Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection – Matt 27-28

When morning came, the Sanhedrin had Jesus taken to Pilate.  When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he had a change of heart, and took the thirty pieces of silver back to them, saying that he had betrayed innocent blood.  But they are unimpressed.  So he threw it down in the temple and went and hanged himself.  Remorse, as we see, does not always include repentance.  The Sanhedrin has no problem with lies and the murder of an innocent man, but they want no part of this blood money, so they use it to buy a potter’s field.  The scripture that this fulfilled, referred to in verses 9-10, is from both Jeremiah 19:1-13 and Zechariah 11:11-13.

Munkácsy Mihály: Krisztus Pilátus előtt

Munkácsy Mihály: Krisztus Pilátus előtt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus answers Pilate’s question of whether He was a king, but remains silent about the charges against Him.  We find in verse 20 that the chief priests and elders persuaded the people to choose Barabbas when Pilate offered to free one of them.  Fearing a riot, Pilate resigns himself to the will of the crowd, but uses the physical act of washing hands to declare his innocence of “this man’s blood.”  “Having scourged Jesus” is mentioned in passing, but this Roman form of flogging was anything but incidental.  It was a brutally painful beating with a whip weighted with sharp pieces of bone and metal. It was designed to lacerate, often exposing bone and intestines.  Crucifixion was an agonizing and tortuous death, but this beating would be equally painful.  A good article on this scourging can be found at this link.

He was mocked and spit upon, stripped and made to wear a crown made of thorns.  Then he was led away to be crucified.  They made a man named Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross, and when they reached Golgatha (which means Place of a Skull), they tried to give him wine mixed with gall (a very bitter herb that could also be poisonous) to drink.  It was intended to dull the sense of pain, but it was God’s will that He should suffer.  As they crucified Him, “they divided his garments among them by casting lots” – referring to Psalm 22:18.  Verses 36-44 detail the continued derision, mocking and reviling inflicted on Him as He suffered.

Crucifixion was a slow and excruciatingly painful method of inflicting death, and there are many stories of the cruelty of Roman soldiers experimenting with different poses for crucified victims (Josephus, “Jewish War” 5.449–551).  Hanging by one’s arms caused great difficulty in breathing, only alleviated by the victim pushing up with their feet in order to take the weight off of the arms. But that caused severe pain in the feet, arms, legs, and back, making the exhausted victim slump down again, only to be barely able to breathe again. Finally, he would mercifully die of asphyxiation, if he had not already died as a result of the cumulative effects of the multiple physical traumas inflicted.

In verse 45, there was darkness all over the land from the 6th hour until the ninth hour (about noon to 3:00).  About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” meaning, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  This is from Psalm 22:1.  This is one of the most puzzling verses in the Bible.  Jesus knows what is happening, and why He is doing it. One explanation that has been posed is that because Jesus did in fact become sin, at this moment Jesus felt the presence of God turn away from Him as He was dying.  Jesus then gave up the spirit with another cry.

Joseph of Arimathaea Seeks Pilate to Beg Permi...

Joseph of Arimathaea Seeks Pilate to Beg Permission to Remove the Body of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then in verse 51, the curtain of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.  It was between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and was woven from 72 twisted plaits of 24 threads a piece. It was 60 feet high and 30 feet wide. No one was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the curtain except the high priest, and then only on the Day of Atonement.  Being torn in two represents the removal of the separation between God and the people.  A high priest was no longer needed – Jesus is our high priest now.  More elaboration of this event, and what it symbolized, is in Hebrews 9:11–10:22.  Then the earth shook (Palestine sits on a major seismic rift), rocks were split, and tombs were opened.  As Matthew often groups events together topically, he then jumps ahead here in verse 53 to events after the resurrection, as many of the saints were raised and came out of the tombs to appear to many in the city.  We are not told whether they were taken to heaven after these eyewitnesses received these visits.  But clearly, God wanted many witnesses to understand the profoundly momentous significance of what had happened.

In verse 57, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came to Pilate that evening to request Jesus’ body.  He took the body and wrapped it in a linen shroud and placed it in his own tomb.  This fulfilled Isaiah 53:9.  Then he rolled a big stone in front of the entrance.  Then the chief priests, remembering how he had said that he would rise after 3 days, went to Pilate voicing their fears that Jesus’ disciples might come and steal the body.  So he gave them a guard of soldiers, and they sealed the tomb and stood guard.

