Charles Spurgeon Sermon – Special Thanksgiving to the Father (audio video and transcript)

spurgeonCharles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon (June 19, 1834 January 31, 1892) was a British Reformed Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the „Prince of Preachers.” In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times a week at different places. His sermons have been translated into many languages. Spurgeon was the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in London for 38 years. In 1857, he started a charity organization called Spurgeon’s which now works globally. He also founded Spurgeon’s College, which was named after him after his death.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, a commentary, books on prayer, a devotional, a magazine, and more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Arguably, no other author, Christian or otherwise, has more material in print than C.H. Spurgeon.

Special Thanksgiving to the Father

This message was preached on February 15, 1860. The sermon is prefaced by a letter, which Mr. Spurgeon wrote in June of that same year, as he was on the continent. This is the letter:

MY DEAR BRETHREN,
    I have journeyed happily to the borders of Switzerland, and already feel that the removing of the yoke from the shoulder is one of the readiest means of restoring the metal powers. Much of Popish superstition and idolatry has passed under my observation, and if nothing else could make me a Protestant, what I have seen would do so. One thing I have learned anew, which I would have all my brethren learn, the power of a personal Christ. We Protestants are too apt to make doctrine everything, and the person of Christ is not held in sufficient remembrance; with the Roman Catholic doctrine is nothing, but the person is ever kept in view. The evil is, that the image of Christ before the eye of the Papist is carnal and not spiritual; but could we always keep o’er Lord before our eyes, his spiritual sense, we should be better men than any set of doctrines can ever make us. The Lord give to us to abide in him and so to bring forth much fruit.

Baden-Baden, June 15th, 1860                     C. H. Spurgeon

You can read the sermon, from Spurgeon.org below this video, or you can listen to the sermon being read here, on this VIDEO by Christian Praise and Worship in Songs, Sermons, and Audio Books

There is also a video playlist of Spurgeon sermons available here –
Charles Spurgeon Sermons Playlist 2: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…

A Sermon(No. 319)
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, January 15th, 1860, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

„Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”—Colossians 1:12, 13.

THIS PASSAGE IS A MINE of riches. I can anticipate the difficulty in preaching and the regret in concluding we shall experience this evening because we are not able to dig out all the gold which lies in this precious vein. We lack the power to grasp and the time to expatiate upon that volume of truths which is here condensed into a few short sentences.
    We are exhorted to „give thanks unto the Father.” This counsel is at once needful and salutary. I think, my brethren, we scarcely need to be told to give thanks unto the Son. The remembrance of that bleeding body hanging upon the cross is ever present to our faith. The nails and the spear, his griefs, the anguish of his soul, and his sweat of agony, make ouch tender touching appeals to our gratitude—these will prevent us always from ceasing our songs, and sometimes fire our hearts with rekindling rapture in praise of the man Christ Jesus. Yes we will bless thee, dearest Lord; our souls are all on fire. As we survey the, wondrous cross, we cannot but shout—

„O for this love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Savior’s praises speak.”

It is in a degree very much the same with the Holy Spirit. I think we are compelled to feel every day our dependence upon his constant influence. He abides with us as a present and personal Comforter and Counsellor. We, therefore, do praise the Spirit of Grace, who hath made our heart his temple, and who works in us all that is gracious, virtuous, and well-pleasing in the sight of God. If there be any one Person in the Trinity whom we are more apt to forget than another in our praises, it is God the Father. In fact there are some who even get a wrong idea of Him, a slanderous idea of that God whose name is LOVE. They imagine that love dwelt in Christ, rather than in the Father, and that our salvation is rather due to the Son and the Holy Spirit, than to our Father God. Let us not be of the number of the ignorant, but let us receive this truth. We are as much indebted to the Father as to any other Person of the Sacred Three. He as much and as truly loves us as any of the adorable Three Persons. He is as truly worthy of our highest praise as either the Son or the Holy Spirit.
    A remarkable fact, which we should always bear in mind, is this:—in the Holy Scriptures most of the operations which are set down as being the works of the Spirit, are in other Scriptures ascribed to God the Father. Do we say it is God the Spirit that quickens the sinner who is dead in sin? it is true; but you will find in another passage it is said „The Father quickeneth whom he will.” Do we say that the Spirit is the sanctifier, and that the sanctification of the soul is wrought by the Holy Ghost? You will find a passage in the opening of the Epistle of St. Jude, in which it is said, „Sanctified by God the Father.” Now, how are we to account for this? I think it may be explained thus. God the Spirit cometh from God the Father, and therefore whatever acts are performed by the Spirit are truly done by the Father, because he sendeth forth the Spirit. And again, the Spirit is often the instrument—though I say not this in any way to derogate from his glory—he is often the instrument with which the Father works. It is the Father who says to the dry bones, live; it is the Spirit who, going forth with the divine word, makes them live. The quickening is due as much to the word as to the influence that went with the word; and as the word came with all the bounty of free grace and goodwill from the Father, the quickening is due to him. It is true that the seal on our hearts is the Holy Spirit, he is the seal, hut it is the Eternal Father’s hand that stamps the seal; the Father communicates the Spirit to seal our adoption. The works of the Spirit are, many of them, I repeat it again, attributed to the Father, because he worketh in, through, and by the Spirit.
    The works of the Son of God, I ought to observe are every one of them in intimate connection with the Father. If the Son comes into the world, it is because the Father sends him; if the Son calls his people, it is because his Father gave this people into his hands. If the Son redeems the chosen race, is not the Son himself the Father’s gift, and doth not God send his Son into the world that we may live through him? So that the Father, the great Ancient of Days, is ever to be extolled; and we must never omit the full homage of our hearts to him when we sing that sacred doxology,

„Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

    In order to excite your gratitude to God the Father to-night, I propose to dilate a little upon this passage, as God the Holy Spirit shall enable me. If you will look at the text, you will see two blessings in it. The first has regard to the future; it is a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The second blessing, which must go with the first, for indeed it is the cause of the first, the effective cause, has relation to the past. Here we read of our deliverance from the power of darkness. Let us meditate a little upon each of these blessings, and then, in the third place, I will endeavor to show the relation which exists between the two.
    I. The first blessing introduced to our notice is this—”God the Father has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” It is a PRESENT BLESSING. Not a mercy laid up for us in the covenant, which we have not yet received, but it is a blessing which every true believer already has in his hand. Those mercies in the covenant of which we have the earnest now while we wait for the full possession, are just as rich, and just as certain as those which have been already with abundant lovingkindness bestowed on us, but still they are not so precious in our enjoyment. The mercy we have in store, and in hand is after all, the main source of our present comfort. And oh what a blessing this! „Made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” The true believer is fit for heaven; he is meet to be a partaker of the inheritance—and that now, at this very moment. What does this mean? Does it mean that the believer is perfect; that he is free from sin? No, my brethren, where shall you ever find such perfection in this world? If no man can be a believer but the perfect man, then what has the perfect man to believe? Could he not walk by sight? When he is perfect, he may cease to be a believer. No, brethren, it is not such perfection that is meant although perfection is implied, and assuredly will be given as the result. Far less does this mean that we have a right to eternal life from any doings of our own. We have a fitness for eternal life, a meetness for it, but we have no desert of it. We deserve nothing of God even now, in ourselves. but his eternal wrath and his infinite displeasure. What, then, does It mean? Why, it means just this: we are so far meet that we are accepted in the Beloved, adopted into the family, and fitted by divine approbation to dwell with the saints in light There is a woman chosen to be a bride; she is fitted to be married, fitted to enter into the honorable state and condition of matrimony; but at present she has not on the bridal garment, she is not like the bride adorned for her husband. You do not see her yet robed in her elegant attire, with her ornaments upon her, but you know she is fitted to be a bride, she is received and welcomed as such in the family of her destination. So Christ has chosen his Church to be married to him; she has not yet put on her bridal garment, beautiful array in which she shall stand before the father’s throne, but notwithstanding, there is such a fitness in her to be the bride of Christ, when she shall have bathed herself for a little while, and lain for a little while in the bed of spices—there is such a fitness in her character, such a grace given adaptation in her to become the royal bride of her glorious Lord, and to become a partaker of the enjoyments of bliss—that it may be said of the church as a whole, and of every member of it, that they are „meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
    The Greek word, moreover, bears some such meaning as this though I cannot give the exact idiom, it is always difficult when a word is not used often. This word is only used twice that I am aware of, in the New Testament. The word may be employed for „suitable,” or, I think, „sufficient” „He hath made us meet”—sufficient—”to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But I cannot give my idea without borrowing another figure. When a child is born, it is at once endowed with all the faculties of humanity. If those powers are awanting at first, they will not come afterwards. It has eyes, it has hands, it has feet, and all its physical organs. These of course are as it were in embryo. The senses though perfect at first, must be gradually developed, and the understanding gradually matured. It can see but little, it cannot discern distances. it can hear, but it cannot hear distinctly enough at first to know from what direction the sound comes; but you never find a new leg, a new arm, a new eye, or a new ear growing on that child. Each of these powers will expand and enlarge, but still there is the whole man there at first, and the child is sufficient for a man. Let but God in his infinite providence cause it to feed, and give it strength and increase, it has sufficient for manhood. It does not want either arm or leg, nose or ear. you cannot make it grow a new member; nor does it require a near member either; all are there. In like manner, the moment a man is regenerated, there is every faculty in his new creation that there shall be, even when he gets to heaven. It only needs to be developed and brought out: he will not have a new power, he will not have a new grace, he will have those which he had before, developed and brought out. Just as we are told by the careful observer, that in the acorn there is in embryo every root and every bough and every leaf of the future tree, which only requires to be developed and brought out in their fullness. So, in the true believer, there is a sufficiency or meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. All that he requires is, not that a new thing should be implanted, but that that which God has put there in the moment of regeneration, shall be cherished and nurtured, and made to grow and increase, till it comes unto perfection and he enters into „the inheritance of the saints in light.” This is, as near as I can give it to you, the exact meaning and literal interpretation of the text, as I understand it.
    But you may say to me, „In what sense is this meetness or fitness for eternal life the work of God the Father? Are we already made meet for heaven? How is this the rather’s work?” Look at the text a moment, and I will answer you in three ways.
    What is heaven? We read it is an inheritance. Who are fit for an inheritance? Sons. Who makes us sons? „Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” A son is fitted for an inheritance. The moment the son is born he is fitted to be an heir. All that is wanted is that he shall grow up and be capable of possession. But he is fit for an inheritance at first. If he were not a son he could not inherit as an heir. Now as soon as ever we become sons we are meet to inherit. There is in us an adaptation, a power and possibility for us to have an inheritance. This is the prerogative of the Father, to adopt us into his family, and to „beget us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And do you not see, that as adoption is really the meetness for inheritance, it is the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light?”
    Again, heaven is an inheritance; but whose inheritance is it? It is an inheritance of the saints. It is not an inheritance of sinners, but of saints—that is, of the holy ones—of those who have been made saints by being sanctified. Turn then, to the Epistle of Jude, and you will see at once who it is that sanctified. You will observe the moment you fix your eye upon the passage that it is God the Father. In the first verse you read, „Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father.” It is an inheritance for saints: and who are saints? The moment a man believes in Christ, he may know himself to have bean truly set apart in the covenant decree; and he finds consecration, if I may so speak, verified in his own experience, for he has now become „a new creature in Christ Jesus,” separated from the rest of the world, and then it is manifest and made known that God has taken him to be his son for ever. The meetness which I must have, in order to enjoy the inheritance of the saints in light, is my becoming a son. God hath made me and all believers sons, therefore we are meet for the inheritance; so then that meetness has come from the Father. How meetly therefore doth the Father claim our gratitude, our adoration and our love!
    You will however observe, it is not merely said that heaven is the inheritance of the saints, but that it is „the inheritance of the saints in light.” So the saints dwell in light—the light of knowledge, the light of purity, the light of joy, the light of love, pure ineffable love, the light of everything that is glorious and ennobling. There they dwell, and if I am to appear meet for that inheritance, what evidence must I have? I must have light shining into my own soul. But where can I get it? Do I not read that „every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and Cometh down”—yea verily, but from whom? From the Spirit? No—”from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” The preparation to enter into the inheritance in light is light. and light comes from the Father of lights; therefore, my meetness, if I have light in myself, is the work of the Father, and I must give him praise. Do you see then, that as there are three words used here—”the inheritance of the saints in light,” so we have a threefold meetness? We are adopted and made sons. God hath sanctified us and set us apart. And then, again, he hath put light into our hearts. All this, I say, is the work of the Father, and in this sense, we are „meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
    A few general observations here. Brethren, I am persuaded that if an angel from heaven were to come to-night and single out any one believer from the crowd here assembled, there is not one believer that is unfit to be taken to heaven. You may not be ready to be taken to heaven now; that is to say, if I foresaw that you were going to live, I would tell you you were unfit to die, in a certain sense. But were you to die now in your pew, if you believe in Christ, you are fit for heaven. You have a meetness even now which would take you there at once, without being committed to purgatory for a season. You are even now fit to be „partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” You have but to gasp out your last breath and you shall be in heaven, and there shall not be one spirit in heaven more fit for heaven than you, nor one soul more adapted for the place than you are. You shall be just as fitted for its element as those who are nearest to the eternal throne.
    Ah! this makes the heirs of glory think much of God the Father. When we reflect, my brethren, upon our state by nature, and how fit we are to be fire-brands in the flames of hell—yet to think that we are this night, at this very moment if Jehovah willed it, fit to sweep the golden harps with joyful fingers, that this head is fit this very night to wear the everlasting crown, that these loins are fit to be girded with that fair white robe throughout eternity, I say, this makes us think gratefully of God the Father; this makes us clap our hands with joy, and say, „thanks be unto God the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Do ye not remember the penitent thief? It was but a few minutes before that he had been cursing Christ. I doubt not that he had joined with the other, for it is said, „They that were crucified with him reviled him.” Not one, but both; they did it. And then a gleam of supernatural glory lit up the face of Christ, and the thief saw and believed. And Jesus said unto him, „Verily I say unto thee, this day,” though the sun is setting, „this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” No long preparation required, no sweltering in purifying fires. And so shall it be with us. We may have been in Christ Jesus to our own knowledge but three weeks, or we may have been in him for ten years, or threescore years and ten—the date of our conversion makes no difference in our meetness for heaven, in a certain sense. True indeed the older we grow the more grace we have tasted, the riper we are becoming, and the fitter to be housed in heaven; but that is in another sense of the word,—the Spirit’s meetness which he gives. But with regard to that meetness which the Father gives, I repeat, the blade of corn, the blade of gracious wheat that has just appeared above the surface of conviction, is as fit to be carried up to heaven as the full-grown corn in the ear. The sanctification wherewith we are sanctified by God the Father is not progressive, it Is complete at once, we are now adapted for heaven, now fitted for it, and we shall enter into the joy of our Lord.
    Into this subject I might have entered more fully; but I have not time. I am sure I have left some knots untied, and you must untie them if you can yourselves; and let me recommend you to untie them on your knees—the mysteries of the kingdom of God are studied much the best when you are in prayer.
    II. The second mercy is A MERCY THAT LOOKS BACK. We sometimes prefer the mercies that look forward, because they unfold such a bright prospect.

„Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood.”

But here is a mercy that looks backward; turns its back, as it were, on the heaven of our anticipation, and looks back on the gloomy past, and the dangers from which we have escaped. Let us read the account of it—”Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This verse is an explanation of the preceding, as we shall have to show in a few minutes. But just now let us survey this mercy by itself. Ah! my brethren, what a description have we here of what matter of men we used to be. We were under „the power of darkness.” Since I have been musing on this text, I have turned these words over and over in my mind—”the power of darkness!” It seems to me one of the most awful expressions that man ever attempted to expound. I think I could deliver a discourse from it, if God the Spirit helped me, which might make every bone in your body shake. „The power of darkness!” We all know that there is a moral darkness which exercises its awful spell over the mind of the sinner. Where God is unacknowledged the mind is void of judgment. Where God is unworshipped the heart of man becomes a ruin. The chambers of that dilapidated heart are haunted by ghostly fears and degraded superstitions. The dark places of that reprobate mind are tenanted by vile lusts and noxious passions, like vermin and reptiles, from which in open daylight we turn with disgust. And even natural darkness is tremendous. In the solitary confinement which is practiced in some of our penitentiaries the very worst results would be produced if the treatment were prolonged. If one of you were to be taken to-night and led into some dark cavern, and left there, I can imagine that for a moment, not knowing your fate, you might feel a child-like kind of interest about it;—there might be, perhaps, a laugh as you found yourselves in the dark; there might for the moment, from the novelty of the position, be some kind of curiosity excited. There might, perhaps, be a flush of silly joy. In a little time you might endeavor to compose yourself to sleep; possibly you night sleep; but if you should awake, and still find yourself down deep in the bowels of earth, where never a ray of sun or candle light could reach you; do you know the next feeling that would come over you? It would be a kind of idiotic thoughtlessness. You would find it impossible to control your desperate imagination. You heart would say, „O God I am alone, alone, alone, in this dark place.” How would you cast your eyeballs all around, and never catching a gleam of light, your mind would begin to fail. Your next stage would be one of increasing terror. You would fancy that you saw something, and then you would cry, „Ah! I would I could see something, were it foe or fiend!” You would feel the dark sides of your dungeon. You would begin to „scribble on the walls,” like David before king Achish. Agitation would cease hold upon you, and it you were kept there much longer, delirium and death would be the consequence. We have heard of many who have been taken from the penitentiary to the lunatic asylum; and the lunacy is produced partly by the solitary confinement, and partly by the darkness in which they are placed. In a report lately written by the Chaplain of Newgate, there are some striking reflections upon the influence of darkness in a way of discipline. Its first effect is to shut the culprit up to his own reflections, and make him realize his true position in the iron grasp of the outraged law. Methinks the man that has defied his keepers, and come in there cursing and swearing, when he has found himself alone in darkness, where he cannot even hear the rattling of carriages along the streets, and can see no light whatever, is presently cowed; he gives in, he grows tame. „The power of darkness” literally is something awful. If I had time, I would enlarge upon this subject. We cannot properly describe what „the power of darkness” is, even in this world. The sinner is plunged into the darkness of his sins, and he sees nothing, he knows nothing. Let him remain there a little longer, and that joy of curiosity, that hectic joy which he now has in the path of sin, will die away, and there will come over him a spirit of slumber. Sin will make him drowsy, so that he will not hear the voice of the ministry, crying to him to escape for his life. Let him continue in it, and it will by-and-bye make him spiritually an idiot. He will become so in sin, that common reason will be lost on him. All the arguments that a sensible man will receive, will be only wasted on him. Let him go on, and he will proceed from bad to worse, till he acquires the raving mania of a desperado in sin; and let death step in, and the darkness will have produced its full effect; he will come into the delirious madness of hell. Ah! it needs but the power of sin to make a man more truly hideous than human thought can realize, or language paint. Oh „the power of darkness!”
    Now, my brethren, all of us were under this power once. It is but a few months—a few weeks with some of you—since you were under the power of darkness and of sin. Some of you had only got as far as the curiosity of it; others had got as far as the sleepiness of it; a good many of you had got as far as the apathy of it; and I do not know but some of you had got almost to the terror of it. You had so cursed and swore; so yelled ye out your blasphemies, that you seemed to be ripening for hell; but, praised and blessed be the name of the Father, he has „translated you from the power of darkness, into the kingdom of his dear Son.”
    Having thus explained this term, „the power of darkness,” to show you what you were, let us take the next word, „and hath translated us.” Whet a angular word this—”translated”—is. I dare say you think it means the process by which a word is interpreted, when the sense is retained, while the expression is rendered in another language. That is one meaning of the word „translation,” but it is not the meaning here. The word is used by Josephus in this sense—the taking away of a people who have been dwelling in a certain country, and planting them in another place. This is called a translation. We sometimes hear of a bishop being translated or removed from one see to another. Now, if you want to have the idea explained, give me your attention while I bring out an amazing instance of a great translation. The children of Israel were in Egypt under taskmasters that oppressed them very sorely, and brought them into iron bondage. What did God do for these people? There were two millions of them. He did not temper the tyranny of the tyrant; he did not influence his mind, to give them a little more liberty; but he translated his people; he took the whole two millions bodily, with a high hand and outstretched arm, and led them through the wilderness, and translated them into the kingdom of Canaan; and there they were settled. What an achievement was that, when, with their flocks and their herds, and their little ones, the whole host of Israel went out of Egypt, crossed the Jordan, and came into Canaan! My dear brethren, the whole of it was not equal to the achievement of God’s powerful grace, when he! brings one poor sinner out of the region of sin into the kingdom of holiness and peace. It was easier for God to bring Israel out of Egypt, to split the Red Sea, to make a highway through the pathless wilderness, to drop manna from heaven, to send the whirlwind to drive out the kings; it was easier for Omnipotence to do all this, than to translate a man from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. This is the grandest achievement of Omnipotence. The sustenance of the whole universe, I do believe, is even less than this—the changing of a bad heart, the subduing of an iron will. But thanks be unto the Father, he has done all that for you and for me. He has brought us out of darkness, he has translated us, taken up the old tree that has struck its roots never so deep—taken it up, blessed be God, roots and all, and planted it in a goodly soil. He had to cut the top off, it is true—the high branches of our pride; but the tree has grown better in the near soil than it ever did before. Who ever heard of moving so huge a plant as a man who has grown fifty years old in sin? Oh! what wonders hath our Father done for us I He has taken the wild leopard of the wood, tamed it into a lamb, and purged away its spots. He has regenerated the poor Ethiopian—oh, how black are were by nature—our blackness was more than skin deep; it went to the center of our hearts; but, blessed be his name, he hath washed us white, and is still carrying on the divine operation, and he will yet completely deliver us from every taint of sin, and will finally bring us into the kingdom of his dear son. Here, then, in the second mercy, we discern from what we were delivered, and how we were delivered—God the Father hath „translated” us.
    But where are we now? Into what place is the believer brought, when he is brought out of the power of darkness? He is brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Into what other kingdom would the Christian desire to be brought? Brethren. a republic may sound very well in theory, but in spiritual matters, the last thing we want is a republic. We want a kingdom. I love to have Christ an absolute monarch in the heart. I do not want to have a doubt about it. I want to give up all my liberty to him. for I feel that I never shall be free till my self-control is all gone; that I shall never have my will truly free till it is bound in the golden fetters of his sweet love. We are brought into a kingdom—he is Lord and Sovereign, and he has made us „kings and priests unto our God,” and we shall reign with him. The proof that we are in this kingdom must consist in our obedience to our King. Here, perhaps, we may raise many causes and questions, but surely we can say after all, though we have offended our King many times, yet our heart is loyal to him. „Oh, thou precious Jesus! we would obey thee, and yield submission to every one of thy laws, our sins are not wilful and beloved sins, but though we fall we can truly say, that we would be holy as thou art holy, our heart is true towards thy statutes; Lord, help us to run in the way of thy commandments.”
    So, you see, this mercy which God the Father hath given to us, this second of these present mercies, is, that he hath „translated us out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is the Father’s work. Shall we not love God the Father from this day forth? Will we not give him thanks, and sing our hymns to him, and exalt and triumph in his great name?
    III. Upon the third point, I shall be as brief as possible; it is to SHOW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO VERSES.
    When I get a passage of Scripture to meditate upon, I like, if I can, to see its drift, then I like to examine its various parts, and see if I can understand each separate clause; and then I want to go back again, and see what one clause has to do with another. I looked and looked again at this text, and wondered what connection there could be between the two verses. „Giving thanks unto God the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Well, that is right enough; we can see how this is the work of God the Father, to make us meet to go to heaven. But has the next verse, the 13th, anything to do with our meetness?—”Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Well, I looked it over and I said I will read it in this way. I see the 12th verse tells me that the inheritance of heaven is the inheritance of light. Is heaven light? Then I can see my meetness for it as described in the 13th verse.—He hath delivered me from the power of darkness. Is not that the same thing? If I am delivered from the power of darkness, is not that being made meet to dwell in light? If I am now brought out of darkness into light, and am walking in the light, is not that the very meetness which is spoken of in the verse before? Then I read again. It says they are saints. Well, the saints are a people that obey the Son. Here is my meetness then in the 13th verse, where it says „He hath translated me from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son.” So that I not only have the light, but the sonship too, for I am in „the kingdom of his dear Son.” But how about the inheritance? Is there anything about that in the 13th verse? It is an inheritance; shall I find anything about a meetness for it there? Yes, I find that I am in the kingdom of his dear Son. How came Christ to have a kingdom? Why, by inheritance. Then it seems I am in his inheritance; and if I am in his inheritance here, then I am meet to be in it above, for I am in it already. I am even now part of it and partner of it, since I am in the kingdom which he inherits from his Father, and therefore there is the meetness.
    I do not know whether I have put this plainly enough before you. If you will be kind enough to look at your Bible, I will just recapitulate. You see, heaven is a place of light; when we are brought out of darkness, that, of course, is the meetness for light. It is a place for sons; when we are brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, we are of course made sons, so that there is the meetness for it. It is an inheritance; and when we are brought into the inherited kingdom of God’s dear Son, we enjoy the inheritance now, and consequently are fitted to enjoy it for ever.
    Having thus shown the connection between these verses, I propose now to close with a few general observations. I like so to expound the Scripture, that we can draw some practical inferences from it. Of course the first inference is this: let us from this night forward never omit God the Father in our praises. I think I have said this already six times over in the sermon. Why I am repeating it so often, is that we may never forget it. Martin Luther said he preached upon justification by faith every day in the week and then the people would not understand. There are some truths, I believe, that need to be said over and over again, either because our silly hearse will not receive, or our treacherous memories will not hold them. Sing, I beseech you, habitually, the praises of the Father in heaven, as you do the praises of the Son hanging upon the cross. Love as truly God, the ever-living God, as you love Jesus the God-man, the Savior who once died for you. That is the great inference.
    Yet another inference arises. Brothers and sisters, are you conscious to-night that you are not now what you once were? Are you sure that the power of darkness does not now rest upon you, that you love divine knowledge, that you are panting after heavenly joys? Are you sure that you have been „translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son?” Then never be troubled about thoughts of death, because, come death whenever it may, you are meet to be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Let no thought distress you about death’s coming to you at an unseasonable hour. Should it come to-morrow should it come now, if your faith is fixed on nothing less than Jesu’s blood and righteousness, you shall see the face of God with acceptance. I have that consciousness in my soul, by the witness of the Holy Spirit, of my adoption into the family of God, that I feel that though I should never preach again, but should lay down my body and my charge together, ere I should reach my home, and rest in my bed, „I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and more, that I should be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” It is not always that one feels that but I would have you never rest satisfied till you do, till you know your meetness, till you are conscious of it; until, moreover, you are panting to be gone, because you feel that you have powers which never can be satisfied short-of heaven—powers which heaven only can employ.
    One more reflection lingers behind. There are some of you here that cannot be thought by the utmost charity of judgment, to be „meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Ah! if a wicked man should go to heaven without being converted, heaven would be no heaven to him. Heaven is not adapted for sinners; it is not a place for them. If you were to take a Hottentot who has long dwelt at the equator up to where the Esquimaux are dwelling, and tell him that you would show him the aurora, and all the glories of the North Pole, the poor wretch could not appreciate them; he would say, „It is not the element for me; it is not the place where I could rest happy! And if you were to take, on the other hand, some dwarfish dweller in the north, down to the region where trees grow to a stupendous height, and where the spices give their balmy odours to the gale, and bid him live there under the torrid zone, he could enjoy nothing; he would say, „This is not the place for me, because it is not adapted to my nature.” Or if you were to take the vulture, that has never fed on anything but carrion, and put it into the noblest dwelling you could make for it, and feed it with the daintiest meals, it would not be happy because it is not food that is adapted for it. And you, sinner, you are nothing but a carrion vulture; nothing makes you happy but sin, you do not want too much psalm singing, do you? Sunday is a dull day to you; you like to get it over, you do not care about your Bible; you would as soon there should be no Bible at all, You find that going to a meeting-house or a church is very dull work indeed. Oh then you will not be troubled with that in eternity; do not agitate yourself. If you love not God, and die as you are, you shall go to your own company, you shall go to your jolly mates, you shall go to your good fellows; those who have been your mates on earth shall be your mates for ever; but you shall go to the Prince of those good fellows, unless you repent and be converted. Where God is you cannot come. It is not an element suited to you. As well place a bird at the bottom of the sea, or a fish in the air, as place an ungodly sinner in heaven. What is to be done then? You must have a new nature. I pray God to give it to you. Remember if now you feel your need of a Savior, that is the beginning of the new nature. „Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ;” cast yourselves simply on him, trust in nothing but his blood, and then the new nature shall be expanded, and you shall be made meet by the Holy Spirit’s operations to be a „partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.” There is many a man who has come into this house of prayer, many a man is now present, who has come in here a rollicking fellow, fearing neither God nor devil. Many a man has come from the ale house up to this place. If he had died then, where would his soul have been? But the Lord that very night met him, There are trophies of that grace present here to-night. You can say, „Thanks be to the Father, who hath brought us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” And if God has done that for some, why cannot he do it for others? Why need you despair, O poor sinner? If thou art here to-night, the worst sinner out of hell, remember, the gate of mercy stands wide open, and Jesus bids thee come, Conscious of thy guilt, flee, flee to him. Look to his cross, and thou shalt find pardon in his veins, and life in his death.

