The Gospel of John: Behold the Man!

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:4-5)

Behold the Man! In the Latin, it is the phase Ecce Homo. This title, and the scene and setting in which Pilate used it, has become widely depicted in Christian art. One of the most familiar artistic depictions of Pontius Pilate’s presentation of a scourged and crowned Jesus Christ before the hostile crowd prior to His crucifixion is Antonio Ciseri’s (1821-1891) painting appropriately entitled Ecco Homo.  Focus on the Family depicted this work by Ciseri in each episode of their DVD series, The Truth Project. 

After the initial flogging, Pilate produced Jesus to the crowd. He made every attempt to show that Jesus was a pathetic and innocent victim of circumstances. He portrayed Jesus to the people as a harmless fool instead of a powerful king. It was his way of seeking Jesus’ eventual release by the affirmation of the crowd. Perhaps Pilate thought that Jesus’s appearance would provoke pity. He thought wrong.

John MacArthur writes, “Pilate dramatically presented Jesus after his torturous treatment by the soldiers. Jesus would have been swollen, bruised, and bleeding. Pilate displayed Jesus as a beaten and pathetic figure, hoping to gain the people’s choice of Jesus for release. Pilate’s phrase is filled with sarcasm since he was attempting to impress upon the Jewish authorities that Jesus was not the dangerous man that they had made him out to be.

Pilate’s initial statement was followed by another famous quote: “I find no guilt in him.” Pilate found no basis for the accusations made against Jesus. As another commentator explains, The governor’s investigation has yielded a verdict: not guilty (18:35–38a). Under normal circumstances, this verdict would stand.” But these were not ordinary circumstances.

In the sinless life of Jesus we see His active obedience to the Word and will of God the Father. In His crucifixion, and the events immediately preceding His execution, we witness Jesus’ passive obedience to the Word and will of God. He submitted to the humiliation He encountered not only on behalf of sinners but also for His love of the Father.

R. C. Sproul concludes by stating, “There are many different conceptions of what it means to be human. Christians, however, know what true humanity looks like, what it means to be fully human as God intended us to be. True humanity looks like Jesus. We look to Him not only as our Savior but also as the chief example of what true humanity is. We are to emulate the kindness, steadfastness in the truth, humility, mercy, holiness, and other virtues of Jesus.”

May each believer strive today to be like the Lord Jesus.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

LORD’S DAY 7, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 7 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. The theme for the next several Lord’s Days will be deliverance.

Q. Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?

A. No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.1

1 Matt. 7:14John 3:16, 18, 36Rom. 11:16-21.

Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; 1 It is also a wholehearted trust, 2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, 4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, 5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

1 John 17:3, 17Heb. 11:1-3James 2:19.
2 Rom. 4:18-215:110:10Heb. 4:14-16.
3 Matt. 16:15-17John 3:5Acts 16:14.
4 Rom. 1:1610:171 Cor. 1:21.
5 Gal. 2:20.
6 Rom. 1:17Heb. 10:10.
7 Rom. 3:21-26Gal. 2:16Eph. 2:8-10.

Q. What then must a Christian believe?

A. All that is promised us in the gospel, 1 a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1 Matt. 28:18-20John 20:30-31.

Q. What are these articles?

A. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Scourged!

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.” (John 19:1-3)

Oftentimes, the most significant statements found in the Scriptures can be easily overlooked. Such is the case with John 19:1-3. We have here in today’s text a series of statements regarding Pontius Pilate’s treatment of Jesus prior to His crucifixion. They chronicle the despicable treatment the Lord received on our behalf.

First of all, what is meant by the word “flogged?” It comes from the Greek word μαστιγόω (mastigoo). It means to severely whip or to beat or scourge with a whip. The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament provides us with some valuable insight into the first century practice of flogging.

Severe scourgings often preceded crucifixions. Beatings were a regular punishment themselves, but flogging and scourging, much more severe, were part of the death sentence. Because Pilate has not yet pronounced sentence, the beating Jesus receives is a lesser one. Pilate may hope that the blood it draws would satisfy Jesus’ accusers (19:5)—but this is an unlikely supposition (18:31). In the provinces, soldiers normally administered this punishment. Free Romans were beaten with rods, soldiers with sticks, but slaves and probably despised non-Romans with whips whose leather thongs enclosed sharp pieces of metal or bone. Jewish law allowed only thirty-nine lashes; Roman law allowed scourging till the soldier grew tired, and texts report that bones or entrails were sometimes bared.

Luke 23:16 says, “I will therefore punish and release him.” Pilate thought that by having Jesus mercilessly beaten it would satisfy the blood lust of the crowd. Not so!

Secondly, the soldiers then made a crown of thorns and placed it on Jesus’ head. They also clothed Him with a purple robe. The IVP Commentary explains that, Greek vassal princes typically wore a purple chlamys—purple dye being the most expensive—and a wreath of gilded leaves. The “purple robe” that the soldiers put on Jesus may have been a faded scarlet lictor’s robe or an old rug. The crown of thorns, perhaps from the branches of the thorny acanthus shrub or from the date palm (the latter would have looked more realistic), may have been meant to turn mainly outward (mimicking the wreaths of Hellenistic kings) rather than painfully inward; nevertheless, some thorns must have scraped inward, drawing blood from Jesus’ scalp. Only the highest king would wear an actual crown instead of a wreath, so they are portraying him as a vassal prince.”

Finally, the soldiers then began to further mock Jesus by sarcastically hailing Him as the King of the Jews. Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The flogging, the mocking crown of thorns and purple robe, the ridiculing in hailing Him King of the Jews, and the physical blows on His face—these were all part of Jesus’ deep humiliation as He was identified with human sin as the Servant of the Lord (cf. Isa. 50:6; 52:14–53:6). (Matthew and Mark added that the soldiers spit on Jesus [Matt. 27:30; Mark 15:19].) The thorns on His head are mindful of the curse of thorns caused by human sin (Gen. 3:18).”

However, the sovereign plan of God was well in place. John Calvin writes, “But all of this is directed by God, in order to reconcile the world to Himself by the death of His Son.”  

