Easter Posts

On the Monday after Easter

it_is_finished-1Easter reminds us that we are part of a much larger story. And the Monday after Easter reminds us that it is still finished. For a pastor, the day after Easter is always a kind of let down. We work hard through the Easter season and we put a lot into the weekend. The Monday after Easter is real life. It’s where the reality of the resurrection is meant to be lived out, in the every day stuff of life. This is where we prove that we have joined the redemptive story of God.

Surely history is His story. The cross and the resurrection of Jesus is the epicenter of all history. He is the singular figure who split history into B.C. and A.D. and through the lens of Easter Sunday, everything makes sense. And without it, nothing makes sense.

But the day after Easter is a good day to ask: Is His story my story? Has the story of the cross and resurrection become your story? The way this happens is the same way it has always has: The cross precedes resurrection. Brokenness precedes blessedness. Death precedes life.

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30 This final cry of Jesus is three words in English but it is one word in Greek: τετέλεσται. It means to bring to perfect completion, finished, accomplished, even paid in full. This is arguably the greatest word ever spoken. Notice, He doesn’t say, “I am finished”, which would be a cry of defeat; but, “It is finished”, which is a cry of victory.

What did He finish? Has it become your story?

  • He finished the perfect life. In the garden the night before His crucifixion:

“I glorified you on earth, having finished the work that you gave me to do.” John 17:4 He’s referring to His perfect life- lived as a substitute for us. Just as central to your salvation as the cross, is the fact that Jesus lived the perfect life for you.

  • He finished the payment for our sin. He paid the price. The word tetelestai was written over a debt, meaning “paid in full”.

“He is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice, payment) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. God forgives you only because Jesus has paid the price for your sin.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 And because He finished the wage (payment) for your sin…

  • He finished the punishment for sin. God will never be angry with you again.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1 He finished the just punishment that was due us. People say, “Well, God loves us so He forgives us.” No, He does not forgive us simply because He loves us. God forgives sin only because Christ took on the wrath of God toward sin. God is loving yes, and His love is just. His justice is loving.

  • He finished the need for religion. Many people are surprised by this.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 Jesus fulfilled all of the crushing demands of God’s holiness, through His sinless life. Many of us are trying to finish something that has already been completed. In Matthew 27:51 it says that right after Jesus cried out “Tetelestai”, the giant veil in the Temple- that separated the Holy of Holies (the presence of God) from the rest of the Temple- was torn in two. The barrier between us and God (the religion of man and a Holy God) was torn apart. And it says, from the from top to bottom. It was from heaven down. Not man to God, but God to man, opening up the Way, destroying all of our religious self-salvation projects.

“For God has done what the law, (religion) weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3 People say Christianity is not about religion, but a relationship. This is not the full truth. Everyone has a relationship with God already. You are either a condemned sinner before a Holy God or you are an adopted son or daughter before your Loving Father. It’s one or the other. Religion says you must do certain things for God to seek His approval. But in Christ it is done.

  • He finished the pathway to eternal life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

So that’s it. Has IT become your story? Is His story your story? He finished all that is necessary for us to experience LIFE. But like every great story, there’s a twist:

It is – This cry is in the present perfect tense which describes an action that was fully completed in the past and its effects are being felt in the present. Jesus could have used the aorist tense and simply said, “the work is done”. The resurrection means that it is present tense. His story continues as we receive what He’s done for us. His resurrection becomes ours- it is the turning point of history and it is the turning point of your life, when His story becomes your story. Is His story your story?

It – all that’s necessary for salvation… is – present tense, nowfinished.

The big story of God’s redemption has now shifted. In the Old Testament priests were not allowed to sit when they were on duty, symbolic of the fact that their work was never finished. This is the religious life. You’re never finished.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:12 The Priest became the Lamb. The High Priest sacrificed Himself, and then He sat down. And through the lens of Easter Sunday, everything makes sense. This is present tense.

Is His story your story?

