Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 30

Matthew 27:38-44 / Mark 15:27-32 / Luke 23:35-38…

Triumph over taunting…

The mental and spiritual suffering that Jesus Christ endured while He was on the cross was immense and intense. The rejection of Jesus was demonically inspired, and was in direct fulfillment of Scripture. Imagine the temptation to react as they all taunt Him.

The taunt is one of Satan’s sharpest arrows; and he uses people as the provoking point. When the passersby taunt Jesus, they tempt Him with the very words that Satan had tempted Him with (Matthew 4:3, 6). Yet the instruments of the devil only proved that Jesus was telling the truth when He said that the devil had no claim on Him, no power over Him (John 14:30).

It is ironic that as they insulted Jesus they admitted that He saved others, and they recognized that Jesus trusted in God. Ironically, they were condemning themselves. By saying that Jesus was a righteous man, they admit their participation in this wrongful murder. Even as these people question who He is, they’re actually proving who He is. They prove that He is the Messiah by fulfilling Scripture (Psalm 22:7-8).

Jesus could have come down from the cross and showed those unbelievers that He was indeed the Son of God. It wasn’t the nails that held Him on the cross, but His will. The desire to do His Father’s will. In suffering their condemnation, they were condemning themselves, but Jesus was determined to do what was necessary to free us from sin’s eternal condemnation.

People want a Savior who comes down to them on their own terms. But we don’t need a Savior who comes down from the cross, but a Savior who ascends the cross. And one who comes up from the grave. Not one who would save Himself, but one who desires to save us sinners.

Imagine Jesus when temptation taunts you, and realize He triumphed over your temptations (Colossians 2:13-15).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 29

Matthew 27:33-37 / Mark 15:22-26 / Luke 23:33-34 / John 19:17-27…

Gory glory…

The beauty in this brutal scene can only be seen with spiritual eyes. In this cruel context we see the wickedness of men, but we also see the wonder of Jesus. They continued to mock Him and even now the priests still want to marginalize Him (John 19:19-22). Yet in the midst of this savage and shameful torture Jesus was thinking about others.

He thought about the pain we all experience because of sin. They offered Him something that would ease the pain a little (Proverbs 31:6), or perhaps shorten the agony (Psalm 69:21). But He did not take it, choosing instead to experience the maximum amount of pain. Jesus was giving testament to the vicarious nature of the Atonement for sin.

He thought about how sin blinds us in ignorance. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The Bible doesn’t describe His agony, only man’s misery. He knew that we are often aloof to the sin, sorrow, and suffering that is right in front of us. Men often look to gain off of the misfortune of others. But Jesus was fulfilling the plan of God (Psalm 22:18).

He thought about His Father’s mission for Him. The irony of the inscription above His head is that even as they mock Him, they are identifying Him correctly. The charge against Him was that He claimed to be the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Son of God, and it’s true. He is paying the penalty on the cross for the crime of being who He really is.

He thought about His mother, making provision for her. He was thinking about you, making the only provision for salvation you have, and the only one you need (Hebrews 2:3 / Acts 4:12).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 28

Luke 23:27-32…

Correct crying…

But turning to them Jesus said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Jesus is pointing to the future. What He was experiencing was indeed a tragedy, but Jerusalem would soon experience its own tragedy. Things will be so bad that blessings such as children will be seen as curses, and people will be wishing they could just die rather than have to go through this experience.

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? Green wood still has the sap in it, and the moisture prevents it from burning well. Dry wood has been cut and aged so that it burns very easily. The point Jesus is making is that if the Romans are willing to sanction such injustice and put an innocent man like Him to death, what will they do to the Jews, and what will happen to Jerusalem, when the Romans no longer see them as relevant?

Jesus wants them to consider the rising tide of evil sweeping through Jerusalem. What will happen to Jerusalem is a picture of what hell will be like. Accordingly, people should be concerned for the multitude of souls who face the danger of eternal damnation because of the sin in their lives. This is always the big issue, the eternal state.

Certainly, it isn’t wrong to cry about catastrophe or weep over injustice. But our most correct cries are not about the personal tragedies we can see but the permanent tragedies that we can’t yet see. Christians are supposed to be compassionate, but with an understanding that temporal tragedy is nothing compared to eternal destiny. Do you cry out to the Lord for souls to be saved?

In the end, and as always, God will do what is right. For now, what is right for us to do is to weep for the lost, warn them of the judgment to come, witness to them of Jesus, and hopefully, by God’s grace, win them to Christ.

What are you crying about? Don’t just weep, but warn, witness, and win. Do that, and make your cries count.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 27

Matthew 27:32 / Mark 15:21 / Luke 23:26…

Bearing the burden of honor…

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. We see this scene and are reminded of how God will providentially arrange a bystander to become one of His followers, intimately bearing the burden of knowing Jesus.

Of course, this burden was actually a glorious honor for Simon. We can also infer that his family came to a saving knowledge of Christ (cf. Romans 16:13).

Honoring others has a lasting effect, especially as it pertains to our brothers and sisters in Christ. But think about the text here and realize that it can be quite the burden when honoring means we have to help bear another’s shame.

It may be a hard thing to take, but your brothers and sisters in Christ are worth it because Jesus has made them so. No matter their shame. We are one with the Lord and one with each other (1 Corinthians 6:17). They are a part of you (Romans 12:5). We are called to honor them (Romans 12:10), and we help do that by helping them bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2).