Lest we condemn Pilate too severely because of his actions, let us take notice of the mockery and rejection which continues to this day regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. As John Calvin concludes: “We all condemn Pilate; and yet it is shameful to relate that there so many Pilates in the world who scourge Christ not only in His members but also in His doctrine. There are many who, for the purpose of saving the life of those who are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, constrain them wickedly to deny Christ. Others select and approve of certain parts of the Gospel and yet tear the whole Gospel to pieces.”

Take a moment today to meditate upon the scene we have examined today. All of this was part of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the sinner’s behalf. Respond to the Lord with praise, worship and thanksgiving for His unspeakable gift of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Barabbas.

“But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40)

Who was Barabbas? What irony is there in this account of the Jews wanting Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus? The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides some valuable insight.

At the very outset, Barabbas was a criminal who was released by Pontius Pilate instead of Jesus. Along with the Gospel of John, all the other Gospel writers took note of that event (Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:18–25) as did the Apostle Peter in his temple sermon (Acts 3:14-15).

“Barabbas was a bandit and/or revolutionary (John 18:40) who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). (The word translated “robber” in John 18:40 can denote either a bandit or revolutionary.) He was regarded as a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16).”

His crimes may have been a violent act of robbery or a struggle among the Jews, but many scholars view it as a political insurrection against the Roman forces in Jerusalem. It is likely that Barabbas was a member of the Zealots, a Jewish political group that sought to throw off the yoke of Rome by force or violence.

After examining Jesus, Pilate, recognized that Jesus was innocent and wanted to free him. Yet Pilate also had an interest in pleasing the Jewish leaders in order to protect his own political position. In the face of his dilemma he offered to release a prisoner to the Jews at their Passover feast (John 18:39).

The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament states, “Although unattested in extant Palestinian sources (as are many customs), the specific custom mentioned here is the sort of custom the Romans would have allowed. Roman law permitted two kinds of amnesty, the indulgentia (pardoning a condemned person) and—what Pilate probably has in mind here—abolitio (acquitting a person before judgment). Romans and Greeks seem to have granted mass amnesty at some other regular feasts, and Romans occasionally acquitted prisoners in response to the cries of crowds. Roman provincial officials were also permitted to follow previous officials’ precedents or provincial customs.”

Theologian Robert Rothwell writes, “Before finally passing sentence on Jesus, Pilate left his headquarters, where he was interrogating our Savior, to inform the Jewish leaders of his opinion regarding Jesus. He told them that he found “no guilt” in Jesus (v. 38b). Now, one might think that Pilate would have released the innocent Jesus immediately, since He was clearly not a threat to the Roman Empire’s rule over Judea. But that is not what happened. Pilate’s lack of integrity shines through in that he offered the Jewish authorities a choice. He would release either Jesus or Barabbas, according to the custom of the Romans to release one prisoner during the Passover (v. 39).

Given the option of choosing to release Jesus or Barabbas, Pilate thought that the Jewish crowd would choose to have Jesus set free. However, the Roman governor underestimated either the mood of the mob or the influence of the Jewish leaders, or perhaps both. Regardless, the throng shouted for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:21–22). Consequently, Jesus was crucified and Barabbas set free. Upon receiving his freedom, Barabbas disappeared from biblical and secular history.

Dr. R. C. Sproul comments on the unspoken irony contained in this episode. He explains that, “There is irony here, for Barabbas’ real name was likely Jesus Barabbas, meaning “Jesus, son of the father.” Instead of choosing the true Son of the Father—the Son of God—the Jewish leaders chose a criminal.”

Acts 3:14-15 says, But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

The Apostle Peter also noted the irony of the Jews choosing Barabbas over Jesus when he preached that they released a murderer and instead killed the Author of Life. A taker of life, Barabbas, was set free while the giver of life was to be crucified.

Who would we have chosen to set free: Barabbas or Jesus? Do not be so quick to answer that we would have never preferred Barabbas instead of Jesus. Prior to conversion, we were as spiritually dead as was the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate.

Ephesians 2:1-3 says, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

What happened to make the difference in our lives? Ephesians 2:4-5 provides the answer. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—.”

The Author of Life made us, who were dead, alive together with Christ. May we live today in light of the new life we possess in Jesus Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: For this Purpose, Jesus was Born.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 18:33-38)

Why was Jesus born? Why did Jesus come into this world? Jesus answered this question in His own testimony before Pontius Pilate. He said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

What truth was Jesus referring to? I would submit that the truth Jesus was speaking of is the truth or reality of the gospel which bears His name. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are the essential components contained in the gospel? While we have examined these in the past, today’s text requires us to revisit them in the present.

There are four basic truths contained to what the Bible refers to as the gospel. They are (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) Salvation from sin exists; and (4) One Savior exists and Jesus Christ is that One and Only Savior. We see these four truths of the gospel not only proclaimed in John 1:1-18, but also throughout the Scriptures. The Apostle Peter preached them in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-39).  The Apostle Paul also addressed all four truths when he spoke to the Athenians at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34).

Jesus said that those who belong to the truth, that is the truth of the gospel, listen to the Lord’s voice. To listen means to pay attention to and obey.

Charles Spurgeon writes, “Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as lacking in endurance as Jonah’s vine; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus. Above all let me feel the energy of His Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as stubborn as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible.”

The truth of the gospel is the essential message of the kingdom of God. It is a rule and reign which is not of the fallen, rebellious and sinful world. It is a spiritual rule over the realm of the intellects, emotions and wills of the King’s disciples or followers. It is this kingdom in which Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “By this phrase, Jesus meant that his kingdom is not connected to earthly political and national entities, nor does it have its origin in the evil world system that is in rebellion against God. If his kingdom was of this world, he would have fought. The governments of this world protect their interests by fighting with force. Messiah’s kingdom does not originate in the efforts of man but with the Son of Man forcefully and decisively conquering sin in the lives of his people and someday conquering the evil world system at his second coming when he establishes the earthly form of his kingdom. His kingdom was no threat to the national identity of Israel or the political and military identity of Rome. It exists in the spiritual dimension until the end of the age (Rev. 11:15).

Pontius Pilate’s response to Jesus remarks was the cynical question, “What is truth?” Pilate was not looking for an answer when he made this statement. He was convinced that there was no answer. He gave self-evidence that he was not part of the kingdom of God for he failed to recognize the four fundamental truths of the gospel of the kingdom. He truly belonged to the kingdom of this world.

