Thursday, March 31, 2011

Speaking In Other Languages

Acts 2:4-13

The disciples were wondering why they couldn’t cast the demon out of a demon possessed child. In Matthew 17:20-21, Jesus explains. “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” This kind of faith only results from Prayer and fasting.

Isaiah 58:5 tells that most people’s practices of fasting are not what God wants. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?” It doesn’t please God to go without food or make himself miserable, or deprive himself. He forbade doing so in an effort to make God do what we want.

What God wants as a fast is to get sin and selfishness out of our lives, according to Isaiah 58:6-7. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” He wants us to put away our pride and admit who we are, and just trust him.

After two weeks of praying and soul searching, the entire church was ready to receive the Holy Spirit without out reservations. God fulfilled Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. ” (Acts 2:4-6)

There were people from around the world in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. The Holy Spirit empowered the Christians to speak in other, (not unknown) languages, that the visitors to Jerusalem understood. Many of them were not commonly used languages, especially in Jerusalem, where the most common languages were Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

“And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:7-11)

Galilee was considered a backward area, depending on fishing and farming for its economy. Even Greek and Latin were rare in the countryside, since they did little trading. It was shocking to hear uneducated farmers and fishermen speaking so many different languages. It got people’s attention.

“And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:12)

The gift of speaking in tongues was given to reach out to unsaved people. I Corinthians 14:22 tells us, “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

People who don’t speak Spanish find it frustrating dealing with the illegal immigrants in the United states, and the non-English speaking immigrants find it just as frustrating. Many visitors to Jerusalem experienced the same frustration dealing with people who only spoke Hebrew. I Corinthians 14:11 describes the attitude toward those with whom we can‘t communicate. “Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” It’s a wonderful feeling to find someone you can understand and talk to.

The Corinthian church had adopted a number of practices to prove they were more spiritual than others. One of the practices was that of speaking in tongues. Paul addressed the issue in I Corinthians 12-14, giving specific teaching as to how it would be done if it is truly of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 14:33 gives a basis for identifying whether it is of God. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

I Corinthians 14:27-28 describes the guidelines that prevent tongues from causing confusion in the church. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.”

There should never be more that two or three speak in tongues in a single service, and they should not speak at the same time. It must be interpreted so others can understand, otherwise, it is just a waste of time, as I Corinthians 14:9 states, “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” As I Corinthians 14:40 commands, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

I Corinthians 2:14 tells us that unspiritual man does not comprehend the things of God. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” On that basis Paul says that a truly spiritual person will understand that these are God’s commands. We are to recognize that those who don’t know it lack spiritual understanding, according to I Corinthians 14:37-38. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

They Were All Filled With The Spirit

Acts 2:1-4

Jesus had celebrated the Passover the night before he was crucified. Three days later he was resurrected and spent forty days with his disciples, preparing them to take leadership of the church. At the end of the forty days he told them to wait until they received the Holy Spirit before going into action and they spent the next couple of weeks praying and selecting a replacement for Judas.

The feast of unleavened bread began the day after the Passover, with a special day dedicated to the Lord and ending with another. After the feast of unleavened bread they were to wait seven Sabbaths, and the day following, they were to celebrate the day of Pentecost or fifty days, as described in Leviticus 23:1-21. This would place the day of Pentecost on a Sunday two months after the crucifixion.

The feast of unleavened bread was a feast celebrating the flight from Egypt, when they had no time to wait for their bread to rise. The days between Passover and Pentecost reminded them of the period when they had only the manna to eat during the exodus, and the day of Pentecost, celebrated coming into the land and enjoying the abundance of food. Many Jews came from other countries to celebrate the entire season.

Our word church comes is translated from the Greek word ecclessia, or assembly. The disciples had been assembling to pray for the Holy Spirit’s power and leadership in establishing the Church. There was at the time, total unity of purpose, and everyone was onboard.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:1-3)

God revealed himself to Moses as a fire that did not consume the burning bush. He used a pillar of fire to lead them in the wilderness. When he spoke to them sat Mount Sinai, he descended in fire. He kindled his own fire on the altar when they dedicated the tabernacle. God’s fire destroyed Korah and Dathan’s followers. It burned the sacrifice in Elijah’s day and Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire. Time after time God used a supernatural fire to make people aware of his power and action. It is not surprising that he would use a familiar means to reinforce their recognition that this was of God.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

The first thing we notice is that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. What is meant by the filling of the Spirit is a source of controversy in the modern church, because many have failed to see what the Bible actually says about it. This involves far more than just speaking in tongues. Up until the day of Pentecost, the disciples did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, although Jesus had promised that he would come after Jesus departed in John.

Romans 8:9 makes it cleat that every Christian receives the Holy Spirit. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” If the Holy Spirit is not present, the person is not one of God’s children.

One very important job of the Holy Spirit is to gibe assurance of our salvation according to Romans 8:16-17, especially in times of trial. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” If the Holy Spirit doesn’t provide assurance of their salvation, we definitely aren’t qualified to do so. I wonder how many people will be in hell because someone tried to do the Holy Spirit’s job and convinced them they were already saved, and didn’t need to worry about it?

Another job the Holy Spirit does in the Christian life, described in Romans 8, is giving victory over sin. I John 3:9-10 sums it up. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” Please understand that this does not mean that Christians are incapable of committing individual sins, but that they are no longer given over to sin. Hebrews 12:6-8 tells us that God will correct every one of his children. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” If they were incapable of doing wrong, there would be no need of chastisement, but a person who can freely continue in sin without God’s judgment is not God’s child.

In our natural state, we are incapable of full understanding many spiritual things, no matter how carefully they are explained. I Corinthians 2:14 states, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to make us understand. John 14:26 promises, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Jesus reiterated the statement in John 16:13. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”

The Holy Spirit working in our lives will produce certain results, described in Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” These are not actions, but show up in the Christian attitude or spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is nothing more than allowing him to have free reign in our lives, rather than limiting his action to a little part of it. I Corinthians 14:32 tells us we have the power to limit the Holy Spirit’s action. “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” As a result, I Thessalonians 5:19 warns, “Quench not the Spirit.”