His story becomes your story WHEN you surrender your life to Him and receive His finished work on your behalf. The Cross precedes Resurrection. Death precedes life. You must surrender your life to Him. You must give up trying to finish it.

  • You cannot add to it.

When you discover that Jesus has finished what matters most you realize that all that matters is finished. Your unending need for love is finished. Your need for purpose is finished. Your need for assurance is finished. Your need for forgiveness is finished. Your constant need for more is finished in Him- more money, more worth, more power, more affirmation, more applause, more happiness- all is finished. More will never be enough until you find that Jesus has finished everything for you.

  • You can rest in it.

If you could summarize Christianity in one word, it would be tetelestai. Only in Christ do you find rest, because only in HIM is it finished. 

When Buddha died, his last words were, “Strive without ceasing… never stop striving.” But the last words of Jesus are, “STOP striving; I have done all the striving necessary.”

Religion says, “finish the work”, but the Gospel says, “Receive the finished work.” Rest in Him. But His story is not finished until it is finished in you. Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” This is the story we find ourselves in. Is His story your story?

Is His story your story? His story becomes your story when you surrender your life to Him and receive His finished work on your behalf.

IT. IS. FINISHED.

The Silence of God – Andrew Peterson

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It’s enough to drive a man crazy; it’ll break a man’s faith

It’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane

When he’s bleating for comfort from thy staff and thy rod

And the heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.

It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart

When he has to remember what broke him apart

This yoke may be easy, but the burden is not

When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God.

 

And if a man’s got to listen to the voices of the mob

Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got

When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross

Then what about the times when even followers get lost?

‘Cause we all get lost sometimes…

 

There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll

In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold

And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a stone

All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, He never forgot

What sorrow is carried by the hearts that He bought

So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not

In the Holy, Lonesome echo of the silence of God.  

The Saddest Day in History – Good Friday

"The Three Crosses" by Rembrandt

“The Three Crosses” by Rembrandt

“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 the notorious prisoner over the very Son of God. Throughout the day Jesus was silent and, ironically, directing every move that took place.

He was taken into the courtyard (called the Praetorium) and the entire company of soldiers surrounded Him. They stripped Him down to His undergarments, 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. Later that morning, exhausted and famished, He carried His own cross to Golgotha and was nailed to it at about noon. Darkness came over the earth from noon until 3:00 p.m. Not much later that afternoon, 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 it in the 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 and me, so that we might be trophies to the praise of His glorious grace for all eternity. Remember also that it’s Friday, the saddest day in history, but… Sunday’s coming…

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.

Is Jesus Really God?

 I’ve talked to a lot of people who say they agree with, and appreciate, the teachings of Jesus. It’s popular in our day to resonate with His teachings but not His Church. Many people who are troubled by the exclusive claims of Christianity don’t realize that it was Jesus, Himself who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

He also said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Jewish writer of Hebrews said, “He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). John 1:14 say that “the Word, (God) became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us.” Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.

As we approach the question of His divinity, we need to realize that at the center of Christ’s teaching, His mission, His Message, His life, was (and is) His identity. The central theme and focus of His teaching was not a set of principles or commands; it wasn’t love or grace – per se – it wasn’t feed the poor, be kind to one another, or be a good citizen. At the core of His teaching was His identity. Who He was. And to be one with Him is not to do what He says, as much as it is to believe in HIM, who He is and what He has done.

This is why His definitive question still echoes forth into our hearts today:

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

This is what separates Jesus from every religious leader ever known. His message was not, “Do this, don’t do that”, but “Believe that I am who I say I am.” 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. He claimed to be the Messiah, “the Liberating King”. And it is His identity that continues to be at the center of discussion, debate, belief and unbelief, heaven or hell.