After the resurrection, Jesus – as He had told the disciples in Matthew 26:32 that He would meet them there – would be with them at the Sea of Galilee, and at a mountain there that He directs them to. But several other events occur before and after this, the details of which are interspersed throughout the gospels in Luke 24 and John 20. And events in a single chapter are in some cases separated by days, and even weeks, as Jesus remained for forty days before the ascension.)

Then some of the guard that had been on watch at the tomb went to the chief priests to tell them what had happened. After deliberating, they gave money to the guards to have them say that His disciples had come and stolen the body while they were asleep, promising to keep them out of trouble if word got back to Pilate. Their acts of unbelief in the face of these eyewitness accounts is stunning, but such was their love for power that they would not let it be jeopardized.

Jesus meets His apostles in verse 16 on the mountain in Galilee that He had directed them to. In verses 18-20, Jesus gives the eleven chosen ones the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of ALL nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus has confirmed that His Kingdom is open to everyone. Because this is the end of Matthew, some confuse this event with the time of the ascension. But that comes later at at a different mountain – Mount Olivet, after they returned to Jerusalem.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Matt 26, Matt 27, Matt 28, 1 Cor 1, 1 Cor 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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Crucifixion and Resurrection – Luke 23-24

Jesus was taken away to be crucified, and there were two criminals taken with him to be put to death, fulfilling Isaiah 53:12, which said he would be numbered with transgressors. Luke says that they came to a place known as the skull. It is also known as Golgatha which comes from an Aramaic word for skull. There, they crucified Him and the criminals with one on each side of Him. Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

English: Statue of Pontius Pilate in Bom Jesus...

English: Statue of Pontius Pilate in Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One prisoner began to mock as well, but the other rebuked him and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus told him that this day he would be with Him in paradise (verse 43). Jesus, as we saw in other passages, did have the authority to forgive sins, and He exercised it there.

Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin council who had not consented to their decision to railroad the Lord. Luke says that he was a good and righteous man, and was looking for the kingdom. He got custody of the body of Jesus from Pilate, and wrapped it in a linen shroud. Then he placed it in a tomb that was cut in stone and had never been used for burial. The women prepared ointment and spices. And then they rested on the Sabbath rested as commanded.

The day that Jesus rose, two of His disciples were traveling to the village of Emmaus. One was named Cleopas, but we do not know the name of the other. We are told in verse 16 that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” when Jesus drew near. When He asks them about the conversation they are having, the two men proceed to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus gave them a mild rebuke for being slow to believe what the prophets had spoken. He then interpreted Scriptures from Moses and the prophets concerning the Christ. The revelation of Himself to these two disciples would appear to serve one purpose – that of a proper eyewitness account.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Luke 22, Luke 23, Luke 24, Acts 1, Acts 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Definite Plan and Foreknowledge – Acts 2

English: Jesus crucified. Mignard. In the Bowy...

English: Jesus crucified. Mignard. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 4073. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section X. the crucifixion. Mark 15:22-37. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-v-to-x (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In verse 22, Peter gets into the “meat and potatoes” of his sermon – the very first gospel sermon. And he doesn’t pull any punches. He tells them that they themselves knew of the mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Jesus — right in their own midst. He said that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge by God (Luke 22:22, 1 Peter 1:2). Still addressing them, he said “…you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” By lawless, here Peter mostly means sinful – although there was absolutely nothing lawful about Jesus’ so-called trial or his crucifixion.

Peter continues, saying that God raised Him up, “loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” It was not possible because He was the Son of God, because God willed it, and because it was prophesied that He would overcome it. Then he quotes David from Psalm 16:8-11, part of which says “for you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”

Peter went on to explain that David was a prophet and that he foresaw and spoke in this manner of the resurrection of the Christ. He said that they (he and the other apostles) are all witnesses to the fact that God raised Him up; and that He has been exalted at the right hand of God. Having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has “poured out” what they were seeing with their own eyes on that very day.

Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

The Green Wood – Luke 23

Pilate was ready to release Jesus (following a sound beating, of course), but the chief priests and the rulers and the people that he had called to give this news to all cried out to him to take Jesus away and release Barrabas. Barrabas was in prison for insurrection and murder, but the Romans by custom would release one prisoner on Passover. Pilate tried again to reason with them, as he wanted to release Jesus. But the shouting to crucify him began.

Jesus helped by Simon of Cyrene, part of a ser...

