Your Depression. The first time Jesus shed His blood was in the Garden of Gethsemane where He was praying and saw the agony of the cross that He would suffer for your sins and mine. He asked God, the Father, to take this cup from Him. At that time He bagan to sweat blood from his forehead and said, “Not my will but thine be done.” Jesus was in a great state of depression. When He shed His blood from the forehead (Luke 22:42-44 NKJV), it was for your depression and mine. So, if we trust in Him and he results of his blood, we will not suffer depression. Most of the world, today, is suffering from one form or another of worry. Depression and worry are not the same but exemplify similar manifestations. Worry causes stress on the heart. The number one killer in the world today is heart failure or heart attacks! If we only had faith in the blood Jesus shed!
Ugliness. The second time Jesus shed His blood for you and I, was when the Roman soldiers beat His face and plucked out His beard. The Bible teaches us that the soldiers boxed Jesus’ face and with their hands pulled out His beard until you could no longer recognize Him. (Isaiah 51 and Isaiah 53 NKJV) His own people, the religious world at that time, took part in beating Him—by their accusations. For God so loved the world He sent His Son and called Hime Jehovah Macca, meaning the smitten God.(Isaiah 53 NKJV) His precious face had to be beaten because of our ugliness. Without salvation through Jesus Christ, you and I are ugly to God. But when we accept the results of the shed blood, God no longer sees our ugliness, but now sees the beauty of Christ in our faces.(Luke 22:63-64 KJV)
For Our Physical Healing. The third time Jesus shed His blood was when the soldier carried Jesus into a courtyard and tied Him to a whiping post. His hands were tied over His head and the rope ran through an iron rung about twelve feet above the ground. Then the rope was pulled until His whole body was stretched and He was upon His tiptoes like a ballet dancer, and stripped of all His clothing. The Roman soldier proceeded with a whip that had many leather strips. He would dip the whip into goat’s blood, which caused it to be very stickey. Then he would roll the whip in pieces of pottery and metal, so that when you were whipped it would cut you very badly! (Matthew 27:26)
“By His stripes we are healed.”
The Bible teaches that Jesus was struck with that awful whip. His back and sides were like raw meat. Isaiah 53:4-5, and 1 Peter 2:24 tell us with His stripes we are healed. If we only had faith in Jesus’ shed blood. He paid for our sicknesses upon His back.”By His stripes we are healed” uses the word rapha, widely used in the Bible to mean “healing,” most of the time physical healing. That passage was quoted in the gospel when Peter healed his mother of a fever, a physical illness. So as I am typing this; do believe it refers to all diseases (mental, physical and spiritual) The author, himself, has witnessed many people who were dying of cancer, aids, and other horrible diseases come to the knowledg of the results of Jesus’ shed blood and be healed. I have, in my body, experienced many healings through the stripes on the bakc of Jesus Christ.
Curse Over Our Lives. The fourth time Jesus shed His blood was when they crowned His head with thorns. In Genesis, because of Adam’s rebellion, God put a curse upon he earth in the form of thorns and thistles. We have all at one time, rebelled agains God’s laws and commandments. The Bible teaches in Galatians 3:13, Colossians 1:13-14 that through the shed blood God has redeemed us from the curse of the law. The word ‘Redeemed’ means to be bought back tor to be purchased from. Because of the blood Jesus shed, you and I have been redeemed from the curse. If only you will believe it!
God gave His Son because He loves you.
For Our Sorrows. The fifth time Jesus shed His blood was when they place a heavy patibulum on His already whipped and bleeding back. Then made Him walk up the pathway to Calvary Hill. This pathway is called, even today, the Via Dela Rosa or “The Way of Sorrows.” This heavy pantibulum caused the blood to flow more from the back of Jesus. His blood was shed for mine and your sorrows or burdens.(Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) If you are burdened downs with dadness and grief, Jesus will lighten your load and give you joy and peace. (John 16:3-24 and John 16:33 NKJV) You are probably thinking you are not worthy of this Man’s suffering, I did. But the truth is no one is worthy. God gave His Son because He loves you. Just have faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
To The Cross. The sixth time Jesus shed His blood, was on top of Calvary when they drove spikes, or nails into His hands and feet. The bible teaches us in Colossians 1:17-23, Colossians 2:6-14 when they nailed Jesus to the cross. If we have faith in the blood He shed, then we would understand our sins were also nailed to that cross. Praise God forever!
Born Again. The seventh time Jesus shed His blood was, again on the cross, when the Roman soldier took a spear and pierced His side. Blood and water came forth. To me, this is the most beautiful part. The picture of this is in Genesis, when God took Adam, put him to sleep, took a rib from his side to make woman, or a bride for Adam. Yes, you can see it now! Jesus was put to sleep and pierced in His side so the church could be born out of His death, burial and resurrection. The Bible calls Jesus the last Adam (a quickening spirit) or the second man, being the Lord from Heaven. (I Corinthians 15:45-49) Because of our faith in the shed blood of Jesus we are born Again! The Bible says you must be born again to enter Heaven’s gates. (John 3:5-6 NKJV) Accept what Jesus’ blood has done for you and be born again.
It Is Finished. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 NKJV) Jesus took His blood to heaven (Hebrews 10) and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat of God, so that you and I can enter heaven’s gates boldly and with confidence (Hebrews 10:19 NKJV), knowing that we are the sons and daughters of the Living God and His blood is forever working on mine and your behalf.
I found this in a book on my shelf entitled Words Are Seeds by Richard Owens. I hope you find a blessing in this. Happy Resurrection Sunday! Until next week…Blessings and Peace.
We’ve been talking about Paul’s gospel, the gospel according to Paul, and I confess to you that this is a great challenge for me to try to narrow this down to a few subjects. In all honesty I’m kind of vacillating a little bit, I’m changing my mind, if it’s okay here and there, so you’ll have to bear with me a little. Tonight I want you to open your Bible back to 2 Corinthians and I want to go to chapter 5. We have talked about the glory of the gospel, we have actually talked about the nature of the gospel in our two sessions this morning digging down into the doctrine of justification with the nature of the gospel is that the righteousness of God has to come down, and it is received by faith, and it is a gift of grace, and that’s how salvation takes place. We’ve talked about that.
It is glorious gospel. It is a substitutionary gospel as we saw this morning. We’re going to see a little more about that tonight. But I want you to understand this concept of reconciliation. It is a reconciling gospel. The gospel reconciles the sinner to God. There’s a passage here at the end of chapter 5 that is a critically essential passage in understanding Paul’s gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the blessed God, the gospel of peace and grace and salvation, that Paul called my gospel and even our gospel.
I want you to begin by looking with me at verse 18. “Now, all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were making an appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Five times in that passage the word reconcile appears. You saw it. Verse 18, “God reconciled us, gave us the ministry of reconciliation,” verse 19, “God in Christ reconciling the world, committing to us the word of reconciliation.” Verse 20, “Be reconciled to God.” This is about reconciliation.
Reconciliation assumes alienation, does it not? It assumes enmity, hostility. It assumes that people are enemies or worse, violent enemies. And reconciliation needs to take place. Now, you will notice that Paul says we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. And we have been given to affect that ministry the Word of reconciliation. Our message is a message of reconciliation, a message of reconciliation. How are we to understand this reconciliation? Well, in this passage, not only in verses 18 through 21, but backing up a little bit, we have, what I think is the essence of an understanding of the message of the gospel as reconciliation. We are given the ministry of reconciliation. We have received the message concerning reconciliation and this constitutes, according to verse 20, the nature of our ambassadorship. An ambassador was a representative of a monarch who was set into an alien culture to represent that monarch. And so it is with us: we represent the King of kings and we are in an alien culture. And our responsibility is to tell the people in this alien culture, who are enemies of God by nature, that they can be reconciled to God. That’s our message. That’s our message.
I have on occasion been flying in an airplane and had people sit next to me and ask me what I do. I remember answering the question on a flight from New York to LA, and I said, “Well, I’m a preacher of the gospel.” And the guy that I was sitting next to who was pierced every way you could be pierced, must have been frightened because he got out of his seat and never came back. And that’s a five-hour flight. So I’ve learned maybe not to just be so blunt. On the other hand, on occasion I say this. “Oh, I have a great job. I tell sinners that they can be reconciled to God. Are you interested?” I mean, that is what’s called cutting to the chase. But that is exactly what I do. That is what we do. Our message is that sinners can be reconciled to God. That God is a reconciling God who has provided a means of reconciliation and a message of reconciliation is the responsibility of every ambassador of Christ. It assumes alienation, hostility, an enemy kind of relationship, but one that can be turned into a full and complete reconciliation.
Now, as we look at this passage, I want to show you several elements to the ministry of reconciliation. Several elements to the reality of reconciliation. And in order to do this, we have to back up to verse 14 and pick up some things that are there. And backing up to verse 14, I want to say the first component of reconciliation is that it is motivated by the love of God. It is motivated by the love of God. I shouldn’t need to deal with that very much because you’re all very familiar with the fact that God so loved the world, right? That He gave. Hearing His love, not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. While we were enemies, Paul says He loved us. In verse 14 Paul identifies this, “The love of Christ controls us.” That’s a verb that means put pressure on something to create an action. It could even be translated: the love of Christ rules us. I love the word “control” actually in the NAS. Paul is not talking about His love for Christ; he’s talking about Christ’s love for him. What drives him, we saw he understood the glory of the gospel, right? From 2 Corinthians we talked about that. We understood the transcendent glory of the gospel and was motivated by its unparalleled and unequalled grandeur. Well, he also experienced the love of Christ. Christ had laid a saving claim on the life of Paul so that he was so overwhelmed by this saving love that he could never live for anything but the proclamation of the gospel of that saving love.
Christ’s saving love for Paul controlled him, dominated him, motivated him, ruled him. And he didn’t see it in a personal way. He didn’t see it in a selfish way. Didn’t see it in an isolated way, because he says in verse 15, “And He died for all.” What God has done for me through His love, what Christ has done for me through this magnanimous saving, forgiving, gracious love is not just for me. He died for all so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
What drove him? What compelled him? What motivated him? It was not only the glory of the gospel in a broad sense, but the glory of the gospel was bound up in the fact that the gospel was such a magnanimous expression of divine love toward an unworthy sinner, such as he was who confessed himself to be a blasphemer. And he realized that this love which God had given to him in Christ which had so totally transformed his life was not just for him, but that Christ died for all so that they who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. He died for all.
What do you mean for all? He died for all who believe in Him. All who believe in Him. He died and rose again on their behalf. The end of verse 14 says, “One died for all, therefore all died.” I don’t want to get technical here; He died for all those who died in Him. He died for all those who died in Him. It doesn’t mean that He died for the whole world. If Christ died for the whole world, the whole world would be saved. Do you understand that? If Christ actually paid the penalty in full for the whole world, then the whole world would have to be saved because the penalty was paid. There are people who teach that He died for the whole world and if you teach that He died for the whole world, everybody who has ever lived, then His death was a potential death and not an actual death. It was a potential atonement and not an actual atonement. If you say He died for everybody in general, then He died for nobody in particular.