When Christians are beaten, bare, burdened, and broke, this is when you can be like Simon. When the world would mock, spit on, and curse them, we can honor them (1 Corinthians 12:23). A maturing mind will realize that taking up our cross at times means we are carrying someone else’s burden, and enduring their shame, as well.

In honoring others, we serve men to the glory of God.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 26

Matthew 27:27-31 / Mark 15:16-20…

The pattern of passion…

This is another scene of the sin against the Savior. Whether or not this event is sort of a repeat performance or the same instance as seen earlier (cf. John 19:1-3) it all underscores the sin in the hearts of men and the holiness of Jesus Christ. The exact timing of events here is not as important as the exact nature of their essence. This is Jesus triumphing over sin by torture.

The vicarious victory of Christ for us, in spite of us, is full of prophetic significance. The scarlet robe reminds us of verses such as Isaiah 1:18, 61:10, the symbol of the bearing of our scarlet sins. In their sin of mocking His majesty, it reminds us of how He became sin for us, as well as our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21 / Jeremiah 23:6).

The crown of thorns brings us all the way back to Garden of Eden. Thorns were brought about by sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Now, the Creator would wear a crown of thorns as He bore the sins of the world. I don’t think it is accidental. Thorns and thistles will come up as a result of sin and Jesus will bear the sins of the world and actually have a crown of thorns and thistles, which were actually beaten into His head.

The study of these things is rich, and it shows us why learning of Christ, putting on the new man, and being renewed in the spirit of our minds is a lifelong pursuit (Ephesians 4:21-24 / Hebrews 12:3). The Passion Week gives a picture and a pattern for a passionate pursuit of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-13).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 25

Matthew 27:23-26 / Mark 15:14-15 / Luke 23:22-25 / John 19:12-16…

Washed but dirty…

Pilate was doing all he knew to get the priests and the people to stop this madness and release Jesus. He tried to appease the bloodthirsty cries, but it wasn’t going to happen (Acts 13:28). He knew that he was risking a riot if he failed to deliver Jesus up. You can imagine his thoughts. “Oh what am I supposed to do, I want to do the right thing but I can’t, the people won’t let me”.

He took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” Think of the difference between other men and Jesus here. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Pilate washed his hands of Jesus. It is a case of “let me cleanse you” vs. “let me be cleansed of responsibility for you”. Washing his hands didn’t get him clean.

Don’t divorce yourself from this scene so easily, my friend. We have all played the part of Pilate, and yes, against Jesus, no less. It happens when you know something is wrong and you want to do what is right, but you just can’t seem to do it. It isn’t that people won’t let you; it is that the pressure won’t let up. Yes, the pressure may be great, but your perspective on pressure needs to change.

It is called repentance. It means that doing what is right will cost you. Repentance means we may lose things such as friends, respect, position, prestige, power, finances, health, or even life. It involves self-abasement, not self-preservation, or self-promotion. Repentance says that what matters is God’s glory, not my comfort. Repentance consequently strips us of our worldly goods, achievements, and satisfactions; it does not pile them upon us.

Repentance is the very antithesis of what is taught these days. People say if you live clean, then God will be obliged to bless you. The truth is that you can clean the outside and still be dirty on the inside. You can wash your hands as much as you want, but it takes God to wash your heart.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 24

John 19:8-11…

Cards on the table…

When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He was already worried, but this new revelation caused Pilate to be terrified. He knew that Jesus was innocent. He knew that he had compromised justice by scourging Him. He realized this was no ordinary criminal, but now he has to consider, was this Jesus actually divine?

Still, Pilate’s only motive was his own welfare. “Where are you from?” Pilate wanted answers, but Jesus gave him no answer (Isaiah 53:7 / 1 Peter 2:20-23). Frustrated, Pilate decided it was time to push his weight around. "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?"

Pilate tried to play the punishment card, but Jesus reminds Pilate of the ultimate source of authority (Romans 13:1). Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. God purpose is present even in Pilate’s posturing (Proverbs 21:1). We suppose we are in authority, but ultimately it is God who is in authority.

Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin. Pilate’s sin was great, but the greater sin belonged to the religious leaders, who sinned against the Scriptures they claimed to believe and the light God had given as they heard Christ speak (Luke 12:47-48).

Here is where you should ask yourself, “what am I doing with the Light I have been given?”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 23

Matthew 27:22 / Mark 15:12-13 / Luke 23:20-21 / John 19:4-7…

Behold the man…

Pilate once again acknowledged that he thought Jesus was innocent and that He wished to release Him. He tried to appease the crowd that he might appease his conscience. It was similar to Judas, who had declared Jesus’ innocence and tried to give the money back to the priests.

But no matter how hard he tried, Pilate could not get the leaders or the crowd to settle down. He could not change the course of redemption, because this was the plan of God, that both Jew and Gentile would have a hand in the death of Jesus (Acts 2:23, 4:27-28).

Pilate may have been upset by this dilemma and convicted by his conscience, but he was not innocent. He was unwilling to listen to his convicted heart, listen to the voice of his wife (Matthew 27:19), listen to the objective evidence, or listen to Truth Himself (John 18:37, 19:11).

Pilate could have done what was right. He had the power to let Jesus go. But his “repentance” was only remorse that he had to choose or face trouble. This is only going half way, and it isn’t enough. Pilate feared the people and made his decision to appease the masses.