Jesus helped by Simon of Cyrene, part of a series depicting the stations of the Cross. Chapel Nosso Senhor dos Passos, Santa Casa de Misericórdia of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Oil on canvas, XIXth century, unknown author. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pilate tried again, saying “Why? what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they grew more demanding, and eventually he released Barrabas and gave in to their demands. As they led Him to His fate, they got Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross. (Cyrene is now an archeological site in present-day Lybia. It was a settlement of the Greeks, but became Roman Province in 74 B. C.). There was a great crowd of people following Him, and women who were weeping for Him. But Jesus then said to them:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Part of this, Jesus quotes from Zechariah 12:10-14, which speaks of mourning for “him whom they have pierced.” For the second time (the first being when He arrived at Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44), Jesus is foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem which will occur about 40 years from then. “They” in that last sentence means the Romans. The green wood represents the innocent savior, and the dry is what will be left of that Jerusalem generation after He is gone.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Understanding the Cross – now available as eBook

Understanding_the_Cross_coverThe expanded version of our series “Understanding the Cross of Christ” is now available at Amazon.com in Kindle format at this link, in ePub format at Kobo, and for Nook at  BarnesandNobel.com!

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 6 (Christ Arose!)

This is the conclusion of a series begun in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  In part 4, we looked at how Jesus really fits into that plan.  In part 5, we examined what was expected of the Messiah, and why His death on the cross was necessary.

What Did the Cross Accomplish?

The Very Real Suffering of “The Suffering Servant”

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

It is all too easy for us to get into a mindset, knowing that Jesus was the Son of God, of (at least somewhere in the back of our minds) thinking that all of this was easy for Him.  Or if not exactly easy, at least not as bad as it would be for a “regular”person.  We must never forget that although Jesus was (is) the Lord, he had made himself a man.  He had human emotions.  He felt compassion for the hungry (Matthew 15:32), love for the sick and the suffering (Matthew 14:14).  He cried real human tears for Lazarus’ death before he raised him from the dead (John 11:32-35).  Even more telling as He knew what was coming, His agony, dread, and pleas as He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest clearly show his humanity (Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-46).  There was nothing “easy” about preparing Himself to be crucified, any more than it was “easy” to be beaten and slowly killed on that cross.  So what exactly did His loving sacrifice and

resurrection accomplish?

Release From the “Curse of the Law”

The culmination of God’s plan to redeem mankind came at such a high price to Him, but it accomplished so much for us.  This supreme sacrifice by Jesus redeemed us from what Paul calls “the curse of the law” in Galatians 3:10-13.  Quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 (“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them”), Paul points out that none of us could ever be justified under that criteria because we all have sin in our lives.  And so the sacrifices and offerings made under the old law simply put off God’s judgment.

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

By the blood of His sacrifice, God put Jesus forward as a propitiation (an appeasement or satisfaction) for our sins (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10).   Hebrews 9, speaking of the way things were before Christ, goes into some detail about the earthly “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle (into which only the High Priest could enter with blood to offer).  The word used for the “mercy seat” In Hebrews 9:5 (which was the lid on top of the ark) is the same as is used for “propitiation,” which is to say that it was a covering – a concealment – for the judgment of the law contained therein.

This earthly Holy Place and the Holy things it contained, the Hebrew writer refers to as mere “copies of the heavenly things” which are in Heaven.  By His death and resurrection, Jesus became a new High Priest of a better covenant (Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 7:22).  And Hebrews 9:11-12 explained that by His own blood, He entered once and for all into THE Holy Place, securing an eternal redemption for us.  Thus, Paul says in Romans 7:6, “…now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Eternal Life

Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12 that when man first sinned in Genesis 3, death also entered the world (“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”).  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

By His resurrection, Jesus was victorious over death; and He brought to us the promise that when He returns, all those who have “fallen asleep” will also be raised, and will come to meet with Him (as well as those who are still alive) (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).  And then, 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 tells us, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 2:14-15:

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

How Does One Earn Salvation – This Eternal Life?

