Saturday, March 31, 2018

What Did Jesus Do Between His Death And Resurrection? A Holy Saturday Meditation

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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.


I was asked a rather interesting question the other day regarding what Jesus did between the time He died until He raised from the dead. This post aims to answer this question. The question concerning what Jesus did between His crucifixion and resurrection is relevant to "Holy Saturday", since Christ's alleged proclamation of victory over the powers of Hell and His presentation of His once and for all sacrifice for sin took place in that short interval between His death and resurrection.

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

As aforementioned, 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. 

Over 2,000 years ago, Christ's physical body laid at "rest" in the tomb whilst 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 inbetween 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 action. 

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.
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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What Happened On That First Easter Morning? The Historical Case For Jesus' Resurrection

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Matthew 28:6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying."


What Happened on that first Easter morning? This key question will be the focus of today's post. In this particular post, I aim to present the case for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Many people may not realize that in addition to being the central article of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ also occupies a place in the realm of historical investigation. What follows below is a standard way of historically approaching the question about what happened on Easter morning. Think of what follows as more of an outline than a comprehensive treatment. It is hoped that this post aids those wanting to go further in their understanding of the events surrounding Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Some good resources to consider

Before we get underway, let me point the reader to reputable websites that specialize in the subject of Christ's resurrection from the dead. The websites feature key defenders of the Christian faith to whom I'm indebted in gathering together a working outline for presenting the case that presents the proposal: "God raised Jesus from the dead":




In addition to the above websites, some great books are available that can help readers begin their journey in studying this subject. Other topics related to defending the Christian faith are also included in the following resources:

1. “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?”, William L. Craig 

2. “On Guard”, William L. Craig

3. “Case For Easter”, Lee Strobel

Knowing and showing that Jesus raised from the dead. 

a. When I say “knowing”, I mean in the words of the hymn: 

“You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart”. 

This first way of understanding what occurred on that first Easter is reliable and is how all people arrive at a certainty of what took place. This way of “knowing” the risen Christ is obtained with or without “showing” the event to be the case. Most people in the world don’t have time nor access to the resources that one would utilize in historical research. Coming to Jesus Christ by faith is how people arrive at the certainty that Jesus raised from the dead. Whenever we engage in presenting a case like the one outlined below, it can be viewed as a "second-line of defense". The New Testament heartily supports this experiential understanding of the risen Christ for the believer. Phil. 3:10-11 

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 

b. When I say “showing”, I mean presenting the historical case that demonstrates that the premise: “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of what happened on Easter Morning. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only an article of faith, but also a historical fact. Thus, what follows in this post will focus mainly on “showing” how Jesus’ resurrection is a genuine event of history. 

How we can show that Christ’s resurrection from the dead was a historical event. 

To do this, we need to:

a. First express the facts surrounding the resurrection. 

b. Secondly, list the criteria used in judging which explanation of the facts best explains “what happened”. 

c. Thirdly, the typical explanations of those facts (naturalistic explanations and the one supernatural proposal: “God raised Jesus from the dead”). 

d. Then lastly, why the proposal: “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of the facts. The Christian can readily affirm that "dead men don't rise naturally from the dead". However, in proposing that God raised Jesus from the dead, we are stating that the only way a resurrection could be brought about is by a supernatural, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God as referenced by Jesus Himself. When skeptics refuse to allow the possibility of the miraculous, the objection raised is not historical, but rather philosophical in nature. Including a supernatural explanation (i.e. "God raised Jesus from the dead") in the survey of explanations for what happened on that first Easter morning is part of the historical investigative process. Once we conclude the historical case, the post will then close with a brief appeal on how one can “know” the risen Christ by faith for themselves. 

What are the facts surrounding the resurrection event?

a. What do we mean by “fact”? An event of the past that is multiply attested in several sources and which is viewed as such by most historians living today. Gary Habermas did a landmark study, surveying over 2,000 publications by scholars of all stripes written from 1975 to present. (Gary Habermas, “Experience of the Risen Jesus: The Foundational Historical Issue in the early proclamation of the resurrection,” Dialogue 25 (2006): 292.). 