How often do we bow the knee, not to the will of God, but to the will of the people who are opposing Him?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 22

John 19:1-3…

The coronation of contempt…

Here we are now, the picture of perversion. Just because people don’t understand the full weight of what they are doing doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it. And they are doing it with malice. They don’t just deny the divinity of Jesus they defy it. They don’t just mock the King of Kings they are malicious against Him. This is the pit of hell that the unbeliever must be rescued from.

If you are a Christian, this is what you have been rescued from. Yet there are those who don’t believe that they are capable of inflicting such injustice on an innocent man. But this ugly scene plays out day after day. This is what is in the hearts of men. Here we can see clearly what the human heart is capable of. Every human heart, that is.

People do it today. They have contempt for Jesus and the people who follow Him, and would wipe them out if they thought they could, and they often do. The human heart is not near God, it is completely afar off from God. If pressed it will lash out against that which is true Life and embrace the violence of death, and inflict destruction upon others.

It is in the context of man’s malice that we truly see man’s misery. Yet with our Lord in this position we truly see God’s majesty, His grace under fire (Matthew 5:38-42). It is when we see the heights of His holiness compared to the depths of our depravity that we see the measure of God’s love.

Just remember, when the world strips you bare, beats you down, burdens you and breaks you, Jesus was there for you (1 Peter 4:12-14). He was there first. He took the beating and He took care of the eternal penalty of people just like you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 21

Matthew 27:15-21 / Mark 15:6-11 / Luke 23:13-19 / John 18:38-40…

Crowd control…

Imagine the scene here. Pilate, the Roman governor, was scrambling for a solution. The pressure was mounting to do something about Jesus. But He couldn’t find any fault with Jesus. He was suspicious of the motives of the Jewish leaders and the charges they were bringing against Jesus. He had sent Jesus away to Herod to be tried, but Herod had sent Him back.

The evidence of His innocence has also been mounting. Judas, His betrayer had declared Him innocent. Pilate knew of the fanfare that surrounded Jesus upon His triumphal entry into Jerusalem only a few days before. Pilate himself thought that He was innocent. Pilate’s wife also thinks He is innocent. Only the chief priests and other religious leaders seem to be against Him.

Yet those religious leaders will not relent. They want blood. Pilate tries to pit the leaders against the people, offering up the notorious criminal Barabbas as a substitute. Surely the people wouldn’t let this menace loose again. But the leaders would rather let the devil run amok than let Jesus go, and they were master manipulators. They convince the people to let Barabbas go.

It is quite amazing to realize the malice that can be mustered within a mob. Still, most of us believe that we are beyond a mob mentality. We are more mature than that. But hanging around the wrong crowd begins to destroy the way, the will, the word and the worship of Jesus in your life (Psalm 1:1 / 1 Corinthians 15:33). The crowd we are in makes a difference.

Most of us probably don’t believe that we will ever have to make a decision between Jesus and Barabbas. But the truth is that we do it every day. Lots of little choices we make count for more than we may think. We think it will be so obvious, we think the choice will be easy, we think we are beyond the influence of the crowd.

But remember this; if you don’t believe that you can be deceived, that is when you already are.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 20

Luke 23:6-12…

Friends against the faith…

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. Because the religious leaders had mentioned that Jesus had come from Galilee, Pilate figured that he had found a way out of dealing with this situation. Herod was the one who ruled over Galilee, but was in Jerusalem at the time, and so this would have seemed like an ideal solution. Pilate’s authority superseded Herod’s authority, but his decision was not unlike how the Supreme Court will refuse to rule on a case, and will instead send the case back down to the state courts.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. Herod had been looking forward to seeing Jesus for some time (Luke 9:9). But make no mistake, Herod was not a friend of Jesus, he only wanted to see Him for a sense of entertainment. Perhaps he could get this miracle worker to become his ally. Still, as the priests and scribes accused Jesus, and after He refused to answer any charges, Herod and his men mocked and sent Him back to Pilate again.

Herod forced Pilate to make the decision, but apparently in such a way as to befriend a man who had been an enemy before (cf. Luke 13:1). They were now friends united in contempt for Christ. It is the same today; enemies often unite in their opposition to Jesus. Indeed it is the world against Christ, but Christ loves His own in the world, and He wins in the end.

The question is whose friend are you going to be (James 4:4)?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 19

Luke 23:4-5…

The menacing message…

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." In this trial, Pilate was a one man judge and jury. He could find no evidence that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty the religious leaders wanted. He wanted no part in this seemingly petty and parochial struggle. This wasn’t an important matter for the Roman state to be concerned with, it was simply a Jewish matter, and Pilate was looking for a way out of directly dealing with it.

But they were urgent, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." They insisted that this was no small thing, that Jesus was indeed a threat to the whole region. Jerusalem was not the only place that Jesus had been causing unrest. He had been spreading His message all over the place. He was a menace that must be stopped.

The message is indeed a menace to those who oppose it. The Truth may be mocked, sentenced, silenced, cast down and killed. But it doesn’t stay dead. It can’t really be killed. The truth about the truth is that the Truth is forever. You can try and pawn that off for now, but you can’t forever. Everyone will have to deal with that eventually, and eternally.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 18

Luke 23:3 / John 18:33-37…

The king of truth…

Pilate brings Jesus into a private place to ask Him about this claim of kingship again. Jesus reassures Pilate that He is not some sort of political or military revolutionary, otherwise His followers would be fighting to save Him from this mess He seems to be in.