The importance of this question cannot be overstated. How might we tackle such a massive question? We must get to the heart of the matter. What do you think is the central event of the entire Christian faith? In all of history? The Resurrection is everything. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then we don’t need to worry about anything that He said. The central issue is not whether or not you like His teaching, but whether or not He rose from the dead. If the resurrection took place then He is exactly who He claimed to be. If He didn’t, everything is futile, we are still in our sins, and we need to pack it up, go home, and wait for death to come. This precisely the point that Paul makes: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

This appears to be the earliest statement of belief, a kind of creedal proclamation, doctrinal statement. In fact, we see elements of the Apostles Creed (widely accepted by the 4th Century), but this was written as early as 35-49 A.D. So we are looking at a statement of belief from within a few years after the Resurrection. Read it now.

Is Jesus Really God?  – Let’s corroborate Paul’s outline with historic documentation.

1. Christ died. (v. 3)

If you’re thinking it seems to be circular reasoning to seek evidence for the life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ by using the Bible, then let me give you sources outside of the Bible: Tacitus, a 1st Century historian, writing about Nero’s blaming Christians for the great fire in Rome wrote:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.”

These statements don’t prove that He was God, but they do prove that Christ lived (and when He lived), and that He died, through the “extreme penalty” (crucifixion), under Pilate. Celsus, a 2nd Century opponent to early Christianity, wrote the earliest known comprehensive attack on Christianity. He wrote:

Jesus accordingly exhibited after His death only the appearance of wounds received on the cross, and was not in reality so wounded as He is described to have been.” He says, after His “death”, He appeared with wounds.”

Liberal scholar, John Dominic Crossan (a part of the infamous, Jesus Seminar), concluded Christ’s death is indisputable, saying, “That He was crucified, is as sure as anything historical can be.”

2. Christ was buried. (v. 4)

In 1st Century Judaism, after a man died, someone had to claim the body and bury it before sundown. All four Gospels state that Joseph of Arimathea, a rich, dissenting member of the Sanhedrin, offered his tomb for Jesus’ body. Not one of disciples showed up to take, and care for, His body. This is what some scholars have noted, is a story of “embarrassment”, to the early followers. Not one of His followers believed Him enough to have the guts to go get His body. They all ran. They completely failed their Master, not a way to start a movement.

3. Christ was raised from the dead. (v. 4)

The fact there was an empty tomb is undeniable. The theories started immediately. Some said, “the disciples stole His body.” This theory claims that they were on the run, hiding out scared, and suddenly became grave robbers, overpowering soldiers guarding the tomb. The “swoon theory” claims that Jesus didn’t die but instead, passed out, and the cool of the tomb brought Him back to life. Professional executioners knew when a victim was dead. They did not bury Jesus alive. Another theory is that the women went to the wrong tomb. Then, of course, everyone went to the wrong tomb. Why did no one go to the “right tomb” and produce the body? Another source of “embarrassment” for the early disciples would have been that the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection were women. Women were not even allowed to be witnesses in court. No one would try to make up or devise a story that included women as the key eyewitnesses to the most important aspect of the story, unless it actually happened. You don’t have theories on an empty tomb unless there’s an empty tomb. There was an empty tomb.

  • He appeared to over 500 people. (vv. 5-9)

Paul points out that He appeared to different people, at different times, in various ways. One person here, a few people there, small groups, large groups, and to 500 at once. He’s pointing out these were not hallucinations. Paul says, some who saw Him, “are still alive”. Archaeology proves that the four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries. Most scholars agree that by 70-80 A.D. the Gospels were written. There were people who knew Jesus personally. They saw Him risen. Others could have refuted the claims about Him. So, within 50 years, would be the same as if people claimed J.F.K. was the Messiah or that, after his assassination, he rose form the dead. What would happen? Those who knew Him would refute it. Not unlike Lloyd Benson’s famous quip to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debate; he could’ve said, “I knew Jack Kennedy. And he was not God, nor did he claim to be.”

  • The disciples believed, preached, and died martyr’s death. (vv. 10-11)

All of the disciples, minus Judas, who hung himself previously, and John, who died in exile, died martyr’s deaths. For many, this is the ultimate proof. No one would die, knowing they were dying for a lie.

  • The Church was born.

