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!

 

 

The Gospel of John: To Know and To be Known.

“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25-26)

John the Apostle’s inspired account of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer concludes in vs. 25-26 of John 17. In these two verses, we observe the words know and known are repeatedly used. Let’s take time today to understand what Jesus was praying by using these words.

The word “know” (γινώσκω; ginosko) is the first word I ever learned from the Greek language. It means not only to have knowledge or to possess information but also to understand the information one possesses.

Jesus addressed God the Father as righteous. The word righteous (δίκαιος; dikaios) means proper and just. Jesus said in His prayer that God the Father was just, proper and righteous: not only in what He does but also in who He is. In this context, Jesus said that He understood or knew that Father was righteous, just and proper.

However, this is not how the world understands God. The fallen and rebellious world hates God and His righteousness. The world wants to do what it wants to do regardless of how unrighteous its behavior is in relationship to God. I John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

In fact, the world hates God so much that it does whatever it can to suppress the truth of God’s righteous existence. How foolish it is to try and suppress the existence of a righteous person who in large measure the world denies even exists. On the contrary, the passion for which the world hates God is an evidence of His existence. Why be opposed to someone who doesn’t exist? Unless, of course, He indeed does exist. Then the hatred makes sense.

Romans 1:18-21 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

When a person truly knows God, by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, that individual not only comes to a knowledge and understanding of God but also begins to love God. The believer’s love and understanding of God will evidence itself by an obedience to God’s commandments (John 14:15; I John 5:1-3). This love and affection for God is not just shown by them but it is also within them, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin writes, “It is an invaluable privilege of faith that we know that Christ was loved by the Father on our account, that we might be made partakers of the same love and might enjoy it forever.”

To know and love God is to understand that He first knew and loved us (I John 4:7-11). Therefore, our loving response to Him is because of His initiating love for us. Our love for the Righteous One is because of His love for a sinful one.

Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli de Gloria!

The Gospel of John: A Foretaste of Glory Divine.

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

As I am writing this devotional (December 18), I am coming down from the emotional and spiritual high from last evening’s memorial and celebration service in loving memory of my pastor and mentor Rev. William C. “Billy” Walker. What a praise gathering it truly was filled with touching and humorous testimonials, gospel music, spirit filled preaching and a church sanctuary filled with not only the wonderful presence of God’s people but also the holy presence God Himself. I, along with everyone else in attendance, did not want the evening to conclude.

Of the many memories I have of Billy was when he would lead in singing. It would either be as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Southgate , MI or at Hiawatha Youth Camp where he served as camp director. One of the hymns I recall as being a favorite of his was Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance. When we would begin singing the chorus, he would slow down the tempo so that we would sing each word measured and prolonged.

Today’s text from John 17:24 reminds me of the first stanza of that hymn. It reads:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Jesus prayed to God the Father that all those who the Father had given to Him (John 6:35-66) would not only be with Him but would also see His glory. This is the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). This glory is not only the substantive and holy character of God but also the brightness of His holiness which Jesus possessed before the universe began.

The memorial service on Monday, December 17 was a foretaste of glory divine, as is our personal salvation from God the Father by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The glory Jesus spoke of is the glory my pastor, mentor and friend is now in the presence of. It is also the blessed and assured promise that each believer possesses in Jesus Christ.

You may think of this hymn today as you go about your daily chores and responsibilities. You may even hum or sing it to yourself. Remember to hold out the words of the chorus.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!