The Gospel of John: Secret Disciples, Public Ministry.

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:38-41)

Intense circumstances often prompt people to take responsibility and be leaders. Such was the case with two men who took charge of Jesus’ burial: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas.

This is the first occasion in which Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by the Apostle John. What do we know about Joseph?

To begin with, Joseph was a Jew of Arimethea. Arimethea is identified by some historians as also being the town of Ramathaim-Zophim, which was a town in Ephraim, the birthplace of Samuel, where David came to him (1 Samuel 1:1, 19). It is also noted that Arimethea was located approximately 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Luke identifies Joseph as ‘a good and righteous man, … and he was looking for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 23:50–51). Luke also records that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin but did not consent to the decision and deed to crucify Jesus (Luke 23:50-51). The Gospel of Mark mentions that Joseph was a prominent member of the council (Mark 15:43).

The Gospel of Matthew mentions that Joseph was a rich man who had become a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57). It was Joseph who specifically went to Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:58; Luke 23:52). Matthew and Luke also mention that it was Joseph who took down Jesus’ body from the cross,  wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb which had never been used (Matthew 27:60; Luke 23:53).

John’s Gospel states that Joseph was ‘a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews’ (John. 19:38).  However, Mark mentions that Joseph took courage to ask for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). When it really counted, Joseph was strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9).

Joseph’s actions were partnered with those of Nicodemas. This was the same Nicodemas who came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-10; 19:39). Nicodemas came with approximately 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ body (John 19:39.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “An inaccurate understanding of the term used in the original, this mixture of spices weighed closer to 65 pounds. Myrrh was a very fragrant, gummy resin that the Jews turned into a powdered form and mixed with aloes, a powder from the aromatic sandalwood. The Jews did not embalm but did this procedure to suppress the odor of decay.”

The text then says that Joseph and Nicodemas took Jesus’ body, bound it in strips of linen (I.e. swaddling clothes) with the spices as was the Jewish custom (John 19:40). The text continues to say that the new tomb was located in a garden (John 19:41). They laid Jesus’ body into the tomb because it was the Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby (John 19:42). This was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.

One commentator explains that,” Normally, the Jews would bury criminals in a common grave outside the city gates, but the body of Jesus got a different treatment. Some commentators believe that Pilate’s willingness to give the body to Joseph (and Nicodemus; v. 39) is a further indication that Pilate believed Jesus was innocent, since he allowed Jesus not to be buried with other criminals.”

The practical application of today’s lesson is that when it truly counted, Joseph and Nicodemas served the Lord with great boldness in spite of their prior fear and trepidation. Have there been occasions when you feared serving the Lord? I’m sure we all have felt intimidation at some time or another. The solution is to repent of fear and resolve to serve Jesus with strength, courage and boldness.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Lamb Who was Slain!

“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:31-37)

Was Jesus actually crucified on a Friday? Interestingly enough, there has been much debate among Christians as to whether or not this is so? I have personally encountered several people who have wanted to vigorously argue about this subject. However, the first words from John 19:31 clearly indicate that whatever we may know about Jesus’ crucifixion, it did occur on a Friday.

The words “day of Preparation” (παρασκευὴ; paraskeue) is literally one word in the Greek language and it clearly means Friday. In the Jewish context, it would be the day before the Sabbath. In today’s text, this term takes on an even greater significance because the “Sabbath was a high day.”  This was because the beginning of Sabbath was also the beginning of the Passover Feast.

This gave greater weight to the importance of not having any crucified bodies hanging on that particular Saturday or Sabbath Day. Therefore, the Jews asked that Pilate have the legs of the three crucified men, including Jesus, be broken.

Dr. John MacArthur comments that “Though the Romans had no problem leaving crucified victims hanging on crosses long after they died (allowing their corpses to rot or be eaten by birds), the Jewish leaders insisted that Jesus’ body be taken down. The Mosaic Law stipulated that a person hanged on a tree should not remain there overnight (Deut. 21:22–23). They would have been especially wary of this in light of the Passover celebration. In order to hasten death for certain reasons, soldiers would break the legs of the victim with an iron mallet. Doing so inhibited the dying man’s ability to push up with his legs in order to breathe. Death by asphyxiation soon followed.”

