Friday, August 29, 2014

Message to Pergamos

Revelation 2:12-17

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” (Revelation 2:12-13)

To the pastor of the church in Pergamos the Lord announced himself as the avenging king with the double edged sword.  He stresses that he knew where they lived, surrounded by evil, and that they had not forgotten or denied the Lord, even when some of their own people were killed by those around them for their faith.   Clearly they had a very strong love for the Lord. 

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Revelation 2:14)

Despite their very strong love for the Lord, there were people among them who had adopted the doctrine of Balaam, whose teaching resulted is Balac setting temptation before Israel that resulted in their worshipping idols and engage in sexual sin.   When Balaam was asked by Balac to go and curse the Israel the second time, god told Balaam he could only go if Balac’s men came and asked him again.  Balaam didn’t wait for them, rushing to tell them he could go.
Later after being rebuked by his donkey for ignoring what God had said, the angel told him to say nothing but what God told him to say.   In Exodus 24:1, we are told, “And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.”  Deciding he knew what God wanted, Balaam ignored the command to say nothing except what God told him to say.  As a result he reinforced the Moabite determination to destroy Israel, and made it clear God would not curse them because he found no evil in them.  It was all Balac needed, but if Balaam had done as God commanded, he wouldn’t have known it.  Basically Balaam’s doctrine was that it doesn’t matter whether we follow God’s word exactly or not.    

Traditionally, Baptists believed the bible was the final authority on all matters of doctrine and practice.  The Catholic Church and most Protestant groups believe the church governing body is the final authority.  Balaam was like the Interdenominational, who say it really doesn’t matter which we believe.  God rebuked the church in Pergamos because they had members who felt that scriptural doctrine didn’t really matter very much.   

“So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” (Revelation 2:15)

In addition to the willingness to accept other doctrine, they were adopting the doctrine of the Nicolatanes, that the clergy are the head of the church and can set the doctrines and standards for the church.  In I Corinthians 11, Paul enumerates various arguments as to why men should keep their hair short and women should have long hair.  In verse 16, he states emphatically, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”  Despite all the arguments, God’s apostles and churches do not set their own standards.  In verse 19, he makes the point that these kind of things show who is actually serving God.  “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”  

In Revelation 2:6, God commended the church at Ephesus for hating the actions of the Nicolatanes because he hated it as well.  “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”   Here God makes it clear he hates the teaching that people are to accept their doctrine and standards without question as if they were God’s word. 

“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)

The church at Pergamos was very much like the modern husband or wife who “loves” their mate but still wants to flirt with or even go out with other men or women.  God warned them to repent or face his judgment and possible destruction.  It doesn’t really matter what name you are known by, (how you are denominated or named), but it does matter that your doctrine is what God has said rather than what somebody else teaches.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 2:17)

This is the third time that God has stressed that anyone capable of hearing and understanding needs to heed the warnings the Holy Spirit has given to the churches.   Clearly the Lord considers them very important.    

Those who have fulfilled these are assured of a place at the banquet in heaven with a white stone marking their place engraved with their new name, almost like a secret password to keep anybody who might get there before him from accessing his place.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Messages to Ephesus and Smyrna

Revelation 2:1-11

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Revelation 2:1-3)

The Lord directed John to write to the pastor or leader of the church in Ephesus, emphasizing that he is the head of the church and has authority over the pastors, that he has them in his right hand.  Not only does the Lord know what they have done, but how hard they have worked at it, even when it seemed to accomplish little.  He knows that they have taken a strong stand against sin, refusing to put up with it in the church. 

They’ve checked out the teachings of those who have claimed to be apostles from God and demonstrated that they are liars.  They’ve endured persecution and testing, patiently staying true to Christ.  They’ve continued to work for the Lord despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  There is a great deal to be admired about this church, and their pastor has had a major part in it.

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

Despite their many admirable qualities, this church has a serious problem.  They have left their first love.  Nearly everybody has observed the newlywed couple who just can’t stand to be apart, but as time goes on they become caught up in their daily activities and hardly ever spend time together.  On the surface the marriage seems to be going quite well, with both of them routinely fulfilling their expected roles, but their marriage has become a meaningless convenience, with him knowing somebody will clean the house and cook and her knowing he will earn a living and fix the car because it is their job.  This is the picture the Lord paints of this church, still doing the same things they did before, but as a duty, rather than as an expression of love.

