Passion Week – Monday – Jesus cleanses the Temple

Photo credit James Tissot painting www.joyfulheart.com

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

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

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

„THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD

A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…

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

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

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

II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

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

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

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

III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD

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

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

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

IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

Reclame

Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ

via Wilmington/Tyndale Guide to the Bible (P 350)

You can reverently see the mighty hand of God guiding men throughout thousands of years and inspiring them through His Holy Spirit as they lay ink to papyrus and lay down God’s Word in such a way as to see it come to pass in a (mind boggling) mathematically impossible improbability.

  1. Born of a virgin – Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled in Matthew 1:22,23
  2. Given the throne of David – 2 Samuel 7:11-12; Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 9:6, 16:5,Jeremiah 23:5 Fulfilled in Luke 1:31-32
  3. This throne to be an eternal throne – Daniel 2:44, 7:14,27; Micah 4:7 Fulfilled in Luke 1:33
  4. To be called Emmanuel – Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled in Matthew 1:23
  5. To have a forerunner – Isaiah 40:3-5; Maleachi 3:1 Fulfilled in Luke 1:76-78, 3:3-6; Matthew 3:1-3
  6. To be born in Bethlehem – Micah 5:2 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:5-6
  7. To be worshipped by wise men and be presented with Gifts – Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:3, 6, 9 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:11
  8. To be in Egypt for a season – Numbers 24:8, Hosea 11:1 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:15
  9. Birthplace to suffer a massacre of infants – Jeremiah 31:15 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:17-18
  10. To be called a Nazarene – Isaiah 11:1 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:23
  11. To be zealous for the Father – Psalm 69:9, 119:139 Fulfilled in John 2:16-17
  12. To be filled with God’s Spirit – Isaiah 11:2, 61:1-2; Psalm 45:7 Fulfilled in Luke 4:18-19
  13. To heal many – Isaiah 53:4 Fulfilled in Matthew 8:16-17
  14. To deal gently with the Gentiles – Isaiah 9:1-2, 42:1-3 Fulfilled in Matthew 12:17-21, 4:13-16
  15. To speak in parables – Isaiah 6:9-10 Fulfilled in Matthew 13:10-15
  16. To be rejected by His own – Isaiah 53:3, Psalm 69:8 Fulfilled in John 1:11, 7:5
  17. To make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem – Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:4-5
  18. To be praised by little children – Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:16
  19. To be the rejected cornerstone – Psalm 118:22-23 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:42
  20. That His miracles would not be believed – Isaiah 53:1 Fulfilled in John 12:37-38
  21. To be betrayed by His friend for 30 pieces of silver – Psalm 41:9, 55:12-14 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-16, 21-25
  22. To be a man of sorrows – Isaiah 53:3 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:37-38
  23. To be forsaken by His disciples – Zechariah 13:7 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:31, 56
  24. To be scourged and spat upon – Isaiah 50:6 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:67, 27:26
  25. His price money to be used to buy a potter’s field – Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 18:1-4, 19:1-4 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:9-10
  26. To be crucified between two thieves – Isaiah 53:12 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:38
  27. To be given vinegar to drink – Psalm 69:21 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:34, 48; John 19:36-40
  28. To suffer the piercing of hands and feet – Psalm 22:15; Zechariah 12:10 Fulfilled in Matthew 15:25; John 19:34,37, 20:25-27
  29. His garments to be parted and gambled for – Psalm 22:18 Fulfilled in Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24
  30. To be surrounded and ridiculed by His enemies – Psalm 22:7-8 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32
  31. That He would thirst – Psalm 22:15 Fulfilled in John 19:28
  32. To commend His spirit to the Father – Psalm 31:5 Fulfilled in Luke 23:46
  33. No bones to be broken – Psalm 34:20; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12 Fulfilled in John 19:33-36
  34. To be stared at in death – Zechariah 12:10 Fulfilled in John 19:37; Matthew 27:36
  35. To be buried with the rich – Isaiah 53:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60
  36. To be raised from the dead – Psalm 16:10 Fulfilled in Matthew 28:2-8
  37. To ascend – Psalm 24:7-10; Isaiah 52:13 Fulfilled in Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51

Jesus: Who do you say that I am?

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

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

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

The Deity of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world- 

  1. His deity was declared by angels

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

2. His deity was declared by the Father

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

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

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

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

6. His deity was declared by his sinless life

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

7. His deity was declared by demons

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

8. His deity was declared by those who worshipped him

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

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

10. His deity was declared by himself

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

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

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

 

 

  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.

Passion Week – Good Friday 1/2 – The hurt of Peter’s denial of Christ + ‘Just as I am’, by Brian Doerkson

Photo from  www.eons.com

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

How many times did the rooster crow when Peter denied Jesus?


Matthew 26:34 (also Luke 22:34, John 13:38)

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

Mark 14:30

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”


Mark 14:66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

„You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. „I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, „This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, „Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, „I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: „Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

From www.rationalchristianity.net

Jesus’ Great Confession; Peter’s Great Denial
Matthew 26:57-68

57 Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard. After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome. 59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:57-68)

Two events are being described simultaneously by Matthew in this paragraph and the next, so as to set them in contrast to each other. The first is our Lord’s interrogation by Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sanhedrin. The second is Peter’s “interrogation” by those around him. At the very moments Peter is denying His Lord, our Lord Jesus is affirming His identity as the Messiah – His “great confession.”

It is the middle of the night, and Jesus has been sent from Annas to stand before Caiaphas. The whole Sanhedrin is present (see also Mark 14:55), including the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matthew 26:57-59). This is far from a legal gathering. In our terms, Jesus is not getting “due process of the law” here. These “judges” are far from neutral. They seek any testimony that will justify their resolve to kill Jesus (verse 59), but they can’t do it.

These are horrible and shameful moments in Israel’s history, but at times the account comes close to being amusing. Here is this pompous group of Israel’s “cream of the crop.” It is something like the convening of the Supreme Court in our day. These are the top religious and legal experts, and they are determined to execute Jesus. They resolved that they would not arrest or kill Jesus until “after the feast” (Matthew 26:5), but Jesus forced their hand when He informed Judas and the disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them (Matthew 26:21). Jesus even let Judas know that he was the one who would betray Him (Matthew 26:25). Judas no longer had the luxury of time. He had to act now to earn his fee, whether the Jewish leaders liked it or not.

The religious leaders were in a real bind. They seem compelled to include the Romans (Pilate, Herod, and the Roman soldiers). They were forced to crucify Jesus, a very public death. And they must complete this matter before Passover, lest they be defiled, and thus would have been prevented from participating in Passover (seeJohn 18:28; 19:14; Mark 15:42-43). A few hours earlier, it would have appeared that they had almost two weeks to prepare for the execution of Jesus. They have not had any time to acquire and “coach” witnesses, and this was very obvious. Imagine these fellows attempting to give an air of sobriety and propriety, while things are in total chaos. Their witnesses disagree so badly that even with their disposition to accept any charge, it is evident this testimony won’t suffice. A parade of witnesses pass by, and all fail to meet minimum requirements. No two witnesses agree, and when two finally agree, the charges were not viable. It was, at best, a corruption of what Jesus had said (“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” – John 2:19). Even if their words were true, it isn’t a crime to say that you are able to do such a thing; it would be a crime if you attempted it. This case would have been thrown out of any court in our land.

You can imagine how frustrated these fellows must have been. Their case was stalling, and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it. The high priest sought to induce Jesus to violate His Fifth Amendment rights (in today’s terms) by giving testimony against Himself. “What did Jesus have to say to this charge?” Jesus had nothing to say. He need not have spoken. The charges were not worthy of comment or of defense. It was not His duty to provide them with evidence; it was their duty to produce evidence of a crime.

Then the high priest had an inspiration. He would charge Jesus under oath to answer this question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” (Matthew 26:63). This was a question Jesus was not legally obliged to answer. And yet Jesus chose to answer. I used to think that this was because the high priest put Him under oath. I now look at it differently. This was a question Jesus must answer. To refuse to answer would imply that He was not the Messiah, the Son of God. If He were the Messiah, the Son of God, then why would He not answer to this effect? This was the crux of the coming of our Lord – to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and as the Son of God.

Our Lord’s answer was far from tentative. Not only did He identify Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God, He also referred to Himself as the Son of Man:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:67).

This is an incredibly powerful statement. Jesus affirms His identity. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Man, which means that He will return to the earth in power, to deal with His enemies and to establish justice.

These words, if believed, should have struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders. Instead, they were taken as blasphemy, a capital offense by Jewish law (see Leviticus 24:10-16Numbers 15:30). No one in that group paused to reflect on the implications of Jesus’ claim. No one gave serious thought as to whether this claim might be true. In their minds, this was all they needed to condemn Jesus to death. And so the high priest musters all the righteous indignation he can produce, and calls for the death of Jesus:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy!” (Matthew 26:65)

His colleagues heartily agreed, and they pronounced sentence on our Lord.

What follows is particularly significant. Once the guilty verdict is pronounced, there is a disproportionate outpouring of wrath and contempt on our Lord. They spit in His face – they spit in God’s face! They strike Him with their fists, pouring out their wrath on God incarnate. They slap Him, and challenge Him to prophesy who hit Him (26:67-68). Here is the highest court in the land, and look at its conduct. Here is God, in the hands of angry sinners.

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A slave girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it in front of them all: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71 When he went out to the gateway, another slave girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 72 He denied it again with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” 74 At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).

Meanwhile, Peter is sitting in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, warming himself by the fire. A mere slave girl314 identifies him as one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denies it. Initially, Peter does not pointedly deny knowing Jesus; he simply responds that he doesn’t know what she is talking about. Apparently this is sufficient to silence this first slave girl. But then another slave girl confronts Peter. She does not just question Peter; she speaks to those standing around: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene” (Matthew 26:71). From Peter’s point of view, this is much more threatening. He denies his association with Jesus, underscoring his denial with an oath. Finally, a third person – one standing nearby – came up to Peter, and this time with an even more persuasive accusation: “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” (verse 73). Peter more pointedly denied even knowing Jesus, let alone associating with Him. This time he felt it necessary to punctuate his denial with cursing.

At that moment, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words indicating that he would deny Him. Peter went outside and wept bitterly. Strangely, this is the last time Matthew refers to Peter by name in this Gospel. While Matthew does provide an account of the final outcome for Judas (Matthew 27:3-10), he does not do so for Peter. Is this because he knows that such an account will take a great deal more time and information? Is this because he knows that a subsequent history of the church (including Peter) will be written? For whatever reason, Matthew does not feel compelled to give us the “rest of the story” regarding Peter.

Conclusion

If our text demonstrates anything, it is that all mankind, without exception, is desperately sinful and, apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, hopelessly lost:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,

11 there is no one who understands,

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness,

not even one” (Romans 3:10b-12).

Whether at his finest, or at his worst, every human being is a sinner, desperately wicked in heart and often in deed. There is no way that we can ever earn our own righteousness, that we can attain God’s favor by our efforts. We need salvation from some source outside of ourselves. We need Jesus, for He alone can save.

Our text dramatically demonstrates the sinfulness of man and the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our text, no one comes out looking good, no one except Jesus, that is. Everything Jesus predicted happened just as He said it would. Under more stress and pressure than we will ever know, Jesus never failed. His words and His deeds are amazing to us. Though men (like Peter, or Judas, or the religious leaders) failed, Jesus did not. Though His closest friends forsook Him, He will not forsake His own – those who have trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Jesus Never Fails; He is always faithful, even when we fail:

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end (John 13:1).

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In mankind’s darkest hour, the perfections of our Lord shine ever so bright. He alone is worthy of our trust, and of our worship, obedience, and service. Do not let the horrors of these events in our Lord’s last hours distract your attention from Jesus. He deserves center stage. His perfections deserve our praise.

We should probably say a word about Peter’s denials. Let us not fail to read this text, describing Peter’s worst moments, without bearing in mind “the rest of the story.” We may have seen the last of Peter (by name) in Matthew, but we find a very different Peter in the Book of Acts. With the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we find a transformed Peter. We find a man who now boldly proclaims the gospel, in spite of the opposition and the risks:

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. 14 And because they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say against this (Acts 4:8-14).

As a result of the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Peter not only boldly identifies with His Lord, He instructs us to do so as well:

13 For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. 15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The events of our text underscore for us the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. Just as at the birth of our Lord, so also here we find that Matthew repeatedly points out to us that the Scriptures are being fulfilled at every point of this procession to the cross. God’s Word is true. It never fails. Even when men try their hardest to resist God and to rebel against His purposes, they end up unwittingly fulfilling His purposes and promises. We can trust His Word.