That’s a problem. He died for all who died in Him. He died and rose again on behalf of all who died in Him, who are made manifest by faith. This is an actual atonement. Christ actually bore our sins in His own body on the cross, actually paid the penalty in full. His death is not a potential, it is an actual death. It doesn’t make salvation possible; it makes salvation inevitable. Christ’s death was the death of His people, His elect who would believe. The penalty for whose sins He paid.
You say, “That sounds like predestination.” Exactly. By the way, I know you want to ask that question. Everybody has that question, so tomorrow I’m going to talk about how Paul’s view of predestination fits into His gospel passion. Okay? We do that in the morning. All right.
Paul understood that this love gift of salvation that had been given to him, that controlled his life, couldn’t be kept by him. Because Christ had died for all who died in Him, who were yet to be born in some cases, yet to hear the message of the gospel, but would hear in the future and believe and be saved. What controls his life was the love that God showed him in Christ to redeem him from his wretchedness and from eternal damnation, and that love took control of his life because he knew he was to be an instrument to take the message of that love to everyone he could possibly reach.
So, his whole life changed. Verse 16, look what he said. “From now on we recognize no one according to the flesh.” Do you understand that? What happened in his life? Well, all of a sudden he didn’t view people as external. He didn’t view people as physical beings. He didn’t just see the outside of it. He wasn’t particularly interested in what they looked like. He wasn’t particularly interested in their external behaviors. That’s not how he viewed people. He says it in verse 16, “From now on, from the moment of his salvation on, we recognize no one according to the flesh.” We don’t judge people by what we can see and experience of their physical life. Then he said, “I did that once, did that to Christ, we’ve known Christ according to the flesh.” There was a time when I knew Christ only according to the flesh. And you know what I determined? He was a blasphemer. He was a fraud. He was a false messiah. He was a problem to Judaism. He deserved to be crucified and his preachers deserved to be killed. Do you remember in the stoning of Stephen who was standing there and had the cloaks of the people who stoned Stephen placed at his feet? Paul. He had made an external evaluation of Christ and it was totally wrong. Yet now, we know him in this way no longer. My entire opinion of Christ has changed since the Damascus Road. I don’t view people anymore externally. The most horrible result of my doing that, which is what Pharisees did and all false religionists, and all the lost people, the most horrible expression of that kind of judgment was the way I judged Christ. Boy, was I wrong. I just see everybody from a spiritual viewpoint now, don’t you? You understand that?
You know, if you have children who don’t know the Lord, they can get all dressed up and look good and walk out of the house and your heart can break. Everything might be coiffed exactly the way it should be, all you care about is the heart, right? You may have a spouse that’s attractive, doesn’t know Christ, you see right past that. We don’t view the world the way the world views itself.
I was in the White House some years ago, talking to the White House staff and I said, “You know, you guys got a problem here.” I said, “And it’s not the kind of problem you think it is.” I said, “You guys are so bent,” this was in the Bush years, “you are so bent on making sure that you attack the Democrats, that you attack your adversaries, that you have turned the mission field into your enemy. You can’t do that. You might not like their politics, but you can’t look at them after the flesh. That’s a mission field.” That’s how Paul viewed the world. That’s how every believer has to view the world. And Paul says this in familiar words in verse 17, “Therefore, I love this, if anyone is in Christ, he is,” what? “A new creation, old things have passed away, new things have come.” And the “anyone” is the operative word here. Anyone, I don’t know who the all are who died in Christ, for whom He actually paid in full for their sins, I don’t know who they are but I do know that anyone who believes fits into that category and anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.
Paul thus is catapulted into the ministry of reconciliation ‘cause he has a personal first-hand experience of the love of God in Christ given to him that brought about the spiritual transformation of his own soul, changed his eternal destiny and granted him the very righteousness of God in the place of damning human righteousness. That became the passion of his life. It is that love of Christ which controlled him and everybody with him, us. You see the pronoun there in verse 14. We’re all controlled by the reality that we have been made new creations by the love of God in Christ and it can’t be limited to us, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. We don’t see people the same anymore. If you ask Paul, he would say, “In Christ there’s neither male, female, bond, free, Jew, Gentile.” There’s no distinction. He saw everyone as an eternal soul.
I’m sure you experience this. I do. I see myself looking through the person whoever they are, whether I know them or don’t know them. When I’m exposed to people, it’s their soul that captivates my thinking. It’s their soul. We don’t know people any longer, purely on the superficial level. We live in a world of lost souls. They’re all around us. You might not like their politics, might not like their behavior, might not like their social status, might not like their personality, you’ve got to see past it, because for some of those people, Christ died and paid the penalty for their sin in full and you may be, if available, the instrument that He uses to bring them to the point of the salvation plan for them before the foundation of the world. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. That’s the heart and soul of our responsibility as believers and that was the way Paul viewed his life. Our ministry is to reconcile men to God, to reconcile women to God, to preach the good news that the relationship of enmity, hostility, hatred, alienation between God and men can be totally changed. And part of that, of course, is defining the fact that there is alienation between men and God. That’s the good news. It is possible for sinners to be reconciled to Almighty God.
I always think about this. You may have heard me say this somewhere on a tape or something. I was riding on an airplane, Southwest Airlines to El Paso, sitting in the dreaded middle seat. I’m squeezed in there and I was preparing for a men’s conference in the El Paso Civic Center. And just got my little New Testament open and was making some notes of what I was going to talk about, and there was sitting next to me an Arabic man, clearly I could tell. And I’m looking at my New Testament and we’re just barely up in the air and after a few minutes go by, he looks over at me and he says, “Excuse me, sir. Is that a Bible?” I said, “Yes, it is a Bible.” He said, “May I ask you a question?” I said, “Of course you can ask me a question.” He said, “Well, I’m from Iran, I’m new in America. I’m in the process of immigrating and I don’t understand American religion. I don’t understand. In My country everyone is a Muslim, everyone. But I don’t understand American religion.” He said, “Could you, sir,” and this is exactly what he said, “tell me the difference please between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist.” A Catholic, a Protestant and a Baptist, so he had been exposed to at least those three categories. So I said to him, I said, “Yeah, I can tell you the difference.” And I just gave him a simple way to understand Catholicism as a sacramental form of ceremony, et cetera, et cetera. And Protestantism is a protest against that, and a regripping of a personal relationship with God through Christ, and we went through that. And I put the Baptist in the Protestant category where they belong.
So, he said, “Thank you, thank you very much, thank you very much.” I said, “Can I ask you a question, sir?” He said, “Of course, of course.” And I knew the answers but I wanted to hear them from him. So I said, “Do Muslims have sins?” And I knew the answer but I wanted to hear him say it. He said, “Oh, do we have sins? We have so many sins; I don’t even know all the sins.” I said, “Well, do you do them?” “All the time.” Then he said this. “I’m flying to El Paso to do some sins.” “You are?” This is a pretty honest guy. Flying to El Paso, “Yes,” he said, “I met a girl when I was immigrating, that’s an immigration point, and we will meet and do some sins.” “Oh,” this is more information than I really require. I said, “Well, can I ask you another question?” “Of course.” I said, “How does Allah feel about your sins?” “Oh, very bad. Very, very bad. I could go to hell.” I said, “Well, why don’t you stop doing them?” “I can’t, I can’t.” I said, “So you keep doing sins that could send you to hell, everlasting hell?” And then he said this, “I hope the God will forgive me. I hope Allah will forgive me.” And then I said something that afterwards I know, I didn’t think about it. I said, “Well, I know Him personally, and I can tell you He won’t.”
He looked at me, He looked at me and said, you know, in his mind he was saying, “How could you know God personally and wind up in the middle seat on Southwest?” That doesn’t make sense. I said, “I do know Him personally and He will not.” He said, “Well, I hope He will.” I said, “I have some good news for you. I know how You can be fully reconciled to God, how You can be completely forgiven and become a friend of God and a son of God, and receive all that God possesses as a gift from Him to you.” He had never heard anything like that in his life. There is no redemption in Islam. And I went on to give him the gospel. He did not respond to Christ, but I think I messed up his weekend. Some girl got very confused. I’m sure she didn’t know what happened. I gave him a bunch of material, sent him much stuff, told him where to go to church in the place he was living, but I never have gotten any follow up. But that’s the truth, isn’t it? Isn’t that what we do? Don’t we tell people they can reconciled to God?
Go back to chapter 5 here, He’s committed to us the Word of reconciliation, literally placed in us the logos as opposed to the mythos. Logos is the word that is true, mythosis the word that is not truth. He has placed in us the logos of reconciliation. We’ve been called then to preach the ministry of reconciliation, to tell sinners they can be reconciled to God. And it assumes that we have to help them to understand that they are currently alienated from God. In other words, you can’t tell people they can be reconciled until you’ve made it clear that they need to be reconciled, ‘cause you don’t want to be the enemy of holy God.
Now, as we think about this ministry of reconciliation, I want to give you just a few things that will help you understand the nature of this great truth, okay? Number one, reconciliation, this is so important, is by the will of God. Reconciliation is by the will of God. Please go back to verse 18; let’s pick up our original text. “Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” All what things? All the things that He’s been talking about from verse 14. Salvation, the provision in the death of Christ, being made a new creation, having the old pass away and the new come. This is speaking not about justification but about regeneration. This is by the will of God. All these things are from God. Verse 19, “It is God in Christ reconciling us.” Verse 20, “It is God making an appeal through us.” Reconciliation is by the will of God. That is the foundational reality. We cannot decide to be reconciled to God. We have no power to satisfy God’s anger. We have no ability to set aside His justice, to achieve His righteousness. We’re the offenders. We have been banished from His presence forever. Any change in our relationship with God has to come from Him. Any reconciliation has to be by His design. And this is at the heart of the gospel.
God loves sinners and seeks to reconcile them. He designed a means to reconcile with sinners, to make sinners into sons. It is God who reconciled us to Himself. It is God who is the reconciler. That is just such a profound point. If you go back and study the religions of the world, you will not find, as we said the other night, you will not find a reconciling deity in the history of religion. You will not find a God who is by nature a reconciler. First Timothy 4:10 says, “God is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.” What does that mean? What do you mean He’s a Savior of all men? Especially those who believe?”
Well, there is a sense in which He’s the Savior of all men. In a very generic, a very comprehensive, a very wide sense, He’s the Savior of all men. What do we mean by that? Physically and temporally, physically and temporally. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is,” what? “Death.” The Bible says, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” The Bible says, “Violate one law and the full weight of the Law will fall upon you.” The Bible says that, “In sin, my mother conceived me; I have been a sinner from conception.” Why am I alive? Why am I here? Because God is by nature a Savior, and every sinner who takes another breath is living proof that God is by nature a Savior. And it is, as Romans 2 says, the forbearance and patience of God with sinners that is intended to demonstrate that He’s the Savior and lead them to repentance.