Wherever there were at least 75% agreements, that counted as a “fact”. The facts we will look at today are shared among 90% (per Habermas’ reckoning).

b. What are the primary sources for Easter? When it comes to multiple attestation (i.e. multiple, independent sources), we possess several primary sources for these facts: Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; the materials particular to Matthew /Luke and 1 Corinthians 15:1-6. 

It must be noted that people must not dismiss these sources due to their being “in the Bible”. Before there was a gathering together of such sources into the bundle we call the “New Testament”, they were independently written. Although it is right for the Christian to rightly see these documents as inerrant scripture, historians approach them as reliable sources for the historical events surrounding the historical Jesus of the 1st century. 

Even non-believing historians regard the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15 as reliable sources, despite whatever their personal beliefs might be toward these documents. The only people that try to pass off the Gospels and Paul’s letters are internet skeptics or people not familiar with even a general sense of how historical research is done in New Testament studies.

c. Four main facts.  For the resurrection of Jesus, four facts emerge: 

i. honorable burial, 

ii. discovery of the empty tomb by women followers, 

iii. the sudden shift to faith by the disciples 

iv. Jesus’ post-mortem appearances.

What criteria are used when evaluating various explanations for the facts at hand?

a. It is one thing to list the facts, and have most everyone agree that these are the facts at hand. However, whenever it comes to how to explain “what happened”, the disagreements emerge. 

b. Historian C. Behan McCullagh, in his book: “Justifying Historical Descriptions” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), notes several criteria used by historians when investigating the best explanation for any event and its attendant facts. Just as a parent uses criteria to discern how to settle a recent set of events reported to them by their children, historians use standard criteria as well. The following derives from William L. Craig’s booklet: “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?”

i. Explanatory scope: How much of the evidence does the explanation or hypothesis explain better than its rivals.

ii. Explanatory power: Does the given explanation make the evidence more probable as having occurred than rival explanations

iii. Plausibility. How well does the given explanation fit with other known background beliefs of that time period.

iv. Least contrived. Whichever explanation of the facts adopts the fewest new beliefs apart from independent evidence is most likely the correct explanation.

v. Disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs. Whichever explanation can withstand the scrutiny of comparison with other well-established beliefs is the more probable explanation. 

vi. The best explanation meets the first five conditions so much better than its rival explanations, that there is little chance of the other rival explanations being the better candidate for telling “what happened”.

Naturalistic Explanations of Easter morning

When it comes to surveying the pool of naturalistic explanations of what happened on Easter, we can assess what are called: "full-tomb hypotheses" and "empty-tomb hypotheses". Naturalism is a philosophical view point that asserts that physical objects, physical laws or material properties are the only things that exist. For sake of space, I will briefly list the most popular naturalistic hypotheses with a sample of their weaknesses.  

a. Full Tomb Hypotheses: Explaining the events of Easter with a body in the tomb

i. Hallucination hypothesis = the disciples hallucinated the risen Christ. Doesn’t adequately explain post-mortem appearances. People that think they have seen a dead loved-one knows that the person is dead. The disciples' post-mortem visions of Jesus resulted in their message: "He is alive"! Hallucinations are individual experiences. The Gospel accounts and 1 Corinthians 15 record episodes where the post-resurrected Christ physically appeared to multiple people.

ii. Apparent death / mystery twin = Jesus switched with a look alike. Islam, Surah 4:157. Requires contrived beliefs (maybe a twin-brother, maybe they found a look-alike, they tricked guards, and so-forth). Doesn’t explain empty tomb nor post-mortem appearances.

iii. Visionary hypothesis = not a physical Jesus, but a “vision” only. Doesn’t explain how 500 people could see Him. Also, appearances are accompanied by physical phenomena. Doesn’t cover empty tomb.  