Unless a concerted effort is made to restore that love, separation becomes a serious threat.  The Lord warns that if the church does not make a concerted effort to renew their love, he will take away their candlestick, that literally they will lose their light before the world, even possibly closing their doors.

“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6)

Since there are no records of a group known as the Nicolatanes, we are forced to look at their name for a clue to what they taught.  The name means to rule over the common or lay people.   Jesus said he hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, and in Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said, “…Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.   But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant,” indicating that this is what he meant.

Although the church no longer loved the Lord the way they once had, they were still faithful to him, like a marriage partner in an unsatisfactory marriage.  They hated the idea of being unfaithful to him and refused to let some man take over as head of the church, setting his own standards and doctrine.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)

Anyone who has the ability to understand these messages to the churches should pay close attention.  Those who act on what the Holy Spirit tells them, resolving the issues will be assured of the right eat of the tree of life which is in paradise. 

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:8-9)

The Lord speaks to the Leader of Smyrna, reminding him that he gave his own life for their salvation and that he is also the God of the universe.  He is fully aware of their efforts to please him, and of the trials they were going through in their efforts.  He knew that they were struggling to just get by, although in reality they were heirs of God and owned everything.  He also knew the opposition and attacks by those who claimed to be God’s people but were really of Satan. 

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Though the church in Smyrna was weak and struggling, God saw nothing that needed changing.  Instead, the Lord offered only encouragement.  None of the things they would go through really mattered.  Forces directed by Satan would have some of them arrested and imprisoned in an effort toe turn them away, but their tribulation would be brief, only lasting ten days.  If they remain faithful even to point of being executed for their faith, they were assured of a crown of life.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)

I was taught that if God said something once, it was important, but If he repeated himself, it was really important.  This is the second time God has said anyone who can understand needs to pay attention to the messages to the churches.   He promised that anyone who stayed faithful had no reason to fear being cast into the lake of fire, which Revelation 21:8 says is the second death.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

John’s Vision of Christ

Revelation 1:10-20

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:10-11)

John was exiled on the island of Patmos with no one around on the Lord’s day, thinking about what God word said and praying when he heard a great voice speak saying he was Alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, literally declaring himself as God.   He then directed John to write the things he would be shown and send it to each of the seven churches that werethen in Asia.  Several of these were churches Paul had started, or helped start. 

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” (Revelation  1:12-16)

Turning to see who was speaking, John saw a person who resembled Jesus, surrounded by seven golden candlesticks.  He was clothed in robe that reached to his feet with a wide gold sash or cummerbund around his body.  Unlike Jesus when he was on earth, however, his hair was as white as snow and his eyes were bright like a flame.  His feet glowed like brass melting in the furnace, and his voice was like the sound of a flowing river.  His whole face shone like the sun at noon on clear day, and when he spoke it was like a sword came out of his mouth.  In his right hand he was holding seven stars.

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:17-18)

I have always questioned many of stories in which a person claims to have seen God and it was such a wonderful peace producing experience.  Every time one of the biblical saints saw a vision of God, from Moses and Joshua to Daniel, there was a sense of awe and fear and their own sinfulness that caused them to fall to the ground asking forgiveness.   On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were frightened, and John had that same sensation here.  It raises the question whether those modern visions were perhaps of Satan appearing as an angel of light, rather than God.

When John collapse at his feet, as he had done with all the prophets, God lifted him up telling him he had nothing to fear.  He makes it clear that he doesn’t merely resemble Jesus, but that he is Jesus, the one who died but was raised to live forever.  The one who has the authority over life and death and who will be in hell.
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:19-20)

The Lord then commanded John to write what he sees in the visions, both the things that were presently happening and the things that would happen in the future.  He explained that the seven golden candlesticks or lamps represent the seven churches that John is to write to.
The Lamp or candlestick holds the fuel and wick in position to burn and provide light efficiently, but it does not produce the light itself.  It is a concept that was quite familiar to John as he had used it in the book of John. 

The seven stars represent the seven messengers to those seven churches, the seven spirits that direct the pastors and leaders of the churches, providing the spark to ignite them, but they are not the source of the light.  The seven stars are in the Lord’s right hand to be controlled by him.  This symbolism will play an important part in understanding chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Introduction to Revelation

Revelation 1:1-9

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:1-3)

Contrary to what many bibles say, this is not the revelation of Saint John.   It is Jesus Christ revealing the things God has authorized him to tell his servants about the things of the future.  It was delivered to the Apostle John by one of the angels.  John recorded who Jesus is, and the evidence that he is the living Word.  Here he records the things the angel revealed to him about the future.  Those who hear and understand these prophecies and act on the things they learn because the time is close and no one knows when it will be. 

