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Thursday, April 15, 2021

P1 Introducing John Mark: Author Of The Second Gospel Who Fought To Know Jesus Better



Mark 14:48-52 "And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 50 And they all left Him and fled. 51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked."


Introduction:

    Whenever we turn to the Four Gospels of the New Testament, we discover their primary purpose is to persuade the entrusting of our life into the hands of Jesus. In today's post, I want to introduce you to a man who fought to know Jesus better - John Mark - whom we otherwise know as  "Mark", the author of the second Gospel. 

    To better understand the Gospel of Mark, we need to grasp how Jesus of Nazareth would impact the author himself. As we attempt this brief sketch of Mark's life in both the New Testament and church history, we shall glean lessons which pertain to the significance behind knowing Jesus better.

Mark is introduced as a man who knew about Jesus, but did not yet know Him in a personal, spiritual sense.

    In the opening passage above, I underlined a phrase which speaks of a certain young man fleeing from the scene of Jesus' betrayal and arrest on the eve of His crucifixion. The Expositor's Bible Commentary has this to say of the young man in question:

"Only Mark records this mysterious episode. The “young man” (v. 51) is not identified, but the consensus is that he is Mark. Why else would he insert such a trivial detail in so solemn a story? Was this Mark’s way of saying, “I was there”? Why he was there is not explained."

Later the commentary adds:

"Perhaps the main point of the story—and the reason Mark included it—was to show that the forsakenness of Jesus was total. Even this youth forsook him."

    John Mark was an interesting young man. His first name was of Hebrew origin (something like "Yohanan"), quite common in the first century Jewish world. His other name, "Mark", was a very common Greek name, "Markos". As to whether or not Jesus and the disciples actually held the last supper in Mark's boyhood home, one can only conjecture. Since we observe Mark fleeing from the scene of Jesus' arrest, some commentators have suggested a link between the upper room of the Lord's supper to that of Mark's boyhood home. That connection, though speculative and intriguing, is not near as important as to note how Mark is first encountered as within ear-shot of Jesus' arrest.

    This particular reminiscence by Mark about his "fleeing from the scene" of Jesus' arrest shows us how he knew about Jesus. Mark, like so many of those who first hear the Gospel, only know about Jesus. In cultures like the United States, the cultural memory of a Judeo-Christian worldview functions as a rapidly fading "low-frequency hum" in the background of our secular society. Sadly, the name of Jesus is nothing but a slur or curse word used by many people. Regardless of background or how much or little exposure one has to Jesus, whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, whatever is "known about Jesus" is immediately corrected.

    R.C. Sproul writes about Mark's appearance in Mark 14:51 as a portrait of a sinner in need of salvation:

"The motif of clothing and nakedness is at the heart of our understanding of redemption. Our own righteousness, we are told, is like rotten, filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only way any of us can stand in God's presence is to be stripped of those rags and then clothed afresh in the garments of Christ's righteousness. That is the Gospel. You and I can never stand in the presence of a holy God unless we are clothed from on high with a righteousness that is not our own." (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary on Mark, page 347).

    Mark knew about Jesus. What was needed was a spiritual transformation in which He would come to know Jesus.

Mark would go from "knowing about to Jesus" to "coming to know Jesus" in salvation.

    Following the events of Jesus' arrest, crucifixion and resurrection, another year would pass until we cross paths once again with John Mark in the New Testament. Acts 12:12 records a prayer meeting that gathered to pray for an incarcerated Apostle Peter. Luke, the author of the text in Acts, describes the prayer meeting scene:

"When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying."

    It is not long after Peter's release and later beginnings of the first missionary of the Apostle Paul that we then find Mark's involvement in the ministry of the Gospel. Acts 13:5 speaks of Mark (identified with his Hebrew name "John"):

"When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper."

Closing thoughts: Born again to know Jesus better

    John Mark had evidently had a conversion experience through saving faith in the risen Savior. The Apostle Paul's inclusion of Mark in that first missionary journey testifies to Mark's rapid growth in faith. Mark was likely not even twenty years of age. Youth, ambition, giftedness - all ingredients that are admired by many - resided within Mark. It would not take long until Mark would become a broken man. This man who "knew about Jesus" had come to know Him. 