Dr. R. C. Sproul states, “However, not everyone will submit to the truth to which Jesus bears witness. Only those who are “of the truth” listen—that is, follow Him (John 18:37). Here we see the necessity of regeneration and that it comes before faith. Before people will follow Jesus, they must be re-created to be “of the truth.” They must be given new hearts to believe the gospel and obey Jesus as Lord (3:3, 21).

Pilate then addressed the Jews and acknowledged that he found Jesus was not guilty of any crime. By making it clear that Jesus was not guilty of any sin or crime, John the Apostle is assuring his readers that the Jews and Rome were guilty of a severe injustice.

Today, there are many who say that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something and that you are sincere in that belief. Jesus’ comments about truth reveal to us that it is not about belief in anything that is important, but rather belief in the truth of the gospel which is paramount for people to hear and to obey.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John that “the issue in our day in regard to truth is whether there is an objective reality that is true for everyone, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do.”

Do you believe in the truth of gospel? May it be so.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: The Fourth Trial Begins.

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 18:28-32)

As the scene between the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Governor of Judea Pontius Pilate unfolds, Pilate accommodates the Jews by coming outside his headquarters to meet with them. This was in order to prevent the Jews from being defiled, according to their tradition, by entering a Gentile building.

Pilate is not dumb. He knows that the only reason the Jews have brought “this man” to him is because they have an accusation against Him. Pilate asks a legitimate question: “What accusation do you bring against this man?” This statement begins the Roman Civil Trial against Jesus, following the Jewish Religious Trial.

The Jews response is telltale. “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” The Jews complain that Pilate does not trust their integrity. Surely they would only bring an individual worthy of execution to the governor. Why quibble about the criminal charge.

Pilate’s response was equally informative. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” Pilate had no interest in becoming involved in Jewish matters which did not concern him.

Dr. John Walvoord comments that, “The Jews’ reply to Pilate revealed the hostility between them. (Pilate was hated by them for his harshness and the fact that he was a Gentile ruling over them. Pilate despised them and eventually in the year a.d. 36 they were able to get Pilate recalled to Rome.) At this time Pilate refused to be their executioner. He knew what was going on. He had seen the Triumphal Entry a few days earlier. He knew that envy was the cause of their accusation against Jesus (Matt. 27:18). So Pilate decided to play a game with the Jews with Jesus’ life as the prize. He refused to do anything without a sufficient charge. The Jews’ accusation of blasphemy would be difficult to prove and would not impress Pilate as worthy of death under Roman civil law. The Jews seem to have lost the official right to execute but in certain cases people were stoned (cf. Acts 6:8–7:60). Jesus was popular, and the Sanhedrin wanted Him dead and, if possible, killed by the Romans. The Sanhedrin could condemn, but only the Romans could execute legally.”

John acknowledges the legal intricacies which were going on when he writes, “The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” The death the Jews refer to is death by crucifixion. The implication is that the Jewish religious leaders want Jesus to be executed in the most painful way possible.  Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment in which the victim was tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation.

However, John recognizes the prophetical and theological implications when he also writes, “This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” Jesus had indicated that He would die by crucifixion (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33). This would be a fulfillment of divine prophecy (Psalm 22) and the accomplishment of substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Jesus had said that he would die by being “lifted up” (3:14; 8:28; 12:32–33). If the Jews had executed him it would have been by throwing him down and stoning him. But God providentially controlled all the political procedures to assure that when sentence was finally passed, he would be crucified by the Romans and not stoned by the Jews, as was Stephen (Acts 7:59). The Jews may have preferred this form of execution based on Deut. 21:23.”

In referring to Deuteronomy 21:23, the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:13 says, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

John Calvin concludes: “The Son of God is placed before the tribunal of mortal men. If we suppose that this is done by the caprice of men, and do not raise our eyes to God, our faith must necessarily be confronted and put to shame. But when we perceive that by the condemnation of Christ, our condemnation before God is blotted out, because it pleased the heavenly Father to take this method of reconciling mankind to Himself, we boldly, and without shame, glory even in Christ’s ignominy. Let us therefore learn, in each part of this narrative, to turn our eyes to God as the Author of our redemption.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A Profile of Pontius Pilate.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” (John 18:28-29)

Who exactly was Pontius Pilate? Today we will endeavor to provide a profile of this infamous and historical character. We will be drawing from information provided by the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

The Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (42 B.C. – 37 A.D.) appointed Pontius Pilate (? – 36 A.D.) as the fifth prefect, or governor, of Judea, Pilate served in that capacity from AD 26–36. He not only prominently appears in the trial narratives of the biblical gospels as the Roman governor who authorized Jesus’ crucifixion, but is also mentioned in a variety of extra-biblical sources as a dispassionate and relentless administrator who pursued Roman authority in Judea.

Tacitus (Annals 15.44) mentions Pilate in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus but adds little to the biblical account. Josephus, on the other hand, provides three narratives.

First, he describes Pilate’s arrival as the new prefect (War 2.9.2; Antiquities 18.3.1; cf. Eusebius’s Histories 2.6). Offending Jewish law, Pilate brought ensigns (pennants) into Jerusalem that bore the image of Caesar. A large gathering of Jews then came to Caesarea in protest, fasting there for five days. Pilate called in troops to dismiss them, but he learned his first lesson about Jewish intransigence. The Jews were ready to die rather than tolerate the ensigns. Soon thereafter Pilate relented.

Josephus records a second incident which occurred when Pilate appropriated temple funds in order to construct a 35-mile (56.3-kilometer) aqueduct for Jerusalem (War 2.9.4; Antiquities 18.3.2). Again, there was a major protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to dress in tunics and infiltrate the crowds in disguise. At his command, the troops used clubs to beat the offenders. Many Jews were killed. Josephus records the horror with which Jerusalem perceived the affair.

Finally, Josephus records the story of Pilate’s dismissal (Antiquities 18.4.1–2). In ad 36 a Samaritan false prophet (pretending to be the Taheb, or Samaritan messiah) promised to show his followers sacred vessels hidden by Moses on Mt Gerizim. Pilate sent a heavily armed contingent of footmen and cavalry who intercepted the pilgrims and slaughtered most of them. The Samaritans complained to Vitellius, the prefect of Syria, whereupon Pilate was ordered to report to the emperor Tiberius. Another prefect, Marcellus, was then sent by Rome as Pilate’s replacement.