The answer, of course, is that one does not earn salvation.  The bad news is that everyone has sinned, and however “small” one may consider his sins to be, God counts no difference between those sins and those we may consider to be the most despicable or callous.  The good news is that Jesus already paid the price for our sins with His death.  It is our faith in Jesus that justifies us through His grace, as told by Paul in Romans 5:1-2:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

baptismBut the fact that this salvation is freely given to us, does not mean we have no responsibility in the matter.  We must obey His commandments, among which is as Acts 2:38 says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”  Jesus said in Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Paul gives the best explanation in Romans 6:3-5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Staying the Course

If baptism were the end-all of the Christian’s commitment, how easy that would be.  But how easy is it to remain righteous in a world that seems to become more and more wicked?  Well, to be sure, Christians today (especially young people) face new and different challenges in that regard.  But there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  We know that is true from reading the Scriptures about the time before the flood (Genesis 6:5-8), about Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-19:29), about God’s patience with the depraved wickedness of the Canaanites (Genesis 15:15-21) – and events all throughout history.  But as Peter tells us as God’s children, Christians “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Paul proclaimed the great promise in Romans 2:6-8: “…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”  The Apostle aptly described our course in Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 5 (The Anointed One and His Sacrifice)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  In part 4, we looked at how Jesus really fits into that plan.  But what were God’s people looking for in a Messiah?  And why did God plan such a horrible death for Him?

The “Missed” Messiah

John 1:29-41

John the Baptist told his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the Messiah, God’s Son, who would give his life for his followers — John 1:29-41

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come for thousands of years.  But what kind of Messiah were they expecting – especially during the time that Jesus actually did come?  By and large, what many of them were hungry for in a Messiah was one that would lead Israel to greatness as a power in the world.  After all, he was to be the son of David.  They wanted him to be a great military leader that would first defeat the Romans who ruled and oppressed them.

But for people at that time,  getting them out from under the thumb of Roman rule was just the beginning.  They wanted a king that would eventually lead them to be the kind of power in the world that Israel enjoyed being during the reign of David – mighty and feared – possibly even to replace the Romans as the great power of the world.

In Matthew 2:1-5, when Herod learned of the birth of the Christ, the chief priests and scribes quoted Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:6, saying:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

So Herod feared for his position, because he too assumed this Messiah would be a king of an earthly kingdom.  In John 6:15, when Jesus was at the height of his popularity with the people, the multitudes were ready to make that kingship a reality in their own way:

“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”

And in Acts 1:6, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles (not yet having received the Holy Spirit) demonstrated that they still didn’t “get it” either: (“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”).  So focused were so many of the people of that time on an earthly kingship for the Messiah, that they overlooked completely prophecies such as that of the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah 53 or others such as Psalm 16:8-11 (“you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption”) that clearly predicted a different course for God’s anointed.

Sadly, many of those who longed most for the coming of the Messiah completely missed Him, when he was right under their very noses.

Why Death on a Cross?

Although the crucifixion of Jesus is the most famous of all time, it was not an uncommon means of execution from about 500 BC until the 4th century AD – one that was used by the Romans, certain Greek-Macedonian states, and the Carthaginian empire, to name a few.  The Jews of Jesus’ time would have been very familiar with this means of execution.  This brutal and very public display of execution was usually reserved for those who committed the most heinous of crimes.  It was abolished by Emperor Constantine I in about 337 AD.

English: The Crucifixion, Genoa Svenska: "...

English: The Crucifixion, Genoa Svenska: “Korsfästelsen”. Chiesa del Gesù, Genua. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So with respect to fulfilling the Scriptures concerning the suffering that the Messiah would have to endure, crucifixion fit into that plan perfectly, as only an execution inflicted with torture could.  A quick death by some other means (such as beheading in the case of the apostle James (Acts 12:1-5) ), while certainly painful, would not serve to accomplish the intense suffering prophesied in such passages as in Isaiah 53, nor the wounding predicted in that same passage and others such as Zechariah 12:10.  Accompanied by the beatings and scourging (Matthew 27:25-26, John 19:1), it also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-14 of the Messiah being so disfigured from them that He was hardly recognizable.  Moreover, being “lifted up” on the cross was the fate Jesus prophesied for Himself (John 3:14-15, Matthew 20:17-19, John 8:28), as well as that prophesied in Isaiah 52:13.

What Did the Death of Jesus Really Cost?

It is important to understand how much love was involved in the sacrifice of Jesus on that cross.  Almost everyone in our society has at least heard John 3:16 quoted (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”).  But how often is that verse quoted without much thought behind it?   After all, He was the Son of God, right?  It is easy to forget how much He gave up, and how human He became for us.  To be sure, God reveals to us what we need to know, but He does not reveal everything there is to know about many things; and that includes His relationship as the Father to Jesus as the Son.

