The Last Instructions of Jesus (Tenth Resurrection Appearance) and His Ascension

Ultimile Instructiuni ale Domnului Isus

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After Jesus’ resurrection, he was on earth for 40 days (Acts 1:3), then He led His followers out to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and „lifting up His hands, He blessed them. While He blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).
John 21:1-23 relates the story of the last appearance of Jesus after His     resurrection.  Then Matthew’s center of these instructions is the future mission to spread the good news through baptism and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus teaches them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins  (Matthew 24:47). In the fourth Gospel, Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit, thereby empowering them to continue his mission, including the forgiveness of sins (John 20:22-23).

TENTH  RESURRECTION  APPEARANCE

From the upper room to the Mount of Olives. Mark 16:19, 20  Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:4-11.

A. Jesus blesses them and promises the baptism of the Spirit.

B. He orders them to witness for Him:

  1. In Jerusalem
  2. In Judea
  3. In Samaria
  4. unto the uppermost parts of the earth.

C. He is received up into glory to the right hand of the Father.

D. This is the Old Testament Prophecy fulfillment number 38, that He would ascend. (Compare Psalm 24:7-10 with Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51). Did the resurrected Christ appear before any unsaved individuals? On the strength of Matthew 23:37-39 it would seem He did not.

„O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

These words conclude  the Bible’s account of the greatest  life that was ever lived. It should, however be said that His glory story is not limited to the four Gospel accounts. In fact, each of the sixty-six Biblical books presents a glimpse of this marvelous and mighty Messiah. Note the following „scriptural summary of the Savior”:

Christ in every book (of the Bible)

Christ is the theme of the entire revelation of God. He is promised in Genesis, revealed in the Law, prefigured in its history, praised in poetry, proclaimed in its prophecy, provided in its Gospels, proved in its Acts, preeminent in its Epistles and prevailing in Revelation.

(thanks to Gabi Bogdan for above video, illustrating Christ in every book, through song)

He is seen in every book of the Bible. Take a journey through the Halls of Holy Writ and and in every one of them you will see Christ. Starting with Genesis He is the seed of the woman; in Exodus the Lamb for sinners slain; in Leviticus, our High Priest; in Numbers, the Star of Jacob and the Brazen Serpent; in Deuteronomy,  the Prophet like unto Moses and the Great Rock; in Joshua, the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts; in Judges the Messenger of Jehovah; in Ruth our Kinsman-Redeemer and the Faithful Bridegroom; in 1 Samuel He is seen as the Great Judge; in 2 Samuel as the Princely King; in 1st Kings as David’s Choice; in  2 Kings as the Holiest of All; in 1 Chronicles as King by Birth; in 2 Chronicles as King by Judgement.

In Ezra He is seen as Lord of heaven and earth; in Nehemiah as builder; in Esther our Mordecai; in Job our Daysman and our Risen,  returning Redeemer; in Psalms the Son of God and the Good Shepherd; in Proverbs our Wisdom; in Ecclesiastes as the One above the sun; in Song of Solomon the great Church lover; the one Altogether Lovely and the Chiefest among ten thousand. (VIA)

The ascent into heaven

Only Mark (longer version) and Luke include an account of the ascension. For the other evangelists, Jesus’ return to the Father is taken for granted (implied). Luke wants both to round up (finish) his Gospel and to provide a link with his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles. Favorite themes, first appearing in his infancy narratives, are all fitted into these final two verses–journey, Jerusalem, rejoicing, prayers of praise(Luke 24:52-53). Jesus is portrayed as lifting His hands in blessing over the small group of disciples; in Acts 1:6-11, He will commission them to extend this blessing to the entire world and thus throughout the ages. (VIA)

The Ascent of Joy by John Piper (on Jesus’ Ascension forty days after the Resurrection)

 

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Luke 24:44-53

And Jesus said to them, „These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you that, everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and said to them, „Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

In the book of Acts, which Luke writes to continue his account of Jesus’ work in history (by his Spirit), he says (1:1–3):

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.

Therefore, we learn that the ascension of Jesus back to the right hand of God the Father occurred forty days after the resurrection. Had it been Easter 1981 when Jesus was raised from the dead, the ascension would have occurred last Friday, day before yesterday. And had we been among the disciples, we would now find ourselves waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of God’s Spirit which came about ten days later on Pentecost. Therefore, today I want to focus our attention on the ascension of Jesus, and next Sunday on the meaning of Pentecost.

Mai mult

Hristos a Inviat – Ruben Filoti, Andreea Mois si Emma Repede

Versuri de la http://www.versuricrestine.ro

Dis de dimineata alearga Petru-n graba
Easter-He-is-Risen_Ajunge la mormant
Dar Domnul nu mai este
Unde sa fie oare, cine l-a luat
Piatra-I pravalita
HRISTOS A INVIAT!

Viata mea s-a schimbat
Cand la cruce am aflat
Azi Hristos dintre morti a-nviat
Tot trecutul murdar
In sange sfant mi-a spalat
Pentru toti azi Hristos a-nviat!

Caci cel ce-i viu de-a pururi
Aduce-o noua viata
El vrea ca sus in ceruri
Sa fim in siguranta
Fiinte noi prin Duhul invie zi de zi
Si cei ce primesc harul
Cu el in veci vor fi

Te-ntreaba azi esti viu
in suflet ai speranta
Nu vezi ca e tarziu
Si nu ai siuguranta
Pe Terra azi rasuna
Hristos a inviat!

VIDEO by LucusMediaCompany

 

Passion Week – Good Friday 2/2 – Jesus arrested and crucified – It is finished!

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  1. Jesus is taken for an informal hearing before Annas. (Annas served as high priest from A.D. 6–15; his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was high priest from A.D. 18–37.) Archaeologists have uncovered what would have been a two-level, 6,500 square foot mansion in the Upper City, which may have been Annas’ residence and may be the site of this initial hearing. The apostle John is able to enter the court with Jesus; Peter stays outside.
  2. Annas binds Jesus and sends him to stand before Caiaphas and some members of the Sanhedrin Council, where he is mocked and beaten. They render him guilty of blasphemy. Then the Jewish portion of his trial concludes with Jesus bound before the full Sanhedrin, perhaps after or through sunrise.

(VIA) Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition

Holy Week: What Happened on Good Friday?

With help from the ESV Study Bible, here’s an attempted a harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life.

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the authorities (perhaps after midnight, early Friday morning)

Matthew 26:47-56   Mark 14:43-52   Luke 22:47-53   John 18:2-12

Jewish trial, phase 1: Jesus has a hearing before Annas (former high priest and Caiaphas’s father-in-law)
John 18:13-14, 19-24

Jewish trial, phase 2: Jesus stands trial before Caiaphas and part of the Sanhedrin

Matthew 26:57-68   Mark 14:53-65

Peter denies Jesus

Matthew 26:69-75   Mark 14:66-72   Luke 22:55-62   John 18:15-18, 25-27

Perhaps after sunrise, phase 3 of Jesus’ Jewish trial: final consultation before the full Sanhedrin; sent to Pilate

Matthew 27:1-2   Mark 15:1   Luke 22:66-71

Judas hangs himself

Matthew 27:3-10

Phase 1 of Jesus’ Roman trial: first appearance before Pontius Pilate; sent to Herod Antipas

Matthew 27:11-14   Mark 15:2-5   Luke 23:1-7

Phase 2 of Jesus’ Roman trial: appears before Herod Antipas; sent back to Pontius Pilate

Luke 23:6-12

Phase 3 of Jesus’ Roman trial: Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate; condemned to die
Matthew 27:15-26   Mark 15:6-15   Luke 23:13-25   John 18:28-19:16

Jesus is crucified (from approximately 9 AM until Noon)

Matthew 27:27-54   Mark 15:16-39   Luke 23:26-49   John 19:16-37

The Arrest
Matthew 26:47-56

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him!”) 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and took hold of Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of those with Jesus grabbed his sword, drew it out, and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that he would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now? 54 How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?” 55 At that moment Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me. 56 But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled (Matthew 26:47-56).

Jesus was not “overtaken;” our Lord came from the garden (or orchard) to meet Judas and the multitude who accompanied him. Taking all the Gospels into account, we see that a very large group – a multitude – had come out to arrest Him. This group included Judas, the high priest and his servants, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the Jews, the temple police, and a cohort of Roman soldiers. These folks came prepared for the worst. Not only were they armed with swords and clubs (verse 47), they also had lanterns and torches. They seemed to expect Jesus to resist arrest, and they were ready for it, or so they thought.

4 Then Jesus, because he knew everything that was going to happen to him, came and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” 5 They replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He told them, “I am he.” (Now Judas, the one who betrayed him, was standing there with them.) 6 So when Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they retreated and fell to the ground. 7 Then Jesus asked them again, “Who are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 He said this to fulfill the word he had spoken, “I have not lost a single one of those whom you gave me” (John 18:4-9, emphasis mine).

John’s account makes it clear that Jesus is still in control. He went out to meet those who sought Him. He asked who they were looking for. When they told Him they were seeking Jesus, He responded, “I am.” Now it is likely that they understood this to mean, “I am He; I am the one you seek.” But it is difficult for the reader not to understand this response in the light of John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14:

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (John 8:58)

Those who came so prepared to overpower Jesus find themselves backing away from His presence, and falling all over themselves. They are so disarmed by this confrontation of Jesus that they let Jesus’ disciples walk (run?) away, untouched. In this way, Jesus fulfills His promise to keep them (John 18:9).

Matthew provides a somewhat more abridged account. A large crowd arrives at the garden (or orchard), and Judas steps forward to kiss Jesus. This is the sign he had prearranged with the soldiers so that they would know who it was they were to arrest. How ironic that Judas would choose a kiss, a token of love and affection, to identify Jesus. Remarkably, Jesus finds it possible to refer to Judas as “friend” (verse 50). No words of malice or even rebuke are spoken to Judas here, something that may have later haunted Judas. As the soldiers stepped forward to arrest Jesus, “one of the disciples” (we all know it is Peter, thanks to John 18:10) pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus (again, we have his name thanks to John), the slave of the high priest. It is clear from Luke’s account that some of the other disciples were thinking the same thing:

When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we use our swords?” (Luke 22:49)

Peter was already taking action, which comes as no surprise to the reader. Jesus rebuked His over-zealous, sword-swinging, disciple. Peter’s response was wrong for several reasons. First, he was wrong because violence begets violence. “All who take hold of the sword will die by the sword” (verse 52). The kingdom of God will not be achieved by the use of force or violence. The disciples were to “take up their cross” and not their swords. Secondly, Peter’s hasty use of the sword betrayed a lack of faith in the Messiah’s ability to defend Himself, and in God’s ability to come to His defense, should He wish to do so. At any point in time, Jesus could have called upon the host of heaven at His disposal and annihilated His enemies. This was indeed the challenge put to Jesus while on the cross:

41 In the same way even the chief priests—together with the experts in the law and elders—were mocking him: 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! 43 He trusts in God—let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” (Matthew 27:41-43)

The wonder of wonders is that Jesus chose to remain on that cross, to die for those who hated Him.
Thirdly, Jesus must be arrested, tried, and executed in this manner because the Scriptures must be fulfilled (verse 54). Jesus had indicated earlier that He must be arrested, persecuted, and crucified. He was to be opposed by unbelieving Jews, and also by Gentiles. Peter and the disciples saw what was coming and reached for their swords. Jesus knew everything that was about to happen to Him (John 18:4), but since this is what God had purposed to take place, Jesus would not allow any of the disciples to defend Him by force. It must happen this way.

After rebuking His disciples for attempting to defend Him by force, Jesus then turned to those who had come to arrest Him. Why were they seeking to take Him by force? What was the need for this great “posse” (to use a term from the old Western movies – a large party of folks authorized to assist in the arrest of Jesus)? Why did they have to arrest Him at night? Jesus had not been in hiding, as if He were a wanted felon. He had publicly taught in the temple. He was never more accessible for arrest than during the previous week. If the disciples’ (threatened) use of force revealed some wrong thinking, so did the show of force by those who came to arrest Jesus in the garden.

Let us leave these verses by taking note that Peter surely was willing to die for His Lord, just as he had claimed earlier. No one would start swinging his sword against an armed force this large without expecting to die (or at least expecting our Lord to intervene with some “heavenly firepower”). Our Lord was indicating to Peter and the rest that if He needed heaven’s intervention, He could do so without His disciples precipitating violence.

You can read the entire article at Bible.org

The Day Christ Died

By Bob Deffinbaugh at Bible.org

For many in Jerusalem, it looked just like any other day. Simon of Cyrene was on his way into the city from the country (Mark 15:21). Little did he know that Jesus had been arrested, tried during the night and early morning hours, and had just been delivered over for crucifixion, taking, it would seem, the place of Barabbas. A centurion and several other soldiers had drawn the duty of executing three men. They had probably performed this duty numerous times, and so today’s task did not appear to be anything new or unusual.

It was not an ordinary day for the two thieves. These men were scheduled for execution on this day. We are not told what these men knew about Jesus, but it may have been very little, since we can assume that Jesus would have been a last-minute addition to their number as they took up their crosses and made their way to Golgotha. After nailing Jesus and the others to their crosses, the soldiers settled down to a ritual they knew all too well. Little did anyone know what this day held in store for them. It was, however, a day no one would ever be able to forget. It was the day Christ died.

Act 1: Jesus Endures the Wrath of Men
Matthew 27:32-44

32 As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) 34 and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat down and kept guard over him there. 37 Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!” 41 In the same way even the chief priests—together with the experts in the law and elders—were mocking him: 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! 43 He trusts in God—let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” 44 The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, but he could not seem to find a way to release Him. Eventually, he gave in to the demands of the crowd and released Barabbas, handing Jesus over for crucifixion. The condemned normally carried their own cross, but it would seem that Jesus had endured such abuse that He no longer had the strength to carry His. A man named Simon, from Cyrene, a north African city of Libya, happened by. A large crowd was following Jesus, made up mainly of women (Luke 23:27). Simon does not appear to have been following Jesus, but rather was coming into Jerusalem from the country (Luke 23:26). Perhaps he was passing by Jesus just as our Lord stumbled under the load of His cross. Simon was forced to take up our Lord’s cross, an unforeseen event that I believe changed the course of Simon’s life.

Why is this man mentioned by name in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? And why are we told the city from which he came? Mark goes even further, telling us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). I believe Mark expects his readers to recognize this man, and his sons. It is my opinion that until this fateful day, Simon was an unbeliever, but what he saw on this day, the day Christ died, changed him forever, bringing him into God’s kingdom.

The procession arrives at last at Golgotha, where all three men are to be crucified. They offer our Lord “wine mixed with gall,” but when He realizes what it is, He refuses to drink it. More than likely this was provided for the condemned as a kind of sedative or pain reliever. Jesus refused anything which would diminish His suffering, for He must drink the cup of God’s wrath on guilty sinners to the brim.

Notice how quickly Matthew (and the other Gospel writers) pass by the description of the actual crucifixion procedures. We are not told all the gory details about how the nails were driven through our Lord’s hands, though we know that they were (see John 20:25, 27). Neither Matthew nor any of the other Gospel writers dwells on the physical sufferings of our Lord, though there was much that could have been written about this. Matthew turns our attention to the soldiers, who throw the dice to determine who will get our Lord’s garments. John provides greater detail here (John 19:23-24); he alone specifically calls attention to this as the fulfillment of prophecy:

23 Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) 24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.”This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-24, emphasis mine).