The historian Philo records yet another event (Leg. to Caius 299–305). While extolling the liberal policies of Tiberius toward Judaism, he cites a negative example in Pontius Pilate. The prefect had erected gilded shields in Herod’s former palace in Jerusalem that bore the name of the emperor. Refusing to hear Jewish complaints, the sons of Herod appealed to Tiberius, who ordered Pilate to transfer the shields to the temple of Augustus in Caesarea. The similarities with the parallel story in Josephus have led many scholars to believe that Philo is merely recounting another version of the same event.

The Gospel of Luke mentions a minor incident that contributes to this same portrait of Pilate. In Luke 13:1 some Jews tell Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. While this story is not corroborated by any other witness, it conforms to the impressions of Pilate’s character given by Philo and Josephus. In fact, Luke adds another detail of interest in his trial narrative. In Luke 23:12 he says that prior to the crucifixion of Jesus, Herod Antipas (in Galilee) and Pilate had been at enmity with each other. This may have stemmed not simply from Pilate’s usual antagonism but particularly from the Galilean incident.

Pilate’s role in the death of Jesus is recorded in each Gospel (Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:29) and was remembered as a historical fact in the preaching of the apostles (Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13). In order to secure the conviction and death of Jesus, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin brought their charges to Pilate. While the accusations took on a political flavor to evoke the governor’s interest, he still could find no grounds for condemnation. In the end, Pilate unexpectedly accommodates the Jewish leaders and has Jesus crucified.

All four gospels, and particularly the Gospel of John, show Pilate’s repeated verdict of Jesus’ innocence. According to Matthew 27:19, Pilate’s wife had an ominous dream about Jesus’ conviction, and she warned her husband. Pilate tried to have Jesus released, but the crowd cried for Barabbas. Matthew even records that Pilate washed his hands (27:24–25), declaring his own innocence in this. And finally, John says that Pilate refused to alter the title over the cross (John 19:19–22). These accounts, therefore, take the full blame for Jesus’ death from Pilate and place it on the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin making them ultimately responsible.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary states, “But why would Pilate act in behalf of the Sanhedrin? Two answers are possible. First, there may have been collusion between Caiaphas and Pilate that stemmed from a long-standing relationship and coterminous reign. Ten of Caiaphas’s eighteen years in power were under Pilate, and when the prefect was dismissed in ad 36, Caiaphas was simultaneously removed. Second, if Jesus’ trial occurred in ad 33, Pilate may have been concerned about his impeachment. He had originally been appointed by Sejanus (prefect of the praetorians in Rome who had appointed men to colonial office under Tiberius), but in the autumn of ad 31 Sejanus died. This explains why a Jewish delegation could report directly to Tiberius during the votive shield incident. Hence, the charge recorded in John 19:12 (“If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend”) would have had genuine power over Pilate. Pilate perceived his jeopardy and was anxious to pacify the Jews and please the emperor.”

The history of Pilate after his dismissal in ad 36 is unknown. Eusebius reports that Pilate ultimately committed suicide during the reign of the emperor Caligula, ad 37–41 (History 2.7).

In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter says, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22-24).

The Bible includes and describes Pontius Pilate as a lawless man. So also were we until the Holy Spirit regenerated our dead souls (John 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10). Take time today to thank God for His saving work.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Hypocritical Holiness!

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” (John 18:28)

What do I mean by the title hypocritical holiness? Let’s unpack the title before we examine today’s test.

To begin with, the word holiness is a noun. It means to be set apart from sin and to be set apart unto what is pure. The adjective, hypocritical, means to pretend to be something you are not. In other words, to act out a part.

The religious leaders who took Jesus from Caiaphas’ house to the headquarters of the then Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, were displaying hypocritical holiness. While they were pretending to be holy, they were in reality committing a great evil. How?

To begin with, they did not want to enter into the governor’s headquarters. Why? They believed that they would be ceremonially defiled by doing so and therefore unable to eat the Passover meal. But why did the Jewish leaders have to bring Jesus to the governor’s headquarters in the first place?

Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, “The problem for the Jewish leaders at this point was that they did not have the legal authority to execute Jesus. Although the Romans allowed the Jews to follow their traditions in many areas, in the vast majority of cases, only a Roman ruler could execute criminals. (The first-century Jewish historian Josephus notes that the Jewish authorities could put to death a gentile who entered the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple.) This explains why Jesus was brought to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (John 18:28–29).

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The headquarters of the Roman military commander or governor (i.e., Pilate), who was normally in Caesarea, but made sure to be in Jerusalem during the feasts in order to quell any riots. Jerusalem became his praetorium or headquarters. Jewish oral law indicated that a Jew who went into a Gentile house or dwelling was considered ceremonially unclean. They (the religious leaders) stayed outside in the colonnade to avoid being tainted. “

I trust that the irony of this situation is apparent to you. While on the one hand, the religious leaders did not want to taint themselves by entering into a Gentile house or dwelling, they defiled themselves in a greater way by abusing and seeking to execute the One, True God in the flesh: Jesus Christ.

Dr. MacArthur comments that, “John loads this statement with great irony by noting the chief priests’ scrupulousness in the matter of ceremonial cleansing, when all the time they were incurring incomparably greater moral defilement by their proceedings against Jesus.”

Jesus was always aware of the hypocritical behavior of the Jewish religious leaders. He condemned them as hypocrites in Matthew 23:13-30. Seven times He called them hypocrites. He not only condemned their outward behavior before  their fellow men but also their inner disposition before God as being full of extortion and self-indulgence.

He summarized His condemnation of them in Matthew 23:31-36. “Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

John Calvin writes, “To the defiled and to unbelievers, says Paul, nothing is pure; because their minds are polluted, (Titus 1:15). But these hypocrites, thought they are so full of malice, ambition, fraud, cruelty, and avarice, that they almost infect heaven and earth with their abominable smell, are only afraid of external pollutions. So then it is an intolerable mockery that they expect to please God, provided that they do not contract defilement by touching some unclean thing, though they have disregarded true purity.” 