However, Jesus makes a much bolder claim. Yes, He is a king, but He is a king of something greater than a worldly kingdom, Jesus is the king of the truth. Jesus says that the way to know if you are of the truth is if you listen to His voice (John 10:27). In other words, true people want to understand the truth. If you are hearing Him, you are hearing truth.

What is truth? Pilate does what all who think they are the captain of their own soul do; he places himself as the arbiter of truth. In this case, Pilate denies that truth is actually knowable, or absolute, or universal. You could say that he denies the power of truth when the truth faces power. What good is this truth to him, when Jesus is in his grasp? Or so he thinks.

Pilate would fit in well with today’s so-called postmodern thinking. It is the idea of the damned, who think that truth is merely a relative thing. Pilate mocks the idea of truth, yet absolute, universal truth is staring him in the face, waiting to be known (John 14:6). He found no fault in Jesus but he also had no faith in Him, either.

How about you? What are you doing with this, the King of Truth?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 17

Matthew 27:11-14 / Mark 15:2-5 / Luke 23:1-2 / John 18:29-32…

The loudest silence…

Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus has now been transitioned from the church trial to the civil trial. Because they were under the Romans, the Jews did not have the right to execute. And so Jesus, having already been condemned by the Jewish court, now stands before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

You have said so. By His answer Jesus confesses that He is a king. Still, Pilate knew full well that the Jewish leaders, who despised Roman oppression, wouldn’t bring someone to be executed because he was a threat to Rome. He could easily see that Jesus was no threat to Rome, but that he was a threat to their system (Matthew 27:18).

Still, Jesus continues to refuse to answer the questions of the Sanhedrin. By not responding, Jesus is not only showing contempt for the wickedness of their unjust charges, He is adopting a strategy to assure that He died for your sins. Jesus could probably have given Pilate all the reasons he needed to be set free. Jesus refuses to do it, because He’s already been in the garden, He knows the consequences, and He will not do anything to get in the way of dying.

Jesus’ silence is not a model for how Christians ought to respond in a trial when we are unjustly accused. His actions are unique because He is unique. His silence is reflective of His commitment to die for you because of His love for you. His silence is sending a loud message to you that He wanted to bear your sin. He loved to do the will of His Heavenly Father, even if it means being condemned unjustly, even if meant the torture and death which He would have to endure in order to release you from the bondage of the condemnation of sin.

The silence of Jesus is powerful. With no words it speaks of how committed He is to you. And remember the silence of those who on judgment day will have nothing to say before the just condemnation of God (Romans 1:20, 3:19). Give thanks that you will not be in that silent party because Christ took that silence for you (Acts 17:31).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 16

Matthew 27:6-10…

The witness of blood…

But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money." This scene provides insurmountable evidence of the wickedness of the religious leaders. They had seen fit to use temple funds to pay for the betrayal of Jesus, but now when those funds come back to them they all pretend as if they would never have blood money in the temple treasury. But they had used the temple treasury to pay for His betrayal in the first place.

Think about this. Now, not only has Judas testified to the innocence of Christ, but here is the testimony of the whole Sanhedrin. They said it was blood money, in other words, money illegitimately paid to someone to get someone else killed. They’re so self-righteous, they didn't mind taking it out of the treasury to be blood money, but they acted as if they were too pious to put it back where it came from because it was blood money. They confirm with their own mouths the bloody deed they did in bribing Judas.

The perversity of the plot and the iniquity in their hearts is clear. The hypocrisy continues as they use the blood money to do a charitable work. The potter’s field would be where Gentiles could be buried if they had no money and died while in Jerusalem. Ironically, Judas was the first person who used this field (Acts 1:18-19). The people knew the field was at the price of blood. This was all a part of God’s plan (Jeremiah 18:1-12, 19:1-13, 32:6-9 / Zechariah 11:12-13).

This gives us a picture so that we might understand what the atoning death of Christ means for us. Having seen Jesus condemned by the religious court, you have seen what you ought to receive at the hand of the divine court. Having seen Jesus’ innocence, you should recognize your own guiltiness. Having seen the wickedness of the people, side by side with God’s plan, you ought to bow the knee to God’s sovereignty and realize that Jesus is a substitute for your sin.

The difference between Judas and Peter is that Judas confessed to his co-conspirators, but Peter sought the mercy of Christ. Like them, you are also guilty. But the question is what will you do with the witness of blood?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 15

Matthew 27:3-5…

Only two ways to turn…

I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. Judas had apparently followed the crowd to the scene of Jesus’ trial. Having seen what has happened, Judas began to feel the crushing weight of his own guilt. He had betrayed the most innocent man that ever lived.

He is now faced with a choice. As the person responsible for getting Jesus arrested, he knew he must declare Jesus’ innocence. He needed to try and make things right. But he only went half way. He didn’t seek forgiveness from Jesus; he only tried to give back the spoil of his sin. The attitude of the chief priest and elders shows their wickedness, but it also illustrates the point that sometimes we cannot undue what we have done.