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.  Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8)

John is writing specifically to the seven churches which are in Asia, to strengthen them.  He sends greetings, not only from himself, but from the Eternal God, and from the seven angels or spirits who stand before God representing those churches, as well our savior, Jesus Christ.  He reminds them, and us, of what Christ has done for them.  He then reviews Jesus prophecy that when he returns, every eye shall see him including those who rejected him, and the entire world will regret their rejection.  Finally, he reminds them that God is the omnipresent and omnipotent God who was here before the world was created and made everything. Quoting god’s description of himself, so there can be no question which god he is referring to.

Notice that verse 7 starts out, “Behold, he cometh with clouds…”  How many times have we sung the song, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder without realizing that that first phrase, “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,” is in direct contradiction to scripture?  While it is a minor point it reveals how easily we can accept false doctrine if we don’t pay attention to what is being said. 

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:9)

Finally John reminds them that he was just an ordinary Christian like they were, and going through similar troubles, waiting on Jesus Christ.  He had been banished to the Island of Patmos a known prison colony for teaching the word of God and telling people about Jesus Christ.  Tradition says that he was sent there after an attempt to execute him using boiling oil failed.  He was probably banished to Patmos because it was uninhabited and there would be no one for John to preach to.   There is considerable discussion as to when Revelation was written, but the general consensus is between the destruction of Jerusalem in 66 AD., and 81 AD.  This would have placed the prophecy shortly after Nero, during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, or Domitian.
We have no record of John’s death, which is interesting since in Matthew 16:28, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”   Some of the other apostles believed that referred to John, according to John 21:23-24.  “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.”

John was far less sure he would be the one, making it clear that Jesus did not say he wouldn’t die, but that whether he died or not didn’t affect what Peter needed to do.  It was not a conclusive statement.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Commission Given

Matthew 28:11-20

As the ladies from Galilee were on their way to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus properly, there was an earthquake, and an angel rolled the stone away from the opening of the tomb.  The guard were petrified by his appearance and concealed themselves as best they could.  After looking into the tomb, and talking to the angel, they started back to Jerusalem, but were stopped by Jesus, who gave them a message for the disciples to go to Galilee.  They then ran to share the news. 
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.” (Matthew 28:11)

The ladies were still on their way to town when some of the guard got to the chief priest’s palace and reported what had happened.

“And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.  And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Matthew 28:12-15)

After meeting with the Sanhedrin, the chief priests offered the guard large bribes to say that they had gone to sleep on guard duty and the disciples had taken his body while they slept.  Sonce roman law required that a guard who went to sleep on duty be executed, they promised to bribe or make whatever other arrangement were needed to prevent the soldiers being executed.  As a result, even at the time Matthew was written a large contingent of Jews believed that  Jesus’ body had been stolen rather than that he was resurrected. 

A half century after Jesus’ crucifixion, the historian, Josephus would question why the soldiers would publicly claim to have gone to sleep on duty and were never punished when the law was rigorously enforced in every other case of which he was aware.

Apparently it took the disciples several hours to really assimilate the fact that Jesus had been resurrected and wanted them to go to Galilee, because according to Luke 24:33-37  they were still in Jerusalem when the two who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus came to tell them they had seen Jesus.  “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.  

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.”

The disciples were discussing how Jesus had appeared to Peter when Cleopus and his companion came and described their experiences.  While they were still talking about it, Jesus appeared, scaring them badly.  John 20:19-23 tells us, “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.  And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17)

After seeing Jesus that evening, the disciples went to Galilee ads Jesus directed them.  John 20:24-29 tells us, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.

But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.   Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

It was while they were still in Galilee that Peter and the others went fishing, as described in John 21.  Later they returned to Jerusalem.

“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.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

It was there Jesus gave them the “Great Commission” to go and disciple or win people to Christ, to baptize them, and then to teach them everything he had taught them.  He said that he had been given all the authority of heaven and earth and would accompany and empower his disciples till the end of the world.

