Matthew 16:13-20, Part I-III

Matthew 16:13-20, Part I: Who Is Jesus?

Question One: The People’s Answers

 

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Often man’s Duplexity is characterized as a dichotomy. In reality, man is a unit. He has a body but he is more than body. He has a spirt but he is more than spiritual. Man is a whole person. As such, he thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s and their manner of life and leadership (16:12; 11:28-30). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed for them and those under their teaching (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. The Pharisees and their followers had endorsed the adequacy of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves as their own messiah. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one. They needed freedom from Rome and her domination. They denied their spiritual bondage.

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach and instruct the disciples about Himself. His motif was question-asking. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. He waited for an answer and then moved to instruction. This is an excellent tool for one-on-one ministry.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. Jesus was challenging them as He ministered appropriate biblical truth to them in their situation given their level of spiritual maturity and their level of willingness to understand and apply the truth. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah to remove the burden of Rome. The tile Son of Man is used some 80 times in the gospels and all but one by Jesus (John 12:34). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The use of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people gave varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God.

 

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

Matthew 16:13-20, Part II: Who is Jesus?

Second Question: The Disciples’ Answer

 

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal as He honed in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be. The importance of that fact rested on Jesus and His purpose. He asked an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would provide the disciples with a proper view of Jesus, His message, His mission; and a proper view of their message and ministry as God’s agents. All of these aspects were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. What they saw with their physical eyes exceeded their comprehension. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He was exhorting them to consider people and events from the vantage point of spiritual eyes, the eyes of saving faith. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they in the faith? The question is a good one for every believer. Jesus’ question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching as logical and even commendable. They were tempted to be tossed back and forth by accepting human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected and deserved fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly informed in regard to their own salvation and in order to grow as a child of God. Moreover, they needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belts in order to carry the gospel message forward. If the gospel message had no impact on them individually in terms of changed thinking, wanting, and doing, it would have impact on others. The Word of God filets the heart and confronts the person with God’s truth (Heb. 4:12). Change is of the essence for the believer. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

 

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. Jesus’ second question (who do you say I am?) was intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part III: Who is Jesus?

The Source of the Disciples’ Answer

 

In this portion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6 (Acts 7:32) and Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 22:32 and John 8:56-58. In contrast to the crowd, Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).

As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of that person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). Do you agree with Jesus and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation regarding Jesus in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on three facets: you, the knower; the object of your knowledge which should be Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit; and the standard and source for your answer. There is only one true source – God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects and deserves a return on His gift and investment. Salvation and growth in Christlikeness are keys to returning to God what is rightfully His. He deserves all of a person given His way for His glory. Returning to God what is His begins at salvation and continues all the way into heaven. Eternally, the believer will continue to grow in Christlikeness.

 

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part A: Who Do YOU Say I Am

      Matthew 16:13-20 Part A:      Who Do YOU Say I Am

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Man thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, we find Jesus with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s (16:12). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. They had endorsed adequate law keeping by virtue of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Jesus continued to instruct the disciples. Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach the disciples about Him. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. Asking questions, waiting for an answer, and then moving to instruction is an excellent discipling tool and a one-on-one ministry tool.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. It is essential for ministering the appropriate biblical truth to the person in his situation in order to help the problem given his level of spiritual maturity and his level of willingness. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah. Only Jesus used the title (Matt. 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 24:30). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It was used some 81 times in the Gospels. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The used of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people had multiple and varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

 

       Matthew 16:13-20, Part B :   Who Do YOU Say I Am

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal by honing in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be (einai). Jesus was asking an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would equip the disciples for a right view of the essence of Jesus’ message and mission and a right view of their message and mission as God’s agents. All three were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they were in the true faith? The question is a good one for every believer. His question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching or at least were tempted to be tossed back and forth by human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly prepared in regard to their own salvation and for growth as a child of God. They needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belt in order to carry the gospel message forward. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith with Him was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. The you in Jesus’ second question is intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

      Matthew 16:13-20, Part III:     Who Do YOU Say I Am

In this potion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6; Matt. 22:32; Acts 7:32. Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33). As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of the person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). A second question follows: do you agree with Him and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son were one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on you, the knower; the object of your knowledge, Jesus Christ; and the standard and source for your answer, God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects a return on His gift and investment.

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

 

 

Part I-III: The Resurrection

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part A

The First Truth: The Gospel

 

Is Easter Sunday simply another Sunday, another Sabbath Day, and another Easter day? It is a fact that Easter does not receive the attention that Christmas does. This is evident in both the secular and religious worlds. In contrast to Christmas, when faced with Easter, some may complain that they don’t have any holidays or that it is over so quickly. Others may approach Easter with a ho-hum mindset.

How would you answer the question: what is the big deal about Easter? Would you include the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in your answer? If you did, what is the significance of the resurrection? Is it just another event, even a miraculous one in the life of Jesus?  The Holy Spirit deemed the resurrection of Christ so important that He had Paul devote a whole chapter to it in the first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15).  It is an understatement to say that the resurrection is essential for all believers in every age.

The Corinthian congregation had multiple problems. In his first letter to them, Paul addressed a number of serious problems that resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, and self-exalting individualism. They were convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people. The result of their approach to God and each other was factionalism, division, and strife. Paul wrote to help resolve the problems God’s way for His glory and the good of the congregation and individual believers.

Paul’s teaching in regard to the resurrection was to help the congregation properly respond to God and to each other in the midst of their problems. Their problem-filled world was a result of bad theology. They had a wrong view of God and His providence, Christ, self, and others. The truth of a resurrected Christ was one key in helping them get victory. It remains the same for believers and churches throughout the ages.

What follows are several thoughts (five over the next several blogs) regarding the importance of the resurrection. These thoughts are pump primers to help every believer focus on the magnificent and monumental significance and blessings of a resurrected Savior. Christianity is a religion of exclusives: a Triune God who saves His people by becoming one of them; a crucified Savior who lived and died unlike the King He was; a resurrected Savior Who returned to the Father the people He purchased; and the presence of the Holy Spirit in believers and His church. There is no other religion like Christianity.  Easter highlights these facts. See what you think.

First, consider the gospel. Without the resurrection there is no gospel. Paul began the chapter 15 with the words:  I want to remind you of the gospel which I preached to you, which you received, and on which you have taken your stand (15:1).  Apparently, the congregation had made an about-face (see 1 Cor. 1:10-17 for an outline of the problem). The congregation was changing. Previously, the people had addressed problems selfishly. Now they were beginning to examine themselves first and then move out to the problem and to others (Matt. 7:1-6). Relational issues were being addressed. They began to think vertically (Godward) in order to solve problems. They came to realize that their relationship with God was through Christ by the Holy Spirit. As a result they were able to move horizontally – toward each other – in a God-honoring way.

Paul knew that Christ was both a crucified and resurrected Savior. He is the living God and the God of the living (Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:29-32; Acts 7:52). However, death, physical and spiritual, was and is a reality. Then what? Paul encouraged the congregation by teaching the reality of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the reality of the bodily resurrection of believers, the movement into God’s presence by union with Christ, and the fact that resurrection life starts now (Rom. 6:9-10 1 Cor. 15:54-57). His teaching was to serve as a catalyst for them to continue to solve problems God’s way as they grew in Christlikeness.

In verses 3-4, Paul wrote that the gospel was more than a crucified, dead Savior. Other men had died via crucifixion and they were buried. But the Corinthians’ Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was a resurrected Savior who did all things well according to Scripture: He died for believers as their Substitute, was buried, was raised, and appeared post-resurrection before He ascended. A resurrected Christ made all the difference to Paul. Paul emphasized that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were linked and were accomplished according to Scripture. They occurred on God’s timetable.

The resurrection points to the good, powerful, and purposeful God. It affirms that the Father accepted Jesus as the true Sacrifice, the ransom price God required and deserved (Rom. 4:25). The debt was paid in full (Rom. 8:1). The penalty God demanded as a Just judge had been made (Rom. 3:21-26). Christ died for sins (its penalty), to sin (its power), and for undeserving sinners. The resurrection was and is God’s well done good and faithful Servant to the Son for us. It is an acknowledgement of the truthfulness of Father’s words in Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 and of Jesus’ words in John 19:30. Christ’s work was finished as the perfect Sacrifice but Christ’s resurrection initiated the believer’s resurrection life which began at regeneration and continues as the believer grows in Christlikeness (Rom. 6:9-11; 1 John 3:1-3).

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the resurrection and what significance does it have in your life?
  2. Read Chapter 15 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and write down at least five truths that grip you.
  3. The supernatural and miracles is a major feature of Christianity. How do you bring together reason and faith when you consider Christianity?

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part B

The Second Truth: Redemption Accomplished and Applied

 

In this blog I continue to spell out truths regarding the resurrection. In the previous blog, I began with the gospel as given in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The resurrection is an integral part of the gospel and God’s redemptive story. The resurrection is a testimony to God’s trustworthiness and His supernatural divine power and purpose. Those facts help highlight the beauty and magnificence of a resurrected Christ. Without a resurrected Savior, the believer has no savior. Without redemption there will no redemption applied. The work of Christ and the work of the Spirit are linked and coessential. There is no redemption without a crucified and risen Savior. There is no redemption without the work of the Holy Spirit.

Once redemption is accomplished through Christ’s perfect life and death, there is also redemption applied through the Holy Spirit. The term redemption accomplished refers to Christ’s atoning work before and on the cross. Redemption applied speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers so that what Christ has accomplished as the Messiah becomes a reality to and in the believer.

Resurrection life begins the moment of regeneration. At regeneration, the Holy Spirit implants a new principle of life within the believer (John 3:3-8). The believer is joined to Christ. That union, bought with the blood of Christ, is unbreakable and effective through the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result of the union, the believer is in Christ and only then shares in the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work. Union with Christ is the vehicle by which Christ’s saving works become a reality in an individual believer. Union points to the necessity of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Union with Christ is effectively produced by the Holy Spirit as He indwells the believer. Every spiritual blessing which believers receive flows out of Christ and is due to union with Christ by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:3-14).

One spiritual blessing is resurrection life. The believer has been raised with Christ (Rom. 6:5-10). Therefore resurrection life begins now. It does not await heaven although its fullness does.  Post-regeneration, the Holy Spirit makes the benefits of salvation alive in the now-believer through union with Christ and the Spirit’s indwelling. The blessings and benefits include: a. justification: The believer has been declared right before God such that there is no condemnation for those in Christ’s Jesus (Rom. 8:1); b. adoption: The believer has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the family and kingdom of God and is given all the privileges and duties that belong to God’s children (Col. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5); c. sanctification: the believer has positional holiness before God as a saint and will grow in progressive holiness he grows in Christlikeness (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15); d. and glorification: this awaits the fullness of being in God’s presence (Rom. 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3). For the believer, there is excitement in this life as he anticipates the fullness of his union with Christ.

Christ’s resurrection means that Christ lived, died, and was buried. Consider these resurrection truths: 1. Jesus ascended into heaven as the exalted Lord of lords and Kings of kings; 2. He is in session interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). He continues the priestly function for His people; 3. He is awaiting the Triune God’s fullness of time when He will return to judge the universe and receive what is rightfully His (Phil. 2:9-11). In this way the Triune God will be fully glorified.