Let me end with one more observation and application. Our text describes the darkest hour in all of human history, and yet we gather every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus. More than that, we come every Sunday to celebrate His death. This is due to the fact that His suffering and His death is the only means by which sinful men may be saved, and have eternal life. It is also due to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus enables us to view these events in a whole new way. At the cross, Jesus took the curse (death) and made it the cure (His atoning work on our behalf). God used the most cruel and wicked actions of men to accomplish His eternal plan of salvation.

Surely this is an example of the truth that is proclaimed in Romans 8:

28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

God was able to make the horrid events of our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion into a salvation so blessed that it will take all eternity to fathom it. If our Lord can transform this kind of apparent tragedy into a triumphant work of redemption, then is it not reasonable for us to believe that God will cause every event in our lives to work out for His glory, and for our good?

Craig Blomberg – How Historians Can Know Jesus of Nazareth

Question: Outside the New Testament, what documentary evidence do historians have for the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth? And what does this evidence tell us?

Craig Blomberg:

We have all kinds of evidence written by other Christians in the earliest decades of the second century, after the New Testament was complete. But, usually, somebody asking that kind of question is asking, ‘What kind of nonChristian evidence do we have, concerned that perhaps Christians were biased, and therefore, wanting to make sure that we can prove that Jesus existed, was something like what Jesus claimed He was from other ancient Jewish, Greek, Roman sources. There are about a dozen such references to Jesus. By far, the fullest one comes from a late first century Jewish historian named Josephus. But, we find early second century writers in the Roman world like Tacitus and Plutonius. We find references in the Encyclopedic size collection of Jewish traditions known as the Talmud, and elsewhere.

And, from them, we can corroborate that Jesus was a Jewish teacher, who lived in the first third of the first century, who had a ministry that intersected with that of a man named John, who baptized people, and hence got the name ‘John the Baptizer’, that He was born out of wedlock, that He had disciples, five of whom are named, who are particularly close followers. He regularly got in trouble with certain Jewish authorities of His time for radical views about the law. And that He finally was crucified. We know that from Tacitus. In the second century, under the governorship of Pontius Pilate, which narrows the time frame to from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s of the first century. And that despite that ignominious death, his followers believed that they saw Him raised from the dead and believed that He was the Messiah, the Jewish liberator, beginning very quickly even to worship Him, as if He were a God, to use the language of Pliny, in the early second century. So, even without touching a Christian source, there’s quite a bit we can know about Jesus.

click to read book

click to read full essay (pdf)

Question: Now, some people would question the reliability of the Gospels, which for sure give a much fuller account of the life and ministry of Jesus. How would you respond to the suggestions that the writers of the Gospels embellished the account of Jesus’s life, turning a simple Jewish prophet into a kind of Gentile God? How would you respond to that concern? 

We have remarkably ancient testimony, remarkably close in time to the life of Jesus. Probably, the earliest written Gospel was Mark, most likely written in the ’60’s of the first century, with Jesus having died in about A.D. 30. A 30 year period may seem like a long span of time to us, but, in the ancient world, which was an oral culture, when people memorized and passed on faithfully, for generations, the beliefs and traditions and narratives of their families, tribes, nations, with high degrees of care and accuracy; one generation is a very short period of time. There were still plenty of eyewitnesses living in Israel who could remember the historical Jesus, what He was really like, many of whom had not become His followers.

The entire Christian claim could have been very easily debunked early on, if there had been widespread embellishment and misrepresentation of who Jesus was.

Question: Dr. Blomberg, in his book, the DaVinci Code, Dan Brown has called attention to the importance of the so called gnostic Gospels in early Christianity. Would you tell us something about these gnostic Gospels, and do you think they shed significant light on the historic Jesus of Nazareth?

I suppose, the first thing that needs to be said  for people who have never actually seen one of these documents is that they are not Gospels, in the sense of being narratives of a significant percentage of Jesus’s ministry, the way Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are. The vast majority of the so called Gnostic Gospels are supposed secret revelation, after Jesus’ resurrection to one or more disciples by Jesus and they tend to discourse on things utterly unlike the Jesus of the New Testament Gospels, reflecting on the origins of the Universe, the angelic hierarchies, why the world was created, how sin came to be, an abstract theological reflection, very different from what we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is one gnostic Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, which also is not a consecutive narrative. It’s just 114 sayings, linked together and attributed to Jesus, that does have significant overlap with the Jesus of the New Testament. Maybe as many as a third of the sayings attributed to Jesus in this account remind readers of something that they would read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. But then, another large collection, maybe up to half of the sayings are quite different. There’s philosophical speculation that gnosticism was so known for. And then, tantalizingly, the remainder could be taken in orthodox Christian direction, could be taken into a gnostic direction. They’re short and cryptic enough that it’s hard to know for sure. But, does Thomas, or any of these other Gospels give us solid historical information that would change our understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was? No, not at all.

Question: Do you find that many neighbors, friends that you interact with have had a skewed perspective on the early church because of books like Dan Brown’s? And, what would you wanna say to them specifically?

Yes, a surprising number of people, whether they picked it up from Brown, or from somebody else of his ilk, or by word of mouth, that garbled Brown, who garbled the ancient church. I would want to say is that what competed with orthodox Christianity in the early years was very different, was later than the New Testament documents  and was pretty easily dismissed. It did not become some lingering controversy that the so called lost gospels were not, for the most part, suppressed, as some claim. They simply fell out of use because they weren’t of value to the vast majority of early Christians. My friend Darrell Bock, who teaches at Dallas Seminary, likes to say, „It’s true that sometimes winners rewrite history. But, it’s also true that sometimes winners deserve to win.” And, all evidence points to the fact that apostolic orthodox Christianity was the dominant Christian tradition that had carefully preserved the life of Christ and its significance, and that’s what deserved to be passed on and be preserved.

Question: As we close, can you tell us in a nutshell, why we should believe in the historicity of Jesus, and what that means for us today?

We should believe in the historicity of Jesus because even if we’re skeptical of all Christian testimony, there is enough non-Christian testimony to corroborate His existence and the main contours of His life. But then, we shouldn’t be so skeptical about all Christian testimony, because much of it represented the testimony of people who were not born into Christian families, but who are adult converts convinced by the evidence, convinced by the transmission of the stories and accounts of Jesus, that He was so significant, they should become believers and followers in Him. You can’t just write all of that evidence off because somebody was convinced by it. And that significance continues to this day. In all the world religions, in all the traditions of the philosophers and teachers, nowhere else has someone made the claim  in actions and in labels that He applied to Himself and in explicit teachings, that He was somehow so close to God, that those out of his culture and religion, who believed in God, at times accused Him of blasphemy, executed Him, and yet, was reported to have been seen again bodily, by more than 500 of His followers, who then began an unbroken tradition of following Him, and at a very early date, even worshipping Him as that God. There’s no other religion or worldview that has that package of events. You have to come to grips with who Jesus of Nazareth was. And if you look at the evidence, it might just transform your life, for the good.

VIDEO by ChristonCampusCCI

Dr. Craig Blomberg discusses the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. (See his full essay at http://www.christoncampuscci.org/.) Dr. Blomberg responds to claims that the so-called „Gnostic gospels” are more reliable than the four Gospels of the Bible, showing that the historical evidence clearly suggests otherwise.

Dr. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has also written a full essay on this topic, which lays out in a clear, organized fashion the evidence that supports the historicity of Jesus. That essay and several other free essays on relevant topics for college and university students are available online for free at http://www.christoncampuscci.org/.

This video and the corresponding essay are provided as a ministry of Christ on Campus Initiative, a nonprofit organization generously supported by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding (a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL), the Gospel Coalition, and the MAC Foundation (Fort Collins, CO).

Inerrancy is Supported Biblically: The Relationship Between the Nature of God and Scripture – Carl Trueman and G. K. Beale

G. K. Beale:

There’s been some debate among evangelicals. And when I say evangelicals I don’t know what I mean because everybody’s an evangelical today, and it’s a huge, huge umbrella. It didn’t used to be back in the mid 20th century. But, nevertheless, a book as been written arguing that the traditional view of the inerrancy of the Bible is not biblical. Now, the traditional view he has in mind is a particular writer who started an evangelical seminary in England. The usual deduction is made that:

  1. God is perfect. I think that’s a pretty good deduction. His character is perfect.
  2. Therefore, what God speaks orally is perfect. So far, so good, for this particular writer.
  3. But his third one is that since God is perfect, His oral word is perfect, therefore His written word is perfect.

And this writer says, „Nowhere in the Bible do you find where it extends the perfection of God’s character  to the written Bible. He says, „That’s a logical deduction,” and in one way it makes sense. But, it’s not biblical. You can’t find a passage that really connects God’s perfection and his character with his word. So, I started thinking, when I read this, „I think there are passages. Such passages as Revelation 3:14, where it says that Christ is the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true witness the beginning of the creation, i.e. the new creation of Christ. It says that Christ is the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true witness. What’s amazing about that is that it’s almost a quotation from Isaiah 65:15-16, where it speaks of God as the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true. What a high statement about Jesus.

In fact, Isaiah 65:16 is the only place where it addresses a person in the Bible with ‘Amen’ as God. The only other place is Revelation 3:14, Jesus is the „Amen’, He’s identified with God, he’s a divine person. And so, He’s the faithful and true witness. So His character is true and what He says is true, and then very intriguingly in chapter 21:5, you have the statement that says: „The one who sits on the throne says: Write, these are true words of God.” And it says: Behold I create all things new. But, this phrase ‘Write, John…’ why are you to write John? These are actually true and faithful words of God. Well, that phrase ‘faithful and true’ is found only back in chapter 3:14. And this is an explicit development here in chapter 21, where John is to write God’s oral word, because they’re faithful and true. In other words, there’s an actual command for him to now put into writing what has been said, that represents God’s faithful character.

So we do actually have a place where God’s faithful character is true, and His oral word is true, and that’s to be put into writing. And one person’s writing, „Yeah, but when John went to record it, – okay, he was commanded to write, but when he went to record it, couldn’t there have been a little slippage? Was God actually superintending the recording? Yeah, yeah, He was in the command, but was He superintending the recording?” And, in fact, Carl Trueman rattled off a number of passages  about John, in the Book of Revelation writing the word of God. You might remember the seven letter, where Jesus commands John, „Write!!!” And, all of a sudden Jesus is speaking, John’s writing, but they’re the words of Jesus and at the end it says: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says. So, these are human words, they’re Christ’s words, they’re the Spirit’s words. Of course, at the very end it says, „If anyone adds to these words, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. And anyone who takes away from these words, God will take his part away form the tree of life and his part in the Holy City.” So, obviously, the words as they’ve been written down, have indeed been superintended by God through his prophet John.

So we do actually have an actual explicit Scriptural explanation of what this author says can’t be found. God’s character is true, His oral word is true, and the extension of that oral word to the written is not only commanded by God, but superintended by the Spirit. (Photos via http://www.wts.edu)

carl-truemanG. K. Beale:

Carl Trueman

From Acts 7- Scripture is the living word. As God is living and active, so His word is not just a book of logarithms, but it’s the speech of the living God.

G. K. Beale:

The sovereignty of God is important. Those, sometimes you find, who don’t affirm the absolute sovereignty of God. By that I mean, that leaves and birds don’t fall from heaven apart from God’s hand, even to that detail. If that’s the case, then it makes complete sense that when humans write, they will be sovereignly superintended by God, though their styles are different. But, those that don’t affirm the absolute sovereignty of God will say, „Humans have independence from God. They’re not always under God’s sovereign hand.” Then (to them) it makes sense that some human error could have crept in there. So I do think that an absolute understanding of the sovereignty of God is very important.