Jesus clearly speaks of himself and God as separate entities (John 5:30).  God also does the same in such verses as Matthew 3:16-17 (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”).   Yet John 1:1 makes it clear that Jesus (“the Word”) was God.  Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Paul (Titus 2:11-13) both tell us that Jesus is “God and Savior.”  Philippians 2:5-6 speaks of Jesus having been in the form of God and having equality with God.  Even Thomas, having his doubt removed after the resurrection, recognized this as he exclaimed in John 20:28“My Lord and my God!”   So the answer, in our limited ability to understand such things, is that Jesus was both God and a separate being – the Son.

The relevance of all of this to the willing sacrifice of Jesus is that God’s love for us prompted Him to have His only Son – and in a very real sense (the depths of which we cannot fully understand) a part of Himself – to come into this world as a physical man, to live and love as a man, to feel pain and sorrow just as we do, and to suffer and die a cruel and tortuous death at the hands of the very people He was trying to save.

In Part 6, we will conclude this series with a look at more of what Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished, as well as what is required of us to gain our salvation.

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 4 – (God’s Plan)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  Now, in part 4, let us look at how Jesus really fits into that plan.

So how does Jesus fit into this plan of God’s?

If you were to say that Jesus, in fact, is God’s plan for our salvation, you would be correct.  God first promised this savior in Genesis 3:15, when sin first entered the world.  The verse reads in the ESV:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

The enmity that God refers to here is opposition to Satan through the offspring born of the woman.  Clearly, the “he” in the verse that will “bruise your head” is that offspring.  What is meant by bruising the head is the complete victory over the evil one that had the power over death, as told to us in Hebrews 2:14-15.  As for how the Crucifixion can be classified as  the bruising of the heel, consider that Jesus overcame death itself, and that the ultimate fate of Satan is his utter destruction (Revelation 20:10).

There are a great many prophecies throughout the Bible that promise the coming of this Messiah  – many more than we can include in this outline.  But the most important of these is arguably that which is written in 2 Samuel 7, where God makes a covenant with David which promises a kingdom from his offspring that will endure forever.  He would be the son of God (Psalm 2:7).  It is through this offspring of David that the one promised in Genesis 3 will come.  He would be sacrificed for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5-12).  And most importantly, he would be risen from the dead (Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:15).

Who was Jesus really, and where did He come from?

Let us begin with his name.  Most people know of Him as Jesus Christ.  He has been known this way for so long that many people actually assume that His last name – His surname – was Christ.  But that is, of course, not the case.  Over the years the reference to Him as Jesus the Christ has simply been shortened.  The Hebrew for Messiah and the Greek for Christ (Khristos) both mean anointed or “anointed one.”

Most people know that He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin, and many have wondered what the point is of the long genealogy written in Matthew 1:1-17.   This was to document the fact that Jesus’ birth came forth through the line of King David.  The names of many of those in that genealogical record are found in books of the Bible (the Old Testament) written in the inspired word of God over many hundreds of years.

But though Jesus was born of a woman, just as had been prophesied, that is not the entire significance of His origin.  In John 1:1-18, we are told that before He came to live as a man, Jesus was with God since the beginning of time:

“He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Some say that Jesus never claimed to be deity, but that is certainly not true.  In John 10:30, he told the Jewish leaders at the temple “I and the Father are one.”  And in John 8:58, he told them “before Abraham was, I am,” which was clearly a reference to the way God identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians in Philippians 2:5-8, summed up how much Jesus gave up to come to Earth, to become a man, and to suffer a cruel death:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

As we near the conclusion of this series, we will  examine how Jesus measures up with what the people were expecting from the Messiah that had been anticipated for well over a thousand years, what His death meant then and, more importantly, what it means to us now.

/Bob’s boy

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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Psalms 41 – Even My Close Friend

Hushai was a counselor for King David, but when Absalom rebelled against his father David, David asked Hushai to pretend to shift loyalty to Absalom, but act instead as a spy. Absalom accepted Hushai's advice instead of the advice of Ahithophel, so Ahithophel committed suicide (2 Samuel 17:1-14).

Hushai was a counselor for King David, but when Absalom rebelled against his father David, David asked Hushai to pretend to shift loyalty to Absalom, but act instead as a spy. Absalom accepted Hushai’s advice instead of the advice of Ahithophel, so Ahithophel committed suicide (2 Samuel 17:1-14).