The very fact that we experience as sinners come in grace, smell the coffee, kiss the one we love, have children, enjoy a sunset, eat a wonderful meal, take a beautiful vacation, have success, appreciate music. Sinners do that. And everyone who ever does any of that, who takes another breath, gives testimony to the fact that God is by nature a Savior, and if He wasn’t, He would destroy sinners before they took another breath.
So, the good news is you don’t have to try to convince God to save; you just need to convince the sinner to receive. One of the things that irritates me about Roman Catholicism, a lot of things do, but one of the most irritating things, one of the most God-dishonoring things, one of the most blasphemous elements of Roman Catholicism is this: look, if you want God to come and rescue you out of your plight, if you want God to deliver you, if you want God to pay attention to you, don’t go to God. He’s really busy. And He’s really holy. He’s holy, holy, holy. And He hasn’t got time for you and He’s hard and harsh. You don’t want to go to God. You don’t want to cry out to God.
Now, you could go to Christ. You could go to Christ because Christ having been a man, and having experienced all the things that humans experience, being in all points tempted like as we are, He’s liable to be a little more sympathetic, but, you know, He’s pretty tough, too. He’s pretty harsh. So if you really have a problem and you really have a need, go to Mary. Go to Mary. Why you go to Mary? Because Jesus can’t resist Mary. He can resist you, He can’t resist His mother. Go to Mary. That is a blasphemy against the nature of God who is a reconciling, loving God waiting for the sinner to come into His presence and ask His forgiveness. You don’t need to go to Mary. Mary never has heard a prayer from any human being since she arrived in heaven. And neither has anybody else in heaven except the Trinity. God is by nature a reconciling God. You say, “Well, look at the Old Testament, how can you say that God is, how can you say He’s a loving reconciling God when some young guys say, “Hey, O Baldy, Baldy, Baldy,” to a prophet, and God sends bears out of the woods and rips them to shreds, what kind of a God does that? What kind of a God sends bears out of the woods to shred a bunch of young men who are yelling, “Baldy, Baldy” at a prophet?
That’s not the question. You say, “What kind of a God opens up the ground and swallows some guys?” That’s really not the question. What kind of God brings down the house on the Philistines? What kind of a God does that? What kind of a God instructs the Israelites to kill the Canaanites? What kind of a God is that? That is not the question. The question is not: why did God take the life of sinners in the Old Testament in those cataclysmic ways? The question is why did He allow most sinners to go on living? That’s the question. The wages of sin is death, death is what they deserve. You know, in Luke 13 they came to Jesus and they said, “You know, we don’t understand, we don’t understand. Some Galileans came into the temple, they were in there worshiping and Pilate’s guys came in, took some knives and sliced them up and killed them all. Why did that happen?
You know, the question is: they’re worshipers. They’re in there doing what they’re supposed to do. How can God let that happen? And Jesus’ answer was, “You’re going to perish, too.” And then they asked a second one, they read in the Jerusalem Gazette that a tower fell over and crushed a bunch of people and killed them. What kind of a God lets that happen?” That’s not the question. Periodically through human history, it all points in times through cataclysms and events like that, God gives testimony to what all sinners deserve that the mass of sinners who go on living and enjoying all the benefits of common grace give evidence to the fact that God is by nature a saving God. He puts His compassion and His mercy on behalf of sinners on display through common grace as a warning to sinners to repent. He is in that sense a Savior of all men, but He is especially the Savior of those who believe because He saves them not physically and temporally, but spiritually and eternally. God is the source of reconciliation. I’m so glad I don’t have to talk God into being willing to accept a sinner.
You know, when Jesus died on the cross, there was a veil, wasn’t there, in the temple that separated God from everybody, or the symbol of God’s presence. God ripped it from top to bottom and threw it wide open. And all sinners who will come have access to one who is by nature a reconciling God. Back to the text. It is God who reconciles us to Himself. It is God in Christ reconciling the world. It is God begging, appealing. Never are you more in line with the will of God than when you preach the word of reconciliation.
Reconciliation, then, is, first of all, by the will of God. Secondly, it is by the act of forgiveness. It is by the act of forgiveness. How in the world can God do this? Well, it comes in verse 19. The only way that God can reconcile with sinners, here it comes, verse 19, is by not counting their trespasses against them. That’s the only way. How is reconciliation possible? How can He reconcile the world? That means all people from all nations who will be reconciled. How can He reconcile them? By not counting their trespasses against them. That’s the issue. He has to set their sins aside.
Now, we already know, don’t we, we talked about it. Micah 7, “Who is a pardoning God like You?” Exodus chapter 33, “God is by nature compassionate, merciful. He is a forgiving God.” The Old Testament is full of that. The New Testament is full of that. God is an eager forgiver of penitent sinners, not counting their trespasses against them. It is the thing that we need to say to sinners. Here’s the question. You can be reconciled to God. God will forgive you all your sins forever. Are you interested? That’s the issue. When people evangelize often, they say, “Do you want to have purpose in your life?” “Do you want to have a better marriage?” “You want to straighten out your slice on the golf course?” “You want to score more touchdowns?” You know. What are you looking for in life? Happiness, contentment, sense of well-being? That is not it. Do you want to die in your sins and go to hell forever? Or, are you interested in full and complete and eternal forgiveness? That’s the message.
Psalm 32:2, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” That’s what’s behind this verse. Paul probably thought about it here because he said it, actually, in Romans 4:8, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” That’s a paraphrase of Psalm 32. God is willing to erase the sin. In fact, the Old Testament says He’ll remove it as far as the east is from the west. He’ll bury it in the depths of the deepest sea and remember it no more. Colossians 2:13 says that it is God who has forgiven us all our transgressions. And, friends, as we’re faithful to the gospel and faithful to the gospel that Paul proclaimed, what we’re telling sinners is about the forgiveness of their individual sins. This is the good news, that God will forgive all your sins. This is the message of reconciliation. Let’s get past all the superficiality, get past all the prosperity garbage, that Jesus wants you healthy, wealthy, and rich, successful. What He offers is none of that. You may be sicker after you’re saved then you’ve ever been. You may be poorer after you’re saved then you’ve ever been. But you are in the care of the sovereign God who is determined that that is for your good and His glory. But what you will be able to count on, is that you are on the way to heaven because He does not credit your sins any longer to your account.
In fact, I love the language of Colossians which says He blots out the transgression that was written against us. Taking it out of the way, removing it. It’s a reconciliation Paul knows because He’s personally experienced it. It is by the will of God, by the act of forgiveness. Thirdly, it is by the obedience of faith. Now, we talked about this. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this. It is by the obedience of faith. That’s implied in verse 20. To make this happen, the sinner must respond, so here we go. We’re ambassadors for Christ. We’re the representatives of the great King who wants to be reconciled with His alienated subjects. We gave good news to tell them. God will be reconciled to you. God will not impute your sins to you, He will forgive you. Please accept this gift. That’s what verse 20 is saying. It is as if God, through us, is making an appeal. We are begging you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Now, that doesn’t sound very Calvinistic, does it? You don’t think we go around begging people, please be reconciled, repent, believe, confess your sin, turn from your sin, embrace Christ. Oh, you know, we’re Calvinists. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Really? Listen, not only should we be begging sinners to be reconciled to God as an act of faith, but listen, it is God making the appeal through us. He might conclude that God isn’t even a very good Calvinist. What? God begging sinners to be reconciled? That sounds absolutely Arminian. What do you mean? That’s what it says. We’re going to look at that dilemma tomorrow.
There is no salvation apart from faith. There is no salvation apart from the willingness of the sinner. What does it say in John 1:12? “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” And yet, “They’re not born of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.” We know it’s a work of God but still it’s not apart from the sinner. It’s through the sinner’s expression of will. God is a beggar pleading with sinners.
Look at Jesus, “You will not come to Me that you might have life. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood, but you would not. Your house is left to you desolate. And He wept.” You remember that? He wept. Jeremiah weeps the tears of God in his prophecy. “My eye will run down with tears ‘cause you will not believe.” God Himself is pleading through you with sinners. We are the representatives of a pleading God, a begging God, crying out to sinners, asking them to please believe, and be saved, and be reconciled to Him.
So, the ministry of reconciliation, the work of reconciliation is by the will of God through forgiveness, by the means of faith. That takes us to the fourth and final point, and this is going to capture what we’ve been saying all day. It is by the work of substitution, by the work of substitution. ‘Cause the question then comes immediately: how in the world can God just decide not to impute our sins to us?
To borrow the language of Romans 4:5, how can He justify the ungodly? That frankly, that statement that God justifies the ungodly would be the most, the most unacceptable sentence that Paul could utter in a Jewish context. God determines that the ungodly are righteous? God justifies the ungodly? That is an absolute outrage. How can He do it? As we said today, you know, if a judge sitting at the bench and a criminal came in and he had been accused of multiple murders and he said, “I did it all. I killed all those people, you know, I killed them, and then I dismembered them, and I buried them all over the place. Yeah, I did all that. I feel really bad about it. I’m so sorry for the family. And judge, I’m so sorry, I really am sorry, and would you please forgive me and let me go?” And the judge said, “You know, because you’ve asked, I forgive you, you’re free to go.” You wouldn’t be a judge anymore ‘cause he’s not upholding the Law. It would be an outrage. Is that what God did? Did God just say, “Oh yeah, sure, on your way?”
No, He didn’t. His justice had to be satisfied, and that’s verse 21. That’s the work of substitution. This will wrap up what we’ve been hearing about that really all day. It was BB Warfield who said, “Substitution is the heart of the heart of the gospel.” Let me help you understand verse 21. 15 Greek words. The most condensed, clear, comprehensive statement of the meaning of substitutionary atonement on the pages of the New Testament, verse 21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If He is not going to impute our trespasses to us, but rather is going to impute righteousness to us, how can He do that and still be just? Here’s how. “He,” that’s God, “made Him who knew no sin.” Who’s that? Very short list. Right? The only one with no sin. “He made Him who knew no sin, sin.” Oh, what did he mean by that? What do you mean He made Him who knew no sin, sin? Well, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagen, the Word of Faith people tell us, and I’ve heard them say it many times with their own lips that on the cross Jesus became a sinner, He became a sinner, and He had to go to hell and suffer for His sins for three days. And then the Lord let Him be raised from the dead because He had pay for His sins.
That is blasphemy. He was a Lamb without blemish and without spot. He was as sinless hanging on the cross as He ever is eternally. That is why He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” If He’s a sinner, there’s no “why”. On the cross, Jesus did not become a sinner. In what sense was, did He become sin? In this sense and this sense alone. God treated Him as if He were a sinner though He was not.