Christ’s return will verify and testify before the entire universe that God is trustworthy. God plans and He brings to pass what He plans. He planned for a people to be in His presence eternally. Christ’s return will usher in the new heavens and new earth which is pictured in Revelation 21-22. One reality of the magnificence of redemptive history is progressive movement from creation, to redemption, to the second coming, and to the new heavens and earth. All of these facts far surpass human comprehension and are revealed in Scripture. The second coming of Christ will be the concluding, consummating event in all redemptive history and the fulfillment of the promise to Adam and Eve given in Genesis 3:15 but ordained in eternity past (John 6:37-43). By definition, the believer is enamored by God’s covenantal faithfulness. Therefore he looks forward to what God has in store for himself, fellow believers, and the Church. He prays with a joyful heart: O Lord God, please come quickly.

Resurrection life begins now – the moment after regeneration. One result for the believer is given in Philippians 3:12-14. Paul looked forward as he lived in the now and the already. The now propelled him to live with one foot in heaven and one foot on this earth. He enjoyed earth in spite of his hardships because he looked forward to heaven (Heb. 12:1-3). Resurrection life is a reality and a blessing for every believer. The believer has the privilege of living as one saved and as one resurrected because he is (Rom. 6:5-10).

 

Application:

  1. Explain redemption accomplished. What was accomplished?
  2. Explain the role and work of Christ in redemption accomplished?
  3. Explain resurrection life as given in Romans 6:5-10 and its significance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part C

The Second Truth Continued, Already-Not Yet

 

Yet, Christ has not returned. Therefore believers must live with the reality that Christ’s return is an already but not yet state. Many grow weary and wonder how they can “put up” with God’s providence. They may be experiencing any number of troubles. They picture the now as a burden and the already as to esoteric.

The already refers to the fact that Christ purchased resurrection for the believer. His death meant life for His people, individually and corporately. His resurrection meant life for His people which began at salvation. Union with Christ means that what Christ has gained for himself is the believer’s and where Christ is so is the believer (Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The believer is something in Christ but those outside of Christ are in serious trouble (1 Cor. 1:30).

Resurrection life on this earth means that the believer is perfected in principle but not in practice. Not yet means that there is more to come, but it only gets better! The believer awaits the full consummation of the identity and majesty of the Triune God as well as his status as a perfected saint. He is not yet, but he is moving toward the not yet which heaven is. On earth, he is enjoying the move even though feelings and others may say otherwise.

Glorification began at regeneration but it is not complete on earth. The not yet means that the believer is not consummated to be all he can and will be in Christ. Perfection awaits heaven. There are some theologians who believe that saints in heaven will grow in their perfected state.

Contemplate the picture of the gospel and redemption. Redemption was accomplished through the active obedience of Christ – His perfect lawkeeping. The Law is a manifestation of the will of God and demands perfection – perfect lawkeeping. Without it a perfect death would be useless. God’s wrath demanded perfection on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. Christ the perfect Lamb of God lived a perfect life and died a perfect death. The penalty was paid in full. The wrath of God was propitiated. The perfect payment for the penalty of sin was achieved at the cross. Further, a crucified and buried Savior only is not a savior. Rather, Jesus is the resurrected, ascended, and interceding Savior. Jesus accomplished salvation according to Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Redemption applied is via the work of the Holy Spirit who united the believer to Christ and Christ to the believer. This, too, is supernatural, eternal, and occurred at a point in time for the believer (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64; Eph. 1:4). The benefits of that union include not only regeneration but justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification as discussed above. The gospel as given in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 summarized the truths of redemption with an emphasis on the fulfillment of Scripture and a resurrected Christ. Each of the above doctrinal truths is for the pleasure and use of the believer as he experiences resurrection life and growth in Christlikeness. The believer knows the beginning and the end. This knowledge applied enables him to be of earthly good.

Believers are to remember that because Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Savior, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). The condemnation and guilt due the now-believer is no more. Jesus went to hell on the cross in his place. Jesus was considered and treated as an undeserving sinner by God (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

Redemption accomplished and applied focuses on and magnifies the greatness and glory of the Triune God. They proclaim the truth that God is the Being who must be considered and that sin and hell are big deals. It is a matter of life and death and one’s eternal destiny. They are monumental realities. There is a destiny for every person. In this context, the Son was resurrected. The resurrection is God’s testimony that the Triune God’s wrath has been satisfied completely. God condemned the believer in Christ. Jesus, as the believer’s substitute, took his place. The now-believer is free from hell, guilt, condemnation, the penalty and the power of sin. He is freed from self to serve the living God. He is now equipped and motivated to please God.

In a real sense, there is no longer a mark of death on the believer. The bounty that was on the head of the now-believer has been paid by Christ in a supernatural transaction. Christ took the death penalty demanded by God and the Law. The now-believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit as further testimony to resurrection life (2 Cor.1:5; 5:5; Eph. 1:13; Rev. 7:2-3).

Moreover, the believer’s justification (right standing before God) is made secure in Christ’s resurrection (Rom. 4:25). He has a right standing before the just Judge of the entire world. God considers him not guilty because He judged Christ in the believer’s place, as his substitute. Therefore setting up one’s own standard (lawmaking) to keep in one’s own strength (lawkeeping) is competing with God. It denies the reality of the perfect Messiah. Doing and thinking things to earn and gain status is actually an attempt to indebt God to the person. These are an affront to God. Trying to do what Christ has done is sheer folly and futility. Christ’s resurrection confirms the utter sinfulness of man and the greatness of God.

 

Application:

  1. Explain the now/already and the not yet. What is their significance?
  2. Explain redemption applied.
  3. What is the role and work of the Holy Spirit in redemption applied?

 

 

The Resurrection: Christ’s and the Believers: Part D

Third, Fourth and Fifth Truths

 

A third truth to consider is the fact Christ’s first coming ushered in the new age, the new creation and the already. With Christ’s coming, believers are new creatures in Christ in a new creation. They are partakers of resurrection life (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:9-10). Union with Christ unites believers to Christ. The believer has a personal relationship with Christ by the Holy Spirit. What Christ has done and where Christ is, the believer is representatively and functionally. The believer is to function as a child of the King and Father with Christ as his brother.

Only the believer can and does enjoy the fruits of Christ’s labors. Union with Christ is an unbreakable union. Growth in Christlikeness is being realized in the life of every believer. This growth fulfills God’s original design for believers (Ephesians 1:4). Growth in Christlikeness is a foretaste of heaven on earth through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A fourth truth is the obvious fact that there is a resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Everyone has a destiny. There is life to come in heaven or hell. All people will reside in one place or the other. Paul wrote that those who hope in Christ only for this life are to be pitied (v.19). There is more to come at death. For the believer it is the presence of God. For the unbeliever it is the reality of continued misery, anguish, and utter failure which cannot be denied. Don’t misunderstand Paul. Hope in Christ is fundamental for this life as well as the life to come. That was one of Paul’s messages in Philippians 1:21. To live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul’s words indicate that either in life or death, he was an is a winner in Christ. Those are staggering words. Feel their weight. Paul knew that he was living a resurrection life. He looked forward to heaven as he rejoiced in the journey.

The fifth truth to consider is the fact that the removal of the curse of sin on the body is not complete in this life. Salvation does not usher in a new body for the believer. Certainly the proper application of biblical principles in all areas of life leads to good stewardship of the whole person (thoughts, desires, and actions) including the body.  Good stewardship often leads to improved physical well-being. But a child of God is not guaranteed a healthy body in this life.

He is promised a completely new body, a glorified one in heaven (1 Cor. 15:35-49; Phil. 3:20-21). Good physical health is not promised by God nor is it a redemptive right on the earth. However, good stewardship is a fruit of godly living.  God expects his people to return their body to Him as a fragrant sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:2).

What is promised the believer is the capacity and desire to use and care for his body as a means of pleasing God. Using bodily problems for growth in Christ is a fundamental aspect of Christina living (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:9).  Moreover, believers are to eagerly anticipate the reality of a transformed, glorious, resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:35-49). This picture helps believers to think eternally and vertically. Being spiritually-minded helps them to be of the utmost earthly good (Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3; Heb. 12:1-3).

 

Application:

  1. Continue to reread 1 Corinthians 15 and record five different truths that griped you.
  2. What significance has the resurrection in your life now?
  3. How will you rethink Easter given the truths of the resurrection?
  4. Define resurrection life (Rom. 6:9-11). It begins now. What does it look like in you?

 

 

Resurrection: Part E

Application by way of A Story

 

For some, death is a distant subject. Their approach is “out of sight, out of mind.”  However, the reality of life in a fallen world makes death a reality. People die. It is a fact of living in God’s world. Sometimes those with failing bodies claim they would prefer death. Sin, misery, and death are linked and are ever present (Rom. 5:12-14).

Many times people – both patients and non-patients – have initially presented with complaints of aches and pains and the desire, even the demand, for them to be gone. They want, even demand, relief. For non-Christians and even Christians, it makes sense to approach the body in that way. Often people as described in the above paragraph live by a creed that resembles the following in some form: I have a life to live, people to help, things to do, and no time for this kind of body. It seems reasonable to demand and pursue relief or something comparable. Sometimes that comparable something is the desire and demand of the person to be heard and understood.

For the Christian the truth of a failing body is reality that must be understood in light of the redemptive story.  The Christian and only the Christian has a choice. If his body is failing some may call it a dilemma. The believer’s choice is one of pleasing God or pleasing self with the body that God has given him whether it is defective or not.  Only the Christian is truly confronted with the choice of sinfulness by grumbling and complaining in contrast to the call for contentment and thankfulness in all situations (Phil. 2:14-17; 1 Thess. 5:16-18; Rom. 8:28-29). What is a believer to do?

Theology, knowledge, wisdom, and fear of the Lord trump feelings, demands, and seemingly impossible “odds.” Stay with me as I elaborate by way of a story.  One person who complained of pain and his body told me he understood that he was complaining against God. This was not his initial reaction. He reached the conclusion after he and I had spent time listening, evaluating, and bringing truth to bear on him and his problem. He said he understood that God was in control and that he did not like that control. He did not like his body and the fact that he hurt. Seemingly, his confession was a major breakthrough. I thought we may be able to move on to greater victory.

Victory had not been a friendly or familiar term for him. I wondered if it would be now. He complained of pain and a “bad body” but his complaint (and maybe yours) could have been about spouse, boss, parents, child, etc. He told me he was convinced that he was actually complaining against God. However, he did not acknowledge God’s control according to Roman 8:28-29.  He felt and envisioned only trouble and not relief. He knew he was not a happy camper. Importantly and tragically, he did not think that his approach to God, to himself, to his body, and to others had any connection with his complaints.

In retrospect, he did not repent. He had not learned the lesson that Job did when faced the living God (Job 38-42). Eventually Job repented (42:2-6). The cross drives the believer to his knees and the resurrection drives him off of them. The resurrection puts Christ life and death in prospective and helps the believer focus on the new life in Christ now. Christ’s new life is now and forever for him and it is the believer’s now to be finalized at the second coming.

The man told me he realized that he was “on God’s case.” He articulated his complaint: God had given him the body that he had. Seemingly, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty. He had sought relief from any number sources in an effort to get relief and none had been productive. He was stuck with his body, his complaints, and a God who would not give him relief. The relief that he wanted and thought he deserved had not come. To him, God had let him down. He was on the merry-go-round, even the rat race, of relief. Apparently, he thought that God owed him better care than God gave His Son.

 

Application:

  1. How does our man view God?
  2. What is salvation to him?
  3. What is his driving goal and how does fit with Romans 8:28-29?
  4. What comfort can you offer him (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 8-10)?

