That was a tough memorial service, but I couldn’t have NOT been there. My dad died in 2013. My friend Liz lost her mother in 2015 and her father this year as well as her best friend. I lost my mother in April.

He, who was the Creator of Heaven and Earth, invaded the Dragon’s lair, bound the Dragon, grabbed the keys and released one of its captives. He, who had breathed life into the first man, breathed new life in Lazarus. The Dragon would not be finally slain until Jesus strode from His own tomb after His crucifixion.

Lazarus didn’t come out of his grave as a zombie; rather he came out of his grave struggling with his grave-clothes. Lazarus was, after he was relieved of his grave-clothes, buck-naked. When someone died, those who were close to them washed their body, and if spices were available, packed spices around the body as they wrapped it almost “mummy-style“. Since clothing was handmade and costly, there was no reason to bury them in their clothes.

We can imagine the jubilation of his friends and family when Lazarus walked out of the grave – ALIVE. That would have been an event to celebrate in style. Their family was whole again!

45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. (John 11:1-45)

Why does Jesus’ humanity matter? Only by becoming human, one of us, was He able to live the life we cannot live, die the death that we deserve in our place, and be resurrected that we may be resurrected. God had to become a man, so that man could be brought back into fellowship with God.

A prominent theologian, who is the son of a prominent theologian, recently had to resign all of his positions in disgrace because he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol, AND, he had a minor child with him. The arresting-officer wasn’t swayed by who he is and what he has done prior to that time, because in the eyes of the law, he had violated the law. The judge might be lenient on him, but he won’t get off Scott-free. Thus it is when we stand before God. Regardless of how “good” we may have been, we were born sinners, and regardless of how “minor” our sins may have been, we are guilty before God, and there is NOT any “plea-bargaining“. There is ONLY on plea that holds up in God’s court and prevails, and that is the blood and righteousness of Christ on our behalf. Had God not become human in the person of Jesus Christ, there would NOT be any acceptable plea. We would ALL be guilty before God.

That was the way it was with the Apostle Paul. Paul, then known as Saul, was a Pharisee who was zealous for the Law of God, yet he rejected the very Messiah he had longed for all his life. He also rejected and persecuted the very faith that had grown up around Christ and His teachings. When the risen Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus, He didn’t confront him about the “good” that he had done, but about the EVIL he was doing. Paul was guilty before God, and he needed a new heart and a new life-direction. Acts 9:1-7 recounts his conversion.

His humanity also matters because He experienced everything that we experience, pain, sorrow, loss and grief, so that when we experience those things, He can share in them with us. When I lost my mom, as painful as it was, my supreme-comfort was that she is in the presence of God, and that Jesus shares in my pain, sorrow, loss and grief. I don’t travel this road alone. Jesus is with me every step of the way.

The Apostle Paul gives us even deeper reason to believe in Jesus’ true humanity:
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

If Jesus had not truly become a man, He could not have died on the Cross, and He couldn’t have been raised from the dead. All of these events are absolutely-vital to our salvation. Paul ends with these words; “we are of all men most to be pitied.”

The Heidelberg Catechism opens with these beautiful words:
Q. 1 What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul,
in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

For those who are in Christ, we are kept by the Lord and Creator of the cosmos. Jesus didn’t abandon His earthly-body when He ascended back into Heaven. He is living at the right hand of God the Father as the eternal God-Man, as fully-human as we are.

Is Jesus your Savior and Lord? I pray that He is, but if He isn’t your Savior and Lord, tomorrow is not guaranteed, nor are you even guaranteed your next breathe. We all have an appointment with death, but we don’t know when that will be. As I was working on this message, one of my elderly neighbors took her last breathe. I had seen her outside that morning. Only God knows her eternal-destiny. The only way for you to be certain that, when you die, that you will meet your Creator in peace, is by humbly acknowledging your need for a Savior and committing your life to Christ. He died that you might live, and He lives that you might live with Him forever. May this be your day of salvation. Jesus is waiting for you…

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The Crucifixion

Why DID Pilate go from “I find no guilt in Him.” to handing Jesus over to be crucified?

Pilate had finally caved-in to political-pressure and issued the “verdict” that the Jews had been wanting all along. He also “washed his hands” of that whole mess.

24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mathew 27:24-26)

Little did the Jews know at that time, but Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans only forty-years later, on Passover, 70 AD. Their “day of reckoning” was gruesome beyond description, as over 300,000 Jews were slaughtered and another 100,000 were captured and sent into exile. There were piles of bodies in the Temple and their blood ran down the steps. There wasn’t even one stone left standing of their beloved Temple once the Romans got done destroying the city.

The Crucifixion
17 They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18 There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:17-22)

It was customary for the condemned to carry their own cross to where they were going to be crucified, however, we know from Luke 23:26, that after Jesus became too weak to bear His own cross, the Romans pressed a passer-by into service to carry it for Him.

Golgotha, or the Place of a Skull, was a bluff which overlooked the city of Jerusalem, and its rocky-face bore a strong-resemblance to a human-skull. It was a well-known execution-site which was quite close to the city, so it was no wonder that an “audience” had gathered for Jesus’ crucifixion.

It was also customary for a plaque stating the “charges“, thus the “reason” why each criminal was being executed. Pilate chose to make another “jab” at the Jews by writing; “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Then, when the chief priests objected, Pilate stuck to his guns. Even though Pilate had finally bowed to political-pressure, he knew in his heart that Jesus was innocent of any wrong-doing, particularly anything that was worthy of death. Pilate had Jesus crucified, not because he wanted to, but because he HAD to.

The soldiers were just doing their job. Human-life was cheap, particularly if the prisoner was a Jew. They weren’t paid to ask questions, just follow orders, so they didn’t care who they crucified, even if it WAS the Son of God. Jesus was just one of many prisoners they had executed through the years, so other than that mysterious inscription, they thought nothing about it. They just did their job…

38 At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. (Matthew 27:38-44)

The two “robbers” may have been cohorts of Barabbas, who was also scheduled to be crucified that day, but was “spared” when the Jews chose him to be released rather than Jesus.

It should come as no surprise that some of the mob that had screamed “Crucify him, Crucify him” would have followed the execution-party to the place of the execution, and that their hearts hadn’t become any less evil when they hurled insults at Jesus. Sadly, even the two criminals joined in on the abuse, until…

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

One man died and went to Hell, but the other man went to Heaven when he died.

Simple-faith was saving-faith!

Let that sink in for a moment….

23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”(Psalm 22:18) 25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. (John 19:23-24)

The Romans always crucified their prisoners naked, and because their prisoners wouldn’t need their clothes again, those clothes became “souvenirs” for the soldiers on the “crucifixion-team“. Their understanding of “modesty” was far-different than ours today, and well, criminals were criminals, undeserving of any “special-privileges“. So much for the cute little “loin-clothes” artists like to draw in.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (John 19:23-27)

Only a small-handful of His followers dared to be there during the crucifixion, John, and those four women. They had seen the bloody-mess that used to be His back. They saw the blood running from many open-wounds. They heard the gasp as He was thrown down on that cross. They heard the “thud” as His head hit that hard wood. They saw the Roman soldiers drive those ugly spikes through His hands and feet. They heard His labored-breathing as He hung there. They heard His screams of agony. They saw the sky go dark, inky-black, for three hours. They heard His last words as He committed His spirit to His Father. They saw His last gasp as He said “It is finished”. They also saw the Roman soldier jab his spear into His side.