John 20:30-31 makes it clear the accounts do not detail every event, but only tell us what we need to know to believe in who Jesus is and obtain eternal life.  “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Christ's Burial And Ressurection

Matthew 27:59-28:10

“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.  And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.” (Matthew 27:60-61)

Joseph had had a sepulcher carved into the stone of the cliff.   He and Nicodemus made a quick preparation of Jesus’ body, and placed in in Joseph’s newly carved tomb.  John 19:39-40 describes their efforts.  “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.  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.  It was as much as they could do with so little notice and the stores all closed.  The two Marys had been sitting by observing what they were doing the whole time, and watched as they rolled the stone over the door of the tomb to close it off. 

The ladies were not satisfied with Joseph and Nicodemus’ preparation of the body, and went to prepare things so they could do it properly according to Luke 23:54-56.  “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.   And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”  The ladies spent Friday gathering and preparing the ointments and spices, and rested the Sabbath day, intending to properly embalm the body on Sunday.
“Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,  Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.   Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:62-64)

Friday, the Chief priests and Pharisees met with Pilate, reminding him that Jesus had said he would rise again.  They asked Pilate to make sure no one could steal the body and claim he had been raised.  They feared that such would make Jesus’ impact even worse than what they were trying to prevent.
“Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.   So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:65-66)

Pilate told them to use the guards that had already been assigned to them to do whatever they felt was needed.  They placed seals on the door stone to ensure that it was not opened, and placed guards around it to keep anyone away. 

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.   And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” (Matthew 28:1-4)

Wanting to get Jesus’ body properly embalmed before the heat made the stench unbearable, the ladies headed to the tomb before sunrise.  Luke 24:1 says, “ Lu 24:1 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.”  As they were on their way, there was an earthquake and an angel rolled away the stone.  The guards were terrified, afraid to move and call attention to themselves.

Knowing it had taken Joseph and Nicodemus to roll the stone over the door, the ladies were concerned how they were going to get it open,  Mark 16:3-5 describes what they found.  “And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?   And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.  And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.”  

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.   He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.   And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.  And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.” (Matthew 28:5-8)

When the ladies saw the angel they were just as frightened as the guards had been.  The angel showed them where the body had been and told them to go back and tell the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee as he had promised while they were celebrating the Passover in Matthew 26;31-32.  The ladies ran to tell the disciples what had happened.

“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.  And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.  Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” (Matthew 28:9-10)

As they were leaving, Jesus met them and repeated the instruction to tell his disciples.  Luke describes them as having seen two men, and apparently one of them was Jesus.  He was still there when Peter and John came to the tomb in John 20, although they did not see him.  Mary saw him after they left, and originally thought he was just one of the gardeners.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jesus’ Death

Matthew 27:45-58

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  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?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Habakkuk 1:13 says of God, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…” and II Corinthians 5:21 says “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin…”  for three hours, from noon until about three o’clock, while Jesus was bearing our sin, God shut out the sight, making it dark on the earth.   A total eclipse lasts only about seven and a half minutes so this was not an eclipse of the sun, but a miraculous event.  It was the first and only time Jesus had not been in constant communication with his father, and he cried out asking why he had forsaken him.  It must have been as stressful as the first day of school is for a child who has never been away from its mother. 

“Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.  And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.  The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.” (Matthew 27:47=49)

Some of the people thought Jesus was hallucinating from dehydration and calling for Elijah.  One of them went to get a sponge filled with vinegar to rehydrate him and prevent fainting and ending the suffering.  Others said they would just wait to see if Elijah came to the rescue.

“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” (Matthew 27:50)

John 19:30 tells us, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”  After shouting “It is finished,” Jesus died about three o’clock in the afternoon. 

 “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:51-53)

When jesus died, the veil separating the holy place and the Holy of Holies split open.  Hebrews 9:8 says that the veil indicated that the way into heaven was not open until Jesus died.  “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:”  That it split at that particular time indicated the way to heaven was now open for everyone. 

At the same time many of the graves were opened and many of the dead saints were restored to life in a manner similar to what is predicted in the book of Revelation.  They came out of the graves and went into the city.  I can only imagine the consternation people felt at seeing a dead loved one walking around town.

“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.” (Matthew 27:54)

The centurion in charge of the detail responsible for crucifying Jesus and his men were convinced by the darkness, the earthquake, the graves being opened and all the other events that Jesus had to be the Son of God as he claimed.  They were terrified at what they had done.