Reclame

Our Father – Don Moen Songs – Cantari frumoase

Photo credit www.staciespielman.com

„Our Father”

Hear our prayer
We are Your children
And we’ve gathered here today, bless me
We’re gathered here to prayHear our cry
Lord, we need Your mercy
And we need Your grace today, yes, we do
Hear us as we prayOur Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Our Father, hear us from Heaven
Forgive our sins we prayHear our song
As it rises to Heaven
May Your glory fill the earth
As the waters cover the seasSee our hearts
And remove anything
That is standing in the way
Of coming to You todayOur Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Our Father, hear us from Heaven
Forgive our sins we pray

And though we are few
We’re surrounded by many
Who have crossed that river before
And this is the song we’ll be singing forever

Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord

Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord
Holy is the Lord

Hear our prayer
We are Your children
And we’ve gathered here today
We’re gathered here to pray

Hear our cry
Oh Lord, we need Your mercy
And we need Your grace today, yes, we do
Hear us as we pray

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Our Father, hear us from Heaven
Forgive our sins we pray

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Our Father, hear us from Heaven
Forgive our sins we pray
Forgive our sins we pray
Forgive our sins we pray
Oh yeah.

Lyrics by www.azlyrics.com VIDEO by kippik61 (73 minutes)

Easter songs: True love and Give me Jesus – Christ our eternal hope and salvation!!!! Christ is risen!!!! Hallelujah!!!! Easter songs –

Come close listen to the story
about a love more faithful than the morning
The Father gave his only Son just to save us

The earth was shaking in the dark
All creation felt the Fathers broken heart
tears were filling heaven’s eyes
The day that true love died, the day that true love died
When blood and water hit the ground
Walls we couldn’t move came crashing down
We were free and made alive
The day that true love died, The day that true love died

Search your heart you know you can’t deny it
Come on, lose your life just so you can find it
The Father gave his only son just to save us

The earth was shaking in the dark
All creation felt the Fathers broken heart
tears were filling heaven’s eyes
The day that true love died, the day that true love died
When blood and water hit the ground
Walls we couldn’t move came crashing down
We were free and made alive
The day that true love died, The day that true love died

Now, Jesus is alive

Jesus is alive X4
Oh, He is alive
He rose again

When blood and water hit the ground
Walls we couldn’t move came crashing down
We were free and made alive
The day that true love died, The day that true love died

Uploaded by 

 

Give me Jesus

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
Oh, when I am alone
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

Jesus
Give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
Oh, when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

from www.elyrics.net

Wednesday Events – Passion Week – and Judas Iscariot,the suicide of Satan and the Salvation of the World

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

(via) Justin Taylor from the Gospel Coalition

Holy Week: What Happened on Wednesday?

Jesus continues his daily teaching in the Temple

Luke 21:37-38

With Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread approaching, the chief priests, elders, and scribes plot to kill Jesus

Matthew 26:3-5 Mark 14:1-2 Luke 22:1-2

Satan enters Judas, who seeks out the Jewish authorities in order to betray Jesus for a price

Matthew 26:14-16 Mark 14:10-11 Luke 22:3-6

Luke 22:1-6

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

This is the final message in the series called Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. The aim has been to show that over and over in the history of the world, the epoch-making sins that changed the course of history never nullified but only fulfilled the global purposes of God to glorify his Son and save his people.

My prayer is that, as these great historical vistas of God’s sovereignty over sin take their place in your renewed mind, they would have a profoundly practical effect in making you strong in the face of breath-stopping sorrows and making you bold for Christ in the face of dangerous opposition. Christ-exalting strength in calamity and Christ-exalting courage in conflict. I pray that the Lord will weave cords of steel and silk into the fabric of your soul.

History’s Most Spectacular Sin: The Murder of Jesus

The most spectacular sin that has ever been committed in the history of the world is the brutal murder of Jesus Christ, the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And probably the most despicable act in the process of this murder was the betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest friends, Judas Iscariot.

Judas was one of the twelve apostles that Jesus had personally chosen and who had been with Jesus during his entire public ministry. He had been entrusted with the moneybag for the whole group (John 13:29). He was close enough to Jesus at the Last Supper to be dipping bread with him in the same cup (Mark 14:20).

“Satan Entered into Judas”

On the night of the Last Supper, Luke tells us in Luke 22:3-6 that “Satan entered into Judas. . . . He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray [Jesus] to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.” Later he led the authorities to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48). With that, Jesus’ death was sealed.

When Luke tells us in verse 3 that “Satan entered into Judas,” several questions come to our minds. 1) One is whether Satan simply mastered a good Judas or whether Judas was already walking in line with Satan and Satan simply decided that now is the time. 2) Another question is why Satan would do this since the death and resurrection of Jesus would result in Satan’s final defeat, and there is good reason to think Satan knew that. 3) And the third and most important question is: Where was God when this happened? What was his role or non-role in the most spectacular sin that ever was? So let’s take these questions one at a time.

1) Satan’s Power in Judas’ Sinful Passions

When it says in Luke 22:3 that “Satan entered into Judas,” how are we to think about the will of Judas and the power of Satan? Judas was not an innocent bystander when Satan entered into him. The apostle John tells us in John 12:6 that he was a thief. When Judas complained that Mary had wasted money in anointing Jesus, John comments, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

If that sounds incredible, just think of the scandalous behavior of so-called Christian leaders today who use ministry gifts to buy $39,000 worth of clothes at one store in a year, and send their kids on a $29,000 trip to the Bahamas, and drive a white Lexus and a red Mercedes. As Judas sat beside Jesus with his pious, religious face and went out and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, he was not a righteous lover of Jesus. He loved money. He loved the power and pleasures that money could by.

Paul tells us how that works together with Satan’s power. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [notice the connection: dead in sins, following Satan], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Dead in our sins, walking in the passions of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of body and mind, and therefore following the prince of the power of the air.

Satan does not take innocent people captive. There are no innocent people. Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. Judas was a lover of money, and he covered it with a phony, external relationship with Jesus. And then he sold him for thirty pieces of silver. How many of his tribe are there still today! Don’t be one. And don’t be duped by one.

2) Satan’s Role in His Own Destruction

The second question is why Satan would lead Judas to betray Jesus. Doesn’t he know that the death and resurrection of Jesus would result in Satan’s final defeat (Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 12:11)? There’s good reason to think Satan knew that.

When Jesus began his ministry on the way to the cross, Satan tried to turn him away from the path of suffering and sacrifice. In the wilderness, he tempted him to turn stones into bread and jump off the temple and get the rulership of the world by worshipping him (Matthew 4:1-11). The point of all these temptations is: Don’t walk the path of suffering and sacrifice and death. Use your power to escape suffering. If you’re the Son of God, show your right to reign. And I can help you do it. Whatever you do, don’t go to the cross.

Then do you remember the time when Jesus predicted he would suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and be killed and Peter rebuked him and said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). In other words, I will never let you be killed like that. Jesus did not commend him. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Hindering Jesus from going to the cross was the work of Satan. Satan did not want Jesus crucified. It would be his undoing.

But here he is in Luke 22:3 entering into Judas and leading him to betray the Lord and bring him to the cross. Why the about face? Why try to divert him from the cross and then take the initiative to bring him to the cross? We are not told. Here is my effort at an answer: Satan saw his efforts to divert Jesus from the cross failing. Time after time, Jesus kept the course. His face was set like flint to die, and Satan concludes that there is no stopping him. Therefore he resolves that if he can’t stop it, he will at least make it as ugly and painful and as heartbreaking as possible. Not just death, but death by betrayal. Death by abandonment. Death by denial (see Luke 22:31-32). If he could not stop it, he would drag others into it and do as much damage as he could. It was a spectacular sequence of sins that brought Jesus to the cross.

3) God’s Role in the Murder of His Son

Which brings us now to the third and final question—the most important one: Where was God when this happened? Or more precisely: What was God’s role or non-role in the most spectacular sin that ever happened—the murder of Jesus Christ?

To answer a question like that we should put our hands on our mouths and silence our philosophical speculations. Our opinions don’t count here. All that counts is what God himself as shown us in his word. And the first thing he shows us is that the details surrounding the death of Jesus are prophesied in God’s word hundreds of years before they happen.

The Scriptures prophesy that evil men will reject Jesus when he comes.

Matthew 21:42: “Jesus said to them (quoting Psalm 118:22), ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?’”

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus must be hated.

In John 15:25, Jesus quoted Psalm 35:19 and said, “The word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

The Scriptures prophesy that the disciples would abandon Jesus.

In Matthew 26:31, he quotes Zechariah 13:7: “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus will be pierced but none of his bones will be broken.

John quotes Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10 and says, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. . . . For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:34-37).

The Scriptures prophesy that Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver.

In John 13:18, Jesus cites Psalm 41:9 and says, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’”

And in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!”

And in Matthew 27:9-10, it says, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me’” (Jeremiah 19:1-13; Zechariah 11:12-13).

And not only the Scriptures, but Jesus himself prophesies, down to the details, how he will be killed.

In Mark 10:33-34, he says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

And on that last night, Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34).

According to His Sovereign Will

From all these prophesies, we know that God foresaw, and did not prevent, and therefore included in his plan that his Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. All these are explicitly in God’s mind before they happen as things that he plans will happen to Jesus. These things did not just happen. They were foretold in God’s word. God knew they would happen and could have planned to stop them, but didn’t. So they happened according to his sovereign will.

And all of them were evil. They were sin. It is sin to reject, hate, abandon, betray, deny, condemn, spit upon, flog, mock, pierce, and kill the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And yet the Bible is explicit and clear that God himself planned these things. It is explicit not only in all the prophetic texts we have seen, but also in passages that say even more plainly that God brought these things to pass.

God Brought It to Pass

For example, in Isaiah 53:6 and 10, it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” So behind the spitting and flogging and mocking and piercing is the invisible hand and plan of God.

And I say that carefully and with trembling. This truth is too big and too weighty and too shocking to be glib about or to be cocky about. I choose to say that the invisible hand and plan of God are behind these most spectacular sins in all the universe—more grievous and more spectacular than the fall of Satan or any others. The reason I use these very words is because the Bible says it in those very words.

The Hand and Plan of God

In Acts 4:27-28, we have the clearest, most explicit statement about God’s hand and plan behind the horrific crucifixion of his Son. “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand (cheir) and your plan (boule) had predestined to take place.” Those are the two words I am using: the hand of God and the plan of God.

It is a strange way of speaking—to say that God’s hand and plan have predestined something to happen. One does not ordinarily think of God’s “hand” predestining. How does a hand predestine? Here’s what I think it means: The hand of God ordinarily stands for God’s exerted power—not power in the abstract, but earthly, effective exertions of power. The point of combining it with “plan” is to say that it is not just a theoretical plan; it is plan that will be executed by God’s own hand.

This explains Isaiah 53:10: “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.” Or more literally, with the King James Version, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” The Lord bruised him. Behind Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel was Jesus’ own Father who loved him with an infinite love.

The Gospel: God At Work in Death

Why should this matter to you? It should matter because if God were not the main Actor in the death of Christ, then the death of Christ could not save us from our sins and we would perish in hell forever. The reason the death of Christ is the heart of gospel—the heart of the good news—is God was doing it. Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If you break God’s activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel. This was God’s doing. It is the highest and deepest point of his love for sinners. His love for you.

Romans 8:3: “Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh with our condemnation. So we are free.

Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” God cursed Jesus with the curse that belonged on us. So we are free.

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God imputed our sin to him, and now we go free in God’s righteousness.

Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” God wounded him. God crushed him. For you and me. And we go free.

The Cross of Christ: The Work and Love of God

The reason why this series of messages matters is this. If you embrace the biblical truth (and I pray you will) that God ordains spectacular sins for the global glory of his Son, without in anyway becoming unholy or unrighteous or sinful in that act, then you will not shrink back from the cross of Christ as a work of God. You will not be among the number of those who call the most loving act that ever was “divine child abuse.” You will come to the cross and fall on your face. And you will say: This is no mere human conspiracy. This is the work of God and the love of God. You will it receive as his highest gift. And you will be saved. And Christ will be glorified. And I will not have preached in vain.

© Desiring God

Passion Week – Monday – Jesus cleanses the Temple

Photo credit James Tissot painting www.joyfulheart.com

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

  1. On Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple.
  2. On the way back to Jerusalem Jesus curses the fig tree.
  3. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he cleanses the temple (though it’s debated, this is likely the area of the Royal Stoa, described by Josephus in Antiquitites 15.411–415, which ran the length of the southern wall of the Temple Mount).
  4. Jesus then did miracles in the temple and received challenges from the Jewish leaders and astonishment from the crowd.
  5. In the evening Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany.

The following synopsis is from Christian Classics Ethereal Library, written by Mark A. Copeland.

„THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”

The Cleansing Of The Temple (John 2:13-25)

INTRODUCTION

1. It is common to think of Jesus as a gentle, peace-loving man…

a. He certainly presented Himself as such on most occasions – e.g.,
Mt 11:28-30
b. People felt comfortable in bringing their children to Him – e.g.,
Mt 19:13-14

2. Yet on occasion Jesus displayed strong righteous indignation…
a. Such as when He visited Jerusalem during the Passover at the
beginning of His ministry
b. As He drove the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple
– Jn 2:13-15

[What prompted this outburst of anger? What gave Jesus the authority to
do this? What lessons might we glean from this event? As we seek to
find the answers let’s first note…]

I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD

A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…

1. The Lord’s rebuke reveals the reason for His outburst – cf. Jn 2:16
2. The sellers of oxen and sheep, along with the moneychangers,
had turned the temple into a house of merchandise
3. It was to be a house of prayer, they had turned it into a den
of thieves – cf. Mt 21:13
– The Lord was angered by the manner in which some used religion to make money

B. MIGHT WE BE GUILTY OF A SIMILAR OFFENSE…?
1. What if we attend church simply as a form of „networking”, to
make business contacts?
2. What if we take advantage of our relationship as brethren to
further a multilevel marketing business, a home-based business,
or any other financial enterprise?
– The Lord’s temple today is the church, we must be careful lest we defile it as well (cf. 1Co 3:16-17)

[The Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel be supported (1 Col 9:14). But He is angered by those who view the Lord’s temple
(people) as a way to get rich. Next, we note that His anger was
prompted by…]

II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

A. ZEAL FOR HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…
1. The disciples were reminded of an Old Testament prophecy – Jn 2:17; cf. Ps 69:9
2. Jesus had zeal (fervor) for God’s house, for it’s intended
purpose (a house of prayer)
– His great zeal for His Father’s house moved Him to action

B. HOW IS OUR ZEAL FOR THE LORD’S HOUSE…?
1. Remember, today the Father’s house is the church – cf. 1 Ti 3:15
2. Do we have great zeal for the church?
a. That it fulfill it’s intended purpose (to make known God’s
will)? – cf. Ep 3:10-11
b. That we are troubled when we see people try to turn it into
something else, such as social club, or a purveyor of
entertainment?
– If we have zeal for the Lord’s house, we will not rest silent when others pervert its purpose

[Of course, the action we take may not be the same as what Jesus did.
Indeed, He took up „a whip of cords.” What right did He have to use
such a display of force? That’s what the Jews wanted to know…]

III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD

A. THE SIGN THAT PROVES HIS AUTHORITY…
1. They wanted to know what sign (miracle) He could offer to prove
His right to cleanse the temple – Jn 2:18
2. Jesus offered His ability to rise from the dead as the ultimate
proof – Jn 2:19-22
a. Later, He would restate His claim to have this ability – Jn 10:17-18
b. His resurrection proved that He was the Son of God – cf. Ro 1:4
– He has been given the authority to exercise such judgment as cleansing the temple – cf. Jn 5:22,26-27

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME AUTHORITY…
1. We are to judge with righteous judgment – Jn 7:24
a. At times we must distinguish between „hogs” and „dogs” – Mt 7:6
b. We can distinguish between good and bad fruit – Mt 7:15-20
2. But our authority to judge is limited – Mt 7:1-5
a. There are things we cannot judge in this life – 1Co 4:3-5
b. There are people we are not to judge – 1Co 5:11-13
c. Vengeance in particular belongs to the Lord – cf. Ro 12: 17-19
– While Jesus is our example (cf. 1Pe 2:21), there are some „steps” that He took that we cannot take

[The reason we cannot emulate the Lord in every case becomes evident as we consider…]

IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD

A. THE POWER THAT JUSTIFIES HIS ACTION…
1. John mentions how many came to believe in Him because of His
signs – Jn 2:23
2. John also makes note of His unwillingness to commit Himself to
others at this time
a. He had no need to, because he knew all – Jn 2:24
b. He had no need to, because he knew what was in man – Jn 2:25
– Jesus is revealed as one who can discern the hearts of men – cf. Mt 9:4; Re 2:23

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME POWER…
1. We cannot discern the hearts of men like the Lord can; note
these comments:
a. „Our Lord knew all men, their nature, dispositions,
affections, designs, so as we do not know any man, not even
ourselves.”
b. „He knows his crafty enemies, and all their secret projects;
his false friends, and their true characters.”
c. „He knows who are truly his, knows their uprightness, and
knows their weaknesses.”
d. „We know what is done by men; Christ knows what is in them,
he tries the heart.”
– Matthew Henry Commentary
2. Since we cannot read the hearts of men, we must be careful
a. We are unable to always know the motives of others
b. We must approach those in opposition with humility – cf.
2Ti 2:24-26
c. We must approach brethren overtaken in a fault with
gentleness – cf. Ga 6:1

CONCLUSION

1. In contending for the faith (which is a solemn duty, Jude 3)…
a. Some often use the example of Jesus cleansing the temple to
justify their behavior
b. As they lash out in anger (righteous indignation?) towards those
teaching error

2. Is it right to appeal to Jesus’ example in this case…?
a. Can we appeal to every example of Jesus?
b. If so, are we justified to use a whip of cords as well?

3. The immediate context offers reasons to answer carefully…
a. Jesus possessed unlimited authority to judge man, proven by His
resurrection from the dead
b. Jesus possessed divine power to read the hearts of men, we
sometimes cannot even discern our own hearts

4. There are times for righteous indignation…
a. But some things must be left to the Lord, the righteous Judge
b. We must avoid what might actually be „self-righteous” indignation!

While we may not always be able to emulate the Lord’s prerogative to judge, we should certainly strive to copy His zeal for His Father’s house. Is our zeal for His church what it ought to be…?

Palm Sunday 3/3 – Jesus Declares His Kingship

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

You can listen to the audio here from Desiring God, John Piper.

Matthew 21:1-17

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 „If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 „SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, „Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, „Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, „This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, „It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, „Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, „Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

What I would like to do this morning is help you hear Jesus’ own declaration of his kingship. I want you to see from Matthew 21:1-17 how Jesus says, „I am your king.” And I would like to do it in a way that makes sure you see the nature of his kingship now and the different nature of his kingship when he comes a second time. And I want you to see and feel the difference because the nature of Jesus’ kingship now is creating a season of salvation in world history during which you can still switch sides and be saved from his wrath and judgment. There is still time – even now this morning – when you can accept the amnesty that King Jesus holds out to you, and renounce your allegiance to self and success and money and family and physical pleasure and security – and whatever else rules you more than Jesus. And you can bow and receive Christ as your King and swear allegiance to him, and be on his side with everlasting joy.

The Kingship of Jesus Will Look Different Than It Does Now

To help you feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history – and yes I say brief, though it has lasted 2000 years; compared to how long we will exist in heaven or hell, it is very brief – to feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history consider that the day is coming, and perhaps soon, when the kingship of Jesus will very different than it is now. Here is a description of that kingship, as John saw it in the last book of the Bible:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, „KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

When the kingship of Jesus appears in the skies like that, it will be too late to switch sides. „Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I believe that is what Matthew is trying to say to us this morning in the way Jesus proclaims his kingship in Matthew 21:1-17. What he wants us to hear – what Jesus wants us to see – is that, yes, he is king, yes his kingship is not provincial or tribal or national, but international and global and universal. But it is for now meek, lowly, welcoming, seeking, forgiving, patient. He will, in a matter of days, shed his own blood to save all who will accept his free gift of amnesty and come over to his side. And until he comes again this is the wonder of his kingship. It saves sinners.

So let’s watch him make this declaration. I just want you to see him. I want you to hear him. Rivet your attention on Jesus this morning. He will win you. He will heal you. He will save you.

There are four ways that Jesus declares his kingship in this triumphal entry. All of them are Jewish. He was a Jew, and he was fulfilling Jewish promises of a coming king and Messiah. But all them are bigger than Jewish. Remember this gospel is going to end in chapter 28 with the words, „All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). Jesus knows that he is the king over all nations, not just Israel.

So let’s listen and watch as he declares himself King of the Jews and King of the nations.

1. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Riding on a Donkey (Zech. 9:9)

First, notice Matthew 21:1-5. Jesus sends two of his disciples to get a donkey. Verse 2: „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.” Why? What is he doing? Why does he want a ride into Jerusalem on a donkey? Never before has he done such a thing. Matthew tells us why in verses 4-5, „This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion [that is, to Israel], „Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”‘”

This is a quote from the prophet Zechariah (9:9). Jesus has chosen to act out the fulfillment of this prophecy and to declare his kingship in the action of riding on a donkey. This means, yes, I am king, for that’s what the prophet says it means: „Behold your king.” „But,” he is saying, „I am gentle and lowly. I am not, in my first coming, on a white war-horse with a sword and a rod of iron. I am not coming to slay you. I am coming to save you. This time. Today is the day of salvation.

But is he only coming for the „daughter of Zion,” Israel? Listen to the context in Zechariah 9:9-10 – and Jesus knew the context –

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion [his kingship] will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

That’s declaration number one. Jesus very intentionally acts out the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 and declares his humble, gentile, saving, Jewish and global kingship. And invites you to receive it.

2. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Cleansing the Temple (Isa. 56:7)

Second, in verses 12-13 Jesus acts out another Old Testament text. It says he „entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Don’t think that this meek, gentle, lowly Savior-King was without passion for his Father’s glory!

Then to explain what he is doing he quotes Isaiah 56:7. Verse 13: „And He said to them, ‘It is written, „My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a robbers’ den.'” There are two things that make this action and this Old Testament quote so significant. One is that the context in Isaiah is about the coming kingdom of God, and so Jesus is putting himself in the position of the coming king. And the other is that the context is global, not just Jewish. Listen to Isaiah 56:6-8.

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. . . 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. . . . For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, „Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

So when Jesus chooses a prophetic word to interpret his action in the temple, he chooses one that underlines his coming on a donkey as king and the fact that his kingship is „for all the peoples.” It’s for you this morning. He is jealous to open his Father’s house to you for prayer.

3. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Healing (Isa. 35:4-6)

Third, in verse 14 it says, „And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Imagine what an impact this must have had. We are talking about the most public place in the city – the temple. We are talking about blind people, and people who can’t walk – lame, paralyzed people. Not people with headaches and sore throats. This was a public demonstration of something. What?

We’ve already been told at least once. When John the Baptist was in jail he sent and asked Jesus, „Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” In other words, are you the coming king of Israel, the Messiah? And Jesus sent this word back to John in Matthew 11:4-5, „Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk.” In other words, „Yes. I am the coming king.”

Why? Why does the healing of the blind and the lame in the temple after coming into Jerusalem on a donkey mean: I am the coming king? Because in Isaiah 35 the prophet describes the coming kingship of the Messiah like this: ” Take courage, fear not. . . . The recompense of God will come, But He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened. And . . . Then the lame will leap like a deer” (35:4-6).

Jesus comes on a donkey, lowly and gentle and patient; he comes cleansing his Father’s house to make it a house of prayer for all the nations; he comes healing the blind and the lame – all to show what his kingship is now in part, and will be fully in the age to come. It is not just a kingship over other kings, but over disease and all nature. We will not just be safe and sick when he comes. We will be safe and whole – absolutely whole. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. Trust him. Receive his amnesty. Become his subject.

4. Jesus Declares His Kingship by His Response to Children (Psa. 8)

Finally, Jesus declares his kingship by the way he responds to what the people and the children are doing and saying. In verse 8 the crowds are spreading their cloaks on the road in front of him. This is what they did when kings were crowned in the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:13). In verse 9 the crowds were shouting, „Hosanna [salvation!] to the Son of David [the hoped for king like David]; ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (These are words from Psalm 118:25-26.)

Then in verse 15 the children were shouting the same things: „Hosanna to the Son of David.” In other words, „The king is here, the king is here!” But the chief priests became angry. So they said in verse 16, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” Now I think they could just as easily have said, „Did you hear what those crowds said? Did you see what they were doing when they put their cloaks on the ground?” They can’t believe Jesus is letting all this stand unchallenged.

Jesus answers their question with one simple word. And then an absolutely astonishing quote from Psalm 8. They say, „Do you hear what these children are saying?” And he answers in verse 16b, „Yes.” „Yes, I do. I not only hear it. I planned it. And I receive it. I would gladly receive it from you. And he would gladly receive it from us!”

Then, he ends this section by quoting Psalm 8, „Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” What is so astonishing about this is that it refers to God. „O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength [or: praise] Because of Your adversaries.” Don’t miss this. Jesus receives the praises of little children and then explains it by quoting a psalm where children are praising God.

The King Has Come and Is Coming

So here is the concluding declaration and invitation: Jesus came the first time, and he is coming again, as the king over all kings. King of Israel, king of all the nations, king of nature and the universe. Until he comes again, there is a day of amnesty and forgiveness and patience. He still rides a donkey and not yet a white war-horse with a rod of iron. He is ready to save all who receive him as Savior and Treasure and King. Come to him. Know him. Receive him. Live your life in allegiance to him.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Palm Sunday 2/3 – He (Jesus) set His face to go to Jerusalem!

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

from Desiring God. You can listen to the audio for this John Piper sermon here.

Luke 9:51-56

Luke describes the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem at the beginning of that last week of his earthly life:

As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, „Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! (Luke 19:37, 38)

Palm Sunday: Today and To Come

There is no doubt what was in the disciples’ minds. This was the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy given centuries earlier:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9, 10)

The long-awaited Messiah had come, the king of Israel, and not just of Israel but of all the earth. Jerusalem would be his capital city. From here he would rule the world in peace and righteousness. What a day this was! How their hearts must have pounded in their chests! And must not their hands have been sweaty like warriors in readiness just before the bugle sounds the battle! How would he do it? Would he whip up the enthusiastic crowds and storm the Roman praetorium—a people’s revolution? Or would he call down fire from heaven to consume the enemies of God? Would any of his followers be lost in the struggle? The tension of the moment must have been tremendous!

The Pharisees had a double reason for wanting this kind of welcome silenced. On the one hand, this Jesus was a threat to their authority, and they envied his popularity (Mark 15:10). On the other hand, they feared a Roman backlash to all this seditious talk of another king (John 11:48). Therefore they say to Jesus, „‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ But he answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!”‘ (Luke 19:39, 40). No, he will not rebuke them for this. Not now. The hour has come. The authority of the Pharisees is done for. If the Romans come, they come. He will not silence the truth any longer. To be sure the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ kingship at this point is flawed. But hastening events will correct that soon enough. In essence they are correct. Jesus is the king of Israel, and the kingdom he is inaugurating will bring peace to all the nations and spread from sea to sea. The book of Revelation pictures the final fulfillment of Palm Sunday in the age to come like this:

I looked and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, „Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9, 10)

The entry into Jerusalem with waving palms (John 12:13) was a short-lived preview of the eternal Palm Sunday to come. It needed to be said. If the disciples hadn’t said it, the rocks would have.

I like to think of all our worship in this age as rehearsal for the age to come. One day we, who by God’s grace have been faithful to the Lord, are going to stand with innumerable millions of believers from Bangladesh, Poland, Egypt, Australia, Iceland, Cameroon, Ecuador, Burma, Borneo, Japan, and thousands of tribes and peoples and languages purified by Christ, with palms of praise in our hand. And when we raise them in salute to Christ, he will see an almost endless field of green, shimmering with life and pulsating with praise. And then like the sound of a thousand Russian choruses, we will sing our song of salvation, while the mighty Christ, with heartfelt love, looks out over those whom he bought with his own blood.