This is a citation from Psalm 22 (verse18), a psalm whose prophecies are fulfilled several times in the crucifixion of our Lord.

The thing I wish to point out is that these soldiers have little or no interest in who Jesus is, or in what He has done. This is just another day on the job for them. After casting lots, they settle down for what they have come to expect – a number of hours of human agony, to which they seem to turn a deaf ear. Later events will cause them to get much more interested in what is happening on this day, the day Christ died.

Then there is the sign, posted on the top of our Lord’s cross: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37). John’s Gospel makes much of this, because the Jews didn’t like the wording of the sign. They much preferred that the sign clearly indicate this was merely what Jesus claimed. Pilate seemed to take pleasure in their displeasure, using the sign to irritate them. It was really what this was all about, anyway. Jesus was here because He claimed to be the King of the Jews, and the Jews refused to accept Him as such.

The emphasis of the paragraph in Matthew 27:32-44 is upon the mocking of those who looked on as Jesus was being crucified. Consider several characteristics of this mocking.

First, this mocking was virtually unanimous. Everyone there  took part in mocking Jesus. In our text, Matthew specifically names “those who passed by” (Matthew 27:39), the chief priests, experts in the law, and the elders (27:41-43), and the two robbers who were crucified along with Jesus (Matthew 27:44). Luke also includes the soldiers who stood by (Luke 23:36-37). One gets the impression that Jesus was the center of attention and that all who were there joined in mocking Him. He bore the wrath of men, and of God, alone.

Second, this mocking was intense and angry. There is a deep hostility and anger evident in the words spoken. If Jesus were a murderer, like Barabbas, one could understand how angry words could be spoken to Him and of Him. I am reminded of the title of one of the last chapters in R. C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God“God in the Hands of Angry Sinners.” That is what we see here. The wrath of men is being poured out upon the sinless Savior.

Third, this mocking is against the essence of what our Lord Jesus claimed and taught concerning Himself.While the disciples seemed obtuse to much of what our Lord was teaching, the crowd has it nearly right. They don’t mock Jesus for advocating revolution, or for teaching that they should not pay their taxes. They mock Jesus for claiming to be “the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37), the “King of Israel” (Matthew 27:42), “the Son of God” (Matthew 27:40, 43), for “saving others” (Matthew 27:42), and for “trusting in God” (Matthew 27:43). The only thing they had somewhat twisted was our Lord’s alleged claim to be able to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (Matthew 27:40).

Fourth, this mocking is a really a dare, and thus a recurrence of the same kinds of temptation our Lord experienced in the wilderness. Satan’s challenge, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, 6), is echoed by those who now say, “If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40b). In both cases, the temptation is for Jesus to act in a way that men would expect, in a way that men would do, if they were the Son of God. In other words, the temptation is for our Lord to use His divine power to avoid pain and suffering and to satisfy Himself. They cannot conceive of Jesus having the power to save Himself, and not using it to do so. They cannot conceive of God suffering at the hands of sinful men.

Fifth, the mocking of those who witnessed the death of Christ was a challenge for our Lord to act in a way that would nullify His saving work. If men had their way, our Lord would have saved Himself, and at the same time, He would have ventured from the predetermined plan of God whereby sinful men could be saved. Men are not acting in the best interest of our Lord, and they are not acting in their own best interest, either.

In this first act, men seem to have the upper hand, and Jesus appears to be the helpless victim. Men pour out their wrath on Jesus for not acting as they would expect, as they demand. The guards cast lots for the garments of our Lord, and then settle down for what experience has taught them will be a long vigil. Things quickly and radically change by the time we come to act two, as we are about to see.

Act 2: Our Lord Endures the Wrath of God
Matthew 27:45-56

45 Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. 46 At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 51 Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. 53 (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) 54 Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” 55 Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:45-56).

What a difference three hours can make. It was high noon, and yet darkness suddenly fell over all the land, a darkness that lasted for three hours. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all call attention to this darkness, yet none of them attempts to explain how it happened. There really is no simple explanation. We do not get the impression that this is a dust storm, a cloudy day, or an eclipse. This is sudden and sustained darkness. The best example of this kind of darkness is found in the Book of Exodus, when God brought darkness over the land of Egypt:

21 The Lord said to Moses, “Extend your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses extended his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see another person, and no one could rise from his place for three days. But the Israelites had light in the places where they lived (Exodus 10:21-23).

I believe that this darkness that fell over the land of Israel during the crucifixion of our Lord was the same intense darkness we read about in Exodus. I suspect that a hush fell over the crowd, and that all that could be heard were gasps of fear, even terror. You will remember that when Paul was stopped short on the road to Damascus he was stricken with blindness for three days. It gave him time to ponder what he had just experienced.

I believe the main reason for this three-hour darkness over the land of Israel was to place a veil of darkness over the suffering of our Lord, suffering at the hand of His Father. Jesus is now suffering the eternal wrath of God on sinners. While Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, may dramatically depict the driving of nails through the hands of our Lord (something the Scriptures don’t describe), there is no way any human could depict the separation our Lord experienced from the Father. This agony our Lord bore alone, veiled from the eyes of those who mocked Him.

I should add that while we rightly make much of the suffering of our Lord, let us not forget what this meant to the Father. Those of us who have children know how painful it is for us to observe the suffering of our children. Add to this the fact that the suffering of the Son was the plan and purpose of the Father. Can you imagine what it would have been like for the Father to put His Son on the cross, and then to hear sinners daring Him to save His Son? What a price the Father and the Son paid to save unworthy sinners like us.

At the end of this three-hour period of darkness, Jesus uttered this cry in a loud voice: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46). Matthew interprets it for us: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). We know that Jesus is calling out the first words of Psalm 22, a Messianic Psalm that depicts the suffering of Messiah at Calvary. Several prophecies found in this psalm are fulfilled in the death of Jesus at Calvary. Jesus is identifying Himself as the Suffering Servant, the Messiah whose death will bring about salvation for lost sinners.

It is almost amazing to read that a number of the bystanders didn’t realize what Jesus was saying. They did not see this as our Lord’s citation of Psalm 22:1; they saw it as Jesus calling to Elijah for help. I’m not surprised that some of the bystanders would fail to grasp the meaning of our Lord’s words here. What I wonder is what the Jewish religious leaders thought Jesus was saying. Would they not recognize this as the first words ofPsalm 22? And if they did, what did they make of that? We are not told. We are told that one of them obtained a sponge and dipped it in sour wine to give Jesus a drink. Some of the others urged Him to hold back and see if Elijah would come to His rescue. It may well be that this was said in jest or sarcasm. But it may also be that some were not entirely convinced that Jesus would be left to suffer on His cross. Some might have been curious to see if God did come to rescue Jesus.

Notice that this time Jesus does drink some of the wine. If this wine did contain any tranquilizer or pain reliever, it would not have had time to produce its effect, for Jesus will die almost immediately after He drinks some of the wine. My own sense is that Jesus took some of the wine to relieve His parched throat, so that His final, triumphant shouts would be loud and clearly heard. When taking all the Gospels into account, I am inclined to think that Jesus first shouted, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), followed by, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). It is the latter statement that would seem to have preceded our Lord’s giving up of His spirit, so that it was apparent to all that He gave up His life. His life was not taken from Him; He voluntarily gave it up:

17 This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. 18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).

Our Lord’s death occurred at the moment He cried His last utterance, but His death was but the first of a sequence of miraculous events. Matthew is the one Gospel that emphasizes the supernatural phenomenon that accompanied our Lord’s death:

50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 51 Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. 53 (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) (Matthew 27:50-53)

All three Synoptic Gospels record the rending of the temple veil at the moment of our Lord’s death; only John’s account omits this. The implications of this symbolic event are immense, but they are not spelled out here. These matters will be taken up later in the New Testament. In short, the rending of the veil signified the end of the Old Covenant, under which people had to keep their distance from God, and the commencement of the New Covenant, under which men and women may draw near, through the shed blood of Jesus (note Hebrews 9; 10:19-24).

Now we come to something that is unique to Matthew: the great earthquake, in which rocks were split, tombs were opened, and dead saints were raised to life. What a punctuation mark God placed at the death of His Son! Jesus cries out triumphantly, proclaiming that His work is finished, and committing His spirit to the Father. Jesus then breathes His last and gives up His spirit. At the very moment of His death, the temple veil was rent, and a great earthquake shook the place so hard that the rocks split and graves were broken open. All this took place in close proximity to the three hours of darkness.

We know that the dead were not raised until after the resurrection (Matthew 27:53), so why are we told here that the tombs were opened? Why not wait until the resurrection itself? For one thing, I believe Matthew wants us to see the hand of God plainly in the events surrounding the death of our Lord. For another, I believe that the graves were opened in preparation for the resurrection of these Jerusalem saints coinciding with our Lord’s resurrection. The earthquake sets the stage for the resurrection of the dead Jerusalem saints. Third, I believe that we are meant to see the connection between the death of our Lord and His resurrection. The death of our Lord was a supernatural event, and the spectacular phenomena that accompany it underscore this fact. To Matthew (and the other apostles – see Acts 2:22-36), the resurrection of our Lord is a necessary corollary to the cross, and he wants us to recognize this.

Now, the bodies of “many saints who had died” and had been buried were raised to life, and they went into “the holy city” (Jerusalem) where they appeared to many people (Matthew 27:53). This is amazing! Can you imagine the impact this would have had on the people of Jerusalem? What a way to underscore the resurrection of our Lord. Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but a large group of saints were raised at the same time. It might be worth considering just who some of these resurrected folks could have been:

33 Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it is impossible that a prophet should be killed outside Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! (Luke 13:33-34; see also Matthew 23:37)

Jerusalem was where the prophets were killed and were buried:

29 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have participated with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” (Matthew 23:39-30).

I think it is therefore reasonable to assume that some of those who were raised and who went about Jerusalem were martyred prophets. What a story they would have had to tell! And what an impact they must have had on the people of Jerusalem.

But let’s get back to the cross and the moment of our Lord’s death. There were those who were greatly impacted by the way our Lord died:

Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54)

Mark and Luke have similar statements:

Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39)

47 Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts (Luke 23:47-48).

Luke has the centurion declaring our Lord’s innocence, adding to the testimony (in Matthew) of Judas (Matthew 27:4), Pilate (Matthew 27:23-24; see also Acts 3:13; 13:28), and Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19). Luke adds some other details. First, he has the centurion praising God, not just confessing Jesus’ innocence. Second, he informs us that the crowds went home “beating their breasts” (Matthew 23:48). The crowds may not have been willing to declare the innocence of our Lord, but they most certainly did not go home with a satisfied smile on their faces. They knew that something terrible had happened that day, something they did not understand, but which terrified them greatly. There was no pleasure for them in this crucifixion.

Unlike the other Gospel accounts, Matthew goes beyond the confession of the centurion himself. Matthew tells us that the centurion, along with the other soldiers who were guarding Jesus, confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. These soldiers, who had just a few hours earlier settled down for a long vigil, aloof to the suffering of Jesus (and even joining in on the mockery of Jesus – see Luke 23:36-37), were now wide-eyed with terror. They could do nothing other than confess that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was true. What a powerful testimony this was.

Matthew, like Mark (15:40-41) and Luke (23:49), tells about the women who had supported Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, looking on from some distance away. It was all they could do. They were the only ones, it would seem, who did not take part in mocking Jesus. They remained faithful to Jesus, not forsaking him (as it would seem ten of His disciples did). One wonders what they were thinking as they observed the supernatural phenomena that accompanied the death of the Savior.

Act 3: The Burial of Jesus
Matthew 27:57-61

57 Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 (Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, opposite the tomb.) (Matthew 27:57-61)

Joseph of Arimathea is a most interesting fellow. We have not met him before, and we shall not meet him again, except in the parallel accounts of the other Gospels. Every Gospel mentions the burial of our Lord by Joseph of Arimathea. John’s Gospel informs us that Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus (Matthew 19:39-42). Matthew tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57), but John adds that he was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews (Matthew 19:38). Mark informs us that he was a highly regarded member of the Sanhedrin, who was looking forward to the kingdom of God (Matthew 15:43). Luke adds that “he was a good and righteous man” (Matthew 23:50), who did not consent to the Sanhedrin’s decision to kill Jesus (Matthew 23:51).

Mark tells us that Joseph went “boldly” to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Matthew 15:43). One would have to say that it must have taken great courage to identify with Jesus as this moment in time. Peter and our Lord’s disciples were not yet willing to do so, at least after His arrest. Even more so, I am impressed with Joseph’s boldness in distinguishing himself from his colleagues on the Sanhedrin. You can well imagine that Joseph was no longer welcome on the council after he publicly identified with Jesus. His actions spoke louder than words, for it became evident that he was a follower of Jesus, and therefore distanced himself from the other members of the Sanhedrin and the action they had taken.

Being a rich man (Matthew 27:57), Joseph had a tomb already prepared for his own burial, a new tomb that had been cut out of the rock (Matthew 27:60). Time was short, and the Jews were eager to get the bodies down from the crosses so that they could observe Passover. I am inclined to think that many of the executed criminals may not even have been buried. Joseph knew that his tomb was nearby and available, so he made good use of it. The body of Jesus was hastily prepared (probably with the assumption that further preparations could be made after Sabbath) and placed in the tomb. A large stone was then rolled across the entrance as Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” looked on (Matthew 27:61).

Conclusion

Let us first give thought to the importance of our text and to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that Matthew has written this Gospel in a way that makes the cross the main climax of the book. Here is what our Lord has been about from the beginning. The death of Christ on the cross of Calvary is the one and only way by which men can obtain the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.

14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him (John 3:14-17).

This week I will preach the funeral service for a neighbor who just passed away. I’m going to use this passage in Matthew for my funeral text, even though I’ve never used it for a funeral message before. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ puts death (especially the death of a Christian) in a whole new light. The death of our Lord, ugly and wicked though it was (so far as man’s participation in it is concerned), was such that it drew people to faith. Christ’s death can be the death of death for us, if we trust in the saving work of our Lord on the cross. He was innocent, as Judas, Pilate, Pilate’s wife, one of the two thieves who hung beside Jesus, and the Roman soldiers testified. This is what makes His death unique and effective for us. He did not die for His sins (because He was innocent), but for the sins of lost men and women like you and me.

We should see ourselves in those who rejected our Lord and mocked Him as He was dying on the cross. We should see only innocence and perfect righteousness in Jesus. Let us acknowledge our sin, and the fact that the death He died was for the sins of others, and not His own. Let us trust in His death in our place, bearing the penalty for our sins, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the gift of eternal life.

The death of our Lord Jesus is the payment for our sins, and the only way that we will ever obtain eternal life. But it is also a pattern for us to follow:

18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse. 19 For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. 21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:18-25).

Just as our Lord Jesus “took up His cross,” so we too must take up our cross, daily:

23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

The cross alone is the basis for our boasting, for salvation is not a work that we do, but a work that He has done, which we receive as a gift:

But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

As we focus on Matthew’s account of the death of our Lord, we should ask ourselves why he has placed such great emphasis on the cross, on the death of our Lord. In particular, why does Matthew make a point of including the report of so many miracles in connection with the death of the Lord Jesus? Aside from the fact that it is only through the death (and subsequent resurrection) of the Lord Jesus that lost sinners can be saved, there are a couple of other reasons for Matthew’s emphasis on miracles in conjunction with the death of the Savior.

