Blog Archive

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Caiaphas Declares that Jesus is a Blasphemer"

In the middle of the night, with time runninig out, Caiaphas is finally handed by Jesus the confession that he desired. The High Priest was not interested in finding out more about Jesus, so he could come to worship Him also. Instead, Caiaphas was willing to disturb both Jewish leaders and the Roman overlords in the middle of the night if it meant that Jesus could be removed from the political and religious world.
Did Jesus give Caiaphas exactly what he wanted. Yes, but the motive was only to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus could have lied to this representative of Satan, but instead knew that this was the means by which redemption would be achieved. Like the opening words of John's gospel, "He came unto His own, and His own recieved Him not."
To tear one's clothes in the Old Testament was an expression of grief as we see in 2 Kings 19:1 and Job 1:20. Jewish law forbade the High Priest from tearing his garment (Leviticus 10:6; 21:10). I doubt if Caiaphas was wearing the elaborate costume that we find set forth for the High Priest in the book of Leviticus.
Jewish tradition found in the Talmud made one exception for the High Priest to tear his garment--witnessing an act of blasphemy.
Caiaphas was well aware of that, and in his desire to bring the assembled Sanhedrin to a fever pitch of excitement, he utilizes the opportunity to tear his robe at this supposed act of blasphemy. The only anguish that Caiaphas is experiencing at this moment is that he is not moving fast enough to get Jesus dispatched before the end of the Passover.
Imagine how Jesus must have felt in the presence of a High Priest whose motive for rejecting Christ is a mixture of politics and greed. The situation is not too different today, which is sad in a nation that began with the slogan: "No King but Jesus."

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Jesus Admits His Guilt: He is God"

Matthew 26:64: Jesus said to him, It is as you said, Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.
When I arrived at Deacon Obed Nieto's home Saturday morning, there were two ladies outside dressed in black. "Jehovah's Witnesses" coming to spread their poison was my estimation, and I was right. They had just told Obed that they believed Jesus was the Son of God, but when I challenged them on that, they said Jesus was no more than an angel. Mormons believe that Jesus was the spirit brother of Satan, thus if brothers and Satan was the top angel Lucifer then both must be angels. The Witnesses are Apostles of Denial--denying all the central truths of Scripture. I also showed them the references to the cross, and they said thta it does not mean cross. All the cults do not allow for the Cross, as that is the one thing that Satan fears most. Jesus hands stretched out to the world show the love of God and do not allow for the heretical beliefs that are fomented by Jehovah's Witnesses. Several years ago I edited a book on the testimonies of several people who left the Jehovah's Witnesses. If there was a common thread in each of those testimonies it was this: people who did not let them give their well rehearsed lies, but rather that the person answering the door took charge of the conversation and gave them their testimony of faith. I often say: "Can you give me something better than knowing my sins are forgiven, and that I know for sure that I am going to heaven." If that is all you are comfortable with saying, let that be it and close the door. Do not let them engage you unless you are prepared with the verses that prove the deity of Christ. Most of the time they will not listen as they have been so brainwashed as to just keep going with what they have been taught. I have attached a general preparation for "Witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses." Keep it at your door, and give it a try next time they come by.
Caiaphas, the High Priest, was the original Jehovah's Witness. The Deity of Christ sickened him largely because he saw that his own empire of wealth, prestige, and power was dwindling as the crowds followed Jesus. Jesus had to be eliminated and the quickest means was to antagonize him into stating that He is God. Why did Jesus give Caiaphas the answer that he wanted. It is because He knew that the crucifixion was the only means by which our sins would be dealt with.
The statement that hereafter Caiaphas and those assembled there would see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven was a positive declaration of both His Messiahship and his Deity as the Eternal Son. To Caiaphas and all Jehovah's Witnesses it was blasphemy. Jesus meant it as a warning, because when He comes on the clouds of heaven, it will be in judgment of this world. For us who believe, it is Good News. Share it today!