Had Jesus taken his throne on that first day of palms, none of us would ever be robed in white or waving palms of praise in the age to come. There had to be the cross, and that is what the disciples had not yet understood. Back in Luke 9, as Jesus prepared to set out for Jerusalem from Galilee, he tried to explain this to his disciples. In verse 22 he said, „The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” And in verse 44 he told them, „Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” But verse 45 tells us, „They did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.” Therefore, their understanding of Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem was flawed. They saw him as a king moving in to take control. And he was. But they could not grasp that the victory Jesus would win in Jerusalem over sin and Satan and death and all the enemies of righteousness and joy—that this victory would be won through his own horrible suffering and death; and that the kingdom which they thought would be established immediately (Luke 19:11) would, in fact, be thousands of years in coming. And their misunderstanding of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem results in a misunderstanding of the meaning of discipleship. This is why this is important for us to see, lest we make the same mistake.

Jesus’ Resolution to Die

In Luke 9:51–56 we learn how not to understand Palm Sunday. Let’s look at it together. „When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples. You can see the visions of greatness that danced in their heads in verse 46: „An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Jerusalem and glory were just around the corner. O what it would mean when Jesus took the throne! But Jesus had another vision in his head. One wonders how he carried it all alone and so long. Here’s what Jerusalem meant for Jesus: „I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem”(Luke 13:33). Jerusalem meant one thing for Jesus: certain death. Nor was he under any illusions of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:31f., „Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him.” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

Remember, when you think of Jesus’ resolution to die, that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community. He had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had special places in the mountains. To turn his back on all this and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating and spitting and mocking and crucifixion was not easy. It was hard. O how we need to use our imagination to put ourselves back into his place and feel what he felt. I don’t know of any other way for us to begin to know how much he loved us. „Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

If we were to look at Jesus’ death merely as a result of a betrayer’s deceit and the Sanhedrin’s envy and Pilate’s spinelessness and the soldiers’ nails and spear, it might seem very involuntary. And the benefit of salvation that comes to us who believe from this death might be viewed as God’s way of making a virtue out of a necessity. But once you read Luke 9:51 all such thoughts vanish. Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of his death for sinners were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us and appointed a time. Jesus, who was the very embodiment of his Father’s love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set his face to fulfill his mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake. „No one takes my life from me (he said), but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

Jesus’ Journey Is Our Journey

So Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, and it says in the text that „he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” It doesn’t really matter whether this rejection is just because Jesus and his companions are Jews and Samaritans hate Jews, or whether the rejection is a more personal rejection of Jesus as the Messiah on his way to reign in Jerusalem. What matters for the story is simply that Jesus is already being rejected, and then the focus shifts to the disciples’ response, specifically the response of James and John.

James and John ask Jesus, „Lord, do you want us to bid fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (verse 54). Jesus had already named these brothers „sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Here we get a glimpse of why. I take this passage very personally because my father named me after one of these sons of thunder. And I think I probably would have said what John did here: „Jesus, we are on the way to victory. Nothing can stop us now. Let the fire fall! Let the judgment begin! O, how Jerusalem will tremble when they see us coming!” Jesus turns, the text says, and rebuked them (verse 55). And they simply went to another town.

Now what does this mean? It means, first of all, that a mistaken view of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem can lead to a mistaken view of discipleship. If Jesus had come to execute judgment and take up an earthly rule, then it would make sense for the sons of thunder to begin the judgment when the final siege of the Holy City starts. But if Jesus had come not to judge but to save, then a radically different form of discipleship is in order. Here is a question put to every believer by this text: does discipleship mean deploying God’s missiles against the enemy in righteous indignation? Or does discipleship mean following him on the Calvary road which leads to suffering and death? The answer of the whole New Testament is this: the surprise about Jesus the Messiah is that he came to live a life of sacrificial, dying service before he comes a second time to reign in glory. And the surprise about discipleship is that it demands a life of sacrificial, dying service before we can reign with Christ in glory.

What James and John had to learn—what we all must learn—is that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is our journey, and if he set his face to go there and die, we must set our face to die with him. One might be tempted to reason in just the opposite way: that since Jesus suffered so much and died in our place, therefore, we are free to go straight to the head of the class, as it were, and skip all the exams. He suffered so we could have comfort. He died so we could live. He bore abuse so we could be esteemed. He gave up the treasures of heaven so we could lay up treasures on earth. He brought the kingdom and paid for our entrance and now we live in it with all its earthly privileges. But all this is not biblical reasoning. It goes against the plain teaching in this very context. Luke 9:23, 24 reads: „If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” When Jesus set his face to walk the Calvary road, he was not merely taking our place; he was setting our pattern. He is substitute and pacesetter. If we seek to secure our life through returning evil for evil or surrounding ourselves with luxury in the face of human need, we will lose our life. We can save our life only if we follow Christ on the Calvary road. Jesus died to save us from the power and punishment of sin, not from the suffering and sacrifices of simplicity for love’s sake.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Tears of Sovereign Mercy – Palm Sunday 1/3

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

You can listen to the audio here from Desiring God, John Piper.

Luke 19:28-44

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, „Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, „Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, „The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, „Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, „Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, „I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, „Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Before we get back to Romans 9 the Sunday after Easter, I wanted to preach a message that is partly an overflow of one of the books I worked on during the writing leave. (It will probably be called Don’t Waste Your Life.) Actually, this message is the overflow of more than the book.

  • It’s the overflow of conversations with John Erickson about his vision for ministry in the city.
  • It’s the overflow of conversations with my son Benjamin about what it means to be a merciful person on the street.
  • It’s the overflow of reading Timothy Keller’s book, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road.
  • It’s the overflow of the seminar I did on Prayer, Meditation, and Fasting a few weeks ago, as I pondered what it really means to enjoy fellowship with Jesus and anticipate meeting him face to face very shortly and giving an account of the way I have thought, for example, about giving to people who ask for money. I remember, specifically, in one of those hours asking the class: Suppose you die and you’re standing before Jesus Christ, who surrendered his body to spitting and shame and torture and death so that undeserving sinners (like you and me) might be drawn into eternal joy, and he inquires how you handled the people who asked you for money – you know, panhandlers, beggars, street people, drunks, drifters. What would you say?I suggested to them, and I suggest to you now, you’re not going to feel very good about saying, „I never got taken advantage of. I saw through their schemes. I developed really shrewd counter-questions that would expose them. So I hardly ever had to give anything.” Do you know what I think the Lord Jesus is going to say to that – the Lord Jesus, the consummately, willingly, savingly abused and exploited Jesus? I think he is going to say, „That was an exquisite imitation of the world. Even sinners give to those who deserve to be given to. Even sinners pride themselves on not being taken advantage of.” Well this message is a spillover of some of those thoughts.
  • And it’s a spillover of a conversation that Noël and I had at Annie’s Parlor a little over a week ago as we assessed our lives how we wanted the next ten years to look – if God gives us ten – in regard to practical deeds mercy. What do we want Talitha to see in the city? What kind of Jesus do we want her to see living through us in Philips neighborhood on 11th Avenue? Do we want her to remember someday when we are gone: my folks were shrewd? Or do we want her to remember: My folks were merciful?

Palm Sunday: An Event of Insight and Misunderstanding

Well, that’s what led me to choose this text for Palm Sunday. It’s a Palm Sunday text. Palm Sunday is the day in the church year when traditionally we mark the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. It’s an event of great insight and great misunderstanding. The great insight was that this Jesus really is „the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38). He was the Messiah, the Son of David, the long-awaited Ruler of Israel, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. But the great misunderstanding was that he would enter Jerusalem and by his mighty works, take his throne and make Israel free from Rome.

It wasn’t going to be that way: he would take his throne but it would be through voluntary suffering and death and resurrection. The first sermon Peter preached after the resurrection comes to an end with the words, „This Jesus God raised up” so that he was „exalted at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32-33). And the apostle Paul says that he is now King: „He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25; see Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).

So Palm Sunday was a day of insight and a day of misunderstanding. The insight gave joy, and the misunderstanding brought about destruction – the murder of Jesus a few days later, and the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later. And Jesus saw it all coming.

And what I want to focus on this morning is Jesus’ response to this blindness and hostility that he was about to meet in Jerusalem. Indeed, he met it already in this very text. The crowds were crying out in verse 38, „Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” But in the very next verse it says, „Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’” (Luke 19:39).

So Jesus knew what was about to happen. The Pharisees were going to get the upper hand. The people would be fickle and follow their leaders. And Jesus would be rejected and crucified. And within a generation the city would be obliterated. Look how Jesus says it in verses 43-44:

For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

God had visited them in his Son, Jesus Christ – „he came to his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). They did not know the time of their visitation. So they stumbled over the stumbling stone. The builders rejected the stone and threw it away. Jesus saw this sin and this rebellion and this blindness coming. How did he respond? Verse 41-42: „And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” Jesus wept over the blindness and the impending misery of Jerusalem.

How would you describe these tears? You can see from the title of this message that I call them, „Palm Sunday Tears of Sovereign Mercy.” The effect that I pray this will have on us is, first, to make us admire Christ, and treasure him above all others and worship him as our merciful Sovereign; and, second, that seeing the beauty of his mercy, we become merciful with him and like him and because of him and for his glory.

Admiring Christ’s Merciful Sovereignty and Sovereign Mercy

First, then let’s admire Christ together. What makes Christ so admirable, and so different than all other persons – what sets him apart as unique and inimitable – matchless, peerless – is that he unites in himself so many qualities that in other people are contrary to each other. That’s why I put together the words „sovereign” and „merciful.” We can imagine supreme sovereignty, and we can imagine tenderhearted mercy. But who do we look to combine in perfect proportion merciful sovereignty and sovereign mercy? We look to Jesus. No other religious or political contender even comes close.

Look at three pointers in this text to his sovereignty. First, verse 37: „As he was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.” Jesus had made a name for himself as the worker of miracles, and they remembered them. He had healed leprosy with a touch; he had made the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame walk; he had commanded the unclean spirits and they obeyed him; he had stilled storms and walked on water and turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for thousands. So as he entered Jerusalem, they knew nothing could stop him. He could just speak and Pilate would perish; the Romans would be scattered. He was sovereign.

Then look, secondly, at verse 38. The crowds cried out: „Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Jesus was a King, and not just any king, but the one sent and appointed by the Lord God. They knew how Isaiah had described him:

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

A universal, never-ending kingdom backed by the zeal of almighty God. Here was the King of the universe, who today rules over the nations and the galaxies, and for whom America and Iraq are a grain of sand and a vapor.

Third, verse 40. When the Pharisees tell him to make the people stop blessing him as a king, he answers, „I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). Why? Because he will be praised! The whole design of the universe is that Christ be praised. And therefore, if people won’t do it, he will see to it that rocks do it. In other words, he is sovereign. He will get what he means to get. If we refuse to praise, the rocks will get the joy.

It is remarkable, therefore, that the tears of Jesus in verse 41 are so often used to deny his sovereignty. Someone will say, „Look, he weeps over Jerusalem because his design for them, his will for them, is not coming to pass. He would delight in their salvation. But they are resistant. They are going to reject him. They are going to hand him over to be crucified.” And so his purpose for them has failed. But there is something not quite right about this objection to Jesus’ sovereignty.

He can make praise come from rocks. And so he could do the same from rock-hard hearts in Jerusalem. What’s more, all this rejection and persecution and killing of Jesus is not the failure of Jesus’ plan, but the fulfillment of it. Listen to what he said in Luke 18:31-33 a short time before:

And taking the twelve, he said to them, „See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written [planned!] about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

The betrayal, the mockery, the shame, the spit, the flogging, the murder – and so much more – was planned. In other words, the resistance, the rejection, the unbelief and hostility were not a surprise to Jesus. They were, in fact, part of the plan. He says so. This is probably why it says at the end of verse 42, „But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Remember what Jesus said about his parables back in Luke 8:10: „To you [disciples] it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” God was handing them over to hardness. It was judgment.

We have seen all this in Romans 9. The mercy of God is a sovereign mercy. „I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). But here is the point I want you to see today: This sovereign Christ weeps over heard-hearted, perishing Jerusalem as they fulfilled his plan. It is unbiblical and wrong to make the tears of mercy a contradiction to the serenity of sovereignty. Jesus was serene in sorrow, and sorrowful in sovereignty. Jesus’ tears are the tears of sovereign mercy.

And therefore his sovereign power is the more admirable and the more beautiful. It’s the harmony of things that seem in tension that makes him glorious: „Merciful and Mighty,” as we sing. We admire power more when it is merciful power. And we admire mercy more when it is mighty mercy. And, as I said, my prayer is that as you see his mercy and admire his mercy, you will become like him in his mercy.

There are at least three ways that Jesus is merciful, which we can draw out of this context. And I pray that I will become like him in all of these. I pray that you will too.

Jesus’ Mercy Is Tenderly Moved

First, Jesus’ mercy is tenderly moved. He feels the sorrow of the situation. This doesn’t mean his sovereign plan has wrecked on the rocks of human autonomy. It means that Jesus is more emotionally complex than we think he is. He really feels the sorrow of a situation. No doubt there is a deep inner peace that God is in control and that God’s wise purposes will come to pass. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cry.

In fact, on the contrary, I appeal to you here: pray that God would give you tears. There is so much pain in the world. So much suffering far from you and near you. Pray that God would help you be tenderly moved. When you die and stand before the Judge, Jesus Christ, and he asks you, „How did you feel about the suffering around you?” what will you say? I promise you, you will not feel good about saying, „I saw through to how a lot of people brought their suffering upon themselves by sin or foolishness.” You know what I think the Lord will say to that? I think he will say, „I didn’t ask you what you saw through. I asked you what you felt?” Jesus felt enough compassion for Jerusalem to weep. If you haven’t shed any tears for somebody’s losses but your own, it probably means you’re pretty wrapped up in yourself. So let’s repent of our hardness and ask God to give us a heart that is tenderly moved.