    The Christ of history, space and time, whom He glimpsed arrested only a year prior, was now His Savior, Lord and treasure. The physically risen Lord, ascended into Heaven, would by His Holy Spirit wield His authority in Mark's life. Truly, the purpose of salvation is to know Jesus better (see Philippians 3:7-10; 2 Peter 3:18). As we shall see in the next post, John Mark would soon see that "knowing Jesus better" involves a fight of faith.

.....more next time


Thursday, April 8, 2021

How To Find Jesus In The Book Of Psalms


 

Luke 24:44 "Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Introduction:

    In today's post I want to introduce readers to the Book of Psalms - with particular focus upon how Jesus Himself is referenced among them. The Book of Psalms is essentially the ancient hymnbook of Israel. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Psalms is the first book in the third division of the Hebrew Bible called "Ketiviim", or what is known as "The Writings". Whenever Jesus appeared to His disciples in His post-mortem encounter with them on the road to Emmaus, He unpacked how the Hebrew Scriptures spoke concerning Himself. As the reader can note in the opening quotation from Luke 24:44, the three-fold division of the Hebrew Old Testament is enumerated - with "Psalms" representing what I just said about the "Ketiviim" or "Writings".  

    The Book of Psalms itself is a series of five collections of 150 songs in total. Each collection or "Book" is comprised of the following Psalms, arranged in a combination of chronological order and topical arrangement:

Book I = Psalms 1-41

Book II = Psalms 42-73

Book III = Psalms 74 - 89

Book IV = Psalms 90 - 106

Book V = Psalms 107 - 150

    Each "Book" begins with a headline Psalm and ends with a praise song to God (otherwise known as a doxology). The entire Book of Psalms itself (otherwise known as "The Psalter") begins with Psalms 1-2 functioning as "Pillar Psalms" for the whole collection. Whenever the reader arrives at Psalms 145-150, these appear to draw the Psalter to its conclusion and God-focused end. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 779, states the following in its introduction to the Book of Psalms:

"Of all the books in the Old Testament the Book of Psalms most vividly represents the faith of individuals in the Lord. The Psalms are the inspired responses of human hearts to God's revelation of Himself in law, history, and prophecy. Saints of all ages have appropriated this collection of prayers and praises in their public worship and private meditations."

    The Book of Psalms occupies the section of "Wisdom literature" in our English translations. Truly, it is appropriate to deem the Psalms as "wisdom literature". Wisdom refers to the God-given skill to relate to God and to others through a lifestyle that can lead in a Godward direction. The greatness of the Psalms lies in how widely varied they are in application across human experience. For instance, different types of Psalms are identified by scholars to express their contents and method of poetically connecting with the Lord or the human predicament:

1. Penitential or prayer Psalms, like Psalm 63.

2. Torah Psalms, which celebrate God's Word, such as Psalm 19 or 119.

3. Enthronement Psalms, which highlight the enthronement of the king in Jerusalem, such as Psalm 2. 

4. Imprecatory Psalms, which feature the author praying down curses against his enemies, as in Psalm 69.

5. Mourning Psalms, which detail a time of grief in the author's life, as in Psalm 42 or Psalm 43.

6. Confessional Psalms, in which the author is confessing their sins to God, as in Psalm 51.

7. Messianic Psalms, which, though closely related to enthronement Psalms, seem to focus attention on the (then) future Messiah as related to the throne of David in Jerusalem, as in Psalm 110.

8. Rejoicing Psalms, which focus attention on the worship of God, as in Psalm 150.

    There are several other categories, but the above gives a general sampling of how far-ranging the Psalms are. What I find very helpful is using the Psalms in times of prayer. Who, for instance, cannot miss seeing Christ in Psalm 23, or hearing His voice on the cross in Psalm 22? Psalm 110, quoted or alluded to over fifteen times in the New Testament, is a prime example of how the Psalms direct our focus upon the Triune God - and particularly the second Person of the Trinity - the Son of God Himself.

How the Psalms show us Jesus

    Whenever we read those particular Psalms that are referred to as "Messianic Psalms", we need to keep in mind a few principles that aid us in discerning the Person and work of Jesus. 