Dialogue on holiness with John Oswalt – author of Isaiah NIV Commentary

John Oswalt talks about holiness through it’s proper understanding of the Christian life and what it is all about, an example from the trinity vs. an overemphasis on externals (i.e. a holy outward life where we judge it by counting buttons or length of hair). His most recent book ‘Called to be Holy’, 

„traces the doctrine of personal holiness through both the Old and New Testaments, showing that holy living is an overarching theme of the entire Bible. Dr. Oswalt explains the intimate connection between forgiveness and a life of holiness, and underscores the practical consequences of walking in the Spirit. The result is a well-rounded portrait of the Bible’s teaching on godly living.” (source – book description – Amazon)
Oswalt in the 2nd video:
A New Testament without an Old Testament borders on heresy. It seems to me that a lot of the demise of a Christian understanding of the necessity of ethical holiness, of living out the life of God is the result of our ignorance of the Old Testament, because the New Testament assumes the Old Testament. Often times people will say to me, „There’s the Christian Bible, that’s the New Testament, and the Jewish Bible, that’s the Old Testament. Well, we’re Christians. Yeah, you sort of need the Old Testament, just for sort of background, so you can know where the New Testament came from, but, you don’t really need it.” That is, to put it bluntly- non Christian. The Christian church, for 2,000 years has said, „No, the whole Bible is Christian. A proper understanding of the Old Testament is that it is preparatory to Christ. And, in the same way, the New Testament assumes that we know the Old Testament. What is the question of life:
***How can a sinful human being ever share the character of a holy God? If you don’t know the Old Testament, you don’t know that. Well, the Old Testament is laying these foundations: God is transcendent. He is absolutely holy. He’s beyond anything we can imagine in His essence and His character. He is just. This is a cause and effect world. He is majestic, He is glorious. Salvation is to be found in community. Righteousness is to be lived out in a society. Revelation comes through historical narrative. The other points are there: His immanence, His love, His grace, the reality of an individual relationship with God, the reality of personal righteousness, revelation through teaching- they’re there. But, they’re minor points. The New Testament just reverses that order. The New Testament says, „OK, you got the point now: God is transcendent. Let us talk about His immanence. Let us talk about God having come here. You understand about God’s absolute holiness, now let us talk about His love. And so forth… down that list, just reversing them. If you know your Old Testament, the it fits together. Then, it is awesome Good News, that the awesome Holy God, who could fry you alive by looking at you, loves you. But, if you don’t know the Old Testament, then what you’ve got is a friendly little god, who says, „Oh honey, that’s all right. It doesn’t really matter, it’s okay. A little god, who exists under my bed, to answer my prayers.
A religion that is purely individualistic, about me and my righteousness, and interestingly, a religion that’s primarily through teaching, that actually, whether this stuff happened or not, it’s not that important. In other words, all too much of modern evangelicalism. 
***God’s jealousy in the OT. (2nd video, 10 min. mark)  We need to constantly help people to understand that God’s rage, especially in the prophets is the flipside of His love.  We’ve lost a good word in English: Zeal. As you know, it’s one word in hebrew: Zealous and jealous are the same word. Unfortunately, in English, jealousy is now a petty emotion. My wife smiles at another man, and I get bent out of shape, because I’m jealous. But jealous and zealous go together. And I think of Jesus cleaning out the temple. And what did the disciples remember? „The zeal of Thy house has eaten me up.” God is so furious because He loves His people so much and is so broken over what they are doing to themselves, and so I love to say to students and to others: „You know, the most frequently quoted 2 verse passage of the Old Testament in the Old Testament is Exodus 34:6-7 – TheLord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.  This gets quoted explicitly 6 times, and it’s alluded to another 11 (times). So you say to the Hebrew, „What’s your God like?” „Oh, He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger…” Ha? Looks to me like He got angry a lot!” And they say, „Yeah, He should have! That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is He hasn’t.”  We need to have people understand: You can’t have His love without His rage. He is a fully impassioned person.


Dr. John N. Oswalt (PhD, Brandeis University) is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including the two-volume commentary on Isaiah in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and Called to be Holy: A Biblical Perspective. Three other important books from John Oswalt are:

  1. The Bible among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? by John N. Oswalt (Jul 28, 2009)
  2. Called to Be Holy by John N. Oswalt (Jun 15, 2011)

  3. Leisure Crisis (Critical Issues Series (Wheaton, Ill.).) by John Oswalt (Jun 1987)

(Source – Amazon, Photo credit Amazon).

VIDEOS by TheHenryCenter located at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School  of Wheaton College, Deerfield, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). For more videos (many debates) click here – http://www.henrycenter.org

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 1 (36 min)

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 2 (21 min)

How does a branch abide in the vine? The branch and vine metaphor of John 15:45

Jon Bloom, in an article from the Desiring God archive  (By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org) explains the ‘abiding’ in Christ metaphor:

Does Jesus’ metaphor here strike you as a bit odd?

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:45)

Vine branches don’t have to try to abide in vine. They just do. only way they become detached is if someone or something detaches them.

Not so with us. We are strange “branches” that are prone to wander. Staying put in the vine is something we must obey. “Abiding” for us is a discipline.

So why are we prone to leave the “vine” we love? Because we are easily deceived into believing that we are vines, not branches. Remember Satan’s original deception, “You will be like God”?  That’s what we want to be: vines! We don’t want to be branches. We want to bear our own fruit!

This is the ancient sin of pride and it governs fallen human nature. And we Christians remain susceptible to this very powerful and subtle temptation, which is why Jesus spoke this metaphor to his disciples. We struggle to believe that apart from him we can do nothing.

So how can we honestly evaluate the level to which we are abiding in Jesus? One simple way is to examine how we pray in secret. The Bible is clear: Word-saturated prayer is the primary means of abiding in Jesus. That’s why prayer is the chief of the spiritual disciplines and the one we are commanded to be constantly doing:

“[Pray] at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18); “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Col. 4:2).

God appointed prayer as the chief of the disciplines precisely because it is designed to undermine our self-sufficient pride. Prayer requires profound humility and faith to exercise. It appears foolish and weak to the worldly-wise and strong. It’s the posture of a dependent child or a beggar. And since its productivity can’t be quantified, it can look like a waste of time.

In other words, prayer forces us to trust God.

This is why we selected “Prayerful Dependence” as one of our stated core values at Desiring God:

We seek our deepest delight in Jesus Christ and acknowledge that we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). Our desire is to abide in him constantly, “[praying] at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). Therefore, we will be intentional to build prayer into the visible life of the organization at all levels and to cultivate a shared life together of living by faith in God’s future grace for us.

One of our ongoing resolutions at Desiring God is to cultivate more prayerful dependence on Jesus in our spreading efforts. Would you join us? Create your own resolution to cultivate greater prayerful dependence on God. Through more intentional prayer, let’s fight our desire to live like vines together and seek instead to be branches that are joyfully and firmly grafted in Jesus.

One way we want to encourage you in your personal resolution is to encourage you to listen to John Piper’s message, “Battling the Unbelief of Pride.” John draws from Paul, James, Peter, and Jeremiah to explain the nature of pride and how to fight its many manifestations. He includes a helpful section on the role of prayer in the battle. A memorable quote from his closing prayer is, “It is utter folly to be anything but a baby in your arms.”

The counter-intuitive truth is that unless we abide in Jesus through Word-saturated prayer, we will not be able to doanything. Being “devoted to prayer” (Rom. 12:12) isn’t just a romantic idea, it’s mission critical. May the Lord help us believeand live this truth more fully in 2007.

You can read the article in its entirety here- http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/newsletters/you-are-a-branch-not-a-vine

What is the meaning of the Ascension of Jesus in the Gospels ?

By Bob Deffinbaugh via Bible.org Photo James Tissot 

Introduction

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Ascension_(L'Ascension)_-_James_Tissot

I had determined some time ago that this message on the ascension of Jesus Christ would be the conclusion of this series on the life and ministry of our Lord. When I began a serious study in preparing for this message, I came to a distressing realization: the ascension of the Savior was not considered worthy of emphasis by any of the gospel writers.

You will read the entire gospel of Matthew without finding any direct reference to the ascension. The same is true for John’s gospel. The book of Mark condenses this event into only one verse, and if you consult the commentaries, they will tell you that this verse may not be authentic. Luke’s gospel, in very general terms, relates this final event in the life of our Lord in one verse. I must conclude that for some reason the ascension was not considered essential to the purposes which compelled the gospel writers to record their accounts of the life and ministry of the Master. The purpose of this study is to answer the obvious question, “Why?” “Why do none of the gospel accounts make much of the ascension of Jesus Christ?”

Why Was the Ascension of Our Lord 
Not a More Important Theme in the Gospels?

Let me try to identify some of the reasons for this lack of emphasis on the ascension in the gospel accounts. While these reasons are largely inferential, they do help us to see this matter through the eyes of the gospel writers.

First and foremost, the purpose of the gospels is revealed in their title, ‘the gospel.’ That is, the authors of the gospels set out to present the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Technically speaking, the salvation was procured by the death of Christ and proved by the resurrection. The ascension did not directly contribute to the work of the cross in such a way as to be instrumental in achieving the salvation of men.233 In the light of the writers’ purpose to portray the good news of salvation, any part of Christ’s life and ministry which does not directly relate to their purpose would pale in the shadow of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. It is not that the ascension of Christ is unimportant, then, but that it is largely irrelevant to the purpose of the gospel accounts.

Second, the ascension of Christ was not a favorite topic for those who were so intimately involved with Him. As John put it,

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, …” (1 John 1:1-3).

Unlike Christians today, the disciples lived and walked and talked, and touched the Savior while He was on the earth in bodily form. Whenever He talked of departing them or leaving them, they were deeply distressed (cf.John 16:6,22). It was not something they wanted to happen, or that they wanted to think about.

Those of us who have had Christian loved ones die can understand the feelings of the disciples concerning the Lord’s ascension. While we know that God’s will has been done and that those who have died in Christ are with the Lord, we personally sense the loss of the presence of our loved ones who have departed, even though we anticipate spending eternity with them in the presence of our Lord. We do not, therefore, find great comfort or joy in reminiscing over the departure of our loved ones. So, too, I believe the gospel writers did not have any predisposition to write of our Lord’s departure to return to His Father.

Third, the ascension does not serve as a fitting conclusion to the life and ministry of our Lord. It somehow seems anti-climactic in the light of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It tends to conclude on a note of sorrow and separation rather than of joy, victory, and triumph.

What, Then, Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

We have seen that the gospel accounts hardly mention the ascension, and we have suggested several reasons for this to be the case. While the ascension may not be prominent in the gospels, it is paramount in the book of Acts. While Luke did not emphasize it at the conclusion of his first book (Luke), he highlighted it at the beginning of his second volume (Acts).

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

One of the most significant words in the book of Acts is that little word “began” in verse one. The first account, which was the gospel of Luke, was the report of what Jesus began to do and to teach. The book of Acts records what our Lord continued to do and to teach through His body, the church.

We are guilty of misunderstanding the words of our Lord upon the cross, when He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Savior could truly say “It is finished” with regard to the work of redemption, which was accomplished on the cross. According to the usage of this expression man’s debt for sin could be marked “paid in full.” But the Lord Jesus did not say, “I am finished” in the sense that His work on earth was completed. Only His work of procuring men’s salvation was finished. The work of proclaiming that salvation to men is still going on. That is what Luke meant when he spoke of what our Lord “began to do and teach” in the introduction of his second volume. The exciting thing to realize is that the ascension of our Lord was vital to the continuation of our Lord’s work on earth through His body, the church.

While the provision for man’s salvation was the work of our Lord which was completed on the cross of Calvary, the proclamation and application of the benefits of this work have continued through the centuries, through the church, the body of Christ. The ascension of Jesus Christ was central to the initiation and continuation of this work.

From a casual reading of the gospel accounts one would get the impression that Jesus ascended to His Father shortly after His resurrection. In Acts we learn that there was a period of 40 days that our Lord continued to manifest Himself to His disciples on the earth: “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The purpose of this forty-day period was three-fold as described in verses 3-5 of Acts chapter 1. First of all it was designed to convince the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s physical, bodily resurrection (cf. verse 3 above).

The remaining chapters of Acts reveal that the central truth of which the disciples were fully-convinced was that Jesus, though put to death, had risen from the grave:234

“This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23,24).

“But you disowned the Holy and Righteous one, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of Life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15; cf. also 1:22; 4:2,10; 5:30-32; 7:56-60).

‘Many convincing proofs’ which happened over a substantial period of time, in a variety of circumstances, to a diverse number of people (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4-8), served well the purpose of convincing the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s resurrection.

A second purpose of the forty day period after the resurrection was to command the disciples.

“… appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, …” (Acts 1:3,4).

There was much that the disciples could not understand about the life and ministry of the Lord until after His death and resurrection. Now He could speak plainly of His work upon the cross and they could understand His teaching. But even now there were truths that they could not bear. Only after His departure, after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them, would they comprehend the great truths of the gospel. For this reason, Jesus commanded the disciples to wait until the promised Spirit was sent.

Third, the forty days enabled our Lord to clarify and correct certain misconceptions held by the disciples.

“And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth’” (Acts 1:6-8).