Jesus’ Mercy Was Self-Denying

Second, Jesus’ mercy was self-denying – not ultimately; there was great reward in the long run, but very painfully in the short run. This text is part of the story of Jesus’ moving intentionally toward suffering and death. Jesus is entering Jerusalem to die. He said so, „We are going up to Jerusalem . . . and the Son of Man will be delivered up . . . and they will kill him” (Luke 18:31-33). This is the meaning of self-denial. This is the way we follow Jesus. We see a need – for Jesus is was seeing the sin of the world, and broken bodies, and the misery of hell – and we move with Jesus, whatever it costs, toward need. We deny ourselves the comforts and the securities and the ease of avoiding other peoples’ pain. We embrace it. Jesus’ tears were not just the tender moving of his emotions. They were the tears of a man on his way toward need.

Jesus’ Mercy Intends to Help

That leads us to the third and last way Jesus is merciful. First, he is tenderly moved, second he is self-denying and moves toward need. Now third, he intends to help. Mercy if helpful. It doesn’t just feel – though it does feel – and it doesn’t just deny itself – though it does deny itself – it actually does things that help people. Jesus was dying in our place that we might be forgiven and have eternal life with him. That’s how he helped.

What will it be for you? How are you doing in ministries of mercy? How are you and your roommate, or your housemates, doing together? How is your family doing? (That’s what Noël and I asked at Annie’s Parlor.) What is tenderly moving you these days? Is there movement toward pain or suffering or misery or loss or sadness, that means denying yourself – in the short run – and multiplying your joy in the long run? And what help are you actually giving to those in need?

Two prayers: Oh, that we would see and savor the beauty of Christ – the Palm Sunday Tears of sovereign joy. And oh, that as we admire and worship him, we would be changed by what we see and become a more tenderly-moved, self-denying, need-meeting people.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Sinners in the hands of an angry God by Jonathan Edwards (American Puritan Theologian)

Photo credit en.wikipedia.org

Where there is talk about preaching and hell, Jonathan Edwards’s name is never far behind. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is the most famous sermon in American history. And undoubtedly Edwards is the most caricatured preacher because of it.

You can read the whole sermon online, or listen to someone like Mark Dever read it.

But few people know that Edwards often preached on heaven, too. And his sermons on heaven are as beautiful as his sermons on hell are sobering.

For a wonderful introduction to Edwards on heaven, I’d encourage you to listen to Sam Storms’s talk on “Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven.” But first you might want to read the text of Edwards’s sermon, “Heaven, A World of Love.

We’ve all heard the line about the danger of “being so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good.” But surely C. S. Lewis was right: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this” (Mere Christianity, chapter 10).

Read it here –

– Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

 

 

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfills a 700 year old prophecy

Photo credit www.wtv-zone.com –

Where the Messiah would be born.

But as for you Bethlehem, Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from You one will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from everlasting. (Micah 5:1 in the Hebrew Scriptures; in most English translations it is Micah 5:2)

Photo credit www.flickr.com Map of the journey of Mary and Joseph
from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 90 miles as the crow flies
but walking it is more like 90 miles
through winding mountain trails and probably took about a week.

This passage, written around 700 B.C., has been recognized by traditional Jewish sources to indicate that the Messiah would be from Bethlehem.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7) Bethlehem Photo below – credit www.polmontold.org.uk

Critics have said that Mary and Joseph arranged to have Jesus born there to fulfill the prophecy, but the historical events of that day refute that. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth but had to return to Bethlehem to meet the requirements of the census. Joseph (as well as Mary) was from the lineage of King David (Matthew 1:1-17) and that place of family origin is where the count needed to be taken. Interestingly, a petition for tax relief from the Jewish people to Caesar postponed the taking of the census for a period of time, which „allowed” Mary to come to full term and give birth to Jesus while still in Bethlehem. These were not circumstances she could have planned herself.

You can read the entire article here at Jews for Jesus –  A look at one of the predictions of the Messiah’s coming in the Hebrew Scriptures.

On what day was Jesus really born? A New Testament Manuscript Expert Responds

A 1466 copy of Jewish historianFlavius Josephus‘ first century workAntiquities of the Jews, widely used to establish the chronology of Jesus. Photo from Wikipedia.

This is a study by Daniel B. Wallace , which you can read it in its entirety here-  http://bible.org/article/birth-jesus-christ

Daniel B. Wallace has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently professor of New Testament Studies at his alma mater.

His Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996) has become a standard textbook in colleges and seminaries. Dr. Wallace is also the Executive Director for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Wallace – We must keep in mind that the Jesus we worship was truly born in time-space history. And that babe in the manger was truly crucified–and just as surely rose from the dead. The Bible is different from the sacred books of other religions because it invites historical investigation. And when it has met the test–as it surely always, inevitably does–it inculcates a greater devotion in the heart of the believer for the one we call the Son of God.

The Year Jesus Was Born

In the western hemisphere, we split time by the birth of Jesus Christ. But did he really even live? If so,when was he born?

Josephus records an eclipse of the moon just before Herod passed on. This occurred on March 12th or 13th in 4 B.C. Josephus also tells us that Herod expired just before Passover. This feast took place on April 11th, in the same year, 4 B.C. From other details supplied by Josephus, we can pinpoint Herod the Great’s demise as occurring between March 29th and April 4th in 4 B.C.

It might sound strange to suggest that Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 B.C. since B.C. means ‘before Christ.’ But our modern calendar which splits time between B.C. and A.D. was not invented until A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, poor Dionysius missed the real B.C./A.D. division by at least four years!

Now Matthew tells us that Herod killed Bethlehem’s babies two years old and under. The earliest Jesus could have been born, therefore, is 6 B.C. Through a variety of other time indicators, we can be relatively confident that the one called Messiah was born in either late 5 or early 4 B.C.

My atheist friend scoffs at such flexibility. He says, „If you don’t know exactly when Jesus was born, how do you know that he really lived?” That is hardly a reasonable question! The other day I called my mother to wish her a happy birthday. „Mom, how many candles on this birthday cake?” I inquired. „I don’t know, son–I don’t keep track any more,” she sighed. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, we hung up.

Now, of course, I can’t be certain, but I do believe that that was my mother on the other end of the phone. She can’t remember how old she is (and she’s neither senile nor very old), but that doesn’t make her a figment of my imagination, does it? Because if she’s just a phantom, then for the last three minutes, you’ve been reading absolutely nothing!

The Day Jesus Was Born

This coming December 25th most parents will be lying to their children about old St. Nick. Some of us will be celebrating the birth of our Savior. But was he really born on this day?

Was Jesus really born on December 25th? Virtually every month on the calendar has been proposed by biblical scholars. So why do we celebrate his birth in December?

The tradition for December 25th is actually quite ancient. Hippolytus, in the second century A.D., argued that this was Christ’s birthday. Meanwhile, in the eastern Church, January 6th was the date followed.

But in the fourth century, John Chrysostom argued that December 25th was the correct date and from that day till now, the Church in the East, as well as the West, has observed the 25th of December as the official date of Christ’s birth.

In modern times, the traditional date has been challenged. Modern scholars point out that when Jesus was born, shepherds were watching their sheep in the hills around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that an angel appeared to „some shepherds staying out in the fields [who were] keeping watch over their flock by night” (2:8).

Some scholars feel that the sheep were usually brought under cover from November to March; as well, they were not normally in the field at night. But there is no hard evidence for this. In fact, early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. So you can see, December 25th fits both tradition and the biblical narrative well. There is no sound objection to it.

Now admittedly, the sheep around Bethlehem were the exception, not the rule. But these were no ordinary sheep. They were sacrificial lambs. In the early spring they would be slaughtered at the Passover.

And God first revealed the Messiah’s birth to these shepherds–shepherds who protected harmless lambs which would soon die on behalf of sinful men. Whey they saw the baby, could they have known? Might they have whispered in their hearts what John the Baptist later thundered, „Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Now, of course, we can’t be absolutely certain of the day of Christ’s birth. At least, not this side of heaven. But an early winter date seems as reasonable a guess as any. And December 25th has been the frontrunner for eighteen centuries. Without more evidence, there seems no good reason to change the celebration date now.

We can blame the ancient church for a large part of our uncertainty. You see, they did not celebrate Christ’s birth. At all. To them, it was insignificant. They were far more concerned with his death . . . and resurrection.

But modern man has turned that around. A baby lying in a manger is harmless, non-threatening. But a man dying on a cross–a man who claims to be God–that man is a threat! He demands our allegiance! We cannot ignore him. We must either accept him or reject him. He leaves us no middle ground.

This Christmas season, take a close look at a nativity scene once again. Remove your rose-colored glasses–smell the foul air, see the cold, shivering animals. They represent the Old Testament sacrificial system. They are emblems of death. But they are mere shadows of the Babe in their midst. He was born to die . . . that all who believe in him might live.

The Visit of the Magi

When Jesus Christ was born, men–known as magi–came from the east to worship him. Were they wisemen . . . or astrologers?

Matthew begins his second chapter with these words: „Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.'”

Who were these wise men from the east? Matthew tells us next to nothing about them–he doesn’t mention their names, nor how many there were–not even which country they came from. As mysteriously as they come on the scene, they disappear. . .

Though Matthew doesn’t tell us much, over-zealous Christians throughout church history have dogmatically filled in the blanks. By the 6th century A.D., these dark strangers were given thrones and names: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar were the alleged names of these alleged kings. But this has nothing to do with the biblical story: we really have no idea what their names were–nor even their number. There could have been 3 or 300 as far as we know! But one thing we do know for sure: they were not royalty. The ancient magi were reilgious and political advisors to eastern kings–but there wasn’t a drop of blue blood among them.

But isn’t it true that the magi were astrologers? And didn’t God prescribe death to astrologers in the Old Testament? ‘Not always’ and ‘yes’ are the answers. In Deuteronomy 17, God commands his people to execute all astrologers by stoning. Jean Dixon wouldn’t stand a chance in such a theocracy! The fact that she–and others like her–are so comfortably tolerated–even well respected!–in modern America ought to show us that the U.S.A. is a post-Christian country–at best . . .

But what about these ancient magi? Were they astrologers? After all, they followed a star to Bethlehem.

We might answer this in three ways: First, not all magi were astrologers, for Daniel the prophet was the chief of the magi in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Through his influence, undoubtedly many of the magi carried on their religious and political duties as worshippers of the One true God.

Second, there are some biblical scholars who believe that Isaiah predicted that a star would appear when the Messiah was born. If this interpretation is correct, then the magi who worshipped the newborn king were clearly following in Daniel’s train, for he almost surely taught them from Isaiah.

Third, although a few believe that the ‘star’ they saw was a natural phenomenon–such as a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter–this cannot explain how the star stood right over Bethlehem. Clearly, the ‘star’ was completely of supernatural origin. If so, it probably had nothing to do with astrology.

Therefore, the magi most likely did not subscribe to such superstitious folly. If so, they were truly wisemen . . .

I saw a bumper sticker the other day, which read, „Wise men still seek him.” Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The Bible tells us that „no one seeks God, not even one.” But if he has led us to himself, then we have become wise. For it is true that „wise men still worship him.”

The Boys from Bethlehem

One of the most heinous atrocities in human history was the murder of Bethlehem’s babies by Herod the Great. But did it really happen?

In the second chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we read that when Herod the Great heard of the Messiah’s birth, „he was troubled–and all Jerusalem with him.” Later, when the wise men did not report back to him, he became furious and ordered all the baby boys up to two years old in and around Bethlehem to be slaughtered!

Three questions come to mind as we consider this cruel incident: First, how many babies did Herod actually kill? Second, how old was Jesus when this happened? And finally, why does no other ancient historian record this outrage? In other words, did it really happen?

How many babies did Herod murder? Some scholars have suggested as many as 200! But most reject such a figure. Bethlehem was a small community–almost a suburb of Jerusalem. The village itself–and the surrounding countryside–would hardly have more than 30 male infants under two. Most scholars today place the number between 20 and 30.

But that’s if only the boy babies were killed. Actually, the Greek text of Matthew 2:16 could mean ‘babies’–not just ‘boy babies.’ And psychologically, Herod’s henchmen might not have bothered to check the gender of their victims. The number might be as high as 50 or 60.

Second, how old was Jesus when this occurred? According to the best chronological evidence, he could not have been more than three or four months old. He was more than likely born in the winter of 5 or 4 B.C.–Herod died in the early spring of 4 B.C. So why did Herod slay all children up to two years old? The answer to the third question might help to answer this one. . .

Third, why is this event not recorded outside the Bible? Specifically, why did Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, fail to mention it?

Josephus tells us much about Herod. The best word to describe his reign is ‘overkill.’ He murdered hisfavorite wife’s father, drowned her brother–and even killed her! He executed one of his most trusted friends, his barber, and 300 military leaders–all in a day’s work! Then he slew three of his sons, allegedly suspecting them of treason. Josephus tells us that „Herod inflicted such outrages upon (the Jews) as not even a beast could have done if it possessed the power to rule over men” (Antiquities of the Jews 17:310). Killing babies was not out of character for this cruel king. And killing them up to two years old–to make sure he got the baby Jesus lines up with his insane jealousy for power.

Josephus might have omitted the slaying of the babies for one of two reasons: first, he was no friend of Christianity and he left it out intentionally; or second, just before Herod died he locked up 3000 of the nation’s leading citizens and gave orders that they were to be executed at the hour of his death. He wanted to make sure that there would be mourning when he died. . . Israel was so preoccupied with this that the clandestine murder of a few babies might have gone unnoticed. . .

Herod thought that he had gained a victory over the king of the Jews. Yet this was a mere foreshadowing of the victory Satan thought he had when Jesus lay dead on a Roman cross. But the empty tomb proved that that dark Friday was Satan’s worst defeat!

Conclusion

We’ve been looking at several aspects of the birth of Jesus Christ in this short study. Now, we want to put it all together.

In the winter of 5 or 4 B.C., God invaded history by taking on the form of a man. He was born in a small town just south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, which means ‘the house of bread,’ indeed became worthy of its name one lonely winter night. For there, in that town, was born the Bread of Life . . .

His mother placed the infant king in a manger–or feeding trough–because the guest room where they were to stay was occupied. The birth of this king was celebrated that night only by his mother, her husband, and a handful of shepherds. The shepherds had been in the fields around Bethlehem, guarding the lambs which would die at the next Passover. An angel appeared to them and gave them the birth announcement: „today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). In their simple faith, they rushed to see their newborn king.

Shortly after the birth of the Messiah, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem and inquired of king Herod where the real king of the Jews was to be born. The theologians of Herod’s court knew the Scriptures well–in ‘Bethlehem’ they recited. Ironically, though they knew the Scriptures, they did not believe them! They did not even bother to travel the five or six miles to Bethlehem to see their Messiah.