This is why we need forgiveness. This is why Jesus came to us, not only to pay for our actual guilt, but also to cleanse us from our emotional guilt. There are only two ways to turn. We can turn inward, and allow the guilt to continue to pile on ourselves, or we can turn outward, and find freedom in Christ. Many feel sorrow over their sins, but they decide to turn over a new leaf without turning their lives over to Christ. Judas is the embodiment of this difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10).

You can renounce your past all you want; you can proclaim your devotion to Christian principles without fail. But that doesn’t mean you’re walking the walk. That walk doesn’t mean turning in your thirty pieces of dirty money in remorse, it means turning your life over to Christ in true repentance. Instead of letting guilt be the thing that hangs you, let it be the bridge to God’s grace. Admit your wrongs to Jesus, trust Him, and feel His forgiveness (1 John 1:5-10).

Some Christians are not enjoying their forgiveness, because they say that they can’t “forgive themselves”. They have become their own idol and the lord of their life. In saying Jesus has forgiven them but they can’t forgive themselves, they are in effect saying they are a god above Jesus. Although the lesser God, Jesus, is forgiving, the highest god, themselves, is not.

Receive God’s forgiveness. Find your true freedom. You don’t have to be like Judas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 14

Matthew 27:1-2 / Mark 15:1 / Luke 22:66-71 / John 18:28…

You heard that right…

This is the third part of the church trial. The first two parts, before Annas and then Caiaphas, were a mockery of justice on many counts. These were held at night, which was illegal, and Jewish law forbade forcing someone to incriminate themselves, but that is exactly what the high priest was attempting to do as he put Jesus under oath. Jesus was repeatedly mocked and beaten by the soldiers before, in between and after the trials on the way to his death.

This third trial was by the full council of religious leaders, called the Sanhedrin, and was after day light, giving the proceedings a veneer of legitimacy and due process. The council was seeking to charge Jesus with blasphemy. Jesus had already done that, as far as they were concerned, but now they wanted an official, legal, account.

Jesus answered their question, but not before He gave them a rebuke. He knew that they would not believe the truth of what He told them, and they would not allow Him to cross examine them if He did testify against Himself. Jesus affirmed He was the Messiah, but reminded them, just as when He was questioned before, that they were in His hands, not the other way around (Matthew 26:64 / Psalm 110:1 / Daniel 7:13-14). The council was judging Jesus, but in the end, He will be the one who sentences them.

They pressed Him further. Would He admit that He was the Son of God? If so, they had the evidence they wanted. Now all they needed was the cooperation of the state, to kill Him. Their attempts to phrase the questions differently were not attempts at justice as much as they were attempts to justify their hatred. They understood the testimony but were blind to the Truth.

We are called by God to proclaim the light of Christ. But you must remember an important truth about truth. You can make something as clear as crystal, but a darkened heart will never see the Truth unless God illuminates the soul (2 Corinthians 4:3-7).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 13

Luke 22:63-65…

Piling on…

Jesus was being mocked and ridiculed on all counts. If the leaders do their sort of condemning, so will the followers. It happens today. People feel safe to attack a person once they think they are on the winning side. People love to pile on. It’s in our fallen nature.

We must remember that Jesus was still in charge, even at the time of His betrayal, abandonment, arrest, abuse, trials, and denials. In all these events we see that men of all stations rejected Him. So that men of all stations might be saved by Him.

While Jesus remains faithful to His calling, all other men consistently fail to be faithful. No one understands fully what is going on. People are abandoning Him. But even in this “hour of darkness” He is in control. His prophecies are coming to pass, through the agency of sinful men. Jesus was taken captive and condemned because He purposed to do so.

Think of yourself and this mocking and abusing. We come to realize that we have done this to Jesus. It is like when we first start to feel the pang of conscience about our sin. Our first thoughts, when we are being drawn by the Spirit to worship Christ, might come as a feeling of, “yeah I’m not perfect”, but then we see that we are personally responsible, and they move to “yeah, I’ve done some bad things”.

Then, as we are being drawn into the moment of saving faith in Christ, we see the truth more fully. We have attacked Christ personally. Our hand was the one that drove the bitter nail into His on the cross. Instead of seeing ourselves as somehow just indirectly sinning against God, we realize that we have sinned directly against a holy and just God, directly attacked His person. It is cosmic treason.

We ask, “How can we trust God?” This is the answer, because while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. He cared for us, not only when we didn’t care for Him, but while we actively opposed Him, whether we realized that or not. Now we do realize that, and it makes all the difference (Romans 5:10). He doesn’t need to prove himself to us, He’s done it. See it right here. All this betrayal, abandonment, arrest, abuse, trials, and denials are things you have done to Him. This is all a piling on of the evidence of His love for you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 12

Matthew 26:69-75 / Mark 14:66-72 / Luke 22:54-62 / John 18:25-27…

Hiding in a snowball…

The thing about lying is that not only do we have to keep lying unless we want to be found out, but we also have to invent new lies on top of the lie we originally started. Ironically, we have to lie some more if we want to stay consistent in our story. What a mess.

This is what was happening to Peter. He got caught in a lie and didn’t know what to do. It was not that Peter was just a fearful coward. Remember, he had made some bold claims about his loyalty to Jesus. He had attempted to fight at the arrest of Jesus. He had followed along and bravely entered into the courtyard at the trial of Jesus. But in doing that he had denied Jesus.