On the day of Pentecost, the entire church submitted themselves to receive the Holy spirit’s power. Sadly, many Christians are content to limit him to saving them without allowing him to work freely in other areas of their lives.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yielding to Urgency

Acts 1:15-26

One of the last things the Lord told his disciples was to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. I don’t know about you but I find waiting difficult, and especially when I don’t have any idea what the schedule is, as for example when a flight has been delayed while waiting for a flight crew to arrive. The church spent the next several days in prayer.

Prayer, for the Christian, is like communication in a marriage. While everyone realizes it is good and necessary, it is easy to postpone it for more urgent matters, since we can pray or talk when we aren’t busy. Unfortunately, the time when we most need our mate’s input is when we are busy. The results are often not completely satisfactory because both parties were not fully informed or represented in the final action.

Peter was impulsive and quick to act, and this period of waiting quickly began to chafe him. What could they do while they were waiting? Surely they could pick a successor for Judas. After all, besides betraying the Lord, he was dead, and a replacement was needed.

“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.” (Acts 1:15-19)

Zechariah 11:12-13 had prophetically pictured Judas’ betrayal, giving details as to how much the bribe would be and what it would be used for. “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”

Judas clearly regretted what he’d done, and tried to absolve his guilt by giving back the money, but he did not seek the Lord’s forgiveness or try to block the execution, and his guilt resulted in suicide. Matthew 27:3-10 provides the details, which the disciples knew.

“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.” (Matthew 27:3-10)

That Peter credited the prophecy to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah causes no problem. Jeremiah prophesied for about thirty years. Clearly he said a lot more than is recorded in Jeremiah and Lamentations. The Jews had records of some of the other prophecies, and Peter was undoubtedly familiar with them, since they were regularly taught, even though they were not considered scripture. The record of Zechariah’s prophecy is all that is necessary to prove that Jesus fulfilled it, and a repeat would add nothing to our understanding.

Peter then summarized Psalm 69 as a basis for the disciples to select some one to take Judas’ duties as a bishop or overseer in the establishment of the church.

“For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.” (Acts 1:20)

Since it was clear that someone else was to take Judas’ place, Peter recommended that the Apostles look at the other disciples and select ones who met the proper qualifications to fill the office. One of those would be ordained, or chosen, to be the Judas’ successor.

“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22)

The standard is that the Apostle must be one who had been personally taught by Jesus Christ. Only two men besides the original twelve chosen had been there the entire time, learning what Jesus taught, and could testify of everything he had done.

“And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” (Acts 1:23-25)

Knowing that there was only one slot to fill, the disciples then prayed that God would choose which one he wanted. Like many in a marriage, they didn’t discuss what the Lord wanted until they had narrowed the selection down to two, just presenting option A or option B, without considering that option C might be what God wanted. They ignored the fact that an Apostle was a special representative of God, not of the church.

“And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26)

Each of the original twelve apostles was hand picked by Jesus Christ as his personal representative. Though the people counted Matthias as an apostle, the indication is that God picked Paul as the twelfth apostle, although becoming a Christian later, as he states In I Corinthians 15:8-9. “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

Interestingly, Matthias is never mentioned again as one of the apostles in scripture. One of the problems with allowing others to take leadership is that they will make mistakes. God never rebukes the disciples for choosing Matthias, he just fades away. New leadership must be allowed to deal with their own mistakes. Rushing back in to fix them destroys their ability to lead.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Transition Of Leadership

Acts 1:9-14

Jesus had spent forty days after his resurrection teaching and preparing the apostles to take full responsibility for continuing what he had begun, establishing the church and spreading the gospel. Coupled with the three years as his disciples, they were now prepared for the work, and it was time for them to assume the responsibility.

In teaching someone to ride a bicycle, there comes a time when the teacher must trust turn loose and allow the student to have full control. In doing so, there is the danger of them falling, but if they are not allowed to they will never develop the skill to ride alone. Refusal to allow children makes them dependent on their parents, hindering their full maturity. Bailing out a business makes it dependent on the rescuer, as demonstrated by the fact that Chrysler has now had to be bailed out three times.

The same principle applies in the church. Leaders who retain control prevent their pupils from developing fully. The reason many churches never become self supporting is that the Missionary or group that started are not willing to allow them to fail. While that is a definite risk, and some do, if the new leaders have been properly selected and trained, the risk is minimal, especially if the old leader is available for consultation. As Christian parents, and leaders, our job is to develop others who trust the Lord and don’t depend on us.

Inevitably, one day the current leader will no longer be able to lead, and if no arrangements have been made to develop the next generation, the dependent will have to learn to stand alone, collapse, or turn elsewhere for leadership. While it is ego pleasing and often financially lucrative to have people dependent on us, it is disastrous for them. It is critical that we complete the third part of the Great Commission, training them to do everything he commanded. If we don’t, we have not fulfilled the great commission, no matter how many we have had saved. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus stepped completely out and left the apostles on their own, with full authority and power to do the work.

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)

I can only imagine the ascension, as I have never seen anything like it. It would have been as amazing to see Jesus ascend into heaven as it was to see him walking on the water, or vanishing or appearing. The disciples had been frightened by some of those events and amazed by all of them, so I imagine they were just standing around with their mouths hanging open at this sight. Elisha was definitely amazed when Elijah went into heaven.

“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

Essentially, the angels reminded them that they had a job to do, and it wouldn’t be accomplished while they stood around looking up into heaven. The Lord will return at the proper time and standing around looking up to heaven may well prevent completing the task Jesus has given. Rather than an excuse for standing around looking for his return, the knowledge that he will ought to inspire us to get busy at the job which is what the disciples did.

“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (Acts 1:12-14)

Jesus had commanded them to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them, and that is what they did, filling the time in prayer and supplication. There was a unity of purpose in the in their prayers. Matthew 18:19-20 promises, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Such unity is critical for accomplishing God’s work. When unity is lacking, it is a clear sign of a carnal state, according to I Corinthians 3:3 “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” The focus is on human goals rather than on God’s. James 3:16 warns, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Conflict always results in sin.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Introducing Acts

Acts 1:1-12

The writer of Acts. Luke, was physician. He wrote the book of Luke in an effort to clearly detail the main events of Jesus’ life and ministry as accurately as possible. While both Matthew and John were with Jesus almost from the beginning and could draw on their own observations, both Mark and Luke had to depend largely on the memories of others.