But Herod believed the Scriptures! That is why he sent a corps of butchers to Bethlehem to slaughter innocent children, in hopes of destroying this rival to his throne. But he was too late. The magi had come and gone and Jesus was by now safe in Egypt.

And the magi believed the Scriptures. They had traveled several hundred miles to worship this Babe. They were guided to Bethlehem by a supernatural celestial phenomenon–and by the Scriptures. Apparently, their ancestors had been instructed by Daniel the prophet about the coming Messiah. . . When they saw the child, they fell down and worshiped him. This was God in the flesh. They could do no other.

And they gave him gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This was an unusual present–by any standards. The gold, of course, we all can understand–but the frankincense and myrrh were odd. Perhaps they had read Isaiah’s prophecy that „nations will come to your light, and kings to your rising . . . They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news. . . ” (Isa. 60:3, 6). This explains the frankincense, but not the myrrh.

Now myrrh, like frankincense, was a perfume. But unlike frankincense, myrrh smelled of death. In the ancient world, it was used to embalm a corpse. Jesus himself would be embalmed with this very perfume (cf.John 19:39).

If the magi were thinking of Jesus’ death when they brought the myrrh, they no doubt knew of it from Daniel’s prophecy (9:24-27). In the ninth chapter of Daniel we read that the ‘Messiah will be cut off’ and this ‘will make atonement for iniquity’ and ultimately ‘bring in everlasting righteousness’ (9:26, 24).

Even at the birth of our Savior, the shadow of the cross is already falling over his face. . .

The theologians of Herod’s court did not believe the Scriptures. They were fools. Herod believed, but disobeyed. He was a madman. The simple shepherds and the majestic magi believed in this infant Savior–and it was reckoned to them as righteousness. May we follow in their train.

Christmas – Who was Jesus? (Larry King Live with John MacArthur)

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Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus

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1. The Decree of Augustus Caesar and the Birth of Christ
(Luke 2:1-7)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should beregistered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

2. The First Visitors – Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Photo credit ruthiedean.com)

3. The Second Visitors – Magi (Mat 2:1-12)

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been bornking of the Jews? For we saw his star when it roseand have come to worship him.”3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Photo credit www.asiantribune.com)

Bethlehem: City Location

Modern Bethlehem is an agricultural market and trade center closely linked to nearby Jerusalem. It lies at a distance of 10 kms (6 miles) to the south of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is situated on a mountainous site, 777 meters (2600 feet) above the level of the Mediterranean Sea and overlooks its surroundings. Its surface resembles the shape of a semi circle.  From the west, the town of Bethlehem is bounded by the town of Beit Jala and from the east by the town of Beit Sahour. From the north it is bordered by Jerusalem and the village of Sur Bahir and from the south by Solomon’s Pools and the villages of al-Khader and Artas. Forty thousand people live in the administrative limits of the municipality of Bethlehem and five thousand people in the old center of the town. As a symbol of the increased intermingling of the region’s people, beside Arabic, the native language, English is widely spoken. French, German and Spanish are spoken too. (Source)

The city of Bethlehem (or House of Bread) lies within the territory assigned to the tribe of Judah. It lies in the midst of what was a fertile country, about six miles south by west from Jerusalem. The ancient city was beautifully situated on a commanding ridge, 2700 feet above the level of the sea. The hills around it were terraced, and clothed with vines, fig trees, and almonds, and the surrounding valleys yielded luxuriant harvests of grain. Jacob buried Rachel near its gate, and it was the home of Ruth and the birthplace of David, and ” David’s greater son ” the Lord Jesus Christ. Its population was small in the days of the Saviour, but at present is about 3000, nearly all the inhabitants being Christians. It is said to be one of the cleanest and neatest towns in Israel. St. Jerome lived there for more than thirty years, and there made his famous translation of the Bible into the Latin language. – Ancient Geography (PHOTO credit Photobucket.com)

Bethlehem in Easton’s Bible Dictionary house of bread. (1.) A city in the „hill country” of Judah. It was originally called Ephrath (Gen. 35:16, 19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11). It was also called Beth-lehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2), Beth-lehem-judah (1 Sam. 17:12), and „the city of David” (Luke 2:4). It is first noticed in Scripture as the place where Rachel died and was buried „by the wayside,” directly to the north of the city (Gen. 48:7). The valley to the east was the scene of the story of Ruth the Moabitess. There are the fields in which she gleaned, and the path by which she and Naomi returned to the town. Here was David’s birth-place, and here also, in after years, he was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:4-13); and it was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his heroes brought water for him at the risk of their lives when he was in the cave of Adullam (2 Sam. 23:13-17). But it was distinguished above every other city as the birth-place of „Him whose goings forth have been of old” (Matt. 2:6; comp. Micah 5:2). Afterwards Herod, „when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,” sent and slew „all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16, 18; Jer. 31:15).

Bethlehem bears the modern name of Beit-Lahm, i.e., „house of flesh.” It is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, standing at an elevation of about 2,550 feet above the sea, thus 100 feet higher than Jerusalem. There is a church still existing, built by Constantine the Great (A.D. 330), called the „Church of the Nativity,” over a grotto or cave called the „holy crypt,” and said to be the „stable” in which Jesus was born. This is perhaps the oldest existing Christian church in the world. Close to it is another grotto, where Jerome the Latin father is said to have spent thirty years of his life in translating the Scriptures into Latin. (See VERSION ¯T0003768.) (2.) A city of Zebulun, mentioned only in Josh. 19:15. Now Beit-Lahm, a ruined village about 6 miles west- north-west of Nazareth.
http://www.bible-history.com/eastons/B/Bethlehem/

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Bethlehem in the Bible Encyclopedia – ISBE beth’-le-hem (bethlechem; Baithleem, or Bethleem, „house of David,” or possibly „the house of Lakhmu,” an Assyrian deity): I. Bethlehem Judah: Bethlehem Judah, or EPHRATH or EPHRATHAH (which see) is now Beit Lahm (Arabic = „house of meat”), a town of upward of 10,000 inhabitants, 5 miles South of Jerusalem and 2,350 ft. above sea level. It occupies an outstanding position upon a spur running East from the watershed with deep valleys to the Northeast and South It is just off the main road to Hebron and the south, but upon the highroad to Tekoa and En- gedi. The position is one of natural strength; it was occupied by a garrison of the Philistines in the days of David (2 Sam 23:14; 1 Ch 11:16) and was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Ch 11:6).

The surrounding country is fertile, cornfields, fig and olive yards and vineyards abound. Bethlehem is not naturally well supplied with water, the nearest spring is 800 yds. to the Southeast, but for many centuries the „low level aqueduct” from „Solomon’s Pools” in the ArTas valley, which has here been tunneled through the hill, has been tapped by the inhabitants; there are also many rock-cut cisterns. 1. Early History: In 1 Ch 2:51 Salma, the son of Caleb, is described as the „father of Bethlehem.” In Gen 35:19; 48:7 it is recorded that Rachel „was buried in the way to Ephrath (the same is Beth-lehem).” Tradition points out the site of Rachel’s tomb near where the road to Bethlehem leaves the main road. The Levites of the events of Jdg 17; 19 were Bethlehemites. In the list of the towns of Judah the name Bethlehem occurs, in the Septuagint version only in Josh 15:57. 2.

David the Bethlehemite: Ruth, famous chiefly as the ancestress of David, and of the Messiah, settled in Bethlehem with her second husband Boaz, and it is noticeable that from her new home she could view the mountains of Moab, her native land. David himself „was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose name was Jesse” (1 Sam 17:12). To Bethlehem came Samuel to anoint a successor to unworthy Saul (1 Sam 16:4): „David went to and fro from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (1 Sam 17:15). David’s „three mighty men” „brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David” (2 Sam 23:14,16). Tradition still points out the well. From this town came those famous „sons of Zeruiah,” David’s nephews, whose loyalty and whose ruthless cruelty became at once a protection and a menace to their royal relative: in 2 Sam 2:32 it is mentioned that one of them, Asahel, was buried „in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem.” 3. Later Bible History: After the time of David, Bethlehem would appear to have sunk into insignificance. But its future fame is pointed at by Micah (5:2): „But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth …  http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/B/BETHLEHEM/

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Bethlehem in Scripture 

1 Chronicles 11:18 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and took it and brought it to David. But David would not drink it. He poured it out to the Lord.