Having no reason to not comply with the Jews’ request, Pilate gave the order for the men’s legs to be broken. The test says, “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.” This indicates that both criminals were still alive following Jesus’ death. It also shows that the soldiers had no reticence or restraint in inflicting further pain and suffering upon the condemned.

However, the text goes on to say “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” The behavior of the soldiers towards Jesus was not born of any compassion they may have had for Him. They were practical men. They saw no reason to break the legs of a man already dead. It was unnecessary. This text proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus did indeed die on the cross, belying or contradicting those who would contend otherwise.

Again, the soldiers were practical men. To ensure that Jesus was indeed dead, they confirmed it by their following behavior. “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” The soldier’s stabbing of Jesus’ side was one of significant penetration. The flow of blood and water was because the spear pierced Jesus’ heart or the chest cavity was pierced at the bottom. Either way, the Apostle John mentioned the outflow of “blood and water” to emphasize that Jesus was unquestionably dead.

As with the many other events leading up and including His crucifixion, even Jesus’ bones not being broken as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John 19:36-37 says, “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

The Scriptures to which the Apostle John refers are respectively Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 regarding the Passover Lamb’s bones are not to be broken when offered before the Lord and Psalm 22:16-17, Zechariah 12:10 and 13:6 which refer to the Messiah’s body being pierced.

Dr. MacArthur explains that, “John quoted from either Ex. 12:46 or Num. 9:12, since both stipulate that the bones of the Passover lamb must not be broken. Since the NT portrays Jesus as the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; cf. 1 Cor. 5:71 Pet. 1:19), these verses have special typologically prophetic significance for him. The quote in John 19:37 comes from Zech. 12:10. The anguish and contrition of the Jews in the Zechariah passage, because of their wounding of God’s Shepherd, is typologically prophetic of the time of the coming of the Son of God, Messiah, when at his return, Israel shall mourn for the rejection and killing of their King (cf. Rev. 1:7).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes today’s devotional by writing, “In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the (Apostle) Paul made an astonishing statement about the importance of the cross to the entirety of the Christian faith: ‘And I brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ Paul was a man who had the equivalent of two Ph.D.’s in theology by the time he was 21 years of age, a man who wrote with great insight on the whole scope of theology. Nevertheless, he said that the focal point of his teaching, preaching, and ministry among the Corinthians was simply Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, may the Lord enable you to do so today.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Final Words, Final Act!

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28-30)

Jesus’ fourth of seven sayings from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” is not recorded by John (cf. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). However, John does record Jesus’ fifth statement: “I thirst.” It is evident from the today’s text that Jesus was fully conscious during His execution, even up to and including the moment of His death.

Why was it so important for John to document Jesus’ physical thirst? One commentator writes, “The wording in John 19:28 indicates that Jesus was fully conscious and was aware of fulfilling the details of prophecies (Psalm. 42:1–2; 63:1). The paradox of the One who is the Water of life (John 4:14; 7:38–39) dying of thirst is striking. Giving Him wine vinegar, a sour wine, fulfilled Psalm 69:21. Putting the vinegar-soaked sponge on the end of a hyssop plant stalk seems odd. Perhaps this detail points to Jesus dying as the true Lamb at Passover, for hyssop was used in the Passover ceremonies (cf. Exodus 12:22).”

After Jesus received the sour wine, He spoke His sixth statement from the cross: “It is finished!” This statement is one word in the Greek (Τετέλεσται; Tetelestai). It means that something is completed or accomplished. It also means “paid in full.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The verb here carries the idea of fulfilling one’s task and, in religious contexts, has the idea of fulfilling one’s religious obligations (see 17:4). The entire work of redemption had been brought to completion. The single Greek word here (translated “It is finished”) has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning “paid in full” (see Col. 3:13–14).”

Then, the moment of physical death arrived. When Jesus gave up His spirit, it was a conscious act of His will. No one took His life. He willingly gave it up (John 10:17-18).

John Calvin states, “It is finished. Now this word, which Christ employs, well deserves our attention; for it shows that the whole accomplishment of our salvation, and all the parts of it, are contained in His death. But Christ only intends to keep our faith fixed on Himself alone, and not to allow it to turn aside in any direction whatever. The meaning, therefore is, that everything which contributes to the salvation of men is to be found in Christ, and ought not to be sought anywhere else. The perfection of salvation is contained in Him.”