Did memories of Jesus’ childhood come flooding through Mary’s mind as she watched her first-born son die? Did the words of Simeon from those early-days resound through her ears? Did she remember that prophesy? Jesus was only forty-days-old when they had presented Him in the Temple. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and]rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”(Luke 2:34-35)

All but two of Jesus’ disciples had turned-tail and ran when Jesus was arrested, and after Peter denied his Lord, he too vanished into the woodwork. Only John followed Jesus all the way to the cross. In spite of everything, there were four very-gutsy women at the foot of the cross, including Jesus’ own mother, Mary. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for Mary to see her own Son crucified, dying, dead… That scene must have haunted her til the day she died. Perhaps that is why Jesus chose to give her a “comforter” then, rather than later.

Jesus, in spite of being tortured and hung on a cross, took care of His responsibility as Mary’s first-born-son to provide for her care after He was gone. Mary had been a widow since before Jesus began His earthly-ministry, as evidenced by there being no mention of Joseph in the Gospels other than in Jesus early life, and him not being present at the Wedding in Cana. Widows were totally-dependent on their family, namely their eldest son, for their support and livelihood, because when their husband died, whatever inheritance there was was passed out among their sons, which was why the first-born was supposed to get a “double-portion” of the inheritance. Jesus was NOT going to allow His mother to try to eke-out some kind of existence, so He entrusted that responsibility to one of His faithful-followers, John. Tenderness in the midst of suffering…

45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54)

Part of the penalty for sin is God’s curse upon us. God’s favor is portrayed as the light of His countenance shining upon us, so His curse, which is the opposite of His favor, is God’s “turning out the lights” of His countenance upon us. Jesus Christ had NEVER been separated from His Father for so much as a nano-second in all eternity. The light of His Father’s countenance shone upon Him during His whole earthly journey, until He died on that cross. Jesus, Who was sinless, took upon Himself OUR sin, and when He died on that cross, He died for us as we should have died. Jesus experienced the totality of God’s wrath and curse…God “turned out the lights“, both physically and spiritually. God turned His back on His OWN Son. God was silent…absent…

46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God the Father had poured out His horrible wrath for sin on His own Son. God had “turned out the lights” on His only Son, our Savior, so that we too could become children of God. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Even God’s creation “turned out the lights” for three hours. That must have been a scary time, midnight at high-noon. The Earth trembled, the Earth shook, rocks were torn-apart, tombs were opened, and long-dead saints appeared in Jerusalem. The Veil of the Temple, which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, was sixty-feet-long, thirty-feet-high, and up to four-inches-thick, was torn in two, from top to bottom. God’s presence, which had long-been separated from ordinary people by that veil, became open to all.

54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” A Roman centurion confessed what the Jews refused to believe.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:28-30)

It is finished! The debt for our sin was paid-in-full. God’s Plan of Redemption had been brought from Promise to Reality. Our Creator-God had made-good on His promise to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15.

Care of the Body of Jesus
31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

Breaking the legs of crucified prisoners hastened their death, because it denied them ability to push their body up with their legs so they could breathe somewhat easier. Besides suffering from catastrophic blood-loss, they also suffocated to death. Jesus was already dead, so they didn’t break His legs, but a soldier did run a spear up through His side and vital-organs “just to make sure”. Two prophesies, which had been given centuries before that, we fulfilled by their actions.

38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. 39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:31-42)

It was customary among the Jews to wash the body carefully before they prepared it for burial. That would have been a tedious and time-consuming task with Jesus’ body because He was covered with blood from head to toe, and by then, some of that blood had matted and dried. It was a labor-of-love for those two men, because it also made them ceremonially-unclean, and thus unfit to partake of Passover and the festivities which followed it. This wasn’t going to be a “poor-man’s” burial, because a hundred pounds of spices was a LOT of spices and cost a significant chunk of money. Linen also wasn’t a “poor-man’s” fabric either, but the cost wasn’t going to deter them from doing it right. This wasn’t just anyone’s tomb; Joseph honored Jesus by burying Him in his own tomb. (Matthew 28:59-60) Jesus died an ignominious-death, but He got a dignified-burial.

Almost eight-centuries before Jesus Christ came to earth, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and gave us a detailed description of the life, ministry and death of the coming “Suffering Servant“. As we look back, we can see how this prophesy was fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and we look forward to its ultimate-fulfillment when Christ returns to make all things right, and all things new.

The Suffering Servant
53 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

Sola Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – In the Garden

Jesus has finished His “Farewell Discourse“, and now it is time for Him and His disciples to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He will be betrayed and arrested. John’s Gospel gives us very little detail about what happened in the Garden, so we will pick up those details from Matthew 26.

The Garden of Gethsemane was a well-known spot which Jesus and His disciples frequented when they were in the area, so it wouldn’t be strange for Judas to know their whereabouts. It was also outside Jerusalem and quite secluded and far away from the crowds. It was the perfect place to arrest Jesus.

Note that even though it is generally-assumed that only Jesus and the Twelve were at the Last Supper because they are the only ones mentioned in the Gospels, it is quite likely that there were several others of His followers and some of His immediate family there also. Since Jesus was “head of household“, and His mother, Mary, watched Him being crucified and was at the tomb on Resurrection morning, she may have been at the Last Supper too. Several of them may have gone to the Garden with Jesus and the Eleven. Could that be why Peter was so “protective” when Jesus was arrested? (John 18:10)

The Garden of Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

Had Jesus taken Peter, James and John along as “emotional-support“?

While Jesus would certainly have been grieved and concerned about His upcoming death, in some ways, His physical-death, as horrible as it was going to be, was the least of His concerns. He knew that he had to die the “second-death“, be banished to Hell. Jesus, the eternal, incarnate Son of God, who had never experienced even a pico-second of separation from the love, care and presence of His Father, was going to have all of that removed from Him. He was going to die, totally-alone, totally abandoned, totally-forsaken. How could He NOT have been grieved and concerned?

I have felt the sting of rejection and abandonment many times, but Jesus’s experience was going to be infinitely-worse. There would be NOlight at the end of the tunnel“.

Was Jesus already staring into the mouth of that horrible abyss? Could He already feel its heat? Was He hearing the screams of those who were already interned in its inky-blackness? Not only was His Father going to “turn out the lights“; He was going to pour out His wrath on His own Son, ALL OF IT.

Those who think that they will be “partying in Hell” had better think again, because Hell will NOT be a “party“.

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

What if there could have been some other way for Jesus to accomplish our redemption? Would He been given that “option“? Was Jesus not aware of what He was going to go through? Of course He was, He was part of the original Plan, and as our Creator-God, He condemned Himself to death when He made that first promise of a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. Revelation 13:8 speaks of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world“. The reality is that there was NO OTHER WAY, and Jesus knew it, so He bowed to the will of His Father.

It had been a very long day for this trio of disciples, because not only had they been on the road for several days, Jesus had sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to prepare their Passover meal, which meant that they had been up since before the crack of dawn. Jerusalem was crowded with worshipers who had come specifically for Passover, so they had to wait in long lines for EVERYTHING. They hadn’t started eating the Passover meal until after sundown, so it may have been after midnight before Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden. The atmosphere in the Garden may also have been dark and oppressive as EVIL was preparing to descend on it. They were bone-weary and had trouble even keeping their eyes open, let alone praying. Human-strength is no match for that kind of evil.