The Kingdom was a prominent theme in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist came before Jesus and introduced Him as the King of Israel (cf. Matthew 3:2Mark 1:2-3), as well as the Lamb of God. Jesus frequently spoke of the Kingdom (cf. Matthew 5-7,13). The disciples were preoccupied with the subject, and particularly their role in it (cf. Matthew 19:28Mark 10:37f.). The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a king or of claiming a kingdom (John 19:12) and this Pilate acknowledged (Matthew 27:37). The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42).

Little wonder that the disciples should persist in bringing up the subject of the Kingdom after the resurrection. They were certain that it must be forthcoming. Our Lord found it necessary to clarify His teaching on the Kingdom that was to come.

Mark it well; Jesus corrected His disciples on the matter of the time of the Kingdom’s arrival, not on its essential nature. The commentators are much more critical of the disciples than Christ was. They would seek to change the disciples whole conception of the Kingdom; our Lord only dealt with the time of its inauguration. The disciples anticipated a literal, physical reign of our Lord upon the earth. Some Bible students would have us believe that such expectations were misguided. They suppose that Jesus spoke only of a spiritual reign in the hearts of men.

That’s a rather interesting thing, because our Lord does not correct the disciple’s concept of the Kingdom; He corrects their preoccupation with the timing of the Kingdom. Now if they were wrong in thinking there was a Kingdom to come after three years of teaching, they were also wrong after 40 days of post-graduate work. More than this, my friends, they were wrong after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because one of the things you will discover later in the book of Acts is that when the apostles preached, they preached to the Jews that if they turned to Jesus as Messiah, there would be a restoration of the Kingdom.

Look, for example, in Acts chapter 3 after Pentecost. Peter and John are preaching as a result of the healing of the cripple who was outside of the temple, and who was healed. Peter says in verse 19: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

The expression ‘times of refreshing,’ was understood rightly by Israel as being the time of the restoration and the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon earth. “And that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-21).

In other words, that which the Old Testament prophets had been speaking, that which our Lord Jesus came to establish, that is the message which the apostles preached. Until 70 A.D., they offered to Israel the opportunity to turn to Jesus as the Messiah, and promised that if they did, the Kingdom would be ushered in. Obviously, the nation did not repent and believe. And you understand that Israel, trying to forcibly bring the Kingdom in unbelief by rebelling against Rome, brought the power of Rome down upon them. Because of Jewish insurrection, Rome sacked that city and there was a massacre that was absolutely incredible to read about. Millions of Jews, it seems, died at that time. My point is simply this, the disciples had come to believe in a literal kingdom as a result of the teaching of our Lord, both before and after His resurrection.

Understandably, then, the disciples put this question to our Lord: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6).

I want to underline the phrase, “at this time.” That is the issue that our Lord calls to their attention, not the issue of the nature of the Kingdom. He is dealing not with their misconceptions about the Kingdom, but with their preoccupation with the time of its coming. That is where they were wrong.

Now you must understand the circumstances in which all of this occurred. Do you remember where this took place? Not Jerusalem. It was the city outside of Jerusalem—Bethany. Bethany is where the triumphal entry began (cf. John 12:1,9,12). This is where Jesus had raised Lazarus. People had gathered not only to see Jesus, but to behold Lazarus, and it was out of all of this that the crowd came to herald Jesus as the Messiah. So it was Bethany that was the point of origin for the triumphal entry.

Now can you imagine why the disciples would bring up the subject of the coming of the Kingdom? I suppose they thought, “Here we are at Bethany again. Maybe we’re going to have the real triumphal entry this time.”

One of the seminary students suggested that the Lord had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps it was the fulfillment of this promise to which they also looked forward. That may be. Here they were, Jesus was raised from the dead, the subject of conversation had been the Kingdom. Now there is this promise for which they are to wait. And you know how our minds always run wild in speculation when we are waiting for something and we do not know exactly what it is. All of these things must have come together, and the disciples were almost ready to burst with anticipation. And so our Lord responded to them, not regarding their concept of the Kingdom, but regarding their preoccupation with its time: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

You see, this is no correction concerning the anticipation of a physical, literal thousand-year reign. Our Lord granted that their understanding of the Kingdom was correct. He was simply saying, “Don’t get preoccupied with when it is to occur.”

There are Christians today who seem to be more interested about the precise timing of eschatological (that is, prophetic) events than they are with godly living (cf. 2 Peter 3:11-13). I am not saying we should not study prophecy. I am saying we should not become preoccupied with it to the point where we ignore our duty and our obligation to live godly lives and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the thrust of our Lord’s words in Acts 1:7-8. They were not intended to know the exact time of the Lord’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom. But as a result of His departure, the Holy Spirit would come, bestowing power upon them, by which they would witness to Jesus Christ at home and abroad (cf. John 14:7ff.).

In one sense the ascension is the final answer of our Lord to the question raised by the apostles. We cannot view the ascension of the Savior apart from its context with the paragraph—a section which centers in the question of the disciples concerning the coming of the Kingdom.

Verse 9 informs us that after Jesus had spoken the words of verses 7 and 8 He was taken from their sight into the heavens. The last words of Jesus concerned the matter of the Kingdom and our present responsibilities. The conversation was terminated by Jesus’ departure.

But more than this the ascension itself was the most forceful and satisfying answer to the question of the disciples:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

The ascension was a glorious event. Our Lord disappeared into a cloud, not ‘into the clouds’ (cf. verse 9). It may well be that this cloud was no ordinary cloud, but rather a manifestation of the Shekinah glory, even as it took place in the transfiguration (cf. Matthew 16:27–17:9, especially verse 5). Since the transfiguration was a preview of the coming Kingdom, the Kingdom must be quite similar. Now, in Acts 1:11 we are told that the return of the Lord Jesus will be like that of His ascension. It, like the transfiguration, must have been glorious, but it was viewed by a larger number.

The ascension was a display of the splendor and glory of the coming Kingdom. As such it was a reassurance to the disciples that this Kingdom was the same as they had previously been instructed.

What a beautiful way to dovetail a two-fold response to this pressing question of the disciples. While they were not to be overly concerned about the timing of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, they were assured of its certainty and its splendor. What a gracious event the ascension was. It served as an assurance to the disciples that their hopes would be realized.

One last passage remains to be considered in our study of the ascension of Christ and its importance to us.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-12).

The ascension was the final, incontestable evidence that Jesus Christ was the victor over Satan and his hosts. It is the measure of His victory, but also the measure of the power which has been bestowed upon His saints to carry out His work on earth until He returns.

The ascension was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come upon the church (and individual believers) in a different way than in times past (John 16:7ff.). But it was also an indication of the extent of the power which was made available to complete the task set before us.

This was a desperately needed event for who but His most intimate followers would sense most deeply His bodily absence? Who most needed assurance of His spiritual presence and power? And surely those of us who have never walked the dusty roads with Him and heard Him speak or felt His touch need this assurance as well.

Conclusion

Taking the various threads of which the doctrine of the ascension of Christ is woven we can briefly summarize its reference and application to Christians:

(1) Separation. In one sense the ascension was the bodily separation of our Lord from His followers. But we must quickly add that the Scriptures never record any mourning or tears concerning this. Undoubtedly this is true because, ironic as it may seem, our Lord’s departure inaugurated a time of even greater intimacy through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(2) Consummation. The ascension symbolized that the work which our Lord was sent to accomplish in His physical body on earth has been finished. “… when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

(3) Glorification. When our Lord returned to the Father it was in splendor and glory. While His glory was somewhat veiled by His humble surroundings at His incarnation, His return was with even greater glory and honor because of the work He had accomplished. “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

(4) Confirmation. The ascension was, in part, a confirmation of Christ’s person and work. He returned to the Father. In this His claim to have come from the Father was vindicated. While no one could actually witness the actual incarnation of Christ in the virgin birth, His return was visible to His followers. The ascension of Christ is also a confirmation of our faith and assurance in Christ: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchezedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

(5) Transition. The ascension serves as a connecting link: between the work of Christ in salvation and that in our sanctification; between the gospels and the epistles; between what has been accomplished by Christ and what is still being done through His Spirit. It is even a transition in the ministry of Christ as well. Having completed His work on the cross in His flesh, He now intercedes for us as a sympathetic High Priest, as One Who has experienced our afflictions:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 5:14-16).

(6) Anticipation. The ascension also creates in our hearts a sense of expectation as we realize that He will return, just as He departed: “… This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11).

And so it is that we come to the importance of the ascension to Christians today. It is not primarily to be viewed as the conclusion of our Lord’s life and ministry, but as the introduction of a new phase of His ministry through His church, empowered by His Spirit. The assurance of His return and the measure of His presence and power in these intervening days is to be found, to a great extent, in His ascension. What a Savior!

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233 Lest anyone become upset by this statement, let me go on to say that it does have much to do with the application of men’s salvation, as we shall demonstrate later.

234 It is interesting to note that during His earthly life our Lord’s opposition came primarily from the scribes and Pharisees. These were men who believed in supernaturalism and such things as angels and resurrection. In the book of Acts the main thrust of the opposition came from the Sadducees, the liberals who did not believe in any resurrection (cf. Matthew 22:23Acts 4:11).

David Platt – Assurance of Salvation – In light of the danger of spiritual deception, how can someone know they are a Christian?

(Photo via beingisgood.blogspot.com)

Spiritual deception is a very dangerous thing. So, it’s wise to ask: How do I know if I am truly a follower of Christ? Scripture even encourages us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to test ourselves, examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith? So we have to ask the question first and foremost- HAVE YOU REPENTED and BELIEVED?

  • Have we repented and believed?
  • Have we turned from our sin and ourselves and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord?
  • Have we turned aside  from our every effort to save ourselves and said: Only in Christ, by faith alone in Him, can I be made right before God.
  • Have you leaned completely on Him for Salvation?
  • Have you submitted your life to Him, as the Savior and Lord that He is?

Have you repented and believed? These are questions that the Scripture beckons us to ask. (photo via frontlinedc.com)

And then, Scripture gives us books like 1 John. I would encourage  anybody struggling with assurance of salvation to spend time in 1 John. 1 John is written so that me might have assurance, so that we might know that we are followers of Christ. And that assurance is based on the past work of Christ on the cross for us, and our continually believing in that, and then the effects of that in our lives. There’s no question that the Spirit of God assures us of His presence with us as we walk with him, as we obey him.

That’s part of what 1 John is about. The more we walk with Christ, the more we obey Christ, the more we live out the life of Christ, the more our assurance grows. It’s not that we’re earning salvation by what we’re doing. It’s that we’re assured of the salvation we already have because we see evidence of the Spirit of Christ working in us. I would encourage anybody who is wrestling with this. These are good things to wrestle with.

So, examine: What does Scripture teach about what it really means to follow Christ? Repent and believe. Has this become a reality in my life? And then, spend time in 1 John, ask questions: Am I continually believing in Christ, am I continually following Christ? Or, are there areas where I need to repent of sin, that’s creeping back into my life? And, as the Spirit works that conviction back into our heart, the Spirit’s work is actually, in a sense, affirming us, that we’re His child and He’s drawing us into a deeper and a deeper intimacy with Himself. These are good questions to ask. They’re questions we need to ask. Video via ViewRadical on Youtube.

Jesus our Defense Dr. Timothy J. Keller

Photo via http://artistlight.blogspot.com/1-john-410.html

From monergism.com – The following sermon notes (an excerpt) preached by Tim Keller in 11/13/94 from a series on 1 John entitled: Knowing that we know God

„If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” ( 1 John 1:8-2:2)

…Only for people who see themselves as a moral failure. Only people who see that they are not worthy to go in, that they need someone to go in for them. If you don’t see that .. if you don’t see yourself as so sinful that you don’t have the right to just go to God and speak to Him you haven’t gotten the first point … You are not able to experience intimacy with the Father. Now, having said that, I immediately realize that you are going to fall into two categories here: As I just said, that John says, you have to see that you are sinner, such a sinner and so morally inadequate that you don’t even have the right to go in before God. As a pastor for almost 20 years now I have talked to people a great deal over the years and I have heard people’s reaction to this particular teaching of the Bible. And in general the teaching divides people. I find that people fall into one or the other category. Either they have a lot of trouble with this and they really don’t have that sensation at all … they don’t sense … they don’t feel that they are moral failures. They don’t think they are that bad, they don’t think they are that wicked. They don’t have this sense and they don’t see any reason why they can’t go to God and pray and talk to Him. They feel like, you know I have tried my best, I do pretty good. I am not perfect but I certainly have the right to go in. So some of you just don’t have nearly enough of this sense, according to the writer here. And others of you have an overwhelming sense of it. That are you just crushed under it. You can hardly look at Him. You don’t want anything to do with Him. Everybody [has the tendency] to go into one side or the other. Let me say something to both of you:

1st: Because it’s New York, maybe it’s wrong to say this … I would think that most of you …maybe not. More of you would tend to be in the first category … that you say, “I don’t feel that way … I don’t feel like I am such a rotten sinner. I know the Bible teaches this and I know conservative churches still teach this but basically that is an outmoded doctrine. We don’t believe that anymore. I don’t sense that at all, I don’t feel that way, I don’t see it that way.” But John says …look at … see verse 8. “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves. John says [in essence] beware you will not want to admit it. It is natural to deceive yourself on this. It is natural to say what you are saying. You will hide from yourself how self-centered you are, you will hide from yourself how much evil there really is in there. You won’t see it … you’ll repress it.

