Apr 132017
 

7lastwordsAs you probably know, my blog goes out every Friday and as we are currently in Easter week, I thought I would send one on a ‘Good Friday’ theme.

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I know we can celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection any time of the year, but I find this season a particularly good time to reflect and appreciate all that Jesus did for us. I have sent this out slightly early so that you can set some time aside from your busy schedule and just dwell again on this amazing event and these 7 short but not insignificant sentences uttered by Jesus at the lowest and most difficult point of His life, as He hung on the cross.

1. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The whole point of the cross was forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus was making a way for us to be forgiven by the father. Killing animals was never the ultimate plan. These sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus was now making. We could never save ourselves so God had to step in.

It was quite clear that no-one present grasped the enormity of what was happening, except Jesus himself. Jesus had stated plainly what He was going to do, but God veiled people’s minds, so that they couldn’t understand the significance of what was happening. Not even the Devil knew what was going on or he would have done everything in his power to stop it (1 Corinthians 2:8). No, he thought he was winning.

Just as on the road to Emmaus when the disciples eyes were suddenly opened and their hearts warmed, it would only be later that the revelation would come that what appeared to be the greatest defeat would actually be the greatest victory.

What amazes me is that God still forgives us even when we do know what we are doing. His grace is that amazing.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

2. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the religious leaders, the soldiers and especially by the two criminals who were being crucified with him. One of the criminals came to his senses though and started to realise that there was something amazing about this man being crucified with them and that He had actually done nothing wrong. After rebuking the other criminal he turned to Jesus and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus responded to this criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise, from the Greek word ‘paradeisos’, which means ‘garden’ was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. This was understood to be heaven when God would restore all things to how they were in the garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

When you think about it, this is an astounding statement from Jesus. This man doesn’t appear to have been a follower of Jesus, has not previously believed in Him, done no good works, hasn’t properly repented or been baptised. It is a troublesome verse for anyone trying to establish how people can be saved. Jesus, in his amazing grace and mercy, makes this man the first beneficiary of His impending sacrifice.

We need to leave the judgement of who gets saved, to God, we proclaim the good news, but it is only He who can see into people’s hearts and establish how genuine they are. I wonder how many surprises we will get in heaven when we see people who had shown no interest in God, reveal they had a ‘death bed experience’ or something similar.

3. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

As Jesus was dying, his mother and a few other women were the only ones brave enough to stick around while all but one of the disciples had fled. The solitary disciple is not named but it is believed to be John.

If you are a parent, can you imagine the horror of not just seeing your son die in front of you, but the manner in which He was dying? This man she had nursed and received amazing promises about was hanging in front of her; bruised, broken, torn to shreds and naked. What unspeakable horrors she was going through.

Even in this most agonising of moments, Jesus was making plans for the protection of His mother, He was doing His best to look after her. He was perfectly embodying the command in the law that said “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and this was just one of the many ways He did it. But He also, in this act, reveals further His humanity and compassion.

4. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Jesus knew His scriptures, He had been studying them since He was a boy. I’m sure He would have had the whole lot memorised. So it is no surprise that He should quote scripture, especially as it referred to all the events that were happening to Him. In this 4th sentence He quotes Psalm 22 as he references verses 1 & 2:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

Think of it, Jesus had enjoyed perfect fellowship with the father for all eternity. We will never fully comprehend what Jesus was going through at this moment, but it must have been more painful than all the physical torture He had been going through combined. From intimate and loving community to utter abandonment. But not just that, He was taking on the horror and filth of every heinous sin that had ever or would ever be committed. This from the man who had led a perfect, sin-free life, suddenly exposed to the horrors of mankind’s depravity.

Hanging there, Jesus was more alone than anyone has ever been. The weight of the world was literally on His shoulders. All for you and me. What love, what sacrifice!

5. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

The reference to fulfilling the scripture is probably from Psalm 69 where it says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21)

The process of crucifixion would have made Jesus extremely thirsty. He would have lost a lot of bodily fluid including; blood, sweat and tears. The soldiers did indeed give Jesus sour wine, a cheap beverage common among lower class people at that time.

It occurred to me that during Jesus’ ministry he has mentioned thirst twice and both in the context of coming to Him to quench that thirst. The first time was during his conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The second time is when Jesus stands up in the temple on the last day of the feast and proclaims;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In effect, He became thirsty physically so that we would never need to be thirsty spiritually. His sacrifice has forever quenched our thirst!

6. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

It is finished is 3 words in English and just one in Greek and is hugely significant in meaning. Jesus used the Greek word ‘Tetelestai’ which means ‘paid in full’. When a merchant at the market or wherever had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write “Tetelestai” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was “paid in full” The transaction is completed. Jesus was saying that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He has now paid the debt for our sin and we can now approach God the father free from condemnation. It means we can’t add anything to our salvation and we have security for all eternity. This one word reverberates through history and is probably the most significant word that anybody has ever spoken.

7. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

This is now Jesus’ third quote from the Psalms, it comes from Psalm 31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

It shows Jesus’ complete trust in the father. He has just felt completely abandoned when He takes on the weight of mankind’s sin, but He knows that once that has been dealt with the father is going to lift Him up and seat Him in the place of all power and place all things under His feet. Because He has been completely obedient, Jesus is going to receive full vindication. His mission has been accomplished. What a saviour!

Enjoy the rest of Easter.

 April 13, 2017  Posted by at 8:00 pm Easter, Good Friday No Responses »
Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness– God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God– we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family– God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 032015
 

Answering problems about the resurrection Last week we looked at a number of well attested facts about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This week we will now look at some traditional problems and objections people have put forward in the hope that they can debunk the resurrection story. There are 4 main ones that I have listed below

The wrong tomb

Some people have assumed that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If that was the case, then the disciples who went to check up on the women’s statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. This scenario is highly unlikely, but it is certain however, that the Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus’ body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there!

If the resurrection claim was just due to merely mistaking where the tomb was, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumours about the resurrection.

Hallucinations

Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Just as in the claim of the wrong tomb, it would have been easy enough for the body to be presented as evidence against the claim. Also as was stated last week, Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. Hallucinations don’t happen to that many people at the same time. Also, Jesus on other occasions ate with his disciples and allowed them to touch him.

The Swoon theory

Another popular explanation is that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, he merely swooned, fainting from exhaustion and loss of blood. This idea would not have been put forward at the time for anyone who would have witnessed the full barbarity of Roman crucifixion. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t have his legs broken because it was obvious He was dead, instead he had his heart pierced. You don’t survive after your heart is pierced. His crucifixion was carried out by professional Roman executioners who were very good at what they did. Also when he was taken off the cross he was wrapped in about 100 pounds of grave clothes (which would suffocate even a healthy person) and then laid in a freezing cold tomb. The fittest person in the world wouldn’t recover from that, especially in that state, rolling the stone away, overcoming the guards and then convincing his disciples he was alright really.

The body was stolen

We considered this a bit last week. It is impossible to think that the disciples who had fled from the living Jesus not 24 hours earlier and the leader of them, Peter, denying he knew Jesus to an insignificant slave girl, should suddenly muster up the courage to overcome professional Roman guards and then steal the body. If the religious leaders had stolen the body, they could have quickly produced the body when the disciples started claiming they had seen the risen Jesus. This would have stopped the disciples in their tracks and quashed the whole movement. The only other candidates would have been the Roman soldiers who had nothing to gain by doing it and everything to lose. If they had lost the body they would have been crucified themselves for failing in their duty.

If these four theories are the best excuses that people have been able to put forward in two thousand years, I think it is safe to say that we can be very confident of the facts of the resurrection. These are that Jesus was definitely killed, his dead body was wrapped and placed in a seal guarded tomb until Easter Sunday, when the tomb was found empty and shortly after Jesus was found to be alive. He had been resurrected.

On top of all that, the disciples were transformed men, they went from fearful people cowering in an upper room to fearless trailblazers who spread the message of the gospel across the whole world, laying down their lives as they did so.

But what does that mean for you dear reader?

It means that you have a decision to make, a decision that will transform the rest of your life. If Jesus did rise from the dead then everything he said about himself was true. His claim to be God himself was true, His claim to forgive sins was true and His offer to save all who repent of their sins and ask Him to be Lord of their lives was true.

So what are you waiting for? Good Friday would be a very good and appropriate day to make that decision.

 April 3, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 182014
 

The_Resurrection_And_The_LifeSometimes when people proclaim great names over themselves they have a hard time proving it. For instance, Muhammad Ali called himself “the greatest”. Now there is no doubting he was a very good boxer, but he did lose on quite a few occasions. When Jose Mourinho (the newly appointed Chelsea manager) labelled himself “the special one”, he did prove to be quite good, but has failed to conquer all before him and be really ‘special’.