I have experienced that kind of evil, oppressive atmosphere, a couple of times, and it is something I will never forget. The first time, I was with two Sheriff’s Deputies in the mountains east of Albuquerque, in an area well-known for Satanic activity, but the second time, I was alone, on a dark, deserted, country-road in Oklahoma. The evil was oppressive and palpable both times. I don’t even want to experience that again.

42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46)

Could Jesus have rejected His mission, to die on the Cross? No, because He has already made it abundantly-clear that His crucifixion WAS His “prime-mission” on earth. His eternal love was so great that, having made a promise back in the Garden of Eden, He was determined to fulfill that promise. 43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. (Luke 22:43)

As His disciples snoozed, Jesus prayed, fervently and earnestly, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” The clock was ticking, His betrayer was on his way, and He would soon be arrested. It was a “GO“…

He finally roused His sleepy-headed disciples when His betrayer arrived on the scene. It was time to go.

Judas Betrays Jesus
18 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

He said to them, “I am He.”

And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?”

And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”

10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.

11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:1-11)

3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Why did the Romans get involved in this boondoggle? What kind of lies did the religious leaders tell the Romans to get them to participate? Couldn’t they have handled this themselves? In reality, the Jewish religious leaders had no authority outside the Temple grounds, which mean that they had no civil authority, and certainly no authority outside Jerusalem. We can only speculate about the lies, but they were probably real WHOPPERS.

Why so many Roman soldiers? Were they expecting resistance, trouble? A Roman cohort was 600+ soldiers, so it is unlikely that there were that many, but certainly more than enough, and headed by a high-ranking commander. Talk about OVERKILL! How about “swatting a fly with the sledgehammer“? There certainly wouldn’t have been anything “subtle” about their arrival in the Garden. It is likely, however, that since Jerusalem was teeming with visitors during Passover, that the Romans had brought in extra troops to help “keep the peace“.

4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” Notice that Jesus didn’t wait for the horde to come to Him; He took charge of the situation and went out to meet them. Jesus remained in control all the way to the Cross, and nobody, not even Pilate, could lay a finger on Him without His permission. Jesus had all of Heaven’s Hosts at His immediate-disposal, or He could have struck that motley-mob with blindness and escaped while they were milling-around. So much for their perceived “authority“…

5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

He said to them, “I am He.”

And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Did Jesus catch them off-guard? They certainly were shocked that Jesus would present Himself that way. So to add further to their bewilderment…

7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?”

And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, so let these go their way,” 9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”

Notice His continued-concern for the welfare of His followers; “let these go their way“. As we have seen in previous studies, Jesus ALWAYS put others first. That was why He came to earth, not for His own benefit, but for OUR benefit.

10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malthus. Was Peter trying to be “Mr. Tough-Guy“? Who was he trying to “protect“, Jesus, or the rest of His followers? Either way, it was an ill-conceived piece of “resistance“, because he was no match for the Roman soldiers. In reality, he was fortunate that one of the Roman soldiers didn’t run a sword through him.

11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” Everything Jesus did was in submission to His Father’s will and according to Plan.

Jesus is arrested
12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

It looks like the Jewish religious leaders were going to finally get their way, but only for a while…

Thus ends the drama in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we will look at the farce of a “trial” and gross miscarriage of “justice” next week.

Blessings,
Steve

Bible Study – The High Priestly Prayer

This prayer is the capstone of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse“, and it occurs right before He and His disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane for His arrest, and ultimately crucifixion. The final countdown to His crucifixion has already begun, and He is painfully-aware of it.

While His immediate “audience” was His disciples, we get a “front-row-seat” through the Gospels. As we will see later in the text, Jesus not only prayed for His disciples, He prayed for us too. While the “Lord’s Prayer” is a model of brevity, short and sweet, the “High Priestly Prayer” is the longest recorded prayer from Jesus lips in the Bible.

The High Priestly Prayer
17 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

When we pray, we often bow our heads and may even kneel before God, but Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven to pray. It is totally-appropriate that we bow before God when we confess our sins and cast ourselves totally on His mercy, as well as when we lift our petitions up to Him, but when we give praises to God and adore Him for who He is, wouldn’t it also be appropriate for us to lift our eyes towards heaven, raise our arms, and shout forth His praises?

He said, “Father, the hour has come;”… This is the “hour” He has spoken of many times, beginning back at the Wedding in Cana, the appointed time of His crucifixion. He is less than twenty-four hours from the Cross. We don’t know when we will take our final breath, but Jesus did, and His anxiety was growing rapidly.

Glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You”… In a very real sense, Jesus was asking His Father to accept His sacrifice on our behalf. After Adam and Eve fell, their whole relationship with God came unraveled, but God wasn’t “happy” with the “new-normal“. Mankind was created for intimate fellowship with God, so God kicked His “plan of redemption” into gear, beginning with the promise of a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. That “plan of redemption” is the “golden-strand” which runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. How would God be glorified? When His “plan of redemption” was accomplished, which Jesus did on the Cross. God is glorified when we put our faith and trust in Him.

2 “Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh,”... Jesus, as Creator-God, has authority over all of creation, whether we acknowledge Him or not.

“that to that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” This is our clearest-basis for believing in “definite-redemption “and “limited-atonement“. When Jesus died on the Cross, He didn’t “shotgun” redemption, hoping that it would hit some, but knowing that it would miss others. Jesus died for specific people, “all whom You have given Him“, so we are NOT believers by “accident” or “quirk of fate“.

3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. How can we have “eternal life“? By believing in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)

4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

How was God glorified? God was glorified by Jesus Christ accomplishing redemption, and Jesus would be further glorified when He ascended back into Heaven. Jesus lived the life we could not live, and He died the death that we deserve so that we DON’T get what we deserve – eternal-separation from God.

6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

Jesus has revealed the Father as never before, and made no bones about being sent to Earth BY the Father. There was a total-unity of purpose for Jesus coming to Earth to take on our human-flesh, and He would finally fulfill the long-awaited promise of a Redeemer.

It still wasn’t fully-evident that His disciples really “got-it“, but they would soon.

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

As Jesus is preparing to die on the cross, be resurrected, and ascend back into heaven, He knows that He will no longer be able to directly-protect His disciples, so He commits them to His Father’s care.

It is counter-intuitive to us that Jesus would pick a traitor, Judas Iscariot, to be part of His inner-circle, but it was all part of the Plan. Because Jesus also allowed him to be their “treasurer“, he has already shown his true-colors as being a thief also. How many times had he “siphoned-off” money for his own purposes? It would certainly seem that Judas wasn’t “sold-out” to Jesus; rather he just hung-out for the “perks“. He LOVED being on “welfare“, “Jesus-style“, because all he had to do was follow Jesus around and pretend to listen once in a while.