Everybody is talking about Union South Carolina, aren’t they? And the one thing that is so interesting since my wife and I ministered, we had a church in a city just like Union South Carolina. Similar size, similar kinds of people, it’s amazing. Same accent. Same phrases. And after it was discovered that the woman actually had killed her two children, the quotes in the newspapers from their friends went something like this: “she came from a good family – I knew her people – I sat with her in church, she praised the Lord, how could she do such a thing? I can’t believe it.” But what they mean is: “she’s just like me. She is my kind of people. I went to school with her. I went to church with her. She is just like me and I do not believe that I could do that.” And the reason they are so shattered and the reason they are so disillusioned and the reason they are so amazed is because of bad theology. They may be religious and may go to church and may even consider themselves conservative Christians but they are not reading their Bible. And as a result they are shattered and disillusioned. WE ARE capable of all sorts of things.

I think a lot of folks say, “Yeah, this is dirty pool, you shouldn’t pull this on us. I feel that person must be sick. To be capable of evil and wickedness … certain people are but I just don’t feel like I am that bad a sinner. And all I can tell you that no one has done a better job of explaining this than Charles Spurgeon. He is a Baptist minister and he has this great illustration which I have often had recourse to. He says, “Look at an acorn. What do you see in the acorn? He says, I know it is counterintuitive and I know it doesn’t really make sense, it doesn’t seem to be true but if you think about it you will know it is true. When you look into an acorn you will see an ocean of wood. Let me show you that. He says, first of all inside the acorn is a tree, a huge tree. And every single bit of that tree is in that acorn all scrunched up. In other words, there is not one thing on this huge tree that is going to come out of the acorn that is not in that substance. It’s in there. And that is counter-intuitive. Not only that, but on the tree that is in there are thousands of other acorns. And each acorn is another tree which means that inside that acorn is not only another tree but one thousand other trees and each one of them is a thousand other trees and he says, one acorn has the power to cover the entire world with an ocean of wood. That’s how much power is in there. But if that acorn falls on the pavement, within a couple of days it rots. All of its power goes to nothing. It doesn’t mean that the power is not there. To see the power, to understand the power, it has to actually fall on the soil; it has to get watered and so on. And Spurgeon would turn around and say, “what do you think murder is?” “What do you think it starts with?” Murder has to start with the thought that says “I wish that person weren’t here. I don’t like that person”… it starts with a grudge, it starts with selfishness, it starts with pride, it starts with self-centeredness. What do you think that is? He says, “in your heart, that acorn cup of your heart, there is and ocean of evil, and if you just happen, by God’s grace, to have fallen on pavement … if you have happened, by God’s grace, not to be in a situation where that evil is really being fertilized, if … you can’t see how much evil is in there it doesn’t mean that it is not there.

Now, if you still, considering all that say, „I just don’t see myself that wicked or evil. I don’t see myself capable of murder and extortion. I don’t see myself capable of any of those things”, then I will just say, “Ok fine I am done, I have got to move on. File what I am saying, would you please?” Because the great hymn writer John Newton once said in a letter, “you never learn you are a sinner by being told. You only ever learn that you are a sinner by being shown.” And I suggest to you that someday, some place you will find yourself in a situation in which the only way to explain the way you are acting or the way you are relating or the way you are being treated, is by recourse to the doctrine of sin. As Pascal says [and he was no stupid person] “certainly nothing offends us so rudely as this doctrine of original sin yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves.” And if you are not incomprehensible yet to yourself, unless you believe in the radical depravity of the human heart, just wait … just file what I am saying. Alright?

On the other hand, a lot of you are the opposite. You are kind of crushed under the whole idea. In other words when you read this and you see John saying you need someone to go speak on your behalf, you don’t have the right to go in. You are not worthy to go to God. Right away, you immediately know that is true. But you have been crushed … even if you are a Christian. John is writing to Christians here and he knows something. He knows that in the lives of certain people there is a voice that has them nailed to a wall. I have met people … Christians that haven’t stopped going to church necessarily but they have done something in their past that maybe the world calls a great sin. As a result this voice come to them and it says things like, “how could you have done that? All the sermons you have heard, all the promises you have made, all the things you have said, all that you know and you have done this. How can you go to God? How can you expect God to listen to your prayers? How in the world could you even think of yourself as a Christian? You are not worthy to go before Him.” And that voice has you nailed to the wall and it has had you there for years. Maybe you have not given up on your profession of faith. Some of your have, you have completely given up on Christianity. When you get near it the voice just comes at you and you have decided that it is Christianity doing that. And all of its guilt trips. But some of you have stayed in and you’re just crushed. You are bound in shallows and miseries. Well what John has to say is especially for you.

So the first thing you have to see is that you are not worthy to go in. The second thing you have to see is that we have an advocate with the Father. Notice this: Now in chapter 2:1 “if anybody does sin we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” Now what is this teaching? Let’s ask three questions:

What is an advocate? Now you say “where is the word ‘advocate’, I do not see it.” The real problem is that there is a Greek word here. It literally says “we have, when you sin, a paraclete with the Father.” But in this particular context it’s a hard thing to get this whole idea across with one English word. So the translators actually take this and open it up and taking one [Greek] word and translating it “one who speaks to the Father in our defense” But the word here could be translated “an advocate”. Maybe that is the best way to put it. What is an advocate? What is this person? An advocate is someone who has an official relationship with you so that whatever the advocate achieves, you achieve, and whatever the advocate loses, you lose. An advocate is a legal proxy. An advocate is a legal representative. In philosophical/theological language an advocate is a federal head, from the Latin wordfoedus meaning covenant. It means you have entered into a relationship with this person so that this person represents you so that what that person does is transferred to you. Here are some examples … they are all over the place actually:

In the area of negotiations. In most countries, in fact in all countries, the national leaders can declare war and also surrender and achieve peace. You don’t have a referendum on war. We don’t have a popular election to decide whether we are going to go to war or not or decide whether we will surrender or not. You have a relationship with the national leaders so that they have the right to do that and, of course, if they make a bad move we are all involved … if they make a good move we are all involved.

Let me give you an illustration that is a little more clear than that. In ancient times you had the idea of a champion. Here were two great armies coming together and sometimes rather than have the battle and have lot and lots of people killed each army would put forth a champion. In the old days they even had a word for this in the ancient Greek, anArchegos. And the champion would stand forth and would represent the army and the country and would battle against the champion of the other country/army. Of course the agreement is that when you did that it meant that if your champion was skillful you were skillful, if your champion was foolish you were foolish, if your champion had victory you were treated as if you were the victors. If your champion was defeated you were treated as if you were defeated.

And of course the one we often use most nowadays is a lawyer, a legal proxy. Especially a lawyer who has what we call today “power of attorney”. And in that case the lawyer stands in and represents the client so that what the lawyer achieves the client achieves and what the lawyer looses, the client looses. It’s all transferred. Charles Hodge, a hundred years ago was a Presbyterian theologian who put it this way:

“The relationship of Christ to his people is that of a legal advocate to a client. The former personates the later. The lawyer stands in the clients place. It is, while it lasts, the most intimate of relationships. You may not even have to appear in court. You are not heard. You are not regarded. You are lost in your advocate who for the time being is your representative. The advocate, not you, is seen. The advocate, not you, is heard. The advocate, not you, is regarded.”

Now if Jesus is our advocate, what is he doing up there? That is the second question. What does he do? He’s speaking. He’s talking. And if we stick with the lawyer illustration, everybody knows why, because that is the job of a lawyer. You hired the lawyer to talk for you. You hired the lawyer because you say the lawyer can talk. The lawyer knows what to say and the lawyer can make a case I could not. Now when I first became a Christian … I heard about this idea that Jesus Christ was before the Father (there are a number of words in the Bible for this). In the book of Hebrews it says Jesus Christ stands as our high priest before the Father. It means he stands as our representative speaking on our behalf. Our legal proxy, our advocate. And He’s up there pleading before the throne for our sake. When I first heard about this at first it seemed at best foolish and at worst very nerve racking. At best it seemed kind of silly like why are you arguing with the Father. But at worst nerve racking because it means when I sin Jesus says “Oh Father, please don’t wipe him out. For my sake please, don’t wipe him out.” This is what I pictured it as and I saw that I would sin again and the Father would say, “I can’t believe that Tim Keller did that again and Jesus says “I know but wait a minute” (this is my idea) that Jesus gets in front of the Father and says “One more time, just give him one more chance, please for my sake Father.” And then I see the Father looking down at Jesus saying, “well, ok, for your sake, alright, one more time.” You see that is a nerve racking metaphor, you know, you sit there and say, “when does the Father finally say “I’ve had it”? When does the father finally say, “forget it”. But you see it doesn’t say the advocate is standing there as Jesus Christ the merciful. It also doesn’t say Jesus Christ the persuasive. It says, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” and it says what he is saying. You see, a really good lawyer doesn’t just play on the emotions of the court. A good lawyer has a case. And what Jesus case is: an atoning sacrifice, and therefore the teaching of this passage which is so absolutely startling and which is absolutely unparalleled in any other religion, is that Jesus Christ is not just standing up there asking for forgiveness … no. And he is not just up there asking for mercy … absolutely not. Jesus Christ is telling the Father what the law is. Now it is unworthy to think of Jesus as having to persuade the Father. You have to remember that the advocacy of Jesus Christ was the Father’s idea. We read in 2 Cor 5 “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” You have to understand what this is about. What it is about is this: Jesus Christ stands before the Father. Before the justice of God, in other words. And relentlessly and continually says He something like this: ‘Father, yes Tim did do it again but I have died the death he should have died and have lived the life he should have lived in his place. I am his advocate. He is lost in Me. When you look at him you have to see Me. You have to see all that I have done. You have to see all that I am. And therefore Father it would be unjust for you to take two payments for this sin. I have already paid for it. Therefore Father I do not ask for mercy. I demand justice.”

Some people ask “c’mon where does it say that.” It says that in chapter 1 verse 9. “If we confess our sins”, it doesn’t say “he is faithful and merciful to forgive us our sins.” It does not say “he is faithful and loving’. He is of course faith and loving. He is of course faithful and merciful, I am not saying he is not. But it says when we confess our sins because we have an advocate with the Father, God forgives our sins because He is just. Listen, justice has to be stronger than mercy. If you ever have a judge and if that judges son or daughter would come to trial, no judge anywhere would be allowed or would allow themselves to sit and preside over a trial with their own kid. Why? Because justice has to triumph over mercy. Because justice has to prevail or you cannot have a civil order. But incredibly we have a situation in which the justice and the love of God demand that He accepts us. There is nothing beyond this. Nothing at all. “Father”, He says, “I don’t ask for mercy. I demand justice and there is no greater case than that. The justice of God on the scales. The thing we always worry about: the scales. And here are my deeds and my records and here is the justice of the law. And of course my deeds and my records can’t possibly outweigh the deeds of the law and so the idea of blind justice is a frightening thing unless you understand this: We have the law of God not on the other side against us. We have the law and justice of God completely for us. We have the justice of God completely for us. There is no such thing as this anywhere else. No other religion says this. This is far more than forgiveness. Most people seem to think that what it means that Jesus died for you and you go and ask for forgiveness is that “God now wipes off your past slate and your back now on probation, but now you better do a good job.” [rather] Jesus Christ has gone through the probation for us. He puts us beyond probation. Jesus Christ not only gives us forgiveness for our sins but has accomplished righteousness for us. He is not just the one who pays our penalty but is our advocate. He is the one who stands in for us. He is the archegos. It says that in Hebrews. He is our champion, He is the “author and finisher of our faith.” And you know what that word is “author” – archegos. That is in Hebrews 12:2. He is the one who accomplishes it for us.

How does that change your life? That is that last thing we will talk about and I will just tick it off.