First, I would suggest that these miracles in Matthew testify to the uniqueness of the death of the Lord Jesus. No one ever died like this before or will ever die like this in the future. The death of the sinless Son of God in the sinner’s place is a most unique thing. This was no ordinary crucifixion, no ordinary death. Even those who refused to believe in Jesus left Golgotha beating their breasts, as Luke has informed us.

Second, I would suggest that these miracles in Matthew testify to the presence of God in the process by which He had chosen to save men – through our Lord’s rejection, suffering, and sacrificial death. It is on the cross that our Lord suffered the eternal torment of separation from the Father. This is why our Lord cried out using the words of Psalm 22, verse 1. There is a sense, then, that God was not there, that is, God the Father had withdrawn from the Son. This had to be since the penalty for our sin is death – separation from God. Jesus had to experience that in our place. But these miraculous events remind us that while the Father was separated from the Son while He was on the cross, He was present in the event. The death of Christ was the sovereignly ordained purpose of the Father:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know— 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles (Acts 2:22-23).

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and became anguished and distressed. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matthew 26:36-39).

5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Our Lord Jesus submitted Himself to the will of the Father that He should die on the cross of Calvary, and then be raised again. On the cross, the Son suffered separation from the Father, but the miracles associated with our Lord’s death tell us that the Father was in this, for it was His will and purpose to save men in this way.

Third, these miracles testify to the fact that Jesus was who He claimed to be. I believe that all of these – Simon of Cyrene, one of the two thieves, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the centurion with his soldiers – came to recognize that the events surrounding the death of Christ proved Him to be the Son of God, the King of Israel. The unbelief of the crowds revealed that the hearts of many were hardened to the point that this compelling evidence was somehow set aside. But there were those who could do nothing else than to believe, because of what they saw. We don’t know about Simon of Cyrene, but we would probably be correct to assume that the thief on the cross and the Roman soldiers had little background or knowledge of Israel’s Messiah. In spite of this, they found the evidence so compelling that they believed the same claims for which Jesus had earlier been mocked.

Think of it. These folks believed in Jesus while He was dying, and before His resurrection. Some (like the thief on the cross) believed even before the miraculous events occurred. How could Jesus, a man dying as a criminal, be so convincing? Because He died like no one else had ever died, and because God testified to the uniqueness of Jesus and His death by the miracles associated with His crucifixion and death.

While miracles are certainly prominent here, there is something missing, something we are accustomed to seeing. Up till now, Matthew has made it a point to show how the events of our Lord’s life fulfill prophecy. We saw this at the time of our Lord’s birth and early childhood (see Matthew 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23). We saw it again during Matthew’s account of our Lord’s public ministry (Matthew 4:14; 8:17; 12:17-18; 13:14, 35). And now, we know that many of the events Matthew describes pertaining to our Lord’s death are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and yet Matthew does not make a point of indicating this. Why not? I am inclined to think that it is for two reasons.

First, the people who witness these events did not recognize them as the fulfillment of prophecy at the time they occurred. And second, Matthew wants us to see that people believed because of the sheer weight of the evidence, apart from the prophecies they fulfilled. In other words, they were not predisposed to believe; they just saw no other option than to believe.

The death of our Lord Jesus is the most unique death in all of human history. It will radically change the way we view death if we are Christians. It is a death that is so unique that men have come to faith in Jesus even before the resurrection.

Every Sunday we celebrate communion, and in so doing, we commemorate the death of our Lord:

For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

I believe that we are to observe communion weekly for several reasons. First, it appears to be the practice of the early church (Acts 20:71 Corinthians 11). Second, it is because the death of Christ is so central to the gospel message (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Third, it is because the cross is so central to the way we are to live out our daily lives (see Romans 6). Fourth, it is because the cross of Christ is so strongly detested and opposed by the world:

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. 22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

The message the world hates is the truth that we celebrate. The message the world hates is the only message that will save lost sinners, the only message that we should proclaim. Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary, bearing the penalty for my sins, and setting a pattern for the kind of life I should live as a Christian. The cross of Christ is such a glorious mystery that it will take all eternity to begin to fathom what God has done in this magnificent event, to His glory.

You can read the entire article at Bible.org.

David Wilkerson – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

David Wilkerson: Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He’s the sacrifice for sin, for all mankind. John, the Baptist, saw Jesus and said, „Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Again, he saw Him on another occasion and he said, „Again, I say, this is the sacrifice for sin.” And he’s thinking of all the sacrifices in the Temple. People lined up to buy goats and lamb, and sheep, and for the poor, pigeons, to make a sacrifice atonement for sin. And John the Baptist says. „No, those are not the sacrifices, you don’t have to go that way. It’s not by works. It’s by believing in this man. This is the lamb of God.”

1 Peter 1:18-19 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

When you go into the Bible, and you go to the book of revelation, Jesus is mentioned by John, the writer, in exile on the isle of Patmos, 18 times, he refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus has already been crucified, He’s been buried, He’s raised from the dead, ascended to the Father. And John says, „I see Him seated on the throne; the Lamb of God, the overcomer.” He saw nations and multitudes from all tongues and tribes bowing before Him, before the Lamb, it says. You hear John say, „I saw Him bind the devil and all the principalities of darkness. The Lamb overcame and cast him into the pits of hell.” John says, „I see Him, the Lamb of God, ascended,” and the Lamb of God built a city, and He built a paradise. And He left to prepare a place and the Bible says the Lamb is there, on His throne. He built a city, He established a paradise and then His bride, those who are in Christ and believe in this Lamb of God, „Come enter into the joys that await you.” Folks, we are not of this world; we are of another world. We are just passing through here.

In Genesis, we find the first significance of a sacrificial lamb.3:15

VIDEO by SermonIndex.net

Passion Week – Wednesday Events 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 – Tuesday – Olivet Discourse

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian (pentru tot articolul).