The Disciples in the World
13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

Why WOULDN’T Jesus want His disciples taken out of this world? Wouldn’t that seem to be the “best” way for them to avoid the trials and persecution they were going to experience after Pentecost? It would seem that way but… 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. How far would the Gospel have gone if Jesus had taken His disciples with Him back to Heaven? For starters, the New Testament would have never been written, so the new Kingdom of Heaven would have died on the vine before it had hardly gotten started. Jesus came to inaugurate a New Covenant and a New Kingdom, and His disciples were going to be critical to this moving forward. They were going to receive their new commission shortly after the Resurrection.

Rather than praying for their speedy-exit, Jesus prayed that they would be kept from the evil one, Satan. Even though Satan attacks ALL believers, he throws his fiercest assaults at church leaders, because the fastest way to “discredit” the church is to get its leaders to fall. Over the last several years, we have seen WAY TOO MANY prominent church-leaders fall, some into gross-sins. Satan must be dancing a jig over them.

One of the most critical things we can do for our spiritual-leaders is to pray for them, that they will be kept from the evil one, and that they will be faithful to Scripture. That is one of my persistent challenges as I prepare each week’s lesson is to remain faithful to the Bible.

20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

WOW!!! Did you catch what Jesus said in verse 20? Jesus wasn’t just praying for His immediate disciples, He was praying for US. We weren’t there, but we have believed by reading what the Apostles left for us, the Bible. We are members of the “Church-universal” across all ages and places. We are one Body, the Body of Christ.

Their Future Glory
22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus speaks of “unity” among believers as showing the world we are united to Christ, and He to His Heavenly Father. As desirable as this “unity” should be, it didn’t take long after the Apostles started expanding the Church until DISUNITY started gripping the Church. That disunity is rampant in Christendom today, and all the disunity and discord in the Church must grieve His soul terribly.

Heaven is frequently spoken of as “glory” or “glory-land” when a person goes “home” to be with the Lord, and we will indeed behold God in all of His glory when we get there. We will also see Jesus, our risen Lord, in all of His glory, our own flesh and blood, seated at the right hand of God the Father. How fabulous will THAT be? I can hardly wait.

25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17)

We have become beneficiaries of the eternal love-relationship which has existed and does exist among the three persons of the Godhead. Jesus brought His disciples into that love-relationship, and as children of God, we have been brought into it too.

Our next stop will be in the Garden of Gethsemane for the events leading up to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The Last Supper

Because John only alludes to the Last Supper in John 13, we are going to take a brief detour into Luke and pick-up this event. It is also recorded in Matthew 26:17-29 and Mark 14:22-25. We will resume our study of the Upper Room Discourse next time.

Jesus went into Jerusalem specifically for Passover, as it was one of the most important feasts on the Jewish calendar. His “hour” was also rapidly-approaching, the time when He would be crucified, and He wanted to eat the Passover meal for one last time. What was only symbolic in Passover was soon going to become true spiritual-reality.

Jesus had washed His disciple’s feet and dismissed Judas Iscariot in the last section, and now their feast begins in earnest. Judas only got to see the feast, but he didn’t get to partake.

The Preparation…
7 Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” 10 And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13)

We find some interesting details in this scene, along with begging some questions. Had Jesus prearranged to have His Passover meal hosted in that particular home? If He had, He had kept the location secret from His disciples. Was the man carrying the pitcher of water also prearranged?

Jesus sent two of His most trusted disciples, Peter and John, to get the Passover meal ready for them to partake. They had to get their lamb or kid slaughtered, roast it, acquire the unleavened-bread and the wine, and set the table for dinner. By the time of Christ, since the animals were no longer slaughtered by the individual families, but were slaughtered in the Temple, the time for sacrificing them had been moved up to between noon and three PM rather than at twilight. The animal had to be slaughtered and roasted whole, which meant that this meal couldn’t take place until after dark. We saw in John 13:30 that it was “night” when Judas went on his dastardly-errand. It was quite fitting that he did his dastardly-deed under the cover of darkness.

A man carrying a pitcher of water would have stuck out like a sore-thumb, because only women carried pitchers of water. If a man carried water, it was in a water-skin.

To answer those questions, I believe that we are seeing another instance of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge, rather than meticulous pre-planning. We saw this foreknowledge in John 1:48, when Jesus “saw” Nathanael under a fig tree, and in Matthew 21:1-3, when Jesus “knew” that there would be a donkey and her colt tied up in the next town. Jesus “knew” that He and His disciples would be welcome in a certain person’s home, and that, at the appropriate time, a man would be carrying a pitcher of water who would lead them to the home. None of these events were “coincidental“.

14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:14-20)

When all was ready, Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room to eat their meal. Even though they had probably eaten several Passover meals together, this one had special significance. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;” He was on the final count-down to His crucifixion, so this would be their last meal together before He went to the cross.

16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus was not only speaking of the imminence of His death, but also His confidence in His resurrection and His eventual return, when the kingdom of God will reach its ultimate fulfillment.

As much as we would like to think that Jesus’ disciples were “special“, they weren’t. They were still broken men. James and John had egos the size of Texas and had argued over which one of them would be “first” in the kingdom of God. Oh, and they both had fiery-tempers. Peter was bold and brash, and he had the nasty-habit of running his mouth at all the wrong times. He rebuked Jesus just a few days before. Simon the Zealot would have loved it if Jesus had raised an army and gone after the Romans. Matthew was an ex-tax- collector, a “traitor“, and it is probably a safe bet that there was no love lost between him and Simon Z. In a few hours, most of them would cut and run when Jesus got arrested, not to mention that Peter would also deny Him three times. Only John had the moxie to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. There were a few gutsy women there too. Jesus didn’t “fence the table“, as many pastors do today, when He served this special meal to His disciples, He served it to broken men.

17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;” Jesus didn’t restrict any one of His disciples from partaking in this special meal, because after He died on the cross and rose again from the dead, it would take on an even greater significance. 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” ALL covenants were ratified with blood, binding both parties to the terms of the agreement, and the New Covenant, which Jesus ratified on the cross, was no different.

19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” We looked at the Bread of Life discourse a few weeks ago, and this “living bread” was His body, which was broken so that we might be saved.

As the Lord’s Supper is intended as a Table of Restoration, this study is intended to segue into “Come And Eat(https://pipermac5.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/come-and-eat/) , which I posted several months ago.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Jesus Foretells His Death

As Jesus continues His relentless march to the Cross, He makes it very clear that He is going to die a gruesome death on the Cross. He also makes it very clear that dying on the Cross has been His ultimate-mission all along, that it isn’t some “gotcha” which has been sprung on Him at the last moment.

We also see the Jew’s false-perception that the Messiah will be an earthly-king who will reestablish the Davidic-dynasty in Israel. They weren’t completely-wrong, because that promise was given to King David by God, but it was not going to happen in the way they were anticipating.

Greeks Seek Jesus
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:20-26)

Passover was such an important festival that it brought in converts from all over the known world, so it should come as no surprise that there were Greeks present in Jerusalem. Bethsaida was an important fishing village which was on the east side of the Jordan River where it fed the Sea of Galilee. It was also at the intersection where those traveling down the Jordan River Road could easily connect with the roads which went down both sides of the Sea of Galilee. Thus, it is not unlikely that locals spoke enough Greek to be able to converse with travelers. Philip and Andrew both had Greek names, and may have adopted Greek customs and attire, so it would have been easy for the Greeks to pick them out as men who could lead them to Jesus.