 

Resurrection: Part F

Conclusions and Further Application

 

I began the story of a man who sought relief from pain and a body he did like or want. He had agreed that he was grumbling and complaining against God being the unhappy camper that he was. He understood but in retrospect did not repent (Phil. 2:14-17).  He did not agree that he wanted better treatment than God gave Jesus. But he did say that the cross was Jesus’ job. God was supposed to heal people  (Matt 8:17; Isa, 53:3-6).

He also told me that he understood another truth. Heaven was a wonderful place mostly because he would have a completely different body. We had looked at portions of 1 Corinthians 15. After doing so, he said he was on the horns of dilemma: he couldn’t complain against God and heaven would “cure him of his bad body.” In response to these realities, he told me that he was unable and unwilling to live with the body he had. The expectation of heaven and the reality of resurrection life were not helpful. His dilemma now was summarized as: how could he live – go on – with the body that he had. He did not seem fazed that he was a grumbler and complainer against God. The seriousness of his activity was never articulated. For him, his situation was so terrible and was unbearable. He thought he was at a theological standstill. Relief was important than pleasing God. The contentment and satisfaction that comes from pleasing God and thereby imitating Christ was even a consideration. His only standard for a good life was the subjectivity of better feelings.

He had set himself up for failure. Life was viewed only through one set of glasses: no body problems as he described it. Better feelings were his only grid and lens to view himself, God, and God’s providence.  He thought he could sit in judgment on God. The creature had turned on the Creator. In his case the more he wanted, even demanded, relief, the less it came and the more complaints he had.

How does the beauty of resurrection life now fit this person or any believer in a similar situation?  How did it fit Christ as the God-man?  The man did not learn one of the lessons of the cross which was death for life. The new life that he had in Christ was resurrection life. He had been set free from the tyranny of self-pleasing but he rejected that release. He remained in bondage to himself. For him, the new life meant no body problems and especially no pain or heartaches. Apparently, he wanted heaven – the good life – without the cross. He wanted heaven now. For him, the joys of heaven were expressed as no body problems now.

Sadly, he did not acknowledge that he had the better life in Christ. He did not connect godly living with the goal to please God as victory. Resurrection life is a gift beginning at salvation. Because Christ died and rose, the believer lives and rose. Resurrection life means a new orientation and a new mindset. It means viewing his providence from God’s perspective. It means using the unpleasantness of life as God’s tool to be more like Jesus Christ. That is one of the lessons of the cross. Christ made it His priority to please His Father so He would gain for the Triune God a people for himself and his own former glory (John 6:37-43; Heb. 12:1-3).

While on earth the church and individual believers are to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps. Becoming God-pleasers in thought, desire, and action is the essence of progressive sanctification.  It is one of the greatest activities the believer is to be engaged. It is a foretaste of heaven.  The man never took this truth seriously. He lived for the now, the physical, and the material. He lived the lie. He lived as a loser. In effect, he denied God’s design from eternity past. Using irritations and hard times did not fit his idea of godliness.

Perhaps this man was not a believer. He said he was. Perhaps he was one of those who little faith in God and His grace. Perhaps he considered the cost of pleasing God too high. The fact remained: the reality of resurrection life frees the believer from what ifs, why me, I must have, and I deserve. By focusing eternally and heavenward, the believer lives as a victor. Relief must be spelled God’s way and it will come. That takes effort that focuses on pleasing God and not relief. When that happens, the believer will come to realize that pleasing God in all situations brings its own rewards now and eternally.

 

Application

  1. Whatever your situations or situations study through Romans 8:28-29 and write five truths that affect you now.
  2. How have you been a good steward given you situation?
  3. How have you responded to God’s answer: no or wait?

4. What is your view of God and self and how should they be changed?

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment: The Road to the Cross

 

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment, Part A

The Road to the Cross

 

Satisfaction is an interesting term. It conveys contentment and pleasure that occurs after someone completes a task that often may require effort, skill, and or endurance. Some people may describe the term satisfaction as feelings of happiness based on what they did and accomplished or based on what someone else did for them. The Bible teaches that satisfaction and its fellow followers – pleasure and contentment – is the result of completing a task that pleases God. In the Old and New Testaments, it carries the idea of being filled up (Ps. 103:5, 13; 107:9; 147:14; Matt. 5:6; 14:20; 15:37; Luke 6:21). Those who have the proper appetite and have the proper menu will be satisfied. Only believers have the proper menu. Sometimes they desire something else other than what God wants and pleases Him.

Jesus had the proper appetite and menu. Not only that, He had the proper attitude.  John 17:4 (I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do) is part of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. The night before His death, Jesus stepped away from the apostles to commune with the Father. The prayer is usually divided into three parts: He prayed for Himself (v.1-5), for the disciples (v.6-19), and for believers (v.20-26).

Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51; 12:49; 13:32), the place where He would ultimately confront the religious leaders and the ethnic nation of Israel. He was bringing to an end the old creation and the old way of existence. He instituted the new creation by opening the age of the Kingdom of God which was marked by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In this Garden of Gethsemane prayer, Christ presented the gospel in a personal and visible form. He was both the holy, harmless, undefiled Lamb of God who was condemned and sacrificed in Jerusalem and He was the scapegoat who was crucified outside of Jerusalem (Leviticus 16).

The Father had given Jesus a work to do and He joyfully accepted it (John 6:37-43; 17:4). In eternity past, the Triune God willed that the Father gifted Jesus with His people, that Jesus would purchase God’s people by His perfect life and death, and that the Son would receive the Father’s gift. Throughout his gospel, John wrote that Jesus came to do His Father’s will. John 4:31-34 is one such place. Jesus enjoyed pleasing the Father. Pleasing the Father was not simply duty and obedience for Christ (Ps. 40:6-8). John 4:31-34 tells us that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was nourished in His whole person to please His Father which carried its own comfort and strength. The more Jesus pleased the Father the more He enjoyed it. At the well, the disciples thought in physical terms. This was a typical of thinking pattern for them which would soon change (se John 20 and Acts 2). Jesus knew and the body was designed for the intake of food. Generally, food for the body produces satisfaction. Jesus would not deny that fact. However, Jesus focused his disciples on something of far greater substance. He did not denigrate the satisfaction that occurs when the body is fed and watered. Rather He built on the well-known pleasure that comes from the physical. He moved passed the physical and elevated pleasing God to the highest level of satisfaction and contentment. Jesus drew courage, endurance, and wisdom from His relationship with the Father and as He pleased the Father (John 13:17; James 1:25). Pleasing the Father was based on the Son’s relationship to the Father and vice versa.

Application:

  1. How does John define satisfaction? See John 4:31-34
  2. The apostles may or may not have heard Jesus’ prayer. If they did, what do you think was their response?
  3. Satisfaction is relational. Explain.

 

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment, Part B

The Cross and Beyond

 

In John 17:4 Jesus used the past tense as He prayed to the Father. Jesus interpreted the cross as having already occurred when He prayed that He had completed the work that was given to Him. In His prayer, Jesus looked forward as if the task had already been done. Such confidence! On the cross, Jesus looked back to the Garden of Gethsemane and then proclaimed: It is finished (John 19:30). What Jesus had said was done in John 17:4 was now a reality. The initial culmination of the eternal plan of redemption was now done. Jesus looked ahead as well as backwards. The physical act of crucifixion and death were completed at that time. Pleasing the Father was Jesus’ prime motivation. Christ kept His word as the Father kept His promise in Christ by the Holy Spirit (John 6:37-43; 2 Cor.1:20-22).

Jesus had been given a great work AND Jesus completed that work. Jesus was not disappointed. He was genuinely satisfied. So was the Father. In Romans 8:33-34, Paul emphasized that both God and the Son were satisfied. As a result, no charge or condemnation will be brought against any believer at any time. Moreover, in Romans 4:24-25, Paul declared that by the resurrection the Father was completely satisfied so that the indebtedness of God’s people had been paid in full.

What is your response to Christ’s completed work AND to His satisfaction for a job well done as expressed in John 19:30? What is your response to the Father’s satisfaction? If Christ’s atoning work is finished and accepted by the Father, then trusting Christ and His law-keeping seems most logical and God-pleasing. What folly and arrogance a person displays when he depends on his own lawmaking and lawkeeping rather than Christ’s.

Most people don’t think in terms of their own lawmaking and lawkeeping. By those terms I mean the person’s actively setting up checkpoints for him and others in order to gain something. Matthew 6 is a description of the Pharisees’ lawmaking and lawkeeping. Giving, prayer, and fasting were high on the list of their “religious activities.” Jesus reversed their manner and motivation for these lawkeeping activities. Others live by I want and I deserve. Their goal is to get. Others kept track of what they do for others as a point of honor. Others seek approval, power, position, possessions, and performance again to get. Lastly, some may think one more, one more sermon, one more nice word, or one more delivery to a sick friend earns them something. Good works flow from a relationship but they don’t make the relationship.

The issue of control is paramount. You can live the lie that this is your world made by you and purchased by you. Satisfaction will never come, only bondage. You can live out of the truth that this is God’s world and the believer is God’s child bought with a price that was accepted by God. There are no strings attached. The now-believer so deep in debt and previously as an unbeliever without the will, desire, or ability to pay has had his debt paid in full. John 19:30 is Jesus’ testimony that pleasing God was His goal and motivation. He was pleased. So should every believer.

If you are a believer, stop and focus on the truth that you had a debt of infinite degree without the desire, capacity, ability, or resources to repay it (Matt. 18:21-35). How do you respond? Many deny the truth of their indebtedness and bondage. Such was the case with the first servant as recorded in Matthew 18. His is one example of much spiritual blindness! Also look at Luke 18:9-14 and Jesus’ conclusion regarding the Pharisee and the tax collector. Paul had set up unbiblical checkpoints and his desire to keep them drove him to persecute and kill (Phil. 3:3-6).

Then turning point in human history is summarized in Jesus’ statement: it is finished. Those words are music in the ears of the believer. God in Christ saw fit to pay the debt for every believer. To the degree that the believer acknowledges his debtor-status is the degree that the believer rejoices with the Triune God for a job that was well done. The believer depends on Christ’s lawkeeping rather than his own. He rids himself of unbiblical check points. As a result the believer follows Christ setting his face toward heaven. He runs the race as Jesus did: with a proper vertical reference and an eternal perspective (Heb. 12:1-3; Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The believer is a victor but only in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

 

Application:

  1. Mediate on the finished work of Christ: what do you learn about the Trinity, about Christ in His humiliation and His exaltation, and about yourself?
  2. Jesus worked the work that the Father had given Him: your work as a believer is to grow in Christlikeness. How are you doing? Give reasons for your answer.
  3. Consider your own unbiblical checkpoints. Make a list an replace with pleasing God which every believer can and will do. Regard on life is simplified.

 

 

John 5:1-15: Jesus’ Miracle at Bethesda

John 5:1-15: Jesus’ Miracle at Bethesda

 

The Triune God was at work revealing Himself in the Son by the Holy Spirit. Jesus revealed himself was as Healer and Savior. He was God’s agent on earth. He was appointed and anointed to be God’s Messiah through the Holy Spirit who indwelt and empowered Him (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 48:16; 61:1). Salvation was an Intratrinitarian activity.            Jesus came to His own creation and His own people. His mission was to save His own, His people, the Father’s gift to the Son (John 6:37-43). As the Godman, Jesus was God’s Messiah. As God, Jesus and the Father were one (John 10:30). They were in perfect synchrony in terms of function and results. Jesus was discipled by the Father and entirely dependent on Him through the work of the Spirit (John 4:31-34; 5:19, 30 to mention a few references). Jesus told Phillip, and the world, that when you saw Him you have seen the Father (John 14:6-9). Jesus revealed and explained the Father (John 1:14, 18). The Holy Spirit, another Counselor/Paraclete just like Christ, would come and reveal in a completely different way the Son and would lead the apostles into all truth (John 14:15-17; 15:26-27; 16:13-14).