“And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.” (Matthew 27:55-56)

A number of Jesus’ followers had come to the execution, including John and Jesus’ mother as well as others.  They were standing some distance away, but they remained until he was taken down. 

“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.” (Matthew 27:57-58)

About sundown, Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus.  Because the Jews would not want to deal with the dead bodies on the Sabbath day, he had ordered the legs of the executed to be broken to hasten their deaths, and ensure they could be buried before the Sabbath started.  They would have all night and all day Friday to die.  Since Jesus was already dead, they did not break his legs. 

John 19:31-37 describes the events.  “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.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.   For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.  And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.  In doing so, the soldiers fulfilled two more of the prophecies about Jesus death.

When Joseph asked for the body, Pilate couldn’t believe he was already dead.  Mark 15:44 says,  ”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.”  After learning that Jesus had been dead nearly three hours and that there was no doubt of his death, Pilate gave Joseph permission to bury him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jesus Is Crucified

Matthew 27:27-44

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.  And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.  And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.  And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:27-31)

Herod had had his soldiers abuse Jesus.  Pilate turned Jesus over to the Jews, refusing to have any part in what he clearly believed was murder.  The Roman soldiers were hated by the Jews.  They probably saw this as an opportunity to please the crowd and have some fun at the same time, so they started making fun of the claims that he was a king, forcing him to disrobe and put on an expensive robe and crowning him with a crown of thorn.  They placed a reed-like stick in his hand like a scepter and bowed to him, making fun of him by acting as if he were a king then snatching the stick away and hitting him on the head with it and spitting on him to show their contempt.  

It was a parody of what the crowd had done just four days before when Jesus came into the city riding a donkey on Palm Sunday, and the crowd apparently loved it.  When they got tired of making fun of him they put his own clothes back on him and led him out to crucify him,

“And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.” (Matthew 27:32)

One of the Roman laws the Jews hated most was that if a Roman soldier asked a person for help carrying something the person was required to immediately stop whatever he was doing and carry whatever the soldier asked him to for one mile.   Soldiers frequently abused the law, ordering people to carry their stuff even when no help was needed.  Since the cross was too heavy for one person to carry, the soldiers ordered Simon to help carry it so they didn’t have to.

 “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.” (Matthew 27:33-34)

When they arrived at Golgotha, where they carried out crucifixions, they gave Jesus a mixture of gall and vinegar to drink to minimize the effects of dehydration and prevent lapsing into unconsciousness before he died.  When he tasted it, Jesus refused to drink it. 

“And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” (Matthew 27:35)

It was customary for the soldiers who crucified a person to divide up his clothing and personal effects as part of their pay for doing the execution.  When the soldiers hung Jesus on the cross, they sat at the foot of the cross and gambled to see who got which part of his clothing.  In doing so, they fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 22:14-18, once again proving he was the Messiah.

“And sitting down they watched him there; And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Matthew 27:36-37)

Pilate had written a sign saying declaring Jesus as king of the Jews.  When they crucified him, the sign was nailed to the top of the cross.  John 19:1922 describes the Jewish reaction.  “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.  This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.   Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.  Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” 

The Jewish leaders were offended that the sign said Jesus was the king of the Jews, feeling that it indicted them for having him Crucified and demanded Pilate change it.  They had already pushed Pilate beyond his limit in forcing him to authorize the execution of an innocent man, and he refused to change it.    The sign remained, clearly declaring Jesus as King of the Jews for all to see.    The crowd sat down to wait and see what would happen.

“Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.  And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.  The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” (Matthew 27:44)

People passing by on their way to from Jerusalem stopped to throw Jesus’ prophecy about rebuilding the temple in his face, implying that he had claimed he could rebuild such a structure in three days but couldn’t even get down off the cross.  The religious leaders took a day off and made similar comments, saying that if he could get down off the cross they would believe in him and that if he was really the son of God, God would surely get him down. 

Jesus was crucified between two thieves.  To distract himself, one of them made fun of jesus just like the rest of the crowd.  The other recognized jesus for who he really is according to Luke 23:39-43.  “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.  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.

