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

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

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?

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).

The Parables of Jesus Christ

Here is a handy list of all the parables that are actually named ‘Parables’ in the New testament by the Gospel writer. photo via http://thechurchsite.net/ For a complete list of Jesus’s 46 parables see list at the bottom of the article.

Mark 4:33-34

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, wrote in parables, such as the eagles and the vine (17:1-24) and the parable of the pot (24:1-14). The word parable in Hebrew מָשָׁל is present in both vignettes (17:2 and 24:3). A parable is a story that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The root meaning of the word parable means a placing side by side for the sake of comparison. A parable envisions the whole narrative to generate the spiritual message, whereas a proverb, metaphor, simile, or figure of speech focuses generally on a word, phrase or sentence. The Gospel writer identifies a narrative with a spiritual meaning by specifically calling the lesson a παραβολή (parable). At times the Gospel writer begins the story with the term like, as „The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).

The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Matthew relates ten Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, seven of which occur in Chapter 13 and are central to his Gospel. Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37); the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31); and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14) .

The word parable does not appear in the Gospel of John. The related word παροιμιαν (figure of speech) appears in 10:6 and refers to the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Jesus, by calling himself the Good Shepherd, recalls the imagery of Psalm 23, „The Lord is my Shepherd,” and the Prophets (Isaiah 40:1-11, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Ezekiel 34). By doing so, he fulfills Old Testament prophecy as he identifies himself as the Messiah. The word παροιμίαν also appears in John 16:25 and provides insight into the message of Jesus: „I have spoken to you in figures of speech; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but tell you plainly of the Father.”

The following chart lists the important parables of Jesus Christ.
This list primarily includes those parables specifically named as such by a Gospel writer. (Via source JesusChristSavior.net)

THE PARABLES OF JESUS
PARABLE MATTHEW MARK LUKE
The Speck and The Log 7:1-5 6:37-42
New Cloth on Old Garment 9:16-17 2:21-22 5:36-39
The Divided Kingdom 12:24-30 3:23-27 11:14-23
The Sower 13:1-23 4:1-20 8:4-15
The Growing Seed 4:26-29
The Rich Fool 12:16-21
The Barren Fig Tree 13:6-9
The Weeds Among the Wheat 13:24-30
The Mustard Seed 13:31-32 4:30-34 13:18-19
The Leaven 13:33-34 13:20-21
Hidden Treasure 13:44
Pearl of Great Price 13:45-46
The Net 13:47-50
The Good Samaritan 10:29-37
The Invited Guests 14:7-24
The Heart of Man 15:1-20 7:1-23
The Lost Sheep 18:10-14 15:1-7
The Prodigal Son 15:11-32
The Rich Man and Lazarus 16:19-31
The Persistent Widow 18:1-8
The Pharisee and The Publican 18:9-14
Laborers in the Vineyard 20:1-16
The Tenants 21:33-45 12:1-12 20:9-19
The Wedding Feast 22:1-14 14:15-24
The Fig Tree 24:32-44 13:28-37 21:29-33
The Faithful or Wicked Servant 24:45-51 12:35-48
The Ten Virgins 25:1-13
Ten Talents or Gold Coins 25:14-30 19:11-27