    First, we must pay attention to the immediate context of the Psalm. Most of the Psalms will contain "headings" which inform readers about the author and perhaps the situation in which the Psalm was written. Sometimes though, some Messianic Psalms may not have a heading - such as Psalm 2. Oftentimes, we know we are dealing with a Messianic Psalm whenever it contains the term "Messiah" or "Anointed One", which refers to King David or some other King on Jerusalem's throne in the immediate context. Often, the Messianic Psalms can "switch worlds" to an ultimate Messianic figure yet-future to the Psalm; a "Heavenly Figure" or some combination of the two. If we take Psalm 2, for instance, its context suggests the coronation and enthronement of David as king over all of Israel, yet, the Psalm then "switches worlds", speaking of some Heavenly figure that is referred to as "You are My Son, Today I have Begotten You" (Psalm 2:7).

    The second trait of a Messianic Psalm which tells us that we will likely link to Jesus is when that Psalm is quoted in the New Testament. If we consider Psalm 2 once again, Psalm 2:7 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in his sermon in Acts 13:33 and twice by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5. Now if we consider that Psalm 2 originally first described the enthronement and establishment of King David, coupled with it "switching worlds" to focus attention on a conversation between Yahweh and another whom He call "My Son", we can see then why Paul and the writer of Hebrews would connect Psalm 2 to the resurrection and eventual coronation of the ascended Jesus in Heaven. Also too, the identity of the "Heavenly Figure" in Psalm 2 is truly Divine, that is, the Person of the Son in Psalm 2 is truly God in the same sense as Yahweh who is addressing Him. Such observations "set-the-table" for the full revelation of the equality of the Father and Son in the New Testament and the full revelation of the Trinity itself.

    Thirdly, and lastly, the way we can see how a Messianic Psalm is pointing us to Jesus is in how it may very well relate to other Messianic Psalms. For example, if we take the two above criteria for identifying Jesus in the Messianic Psalms and consider this current criteria, we can observe how Hebrews 1 strings together several of these Psalms. For instance: Hebrews 1:5 quotes Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:9 cites Psalm 45:7; and then Hebrews 1:10-12 replicates Psalm 102:25-27. Whenever we see such a "string of pearls" with respect to the citation of one Messianic Psalm after another in affirming the person and work of Jesus in the New Testament, we know we are well within our rights to look for Jesus in that Psalm. 

    As I close out this post today, I want to simply list the Messianic Psalms in which we can see the Person and work of Jesus. Below the reader will note how each Messianic Psalm corresponds to at least six particular activities or fulfilled events in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Christ's eternal pre-existence: Psalm 102:26-28

2. Incarnation: Psalm 8:4-7; 40:5-7

3. Crucifixion: Psalm 22:1,19; 69:2,10; 109:25

4. Burial: Psalm 16:8-11

5. Ascension/Enthronement: Psalm 2:7; 16:10; 45:7; 102:26-28; 110:1,4

6. Second coming/reign on earth: Psalm 89:3-4,27-29,36-37; 110:1,4; 132:10-11,17

 



Saturday, April 3, 2021

Six Reasons Why The Resurrection Of Jesus Is Significant For Today


 

1 Corinthians 15:19-20 "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep."


Introduction:

       Happy resurrection Sunday! Below are some reflections on the significance of the Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. Notice the follow reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is the most important truth of Christianity, life and existence...

1. The resurrection provides the basis for truth, meaning and life's purpose

      To begin, the clearest statement found in the Bible on the significance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is found in 1 Corinthians 15:19-20a 

“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most pitied. (20) But now Christ has been raised from the dead…” All Christianity, and life and the entirety of existence rises or falls with this doctrinal and historical reality.

2. The resurrection is the only explanation for the beginnings and spread of Christianity

      The historical, physical, supernatural resurrection of Jesus from the dead and physical post-mortem appearances best explain why the disciples switched from skepticism to robust faith. Additionally, unless Jesus had physically resurrected from the dead and had made post-mortem appearances, the early church would not had begun.

3. The resurrection of Jesus is the power-source behind the preaching of the Bible

      Christian doctrine would be jeopardized (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) were it not for Jesus' resurrection. Christian preaching and the church itself would have no reason for being practiced if Christ had not risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Moreover, any ability to gain abiding hope in this present life must be abandoned if Jesus Christ had never risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 29-58). 