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

The thief acknowledged that death was what he deserved and asked Jesus to remember him when he reached the kingdom.  Jesus promised that he would be with him in paradise that very day.   It is exactly what Jesus promised to everyone who would believe in him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pilate Forced To Turn Jesus Over To The Jews

Matthew 27:15-26

“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.” (Matthew 27:15-18)

Pilate’s questioning had shown that the Jews charges were without merit.  In an effort to avoid offending them without breaking the Law, Luke tells us, Pilate as governor of the city decided to defer the case to Herod, who was king of Galilee.  “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.   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.” (Luke 23:6-11)

Herod was delighted to be deferred to in such a way, but after interrogation came to the same conclusion Pilate had, that the charges were without merit.  He allowed his men to make fun of Jesus in an effort to appease the Jews and sent Jesus back to Pilate, indicating that it wasn’t his jurisdiction and Pilates decision would be acceptable. 

In an effort to appease the Jews and prevent riots, the Romans had a policy of releasing one of the Jewish political prisoners every year during the feast of unleavened bread.  One of the prisoners that year was a man named Barabbas, who had been a leader in one o f the riots, committing murder in the process, according to Mark 15:7.  “And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.”  Knowing the Jews had no case against Jesus, and that nobody would want Judas set free, Pilate offered the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. 

“When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19)

While he waited for their decision, Pilate’s wife sent a message to him to have no part in condemning Jesus because of the dream or vision she had had warning against punishing him for a crime he had not done.   She was convinced the dream was from God and was terrified about what would happen if Pilate had Jesus executed. 

“But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?

They said, Barabbas.” (Matthew 27:20-21)

The leaders lobbied to get the people to ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus, and convinced them that Barabbas was the better choice even though he was a murderer and trouble maker.   When Pilate asked for their decision, he must have been shocked that the wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus.  He had seriously underestimated the influence the religious leaders had.

“Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?

They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.  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.” (Matthew 27:22-24)
When they demanded Barabbas be released instead of Jesus, Pilate asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus.  When they demanded that he be executed, Pilate asked why, resulting in a near riot, similar to those in Ferguson Missouri, demanding the arrest of the officer who shot the young man.  Finally, in an effort to prevent a full scale riot, Pilate made a point of washing his hands and showing them he was not willing to take the responsibility for what they were about to do. 

“Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

“Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:25-26)

When the people said they would take full responsibility for Jesus murder and absolve Pilate from any responsibility, Pilate had Jesus whipped in one last attempt to change their minds before turning him over to them.  If Pilate refused a riot was almost certain, resulting in many deaths, possibly including his own, and probably the loss of his job if he lived.   While it was illegal for him to allow them to kill Jesus, he could plead duress and probably get by with only a reprimand, and possibly even be commended for preventing the riot.  Letting them kill Jesus looked like the better choice.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Judas Regrets His Betrayal Of Jesus

Matthew 27:1-14

“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” (Matthew 27:1-2)

When it got light Thursday morning, the chief priests and rulers made the decision to have Jesus put to death.  It was illegal for them to take such a vote secretly at night.  Since they had no authority to execute anyone, they handcuffed him and sent him to the governor, Pontius Pilate, to carry out the execution.

“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.” (Matthew 27:3-4)

Judas had been angry about Jesus rebuke for his comments about the woman pouring the ointment on Jesus head, and had betrayed him as a way of getting even, but he had no intention of having Jesus killed.  When he realized that was their intention he returned the money, declaring that Jesus was innocent of what he was charged with.   The priests and religious leaders were not concerned that Judas had not wanted Jesus dead or even that he wasn’t guilty.  Their only concern was to eliminate him as a rival teacher.   Judas would have to deal with his guilt himself.

”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.” (Matthew 27:5-8)

Judas realized his petty attempt to get even had made him party to murder and he couldn’t prevent it.   Beside himself with guilt, he hanged himself.  Whether the rope broke or the knot was not properly tied we don’t know, but according to Acts 1:18, he fell and died of internal injuries from the fall rather than from hanging.  Though Judas regretted the consequences of his actions, he never repented of the attitude that caused them.

Deuteronomy 27:25 states, “Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person…” Deuteronomy 7:26 commands, “Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”  The religious leaders realized it would be blasphemous to use money paid for murder for the temple, so they decided to use it to buy a burial ground for indigent people, totally ignoring their own part in the crime.

“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 27:9-10)

Matthew attributed the prophecy to Jeremiah, but the only record we have of it is in Zechariah 11:12-13.  Nevertheless, the fulfillment of the prophecy is proof that Jesus Christ was and is the Messiah.

”And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews?