Luke was apparently not a Jew, and he wrote to a Greek man by the name of Theophilus, in an effort to enable him to understand Christ and his teachings, and establish his credibility. As a result Luke focuses, perhaps more than any of the other gospel writers on the historical events of Jesus ministry. He brings the same approach to detailing the development of the church, and of Paul’s creditability as an apostle, and authority on what the church should be taught.

The other apostles’ authority is clearly established in the other gospels, as having been chosen by God. Luke establishes his credibility as an author by the care with which he details Jesus’ ministry, and validates the accuracy of the other gospels, establishing his authority about Christianity and the church. Because of his close association with Paul, he is qualified to judge Paul’s ministry.

The book of Acts details the development of the early church in Jerusalem, and of the outreach to the Gentiles. While it demonstrates many aspects of church polity and practice, it’s most important contribution is certifying Paul’s writings as inspired of God, and approved by the other apostles. Unlike hundreds of apocryphal writings, we have a basis for accepting Paul’s writings, because we know Paul’s qualifications. Luke starts the book by connecting it to the book of Luke as a continuation of the same story.

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:1-5)

The book of Luke established that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, going into more detail about his birth than any of the gospels, and giving great detail about the spiritual aspects of his ministry, and of his execution and resurrection. It closed with a brief description of his commission to the Apostles. The first chapter of Acts establishes the transition from Jesus ministry to that of the church, beginning with the forty days after his death, reviewing the commission he gave them, and promising the anointing of the Holy spirit he had described in John 14-16.

After his crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples realized that there was far more to God’s plan than they had understood, and that much of what they had been taught ignored or distorted a lot of the prophecies. They could no longer just assume that the Lord was going to come bail them out of all their problems when they wanted him to. They began to question him about some of those things.

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus made it clear that the time of his return and establishment of his earthly kingdom was not really any of our business, but belongs to God alone. It is not for us to know the times, or even the seasons, contrary to what many teach today. They had a job to do, and rather than worrying about when he would come they needed to focus on accomplishing that job. Part of the Holy Spirits job was to empower them to be witnesses, and as I Corinthians 4:20 stresses, “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” They were not to go out until the Holy Spirit’s power was present.

Matthew 28:18-20 gives a very concise statement of the Great commission. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Because of the Spirit’s power in their lives, they were to go and do three things, throughout the entire world. First, they were to go and teach all nations. The Greek word translated teach is Matatheno, meaning to disciple or to cause to become a student. Literally, the first part of the job is to lead them to Christ, to cause to believe in him. The second thing is to baptize them, by the authority and power of God the Gather, of the Holy Spirit, and of Jesus Christ. Finally, they are to teach them to obey everything Jesus taught us. This final teach is not a form of the word disciple but is the word didasko, meaning simply to teach.

The book of Acts is the record of how the apostles set out to accomplish these jobs. The focus throughout the book is on depending on the Spirit’s power rather than on man’s effort and strength. The Holy Spirit only focuses attention on the things of Christ according to John 14:13-14. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.”

Paul determined to know nothing else so that the Christian’s faith would rest wholly in God, as he tells us in I Corinthians 2:5. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” It is crucial that we witness in the power of the Spirit so people’s faith is in God, rather than in Man. Acts demonstrates how to.

It’s The Real Thing, But It’s Not Coke

Luke 24: 36-53

The two who saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus were still sharing their story when Jesus appeared to them. It must have been startling, even though most were convinced of his resurrection.

“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (Luke 24:36)

Just as he had vanished when the two recognized him in Emmaus, he appeared miraculously in the room, without coming in through the door. John 20:19 gives this description. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

It’s not hard to understand why they thought he might just be a ghost. Normal people don’t just appear and disappear at will. They have to use doors or openings of some kind. Even those who believed he was alive would have questioned this.

“But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:37-40)

As proof that he was not just a spirit, Jesus allowed them to touch him physically. A spirit has no physical being that can be physically touched, which is why the demons are so desparate to get control of somebody’s mind so they can use his body to do things. Without it, they cannot do the things so many credit spirits with doing. That they could actually touch him was proof that he was a real person. As further proof, he asked for food, and ate before them.

“While they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” (Luke 24:41-43)

Knowing that we will have a body like his for eternity, I wonder if we’ll be able to appear and disappear and walk through walls and on water like he did? What we know of the atom, that most of matter consists of empty space, implies it should be possible.

For the next forty days, Jesus taught his disciples, clarifying what had happened and instructing them as to what they were to do. John 20:23-21:25 provides the most complete description of the period., while Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:14-20 add a few details. Luke sums it up with the following description.

“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)

Luke finishes with the ascension of Christ into heaven, which none of the others describe.

“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:50-53)

This event closes the earthly ministry of Christ, but opens the church age. Luke opens the book of Acts with a more detailed glimpse of what took place, leading to the introduction of the church.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this study as much as I have, and that the Holy Spirit has used it to refresh your memory, or teach things you may have missed. Thanks for taking the time to read it. May God bless your time with him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Main Topic Of The day

Luke 24:13-35

The previous Sunday, Jesus rode the donkey colt into Jerusalem to great acclaim. He spent Monday through Wednesday teaching his disciples and the crowds in the Temple. Wednesday night, he celebrated the Passover with his apostles, and was arrested. Thursday he was tried, acquitted, and crucified anyway. Friday had been a busy day, making funeral arrangements and preparing for the Sabbath. For the believers, Sabbath probably was a pretty sad day.

the very same morning the women reported that Jesus’ body was missing and what the angels had told them, and Peter and John confirm that the body is missing. Long dead people had been sighted walking around town, according to Matthew 27, and the veil in the temple, which tradition tells us could not have been torn by seven teams of oxen, had ripped in half. To top it all off, the Roman guards had returned to the city in a panic, and were claiming that they had gone to sleep and the disciples had stolen the body, as Matthew 28:11-15 tells us. Can you imagine the talk? It would have been bigger news than the earthquake in Japan.