Many times believers in Christ are more concerned with their outward righteousness before their fellow men then they are with their inner righteousness before God. Let us resolve to be pure in heart as we seek to be pure in deed and behavior.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

LORD’S DAY 6, 2019.

Q. Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?

A. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin; 1
but a sinful human could never pay for others.2

1 Rom. 5:12, 151 Cor. 15:21Heb. 2:14-16
2 Heb. 7:26-271 Pet. 3:18

Q. Why must the mediator also be true God?

A. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us
and restore to us righteousness and life.1

1 Isa. 53John 3:162 Cor. 5:21

Q. Then who is this mediator—true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God.2

1 Matt. 1:21-23Luke 2:111 Tim. 2:5
2 1 Cor. 1:30

Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;1
later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs2and prophets3 and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;4 and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.5

1 Gen. 3:15
2 Gen. 22:1849:10
3 Isa. 53Jer. 23:5-6Mic. 7:18-20Acts 10:43Heb. 1:1-2
4 Lev. 1-7John 5:46Heb. 10:1-10
5 Rom. 10:4Gal. 4:4-5Col. 2:17

 

The Gospel of John: Peter’s Denials of Christ.

The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:17; 25-27)

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This particular text is an example of synonymous parallelism in which two statements are essentially saying the same thing.

Pride refers to self-exaltation. It is the cause or means for a person’s destruction. Destruction is defined as a literal breaking of a limb. It is a crippling wound.

A haughty spirit means having an attitude of conceit or grandeur. This attitude results in a fall which is a personal stumbling or calamity.

One commentary states, This verse discusses pride, humility, and disaster. Pride leads to one’s downfall (cf. 18:12; 29:23). Pride is so despicable that a person should avoid it even if it means being economically oppressed.” (See Proverbs 16:19).

All of us, I’m sure, have experienced at one time or another a humbling experience which was preceded by our pride or haughtiness. We exalted ourselves and then encountered the resulting humiliation. This is what happened to Peter.

Peter was self-assured in his own strength and ability to follow Jesus. He boldly stated that while the other disciples would forsake Jesus, he would not (Matthew 26:34-35; Mark 14:30-31; Luke 22:33-34). Yet, that is exactly what Peter did. He not only forsook Christ, he denied he even knew Him. Not once, but three times. To acknowledge God is holy to the third degree (Isaiah 6:1-7) is to praise Him to the superlative degree. So also, by denying Jesus three times, Peter took his personal sin of denial to the superlative degree.

Luke 22:31-32 provides us an interesting side note to Jesus’ prediction back in the upper room regarding Peter’s three denials and Peter’s subsequent behavior. The text says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The repetition of the name (cf. 10:41Acts 9:4) implied an earnest and somber tone of warning. Christ himself had given Simon the name Peter (Luke 6:14), but here he reverted to his old name, perhaps to intensify his rebuke about Peter’s fleshly overconfidence. Though addressed specifically to Peter, this warning embraced the other disciples as well. The imagery (to sift you like wheat) is appropriate. It suggests that such trials, though unsettling and undesirable, have a necessary refining effect. The pronoun “you” is singular. Although it is clear that Jesus prayed for all of them (John 17:6–19), he personally assured Peter of his prayers and of Peter’s ultimate victory, even encouraging Peter to be an encourager to the others.  Peter himself failed miserably, but his faith was never overthrown (cf. John 21:18–19).

Luke 22:60-61 says, But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”

We may fail the Lord miserably. Perhaps we have. Perhaps we are. Perhaps we will. We may believe that God could never forgive us and that we have forsaken all hope of ever serving Him again.

However, the Lord can and does restore such people who fail. Repent of your failure(s) and sin today and receive the Lord’s cleansing and restorative grace.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, Jesus “had no need to die for people who are sinless, for there are no such people. He gave Himself for people who have it in them to betray Him, people like you and me. However, He will never betray those on whom He sets His love, but will love them faithfully for all time.”

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

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: The Third Trial.

“When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (Luke 22:66-71).

As we have previously noted, in ancient Israel criminal trials were not considered legal if conducted at night. Therefore, the Sanhedrin waited until daybreak to officially render the verdict of which they had already passed (cf. Matt. 26:66Mark 14:64). This would constitute the third trial, of six, in which Jesus faced His accusers. We refer to the Gospel of Luke for the details concerning this third Jewish Trial.

Once again, for the official record, the elders, chief priest and scribes asked Jesus if He was the Christ. They demanded Him to tell them if this was so.

Jesus responded with two insightful observations. First, He said that if He told them that He was the Christ, they would not believe Him. Second, He then said that if He asked them if they thought He was the Christ, they would not answer.

The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament says, “If extant reports of ancient Jewish law are accurate, the high priest could not legally force Jesus to convict himself out of his own mouth. Nevertheless, he asks whether Jesus thinks of himself as a Messiah—hence, to the high priest’s mind, as a revolutionary.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The Sanhedrin subjected him to the same set of questions he had been asked in the nighttime trial, and the answers he gave were substantially the same (cf. vv. 67–71Matt. 26:63–66Mark 14:61–64).”

Jesus then, as He had before, affirmed His identity by saying that they would see the Son of Man, referring to Himself, seated at the right hand of the power of God. So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”

That was all the confession they wanted. The Sanhedrin affirmed that they needed no more testimony then what Jesus had given them. They found Jesus guilty of blasphemy when He only affirmed to them the truth of His identity.

How are believers in Christ to respond when facing unjust accusations? How are believers to respond when faced with criticism and persecution for affirming their love for God and His Word?

I Peter 3:13-17 says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: The Second Trial.

“Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:24)

Following Annas’ interrogation of Jesus, he sent Him to the then current high priest, Caiaphas who was also Annas’ son-in-law. Whereupon, the second trial against Jesus was held.

John does not tell us much about Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas. Therefore, we will seek insight from the other three gospels to see what occurred during this second trial.

Matthew 26:57-68 says, “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, and “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Mark 14:53-65 says, “And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.”

Luke 22:54-55, 63-65 says, “Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.”

Let’s take the time today to compare the preceding accounts of Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas.