Now, follow carefully. On the cross God treated Christ as if He had committed personally every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though in fact He committed none of them. Did you get that? On the cross, God treated Christ as if He personally committed every sin ever committed by every believer who ever lives and though He committed none of them. Let me say it in a more personal way. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life. He didn’t, but God treated Him as if He did. He treated Christ as if He lived my life. He poured out the full fury of His wrath against our sin as if Christ was the guilty one. Isn’t that what’s pictured in the sacrificial system, going back to Leviticus chapter 1 verses 1 to 9?
So, we say it this way: on the cross God treated Jesus as if He was a sinner though He was not a sinner. Why did He do that? On our behalf, for us. Because His justice had to be satisfied. And I told you this morning that in three hours of darkness He was able to bear the infinite punishment, the eternal punishment of all the collected people who will ever believe, because He is an infinite person with an infinite capacity, and His capacity to bear the punishment had no boundaries.
That’s only the first part of it. God treated Him as if He committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, and then the flipside of the doctrine of substitution, at the end of verse 21, “So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Now, listen to this, this must be understood or you don’t get the full picture in this great verse. Are you righteous? Before God you stand righteous, but are you righteous? If you’re having any question about it, just ask the person sitting next to you, you’ll get an honest answer. Are you righteous? No. Paul said at the height of his spiritual maturity, “I am the chief of,” what? “Righteous people?” No. No. “I’m the chief of sinners.” You’re not righteous. What does this mean? It means that God treats you as if you were righteous. Let me go a step further. On the cross, God treats His Son as if He lived your life so that He could treat you as if you lived His Son’s life. That’s how God sees you. He looks at the cross and sees you; He looks at you and sees His Son. That’s why there’s no condemnation.
Now, you know, somebody might say, “Oh well if I were God, I think I would have designed this deal differently. Why does Jesus have to be here for 33 years for and go through all that hassle? I mean, why didn’t the Father just go to Him and say, “Can I use you for a weekend down on earth? You go down on a Friday, they’ll kill You. You rise from the dead on Sunday, be back by late Sunday evening after a few appearances. Redemption will be accomplished. I just need you for the weekend.” What’s the 30 years about? What’s that for? Scripture tells us what that’s for. He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without what? Sin. At all points means chronologically, from birth. At all points without sin. He lived a complete life without sin. Infancy, childhood, teenage years, young adult, mature adult, full life, He fulfilled all righteousness. Why? Because that life would be credited to your account. That is the active righteousness of Christ that we talked about.
So, on the cross God treats Jesus as if He lived your life, and now He treats you as if you lived His. That’s pretty generous, isn’t it? He looks at the cross and sees you. He looks at you and sees His Son. That’s good news to the sinner. Paul says, “I can’t view anybody any other way than as a spiritual entity, desperately in need of the message of reconciliation. We have been given this ministry, we’ve been given this message, we are here as ambassadors in an alien world. We can’t look at people externally, we have to see them for what they really are, eternal souls who will spend that eternity either in heaven or hell and the message that we must deliver to them is a message of reconciliation that God loves them so much, He is such an eager forgiver, that He is willing to remove their sins from them and replace them with His own righteousness as demonstrated and manifested in the perfect life of His Son. He judged His Son as if He lived your life, so that He could reward you as if you lived His life. This is the glory of the gospel.
Father, we thank You for Your truth. These are just almost beyond our comprehension, these wonders. We are so insignificant, so utterly sinful and unworthy and undeserving. And yet You have granted us this great salvation. May we be like Paul, ruled by such love, realizing that You didn’t just do this for us, but You died for all. And may we give our lives relentlessly and eagerly to the ministry of reconciliation to tell sinners they can be reconciled to a loving, forgiving God who will treat them as if they were as righteous as His perfect Son. This is available through faith in the name of Christ. Thank You for a wonderful evening of fellowship. Thank You for the privilege of worshiping You. We know that You want us to worship You in spirit. We’ve done that as we’ve sung, but also in truth. And now that we’re more enriched with the truth, fill our hearts with joy as we continue to worship You in the name of Your Son. Amen.
Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “Who carried Jesus’s cross?”
Here are the answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
Jesus carried his own cross.
They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, carrying His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called, Golgotha. (John 19:17)
Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.
As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they compelled to carry His [cross. (Matthew 27:32)
And they *compelled a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to carry His cross. (Mark 15:21)
And when they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, as he was coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26)
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction. A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time. To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible. See the many examples of their error which we have responded to in this post: Collection of Posts Responding to Bible Contradictions. Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do. But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
The skeptic tries to pit John 19:17 as affirming the claim “Jesus carried his own cross” against three verses, Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 as affirming “Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.”
It is important to ask if the passages were properly interpreted to support the skeptics’ claims. In order to check one must also keep in mind the context of the verses the skeptic cited. In all four passages they involved Jesus approaching His crucifixion. It seems the skeptics are correct to interpret the passages properly. John 19:17 does affirm the claim “Jesus carried his own cross” since it talks about Jesus “carrying His own cross.” The other three verses, Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 does teach “Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.” In both Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 the individual carrying Jesus’ cross is named as “ Simon of Cyrene,” while Matthew 27:32 it tells us the same thing in a more lenghty fashion: “a man of Cyrene named Simon.“
While John 19:17 identified Jesus carrying His own Cross that doesn’t entail it contradict with Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 since in order for it to be a contradiction John 19:17 has to say it was ONLY Jesus carried the Cross. But John 19:17 doesn’t say that. Nor does John 19:17 says NO ONE, not even Simon of Cyrene helped carry Jesus’ cross.
Likewise though Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 identified Simon helped carried Jesus’ cross that doesn’t mean it contradict with John 19:17 since in order for it to be a contradiction those three verses has to say it was ONLY Simon who carried the Cross. But Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 doesn’t say that. Nor do those three verses says NO ONE, not even Jesus, helped carry Jesus’ cross.
Given point 5 and 6 it is logically possible at different times the cross was carried by different individuals as Jesus headed to His crucifixion.
It seem the language within both Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 suggests it is compatible with John 19:17 in affirming the truth that Jesus carried the Cross. Note Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 said “His [cross” with the pronoun “His” being possessive, referencing it is that of Jesus. With the sentencing of Jesus to death, this Cross became His since He was carrying it.
The idea of someone being sentenced carrying his own cross is also recognized and taught by Jesus before His crucifixion in Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 14:27. Note how I cited verses from the book of Matthew, Mark and Luke, coming from the very books which the skeptics cited passages saying Simon carried Jesus’ cross. This further suggest Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 wasn’t meant to say Jesus did not ever carried HIs own cross at all.
Don’t forget that punishments was inflicted upon Jesus before He was crucified. Jesus was mocked, whipped, insulted, spit upon, struck and physically assaulted. The idea that Jesus didn’t carry His own cross and someone else carried it the whole time seems implausible contextually. To think of soldiers carrying a cross for the one they crowned with thorns seems unlikely for that mean more work for the Roman soldier; they probably aren’t going to do that for a prisoner they are going to kill. Consider also that Jesus carrying the Cross might be an additional means of punishing Jesus. Of course when Jesus was exhausted because of all that He’s been through before with a sleepless night, secret trial and physical assault somewhere down the road the Roman soldiers forced Simon to carry Jesus’ cross.
We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity. The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible. In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview. Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”
Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students
The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.
Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.
“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.
“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.
“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”
The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.
Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.
An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.
In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.
The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”
Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.
On Monday, April 12, 2021, both chambers of the Arizona Legislature passed bills that would legalize sports betting in Arizona.
– On Thursday, April 15, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill to allow sports betting to become legal in Arizona.
– During the event, Ducey also signed a new gambling compact agreement with the Tribal Nations which the governor and the tribes called a historic agreement.
The Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals, and Coyotes will all have licenses to operate on-site sports betting at their arenas.
– The Phoenix Open and NASCAR will also have sports betting available at tribal casinos.
We’re not talking about $10’s of millions. We’re talking about $100’s of millions according to State Representative, Jeff Weninger, of Chandler District 17.
Arizona joins 25 other states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico in legalizing sports wagering.
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed state lawmakers to decide whether or not it would be legal in their specific states.
The Federal Government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs still need to sign off on the bill, but it’s thought that’s just a formality.
– The whole process could take as little as 90 days.
The Phoenix Suns announced Thursday, they have partnered with the sports betting app, FanDuel, which will have a luxury sportsbook retail location inside the Suns arena.
Legalizing sports betting will forever change the sports and entertainment landscape in Arizona and, I feel, opens a Pandora’s Box for crime and all kinds of corruption.
– We already have big problems with the Cartel. This will just open other avenues for them to operate.
Today the State of Arizona and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are pleased with their decision to open sports gambling State-wide.- It’s going to bring so much more revenue to their coffers!
– I think the day will come when they’ll question if that was such a great decision.
Speaking of gambling caused my mind to race back to the biggest gamble to have ever happened in history.
– The gambling that was done at Golgotha over 2000 years ago.
I realize Easter is over and most pastors have moved on to other topics, but I want to explore this topic of the Crucifixion at least one more time before I move on to other things.
The Crucifixion is the darkest moment in the history of the world.
– This was the day that man nailed God to an old rugged cross.
God sent His Son to save Adam’s descendants from the penalty of sin — man rejected God’s Son and murdered Him on a Cross!
Crucifixion was grizzly enough with all the shame, pain, bloodshed, and terror involved, but man was turning his back on God’s Love!
It’s strange in the gravity of such a gruesome situation that anyone could be so calloused and unfeeling as to sit and gamble at the foot of the Cross.
– But that’s exactly what happened! — Matthew 27:35–Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
What a horrible commentary on society!
– So hardened that there’s little compassion left…………..
– These men gambled as if nothing else mattered — however, they weren’t the only gamblers at the Cross!
Look through the crowd—many were engrossed in this morbid scene — people with much at stake in this bloody drama of terror.
1. THE JEWISH RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE TAKING A GAMBLE THAT DAY.
Annas, Caiaphas — all the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin — they hated Jesus!
– He was destroying their comfortable religious system that served them so well!
The Pharisees and Sadducees had never gotten along.
– They disputed religion, politics, theology — every issue.
The main difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees was their differing opinions on the supernatural aspects of religion.
– The Pharisees believed in the supernatural–angels, demons, heaven, hell, the after-life and so on–while the Sadducees did not. That’s why they were SO-SAD-U-SEE.
– There was no love-loss between the two factions.
– Now, they were suddenly united in their common hatred of Jesus! — He had to go!
It’s odd how common hatred can bring former enemies together.
– There were two old ladies in Grand Coulee who couldn’t stand each other and were always at each other’s throat.
– One day they discovered that neither of them could stand me and somehow this common hatred of the young preacher brought them together………..
– Islam has a teaching: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend!.”
The brains of the “Let’s Murder Jesus Movement” were the priests — they found allies in the Pharisees who eagerly threw their influence with those who wanted to crucify Jesus.
The Pharisees lit the fire under the mob’s emotions causing them to boil forth with the cry, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
The Pharisees hurled arguments at Jesus while the mob howled for His destruction.