"Caiaphas Asks If Jesus is the Son of God"

Matthew 26:62-63: And the high priest arose and said to Him, Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You? But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!
Although the High Priest, Caiaphas apparently did not understand Isaiah 53, which speaks of the Messiah coming as a lamb before His shearers is dumb--so He opened not His mouth. How difficult it must have been to listen to the lies of the witnesses, and the pompous arrogance of the high priest, who was in the business for the vast amount of money that he could glean. Jesus could have condemned Him at this point with great justification. But the time for preaching had passed, and now the sacrifice for which He had been born was to be made.
Since the case was weak and no real capital crime had been committed, Caiaphas had to coax some sort of confession out of Jesus in which He would claim to be God in the flesh. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons must hate this passage as Caiaphas gives full verification thta the message of Christ had been all along that He was the Christ, the Son of God.
Caiahphas was trying to break Jesus' silence , and so proposed an oath that would make Him legally obligated to speak. No witness could send Jesus to the Cross, it would have to be His own words.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"False Witnesses Testify Against Jesus"

Matthew 26:59-61: Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days."

Remember the scene takes place in the palace of the High Priest, a large building that the 71 members of the Sanhedrin plus priests, elders, and false witnesses. The Sanhedrin would meet normally every day in the Temple except on the Sabbath Day and on High Holy Days. Thus, another exception to the rule because of the need for speed in this trial--they were meeting on Passover, and it was the middle of the night. (between 12 and 3 AM).

There were no legitimate charges against Jesus to have Him put to death, and thus witnesses were hastily summoned to give testimony against Jesus that would hopefully seal His fate. The problem was that those who came to perjure themselves were attempting to curry favor with the leaders in this plot. Yet, in this last minute assembly they could not get two witnesses to agree.

Finally, two men were brought in who testified that Jesus had said on one occasion: I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." Gossip is often half-truths, and this would qualify. Jesus had indeed said as we find in John 2:19: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. He was speaking about the Temple of His body. The true meaning is not presented at Jesus trial, and yet Jesus makes no effort to contradict the false testimony. He came as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53).

"The Conspirators Plot Jesus Death"

Matthew 26:57-58: And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest's courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.

Each of the Gospels has a different emphasis and includes the items that were significant to their intended audience. Adding them all together we get a coherent picture of the entire night. John mentions that first Jesus was take n to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and a former high priest. Annas then has Jesus go to the home of the current high priest, who has assembled the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night at his spacious home.

Think for a moment about the contrasts here. Jesus, who had no home but was always at the mercy of others, is taken to the beautiful and spacious home of Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Temple. Yet, Caiaphas ultimate superior was this 33 year-old who stood bound before him for trial. The high priest, whose chief duty was to represent the people to God on the Day of Atonement, now has the opportunity to have God in his home. Yet, he allows people to curse, beat, and plot how to kill the very One that he (Caiaphas) is supposed to serve.

Caiaphas and Annas knew that everything had to be done in haste. The crowd would find out, and might switch back to their loyalty to Christ that had been demonstrated on Palm Sunday. Caiaphas was motivated also by the thought that if Jesus slipped through their hands and returned to teaching, the whole movement might soon overwhelm the established religion. Eliminatinig Jesus once and for all was in a real sense, job security. Besides that, it was Passover, and another day would bring the Sabbath. No execution could take place on the Sabbath. The trial of course was illegal as it was not held at the Temple, was not public, and it was not held in the day as required by Jewish law. As Satan himself moves within the hearts of his willing accomplises, he could taste the victory that would soon occur.

Peter, who had recovered from his first fright, joined the company, following jesus at a distance to see what the result might be of all these unlawful proceedings. He entered the corridor of the high priest's home,and sat in a place where he could see what was transpiring within. I love the words chosen in verse 58: "to see the end." Yes, Peter was given a ring side seat at the final battle of Christ's earthly life, but it was not the end. It was the beginning of the Church that Peter and the other apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit would carry forward. We now stand upon the shoulders of those who have led the church up until our century.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"All to Fulfill Scripture"