“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened.” (Luke 24:13-14)

These two disciples had been closely involved with Jesus and consequently had even more interest than the general population. They were walking along about their regular business, heading for a town about two hours walk from Jerusalem. They had plenty of time to discuss what had occurred and try make sense of everything. The one thing they were sure of was Jesus’ death.

“And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” (Luke 24:15-16)

Jesus’ death had been unexpected, and the news that his body was missing just added to the sorrow. Despite the soldiers’ claims, they knew the disciples had not stolen the body. If you’ve had to live through a period of uncertainty, you have some idea of the stress such a thing would incur. The last thing they expected was to see Jesus.

“And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” (Luke 24:17-18)

The events of the past few days were so widely discussed that anyone who didn’t know what had happened must have come from a considerable distance, and have spoken with no body from the area. When he asked, they filled him in on the events and what they had expected., as well as the shocking claim that the angels said he was alive.

“And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.” (Luke 24:19-24)

Peter and John had confirmed that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, and that the grave clothes were still there, lying as if they still contained the body, except for the separate piece around his head, which had been folded up, clearly discrediting the Shroud of Turin as being Christ’s. John, and probably Peter, had believed when they saw but the others did not accept what they heard.

“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24;25-27)

Jesus had repeatedly told them he would be killed and rise the third day. The old prophets had testified the sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Moses had made prophecies and given commands to illustrate what Christ would do when he came. Jesus had to do all those things to be the true Messiah. Had they believed the prophecies, it would have been a source of joy, rather than sadness , to see them fulfilled. Their sorrow was the result of their decision not to believe. Much of our struggle today is the result of our failure to believe.

“And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.” (Luke 24:28-31)

They were fascinated by his explanations and wanted him to spend more time explaining, and used the excuse of the lateness of the hour to entice him to spend more time with them. Only when he prayed and shared out the food in the familiar way did they realize who he was. They were amazed that they had not recognized him sooner. Perhaps you’ve had a similar feeling when some passage or teaching you’ve struggled with suddenly becomes clear.

“And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

Suddenly, in their joy, it didn’t seem nearly as late. They couldn’t wait to share their experience with the others.

"And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.” (Luke 24:33-35)

Peter had already told how he had seen the Lord, although we have no description of his experience. Mary had told her story. The two disciples were not doubted when they told what they had experienced.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Body Is Gone!

Luke 24:1-11

Late Thursday night or early Friday morning, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus finished preparing Jesus’ body and closed up the tomb. The women had observed what they had done and made arrangements to prepare more spices during the day Friday, then meet early Monday to apply them to the body.

Sometime Friday, the chief priests and Pharisees contacted Pilate to get a guard posted to be sure that no one stole the body, according to Matthew 27:62-65. Early Sunday morning, sometime before dawn. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb to spend time with Jesus’ body before the other women arrived. An earthquake happened and the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone, panicking the guard.

John is the only one who records Mary’s first comint to the tomb and finding it empty. She then found Peter and John who ran back to see for themselves. John 20:1-10 describes their contact. “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.”

Peter and John left without having seen the angels or the Lord, although they believe something is definitely going on. Mary, on the other hand waited around, really upset because the body was missing. John 20:11-18 describes her experience. “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary.

She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”

At some point the other women arrived, discussing who they would ask for help to roll the stone away, not knowing that the angel had already done so. They saw and talked with the two angels that Mary saw, but not the Lord himself.

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:1-7)

Only when the angel reminded them how many times Jesus had warned them he would be killed and raised again did the women remember what he had said. Once again we are reminded how hard it is for us to accept a different concept than we are used to. Until we actually see it or experience it or the Holy Spirit makes us understand, the words just don’t compute.

“And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” (Luke 24:8-11)

Even when the ladies told them what the angels had said, the apostles and other disciples didn’t believe it. It just seemed impossible. If they were like modern guys, they probably assumed that the ladies had gone to the wrong tomb or imagined the whole thing.

Unlike John, Luke did not accompany Peter to the tomb. As a result he gives far less detail than John, both about the timing, and what Peter saw.

“Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.” (Luke 24:12)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Buried In Another Man’s Tomb

Luke 23:50-56

“And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
” (Luke 23:50-52)

So often we judge others for their actions in one situation, failing to take human frailty into consideration. Peter looks like a super hero in some situations and a total failure in others. Paul and Barnabas split up because Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance. Later Paul specifically requested Mark’s help.

None of the disciples doubted Judas Iscariot’s devotion to the Lord, yet he was not a Christian at all. Nobody knew that Joseph of Arimathaea was a Christian, because he was afraid of the cost to him personally. It must have been a surprise when he went boldly to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus, as John 19:38 describes. “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.” For a man who was one of the ruling council to step forward and risk his career in such a manner took a lot of courage.

It often took three days for a crucified man to die, and even when they broke their legs, many lived twelve or sixteen hours, according to historical records. Torture records from as recently as the Vietnam war support this timing. It is not surprising that Pilate was surprised by Jesus death after only about six or seven hours, even after haven the prisoners legs broken.

“And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45)

Pilate consulted the centurion to find out if he’d been dead long enough to be sure he hadn’t just fainted. When the centurion reported he’d already been dead when they broke the legs of the others, but that they had run a spear into him to make sure and the blood cells and plasma had begun to separate, proving he was dead, Pilate had no reservations about giving up the body.

Joseph was assisted in burying Jesus by another secret disciple, according to John 19:39. “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” Nicodemus had come to Jesus in John 3, but made no commitment at that time. Now he provides some of the supplies needed for burial. John is the only one who records this, probably because he was the only one of the apostles present for the entire crucifixion.

“And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.” (Luke 23:53)

The tomb Joseph used was one he had had made for himself and his family. Matthew 27:59-60 states, “And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” It was a mark of great admiration for a man to bury an non family member in the family tomb. It also makes the claim that the disciples just went to the wrong tomb ludicrous, as such a structure would not be easily forgotten by those who built it.

That Joseph put Jesus in his own family tomb is especially important to us because it fulfills another prophecy in Isaiah 53:9. “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” To be the Savior of the world, it was essential that Jesus fulfill all the prophecy concerning him.

