April 20, 2014

Holy Week: Sunday, Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter! I pray that on this day everyone, everywhere, may somehow or in some way understand the truth and beauty of the Good News of Jesus the Christ just a little bit better then they did yesterday, particularly in how it can radically change us and fill that gaping void within that only God can fill. Amen.

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“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” (Matthew 28:6 NLT, emphasis added)

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT, emphasis added)

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“And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Romans 6:4 NLT, emphasis added)

“[God says] no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow” (Isaiah 1:18 LB, emphasis added)

Check out this awesome video… 

xoxo,
Sam

April 19, 2014

Holy Week: Saturday

Today, in 33 A.D. would have been a dreadfully dark day. Surely the death of their King, Teacher, and Friend left the disciples devoid of hope. Scripture is plainly silent on the actions of Jesus’ friends, except for the women. Let’s take a look at what they did today:

“Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)

Some 2000 years later, we know that when the women go to anoint Jesus’ body, they find an empty tomb and a risen Christ. And this is cause to celebrate and sing. We often start Holy Week off with shouts of “Hosanna!” and wrap it up to the rise and fall of “Hallelujah” (think Handel’s “Messiah”).

As we prepare our hearts to worship our risen Lord, let’s take a look at what we’re really singing …. and why.

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word that combines ‘hallel‘ and ‘Yah‘.

Hallel is an exuberant, joyous expression of praise.
Yah is from the word YHWH, which is Yahweh or Jehovah.
Put together, Hallelujah means to exude praise to God. (It’s Greek counterpart is ‘Alleluia.’)

So, on this day before Easter when the world is dark and dim, we look to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our hearts are full of praise. Because He is a victor, not a victim, eternal life with God is our hope. And we’ll one day get to sing ‘Hallelujah’ face-to-face with our reigning King as His Bride. Look at John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 19 (emphasis added) for a beautiful example:

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After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”  And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
 the Almighty reigns.

For additional reading, check out Where Did Jesus Go on Saturday? on the Resurgence website.

Tomorrow is THE greatest, most powerful day in all of history! I hope you’re as excited and in awe of His Majesty as I am. See you back here tomorrow friends.

 

xoxo,
Sam

April 18, 2014

Holy Week: Why is Good Friday, Good?

We’ve reached the most pivotal point in history: Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. And while it might seem grim and downtrodden that our Savior has died, it is the greatest news ever!

“It is the worst and best of all human deaths. For on this tree he bears our sins in his body (1 Peter 2:24), ‘the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). And now it is finished. {From It is Finished by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger. Click here to read the rest.} And that friends is why Good Friday is GOOD!

Let’s follow Jesus’ steps this Good Friday through Scripture:

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After agonizing in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is betrayed by one of His closest friends… one of His disciples, Judas. It’s important to note that though this situation seems to speedily spiral out of control, every forthcoming event is in the hands of God and is played out according to His sovereign plan.

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” (Matthew 26:36-56)

Jesus, now arrested, is taken to a trial before the Sanhedrin (religious leaders of the day). Though it was still early morning (some time between 3 and 6 a.m.), and it was illegal for such trials to take place during the night, the proceedings continued. That day, Jesus had a religious trial before Jewish religious leaders, including Caiaphas; and he later also had a secular trial before the Roman leaders Pontius Pilate (twice) and Herod Antipas. Though Rome gave the people power to settle religious disputes, the people could not hand out death sentences, hence the religious leader’s fastidious demands of Pilate to charge Jesus as a criminal.

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Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward  and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’”  And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.  What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matthew 26:57-68, emphasis added)

Interesting to note is the foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection when the false witnesses speak of the Temple being destroyed and rebuilt. They did not understand that Jesus was referring to Himself.  Another point of interest is the high priest tearing his robe. This was forbidden except for when a high priest witnessed blasphemy. However, in this case, the tearing of the robe is a mockery of Truth and dramatized for the crowd as Jesus was not blaspheming God.

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Bound and abused, Jesus is delivered to Pilate for what will be His death sentence. Though not wanting to get involved in religious affairs, Pilate asks Jesus questions … yet Jesus remains silent. This fulfills the extraordinary prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 (see photo above).

Cornered by the religious leaders, Pilate relents and completes another part of God’s bigger plan to save the world. Pilate hands Jesus over to the Jews for crucifixion.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”  And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”  Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26, emphasis added)

And here we see Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men;  a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

And Isaiah 53:8, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living,  stricken for the transgression of my people?”

It is one thing to read about Jesus being beaten and abused, yet quite another to understand the severity. Not to be gruesome or gory, but grasping the gravity of the brutality endured can help us have a deeper gratitude and clearer picture of how much Christ paid for our sins. Having this wherewithal should draw our heart, mind and body back from sin when we are tempted.