Thank you Lord for taking my place on the cross and being my substitute. May my life be one lived in gratitude to all which you have accomplished.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Witnesses of the Crucifixion.

“…but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27)

The Apostle John provides us an insight into the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus. Unlike executions carried out today in the United States, executions in ancient Israel were pubic and were intended to be a deterrent to would be criminals.

Public crucifixions also allowed loved ones to witness the execution of their beloved. Such was the case with Jesus as testified by John 19:25-26. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also mention the presence of several women, including some details about the women not found in John’s gospel (Matt. 27:55–56Mark 15:40–41Luke 23:49).

Dr. John MacArthur notes that, “Although the exact number of women mentioned here is questioned, John probably refers to four women rather than three, i.e., two by name and two without naming them: 1) “his mother” (Mary); 2) “his mother’s sister” (probably Salome [Mark 15:40],  the sister of Mary and mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee [Matt. 27:56–57Mark 15:40]); 3) “Mary the wife of Clopas” (the mother of James the younger and Joses—Matt. 27:56); and 4) Mary Magdalene (“Magdalene” signifies “Magdala” a village on the west shore of Galilee, 2 or 3 miles north of Tiberias). Mary Magdalene figures prominently in the resurrection account (see John 20:1–18; cf. Luke 8:2–3 where Jesus healed her from demon possession).”

The IVP Background New Testament Commentary explains that, “The evidence is disputed as to whether relatives and close friends were allowed near crucifixions; they probably were. In either case, the soldiers supervising the execution would have looked the other way in practice if they had no reason to forbid it; the prerogatives of motherhood were highly respected in the ancient world. Because Jesus may not be elevated far above the ground, Jesus’ mother and disciple can hear him without being extremely close to the cross.”

It is during this period of time that John records Jesus giving him the responsibility of taking care of Mary, Jesus’ birth mother. John does not specifically name himself but rather uses the title “the disciple whom He (Jesus) loved.”

I find it curious that Jesus did not entrust the care of His mother to His earthly brothers (see Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6). We can only speculate as to why? Perhaps it was because Jesus earthly brothers were not sympathetic or supportive of His ministry. Maybe it was because they were in Capernaum and not in Jerusalem. Yet, it was the Passover and it seems unlikely that all His brothers and sisters would have been absent from the feast. Perhaps, it was because John was the only disciple in attendance.

Dr. John Walvoord states, “In stark contrast with the cruelty and indifference of the soldiers, a group of four women watched with love and grief. The anguish of Jesus’ mother fulfilled a prophecy of Simeon: “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Seeing her sorrow Jesus honored His mother by consigning her into the care of John, the beloved disciple. His brothers and sisters being in Galilee, were not in a position to care for or comfort her. The words of Jesus to Mary and the beloved disciple were His third saying from the cross (the first one recorded by John). In the other Gospels Jesus had already given a respite to the Roman executioners (Luke 23:34) and a pardon to one thief (Luke 23:42–43).”

At the hour of Mary’s deepest grief, Jesus did not fail her. He made sure she would be taken care of. At the moment of our deepest grief, Jesus will not fail us either. He can and will meet our needs.

What are your specific needs? Have you spoken of these needs to the Lord? If not,   do so today.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The King of the Jews!

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19-22)

What we witness in today’s text was the continued verbal sparring between the Jewish religious leaders and the local political governor from Rome: Pontius Pilate. While Jesus was accomplishing an eternal redemption and atonement for sinners, the Jews and Pilate dickered about the formal charge against Jesus resulting in His execution. What a contrast between the significance of the crucifixion and the silliness displayed by the crucifiers.

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  A sign listing the crimes committed was often placed around the neck of the condemned as they journeyed to the execution site. The placard would then be nailed to the victim’s cross (see Matt. 27:37Mark 15:26Luke 23:38). Pontius Pilate used this opportunity for a mocking revenge against the Jews leaders who had pressured him into this execution.

Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. There was a method to the so-called madness by Pilate. He wanted the greatest number of people possible to witness how the Jews treated their kings.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament explains, “The site of execution was necessarily outside the city, although the soldiers preferred that it be nearby. Jewish people in the Roman Empire dealt with three or four basic languages: Greek, Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew (of these, Greek especially was spoken outside Palestine and shared its prominence with Aramaic inside Palestine). Jewish inscriptions to foreigners were written in Greek and Latin.