Finally you can deal with your guilt. Finally!. Most people cannot deal with their guilt. The person who has got that voice nailing them down: “But I have done something wrong…” But you see God has not just given you forgiveness. People who think that is all that we get. The reason you can’t deal with your guilt is that you believe God is simply merciful. Well He is very merciful. It was mercy that brought forth the whole idea of Jesus dying on the cross and standing in for us but you must understand something else. That not only the mercy of God demands that He love and accept you and shower you with blessings and treat you as if you were His Son. And had done everything that Jesus had ever done, it is His justice that demands it too. Don’t you see the reason why Paul says “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”? Don’t you see why Paul will break in during that same chapter and say “who shall bring a charge against God’s elect.” See? ‘It is Christ who died yea rather that is risen again who is even at the right hand of the father. What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” See what is he doing at the end of chapter 8? He is going on and on that this is not just forgiveness. This is righteousness. God’s righteousness has come to us and it showers us and we are living in it. This is the end of the voice. You know, when the voice comes to us and says, “you call yourself a Christian. Look at what you have done.” And of course that great hymn:

Well may the accuser roar of sins that I have done
I know them all and thousands more and Jehovah knoweth none.

And if you don’t know the hymn, you have to be able to turn to the voice and say, ‘Jesus Christ is my advocate. Of course I have done these things. God knows that. But when he sees me he sees me in my advocate. I am lost in my advocate and all He sees is a beauty.” Do you know how to do that? If you say I am a Christian but I cannot deal with my guilt. If you say, I am a Christian but don’t feel worthy to go before God you don’t get this yet. Be here’s hope; keep reading about it. Keep thinking about it. Keep talking to somebody because when it dawns on you wait till you see.

But on the other had, what else does it bring you? Also it is the only way to deal with disappointment. I have come to the conclusion that most people get into despondency not over guilt necessarily but over the loss of a hope. Something in their life that is so important to them. Something in their life that is so valuable. Something in their life that means so much and you get despondent. You know why? Most of your deepest yearnings for success are actually efforts to be what only Christ should be for you. These things that you get so despondent when you lose they are your case, your arguments before God. They are the things that you look to and say, “see I am worthy” And when one of them falls through: This person doesn’t love me. This job has not worked out. Why are you so despondent? Because you don’t know the hiddeness.

Let me close with this. When Stephen, the great first martyr… you can read about him in Acts 6&7. When he was preaching and was brought into courts. And the religious authorities were upset that Christianity was spreading as it was. They looked at him and said we are going to execute you. Especially after he explained the gospel to them and told them they were wicked sinners. And it didn’t go over very well. You know the first part of the sermon tonight fortunately most of you probably will not try to execute me but some of you will probably be unhappy. In this case, Stephen was preaching to people who had the power to execute him so they did. And they took him out to stone him but just before they began to kill him God gave him something. He looked to the heavens and said “I see Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God.” What did he see? He saw his advocate. And the thing that is so amazing is when on earth he was getting condemned – he was being called a loser, he was getting called a traitor, he was being called a cult leader and a liar. Everything he would want to claim. He would want popularity. He would want a good name. He would want success. He would want a good reputation. It was all being stripped away from him. What did he do in response? When he saw Jesus Christ as advocate standing up there, his face God radiant, it said. He says I see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” In other words, to know that his advocate in Heaven, and his Father in Heaven loved him, commended him, acclaimed him and accepted him meant that all of the rejection and even an execution here on earth. – He got so excited he seemed to forget, if you read the text, that he was about to be executed – to the degree that you grasp the fact that you have an advocate with the Father you will be able to take criticism. This guy could take an execution. You will be able to take criticism. You will be able to take rejection. You will be able to take sin and guilt. You will be able to take the things that right now weigh you down. You will have the fullness of the Spirit to the degree that you grasp that when we sin we have one who speaks to the father in our defense: Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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

  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.

H. Passion Week – Good Friday – The hurt of Peter’s denial of Christ + ‘Just as I am’, by Brian Doerkson

Photo from  www.eons.com

How many times did the rooster crow when Peter denied Jesus?


Matthew 26:34 (also Luke 22:34, John 13:38)

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

Mark 14:30

„I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, „today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”


Mark 14:66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

„You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. „I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, „This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, „Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, „I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: „Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

From www.rationalchristianity.net

Jesus’ Great Confession; Peter’s Great Denial
Matthew 26:57-68

57 Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard. After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome. 59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ! Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:57-68)

Two events are being described simultaneously by Matthew in this paragraph and the next, so as to set them in contrast to each other. The first is our Lord’s interrogation by Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sanhedrin. The second is Peter’s “interrogation” by those around him. At the very moments Peter is denying His Lord, our Lord Jesus is affirming His identity as the Messiah – His “great confession.”

It is the middle of the night, and Jesus has been sent from Annas to stand before Caiaphas. The whole Sanhedrin is present (see also Mark 14:55), including the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matthew 26:57-59). This is far from a legal gathering. In our terms, Jesus is not getting “due process of the law” here. These “judges” are far from neutral. They seek any testimony that will justify their resolve to kill Jesus (verse 59), but they can’t do it.

These are horrible and shameful moments in Israel’s history, but at times the account comes close to being amusing. Here is this pompous group of Israel’s “cream of the crop.” It is something like the convening of the Supreme Court in our day. These are the top religious and legal experts, and they are determined to execute Jesus. They resolved that they would not arrest or kill Jesus until “after the feast” (Matthew 26:5), but Jesus forced their hand when He informed Judas and the disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them (Matthew 26:21). Jesus even let Judas know that he was the one who would betray Him (Matthew 26:25). Judas no longer had the luxury of time. He had to act now to earn his fee, whether the Jewish leaders liked it or not.

The religious leaders were in a real bind. They seem compelled to include the Romans (Pilate, Herod, and the Roman soldiers). They were forced to crucify Jesus, a very public death. And they must complete this matter before Passover, lest they be defiled, and thus would have been prevented from participating in Passover (seeJohn 18:28; 19:14; Mark 15:42-43). A few hours earlier, it would have appeared that they had almost two weeks to prepare for the execution of Jesus. They have not had any time to acquire and “coach” witnesses, and this was very obvious. Imagine these fellows attempting to give an air of sobriety and propriety, while things are in total chaos. Their witnesses disagree so badly that even with their disposition to accept any charge, it is evident this testimony won’t suffice. A parade of witnesses pass by, and all fail to meet minimum requirements. No two witnesses agree, and when two finally agree, the charges were not viable. It was, at best, a corruption of what Jesus had said (“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” – John 2:19). Even if their words were true, it isn’t a crime to say that you are able to do such a thing; it would be a crime if you attempted it. This case would have been thrown out of any court in our land.

You can imagine how frustrated these fellows must have been. Their case was stalling, and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it. The high priest sought to induce Jesus to violate His Fifth Amendment rights (in today’s terms) by giving testimony against Himself. “What did Jesus have to say to this charge?” Jesus had nothing to say. He need not have spoken. The charges were not worthy of comment or of defense. It was not His duty to provide them with evidence; it was their duty to produce evidence of a crime.

Then the high priest had an inspiration. He would charge Jesus under oath to answer this question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” (Matthew 26:63). This was a question Jesus was not legally obliged to answer. And yet Jesus chose to answer. I used to think that this was because the high priest put Him under oath. I now look at it differently. This was a question Jesus must answer. To refuse to answer would imply that He was not the Messiah, the Son of God. If He were the Messiah, the Son of God, then why would He not answer to this effect? This was the crux of the coming of our Lord – to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and as the Son of God.

Our Lord’s answer was far from tentative. Not only did He identify Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God, He also referred to Himself as the Son of Man:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:67).

This is an incredibly powerful statement. Jesus affirms His identity. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Man, which means that He will return to the earth in power, to deal with His enemies and to establish justice.

These words, if believed, should have struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders. Instead, they were taken as blasphemy, a capital offense by Jewish law (see Leviticus 24:10-16Numbers 15:30). No one in that group paused to reflect on the implications of Jesus’ claim. No one gave serious thought as to whether this claim might be true. In their minds, this was all they needed to condemn Jesus to death. And so the high priest musters all the righteous indignation he can produce, and calls for the death of Jesus:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy!” (Matthew 26:65)

His colleagues heartily agreed, and they pronounced sentence on our Lord.

What follows is particularly significant. Once the guilty verdict is pronounced, there is a disproportionate outpouring of wrath and contempt on our Lord. They spit in His face – they spit in God’s face! They strike Him with their fists, pouring out their wrath on God incarnate. They slap Him, and challenge Him to prophesy who hit Him (26:67-68). Here is the highest court in the land, and look at its conduct. Here is God, in the hands of angry sinners.

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A slave girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it in front of them all: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71 When he went out to the gateway, another slave girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 72 He denied it again with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” 74 At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).

Meanwhile, Peter is sitting in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, warming himself by the fire. A mere slave girl314 identifies him as one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denies it. Initially, Peter does not pointedly deny knowing Jesus; he simply responds that he doesn’t know what she is talking about. Apparently this is sufficient to silence this first slave girl. But then another slave girl confronts Peter. She does not just question Peter; she speaks to those standing around: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene” (Matthew 26:71). From Peter’s point of view, this is much more threatening. He denies his association with Jesus, underscoring his denial with an oath. Finally, a third person – one standing nearby – came up to Peter, and this time with an even more persuasive accusation: “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” (verse 73). Peter more pointedly denied even knowing Jesus, let alone associating with Him. This time he felt it necessary to punctuate his denial with cursing.

At that moment, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words indicating that he would deny Him. Peter went outside and wept bitterly. Strangely, this is the last time Matthew refers to Peter by name in this Gospel. While Matthew does provide an account of the final outcome for Judas (Matthew 27:3-10), he does not do so for Peter. Is this because he knows that such an account will take a great deal more time and information? Is this because he knows that a subsequent history of the church (including Peter) will be written? For whatever reason, Matthew does not feel compelled to give us the “rest of the story” regarding Peter.

Conclusion

If our text demonstrates anything, it is that all mankind, without exception, is desperately sinful and, apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, hopelessly lost:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,

11 there is no one who understands,

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness,

not even one” (Romans 3:10b-12).

Whether at his finest, or at his worst, every human being is a sinner, desperately wicked in heart and often in deed. There is no way that we can ever earn our own righteousness, that we can attain God’s favor by our efforts. We need salvation from some source outside of ourselves. We need Jesus, for He alone can save.

Our text dramatically demonstrates the sinfulness of man and the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our text, no one comes out looking good, no one except Jesus, that is. Everything Jesus predicted happened just as He said it would. Under more stress and pressure than we will ever know, Jesus never failed. His words and His deeds are amazing to us. Though men (like Peter, or Judas, or the religious leaders) failed, Jesus did not. Though His closest friends forsook Him, He will not forsake His own – those who have trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Jesus Never Fails; He is always faithful, even when we fail:

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end (John 13:1).

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In mankind’s darkest hour, the perfections of our Lord shine ever so bright. He alone is worthy of our trust, and of our worship, obedience, and service. Do not let the horrors of these events in our Lord’s last hours distract your attention from Jesus. He deserves center stage. His perfections deserve our praise.

We should probably say a word about Peter’s denials. Let us not fail to read this text, describing Peter’s worst moments, without bearing in mind “the rest of the story.” We may have seen the last of Peter (by name) in Matthew, but we find a very different Peter in the Book of Acts. With the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we find a transformed Peter. We find a man who now boldly proclaims the gospel, in spite of the opposition and the risks:

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus. 14 And because they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say against this (Acts 4:8-14).

As a result of the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Peter not only boldly identifies with His Lord, He instructs us to do so as well:

13 For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. 15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The events of our text underscore for us the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. Just as at the birth of our Lord, so also here we find that Matthew repeatedly points out to us that the Scriptures are being fulfilled at every point of this procession to the cross. God’s Word is true. It never fails. Even when men try their hardest to resist God and to rebel against His purposes, they end up unwittingly fulfilling His purposes and promises. We can trust His Word.

Let me end with one more observation and application. Our text describes the darkest hour in all of human history, and yet we gather every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus. More than that, we come every Sunday to celebrate His death. This is due to the fact that His suffering and His death is the only means by which sinful men may be saved, and have eternal life. It is also due to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus enables us to view these events in a whole new way. At the cross, Jesus took the curse (death) and made it the cure (His atoning work on our behalf). God used the most cruel and wicked actions of men to accomplish His eternal plan of salvation.