source JesusChristSavior.net photo below via parables.png

and here is the complete list

  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)
  • The Closed Door (Luke 13:24-30)
  • The Doorkeeper (Mark 13:33-37; cf. Matt 24:42)
  • The Thief in the Night and the Faithful Servants (Matthew 24:42-51.; Luke 12:32-48.)
  • The Strong Man Bound (Matt.12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21 f.)
  • The Divided Realm (Mark 3:24-26; Luke 11:17-20)
  • The Unoccupied House or The Demon’s Invasion (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26)
  • The Importunate Neighbor (Luke 11:5-8)
  • The Son’s Request (Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13)
  • The Unjust Judge or The Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8)
  • Master and Servant (Luke 17:7-10)
  • The Servant Entrusted with Authority or The Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46)
  • The Waiting Servants (Luke 12:35-38; Mark 13:33-37)
  • The Laborers in the Vineyard or The Generous Employer (Matt.20:1-16)
  • The Money in Trust or The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27)
  • The Lamp (Matt 5:14-16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16, 11:31) and The City Set on a Hill (Matt. 5:14b)
  • The Body’s Lamp (Matthew 6:22 f.; Luke 11:34-36)
  • The Discarded Salt (Matt 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34 f.)
  • The Patch and the Wineskins (Matt. 9:16 f.; Mark 2:21 f.; Luke 5:36-39)
  • The Householder’s Treasure (Matthew 13:52)
  • The Dishonest Steward (Luke 16:1-12) Revised!
  • The Defendant (Luke 12:58 f.; Matthew 5:25 f.)
  • The Unforgiving Official or The Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
  • The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
  • The Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16)
  • The Two Builders (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
  • The Two Debtors (Luke 7:41-43)
  • The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  • The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45 f.)
  • The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
  • The Prodigal Son or The Loving Father (Luke 15:11-32)
  • The Two Sons, The Apprentice Son, and The Slave and Son (Matthew 21:28-32; John 5:19-20a; John 3:35)
  • The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
  • The Lost Sheep (Matthew 28:12-14; Luke 15:4-7)
  • The Shepherd, the Thief, and the Doorkeeper (John 10:1-18)
  • The Doctor and the Sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5: 31 f.)
  • The Sulking Children or The Children in the Marketplace (Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35)
  • The Arrogant Guest (Luke 14:7-11)
  • The Bridegroom’s Friend (John 3:28)
  • The Bridegroom’s Attendants (Matt.9:15a; Mark 2:18 f.; Luke 5:34)
  • The Bride’s Girlfriends or Ten Virgins (Matt25:1-13)
  • The Tower Builder and The Warring King (Luke 14:28-32)
  • The Wedding Feast or The Unwilling Guests (Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24)
  • The Wedding Garment (Matthew 22:11-14)
  • The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)

David Platt – from Secret Church – Overview of the Synoptic Gospels

DAVID PLATT Sermon PAGE here

For more in depth study, also watch – Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

Note: This clip is not from the recent Good Friday Secret Church event 2013, but of an older one.

David Platt itickets.comFrom a Secret Church event, David Platt, Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, introduces Matthew, Mark, & Luke as the synoptic gospels & describes the characteristics that define each gospel message about the life of Jesus Christ.

Platt:

Three primary divisions:

  1. First of all as the story of the New Testament. About 60% of the New Testament is a story. It’s the first  5 books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, tell us the story of the New Testament.
  2. Second is the letters of the New Testament. Those are epistles, letters that are written, that help us understand the story that’s going on in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. Most of these letters are in context of what we see happening in Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 28. So you’ve got the stories of what’s happening, you’ve got the letters, and then
  3. The conclusion of the New Testament – Revelation, which is technically a letter, but is also a lot different.

There’s 2 categories in the New Testament:

1. The life and the ministry of Christ (from Matthew to John) 

All of these books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John unites them as if they were all written for the same primary purpose. They were written to show us a picture of Christ and the Gospel. I want you to hear this. These books were not written to be biographies of Jesus, that go chronologically through his life. Some of these Gospels are not arranged chronologically at all. They were written for the primary purpose to show Christ to the people that were listening to them. Why we see some differences, why we see some different stories told by some different authors is because, yeah, they were written for the same primary purpose, but, they’re written from different viewpoints and for different  audiences. These are four different guys, with four different personalities, different perspectives, talking to different people.

Now, I want you to think about how the audience is going to affect the way you write. We’ve got to realize that in order to understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of the people Matthew was writing to. Cause, whenever you communicate with someone, you take into account what they already know, you take into account what they already understand, and this is the challenge for us 2,000 years later, to put ourselves in the shoes of Matthew’s readers and to realize what was already in their frame of reference in order to understand why Matthew was doing this or that. That’s why New Testament Biblical study is more than just reading through the Bible. Not to minimize reading through the Bible, but in order to understand it, we’ve got to dive into what this meant to the people who heard it at that time.

2. The life and the ministry of the Church

..which is basically part 2 of Luke’s Gospel. So, Luke wrote both the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts (4:00)

matthew

1. Gospel of Matthew 

Matthew was a jewish tax collector. Isn’t this great? The way that the New Testament starts- that God would decide the first author should be a guy who is known and suspected for taking advantage of His people. The least likely candidate for writing the first book of the New Testament is Matthew. Aren’t you glad we have a God who doesn’t choose the most likely candidates, but He chooses the least likely candidates. Praise God that He has poured out His grace on those who can never begin to deserve it. We see that from the very beginning, in even the author here. He wrote it in the 70’s to 80’s A.D.  which meant that he wrote soon after the destruction of the  temple.