4. Jesus' resurrection is the basis for worship and adoration of God

       But praise be to God – Jesus has risen – and thus we serve a risen, exalted Savior! The existence, reality and identity of the true and living God of the Bible is verified by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4-11; Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 1:3). Jesus’ own Deity and true humanity are both verified by this event (John 10:17; Romans 1:1-3; Romans 9:5). Christ’s resurrection from the dead – deemed “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20b - guarantees the Christian’s future, glorified, transformed resurrection body at His return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16; 1 Corinthians 15:42-58). 

5. Jesus' resurrection validates the truth of the Bible

         Christ’s resurrection also paved the way with regards to the prophecies and predictions about the Old Testament saints in the resurrection of the righteous, of which Jesus' followers will have a part (Job 14:14; Daniel 12). The Kingdom of darkness and Satan himself stand condemned and defeated as a result of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12; Hebrews 2:11-14; 1 Peter 3:18-20). 

6. The resurrection of Jesus is relevant for the power to live the Christian life today

        To summarize – Jesus’ resurrection stands as the epicenter of Christian experience, doctrine, history, the present and future hope for all who trust in Him. The Bible makes the invitation for you, if you have not done so, to entrust your life to Jesus as your Savior, Lord and Treasure. Romans 10:9 states:

"If you will confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved". 

May all who read this have a wonderful Resurrection day!

Happy Holy Saturday - An Explanation Of What Jesus Did Between His Death And Resurrection


 

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.


Introduction:

       I was once asked a rather interesting question: "What Jesus did between the time He died until He raised from the dead?" This post aims to answer that question. The question concerning what Jesus did between His crucifixion and resurrection is relevant to "Holy Saturday". Central to this post is the notion that Jesus proclaimed victory over the powers of Hell. Furthermore, once Jesus exclaimed His triumph, He then presented His once and for all sacrifice for sin to the Father between His death and resurrection.

The significance of the Saturday the falls between "Good Friday" and "Easter Sunday"

       Today is the Saturday that lies between "Good Friday" and "Easter Sunday". This day, simply called "Holy Saturday", considers what all was potentially taking place during the interment of Jesus' body in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. In the book "Preaching through the Christian Year", an ancient practice of the early church is recounted: 

"In the ancient church, the tradition of the Easter Vigil played an important role. Catechumens (young converts to the Christian faith), after remaining awake and watchful throughout Saturday night, were baptized early on Easter morning and then joined the Christian community in Holy communion." 

        I'm sure some readers, for instance, can recall "Easter Sunrise Services" and other Christian traditions that urge the church to recall her central identity in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. As a boy, whenever our family would attend such sunrise services, the anticipation, the excitement, hung in the air. The great thing about Holy Saturday is the expectation that builds-up in the Christ-follower's heart as the look forward to Easter Sunday. 

         Over 2,000 years ago, Christ's physical body laid at "rest" in the tomb while He, in His immaterial soul, presented His accomplishment to the Father and proclaimed victory. The Apostle's Creed, an ancient confession of faith still recited by Christians the world-over, includes this phrase: 

"He was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell, on the third day He raised from the dead." 

       Christians historically have emphasized this major theme of "rest" for Holy Saturday. Such rest, both spiritually and otherwise, could only be achieved as a result of Christ finished work on the cross and what was (then) His pending resurrection. The work Jesus did in-between death and resurrection cemented together the victory of the cross and what would be His victory over death. It honestly comforts me to think of how helpless the powers of darkness were in preventing Christ from these decisive actions. 

        Robert Webber in his book: Ancient Future Time", comments on Holy Saturday in regards to the theme of "rest":

"Saturday is a day of rest and preparation for the great service of resurrection. It is a day to keep silence, to fast, to pray, to identify with Jesus in the tomb, and to prepare for the great resurrection feast."2

          So with the twin themes of "rest" and "victory", Holy Saturday gets the Christian ready for the glory of the resurrection that is central to Easter Sunday. What follows from hereon is an attempt to draw together the New Testament testimony of what Jesus did.