Bible Teacher Robert Rothwell comments that, “Pilate inscribed “King of the Jews” on Jesus’ cross, likely intending only to mock the Jews who rejected Christ (John 19:20–22). He spoke better than he knew, indirectly witnessing to the One who is King not only of the Jews but of all people (Amos 9:11–12).”

“So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “The chief priests naturally did not want this to be proclaimed as a fact. They wanted Jesus to die for claiming to be the Jews’ King. So they protested to Pilate to change the superscription. Pilate refused to do so. Doubtless he felt he had done enough dirty work for the leaders of the nation, and he enjoyed his little joke against them. His haughty answer, What I have written, I have written, completes a series of amazing utterances by Pilate (cf. 18:38; 19:5, 14–15; Matt. 27:22).”

Walvoord concludes this section by stating, “Irony was also shown by John, who recognized that Pilate wrote those words but that God wanted His Son to die with this proclamation on His cross. The words in another sense are a fitting judgment on the life of Pilate. He had played his part and had his moment of truth. He, a Gentile, would be judged accordingly by the King of the Jews!

John Calvin writes: “When God declares that our salvation was so dear to Him, that He did not spare His only-begotten Son, what abundance goodness and what astonishing grace do we here behold! Whoever, then, takes a just view of the causes of the death of Christ, together with the advantage which it yields to us, will not, like the Greeks, regard the doctrine of the cross as foolishness, not, like the Jews, will he regard it as an offense (I Corinthians 1:23), but rather as an invaluable token and pledge of the power, and wisdom and righteousness and goodness of God.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Passive Obedience of Christ.

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

Today’s text chronicles the passive obedience of Christ in willingly submitting to the Father’s will by becoming a substitutionary atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinners. This passive obedience was in Jesus willingly being delivered to be crucified. This passive obedience is complimented by the active obedience of Christ in perfectly obeying the Law of God.  This was so Jesus would be counted worthy of such a sacrifice and atonement.

Prior to arriving at Golgotha, Jesus would endure another flogging. While John does not record this event, Matthew and Mark do (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15). This second scourging would have left Jesus severely beaten, weakened and suffering a great loss of blood. Historians’ record that others condemned to be crucified often died following the Roman scourging and never made it to the place of execution. This was not the case with Jesus.

John’s Gospel records that Jesus went out, bearing his own cross. The cross Jesus would bear would not have been the entire object. Rather, Jesus would have carried only the horizontal cross beam. However, this bean would still have been heavy and Jesus, already severely weakened by the second beating, was unable to carry it the entire way. Therefore, the Roman soldiers seized and forcibly compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry it (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Carrying His own cross, Jesus went out. These words fulfill two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1–6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11–13). So Jesus was made sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus arrived to the location called The Place of the Skull or Golgotha. Several reasons given for this title was (1) the rocky incline resembled a skull and (2) it was a place where people died. The Latin word for Golgotha, “Calvary,” also means skull or cranium (Luke 23:23).

John mentions that there were two others crucified with Jesus. John specifically states that Jesus’ cross was in the center of the three. These two criminals (Luke 23:32-33) or robbers (Matthew 27:44) are most likely mentioned to provide an understandable context when their legs were broken to hasten their deaths while Jesus’ were not because He had already died (cf. John 19:32–33). This is one evidence that Jesus in fact died and did not merely faint from exhaustion.

As we have previously noted, crucifixion was a horrible and shameful way to die. The crucified endured tremendous physical suffering not only from the prior beatings but also by the driving of the nails through their hands and feet. It was a slow, agonizing way to die.

However, while Jesus experienced the physical consequences of crucifixion He also endured the spiritual consequences as well. He suffered the wrath of God the Father on behalf of sinners.

One commentary states, “Yet, the horrible physical pain and shame of crucifixion paled in comparison to the additional suffering that Jesus alone experienced on His cross. He was crucified outside the city—outside the camp of God’s people, where the scapegoat was sent on Israel’s Day of Atonement, cut off from the Lord’s blessings (Lev. 16:27). Moreover, Jesus was crucified on the wood of a tree, and the Mosaic Law curses those who hang on a tree (Deut. 21:23). Jesus suffered outside the camp, cut off from God’s blessing, bearing the curse of divine wrath against the sin of His people so as to redeem them (Gal. 3:10–14Heb. 13:12–13).”