Now, this is important. What we’re gonna see is that Matthew, in his writing, is in a battle for the hearts and souls of Judaism. You’ve got Judaism, that’s gonna go one way or the other. It’s either gonna go the way of the Pharisees, or it’s gonna go the way of Christ. And he is urging Jewish christians , or those Jews who were thinking about coming to faith in Christ, he is urging them to follow Christ. That’s why he gives us this picture in this book, he wants the heart of Judaism to realize  that Judaism has been fulfilled in the picture of Jesus Christ. So, that’s why he writes this whole book. The primary theme is that Jesus is the king of the jews. From the very beginning he is pointing out over and over again the kingship of Jesus.

Practical advice for study: I wanna encourage you to  look for the focus on the kingdom of God, all throughout Matthew. When you read through this book, you’ll see either the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven mentioned over, and over again. You see this outline, this structure that’s here. It’s emphasizing the kit. What it does, Matthew does this; He puts a lot of emphasis on the teachings of Christ, and there are 5 major blocks of teaching in each one of these parts of this outline- and then his actions, which show the meanings of those teachings. So that’s what Matthew’s doing, he’s not arranging things chronologically, he’s helping highlight what Christ is teaching. Probably Christ’s most famous teaching, at the very beginning of Matthew, in the ministry of Christ – the sermon on the mount. It’s an emphasis on the teaching of Christ, throughout this book.

I want to encourage you, if you read Matthew, look up cross references. That’s when the Bible is making references to different points, allusions, quotations. There’s 129 references or allusions to 25 of the 39 Old Testament books. You see why surveying the Old Testament was important? Cause in order to read Matthew, we’ve got to know the Old Testament. 12 different times in this book he talks about how this was fulfilled, or that was fulfilled.All throughout the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, „It was fulfilled this, it was fulfilled that”- a strong link to the Old Testament.When reading about the teachings of Jesus remember to put yourselves in the hearers shows. We’ve got to get in the jewish mindset, in order to understand the book of Matthew.

mark

2. Gospel of Mark

This was written by John Mark, who was close to Peter. He wrote it between 65 and 70 A.D. So this was written before the fall of the temple. But, it was written during a time when there was a lot of insurrection between the Jewish people and the Roman empire over them. Obviously, if something is leading up to the battle in the temple, where the city of Jerusalem were going to be ravaged, that there’s some tension that leads up to that time. And so, Mark is writing to gentile christians that are in Rome suffering persecution. Mark’s writing to gentile christians in Rome who are suffering persecution. Obviously, there’s some conflict  between Rome and Judaism, christianity is this sect of Judaism, so to speak in some people’s eyes, and so, they are experiencing some major persecution in Rome, and he’s writing to them to encourage them.

Look at Mark 16, these believers are facing some very intense persecution, and many of them are wavering in their faith. When they start to get persecuted, they start to wonder: Is Christ real, should we really go on with this? Should we really move forward in our faith with Him? In Mark 16, you have the resurrection, and then look at verse 6. It says, „Don’t be alarmed”, this is a young man speaking to those who had come to the tomb, „Don’t be alarmed, you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they had laid Him. But, go, tell His disciples and Peter. He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you”.

If you are reading Mark for the first time, you are in a situation (where) you are tempted to read and be quiet, and not share your faith with anybody. Listen to where verse 8 leaves us, and this is that point where some people actually think the book of Mark stops. So let’s imagine if it does stop here. Verse 8- „Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled form the tomb, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” Now, what if the book stopped right there? You realize what kind of message that puts – what if the resurrection of Christ, nobody said anything because they were afraid? Mark is reminding us that this is something we must tell people. If it stops with us, then the resurrection of Christ is just a historical fact that doesn’t expand to the 2nd and 3rd century. But, praise God that the believers who read Mark did not walk away and say nothing to anyone. He wrote to these Jewish christians in Rome who were facing persecution.

The primary theme in the Book of Mark: Jesus is the suffering servant of God. We see suffering, over and over mentioned. We see the key verses there: Mark 8:31-38 is talking about the unexpected suffering, when Jesus told His disciples that He was going to experience suffering and Peter pulled Jesus aside and said, „Maybe you don’t know what you’re doing”. And Jesus said, „You don’t tell Me, I don’t know what I’m doing”. He says it pretty sternly.  And He says, „This is exactly what I’m doing”. All throughout Mark, you see what is called the Messianic secret. And this is a different point. Do you ever wonder why Jesus wanted to keep Himself a secret? As the demons start telling how He’s Jesus the Christ? And the demons recognize Him when nobody else does, and He’s like, „Shh, don’t tell anybody”. Or sometimes He heals people and He tells them, „Don’t tell anybody. Walk away, don’t say a thing”. Why is He doing that? Because He’s got a mission. He’s headed to the cross. It’s a much different mission than what everybody else had in mind for him. Everybody else’s agenda was to bring in Messiah, exalt Him, put Him up as king, and He’s gonna take Rome out. So, they were not expecting in any way this Messiah who was born to a girl named Mary. Raised in avery humble setting and then, least of all put on a cross. That’s not where the Messiah goes. So it made sense that people were not seeing Him as the Messiah. And so, when people did expose to that truth He said, „You wait, I’ve  got a mission that I’m on”.  So we see that over and over again.

