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

April 16, 2014

Holy Week: Wednesday

Welcome back faithful friends! We’re getting closer to Good Friday and Easter Sunday as we follow Jesus through this Holy Week as He lived it in 33 A.D.

The biblical account holds two of the most well-known stories of people who gave their all for Christ — just in completely opposite ways.

The first you may have heard of: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Though poor, she owned an expensive alabaster jar (this is a type of fine marble) filled with perfumed oil worth almost a year’s salary.  She could have dabbed it on Jesus, but in an act of absolute worship and adoration, Mary broke the jar and poured the costly oil on His head.

Though she probably wasn’t aware of the significance of her actions, Jesus was. When the disciples chastised Mary for what they deemed a foolish and careless act, Jesus rebuked them and foreshadowed His upcoming death.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-3, emphasis added)

Two other things of interest: first, Jesus was at the home of a leper, Simon, who is likely to have been healed by Jesus earlier in His ministry. I love this small, but significant, fact as it beautifully shows how Jesus heals and doesn’t hold our past against us!

Second, when referring to the poor, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15:11. His point isn’t to belittle the poor (remember the Parable of the Sheep and Goats?). Instead, He wants His disciples to understand the highest priority on earth is to worship Him. 

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The second person who gave his all that day was Judas Iscariot. 2000 years after his act, we still refer to a betrayer as a “Judas.” Not exactly what most want to go down in history for, huh?

Earlier in Matthew 26, the religious leaders huddled together to plot to kill Jesus. One man in particular is named: Caiaphas. Interesting to note is he was high priest and likely lined his pockets with the corrupt sales at the Temple. No doubt Jesus clearing the Temple on Monday enraged Caiaphas. Let’s look at Judas’ conversation with the religious leaders in Matthew 26:14-16.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests  and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (emphasis added)

Thirty pieces of silver in that day was the price of a slave (see Exodus 21:32). This tells us much about the contempt of the religious leaders toward Jesus; and the level of greed in Judas’ heart. Neither party thought much of Jesus and the price is considered an insult. The amount offered also fulfills the Old Testament prophecies:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,  who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)

 

Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. (Zechariah 11:12, emphasis added)

The second half of the prophecy in Zechariah is fulfilled when Judas changes his mind and returns the thirty pieces of silver to the high priests the day Jesus is condemned to die. The high priests consider this ‘blood money’ that is not fit to put back in the Temple’s coffers. (Only ironic as it was spent as ‘murder money in the first place!!) The priests use the silver to purchase a potter’s field as seen in Zechariah.

Judas, plagued with guilt, then commits suicide. Something his actions should cause us to think about is the difference between repentance and grief. Let’s take a look at what 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

And there we have it: two people Jesus encountered. Two who gave their all for Him, just in drastically different ways.

Additional Reading: Spy Wednesday on Desiring God

I hope you’ll join me here the rest of the week as we celebrate Passover, Good Friday and Easter Sunday! Thanks!

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xoxo,
Sam

April 15, 2014

Holy Week: Tuesday

Today in 33 A.D., Jesus took His disciples and the religious leaders of the day to school. It’s remarkable how much Jesus taught with so few words. There is much beauty in brevity.

Not only did Jesus’ teaching pack a punch, but it was thought-provoking, straight-forward, and applies to us today!

Rather than quoting portions of the biblical text today, I thought it’d be great to go through a brief summary of the parables Jesus taught on this Tuesday before His death on the cross. Please keep in mind there is so much more Jesus shared on this day (see Matthew 21-25). And what’s below are tee-tiny nutshells. They’re like summarizing the Grand Canyon by saying it’s full of big rocks and a river runs through it! But I hope your hunger for the Word is fed as we engage it with our hearts and minds. Here we go!

1.) Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32): A father asks his two sons to work his vineyard for him. One says ‘no,’ but later works the field. The second says ‘yes,’ but never works. This is symbolic of the religious leaders of that time claiming they obey God, but they do not follow His will.