Stitching together the New Testament passages that reference Christ's proclamation of victory between that first Good Friday and Easter Sunday

         The four Gospels detail the events of Christ's death, burial and resurrection.  The remainder of the New Testament (Acts, 21 Epistles and Revelation) unfold the meaning what He achieved.  The Apostle Peter in his first epistle aims to show how we as Christians ought to stand firm in God's grace (1 Peter 5:12). Peter's letter ties in our ability to stand in such grace to what Jesus Christ accomplished.  1 Peter 3:18-20 will act as our telescope to view the New Testament passages that reference the events of "Holy Saturday. To do this, we will consider the following two main thoughts about Christ's accomplished work:

A. The Purpose of Christ's Accomplished Work - reconciliation.  1 Peter 3:18

B. The Proclamation of Christ's Accomplished Work - Victory.  1 Peter 3:19-20

A. Purpose of Christ’s Victorious Work – Reconciliation 3:18 


i. What did He do? He died 

He died for sins.  As Dr. Danny Akin of South Western Baptist Theological Seminary once noted: "He lived the life I couldn't live and He died the death I should have died."

ii. Whom did He die for? The unjust 

Romans 5:6-8 states - "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 

         Jesus' death on behalf of sinners accomplished two necessary effects required for reconciliation with God. The first necessary effect was expiation or the removal of the cause of God's wrath upon us - our sin (Romans 5:10). The second effect had to do with propitiation - that is to say, the satisfaction of God's wrath (1 John 2:2). Below in the next thought (point "iii"), we see why expiation (taking away of sin) and propitiation (satisfying wrath) are necessary for reconciliation.


iii. Why did he die? To bring us to God (reconciliation) 

Dr. Michael Horton notes: 

"The result of God's wrath being satisfied is reconciliation. Just as we are first of all passive subjects of God's wrath when God propitiates, we are passive subjects of God's reconciliation at the cross.  We do not reconcile ourselves to God; God reconciles Himself to us and us to Him."3

iv. How did He do it? Death and resurrection

Christ's death, burial and resurrection are at the heart of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The New Testament mostly focuses upon Christ's death and resurrection.  However, what went on during the three days He was buried is not explained in near as much detail as the two book-ends of the Gospel: namely Christ's death and resurrection.  

         Death and Resurrection serve to explain how Christ accomplished what he accomplished. What He did in His burial (down below) reveals some of the behind (and under) the scenes work He did in insuring our ability to walk as believers in His Victorious work. 

B. Proclamation of Christ’s Victorious Work – Victory 3:19-20 

i. What did He do between His death &    resurrection? Proclaimed victory 3:19 

John MacArthur has perhaps explained this text better than just about everyone I've read or heard: 

"He was announcing, proclaiming (and) heralding a triumph. About what? It must be pretty obvious, about His triumph over sin, about His triumph over death, about His triumph over hell, about His triumph over demons, about His triumph over Satan." 4

ii. To whom did He proclaim His victory? The  demons reserved for judgment. 3:19-20 

         If we were to attempt to offer a faint outline of what Jesus did between His death and resurrection, we could maybe understand why He went to proclaim His victory to the demonic realm.  Much activity was done by Christ in this short-span of time. 

         First He went immediately into the presence of His Father by way of the Holy Spirit in his human spirit to present His once and for all sacrifice (Hebrew 9:15). 

          Next, He went down into those regions of hell where some of the demons (especially those who rebelled in Noah's day) are being reserved for judgment. 

          Thirdly, Christ would had released the Old Testament saints from the righteous realm of the dead (i.e. paradise) to lead the captives out to where they could come with Him to where the saints go in this age (Ephesians 4:8-11). Some have connected this particular event to when the saints came out of their tombs in Matthew 27:52-53.

          Fourthly, Christ's proclamation of victory insures that hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) as well as fulfilling the fact of His triumph over the demonic realm (Colossians 2:14-15). 

         Fifthly, Christ's resurrection from the dead meant He had completed His mission of proclamation and thus He arose as a victorious King, subduing all cosmic powers under Himself (Acts 2:24; 1 Peter 3:22).

iii. Why did he proclaim His victory? To  guarantee Christian victory 3:19-20 

         He did this to pave the way for what would be His ascension into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 4:7-10). 

iv. What was His victory over? Sin (1 Pet 3:18), hell 1 Pet 3:19-20; Col 2:11-12) grave (3:18,21b)

Revelation 1:4-5 states - 

"John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood".

Closing thoughts


As we draw this post to a close, let's remember our two main thoughts for today's post:

1. The Purpose of Christ's Accomplished Work - reconciliation. 1 Peter 3:18

2. The Proclamation of Christ's Accomplished Work - Victory. 1 Peter 3:19-20

        What Jesus accomplished was proclaimed by Him both in heaven and to the defeated demonic realm. Such activities provided grounds for which future generations of Christian could stand who by grace through faith trusted in Jesus. The cross of Friday and the work of Saturday pointed to what would be the great victory of that early Sunday Morning: He has risen! As Christians, we rest in these works of Jesus.