Preparing the body for burial was something the women normally did. Joseph and Nicodemus, in a show of their love for the Lord, stepped up and performed the actions themselves, as John 19:40 describes. “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

“And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.” (Luke 23:54-55)

By the time Joseph and Nicodemus had buried Jesus, it was well past the evening sacrifices, and under the Jewish reckoning, Friday, the day of preparation for the Sabbath had started, since they started their day at six in the evening, rather than at midnight like we do. Though Joseph and Nicodemus had followed the Jewish burial customs the women still wanted to do one last thing for Jesus, so they watched where he was buried and then went home to sleep. Afterward, they made preparations for the Sabbath, but they also prepared things so they could finish preparing the body on Sunday, since it was against the law to do it on the Sabbath.

“And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)

Having watched and participated in both the modern burial process and the old way of the family preparing the body, I believe our society has been emotionally damaged by missing the opportunity to do those last things for the dead. It is an important step in the healing process for those who were close to the dead individual. There was a reason for the old rituals by different groups.

A great deal is made of the empty tomb, with several being touted as the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. The Bible never tells us it was not used later, and it may well have been. The Bible never identifies which tomb it was, probably to prevent our worshiping the tomb rather than the Lord himself. After all, he is not buried there now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Not a Bone Broken

Luke 23:46-49

The repugnance of God toward sin is described in Luke 23:44-45, when for about three hours, from about noon to 3:00 pm. God caused a darkness, similar to a solar eclipse but lasting far longer .

“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” (Luke 23:44-45)

After three hours, Jesus could hardly bear the estrangement from God resulting from bearing the sins of the world. Matthew 27:46 records his distress. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Finally the burden was lifted, and he spoke out to God.

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)

Crucifixion was a very cruel form of punishment, with people frequently living from forty-eight to sixty hours, and some as long as seventy two. For Jesus to die after only about four was very unusual. Luke’s comment that he gave up the ghost is very significant. Jesus described what would happen in John 10:17-18. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” He did not die of the efforts to kill him, he voluntarily gave up his life for us.

Over the years, I have seen a number of people who decided their life was no longer worth living who made up their minds to die. None succeeded unless they used some form of suicide, whether by overdosing or by starving themselves and rejecting their medications. Several were unable to commit suicide, making it clear that ordinary people do control their life and death, although God may allow them to kill themselves. Jesus exhibited a power that is not given to ordinary people.

"Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47)

After seeing the sun darkened for three hours and the earthquake that occurred on Jesus death, the centurion charged with executing Jesus was convinced who Jesus was. Matthew 27:54 describes his and the other soldier’s response. “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”

Those who had wanted Jesus dead beat their chests in pride and went home satisfied that they had gotten rid of him. Those who had believed in him hung around, reluctant to give up their hope and go away.

“And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.” (Luke 23:48-49)

Because it took so long for those who were crucified to die, and they did not want anything to mar their celebration of the Sabbath during the Passover week, the Jews demanded that the legs of the condemned be broken to speed their deaths. Evenwith broken legs most prisoners took twelve to sixteen hours to die. Breaking their legs would ensure that they would die during the following day, during the preparing for the Sabbath. It clearly establishes the time frame as being on Thursday. Jesus had said he would be in the grave three days and three nights. The traditional date of Friday only permits two nights. Dying at about 3:00 pm means that Jesus’ resurrection about daylight Sunday morning would fulfill the prophecy. Failure to do so would mean he could not be the Messiah.

“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (John 19:31-34)

I Corinthians 5:7 declares that Christ is our Passover. “… For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:” A requirement for the Passover was that not a bone of the lamb be broken according to Exodus 12:46. “In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.” Psalm 34:20 prophesied, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken,” about the Messiah. That his legs were not broken is one more proof that he was Messiah.

To make sure of his death, one of the soldiers stabbed a spear into his side, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10. When they pierced his side, a mixture of water and blood came out, proving the blood had ceased to circulate, as anyone who has ever bought a package of meat and seen the bloody mixture in the bottom of the package can attest. There could be no question that he actually died. Those who insist he just fainted clearly ignore the evidence. He fulfilled that prophecy as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Torn Veil

Luke 23:44-45

There were a vast number of different things happening in the last few hours of Jesus’ life. Only about twelve to fifteen hours passed between the time Jesus was arrested and the time described in our present passage, starting at about noon Thursday. Each of the Gospels record slightly different events, because of their different perspectives. John was the only one who went inside at the trial, so was the only one who could give a first hand account of what he heard. Each of the others had to depend on the different witnesses they interviewed for different aspects.

It is easy to get caught up in the details of Jesus’ actual death and fail to grasp the importance of other events at the same time. I John 5 informs us that there are some specific things that prove Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah or Savior, both in heaven and on earth. I John 5:8 declares, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” One of the proofs on earth is the Spirit of God working in Jesus’ earthly life, as demonstrated throughout the Gospels. A second proof is the miraculous physical birth, the water. The third is his death, the blood. To be the prophesied Savior, it was essential that Jesus meet the prophecies in each of these areas.

I John 5:13 stresses the importance of these events. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” I John 1:1-4 Describes what John referred to. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

In many ways, some of the events surrounding Jesus crucifixion are almost as importance as the crucifixion itself, because af what they mean for our spiritual life. Isaiah 53:6 prophesied, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He would accept the guilt for all the sin of all mankind and make it good, As I John 2:2 states, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The conclusions by Herod, and by Pilate that Jesus was innocent is crucial as Hebrews 7:24-27 makes clear. “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”

Isaiah 59:2 declares, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Luke 23:44-45 describes God hiding his face from Jesus during this period, because of the load of sin he bore.

“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” (Luke 23:44-45)

Hebrews 9:6-14 points out the importance of the rending of the veil in the temple. “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

All the priests were allowed into the first part of the tabernacle, the Holy place, but only priests. Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus has made us priests, qualifying us to enter into heaven, the first room. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;” Only the high priest was allowed into the second room, the Holy of Holies, portraying God’s throne.