Jesus proclaimed a simple but supernatural, counterintuitive, and countercultural message, unbelievable to the natural man: repent the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 4:17). Therefore to promote faith and trust, He revealed Himself supernaturally both by what He did (words and works) and what the Spirit did in the heart of His people.

The deity of Christ was attested to by His miracles. One purpose of miracles was to declare the presence and glory of God. John 5:1-15 records Jesus’ encounter with the man healed at the pool of Bethesda. The man who was an invalid for 38 years came regularly to the pool with great hope (v.5). Apparently, the moving water was the vehicle by which healing was offered (v.3-4). In verse 6 Jesus asked the man if he wanted healing – to be made well (the word in the original is the English word for hygiene). The man had been waiting and waiting. Jesus questioned the man as to his real understanding and desire – do you want to be made well? The man had accepted the false, current, superstitious teaching of the day – there was angelic, supernatural healing in the water (v.3-4). Following this reasoning, the man offered an explanation (perhaps an excuse) for his non-healing – no one would put him in the water (v.7). Jesus bypassed the pool and goes directly to Himself. He gave a command – get up (v.8). Instantaneously, the man did and was well (v.9). Jesus did not need a pool of water! The blessing came as the ma obeyed (John 13:17; James 1:25).

What an amazing story. The man had no power of his own to stand. He brought a mindset and faith to the pool. He did have faith – before, during, and after his encounter with Jesus. Every person is a faith-based being by God’s design. Radically, Jesus turned him and his thoughts and desires upside down. The man had faith but its content and object was not Christ. The man had been wrongly informed but acted on it.

What do we learn about Jesus and ourselves? John used a physical metaphor to explain spiritual truths.

  • From Isaiah 55:7-10, we learn at least one truth: God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. By questioning the man, Jesus directed him to bring his thoughts, desires, and actions in line with God’s. Jesus was presenting this man with a dilemma: trust in Jesus, or self and the culture’s wisdom.
  • Jesus healed the man physically (v.9) and spiritually (v.14). Jesus linked the two. Man is a whole person, a duplex being, an inner and outer man. Therefore, thoughts, desires, and actions occur in both the inner and outer man. Man changes as a whole person both at salvation and as he grows as a saint. The believer was to bring his thoughts and desires in line with God’s as expressed in the Bible. Godly actions would follow. The change first occurs in the heart and extends throughout the whole person including the body. There is a change in the whole person as the person moves from a self-pleaser to a God-pleaser.
  • Jesus healed completely but there was work to be done (v.14). The man was to grow in godliness best characterized as becoming more like Christ. Jesus directed the man to progressive sanctification here defined as stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. Jesus commanded him, both as duty and a blessing, to change his worldview/mindset. As thoughts and desires changed, godly actions would follow.
  • The man had an encounter with Jesus and was not the same. Jesus beckons people to come and taste Him – intimacy and fellowship with Jesus (Ps. 34:8; Matt. 11:28-30). David touted God as the One who deserved undivided loyalty and affection. The believer is called to invest himself and his time and energy in the Triune God. That requires a grace-produced changed view of self and God.

 

Application:

  1. How are you like the paralyzed man?
  2. What is your worldview/mindset and what is its origin?
  3. How do you approach Christ? Is it simply to get?
  4. What have you learned in terms of relationships?
  5. What may be missing from your relationship with Christ?
  6. What are plans to taste and see that God is good?

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I-IX

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I:

Meaning of Come and the Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

How do Jesus’ words strike you?  Are they simply another invitation? What significance do they have for Jesus’ audience, for you, and for others? To answer these questions, we must have an idea of the meaning of the word come.  Moreover, we must know the Speaker, why He spoke, and His audience.

The word (deuro) used here in Matthew 11 is also used by Jesus in Matthew 4:19 and 19:21 and by the master in Matthew 22:3-4. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus called to Peter and Andrew to come and they came. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus made the same call to the rich young ruler who rejected it. Jesus’ call is not simply a call to enter into the kingdom of God. It is also a call to enter into Jesus’ school of discipleship. The call is to and for salvation and for growth in holiness as one saved. The term carries the idea of here, hither to this place. It is used only for a calling or an invitation and for encouragement to heed the call. Movement and a decision for that movement from one place or time are involved.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus is the Caller or Inviter. There was urgency, necessity, and compassion in Jesus’ words. Jesus knew it was a matter of life and death, now and eternally.

The context of Matthew 11:28-30 help us answer the opening questions. Matthew 11:28-30 is preceded by two major sections with two basic concepts. The first is recorded in 11:20-24. Jesus denounced the unrepentant people in the cities of Korazim and Bethsaida, cities in Israel where most of His miracles had been performed. As a result the people had witnessed His power, authority, and loving concern but they rejected Him. He pronounced a woe on those cities. The people had seen with their physical eyes and heard with their physical ears but not heard spiritually – with their hearts. They did not believe. Jesus delivered a telling accusation: if He had demonstrated Himself to the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon as He had to Israel, those two cities would not have been destroyed. What a stinging rebuke to a self-righteous people! Jesus claimed that He saves Gentiles and their repentance is accepted by Him. The bulk of Israel thought that they did not need Christ, the Gentiles, and Christ’s way – repentance. The call to repent was the way to come to Christ. Israel rejected the Way and the way (repentance) of and to the Way!

Jesus was speaking to the covenant community – Israel (Matt. 11:1). Both the lost and the remnant were present in the audience (see John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:36). Jesus knew Israel’s history. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel professed (Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 512-53). As a whole, the nation was a rebellious, idolatrous, prophet-killing people following in the footsteps of their forefathers. Yet through the ages Israel had denied this pattern. Israel had failed to repent despite the voices of the prophets throughout the ages; the ministry of John the Baptist, the penultimate prophet; and the presence of Jesus, the ultimate Prophet and the miracles He performed among them (Matt. 11:7-19, 20-24). The response to John and Jesus was characteristic of Israel’s patterned disdain for God’s voice through the prophets.  Jesus condemned Israel; Israel had not changed.

The spiritual leaders had rightly understood the horrors of the exile. But they denied the nation’s history and role in bringing God’s rightful judgment. They wanted God’s blessing and did not want another exile. They knew that God demanded lawkeeping and assumed that lawbreaking – disobedience – led to the exile. In response, they devised their own game plan by becoming their own lawmaker, lawgiver, and lawkeeper. They added rules and regulations to the Law of Moses. Their laws and their interpretation took precedence over God’s law.

They hoped to keep the law in order to avoid another exile. Their goal was to keep out of an exile. They were more interested in no exile than in pleasing God. But it was their law by their power and wisdom. In doing so, they functioned as the ones who “called the shots.” They were competing with God. They established their laws as they fenced God’s law. They functioned as if their laws were more important than God’s and their efforts more important than Christ’s, the true Messiah. Personal lawkeeping designed by the spiritual leaders was the standard of the day. This system with its resultant mindset and lifestyle was the mechanism by which the spiritual leaders ruled the people. It appeals to proud people. Jesus drew the contrast between God’s law and the traditions of men. He condemned the leaders for breaking God’s law, the very law that they claimed they were keeping (Matthew 15; Mark 7). Their lawmaking and lawkeeping became the standard for the people. The people seemingly accepted this way of life (John 9:22; 12:42-43).

 

Application:

  1. 1. What is the significance of Jesus’ call?
  2. What is the background of it?
  3. What was Israel’s history in regard to heeding the words of the prophets?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part II:

The Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

To help understand the significance of Jesus’ calling we must understand the context in which Jesus gave it. We know that Jesus was the Caller, Israel was the audience, and one of Jesus’ purposes was to draw Israel’s attention to their dire circumstances. By dire Jesus meant more than physical enslavement by the Romans. Two concepts preceded the record of the Jesus’ invitation: the need for repentance which was covered in the first blog (Matthew 11:20-24).

The second concept is recorded in Matthew 11:25-27 which was a prayer-conversation between Jesus and the Father. These passages teach the necessity and authority of Scripture. Jesus taught that biblical truth is supernatural in its origin and in its application. God is the Revealer and His Son and Scripture are God’s personal, powerful, and purposeful self-revelation (John 14:6; 17:17). Supernatural truth trumps manmade teaching regarding God, man, his problems and solutions, life on earth, and life after death. God, not the Pharisees, was the source of truth.

Jesus acknowledged that Israel’s response was partially understandable. God had chosen to hide spiritual truth from some, if not most, of them (Matt. 13:13-15). Spiritual things are understood only through the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-68; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). The disciples and the people, both saved and unsaved, did not understand because they were ignorant. They did not have an understanding of salvation and life after salvation because they did not have a proper understanding of self and God. Therefore, they embraced the religion of the spiritual leaders. Or perhaps they were both ignorant and arrogant. Most had had no inside-out change of regeneration. Both groups of people viewed self and God only through the lens of the physical, material, natural, and temporal. They looked for a “physical fix” to a presumed physical problem.

They are several reasons to explain why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders of the day did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. We do know that God had preserved His remnant and they did come. All the people heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as initially proclaimed by John the Baptist and later Jesus (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

Scripture tells us that the majority of Israel did not heed Jesus’ call because they did not believe they needed to come (Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and had their own rest. Most of Israel hadn’t had a spiritual awakening. They were theologically dense and even hardened. As a group and individually, they had physical eyes but they did not see and they had physical ears but did not hear. Their senses were trained for and by self-pleasing and self-worship. Jesus came to His own people but His own did not receive Him (John 1:5-9). For whatever the reasons, the people of Israel as a group were children of darkness and they loved the darkness (John 3:17-21). They accepted the teaching of their spiritual leaders. Consequently, they were on the throne depending on their own lawmaking and lawkeeping. Jesus’ first coming ushered in a more fully defined clash between two world systems and their opposing worldviews. The Israelites had zeal for themselves and their self-made truth but not for Christ. In fact, they had disdain for Him and desired to distance themselves from Him.

In spite of the people and from a desire to please the Father, Jesus offered Himself to His own. What would it take to motivate the people to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and lawkeeping and His covenantal trustworthiness. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from themselves and their sin and sinfulness. Many wanted relief from the Romans. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and law-keeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders. What did they think? What would you think? They crucified the Messiah the only real hope and help!

 

Application:

  1. How do you respond to the offer of a Person by a Person to come to Him?
  2. Who was the offer to?
  3. What was the context of the call to come?

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part III

Jesus the Caller

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

The mantra come to Jesus is a common one especially in the evangelical world. However, the call of Christ to come to Him is more than a gospel call. It focuses not simply on salvation but life after salvation as well. The truth of the matter is no one can come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of this radical change that is done by the Holy Spirit within the person.