They had a simple request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” In this case, “see” was much more than just physically “seeing” Jesus. This is much like “the doctor will be in to see you shortly“. They wanted to talk to Jesus. Even though we can’t physically “see” Jesus, we can still “see” Him through His Word. Have you “seen” Jesus?

22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. We first saw Andrew as an “introducer” back in John 1:40-42, when he found Peter and took him to meet Jesus. Jesus is always the “keynote speaker” or “center of attention“, but not everyone knows Him. We are called to be like Andrew. We are called to “introduce” people to Jesus, and leave the rest to Him.

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus is stating unequivocally that the final count-down has begun, and the next time He completely-leaves Jerusalem will be after His resurrection.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Does a seed actually “die” when we plant it? No, but it must be planted for that “spark” of new life to begin doing what it is intended to do. Jesus, however, must die and be buried before He can rise again to accomplish our salvation (eternal life). Salvation without the Cross is no “salvation” at all.

25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. We can’t cling to our old life of sin and expect to gain eternal life. We must die to “self” before we can enter into God’s kingdom.

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield was a proud “leftist-lesbian-feminist“, a tenured college professor, and in a same-sex relationship with another woman when she encountered the God of the Bible. She thought she “had it ALL“. She was well-known in the LGBT community, she lived with “the love of her life“, and they seemed to be living the “good life“. That was, until a local pastor and his wife responded to an article she had written for the local paper. They showed her the love of Christ and started presenting her with the claims of the Gospel, which got her started reading the Bible, which she had previously despised. One night, it seemed as if all of her world came crashing down around her ears, because the truth of the Bible was unmistakable. If she was going to follow Christ, she was going to have to “lose-everything“, including her “identity“. She realized that following Christ was an “all or nothing” decision. If she clung to what she already had, she couldn’t follow Christ. If she was going to follow Christ, she had to leave everything behind. Salvation and eternal life required “radical-surgery” which was going to be painful. Was she going to “gain” more that she was “losing“? Was following Christ “worth it“? She describes her conversion as a “train wreck“. Yes, she DID lose a lot, but look at her bio now:

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife, full-time mother, and speaker. She is author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, a book detailing the experiences of her journey to Christianity. A former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, Dr. Butterfield started a college ministry upon her conversion to Christianity in 1999. Dr. Butterfield is a member of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., where her husband, Rev. Kent Butterfield, serves as senior pastor.

I can tell you, from experience that I still struggle with what I have “lost” in order to carry-out the commission I have been given to take the Gospel to the nudist community. I can relate to her feeling that her conversion was a “train wreck” because I have had many “train wrecks” in my life. I am far more “at peace” with my situation than I have been in MANY years. Why? Because, even though I have “lost” a lot, what I have been given is far-better than what I “lost“. God may yet bring the love and companionship of a wife into my life, but it will be in His way and in His time, not mine. I am far-more “fulfilled” than I have been in my years.

26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Jesus is calling us into a relationship with Him, not just a casual “follow from afar” kind of “relationship“. Being a follower of Christ isn’t a “spectator-sport“. We must “get in the game“, and when we do, He has promised us not only eternal-life, but honor from God the Father.

There were many people who “believed in His name“, but they never became true “followers of Christ” and their “belief” made no lasting impact on their lives. They were “spectators” who liked what He had to say, may have eaten from His “table” or been healed by Him, but they went back home spiritually-unchanged. They may even have been part of the adoring-crowd during His Triumphal Entry, but they may have joined the jeering-masses that demanded His crucifixion.

Jesus Foretells His Death
27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. 34 The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (John 12:27-36a)

Verses 27-28 reveal that Jesus was troubled by what He was about to face in going to the cross to die a horrible death. Remember that He is both Divine and human and had the same instincts of survival that we all have. How would you feel about things if you knew that you were soon going to be taken away for torture and death? I would be on my way out of town! Jesus has a different response, for this is the very reason He has been brought to this point. It is interesting that John tells us about this encounter that is begun with the arrival of the Greeks. Maybe Jesus was tempted to go off with them and take His message to a whole different audience to avoid His date with the cross… In any case, He will not be swayed from His purpose, and God confirms His approval with a rare vocal endorsement.

The people heard the voice and stunned, await some clarification. Jesus explains that the voice was for their benefit, so they would know that everything is going according to God’s plan. Then, He demonstrates the point in three amazing ways:

First, the time has come for “judgment on this world”. Since the Greek word rendered “judgment” is krisis, if we leave it un-translated, the statement would read “Now is the crisis of this world.” A crisis for this world would surely come when Jesus is murdered in front of everyone when all were aware of His total innocence. This would expose the sin that has the entire world in its grip for all of its stinking rottenness. Second, it is the time when “the prince of this world will be driven out.” Satan, who has the world in his pocket through their slavery to sin, will lose his grip on those who will follow Jesus, those who will be set free from bondage to sin. Third, that Jesus will die by being “lifted up” gives His listeners the method by which all of this will be accomplished; He will die on a cross. The result of this will be that all peoples who look to the cross in faith will see not merely a method of execution, but the means by which they can be saved from sin and death.

We reach a major turning point in Johns’ Gospel at this point. The crowd has come to discuss national liberation from Rome, and Jesus is talking about death and redemption. They object and refer to Daniel 7:14 which teaches that the Messiah will be with them forever. Jesus doesn’t engage. He does offer one last bit of advice: Darkness is about to descend, their only hope is to believe in Jesus (“trust in the light”) which will enable them to resist the oppressive spiritual darkness, for they will become “sons of light”. With that, Jesus slips away. The rest of the Gospel will describe Jesus’ answer to the question they have posed: “Who is this Son of Man?

These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:36b-43)

Jesus performing many signs hadn’t translated into true faith for those who heard Him and saw the signs. They may have “Oooh’d” and “Awww’d” at the spectacle, but in many cases, they only followed Jesus around to see what He was going to do next, maybe even hoping to get a free meal out of Him. Isaiah had prophesied about their hard-hearts several hundred years earlier. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.

42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. How strong was their “belief“? It obviously wasn’t life-changing, because they valued the approval of their peers over being accepted by God. I have to wonder how many of these “believers” were in the jeering-crowd screaming “Crucify Him!, Crucify Him!” just a few days later. Even demons, before Jesus cast them out, acknowledged who He is, the Son of the Living God, but that didn’t change what they were, demons hell-bent on destroying whoever they were in.

What if I was dissuaded from carrying out this ministry by people who have told me; “You can’t do that“, or “That’s just plain WRONG!“? I wouldn’t be doing it, but I don’t need man’s “approval“, since my commission and approval come from God.

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:44-50)

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. Jesus begins by tying belief in Him to belief in God the Father. His hearers can’t believe in Him unless they also believe in God the Father. He then makes an explicit-claim to deity, because unless He is God in the flesh, God incarnate, He can’t reveal or be the visible Image of God. This is one of the reasons the Jewish religious-leaders have been opposing Him, because He was making explicit-claims to being God.

46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. We have seen this “Light” metaphor many times before, going all the way back to the opening-verses of John’s Gospel. “Light” has been compared to “life“, and that is what Jesus is promising, eternal life through Him.