Practical study advice: Keep up. Mark show Jesus constantly on the move – 41 times. If you ever think your life is busy, just pull out and read Mark chapter 1 and you’ll see a day in the life of Jesus. He starts preaching in the morning, finishes up the sermon there, and He goes home to some friends’ house,  the friend’s mom is sick so He heals her so she can get up and be a part of this afternoon, and then, all the town starts coming. And it says, the whole town lined up outside His door, to have demons cast out of them, to be healed of all their diseases, and so, all night He spent time healing everybody in the town. So, that’s one full day. The beauty of it is Mark 1:35 – Jesus got up very early in the morning and went to a solitary place, where He spent time with the Lord. That is the key. God help us to see Mark 1:35, that in the midst of a busy world, that we find ourselves in, that we go to a solitary place and that we spend time with the Father. Notice that almost 1/2 of his gospel is devoted to events of the last week of Jesus’s life. Overall structure, you see that based around the servant ministry.

Synoptic Gospels

basically, what synoptic means is to see together. And what we need to realize, when we come to the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar to each other. They see the life and ministry of Christ in a very similar way. John is sort of an oddball. The confusion, basically centers around a couple of different questions.

  1. Is Mark the primary source for Matthew and Luke? In other words, is Mark the anchor from which Matthew and Luke wrote? There’s some evidence that would seem to point to that. 97% of Mark’s words are in Matthew. Out of about 660 verses, 600 are there. If you’ve read Matthew, you’ve got Mark covered. Different perspectives, different things emphasized, but it’s pretty much Mark +  = Matthew. Then you’ve got Luke. 88% of Mark’s words are in Luke. Now, there’s another theory that there’s an unknown source. That there was a foundation for these books and they call that foundation Q. Well, we’re not sure. And obviously the life and ministry of Christ wasn’t confined to what Matthew, Mark, Luke was saying about it. But, the overall theme we need to realize is they do come together pretty clearly, those 3. Matthew Mark and Luke did not write their Gospels in isolation from one another. They were connected together. 

luke

The Gospel of Luke

Luke was written by Luke, a gentile physician, he’s the only gentile author of the Bible. But this idea that he’s a physician, let me show you something. Go with me to Mark 5. Now, if Mark was somewhat of a foundation, these books were written from different perspectives. Mark 5:25-28 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Jesus goes on to heal her. That’s the story that Mark gives. Now, go over to Luke 8 and hear Luke’s version of the story, and what I want you to see if there are any differences in what Mark said and Luke said. Luke 8:42 As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, Do you notice what Luke wrote that Mark did not? Mark said, „She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors”. So Luke takes this and tells the story- you don’t have to slam the doctors, and so you see that left out in Luke. Mark decides the detail is important, Luke decides, for his own reputation, maybe this is not gonna be included. So, you see the different personalities coming out in these different stories.

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?

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

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

2. His deity was declared by the Father

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

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

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

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

6. His deity was declared by his sinless life

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

7. His deity was declared by demons

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

8. His deity was declared by those who worshipped him

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

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

10. His deity was declared by himself

  • He referred to himself as the Son of God (John 9:35; 10:36; 11:4)

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

Bible 101: What’s in the New Testament

Gospel of St. Matthew, Great Bible, 1539. (Gutenberg archives) source here

By James-Michael Smith from Bible 101: What’s in the New Testament – National methodist | Examiner.com.

Most people know certain phrases or passages in the New Testament, but don’t have a good bird’s-eye-view of the whole thing.  Here is a quick overview of the 27 documents which make up the NT:

1. The Gospels

Matthew – The Gospel of Matthew is focused on showing Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT prophecies and depictions of the Messiah. The author is believed to be the disciple, Matthew, who was a former tax-collector whom Jesus called to follow him. Matthew’s Gospel is divided into 5 sections by large discourses given by Jesus. Some believe this is Matthew’s subtle attempt to offer an NT parallel of the Torah, the 5 books of Moses, thus depicting Jesus as the new Moses. Matthew chs. 5-7 comprise the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” The book contains a striking inclusio – it begins with the nations (represented by the astrologers from the east) coming to worship the King of the Jews and ends with the King of the Jews sending His followers out into all the nations to spread the message of His Gospel (a.k.a. the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20).