Saptamana Mare – Ce s-a intamplat Marti.
~~~In drum inapoi spre Ierusalim, ucenicii vad ca smochinul blestemat s-a uscat. (Matei 21 si Marcu 11)
~~~Autoritatea lui Isus este contestata de preoti la Templu
~~~Matei 22
Pilde care ne invata despre venirea Domnului
~~~Matei 23
Vai de voi cărturari şi farisei ipocriţi!
~~~Olivet discourse – Isus invata pe Muntele Maslinilor
Luca 21 & Matei 25 vorbeste despre revenirea Lui
Pilda fecioarelor, pilda talantilor, si judecata finala

  1. On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.
  2. In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

„Olivet Discourse” is a name given to 4 special chapters in the Bible. It includes Matthew 24th-25th, Mark 13th and Luke 21st chapters. In all of these chapters Jesus speaks about the „End-Times” which will come upon humanity. Jesus gave these messages to the apostles while they were upon the Mount of Olives, hence the name: Olivet Discourse.

A study by Hampton Keathley IV at Bible.org

Introduction

You must be aware that these are probably the most debated parables in the Bible. Many of the books and journal articles and articles on the internet that I read said all the characters in these parables were believers. Instead of seeing that these are parables about salvation, they see them as parables about rewards or loss of rewards. It is the same argument that we dealt with a few weeks ago in our discussion of the marriage feast and the outer darkness.

Because of the context and because the punishment for the unfaithful is so severe, I see them as all dealing with salvation issues. But rewards are also taught.

These are extremely difficult parables to interpret. I’m tempted to just tell you what I think they mean and ignore all the other views, but I think it is good for you to hear the other interpretations and do your own wrestling with the details.

Context of Matthew 25

Olivet discourse – events of tribulation leading up to 2nd coming.

In Matt 24:36 Jesus begins to answer the question of when He will be returning.

It will be just like in Noah’s day when people didn’t believe Noah and were surprised when it started raining. In the same way, even when people are in the tribulation, experiencing the wrath of God, many are still not going to believe.

So, the when it says „two will be in the field, and one will be taken…” the one taken will be taken to judgment. And the appearance of the thief in the next section is to judge the unbelieving. They didn’t believe the thief was coming. They didn’t believe that God was coming to hold them accountable.

I think that this theme of judging the unbelieving is continued in these next four parables. Although the text doesn’t use the word believe, those that get judged all have actions that indicate they didn’t believe. And their judgment is severe: they get cut to pieces, locked outside, sent to the outer darkness, etc.

And in each parable those who are judged are contrasted to others who not only believed, but were prepared, faithful, fruitful, etc. And those got rewarded for their faithfulness.

We talked about it a couple weeks ago, but this is what some call „Matthew’s rejection imagery.” He always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others, like it all happens at the same event. It sort of makes you wonder if perhaps it does? But then that would make us amillennial or something like that.

Anyway, I want to give you the plot up front. Because I’m going to be discussing other views mixed with my views (notice I didn’t say „the correct view”), I think it might be helpful to have the „Big Idea” in your heads as we study the parables.

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.

Wise and Evil Slaves contrasted

Matthew 24:45-51 also in Luke 12:41-48

Some say because these are slaves, they are both saved. And some say that there is only one slave in the parable. The slave starts off being faithful, but then changes later in life and becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. Dillow makes a big deal out of the word „that” in vs 48 saying that it proves that this is the same slave. And since the slave was once very faithful, he must now just be carnal. Since he was saved, he still is saved, but just carnal or unfaithful, he does not go to hell. He just loses rewards and is very sad.

But, concerning the idea that „since they are both slaves, they are both saved” – In all of Jesus’ parables he contrasts two or three people with the same social status. How else is he going to create tension and contrast? He always uses slaves and sons because God is the Master of all. Slaves and sons are the natural examples to represent this relationship between God and man. The idea behind all these parables is that humans have an equal opportunity to respond, believe, etc. Some do, and some don’t. And here’s what’s going to happen to them.

Concerning the idea that this is one slave who changes. The phrase „if that slave” does refer back to this hypothetical slave. This is not a story about a slave who later in life started backsliding. Jesus is just giving an example.

Jesus is saying: Let’s take a slave… If that slave does this… he will be rewarded. However, if that slave does this… he will be cut into pieces.

He is a wise slave if he believes and anticipates master’s return and faithfully carries out the master’s orders. If he does this, he will be rewarded.

He is an evil slave if he doesn’t believe his master will return.

If the slave takes no note of the coming return and deludes himself into thinking either it will never happen or that he will have time to reform, he will be severely punished. It says he will be cut to pieces.

I believe “cut off” may be a better translation because in Qumran literature this word is used for excommunication and being cut off from the rest of the group. And I think the idea of separation fits better with the context – the punishment that all the bad guys receive in this string of parables is separation from God. Either way, it is severe punishment. Perhaps too severe for a believer?

Application:

This represents a universal principle. If a person doesn’t really believe that there is a God who will hold them accountable when they die, they aren’t very likely to feel a need to “trust” in God or obey his commandments.

I’ve also heard of people who believed that there was a God and he would hold them accountable, but they didn’t want to change their lifestyle and figured they would just „get religion” later. This parable speaks to them too. You never know when God will return or if you will die in a car wreck tomorrow.

We also see the result is a lifestyle that is abusive (beat his fellow slaves) and destructive (eat and drink with drunkards.)

Speaking of „beating his fellow slaves.” Some say because he beat his fellow slaves then he must be saved because they were his fellow slaves. My question is „who else is a slave going to beat?” Free men? If he is going to be abusive to his fellow man, it has got to be another slave. We can’t read into this „a salvation relationship with God” because of his association with other slaves. Just like we can’t read into the passage that because we have two slaves, we have two saved people in view.

Ten Virgins

This is a much debated parable. No one can agree what anything means.

“Virgins” – Some say that they are called “virgins” to emphasize their purity and that this means all ten were Christians (Dillow). Most say they represent people in the tribulation.

“Lamps” People argue whether these were little bowl lamps or torches. Then they argue about what the lamps represent. Some think the lamps and their light represent knowledge. Stedman says the ladies each had light to start with. Which would equate to people having a certain degree of knowledge about the Lord’s return. But for five of them, that knowledge was just academic. It really hadn’t gripped them.

Others think the lamps represents works which are the believer’s „light” or testimony to the world.

The light was supplied by the oil, and therefore it was absolutely essential that they have an adequate supply of oil, otherwise their light would go out. So what does the oil represent.

“Oil” – Some say it is the Holy Spirit (Walvoord, Stedman), some say it is works, others say it is faith.

Here is an example of the type of reasoning you run across when reading the commentators.

In verse 3 we have one of the major interpretive problems of the parable. What does the olive-oil represent? There is a quick answer that suggest that the olive-oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. However that interpretation must be resisted because the Holy Spirit is a gift and cannot be bought. The instructions to go and buy some more would make no sense at all in the case of the Holy Spirit. I think the answer must be found in seeing that the oil is only important when it is set on fire. In other words when it is giving light. The symbol of light rather than oil helps us because then we realize that Jesus is talking about the good works of the believer which he/she does before men which constitutes them the light of the world. The foolish virgins had no oil therefore they had no works with which to greet the bride-groom.1

His argument against this being the Holy Spirit because you can’t buy the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. You can’t buy works or faith either. So that is no argument. It is a good example of one’s conclusion driving his reasons. When I come across a paragraph like that, it makes me want to stop reading the rest of the paper because I question the validity of any of his arguments.

If you think the oil is works, then you have to decide if the five foolish ladies were saved or not. If they were not saved, then the lack of works proved that they were not saved (lordship view). And not getting into the banquet is the same as not getting into heaven.

If you think the ladies were saved, then you will say that the ladies didn’t get any rewards. And that the banquet represents rewards or reigning with Christ (Free Grace view).

Some say that the foolish virgins had oil to start with (Dillow) and so had faith and so were saved. But others argue that that is not necessarily so (Walvoord). It says they rose, trimmed their lamps and lit them. But since they did not have oil in them, they immediately went out. So, it is more probable that they didn’t have any oil to start with.

What do I think?

Because this parable starts off with “the kingdom of heaven is like…” I think it is a salvation parable. Matthew uses this phrase eleven times and in the other parables where this phrase is used, the parables are about salvation and getting into the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should say that out of these eleven parables. They are clearly about salvation or debated. None are clearly not about salvation.

The term virgins is not significant. The idea is just that they were young unmarried ladies. The term “virgin” was often used that way. Perhaps bridesmaids would be a better term.

Five are prepared – have their own oil. Five are unprepared – couldn’t borrow oil. I think that the symbolism is that you can’t get into heaven with someone else’s faith.

Banquet imagery to an Israelite is a reference to kingdom with God and His bride, Israel. This is not the Bema and wedding feast with Christ and Church. Remember the context is judgment at the 2nd coming, not the rapture.

The five were left outside (never made it in banquet hall as in Matt 22). So if you go to Matt 22 and make a big deal about the fact that the guy without wedding clothes made it into the banquet and was therefore saved, then those that argue that the virgins are saved (to be consistent with their interpretation of Matt 22) have to reconcile the fact that here they didn’t get in.

The Lord didn’t know them – cf. Matt 7:21 which is the same statement and those clearly do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once the door was closed, it was too late to enter. Those who are shut out miss not simply a fine meal, but also the kingdom itself. Similar imagery to Luke 13:22–29 which talks about the narrow door, not being known by the Lord, banquet imagery and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Application:

Where the last parable taught that the Lord could return sooner than expected, this one teaches that there may be quite a delay before the Lord returns. We know that in fact there has been. It’s been almost 2,000 years so far. Both the wise and foolish virgins slept. But they are not condemned for it. Perhaps the point is that we need to go ahead and live our lives. Not sell everything and go wait on the mountain top for the Lord’s return.The main point of the parable is that even if it might be a long time before the Lord returns, don’t wait until the last minute to get prepared, because you never know when that last minute will be and you may miss out.

And I think preparation is faith.

Talents

Another Kingdom of heaven is like parable – “it is like” refers back to 25:1 – Some try to say this is different because 25:14 doesn’t say “kingdom,” but the “it” has to have an antecedent. What else are you going to link the “it” to?

Big debate is whether or not the slaves represent saved people or not. Some try to argue that since they were all slaves, they were all saved. We’ve already dealt with that assumption.

But, there is a big contrast going on between the first two slaves and the third slave. The third slave did not know the master. He thought he understood what was required of him, but he was wrong. Maybe it is like the person who thinks he will get into heaven for being mostly good.

When confronted by the master, this wicked slave argued beligerantly and attempted to make his laziness a necessity and a virtue. By defaming the master, portraying him as one who enriched himself by exploiting others, he attempted to excuse his own actions. When I read his response, my thought is this: There may be shame at the Bema seat when Christ reveals our deeds, but not defiance. Does this sound like a Christian at the Bema seat? Does it sound like he “knows” the Master? Therefore, I have difficulty thinking that this third slave is saved.

This man seems to have given in to some cunning reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas Iscariot when he sold his Lord. Judas reasoned, if He is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get the money. This one-talent man reasoned somewhat the same way. His lord was going on a far journey. If the servant put the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his lord’s name. Then when his lord did not come back, his heirs could claim it. He reasoned, however, that if be buried it in the backyard, there would be no record. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it for himself. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of dishonesty because he could produce the talent. It was a cunning that was built upon uncertainty that the Lord was returning. He just did not believe that his lord was coming back. If he had, he would have handled the money differently. This is what the lord meant when be said that he was a wicked servant.2

The mixture of rewards and judgment – fits Matthew’s rejection imagery. He usually globs these together like an OT prophet did when looking at the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Also, the Bible talks about rewards and loss of rewards (1 Cor 3:15) at Bema, not rewards and judgment. So, I think we must be careful not to say that, because some got rewards, we are at the Bema and all were saved, and the third guy just lost rewards. I think his punishment is too severe.

The description of the servant’s attitude suggests something qualitatively different from the other two servants found faithful. There is a definite contrast going on here. The works are indicative of the relationship with the master. The third slave had no works which in the gospels is the same as having no faith.

Free grace people balk at this statement because Lordship people think the logical conclusion is that one has to have good works to prove that he is saved. In the gospels we do have statements like when Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” But when we read Paul we get in to issues such as carnality, getting to heaven as though through fire, etc. So we know that works don’t always follow. But when we are dealing with parables, we need to let them use their terminology.

Sheep and Goats

We see the Son of Man coming in glory with his angels. This is the second coming, not the rapture.

Judgment results in entrance to heaven or being sent to hell.

The rejection of the goats was not based on what they did, but on what they failed to do. It was a sin of omission toward “the least of these” (cf. the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31). God abhors not simply the performing of sinful acts but also the omission of deeds. Failure to do good is in fact to do evil. In addition the free gift of grace (as represented in Matt 20:1–16) has to be reconciled with the role of works (as here in 25:31–46 {Matt 25}). The works are the fruit that demonstrates the reality of the conversion of one’s heart. The love shown by these deeds of mercy springs from true faith. As Walvoord affirms, “What is presented here is not the basis or ground of salvation but the evidence of it…. Accordingly, while works are not the ground of justification for salvation, they can be the fruit or evidence of it.”

Since our section started off with judgment resulting in hell and Since it is clear from this parable that they are judged by their works and sent to hell for not having the works – which represent faith – why do people have such a difficult time believing that the parables in between say the same basic thing?

Summary

In summary several points are worth highlighting.

First, in each parable the judgment occurs at the consummation of this age. While the timing of that event is unknown, each follower is to be ready for and anticipate the coming kingdom.

Second, the essential nature of the judgment is soteriological. The judgment will render decisions that are eternal in nature, reflecting the status of each human being with regard to his or her eternal relationship to the kingdom. Phrases such as “the darkness outside,” the “fiery furnace,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describe eternal separation from the kingdom. They are not simply expressions of grief over a Christian life that did not count for much in the kingdom, for they are figures and phrases representing an eternal exclusion from the presence of God. With this in view, it has been suggested that salvation in these parables is viewed as a “whole,” not simply as a point of entry. The “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38) are on opposite sides of the soteriological divide. There is no room for purgatory, universalism, or a view that some may miss the heavenly “banquet” while yet retaining a right to entry into the kingdom (i.e. “salvation,” in Pauline terms). Those who are rejected are permanently excluded.

Third, the basis for this eternal judgment is the individual’s works. In some cases the emphasis is on faithfulness to a job assigned: perhaps in a picture of preparation for an event, or a picture of the fruit of the believer. But however it was pictured, works were the key to the judgment.

What complicates the problem is that the decision for rejection or acceptance is presented as a soteriological decision based on these works. Such a judgment is highlighted by the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (perhaps along with the Narrow Door and the Virgins) in which those who appear to fit into the proper categories do not do so (even when they think they do) since they were not properly prepared for the kingdom. Perhaps the clearest example is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which eternal life and eternal perdition are the options meted out based on how people treated the followers of the Son of Man.

Works are not separated from the faith one exercises for entrance to the kingdom for works are evidence of that faith. A true change of heart will be reflected in a person’s life. A lack of that change is apparently enough to prevent entrance into the eschatological kingdom (the goats are prohibited from entrance because of their actions while the sheep are given entrance because of their works); but works are never ultimately separated from the faith of the individual, for it was also shown that works are not in themselves enough to impress the Son of Man positively in His role as judge (cf. Matt 7:21–23).

Paul wrote with different emphases in mind, focusing clearly on the entrance requirements into salvation, namely, justification by faith. While the Synoptics support the role of faith in establishing one’s relationship with God (usually in phrases such as “repent and believe the gospel”), they tend to emphasize the whole life of faith for the believer. In other words the life of a follower of Jesus is to be a constant exercise of faith in order to obey and please God. Paul clearly recognized this same truth, for he knew that something started by faith cannot be perfected by works (the burden of Galatians).

Conclusion

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

c

What Is Present When Kneeling to Pray in Jesus’ Name by John Piper

Here’s what is present when we kneel to pray in Jesus’ name:
1. God the Father on his throne sovereign over the universe, with a welcoming,   countenance focused on us.

2. God the Son in his high priestly role, standing as advocate before the throne as a Lamb that was slain with perfect righteousness and with all God’s promises purchased fully in his hand interceding for us.

3. God the Spirit within us, having already inclined us to pray, poised to guide our prayers, put to death our sins, awaken our faith, illumine God’s word, and produce his fruit.

4. The word of God open before us, inspired by God, alive with penetrating power for conviction of sin and indomitable hope, revealing the Father, the Son, and the Spirit to our souls, shaping and guiding our prayers after God’s will.

5. Our sin forgiven, but humbling us to need and love our merciful saving God.

6. God’s grace like a great rainbow of hope arcing from the throne to our soul.

7. Our will captured by these realities, moving words (or only groans) up out of our mind (or only heart) to God with praise and thanks and confession and requests.

(via) Desiring God

Sex, Money and Emptiness, Paul Tripp

Article and photo via the Gospel Coalition