 At the cross, we not only witness the love of God but also the just wrath of God. God the Father poured out upon the sinless Son of God the wrath and punishment we deserved. This was in order for sinners like us to receive the grace of salvation which we do not deserve and also the mercy of salvation which is not to receive the judgment we do deserve.

Thank you Lord for your indescribable gift.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Crucifixion, Part 5!

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

We have just completed a survey of the theological meaning of the literal cross on which Jesus Christ was put to death in Judea nearly 2,000 years ago. However, what is the spiritual significance of the cross today for Jesus’ followers?

The phrase “bearing the cross” or “taking up one’s cross” became a necessary condition of discipleship by Jesus. Jesus taught this in five New Testament passages. The phrase is framed both negatively (“cannot be my disciple”) in both Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27 and positively (“if anyone would come after me”) in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary (TBD) explains that, “Two major motifs are found in the sayings. The major motif comes from the imagery of a condemned man carrying his cross to an execution site; a necessary part of discipleship is a daily (Luke 9:23) willingness to sacrifice all and to suffer for the sake of Christ. The central point is not death but disgrace; the disciple must be ready to become an outcast from society.”

One of the most extended metaphors regarding the cross is by the Apostle Paul. It is found in Romans 6:1-8. The text says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 The TBD also says, “The same view is found also in Galatians, which contrasts the mystical death of self to the legalistic system of the Judaizers. The believer is “crucified with Christ,” with the result that “it is no longer I who live” (Gal 2:20); “the flesh with its passions and desires” is “crucified” (5:24); and “far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). Believers must experience the cross before they can find the resurrection life.”

 Puritan Matthew Henry says, “Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation.”

Author Jerry Bridges writes, “If we want proof of God’s love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.”

Author A. W. Pink explains that, “Taking up my “cross” means a life voluntarily surrendered to God.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Crucifixion, Part 4!

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

We have already examined the crucifixion’s historical origin as well as how it pertained to Jesus Christ’s own historical crucifixion. We have also examined the events of Jesus’ crucifixion as revealed in all Four New Testament Gospels. But what about the theological significance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion? What part does it have in the message of the Gospel?

To begin with, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and His subsequent bodily resurrection, is the central message not only of the Gospel which bears His name but also of all Christian theology. The cross conveys the message of substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on behalf of fallen sinners.

As one commentator explains, “The cross has meaning because of the significance of the person who was put to death on it and because of what his death accomplished. The word of the cross” was central in the salvation proclamation of the early church. Above all, the event of the cross was God’s principal saving act in history; hence the cross, though a past event, has present significance. Christ crucified and risen is the core of the church’s message (Gal 3:1).”

While the message of the cross is to be cherished and faithfully communicated by the church, it is at the same time hated by the pagan culture in which the church exists and ministers. The Apostle explained this phenomena in I Corinthians 1:17-2:5.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary states that, “There the “word of the cross” (1:18) is contrasted with “eloquent wisdom” (v 17). Sounding like foolishness, it is offensive to both Greek philosophy and Jewish legalism (cf. Gal 6:12–15), but that very “weakness” in human eyes opens the door for the “power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). The cross in the church’s kerygma (proclamation) illustrates the pattern of God’s action: he forges out of the debilitated things of life both power and wisdom (vv 26–30). Because philosophical speculation replaces God’s message with human wisdom and thus empties the cross of its significance, Paul rejected “lofty words” and preached only the “crucified Christ.” The “Holy Spirit’s power” thus became evident in Paul’s “weakness” (2:1–5). The central core of the gospel is God’s demonstration of victory emerging from seeming defeat, of power arising out of infirmity.”

The cross as the basis of atonement is the principal emphasis in the Epistles (see Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:14-18; Colossians 1:19-20; 2:14). Jesus “was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

There are several biblical words which herald the significance of the cross. These are the words “redemption,” “propitiation,” reconciliation,” “adoption,” and “justification.” Redemption and propitiation are themes found in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Servant’s death was for “the sins of many.” The idea of redemption in both Old and New Testaments is the payment of a price to “ransom” slaves held captive. The price for redemption, the NT explains, was paid on the cross (Mark 10:45; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 1:17-21).