Endnotes:
1. Fred B. Craddock; John H. Hayes; Carl R. Holladay and Gene M. Tucker. Preaching Through the Christian Year - Part A. Trinity Press International. Harrisburg, PA. 1992. Page 227

2. Robert Webber. Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through The Christian Year." Baker Books. 2004.


2. Michael Horton. The Christian Faith - A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Zondervan. 2011. Page 500

Friday, April 2, 2021

Paid In Full - A Good Friday Meditation

Introduction

       Today is what Christians the world-over refer to as "Good Friday". At the church where I pastor, we annually celebrate Good Friday by having what is called "The Seven Sayings of Jesus from the Cross" service. One of the final words Jesus would express before breathing His last is recorded by John the Apostle in John 19:30 -

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. 

       In the underlying Greek text of this passage, the words, “It is finished” are one word: “tetelestai”. Moulton and Millgan’s Greek Lexicon, page 630, cites examples from ancient receipts where this word was used to express “payment in full”. Whenever Jesus uttered these words, what exactly was He claiming to have “paid in full”? The Gospels tells us about the events of cross and empty tomb. The Book of Acts contains the preaching of the cross and empty tomb. It is in the New Testament letters and Revelation that we find the meaning of the cross and empty tomb. What follows is a sample of all the benefits of salvation “paid in full” on the cross. As you read each verse below, note the underlined words.

1. Freedom from condemnation. 

Galatians 3:13 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”

2. Forgiveness of sins. 

Ephesians 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace."

3. Full pardon. 

Colossians 2:14 "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

4. Flourishing spiritual life. 

Titus 2:11-12 "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age."

5. Final defeat of Satan. 

Hebrews 2:14 "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."

6. Freedom to live for God. 

1 Peter 2:24 "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."

7. Forever adoption. 

Revelation 5:9 “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

When Jesus said those words, all of these, and more, were “paid in full”! Praise be to Him!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Introducing and explaining Maundy Thursday

 




John 13:1 "Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end."


Introduction:

      For those Christian fellowships that closely follow the Christian calendar, today marks what many call "Maundy Thursday". For many in non-liturgical church fellowships, such holy-days may not hold a lot of significance. The church that I serve at will be celebrating Good Friday tomorrow and of course Easter on Sunday. But what about this day called "Maundy Thursday"? Robert Webber has written a helpful book that explains the meaning of the Christian calendar and its associated days and observances entitled: "Ancient-Future Time". Webber notes the following about "Maundy Thursday":

"The term 'Maundy' derives its meaning from the Latin 'Maundatum Novum', which means "New Commandment". Thus, Maundy Thursday is the day Christ instituted the new commandment of love both by word and symbolic action."

       Now before I go on, an important disclaimer needs to be made. In all fairness, it is good to avoid emphasizing form over the substance with respect to the truth of the scripture. With that important thought of avoiding the route of becoming legalistic and ritualistic, the other ditch to avoid is having ignorance about what previous generations of Christians had done in their attempts to apply the scriptures. Scripture is the pattern, the standard and the authority by which any traditions are judged. If we find, on the same token, certain expressions that can immerse one in the Word of God and focus more on Jesus, then we have demonstrated the pattern of sifting our expression of worship through the Words of God in the Bible. This post is an attempt to better understand what can be a beneficial Christian observance while not removing Scripture from its rightful spot as the final authority on what we say, think and do.

The Main Points Of Maundy Thursday

       So we have at least a definition of what this day commemorates. In searching through various books that feature the various cycles and holy days of the Christian calendar, one finds that Maundy Thursday centers around what Jesus did on the Eve of His crucifixion in the upper room in John 13-17.

        In the standard Maundy Thursday celebration, the Pastor or Bishop (or whichever Christian leadership position is part of the given tradition) begins the service through a foot-washing ceremony. For non-liturgical fellowships (the term "liturgy" refers to a certain, prescribed way of expressing the worship of God by the church) that may not follow a formal route or structure, details such a foot-washing, reading of certain scriptures and other activities might seem unusual. 

