Sunday, April 17, 2022

Death's Obituary - An Easter Sunday Meditation On Christ's Victory Over Death


1 Corinthians 15:54-57 "But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Jesus Christ won the cosmic battle, resulting in Death's obituary

       When one reads the above closing text of 1 Corinthians 15, it has the ring of an "obituary about death". Paul's whole point in 1 Corinthians 15 is to detail how we can know not only the historicity of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, but also its life-practical and eternal implications. When it is all said and done, what Christ achieved on that first Easter morning not only had historical significance and life-changing power, but cosmic implications. When I say "cosmic", I mean the supernatural war that the kingdom of darkness has waged against God since Lucifer's cosmic rebellion in heaven at the near beginning of creation (see Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). Satan's introduction of sin to Adam and Eve, and their compliance to his temptation, resulted in curse, sin and death on the whole physical creation (see Romans 5:12-21; 8:20-25). 

         Would Death have the final word? So it would seem. One population statistic I read of years ago suggests that over 12 billion human beings have lived on our planet since its creation. All human beings since Adam have faced death in one way or another and lost. Yes, we can note of course two exceptions in the Old Testament in which God directly took Enoch to Heaven (Genesis 5:24) and the prophet Elijah to Heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:12). Nevertheless, God forestalled what otherwise would had been Enoch's and Elijah's appointments with physical death (Hebrews 9:27). Death keeps its appointments. No one had ever died and came back by their own power, let alone experienced a physical transformation of their body as Jesus did. 

          God's curse on creation would result in death's seeming permanence. Old Testament prophecy predicted a time will come when death's universal pattern will be reversed (see Job 19:25-27; Daniel 12:1-3). Still, these prophecies indicate that such reversal would not happen until the end of history. Would death itself ever fail to take even one human being? 

           On Easter morning Death was dealt a major loss. Jesus Christ did not merely cheat death of a victory, He conquered it. Furthermore, His resurrection included the transformation of His physical body in the grave, meaning He would never die again. We see roughly half a dozen instances in the Bible where prophets, and even Christ Himself, would rescucitate people by bringing them back from the dead (Lazarus is the most famous of these in John 11). But eventually, Lazarus would die, since his body had not experienced the transformation to glory and immortality that accompanies resurrection. Jesus on the otherhand experienced this glorious transformation. As Sovereign God in human flesh, Jesus took the end of history and inserted it into the middle of this present age by His resurrection from the dead. Death lost! Christ will never die again! He is risen! What this means is the beginning of the reversal of Death's dominion, as described by Paul's term for Jesus as being the "first fruits" of such a reversal (see 1 Corinthians 15:20,23). Every Christ-follower looks forward to the day when they will experience a resurrection of their own from the dead or, if still alive at Christ's appearing, be taken up into Heaven with their bodies transformed like Enoch and Elijah (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

         In thinking on what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, the thought came to mind concerning "death's obituary". It appears Paul had in mind the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 25:8-9 

"He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

      What Jesus achieved on that first Easter morning made Him the first to conquer death! We certainly find evidence of Christ's victory over death issuing forth on that first Easter morning, as found in Luke 24:1-8 

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8 And they remembered His words."

        Such words ought to always be remembered by Christ-followers everywhere when faced with doubt, fear or worry. As I prayed about what it must had been like on that first Easter morning, as well as what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, this theme of "Death's Obituary" kept coming up in my heart. So, I shared this thought with my wife, and what she wrote below goes wonderfully with what Paul seems to be communicating in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. I close today's post with her wonderful piece entitled: "Death's Obituary".

Death's Obituary - By Debi Smith

Death, formerly from the region of Hades, died on Easter morning surrounded by legions of stunned and terrified demons. Death lived a long life. Some of His biggest claims to fame included scaring and immobilizing people from living; killing people that thought they had tomorrow; and separating people from loved ones until Death decided it was there time as well. Death leaves behind no one to mourn him. There will be no services, but there will be a celebration held at a later date when Jesus Christ comes back to claim His followers. At that time, there will be a burial as Death will be cast into the lake of fire never to be seen again. In lieu of flowers or donations, we ask that everyone seek the Lord while He may be found and embrace eternal life."