In this new video, Tripp sits down with Mark Mellinger to discuss the twin topics of his new book, Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies (Crossway, 2013).

When we seek satisfaction in stuff, we’re asking it to be something it was never meant to be.

Tripp also unpacks what he calls the „individualization of sex”—the assumption that sex exists for my fulfillment, my wants, my needs, my pleasure. But sex, Tripp explains, is designed to connect to the most significant things of life—worship, relationship, and obedience. „If it’s about these things,” he observes, „then it can’t be about just me.” It’s vital, then, for Christ’s people to hold up the beauty of Christ-honoring sexuality along with a loving warning that „disconnected” sex is as dangerous as it is distorted.

The fundamental problem, of course, is not pleasure; it’s idolatry. As Tripp explains, „Creation is not meant to satisfy you. It’s meant to be pleasurable so that you’d run after the ultimate Pleasure who will satisfy your heart—your Creator.”

 

Sex, Money, and Emptiness with Paul Tripp from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Loving Your Husband Before You Get Married (via) CBMW

by Carolyn McCulley (via) The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Reprinted from the magazine Joyful Woman. All emphasis below (bold type) is mine.

In my first year as a Christian, I attended or was part of 13 weddings-including the weddings of my two younger sisters and one ex-boyfriend. The Lord was working overtime on the sin of self-pity that year, but out of His sanctifying work came my informal „ministry” of a wedding coordinator. I started by helping one of my sisters, and as the word got around, I ended up serving countless friends.

At a recent rehearsal dinner, someone asked me if it was difficult as an unmarried woman to be so involved in these weddings. I was glad to genuinely say no. That wasn’t always my answer, however. I can clearly recall sitting at many wedding receptions with the wind knocked out of me due to the bitterness in my heart. I would evaluate each aspect of the weddings I attended, and plan for how „my” special day would surpass the event unfolding before me. Like any Cinderella devotee, the highlight of my life would be that special moment when the doors were opened and all eyes-most especially those of My Prince-would be on me. What happened in the „happily ever after” part was the fine print. It was going to be All About Me on that day.

And probably for every day after that, too.

Maybe this is why the apostle Paul thought it was of paramount importance that the older women teach the younger women how to love their husbands. As always, the Bible is radically counter-cultural to the self-centered worldview spoon-fed to young girls through fairy tales and force-fed to young women through movies, magazines, and music. We have to learn how to step out of the princess spotlight and learn how to love well in the way God defines love. A wedding isn’t the kick-off to Happily Ever After. It’s only a segue into a new season, with new and different opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love that weren’t present when single.

Do him good all the days of your life

King Lemuel was taught well by his mother, and his wisdom was memorialized in the 31st Proverb. Writing of the virtuous woman, he said that her husband has full confidence in her, and she will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

That’s all the days of her life – days before and days after marriage. If you’re single, there are things you can do now to sow good seeds for a godly marriage. What if you’re not sure if you’ll be married? Though marriage is the norm for most, not all of us will receive that gift-that’s true. But, we’re still called to prepare.

Problems in marriage are always the result of self-centeredness,” writes Douglas Wilson in Her Hand in Marriage. „So the time a person spends when he is single should be time spent in preparation for marriage. This is important even if he never gets married. This is because biblical preparation for marriage is nothing more than learning to follow Jesus Christ and love one’s neighbor. In other words, preparation for Christian marriage is basically the same as preparation for Christian living. Christians are to prepare for marriage by learning self-denial, subduing their pride, and putting their neighbor first. Once they learn to love God and love their neighbor, they are prepared to enter into the covenant of marriage with one of their neighbors.”

Growing in philandros love

In her outstanding teaching series on the Titus 2 virtues, Carolyn Mahaney notes that the phrase „love their husbands” is only one word in the Greek. It is the compound word philandros, derived from phileo (a warm affection) and andros (man). Loving your husband with a tender, warm, deeply affectionate love might seem like a no-brainer until you think about the caricatures of long-married women in our culture: dismissive, disrespectful, bored, shrewish. Cultivating and maintaining that tender affection can, at times, take some work.

Single women can prepare to grow in philandros love now by understanding the doctrines of sin and God’s sovereignty. If God has marriage for us (His sovereign plan), one thing we need to settle now in our hearts is that we won’t be marrying Prince Charming; we will be marrying a sinner (the doctrine of indwelling sin). As will our husbands! So now we can do the „heartwork” to cultivate philandros love by working on what undermines it: the bitterness, selfishness, fear, and sinful judgment resident in us. When and if God brings us into a new season of marriage, this preparation will help us cultivate tender thoughts and behavior toward our husbands. Though there’s not space for a comprehensive treatment of these topics, below are some questions to we can consider before the Lord while still single:

  • Bitterness: Is there any unforgiveness in your heart against the men you’ve dated, or the men who have never asked you out? Do you regard the single men in your life as brothers in the Lord, or potential husbands? Do you grumble and complain on a regular basis about being single? (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • Selfishness: Are you willing to serve the „unlovely” or the „least” in your church or circle of friends-even when no one is watching? Do you defer to others, esteeming them as better than yourself, or do you insist on your way? Do you view your time and schedule now as a single as a season to indulge yourself, or to be more available to serve others? (Philippians 2:3-4)
  • Fear: Do you trust God for your future, or do you think He has forgotten you? Do you think others will betray you, and thus „mess up” God’s plan for your life? (Romans 8:28-39)
  • Sinful judgment: Do you speculate about the single men around you, for good or bad? Are you assigning motives for their actions without asking humbly for information? Are you constantly comparing yourself with other women? (James 3:13-4:3)

Whether or not the Lord attaches an andros to our phileo love, this kind of „heartwork” is crucial to growing in the likeness of Christ. By working to become more like our Lord and Savior, we will be worthy of the full trust of both our earthly husbands (should we get married) and, ultimately, our heavenly Bridegroom.

Carolyn McCulley’s blog

Leonard Ravenhill – What is your life?

Leonard Ravenhill:

You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.

Epistle of James:

For what is your life? It is a vapor

that appears for a little time and then it vanishes away.

You will never face a more challenging question than this text. Notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say what is life, because if it did, nobody has an answer. It doesn’t say what is our life, or we would pool all our thinking. It says, „What is your life?” and it replies, „It is even a vapor that appears for a little time.”

couple tripYou hear people say, „Life isn’t just; life isn’t fair.”  One man said life is a feast, another wise man said life is a fast. One man said life is a paradise, another man said life is a prison. You see, the question here is very pointed, it is very personal, maybe very painful if you could answer the question. What is your life? It’s a failure. What is your life? It’s a success. What is your life? It’s a disappointment. But, actually, it explains to us by the very context that life is like a vapor, it’s like the steam- when you try to get a handful of it, it’s gone. And, in every case in the word of God, where life is referred to, life is likened to something that is very swift. It’s likened to a tent that men wrap up and move on with in the night.

Isaiah likens our life to the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven. Supposing we change the language? Paul says, „Christ in you.” With Christ, nevertheless I live. And yet, when Christ lives in me and the life which I now live here, in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.

If I was to ask you tonight, „Are you saved?” would you say, „Yes, I’m saved?” (If yes) When? „Oh, well so and so preached, I got baptized…” But, what are you saved from? Hell? Are you saved from bitterness, are you saved form lust? Are you saved from cheating, are you saved form lying? Are you saved from bad manners, are you saved from rebellion against your parents? What are you saved from?

90 % of the people in the nation are not saved, they claim to be. „Well, I’ve been to an altar, I’ve confessed my sins.” „Fine, fine, you confessed them. Do you know that they’ve done that at every Roman Catholic Church last Sunday?” A man needs more than to be forgiven. He needs cleansing. He needs more than cleansing, he needs indwelling. He needs more than indwelling, he needs in doing. I’m not asking you for one night to kneel down and make a confession, and after that your life is not changed, your lifestyle is not different, your prayer life is not different, come on…

If I say most people are half saved, do you know what I mean? You go to the cross, but not on the cross. You go and get your sins forgiven and seem happy. And you go and to the same sins again the next day. Come on, what kind of a salvation is that? Once a man is born again he doesn’t want another life.

I ask, „Are you really saved?” and you say, „I don’t really know.” Oh, supposing you carry a 100 lb sack on your back, and someone takes the sack off your back and you climb up to the top of the hill, and a man says, „Have you lost your sack?” And you say, „I don’t really know.” It seems that someone would know when someone else took 100 lbs off his back.

….So we love the things we love the things we didn’t like and hate the things we used to love. I don’t think anybody gets it better than Paul, when he writes to the Colossians, „If you have been raised  with Christ, you set your heart on those things above.” Set your affections on things which are above. Your life is now hid in God. Can there be anything more wonderful than that? Your life is hid with God. Not when I die, but even here on this earth.

I bid the world goodbye, not tearfully, but cheerfully. All of its pleasures, its pomp and its pride. And, that’s what Paul says the world means – a system of corruption, rottenness and vileness.

Is the world crucified to you tonight? Or does it fascinate you? And Paul says, „I got branded there, because all of my thinking is about Jesus.” Do you think he fooled around with the material things of his day? His head was branded, his hands, his feet. „Let my hands perform His bidding, let my feet run in His way, let my eyes see Jesus only, let my lips speak only praise. All for Jesus.

Are you just a Sunday morning Christian? Do you live and move and have your being in Jesus Christ every waking moment of your life? Has he got your thinking, let me finish with Paul’s words here, ” The past, we are risen with Christ, the present we are dead, but in the future, Christ is our life.” What does John say in his epistle? „He that has the Son has life, and he that does not have the son does not have life.

Leonard RavenhillIn Romanian – De ce intirzie trezirea de Leonard Ravenhill (Top carte – essential reading)

David Platt – Follow Me – 1.The Call – What does it mean biblically to follow Christ? (30 minutes)

What does it mean biblically to follow Christ?

David Platt (Video from STBC):

David PlattOne of the most haunting verses in the Bible, for me as a pastor is Matthew chapter 7, where Jesus says to a crowd, „Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name, perform many miracles, and drive out demons?’ That I will tell them,”Jesus says, „Away from me, you evil doers.” The thought that there might be many people, ‘many’, Jesus says, who will be shocked one day to find that though they thought their eternity was secure, they never truly knew Christ.

So, I read that in the Word and I think about people that I pastor. I think about Tom, who for 50 years, spent his life in a church, thinking he was a christian, going through all the motions. And, after 50 years, coming to the conclusion, „I don’t really know Christ.” I think about Jordan, a college student whose story is similar, and who went through all the motions, and read a prayer and signed a card when she was a kid, and then went through the youth group, and she was active in doing this or that, but she came to the conclusion that she never really knew Christ.

Is it possible that we could be spiritually deceived into thinking  we are christians, but we’re not truly following Christ. If we don’t know Christ, I can’t think of a more eternally important question to ask is: Am I truly a follower of Jesus Christ? Not if I prayed a prayer, or signed a card. But, am I truly a follower of Jesus? So, in this first session we dive into that question. And we explore: What does it mean biblically to follow Christ? Toward the end, and I hope and I pray that God will truly give you grace to answer that question in your own life. Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Again, there is no more eternally important question than that.

I wanna start by sharing some things that are particularly heavy on my heart as a pastor, but not even just as a pastor, but as a follower of Christ. We live in a day where it means almost nothing  for someone to claim to be a Christian. I came across research the other day that said almost  4 out of 5 Americans identify them selves as Christians. But in that group of self proclaimed Christians, less than half of them are involved in church on a weekly basis, less than half of them actually believe the Bible is true. The overwhelming majority  don’t have a biblical view of the world around them. But these researchers went deeper. They identified men and women as ‘born again Christians’, as if there’s any other kind of Christian, but these are people who say they’ve made a personal commitment to Jesus and they believe that they will go to heaven because they accepted Jesus as their Savior. And according to this research, almost half of Americans are born again Christians. But, out of that group of born again Christians, the beliefs, lifestyles are virtually indistinguishable from those in the world around them.

Many „born again Christians” believe their works can earn them a place in heaven, others think that Christians and muslims worship the same God. Some believe Jesus sinned while He was on earth, And increasing numbers of born again Christians describe themselves as marginally committed to Jesus. So, people have used research like this to conclude „Christians are really not that different from the rest of the world”. I don’t think that interpretation research is accurate. The one thing that is abundantly clear from the statistics: There’s a whole lot of people in the world who think they are Christians and are not. We desperately need to relook at what it biblically means to follow Jesus in our day.

You remember Jesus in Matthew chapter 7:22-23-

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So Jesus is telling us there are many, many people who will be shocked to find on that day that they thought their eternity was secure, they were ultimately deceived. But they thought they were Christians, and they never knew Christ. So, what does it mean, truly, biblically, to follow Christ, to know Christ, to be a Christian? What I wanna do is dive into Scripture and see how God answers that question and then to let His word drive us to look at our lives and ask the question, „Are we following Christ?” And, „Are you following Christ?” What does it mean for our lives in this world if we are following Him?

So, how does the Bible answer that? Matthew 4:18-22-

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.’

Photo credit www.crosswalk.com
David Platt’s Bible study available at www.lifeway.com

Alright, two words, there in verse 19: Follow Me. You might want to underline those 2 words. What do those 2 words mean- Follow Me? Let’s take them in reverse order. First, who is the ‘Me’ that’s going to be followed here? And this is where I want to give you just a quick  summary of the first 4 chapters of Matthew, because up to this point, Matthew has painted  a glorious, stunning, majestic, masterful portrait of Jesus informs how we understand verse 19.

Turn back to Matthew 1:1 – The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. From the very beginning, Matthew makes clear Jesus is the Savior. That’s what Jesus means , that He will save us from our sins. He’s the Messiah, so Christ is not His last name. Christ means the ‘promised One’, the Messiah who is promised all throughout the Old Testament. He’s the son of David and the kingly lion of David and the son of Abraham. So he’s the father of the people of Israel. He comes from the line of David and Abraham.  That’s a loaded first verse and Matthew spends the first half of chapter 1 showing us how Jesus is the center of all history. How all of history is headed towards His birth. Then, at the end of chapter 1, Matthew tells us that Jesus is fully human and  fully divine (Matthew 1:20). Through the virgin birth, Jesus is born of the Spirit, through a woman, unlike anyone else has ever been born; this miracle, this mystery of the incarnation, Jesus is Emanuel- literally: God with us.

Then, Matthew chapter 2, we see ‘Jesus is the Sovereign over the wise and the Shepherd of the weak. He has wise men following stars from east to west, to bow down before Him. And then, Matthew quotes in chapter 2 from Micah chapter 5. 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.’”

It talks about how Jesus is the rulers who will shepherd God’s people. Sovereign of the wise, shepherd of the weak, all in chapter 2.

Then, in Matthew chapter 3, Matthew tells us through John the baptist that Jesus is the Savior King and the Righteous Judge. „Repent,” John the baptist said, „for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So the King is here. Jesus is the Savior King and Righteous Judge. And then, as John baptizes Jesus, we see that He’s filled with the Spirit and loved by God the Father. And there’s a rare glimpse of heaven in Matthew chapter 3:17- where God declares:

and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

And that sets the stage for temptations and in Matthew chapter 3, Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil and we discover that Jesus is the new Adam and the true Israel. Where the first Adam fell to temptation from the devil, in the Garden, Jesus stands against that serpent. (Matthew 4:1-11) And Jesus is the true Israel, the faithful, obedient, Son of God, who passed the test of temptation and conquered Satan. And all of that leads to Matthew chapter 4, with this portrait of Jesus as the Light of the World, and hope for all people. Verse 16 says-

the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

And this is Jesus. You look at the Savior, Messiah, the One promised to come and the kingly lion of David and Abraham, the father of His people, Israel. Fully human and fully divine, the One to whom wise men from the nations bow down . His birth and life, the culmination of generations  and generations of prophecy and anticipation. He’s the Savior King, the Righteous Judge of the world, perfectly filled with God the Spirit, loved by God the Father, the only man who has conquered sin, the true Son that Israel could never be, the light of the world and the hope for all people.

DO WE REALIZE WHO THIS IS ?

When we do, there’s only one conclusion possible: Jesus is clearly, absolutely worthy of far more than church attendance and casual association. We cannot reduce Jesus to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for people to accept Him in their lives. Jesus doesn’t need our acceptance. He’s infinitely worthy of all glory in the universe and He doesn’t need us at all. We need Him. So let’s not patronize Him. Jesus is clearly, absolutely worthy of far more than church attendance and casual association. He is worthy to total abandonment and supreme adoration. This is no game here, we’re talking about the Savior King of the universe, the Righteous Judge of all nations. God in the flesh is saying, „Follow Me”. That thought alone is mind boggling, that Jesus would come to you and say, „Follow Me”. There’s no potential casual response here. It’s either: Turn and run, or bow and worship.

Well. you say, „These guys didn’t bow and worship. But, if you look at Luke’s parallel account, Luke chapter 5, where Jesus calls these disciples, you’ll see that as soon as they realize who Jesus was, that’s exactly what they did. He fell on his face, then he rose and he followed Jesus. Everything would be different in these men’s lives because of this encounter with Jesus. Everything.

It is how we know, that people who profess to be Christians, but whose lives look just like the rest of the world’s are completely deceived. All kinds of people, who supposedly made a decision, prayed a prayer, signed a card, walked an aisle, accepted Jesus into their hearts, invited Christ into their lives, but their lives don’t look any different . They say they’re a Christian, but the reality is they don’t know this Jesus, because when you don’t know this Jesus, everything about you begins to change in your life. Everything.