b. Empty Tomb Hypotheses: Explaining the events of Easter that include the empty tomb

i. Swoon Hypothesis = Jesus didn’t die, He fainted revived in the cool tomb. Doesn’t take seriously the brutality of crucifixion. Disconfirmed by what we know of crucifixion. 

ii. Conspiracy = disciples stole the body. Jewish leaders stole body. The Christian movement wouldn’t had gotten off the ground, disciples switch to faith is not explained. Jewish leaders could had ended movements by producing a body. They claim disciples stole body. 

iii. Hoax = Disciples lied. No one knowingly dies for a lie. Hoaxes fizzle out within a few years. 

iv. Wrong tomb.  The women followed. Joseph of Arimathea would not had been a Christian invention. The guards were situated at the tomb (Matthew 28:4). Pilate would had known where the tomb was, since he decreed for it to be sealed. These observations demonstrate, on historical grounds, that the location of the tomb was known by both followers and opponents of Jesus.  

Why the hypothesis: “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of the facts.

i. Explanatory scope: How much of the evidence does the explanation or hypothesis explain better than its rivals. It alone explains four main facts.

ii. Explanatory power: Does the given explanation make the evidence more probable as having occurred than rival explanations. It best handles the facts. Furthermore, all other naturalistic theories break down here.

iii. Plausibility. How well does the given explanation fit with other known background beliefs of that time period. Jewish beliefs of resurrection as physical. Early church’s beginnings.

iv. Least contrived. Whichever explanation of the facts adopts the fewest new beliefs apart from independent evidence is most likely the correct explanation. Only one extra belief is need: God exists.

v. Disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs. Whichever explanation can withstand the scrutiny of comparison with other well-established beliefs is the more probable explanation. Nothing precludes this. To say: “miracles are impossible” is not a historical objection, but a philosophical one.

vi. The best explanation meets the first five conditions so much better than its rival explanations, that there is little chance of the other rival explanations being the better candidate for telling “what happened”. This hypothesis best fulfills the first five criteria. 

Final appeal to place your trust in the risen Jesus, so that you can “know” that He lives.

In this post I have given an outline of how one may "show" that the proposal: "God raised Jesus from the dead" is the best explanation for answering the question: "what happened on that first Easter morning". However, just knowing "about" the resurrection is not enough to reconcile you to God. Christian salvation promises that one can personally know the risen Christ. John 17:3 reminds us: 

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

As we close out this post, let me briefly make the appeal for any reader that has never trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord to do so. The scriptures below explain how one can know for certain, by faith, that Jesus raised from the dead and how He can become Savior and Lord of their life.

Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are you saved through faith, this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast." 

Romans 10:8-10 "But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

You can know the risen Christ! Not just as having probably raised from the dead (that’s as far as reason will get you), but having certainty of Him having died on the cross and risen for you. As Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the certainty of things not seen." 

Monday, March 26, 2018

P2 - A Way To Prepare One's Heart And Mind For The Lord's Table

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Matthew 26:16-19 "Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover."


In our last post we began to think about how one may prepare their heart and mind for the reception of the Lord's table. We noted how we first need to consider the privilege of the cost of following Jesus. The Gospels record Jesus' final meal with His disciples. Prior to that meal was a the time devoted to preparation for it. If only we would take the time to prepare our hearts and minds in our daily walk with God; we would then avoid the tragedy of "going through the motions" that so much characterizes modern day Christianity. In today's post we will conclude with two other considerations of how one may prepare their heart and mind for the reception of the Lord's Table. 

Consider the provisions by Christ for the details of your life.
Matthew 26:18-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:10-13 

One remarkable feature of all four Gospel accounts on the time proceeding the Lord's supper with His disciples regards His meticulous knowledge of certain details leading up to that event. The first three Gospels lay stress upon Jesus' detailed instructions to His disciples regarding their preparation for the celebration of the Passover. An example is found in Matthew's record in Matthew 26:18-19

"And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover."