47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. Unbelief WILL be judged, but only when those unbelievers stand before God during the final-judgment. Jesus didn’t come to earth to judge people in the moment, but to provide the means for separating those who believe from those who don’t believe. We know that, when a person takes their last breath, their destiny is sealed for all eternity. There is no “universalism” and God doesn’t give any “second-chances” beyond the grave.

In the wake of the Orlando Massacre, a friend of mine posted “Heaven has some new angels” on Facebook, thinking that because they were “good” or “nice“, they automatically went to Heaven. Yes, Heaven may have gotten some new residents, but Hell claimed its fair-share of victims also. Only God knows their eternal-destiny.

49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” Jesus Christ and His Father were unified in His mission on earth, such that the words He spoke were the very words of God. Jesus had never been separated from His Father until He bore our sins on the Cross, at which time, God the Father turned His back on His Son.

Which “camp” are YOU in? Do YOU have saving-faith in Christ-alone for your salvation, or are you an “unbeliever“? I pray that you seal your eternal-destiny in Christ before it is too late.

In Christ,
Steve

 

Bible Study – Celebrations

What will begin with celebrations will end in infamy. Thus begins “Holy Week” or “Passion Week“, the events which will climax in Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus was rapidly-approaching His “hour“, what He came to earth to do, to die on the cross and accomplish our salvation. The promise, given in Genesis 3:15, was soon going to be fulfilled. The “Seed of the woman” was going to “crush the head of the Serpent“, Satan.

Mary Anoints Jesus
12 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

This scene is interesting in how it contrasts the differences between the heart of love in one who has been set free and the selfish, self-centered heart of one who is in bondage to Satan. We see the love of self-giving Mary contrasted with the evil and selfishness of Judas Iscariot.

As we saw in John 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, so there was great reason to celebrate with a lovely dinner. Jesus and Lazarus were the guests of honor, while Martha, ever the faithful servant, served them. That left Mary to do what she thought was appropriate, anoint Jesus.

The parallel passages, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, place this scene at the home of Simon the leper, but this setting is no less significant than it would have been if it was at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They also mention that Mary poured some of the perfume over Jesus’ head. Nothing else is mentioned in the Gospels about Simon, other than that he had been a leper, but it is probably safe to assume that Jesus had healed him and that he had become one of His closest friends. If Jesus had healed him, that would be even more reason to celebrate.

3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Nard is the fragrant-essence which has been extracted from the roots of a plant which grows only in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India, so it had to be imported and was very valuable and costly. It is one of those spices or perfumes where “a little-bit goes a long way“, but Mary wasn’t sparing when she poured the whole bottle on Jesus’ feet. Imagine being in a home filled with fragrant perfume.

4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Judas showed his true-colors because he had no real concern for the poor, but was really a thief. How much had he stolen so far?

7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

Jesus makes an interesting statement for allowing Mary to anoint Him, “so that she may keep it for the day of My burial“. He has been predicting His death, burial and resurrection for quite a while by now, and He knows that those events are looming-large on His horizon. They are now just a few days away. There will always be poor people among them to help, but Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, will only be on this earth for about eight weeks. Time for honoring Him is growing short.

9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

Raising Lazarus was the most significant miracle Jesus performed, and if there were doubts in anyone’s minds about whom He was, that event should have put them to rest. Who wouldn’t want to see someone who had been raised from the dead?

Raising Lazarus from the dead only fueled the religious leader’s hatred of Jesus, and because of the attention that miracle garnered, they plotted to murder Lazarus also. Murderous-hearts aren’t satisfied with just murdering one man, they would eventually go after all of His disciples.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” (John 12:1-19)

This event, which is commonly called the “Triumphal Entry“, was the official start to Passion Week. Jesus entered Jerusalem making full claim to being the Messiah. Zechariah had prophesied about his event several hundred years earlier when he wrote; “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, l colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

The other Gospels mention Jesus sending two disciples to procure the donkey. The clothes that His disciples placed on the donkey’s back made a “royal-saddle“, while the clothes and palm-branches created a “royal-road” for Him to ride in on. These things symbolized the crowd’s acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, the “King of the Jews“. If Jesus REALLY was the Messiah, there was something missing. Where was His Army? How was He going to drive the Romans out if He had no Army? There was still that false-perception about the Messiah even among His disciples, as is evident in Luke 24:13-27 and Acts 1:6. They were still looking for a “conquering-king“.

Jesus came riding in, not on the mighty-steed of a conquering-king, but on a lowly donkey, a symbol of peace, because He wasn’t going to ascend the Throne by doing battle and throwing the Romans out, but by being nailed to a Roman cross. He was going to be enthroned forever as the King of kings and Lord of lords, by way of the cross. He was going to conquer the world, not with an Army, but with the Gospel, as He continues to do today.

Their joyous shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” were taken from Psalm 118:25 & 26. “Hosanna!” is a Hebrew expression which means “Save, now“.

16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. Things were going at a dizzying-pace, which didn’t leave the disciples much time to “process” what was going on. They also hadn’t yet been filled with the Holy Spirit, so these events would only start making sense after the fact. How many of us have had events in our lives which only began to make sense months, even years, later? I have only recently been able to start putting the pieces together of a puzzle which has been nineteen years in the making. I am here, in this time and place, because of events, both good and bad, which have unfolded over the last nineteen years, without which, I would have never made it here.

17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. The adoring-crowd was growing larger the closer they got to Jerusalem. Was Lazarus in Jesus’s entourage? We aren’t told, but he may have been with Jesus as He entered Jerusalem, which gave the crowd the opportunity to see Lazarus also. The Pharisees didn’t want anything to do with this spectacle.

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” In spite of their best efforts at quelling Jesus’ popularity, they had been steadily losing ground. People could tell that Jesus was “genuine“, just as they could tell that the religious leaders were fakes.

It never ceases to amaze me how joyous shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” quickly gave-way to angry screams of “Crucify Him, crucify Him“. That just goes to show how quickly evil can overcome good.

We will finish up with John 12 next week, because it really is an introduction to the events and discourses which will follow soon thereafter.

In Christ,
Steve

On A Hill Far Away…Take Two

I originally posted this article about a year ago, but I have been reading “Counter Culture“, by David Platt, and he pointed out something in the story of Abraham and Isaac which I hadn’t recognized before. So, with that in mind, I am going to update and revise this article and reissue it.

Two hills… Two fathers… Two sons… Two sacrifices… The first sacrifice was a foreshadowing and promise of the second sacrifice… The second son was descended from the first father and the first son… The first son didn’t die, but the second son did…

The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19)

The test…
God challenged Abraham to give up his only son, the son of promise, by sacrificing him to the Lord. Either Abraham was a blithering idiot, or he had a faith in God that was unshakable. God had promised that Abraham’s children would be descended from Isaac…

Notice how God said, “your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac“. Had Abraham quit trusting in God and His promises, and started trusting in Isaac, his son, as his hope for the future? Did Abraham “idolize” Isaac, putting Isaac in the place of God?

In that patriarchal-society, it was extremely-important to have a son, an heir, to inherit the wealth of the family and carry the family-name. It was so important to the children of Israel that God instituted the kinsman-redeemer model, which is the primary-theme of the book of Ruth, to make sure that families continued to flourish. Boaz, Naomi and Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, was a type of Jesus Christ, our kinsman-redeemer. We see this also in the case of Judah, Tamar’s father-in-law, in Genesis 38.