So, what does that word „follow” mean, then? If this is the portrait of the one who speaks, then what does it mean for the ones who respond? To follow Jesus means to live with radical abandonment for His glory. So you go back up to where we read, one verse up, to verse 17. The first words out of Jesus’s mouth are „Repent, for the kingdom oh heaven is near.” That word ‘repent’ means  to confess sin, to express sorrow over sin and to turn from sin. Ultimately, to renounce yourself. Jesus later says in Luke 14:33 that: If anyone is going to come after Me, he must renounce everything that he has. If you don’t, you cannot be my disciples. That’s what He says. So, think about what kind of renouncing it involves in this passage. Think about this disciples, what they were renouncing, what they were leaving behind, as they followed Jesus. Well, to follow Jesus is to leave behind all things, our comfort, these guys were leaving behind everything that was familiar to them. Everything was natural to them. They were leaving behind comfort and uncertainty. Followers of Jesus don’t always know  all the details about where they’re going, but they always know who they’re with. That’s huge.

They’re leaving behind comfort, careers, possessions- they dropped their nets.  Now, to be sure, these guys are not the economically elite in their day, but they had a boat, a successful trade as fishermen, these men had much to lose in following Christ. We find out later they still had a boat and various other things. But the reality is at this moment they follow Jesus with nothing in their hands. Our possessions, our positions- this is big, and this is one of those things that  set Jesus’ disciples apart from other disciples who followed rabbis in the first century. The disciples would oftentimes attach themselves to a rabbi in order to promote themselves. It was kind of like a step up a ladder, in order to increase someone’s position or status. Well, that was clearly not the case for these guys. This was not a step up the ladder, this was a step down. They would eventually find out, the One they were following would eventually be tried and killed.

Leaving behind position. We leave behind our families. James and John leave their father. And they’re not the only ones who are told to do something like this. Luke 9:61-62 „Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus tells another potential disciple: Don’t even go back and say goodbye to your family. Our families, our friends, our safety. This is a rabbi, this is a teacher who would soon say to these same men, „I’m gonna send you out like sheep among wolves.” All men will hate you because of Me. If they persecute Me, they’ll persecute you.” So they’re abandoning their safety.

Obivously, following Jesus means abandoning our sin. It’s the core of what it means to repent. Turn from your sin. And all of this, ultimately important to abandoning ourselves. This is the message we know to become essential for any and every prospective follower of Jesus. He would say over and over again: If anyone is going to follow Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross (take up an instrument of death) and follow Me. In a world where everything revolves around self- protect yourself, promote yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself, Jesus looks at potential disciples and says, „Slay yourself. Die”. So don’t buy it. Some of you have bought it.

The idea that all you have to do is make a decision, pray a prayer, sign a card, become a Christian and keep your life as you know it. It’s NOT TRUE! You become a follower of Jess and you lose your life as you know it. Now, I wanna be really careful here. I’m not saying, and I can’t, I wouldn’t say that as in the New Testament every follower of Jesus must lose their career, sell or give away all their possessions, leave their family behind, and necessarily, physically die for the Gospel. But, the New Testament is absolutely clear on this, for all who follow Jesus, comfort, certainty in this world are no longer our concerns. And our career revolves around whatever Jesus calls us to do and whatever He wants to use us and our career for the good news of His kingdom. Our possessions are not our own. As a Christian, you no longer live for material pleasure of this world. You forsake material pleasure in this world, and you live for eternal treasure in the world to come. That could mean selling or giving away everything you have. Position is not your priority.

When it comes to family, absolutely, based on the whole New Testament, you’re commanded to honor your parents, to love your spouse, to provide for your children. So, you can’t use passages like this to justify being a lousy spouse, or lousy parents, or whatever. But your love for Christ, according to Matthew 10, should make love for your closest family membes look like hate in comparison. And you go wherever Jesus says to go, knowing that self id no longer your god, safety is no longer your priority. As a follower of Jesus, you resist sin  and you risk your life in obedience to Him. This is what it means to follow Him. So are these things true in your life? I mean really true? To follow Jesus is to lay down all of these things in order to live for one thing: to honor the King. To follow Jesus means to hold loosely to all these other things: comfort, careers, possessions, positions, families, friends, safety, selves, and to cling tightly to the person of Christ and the mission of His kingdom.

Some of that may sound extreme to some people, but don’t forget who the ‘ME’ is here (Jesus). To leave behind, lay down everything in your life doesn’t make sense until you realize who the king is. And when you realize who He is, then laying down, leaving behind everything is the only thing that makes sense. Remember Matthew 13:44-45 –  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. He knows that he has found something worth losing everything for. This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We have found in Him, someone who is worth losing everything for. That’s why Matthew 13:44 says: with gladness he sold everything he had. With gladness he gave it away. We do this, not begrudgingly, „Okay, I’ve gotta let go of everything  in order to follow Jesus.” No. We do this because it makes sense, because of the joy in our heart and the glory of Jesus, that it just makes sense to abandon everything, as His disciples.

To follow Jesus is to live with radical abandonment for His glory and to live with joyful dependence on His grace. And this is where I want you to see the beauty and the wonder of God’s grace, in these words: Follow Me. So, see it here: Jesus takes the initiative, to choose us. Don’t miss this. It was common in first century judaism for potential disciples to seek out a rabbi, to study under him. But the beauty of what we’re seeing here, in Matthew 4 is that these men don’t come to Jesus, Jesus comes to them. This is Jesus initiating the relationship. He’s doing here, at the beginning of the New Testament, what we’ve seen God, the Father, do all throughout the Old Testament. God always chooses by grace His partners. He chose Noah, He chose Abraham, He chose Moses, He chose David, He chose the prophets, He chose Israel to be His people. Deuteronomy 7:6. And just as God the Father chose from the Old Testament by His grace, Jesus is choosing disciples here in the New Testament. He tells them later, in John 15:16 „You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” And He didn’t choose these guys because of anything in them. I

t’s all because of grace in Him. You see, it is at this point in His sermon of Matthew chap. 4 that I sometimes hear preachers or I read commentators talk about all the reasons why Jesus would choose fishermen to be His disciples: Cause fishermen do this or that, and they have this or that skill, and this or that perspective. But, if that’s he direction we’re going, we miss the whole point here. Jesus did not call these guys because of what they brought to the table. These 4 guys and subsequent disciples of Jesus did not have many things in their favor- lower class, rural, uneducated Galileans, commoners, nobodies, not well respected, not the cultural elite, not even spiritually qualified for this task, exceedingly ignorant, , narrow-minded, superstitious, full of jewish prejudices, misconceptions, and animosities, and this is who Jesus chose. You’re saying, „You’re being hard on them.” But the reality is it’s not just them, it’s us. You and I have nothing in us to draw Jesus to us, to cause Jesus to give us this invitation. We’re sinners, rebels to the core, running from God. And the beautiful, glorious gracious reality of the Gospel is that Jesus comes running to us. That God on high, looked upon sinful men and women and He sent His Son, God in the flesh, to pay the price for our sin, to rise from the grave in victory over sin, so that anyone in all of history who turns from sin and trusts in Him will be saved from sin and reconciled to God forever. What a glorious invitation to all, by His grace. You don’t walk away from that invitation, saying, „Well, look what I did to deserve that.”

So why would God do this? Why would Christ choose us to follow Him, and call us? Well, He tells us why. I quoted from John 15 just a second ago, where Jesus says, „I chose you and I appointed you to go and bear fruit.” So, Jesus tells His disciple that He chooses them for a purpose and it’s right here in Matthew 4:19. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. So watch this, Jesus takes the initiative to choose us and at the same time, He provides the power to use us to bear fruit. Notice here, Jesus does not command these guys to start fishing for men. Instead, He says, „I’m going to make you fishers of men.” In other words, I’m gonna do a transforming work in your life that will enable you to spread my kingdom all over the world. There’s no way that these disciples here, or subsequent disciples to come would be able to carry out the commands that Jesus would give to them. And so, Jesus says, „I’m gone enable you to do all that I call you to do.”Jesus takes the initiative to choose us, He provides the power to do this and He designs it this way  so that in the end He gets the glory  through us. Oh, think about it, think about what Jesus did in and through the lives of these disciples, and others who followed after them. (23:00 minute mark- there are approx 9 minutes left of this message)

Christmas: It’s about the cross

Photo credit relentlessworship.blogspot.com
with thanks to Manuela for the video (and for the lyrics).

It’s not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day

It’s not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It’s not all about the wisemen
Who travelled from afar

It’s about the cross, it’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again!

It’s about the stone that was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross, it’s about the cross

It’s not just about the presents
Underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling
That the season brings to me

It’s not just about coming home
To be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty
In the snow I’m dreaming of

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you
and that’s why we celebrate.

Modern Astronomical Evidence for the Star of Bethlehem

from Biblica.

Matthew 2:1-2       The Magi Visit the Messiah

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem     2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

In Matthew’s account of the story of the magi, the ‘guidance’ of a star is mentioned four times (Matthew2:2, 7, 9, 10). Its purpose in terms of the narrative is clear–to guide the wise men to the newborn King. But what scientific validity is there for such a phenomenon?

Given that the magi were almost certainly astrologers, the kind of phenomena familiar to them would have included comets, supernova (though not the term) and a conjunction of  planets, all of which are consistent with modern scientific observation. While open to modern refinement, the definition of a comet  given by the Roman poet Virgil in the Aenid is still valid; „a star leading a meteor flew with much light”. Likewise, records of the conjuction of planets were carefully kept; there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C. and of Jupiter and Venus in 6 B.C.

The modern term supernova, a star that suddenly increases in size and brilliance then fades away, may not occur in ancient documentation, but this does not mean the phenomenon was unknown.

Where modern science would differ is in the interpretation held among the ancients. What was important to the astrologer was not only to notice the phenomena, but to search for their meaning. They would have concurred with the statement of Tacitus in his Annals that „the general belief is that a comet means a change of emperor” and that the conjunction of planets is associated with the birth of a king. In fact, a common role for such wise men was to discern the rise of a new king.

If we accept some element of historicity in Matthew’s account, then any number of combinations is possible and consistent with modern astronomical understanding. The star first sighted by the wise men (Matthew 2:2) could be explained as a supernova. Then the „star that  they had seen at its rising” might be a comet that „stopped over the place where the child was”. (Matthew 2:9) Alternately, it could have been a reflection from a planetary conjunction; two of which occurred in 7 B.C. and 6 B.C.– the most likely years of Jesus’ birth.

The occurrence of these phenomena is plausible in terms of modern astronomy, and their coincidence of time and place is not impossible. At some point, it comes down to a belief that it was God who guided the wise men by utilizing the ordinary processes of creation. The event, therefore, is not a violation of nature, nor a contradiction of modern science, but the way in which nature allows for such coincidences to occur. Ultimately, their importance for the Gospel is that God uses them to witness to the truth of Jesus’ identity on behalf of the gentile world.

The Deity of Jesus Christ

This is an article we first posted, on the first day that we began this blog’s journey, and we have reposted it again around Christmas time, every year. So here it is again:
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 excerpted 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
  • by 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

How to proclaim Christ (even at Christmas) by Spurgeon

Reasons why we hesitate to proclaim Christ to other people

  1. We might not feel worthy because of our own lack of devotion to Christ in our personal life?
  2. We don’t know where to begin or what  exactly we should say?
  3. We are afraid of insulting the unbeliever by something that we say and thus turning them off to the Gospel altogether?
  4. We think the person we are talking to will never come to believe anyways?

It is not about us. It is all about Christ and the power of God’s word. We forget that when we worry about these peripheral issues. In Isaiah 55:11 it is written:

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

In looking at several commentaries on this verse, this particular one was the most impactful, because it reminds one that it is not about us the messenger, nor our delivery (the talk/speech we give) but it’s all about the Word of God which we must use to proclaim Christ’s Salvation and reconciliation to God:

That whatever is his design in giving the gospel, it shall be accomplished. It is never spoken in vain, and never fails to produce the effect which he intends. The gospel is no more preached in vain than the rain falls in vain. And though that often falls on barren rocks, or on arid sands; on extended plains where no vegetation is produced, or in the wilderness ‘where no man is,’ and seems to our eyes in vain, yet it is not so. God has a design in each drop that falls on sands or rocks, as really as in the copious shower that falls on fertile fields. And so the gospel often falls on the hard and barren hearts of men. It is addressed to the proud, the sensual, the avaricious, and the unbelieving, and seems to be spoken in vain, and to return void unto God. But it is not so. He has some design in it, and that will be accomplished. It is proof of the fullness of his mercy. It leaves people without excuse, and justifies himself. Or when long presented – apparently long in vain – it ultimately becomes successful, and sinners are at last brought to abandon their sins, and to turn unto God. It is indeed often rejected and despised. It falls on the ears of people apparently as the rain falls on the hard rock, and there are, so to speak, large fields where the gospel is preached as barren and unfruitful of any spiritual good as the extended desert is of vegetation, and the gospel seems to be preached to almost entire communities with as little effect as is produced when the rains fall on the deserts of Arabia, or of Africa. But there will be better and happier times. Though the gospel may not now produce all the good effects which we may desire, yet it will be ultimately successful to the full wish of the widest benevolence, and the whole world shall be filled with the knowledge and the love of God. (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Here is also a Spurgeon sermon that is a model on how to preach Christ crucified to an unbeliever. In it he addresses

  1. What we preach? In order to preach the gospel fully, there must be a very clear description of the person of Christ, and we preach Christ as God
  2. To whom are we to preach this?  “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
  3. How are we to preach Christ crucified? Boldly!

Preaching Christ Crucified

August 23, 1863

by  C. H. Spurgeon

(1834-1892)

“We preach Christ crucified.” — 1 Corinthians 1:23.


© Copyright 2001 by Tony Capoccia.  This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as
long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.  All rights reserved.

Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD: www.gospelgems.com 

In the verse preceding our text, Paul writes, “Jews demand miraculous signs.” They said, “Moses performed miracles; let us see miracles performed, and then we will believe,” forgetting that all the miracles that Moses did were completely eclipsed by those which Jesus did while he was on the earth as the God-man. Then there were certain Judaizing teachers who, in order to win the Jews, preached circumcision, exalted the Passover, and endeavored to prove that Judaism might still exist side by side with Christianity, and that the old rites might still be practiced by the followers of Christ. So Paul, who was “all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some,” put his foot down, and said, in effect, “Whatever others may do, we preach Christ crucified; we dare not, we cannot, and we will not alter the great subject matter of our preaching, Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Then he added, “and Greeks look for wisdom.” Corinth was the very eye of Greece, and the Corinthian Greeks sought after what they regarded as wisdom; that is to say, the wisdom of this world, not the wisdom of God, which Paul preached. The Greeks also treasured the memory of the eloquence of Demosthenes and other famous public speakers, and they seemed to: think that true wisdom must be proclaimed with the graces of skillful elocution; but Paul writes to these Corinthian Greeks, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith would not be based in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Now, today, there are some who would be glad, if we would preach anything except Christ crucified. Perhaps the most dangerous among them are those who are continually crying out for intellectual preaching, by which they mean preaching which neither the heavens nor the preachers themselves can comprehend, the kind of preaching which has little or nothing to do with the scriptures, and which requires a dictionary rather than a Bible to explain it. These are the people who are continually running around, and asking, “Have you heard our minister? He gave us a wonderful sermon last Sunday morning; he quoted Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, and he gave us some charming pieces of poetry, in fact, it was overall an intellectual treat.” Yes, and I have usually found that such intellectual treats lead to the ruination of souls; that is not the kind of preaching that God generally blesses to the salvation of souls, and therefore, even though others may preach the philosophy of Plato or adopt the arguments of Aristotle, we preach Christ crucified,” the Christ who died for sinners, the people’s Christ, and “we preach Christ crucified” in simple language, in plain speech such which the common people can understand.

I am going to try to put our text into practice by telling you, first, what we preach; secondly, to whom we preach it; and, thirdly, how we are to preach it.

Mai mult

Is Christmas really a pagan holiday?

Photo credit www.bible-archeology.com

Article #1 Did the Romans invent Christmas?

From Historytoday.com –  Matt Salusbury –  DID THE ROMANS INVENT CHRISTMAS?

I am excerpting the article’s conclusion:

Gwynn concludes: ‘The majority of modern scholars would be reluctant to accept any close connection between the Saturnalia and the emergence of the Christian Christmas.’

Devout Christians will be reassured to learn that the date of Christmas may derive from concepts in Judaism that link the time of the deaths of prophets being linked to their conception or birth. From this, early ecclesiastical number-crunchers extrapolated that the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy following the Annunciation on March 25th would produce a December 25th date for the birth of Christ.

Read the entire article at Historytoday.com –  DID THE ROMANS INVENT CHRISTMAS?

Article #2 Christmas Date set on Pagan Festival?

From bible-archaeology.com – Kevin McKinney –  Christmas date set on pagan festival

Given the time of year I wanted to take time to make a brief post on the subject of Christmas. There are those who claim the date for Christmas was originally set to coincide with a pagan holiday. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia festival in late December of each year. In 274 A.D. emperor Aurelian set the feast date for the birth of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, for December 25th. Many have advanced the claims the early Christian church set the date of Christ’s birth to coincide with this festival to attract the pagan worshipers. This theory is stated in a popular movie as simply being a fact, a well known fact universally accepted by scholars and others who are in the know of how early Christian traditions were established. Is this in fact the case, or is there more to the story?