First, immediately following Jesus’ appearance before Annas, those who had seized Jesus in Gethsemane and led Him to Annas, now take Him to Caiaphas. (See John 18:1-3).

Second, Matthew and Mark both mention that the elders and scribes were also in attendance. In other words, members of the Sanhedrin were in attendance. One commentator explains that, “The full Sanhedrin normally met in their special meeting hall in the temple, the Chamber of Hewn Stone. In this case, many members of the Sanhedrin hold a secret night meeting without advance notice in the high priest’s home, though they are investigating what they will claim is a capital offense.”

Dr. John MacArthur adds, “The great Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel, consisting of 71 members, presided over by the high priest. They met daily in the temple to hold court, except on the Sabbath and other holy days. Technically, they did not have the power to administer capital punishment (John 18:31), but in the case of Stephen, for example, this was no deterrent to his stoning (cf. Acts 6:12–14; 7:58–60).

Third, all three synoptic gospels mention Peter following at a distance. This is a precursor to the tragic denials which were to come from the fisherman’s lips.

Fourth, both Matthew and Mark indicate that Caiaphas and the whole Sanhedrin council were seeking testimony to put Jesus to death. They were not interested in truth but rather in carrying out their preconceived and premeditated agenda. (See John 5:18). In spite of their best efforts, and those of false witnesses, no agreement could be reached and no testimony proved valid.

Fifth, Jesus remained silent.

Sixth, Caiaphas asked Jesus to acknowledge whether He indeed was the Christ, the son of God? Jesus answered that He was and that they would see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” This is a clear reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7.

Seventh, upon hearing Jesus’ response Caiaphas tore his priestly robes. Dr. MacArthur explains that, “Normally this was an expression of deep grief (2 Kings 19:1Job 1:20Jer. 36:24). The high priest was forbidden to tear his clothes (Lev. 10:6; 21:10)—but the Talmud made an exception for high priests who witnessed a blasphemy. But Caiaphas’s supposed grief was as phony as the charge of blasphemy against Jesus; he was gloating over having found something to base his charges on (Matt. 26:67).”

Eighth, they condemn Jesus to death. This verdict is then immediately followed by their spiting, mocking, beating and blaspheming Jesus. The irony is that those who falsely accused Jesus of being guilty of blasphemy are now truly guilty of the same sin by blaspheming the Son of God.

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the cross. If ever a person had room to complain for injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

The Gospel of John: The First Trial.

The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me? Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:17-24)

Understanding the historical context is extremely important in every portion of Scripture we read and study. So much more so when we read of Jesus’ trial before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. On the surface, it may not seem that the trial Jesus encountered was all that heinous and scandalous. Upon a closer look, we see that it was.

To begin with, first-century Jewish trial regulations stipulated that a defendant could not be put on trial at night. However, that is when Jesus’ trial took place (John 18:1-3).

Second, the high priest was not supposed to question the defendant but only the witnesses against the defendant. However, in His first appearance before the Jewish authorities, Jesus was interrogated by Annas, whom the Jews regarded as the high priest even though the Romans had previously removed him (vv. 19, 24).

Thirdly, Deuteronomy 17:1-7 declares that a person cannot be put to death except when two or more witnesses provide consistent evidence of guilt of a committed crime against the law. But the Jewish leaders recommended capital punishment for Jesus even though the witnesses against Him provided contradictory testimony (Mark 14:55–64).

It is ironic that while this mock trial was held in secret, Jesus testified that His teachings were conducted openly, in public, and even in the synagogues. Jesus was in effect demanding that witnesses be brought forth to testify against Him, which was the lawful procedure. While the Jewish leaders denied Jesus a public and lawful trial, Jesus always spoke and taught publicly, consistently and lawfully.

The attendees certainly understood Jesus’ implication concerning this unlawful gathering because an officer of the high priest struck Jesus. He must have understood Jesus was rebuking Annas and retaliated. This was another illegality to this mock trial. It was not only inappropriate to try to induce self-incrimination, but it was also wrong to hit an un-convicted defendant.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “It was easier to evade the truth or to silence the One who spoke the truth than to attempt to answer the truth. Truth has a self-evident power of persuasion and those who oppose it find it difficult to deny. Jesus pressed this point and exposed their hypocrisy. They knew the truth but loved error. They saw the light but loved darkness (cf. 3:19; Rom. 1:18).”

Meanwhile, Peter was outside in the temple courtyard of the high priest. He was warming himself by the fire that was made due to the cold, spring night. It was at this moment that a servant girl asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. He responded that he was not. This would be the first of Peter’s three denials.

Dr. John Walvoord comments that, Peter’s denial before the servant girl was a striking contradiction to his earlier boast to lay down his life for Jesus (13:37), and his show of offense in cutting off Malchus’ ear (18:10). Evidently the other disciple was also in danger (perhaps greater) but he did not deny Jesus. Peter stood by the fire … warming himself in the cold spring evening, Jerusalem being about 2,500 feet above sea level. This little detail about the cold evening is another indication that the author of this book was an eyewitness.”

Following these events, Annas sent Jesus to Ciaphas the high priest. The trial entered its second phase.

I Peter 2:18-23 says, Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Following Jesus’ example is always wise. Especially when facing unjust and unlawful criticism.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Arrest!

”So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.” (John 18:12-16)

The events of Jesus’ arrest, trial, conviction, crucifixion, burial and resurrection reads like an unfolding news story, or at least like an episode of Law and Order.  While additional details are added, or withheld, by each of the four gospel accounts, the core events remain consistently true and realistic.

To begin with, Jesus was arrested. A band of soldiers came to Gethsemane with their captain and the officers of the Jews and bound Him. A band of soldiers (σπεῖρα; speria) was a Roman military unit of 600 soldiers. A captain (χιλίαρχος; chiliarchos) was in charge of 100 of the 600. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that at least 100 soldiers were in the garden to formally arrest Jesus. A sizable band to be sure. The officers (ὑπηρέται; hyperetai) of the Jews were servants of the Pharisees and the chief priests (John 18:2-3).

These then led Jesus first to Annas. John identifies him as Caiaphas’ father-in-law. Caiaphas was officially the high priest at the time of Jesus’ arrest. John adds the comment that it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. Why did these officers, etc. take Jesus to Annas first and not Caiaphas?