Substitutionary Atonement by the cross is also found in Galatians 3:13-14 which 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”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (See Deuteronomy 21:23; Romans 5:10–11, 18; 1 Corinthians 11:24; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13).

In the same way, the entire doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone centers on the cross. It is “Christ crucified” who declares humanity righteous and makes freedom from sin possible (Romans 6:1-6; Galatians 2:16–21). The sinner’s guilt was placed on Jesus at the cross and atoned there, providing God’s forensic (legal) forgiveness of all who avail themselves of its power (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18–21; 2:24; 3:18).

The result of the cross is “reconciliation”—both vertically, between humans and God (Colossians 1:20), and horizontally, between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:13–16).

This is the great salvation God has provided through the cross of Christ.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Crucifixion, Part 3!

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is so central, so often communicated by Christians and in churches that it seems we do not need to learn anything more than what we already know. At the same time, there are churches and church attendees who are removing the message of the crucifixion of Christ from their buildings, preaching and conversations. This, therefore, makes the circumstances and meaning of the crucifixion of Christ all the more paramount for believers to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship the God of its inception and fulfillment.

For the next several days, we will examine the subject of crucifixion three areas. Those areas of study include (1) its historical context and origination; (2) its specific application to Jesus Christ’s historical crucifixion; and (3) the theological significance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion to the climatic message of the Gospel.

We have already examined the crucifixion’s historical origin as well as how it pertained to Jesus Christ’s own historical crucifixion. We continue to examine the events of Jesus’ crucifixion as revealed in all Four New Testament Gospels.

Each of the Four Biblical Gospels in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) present a particular point of view of Jesus Christ. Respectively these are that Jesus is (1) King; (2) Servant; (3) Man; (4) God. These perspectives apply not only to Jesus’ identity, but also with respect to the events leading up to and including the crucifixion. The church has understood that the Gospel writers were not only biographers but also theologians. They selected scenes and portrayed them to show the significance of the events for the Christian faith. Certainly this was the case with the four crucifixion narratives. Let’s look at each one of them.

Mark and Matthew closely parallel each other as they depict the horror of the Messiah being put to death by sinners. For example, the first half of Mark’s narrative contrasts the taunts of the crowd with the true significance of Jesus’ death. The twofold statement “save yourself” (Mark 15:29–31) repeats Jesus’ words about rebuilding the temple in three days—prophetically pointing to the resurrection. The second half of Mark’s description stresses the horror of the scene, progressing from a darkness motif to the cry of abandonment to further taunts (Mark 15:33–36).

Matthew’s Gospel adds that Jesus refused the drugged wine to alleviate pain “when he tasted it” (Matthew 27:34), as well as adding “yielded up his spirit” to the death scene (Matthew 27:50). Matthew thus emphasized that Jesus voluntarily faced his death fully conscious and in complete control of himself.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary (TBD) adds that, “Matthew’s irony and allusion also bring out the disparity between Jesus’ suffering and his vindication. Elements of vindication include the ripping of the temple veil (v 51) and the centurion’s testimony (v 54). In the remarkable supernatural scene of Matthew 27:52–53, Jesus’ death is followed immediately by an earthquake that opened tombs and revived “many bodies of the saints” who had died. For Matthew those events and others inaugurated the last days, the new age of salvation, when the power of death is broken and life is made available for all.”

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes two major points.  The reader must keep these in mind when reading Luke’s account of the crucifixion.

First, Jesus is portrayed as the perfect man, the righteous martyr who forgave His enemies and converts some of them. The taunts by the Jewish rulers and Roman soldiers stops when the crowd returns home “beating their breasts” (Luke 23:48) and the centurion cries, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47).

Second, in Luke’s account the entire crucifixion setting has an atmosphere of reverence and worship. Absent are the wine and myrrh, the cry of abandonment, and the Elijah taunt. What is included are (1) Jesus’ prayer that God forgive his executioners, placing it in contrast with the soldiers’ mockery; (2) the promise of salvation in answer to the prayer of the “believing” criminal; and (3) the commitment of Jesus’ spirit to the Father. Luke’s presentation makes the Crucifixion a place of worship. I never thought of it this way.