Mark – Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the 4 Gospels and many believe it was the first one written. The author is believed to be John Mark, who was Peter’s traveling companion. Mark is fast paced (note how many times the words “immediately” or “as soon as” appear throughout the book) and tells the basic message of Jesus. The most interesting feature of Mark’s Gospel is that it doesn’t include an account of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, as the other Gospels do. [Note: the KJV and other older translations include 16:9-20, however, this ending is not in the original and most reliable Greek manuscripts of Mark and are later additions. Most newer translations note this by offsetting the text in question in brackets or footnoting the information.]

Luke & Acts – The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts comprise one 2-volume work written by one of Paul’s traveling companions, Luke. Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and the rise of the early church and spreading of the Gospel message throughout the Mediterranean world are filled with historical details that only an eyewitness would likely know. Luke 15 contains the parable known as the Prodigal Son, one of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables. Acts contains the story of Saul’s conversion and being renamed Paul by the resurrected Jesus.

John – John’s Gospel was written for one reason: “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). John follows Jesus’ ministry, not chronologically like the others, but rather thematically. This Gospel is centered around 8 miracles performed by Jesus, six of which are only found in John. Chs. 14-17 comprise the “upper room discourse” where Jesus explains His purpose in being crucified and promises to send the Holy Spirit after His ascension. John’s Gospel, unlike the others, does not record a genealogy or birth narrative, a calling of the disciples, or parables.

2. Paul’s epistles

(Note: contrary to popular understanding, Paul’s letters are actually the earliest Christian documents and reflect the theology of the very earliest followers of Jesus.  One often hears that Paul came along and distorted the original message of Jesus and „invented” a new religion…however the historical facts do not support this theory at all.)

Romans – Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is seen as the most ‘theological’ of all his letters. Paul states his purpose in writing in the first chapter: “So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek…” (Romans 1:15-16). The rest of the letter follows this thought as Paul shows how God has revealed Himself to Jews and Gentiles alike in order to free them from the bondage of Sin.

1Corinthians – The church in Corinth was experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to a large degree. However, there were people in the church who were causing many problems because of their immaturity and sometimes, blatant sin. Paul writes to encourage the faithful, challenge the immature, and rebuke the sinful in Corinth. Most of the teachings on the gifts of the Spirit are found in this letter in chs. 12-14.

2Corinthians – Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth is a great example of Paul using rhetorical techniques such as irony and sarcasm to make his points. There were some among the Corinthians who were challenging Paul’s authority as an Apostle and claiming that because he was suffering so much, he surely couldn’t have divine approval. Paul uses heavy sarcasm in this letter, referring to himself repeatedly as “foolish” and his opponents as “super-apostles.”

Galatians – The churches in Galatia were wrestling with the issue of how non-Jews were to act in order to become Christians. There were some, known as the “Judaizers” who were pressuring Gentile believers to get circumcised and to obey the laws of the Torah before they could be considered true believers. Paul, himself a Pharisee of the highest pedigree, declares that to do this is to add something to what Jesus has already provided for salvation, and is therefore a mockery of the Gospel.

Ephesians – The phrase that dominates Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is “in Him” (or ‘in Christ’/ ‘in the Lord’). Paul shares with the Ephesian believers that since they have come to faith and have united themselves with Jesus, they share in His glory and have become the body of Christ. This is why he stresses how important it is to remain unified and to continue to abide in Christ rather than live in sin.

Philippians – Paul writes to the church at Philippi to encourage them by using the example of Jesus coming to earth as a model for humility and self-sacrifice. Paul tells them that though he has achieved much from a human perspective, it is all worthless when compared to the value of knowing Jesus. He encourages them to continue to run the race with perseverance.

Colossians – Paul writes to the church at Colosse in order to give them a true understanding of who Jesus really was—God in the flesh! False teachers were a constant source of danger to the churches and Paul wants the Colossian Christians to be aware of them and to be able to detect errors when it comes to claims about Jesus. Paul concludes by giving practical advice for the believers in their city and encourages them in prayer.

1Thessalonians – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church so Paul writes to them in order to give them assurance and guidance. One important topic for them was the return of Jesus—when would it take place? What about people who died before he returned? These are some of the questions Paul sought to answer in this letter.

