cross Posts

The Saddest Day in History

rsz_jesus_on_the_cross_john_3-16_

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

We call it “Good Friday” but like so many things in the Kingdom of God, it was good for us, but bad for Him. What we call “Good” was terrible for our Lord Jesus. As you go about your day today, consider these facts: Early on that Friday morning, after no sleep the night before, Jesus was taken to Pilate’s prison. He was beaten by professional torturers who knew their craft all too well. He was then presented to the crowd who chose a notorious prisoner over the very Son of God. Throughout the day Jesus was silent and ironically, directing every move that was taking place. He was taken into the courtyard (called the Praetorium) and the entire company of soldiers surrounded Him.  They stripped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His hand, and knelt down before Him in mockery. They spat on Him and punched Him many times, as hard as they could. Tortured nearly to death, exhausted and famished, He carried His own cross to Golgotha and was nailed to it about noon. Darkness came over the earth from noon until 3:00 p.m. Close to 3:00 p.m. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and He died. Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. the women came to prepare His body for burial and they placed His corpse in a borrowed tomb. The massive stone was rolled into place as the sun went down on the saddest day in history… and the angels were silent as all creation watched to see what would happen next.

As you go throughout the day today, be in a constant state of remembering what happened to our Lord Jesus. Think about each event as though it was all happening today. Consider the horrific emotional strain of knowing you are about to be killed, and greater still, the anticipation of the very wrath of God upon sin that would come upon you. And remember, He did all of this for one reason: you. Of all the faces that came to the divine mind of Jesus, one of them was yours. And it was enough to kill Him.

Pray: Lord, today I will walk with You through Your sufferings. I will meditate on every phase of Your sacrifice for me.  My heart breaks over my sin that put You on the cross.

Thursday night before His death

005-jesus-washes-feet

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”  John 13:5

On the night before His death, Jesus would teach the greatest lessons of His ministry to His disciples. The Master-Teacher would use object lessons, symbols, and hands-on teaching to make His point. The first lesson was on servanthood; the second was on sacrifice. The first involved the washing of His disciples’ dirty feet, an act performed only by a servant, not a master. He took off His outer garments, taking on the appearance of a slave boy. When He finished washing their feet, He didn’t say, “Now that I’ve washed your feet, you wash mine”, (as we would have done). Instead He said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). You see, the way we express love to Jesus is by expressing love to one another. The way we serve Him is by serving others.

The second lesson was around the table as He took the familiar elements of the Passover Meal and re-interpreted them as fulfilled by Him. The matzah bread, (unleavened bread, always pierced and always striped), represented His body. The cup of redemption represented His blood shed for them. How unusual it must have been as Jesus brought new meaning to these ancient symbols; how amazing it must have been after His death and resurrection to understand with crystal clarity what He meant. And now we know as well.

“The Master will dress Himself to serve and tell the servants to sit at the table, and He will serve them.”  Luke 12:37

Pray: Lord, thank you for your amazing act of servanthood and your example of sacrifice for me. I want to live the life of a servant. I will love someone for free today and in so doing, I will be expressing my love to you. Tonight, as I lay my head down to rest I will remember the sleepless night you had as you were arrested, tried, and beaten. I worship you as the Servant and Lord of all.   

“Why is this night different from all the other night?”

images

On the night of Passover, the first of four questions leads the Jewish family into a journey of remembrance: “Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?” The seder (“service” or “arrangement”) meal presents a quest to rediscover the ancient mystery and meaning of the Passover, God’s liberation of His people out of Egypt. For thousands of years (according to Levitical Law), Passover has been observed on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar (Leviticus 23:5).

From the time He was a child Jesus kept the Passover. The Gospel of Luke tells us that His parents went to Jerusalem every year. When He was twelve years old, He went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-42). He observed the Passover throughout His life and did so with His disciples. (Luke 22:7-13). On the night before His crucifixion Jesus observed His last Passover (on earth)  and said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).

Jesus brought new meaning to several key aspects of the meal, revealing how He was the fulfillment of the long-awaited Messiah. He explained that the bread of affliction (matzah bread- always pierced, always striped), broken before them, represented His body. The next day His body would be broken on the Cross, providing forgiveness of sins, accomplishing the ultimate Exodus of the human heart. He explained that cup of redemption would be fulfilled by the shedding of His own blood upon the cross.

