Archive for the 'PASSION WEEK' Category

THE RESURRECTION

SUNDAY

THE RESURRECTION

Certainly a look at Passion Week would be incomplete if it stopped at the Crucifixion. While an important event, it pales in comparison to a more dramatic event. The Crucifixion set the stage for the climax of Passion Week. The physical death of Jesus was necessary for the satisfaction of our sin, and like Jesus, we will still experience physical death unless we experience the rapture. It is a consequence of the inherent sin nature we inherited from our ancestors, Adam and Eve.

The spiritual death of Jesus was of greater significance because without its elimination in our life, we are destined – as rebels from God – to experience its consequence for eternity. For those who have placed their confidence in the Person and work of Jesus with His experience of spiritual death or separation from God as our substitute, there is the annihilation of the spiritual death experience.

Yet for the final event in Passion Week all Jesus’ work would have been for naught (a good term from the past). It was this one final act of Jesus that gives us the hope that removes our fear of death – both physical and spiritual – and gives us our hope for better than our destiny deserves. I am speaking of the Resurrection of Jesus.

I am basing my remarks on the words of that greatest of Christian thinkers and theologians, the Apostle Paul. He said it best in 1 Corinthians 15: 13:

NAU 1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;

NIV 1 Corinthians 15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

KJV 1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

If there is no resurrection of Jesus, there is no Gospel, there is no payment for sins, there is no eternal life. Without Jesus rising again from the dead – both spiritual and physical – there is no Gospel hope. Re-entering to His rightful eternal relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit made it possible for us to enter into fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead was a dramatic demonstration of this truth. They are tied together. One without the other is incomplete. The spiritual resurrection of Jesus makes it possible for man to enter into the presence of the Triune God. The physical resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the reality of this truth which those of faith will experience at our physical death or translation. Without the resurrection, It would have shown that while He was capable of dying physically and spiritually, He was powerless to rise above death’s clutches.

Without the resurrection – both the physical and spiritual – the Gospel is vanity.

NAU 1 Corinthians 15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

NIV 1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

KJV 1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Let us celebrate the resurrection not just once a year but daily.

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GOOD FRIDAY – THE CRUCIFIXION

FRIDAY – The Crucifixion

So much has been written about the crucifixion of Jesus. What more can be added. Most Christian authors, however,  have focused on the physical agony of crucifixion. It is the human connecting point with the suffering of Jesus.

No doubt crucifixion was a horrendous way to die. The Romans were the masters of it but they did not invent the practice – they only perfected it. Alexander the Great learned it during his conquest of the Persians but as the practice spread west it was the Romans who perfected its cruelty after learning of it from the Phoenicians. So horrid was its suffering that only slaves and the lowest form of criminals could be sentenced to crucifixion. By law no Roman citizen could ever suffer this form of punishment.

The Romans appear to have studied and perfected this form of suffering so that death would be elusive for two or three days. What made crucifixion so excruciating was the slowness of the suffocating process that induced death. The victim’s lungs would slowly fill with liquid making the satisfaction of a full breath elusive. Not completely without mercy, the Romans also designed an alcoholic potion that they intermittently offered the victim (when they saw fit) to ease the pain. But they rarely shortened the suffering of the victim.

When we consider the crucifixion of Jesus, our minds naturally race to the physical suffering He had to endure. No doubt it was excruciating. He entered into crucifixion with no sleep over the previous 24+ hours because after His supper with the disciples they went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. While the disciples slept, Jesus prayed (Luke 22: 39-46).

Then, in the middle of the night, He was arrested (Luke 22:47-53) and forced to endure three illegal trials between midnight and 6AM at the hands of religious leaders who claimed to be protectors of God’s Law ( John 18: 2-12; Luke 22:54-71). After being condemned as a lawbreaker and blasphemer, and after being severely beaten and deprived of sleep, Jesus was turned over to the Romans for punishment. Because the Jews had no authority over capital punishment, their leadership demanded the severest form of punishment from the Romans who presided over death. While Pilate, the ultimate decision maker among men in this Roman province, tried in vain to avoid crucifying Jesus (John 18:28-19:16), he ultimately made the decision that sent Jesus to the cross. And after being severely beaten and whipped again – this time by the Romans – Jesus was led to Golgotha where He was fastened and displayed on the cross to die. His physical suffering was immense.