– There was a herd-mentality.
– People weren’t interested in right or wrong.
– People ran on raw emotion with no thought or facts to back their actions.
THEY DIDN’T NEED REASON! — They were controlled by emotions which blazed into fury.
We see it today!
– People following the herd — not caring what’s right or wrong, just caught up in what everybody else is doing.
– The “protests,” actually riots, that are being staged over “police brutality.”
Coca Cola used to have the slogan, “Ten million people can’t be wrong!”
– They are if they’re on the wrong path!—the majority of the world’s population’s going to Hell!
Matthew 7:13-14–“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The Jewish leaders didn’t want Jesus upsetting their system and gambled they could get rid of Him so they could continue their worship of self and selfish ambition.
People gamble today.
– They know they need Jesus, but their plans seem more important right now!
– If they can silence Jesus He won’t bother them so much.
The Jews gambled they could reject and destroy Jesus, but the Jewish Leaders lost their gamble and the stakes were high!
Everyone who gambles on pushing Jesus away and remaining selfish and sinful will lose.
– The stakes are just as high today. — Mark 8:36–For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
2. PILATE HAD A LOT AT STAKE TOO. HE GAMBLED THAT HE WAS IN CONTROL.
– Funny! Things were more crucial than he’d first thought.
– Jesus didn’t seem like someone who’d work the crowd into this frenzy.
He seemed quiet, not at all a trouble maker.
He had no money — He was homeless.
– His followers were fishermen, tax collectors — very simple men.
– They didn’t seem a threat to anybody — especially Rome.
Why were the Jewish Leaders so bent on killing Jesus?
– He felt Jesus’ calmness.
– He heard the mob outside — they were about to riot!
He knew Jesus was innocent.
– He’d tried to avoid the issue by sending Jesus to Herod — Herod sent Him back!
Pilate’s wife had dreamed about Jesus and sent word to him to have nothing to do with this man!
Pilate compromised and had Jesus flogged — hoping to satisfy the blood lust of the mob — that wasn’t enough! — The mob demanded crucifixion!
Finally, because he didn’t know what to do — and he feared the crowd — Pilate sent for a basin of water.
– Matthew 27:24–When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”
The Jews answered — Matthew 27:25–And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
In one bold stroke they called the wrath of vengeance down on themselves and their children.
That was the cry which wrote the bloody history of the Jews through the centuries.
– That cry stained the Jewish path through hundreds of years with blood.
– Destruction of Jerusalem. A.D. 70
– Spanish Inquisition. 1478-1834 (up to 130,000 people were tortured and executed.)
– Nazi Germany. 1933-1945 (6 million perished)
The Jews have paid dearly as the result of that horrible cry for Christ’s Blood.
– I’m not anti-Semitic, but I see these people got what they asked for.
– Parents and grandparents need to be careful for their children’s sake………
Pilate thought he’d side-stepped Christ.
– Pilate couldn’t side-step Jesus
– NEITHER CAN YOU………………………….
3. JUDAS PLAYED A GAMBLE!
– Judas had been with Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry — 3 years!
– He had plans and aspirations about who Jesus was and what Jesus could do for him.
– Judas had gotten greedy and critical.
– Judas wasn’t serving God — he was serving self.
– Like people today who whine, “The Church isn’t meeting my needs.”
– That’s not the Church’s goal — we’re to meet God’s needs………….
– Judas could’ve met Christ’s needs by being faithful and obedient.
– Judas never grasped the truth that “God’s ways are best ways.”
– He betrayed innocent Blood.
– Couldn’t stand the guilt and hung himself.
– Judas gambled and lost—“Be sure your sins will find you out!”
4. MEN ON THE OTHER CROSSES.
2 other men were dying beside Christ on crosses that day — Luke 23:39-43–Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Jesus invited both to join His Kingdom.
– One thief gambled that Jesus was who He said He was and accepted the invitation.
– That was the best decision of his life…………
– Like most dying men this thief prayed.
– He reached the place where even in his unbelief he called for redemption from the curse of hanging on the cross.
The other thief railed and cursed at Jesus echoing the mocking mob.
– Like men in tragedies of sea, storms, avalanches or other sudden accidents, he called for help which could only come from God.
– But look at his prayer—selfish, packed with doubt — Luke 23:39–Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
– No repentance, no godly sorrow, no sign of change of attitude.
– He filled his voice with the railing accusations of the mockeries being hurled at Jesus.
– God doesn’t listen to prayers like that.
– He wasn’t sincere about turning to God—just desperate to get relief………….
– His voice dripped with doubt as he prayed, “If Thou be!”
– He heard the crowd and gambled they were right — this dying man couldn’t help him.
– So close! — But he gambled with the majority and missed the “sure thing.”
– He should’ve listened to the man on the other cross—he’d be in Paradise with Jesus instead of eternally damned in Hell.
5. THERE WERE OTHER GAMBLERS THERE TOO:
– John and Mary
– They chanced being arrested — it might have meant their lives.
– They loved Jesus too much to dessert Him.
– They were willing to stand and be counted for Christ — US TODAY?
– Peter was afraid to take a chance.
– He hid (broken hearted) — Peter lost out — Christ later forgave him.
6. IT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU, BUT THE BIGGEST GAMBLER WAS JESUS!
– He gave up everything with no guarantee anyone would respond.
– He left Heaven!
– He became a man — John 3:16–For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The only convert He knew for certain would be in Paradise was the thief who accepted His invitation.
He suffered, bled and died — not knowing if anybody would pay attention.
– We’re free-moral agents — He had no guarantee we’d respond.
Jesus died on that old rugged cross because He loved you and me — when we were unlovely!
– We were lost and on our way to Hell!
He had to offer us a chance at Heaven — forgiveness—Sonship — Eternal Life.
GOD RISKED IT ALL BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU!
– WILL YOU LET THAT LOVE GO UNNOTICED?
Are you like those calloused soldiers—gambling at the foot of the Cross while the most important event in history was taking place?
Maybe you’re one of those people who know you need the Lord, but you want to wait for a more convenient time to accept Him.
YOU ARE GAMBLING YOUR SOUL, HOPING YOU DON’T DIE AND GO TO HELL BEFORE YOU GET RIGHT WITH GOD.
THERE’S A SAYING THAT SAYS, “THOSE WHO WAIT UNTIL THE 11TH HOUR TO REPENT USUALLY DIE AT 10:30!”
We return to the story of Lazarus in the eleventh chapter of John, the eleventh chapter of John. As I told you, this is the final public miracle that Jesus did, and it is the capstone of all His miracles because of the nature of the situation. This is a remarkable miracle done at a very strategic time just prior to the Passover done in a place called Bethany, which is two miles east of Jerusalem on the road from Jericho that was literally filled with pilgrims heading to the Passover. So everybody coming that way would have heard the story about Lazarus. It circulated through the whole city.
The raising of Lazarus strengthened, in a measure, the faith of the disciples. It was not enough to cause them to fully believe in our Lord’s resurrection, but I hate to think of what they’d have been without this resurrection because it moved the needle a little bit. The resurrection of Lazarus gave a preview of the resurrection of Christ, which helped them to believe that it could happen because they had seen His resurrection power in the case of Lazarus.
The resurrection of Lazarus also was a monumental widespread evidence of His deity. And the resurrection of Lazarus was so monumental, so widespread, so well-known that it forced the powers in the temple and the leaders of Judaism to press the issue of the execution of Jesus because He was just having way too much influence. So that’s kind of behind the scene as we arrive at chapter 11. The whole chapter basically is about this miracle and its results. So we’ll be looking at that for another couple of weeks.
I want you to focus in the beginning of our message this morning on two verses in the chapter, verses 25 and 26. This is really kind of the high point. This is the essence of what is being conveyed in this miracle. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Believing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life is aided by this immense miracle, and that’s why there’s so much detail here and all of the detail is vitally important. There are a lot of other elements to it as we have been learning and will continue to learn. But the main focus is to demonstrate that He who is the resurrection and the life is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing in His name brings everlasting joy in heaven.
That’s the whole point of the gospel of John. “It is written that you might believe and that you might receive eternal life.” This past week we were again focusing on 9/11 back in the year 2001, something we will not forget in our country. And as people were talking about 9/11, I was thinking about the first time that I went to visit with Larry King on The Larry King Show immediately after 9/11. I will never forget out of nowhere the question that he asked me. There’s no preparation. There are no preliminary questions that are sent to a person being interviewed, at least they never sent any to me. I sat down with that camera about 18 inches from my face and looking off the side at Larry, and he fired this question at me. “What does this mean? What does this mean?” All of the holocausts perpetrated by the Islamists on that day, “What does this mean?” And with no preparation or forethought to this, I immediately blurted out a line that has continued to be repeated. I said this: “You’re going to die and you’re not in charge of when.”
This doesn’t have anything to do really with international politics. This doesn’t have to do with nations coming and going. It really doesn’t have to do so much with religion. It doesn’t have to do so much with terrorism. The message that you need to get here – there are messages about all of that, but the primary message that you need to get is you’re going to die and you’re not in charge of when. You’re not in charge of where, and you’re not in charge of how. Even if you decide to kill yourself, you’re not in charge of the circumstances and exigencies that led you to that bad decision in a moment of time, which is irrevocable. You’re not in charge of your death, and you better be ready when it happens.
Ecclesiastes 8:8 puts it this way, “No man has authority to restrain the wind, so also no man has authority over the day of death.” Job 18:14 says, “When that day comes, man is torn from the security of his tent, and they march him off before the king of terrors.” King of terrors is death. “Job 14:1-2, “Man who is born of woman is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.” Moses says in Psalm 90, “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years or if due to strength 80 years, and yet their pride is but labor and sorrow for soon it is gone and we fly away.” 1 Timothy 6, “We brought nothing into the world so we cannot take anything out of it either.”
So is that it? Is that where evolution has brought us after supposedly billions of years, to this kind of non-existence called death, memory-less non-existence? If that’s all there is, then all of us are stupid for not being hedonists literally sucking everything out of this world that our lust and pleasure desires. The problem is that’s a lie. You are more than protoplasm waiting to become manure. Every human being will live forever. Every human being will live forever. That is the word from the Creator. That is the word from God. And not only will you live forever in spirit, but you will live forever in a resurrected bodily form, both in heaven and in hell. In one place, a body to absorb eternal punishment. In another place, a body to enjoy eternal bliss. You will live forever. You will be raised from the dead. Every human being will. In fact, Jesus is the one who will raise everyone.
You remember earlier in the gospel of John in the fifth chapter, our Lord made it explicitly clear when He said this, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth; those who did the good to a resurrection of life and those who committed the evil to a resurrection of damnation or judgment.” Everybody will be raised from the dead. There will be a resurrection body for hell and a resurrection body for heaven. Death is not the end of anyone.