2Thessalonians – Paul writes his second letter to the Thessalonians in order to comfort them to challenge them that though Jesus would return at some point, they were not to become idle in waiting for Him. Some had neglected their normal day-to-day life using the excuse that they were simply waiting on Jesus who would return at any moment. Paul challenges them to live responsibly and to continue to persevere in spite of persecution or suffering.

1Timothy – Paul’s two letters to Timothy as well as his letter to Titus are commonly referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles” because Paul is writing to two church leaders. In 1 Timothy, Paul gives the young leader guidance on how to oversee the ministry of the churches.

2Timothy – This is one of Paul’s final letters. He writes from prison in Rome to encourage Timothy to continue the work of the Gospel. This is Paul’s farewell letter to Timothy and is filled with passion and urgency as Paul seeks to pass the torch to his young friend.

Titus – Titus was a leader of the churches on the island of Crete. Like his first letter to Timothy, Paul’s letter to Titus gives him practical advice on how to lead and equip the churches so that they will grow in faith and avoid false doctrines.

Philemon – The letter to Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s letters—only 1 chapter! In it, Paul seeks to convince Philemon, a member of the Colossian church, to forgive his slave Onesimus and accept him as a brother in Christ rather than a slave—an incredible statement for Paul to make in an age when slavery was a cultural norm. Onesimus had fled from Philemon and somehow met Paul. Paul evidently led Onesimus to the Lord and was now sending him back to Philemon along with this letter so that they would be reconciled and so that Philemon could show the church that the Gospel transcends social categories and institutions.

3. The general epistles

Hebrews – The letter to the Hebrews is the only letter in the NT whose authorship is completely unknown. Some have attributed it to Paul, but this is only speculation. However, the message of the letter is definitely Apostolic. The author of Hebrews seeks to show how Jesus was the fulfillment of the OT priesthood and sacrificial system. Hebrews contains some of the strongest warnings against turning away from the Gospel message in the NT.

James – James was Jesus’ half brother and the leader of the church in Jerusalem—he’s not to be confused with James the disciple who was killed early in the book of Acts (also, Catholics believe Jesus’ mother, Mary, remained a virgin her entire life, therefore they believe James to either be Joseph’s son from a previous marriage or one of Jesus’ cousins). James’ letter is written to the church everywhere as an encouragement to endure persecution and to put into practice what Christians say they believe. James’ focus is on internal integrity being the mark of the true Christian’s life.

1Peter – Peter, like James, writes to Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire for the purpose of encouraging them to persevere in their faith despite persecution and hardship. Peter emphasizes the necessity of being God’s holy people, just as Israel has always been called to be.

2Peter – Peter’s final letter was written shortly before his execution in Rome. In this letter he writes to all the churches in order to send them a final warning to be on the lookout for false teachers and to be filled with knowledge of God so that they can expose such errors as they arise. Peter ends the letter with a final call to the church to live holy lives while awaiting the final judgment and to grow in grace and knowledge of God and His Word.

1John – According to early church tradition, the Apostle John was the last surviving Apostle and the only one to not be martyred for his faith (he was exiled to the island of Patmos instead!). 1John is believed to be his letter to all Christians, urging them to abide in Jesus (as per Jesus’ teaching in ch.15 of his Gospel) and to live lives of holy devotion while avoiding the false teaching that would eventually become known as gnosticism (the idea that true fellowship with God can be attained through secret knowledge or gnosis in Greek). 1John has been called the Letter of Love in the NT because the word ‘love’ appears 52 times in just 5 chapters. There is some doubt as to whether the author of 1, 2 and 3John is the same as the author of John’s Gospel (or whether the author is in fact the Apostle John or another elder in the early church since he is not named in these letters. It is equally possible that the author is an early Apostle, such as Lazarus).

2John – 2 John, like 1John, was written to encourage Christians in love and to warn against false teachers. The “Elect Lady and her Children” in v.1 is most likely a title for the local church to whom John is writing.

3John – 3John is a letter from John to Gaius commending him for his support of traveling ministers who spread the Gospel throughout the Roman empire.

Jude – Jude was the brother of James (the head of the Jerusalem church) and half-brother of Jesus. His letter is written to all Christians for the purpose of reminding them to keep on their guard against heresy or false teachings. Jude warns false teachers and apostates of the judgment that awaits them, should they continue to oppose and distort the Gospel.