There are several interesting elements which should be considered. The first is that in the third century the early Christians were actively attempting to distance themselves from any form of pagan worship. This leads many scholars to believe they would never have set the birth of the Messiah to coincide with a pagan day of worship. While the belief is the early Christians would not have used a pagan holiday, just how did December 25th come to be known as the birth date of Jesus? In actuality, there was serious debate and separation among church leaders on the proper date for the birth of Jesus.
It should be noted that in the early years of Christianity very little significance was placed on when Jesus was born. The focus for the early church was the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. These dates were known and celebrated, which surprisingly ended up setting the date for Christmas. Early church leaders believed the birth and death of Jesus were tied together. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins and make it possible for us to achieve what it was impossible to achieve by the law. For this reason the conception and death of Jesus were believed to be so related that they happened on the same day of the year.
Using the Hebrew calendar it was determined Jesus had died on the 14th of Nisan, which is our modern day March 25th. Early Church leaders calculated that if Jesus was conceived on March 25th, and born nine months later, it meant Jesus was born on December 25th. In the eastern church they used the Greek calendar which placed the date of the crucifixion as April 6th. The eastern church held the same belief and used the same calculations as the western church and placed the date of Jesus’ birth nine months later, or January 6th. These two dates were used for centuries as the dates for Christmas. The time between these two dates came to be known as the twelve days of Christmas. It seems, based on the evidence and not the work of modern day fiction writers, the date for Christmas was set based on Good Friday and Easter, not a pagan holiday.

Article #3 Is Christmas really a pagan holiday?

Read selected notes which I have transcribed below or watch the entire video (70 minutes) at the bottom of this article.

Lenny Esposito , theologian and apologete answers the question:

  • The answer to this question could lead to eternal destinies. Esposito recounts the story of a 16 year old young man who was told by Jehovah’s Witnesses that the christian church ‘cannot’ be worshipping God in spirit  and truth because of all of the pagan paraphernalia used in the Christmas celebration, and that Jesus could not have been born December 25th because shepherds could not have been out in the field in December. The youth turned Jehovah’s Witness based on this information; as the JW promised that if he joined them he will know the truth, because JW only rely on the Word of God.
  • Atheists are also claiming that Christmas is a pagan holiday that started way before Christ was born. Esposito answers the questions: Is this true? What is the story? He points out that symbols could mean what ever someone would have them mean. Here, he points to the example of the swastika. Esposito says, „The swastika actually has roots that go back thousands of years. The Chinese have been using it as a symbol for good luck and it is incorporated into Chinese art. But, if you paint a swastika on a park bench, or if you put it on your front door, even if you’re Chinese and are hoping for good luck; I’m guaranteeing you, your neighbors are not going to react well, because the culture understands that symbol that means something different than what you’re trying to envision. And the problem you’re going to have is that you won’t be able to communicate that in any other way.” Then he makes his point, „Does a Christmas tree mean that I love pagans, now? No, we’re Christian. But, that’s not necessarily the best answer:

Is Christmas really just a repackaging of the Roman feasts? There are 2 feasts in Rome that are usually offered as primary candidates for the basis of Christmas being on Decemeber 25th: Saturnalia, which is the festival of the god Saturn, who is kind of the god of time, god of harvest, and then the Sol Invictus. Actually, the feast name is Deus Natales del Sol Invictus- the birthday of the unconquerable sun, the idea that the sun cannot die. This is tied into the idea of the sun decreasing in the Northern hemisphere and then increasing again after the solstice.

  1. So, let’s take them in order: Saturnalia- the worship of Saturn. Wikipedia says that ‘Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on December 17th of the Julian calendar, and later expanded with festivities through December 23rd. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice to the temple of Saturn in the Roman forum. And a public banquet followed by private gift giving, continual partying and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms. Gambling was permitted and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catalus called it ‘The best of days’. The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., and as the Roman empire came under the Christian rule, some of its customs may have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and New Year.’ So, there’s your first clue, that even Wikipedia is saying, „Saturnalia was an influence to Christmas.” December 17- December 23, revelry, nonstop partying… That’s Saturnalia; that’s the one that is most well known of the two.
  2. The other one is a single day holiday- Sol Invictus. Again, the Sol Invictus was the sun god, the unconquerable god and this is tied more to astrology and the winter solstice, because the winter solstice happens on Dec. 21st. It’s the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere. That’s the time when we have the least amount of sunlight. What does that mean? Well, you tilt the earth on its axis and you have a fixed light point, and at one point, more of the sunlight hits the top part of the earth than the bottom. That’s summer. It heats up, days get longer. When it’s on the other side, more light hits the Southern hemisphere. In the Northern hemisphere the days grow shorter, and it’s colder. That’s why we have summer and winter, because of the 22 degree offset of the earth’s axis. So, December 21st marks the very shortest time of light, and it’s also when the sun is at the lowest on the horizon at noon time. And then as we enter into spring, through winter, you get the sun going higher until the summer solstice, when we have the longest day of the year, and so on. Given this, the Romans wanted to celebrate the unconquerable sun , that the sun could not die, and it would never sink away into oblivion. Aurelian is the emperor that actually started this and it’s a later holiday in the Roman tradition. The official sun god was the patron of soldiers, who of course needed to do their fighting during the daylight hours. And in 274 A.D. Aurelian made Sol Invictus an official cult; in other words there was an official religion of the empire, alongside the other Roman cults. And then by 375 A.D. he decides to declare a holiday, the birthday of the unconquerable sun, which is supposedly celebrated on Dec. 25th. This happens in the 370’s to 380’s A.D.

By 400’s A.D. or so, the Christians are aware of this stuff. Augustine, who is one of the church fathers had a Christmas sermon that he was preaching and he said, „Let us,” meaning the Christians, „celebrate this as a feast, not for the sake of this sun (sun in the sky) which is beheld by believers, as much as by ourselves, but for the sake of Him who created the sun.” This shows that Augustine was aware that there was this kind of competing holiday idea. Although the pagan holiday was celebrated in only a few places, it wasn’t widespread, but he knew about it, and he knew that because of the Roman calendar, it would move a little bit and it may land during Christmas. But, it’s interesting that he pulls those two things together.

The best thing you can do when you’re reading this kind of stuff is to say, „Who says so?” Let’s look at it from a historian’s perspective and maybe we can find some truth in here. When we start looking at Sol Invictus and Saturnalia, one of the things we find out is that the celebration accounts that are recorded really don’t fit. First of all, and before we really go into this, I am going to give you a really brief Roman calendar lesson. It’s not gonna be hard, it should’ the too scary. But you need to know this because this is how all these holidays are referred to. The Roman calendar, the Julian calendar that Julius Caesar started is not quite the calendar that we have today. We have the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar had 4 months that were 32 days long- March, May, July, and October, 31 days. Then they had short months, and that was 29 day months. So it wasn’t 30 and 31. It was 30 and 29. And that was January, April, June, August, September, November and December. And then they had February which was an accordion month. It could be 29 days, it could be 24 daysThey would use it to kind of fill up the gaps because we know that it’s 365 1/4 days, so we have leap year. We do the same thing. Once every four years we stick a day in February.

Initially, in this process, they would begin a month, traditionally, in a new moon. When the Julian calendar takes effect, that tradition fades away.  But the names persisted. So the first day of ever month is called the calends. The calends of the month meant the first of the month. We get the english word ‘calendar’ from it. The middle of the month, and again, this was based on lunar cycles, was called the ides of the month. Anybody familiar with Shakespeare and Julius Caesar’s ‘Beware the ides of March?’ On a long month, March happens to be a long month, it happens to hit on the 15th. In a short month, that would be the 13th. So the ides would move based on the length of the month, but the ides is the middle of the month. And then you have the ‘nones’, which falls between the ides and the calends. So it’s kind of the halfway point between the ides and the next calends coming up. Again, because the months change in length, that nones could be moving around. But this was the basic framework. So, we do the same things. We’ve got the 1st and the 15th; those are the paydays. Roman army- same thing. The ides and the calends, those are the important dates.

Why is this important? Because when the guys are writing about the festivals, they’re talking about the festivals in reference to the calends, in reference to the 1st of the month. So when we start looking at Saturnalia, and we start researching where Saturnalia was, it was one day initially. It was 14 days before the calends. So, December being a short month, that puts December 15th as the day of Saturnalia’s celebration. Now Dec. 15th isn’t Dec. 25th by any stretch of the imagination. So that causes me a problem, saying, „How can this be in competition?”  So, if Saturnalia is starting on the 15th, how could that be influencing Christmas which is on the 25th? It doesn’t make sense to me. Later, a new festival extended the celebration to complete 7 full days, but the festival would still end on the 10th of 9th day before the calends of January, which still falls short of the December 25th date. And as we saw here, even Wikipedia gets the dates right, December 17th, 16th, and lasting 5-7 days, you get December 23rd. It’s still not Dec. 25th.

Saturnalia doesn’t fit calendar wise or customs wise

So, Saturnalia doesn’t fit in terms of the calendar positioning. But, Saturnalia doesn’t fit in terms of the customs of the people, the way they celebrated the holiday, either. And it was really interesting. Basically, Saturnalia is kind of like a Sadie Hawkins of Rome. It’s kind of like a anti tradition, anti culture day. It’s a bizarro day. You do the things backwards. What do I mean by that? Well, Roman society was very formal, and the Roman togas were the proper attire. But, on these days, you ditched the Roman togas, you wore a more casual Greek garb. Imagine having to go into work wearing a suit and tie every day and this like, now, come in in your jambes (pajamas). It’s that kind of a feel. And with Roman societies that was like, ‘Wow, you just never do that.’ Again, gambling was very frowned upon, Romans were very disciplined. It was all about work, and order, and progression. Gambling and other vices were permitted and encouraged. So, rather than saying ‘Gambling is wrong,’ ‘No, gambling is right…’ Slaves would take the roles of masters and sit at the banquet table and be fed. And masters would most probably not be the ones sitting in the salves’ quarters, they would never go that fra. But, they would sit at the table with the slaves, which again was kind of unheard of. Some people, the masters, would even serve the slaves. So, it’s an upside down holiday, if you will.

Gifts were given, some trinkets, sometimes gag gifts were given, but the idea behind the whole thing was they were reversing the social norms. The master never gives a slave a gift. It’s the slave’s duty to give the master a gift. So, everything was flipped upside down. This is what Saturnalia was all about. There was a sacrifice, so where’s the Christmas tree in this? There’s gifts, but let’s face it, every time you’re gonna get people together, you’re gonna get gifts. You got married, what do you have to bring? A gift. Moved into a new house. What do you have to bring? Kid graduated high school. What do you have to bring? The fact that gifts are associated with a festival, it’s a nonstarter.

I don’t see the connection here. If these ancient pagans were celebrating Christmas before Christians, how are these connected at all? Could it be that this holiday just happened to be on Dec. 25th? Why would the Christians choose this?

What about Sol Invictus?

It’s interesting in Sol Invictus, when you read about it, there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted this celebration of Sol, the sun, on December 25th, originally. When he proclaimed the new religion ‘We will worship the sun god’, it’s not mentioned until 80 years later. It’s not until 354 A.D. and  362 by Julian, in his oration to King Helios, that they talk about Sol Invictus now beginning on Dec. 25th. Now, why is that important? Why is it that by the mid 4th century, that date important? I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s interesting that the chronography of 354, the same time that they start mentioning Sol Invictus on Dec. 25th, talks about Christmas, talks about Christmas being on December 25th. So, maybe the pagans claimed their holiday in order to match the Christian holiday. Again, I point you to Halloween, it wouldn’t be the only time in history where that happened (Halloween used to be the holiday for the Eve before All Saints Day, but Christians stopped celebrating it after pagans started celebrating it). Most people, if you’re talking about the winter solstice, those guys in the ancient world were pretty darn good at astronomy. I mean, look at Stonehenge, look at the timekeeping that thing took. They would notice the difference between a Dec. 21st winter solstice and a December 25th celebration. That’s  a big difference.

Of course, you hear the whole idea of celebrating the Son of God instead of the sun god. I’ve heard atheist throw this out. Let me just caution you guys. They didn’t speak english in ancient Rome. I remember I was working on a project for somebody once, and they were creating a Spanish website for Christian books. And they were basically gonna call it ‘Sunflower Books’. One of the things that they said is, ‘You can’t use the pun of SUNflower and SON of God because in Spanish it just doesn’t work. They are 2 different words. Similarly, the Latin for the sun that we see in the sky is sol- solstice, solar year. The latin for the Son of God is filius. So the pun doesn’t even work, it doesn’t make sense, only if you are naive. And this is what I find, atheists tend to do one of two things:

  1. They either tend to assume that the ancients knew absolutely nothing. Oh, December 21st, December 25th- it’s close enough. You know, they weren’t as smart as we were.
  2. Or, they assume that the ancients were exactly like us. Oh yeah, Son of God- sun worship, it’s all the same. They make this mistake in both sides of life.

Now, when we start looking at Christmas, though, we’ve got to say, „Wait a minute, how early did we start celebrating Christmas in December? T.C. Schmitt out of Yale University is doing a lot of primary source work. He’s done a lot of research work in this. He’s a translator. He’s getting his pHd. He reads latin and he’s translating commentaries from Latin and things like that. So, he’s looking at the primary sources. And what we’re finding out is the Christians were celebrating Christmas well before Christianity was allowed to be out in the open in the Roman empire, as early as A.D. 200, Christmas was already established in the empire.

Clement of Alexandria, one of the early church fathers, wrote somewhere between the 190’s  and 210’s. He wrote a book called the Stromata. And he calculates a date for Jesus birth. And he says, ‘From the birth of Christ, therefore to the death of Comotis (a Roman ruler) are 194 years, one moth, 13 days.” Pretty precise. „And there are those who determine, not only the year of our Savior’s genesis, but even the day, which they say took place in the 28th year of Augustus, on the 25th of December.” In this outlet, he’s pretty specific to place the birth of Christ right at December 25th. This is A.D. 200 or so, Clement of Alexandria, a church father who came from pagan roots, so he shunned pagan rituals and it’s highly unlikely that he would choose a pagan date himself.

But, he’s not alone. There’s another guy, Hippolytus of Rome, writing somewhere in the early 200’s as well. In his commentary on Daniel he mentions Bethlehem. And he says, ‘For the first advent of our Lord in flesh, when He was born in Bethlehem was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his 42nd year, from Adam, 5,500 years. He suffered in the 33rd year, March 25th, Friday, the 1th year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Rubion were counsels. There’s about 7 different manuscripts of this commentary by Hippolytus of Rome floating around. Because we don’t have the original, some people have debated that maybe that 25th date, maybe somebody stuck 12/25 in there, maybe they added it. Well, of the 7 manuscripts, 5 contain December 25th, one mentions no dates and one mentions two, December and March. And here’s the interesting thing. With all of the talk about the winter solstice and Christians trying to convert the pagans, what it looks like and what modern scholarship is finding is that Christianity had absolutely no interest in changing their festivals and making their festivals in order to attract the pagans. It looks like the Dec. 25th date comes from a tradition from within Christianity itself. It’s got very Christian origins.

Now, let me give you the reason why. You’ll notice, both in the Clement and in the Hippolytus quote they talk about Jesus’ passion, His death, His crucifixion. Why is that important when we talk about Christmas? Well, we know. We never forget the cross. This is why He came. Jesus is the reason for the season. Well, it seems like the early Christians held that same view. And, what the Christians held was an even more ancient Hebrew tradition. That a major prophet, he would have either his birth or his conception land on the very same day as his death. They believed in symmetry. So they held that Jesus was the greatest of all that God could send to us. Therefore, his birth would be a significant date. And so, they wanted to tie that into His death. In the Stromata, Clement of Alexandria talks about our Savior’s genesis. That genesis doesn’t only mean birth, it could mean conception. From the Christian viewpoint, the ministry starts at the point of conception, because God calls you from the womb. So, if Christ’s conception lines up with Christ’s death, and they’re using the March 25th, A.D. 30, the point of passover of Jesus’ crucifixion death, that means his conception is on March 25th. Guess what 9 months after March 25th lands on? December 25th.

This isn’t only a tradition within christendom, there were some Jews who would hold that same idea. Thomas Talley, in the Origins of the Liturgical Year, writes, ‘Around 200 A.D., Tertullian has reported that the calculation of the 14th of Nisan (which is the day of the crucifixion), was March 25th.’ Now, it was later recognized that the feast of annunciation, when Gabriel encounters Mary, the commemoration of Jesus’ conception would be March 25th, plus nine months, then you move it to Christmas. Augustin was familiar with this association as well. He writes, ‘For Jesus, it is believed that He was conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day He also suffered. As a matter of fact, the Christians went one step further. They would say that the actual creation day of the universe is also March 25th. If you were to go backwards, count all the way to the beginning, March 25th is the most significant date in history because that’s when the beginning of the world was and that’s when Jesus would start the new beginning to come back into the world, and that’s when the new life, through His death and resurrection would start  as well. And that’s what we have.

So, we’ve got the Biblical Archaeological Society writing that Christian authors of the time, do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth. Ambrose, the church father, for example, describes Christ as the true sun who outshone fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendar engineering. They clearly don’t think that the date was chosen by the church. Rather, they see the coincidence as providence, a providential sign. As natural proof that God has selected Jesus to be above, and over. Basically, ‘you’re going to give me a false copy, but the real one stand-in its place.’ The first mention of a date for Christmas in about A.D. 200, and the earliest celebrations we know about Christmas  form 230 to 300, come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavy from pagan traditions. They wouldn’t do that; they were being persecuted, especially around 300 A.D. with the persecution of Diocletian.