Until Jesus died, mankind was limited to a partial relationship with God by sin, as portrayed by the veil. When it ripped, it demonstrated there is no longer any residual sin keeping us away from God. As a result, Hebrews 4:15-16 instructs, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

It is only through Jesus Christ that we have been given access to God’s throne, and this is what is referred to when we pray in Jesus’ name. I Timothy 2:5 declares, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” It is by his authority that we pray, and only by his. There is no one else who has authority to intervene for us, but we don’t need anyone, as he has authorized us to go directly to God’s throne ourselves, with the Holy Spirit to serve as our interpreter, so we are understood and our prayers are not offensive to God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

At The Last Minute

Luke 23:39-43

When Jesus was crucified, they hung one of the thieves on either side of him. The crowd stood watching and jeering at him, as were the rulers and the Roman soldiers. Probably in an effort to get his mind off his own pain, one of the thieves joined in the heckling, making fun of Jesus for not getting himself off the cross, and asking that if he could get down, to get him down as well.

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” (Luke 23:39)

This thief is typical of many today, suffering horribly for their own sins, but attacking and mocking those who have not done the things they do, apparently to convince themselves they are not as bad off as the really are. If they show any interest in Christ, it is only for immediate relief of their suffering, not in a long term change in their life. They’d like to get off the cross, but they do not want to change. In effect, they want a pill to stop the hurt, but have no interest in a cure.

The other thief was in exactly the same position, hanging on a cross waiting to die. Unlike the first thief, he thought about where he was, and why he was there.

“But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” (Luke 23:40-41)

The second thief clearly understood the consequences of sin as described in Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He realized he deserved to die for his sin, but that Jesus did not. He acknowledged his sin, meeting the requirement for forgiveness in I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He also recognized that the forgiveness and consequent eternal life was a gift, not something to be earned.

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

Believing that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he would save, he acted on that belief by asking the Lord to remember him. This is exactly what Paul says is required for salvation in Romans 10:9-10. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Jesus’ response is significant.

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

By the time the thief died, Jesus had already died, completing his salvation, and ours. There is no possibility the Roman soldiers took the thief down so he could get baptized, and he had no time to do good works, yet Jesus said he would be with him in paradise that same night. Either we believe Jesus is God and knew what he was talking about, or we don’t. Though it has been argued about repeatedly, the real question is whether we believe God or not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crucifying Jesus

Luke 23:24-38

As governor of Judea under the Roman Empire, Pilate’s main job was to keep the Jews from breaking away. If it was necessary to kill someone to accomplish that, He was expected to do what was needed. He had struggled with his conscience about allowing Jesus to be killed, but concluded that the only way to defuse the situation was to allow the Jews to do as they pleased. Reluctantly, he carried out what he saw as his primary duty.

“And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will. And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” (Luke 23:24-26)

It was standard Roman practice for the condemned man to carry his cross as a further humiliation before he was executed. John 19:17 indicates that Jesus started out carrying his cross. “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:” Tradition has it that Jesus was so exhausted he fell, and the Romans pressed Simon into service to carry it for him. Scripture does not indicate such a fall. The cross would have been heavy enough that two men would have been required to carry it the distance described, and rather than assign a soldier to help carry it they impressed Simon. They probably did the same for each of the two thieves, as history indicates that was standard practice.

“And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:27-31)

History shows that people are a blood thirsty lot, flocking to public executions in every society. We’d like to think we are too sophisticated, yet people crowd in to watch a fight, whether officially organized or just between two high school kids. That same fascination with violence drew a huge multitude to witness the crucifixion. Some who came were demanding his death, while others were bemoaning it.

After more than thirty hours without rest, numerous beatings and three separate hearings we would expect Jesus to be mentally and emotionally exhausted, but he still had enough concern for others to turn to those who were weeping over his execution and warn them that what was happening to him was only a small taste of what would happen to Jerusalem in the future. Not only would Jerusalem be destroyed by the Romans in just a few years, but Revelation 6 tells us a far worse destruction will occur when the Lord returns, primarily as a consequence of Israel’s actions that day.

“And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.” (Luke 23:32-33)

Contrary to Jewish custom, Jesus was crucified and not stoned. He was executed contrary to both Jewish and Roman law, along side real criminals, even though he was found not guilty. In the process he was mocked and abused. Numerous prophecies had predicted these things. Isaiah 53:7-9, for example, describes the abuse and the travesty of his trials, as well as being sentenced to death with criminals and being buried in a rich man’s grave, because he hadn’t done the crimes he was accused of. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

The fact that he fulfilled more than 1200 prophecies is proof that he is, in fact, the Messiah, the very Son of God. It is because he was so undeservedly punished that he is able to pay the penalty we so richly deserved.

It seems unfathomable why the Jews would be so determined to have Jesus killed, until you consider their reasoning, as described in John 11:47-50. “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” They were convinced that the only way to prevent a Roman attack and total destruction was by having him killed.

Pilate was convinced that to allow Jesus to live might force him to fight the Jews. Neither side understood what John 11:51-52 makes very clear. “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” Jesus death would not only save the Jews, but people around the world. Jesus understood this, and thus could ask for their forgiveness, even as they were deciding who would get his clothing.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34)

With no understanding of what was really happening, the people stand enjoying the spectacle of an execution, The mob, including the rulers make fun of him and defy him to save himself after raising others from the dead if he is the Messiah as he claims to be.

“And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:35)

The Roman soldiers were nor just following orders, but were active participants in the mockery and abuse. The historic reason for hating the Jews, that they killed Jesus, is clearly not true. Pilate, and the Roman soldiers were equally guilty.

“And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.” (Luke 23:36-37)

In a final effort to absolve himself of guilt in Jesus’ death, Pilate refused to list the charge against Jesus as claiming to be the king of the Jews, saying that he was the king. By doing so, he reminded the Jews they were a tributary, because the Romans had killed their king. It also justified his action to the Roman government.

“And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:38)

Monday, March 14, 2011

We Prefer Barabbas

Luke 23:13-25

Even after the Jewish leaders had done everything they could think of to frame Jesus, even hiring false informants and using torture to try to get a false confession, both Pilate and Herod found him innocent on all counts.

“And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)” (Luke 23:13-17)

In an effort to reduce Jewish resentment, the Roman governors had a established a practice of releasing a prisoner every year, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Passover week. Desiring to spare Jesus, because he knows him to be innocent, Pilate attempted to employ that custom to get him off. To improve the chances of it working, he gave them a choice between Barabbas and Jesus. His choice was intentional.