Things really haven’t changed today, even though our daughters now get their share of the inheritance. Our family-name is still carried by our sons, because our daughters usually take the family-name of their husband. Yes, some women keep their maiden-name and tack their husband’s name onto it, as in Marge Bobo-Smith. Marge’s maiden-name was Bobo, and Moe’s family-name is Smith.

Back to those two questions… “Had Abraham quite trusting in God and His promises, and started trusting in Isaac, his son for his future?“, and “Did Abraham “idolize” Isaac, putting Isaac in the place of God?“. Lest we think that this is unlikely, we must remember that this event took place only a few years after God called Abraham to leave his ancestral-home. Abraham was born and raised in idolatry, so even though God had called him to worship Him alone, idolatry was still almost “instinctive” in Abraham. If Abraham did “idolize” Isaac, putting him in the place of God, that was sinful, and required an “atoning-sacrifice“, so to teach Abraham a lesson AND atone for his sin, he commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. He would be “killing two birds with one stone“.

Things haven’t changed much concerning “idolatry“. Some parents still “idolize” their “high-achieving” children, whether they are academically-gifted, musically-gifted, or talented-athletes. We live in a world where “who” you are is less-important than your “titles” and “achievements“, a world of “stars“, “heroes” and “idols“. I am blessed AND thankful to be past that “achievement-driven” ideal.

Gut-wrenching decision…
I doubt that Abraham slept very much that night, because there were nagging questions in his mind, such as: “What if God does take my only son?“, or “How can I ever come back home without Isaac?“, and maybe “Is this God for real?“, and “Does He actually keep His promises?” If everything went horribly wrong, Abraham would be left without an heir, and this would be the last night Sarah would ever see Isaac, her only child, again. How could he ever face Sarah again?

Abraham’s confidence…
Isaac was a child of promise, a miracle-baby, because Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah, Isaac’s mother, was 90 years old. Sarah was barren, and well past the age of child-bearing, but Isaac came along anyway. God had also promised that Isaac would be Abraham’s heir, that Abraham’s family would be descended from Isaac. If Isaac died, Abraham would have no heir and no descendants.

5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

Notice that Abraham DIDN’T say “We will worship and I will return to you…” Abraham had every expectation that they would both return.

7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

The altar…
Abraham built an altar as God had instructed. He also prepared to sacrifice his own son.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

I’ll bet Abraham was sweating-bullets as he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and raised the knife to kill his son. He had sacrificed many animals before, but this was his son, his ONLY son, the son whom he loved. Was God crazy? This was insane, but he still raised the knife… In a few more moments, his son would be dead, and all his hopes would be dashed…

Was Isaac terrified? The air was electric, and he had never seen that look of steely-determination in his father’s eyes before. Isaac had no doubt seen his father sacrifice many animals before, but it was his own life that would soon be snuffed out. Then…

Abraham, Abraham…
Abraham’s heart was already racing, and then… “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Did it take a few minutes for Abraham to recover? I am sure that his hands trembled as he untied Isaac.

Substitute sacrifice…
God did provide a substitute-sacrifice, in the form of a ram. Isaac was spared, and that is a foreshadowing of our own substitute-sacrifice, Jesus Christ.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

God provides…
14 Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord Will Provide”, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

God renews His promises to Abraham…
15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

God gave an incredible promise to Abraham, a promise that we are still seeing fulfilled today. “In your seed ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed“. Who is that Seed that will bless all the nations? That promised seed was none other than Jesus Christ.

The other Father…
God didn’t have to offer His only Son for my sins and for yours, but He did. Was it a gut-wrenching decision for God the Father to ordain that His only Son would die on our behalf? We may never know, but this we DO know, that God the Father carried out that plan to the letter.

The other Son…
Jesus was the only Son of God, and He became the second sacrifice.

The promised Lamb…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus was the promised Lamb, the Lamb of God. He was born to die, born to give Himself for us. A cross-shaped shadow hung over Him from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb until He was hung on that cross.

Unlike Isaac, who was kept in the dark until the moment he was bound on that altar, Jesus was fully-aware of His mission. He told His disciples beforehand, but the reality didn’t sink in until they saw Him on the cross.

Leaps of faith…
God doesn’t call us to physically sacrifice our children, but sometimes He does call us to step out, to move out of our comfort-zone for our good and His glory. When I got married and moved to the Orlando area, I had no idea that my wife would abandon me less than six weeks later, but God knew. I didn’t know that I would have to step totally out of my comfort-zone and take on missions for which I feel totally-unequipped, but God knew. If God had told me the details, would I have moved anyway?

God needed for me to get out of my comfort-zone so that He could do some hard work on me, because I was too comfortable where I was for God to do what needed to be done. I also couldn’t take on the new missions He had for me while living where I was. Was a “wife” merely the “bait” to get me to move? Perhaps, but she is also totally-responsible for her actions.

God doesn’t call us to hike for three days into the wilderness to sacrifice our child on an altar on top of a mountain, but sometimes He does call us to make leaps of faith that are equally life-changing.

On a hill far away…
On a hill, far away, stood an old, rugged cross…

Because of that old rugged cross, your debt is paid. You may still have mountains to climb and sacrifices to make, and you may face tests of faith, but they are for your good and God’s glory. You will never be called to sacrifice your own flesh and blood, as Abraham was, and as God did, but you can rest assured that you aren’t going anywhere God hasn’t already gone. He understands, and His promises are sure, so whatever leap of faith you are called to make, you won’t make alone.

Are you ready?
Steve

Bible Study – The Plot Thickens

As we saw at the end of our previous study, Jesus’s popularity, fueled by having raised Lazarus from the dead, enraged the religious authorities even more. They will not only plot to kill Jesus, they will even plot to kill Lazarus. The religious authorities had been trying to derail Jesus’ ministry since almost the beginning, but we really couldn’t decipher their motives…until now. They had tried to trip Him up in something He said, they had tried to have Him arrested, and even tried to stone Him, all to no avail.

They were on an endless “gravy-train” because God had commanded that they be fed from the sacrifices and offerings from the Temple. They didn’t have to do any “useful” work because their “groceries” were brought to their front-door. Imagine a former CEO having to dig ditches or pick up trash for a living. It was no wonder that they lived a life of privilege and luxury. They also had supreme-authority over all of the religious life of the Jews, and as long as they “kept the peace“, the Romans pretty much left them alone. That was all about to change, but not immediately.

Note that we will skip over the Anointing at Bethany this time and pair it with the Triumphal Entry next time. Also note that these are the opening scenes and events leading up to the Crucifixion, which were only a few days away.

Conspiracy to Kill Jesus
47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Did you catch their motives? In light of my introductory comment, their motives become blatantly-obvious. How about greed, envy and jealousy? They couldn’t care less about “pure and undefiled religion“. All that mattered was their “exalted-positions“, and in spite of their “scholarship“, they had forgotten that Micah 6:8 applied to them too. He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Jesus had delivered a scathing-indictment against the religious leaders in Matthew 23:1-36, which we will look at at the end of this study.

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Did that statement justify MURDER?

51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. Little did he know, but he was prophesying about the spread of the kingdom of God throughout the world.

53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. Can you say “PREMEDITATED MURDER“?