Now, because he had initially denied that he was a disciple of Jesus (John 18:17), Peter has to reiterate that denial more and more emphatically. He was already committed, invested, and if he were to change his answer, it would invite questions of “what are you trying to hide?” His denial seems to be the “path of least resistance”, even when things began to snowball, as he is faced with someone who saw him draw his sword in the garden (John 18:26).

Peter probably thought he needed to keep up the ruse in order that he might be in a position to do some good later. However, he was sadly, sinfully mistaken. This is what happens when we invest in iniquity. In a wicked way, sin is the most successful enterprise we can be involved in, because it always returns with a higher yield. It just keeps on growing.

The best way to avoid a snowball of sin is to keep a short account of it. If things have already snowballed, you will still have to confess and repent at some point. It will cost you; true repentance means you lose things, and often it means we have to lose some dignity, position, and trust, things that we will have to earn back from others, even if they have forgiven us.

There is mercy and grace to be found (Hebrews 4:14-16 / 1 John 1:5-10), but you have to confess. Even a snowball can be stopped, and for you, Christian, it must be stopped. Otherwise, you will roll all the way down to hell (Revelation 21:8).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 11

Matthew 26:57-68 / Mark 14:53-65…

The truth about the truth…

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. There are actually two trials, in six total parts, that Jesus would face in the last hours of His life before the crucifixion. There was a church trial and a civil trial. Here Jesus is in the second part of the church trial. He had come from the former high priest, Annas, and now was before the current high priest, Caiaphas, and the other religious leaders.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death. Their minds were made up, and there was all sorts of injustice and malice going on here (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 19:15-19). Yet even among the false witnesses and twisted testimonies about Jesus’ words, they had a hard time getting their stories straight. The high priest asks Jesus to answer the charges. But Jesus remained silent (Isaiah 53:7 / Acts 8:32-35 / 1 Peter 2:23). He didn’t need to defend Himself; the opposing reports were obvious lies.

Frustrated, Caiaphas directly questions Jesus under oath, asking Him to confess whether He had claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah. Did Jesus claim deity? Jesus answered, not to defend Himself, but to proclaim the truth. Jesus was perfectly clear, informing them with Scripture (Psalm 110:1 / Daniel 7:13-14). Not only does He claim to be the Christ, the long awaited Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament, He tells them that they are not His judge, but that He is theirs. In other words, that He is God. They understood what Jesus was claiming, but this unscrupulous crowd accuses and attacks Jesus for telling the truth (Isaiah 50:6).

You know, Jesus had said that the truth would set us free (John 8:31-32), but here it didn’t happen. What gives? Well, you see, it all depends on what you mean by being set free. The truth is that His truth will set you free from the tyranny of the temporal. The fabrications of false witnesses and the slander of Satan’s minions can only go so far (Matthew 5:11, 10:28 / 1 Peter 2:19-20, 3:14-16, 4:14). As a Christian, the crimes committed against you are a testimony to the truth in you (John 15:18-19 / 1 John 3:13).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 10

John 18:19-24…

Jesus and jurisprudence…

Annas asks Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine, seeking to compel Jesus to testify against Himself. Jesus rightly refused to respond to this questioning because this hearing is illegal. Under Jewish law, a man was presumed innocent until he was demonstrated to be guilty. The preliminary appearance was supposed to be where witnesses brought testimony. Annas had no right to ask Jesus anything until the evidence of witnesses had been taken. If the stories of the witnesses matched, then a charge would be brought. However, this whole process was not about truth, but about power. The establishment felt threatened.

Why do you ask me? Annas was fishing for incriminating information, and Jesus knew this was a mockery. One of the officers who stood by considered the response of Jesus to be insolent, and so he struck Him. Jesus points out this obvious injustice. This is what happens when a supposed inquiry doesn’t follow the rule of law. When legal rights do not exist, or are violated, “interrogation” becomes synonymous with physical abuse and torture. This is precisely what we see in the New Testament (cf. Acts 22:24, 29), and today.

Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. And the greatest “kangaroo court” in history rolled on. People talk about Christians being judgmental a lot, but ironically, it is the unbeliever who often has passed sentence ahead of time. Professing Christians will also be prejudicial towards you at times. Most often, devoid of any real knowledge of what they are speaking about. You should be ready to give an answer, but you don’t have to defend yourself, if your life speaks for itself (Colossians 4:5-6 / 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 9

John 18:15-18…

Guilt by association…

This “other disciple” was probably John himself. His acquaintance with Annas got him into the courtyard, and he was able to convince the servant girl to let Peter into the courtyard also. But when questioned, Peter denies being a disciple of Jesus.

Let’s not dismiss Peter as altogether cowardly. Remember, he had begun to fight back in the garden when they came to arrest Jesus. Peter was in a very awkward and dangerous situation, once again surrounded by those same people. They knew John was a disciple of Jesus. The presence of another disciple there might arouse suspicions about an escape plot.

For most of us, it has been true that we have denied Jesus in far less dangerous circumstances. You aren’t supposed to be violent, but you aren’t supposed to be silent either. When others are maligning Him and His modern day disciples, do you deny Him by your silence? Do you hope no one asks the question of you?

Could a court convict you by the company you keep? It is easy to identify with Christ during church time. But outside of the comfort zone, do the friends of Jesus, the enemies of Jesus, and those who are supposedly non-committal about Jesus know which side you are on?