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Annas held the high priesthood office from A.D. 6–15 when Valerius Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor, removed him from office. In spite of this, Annas continued to wield influence over the office, most likely because he was still regarded as the true high priest, also, because five of his sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, each held the position at different times. Two trials occurred: one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish phase began with the informal examination by Annas (vv. 12–14, 19–23), probably giving time for the members of the Sanhedrin to hurriedly gather together. A session before the Sanhedrin was next (Matt. 26:57–68) at which consensus was reached to send Jesus to Pilate (Matt. 27:1–2). The Roman phase began with a first examination before Pilate (John 18:28–38aMatt. 27:11–14), and then Herod Antipas (“that fox”—Luke 13:32) interrogated him (Luke 23:6–12). Lastly, Jesus appeared again before Pilate (John 18:38b–19:16Matt. 27:15–31).”

Next, John indicates that only two disciples followed Jesus: Peter and another disciple; probably John himself. John states that “Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.

One commentary states that, “John gained admission to the courtyard immediately because he was known to the high priest (v. 15), probably because he was from a family with some wealth. (John’s family employed some hired servants; see Mark 1:19–20.) The servant girl guarding the door to the courtyard let Peter in after John spoke with her, presumably to secure Peter’s admission (John 18:16). But if Peter hoped to hide among the crowd, he would not succeed. The girl called him out, eliciting the first of Peter’s three denials of Jesus (vv. 17–18; see vv. 25–27).”

While we might initially believe Jesus, and the disciples, were victims of circumstances beyond God’s control, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was in complete control during His arrest. We will see that He remained so during His trial.

What was true during these events in Jesus’ life are also true for believers today. God remains in control of everything we encounter. Take heart and do not be discouraged.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Consistently Impulsive.

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11).

You’ve got to say this about Peter: he was impulsively consistent. Or it may be more appropriate to say he was consistently impulsive. Though he may have exhibited a misguided passion, it was still a passion. Peter was never ambivalent.

Throughout the four gospel accounts of Simon Peter, we witness a man who often acted, or reacted, first and then thought second. This was particularly true when Jesus spoke of His own death, burial, and resurrection and Peter reacted respectively with impulsive presumption and self-exalting bravado (Matthew 16:21-23; John 13:36-38).

As the confrontation between with Jesus and His enemies is joined in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter takes matters into his own hands, literally, and strikes out at the high priest’s servant. The text tells us the servant’s name was Malchus.

The sword (μάχαιραν; machaira) Peter possessed was actually more of a dagger. It was commonly used for shaving, or by tanners and gardeners. Peter pre-meditatively drew it and struck Malchus. This blow resulted in Malchus’ ear being cut off. It is perhaps correct to conclude that Peter may have been aiming more for Malchus’ head then just his ear. We do not know any more about Malchus. However, we do know that Jesus healed him from his wound (Luke 22:50-51).

One commentator explains that, “Peter’s action was an act of misguided zeal. No matter how well armed the disciples were—and likely all they had were some daggers like Peter’s—they were vastly outnumbered. From any reasonable military estimate, the disciples could not have prevailed in offering resistance to the detachment of Roman soldiers sent to arrest our Lord. This may indicate that Peter believed the disciples would receive supernatural assistance because they were defending the One whom he confessed as God’s appointed Messiah (Matt. 16:15–16).”

Regardless of Peter’s motivation in doing what he did, Jesus rebuked him and told him to put away, or sheath, his dagger. The reason Jesus gives is because He knows He must fulfill the Father’s will be willingly submitting to the cup of wrath for the salvation of sinners.

Ironically, by his actions Peter sought to prevent Jesus from accomplishing what would prove to be the most extraordinary blessing Jesus could ever give Peter: salvation from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin.

Even believers in Christ today must be on their guard from misguided zeal and impulsiveness. We may think we are doing God’s work God’s way but we may be acting with impulsive and misguided zeal thereby failing to do God’s will, God’s way.

John Calvin writes, “Those who have resolved to plead the cause of Christ do not always conduct themselves so skillfully as not to commit some fault; and, therefore, we ought the more earnestly to entreat the Lord to guide us in every action by the spirit of prudence.”

Calvin goes on to say that, “We must attend to the reason, which is, that private individual was not permitted to rise in opposition to those who had been invested with public authority; for this may be inferred from the other three Evangelists, who relate Christ’s general declaration, “He who strikes with the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Calvin concludes, “We must also beware of repelling our enemies by force or violence, even when they unjustly provoke us, except so far as the institutions and laws of the community admit. For whoever goes beyond the limits of his calling, though he should gain the applause of the whole world, will never obtain for his conduct the approbation of God.”

Let us be careful of misguided and impulsive zeal which does not serve the gospel but rather our own appetites and desires.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

LORD’S DAY 5, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will examine the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 5 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. The theme for the next several Lord’s Days will be deliverance.

Q. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both now and in eternity: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied.1 Therefore the claims of this justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or by another.2

1 Ex. 23:7Rom. 2:1-11.
2 Isa. 53:11Rom. 8:3-4.

Q. Can we make this payment ourselves?

A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.1

1 Matt. 6:12Rom. 2:4-5.

Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

A. No. To begin with, God will not punish any other creature for what a human is guilty of.1 Furthermore, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it.2

1 Ezek. 18:4, 20. Heb. 2:14-18.
2 Ps. 49:7-9130:3.

Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?

A. One who is a true and righteous 2  human, yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.3

1 Rom. 1:31 Cor. 15:21Heb. 2:17.
2 Isa. 53:92 Cor. 5:21Heb. 7:26.
3 Isa. 7:149:6Jer. 23:6John 1:1.

 

 

The Gospel of John: I Am He!

“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So 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. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” (John 18:2-9)

God is in control. How many times have you heard that statement? How many times have you either heard, or read, me either saying or writing that statement as a phrase expressing a significant biblical truth?

God is in control is a true statement evidenced throughout the Scriptures. It summarizes the doctrine known as the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God not only teaches that God is the supreme authority but also that He is in complete control of all which occurs. Absolutely nothing happens beyond His authority and sovereign will.