54 Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples. Jesus was fully in control of the timing of His crucifixion, but that didn’t mean that He could live “recklessly“.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him. (John 11:47-57)

Passover was one of the most important Festivals on the Jewish calendar, and every able-bodied person was encouraged to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it was inconceivable that Jesus wouldn’t attend. The religious leaders had warned everyone to be on the lookout for Him so they could put their nefarious-plan into action. Again, Jesus was still in control of everything, so He was going to show-up when He was ready.

The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11)

How much more corrupt could they get? For what Jesus had to say about the Jewish religious-leaders, we are going to look at Matthew 23.

Pharisaism Exposed
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. They liked to strut around with their noses in the air, crowing like Bantie-roosters, trying to gain attention for themselves, but their religion was all for show…They were totally self-centered. Can you think of any “preachers” who are like that today? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Eight Woes
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. They had made themselves the “gate-keepers” of God’s kingdom, but they were far from following God faithfully themselves.

14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” Hypocrisy piled on injustice.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” They heaped legalistic requirements on their converts which they couldn’t even keep.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” Oaths can be dangerous things.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” They had forgotten that Micah 6:8 also applied to them.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” They “looked- good and smelled-good”, but they were rotten to the core.

27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” A casket, regardless of how pretty it is, still contains a DEAD body.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” The rotten fruit didn’t fall very far from the tree…

These are the same men who will have Jesus put to death, MURDERED, crucified because of the evil in their hearts, and in accordance with God’s plan.

34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

They aren’t going to be satisfied once Jesus is “out-of-the-way“, they would continue their murderous purges even among the Apostles and others who believed in Christ.

Lament over Jerusalem
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23)

When Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, He also foretold the destruction that would come upon Jerusalem in 70 AD. He was also foretelling the spread of the kingdom of God to those outside of Israel, the Gentiles.

It is easy for us to look at the Pharisees and say; “What a bunch of scum-bags“, but how much “Pharisee” is in us too? How often do we “clean ourselves up” before we go to church, and then act all “holy and pious” in church, when the reality in our lives tells a far-different story? We need to be honest with ourselves, and with God, that we aren’t all that we should be. It is only by the saving grace of God that we made right with Him, and only He can “clean us up“. We can’t do it on our own.

We must also remember that it wasn’t just the religious leaders and the Romans that nailed Jesus to the Cross, we were part of that conspiracy. We were there too, because it was OUR sin, MY sin and YOUR sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was there because of US.

Jesus chose a bunch of “misfits” to be His disciples, but it was only after Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit, that they started becoming the men God could use to spread His kingdom. When we look at the lives of the Apostles, it should give us hope, because they were in a far-different place than when they started following Jesus.

We will look next time at the Celebrations which kicked-off Passion Week.

In Christ,
Steve

 

Do You Want To Be Humble? Emulate Christ!

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

He who is the eternal Word, very God of very God, entered into our humanity in much the same way we did, as a divinely-fertilized egg, a single cell, an embryo, totally-dependent on His young, teenage mother for His very existence. She wasn’t a princess, living in a fine palace; rather, she was a country-girl. He was born in the same manner countless babies have been born, through His mother’s birth-canal, not in a palace or even a hospital room, but in a stable. His incarnation began His descent from glory into the depths of Hell itself. He traded Heaven for a smelly stable. He traded His crown for a crown of thorns. He traded His throne for a cross, and ultimately He traded His life for ours, that we might be able to live with Him forever.

He was only eight days old when He experienced the pain of being circumcised. Circumcision wasn’t a clean, tidy hospital-procedure; rather it was done in the Temple with one of the crude cutting-implements of the day. He wasn’t dressed in cute little baby-outfits; rather, he was dressed in strips of coarse, hand-woven cloth. He wasn’t born walking and talking, potty-trained and able to feed Himself, rather, He was a baby with all its infant limitations. He and His parents became fugitives in Egypt from a ruthless king who had dozens of young boys slaughtered in hopes of “eliminating” Him. He grew and learned as any normal child does, and He experienced the trials of puberty as countless boys have since time began.

He was perfectly-obedient to His parents and to His Father, fulfilling all the requirements of the Law. A debate has been raging for centuries about whether Jesus could have sinned, and its answer has enormous-consequences on our salvation. If it would have been impossible for Jesus to sin, His righteous fulfillment of the Law would have been passive, because He could not do differently. If it was possible for Jesus to sin, His obedience was active and deliberate, which I believe the Bible supports. If Jesus could not sin, He has no righteousness to impute to us in our salvation, however, if He could have sinned, but didn’t, His perfect righteousness CAN be imputed to us in our salvation. We are the beneficiaries of His perfect righteousness, of His perfect obedience.

His humanity wasn’t just an “appearance“, He was, and is, as fully-human as you are, as I am. He had all the same physical “equipment” every male human has had or has. John the Apostle, in his Gospel, penned these beautiful words: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a)

He felt all of our human-feelings and experienced all of our human-emotions. He hurt. He was hungry and thirsty. He felt anger, sorrow and even grief. He worked with His hands and didn’t have an entourage of Angels to cater to His every whim. He came not to be served, but to serve, and just before His crucifixion, He took upon Himself the lowliest position as a Servant, stripped naked and washed His disciple’s feet. Ultimately He served us by taking our sin upon Himself and taking the full-wrath of God for our sin on the cross.

Jesus didn’t just die-physically; He experienced the wrath of God, including being separated from His Father’s presence. He plumbed the depths of Hell, experiencing all of its horrors. As the first Adam began mankind’s descent into disobedience in a Garden, the Garden of Eden, so the second Adam, Jesus Christ, began His journey for our redemption in a Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.

Before Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified, God the Father gave Him a foretaste of what lie ahead. As He entered the Garden of Gethsemane, He started feeling the weight, the gravity of what was about to happen. He wasn’t just afraid, He was overwhelmed. As He clawed at the ground praying to His Father, He was staring into the gaping hole that is the abyss, Hell. He could see the never-ending flames, feel the heat, smell the acrid smoke, and hear the screams of those already trapped there. There was only one entrance, and there was no exit. That was where He was going, for you, for me.

His closest friends had all-but deserted Him, so He had no human moral-support. The question came down to whether He loved them, whether He loves us, enough to continue that journey. Had it been left totally up to Him, He might have avoided the cross, forsaking us and our salvation, but He had a job to do, a mission to accomplish. God’s whole plan of redemption was on the line. Ultimately, He never wavered. The mission went on final-countdown when He said Not as I will, but as You will“.(Matthew 26:39) The physical-agony of being tortured and crucified was a walk in the park compared to what He was going to endure in Hell, but He didn’t shrink back from those who came to arrest Him. He was totally-confident that He could, and would, accomplish His ultimate mission, our redemption.

As Jesus hung there on the cross, between Heaven and Earth, and saw the gaping-entrance to Hell open up, He cried out; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His Father had abandoned Him. He was utterly-alone. When He took His last breath, He fell head-long into Hell, the cosmic-incinerator of sin and evil, as the wrath of a Holy and Just God was poured-out on Him. He died, not for His own sin, but for OUR sin. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our response…
As we consider what our Lord has done for us, how can we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think? How can we not serve Him and those around us in loving, gentle humility? I’ll leave you with the passage we opened with:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

In Christ,
Steve