       With that said, what can we say about foot-washing? Though foot-washing is not an official ordinance of the church, nonetheless, it can be a powerful symbolic action of communicating the need to serve one another. We read Jesus' closing remarks following the washing of the disciple's feet in John 13:12 

"So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?" 

        In think about what Maundy Thursday is all about, Jesus' question certainly is cause for pause: do we really know what He did for us? He came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). 

        In stooping down to wash the disciple's feet, the Lord Jesus Christ was re-enacting His own "stooping-down" as God in human flesh in the act of His incarnation. Amazingly, as truly God, He already expressed humility as a Divine attribute. The fact God would even choose to create the world was an act of condescension or "stooping down" on His part. Christ's incarnation, followed by His earthly life, ministry and death on the cross would carry out the most intense act of humility and condescension of God to us who are in need of Him (see Philippians 2:5-11).

         Maundy Thursday not only includes focus upon Christ's service to us in the act of foot washing, but also in the commemoration of the Lord's Supper. In typical fashion, reference will be made to God's institution of the Passover in Exodus 12. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper in John 13-17 and in the other Gospel accounts, He was fulfilling the imagery associated with the Lord's table. He prescribed this covenant meal for His church (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-27). Jesus, after all, is the ultimate "Passover Lamb" (see 1 Corinthians 5:7). 

Why Maundy Thursday Can Be Useful For The Christian

         As one considers the events of Jesus' final hours with His disciples before His crucifixion, we as His church are, as it were, in the "final hours" before the close of this age. The Lord's supper not only points back to what He achieved on the cross, but also looks forward to His soon return. Maundy Thursday is just as much about reminding Christians of their identification in Christ's second coming as what He did in His first coming. 

         Maundy Thursday also takes us into those final moments when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. I can recall years ago attending what was the only Maundy Thursday service I was ever at and a participant. A pastor friend of mine invited other pastors and the community to take part. Admittedly, he did some of the details differently. Nevertheless, he centered the time around Jesus' moments in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the service, each participant read some scripture, offered prayers and then we took up a collection to be given to a local mission in that town. When the service was done, I came to appreciate all that this particular day meant. 

        Jesus wrestled in the Garden with the temptation of by-passing the cross. He of course did not yield to such temptation, but instead aligned His sinless human will with what He and the Father had agreed upon in eternity with respect to the One, unified Divine will. In effect, Gethsemane was a thresh-hold Jesus chose to step over in order to express His unyielding allegiance and desire to do the Father's will. 

Closing Thoughts:

        As Maundy Thursday slips into the night hours, may we thank the Lord for what was a willing choice made in His humanity to yield to what had already been a decision made in eternity: to be the Savior of the World.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

How To Begin To Talk About And Defend Jesus' Resurrection And Why It Has Meaning For Today


Matthew 28:6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

Note to reader: I have included links to videos in this post which readers can click on and view to visualize what I have written in the post below.

Introduction:
    
      As we are a little more than one week away from celebrating Easter weekend, I felt it necessary to compose some posts which express the significance of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. No other event or Christian doctrine is more proclaimed, more attacked and more crucial than Christ's resurrection. We will first note four key areas of consideration when talking about the event of the empty tomb. Afterwards, we will then consider how three top "Christian apologists" or "defenders of the faith" handle the resurrection of Jesus in their communication of the Christian faith. Then lastly, we will consider why the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are crucial to connecting the Christian faith today to what followed from the empty tomb during that first Easter morning.

Four key areas involved in discussing the resurrection of Jesus from the dead

1. Jesus' burial

2. The empty tomb

3. Jesus' post resurrection appearances to His 
    followers

4. Changed lives of Jesus' followers

       Now why are the four above categories important? Whether one is a committed Christian or a skeptic, the four above areas are those which the majority New Testament scholars (whether conservative, non-conservative or skeptical alike) agree as those events which require explanation. It is one thing to find a majority consensus on "what happened". Yet, it is quite another matter when exploring the explanations for what happened. Readers may check out two videos which lay out the events associated with the empty tomb here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qhQRMhUK1o&t=26s and the explanations given for the empty tomb here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SbJ4p6WiZE Both videos together provide a compelling example of how one could present the historical argument for Jesus' resurrection. 

Explanations of what brought about the empty tomb, and the only one which show itself superior to all the others.