Surely this is an example of the truth that is proclaimed in Romans 8:

28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

God was able to make the horrid events of our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion into a salvation so blessed that it will take all eternity to fathom it. If our Lord can transform this kind of apparent tragedy into a triumphant work of redemption, then is it not reasonable for us to believe that God will cause every event in our lives to work out for His glory, and for our good?

C. Passion Week – Monday – Jesus cleanses the Temple

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

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

„THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD

A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…

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

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

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

II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

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

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

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

III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD

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

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

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

IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

Passion Week A. Friday/Saturday: Jesus arrives in Bethany

This post corresponds to the related Google map of Jesus’ Passion Week you can access here.

This is a telling of the Gospel story and event of Jesus and Mary who annointed Jesus’ head with oil, one week before he was to be crucified. The Gospel is told by C.J.Mahaney and transcribed by Alex Chediak for a Desiring God conference in 2007. You can read the entire message here

Extravagant Devotion

We then were asked to open our Bible’s to Mark 14:1-11. C.J. read the text. C.J. assured us that his text, Mark 14:1-11, revealed a truly historic moment as it contained a profound pronouncement. Nobody else except this woman receives this promise from the Savior: „wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why her? Why now? Just her. Why her? C.J. wanted to help us discover „why her” so that we all might be affected by her.

The Mark 14 passage begins with disturbing descriptions of the chief priest: Only Jesus’ popularity and the threat of a riot slow have slowed them in their goal of killing him. That’s the backdrop to our passage. At the end of the evening, the chief priests will get some help from Judas.

The Alabaster Flask

And in between the intrigue of verses 1-2 and 10-11, there is a party taking place in Bethany. Jesus and his friends are gathered. They are in the home of „Simon the leper,” who – had he still been a leper – could not have been hosting the get-together. C.J. suggested he might have been previously healed by Jesus. John’s gospel, in a parallel passage, informs us that Lazarus was present, having recently been raised from the dead.

[C.J. joke: „Imagine being there with Lazarus. I’d find some way to recline next to him at some point in the evening. I’d have lots of questions for him. It’s not often you meet someone who has died. What was it like to die? Is it a bummer you have to do it again? What was heaven like? Who broke the news to you that you had to go back? How did they break the news to you? ‘Lazarus, your sisters won’t stop crying, now the Savior is crying, you’re going back, pal.’ And what was that like? Hearing the Savior say, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ Going from Paradise to the graveclothes. What was that like? If I’m disoriented by frequent travel, how disoriented is Lazarus?”]

John also tells us Martha is present; the quintessential servant, she is catering the party. And most important, the Savior is there. Presumably, he is the guest of honor. One would expect the atmosphere to be warm and friendly – there are no Pharisees or chief priests present. Only those with every reason to be grateful to Jesus are present (except perhaps Judas, who is still under the radar at this point).

Suddenly, a woman (John tells us it was Mary) stands by Jesus and proceeds to break an alabaster flask of very expensive perfume. She pours the entirety of its contents over his head. The fragrance fills the room. It was impossible to ignore this public, dramatic, passionate display of affection. The disciples do not appreciate this act, and they scold her. The scene is no longer festive. Suddenly there is a dramatic change in the mood and atmosphere. A voice says leave her alone.

The Savior then makes the profound promise: „wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why does he make this promise to her at this moment? What she has done must be told wherever the gospel is preached, because Mary uniquely exemplifies the transforming effect of the gospel, which is extravagant devotion to the Savior. She demonstrates the effect of the gospel by her extravagant love for Jesus. She was to be an example of piety to the church universal throughout history. Her story is told so that we might evaluate if we have been appropriately and effectively transformed by the gospel. Not just applause, but application: We should evaluate ourselves in relation to her.

Two points to be drawn:

1. Extravagant devotion is an evidence of conversion.

Earlier in Mark’s gospel we encounter a teacher of law who is told, „You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). It was surely both an encouragement and a warning to this man. You are near, but not in. Well, it is clear that Mary’s not simply “near.” She’s “in.” Big-time. This is what being “in” looks like.

Where there is a profession of faith without affection for and obedience to the Savior, it’s authenticity should be questioned. Be assured if you are truly saved. If you have genuine affection for the Savior, and genuine obedience to the savior, then you can have fresh assurance.

C.J. expressed concern regarding the prevailing tendency among many in the church to grant false assurance to those who profess faith in the Savior, but whose lives bear no evidence to the miracle of regeneration (namely, affection for and obedience to Jesus Christ). C.J. lamented that in the U.S. evangelical church, it is quite common for someone to retain the lifestyle of those in the world, but with the (false) confidence that they possess eternal salvation.

Where does that confidence come from? In his novel The Painted House, John Grisham describes a Sunday school teacher eulogizing a mean character Jerry Sisco, killed the night before: “She made Jerry sound like a Christian, and like an innocent victim. As baptists we’d been taught that they only way you get to heaven is by accepting Jesus. Accept Jesus, or you went to hell. That’s where Jerry Sisco was, and we all knew it.” C.J. exhorted us not to emulate the example of this Sunday school teacher who gave false assurance to someone whose life displayed no evidence of salvation: affection or obedience. We are not serving the children we have the privilege to lead if we impart false assurance to them. Let us not encourage assurance where there is the absence of affection for, or obedience to, the Savior.

Given the size of this conference, C.J. noted, he would be remiss to assume that everyone present is genuinely converted. „I think I can assume most everyone here is, but given the large number, it would be unwise to assume that all are converted, and perhaps even now God is drawing near those who have maybe even made a profession of faith, are serving in children’s ministry, but without evidence of affection or obedience. There are other things you are more passionate about than the Savior. If that is a description of you, I would warn you right now to receive this plea as an expression of God’s mercy. If you are not genuinely converted recognize that God is demanding you to turn from your sins to the Savior for the forgiveness of your sins. Because extravagant devotion is an evidence of genuine conversion.” (My paraphrase of C.J.’s warning)

If I witness a person who is unaffected by truth, uninvolved in the local congregation, and uninterested in spiritual things, that individual is very unlike Mary, and therefore unconverted. Extravagant devotion to the Savior cannot be concealed. It must find expression. It is evidence of true conversion. This is the significance of Mary.

2. Extravagant devotion is the increasing experience of the converted.

C.J. asked us to consider if we recognized ourselves in the following illustration:

A woman took her children to the park to break the monotony of the summer days. Instead, she broke her heart. A young attractive woman skipped to a picnic table in a secluded spot. The mother wondered who she might be so eager to see. The mother grew preoccupied with her children and forgot to watch. But when she did look again, it made her heart hurt. The young woman was reading her Bible. She had so eagerly run from her car to meet the Lord. The mother knew she had lost this passion. Something had happened over the years of her walk with the Lord. She would not now be one to skip to meet the Lord. She wept in the park for her loss.

The question C.J. put to us is: Are we still skipping? Now all who are genuinely converted can, at times, recognize themselves in this illustration. In the Mark 14 episode, we are sometimes more like those criticizing Mary than we are like Mary.

What should have happened there in Mark 14? As Mary stood over the Savior pouring out the perfume, affectionately, passionately, appropriately, over His head….quietly, everyone present should have gotten up and formed a line behind her and should have said to her, “Mary, could you please save some for me to pour? For he has forgiven all of my sins. Mary, can I pour some? For he healed me of my leprosy. Mary, thank you for your example. Can I follow your example?” That’s what should have happened.

So who do you resemble more? The arrogant and critical disciples? Or humble Mary, expressing her love for the Savior through this extravagant display of affection. How can we become more like her? How can we cultivate extravagant devotion to Christ?

Application: We must review and reflect upon the gospel.

We must regularly read, and meditate upon, the gospel, particularly the events surrounding Christ’s death. The transforming effect of the gospel is extravagant devotion to the Savior. Therefore, if extravagant devotion is diminished, it normally means the gospel has been neglected. Charles Spurgeon said:

Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? O, let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is – little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only can you get your spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let’s go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let’s clasp that cross, let’s look into those languid eyes, let’s bathe in that fountain filled with blood – this will bring us back to our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart….The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard the more noble our lives become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.

How often do we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard? Those cries were all necessary because of our sins, and those cries were sufficient for our salvation. The transforming effect of those cries is extravagant devotion to the One who uttered those cries.

C.J. than cautioned that if we don’t intentionally review and reflect upon the gospel each day, we will inevitably review our own sin – and, consequently, be more aware of our sin that of God’s grace. Reflection upon sin should be a means, never an end. Cry out for grace, and be amazed by grace.

C.J. encouraged us to custom-design a play so that we can each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. And express extravagant devotion each day through the experience of dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard.

If our affections have grown cold, C.J. suggested we consider restricting our spiritual diet to dwell where the cries of Calvary have been heard. Study a gospel, particularly the passion week. Study the Savior as he resolves to go to Jerusalem, as he is overwhelmed in the garden of Gethsemane, and contemplates the experience of God’s full and righteous wrath against sin.

C.J. movingly recounted Jesus’ words on the cross as we sat with eyes closed. He then encouraged us to have Christ-centered, Sunday school curricula, so that the attention of our children is drawn to Christ and Him crucified with regularity. Finally, he prayed that all present would be encouraged in their ministry and sense the Savior’s pleasure, even as we take appropriate measures to maintain our first love for Christ.

Books which C.J. commended for „dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard”:

J.I. Packer quote C.J. displayed:

The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.

Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

I have posted this about a year ago, and I think it is a very good study on Gospel authenticity, as it is very detailed, so I am reposting it here together with my transcript of the entire session. This is one of those MUST READ/WATCH lectures because in most colleges in the US, your son or daughter’s religion class will teach your children that the synoptic Gospels are not authentically written by their authors, and they will date them much later than most scholars have agreed to date them and present their view as historically accurate.

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s Gospels ‘wordled’ (TNIV version). Wordle – Someone generated this “word cloud” from the text of the 4 Gospels. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

by Dr. Timothy McGrew (PhD Philosophy from Vanderbilt University), currently Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University.

Video Intro from Dr. McGrew:

I teach at a secular university and one of  things that I see constantly is young people coming to university from our churches, good churches, Bible teaching churches, and falling away from their faith at the university. It is my contention that what we have given our young people is not what they needed: Bible stories, entertainment, even some devotional thoughts, but, they’re not being prepared for WAR. And, we’re sending them out with rubber swords and plastic armor and that is not enough. I always like to pick a Bible verse for a motto, and here I picked Deuteronomy 32:7: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will show you, your elders and they will tell you

If you hop online, in 5 minutes, you can find some of the wildest theories that have ever been invented. In this lecture Dr. McGrew is trying to show the genuineness of the Gospels. He defines

Authenticity and Genuineness

  • an ancient historical work is authentic if it gives a substantially  truthful account of the events it reports.

Authenticity is what we want in an historical document; we want to know if what it says is substantially true.

  • an ancient historical work is genuine if it was actually written by the person to whom it is attributed.

Showing the document is genuine helps to establish that it is authentic because it helps to rule out rival theories (e.g. that the document is a late mythical composition)

Dr. McGrew does 2 things in this lecture. First, he examines the genuineness of the Gospel, of it being the product of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, „just like they say”. Second, he considers the principal arguments of some people who dispute the genuineness of the Gospels.

The way Dr. McGrew argues that the historical evidence favors the traditional position. In making his argument, Dr. McGrew does not depend at all on the inspiration of Scripture, although he does in fact believe that the Scripture is inspired by God, but, in making the argument, he appeals only to evidence and criteria that can be applied to any historical document. He does not use theology to support his arguments (which is what Christians need to learn to do when arguing with atheists/non believers).

Point of departure when you walk into a University

The two statements below, made by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins are taken as „point of departure” (foundational) in universities.

Bart Ehrman – a former Pastor, now an apostate, who considers himself to be an agnostic inclined towards atheism. He is the principle guy people will go to if they are looking for a negative verdict on Scripture because he has been urning out enormously popular books aimed at sort of a church level audience, undermining fundamental points of faith. Here’s what he says about the Gospel: „Some books, such as the Gospels,… had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write the (ascribed to apostles and friends of the apostles). From Jesus Interrupted 2009 pp 101-102

Richard Dawkins – (a) The Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. (b) Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. From The God Delusion 2006.