There are only two possible places, two possible existences after this life; one without God and the horrors of remorse and punishment, and one with God and the joys of blessing and reward. So how does one come to heaven? Only one way, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why John wrote this gospel, “That you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name, eternal life.”
Here our Lord not only says He will be the judge and the one who raises the dead, but He is, in fact, the resurrection and the life. It’s not just something He does to give life. It is who He is, and that’s how the gospel of John began. “In the beginning was the Word – ” meaning the Lord Jesus Christ, ” – and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life.”
He is the source of everything that lives. He is the resurrection and the life because He is life. He has the power to create out of nothing, and He has the power to raise the dead because He is life. He doesn’t draw His life from anyone else or anywhere else. Life itself exists in Him. He is life. This is His nature, and He is eternal life, who has been alive eternally and that life He granted to His creation. Everything that exists, everything that exists in the spiritual and physical world, He made. The inanimate things He made and the animate things that live, He made. From the smallest cell to the most complex human being, He gave life to everything that lives.
He is the Creator of life, and because He is the life, He will raise all the dead and give them a body suited for their eternal dwelling. Death is not the end. Death is a split second transition.
Here in the resurrection of Lazarus, our Lord Jesus puts on a display of the power of life that He possesses. Now, when I told you we have a record already in the gospels that He raised two people, one was the daughter of Jairus, a young girl who was sick at home. By the time Jesus got there, she was dead. It might be argued since there were no clinical ways to determine actual death; nobody was doing an EKG or an EEG to read the brain or the heart or whatever, some might have said, “Well, maybe she was only in some kind of swoon,” as they used to call it, because the miracle happened at the very moment that she died or a little bit after that.
And then there the case of the widow who was taking her son to be buried with the procession of people who were mourning, and Jesus stopped the procession, raised the dead young man. Some might argue that since there was no way to be certain someone was dead, perhaps this was just a resuscitation of someone who was temporarily in that condition. But in the case of Lazarus, that’s not possible because this is someone who’s been dead four days, four days. Now, that really does matter. I mean it matters a lot.
And just to help you know how much that matters, I did a little research this week to find out what happens to a body in four days. Very interesting. This was not a theological resource, but as I opened up some research material, I was amazed to find out that all of the bad stuff happens by 72 hours.What happens in four days?
The Jews did not embalm. The Jews did nothing to stop the decay. They wrapped the body and sprinkled spices on it to mitigate the smell. That’s it. Here’s what happens in four days, pretty grisly stuff. The heart has stopped beating. The body cells are then deprived of oxygen, and they begin to die. Blood drains from throughout the circulatory system and pools in the low places. Muscles begin to stiffen in what is known commonly by the Latin, rigor mortis. That sets in after three hours.
By 24 hours, the body has lost all its heat. The muscles then lose their rigor mortis in 36 hours, and by 72 hours rigor mortis has vanished. All stiffness is gone and the body is soft. Looking a little bit deeper, as cells begin to die, bacteria go to work. Your body is filled with bacteria, but that’s another subject. The bacteria in the body of a dead person begin to attack, breaking the cells down. The decomposing tissue takes on a horrific look and smell and emits green liquids by the 72nd hour. The tissue releases hydrogen sulfide and methane as well as other gases. A horrible smell is emitted. Insects and animals will consume parts of the body if they can get at it.
Meet Lazarus. That’s the condition he’s in when Jesus arrives. That’s important. Everyone knows he is dead. As Martha says in verse 39, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench,” or as the King James said, “He stinketh,” because he’s been dead four days.
Look, they lived in a world of death. They didn’t live in a sterile world of mortuaries and undertakers and embalming fluids and all of that where the body disappears and you never see anything but somebody in a casket who looks like the horizontal member of a cocktail party with a suit and tie and dressed up and make up.
People lived with death. They lived with the realities of death. They lived with the horrors of death. That’s very important. It’s also very important to understand that there was a certain expectation, and it became a reality in this case of what a funeral was like. When someone died, family, friends, neighbors, even connected strangers poured into their life. Everybody showed up. In the case of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, they must have been a very prominent family. They must have been well-known because we read, as the story begins – let’s pick it up in verse 17.
“So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.” There is a huge crowd there, which again speaks to the prominence of this family. So we’re going to come to verse 17 today, to the arrival of Jesus, but let me back up a little bit and kind of work our way to this point.
In chapter 10, Jesus concluded His public ministry. He was in Jerusalem and they wanted to kill Him. In fact, as chapter 10 closes, two times in the conflict, they wanted to just let violence take over and execute Him on the spot. And He escapes to protect His life because it’s not the time to die. They have rejected Him as a nation. They have rejected Him as leaders. The Son of God, the Savior of the world, the promised Messiah, they have turned on. And in order to save His life until the appointed time, chapter 10 ends with Him leaving Jerusalem, leaving the surrounding area and the heart of it all, the temple. And He goes away across the Jordan to a place called Bethany, interestingly enough, because the place right next to Jerusalem where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived was also called Bethany, meaning “house of the poor.”
So He takes His disciples, and He goes to a place across the Jordan where John the Baptist kind of launched his ministry. John the Baptist’s influence is still there and Jesus shows up. What John said is proven to be true, and He is exactly who John says He was and many people believed. Chapter 10 ends with, “There were many who believed in Him there.”
So the disciples and Jesus are in this place called Bethany, and they’re having great effective ministry. People are believing. Now, remember in the opening 16 verses, it’s in this environment that Jesus says, “I just got word.” A messenger comes, “Lazarus is sick,” and Jesus says, “He’s not just sick, he’s dead. We’re going back. We’re going back. We’re going back to Judea.” And, of course, they all say, “That’s suicide. They want to kill you there. You don’t want to go back. Look at the success we’re having. Look at the response we’re having. They’re loving everything. John the Baptist laid the groundwork. You can come right in and there’s a harvest to be had here. Let’s stay.” Jesus says, “We’re going.”
Thomas resigns himself to the inevitable in verse 16. Thomas says, “Let us go that we may die with Him.” They actually believed this was going to be it, but they had watched Him get them out of those kind of brink of death experiences, but to walk right back into it seems certainly to be fatal. That’s not what Jesus had in mind immediately, but it is what He had in mind ultimately because He was going back soon to die.
Then this miracle takes place when He returns. It’s juxtaposed against His own death. He gives life to a dead man and gives up His life in the same place. It’s an amazing story. We’ve looked at some of the detail. I want you to see even more of the detail. So let’s just begin where it begins with the coming of our Lord in verse 17.
Never preoccupied with His own agenda, He comes because He’s sympathetic. He humbles Himself. He comes. He walks away from this ministry. It’s not just that. It’s not just sympathy. It’s not just this compassion for them. It is the purpose of God that He would raise this man from the dead in a public place, as it were, on the very road from Jericho. You go right by the village of Bethany when you take the road from Jericho to Jerusalem where the pilgrims would come.
In a very public place, this miracle will take place with a massive number of eye witnesses because the funeral has attracted this huge crowd of Jews. Everybody there is going to become an eye witness to a resurrection, and they’re going to tell their story far and wide. There are literally going to be dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of eye witnesses to this miracle. This is very important to strengthen the faith of the disciples, very important to put the capstone on miracles that demonstrated His deity, and more important to force the Jews to kill Him because He’s having way too much impact. So that’s the scene as He arrives.
Now, we can just go back quickly to note that He comes to Bethany near Jerusalem, two miles to the east, over around the Mount of Olives. Many of the Jews had come to console them concerning their brother. This is what was the custom. This is the tradition. People came to console. Let me give you kind of a picture. When someone died, as I said, they put them in the ground right away. Burial followed death immediately. As a result of the death, people would be notified. They would come to the house. There would be a procession, a procession to wherever they were going to place the body. They’re not necessarily digging a hole, but like Jesus who was buried in a cave. There were many caves in the Bethany area as well as around Jerusalem. Many believers were buried this way all over the ancient world around the Mediterranean.
So it’s very likely they put Him in some kind of cave on some kind of shelf, which is typically what they did in catacombs kind of places. He would be placed there. The procession would then go back to the house and mourners would stay for seven days, seven days. This is how long the initial part of the funeral lasted. For seven days, people would be sitting in the house. Now, they couldn’t eat until the body was taken to be buried. They didn’t want any kind of levity. They didn’t want any kind of joy being expressed. They didn’t want any kind of normalcy until the body had been buried, and then they would serve a meal. They actually had designed a meal of bread, hard-boiled eggs and lentils, kind of a traditional meal to feed the people who were going to stay.
Then they would continue to have to care for those people or others would bring food as the mourners stayed for seven days. What they did was not just sit quietly like Job’s friends and say nothing. They wailed out loud. They mourned. They wailed loudly. Women led this, so it was kind of a screaming, wailing situation. They saw this as comfort because of the sympathy behind it. It was traditional. They expected it. For seven days, this wailing went on.
So when Jesus comes and Lazarus has been dead four days, this is still in full bloom. Sympathy was everybody’s duty. It was really a beautiful custom. By the way, at the end of the seven days, the wailing, sort of the formal wailing – and by the way, they were hired mourners as well, people who were professional wailers who sort of led the rest. They embraced that family for seven days, and then after the seven days of really intense wailing, they would also carry on mourning for 30 days. There would be some expressions openly, publicly of mourning for 30 days as those friends and those people came around. During the time of wailing and mourning, there would be reminiscences and eulogies and remembrances. There would be the sharing of stories and whatever was necessary to comfort. It really was a beautiful custom.
I think so often of how we do funerals. First of all, we don’t know much about death because the body disappears and that’s the last we know. Then we go to a funeral and it lasts an hour or maybe two hours, and we’re gone, and there’s a little bit of comfort of that event, but it’s mostly an event rather than an interaction. It’s all over, and we kind of go on with life. They didn’t do that.
By the way, I might say as a footnote, we’ve had a funeral here at Grace Church every weekend for the last three weekends. But I was thinking so much yesterday that the measure of a church, the character of a church is not made known by how well it entertains young people. The character of a church is made known by how well it embraces old people. The character of a church is not how well it can capture the lighthearted who are alive and young; it’s how well it can capture and hold the heartbroken, the grieving. How does it deal with the suffering? How does it deal with old age? How does it deal with cancer? How does it deal with love, loving people at the worst times of life? That’s the measure of a church.
Anybody can draw a crowd. Anybody can put on an event. Anybody can do a rock concert and attract young people who are just looking for the next gig. The measure of a church is how does it sustain relationships with people all the way to the grave, fully embrace them, love them right unto death? That’s the measure of a church. There may be churches that do it with more love and affection than this, but I’ve never seen one. The measure of this church cannot be known by sitting here on a Sunday and listening to this that’s going on up here.
The measure of this church is seen in the hardest time of life, the most grievous times of life, the agonies of life, long drawn-out slow deaths or terrible, accidental deaths and how this church embraces people at the low points, the hard points in life. That’s the measure of a church.