Consider the backdrop of the Passover in light of Easter. Central to the Passover meal was the Passover Lamb. Each family in Israel would select a lamb from the rest of the flock- a male, without blemish, chosen five days before Passover. All the lambs were to be killed during a two-hour period just before sunset. Though no more that two men from each family could go into the Temple area of sacrifice, as many as a half-million people would move through that area in the two to three hour period and a quarter of a million lambs were sacrificed each Passover season in Jesus’ lifetime. This was a bloody religion. And on Good Friday (due to a chronological twist in how the Galileans kept time and how the inhabitants of Jerusalem kept time), Jesus was being crucified at the exact same time lambs were being slaughtered for the sins of the people. As He died on the Cross He cried out, “It is finished”, announcing that God’s redemption was now made possible for all who would believe.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 10:11-12

Do you believe that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only Way to the Father? Receive His forgiveness now and give your life to Him as an act of worship. And experience the greatest Easter you’ve ever known. He’s done all that is necessary to rescue you from your sin. It is finished.

 

Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen? – by Sam Holm

Death.  When we contemplate our own mortality or experience a loved one’s death, we must come face to face with death.   For the Christian and non-Christian alike, death brings pain.  However, the Christian has a different perspective.  Jesus gives us hope in a better life now and after death.  Why?  Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen?

The reality of the resurrection can be examined and scrutinized.  Our faith in Christ is not only built on theology.  It is based on history.  In John 14:6, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Now, this is not a provable fact in the same way that His resurrection is provable, but it is nevertheless either true or false. It cannot be true that Jesus is the only way while at the same time it is also true that other religions can also offer salvation. If salvation comes through Jesus, then it is because He is the Son of God and it cannot come through any other means. As we have studied, if there are other ways to be saved, then Jesus is a liar and a fraud and He offers no salvation at all.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul addresses doubt about the resurrection.  He makes several strong statements.  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  At least some in the church in Corinth doubted whether or not they would be raised.  Paul addresses their doubt head on by listing many who saw the resurrected Christ and were still alive at the time of the writing.  “(Jesus in resurrected form) appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me.”  He seems to say, look at all of the eyewitnesses.  Jesus rose again.

However, many of us still doubt about the Resurrection.  Let’s address several of the primary questions of doubt.

Did Jesus die?   - Yes.  The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote in his final work Annals 116AD (assessing blame on Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome in 64AD): “Christus, from whom the name (Christians) had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus..”  What was the extreme penalty?  Crucifixion.  The Romans were experts at executing and wanted to be sure He was dead.  They publically killed him.  He did not pass out.  When he was seen on Sunday, he was in full health.  If he had suffered on the cross and somehow escaped death, he would not have been worshiped as a resurrected Lord two days later.  He would have needed someone to nurse him back to health.  Jesus died on the cross.

Was the tomb empty?  – Yes.  Gary Habermas writes that “75% of historical scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb.”  Even early critics like Justin Martyr and Tertullian say it was empty.  Jewish writers never refute it, they just try to explain it away.  In addition, the resurrection was first preached in Jerusalem.  If the tomb was not empty, the body would have been produced by the government and religious leaders.

Was the body stolen?  – No.  The Jews and Romans would have shown everyone if they had it.  The body would have squashed the Christian revolution.  The disciples were terrified and had no motive.  Just a few days prior they deserted Christ in his greatest time of need.  They would not have stolen the body knowing they would end up dying for what they said they believed.

Was it a group hallucination?  – No.  500+ people at the same time?  That’s funny.

Was the story made up?  - No.  Nothing looks fictional in the way it is presented.  The resurrection appearances suddenly stopped (at Ascension with the exception of Paul).  Women were the first witnesses in the gospel narratives and they were not given a voice in court.  You would not choose a woman to prove your story was true.  Witnesses were alive when the NT was written.  “500+ people – they are alive today.  Go ask them.”  What is the motive?  Suddenly, this group is ready to suffer and die for their faith.  No one would do this for something they made up.

Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews wrote around 93AD “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.”

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Jerry Vines says: “Gospel not a catch word for man made theology.  Nor a code word for man-made methodology.  But a clear word of divinely directed history.”

In verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says “His grace toward me was not in vain (NIV – Without effect… NLT – God poured out his special favor on me-and not without results…).  The transformation of thousands of lives and the explosion of the early church is the primary reason we know this story was not made up.  What happened to those who believed in the resurrection?  James, the brother of Jesus, was openly skeptical that Jesus was the Messiah. Later James became a courageous leader of the Jerusalem church, even being stoned to death for his faith. Paul, possibly the PRIMARY biblical example, was persecuting the church and then his life transformed?  Why?  He saw the resurrected Lord.  Faith in the resurrected Christ totally transformed the lives of all who saw him.

The resurrection of Jesus really happened.  The death of death.  Do you believe it? You can respond to the truth of the resurrection by responding to Christ Himself, as the Risen Lord.  You can receive salvation through believing in the resurrection.