Yet for all the physical agony of the cross, I do not think that Jesus’ physical suffering was the greatest pain He had to endure. He was put on the cross by 9AM and by 3PM He was dead. His physical death was under His control. As the Son of God He chose when He would physically die (John 19:30; Matt 27:50). Six hours of suffering on the cross before dying was unheard of yet Jesus’, in complete control of His physical death, decided when that event would take place. The thieves, crucified on either side of Jesus, also had death hastened – by the Romans who broke their legs which prohibited them from pushing up to receive another refreshing breath of air.

What Jesus did not control was His spiritual death or separation from the Father. He lost that control at Gethsemane – the last opportunity He had to avoid capture and ultimately crucifixion. Three times He fervently prayed that the Father would use another means to accomplish the redemption of mankind – not to avoid the physical agonies of the cross but the spiritual separation from the Father. The Trinity having been in eternal fellowship with each other, was about to experience disruption of their intimate relationship. Jesus’ in His humanity experienced some of that separation during His earthly life. But now He was about to experience a complete spiritual disconnect with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and They with Him. It is conceptually impossible for us to completely grasp the spiritual separation experienced in the Trinity. For Jesus (as well as the Father and Holy Spirit), it was emotionally heart wrenching. This, I submit, was the greatest pain experienced by the Trinity – all its members – at the cross. It is the separation we deserve from God because of our sin. Yet, Jesus endured this separation so that those who are redeemed would not have to experience it any more throughout eternity.

We still must experience physical death (unless we experience the rapture). But, our faith in the Person and work of Jesus removes the fear of spiritual death or separation from God for all eternity. He took that away in His work and though He beseeched the Father for another way to accomplish our redemption, He ultimately endured the rejection by and the separation from the Father and Holy Spirit so that we who believe and celebrate the cross would not have to experience this separation.

May we, on this day of contemplation remembering the Cross, celebrate its work with gratitude expressed with a lifestyle representative of our profession.

THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

THURSDAY – The Olivet Discourse

Matt 24, 25

The Jewish people in Jesus’ day were looking expectantly for the coming Kingdom of God. Daniel 9 told them when to expect the King and when Jesus’ Triumphal Entry did not fulfill their expectation, there must have been a massive disappointment. While the religious leadership is antagonistic toward Jesus and the people have rejected Jesus, the disciples are still loyal to Jesus but wondering what to expect now that their prophetic expectations regarding Jesus have been shattered. So in private they ask Him a very penetrating questions – “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”The establishment of the kingdom is still on their minds.

Jesus answers with a list of identifiable signs that the establishment of the kingdom is near. These signs are: the emergence of false Messiahs (24:5), wars and rumors of wars (24:6), anarchy, famines and earthquakes (24:7). Amazingly, Jesus tells us that this is only the beginning of problems to come (24:8). The real difficulties begin after these signs. There will be persecution of Jesus’ followers (24:9), apostasy by professed followers of Jesus (24:10), the appearance of false prophets (24:11), anarchy (24:12a), the humility and service characterized by agape love ceases to be expressed (24:12b). The only positive sign is that the Gospel will have permeated the world (24:14).

But then comes the big sign – a figure who performs the abomination of desolation (24:15). Once this figure prophesied by Daniel makes his appearance, Jesus warns those listening that it is time to flee (24:16) because God’s wrath is about to be displayed (24:16-26). Once this figure appears and does his evil, the Lord says He will return (24:27). It will be at this time that Jesus will commission the angels to gather the elect from around the world for entrance into the kingdom.

Jesus follows these signs of His second coming with parables encouraging urgent expectation by followers of the King (24:32-25:30)! He was urging His followers to be on the look out for these signs (24:32-25), that it will occur unexpectedly (24:36-44), and that faithfulness is expected by followers of the King (24:45-51).

What about you? Are you expecting the King? Could the signs we are seeing now be the signs spoken of by Jesus during Passion Week? If so, it is all the more reason to be prepared for His return and to keep our eyes focused on the King rather than circumstances.

JESUS” LAST PUBLIC SERMON

WEDNESDAY – Jesus’  Last Public Sermon Matt 23: 1-39

Most scholars believe that Jesus’ last public discourse (found in Matthew 23) was delivered on Tuesday. They also believe that the great eschatological treatise aka the Olivet Discourse was privately delivered on Tuesday. They also conclude that the Gospels do not record any of the Wednesday events of Passion Week. If this is true, Jesus had a very busy speaking day on Tuesday.

