Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Tomb

Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse 
than the first.” 
Matthew 27:62-64

Jesus' enemies admit that He is dead, for they recall the words He said, "when He was still alive." They don't believe in the "Swoon Theory," that says Jesus never really died, but just "swooned" on the cross, and then somehow revived in the tomb.

 A humorous letter to the editor of a Christian magazine accurately evaluated the "Swoon Theory":

Dear Eutychus: Our preacher said, on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? 
Sincerely, Bewildered

Dear Bewildered: Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his heart; embalm him; put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens. 
Sincerely, Eutychus

"A guard was posted and the tomb was secured with an official Roman seal (v.66). The religious and political leaders did their very best to make sure that the body of Jesus remained in the tomb, but they were attempting the impossible. Death could not hold the sinless Son of God in its grasp, and on the third day He rose just as He said He would." (Herbert Vander Lugt)

Friday, April 6, 2012

They Crucified Him

"And they crucified Him,"
Mark 15:24a

(The following is taken from Pastor Dave Gruzik's Commentaries on the Bible.)

The Bible spares us the gory descriptions of Jesus' agony, simply stating then they crucified Him. This is because everyone in Matthew's day was well acquainted with the terror of crucifixion, and because the greater aspect of Jesus' suffering was spiritual, not physical

In 1986, Dr. William Edwards wrote a remarkable article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association titled "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ." Following are some of the observations of Dr. Edwards and his associates. The quotations belong to the article, and much of the other text is paraphrased from the article.

What was it like to be crucified? In days the New Testament was first written, the practice needed no explanation. But we would do well to appreciate just what happened at a crucifixion. "Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering."

The victim's back would first be torn open by the scourging, then the clotting blood would be ripped open again when the clothes were torn off the victim. When thrown on the ground to fix his hands to the crossbeam, the wounds would again be torn open and contaminated with dirt. Then, as he hung on the cross, with each breath, the painful wounds on the back would scrape against the rough wood of the upright beam and be further aggravated

Driving the nail through the wrists would sever the large median nerve - this stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms, and could result in a claw-like grip in the victim's hands.

Beyond the excruciating pain, the major effect of crucifixion inhibited normal breathing. The weight of the body, pulling down on the arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the respiratory muscles in an inhalation state, and hinder exhalation. The lack of adequate respiration would result in severe muscle cramps, which would hinder breathing even further. To get a good breath, one would have to push against the feet, and flex the elbows, pulling from the shoulders. Putting the weight of the body on the feet would produce searing pain, and flexing of the elbows would twist the hands hanging on the nails. Lifting the body for a breath would also painfully scrape the back against the rough wooden post. Each effort to get a proper breath would be agonizing, exhausting, and lead to a sooner death.

"Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites. Moreover, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals."

Death from crucifixion could come from many sources: acute shock from blood loss; being too exhausted to breathe any longer; dehydration; stress-induced heart attack, or congestive heart failure leading to a cardiac rupture. If the victim did not die quickly enough, the legs would be broken, and the victim would soon be unable to breathe.

How bad was crucifixion? We get our English word excruciating from the Roman word "out of the cross." "Consider how heinous sin must be in the sight of God, when it requires such a sacrifice!" (Commentator Adam Clarke)

The most significant thing about Jesus' sufferings was that He was not, in any sense, the victim of circumstances. He was in control. Jesus said of His life in John 10:18, no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. It is terrible to be forced to endure such torture, but to freely choose it out of love is remarkable. Can we ever doubt God's love for us again? Has He not gone to the most extreme length to demonstrate it?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

And It Was Night

"So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night."
John 13:30

Jesus is in the upper room with His disciples. He has washed their feet -- even the feet of Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Him -- as an example of how the disciples are to serve one another. He reveals that He will be betrayed and the disciples ask which one of them it is. Jesus answers, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” And He serves the morsel to Judas. "After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'” (v. 27). Ray Steadman writes: "But Judas still had a chance to retreat. Jesus would never have tried to reach him had he not still had an opportunity to recover at this point. When Jesus gave him the morsel, and Judas took it and ate it without a word or a sign of repentance or remorse, he passed the point of no return." And then Judas departed into the night. How symbolic. For Judas to turn away from the Lord and go his own way, was to leave The Light and walk into darkness. And it was in darkness that Judas would die by his own hand. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Beautiful Deed