Finally, the Gospel of John stresses Jesus’ sovereign control of His situation, as the crucifixion becomes a coronation procession. John alone states that the inscription on the cross was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek—the charge that became a worldwide proclamation of Christ’s enthronement.

The TBD explains that “The inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” continues Pilate’s dialogue on kingship beyond Jesus’ trial. John thus adds to Matthew’s emphasis: Jesus has not only become king but has been sovereign all along. The king is pictured as performing the priestly function and himself becoming the sacrifice. John alone mentions the hyssop (which had been used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb at the Passover, Exodus 12:22) and Jesus’ cry, “It is finished” (John 19:29–30). Further, the piercing of Jesus’ side (vv. 31–37), which shows the reality of his death, may also be seen symbolically, along with the “rivers of living water” (7:37–38), as typifying the outpouring of life in the new age.”

As one commentator concludes, “Each Gospel pictures the meaning of Jesus’ death from a different vantage point. To combine their pictures gives new understanding of the significance of the cross. Rather than contradiction, one sees separate parts of a compelling whole.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Crucifixion, Part 2!

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is so central, so often communicated by Christians and in churches that it seems we do not need to learn anything more than what we already know. At the same time, there are churches and church attendees who are removing the message of the crucifixion of Christ from their buildings, preaching and conversations. This, therefore, makes the circumstances and meaning of the crucifixion of Christ all the more paramount for believers to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship the God of its inception and fulfillment.

For the next several days, we will examine the subject of crucifixion three areas. Those areas of study include (1) its historical context and origination; (2) its specific application to Jesus Christ’s historical crucifixion; and (3) the theological significance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion to the climatic message of the Gospel.

When last we met, we examined crucifixion’s historical origin. We now begin to study the act of crucifixion with respect specifically to Jesus Christ.

The Predictions: The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record predictions by Jesus Christ of His own crucifixion (Matthew 16:13-23; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34; Luke 9:18-22). Additionally, the Gospel of John recorded three sayings about the Son of Man being “lifted up” (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32–33), which is a reference to crucifixion.

As the Tyndale Bible Dictionary notes, “There are several themes interwoven into those passages: (1) Christ’s passion (a term used for his suffering on the cross) was part of God’s redemptive purpose (Mark 8:31, “must”). (2) Both Jews and Romans were guilty of “delivering” and of “killing” Jesus. (3) His death would be followed by vindication via the resurrection. (4) His death itself, in a paradoxical way, was seen as a means of his entering into “glory” (seen in the symbolism John attached to “lifted up”).”

Other statements which refer to Jesus’ crucifixion include his reference to the murder of the prophets (Matthew 23:29–30; Luke 13:33), His parables (the marriage feast, Matthew 22:1–14; the wicked tenants, Mark 12:1–10), and his teachings about the second coming and a similar suffering experienced by his disciples (Mathew 10:24–28; Mark 8:34–35; John 15:18–25).

The Historical Event: Jesus’ crucifixion was a combination of Roman and Jewish elements. Although the Gospel writers stressed the Jews responsibility for their own purposes, the gospels are careful to distinguish between the Jewish religious leaders and the common people. It was the leaders who initiated Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:43) and his trial by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–64). Though Pilate seemed to vacillate and in the end surrendered weakly to the crowds by “washing his hands” of any guilt (Matthew 27:24), the Roman government was clearly responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ. Since the Sanhedrin did not have the power to inflict capital punishment, Pilate’s decision was necessary before crucifixion could occur. Further, Roman soldiers actually carried out the execution.

Additionally, Roman customs were observed in Jesus’ scourging, His mock enthronement and stripping, the bearing of His own crossbeam, His being nailed to the cross, and the breaking of the two crucified thieves’ legs. The elevated site fits the custom of displaying certain criminals publicly. So does the height of Jesus’ cross, probably seven to nine feet (2 to 3 meters).

One commentary concludes that, “The presence of a tablet bearing the inscription “The King of the Jews” on the cross suggests that the crossbeam was fixed somewhere below the top of the stake. Jewish elements are seen in the wine mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:23), the vinegar on the hyssop reed (v 36), and the removal of the body before sunset and the beginning of the Sabbath (John 19:31).”

 More to come. Mary God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!