There’s a lot of superficial things going on, but how well do we do genuinely under the power of the Holy Spirit these kinds of things, which they did traditionally? That’s so absent from the contemporary approach to the church, which is to sit in the dark and watch a show.
So Jesus was coming to a very crowded scene and there were all these people there, dozens if not hundreds who are all being set up. They don’t know it, but they’re being set up to be eye witnesses of a resurrection. Amazing. There is here a kind of microcosm, a kind of analogy to the incarnation. He is away with His own. He humbles Himself, condescends, comes back to a scene of death. That’s essentially what the incarnation is. He comes back to a scene of death, announces that He is the life, and gives life. That’s like an analogy of the incarnation.
So Jesus comes and makes His great claim. The first thing we saw was His coming; then His claim, verse 20. “Martha, therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming,” and maybe the messenger who came with them ran ahead. Do you remember the messenger who went to tell Jesus that Lazarus was sick? He must have come back with them. Maybe he waited the two days they waited, and then came back with them and maybe ran ahead a little bit. We can’t be certain about that, but somebody informed her that Jesus was near, but not quite at the village.
She heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Now, here we come to these two sisters again, and they perform kind of according to their personality and their temperament. If you go back to Luke 10 for a minute, this is where we meet them earlier in the ministry of Jesus, quite a bit earlier in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus and His disciples are traveling along and He enters a village. By the way, it’s Bethany, that same village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She knew about Him, must have known about Him. We don’t know at this point how much. She welcomed Him into her home. “She had a sister called Mary who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.”
He comes into the home. He starts doing what He always did: teaching divine truth. She’s listening, but Martha was distracted with all her preparations. And she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister had left me to do all the serving alone?” I mean that’s a pretty bold lady. “Then tell her to help me.” Whoa. “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha.”
You know, when anybody repeats your name twice, you know you’re in trouble? My mother was just, “Johnny, Johnny.” “Martha, Martha, you’re worried and bothered about so many things.” They don’t matter. “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” No way I’m going to tell her to go to the kitchen and fuss around. She’s chosen the right thing. So there’s the initial characterization. Mary is the pensive, thoughtful, inward, melancholy kind of personality and Martha is the busy one, the active one, the aggressive one. So we see that again.
Go back to John 11. The word comes. She gets the word that the Savior is on the way, and as soon as she gets the word that He’s on the way, she charges in that direction. Verse 20, Mary stays back. She’s melancholy. She’s broken hearted. She’s sad. She’s pensive, in deep sorrow. She doesn’t even know Jesus is coming. She doesn’t even know that because she doesn’t find it out until verse 28 when Martha comes back and tells her. She’s just caught up in the loss of her brother, the agonizing loss of this brother that she loved.
But as Martha reached Jesus, the thought that had no doubt plagued her brain and she had shared it with Mary for the four days, was that Jesus should have been there; and if Jesus hadn’t left, this wouldn’t have happened. So Martha says to Jesus, “Lord.” Now, that’s a great confession, “Lord.” Then what follows is a little incongruous. “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Here she is telling Him what to do again. This is definitely her. This is her. The first time she said anything to Him, she told Him what to do. The second time, she scolds Him again and tells Him if He’d had done what He should have been doing, He would have been there, and this never would have happened.
“If you had only been here, my brother would not have died.” Did she know He had healing power? Sure. But what about the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the raising of her from the dead? What about the raising of the young man in the funeral procession? Again, maybe the speculation was that they weren’t really dead because for whatever reason, she has no confidence that He can deal with dead people. She has no question about His ability to heal the sick because He did that virtually His entire ministry. She did believe that not only could He heal the sick, but He would definitely have healed Lazarus from His sickness because He loved Lazarus. That’s what she said in verse 3, “Him whom you love.”
But Jesus healed strangers, strangers to whom He had no connection, no relationship. Surely, His love would have compelled Him to heal Lazarus, but instead of being there and being able to do that, He had left. So she knew He loved him. She knew He was capable of healing his illness, but her faith comes short of believing that He could raise him from the dead. That was because, if nothing else, as she declares in verse 39, “He’s been dead four days.” Clearly, this is death, and this is death verified physically.
If Jesus had only been there. She and Mary talked about that. In a sense, they are sitting in judgment on Jesus. There’s doubt, questions about His wisdom and even about His power, but then there’s kind of a little window of hope in verse 22. “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” What’s that? Listen, Martha knows who she is talking to. She says, “Lord,” in verse 21. Go down to verse 27, “Yes, Lord,” she says again, “I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Well, she has a pretty full Christology. She’s got some sound theology. She understands the lordship of Christ. She understands that He is Messiah. She understands that He possesses the nature of God, He is the Son of God. She understands that He came from heaven into the world. That’s the incarnation. She also understands by the testimony that she gives in verse 22 that He in His incarnation has submitted Himself to the will of the Father, and only does what the Father shows Him to do, and what the Father wills Him to do; but what He asks the Father consistent with His will, the Father would give Him the power to do.
This lady got a solid Christology while she was in the kitchen overhearing what He was saying to Mary. She got it. By the way, Jesus no doubt stayed at their home Many times, but somehow with all that she knew, there was this pain that testifies to a faith that comes short of believing His power to raise the dead. She says, “I know you can ask the Father and you can do that now, and God will give you if it’s His will.”
Verse 23, Jesus responds. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” She shows off a little more of her theology. Verse 24, Martha said, “And I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She’s not only got a full orb Christology. She’s pretty good eschatologically. She’s got a fairly good eschatology. She’s got the resurrection in her panoplie of doctrine. She knows there’s a future resurrection. How does she know that? She knows the book of Job. What did Job say in chapter 19:25-27, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh will I see God, whom I shall see for myself and not another.” Job was confident of a resurrection.
She knew Daniel 12:2. Daniel 12:2 is the promise that the saints will rise, that not only will the saints rise to everlasting life, but others will rise to everlasting contempt. She had a doctrine of last things, resurrection in the future. This is in a real sense, a very discipled woman because all of this had to come from Jesus. She understood her Old Testament promises of resurrection. She had no doubt heard the Lord say that He would raise the dead as He says in John 5:27-29, “And He would raise some to everlasting life and some to everlasting condemnation.” She knew what He said in John 6, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me. I will lose none, but raise him at the last day.” From John 6:37-44, He talks about raising people the last day, verse 54.
So she had heard Jesus teach this, but she says, “That’s not good enough. I know there will be a resurrection in the last days.” I just want to affirm to you, folks, there will be a resurrection. This is not a misinterpretation of Scripture because Martha got the same thing from Jesus. It is the truth. You will rise to life or damnation. You will receive a body for eternity. Then our Lord says, “Martha, look, I am the resurrection and the life.” Listen, not, “I will be.” I – what? “I am.” This is the fifth of seven I ams in the gospel of John.
I AM\\\am. That’s the Tetragrammaton, the name of God. I am the resurrection and the life. He doesn’t say, “I can raise the dead.” I am the resurrection. I can pray the Father to give life. I am life. “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” So here is this great claim, this claim to be the I am, to be the one who is the source of life. I am the embodiment of life. I am the life.
Just as in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Not in the future, “I will be.” In the present, “I am.” Here is the I am. Jesus is the life itself. He is everlasting life. That everlasting life, by the way, that resurrected life in heaven is for anyone who believes. Do you believe? That’s the compelling question. Do you believe? If you do not believe, you are without excuse. If you do not believe that He is the resurrection and the life, you are without excuse. Why? You must believe He is the life. He created everything that lives. You must believe He is the resurrection because He not only raised the dead, but He himself was raised from the dead; and because He lives, we live also.
He is the first fruits of all who slept. He is the primary one who has come through the grave and out the other side and won the triumphant, glorious resurrection to eternal life for all who believe in Him. Do you believe? Do you believe? There’s plenty of evidence to believe. You have Him as the Creator, and if He can create out of nothing everything that lives, then raising bodies out of nothing is just what He does, just who He is.
Do you believe? That is the question, friends, that I ask you. Do you believe that He is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that He is the Messiah who came down from heaven, the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Do you believe He is Lord? Do you believe? She believed all of that. She believed all of that. Do you believe? And she gave testimony, yes.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He said, “Do you believe this?” Verse 27, she said to Him, “Yes Lord, I have believed – ” I’ve already believed ” – that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” I do believe. That’s the path to salvation. She didn’t even know about the cross yet because He hadn’t died. She didn’t know about His resurrection yet because it hadn’t happened, but she believed everything that had been revealed up to that point. She is an Old Testament saint. She is an Old Testament believer. I do believe. I do believe.
That’s the question for everyone here. Do you believe? If you don’t believe it’s not because there’s no evidence. The evidence is massive. The testimony of His power about to be displayed before these myriad eyewitnesses in the case of Lazarus as well as the testimony to His resurrection. After His resurrection, He appeared to the apostles. He appeared to 500 brethren at once in one place. There’s so much evidence. Do you believe? If you do not believe, it is not because there is not evidence. This entire gospel is written, “That you might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that believing you might have eternal life in His name.”
If you do not believe, then you’re like the Jews. You do not believe because you hate righteousness and love sin. You do not believe because you love your evil deeds. The evidence is in. She believed. “So when she had said this she went away – ” after her confession, ” – and called Mary her sister, whispering to her, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him.”
So Martha goes back, whispers a secret in Mary’s ear that Jesus is there, and they rush to the place where He would be waiting. Here we get a little picture again of this kind of comfort that was provided by friends. Verse 31, “Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly an went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.”
She’s inconsolable. This is four days in, and they’re still there around her consoling this sad, weeping Mary, but she jumps up and goes. They just think she’s transferring her sadness to the tomb, like people visiting a grave. This is more eyewitnesses. Get them out of the house. Get them all to the grave. Get everybody to the grave. Don’t leave anybody behind. Let’s get everybody there to see this miracle.
“Therefore, when Mary came to where Jesus was – ” in verse 32, ” – she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'” Where’d she hear that? Oh Martha, Martha. Martha passes on her discontent to her poor, melancholy, quiet sister. She drinks the Kool-Aid that Martha is preparing. She just parrots the line of her sister. This is beautiful. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” You could have stopped it all. This didn’t even need to happen. I didn’t need to be in this condition. This whole event needed not to happen.
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping.” This is quite a scene. This is kind of a strong weeping, wailing. “He was deeply moved,” deeply moved. Literally weeping is klaiō in the Greek. It means to sob. And when He sees all this sobbing, He was deeply moved. That is a very interesting word, deeply moved. It can mean being emotional. It can mean being angry. It can mean being indignant. It can mean groaning, feeling inner pain and turmoil. This is deep emotion. This is a word that sort of grabs everything. There is sorrow, sadness, indigence, anger, suffering. It’s just every emotion grips Him in His spirit, in His inner person, His person, and He was troubled, reflexive verb, troubled in Himself or He allowed Himself to feel the trouble. He let Himself feel everything.