Barabbas was known to have murdered or caused the murders of some of his opponents. He also caused riots and had caused the Roman army to declare martial law, enforcing curfews and disrupting daily life. The Jews hated him almost as much as the Romans. Surely, Pilate thought, anyone in their right mind would prefer Jesus, no matter how much they hated him. Matthew 27:15-18 describes his offer and logic.

“Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.”

Can you imagine Pilate’s surprise when the multitude chose Barabbas, the terrorist, over Jesus? Please note that Matthew 27:20 tells us it was the leaders who preferred Barabbas. “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.” In typical mob fashion, most of the people just the leaders without thinking about what they were doing.

“And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)” (Luke 23:18-19)

Pilate asks them again because he can’t believe they understood him the first time. Luke 23:20 emphasizes that he asked them the second time. “Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.” They insisted they would prefer to have Barabbas.

“The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.” (Matthew 27:21-22)

Though they had insisted that Pilate try Jesus because they didn’t have the authority to execute him, Pilate had apparently not realized the lengths the rulers were willing to go to get rid of the competition, so they could retain their prestige and power.

“But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.” (Luke 23;21-22)

The demands for Jesus’ execution make no sense to Pilate and he tries again to placate them by offering to have Jesus whipped, hoping that would satisfy their bloodlust. The leaders still inflamed the mob with demands for his death.

“And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” (Luke 23:23-25)

To prevent a riot and subsequent disruption of Passover week, which would have triggered a full scale revolution, Pilate bowed to public demands and released Barabbas, allowing the Jews to do as they wished with Jesus. He went out of his way to make sure they knew that he refused to take any responsibility for what they were about to do.

“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.”(Matthew 27:24)

I suspect that Pilate’s scourging and mocking Jesus was a final attempt to divert them from their purpose, but served only to further inflame them. He made one final attempt to divert them posting his description of the charges on the cross. The rejection of Jesus as Lord and Savior was clearly deliberate and intentional. It still is today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

And The Verdict Is …

Luke 23:1-17

The Jewish leadership had spent the entire night and early morning trying to find some grounds on which the people would support executing Jesus. Finally, when he referred to himself as the Son of God, they had something they could use to incite the mob.

“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.” (Luke 23:1)

As a subject people under Roman rule, The Jews were forced to get Roman approval for major decisions. Since they measured the day from evening to evening, this was still the Passover day, and they did not want to be contaminated by association with Gentiles, so they tried to avoid entering he courtroom. John explains in greater detail than Luke.

“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” (John 18:28-30)

In the United States the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. Under Roman law, and many of the legal systems which developed from it, the defendant is presumed guilty, and must prove his innocence. The burden of proof is with the defendant, rather than with the prosecution. It explains why Americans arrested in Italy, Spain, or the Latin American countries find it very difficult to escape punishment. The Jews took advantage of that presumption, claiming that he would not have been arrested if Jesus wasn’t guilty.

“Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.” (John 18:31-32)

When the Jews insisted that Pilate had to conduct the trial because they didn’t have the authority to hear death penalty cases, he must have known something was up, especially in light of his wife’s warning in Matthew 27:19, to have nothing to do with Jesus’ trial. The Jews then begin to accuse him of things they thing will result in Roman judgment, of sedition, tax evasion, and rebellion. Because the Jewish law called for execution by stoning, it was crucial that Jesus be executed under Roman authority, in order to fulfill the prophecies about his death.

"And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.“ (Luke 23:2)

Their accusations are exactly the opposite of what actually happened. Jesus had addressed the tax issue on two different occasions. In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus said that we were not citizens of the world, and thus not subject to their taxes, but that we should pay them anyway. That isn’t popular with some in our day.

“And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” (Matthew 17:24-27)

When he was asked specifically, later, Jesus again said we were to pay the taxes, in Luke 20:22-25. “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.” This charge was clearly bogus. Pilate knew that many of the accusers held that belief, and didn’t question it. He did question the Claim that he was a king.

Lu 23:3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.” (Luke 23:3)

John 18:33-37 goes into detail as to what was said. “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."

Since Jesus kingdom is not of this world, it poses no threat to earthly kingdoms. Rome had no reason for concern. Despite their claims, there is no reason for executing Jesus. Pilate has no legal choice but to release him.

“Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.” (Luke 23:4-5)

Desperate to have Jesus killed, the priests and his enemies began to make more accusations, that he had cause riots in other cities, both in Judea and in Galilee. Galilee was not under Pilate’s jurisdiction, but under Herod’s. By passing Jesus’ trial to Herod, Pilate could avoid killing him without angering the Jews, and since Herod wasn’t over Judea, he wouldn’t be under as much pressure to please them. That Herod was visiting Jerusalem made it easy.

“When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.” (Luke 23:6-8)

Herod had wanted to see Jesus since he began to hear about him shortly after having John killed. If nothing else, it would be exciting to see him do some miracle such as people talked about. Herod’s interest was strictly to satisfy his curiosity and to be entertained. Jesus refused to provide entertainment with his message.

“Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” (Luke 23:9-12)

Since Jesus wouldn’t speak, and the Jews presented no evidence to support their charges, Herod decided to entertain himself and please them by mocking Jesus. Since he had no jurisdiction in Jerusalem at the time, and no Galileans were making charges, there was nothing he could really do, so he sent them back to Pilate, confirming that he also found no reason to execute him. Up until tis time Pilate and Herod had been rivals, but the mutual acknowledgement of authority ended the rivalry.

“And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)” (Luke 23:13-17)

With Herod’s confirmation of his decision, Pilate dares to state his position more forcefully, that Jesus was innocent of the charges against him. To satisfy their anger, he is willing to have Jesus scourged, despite his innocence, and then he will fulfill the custom of releasing one political prisoner at Passover, by releasing Jesus. His offer is a deliberate attempt to placate the Jews, while not endangering his position in the Roman government. He was in a position similar to the candidates who have to balance pleasing their party to get funding, and their constituents to get re-elected.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interrogation at Midnight

Luke 22:63-71

Net work television constantly reminds us of court cases in which innocent people are convicted of serious crimes. Almost every case involves either a prosecutor or investigators who are determined to convict the person. In their zeal, they often ignore or conceal evidence contradictory evidence. False confessions are obtained by prolonged browbeating and accusations until the accused simply agrees in an effort to obtain relief. Informants are encouraged to lie to obtain better deals for themselves, and evidence is suppressed by judges.