You cannot explain the birth of the Church apart form the resurrection. In the written testimony of Pliny the Younger (carrying out the persecution of early Christians for Trajan), he states that the early Christians “gathered on a stated day before dawn and sang hymns to Christ as to a god.”

Here’s what we know (apart from the Bible): Jesus lived (and when He lived), He was crucified, He was buried, an empty tomb was commonly accepted and not disputed even by the enemies of Jesus, and His early followers claimed to have seen Him alive again, and from the very beginning, worshipped Jesus as God. All of this points to the central event of history: the Resurrection. N. T. Wright makes this important historical observation: There was no thread of resurrection in Jewish theology or in Greek philosophy. There was no formation of resurrection theology over time. It appeared fully developed over night.

Here I have not proven that Jesus rose from the dead. But I have forced the skeptic to give an answer for the facts. But at the end of the day you can only receive this truth by faith. Immediately, many are frustrated, wondering, “Why faith!? I have such a hard time with faith! I can’t just believe.”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Think about it: aren’t you grateful it’s faith. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to be religious enough (because you can’t be). You don’t have to be smart enough. You can’t be. God is beyond your goodness and your comprehension. Praise Him for faith. Stop trying; stop working. Get off the treadmill of religion and believe.

Perhaps I’ve helped break some barriers that you have to have. But you must realize that belief precedes knowledge in spiritual matters. Faith always precedes reason as we approach a God who is bigger and more glorious than our minds can fathom. Eternity weighs in the balance. You must answer the question:

“But who do you say that I am?” – Jesus

The Diverse Excellencies Of Christ

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One of the greatest sermons every written and preached, was delivered by Jonathan Edwards, in 1738. The sermon was entitled, “The Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies in Christ Jesus“. In it Edwards expounds upon, what he called, Christ’s “diverse excellencies”. His imagination was captured by the prophetic vision in Revelation 5:5-6:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

Edwards realizes that John was looking for a Lion, but instead he saw a Lamb. Edwards notes that the lion excels in strength and in majesty of his appearance and voice. The lamb excels in meekness and patience and is sacrificed for food. But Christ is compared to both in the text. In Him is infinite majesty yet utter humility, perfect justice and boundless grace, absolute sovereignty yet complete submission, all sufficiency in Himself, yet entire trust and dependence on the Father.

Spend time meditating along with Edwards on the beauty of Christ in His diverse excellencies. Consider the paradoxical excellencies of Christ. Consider these qualities of Christ and how they might manifest themselves in your life, as you are conformed into His image by His grace.

There, in Jesus Christ, meet:

1. Infinite highness and infinite condescension.

2. Infinite justice and infinite grace.

3. Infinite glory and lowest humility.

4. Infinite majesty and transcendent meekness.

5. Deepest reverence towards God and equality with God.

6. Infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil.

7. An exceeding spirit of obedience, with supreme dominion over heaven and earth.

8. Absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation.

9. Self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God.

On the cross:

1. Christ was in the greatest degree of His humiliation, and yet by that, above all other things, his divine glory appears.

2. He never in any act gave so great a manifestation of love to God, and yet never so manifested His love to those that were enemies to God, as in that act.

3. He never so eminently appeared for divine justice, and yet never suffered so much from divine Justice, as when He offered up Himself a sacrifice for our sins.

4. His holiness never so illustriously shone forth as it did in his last sufferings, and yet He never was to such a degree treated as guilty.

5. He never was so dealt with, as unworthy, as in His last sufferings, and yet it is chiefly on account of them that He is accounted worthy.

6. In His last sufferings suffered most extremely from those towards whom He was then manifesting His greatest act of love.

7. Christ’s last sufferings, above all – that He was delivered up to the power of His enemies; and yet by these, above all, He obtained victory over His enemies.

No wonder Paul calls Him preeminent. No wonder we call Him Savior. No wonder we worship Him as the Servant King, the Suffering Servant, the High Priest, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the Righteous Judge, the Risen King, the coming victorious Lord of all.

Oh the glory of Jesus Christ!