So, it’s interesting that this is what we find. That perhaps, it has nothing to do with the winter solstice, that’s just a coincidence of time that it happens around the same time of year. But, the Christians were more precise than that. They said, we know when Jesus died, we count 9 months and that’s when Jesus was born, because He had to have been conceived at the same point when He died. This means that December 25th has its roots in Christianity. It doesn’t have its roots in any pagan traditions. The December 25th date came from within the church, based on church understanding of the time, and therefore is in no way, shape or form corrupt as a pagan process. Tom Schmitt summarizes, „A feast of Sol Invictus did occur on December 25th, but the earliest evidence for it dates to the middle or late 4th century. About 200 years after Christmas has been established. There’s no evidence that emperor Aurelian established a festival of Sol Invictus or anyone else on December 25th. 43:00

John Charles Ryle for Christmas – What Think Ye of Christ?

J. C. Ryle
(1816-1900)

Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, the son of David.— Matthew 22:42

__________________________

First published by Drummond’s Tract Depot, Stirling, Scotland

Christmas is a season which almost all Christians observe in one way or another. Some keep it as a religious season. Some keep it as a holiday. But all over the world, wherever there are Christians, in one way or another Christmas is kept. (Photo on right touchyaneighbor.com Photo above richgift.blogspot.com)

Perhaps there is no country in which Christmas is so much observed as it is in England. Christmas holidays, Christmas parties, Christmas family-gatherings, Christmas services in churches, Christmas hymns and carols, Christmas holly and mistletoe,—who has not heard of these things? They are as familiar to English people as anything in their lives. They are among the first things we remember when we were children. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were used to them long before we were born. They have been going on in England for many hundred years. They seem likely to go on as long as the world stands.

But, reader, how many of those who keep Christmas ever consider why Christmas is kept? How many, in their Christmas plans and arrangements, give a thought to Him, without whom there would have been no Christmas at all? How many ever remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of Christmas ? How many ever reflect that the first intention of Christmas was to remind Christians of Christ’s birth and coming into the world? Reader, how is it with you? What do you think of at Christmas?

Bear with me a few minutes, while I try to press upon you the question which heads this tract. I do not want to make your Christmas merriment less. I do not wish to spoil your Christmas cheer. I only wish to put things in their right places. I want Christ Himself to be remembered at Christmas! Give me your attention while I unfold the question—”What think ye of Christ?”

I. Let us consider, firstly, why all men ought to think of Christ.

II. Let us examine, secondly, the common thoughts of many about Christ.

III. Let us count up, lastly, the thoughts of true Christians about Christ.

Reader, I dare say the demands upon your time this Christmas are many. Your holidays are short. You have friends to see. You have much to talk about. But still, in the midst of all your hurry and excitement, give a little time to your soul. There will be a Christmas some year, when your place will be empty. Before that time comes, suffer me as a friend to press home on your conscience the inquiry,—”What think ye of Christ?”

I. First, then, let us consider why all men ought to think of Christ.

This is a question which needs to be answered, at the very outset of this tract. I know the minds of some people when they are asked about such things as I am handling today. I know that many are ready to say, „Why should we think about Christ at all ? We want meat, and drink, and money, and clothes, and amusements. We have no time to think about these high subjects. We do not understand them. Let parsons, and old women, and Sunday-school children mind such things if they like. We have no time in a world like this to be thinking of Christ.”

Such is the talk of thousands in this country. They never go either to church or chapel. They never read their Bibles. The world is their god. They think themselves very wise and clever. They despise those whom they call „religious people.” But whether they like it or not, they will all have to die one day. They have all souls to be lost or saved in a world to come. They will all have to rise again from their graves, and to have a reckoning with God. And shall their scoffing and contempt stop our mouths, and make us ashamed? No, indeed! not for a moment! Listen to me and I will tell you why.

All men ought to think of Christ, because of the office Christ fills between God and man. He is the eternal Son of God, through whom alone the Father can be known, approached, and served. He is the appointed Mediator between God and man, through whom alone we can be reconciled with God, pardoned, justified, and saved. He is the Divine Person whom God the Father has sealed to be the giver of everything that man requires for his soul. To Him are committed the keys of death and hell. In His favour is life. In Him alone there is hope of salvation for mankind. Without Him no child of Adam can be saved. „Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” „He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (I Cor. iii. 11; 1 John v.12.) And ought not man to think of Christ? Shall God the Father honour Him, and shall not man? I tell every reader of this tract that there is no person, living or dead, of such immense importance to all men as Christ. There is no person that men ought to think about so much as Christ.

All men ought to think of Christ, because of what Christ has done for all men. He thought upon man, when man was lost, bankrupt, and helpless by the fall, and undertook to come into the world to save sinners. In the fullness of time He was born of the Virgin Mary, and lived for man thirty-three years in this evil world. At the end of that time He suffered for sin on the cross, as man’s substitute. He bore man’s sins in His own body, and shed His own lifeblood to pay man’s debt to God. He was made a curse for man, that man might be blessed. He died for man that man might live. He was counted a sinner for man that man might be counted righteous. And ought not man to think of Christ? I tell every reader of this tract that if Christ had not died for us, we might all of us, for anything we know, be lying at this moment in hell.

All men ought to think of Christ, because of what Christ will yet do to all men. He shall come again one day to this earth with power and glory, and raise the dead from their graves. All shall come forth at His bidding. Those who would not move when they heard the church-going bell, shall obey the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God. He shall set up His judgment-seat, and summon all mankind to stand before it. To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord. Not one shall be able to escape that solemn assize. Not one but shall receive at the mouth of Christ an eternal sentence. Every one shall receive according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad. And ought not men to think of Christ? I tell every reader of this tract, that whatever he may choose to think now, a day is soon coming when his eternal condition will hinge entirely on his relations to Christ.

But why should I say more on this subject? The time would fail me if I were to set down all the reasons why all men ought to think of Christ. Christ is the grand subject of the Bible. The Scriptures testify of Him.—Christ is the great object to whom all the Churches in Christendom profess to give honour. Even the worst and most corrupt branches of it will tell you that they are built on Christ.—Christ is the end and substance of all sacraments and ordinances.—Christ is the grand subject which every faithful minister exalts in the pulpit.—Christ is the object that every true pastor sets before dying people on their deathbeds.—Christ is the great source of light and peace and hope. There is not a spark of spiritual comfort that has ever illumined a sinner’s heart, that has not come from Christ. Surely it never can be a small matter whether we have any thoughts about Christ.

Reader, I leave this part of my subject here. There are many things which swallow up men’s thoughts while they live, which they will think little of when they are dying. Hundreds are wholly absorbed in political schemes, and seem to care for nothing but the advancement of their own party.—Myriads are buried in business and money matters, and seem to neglect everything else but this world.—Thousands are always wrangling about the forms and ceremonies of religion, and are ready to cry down everybody who does not use their shibboleths, and worship in their way. But an hour is fast coming when only one subject will be minded, and that subject will be Christ! We shall all find—and many perhaps too late—that it mattered little what we thought about other things, so long as we did not think about Christ.

Reader, I tell you this Christmas, that all men ought to think about Christ. There is no one in whom all the world has such a deep interest. There is no one to whom all the world owes so much. High and low, rich and poor, old and young, gentle and simple,—all ought to think about Christ.

II. Let us examine, secondly, the common thoughts of many about Christ.

To set down the whole list of thoughts about Christ, would indeed be thankless labour. It must content us to range them under a few general heads. This will save us both time and trouble. There were many strange thoughts about Christ when He was on earth. There are many strange and wrong thoughts about Christ now, when He is in heaven.

The thoughts of some people about Christ are simply blasphemous. They are not ashamed to deny His Divinity. They refuse to believe the miracles recorded of Him. They pretend to find fault with not a few of His sayings and doings. They even question the perfect honesty and sincerity of some things that He did. They tell us that He ought to be ranked with great Reformers and Philosophers, like Socrates, Seneca, and Confucius, but no higher.—Thoughts like these are purely ridiculous and absurd. They utterly fail to explain the enormous influence which Christ and Christianity have had for eighteen hundred years in this world. There is not the slightest comparison to be made between Christ and any other teacher of mankind that ever lived. The difference between Him and others is a gulf that cannot be spanned, and a height that cannot be measured. It is the difference between gold and clay,—between the sun and a candle. Nothing can account for Christ and Christianity, but the old belief that Christ is very God. Reader, are the thoughts I have just described your own? If they are, take care!

The thoughts of some people about Christ are vague, dim, misty, and indistinct. That there was such a Person they do not for a moment deny. That He was the Founder of Christianity, and the object of Christian worship, they are quite aware. That they hear of Him every time they go to public worship, and ought to have some opinion or belief about Him, they will fully admit. But they could not tell you what it is they believe. They could not accurately describe and define it. They have not thoroughly considered the subject They have not made up their minds! —Thoughts such as these are foolish, silly, and unreasonable. To be a dying sinner with an immortal soul, and to go on living without making up one’s mind about the only Person who can save us, the Person who will at last judge us, is the conduct of a lunatic or an idiot, and not of a rational man. Reader, are the thoughts I have just described your own? If any are, take care!

The thoughts of some men about Christ are mean and low. They have, no doubt, a distinct opinion about His position in their system of Christianity. They consider that if they do their best, and live moral lives, and go to church pretty regularly, and use the ordinances of religion, Christ will deal mercifully with them at last, and make up any deficiencies.—Thoughts such as these utterly fail to explain why Christ died on the cross. They take the crown off Christ’s head, and degrade Him into a kind of make-weight to man’s soul. They overthrow the whole system of the Gospel, and pull up all its leading doctrines by the roots. They exalt man to an absurdly high position; as if he could pay some part of the price of his soul!—They rob man of all the comfort of the Gospel; as if he must needs do something and perform some work to justify his own soul!—They make Christ a sort of Judge far more than a Saviour, and place the cross and the atonement in a degraded and inferior position! Reader, are the thoughts I have just described your own? If they are, take care !

The thoughts of some men about Christ are dishonouring and libellous. They seem to think that we need a mediator between ourselves and our Saviour! They appear to suppose that Christ is so high, and awful, and exalted a Person, that poor, sinful man may not approach Him! They say that we must employ an Episcopacy ordained minister as a kind of go-between, to stand between us and Jesus, and manage for our souls! They send us to saints, or angels, or the Virgin Mary, as if they were more kind and accessible than Christ!—Thoughts such as these are a practical denial of Christ’s priestly office. They overthrow the whole doctrine of His peculiar business, as man’s Intercessor. They hide and bury out of sight His especial love to sinners and His boundless willingness to receive them. Instead of a gracious Saviour, they make Him out an austere and hard King. Reader, are the thoughts I have just described your own? If they are, take care!

The thoughts of some men about Christ are wicked and unholy. They seem to think that they may live as they please, because Christ died for sinners! They will indulge every kind of wickedness, and yet flatter themselves that they are not blameworthy for it, because Christ is a merciful Saviour! They will talk complacently of God’s election, and the necessity of grace, and the impossibility of being justified by works and the fullness of Christ, and then make these glorious doctrines an excuse for lying, cheating, drunkenness, fornication, and every kind of immorality.—Thoughts such as these are as blasphemous and profane as downright infidelity. They actually make Christ the patron of sin. Reader, are these thoughts I have described your own? If they are, take care!

Reader, two general remarks apply to all these thoughts about Christ of which I have just been speaking. They all show a deplorable ignorance of Scripture. I defy any one to read the Bible honestly and find any warrant for them in that blessed Book. Men cannot know their Bibles when they hold such opinions.—They all help to prove the corruption and darkness of human nature. Man is ready to believe anything about Christ except the simple truth. He loves to set up an idol of his own, and bow down to it, rather than accept the Saviour whom God puts before him.

I leave this part of my subject here. It is a sorrowful and painful one, but not without its use. It is necessary to study morbid anatomy, if we would understand health. The ground must be cleared of rubbish before we build.

III. Let us now count up, lastly, the thoughts of true Christians about Christ.

The thoughts I am going to describe are not the thoughts of many. I admit this most fully. It would be vain to deny it. The number of right thinkers about Christ in every age has been small. The true Christians among professing Christians have always been few. If it were not so, the Bible would have told an untruth. „Strait is the gate,” says the Lord Jesus, „and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.—Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” „Many walk,” says Paul, „of whom I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction.” (Matt vii. 13, 14. Phil. iii. 18, 19.)

True Christians have high thoughts of Christ. They see in Him a wondrous Person, far above all other beings in His nature,—a Person who is at one and the same time perfect God, mighty to save, and perfect Man, able to feel.—They see in Him an All-powerful Redeemer, who has paid their countless debts to God, and delivered their souls from guilt and hell.—They see in Him an Almighty Friend, who left heaven for them, lived for them, died for them, rose again for them,—that He might save them for evermore.—They see in Him an Almighty Physician, who washed away their sins in His own blood, put His own Spirit in their hearts, delivered them from the power of sin, and gave them power to become God’s children.—Happy are they who have such thoughts! Reader, have you?

True Christians have trustful thoughts of Christ. They daily lean the weight of their souls upon Him by faith, for pardon and peace. They daily commit the care of their souls to Him, as a man commits a treasure to a safe keeper. They daily cling to Him by faith, as a child in a crowd clings to its mother’s hand. They look to Him daily for mercy, grace, comfort, help, and strength, as Israel looked to the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness for guidance. Christ is the Rock under their feet, and the staff in their hands, their ark and their city of refuge, their sun and their shield, their bread and their medicine, their health and their light, their fountain and their shelter, their portion and their home, their door and their ladder, their root and their head, their advocate and their physician, their captain and their elder brother, their life, their hope, and their all. Happy are they who have such thoughts! Reader, have you?

True Christians have experimental thoughts of Christ. The things that they think of Him, they do not merely think with their heads. They have not learned them from schools, or picked them up from others. They think them because they have found them true by their own heart’s experience. They have proved them, and tasted them, and tried them. They think out for themselves what they have felt . There is all the difference in the world between knowing that a man is a doctor or a lawyer, while we never have occasion to employ him, and knowing him as „our own,” because we have gone to him for medicine or law. Just in the same way there is a wide difference between head knowledge and experimental thoughts of Christ. Happy are they who have such thoughts? Reader, have you?

True Christians have loving and reverent thoughts of Christ. They love to do the things that please Him. They like, in their poor weak way, to show their affection to Him by keeping His words. They love everything belonging to Him,—His day, His house, His ordinances, His people, His Book. They never find His yoke heavy, or His burden painful to bear, or His Commandments grievous. Love lightens all. They know something of the mind of Mr. Standfast, in „Pilgrim’s Progress,” when he said, as he stood in the river,—”I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and whenever I have seen the print of His shoe in the earth, then I have coveted to set my foot over it.” Happy are they who have such thoughts? Reader, have you?

True Christians have hopeful thoughts of Christ. They expect to receive far more from Him one day than they have ever received yet. They hope that they shall be kept to the end, and never perish. But this is not all. They look forward to Christ’s second coming and expect that then they shall see far more than they have seen, and enjoy far more than they have yet enjoyed. They have the earnest of an inheritance now in the Spirit dwelling in their heart. But they hope for a far fuller possession when this world has passed away. They have hopeful thoughts of Christ’s second Advent, of their own resurrection from the grave of their reunion with all the saints who have gone before them, of eternal blessedness in Christ’s kingdom. Happy are they who have such thoughts! They sweeten life, and lift men over many cares. Reader, have you such thoughts ?

Reader, thoughts such as these are the property of all true Christians. Some of them know more of them and some of them know less. But all know something about them. They do not always feel them equally at all time! They do not always find such thoughts equally fresh and green in their minds. They have their winter as well as their summer, and their low tide as well as their high water. But all true Christians are, more or less, acquainted with these thoughts. In this matter churchmen and dissenters, rich and poor, all are agreed, if they are true Christians. In other things they may be unable to agree and see alike. But they all agree in their thoughts about Christ. One word they can all say, which is the same in every tongue. That word is „Hallelujah,” praise to the Lord Christ! One answer they can all make, which in every tongue is equally the same. That word is, „Amen,” so be it!

And now, reader, I shall wind up my Christmas tract, by simply bringing before your conscience the question which forms its title. I ask you this day, —”What think ye of Christ?”

What others think about Him is not the question now. Their mistakes are no excuse for you.—Their correct views will not save your soul. The point you have before you is simply this,—”What do you think yourself?”

Reader, this Christmas may possibly be your last. Who can tell but you may never live to see another December come round? Who can tell but your place may be empty, when the family party next Christmas is gathered together? Do not, I entreat you, put off my question or turn away from it. It can do you no harm to look at it and consider it. What do you think of Christ?

Begin, I beseech you, this day to have right thoughts of Christ, if you never had them before. Let the time past suffice you to have lived without real and heartfelt religion.—Let this present Christmas be a starting point in your soul’s history. Awake to see the value of your soul, and the immense importance of being saved. Break off sharp from sin and the world. Get down your Bible and begin to read it. Call upon the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, and beseech Him to save your soul. Rest not, rest not till you have trustful, loving, experimental, hopeful thoughts of Christ.

Reader, mark my words! If you will only take the advice I have now given you, you will never repent it. Your life in future will be happier. Your heart will be lighter. Your Christmas gatherings will be more truly joyful. Nothing makes Christmas meetings so happy as to feel that we are all travelling on towards an eternal gathering in heaven.

Reader, I say for the last time, if you would have a happy Christmas, have right thoughts about Christ.

added to www.biblebb.com by Tony Capoccia

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