"Matthew 26:55-56: In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
Our Savior was guided throughout this miserable experience by one principle--to fulfill the Scripture. God's Word states that the Scriptures cannot be broken. We can legislate, and even today I heard on the Christian radio an excerpt from the Inaugural speech that challenged what God thinks is sin.
Although Jesus had just rebuked Peter for disrupting God's plan of having Jesus betrayed and arrested, He nevertheless challenges the multitudes with their hypocrisy in coming to arrest him with swords and clubs. Jesus had led no insurrection and had never been involved in any sort of subversive activity against the government or the Jewish Sanhedrin.
On the contrary, Jesus had been found each day teaching in the Temple. All were welcome to hear Him, and what He would have said would only have been honoring to the proper position of the Temple itself. After all, the Temple was to be the place where God would dwell. This Third Temple--started by Herod the Great but still in the process of being built--was to be the place where God would dwell. The multitude that came for Jesus that night had missed out on the import of Jesus teaching in the Temple. God was dwelling in the Temple for a brief time--and they all missed iot.
What a sad addendum to this verse is found in the words: Then the disciples forsook Him and fled. The Scripture here is Zechariah 13:7: "Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." This Scripture was fulfilled here in Matthew 26 as the disciples all run at the sight of Jesus being arrested.
Would we have run? Many throughout the church age have stood strong for the Lord Jesus, but they had the indwelling Holy Spirit to strengthen them. The disciples had not as yet had that experience, but nevertheless it is truly amazing that after three years of being with God in the flesh they all ran. Perhaps we run every time someone opens the door for a discussion on the things of God, and we do not speak up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"In a Crisis, Jesus is Still in Charge"

Matthew 26:52: But Jesus said to him, Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?
Peter had attempted to take charge, forgetting that the One standing next to him was God. God does not need our feeble attempts to protect Him. Jesus rebuked him for his unwise act, bidding him to sheath his sword. Carnal weapons were not needed to protect or defend the Christ of God He had only to ask of the Father to have twelve legions of angels sent to deliver Him; but how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled which foretold His death as a substitute for sinful men?
Certainly Jesus must have experienced frustration at Peter's act. It demonstrated to Jesus how weak and unknowing the disciples were. First, Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Yet, in this moment, he treats Jesus like he is some unwitting martyr needing a bodyguard. Second, Peter had been told by Jesus that He would go to Jerusalem and be betrayed into the hands of sinners who would then beat and scourge Him, and crucify Him, and that He would rise again the thrid day. How frustrating that is.
Jesus knew that His mission was not to be rescued, but to rescue us from our sins by dying in our place on the Cross. That is the Good News--good for us. Christ bore our sins alone. Remember that the next time you feel temptation to do that which is displeasing to the Lord, or the next time you think you are to tired to worship and praise the Lord. Serve Him today!
This passage reminds us always that Jesus is in charge. We get our instructions from Him, as well as our strength to do His will.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Violence Marks the Arrest of Jesus"

Matthew 26:50-51: But Jesus said to him, Friend, why have you come? Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Each of the gospels offers a different slant on the scene of Judas betrayal. Matthew is the simplest account, and it is not his purpose to provide much detail of this low point in the life of Christ. Matthew strikes the pathos of the moment by quoting Jesus' simple question: Friend, why have you come? All of you who have been betrayed by someone close to you must know how that must have hurt Jesus. In His humanity, which Matthew emphasizes, we see our Savior brought just one rung lower as Judas, the bounty hunter, brings that mob from the chief priests to catch Jesus.
Matthew's account of the arrest does not name the one who attempted to split the head of the high priest's servant open. His aim was bad, and all he got was one ear. In thinking of all the disciples, could it be the same one that interrupted the Transfiguration by joining in the conversation? Yes, indeed. It is Peter. John 18 gives the most detailed account of the betrayal, and in verse 10 identifies Peter as the one with the sword. John even names the servant of the high priest--Malchus. Because John's emphais is on Sesus as God, he brings up something very significant left out of the Synoptics--that when the mob came into the garden and asked if indeed He was Jesus of Nazareth, he answered I AM. That statement caused them all to draw back and fall to the ground. I AM is the precise Name of God as given to Moses in Exodus 14. Jesus uses the power of that Name to identify Himself, and the reaction is indeed strong.
A snapshot of our Lord from four different angles is a gift to us from the Holy Spirit. We see a four dimensional picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, Our faith is not based on little hints or meaningless details in a history book. It is based on a Person, and that Person is so clearly revealed in each of the Gospel accounts as well as throughout the Word of God. Read your Bible today, read it as if your life depended on it. It does.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Judas Betrays Jesus with a Kiss"