And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.  Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?  And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.” (Matthew 27:11-14)

When Jesus was brought before Pilate he was accused of claiming to be the King of the Jews.  Such a claim could be considered treason against Rome since the Roman government had designated Herod Agrippa king.  Had Jesus answered yes, Pilate could have in good conscience done as the Jews were asking.  Instead, Jesus pointed out it was not him making the claim. 

As their accusations became more violent and unbelievable, Pilate was amazed at Jesus’ self-control.   Some of the claims were totally outrageous, and Jesus didn’t give them any appearance of legitimacy by taking them seriously, refusing to even respond to them.  In Pilate’s experience, guilty people denied even things they knew were true.   

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jesus’ Arrest And Interrogation

Matthew 26:57-75

“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.  But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.” (Matthew 26:57-58)

All the disciples fled when they realized Jesus was really going to be arrested and  tried.  Jesus was taken to the private quarters of Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law where the leaders had assembled to interrogate him in an effort to find some charge against him.  Like the other disciples, Peter had run away, but he stayed close enough to see what was going on, following as they took Jesus to the High Priests palace.

John 18:15’16 tells us that both Peter and John followed along although the others did not.   Because John was acquainted with some of the people there, he was allowed to enter and was able to get Peter inside the courtyard.  “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.   But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.”

John was given free access to go in and listen to the interrogation but Peter had to wait in the courtyard, with the servants and outsiders, settling for an occasional report, like waiting in the hospital while surgery is done. 

“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.” (Matthew 26:59-61)

The leaders had offered a reward to anyone who could provide testimony that would result in Jesus being convicted.   There were a lot of people who were willing to testify for pay, but thir stories were so contradictory they were not believable.  Finally two came who had been there when Jesus drove the businessmen out of the temple and heard his reply when it was demanded where he got the authority to do so.  His response is given in John 2:19-20.  “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  But he spake of the temple of his body.”  Though it was misinterpreted, he had said what they claimed. 

"And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:62-63)

While it proved nothing and really wasn’t relevant, the statement gave the high priest something he could attack like a modern police interrogator trying to entrap a suspect by making it seem more important than it was.  Jesus refused to be baited into responding and trying to defend what he had said.  The high priest demanded the he tell them whether he was the Messiah, the son of God or not, kind of like the police interrogator springing a surprise question in an effort to catch the suspect off guard.  Without other evidence, prosecutors risk having the charges dismissed when such an approach is used today.

“Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)

Jesus said the High Priest was the one making the accusations.  He then went on to say that one day in the future they would see the messiah sitting on God’s throne and coming in power and would know who it was.   He actually didn’t either confirm or deny that he was the Messiah, although the high Priest interpreted what he said as being confirmation.

“Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” (Matthew 26:65-66)

They were determined to convict Jesus and were only looking for something that sounded bad to accuse him of, much like many of the political ads we see today.  They were no more concerned with whether the claims were true than political strategists today as long as it reduced his support.  They insisted he deserved to be executed.  In their minds they were doing nothing more than playing political hardball. 

“Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:67-68)

With him at their mercy, the leaders began to make fun of and abuse Jesus, asking what they considered impossible questions to answer in an effort to make him look inferior.   It was little different than what modern news reporters do to candidates they oppose and reveals the wickedness of our modern political system.

“Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.  But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.” (Matthew 26:69-70)

It was a cold night and they had built some fires for warmth.  One of the servant girls saw Peter standing by the fire and remembered seeing him with Jesus.  Fearing reprisals, Peter said he didn’t know what she was talking about.  Hoping to avoid notice, he moved out to a fire near one of the porches or gazebos. 

“And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.  And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26:71-72)

Another servant girl recognized Peter at the second fire and told the people that he had been with Jesus.  He was even more emphatic the second time, taking an oath that he didn’t even know the Lord and for a time the issue was dropped.   People seemed to accept his claim.

“And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.  Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.” (Matthew 26:73-74)

After a while several of the people told Peter they knew he was one of Jesus’ disciples from the way he talked.  Even his language and attitude was different than the other people there.  Peter began to curse and swear using the same kind of language in an attempt to convince them he wasn’t a Christian. 