Jesus the Caller called the people to come to Him. Their response was a top priority. The response to the call necessitated movement by the people from one position to another. Coming to Jesus means moving from self, from Satan, and from sin. It means moving in faith and trust to Christ.  In John 6:35, John recorded Jesus’s words:  I am the bread of life.  Jesus offered Himself and He described Himself in terms of substance and sustenance. He is and He gives. Jesus promised that whoever comes to Him will never go hungry and whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty (6:35, 51-54). By the use of these metaphors Jesus explained that He is offering Himself which may have reminded the people of David’s words in Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good …,. Jesus explained that the act of coming to Him means believing in and trusting in Him. Jesus knew that everyone is a truster – he trusts in something.

Man was designed by God as a faith-based being.  God is the object of saving faith and self is the object of non-saving faith (Gal. 2:20). Jesus taught that believing and trusting Him and in Him meant that the person would no longer trust in self. Self-righteousness, self-dependency, self-sufficiency, and self-justification would be replaced by a God-wrought righteousness and right standing before God. These legal activities are due to God’s counting Christ’s lawkeeping to the account of the believer. Christ’s righteousness and God’s judicial action based on Christ’s work as messiah is in contrast to a man-generated standing before God on the basis of the keeping of a man-made law.

Throughout the gospels, the call and the invitation come to Jesus focuses on saving faith and its use (faithfulness). Literally, saving faith means to believe into. It has several elements: acknowledgement of certain facts about self and God, acceptance of those facts, and resting upon what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and to the person. Resting means that the person relies on biblical truth as his guide and his explanation for living as a God-pleaser, Further, resting means trusting God rather than self (Proverbs 3:5-8). Trusting is always linked to obedience. Jesus is not speaking only of salvation. As before, His call is not simply evangelistic. He spoke to a mixed audience, saved and unsaved. Jesus focused on both salvation and life after salvation. The people were hurting but were ignorant and arrogant.

At Jesus’ first coming He ushered in a new creation. A new world order and a new mode of existence were established at His first coming. Jesus was the beginning installment and partial fulfillment of that which was promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 11; 35; 40; 41; 43; 49; Jer. 23; 30; 31; Mic. 4; 5; 7; see Matthew 22:1-14).  More was to come!

In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke in relational terms and continues to this day. Jesus asks, and even commands, people to stop, look, and listen. Someone and something else is greater than they are. Jesus spoke about a supernatural awakening. Jesus came to His own but His own did not receive Him because they loved the darkness (John 1:3-5, 9-11; 3:17-21; 7:7). Jesus offered Himself and an insight into the “deeper” things of life. There is nothing deeper than the Triune God, Who He is and how He works.

Jesus knew that these people were heavy burdened. Jesus’ call to come was urgent, merciful, and compassionate. He gave the ultimate contrast: Himself vs. the Pharisees. He contrasted Himself and His teaching with the spiritual leaders and their teaching as the one motivating factor in coming to Him. He was a teacher of God’s truth, meek and humble; the spiritual leaders were teachers of man’s “wisdom,” proud, arrogant, and fault finders. Recognition of this contrast and the futility of self-trust were to be major motivating factors for coming to Him. Sadly, many, if not most, did not get it. Such is true today.

What would it take to motivate the Israelites to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. They must change their view of Messiah. This required regeneration (John 3:3-8). Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. It burdened the people (Matt. 11.28-30). God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and His lawkeeping. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from their self-orientation – their sin and sinfulness. They wanted relief from Rome and a return to a high standing before the world. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and lawkeeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders and their teaching.  Sadly, as a nation, they persisted in their rebellion and they crucified the Messiah! (Acts 2: 23-24; 4:27). They traded a lawbreaker, Barabbas, for the Lawmaker and Lawkeeper. To their shame and misery, they attempted to keep self on the throne.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the phrase come to Me?
  2. How is it possible to come? See John 6:35-45.
  3. Why would anyone not come to Jesus and why would someone come to Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Mathew 11:28-30: Part IV

The Audience and the Yoke

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Throughout the gospels, Jesus preached and taught truth. In Matthew 11, Jesus emphasized a twofold truth: the people (and you) are heavy-burdened and God has answers. The burden of carrying one’s sins, the guilt and the consequences of sin and sinning, weighs a person down. Man was never designed to be his own savior. At creation, God created Adam and Eve dependent beings with only one source of truth and strength – the Triune God. After sin, self took center stage and with it rebellion. As a consequence, personal lawkeeping and self-trust became a way of life. However the burden and cost of personal lawkeeping becomes very great. People try to rid themselves of the burden of self-righteousness and the resultant heavy burden of guilt that accompanies auto-soteriology (self salvation). They ignore their true condition and their impotence. They blame shift or assume a victim mentality. They may increase their works and or they may attempt to medicate it away. Or they change the rules and the laws as the Pharisees did. All of these activities only lead to further bondage which is usually denied by the lawkeepers.

In Israel, the people were in exile. The exile was twofold: physical and spiritual. Israel was under Roman domination, prisoners of Rome, and in bondage. Of major importance was their spiritual exile. They were not in the physical wilderness as were their forefathers, but their hearts, as were the hearts of their forefathers, were far away from God (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:1-4; John 5-8; 1 Cor. 10:1-14).

Jesus highlighted the fact of Israel’s continued ignorance and arrogance in such passages as Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:30-31; 10:10. Jesus did not come to the righteous and healthy but to sinners. Most of Israel did not think they were sinners so they denied that they were sick spiritually. They believed that they did not need a doctor, certainly not one who confronted them about their idolatrous self-pleasing which was manifested as self-trust, self- dependence, and self-sufficiency. Rather, a radical change was needed but as long as reliance on personal lawkeeping was taught and accepted, Jesus, and His lawkeeping, would not be accepted. Israel needed a true Messiah but Israel refused to believe that fact about them and thus they refused to hear the truth about Jesus and His mission.

The people were both myopic and blind. The activity of personal messiahship was and is fostered by sinful teaching so prevalent in Israel then and now throughout the land. The people listened to the spiritual leaders who apparently tickled their ears but laid heavy burdens on them (Matt. 23; John 9:22; 12:42-43). They prided themselves on self-effort and seeming self-gain. The leaders and the majority of the people believed that what they taught and were taught, and what they were doing was good and proper. The teaching – yoke and burden – of personal lawkeeping was done out of sense of pride and the false hope of refuge. It was fostered by sinful teaching about God and self and was alive and prevalent in Israel. The false teaching that man, in his own strength, can make himself acceptable to God was a burden that the people were never intended to bear. Personal lawkeeping per say would not prevent another exile.

Paul, a Jew of Jews, taught that Israel had a real zeal for the law and personal lawkeeping (Rom. 10:1-4). Paul had been under the same mindset (Phil. 3:3-6).  But he learned, practiced, and taught God’s answer. It was not self and personal lawkeeping that was the truth. Rather it is Christ by His lawkeeping alone through faith alone by grace alone through the Holy Spirit that is truth. Paul was entrusted with a ministry of the Word which he gladly accepted (Rom. 1:16-17).

Coming to Jesus requires a proper understanding of self and Jesus. Many people were coming to Jesus, but too often, it was simply to get (John 6:26). Yet, Jesus offered something that was in contrast to the spiritual leaders. He offered Himself. He was not a user of people. He gave a free offer of contentment and satisfaction that Matthew termed rest (11:28-30). A correct view of self forces one to look outside of self and one’s own lawkeeping. However, simply looking outside of self may not supply the answer that gives you rest. Rather, Jesus gives the answer in John 8:31-32: truth sets you free and Jesus is truth (14:6).

The yoke and burden of the Pharisees meant my lawkeeping is in my strength, by my standard, for my benefit, and for my glory. They were own their lawmaker and lawkeeper. They did not need a savior – they had one – themselves. They wanted release from physical bondage and they wanted a God who would bless them. They entertained no personal or corporate spiritual bondage. There was no need for release from spiritual captivity.

Luke 4:18-22 records Jesus’ inaugural public sermon in the synagogue. In it, He included His mission. Israel rejected Jesus’ claim to be the true and only Bondage-Breaker. Consequently the mantra from Israel was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination. In the meantime, they functioned as religious people based on their understanding of truth. Such was the story of the rich young ruler. In contrast, coming to Jesus requires a proper view of God and self. Further, it requires a proper view of Christ and His lawkeeping. In the end, it is resting, trusting, and obeying God simply because God is God.

 

Application:

  1. How about you: do you have an idea of what it means to come to Christ?
  2. Here in Matt. 11:28-30 it means to reexamine your standard for thinking, desiring, and doing what you do and the means of trying to achieve it. Write out some of your checkpoints and your source of them.
  3. Are you heavy burdened? How would you define those terms and what is Christ’s answer? Compare your checkpoints with God’s word and write out what you find.
  4. Please read Ps. 34:8; Isaiah 55:1-3 and compare them with Jesus’ invitation here. What do you learn about Jesus and yourself?

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part V

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Matthew 11:28-30 contains both a warning as well as an invitation. Come, as previously discussed, is movement away from something to something. Jesus knew that the people had excuses/reasons for not coming. Therefore Jesus warned them about the yoke that they ignorantly and arrogantly were wearing or carrying. He invited the people to make an exchange – His yoke for the yoke of the spiritual leaders.

What is this yoke that Jesus spoke about? In the Jewish literature, yoke represented the sum-total of obligations which a person must take upon himself as a result of the teaching and traditions of the rabbis. Yoke, then, is the system of teaching by which a person is to abide by. Later in Matthew, Jesus termed the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees as yeast (16:6, 12).

Jesus was not through with His instructions. He warned the people to be on guard not only for the yoke and the yeast (teaching) of the Pharisees but their hypocrisy. In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus termed the yeast of the Pharisees hypocrisy. In Mark 8:15, Jesus warned the people regarding the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. I suspect by yeast that Jesus indicated their hypocrisy.

In Luke 12:1-2, the phrase be on guard addressed proper thinking about God, self, and the spiritual leaders and their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. Hypocrisy is looking good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble and denied that fact. They reasoned that personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them. They had no reason to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other person, seemingly a typical Jew.

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is habituated and patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring an initial change. John called this the new birth or more accurately the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8). After salvation, dying to self and hypocrisy requires not only saving grace but sanctifying grace as well.

Jesus summarized His meaning of teaching (yoke and yeast) and hypocrisy (yeast) in Matthew 5:17-20. Christ taught that unless a person’s righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Righteousness may refer to a right standing which is earned or that which is inherent in the person. Or the term may refer to right living however defined. Jesus was teaching an important truth: entranced into the Kingdom was top priority. The Pharisees taught that their righteousness – right standing and right of entrance into God’s favor – consisted of their personal lawmaking and their lawkeeping. In their scheme, self-righteousness was measured by and gained through personal lawmaking and lawkeeping.

Some recent theologians have emphasized that Pharisee’s form of religiosity was not so much to earn a place in the covenant community as to maintain it. Personal lawkeeping was needed not so much for membership in the covenant community but to maintain a person’s position and membership in it. In both schemes, the emphasis was on personal lawmaking and lawkeeping. In the religious system of Jesus’ day, the person functioned as his own messiah. Jesus was not needed. In the system of Jesus’ day and those who discuss the so-called New Perspective on Paul, self-righteousness trumped the righteousness of another person including Christ which was credited to another’s account for salvation. Therefore Israel did not need a Savior, certainly not one like Christ. While some people may have appreciated the miracles, the general view of the day was to heck with Christ. They reasoned that they needed another type of messiah – one who would lead them out of physical bondage. They assumed their spiritual condition was healthy.