Traditionally, the Hebrew text divided the psalms into five books, the last of which in each finishes with a doxology (a short hymn of praise to God, which occurs here in verse 13); and chapter 41 concludes book one.  As is the case with many psalms, this one has meaning for the situation in David’s life at the time, as well as having application for the Jesus the Messiah.

communion trayMany consider that this psalm was written at a time when David suffered from a great illness that may have facilitated Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 15).  The word “poor” in verse one is sometimes translated “weak,” which especially fits verses 1-8.  Jesus applies verse 9 to Judas in John 13:18.  In David’s case, the identity of the close friend of that verse is believed by many to be Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31).  The reference to the resurrection and ascension to heaven are hard to miss in verses 10-12, with the enemy in verse 11 clearly as Satan.  And verse 9 unmistakably points to Judas during Jesus’ act of instituting the Lord’s supper:

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 3 (God’s Response To Sin)

cross03In part 1 of this series, we began looking for a more informative answer to my young friend’s question (“Why would God send His only son to die?”).  The answer is of course that it was God’s plan for our salvation all along.  But a better explanation would really be aided by a better understanding of sin, atonement, and ultimately, propitiation.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  And now we turn to God’s response to sin – which, come to that, is also one of the reasons that it matters to us.

What are the consequences of sin?

Adam and Eve expelled

When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan instead of God, God sent them from the Garden of Eden and posted an angelic being at the doorway of Eden to prevent them from entering it again (Genesis 3).

Of course, God’s first response to sin was to Adam and Eve after the fall of man, but He has given man many other earthly responses to sin.  God was so grieved by man’s wickedness that He “struck down every living creature” (that wasn’t on the ark) in a global flood in Genesis 6-8. God promised His judgment on the Canaanites in Genesis 15:13-21 and again in Deuteronomy 9:4-5 , well in advance of the Israelites’ entry into the promised land in Joshua 3.  And just as he warned them 1,000 years earlier in Deuteronomy 28:49-63, God had His people removed and taken captive for their continued disobedience, and their cherished holy city was burned (2 Kings 17, 2 Kings 24, 2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  Of course, all of these, and many other earthly judgments God has brought to pass, pale in comparison to God’s promise of eternal separation from Him and the punishment that awaits the sinful in the end – in contrast to the reward that awaits the faithful (Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 25:45-46).

Why does God require a price to be paid for sin?

Abraham covenant-01

The Lord spoke personally with Abraham, entering into a lasting covenant with him (Genesis 17).

It is a fact that it is no accident that the Creator of life demands discipline, and that the blueprints He gives us for living our lives result in the best that life has to offer for us.  Godly living in the long and short-term always has born out that constant truth – His ways are best for us.  And it is His will for all of us to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4) So why does God demand a price for sin?  As we noted in part 2, God is too pure to tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13).  But just as importantly, He is a fair and just God (Psalm 25:8-14, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Deuteronomy 32:4).  He has promised to reward us for our righteousness, just as He has promised to punish sin. He is faithful and true to all of His promises.  If it were not so – if He simply turned a blind eye to sin – how could we count on Him to keep the other promises He has made to us?

How was sin dealt with in the Old Testament?

Sacrifices and offerings to God were made by presenting them to a Levitical priest (a descendant of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob).  Non-priests could not make an approach to God.  The different types of offerings are described in Leviticus 1-7.  Only the High Priest – from Aaron through the end of Eleazor’s line – approached God in the innermost part of the Tabernacle (the Most Holy place), as they did to make offering on the Day of Atonement.  This occurrence simply put off the judgment of the Lord for their sins in the past year (Leviticus 16:34).  These sacrifices and the old law were merely a shadow of the promise of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1-4).

Levitical_priesthood_diagram-01

The Levitical Priesthood

God had set apart the Levites (Numbers 3:12) and established the priesthood for His people through the lines of the three sons of Levi – all with special duties.  These were the Gershonites (Numbers 4:24-26; 7:7-8), Kohathites (Numbers 3:29-32, 1 Chron 15:1-15), and the Merarites (Numbers 3:36-37; 4:29-33).  Moses and Aaron were sons of Kohath; and it was through Aaron’s line that the priesthood continued until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., by way of his sons Eleazor, Ithamar, and Nadab and Abihu. The latter two met their end (and that of their lines) in Leviticus 10.  Ithamar’s line ended  in 2 Kings 2:26-27 with Abiathar.  Eleazor’s line lived on until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

All through these ages, the promise loomed ahead of something better.  A promise that was made first in Genesis 3:15-17, and would be repeated and expounded throughout the Old Testament.  We will look closer at that promise as this series continues in part 4, taking a look at how Jesus fits into God’s plan for our salvation.

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.