4. Apocalyptic epistle

[Note: „Apocalyptic” is a genre of literature that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the end of the world, as the English word has come to mean.  The term literally means „unveiling” or „revealing.”  But apocalyptic writings often do look, envision things having to do with the culmination of history.]

Revelation – The most well known (and most misunderstood) book of the NT, Revelation, was written by John while he was in exile on Patmos. John has a vision from God of Jesus’ message to the churches throughout the Roman empire and then a vision of all of redemptive history as it began unfolding when Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection (chs.5ff). The genre of the book is Apocalyptic, whereby world events and spiritual realities are portrayed through symbols and epic stories. Though there have been many interpretations of Revelation, the main message can be summed as an encouragement to the early church to maintain their faithful witness in spite of persecution and temptation, and they will inherit the kingdom of God.

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Passion Week (F) Thursday – The divinity of Jesus and His prayer at Ghetsemane

(via) Justin Taylor from Gospel Coalition Holy Week: What Happened on Thursday?.

Holy Week: What Happened on Thursday?

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

Jesus instructs his disciples Peter and John to secure a large upper room in a house in Jerusalem and to prepare for the Passover meal

Matthew 26:17-19 Mark 14:12-16 Luke 22:7-13

In the evening Jesus eats the Passover meal with the Twelve, tells them of the coming betrayal, and institutes the Lord’s Supper

Mathew 26:20-29 Mark 14:17-23 Luke 22:14-30

After supper Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, interacts with them, and delivers the Upper Room Discourse

John 13:1-17:26

Jesus and the disciples sing a hymn together (probably from Psalms 113–118), then depart to the Mount of OlivesMatthew 26:30 Mark 14:26 Luke 22:39

Jesus foretells Peter’s denials

Jesus gives his disciples practical commands about supplies and provisions
Jesus and the disciples go to Gethsemane, where he struggles in prayer and they struggle to stay awake late into the night
Matthew 26:36-46 Mark 14:32-42 Luke 22:40-46

Here is an article by Stephen Witmer posted at the Gospel Coalition on Jesus in the garden of Ghetsemane and His divine nature. (Jesus and the Martyrs.)

Jesus and the Martyr

by Stephen Witmer

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:41-44).

In this passage, the eternal Son of God pleads with God the Father not to make him go to the cross, requires the help of an angel, and experiences great emotional upheaval in light of his approaching death. He is profoundly shaken. Early in church history, already in the second century, critics of Christianity were pointing to Jesus’ agonized prayer as reason to doubt that he was divine. The problem is heightened when we compare Jesus’ reaction in the face of death to other martyrs, ancient and modern, who appear to be more composed and able to face death with greater dignity than Jesus showed (see Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God for an insightful treatment of this). Here I provide three such examples.

Stephen Witmer gives examples of 3 ancient and modern cases of martyrdom where the men involved appear to face death with a calm dignity and contrasts it with Jesus’ agonizing prayer.

He concludes-

first, the Gospel writers had to be honest, to include such passages of struggling by Jesus and

second, ‘ What sets Jesus’ death apart from the death of any other person in the history of the world is the spiritual component of his suffering’.

We have an indication of that terrible spiritual reality in Luke 22:42: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” To what “cup” is Jesus referring?

We get an answer in the Old Testament. Psalm 75:6-8 uses the imagery of a cup to refer to God’s judgment upon his enemies:

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

Isaiah 51:17 makes explicit that the “cup” is the cup of God’s wrath: “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.”

The “cup” Jesus is going to drink on the cross is far worse than the horrific physical suffering of crucifixion he faces. Jesus’ “cup” is the infinite wrath and judgment of almighty God upon human sin. The wrath of God that Jesus will experience on the cross is, very literally, hell. On the cross, he will experience separation from God the Father. He will be cut off from God. He will be considered an enemy of God because our sins will be counted as his (2 Cor. 5:21).

This is why Jesus agonizes and struggles in the Garden—because he knows he will soon be crushed under the infinite weight of the wrath of God.

click here to read the entire article…

Dan Wallace – discovery of a Markan papyri fragment dating back to the first century and dialogue with Bart Ehrman

Dan Wallace writes that on 1 February 2012, as he debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today, mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year. (source Dallas Theological Seminary) The article continues:

These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.

It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.

Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel. Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.

Ehrman

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts. As an illustration: Suppose a papyrus had the word “the Lord” in one verse while all other manuscripts had the word “Jesus.” New Testament scholars would not adopt, and have not adopted, such a reading as authentic, precisely because we have such abundant evidence for the original wording in other manuscripts. But if an early papyrus had in another place “Simon” instead of “Peter,” and “Simon” was also found in other early and reliable manuscripts, it might persuade scholars that “Simon” is the authentic reading. In other words, the papyri have confirmedvarious readings as authentic in the past 116 years, but have not introducednew authentic readings. The original New Testament text is found somewhere in the manuscripts that have been known for quite some time.