 

Application:

  1. Define the yoke and yeast of Pharisees. Give the reasons it was/is so pernicious.
  2. Give examples of self-righteousness (see Luke 18:9-14; The Rich Young Ruler; Phil. 3:3-6). Give reasons it is so God-dishonoring.
  3. What was the hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VI

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is a habituated, patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring a change. John calls this the new birth or better the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8).

Paul also took up the yoke of false teaching (see Romans and Galatians).                                                                                                                                                                                                            Abraham had a similar adventure with lawkeeping. In Romans 4:1-3, Paul wrote that Abraham sought truth on the subject of lawkeeping and justification (right standing before God as Judge). Abraham learned that justification by works is unbiblical. It is no match for a saving faith-received justification through grace by faith alone following regeneration (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). In Romans 10:1-5, Paul addressed the subject from another angle. Paul gave a correct view of Israel. Israel had zeal for the law and lawkeeping but this was woefully inadequate and inappropriate. It was not simply a quantitative issue regarding the amount of lawkeeping.  It was far more substantial. Jesus and Paul were touching the heart of the matter- the heart. Israel had such a high view of themselves as lawmakers and lawkeepers that they did not need anyone or anything else. In contrast, Jesus and Paul taught that there must be zeal for God’s lawmaking and zeal for Christ’s lawkeeping rather than for one’s personal lawkeeping.

The call to come to Jesus was and is more than an invitation. It was an exhortation to a people in the throes of bondage. Scripture presents this bondage in a number of ways. In the case of Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus had drawn the contrast between Him and His teaching and that of the spiritual leaders of the day and their teaching. The contrast involved more than simple teaching and doctrine. Jesus contrasted Himself as a Person and Teacher with the spiritual leaders. The people bore a heavy, impossible load.  But both the people and the spiritual leaders were blind and oblivious to their own hardness of heart. Peter drew a similar contrast in 1 Peter 5:1-4. He gives the proper manner for shepherds to shepherd God’s flock.

Christianity is a works religion but the works are not personal lawkeeping as the source of salvation or sanctification. Rather, Christianity focuses on Christ’s lawkeeping of God’s laws and the person dependence on Him and His lawkeeping. Lawkeeping is an expression of one’s salvation. Paul thanked God for His perfect, good law (Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11) and for Christ’s perfect obedience – His perfect lawkeeping (Rom. 3:21-26; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). In the Pharisees’ scheme, self-righteousness trumped Christ’s righteousness. God was not needed to give the law and Christ was not needed to keep the law. They had Moses and what he gave and they had their man-made traditions (John 5:45-47; Matt. 15:1-6; Mark 7:1-5).

Sometimes Christians fall into the same deceptive, God-dishonoring trap when they set up unbiblical checkpoints. One more good work and or one less bad work is hoped to correct the balance-beam so that good outweighs the bad. The truth of the matter is that one sin – the one sin in Adam – so pushes the beam so far down that only divine intervention can change the scales. Therefore no one can or desires to come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a personal choice only as an expression of what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and for the person. Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of the radical change in a person’s heart. In terms of life after salvation, coming to Jesus is an expression of growth in Christ which pleases the Triune God. Growth in personal holiness and Christlikeness is testimony to what one is in Christ – union with Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit. For the believer, personal lawkeeping is not a burden or even a demand, but a blessing and privilege. It is not to earn but to testify and to please God. It is done as a child of the King to God, for God, in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. What is your understanding of salvation and sanctification?
  2. What is your understanding of the Law and lawkeeping?
  3. Articulate the yoke and yeast of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day.

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VII

Reasons for Not Coming and Rest

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

            Come to Jesus can occur only if you have some but proper knowledge of who God is and of yourself. That knowledge is imparted by the Holy Spirit as a gift and blessing. Come to Jesus requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. They are to put on God-pleasing God-dependence. In order for this to occur, people need an inside-out, supernatural and miraculous operation resulting in a new heart. Only the believer has the capacity to think, desire, and act as God-pleaser for His sake and His glory. Throughout His ministry, Jesus presented the what and the how of denying self. He taught and practiced self-denial. For Christ, denying self meant pleasing His Father in lieu of Himself. In his gospel, John reiterates the truth that Jesus the Son of God was discipled by the Father with the goal of pleasing Him (John 4:31-34). That goal motivated Him to the cross and beyond.

A critical question that requires an answer is: why won’t people come? The answer is a matter of life and death, salvation and condemnation. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel knew as a nation. It is critical to remember that Israel of Jesus’ time was following the footsteps of the forefathers (see Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 51-53). Several reasons can be given as to why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders and their religious machine, even juggernaut, did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. The people had heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as proclaimed by John the Baptist. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. In general, the nation as a whole was apostate. However, God’s remnant was present in Israel and they did come.

Scripture tells us that Israel as a nation did not come because very few believed that they needed to come (Matt 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and they rested in self.  Most of Israel had not experienced a spiritual awakening. They were children of darkness and theologically dense. They had physical eyes but they did not see and physical ears but they did not hear. Their senses were trained for self-pleasing and self-worship (Heb. 5:11-14). Jesus had come to His own people, but they did not receive Him – they rejected Him (John 1:5-9).

Jesus described the people as weary and burdened. They were on the treadmill of human effort. They must churn out works and manipulate the rules or be buried in the realization that they can’t measure up. In response to the exile and an earnest desire to avoid that experience, the spiritual leaders changed the standard by establishing their own – the traditions of men. The spiritual leaders had placed on themselves and the people a constant maze of legalistic contortions of keep and do (Matt. 23:4-7; Luke 11:46; 18:9-14). Rule and regulation-keeping functioned as acts of obedience but according to human tradition and human effort. These acts were to outweigh acts of disobedience. Paul followed this same philosophy until he was saved (Phil. 3:3-6).

The spiritual leaders and the people of Jesus’ day were not different from the people of today. So many people practice the balance-beam theory of acceptance before God in salvation and sanctification. The people depend on their own efforts, merits, and achievements to get ahead and to find acceptance. They never do and they never will. But those facts don’t stop their efforts. Jesus knew that!

Jesus is the Knower. He knew the people and their anguish and misery. All believers should draw strength and hope from the fact that Jesus knows and has answers. He described the condition of those that He offered the call and invitation – they were weary and heavy burdened. What was happening to these people? Jesus was not referring to physical problems and physical labor. Jesus was describing a way of life that centered on self for self by self. That way of life was associated with the onerous burden and weight of personal lawkeeping and the constant drive to “measure up.” The people had bought into the false teaching of the Pharisees. Personal effort was mandatory and sufficient to gain and prove a special provision before God. Rather, the law of God was not the problem. The problem was fencing of God’s law in an effort to keep the law for personal gain. The spiritual leaders established their laws in an attempt to keep God’s law in their own strength. The fallacy of constant, perfect or semi-perfect lawkeeping remain today as a symbol of man’s ignorance and arrogance.

Christ makes a promise – the gift of refreshment.  Christ was addressing the sin of self-righteousness with its ignorance and arrogance. Jesus was giving the people a theological lesson.  He was teaching them about Himself and themselves.  Jesus was addressing an age-old problem: how do you get right with God? Some answer by saying there is no God or they are not sure that there is one. So what is the big deal? Others view true religion as doing it yourself. This is a self-righteousness religiosity or moralism. This was introduced in the Garden at the fall.  Many deny their inability choosing instead to believe in themselves. Being on the self-righteous merry-go-round keeps a person stuck on himself and away from God. A proud person steps onto and stays on the merry-go-round of earning self-worth. Pride and ignorance keeps him on it. Grace is God’s gift and ticket off the merry-go-round. This applies for both salvation and sanctification – growth in Christ.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on works? Are they are blessing or a curse? See John 14:15, 21, 23 and 1 John 5:3 to help you answer.
  2. Read Philippians 3:3-6, 7-11: describe how Paul answered the works question.
  3. Read Philippians 2:12-13 and 2 Peter 1:5-10 and write out how they fit into Jesus’ call? What changes do you need to make in your view of the law and law keeping?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VIII

Come

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

Coming to Jesus involves and requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. As I have written, in order for this to occur, people need an inside-out operation resulting in a new heart. The Bible speaks of this as regeneration (John 3:3-8). In Matthew 11, Jesus presented the essence of denying self. Denying self means accepting and applying what He taught which was from above and true. Jesus’ origin was heaven and so, too, was His teaching. Denying His teaching is denying Him. It seemed ludicrous and counterintuitive for people to embrace Jesus and His teaching. The Israelites thought they only needed physical freedom and if Jesus could not obtain it for them, they would remain on the lookout for someone who would. In the meantime, they had themselves. For the people, physical problems and their solutions were keys. They conducted their lives as if the physical trumped the spiritual. The people saw no connection with the physical and the spiritual.

As we have discussed Jesu s warned the people to beware of the leaven/yeast of the Pharisees. This leaven/yeast was both their teaching and hypocrisy: personal lawkeeping of their own law in their own strength for their own benefit. They were their lawmaker and law keeper. There was no spiritual need and consequently the mantra was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination of Rome.

Jesus warned the people to be on guard regarding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1-2). The phrase Be on guard is addressed proper thinking – about self and the spiritual leaders as well as their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble. They denied that fact. Personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them so they reasoned that they did not need to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other Jew. He had no personal pedigree and He was considered a loser.

Hypocrisy involves trying to look good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy is the same as that for false teaching: Himself. He is Truth.  John expressed this in John 8:31-32: the truth will set you free. Jesus’ statement indicates that every person outside for Christ is outside of the truth/Truth and is in bondage.  Israel was following its history of bondage. Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly. Again, it requires a supernatural act of God in the heart at salvation and the believer grows in Christlikeness (John 3:3-8; Phil. 2:12-1`3).

The gospels also warned the people to be aware of the yeast of Herod (Mark 8:15). What was his yeast? Herod Antipas was an evil, fearful person. He had beheaded John the Baptist simply to look good before his friends (Matt. 14:9-10; Mark 6:16). Herod hoped to see Jesus perform (Luke 23:8). He made a connection behind John the Baptist and Jesus but he desired to kill Jesus (Luke 9:7-9; 13:31; 23:8). Herod was guilty and on the run from God as taught in Proverbs. 28:1. Herod lived by a now, material, earthly philosophy – for me, by me, to me, and now. Herod’s leaven was little different from that of the Pharisees. Self and hypocrisy took center stage

Come to Me should have been music in the ears (and hearts) of the people. Believing – saving and sanctifying faith – is a most wonderful thing. It is a gift. It ushers in a true conviction of self as a sinner, sin as rebellion against God, and the beauty and majesty of God in Christ via the Holy Spirit. The work of the Triune God ushers in salvation and continues the believer along the path of growth in Christ. Christ intended those truths to be a blessing then and now.

 

Application:

 

  1. What is your leaven?
  2. What is your response to it?
  3. Compare 1 Peter 5:5-7 with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30: what are the similarities?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part IX

Conclusion

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

In this proportion we read that Jesus issues an invitation. The invitation is for people to come to and unite with Him. He offers Himself and their burden. Their burden was themselves and self-righteousness. Jesus knew His people. By design, He was speaking primarily to Jews. He knew that they had been exposed to a false gospel. They were being taught that salvation and sanctification was for self-righteous people which were the proud, few, and hard-working people.

