Friday, November 30, 2018

Triumph over taunting

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

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 (Romans 8:1 / Colossians 2:13-15). 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gory glory

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

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). 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Correct crying

Luke 23:27-32…

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. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bearing the burden of honor

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

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. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

The pattern of passion

Matthew 27:27-31 / Mark 15:16-20…

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).

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Washed but dirty

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

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.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Cards on the table

John 19:8-11…

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's 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?”

Friday, November 23, 2018

Behold the man

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

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?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The coronation of contempt

John 19:1-3…

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. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Crowd control

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

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. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Friends against the faith

Luke 23:6-12…

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)?

Monday, November 19, 2018

The menacing message

Luke 23:4-5…

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.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

How Free Are You?

Freedom is not autonomy. Freedom is liberation from the enslavement of self-interest. You might think of freedom as the liberty to do what you want. But again, that is just the ability to be selfish. Rather, freedom is the ability to give oneself to others.