“And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)

Just as soon as Peter started to convince them he didn’t know Jesus, the rooster crowed and Peter remembered how he had boasted he would never deny the Lord, even if all the others did, and that Jesus had said he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed.  It was humiliating to realize that he was not nearly as strong as he thought.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jesus Is Arrested

Matthew 26:45-57

“Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.  And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” (Matthew 26:45-47)

Jesus had just returned from his third short period of prayer, and told his disciples they just as well get as much rest as they could before his betrayal.   Even as he spoke the officers were on their way and he told the disciples they better get up and get ready.  Even before he finished speaking Judas came with a large crowd armed with swords and fighting sticks.  Judas had known where Jesus would go to spend the night, and the chief priests thought they could arrest him in middle of the night without drawing much attention.  

“Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.  And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. ” (Matthew 26:48-49)  

To keep the disciples from realizing what was happening and be sure they arrested the right person, Judas agreed to greet Jesus with the usual greeting of close friends.  Jesus asked who they were looking for, although he already knew the answer.  John 18:4-6 says, “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?   They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.   As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”    I think for the whole crowd to fall over backward when Jesus identified himself would have scared me, but these guys had their orders and thought of nothing else.

”And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. ” (Matthew 26:50)

Jesus greeted Judas as a friend, asking why he had come.  He then called attention to the deceitfulness of Judas’ greeting, according to Luke 22:48.  “But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”

“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51)

John 18:10 tells us it was Peter who drew his sword and cut off the servants ear.  “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.”  He was prepared to protect Jesus at the risk of his life. 

“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.  Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because it would only endanger him.  If he had chosen, Jesus could have called and God would have sent more than twelve thousand angels to protect him, but it he would not have been able to fulfill the scriptures and obtain our salvation if he had.  Jesus then asked permission to put the servant’s ear back on in Luke 22:51, “And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.”

“In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.  But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” (Matthew 26:55-56)

Jesus pointed out that if their complaint was legitimate, they could have arrested him at any time with no difficulty.  That they had chosen to do it secretly implied their complaints were not legitimate.  He reminded them that they were just fulfilling the prophecies about Messiah.  The disciples knew the priests and Pharisees were upset that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah.  When he said they were just fulfilling the Scriptures about Messiah, the disciples knew they going to throw the book at him, and probably at anyone who was with him.  They all took off.

“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.” (Matthew 26:57)

With the disciples gone, the officers took Jesus to the high priest for interrogation with no further resistance. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Praying For Relief

Matthew 26:31-46

“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” (Matthew 26:31-35)

After eating the Passover and taking communion, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives to spend the night.  Jesus warned them that that very night all of them would be offended because of him.  The word translated offended means to cause to trip or stumble.  Because of what would happen to him, Jesus said everyone of his disciples would experience serious doubts and the group would be demoralize and scatter.  His resurrection would cause them to reunite and he would meet them in Galilee.  John 21 describes their meeting at the Sea of Tiberias, better known as the Sea of Galilee.

Peter immediately spoke up that he would never doubt Jesus, even if everyone else turned away.  Jesus warned him that before the rooster crowed the second time Thursday morning, Peter would have denied him three times.  Peter could not imagine anything that would make him doubt the lord and said he would never deny Jesus, even if the killed him.  While they were less vocal about it, the other disciples were just as sure they would not deny the Lord or be turned away.
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.  And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.  Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

When they came to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to sit down and wait while he went to pray privately.  Accompanied by Peter, James and John, Jesus went further into the garden.  Knowing what he was facing in the next few hours created a lot of tension and stress, to point he shared feeling like it would be better to die than to go through what was coming.  He just asked them to be there to support him.

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)

No matter how much people support us, they can neverdeal with the problems for us.  Jesus went a little further and asked the Lord to do what needed to be done another way if it were possible.    If it was necessary he do this, and he believed it was, he was willing to go ahead with the original plan to please God. 

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

When Jesus came back to Peter, James, and John, he found them asleep.  Despite their best intentions to support him, they could not grasp the emotional and spiritual burden Jesus was carrying and yielded to their bodies’ demands for sleep.  He warned them that they needed to be in prayer if they were to avoid discouragement in the coming hours. 

“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.  And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.  And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” (Matthew 26:42-44)

After a short time, the tension built up and Jesus again went and prayed the same prayer.  When he returned the disciples were asleep again so he went back and prayed again saying the same thing, without disturbing their sleep, putting their peace ahead of his own sense of distress.

“Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.” (Matthew 26:45-46}

When he came back the third time, Jesus told them they should rest while they could, because they wouldn’t be able to once he was arrested, which was imminent.  In fact they needed to get ready because there was no more time.  The group sent to arrest him was just entering the garden.