The spiritual leaders thought they knew the consequence of falling short of God’s law – the exile. So in order to “improve” their chances of keeping His law and avoiding another exile, they introduced hedges or fences that assured themselves that they could keep the law. However, the law was not God’s law. It had been manipulated by men so that I real sense it was “keep-able.” The spiritual leaders and people were not concerned about God and His law but about self and their law. They exchanged the truth of God, His lawmaking and lawkeeping, for a lie – their lawmaking and lawkeeping (Rom. 1:18-23). They hoped against hope to prevent the consequences of failing to keep the law. But the law was not God’s law. They became a law unto themselves: they set the law, determined obedience or disobedience, and determined their reward. They lived based on externals. They did not need a spiritual savior or messiah. They had themselves. They only needed physical relief.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were following the footsteps of their forefathers. This external way of life was not new to the Jews/Pharisees. Israel had a long history of idolatrous activities and killing the prophets. The prophets had warned against religious externality (Isa. 1:11-15; 44:3; Jer. 6:19-20; 7:20-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:7; Hosea 6:6; 1 S 15:22-23; Ps 50:6-14).  Now Jesus, the ultimate Prophet came to His own and offered a new way of life through Him. Jesus ushered in a new creation and believers were to be new creatures. Jesus understood what the people refused to understand and acknowledge. They were heavy burdened. They had no rest. The daily grind of personal lawkeeping was (and is) tantamount to a boulder around one’s neck. It takes an increasing amount of energy to keep going. There does not seem to be light at the end of the personal lawkeeping tunnel.

Jesus speaks to the people as the beacon of hope, the living water, and the light of the world. He simply says come and offers contrasts in Matthew 11:28-30 to help motivate the people to come and enjoy. Jesus contrasts Himself and His teaching with the Pharisees and their teaching. Jesus was not simply offering the gospel. His call was a call was to a new way of life and a new existence. He called the people to change their whole approach to God and themselves. That was the only way that the people would rest – on the earth and ultimately in heaven. Getting saved and living as one saved were included in Jesus’ call. Salvation and sanctification both involve a right view of lawmaking and lawkeeping and a right view of God, self, and grace.

 

Application:

  1. Do you hear the call? Do you heed the call? Give reasons.
  2. What does heeding the call look like in your life?
  3. How does 1 John 5:3 fit into your answer?
  4. How does Psalm 34:8 fit into your answer?

Jesus before the Sanhedrin and Pilate

Jesus before the Sanhedrin and Pilate

The Judge Being Judged

 

In God’s providence Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, a religious giant of and in Israel, and He stood before Pilate, the highest secular court of the day. The whole world was represented by Israel and Rome so that the whole world brought charges against and executed Jesus. The two groups represented the best of the religious, spiritual, secular, and physical worlds. Christians usually say that the charges against Jesus brought by the Sanhedrin were false. Jesus’ claim of being God was one reason for the disdain and hatred of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. Yet, Jesus spoke the truth because He is Truth (John 14:6). Jesus was and is God! The Sanhedrin had it correct regarding Jesus’ claim of deity. Apparently the Sanhedrin rejected His claim because they functioned like Pharaoh. Pharaoh considered himself to be god and would have no competition. Jesus brought the new order to Israel and the spiritual leaders were in danger of losing their position in the community. They functioned as did Pharaoh. The spiritual leaders were in the dark and loved it (John 3:17-21).

Rome brought no charges against Jesus. Although under Roman domination, Israel sought to use Rome in regards to Jesus. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. They wanted Him removed from their premises. Rome was to be their tool. Using people, even God, had been Israel’s modus operandi for centuries.

There is an interesting similarity and contrast between Jesus before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:11-14; John 19:8-12). In both scenarios the silence of Jesus is quite deafening. He was silent before the Sanhedrin to the chagrin of the high priest (Matt. 26:62). Jesus remained silent until He was asked specifically under oath if He was the Christ (Matt. 26:63). Jesus’ answer was simple – Yes, it is as you say.. (26:64). He then added a note of majesty. Jesus answered because He had a concern for truth and truth-telling (Matt. 5:33-37, 38-42). Jesus spoke the truth but the high priest considered truth-telling Blasphemy! (26:65). Truth-telling was considered to be worthy of death (26:66).

Jesus spoke the truth which was in sharp contrast to lies of the Pharisees and their followers. Jesus spoke the truth because He is truth. The rejection of Christ as “prophesied” in John 1:4-5, 9-11 had reached its fruition. The high priest exclaimed that they had all the evidence that they needed to murder Jesus and it came from Jesus’ own mouth! Upon hearing Jesus’ testimony about Himself, the high priest tore his clothes as a show of disgust. Actually it was an act of brazen arrogance. As He did throughout His life, Jesus continued to speak truth while those around Him rejected the truth. They loved the darkness and hated the light (John 3:17-21). Previously, they had presented falsehoods and misinterpretations of Jesus’ words in an effort to gain evidence to kill Him (Matt. 26:59-62). The religious leadership correctly understood Jesus and His claim. They rejected Him, His Father, the Holy Spirit, and the truth.

The interactions between Jesus and Pilate are much shorter. First, Jesus gave a short answer but mostly there was silence on Jesus’ part. In contrast to the Sanhedrin, Pilate was amazed (Matt. 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5). In Matthew’s account, Pilate attempted to absolve himself of any involvement in Christ’s death (27:24). Such it is with all men. Love of self and of one’s own ways breeds hatred of God and His ways. In contrast, love of God leads to love of His ways.

John’s gospel documents two Jesus-Pilate interchanges (18:33-38; 19:7-11). In John 18, Pilate asked Jesus directly if He was king of the Jews. Jesus engaged in a short apologetic session in which He pointed Pilate to a higher Power and to Truth and neither of which were Pilate. Jesus then claimed His kingship and His kingdom. This convinced Pilate to seek Jesus’ release. In John 19 (verses 8-9), John recorded that Pilate was fearful when he heard that Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question regarding Jesus’ origin. In response, Pilate claimed authority of life and death and right and wrong including right now in regards to Jesus. Jesus answered by pointing Pilate to the source of absolute authority (19:11). Absolutely, God is the only source of absolute authority. These words undercut Pilate’s view of himself and the source of any civil authority (Rom. 13:1-7). Pilate’s response was in contrast to the religious leaders as given in 19:12: Pilate tried to set Jesus free. Ironically, Pilate considered Rome and himself as the foundation and dispenser of authority but he used his God-given and delegated authority to crucify the Giver of all good things including authority. In the final analysis, Pilate and the religious leaders were more interested in self than the true God’s glory. They defined glory their way – for them, to them, and by them.

 

Application:

  1. Jesus chose when to speak and when to be silent. Speaking and silence are to be used as God’s gift for His glory and the believer’s good. How are you doing in both areas?
  2. The Sanhedrin approached Jesus from a personal and religious concern. What did they know about themselves and about Jesus and how did that knowledge influence their actions?
  3. Pilate approached Jesus from a personal and political reference. What did Pilate learn about Jesus and himself and how did that knowledge influence him?

 

 

 

 

Jesus before the Sanhedrin and Pilate

The Judge Being Judged

 

Jesus is the perfect God-pleasing second person of the Trinity; He stood before the Sanhedrin and Pilate on separate occasions. Seemingly and arrogantly the high priest assumed Jesus’ life was in his hands but only to a degree. He needed Rome’s help to carry out the seeming removal of Christ. On the other hand, Pilate arrogantly assumed that all of life was in his hands especially the fate/destiny of Christ. The Sanhedrin was oblivious to its own heart. The spiritual leaders and the people witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching. Most rejected Jesus and His teaching. John 11:45-53 documented a concern of the spiritual leaders. On the heels of the resurrection of Lazarus, the spiritual leaders expressed serious concern over the miracle worker Jesus. They rejected the miracles of Christ and failed to use them as God intended (John 20:30-31). John 11:48 recorded their concern: If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. According to their logic, if no action was taken against Jesus, the Romans would assume that Jesus was a political messiah and would crush Israel in her rebellion. As a result, the spiritual leaders would lose their investment and control of the people. Their concern was for self through the nation of Israel.

Caiaphas the high priest at the time seized the initiative (John 11:49-52). He was not a “nice man.” He was for self, by self, and to self (see Matthew 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:13-14, 24, 28). Unwittingly and sacrilegiously, he articulated the concept of one man-one death for the good of the many so they would not die (John 11:50). It was better for Jesus to die in order that many would live. There is so much truth mixed with falsehood.  However, Israel did die as a city and a nation in 70 A.D. because they failed to humble themselves and repent. They followed the pattern of their forefathers who were unrepentant, rebellious idolaters.

Pilate knew the heart motivations of the Israelites – envy and jealously (Matt. 27:18-19; Mark 15:10). He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought against Him. However, he and most of Israel had no inkling of the nature of sin, true lawbreaking, and real guilt, He and the spiritual leaders and their followers disavowed and chose to ignore the consequences of their rebellion. They were blind to the condemnation that God measures out to rebels. They failed to honor God as the holy, righteous, and just Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25; Lev. 19:15; Isa. 11:3-5).

Pilate gave the people a choice which was a reflection of his choice. Neither Pilate nor Israel understood that they were God’s agents for implementing God’s redemptive plan through the cross set up in eternity past. Peter referred to this fact in Acts at Pentecost and the prayer of John and Peter after they stood before the Sanhedrin (2:22-24; 4:25-30). The choice before the people is a choice before every person daily: do you please self or do you please God (Prov. 3:5-8)?  Pilate asked who they wanted released and who they wanted crucified. The choices were mind boggling: a traitor against the state or Christ, the holy, harmless undefiled Son of God. Willingly and arrogantly they chose Barabbas. Synonymously they chose Christ to go the hell on the cross (Matt. 27:21-23). Little did they know that they were fulfilling God’s eternal plan to save a people for Himself (John 6:37-43 and Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28).

John offers another insight into the mindset of those who live for self. One of the issues that Jesus’ pre-crucifixion trial focused was on kingship. Jesus did not look or act as a king. In fact, most considered Him a loser (Isa, 53:3-6). Israel as a whole hated their slavery to Rome. They were proud of their presumed special relationship with Yahweh and prided themselves on laws and lawkeeping. To them, they simply needed a way out of their physical, political troubles.  Their heart is displayed in answer to Pilate’s declaration in John 19:14: here is your king. Pilate statement was not intended as an encouragement or a reality. Unwittingly Pilate testified to God’s sovereignty and his own role in God’s redemptive plan. Israel’s response was from the heart: we have no king but Caesar (19:15). Yes, Caesar dominated Israel and he was their king but they hated him. Jesus is king of kings and Lord of lords who came to His own to save a people for the Triune God. Israel hated Him as well. Ironically, both Pilate and Israel had the same king: themselves. Pilate and the Israelites were fearful people. Israel’s motto was freedom. The more they pursued freedom their way and divorced themselves from Christ, the deeper they sunk into bondage to self, sin, and Satan. God did not justify Israel’s hardening but in His redemptive plan He uses and is using the hardness of the heart of the Jewish people to bring in sheep (Gentiles) from other pastures into the fold (Rom. 11:25).

 

Application:

  1. Who is your king and why? Who and what motivated Pilate? Who and what motivated Israel?
  2. Choice: how do you exercise the God-given capacity to choose?
  3. What is your view of Christ, yourself, and the cross? Humble yourself as you answer.

Thoughts on Christmas

Thoughts on Christmas

 

As we are in the Christmas season and Christmas day approaches various groups of people have thoughts and wants. Actions follow. Many think of Christmas in terms of feelings. The Hallmark Movie Series highlight the feeling aspect of the Christmas season. At Christmas time people generally feel good and are inclined to fellowship and even to give. The Christian may even announce Happy Birthday to Jesus. He may go a step further and consider the supernatural birth of Christ and the Incarnation. Others simply focus on the good feelings and as result do something nice. This is truly an interesting time.