How does this apply to us? It’s easy to want to appear ‘good’ and obedient to God, when we have no real intention of following His commands. In what areas could we grow in obedience?

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2.) Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46): A landowner leases his fields to tenants. After some time, he sends his servants and eventually his son to gather his portion of the harvest from the tenants. The tenants beat, stone and/or murder the servants and son. This parable is chock full of symbolism: God is the landowner; the field is Israel; the tenants are the religious leaders; the son is Jesus, the servants are His faithful prophets; and the other tenants are the Gentiles. The main theme is how God appealed over and over to His people to repent through His prophets, but they would not obey. Eventually He sent His Son, Jesus, who would die for our sins.

How Does This Apply to Us? God sent Jesus to us… how do we respond? Do we revile and reject OR embrace and give our all to Him?

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3.) Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14): 
A king prepares a wedding banquet for his son, but when the time to celebrate arrives, the invited guests fail to attend. Instead, when the king’s servants invite the guests, the guests go about their business, duties and some even kill the servants. The king avenges their deaths, and then sends more servants out to invite other guests. One guest shows up without the proper wedding attire and is thrown out.

Here, the wedding is compared to heaven. The initial guests invited are the Israelites, who reject God’s gift of His Son, Jesus. God then opens heaven up for all people who by faith accept Jesus as Lord. Those who die and stand before God without salvation are like the man who is thrown out (i.e. hell).

How Does This Apply to Us? God gives us opportunities to answer His call of salvation. Have we given Him lordship of our life? Do we put on the garment of righteousness and salvation or arrogantly don our own free will? (See Isaiah 61:10)

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4.) Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13):
Five wise and five foolish virgins (possibly bridesmaids) are waiting on the bridegroom to come. Historically, on the day of the wedding, the groom went to the bride’s house for the ceremony. After, they joyfully had a processional to the groom’s house for a feast. The virgins become sleepy as they await the groom and the oil in their lamps grows dim. However, the wise virgins brought extra oil with them, so when the groom appears, they refill their lamps and leave with the groom. However, the foolish virgins leave to buy replacement oil. By the time they make their purchase, it is too late to join the wedding feast.

How Does This Apply to Us? No one knows when Jesus will return, so it’s vital Christians are spiritually prepared as we joyfully and eagerly look for His coming. We cannot borrow anyone else’s relationship with Christ, but have to have our own. How? By bowing our will to God’s will, which will manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and a deep, abiding love for Jesus. (See Titus 2:11-14 as well).

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5.) Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30): 
A wealthy man entrusts his fortune to three stewards. He gives one man five talents (a form of money); one is given two talents; and the last is given one talent. He expects them to invest his wealth and earn a profit. The first two stewards do just that and make a 100 percent profit; the third man buries his talent and earns nothing. The wealthy man praises the profitable stewards and invites them into his joy. But the third man is punished.

How Does This Apply to Us? God gives each of a variety of resources to steward well, for His glory and honor. How are we spending our time, money, knowledge, and abilities to further His kingdom here on earth?

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6.) Parable of Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46): 
While this is a little different than the other parables, it is really important to take note of. One day we will all stand before Jesus and He will separate us as ‘sheep’ and ‘goats.’ Sheep represent those Christians who earnestly followed the commands of the Lord while on earth. Jesus includes the following in this parable: feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers; clothe those in need; look  after the sick and visit those in prison.  Goats represent those who claimed to know Christ, but did not obey these commands.

How Does This Apply to Us? Its’ one thing to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Christian.’ Yet it’s another thing to DO what Christ asks of us and to act like Him. Is this always easy? No. It requires us stewarding our ‘talents’ (see above parable) well and having our ‘lamps wicked’ (see parable of the ten virgins). How do our actions line up with this parable: are we sheep or goats?

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easter tuesday

 

Thanks for hanging out today! I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for another exciting day of loving God by learning His Word. Peace.

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xoxo,
Sam