Jesus knows you will be persecuted for proclaiming the truth about Him, and He doesn’t want you to hide the truth about yourself.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 8

John 18:12-14…

Behind the scenes…

Jesus was being taken before the religious rulers for a trial. In this mockery of due process, before He was to be examined by the current high priest Caiaphas, there was to be a preliminary examination by a former high priest, Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law.

Annas was no unbiased judge; he had the reason of revenge against Jesus. You see, it is most probably Annas who was the one that had established the money-changing traffic within the temple courts. Remember the tables which Jesus had disrupted? So it is clear that this is not going to be a just trial. This extra examination is all just for a show of due diligence.

In fact, Caiaphas had already determined that Jesus must die (John 11:49-50). The high priest was a very important man, the religious, political, and judicial leader of the nation. Ordinarily the priests came from the tribe of Levi, and the high priest came from the family of Aaron, who held the office for his lifetime. But under Roman rule the high priest was appointed whenever the Roman ruler saw fit.

Still, Annas had been in a place of power for a long time. He had succeeded in arranging for the appointment of each of his five sons as the high priest, followed by his son-in-law, Caiaphas. He may have been behind the scenes, but make no mistake, he was still very much in power, especially to the Jews (Luke 3:2 / Acts 4:6).

We know that as Christians we will face pain, persecution and pressure. We also know that there are secretive, spiritual forces scheming against us. But the most important truth is that we can still stand firm, because behind our scenes is the Lord (Ephesians 6:11-13).

Monday, November 07, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 7

Mark 14:51-52…

A mystery for now…

Why is this story included at all? There are many commentators who believe that this young man who fled was John Mark, the author of this gospel (Acts 12:12, 15, 13:5, 13, 15:37-39 / Colossians 4:10 / 2 Timothy 4:11 / Philemon 1:24). If so this was his way of letting us know he was there at the scene when Jesus was taken. Of course, we won’t know for sure who it was until we get to heaven.

In any event, there are no unknowns in the kingdom of God. You may not be noteworthy in the world system, or you may not be a “somebody” in the visible church realm, but if you are a Christian then you are somebody in God’s kingdom, a saint. Of course, our work is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and we will all be rewarded in heaven.

In the grand drama of the ages, there are many roles to play, and all Christians are a part of the unfolding mystery of God’s redemptive story. We may not understand why we have to go through this or that ordeal, or how this or that experience was a help to someone else. Of course, we will understand all of this and everything else when we get to heaven.

Some things may be a mystery for now, but they won’t be forever.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 6

Matthew 26:55-56 / Mark 14:48-50 / Luke 22:52-53…

Thy will be done…

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds… After setting Peter straight, Jesus then addresses the crowd that has come to take Him captive. He calls them out for being cowards. He is no social or political revolutionary. He is no criminal. He is not leading some military insurrection.

But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Jesus then explains exactly why they are acting the way they are; it is according to His predictions, in order to fulfill the Scriptures. They are all instruments in the hands of God. Jesus wasn’t being taken against His will; He was embracing His Father’s will.

Then all the disciples left him and fled. This was also just as Jesus had said it would be. Jesus had to face the cross alone. There is no other mediator. The apostles, the martyrs, Mary, the saints, a priest, or your pastor, these cannot save you; only Jesus can (1 Timothy 2:5).

Beyond the fact that we must not ultimately place our faith in someone else, the actions of the disciples also teach us that we must count on Christ and not place our trust in ourselves. Thank God that He remains faithful to us despite our lapses (2 Timothy 2:13).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 5

Matthew 26:51-54 / Mark 14:47 / Luke 22:50-51 / John 18:10-11…

Not so fast…

Jesus had told the disciples that things were going to get tough, and that they must prepare for rejection (Luke 22:35-38). But although Jesus mentioned carrying a sword, He was not advocating violence. He was simply saying that instead of expecting popularity, they would experience persecution. Still, Peter misapplied this truth to this situation, and probably felt like he was doing the most right thing at the moment.

We often do the same thing. We think we have good intentions, but they lead to bad actions. We have truth, but we lack trust. We have liberty, but we use it as license to protect our own self-interests, even in the name of ministry to others.

We may desire to do what seems right in the moment, but it is not as right an action as we think it to be. We make hasty decisions, not having patience and trust in the sovereignty of God. Peter knew that Jesus was God, but his flesh was “rash to do good”. We must be on guard today against such a presumption, especially when we, or someone we know, is persecuted. It is our pride that tells us “how dare they!”

It can be easier to deal with tribulation for ourselves, but when loved ones are involved, we feel a strong urge to intervene, sometimes when we shouldn’t. In such cases we must still cling to our Lord. Consider this; that when Job had lost his children already, this is when he said “though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), and so he is also saying “though He slay someone I love, yet will I trust Him”.

Just because we are doing God’s business does not necessarily give us the right to attack. Indeed, we must remember that the wicked are caught in their own trap (Esther 9:25 / Psalm 7:15-16, 9:15-16). Defend the gospel, not yourself, and the glory of God will rest upon you (1 Peter 4:14). Instead of giving place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), we need to give place to God (Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30).

Friday, November 04, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 4

John 18:4-9…

More than they were looking for…

Jesus was not a helpless victim, knowing all that would happen to him. The religious leaders expected trouble when they came to arrest Jesus. This is why Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. But Jesus did not flee from them or put up a fight. Instead, He boldly approached them.