Consider several thoughts.

  1. The Incarnation is the doctrine that describes the event in which Jesus Christ became flesh. Humanity was added to His divine nature. Jesus was actively involved in His own assuming a human nature. However, His preexistence is also assumed (John 1:1; 6:38; 8:56-58; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-7). No eternal Son of God and no Incarnation.
  2. In the Incarnation we find the infinite and finite linked: mysteriously and miraculously. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, eternally and forever begotten by the Father took to Himself a true human nature. This fact is beyond human comprehension and speaks to the inscrutability of God.
  3. Yet, we know for a fact that Jesus became man all the while continuing to be God. He is the God-Man, two natures, one person forever. Again, this is beyond human comprehension.
  4. The Incarnation was necessary if the Triune God was to fulfill His redemptive plan. Sin entered into the world with God’s judgment of Adam after Adam’s first sin. The Incarnation was necessary for God to fulfill His promise given in Genesis 3:15. It is proper to say that the mysterious and miraculous beyond all human comprehension was conditioned by the presence of human sin. But there is more. All things are ordained by God. The fall did not catch God by surprise. Neither did the Incarnation.
  5. The Incarnation highlights the functional unity of the Trinity. The Incarnation as is every aspect of redemption/salvation is Intratrinitarian in nature. The Father planned, the Son secured, and the Holy Spirit applied the work of Christ for salvation. Another way to express this Intratrinitarian truth comes from Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12. The believer is saved to God for God in Christ and by and through the Holy Spirit.
  6. The shepherds, considered second-class citizens, and the wise men, Gentiles from far away, knew Jesus to be, not simply the Christ, but King Christ as they honored and glorified Him.

What does this have to do with you and me? The Incarnation is the beginning of the fulfillment of the great Immanuel principle (God’s presence prophesized in Genesis 3:15). Jesus was born in a lonely deserted place surrounded only by animals and Mary and Joseph. The place points to the hardness of our hearts and points to Jesus’ desire to please His Father. Thus Christ humbled himself under God’s mighty hand. Just think, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator and Controller of the universe, came down to earth and hid His glory so He could live and die perfectly in the place of wicked, sinful, perverse people such as you and I.

Such is the so-called Christmas story. It is a joyous time because Christ’s birth and humility declared it so (Luke 2:9-11). From eternity past, the Triune God designed redemption for sinful men through a voluntary, spotless, undefiled, bloody sacrifice. This Christmas get a grip on God’s greatness by focusing on the incomparable doctrine of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the Triune God’s means by which Christ was constituted the Messiah and the Messianic Son of God. Only then would creation and redemption be linked. In God’s timing, the new heavens and the earth will follow and all things will be made new.

 

Application:

  1. Write out the significance of the Incarnation.
  2. How do you respond to the Triune God given that Christ came to under earth under the guidance of Holy Spirit in order to please the Father?
  3. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity that deserves your full attention. See Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:29-35; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal.4:4 and determine whether you agree or not. Write out your answers.

 

Part II: Christ’s Intervention and Rescue

but I have prayed for you that your faith might not fail; so when you have turned around strengthen your brothers. (v.32)

In verse 31, the you is plural because Jesus addressed all the apostles. Here in verse 32, Jesus singled out Peter. At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus had praised all the apostles for their faithfulness (Luke 22:28).
In one sense Jesus’ prayer mentioned in verses 31-32 was an interesting one because the apostles had God the Giver of faith and His gift of saving faith. The Giver and the gift are key. The Giver and the gift are not the problem. It is the receiver of the gift that is. The disciples would fail that night but they would prove faithful followers of Christ and would ultimately win the prize of Christ Himself. They came to know Christ and desired to be like Him in thought, desire, and action. Their faith was to be informed, intelligent, growing, and aggressive. But at this juncture, it was not! The disciples did not get it. That was their pattern. They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom, an earthly messiah, and earthly peace, refuge, and comfort. In reality, they desired heaven on earth but they had a wrong view of earth.
Jesus exerted authority when He said: I have prayed for you. Notice that Jesus does not ask the Father for Peter (and the apostles) to be freed from situations (some call these trials) in which allegiance and devotion to God or self is at the center. He did not pray for Peter to be removed from his God-appointed circumstances including the present one. Paul builds on this truth in several places including Romans 8:35-39 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. There Paul wrote that believers are more than conquerors – in trials, not out of them.
Jesus prayed for all of the apostles (John 17:9,19-20). He prayed for them to be faithful disciples – and they were in time. In Luke 22, Jesus prayed for Peter that his and the apostles’ faith would not fail. Ultimately, it did not. The word used by Luke is a root for our word eclipse. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be hidden or concealed. For a time it was.
Peter did turn around. The word that Luke used means to turn and to go in another direction. In the New Testament, it is used as another term for repentance. It is something that is done to you and in response it is something the person does (see Luke 1:16-17; James 5:19-20). Correctly, Peter did weep (22:56-62) as did David in Psalm 51. Both of these men grieved God’s way, were restored, and functioned as God’s men as soul- winners (John 21:15-27; Ps. 51:13; see Acts 1-12 and 1 and 2 Peter).
Jesus also prayed that Peter would demonstrate the fruit of repentance. Jesus told Peter to strengthen his brothers. The word Luke used for strengthen is powerful. It means to render steadfast, to resolutely hold fast, and to stay focused on the task at hand. Luke used this same word to describe Jesus’ determination to reach Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Christ intended Peter to be an anchor, a blessing, an encouragement, and a model for his brothers. And he was! In his first epistle, Peter, probably remembering this experience, wrote about trials and their purpose (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13). He was an encouragement to his congregation and he continues to be one to believers today.
Jesus gave to Peter, and all the apostles, hope, comfort, confidence, and a preview of His priestly intercession (Romans 8:32-34; Hebrews 7:25). As Messiah, Jesus interceded for His people. He gave to them an insight into what it means to be justified before God. In Christ, Peter’s record and standing before God was clean and pure – like Jesus Christ Himself. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Peter, and probably all the apostles, were moved and acknowledged their sinfulness and nothing-ness before Christ (see Luke 5:8). On the other end of the confession spectrum, Peter, with the apostles looking on, declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Luke 9:18-22). However, when faced with remaining trust-worthy, the disciples chose the path of least resistance and pleased self. Yet, not even Peter’s denial could prevent or even circumvent what God did through Christ at the cross.

Application:

1. Christ is High Priest and as such is the Sacrificer, the Sacrifice, and the Intercessor. He is seated at the right had of the throne of God (Heb. 8:1)
2. Christ as Intercessor means that He pleads on behalf of His people.
3. Jesus is the perfect High Priest forever:
a. According to Hebrews 7:25 that means what? Jesus always lives.
b. According to Romans 8:32-34 that means what? Jesus is in the right and perfect position to intervene for His people and He does.
c. According to Hebrews 4:15-16 that means what? Jesus is the perfect High Priest who has experienced the fullness of the human condition but without sin or sinning.
d. According to 1 John 2:1-2 that means what? Believers died to sin but not sinning. Jesus is the believer’s lawyer in God’s court of law who has never lost a case because He points the Triune God to His finished work on the cross and in the grave.

Part II: Christ’s Intervention and Rescue

but I have prayed for you that your faith might not fail; so when you have turned around strengthen your brothers. (v.32)

In verse 31, the you is plural because Jesus addressed all the apostles. Here in verse 32, Jesus singled out Peter. At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus had praised all the apostles for their faithfulness (Luke 22:28).
In one sense Jesus’ prayer mentioned in verses 31-32 was an interesting one because the apostles had God the Giver of faith and His gift of saving faith. The Giver and the gift are key. The Giver and the gift are not the problem. It is the receiver of the gift that is. The disciples would fail that night but they would prove faithful followers of Christ and would ultimately win the prize of Christ Himself. They came to know Christ and desired to be like Him in thought, desire, and action. Their faith was to be informed, intelligent, growing, and aggressive. But at this juncture, it was not! The disciples did not get it. That was their pattern. They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom, an earthly messiah, and earthly peace, refuge, and comfort. In reality, they desired heaven on earth but they had a wrong view of earth.
Jesus exerted authority when He said: I have prayed for you. Notice that Jesus does not ask the Father for Peter (and the apostles) to be freed from situations (some call these trials) in which allegiance and devotion to God or self is at the center. He did not pray for Peter to be removed from his God-appointed circumstances including the present one. Paul builds on this truth in several places including Romans 8:35-39 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. There Paul wrote that believers are more than conquerors – in trials, not out of them.
Jesus prayed for all of the apostles (John 17:9,19-20). He prayed for them to be faithful disciples – and they were in time. In Luke 22, Jesus prayed for Peter that his and the apostles’ faith would not fail. Ultimately, it did not. The word used by Luke is a root for our word eclipse. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be hidden or concealed. For a time it was.
Peter did turn around. The word that Luke used means to turn and to go in another direction. In the New Testament, it is used as another term for repentance. It is something that is done to you and in response it is something the person does (see Luke 1:16-17; James 5:19-20). Correctly, Peter did weep (22:56-62) as did David in Psalm 51. Both of these men grieved God’s way, were restored, and functioned as God’s men as soul- winners (John 21:15-27; Ps. 51:13; see Acts 1-12 and 1 and 2 Peter).
Jesus also prayed that Peter would demonstrate the fruit of repentance. Jesus told Peter to strengthen his brothers. The word Luke used for strengthen is powerful. It means to render steadfast, to resolutely hold fast, and to stay focused on the task at hand. Luke used this same word to describe Jesus’ determination to reach Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Christ intended Peter to be an anchor, a blessing, an encouragement, and a model for his brothers. And he was! In his first epistle, Peter, probably remembering this experience, wrote about trials and their purpose (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13). He was an encouragement to his congregation and he continues to be one to believers today.
Jesus gave to Peter, and all the apostles, hope, comfort, confidence, and a preview of His priestly intercession (Romans 8:32-34; Hebrews 7:25). As Messiah, Jesus interceded for His people. He gave to them an insight into what it means to be justified before God. In Christ, Peter’s record and standing before God was clean and pure – like Jesus Christ Himself. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Peter, and probably all the apostles, were moved and acknowledged their sinfulness and nothing-ness before Christ (see Luke 5:8). On the other end of the confession spectrum, Peter, with the apostles looking on, declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Luke 9:18-22). However, when faced with remaining trust-worthy, the disciples chose the path of least resistance and pleased self. Yet, not even Peter’s denial could prevent or even circumvent what God did through Christ at the cross.

Application:

1. Christ is High Priest and as such is the Sacrificer, the Sacrifice, and the Intercessor. He is seated at the right had of the throne of God (Heb. 8:1)
2. Christ as Intercessor means that He pleads on behalf of His people.
3. Jesus is the perfect High Priest forever:
a. According to Hebrews 7:25 that means what? Jesus always lives.
b. According to Romans 8:32-34 that means what? Jesus is in the right and perfect position to intervene for His people and He does.
c. According to Hebrews 4:15-16 that means what? Jesus is the perfect High Priest who has experienced the fullness of the human condition but without sin or sinning.
d. According to 1 John 2:1-2 that means what? Believers died to sin but not sinning. Jesus is the believer’s lawyer in God’s court of law who has never lost a case because He points the Triune God to His finished work on the cross and in the grave.