While I believe that the death penalty is called for in murder and certain sex crimes cases, as described by the Bible, because of the abuses of the evidence by both prosecution and defense attorneys, I do not believe our current legal system is qualified to administer it. The entire system needs to be revamped before justice can be consistently obtained.

We see the same pattern of disregard for the truth illustrated in the interrogation of Jesus by the Jewish leaders. The interrogation was conducted late at night, playing on his exhaustion to try to get him to say something that would seem to incriminate him. They prolonged it for the same reason, hoping to wear down his resistance. They repeatedly accused him of various crimes, insisting any claims to the contrary were false. To further increase the pressure, they isolated him and even blindfolded him to distort his perception. In addition, physical intimidation and efforts to confuse him were employed.

“And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.” (Luke 22:63-65)

While restricted versions of such tactics often result in false confessions or flawed evidence, it produced little useable information in Jesus’ case. Because the interrogation had been fruitless, a preliminary hearing similar to a grand jury hearing was held before normal business hours. Matthew 26:59-62 tells us that at this hearing they actively suborned false informants. “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?” Luke describes only a small part of the hearing.

“And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.” (Luke 22:66-70)

Though the Jews claimed to be the sons of God, as they stated in John 8:41, “… Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God,” they could use the claim that he was the Son of God to inflame the multitude and gain popular support. Truth no longer mattered. Public opinion could be used to sway the legitimate authorities and produce the desired result.
“And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.” (Luke 22:71)

Once a way of obtaining popular support was obtained, no further effort to learn the truth was sought. It was much like the innuendo we saw in the mid term election, in which unsubstantiated and irrelevant accusations were made by both parties to sway public opinion, with no regard for the truth.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Flesh Failed

Luke 22:54-62

I am not a big sports fan. Nevertheless, I find it frustrating when some fan begins to criticize a quarterback for not making a certain play after the game is over. It’s a lot easier to criticize a player if one has not been in that position. Making proper decisions in the situation is a whole different ball game. On the other hand, by studying what worked and what didn’t we can learn how to do better ourselves.

Peter is often the subject of Monday Morning Quarterbacks. In every situation he reacted according to his nature and experience. After receiving the Holy Spirit, that nature was brought under the Holy Spirit’s direction, somewhat like a talented Quarterback learning to yield to his coach’s direction. As a result, he becomes a much more valuable player. When he first starts, the quarterback tries to everything the way he has always done them. Frequently that causes conflict with the coach’s plans. Even at this point, despite his sincere desire to please his coach, Peter still lapses back into his old habits regularly. Let’s look back briefly at some of his actions.

He didn’t hesitate to walk away from his career to serve the Lord, giving up his fishing business. He maintained a family relationship in his efforts to please the Lord. He didn’t hesitate to tell the Lord he was wrong when Jesus said he’d be killed. He was one of the twelve who performed so many miracles. He was the only apostle to try to walk on the water, and he also chickened out and had to be rescued. When they came to arrest Jesus, he was the one who grabbed a sword and started to defend him. Like the quarterback learning to follow his coach’s direction, Peter has made some fabulous plays, and some disastrous mistakes. It is his failure on this, the most important night of his life that will convince him to yield completely to the Lord. Just hours before, Jesus had warned that all the disciples would turn away, and Peter, fully believing it to be true, had insisted there was nothing that could make him deny the Lord. Jesus had warned him that he would deny him three times before morning.

An hour or two later, when Jesus was arrested, Peter had impetuously attacked the officers, injuring one of the High Priest’s servants, but when Jesus was forcibly arrested, like the other disciples, he fled. Only he and John have the courage to come back and follow to see what will happen.

Lu 22:54 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.

Because John had friends on the council, according to John 18:15, he was admitted to the hearing, but Peter had to stay with the crowd outside. Alone and surrounded by an unruly mob looking for action, Peter was definitely intimidated. It is not hard to understand his fear of being recognized.

“And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.” (Luke 22:55-57)

I can only imagine the courage it took to stay after he was recognized, knowing that at any moment they could turn on him. His love for the Lord, and his desire to know what happened to him kept him there even when he was recognized a second time, though he denied knowing him both times.

“And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.” (Luke 22:58)

Around 4:30 Thursday morning Peter was recognized for the third time, by a person who is sure he was a disciple, and points to the way he talks as proof of his identity. Their speech has always been an indicator of Jesus’ disciples.

“And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.” (Luke 22:59-60)

Peter feels compelled to prove he isn’t one of Jesus’ followers, even cursing to do so. Mark 14:71 describes his denial. “But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” Both the attitude and the wording would imply that one was not a follower of Christ. As James 1:26 says, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.”

Even such great love and strength of character was not enough to prevent Peter’s succumbing to fear and temptation. None of the other apostles even made it this far. As a famous preacher said, “It’s not just difficult to live the Christian life, it is impossible without the Holy Spirit’s power.” The apostles wouldn’t be indwelt by him until the day of Pentecost. It clearly demonstrates how critical the presence of the Holy Spirit is for Christian living. As I John 3;9 declares, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The Holy Spirit limits how far a Christian can go.

When the rooster crowed, Peter was horrified to realize what he had done. Imagine his shame, as he saw the Lord looking at him. The strength of character he had gloried in has utterly failed. He could no longer confidently assert that he will not fail. What a blow to his self confidence. To make it worse, he had insisted that the Lord was wrong, that he was better than the others.

“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62)

In his heart and mind, Peter still has not denied the Lord, but his tongue has, in an attempt to protect the body. Romans 7:17-20 explains, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me."

Peter still believes that Jesus is Lord and savior. Judas, on the other hand, has never believed that, just believing that he is a good man and teacher. Even when Judas committed suicide, it was a result of realizing he had violated his standards as a Jew, having a good man killed, not in remorse for having rejected the lord of glory.