Concurrent with God’s sovereignty are His incommunicable attributes. You know what a communicable disease is? It is an illness that may and can be passed or shared with another person. There are some attributes which God possesses that human beings share to a lesser degree. These so-called communicable attributes include love, joy, peace, and long-suffering, for example (Galatians 5:22-23).

However, incommunicable attributes are those qualities which God alone possesses. These include His all-powerfulness (omnipotence), all-knowingness (omniscience), all-presence (omnipresence) and that He never changes (immutability).

God’s omniscience is displayed in today’s text. Jesus evidences, and therefore is one who possesses, this attribute. He knows all that is going to happen to Him in the unfolding hours up to and including His crucifixion and resurrection. Since omniscience is an attribute only God can possess, and Jesus displays this attribute, we can correctly conclude that Jesus is God. In fact, if you recall this is the entire point of John’s gospel (John 20:30-31). Jesus is God. Jesus is the great I Am.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “This “band of soldiers” refers to a cohort of Roman troops. A full cohort could have as many as one thousand men. Normally, however, a cohort consisted of six hundred men, but could sometimes refer to as little as two hundred. Though they were regularly kept at Caesarea, Roman auxiliary troops were brought into Jerusalem (to the Antonia Fortress near the temple) during feast days for added security (in order to ensure against mob violence or rebellion because of the large population that filled Jerusalem). The second group designated as “officers” refers to temple police, who were the primary arresting officers since Jesus’ destination after the arrest was to be brought before the high priest (vv. 12–14). They came ready for resistance from Jesus and his followers (“weapons”).

When the confrontation occurred, Jesus said, “Whom do you seek?” Their answer was “Jesus of Nazareth.”  In other words, Jesus was forcing the group of soldiers, officers and religious leaders to publicly acknowledge they had come to arrest only Jesus and not the disciples who were with Him. In fulfillment of John 6:39, Jesus would lose none of His followers who the Father had given Him.

It is also interesting to note that when Jesus invoked the familiar “I Am” statement when He said “I Am He,” the soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees all drew back and fell to the ground. They were struck not only by the majesty of Jesus’ words but also His person (Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:1-8; Revelation 1:12-20).

While the circumstances seem to indicate that Jesus is a victim of said circumstances, nothing is further from the truth. He is not only aware of the circumstances of what is happening and what will happen, but He is also sovereignly in control of all that would happen.

What was true then regarding His fulfillment of the Father’s will is also true regarding His will for our lives. He is not only aware of what is going to occur in our lives, but He is in sovereign control of all which occurs. This is a wonderful and comforting doctrine of biblical truth. It provides great confidence when we face circumstances beyond our immediate control. Those circumstances are never out of God’s control.

Take heart, take courage and take comfort in God’s sovereign control.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: In the Garden.

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.” (John 18:1)

In the summer of 2011 I traveled to the Holy Land and spent close to two weeks in Israel. It was a truly memorable trip of not only sightseeing but understanding the biblical significance of all the sights which were seen.

I was struck by the barren wilderness which is Judea in contrast with the lush, green and fertile area surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Our tour group spent several hours actually on the Sea of Galilee and I wondered aloud what it must have been like for Jesus and the disciples to be on the lake during the violent storm, which Jesus eventually stilled (Mark 4:35-41).

Our group visited the cities of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. One of the most interesting excursions was visiting Masada and the Dead Sea.

With respect to today’s text, our group also ventured into the Kidron Valley which descends to the Eastern Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem where the sealed Eastern Gate remains visible. The Kidron Valley consists of a deep, dark ravine, to the northeast of Jerusalem, through which flowed a small storm brook or winter torrent, and which in summer dries up. In my mind I could envision Jesus and the disciples leaving the upper room where they had observed the Passover Meal and then venturing to the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane is the garden which John makes reference. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary describes Gethsemane as follows.

“Gethsemane is the place to which Jesus and his disciples walked after their Last Supper together in the upper room. In Gethsemane, Jesus underwent a great inner struggle, as he realized the hour of his betrayal was at hand (Mt 26:36–56; Mk 14:32–50; Lk 22:39–53).”

“The name Gethsemane, used only in the Gospels of Matthew (26:36) and Mark (14:32), means “oil press,” suggesting the presence of an olive grove. The use of the Greek word “place” in the Gospel accounts indicates that Gethsemane was an enclosed piece of ground. It may be that the grove was privately owned and that Jesus and his disciples had special permission to enter.”

“Though the Gospels of Luke and John do not mention the word Gethsemane, they both record Jesus’ agony before his betrayal. Luke says the location was on the “Mount of Olives” (Lk 22:39). John describes the area as “across the Kidron Valley” (John 18:1). John’s is the only Gospel to call the spot a garden.”

“From those accounts it is also evident that Jesus and his disciples gathered in Gethsemane often for fellowship and prayer (Lk 22:39; John 18:2). The Gospel narratives indicate that the garden was large enough for the group to separate into different parts of it.”

It is interesting to note that John’s Gospel makes no record of Jesus’ prayer to the Father concerning the “cup” of which Jesus would partake on behalf of sinners. The cup refers to the wrath of God towards sin and the sinner. Jesus’ verbal submission to the Father’s will while in the garden is not documented as it is in the other three gospels. Perhaps this is because John records Jesus’ resolute prayer of submission while He was still in the upper room (John 17).

As we will witness in John’s Gospel. Jesus’ actions display a willingness to do the Father’s will. Jesus not only prayed to do the Father’s will on behalf of sinners. Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will on behalf of sinners.

There is no way believers will, or could, ever be called by God the Father to accomplish what only God the Son could. However, God does call us to do His will even when it is difficult. It may concern a relationship, a job, a change in one’s life or even the death of a loved one.

One of Bill Gaither’s most poignant songs is entitled Have You Had a Gethsemane. Meditate upon the lyrics and then go to God with a resolute will to carry out His will.

In the garden He went to pray 
when it seemed hope was gone.
He prayed with a broken heart.
And he prayed all alone.

Have you had a Gethsemane?
Have you prayed in despair?
In the dark of those weary hours
did the Lord meet you there?

Have you had a Gethsemane?
Have you prayed the night through?
Have you shed tears in agony
when no hope was in you?

Have you prayed, “If it is thy will
may this cup pass from me?
But if it’s your will, dear Lord,
I will bear it for thee?”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!