Saturday, April 16, 2022

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.


       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 what is historically known in the Christian Church as "Holy Saturday". Central to this post is the notion that Jesus proclaimed victory over the powers of Hell. Furthermore, once Jesus declared 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. 

A reminder about the mystery of Christ's incarnation.

         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 mystery of the incarnation reminds us that the Eternal Person of the Son came to take unto Himself true humanity (see Matthew 1:21-23; John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 10:5-7). As He ever remained truly "God with us", He came to be also "man for us" (see Matthew 1:21-23; John 1:14; Romans 1:1-3; 9:4-5; Titus 2:11-13). As truly God, the Person of the Son retained eternal perfections such as omnipresence, omniscience, and the inability to die. As truly man, the Person of the Son experienced the limitations that come with being man, including being in one place at a time (locality, Luke 2:49; Philippians 2:5-7), finite knowledge (Matthew 24:36), and the ability to die (mortality, Mark 10:45; John 10:11). In this post, the focus rests upon all Jesus would experience as "man for our sakes", reminding the reader that whenever we speak about Him, we distinguish between who He remained to be as "God with us" and "man for us".

Holy Saturday is all about "rest" and "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 here 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, that is, 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, 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 achieved. 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 Good Friday and the work of Holy Saturday pointed to what would be the great victory of Easter Sunday. 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

Friday, April 15, 2022

How Good Friday Made Possible The Great Day Of Christ's Soon Return: A Good Friday Meditation


        Good Friday is called “Good Friday” because the eternal goodness of God Himself was on display to conquer the darkness and evil of sin. In this post I want to take Paul's instructions on the Lord's Supper as a means of preparing our minds for Good Friday. Think of this post today as  reflections that lead the mind and heart to anticipate all that Good Friday expresses. Furthermore, we will see how focusing upon the cross points believers ahead to Christ's second coming. John writes in Revelation 1:7 of how the Lord Jesus Christ is coming soon and will have the nail-pierced marks, even in His glorified state, 

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen."

Salvation accomplished and salvation applied.

We read these words in Romans 5:8-9 

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."

        When theologians speak of the cross of Christ, they subdivide what took place into two main branches: “redemption accomplished” and “redemption applied”. The first of these speak of what Jesus achieved as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. The latter subdivision describes the Holy Spirit's application of the accomplished work of Christ explained in the book of Acts and New Testament Letters. "Salvation Applied" begins at regeneration in saving faith, through progressive growth in sanctification, to glorification which follows upon the believer's death. The cross of Christ, Good Friday, set in motion the wonder of Christ’s string of victories. Good Friday would lead to Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday looked ahead to Christ’s ascension. Christ’s ascension would be proved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to begin the church in Acts. It is then from Pentecost to now we look forward to Jesus’ return. The simple diagram below summarizes what Jesus achieved and will achieve upon His return:


How the crown of thorns would point the way to the crowned King of Kings at His return

       For the Christian, the cross is our focal point that enables us to look forward to Jesus’ return (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Several New Testament passages tie together what Jesus achieved in the His first coming to what He will accomplish at His second coming. I'll cite two fine examples of this linkage between the cross and second coming. Paul writes in Titus 2:13-14 

"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." 

        The author of Hebrews in Hebrews 9:27-28 connects for us the cross to Christ’s return: 

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (28) so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." 

Jesus gave His church the Lord's Table to recall and prepare in the time between His two comings 

        Furthermore, Jesus Himself gave to His church a wonderful means of strengthening the Christian's faith in which we can focus on the cross while looking forward to His return – the Lord’s Table.  One author has noted that the possessive appelation "Lord's" (that is, as seen in the phrases "Lord's Table" in 1 Corinthians 11:21 and "Lord's Day" in Revelation 1:10) speaks to His Lordship as declared following His resurrection. 