This is like what Hebrews says, “He is in all points tempted like as we are.” He’s been touched with the feelings of our infirmities as our great High Priest. He’s sad because He’s lost His friends. Now, He loved Lazarus. It says that back in verse 3, and it’s phileō. It’s, He had an affection for him, human. He lost His friend.
He loved Mary and Martha. There’s no question that He loved them. Everybody recognized how much He loved them. But there’s more there than that. It’s not just the pain that He feels in the loss of a friend. It’s not just the pain that He feels as He identifies with these two sisters. He feels a far more transcendent pain. He feels a cosmic pain. He understands that He is surrounded by unbelievers, who are representative of a nation of unbelievers who are all being catapulted into eternal judgment because they will not receive Him. He understands that looking down through human history. He understands the pain and suffering of all humanity that faces the same inevitable hour of human loss. He understands that how severe this loss is when you know you’re losing one to hell forever.
I mean this is a massive moment of agony. Maybe a little bit like His agony in the garden as He anticipates the sin-bearing. He deeply enters in, not only to the wounded hearts and sorrows of people who are broken because they’ve lost the one they love; but He sees way more than that. He understands what sin has done to the world and what unbelief has done to these people who are gathered around Him.
By the way, the Greeks described their Gods by one word, apatheia, apatheia. We transliterate that into English into the word “apathetic.” Pathos with an alpha privative means to have no feeling, no feeling. The deities were apatheia. That meant they had no ability to feel pain, no ability to feel emotion, no ability to care. Well, that might be pagan deities invented by Satan, but that’s not our God.
He felt every pain, not only the pain of the loss of His own dear friend, His own pain; not only the pain of Mary and Martha, not only the pain of all the rest of the people who had lost their friend, but the pain that will literally be imposed on every human family yet to live on this planet that faces the same reality. And worse, the pain of unbelief and its horrendous result. Feels it all.
So He said, “Where have you laid him?” Where did you place him? “They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” Shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” Different word here than klaiō. Not that word, not the word for weeping and sobbing. This is another word. These are not the mourners tears, the sustained kind of sobbing tears. This is a verb in its form here that means a sudden outburst into open tears, open crying. He literally can’t hold it in. This is the “man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” as Isaiah said, and He can’t contain it because He sees what’s going on and His own loss and the loss of the sisters, and in the unbelief of the crowd, and in the coming generations of people who will feel the same agonizing separations that sin has produced.
These are not sentimental tears. These are not professional tears. These are not prolonged mourners tears. This is literally a shocking outburst of our sympathetic High Priest, and the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” They were right. They were right. His tears stood out from everybody else’s. “See how He loved him!” That was true. They used phileō. “See how much affection He had for him,” but they didn’t see the whole picture. They didn’t know that what led to that outburst was far more than His affection for Lazarus. It was all the reality of sin and death and unbelief and judgment in hell that was behind that scene, and there He stands at the edge of the tomb, sobbing. What happens next is astounding. Let’s pray.
What an adventure for us today. What a privilege to be in Bethany and experience all of this. Lord, thank you for the richness of your Word. What an incalculable gift it is. How our Christ lives through it, and we through Him. Thank you for making Christ real to us. We believe and we are sure that He is the Christ, the Son of God, He who comes into the world. We call Him Lord, and we believe that He is the resurrection and the life, and that He will one day raise all the dead. But even now, as the resurrection and the life, He can give life to dead sinners who believe.
Open hearts and minds to respond positively to the question, do you believe this? Do you believe? Do you believe? Do you believe that He Himself not only raised Lazarus, but having died was Himself raised from the dead to become the first fruits of all who slept. And because He lives in eternal glory, we shall live there as well. Lord, open hearts to that faith.
Father, we thank you for what you have accomplished today. We know that your Word never returns void, but always accomplishes the purpose to which you send it. Therefore, we know that it did that even today. Send us on our way with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Despite a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 117,000 people from around the world expressed an interest in committing their faith in Jesus after hearing the Gospel through virtual events hosted by evangelist Nick Hall and his young-adult ministry Pulse during the week of Easter.
Pulse led two major events during the week, namely, Leader Check-In and a Good Friday service that featured several high-profile Christian speakers, including Francis Chan, founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, who now lives in Hong Kong.
“I’m guessing this is the strangest Good Friday you’ve ever had,” Chan told viewers during his quarantined Good Friday presentation broadcast in nearly 100 countries, including Japan, China, Nepal, Thailand, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Russia, and was translated into 40 different languages.
“You’re used to being in a church building with a crowd of people celebrating the cross of Jesus, but I actually think that there’s something fitting about you being alone because most of you are watching this by yourself or maybe with your family in just a small group,” he said, noting that being alone can be a golden opportunity to connect with God.
“That’s why there’s something good about you being alone right now. It’s one thing to yearn for Him and scream for Him when everyone else is there because the crowd may move you to that. But this Good Friday [it’s good] for you to have some quiet and some isolation so that the core of your being, not just your lips, the core of your being will connect with Him,” Chan said.
Other speakers featured during the Good Friday service were: renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias, bestselling author Max Lucado, NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. Worship was courtesy of Christian singers Lauren Daigle, Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.
“We were literally getting smartphone photos from all over the world — from Nigeria to India and China — of families gathering in their living rooms, around 18-inch cathode-ray TVs, laptops and HD screens watching our services,” Hall said in a release shared with The Christian Post about the collective reaction to the event. “The doors to our church buildings may have been closed, but the church has not closed. We are living through a Great Quarantine Revival, and I think God is just getting started.”
At the Leader Check-In event hosted on April 8, ministry leaders and pastors were encouraged ahead of the Easter weekend. Bible teachers and bestselling authors such as Ann Voskamp, Beth Moore, Chan, David Platt, Rodriguez, Priscilla Shirer and Lecrae offered practical advice anchored in the Word of God.
“This Easter may have been the most significant in a century,” Hall said. “The fields have never been more ripe for harvest as people search for hope and meaning during this global pandemic. It may very well be the greatest opportunity we’ve had to share the Gospel — but we will miss it if we don’t care for our pastors and ministers now.”
The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God’s deliverance from death during the time of Moses.
Origination of Passover
Moses had been instructed to lead God’s people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh’s disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God’s ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.
In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God’s instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death. This is what the Lord said:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14)
The Seder Meal
The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Pesach, or Passover, is the Seder.
The Seder meal consists of six highly symbolic elements: matzah, a roasted shank bone, parsley or green herbs, the top of a horseradish, charoset, and an egg. On each plate are three pieces of matzah (a special type of cracker or unleavened bread). Two of these pieces represent the traditional loaves used in the ancient Temple during festivals and the third piece symbolizes Passover. The roasted lamb bone connotes the sacrificial Passover lamb. Herbs symbolize springtime growth. The horseradish represents the bitter years of slavery in Egypt; charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used in Egypt; and the egg represents the chagigah (a secondary sacrifice prepared along with the Passover lamb).
The Biblical Accounts
Accounts of what happened can be found in all four gospels — Matthew 26:17-27:10; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:1-65; John 13:1-18:27.
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A Chinese man was arrested on August 3 for conducting street evangelism and was consequently placed under administrative detention for 10 days. Remarkably, the man continued sharing the gospel by encouraging the officers who took him into custody to believe in Jesus.
“Brother Chen Wensheng received 10-day administrative detention sentence for sharing gospel of Christ on the street at his own hometown in Hunan province including to policemen,” tweeted Bob Fu. Fu is the founder and president of human rights organization ChinaAid, which reported the incident.
Man Perseveres in Street Evangelism
The man arrested for “illegal evangelism,” Chen Wensheng, is part of the Xiaoqun Church in Hengyang, a city in Hunan province. According to ChinaAid, he was preaching the gospel in a city street while displaying a cross with the phrases “Glory to our Savior” and “Repent and be saved by faith alone.” When officials arrested Chen, they also confiscated his cross. In its report, ChinaAid shared two videos, one of Chen’s street evangelism booth and one of him sharing the gospel with Chinese officials after being released from a previous arrest.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), conducting street evangelism and getting arrested for it has become a habit for Chen, so much so that the local authorities know him. Says ICC, “He has repeatedly urged the police officers to believe in Jesus.” In the video of Chen speaking to officials during a previous release, the officers ask if Chen makes money from telling people about Jesus. He replies that the point of believing in Jesus is not to get money, but to receive eternal life. ICC says that members of Chen’s church have visited him and provided for his needs during his most recent detainment.
There is no doubt that Chen Wensheng has shown tenacity and courage, particularly as religious persecution in China has been increasing. Among the many ways the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is oppressing Christians and other people of faith is by threatening to “re-educate” their children and by taking away children who have been adopted. In 2019, one Christian family that was part of Early Rain Covenant Church left China for Taiwan for fear that the CCP would take away their adopted child.
Not even the state-approved Three-Self Church is protected from the government’s interference. There have been reports of authorities removing crosses and religious imagery from churches throughout the country, whether or not those churches are approved by the government. And it is not only churches that the CCP is targeting with this policy. Authorities are forcibly removing religious imagery from people’s homes and replacing it with images of Chairman Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping, as part of the government’s efforts toward sinicization. Those who refuse face losing their welfare benefits.
This is not to mention the government’s ongoing surveillance and unjust sentencing of Christians in China, in addition to other human rights abuses such as the CCP’s invasive use of technology and the atrocities the party is committing against the Uighur people. ICC has recently published a comprehensive report on religious persecution in China, which you can access here.
As the coronavirus death toll continues to rise and fall, and cases top 5 million in the U.S. alone, there’s a growing shift in focus towards mental health and wellness.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.5 percent, or one in four adults, ages 18-24, say they have contemplated suicide in the past month as a result of the pandemic. That’s more than three times the percentage of people in the same age group who reported suicidal ideation in the second quarter of 2019.
The staggering statistics come from a new CDC study, which surveyed 5,470 people between June 24 and June 30.
Of those surveyed, more than 40 percent said they had experienced a mental or behavioral health condition in relation to the pandemic. 31 percent reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, while 26 percent of respondents reported trauma and stress-related disorder because of the pandemic. And 13 percent of those surveyed said they have turned to increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19.
And the problem isn’t just among young adults. 22 percent of essential workers said they had contemplated suicide in the last 30 days, along with 31 percent of self-reported “unpaid caregivers” of adults.
According to the report, suicidal ideation was more prevalent among males as well as hispanic and black minorities. Symptoms of COVID-19–related stress, anxiety, or depression, increased substance use, and suicidal ideation were more prevalent among employed than unemployed respondents.
“Mental health conditions are disproportionately affecting specific populations, especially young adults, Hispanic persons, black persons, essential workers, unpaid caregivers for adults, and those receiving treatment for preexisting psychiatric conditions,” the most recent report stated.
“Addressing mental health disparities and preparing support systems to mitigate mental health consequences as the pandemic evolves will continue to be needed urgently.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is available. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text an emotional support counselor with the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.