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Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.  And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. (John 19:1-2, emphasis added)

I gave my back to those who strike,  and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face  from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6, emphasis added)

To note, flogging involved the use of a wooden handled whip with several leather strands attached. At the end of each strand was a shard of metal or bone. Victim’s wrists were tied high above their heads to a pole as their bare backs were laid open by the whip. Depending on the strength of the flogger, victim’s skin, muscles, or organs could be torn apart, and the victim could die.

I really appreciate this quote by John Stott: “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

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As Jesus hung on the cross, He continued to bring to pass the ultimate plan of God. Let’s look at several key Old Testament verses connected with New Testament passes about this Good Friday:

NT — > John 19:28-30, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”  A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.”
OT — > Psalm 69:21, “They gave me poison for food,  and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”

 

NT — > Matthew 27:35-36, “And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
OT — > Psalm 22:18, “…they divide my garments among them,  and for my clothing they cast lots.”

 

NT –> Matthew  27:39-44, “So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,  “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.
OT –> Psalm 22:7-8,  ”All who see me mock me;  they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;  let him rescue him, for he delights in him!””

 

NT –> Luke 23:32-34, “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
OT — > Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many  and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death  and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many,  and makes intercession for the transgressors.

 

NT –> John 19:31-37, “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.  So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.  But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.  For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (emphasis added)

OT — > Psalm 34:19-20, “He keeps all his bones;  not one of them is broken.”

OT — > Zechariah 12:10, “…when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…”

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And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 45:45-54)

I’d like to quote The MacArthur Study Bible here: “I.e. , the curtain that blocked the entrance to the Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:33; Heb. 9:3). The tearing of the veil signified that the way into God’s presence was now open to all through a new and living way (Heb. 10:19-22). The fact that it tore “from top to bottom showed that no man had split the veil. God did it.” (pg. 1414)

“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.”John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

And now, we wait in hope and expectation for our Risen Savior and Sunday! Come back tomorrow to continue our journey. 

xoxo,
Sam

April 17, 2014

Holy Week: Thursday

Hi there! Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground as we’ve walked with Jesus from Palm Sunday to today. Events unfolded on this day in 33 A.D. that would forever change the world. Let’s dive in …

1.) Passover: Jewish people observe Passover as a way to commemorate the time when God passed over their ancestor’s homes in Egypt, saving them from a deadly plague and subsequently freeing them from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12).

Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. (emphasis added)

Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover together with a meal, singing psalms, reading Scripture, and praying. During their meal, Jesus set aside the bread and wine and established what we now observe as Communion. Under the old covenant (think Israelites in the Old Testament) the only way to approach God was through a priest and an animal sacrifice (Exodus 24:6-8). The death of Christ on the cross abolished that practice and we are now under the new covenant. This means we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). He alone is our means of forgiveness … we don’t have to depend on any other man or animal for atonement. That’s beautiful and amazing, folks!

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Here is Jesus’ new command on communion:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:26-28emphasis added)

The NIV Life Application Study Bible says, “The celebration of Communion: (1) humbles us before God. We confess our sin and restate our need for Christ to guide us.

(2) reminds us that we are forgiven. We remember that his shed blood paid the price.

(3) expresses our oneness in Christ. We are unified in our faith.

(4) encourages us to recommit. We are reminded to pledge ourselves to serve him who died for us.”

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2.) Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet: Living in such a dusty region, it was not uncommon for servant’s to wash guest’s feet when they entered a home. But this act was reserved for the lowest, most menial servants … not the disciples, and certainly not the Christ. Or so the disciples thought as they argued over who was the greatest among them. In a beautiful act of humility, Jesus washed their feet, symbolizing the cleansing of sin that His death would have. Let’s take a look at Jesus’ words:

He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:4-17, emphasis added)

I like what John MacArthur says about Simon Peter’s zealous appeal to have more than his feet washed: “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated–atonement is complete at that point. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Phil. 3:8-9), but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Phil. 3:12-14).” (emphasis added)

Much more happened at what is commonly known as the Last Supper:

~Jesus reveals His knowledge of Judas’ impending betrayal.
~Jesus gives this beautiful command: “A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35, emphasis added).
~And Jesus predicts Peter will deny Christ three times, much to Peter’s dismay.

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3.) Jesus and His disciple go to the Garden of Gethsemane:  I am not one to pass the buck, so to speak. But I know when I have read a brilliant and thoroughly wonderful exegetical teaching. So …. rather than write about the eternity-changing events that took place in this garden myself, I will take your hand and lead you to Desiring God’s post, The Greatest Prayer in the World by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger.

This seriously is a not-to-be-missed reading that is stirring, moving, and oh so God glorifying. I sure do hope you’ll hop over to Desiring God to read it!

Thank you again so much for spending this week with me! Tomorrow is a BIG day. See you then.

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xoxo,
Sam