Faith in the resurrection does not only transform the way you die, it transforms the way you live.  There is a member in our church.  I’ve asked permission to share his story.  He was a cultural Christian.  He grew up hearing the stories of Jesus, went to church on occasion and lived like the world.   Then, one Sunday he was faced with the truth of the God, Jesus and the resurrection.  Life totally changed.  He said when we were talking, “Suddenly, my faith was the most important thing to me.”  He read many books attacking and affirming the faith.  His conclusion.  The resurrection really happened. And his life is proof.

Jeff Warren’s father died last Monday.  In his obituary we read: “He was an active member at FBC Charlotte where he was a deacon and loved teaching Sunday school. Following retirement he became the Assistant to the Pastor (Dr. Charles Page) in the area of evangelism. Gene had a passion for sharing Christ with anyone who would listen.”  If Jeff’s father were here today, do you know what I think he would say?  The resurrection of Jesus happened!  And his life is proof.

Is your life proof that the resurrection of Jesus really happened?

 

 

Is Jesus who He claimed to be?

“I believe; help me with my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

In previous posts below we explored the reliability of the Bible and the audacious claim that it is actually “God-breathed”. We looked at evidences for the existence of God and noted that perhaps the main evidence for God’s existence is that He came here in Person and told us He exists and showed us exactly who He is. Few doubt that Jesus lived and that He is arguably the greatest and most influential person who has ever lived. It seems logical to believe that a man named Jesus lived but was He really God in the flesh? Are the outrageous claims that He made of Himself true? How can I know?

Perhaps you have wrestled with this question of doubt. It’s critical that we wrestle with this one because it is at the center of the Christian belief, indeed (if it’s true) at the center of LIFE itself. As we approach this question, we need to realize that at the center of Christ’s teaching, His mission, His Message, His life, was His IDENTITY. The central theme or truth of His teaching was not a set of principles or commands; it wasn’t love or grace, per se. At the core of His teaching was His identity. Think about it: Jesus was ultimately crucified not because He talked about love or serving others or caring for the poor. No, His enemies crucified Him because of Who He claimed to be. And it is His identity that continues to be at the center of discussion, debate, belief and unbelief- and heaven and hell. We can’t overstate the importance of this question.

Luke 7:18-23 John asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” If there is anyone in the Bible that we would think did not doubt Jesus’ identity, it was John the Baptist. He was the foretold prophet and his role was to announce who Jesus was. In John 1:29, seeing Jesus, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the Word.” Here in Luke 7 (also told in Matthew 11) John finds himself in prison, about to be beheaded and he’s questioning the true identity of Jesus. Notice how the Bible never hides doubt, sin, failure, brokenness. It simply describes real people wrestling real faith issues.

Who did Jesus claim to be? He said He was the Messiah, the long-awaited “Liberating King”, the Lord God in the flesh, the Son of the Most High, the now-seen Holy God.

Jesus answers saying, “tell John what you’ve SEEN (His works) & HEARD (his words)”.

1. His works prove He is Lord. What evidence do we have that Jesus Is Lord? We have what the Bible calls “signs” Jesus’ works (these “signs” were prophesied. The Gospels record 35 miracles that Jesus performed: 23 were healing miracles, 9 were miracles showing power over nature, and 3 were miracles of raising the dead. He had power over nature, He calmed the storm, turned water into wine, fed 5,000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fish, raised people from the dead. He performed miracles of physical healing, and He reports back to John that “many people of diseases, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, & the deaf could hear..” He provided physical and spiritual healing, defeating evil spirits as well. He says,  “Go and tell… the blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up…” These were all signs of the kingdom of God, a New Order that Jesus came to usher in. His miracles proclaimed the nature of the kingdom- that is, blindness, brokenness, death do not reign and rule in the kingdom of God. He reverses the order of this fallen and broken world.

Of course, the ultimate demonstration of His Lordship was the resurrection (much more on that next week). BUT historically, how do you explain what happened 2000 years ago if Jesus did not rise again? Scholars have noted that within five weeks after the resurrection not just one but over 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem (including many Pharisees, the ruling priests of the day) who were willing to give up their social and religious beliefs that they had rigidly observed since childhood to follow Jesus.

2. His words prove He is the Lord. He said tell John about my works and tell him about my words- the truth that He spoke- and again namely the truth about WHO He was. Jesus didn’t simply walk around doing good things. He walked around making the audacious claim that He was the Messiah, knowing that it was blasphemous. He even challenged hostile, even violent skeptics to examine Him, watch Him, and prove that He wasn’t. I’ve talked to people who claim, “Jesus never really claimed to be God.” Just listen to His first hearers: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” John 5:18

John 10:24-31 “So the Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe (WORDS). The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (WORKS), but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, & they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” He is clearly claiming to be the Messiah and everyone knew it.