Imagine the amazement of the disciples when they saw Judas, supposedly one of their own, arrive as the head of the mob sent to arrest Jesus. It would seem as if everything was out of control, or that the mob was in control. But indeed, Jesus was still in control…they drew back and fell to the ground. They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lets them know that He is the man, but that this man is also God.

Jesus was doing exactly as He promised, bringing about future events, and taking care of His disciples every step of the way (John 17:12). Even in the midst of chaos, confusion, and corruption, He was in control. His plan was being executed by all sides, perfectly.

How often is it that we go about our days knowing about Jesus, but we see Him as some far off, ineffable idea rather than the very much alive, all present and all powerful Almighty that He actually is? It is quite a reminder when, sometimes, as our greatest threats draw upon us, Jesus unveils Himself just a little, and lets us all know who the boss of all this really is (Psalm 46:1).

It may seem as if your situations have Jesus all bottled up, but just one word is all you need. Unleash His power and presence into your life; behold the great “I AM” in His Word.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 3

Matthew 26:47-50 / Mark 14:43-46 / Luke 22:47-49 / John 18:2-3…

The kiss of death…

It is amazing to watch the calm of our Lord as He is betrayed and seized. Usually, if we know someone is out to get us, we will fight back or flee. But here, Jesus tells Judas to go ahead and do what he came to do. To know that someone is out to get you and yet to allow it to happen seems unthinkable to the natural mind. Crises have a way of revealing our character, and here the character of Jesus shines through the darkness, more than any of the torches and lights that the mob was bearing.

Jesus was spiritually prepared. He was calm because He knew God’s Word and He was counting on God’s providence. He was not thinking that He would be spared from the suffering, but that righteousness would prevail in the end. This was not about the protecting of His life, but the power of His resurrection. Jesus knew His role in the gospel required His death.

Christians are the friends of God and the enemies of evil. Because of that, there are many who would be instruments against us. Some people seem like they are sent directly from the devil as a personal minister of malice. Yet, while they may cause us great distress, the “kiss of death” cannot stop the gift of eternal life.

There may be times when we will be betrayed by those close to us. When Judas comes for us, we do well to consider the dignity of Jesus considering the indignity of the event. We do not have to be happy about things to be holy about them (1 Peter 4:19).

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 2

Matthew 26:36-46 / Mark 14:32-42 / Luke 22:40-46 …

Into the silence…

Imagine the scene that night in Gethsemane. Eight of the disciples were near the entrance to the garden, but they were unaware of what was unfolding. The Master and the temptation, the prayer, the great drops of blood from our Savior’s brow, these were evidence of the most extreme spiritual crisis of all time taking place. In the silence the battle of the ages raged on.

The inner circle of Peter, James, and John had been taken further into the silence by our Lord. They were witness to the troubled, distressed spirit of the One whom they had known as the Prince of Peace. Suddenly they also knew Him as the Man of Sorrows. Jesus told them to watch and pray, knowing that they, too, were about to enter their greatest hour of temptation.

Jesus had told His disciples to pray, and it didn’t seem like there was much activity, but the silence of the night betrayed the violence of the fight. The human crowds were gone, but the hosts of heaven looked on as the sinless Son of God faced His greatest hour of need. In the silence of that night the greatest spiritual battle of all time took place.

The road to the Cross leads through Gethsemane. It may seem as if there is no action going on in your life, within your family, at your church, but indeed, it is in these moments that all hell is lining up against you to try and take you down. Sometimes we are in the silence, without a clue or a care. Often we are caught and taken off guard even though we have been warned and exhorted to watch and pray (1 Peter 4:7).

Are we following the crowds as they turn away to where the fun is when Christ makes us uncomfortable? Are we revolting against what Christ wants to do in our lives, drawing near to Him, but with our own agenda? Are we settled outside the gate, having left from following Christ because we have not actually come in to the inner circle? Are we devout followers of Jesus, only to be sleeping in the most critical hour?

In the silence, when it seems that all is quiet, right before the drama intensifies, when the great spiritual battles take place, where will you be?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: November 1

Matthew 26:31-35 / Mark 14:27-31...

Because of me…

Jesus tells the disciples that something was about to happen in partial fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture (Zechariah 13:7). He was the shepherd about to be struck, and they are the sheep about to be scattered. But while they would be temporarily scattered, Jesus also affirmed that they would not be scattered for long. He would return to lead His sheep.

Still, the disciples didn’t understand; they all boasted of their devotion, especially Peter. Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away….And all the disciples said the same. How often are we like this, where we deny the very words of Christ in our spiritual bravado? Oh no, not us, we will never fail, never fall, we won’t sin, we’ll always win. This is because when we hear Jesus say, “Because of me” we think it is about us, but it is about Him.

The truth is that we cannot trust in the power of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9 / 1 Corinthians 10:12). We think of Jesus telling Peter that he would indeed deny Him three times later that night, and he did. But think about this. Peter denied Jesus two times right there in that same conversation! Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you! Here he is defiantly denying that he will deny, yet failing to realize that this was a denial right there in itself. He was telling Jesus that He was wrong, about this application of the scriptures, and about Peter himself!

You’d think we would all learn a little quicker, and a little less ironically at times. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Still, even our failures do not thwart God’s purposes. We remain responsible, but He remains in control. It is a comfort to know that the Lord can use those who have failed Him. It should give you confidence, not in the power of your will, but the power of His will.