Jesus last public discourse was aimed directly at the Scribes and the Pharisees. What He had to say regarding them was not pleasant. In fact, it was inflammatory and antagonistic. Jesus was in non-stop attack mode. Eight times He begins His attack with ‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees’. A ‘woe’ is more than a warning, it is a denunciation and Matthew 23 is nothing more than a denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.

Seven times Jesus calls the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites. Although used fewer times than ‘woe’, it is a stronger denunciation. He also calls them ‘blind guides’ four times and ‘fools’ once. At the end of this sermon there was no doubt in the listener’s minds about what Jesus thought of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Why was Jesus so strong in His denunciation of them? Matthew 23:2-12 tells us that they were proud men. They were proud of displaying their position of leadership before each other and the people.

But worse, their teaching kept themselves and others from a relationship with God. They had reduced religion to outward activity and had convinced themselves as well as the people they taught that a relationship with God was dependent upon your performance.

Jesus said that those who follow the teaching of the Pharisees’ performance based religion were cut off from heaven. In other words, anyone who trusts in his good works as being pleasing to God is really separated not only from religious reality but from an eternal relationship with God (see Mt 23:13). In fact, following the teaching of a Pharisee was doubly damned in the sight of God (Mt 23:15).

After His very convicting sermon against the scribes and Pharisees to the people, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37-39). He wept because the teachers and religious leaders did not understand the ways of God. Because of their poor teaching, the people also did not understand the ways of God. Performance based religion is unacceptable to God. It is nothing more than filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Jesus spent much time trying to get the eyes of the people off of themselves (and their performance) and onto Him (His Person and His work).

In the midst of the most important week of remembrance on the Christian calendar, are you taking the time to focus on the work of the cross and its eternal benefit for you, or are you focusing on what you think you need to do in order to garner God’s favor. Passion Week is not about us – it’s about Him and His work on our behalf. Let’s not make the same mistake of the people in Jesus’ day by listening to the wrong voices and being distracted with our noble efforts to please God rather than focusing on the glories of the cross.

THE ATTRACTION OF SACRIFICE

TUESDAY – John 12:20-50

The Attraction of Sacrifice

I know “The Attraction of Sacrifice” is a strange heading for this sermon of Jesus delivered on Monday of Passion Week. Yet, it conveys the lesson intended by Jesus in these verses. It is noteworthy that this message was delivered to Hellenistic Jews (John 12:20).

Note the language that Jesus’ uses to describe His crucifixion.  In 12:23 He calls His crucifixion the hour of glory (12:23) and that the crucifixion was ‘The hour of purpose!’ (12:27). He also asked the Father to use ‘The Hour’ to glorify His Name (12:28a). The Father responded by promising He would (12:28b). Jesus’ purposed to focus on the results rather than the means of His work on the cross, thus eliminating discontent with the plan.

To help the Disciples and the Hellenistic Jews understand the crucifixion, Jesus used an agricultural metaphor (12:24). In order for wheat to be living and productive, it must first die. But once it dies and is buried, it becomes fruitful.

Jesus said He was willing to die and be buried in order to be fruitful for the Father’s glory (12:28, 32, and 33). He indicated in this teaching that finding one’s life and identity in this world is a losing mindset. Instead, He proposes that abandoning one’s earthly identity (i.e. dying to self) results in eternal fruitfulness (12:25). But not abandoning one’s earthly identity will forfeit eternity. Therefore, He implores us to identify with His purposeful work and gain eternity rather than holding onto the worthless material life we can see and presently trust.

After this teaching session, Jesus left and hid Himself (12:36b). It was not profitable to remain around those who would not believe (12:37). There was a reason for their unbelief. Isaiah is quoted as saying that their hearts were hardened by God (12:40). And although it seems that God is maliciously hardening their hearts and keeping them from the faith, we see in 12:43 that the hardening of a man’s heart is not arbitrary on God’s part but rather a response to man’s misplaced loyalties. John 12:43 tells us that those whom God hardens and keeps from the truth are those who live to please men rather than God. Or said a different way, they fear man more than they fear God.

What kind of person are you? One whose focus is self-centered and in this world? One who fears man more than God? One who lives pleasing men to gain the approval of other men, or one who lives shows love for God through obedience to His will in order to express appreciation for His purposeful plan on the cross? Jesus taught in John 12 that it was time to die. For Him it meant setting aside His desires, His will and His physical life in order to experience spiritual and physical death as our substitute of the punishment for sin to accomplish the plan of God. For us it means setting aside our love for this world and the approval of men in order to gain an eternal inheritance through faith in His person and work (12:25, 43, 44-50).