These new papyri will no doubt continue that trend. But, if this Mark fragment is confirmed as from the first century, what a thrill it will be to have a manuscript that is dated within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection!

You can watch the Ehrman – Wallace debate in the video below:

Is The Original New Testament Lost?

:: A Dialogue with Dr. Bart Ehrman & Dr. Daniel Wallace

Uploaded by 

An evening of scholarly dialogue on the origins, the transmission, and the reliability of the New Testament. Do we have the original manuscripts? Can we trust the copies passed down to us? How accurate is our New Testament today? These questions and more were discussed by two top-tier NT scholars. Both Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Wallace presented their respective positions before opening the floor for a time of Q&A.

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

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

John Piper – How Are the Synoptics “Without Error”?

via desiringGod.org

Article One of Bethel’s “Affirmation of Faith” reads: “The Bible is. . . without errorin the original manuscripts.” There is a wide diversity of opinions about the meaning of “error” in such an affirmation. This is especially the case when the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are being considered.

I will suggest two definitions of “error,” the first of which I consider proper for judging the reliability of any literature including the Synoptics, and the second of which I consider improper. According to the first I believe the synoptics are “without error.”

  1. A writer is in error when the basic intention in his statements and admonitions, properly understood in their nearer and wider context, is not true. (In reference to the indicative statements, “true” means that obedience of these admonitions is in harmony with reality, i.e., it accords with the will of God.)
  2. A writer is in error if any of his individual statements is not literally true.

The difference between these two definitions and my own understanding of the truth of the synoptic gospels may be clarified by several illustrations from the texts.

First Illustration

Jesus says in Mark 4:31 that the Kingdom of God “is like a grain of mustard seed which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds of the earth. . .”

According to definition #2 above, Jesus erred here because the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on earth. But according to the first definition, he did not err because his basic intention was not in the least botanical. The point is the great contrast between the smallness of the seed and the largeness of the full-grown shrub. Jesus capitalized on the proverbial smallness of the mustard seed to make a perfect, inerrant point about the Kingdom of God.

Second Illustration

If we used definition #2 above, the Gospel writers would have to be accused of error in their chronology of the events of Jesus’ life. Just one illustration: The story of the healing of the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26), the call of Levi (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32), and the question about fasting (Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39) follow back to back in all three synoptics and so refer to the same events. Again, the stilling of the storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25) and the Gesarene demoniac (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39) follow back to back in all three synoptics so that with the verbal parallels one can see that the same sequence of events is being referred to in each Gospel. But Matthew has these last two events before the three cited above, while Mark and Luke have them after these three events. It cannot be both ways.

But the synoptics are not in error here according to the first definition above, because it was not their basic intention to give a rigid chronology of Jesus’ ministry (which Papias said already in the second century, cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 39,14ff). Their intention was rather to give a faithful representation of the essential features of Jesus’ teaching and deeds. In this particular instance, Matthew probably felt he could best do this by including the storm stilling and Gesarene demoniac scenes in his composition of chapters 8 and 9, where he has gathered ten miracle stories. This presentation of Jesus’ miracle working is then bracketed together with the Sermon of the Mount with the identical summary statements in 4:23 and 9:35. Thus we have a literary unit which beautifully and inerrantly sets forth the essential features of our Lord’s ministry.

The Long-Proved Tradition

These two illustrations could be multiplied and other kinds of problems could be discussed (like changes in Jesus’ words from one synoptic to another). But these may suffice at least for an introduction to my understanding of how the synoptics are “without error”.

I thus gladly align myself with the long-proved tradition: perfectio respectu finis (perfection with respect to purpose). I know no better statement of my own position on this matter than that of the Second Baptist Confession of 1677: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience. . .”

But I think just as important as agreeing with Affirmation 1 in detail is my deep commitment to the spirit of it. From history and from my own experience, I can say that it is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of the Bible. We humans are incapable of finding out what we need so much to know: how to overcome sin, to escape the wrath of God, to become new creatures, to walk pleasing to the Lord. God must reveal this to us or we perish. This he has done and continues to do by means of a written Word, the Bible. When a man has understood the Bible he has understood the revelation of God infallibly, inerrantly and verbally.

© Desiring God

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