The other three Gospel account record similar instructions. Jesus knew details such as the particular room in which the New Covenant meal would take place and the individual whom the disciples would connect to make the arrangements. These observations serve to remind us that the Lord not only orchestrates time in general, but also the details in which He carries out His will in the lives of His people.

Throughout the narrative of the events leading up to our Lord's crucifixion, we primarily witness the actions of the man Jesus of Nazareth. However, it must also be recollected that He who ate the bread and drank the cup with His disciples was and ever remained truly God. Christ's meticulous knowledge of such incidental details (i.e. omniscience) points to the truth conveyed in the New Testament about Him as One Person that is truly God and truly man (see John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:9).

Understanding Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man causes the Christian to realize why Jesus is able to supply every need in their life. It is healthy to reflect back on how much the Lord has taken care of the Christian. Jesus promises to take care of physical needs (Luke 6:46); emotional needs (Matthew 11:28-30) and of course spiritual needs (John 10).

I find it helpful to reflect on how Jesus has taken care of every aspect of my own life between those times I celebrate the Lord's supper. The New Covenant meal centers around the taking in of the staples of nourishment (bread, fruit of the vine). Whenever the Christian partakes of these elements, the Holy Spirit impresses upon the believer just how much everything in life derives from the hand of Christ.

Thus, preparing for the Lord's Supper not only should include considering the privilege of the cost of following Jesus, but also how He provides for every need in life.

Confess your sins and praise Jesus for what He did for you.

Confession of sin is a major part of this covenant meal. Whenever Jesus and His disciples were getting underway in the institution of that inaugural meal, we find an interesting detail in Mark 14:17-19 -  

"When it was evening He came with the twelve. 18 As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?”

The heightened awareness of one's deficiencies in their spiritual walk is made acute at the Lord's Table. The time of Communion points us to Christ, reminding the Christian that Christ's righteousness not only covered their spiritual nakedness at conversion, but ever dons their imperfect practical righteousness in post-conversion. Anytime God's people gather together to celebrate the Lord's table, consideration of unconfessed sin or disruption of fellowship between believers over such things is crucial. Why? The Table of the Lord is not only a place of celebration for the church, but also of healing.

The disciples grieved over the prospect that one of them could betray Jesus. How often does the Christian exchange their love for Jesus for that momentary indulgence of personal sin? I have found that nothing brings to light my own personal need to confess my sin than when time approaches for the celebration of the Lord's supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Thankfully, whenever Jesus had revealed these words, we find Him then blessing the bread and then the fruit of the vine.

The provision for our forgiveness was already to go before the betrayal of sin. The Lord's supper portrays the provision for forgiveness. The provision for the healing of the soul. There might be times I come to the table with the shame of sins I committed since the last time I partook of those elements. However, the Lord's promise to forgive me of such sins at the instant I confess them is rooted in the finished work of the cross emblemized by the bread and the fruit of the vine (see 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).

Confession of sin ought to be a daily, if not moment-by-moment practice of every Christian. The Lord's table serves to reinforce the provision of God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The table of fellowship is predicated upon the restoration of such fellowship that is immediately granted upon confession of sins to the Bishop and Overseer of our souls - the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Peter 2:25). 

Closing thoughts

In these last two posts, we aimed to offer threes ways one can prepare their heart and mind for the partaking of the Lord's supper. We noted how there was ample preparation in the Gospel portrayals of Jesus' celebration of the New Covenant meal with His disciples. The following three suggestions were made:

1. Consider the privilege of the cost of following Jesus.

2. Consider the provisions by Christ for the details of your life.

3. Confess your sins and praise Jesus for what He did for you. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

P1 - A Way To Prepare One's Heart And Mind For The Lord's Table

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Matthew 26:17-20 "Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples."


Preparation. The meaning of the term "preparation" conveys "putting things into order" in anticipation of the main event at hand. Too often in my own Christian walk, I find little time spent in "quietness, stillness and preparation" for whatever God has planned to bring to my attention. The ancient Jews placed much emphasis upon "preparation". The spirituality of the Old and New Testament scriptures was not treated haphazardly. An prime example of this point is in how the Jews prepared for the Passover celebration.