PASSION WEEK

THE FINAL WEEK OF JESUS

MONDAY – Palm Sunday

After many months absence, I have returned! These last several months have been busy and have kept me from writing as I would like. However, on this night I find myself unable to sleep because of the challenging times – the current economic situation, the talk of potential monetary globalization but more importantly, what this week over 2,000 years ago meant to our Lord. After almost three and ½ years of ministry, the time of His first coming was approaching its termination. He would soon be sacrificed on the cross – a work considered tragic (unhappy events that excite pity or terror) by humans but planned and purposeful by God.

This week we will take a brief look at the final but deliberately planned events in Jesus’ life. It all began on Sunday, the first day of the week that we commemorate as Palm Sunday. The historical summary is recorded in Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19 under the heading of the Triumphal Entry.

Jesus’ ministry to this point has increasingly placed him at odds with people. The religious leadership – the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and Herodians – have turned against Him after tentatively embracing Him at the beginning of His ministry. His followers at this time include the people and the disciples but this is about to change. Excitement has been building over the past few weeks of Jesus life. The Jewish people knew from prophecy that the Messiah was about to appear on the scene. Daniel 9: 24-26 predicts the exact day the Messiah will appear and the Jewish people have been expecting His appearance. Jesus has demonstrated His Messianic credentials (Isaiah 61:1, 2a). He has captured the attention of the Jewish nation waiting for their King to take His throne.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus made His entrance into Jerusalem as it had been foretold by Daniel. He entered on the back of a donkey as Zechariah 9:9 had indicated. The people assembling for the Passover were delirious with the excitement over prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes and they expressed their excitement (‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ – Matt 21:9) as they had been taught from Psalm 118:24-26 at Jesus’ triumphal entry.

But the people’s excitement also elicited rage on the part of the religious leadership. Jesus’ was stopped by the Pharisees just before entering the Temple and commanded to rebuke the crowd for giving Him the Messianic greeting of Psalm 118 (Luke 19:39). Jesus’ reply is from Habakkuk 2:11 but paraphrased He said, ‘Even if I command them to stop proclaiming the Messianic Psalm to me, the rocks will take up the cry because prophecy must be fulfilled’ (Luke 19:40).

And then He entered Jerusalem, and then the Temple. He healed the blind and the lame (Matthew 21:14) and then He left for Bethany (Matthew 21:17). An anticlimactic end after such an enthusiastic welcome.

The crowd was disappointed in Jesus’. He had not lived up to their expectations for political deliverance from the Romans and because of this they abandoned their support of Him. Now Jesus’ only supporters are the disciples and in a few days one will betray Him, the others will temporarily abandon Him as well. From a human perspective, Jesus’ is experiencing increasing loneliness.

All this should cause us to ask, “What kind of person am I?” “What unbiblical expectations about Jesus’ am I allowing to dominate my mind?” I think there are three main attitudes that need to be addressed. The first is the apathetic attitude that basically maintains there is no need to pursue an understanding of the purposeful work of Jesus. This mindset does not and is not willing to consider the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God and Son of Man who came to substitute Himself as a sacrifice to receive the just wrath of God for man’s sin. This also carries the greatest eternal condemnation because judgment is based on what you do with the Person and work of Jesus the Christ (Psalm 2:12).

There is a second problematic attitude. This one acknowledges the Person of Jesus but has a focus of an earthly expectation of His work – as the Pharisees and the 1st century Jew did. Those in Jesus’ times expected a Messianic kingdom that would overthrow the Roman rule. When that did not materialize they abandoned their support of Jesus. In doing so they missed the reason Jesus came to earth.

The third and correct attitude shared by the Apostles and taught in Scripture is that Jesus came to redeem us from an eternal spiritual separation from God because of our sin. Although establishing an earthly or material kingdom was a part of God’s purposeful plan, it was not the primary focus of Jesus during Passion Week. Rather, the focus of Passion Week was spiritual rather than material. It was spiritual redemption that would ultimately lead in the purposeful plan of God to material redemption.

During these unstable economic times it is easy to get sidetracked from the reason Jesus came. This is not the time to reject Jesus for not living up to our expectations in the material world but to refocus on the spiritual objectives He accomplished on the cross. It is a time to remain consistent in our praise and allegiance to the KING of King and LORD of Lords as we contemplate this week in the life of Jesus that fulfilled the prophecies of His first coming.