About this video:

Dr. Timothy McGrew lays out the case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels, while countering Bart Ehrman’s claims that the Gospels are forgeries. This is one hour of content followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. Uploaded by 

Augustine Against Faustus  33 6 (~400 AD)

Around 400 AD, Faustus was the first to systematically challenge that the Gospels were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. Here’s Augustine’s criterion for authorship: „Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or in the hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? And the chain of evidence is exactly what he says we have for our Gospels. Here’s some of the evidence:

The Early Attestation of Authorship of the Gospels

  • Tertullian of Carthage (~207) Tertullian writes: „The Gospels were written by Matthew and John, who were apostles, and Luke and Mark, who were apostolic men. Mark’s Gospel is the record of Peter’s preaching. They tell the same basic facts about Jesus, including His virgin birth and his fulfillment of prophecy. They bore the names of their authors from antiquity and the ancient churches vouch for them and no others.” 

McGrew: So, Tertullian, writing just around the 200’s (AD) that „these books bear names and have been handed down to us, this is a tradition we received from far back”. And, that the ancient Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, the churches that received letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians); these ancient churches vouch for these Gospels and the authorship of these Gospels.

Why is Tertullian saying this? He is criticizing a heretic sect founded by a fellow named Marcion, who really hated the Old Testament and hated Judaism. (McGrew talks about how in Matthew you can find many references to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as one example of what Marcion rejected in the Gospels). Marcion wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament or anything Jewish. So Marcion took the Gospel of Luke and trimmed out any OT or Jewish reference and published the rest of Luke in the 130’s AD. Marcion was very well off. He gathered a following and after his death, his followers kept on going. At around 200 AD Tertullian tells them they are following a false Gospel.

  • Clement of Alexandria (~180) Clement was a great teacher and head of a school in Alexandria, Egypt. He writes: Mark wrote his Gospel by request of his knowledge of Peter’s preaching at Rome. Matthew and Luke were published first; they are the Gospels that contain the genealogies. John’s Gospel was written at the urging of friends.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (~180) Iraneus was a bishop in France (very far away from Egypt and Clement) He writes: Matthew’s Gospel was the first written, it was originally written in the „Hebrew dialect” (Aramaic). Mark, a disciple of Peter, handed down in his Gospel what Peter had preached. Luke, a companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Joh, the disciple of the Lord, published a Gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia.
  • Muratorion Fragment (~170) This is a damaged manuscript that gives us a catalog of books that tells us something about the authors. The first page or so is lost because it starts with saying  Thirdly, Luke.… and it keeps on going.  So, it’s a pretty good guess that the first 2 pages were probably about Matthew and Mark. He writes: Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from the reports of others, since he has not personally seen Jesus. John, who was an eyewitness, wrote his Gospel after the rest, at the urging of some friends.

McGrew: There is no dissenting views and virtually nothing contrary to show because there is no other tradition about the authors of the Gospels. The unanimous testimony of the Church coming down through the ages, coming towards the apostolic times is behind this traditional ascription to Matthew and Mark and Luke and John.

  • Justin Martyr (~150) Justin writes: The Christians possessed „memoirs” of Jesus which were so called „Gospels”. These were written by apostles and by those who were their followers. They tell us of such events as the visit of the Magi and His agony in Gethsemane. Justin’s pupil, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.

McGrew: Up until the middle of the 19th century we didn’t have a copy that anybody knew about of the Diatessaron. In 1888 a copy surfaced. It was actually always around, however, no one ever translated it and therefore no one knew what it was until 1888. This document opens with, „In the beginning the word was …” and continues with John’s entire prologue and writes a harmony of the 4 Gospels. So, Justin Martyr was quoting from the Diatessaron, which means all four Gospels, including John’s (which is usually attacked as being written hundreds of years after the fact) are not only in existence before the year 150 , but in use.

The apostle John died right around the turn of the century (~100) at extreme old age. He was probably in his teens when he was a disciple of Jesus. So the first reference  comes within one generation of the life of the apostle John. We have to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever literature has survived. A lot of it was written on papyrus and time and weather are not kind to papyrus. Unless it is in an extremely dry environment, it deteriorates and it’s gone.

  • Papias of Hierapolis (~125) Papias is recorded for us in Eusebius’ History. Eusebius was a voracious librarian. He put together all kinds of sources, some of which we’ve now lost. except for what was preserved in him. He gives us a couple of fragments from Papias. Papias writes: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down what Peter had preached accurately, though, not necessarily in order. Matthew wrote the oracles (a reference to his whole Gospel? to the sayings of Jesus?) in the Hebrew language.

Attestation of Authorship Summary of Facts

The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman Empire:

– Tertullian in Carthage
– Clement in Alexandria
– Irenaus in France
– Papias in Asia Minor

Dr. McGrew: There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.  In any field other than biblical studies that would be enough. The Bible is always held to a standard that is higher than the standard of any other work would be held to. So let’s look at more evidence:

Assessing Genuineness – External Tests

  • External Tests – Attributions of Authorship is strong and consistent.
  • Early use in other works –  Many early writers make use of the Gospel without naming or describing the authors (Ex. in preaching, or making exhortations, etc).This evidence takes us back even earlier than the evidence of attribution.

For these authors to make use of the Gospels as authoritative sources, means that they expected their audience to recognize their quotations and allusions and to accept them as authentic. Here’s some examples:

  1. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp (~107): In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove’. Cf Matthew 10:16.
  2. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108): „Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Luke 6:20
  3. The witness of Basilides (~125) an agnostic heretic using quotes from the Gospel of John writes: that each man has his own appointed time, he (Basilides) says, ” The Savior sufficiently indicates when he says, ‘My hour has not yet come’„. John 2:4 and
  4. …this he (Basilides) says is what is mentioned in the Gospels, „He was the ‘light which lights every man coming into the world’„.Cf John 1:9
  • Early use – external evidence
  1. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108) quotes from or alludes to verses from : Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Peter. Polycarp sat at the feet of the apostle John when he was a young man. He then passed on the Gospel to his own disciples when he was an old man. One of Polycarp’s people was Iraneus of Lyons. This unbroken chain takes us back to the very disciples themselves (John).
  • Early use – summary of facts
  1. The four Gospels and Acts are used copiously by the early church fathers
  2. Even heretics tacitly acknowledged their genuineness, which they would not have done if they could help it.
  3. Justin Martyr, in his first Apology-on the reading of Scripture: „And, on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and in the country, gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” First Apology ch 67.  For the Gospels to be read as Scripture in weekly services, they must have been extremely highly regarded and well known to Christians throughout the world.

On a side note, did you know this author Thucydides c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian who is not mentioned once in any other writing for 250 years from the time of his existence? From a historical standpoint, the evidence for the Gospels isn’t just good, it’s great!

for more please visit The Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org/

After you view this video, you may want to read these  additional  articles:

  1. The Rationality of the Christian Worldview
  2. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels I
  3. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels II
  4. John Piper – How Are the Synoptics „Without Error”?
  5. The Real Roots of the Emergent Church (a documentary)
  6. Why I am not an atheist – Ravi Zacharias
  7. Belief in an age of skepticism – Tim Keller at University of California at Berkeley

Undesigned Coincidences – Evidence for the historicity of the Gospels Tim McGrew (via Logos Apologia)

Arial view of BETHSAIDA, Israel via http://jewishmag.com/

Video by Chris Putnam of LogosApologia

Do the Gospels contain internal and external evidence

that they are eyewitness accounts? 

One compelling line of evidence comes in the form of what is called „undesigned coincidences”. When one is telling a story, especially a story one has witnessed, one often hits the highlights and does not explain every detail. The focus is on what is important to the action. This is why two eyewitnesses will testify in different ways about the same event. Each person brings his own unique point of view in his description, due to his individual preferences and his predisposition. When telling a story, one gets caught up in what one actually remembers, and drops incidental references to significant facts. The sort of facts which are seemingly selected randomly by the memory of the individual. This is typical of the real memoirs, but not of legendary embellishments. When accounts from different eyewitnesses fill in the unknown details for each other, this is called an undesigned coincidence.

Here are 3 undesigned coincidences we are taking a look at, which show how the Gospels are pieces of an interlocking historic narration:

1. The miracles Jesus performed in Bethsaida

Such coincidences, especially when they are considered in their cumulative force, provide strong evidence for the integrity of the individual accounts. In Matthew 11:21 Jesus pronounces a curse on some cities in Galilee, saying, „Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  So, the question naturally arises: What is Jesus talking about? What were the mighty works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida? For Chorazin, we really cannot say. It’s one of those cases, where we realize that Jesus did things that we do not have recorded in Scripture, and Bethsaida is never mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew. In Mark and John, who do name Bethsaida a couple of times, tell us nothing that would make sense of Jesus’s words, as quoted in Matthew.

But, in Luke’s Gospel, we find the answer. Luke 9:10 reads „When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all they had done. And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.” Immediately after this verse, and set in the same geographic location, we have Luke’s account of the feeding of 5,000. Now, here we have an answer to our question, about the mighty work done in Bethsaida. It was there that Jesus fed the 5,000.

Now, a critic, trying to get around the force of this coincidence, might point out that Luke gives out both the location of the miracle, and in Luke 10:13, Jesus’s pronouncement was on Chorazin and Bethsaida. Might Matthew have simply copied form Luke, forgetting to include the reference to Bethsaida? Most scholars, traditional and liberal, think Matthew did not use Luke’s Gospel at all in writing his own. No one, not even an honest and observant eyewitness, can report every event in complete detail. So, the alternative hypothesis of chance and legendary elaboration does not really explain the coincidence at all. And modern scholarship makes the copying hypothesis very unlikely. The best explanation is Matthew was simply reporting facts, as he knew they had occurred.

2. Why does Jesus address Philip in the feeding of the 5,000?

In John 6:5 , Jesus is preparing to feed the 5,000. He turns to Philip and asks: Therefore, Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him said to Philip, „Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?” Philip is a minor figure in the Gospels. After the calling of the disciples, Jesus addresses Philip directly only once, that we hear of. Why then, does Jesus ask this question of Philip? Why not Peter, James, or John, who are much more prominent figures? Why not Judas, who kept the money? Presumably, when John told the story, he wasn’t concerned with the reason Jesus chose Philip. But, if someone were forging the story as fiction, crafting a legend, he would have a literary reason for selecting a particular disciple as a character in his fictional narrative. Accordingly, a fabricator of fiction would not select a character without making the reason clear to the audience.

So, why did Jesus choose Philip? John’s Gospel does not really say why. Keep in mind that we just learned in the previous undesigned coincidence that the miracle took place in Bethsaida- Luke 9:10. Then turn to John 12:20-21. Here is Jesus teaching and some Greeks approach and want to speak with him, asking permission from Jesus’s disciples. Now, casually, in the course of reporting the request, John remarks, „Now, there were certain Greeks among those that were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'”  

Now, here is a remarkable, interlocking  of the 2 passages in John and Luke-  BECAUSE PHILIP WAS FROM BETHSAIDA! (John 6:1-13; Luke 9:12-17: Matthew 11:21)There’s no other way that this could be explained, as having one of the authors copying from the other. John does not tell us where the miracle took place, and Luke never mentions Philip. And the coincidence is too tight and clear for a chance of a legendary elaboration to be a plausible explanation. (6:06) But, putting the 3 passages together, we find that they interlock, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This is what real history looks like. It has a ring of truth.

3. 

Two passages in Mark give us the setup for our third undesigned coincidence. In Mark 6:31, we find a reference to large crowds of people, so large and pressing, that they force Jesus and the disciples to withdraw. „And He said to them, ” Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) This passage sets the stage for the feeding of the 5,000. A little time later, Mark gives us another vivid description of the scene: Mark 6:39 „And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.” Two questions arise form these passages.

  1. Why should there have been particularly large crowds, just then? We are entitled to demand an answer with the evidence of the historic faithfulness of the narrative, if we could find one. 
  2. It is a bit odd that the grass should be described as green. In Palestine, there’s only a short growing season. After that, dry heat turns the grass brown, and it remains brown throughout the summer.

But, in John’s description of this setting, for this same miracle, we find the detail that explains both of these facts. John 6:4 reads: „Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” At Passover each year, thousands of Jews travelled each year to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. That would definitely explain why a Galilean town would be unusually crowded at the time. As it happens, Passover falls every year, in the middle of the year’s growing season, when the grass would be lush and green. John doesn’t mention the crowds or the green grass. Though he does note that there was much grass in that place, John 6:10. Mark doesn’t mention the season was Passover, but, putting the two accounts together, makes for an explanation that fits everything together. And, no other explanation does the job so well. This has a ring of true history.

Even skeptics believe that Gospels were written at different times and places. Where the accounts are obviously independent, the odds against some kind of subtle collusion are astronomical. The best explanation is that they were writing about something that actually occurred. This undesigned coincidence supports the historicity of all the different accounts. When we overlap the Gospels in this way, these undesigned coincidence provide evidence the Gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony of actual historical events.

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