To ready the heart and mind for the reception of the Passover was just as important as the actual event itself. A typical Jewish family would spend an entire year in advance. Central to the celebration of the Passover was the lamb. Lambs that were a year-old and without blemish were fit-candidates for selection by the family. Once the lamb was selected on the first day of the given Passover week (i.e. Sunday, further preparations were made to eventually roast the lamb per God's instructions to His people through Moses in Exodus 12.

Eventually, the Jews were commanded to travel far and wide to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Preparation focused one's intention and will on bringing pleasure to their Lord. The external rites associated with Passover and the later New Covenant meal of the Lord's Supper were Divinely given to order the interior lives of God's people. To neglect preparation of one's heart and mind in the things of God can lead to a later inability to digest later truths God wants to impart through His word.

What Jesus would do with His disciples in the institution of Lord's Table of communion entailed transferring the Passover celebration into the New Covenant meal for the church. Clearly this process required "preparation". To achieve this event, Jesus told his disciples to "prepare" a place where they would celebrate.

So how can one prepare for participating in the Lord's supper celebration? Let's offer one main point for today and focus on further thoughts in the next post.

Consider the privilege of the cost of following Jesus. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8  

Each of the four Gospels record Jesus' final meal with His disciples in the closing hours leading to His arrest, trials, tortures and crucifixion. Matthew, Mark and John record the event of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus. John 12:3 records the following details of Mary's act of devotion:

"Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."

Judas' negative reaction to her act reveals the costliness of what she did. The perfume itself was high quality. The fragrance that would suffuse that place would accompany our Lord in that final meal with His disciples, as well as His journey to the cross. No doubt what Mary did was of very great cost. The cost of preparation on her part bespeaks of the much greater cost paid for our salvation by the Lord Jesus. Jesus indicates that what Mary did was to prepare for His pending burial following His crucifixion, as expressed in Mark 14:8

"She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial."

Whenever any Christian is getting ready to celebrate the Lord's supper, they ought to carefully consider the privilege of the price paid to follow Jesus. Jesus Himself reminds His followers of how counting the cost and dying to oneself is at the heart of discipleship (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:23-24; 17:33; John 12:21-25). 

Too often Christians complain about inconveniences. The self-indulgence of our Western world is at odds with the call of Christ to "die to oneself". I frequently find myself wrangling with my flesh. The principle of "self", namely "me-in-me", imposes itself on that impulse to follow my Lord. Self must die daily. There is an extravagance expressed in Mary of Bethany's love for her Lord that is absent in so much of Christian living.

Sadly, we never experience an extravagance of love for Jesus until we are willingly or actively giving of ourselves to others for His sake. Jesus Himself commented that what Mary did would find itself expressed in the sharing of the Gospel. The fact we find her lavishing of love on our Lord in the Gospel records confirms this point. So, in preparing for the Lord's supper, one ought to consider the privilege of the cost of following Jesus.

More next time....

Friday, March 23, 2018

What is Palm Sunday? Four Reasons Palm Sunday Is Significant

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Matthew 21:1-3 "When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them,“Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”


I can recall as a child receiving little "palm branches" to take home after a Palm Sunday celebration in church. This upcoming weekend will mark the celebration of "Palm Sunday" by Christians throughout the world. What is Palm Sunday? Why is this coming Sunday important? Please note the following points...

1. Preparation. Matthew 21:1-3

Jesus was preparing for what would be the week leading up to His crucifixion. In the cycle of Jewish fesitivals, Passover Week was getting underway. The day in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey was the day the passover lambs were officially chosen by each Jewish family to begin preparation for what would be their slaughter by Thursday night of that week. 

This particular day was part of the original Passover liturgy instituted by Yahweh to the people through Moses in Exodus 12:3-6

"Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight."