Note (back to Luke 7) that John the Baptist wanted to believe, the Pharisees did not.  And to answer John the prophet, Jesus looked at the Old Testament, the signs of the foretold Messiah. As He answered the Pharisees (theologians) Jesus gave a very theological and logical response. But again, faith precedes reason. Even with the works of Jesus, we still find ourselves doubting. One of the ways to come to a clear conclusion is to eliminate the possibilities. For some this will offer a very clear response:

 

Four Possible Options for Jesus’ Identity:

1. Legend This option would say that the story of Jesus claiming to be God is a legend; it never even happened. Most people believe Jesus lived. The problem with Jesus as legend is that modern archaeology shows that the four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries. Most scholars agree that by 70 – 80 AD the Gospels were written. People knew Jesus personally. They saw Him. They could have refuted the claims about Him. See Dr. Luke’s purpose in writing His account of Jesus in Luke 1:1-4.

Consider this: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Imagine, if over the past 50 years, and over the past 15 years in particular, people claimed J.F.K. was the Messiah. What if people began saying that he rose form the dead? What would happen? Those who knew Him would refute those claims immediately. If Jesus was not a real person, how do you explain what happened on the in the Southwest region of the Mediterranean Sea? How do explain the emergence of the most transforming movement of history 2000 years ago? For some, the most impressive of all historical sources are the numerous ancient non-biblical sources that refer to the life and Person of Jesus, including the writings of Tacitus (considered the most famous Roman historian of Antiquity) and Josephus (a famous First Century Jewish historian, who was not a Christian), both of whom were born within 25 years after the death of Jesus. Within 150 years there are more extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus than who mention Tiberius (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus). In the First and Second Century there are numerous sources that document historically that Jesus lived, died, and was crucified, that His disciples claimed to have seen Him alive after His death, that the empty tomb was commonly accepted and not disputed even by the enemies of Jesus, that the number of believers spread rapidly and widely after the claimed resurrection appearances, and that believers from the very beginning worshipped Jesus as God. This is why most people believed a man named Jesus lived. If He is not a legend, then perhaps He was a…

2. Liar – This option would argue that Jesus knew He was not God but lied and said He was. Few if any, take this option seriously because Jesus was such a great moral teacher. But how could He be a great moral teacher if He lied about the most crucial point of His teaching: His identity. And of course, what do you do with the miracles, the resurrection? Jesus consistently answered His skeptics, namely the Pharisees, with, “I AM” statements, to the questions concerning His identity. “I AM” was the name of God, YHWH, in the Old Testament. Revealing again that it was His identity that was the focal point of His teaching. Consider these amazing claims he made:

  • To know Him was to know God. (John 8:19)
  • To see Him was to see God. (John 12:45,14:4)
  • To believe Him was to believe in God. (John 12:44)
  • To receive Him was to receive God. (Mk. 9:37)
  • To hate Him was to hate God. (John. 15:23)

To honor Him was to honor God. (John 5:23) As if to say: “Prove that I’m lying”

3. Lunatic – This argument says that Jesus really thought He was God and though He was sincere, He was self- deceived. He was crazy; He was a lunatic. Is there any evidence of abnormality or imbalance as we look at Jesus’ life?  No, he did not behave like a madman. Again, you must deal with miracles, the resurrection, and the prophecies. Consider the prophesies: Mathematician Peter Stoner took just eight of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and calculated that the odds of them being fulfilled by any one person in history to be 1 in 10 to the 17th power- this 1 with 17 zeros behind it. To understand how incredibly unlikely that is, Stoner says you should take 100,000,000,000,000,000 silver dollars “and lay them on the face of Texas.  They will cover all of the entire state two feet deep. Now mark ONE of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one?  The same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time…” (see page 167 of Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, Volume I, by Josh McDowell). Consider too that most of the prophecies were outside the control of Jesus (not self-fulfilling)- family lineage, date of death, born in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger, rejected by His own people, betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, scourged, death with hands and feet pierced, crucified with thieves, no bones broken, soldiers gambling for clothes, suffer thirst during death, buried in rich man’s tomb.

4. Lord - If none of the other options is true, the only option is that Jesus was and is Lord. He knew who He was and He spoke the truth boldly. Jesus wanted everyone to check out His claims to see if He could back up what He was saying (John 10:38).

In his famous quote in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now it seems to me- obvious- that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?

Jesus is the whole truth about God, God as God is, rather than whom we supposed God to be.” In Matthew 16, Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?