"But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me."
Mark 14:6-7

Two days before the Passover, Jesus is reclining at a host's table when a woman comes to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume. She breaks the vial and anoints the Lord with the aromatic oil. It is worth almost a year's wages, and she extravagantly pours all of it over His head. Some in the room complained to one another, asking why the perfume had been "wasted" and saying it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. And they scolded her. But Jesus comes to her defense and calls what she has done a "good deed". In the original Greek "good" deed is translated as "beautiful" or "excellent". She has boldly and beautifully demonstrated her love for Jesus. She has chosen "the better thing" (Luke 10:42). We know from other scriptures that Jesus does care about the poor, and He calls us to help them. But never is our service to others more important than the beautiful deed of loving and worshiping Christ. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Give God His Due

"And He said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to Him, “Caesar’s.' Then He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.' And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away."
Matthew 22:20:22

It if it weren't so said, it would be almost comical how the Pharisees failed at their attempts to trap Jesus. They plotted and schemed, and came up with what they thought were clever ways to trip up the Lord and discredit Him. But He saw through them every time, and revealed their hypocrisy and evil intents. When they approached Him and asked, "Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax (individual tax) to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17), Jesus knew that if He said taxes should be paid, the Pharisees could accuse Him of denying God's sovereignty over Israel. And that would make Him an enemy of the Jews. On the other hand, if He said that taxes should not be paid, He would be perceived as an enemy of Rome. The Pharisees foolishly thought they had the Lord in a no-win situation, but they were sorely mistaken. Jesus asked them to show Him the coin used for the poll-tax -- a Roman coin. They did so, and then He gave them an answer that would reverberate throughout history: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." We are responsible to God in all things, but He sets government in place and instructs us to be obedient to its laws. However, our worship belongs to God and God alone. Caesar set himself up as a god, to be worshiped. Jesus was simply saying to the Jews, "Pay the taxes Caesar demands, but keep your worship for God only." John MacArthur says of the Pharisees, "They were all concerned about what to give Caesar and were actually planning to kill the Son of God." Astounding.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Allow His Cleansing

"Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 
Mark 11:15-16

The Jews were obligated by the law to bring an animal without blemish to be sacrificed as atonement for their sins. Only the best could meet God's requirements. Unfortunately, the priests in the temple saw this as an opportunity to extort money from the worshipers. As people brought their animals for sacrifice, the corrupt priests would inspect and reject them, insisting that there was a slight defect that made the animal unacceptable for sacrifice. The priests had a side deal going with the sellers of "acceptable" sacrificial doves. They referred the customers to them, and the priests received a commission from the sale. Also, there were money changers who charged exorbitant rates for changing the pilgrim's currency into the temple currency, which was needed to pay the annual temple tax. When Jesus saw what was happening He became enraged and dealt severely with those who used God's house for their own selfish gain. He defended His Father's honor with righteous indignation. The Lord went on to teach that the temple was to be a "house of prayer". Mark 11:18 tells us: "The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching." As we enter into Passion Week, may we remain open to the Lord's teaching and allow Him to cleanse our hearts of anything that displeases Him. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Stone of Israel

But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Luke 19:40

As Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the colt, a crowd of His followers began to shout praises to Him: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” There were Pharisees in the crowd who told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and tell them to stop their praises, but Jesus replied that if they were to stop, the stones would cry out. Stones could tell much of Jesus their Creator. They could tell of His power to make something out of nothing. The stones in Jerusalem could tell of the miracles He did there. The stones in Gethsemane could tell of His agony at facing His impending death on the cross. The stones at Calvary could tell of His crucifixion and the blood that flowed down from His wounds for the sins of the world. And the stones at His tomb could tell of His glorious resurrection. "Stones might well cry out, but we will not let them: we will hush their noise with ours; we will break forth into sacred song, and bless the majesty of the Most High, all our days glorifying him who is called by Jacob the Shepherd and Stone of Israel." (Spurgeon) 
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