The lamb was raised for an entire year and named by the family. At the time of the lamb's "selection", it was deemed "ready" for the Passover. Jesus came as "the Lamb of God" - i.e as the "Choice Lamb". He was prepared from before the foundation of the world by the Father (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6). The Son came willingly of His own accord (see Hebrews 10:5-7). and is described in passages such as 1 Corinthians 5:7 as the lamb of God. So Palm Sunday focuses our attention upon preparation to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. 

2. Prophetic Fulfillment. Matthew 21:4-5

Matthew records that when Jesus efforts of riding into Jerusalem were not random. The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would fit their profile of a political conqueror to overthrow Rome. Much of the 1st century Jewish expectation of Messiah was colored by the Jewish revolts led by the Maccabean brothers against the Seleucid armies in 168-165 b.c. According to the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees and the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, the Seleucids were led by a diabolical leader named Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus' schemes included trying to pervert Jewish worship. The Maccabean revolts not only withstood such attempts, but resulted in temporarily freeing Jerusalem from the tyranny of the Seleucids. Soon after this event, the Jews minted coins with Palm branches commemorating this event.

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By Jesus' day, many Jews were hoping to have a Messianic figure that would once more do away with the iron grip of their captors (in this instance, the Romans).

Jesus did not come to overthrow Rome. Instead, the purpose for Jesus' riding into Jerusalem was to fulfill prophecy. Zechariah 9:9, composed by Divine inspiration some 520 years prior to this event, is quoted by Matthew in Matthew 21:4-5 - 

"This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 'Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

Everything that Jesus did was not random nor accidental - but intentional. Even the riding of a donkey was to remind the people that He was the rightful "King of the Jews". The ancient practice of coronation of Israel's kings included them riding on mules (compare 1 Kings 1:38). Jesus was yielding Himself to His Father's will as He made His way to Calvary. So Palm Sunday is important due to how it prepares the heart for Jesus and prophetic fulfillment.

3. Presentation. Matthew 21:6-9

Just as those lambs were formally prepared, they were also presented. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey, He was presenting Himself as Israel's King. Many people in that scene were asking questions regarding Jesus' identity. One of the aims of Jesus' actions was to send a message to the Jewish leadership and to the nation - "here is your King". According to passages like Isaiah 53, He would be not only be the Lamb of God, but also a rejected Savior. This idea once again reminds us that when Jesus had rode through on that first "Palm Sunday", He was fulfilling prophecy. The people who were crying "Hosanna" would within a week's time shout "crucify Him." So notice the three reasons we've covered thus far pertaining to Palm Sunday's importance: preparation, prophetic fulfillment and presentation of Jesus to His people. Now lets consider one last reason why Palm Sunday is important. 

4. Passion. Matthew 21:10-11

Matthew 21:10-11 records -

"When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Once Jesus had rode into Jerusalem, it was His way of officially concluding the public ministry phase of His first coming and entering into what many theologians call His "passion" (from a Latin root meaning "suffering"). Luke's version includes the following detail of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem following His triumphal entry in Luke 19:41-44  

"When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it,42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, andthey will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Jesus' weeping was due to His foresight into what would be the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Readers can consult historic works such as Flavius Josephus (a first century Jewish Historian), who records the horrendous details of that sequence of events that were fulfilled as Jesus had predicted. Jesus' emotional anguish over the people rejecting God's plans and purposes through Him would get deeper by the end of the week. The emotional anguish would turn into physical agony on the cross. The physical and emotional agony would compound to spiritual agony that He would endure in His humanity while at the same time experiencing the anguish of the pains of sinbearing as the Divine Son. As the God/man, Jesus would passionately face crucifixion.

Praise be to God! The true triumph of the pending "holy week" would not lie ultimately in His riding into Jersualem, but rather in His death on the the cross and triumphal resurrection three days later outside the Holy City!

Closing thoughts:

So in today's post we have looked at four reasons why Palm Sunday is significant:

1. Preparation for worshipping Jesus
2. Prophetic fulfillment
3. Presentation of the King 
4. Passion week leading to crucifixion and then resurrection.