        We see proof of this observation from what Peter states in his inaugural sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:36

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 

        Paul’s admonitions and instructions to a struggling church served to refocus it on the cross so that it could become once again excited about Christ’s return. Clearly there are points here for us to consider. I'll list three of these rather broadly and then expound upon them below.

1. What happens when we’re not focused on the cross.   1 Corinthians 11:17-22

2. How to refocus on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.       1 Corinthians 11:23-34

3. How focusing on the cross prepares the Christian for His return. 1 Corinthians 11:26-34

      So then, let's observe these three in more detail.

1. What happens when we’re not focused on the cross.   1 Corinthians 11:17-22

          We can notice two consequences that follow when churches and Christians lose focus of the cross: loss of unity and loss of focus.

*Loss of unity.          11:17-19

          The church at Corinth was a struggling church. In as much as it struggled with moral and doctrinal divisions, Paul tells us that God's Providence sovereignly allows His church to battle with challenges at every level. We know that in the realm of God's morally revealed will (that is, the Bible, see Deuteronomy 29:29), such errors and sins conflict with what He tells us in His Word (see 1 John 3:4). Yet we know too that no trial comes to any Christian apart from the Sovereign unrevealed will of the Savior (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7). We may not grasp how these two general areas of God's will work together, yet we know that in the final analysis there are no contradictions in the will of God. Moses writes in Deuteronomy 8:3 

"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." 

          When churches face such seasons like what we read of in Corinth, it can prompt God's people to pursue the unity for which Jesus prayed for in John 17. Unity in the body of Christ is preserved by prayer, purity of doctrine, and practice. Typically, when unity slides, it begins with loss of prayer, followed by practice. The cross and the Word is what keeps it all together. So we see loss of unity as one of the by-products.  Now notice the second effect....

*Loss of focus.          11:20-22

           When we lose focus on the Master, we end up going through the motions. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-21 we read:

"Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk."

What an awful scene we find at Corinth! Squabbling! Drunkedness! Excesses at the communion table. The activities were so egregious that Paul tells us that what they were doing was not worthy of the name "Lord's Supper". Truly when we lose focus on Christ, we lose sight of what the church is to be all about. So, focusing on the cross enables the church to maintain unity and focus as she looks ahead to Christ's return. Good Friday is the only way the Great return of Christ will be a reality. 

2. How to refocus on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.       1 Corinthians 11:23-34

          Since every Christian (myself included) are inept apart from the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the life of the church itself, we can see why Jesus prescribed the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Theologians sometimes speak of Baptism and the Lord's Supper as "ordinances" to describe anything commanded by Christ in the Gospels, preached by the Apostles in Acts, and expounded in the New Testament letters. Since this is Good Friday, the Lord's Supper is appropriate for our consideration, since it explicitly refocuses God's people on the cross and drives them to look forward to Christ's return. 



        The Lord has prescribed the Lord’s supper for our periodic practice to strengthen our focus of faith. The name “Lord’s Supper” is used by Paul in 1 Cor 11:20. To illustrate, I consider God’s prescription of His Word and the ordinances like a monorail train. When we lived in Florida, we could witness these trains in action, especially at Disney World. The monorail has main tires or wheels which rest upon a singular beam or track. Then the train may have a dozen or so smaller wheels on each side of the beam to stabilize the train as it travels. I liken this set- up to how our Lord designed His church. The preaching of God’s Word represents the main wheels, traveling upon the beam of the cross, with the stabilizing wheels representing Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  What the Lord's Supper does is enable recall, re-examination, and reallignment.

*Recall the cross in the Lord’s Supper. 11:23-26

        This recall is done by praying through the Scriptures. We could offer several examples of Scriptures that recall for us the "redemption accomplished" by Jesus, however two examples will suffice. Paul writes in Romans 5:6-8 

"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."

      Similarly, Peter records these words in 1 Peter 3:18

"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."