When Jesus labelled Himself with a name He went on to prove Himself as well worthy of that name. Have you noticed how often, when Jesus says ‘I am’ something, He backs it up with hard evidence? When He said “I am the bread of life” He had just fed 5,000 men (probably up to 20,000 if you include women and children) with a few loaves and fish. When He said “I am the light of the world” He proceeded to bring sight to a man born blind. And when Jesus stated “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) He went on to demonstrate His mastery over death by raising Lazarus to life after being dead for 4 days.

Little did anyone realise as Lazarus was being unwrapped from his grave clothes that Jesus would further demonstrate His power over death in just a few months time, during these momentous days of the first Easter.

Eventually Good Friday would come, and even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave just a short time previously, they struggled to see how this dead body on Good Friday could raise itself from the dead. But this is the wonderful truth we celebrate at Easter.

Jesus Christ is alive and He has defeated death for all time. In the book of Revelation, John meets again the glorified, risen Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’”. (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus is The Life. He gives life to every living creature. Every one of us has breath in our bodies because He says so and when He allows it, that breath will be taken away from us.

If you are a Christian you have been transferred from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life.

Let’s expand today’s passage even further. After Jesus had declared He is the resurrection and the life He then says: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

You see, for the Christian, the sting of death has been completely taken away. Even though we will die physically, we will continue to live beyond this life. The New Testament on many occasions speaks of Christian death as falling asleep. I don’t know about you but I quite like falling asleep; there is certainly nothing to worry about. That is what Jesus has won for us and what He proved when He said He is “The resurrection and the life”. What a wonderful thing to celebrate this Easter!

 April 18, 2014  Posted by at 7:30 am Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Mar 292013
 

EasterI’m taking a short break from my series on ‘Law and Grace’ as we find ourselves in Easter week. I want to offer some thoughts at this very special time in the Christian calendar.

I love Easter week and I try to take some time aside to meditate and think again about what Jesus has done for us. It’s just the same when I am taking bread and wine; a moment to pause and wonder again at Christ’s sacrifice.

My thoughts this week are from Hebrews 12:2:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix our eyes on Jesus

What a good idea to fix our eyes on Jesus. It would seem the obvious thing to do wouldn’t it? But we get so easily distracted with the busyness of life, even church life, that we can forget about the centre of our faith. Our prize, our goal, is Jesus. He is the one we long for, the one we love, the one we want to please. Every week is about Him but especially this week when we remember His sacrifice.

He is our pioneer, our example. He has gone before and paved the way. He has shown us the way forward and He is still in the process of perfecting our faith, making us more like Him.

The joy set before Him

What was the ‘joy set before Him?’

As He proceeds to the cross, what possible thing set before Him could bring Him joy in the anguish and brutality that He was about to endure? What is it that will help Him endure such suffering and heartbreak on the cross, the shame of being nailed up, naked and alone?

Partly He did it because He was obedient to the Father. It was the plan and will of God that Jesus should do this. It was the only rescue plan and He suffered it willingly. Jesus wanted to demonstrate just what the father is like, He wanted to show the compassion and perfect sacrificial love of the Father. The joy he received was from doing the fathers will. But it was also from knowing He was on a rescue mission. He loves us so much that the joy of restoring our relationship with Him compelled Him to act.

That’s right, the joy that carried Jesus through was rescuing you!

He loves us so much that He willingly suffered agonising pain so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him. He considered you worth it.

God is so passionate about you. He was thinking about you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), He is thinking and praying for you now (Hebrews 7:25) and one day in the future He will bring you into His kingdom to spend eternity together with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). Past, present and future.

Joy for us too

For me, this means that whenever I go through trials and difficulties, I can call on the same joy that Jesus has because:

  • He has gone before me
  • He has won the victory over every work of the enemy
  • He is with me
  • He knows what I am going through
  • He won’t let me go
  • He has promised to carry me through to the end
  • He has RISEN!!

I don’t know about you but I think this is very good news!

 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 8:50 am Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 062012
 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is it called ‘Good’ Friday?”

Reading what happened on ‘Good Friday’ it seems far from good. An innocent man has just been declared guilty in front of a baying mob, he is dragged before two further courts who insult him, and beat him up in a really violent manner. He is abandoned by all of his friends who he has lived in community with for the last 3 years and one of his closest friends even denies him vehemently with an expletive ridden denial. He is then tortured further and made to carry the cross he will be nailed to, naked, in full public view.

But despite all the horror of that day, for us, this is really good news. Continue reading »

 April 6, 2012  Posted by at 6:44 am Salvation, The gospel 2 Responses »