       There are only two sorts of explanations for the empty tomb on that first Easter. First, there are naturalistic explanations (examples being: Jesus fainted and was revived in the tomb; Jesus' body was stolen; a look-alike was placed on the cross; the disciples hallucinated; the location of the tomb was mis-identified). Then the second sort of explanations is the supernatural explanation (God raised Jesus from the dead). When anyone puts forth an explanation, the way to test each of these is to see which one explains the four facts above and which one outperforms the rival explanations. I won't go any further but to say the above summary is typical of how the event of Jesus' resurrection is approached as a historical event. 

What top Christian apologists or defenders of the Christian faith say about Jesus' resurrection from the dead

       Apologetics is that branch of Christian doctrine which expresses why a Christian believes what they believe and defends the Christian faith against common objections. Three top Christian Apologists today list the above four areas in their short list of what lies at the core of the Biblical narrative of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  I want the reader to note the last element in each of their listings, since the importance of Jesus' post-resurrected appearances will be discussed toward the end of this post.

       First, Josh McDowell in his book: "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" lists the following elements of what he calls "the resurrection scene":1

1. Jesus was dead
2. The tomb
3. The burial
4. The stone
5. The seal
6. The guard
7. The disciples
8. The post-resurrection appearances 

        The second Christian apologist, Liberty University Professor Gary Habermas, lists out a very similar short list in the argument he gives for the resurrection that he calls the "minimal facts argument":2

1. The burial
2. The empty tomb
3. Post resurrection appearances
4. Changed lives (especially of the Apostle Paul).

       Dr. Habermas' argument leans heavily on Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 15:1-10, noting that the material represents early information that takes the reader back to within a year after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  

       The third Christian Apologist who argues for the historicity and reliability of the resurrection accounts of Jesus Christ is Dr. William Lane Craig, a world renowned expert and debater who frequently engages with formidable opponents of the Christian faith.  In his presentations, I have heard Dr. Craig list in a similar fashion the following essential elements to the account of Jesus' resurrection from the dead:

1. The burial
2. The empty tomb
3. The post resurrection appearances
4. The changed lives of the disciples
5. The conversion of the Apostle Paul

The reader can check out Dr. Craig's material at www.reasonablefaith.com.

The one area among these elements that merits further focus and explanation: Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to various people.

         The particular matter of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, and how to explain the dramatic change in the disciples' lives will be reserved for the end of this post. For now, the reader should know that, in the last 30 years, academic scholarship has shown increasing interest in testing explanations for what took place on that first Easter morning. 

       For any Christian, the explanation or hypothesis: "God raised Jesus from the dead", not only represents the Biblical position but also has shown itself the most able to explain the four areas above and to consistently outperform its naturalistic rivals.  Exploring how the post resurrected Jesus radically changed the lives of his disciples in the wake of His resurrection, as well as how He is still changing lives today lends immense credibility to the truth of the resurrection narratives. 

What we observe in the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus

         Whenever we consider the four Gospel records, the Book of Acts and 1 Corinthians 15, we find a dozen episodes featuring Christ's post- resurrection appearances.  Furthermore, we find three common themes among them all:

1. Desperate condition of the people before 
    His appearances.

2. Direct encounter with the Risen Christ 
     during the appearances.

3. Dramatic change that resulted from the 
    appearances.

        Eight individuals or groups stand out in these post-resurrection appearance narratives, what we could call "post-resurrection profiles". 

1. Mary Magdalene
2. Peter
3. Emmaus Road Disciples
4. Thomas
5. The Disciples in general
6. Group of 500 people
7. James, the half brother of Jesus 
8. Paul

        In scanning over these eight people or groups, we discover that in each case, their lives before, during and after each post-resurrection appearance leads to the conclusion that Christ indeed not only raised from the dead, but is alive and operating among His people. Such post-resurrection power is the basis for the salvation and Christian growth of every Christian living today.

Closing thought

        The importance of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances cannot be over-estimated.  Not only is such a truth a vital component in communicating and defending the truth of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, but also is vital in explaining how Jesus is able to change lives today. In closing, this is why we come across such statements as 1 Peter 1:3. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 

      May we think on such truths and live our lives for the living, risen and exalted Jesus Christ!


Endnotes:
1. Josh McDowell. Evidence that Demands a Verdict - Volume 1. Here's Life Publishers. Page 189.

2. Dr. Habermas' minimal facts presentation can be found at the following link at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M