*Re-examine your heart at the Lord’s table.  11:27-31

        The Lord's Table is the prescribed method for God's people as a corporate church to examine their heart attitudes toward Christ, others, and themselves. This principle of "self-examination" is found in both testaments. David writes for instance in Psalm 139:23-24 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way." 

         One question I find helpful is this: from the last time I partook of the Lord’s supper, is there anyone in the church with whom I’ve had dispute or with whom I hold contempt. We have no right to hold grudges against one another as believers. Why? Because we discover that for the Christian, their life is not their own. For example, we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

          We read similar sentiments concerning how Christians have no right to "hold a grudge" in Colossians 3:13 "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."

*Reallign with fellow believers around the Lord’s table. 11:32-34 

          As Paul rounds out His discussion of the Lord's Table, he notes how careful Christian must be in their treatment of each other. This carries the same tone we find from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25:40,

"The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

3. How focusing on the cross prepares the Christian for His return. 1 Corinthians 11:26-34

         As we draw this post to a conclusion, let me briefly mention three ways focusing on the cross increases our preparation for Christ's return by tying into what we looked at in the last point on the Lord's Supper. Firstly, focusing on the cross...

*Increases our desire for His return.  11:26

*Increases our devotion until His returns.  11:32

*Increases our duty to one another until He returns. 11:33

           Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." To celebrate the Lord's Table peridoically gives Christians repeated chances to recall the cross and refocus on looking foreward to Jesus' return. As the three sub-points above indicate, our desire, devotion, and duty toward one another is proportioned by how much we focus on the cross. As I have already noted, Jesus prescribed the ordinance of the Lord's table to aid Christians in such pursuits. The Spirit and preaching of the Word work together to convert sinners and sanctify saints. The Lord's Table stabilizes the Christian in their individual and corporate life of faith with other Christians. Paul expresses how sick and, in some cases, mortally ill those at Corinth became as a result of not properly regarding one another nor their approach to the Lord's Table.  Though God's discipline may seem severe, yet He is ever at work in the Christian life to present His people "faultless and blameless" at His appearing (see Ephesians 5:22-26; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3). May we who observe all Jesus achieved on Good Friday remember that the guarantee of His soon return was paid for by what He guaranteed would be applied to the Christian by the Holy Spirit because of His accomplished redemption on the cross. May we never lose focus on the cross.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Introducing Maundy Thursday: Jesus' Great Commandment For Christians To Love One Another


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."


         For those Christian fellowships that follow closely 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"? John 13:34-35 records these words of Jesus:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

        Whenever one reads the ancient translation of the Bible called "The Latin Vulgate", the first two words of John 13:34-35 gives us the name our holiday in question, "Mandatum novum" = "New commandment". Thus the whole point of this day is to remind the Christian of the necessity to love the Lord Jesus and to love one another. 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, let me make some important disclaimers. In all fairness, it is good to avoid emphasizing form over the substance or truth of the scripture. With that important thought of avoiding the route of becoming legalistic and ritualistic, the other ditch to avoid is ignorance. That is to say, ignorance about what previous generations of Christians did to apply the scriptures and live them out. 

      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 in effect 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 how observances like "Maundy Thursday" can benefit the Christian as we continue to insist on the important doctrine of "sola scriptura" (Scripture alone, referring to the unique and sufficient authority of Scripture). 

The Main Points Of Maundy Thursday

        As noted already, "Maundy" refers to a particular commandment of love Jesus issued to His disciples and all Christians on the eve of His crucifixion. 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.

The humility of Jesus' love.

        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, can be a powerful symbolic action of communicating the devotion of Christ-like service and love Christians ought to have for each other. 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?" 

Jesus' love in willingly going to the cross.

         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 (see Psalm 113:6-8). 

       The fact God would even choose to create the world was an act of condescension 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 in the Person of the Son (see Philippians 2:5-11).

The love of Jesus' shown in the Lord's supper.

          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

Christians ought to love looking for the 2nd coming.

         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. 

Christian love is rooted in what Jesus did on the cross.

        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 threshold 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.