1 Chronicles 2:51 Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of Bethgader.

1 Chronicles 4:4 and Penuel fathered Gedor, and Ezer fathered Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem.

Luke 2:15   When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

Matthew 2:16  Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Matthew 2:6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Ruth 1:22  So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Ruth 4:11  Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem.

~~~~~~~~~~

Bethlehem (Ephrath) (in Judah): Belt Lahm. associated with Rachel, Gen. 35. 19 (cf. Matt. 2. 18); in Judah, Judg. 17.7; home of Ruth, Ruth 1. 1 &c.; of David, 1 Sam. 17. 2; 2. Sam. 23. 15; Mic. 5. 2; Ezr. 2. 21; Neh. 7. 26; birth-place of Jesus, Matt. 2. lff.; Luke 2. 4 (cf. John 7. 42)

  • Genesis 35:19 – So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem),
  • Matthew 2:18 – “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
  • Judges 17:7 – Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
  • Ruth 1:1 – In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man ofBethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
  • 1 Samuel 17:2 – And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines.
  • 2 Samuel 23:15 – And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 
  • Micah 5:2 – But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
    from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
    whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
  • Ezra 2:21 – The sons of Bethlehem, 123.
  • Nehemiah 7:26 – The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188.
  • Matthew 2:1 – Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.
  • Luke 2:4 – And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
  • John 7:42 – Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

SOURCE: http://www.bible-history.com/

orasul betleem

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 History of Bethlehem

Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, Bethlehem was already known as a Canaanite settlement. Canaanite tribes who settled in Palestine, built small cities surrounded by walls for protection against the attacks of raiders. One of these cities was Beit Lahama known today as Bethlehem. So, the word Bethlehem is derived from Lahmo the Chaldean god of fertility, which was adopted by the Canaanites as Lahama. In accordance with the Canaanite practice of building temples to their gods, they built a temple for Lahama on the present mount of the Nativity which overlooks the fertile valleys of the region. Walls, ramparts and other structures in different sites in Bethlehem clearly establish its Canaanite origin 3000 years before the birth of Jesus.

Bethlehem was mentioned around 1350 BC in the Tell al-Amarna letters, from the Egyptian governor of Palestine to the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. It was depicted as an important staging and rest stop for travelers from Syria and Palestine going to Egypt. The letters also signify that it was a border city of mid-Palestine and an outpost looking out towards the desert. The Philistines had a garrison stationed in Bethlehem because it was a strong strategic point. They entered the land of the Canaanites, mingled with its people and settled in the southern coasts between Jaffa and Gaza. The Philistines had achieved military supremacy over the greater part of the country around 1200 BC, and called it Palestine.

The narrative of the Old Testament mentions Bethlehem in the first book of the Bible when Jacob, son of Abraham, and his family were journeying to the city of Hebron passing by Bethlehem (Ephrata) (Genesis 35: 16-19). There, his wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, and he buried her by the side of the Bethlehem Road where her tomb has been a shrine to this day: „And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” In that time, Bethlehem was a small, walled town erected on a hill in the northern part of the present town of Bethlehem. The name of Bethlehem (Ephrata) „the fruitful” itself suggests a pastoral and agricultural life. The tale of Ruth, the Moabite, and Boaz suggests an atmosphere of idyllic rusticity that is still obvious today (Ruth 2-4). Ruth’s grandson was King David of whose lineage Christ was born.

A decree of Caesar Augustus, ordering the taking of a census in all the provinces of the Roman Empire, brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Micah, spoken 750 years before: „And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler of his people”(Mikha 5:2). When Jesus was born in Bethlehem,  Herod the Great was a vassal of Rome and in 6 AD Palestine was incorporated in the imperial province of Syria.  Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD profaned the sanctity of the Grotto of the Nativity and turned it into a pagan shrine.

From Hadrian’s time until the reign of Constantine, the population worshipped Adonis in the cave where the infant Jesus was born. Palestine, consequently, was officially pagan as was the whole Roman empire until 313 when Constantine proclaimed Christianity as the religion of the state. In the year 325 the Bishop of Jerusalem, St. Maccarius, took the opportunity of acquainting the Emperor Constantine with the neglected condition of the Holy Places in his diocese. Thus, the Emperor ordered the construction, at public expense, of monumental churches to commemorate the three principal events of Jesus’ life: Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection. One of these was a church enshrining the scene of the Nativity. Christian traditions were so clear and deeply rooted that there was no problem in locating the correct place. Among the trees, not far from the village, was a cave which the local people and their parents had known for generations to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The cave was made the center of a scheme for the church and work began the following year (326 AD)

Toward the end of the 4th century, Bethlehem became a very important center of monastic life. In 384 AD St. Jerome arrived from Rome with a group of pilgrims. He came to Bethlehem to continue his work in the atmosphere of monastic life. He devoted himself to the tremendous task with which Pope St. Damasus had entrusted him, namely to review all old Latin translations of the Bible and produce a new version, the Vulgate, based on original Hebrew and Greek texts. Two Roman ladies of noble origin, St. Paula and her daughter Eustochium moved to Bethlehem in 386 to lead an ascetic life along with St. Jerome. They founded the earliest monastic community in Bethlehem which has lasted, with some interruption, to this day. Paula used her riches to build a hospice for pilgrims and two monasteries, one for St. Jerome and his followers, and the other for herself and the nuns.

When the Roman empire was divided in 395 into two empires, eastern and western, Palestine was attached to Byzantium, the eastern part. In the following years the life of the Latin-speaking communities of Bethlehem faded from view, eclipsed by the growth and more spectacular austerities of an eastern monasticism. As a result, the town of Bethlehem prospered and its population increased with the spread of churches, monasteries, and convents in Bethlehem itself, and the surrounding areas.  In AD 527 Justinian became Emperor in Constantinople. Under his reign Palestine witnessed a time of prosperity and expansion for its churches and for monasticism. Afterwards, in 529, the Samaritans rebelled against the Byzantine state and overran the country, plundering and destroying as they went. Churches and monasteries, towns and villages were all pillaged or gutted by fire. The walls of Bethlehem and its main church were destroyed. The revolt was soon quelled. At the same time the church was rebuilt in a grand style. The town wall and the defenses of the monasteries were repaired.

A few years later (614) the country was invaded by the Persians. According to an oral tradition, they did not cause any damage to the Church of the Nativity because they saw the pictures of the three Magi dressed as Persians, carrying gifts to Christ at his birth. Outside and above the roof of the narthex, the gable end overlooking the atrium was decorated with a mosaic scene of the birth of Christ with his mother holding the Child to her breast. In 637, soon after his entry into Jerusalem, the Muslim Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab visited Bethlehem. The relations between ‘Umar and the ecclesiastical authorities were friendly and a written agreement was granted to the Patriarch Sofronious. The tolerant policy was maintained by Umar’s successors till 1009. In that year a fanatic Caliph, al-Hakim, the one who had destroyed the Holy Sepulcher, declared a real persecution against Christians. However, Bethlehem was once more spared because al-Hakim wished to continue receiving the tribute Christians had been paying since Umar’s day.

The conquest of Palestine by the Crusaders in the year 1099 began a new chapter in the history of Bethlehem. Within a short time the Franks took over from the local clergy and installed a community of Augustinian canons under a prior who conducted services in the Latin language. The Crusaders reconstructed the town and made it a fortified outpost. They remained for about two centuries during which the town of Bethlehem prospered. Some of them intermarried with the local people and settled down. The 12th century opened Bethlehem to European social and ecclesiastical influences to an unprecedented extent. From every country, pilgrims could now visit the Holy Places bringing with them offerings to the church and prosperity to the merchants whose shops were built in front of it. In 1100, the Crusader King Baldwin succeeded in having Pope Pascal II establish a bishopric in Bethlehem.

In 1187, Saladin the Ayyubite captured Bethlehem. Although the Church of the Nativity was unharmed, the relations with the West were abruptly cut off, and the Latin Bishop and Canons were forced to leave. The life of the local people was seriously affected by the expulsion of the Latin community and the temporary interruption of the stream of western pilgrims on which the Bethlehemites primarily depended. However, because of two treaties, one signed by emperor Frederick II and Malek el-Kamel, sultan of Egypt, and the second by the king of Navarre and the Sultan of Damascus, Bethlehem was in Christian hands from 1229 to 1244. The Canons of St. Augustine could return to their convent and the Basilica was once more opened to the Christian world.

In 1250, the Ayyubid Dynasty was replaced in Egypt by Circassian Mamlukes, and the accession of the fanatical Sultan Rukn ed-Din Beibars brought an end to the tradition of tolerance that helped safeguard the Holy places. In 1263, Beibars ordered the dismantling of the towers and walls of Bethlehem. The church itself was not damaged, which gave rise to a legend that a serpent bit the marbles and cracked them, so that the Sultan could not take them to Cairo, as he wished. However, the Christians were banished from Bethlehem.

In the following century, western influences were reinforced; monks from the order of the Franciscan Friars Minor were established in Bethlehem in the old Augustinian priory, where they still reside.  The Franciscan Fathers had acquired possession of the grotto in 1347 and also, the right to administer the Basilica and to care for its maintenance. The Franciscan Custos, Giovanni, obtained from the Sultan Qaita Bey consent to renovate the roof of the Church of the Nativity. A few years later European influences at Bethlehem were set back by the expulsion of the Catholic Latin clergy for the second time.

With the Turkish occupation in 1517, the period of conflict between the Franciscans and the Greeks for the possession of the Sanctuaries began. Consequently, the Basilica passed from the Franciscans to the Greeks according to the favor enjoyed at the Sublime Porte (Ottoman Caliph) by the nation which supported the communities (Catholics or Orthodox). Under the Turkish regime the question of ownership and rights in the Holy Places took on an increasingly political and even international dimension. The first question in the dispute between France and Russia was concerned with the possession of the key to the main doors of the Basilica. The second was concerned with the mysterious removal, one night in the year 1847, of a silver star bearing a Latin inscription, which was put into a slab of marble beneath the altar of the Nativity. However, between the 17th and 18th centuries Bethlehem was on the verge of modern times. Long and continuous contact by the local people with travelers from Western Christendom had familiarized them with the manners and tastes of Western countries, and improved their economic condition.

Palestine was under Egyptian rule for ten years beginning in 1831. However, during this period, robbery and violence were too common, and the murder of a favorite of Ibrahim Pasha in 1834, resulted in the destruction of the Moslem quarter of the town and the disarming of the whole population. By 1841 Bethlehem was again under Turkish rule. The result was unemployment, oppression, compulsory military service and heavy taxes imposed on the inhabitants. This oppressive situation forced the people of Bethlehem to emigrate abroad, especially to the Americas, to earn a living and improve their life-style. By the end of the 19th century, several European missionaries came to Bethlehem and built schools.

The Turkish rule ended in 1917, and Palestine was placed under the British Mandate. At that time, the inhabitants of Bethlehem numbered about 8000. When the British withdrew from Palestine in 1948 the population of Bethlehem was 11,696. Wars between Arabs and Jews continued and the latter occupied most of Palestine and declared their state ‘Israel’. The town of Bethlehem remained unoccupied and towards the end of 1948, the union of the eastern part of Palestine and Trans-Jordan was declared under the name of the Hashemite  Kingdom of Jordan. A second war between the Arabs and Israelis broke out in 1967, and the latter occupied the remainder of Palestine including Bethlehem. Bethlehem remained under the Israeli occupation until December 22, 1995 when the Palestinian Authority took over in compliance with the Oslo Accord of 1993.

In September 1993 Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accord. Among its provisions, the accord called for a five-year interim period of Palestinian Autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza at the end of which the final status of the occupied territories will be decided. However, the implementation of the accord met setbacks resulting from the intransigence of the Israeli extremists.

 

Händel for Christmas !

If you have never listened to the entire Messiah oratorio, here are 4 selections to sample. If you would like to listen to the entire oratorio (in 3 parts) and see the lyrics, which are entirely taken from Scripture click here – Handel’s entire oratorio with lyrics (in 3 separate video)It includes the Hallelujah song. Also click here if you want just the Hallelujah song – Handel’s ‘Hallelujah’ and Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’. Majestic music for a majestic God!

The 4 selections from Handel’s Messiah oratorio

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government
shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Händel: For unto us a child is born

Uploaded on Nov 26, 2008 Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, Susan Gritton, Sara Mingardo, Mark Padmore, Alastair Miles and the Tenebrae choir performing Handel’s Messiah. Recorded in December 2006. PART II No. 39  Uploaded by Lso

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:5)

Uploaded by

Händel: And the glory of the Lord

Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I
Corinthians 15:21-22)

Uploaded by

Händel: Since by man came death

The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and
we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and
this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:52-53)

Händel: The trumpet shall sound

Uploaded on Apr 22, 2008 The Trumpet Shall Sound from Handel’s Messiah performed live by Nathaniel Mayfield on baroque trumpet in December, 2007. Uploaded by Nathaniel Mayfield

John Piper – Six reasons the Son of God came into the world

christmas

I want to let six of the witnesses speak and testify to why the Son of God came into the world. The witnesses are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and the writer to the Hebrews. The answers they give are six reasons for Jesus’ coming:

  1. To ransom many – Mark 10:45, „The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”The reason we need a ransom to be paid for us is that we have sold ourselves into sin and have been alienated from a holy God. When Jesus gave his life as a ransom, our slavemasters, sin and death and the devil, had to give up their claim on us. And the result was that we could be adopted into the family of God.Paul put it like this in Galatians 4:4–5, „When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” In other words the redemption or the ransom frees us to be a part of God’s family. We had run away and sold ourselves into slavery. But God pays a ransom and redeems us out of slavery into the Father’s house.To do that, God’s Son had to become a human being so that he could suffer and die in our place to pay the ransom. That is the meaning of Christmas. Hebrews 2:14 puts it like this, „Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death.” In other words, the reason Christ took on human flesh was so that he could die and in dying pay a ransom and free us from the power of death.
  2. To call sinners to repentance –Luke 5:31–32, „Jesus said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'”Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. First, there needed to be a ransom to be paid for sinners. Then, there could be a successful call to sinners. The call is based on the ransom. And Jesus says he came for both of these things.He does not leave the ransoming or the calling to others. He ransoms and he calls. Even today he is calling through the Bible and through the preaching of the Bible. He is calling this morning.That is the meaning of Christmas. He came to call sinners.
  3. To give sight to the morally blind – John 9:39, „Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see.'” And John 12:46, „I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me might not remain in darkness.”Jesus did not merely come to ransom and to call, he also came to open people’s eyes so that they can see the light and walk in it. Our problem is not just slavery needing a ransom, and lostness needing a call; our problem is also moral blindness, needing the gift of sight. We are simply blind to some spiritual realities that are utterly crucial to see and embrace.This is why Christ came: that those who do not see may see. This is the meaning of Christmas.
  4. To divide households – Matthew 10:34, „Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”The point of this word is not that God loves division and strife. The point is that strife and division caused by true allegiance to Jesus are better than no strife and division with no allegiance to Jesus. The point is that when a person is ransomed and called and given sight, something really radical happens to them.They see everything differently with that new sight, and they have a new master because of that sovereign call, and they are wonderfully free from fear and guilt because of that sufficient ransom. And so they think differently and feel things differently and act differently. And for some in the family, that can be very threatening, and so tension develops. For this Jesus came into the world. That too is the meaning of Christmas.
  5. To save from divine condemnation – John 3:17–18, „For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.”God sent his Son to save us from his own just condemnation and wrath. The need for salvation implies that there is a danger we need to be saved from. That danger is sin and death and the devil. But the most serious danger of all is the danger of the condemnation of God. If God is for us, then sin and death and the devil will fail to destroy us. But if God is against us, then nothing can save us.Christmas, the coming of Jesus, is God’s way of being for us — if we will believe. „He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.”
  6. To give eternal life – John 3:16, „For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”Christmas means that God sent his Son so that we could believe and have eternal life.This is what Patty was talking about when she said last night, with her dead child in her arms, „How do people bear it who have no hope?” The hope she meant was eternal life. And that life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.

John Piper at Desiring God via http://www.sermoncentral.com/

 

12 Reasons for Christmas

Photo credit Crosscards.com via GodVine

by John Piper at www.DesiringGod.org website

1) “For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (JOHN 18:37).

2) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 JOHN 3:8; cf. HEBREWS 2:14-15).

3) “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (MARK 2:17).

4) “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (LUKE 19:10).

5) “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (MARK 10:45).

6) “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (GALATIANS 4:5).

7) “For God so loved the world that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved” (JOHN 3:16).

8) “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 JOHN 4:9).

9) “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (JOHN 10:10).

10) “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many may be revealed” (LUKE 2:34F).

11) “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (LUKE 4:18).

12) “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarches, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (ROMANS 15:7-8; cf. JOHN 12:27F).

David Platt – Incarnation (1) Hope of Glory

Even in church, those of us focusing on Christ have a tendency to miss the whole point. Even those of us in the church who know the story and focus on the story- Mary and Joseph and the angels. And, we focus on the wise men and the shepherds and we focus on all the circumstances surrounding this story. Even then we have the possibility of completely missing the point of Christmas.

You see, the question we need to ask- This is a foundational truth that we will unpack (in the next 4 messages)- The Mystery of Christmas is not found primarily in the circumstances of the birth of Jesus, but in the identity of the baby in the manger.

That is the mystery of what Christmas is all about: the identity in the fact that God (what a mammoth reality) would become a baby that needed to be taught and changed and fed and was dependent upon His own creation to nurture Him. This is the mammoth reality of a God who became like that. That is the mystery of what Christmas is all about and what I want us to do is dive into that mystery: WHO IS JESUS? This is a huge question. It is a historic question.

Jesus: Who do you say that I am?

Once when Jesus was traveling with His disciples He asked them ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Wherever Jesus went, large crowds of people followed Him and they witnessed the miracles He performed and they observed the words He spoke in His sermons. Many of the people probably wondered who Jesus was.  But then in Luke 9:18-20 Jesus asks Peter, His disciple, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and Peter answers ‘God’s Messiah’! Peter spoke with lots of conviction, yet his faith had a long way to go, there would even come a point in his life later where he would deny that he even knew Jesus. Peter and the disciples would become men of faith after they saw the resurrected Christ and it was then they could profess that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

In every age since the first followers of Jesus made their profession of faith in him, men and women of faith have had to come to terms with who Jesus is and what he means for them.As we go into the Christmas season, celebrating the birth of the Messiah, take a little time to reflect on these passages that the Scriptures heralds about the deity of the Messiah. Who is Jesus Christ to you?

(The following list is posted from Tyndale’s Wilmington guide to the Bible pp.346-348, 616-618)

The Deity of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world- 

  1. His deity was declared by angels

  • Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-33)
  • by Gabriel to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23)
  • by Gabriel (?) to some shepherds (Luke 2:8-11)
  • by Gabriel (?) to some women (Matthew 28:5-6)

2. His deity was declared by the Father

  • at his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17)
  • at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5)
  • shortly before his passion (John 12:27-28)

3. His deity was declared by his mighty miracles (John 20:30,31: 21:25)

4. His deity was declared by his powerful sermons ((Luke 4:32; John 7:46)

5. His deity was declared by his accurate prophecies (Matthew 26:32)

6. His deity was declared by his sinless life

  • as attested by Pilate (John 19:4)
  • by Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19
  • by Judas (Matthew 27:4)
  • by the dying thief (Luke 23:41)
  • by the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47)

7. His deity was declared by demons

  • as he healed a maniac (Matthew 8:28-29)
  • as he healed a man in Capernaum (Luke 4:33-34)
  • as he healed many in Capernaum (Luke 4:41, Mark 3:11)

8. His deity was declared by those who worshipped him

  • the shepherds (Luke 2:15)
  • the wise men (Matthew 2:2,11)
  • a leper (Matthew 8:2)
  • a ruler (Matthew 9:18)
  • a Gentile mother (Matthew 15:25)
  • a Hebrew mother (Matthew 20:20)
  • a maniac (Mark 5:6)
  • a blind man (John 9:38)
  • an apostle (Thomas) (John 20:28)
  • all apostles (Matthew 14:38; 28:9)

9. His deity was declared by Satan (Matthew 4:3, 6)

10. His deity was declared by himself

  • He referred to himself as the Son of God (John 9:35; 10:36; 11:4)
  • He forgave sins (Mark 2:5, 10)
  • He is man’s judge (John 5:22, 27)
  • He is the author of life (John 5:24, 28, 29)
  • He is to be honored like the Father (John 5:23)
  • He alone can save (John 10:28; Luke 19:10; John 14:6

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