Matthew 26:48-49: Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him. Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, Greetings, Rabbi! and kissed Him.
One wonders what the thoughts of Judas were as he led the chief priests, elders, and others with swords and clubs to the rendezvous where he was certain he would find Jesus in prayer? If deeply perturbed, as he would have been if conscience were at all active, he gave no outward evidence of it as he brazenly led the multitude to where he saw Jesus standing with the three disciples.
Judas had planned with the chief priests a prearranged sign. He tells them to seize immediately the One that he kisses. What a revelation of the deceitful, natural heart, and what it ultimately is capable of!
The original Greek uses a verb tense for "kissed" that speaks of a repeated action. In other words, his purpose was so intense that he repeatedly kissed Jesus to make sure that the chief priests had the right man. Crimes of passion often involve an excessive amount of force. In the O.J. Simpson trial one of the most damaging pieces of evidence was the massive slashing done to Nicole Brown Simpson. Would a robber have been that desirous to make sure that the wound was mortal? Judas, under the power of Satan, wanted to make sure that the wound would be mortal for Jesus.

"Judas Leads a Mob into the Tranquil Garden of Gethsemane"

Matthew 26:47: And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Satan has entered Judas, and now directs him in this wild frenzy to capture Christ. This verse paints the scene as a vast over-kill. Jesus with eleven frightened, sleepy disciples are outnumbered and outmaneuvered by the recalitrant disciple, Judas. Note the text reminds us that Judas was "one of the twelve." He knew the Garden well--he knew it was holy ground--yet he was willing to break into that tranquil Garden just as Satan dared enter the Garden of Eden thousands of years earlier.
The motivation for bringing a great multitude with swords and clubs makes it appear to be a vigilante scene in the Old West. The chief priests and elders had for so long dreamed of the day to take Christ by force, and Judas afforded them this excellent opportunity. No reporters, no crowds of followers, no Romans to ask what they were doing, it was perfect! And thanks to it being Passover, the mind and heart of the people of Jerusalem was distracted from the Lord.
Judas even provided the perfect time for the attack--under the cover of darkness. The priests and scribes just wanted Jesus gone, and thus "shock and awe" was in their strategy as they swooped down on the unsuspecting disciples and the Lord of Glory.
Yet, Jesus was still in charge! Look back at verse 45: Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand. Even in the worst of circumstances--when the world is against us--remember that God is still sovereign. He sets up and disposes kings, and His plans will not be thwarted.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Jesus Does the Will of the Father"

Matthew 26:42-43: Again, a second time, he went away and prayed, saying O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done. And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
The utter resignation of Jesus to the Father's will shines out in all these closing experiences involved in the time our Savior spent in Gethsemane. While the horror of becoming the great sin offering, being made sin for us, overwhelmed tHis human soul and spirit, yet, as we have seen, He was perfectly subject to the divine will, and had no thought of turning aside. There are depths here that our minds can neve fathom, but all is perfection on His part. Jesus knew exactly what the cup was that He was to drink. Knowing also that there was no other way by which He could become the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), He faced the ordeal unflinchingly in order that God might be glorified, and sinful men saved from judgment.
Remember, the cup was not simply death or physical suffering. It was the fierced indignation of the Lord against sin, which filled that cup about to be presented by the Father to His holy Son, that caused the bitter agony of soul which so affected His body that the bloody sweat was forced through the pores of His skin.
In the Old Testament, there are several references to the "cup" of God's wrath. In Psalm 11:6, it is reserved for the wicked. In Psalm 75:8, it is a cup of divine indignation. In Isaiah 51:17 it is the cup of trembling; and in Jeremiah 25:15 it is the cup of the Lord's fury. All of this, and more, was involved in the cup which our Lord had to drink in order that we might have the cup of salvation come to our lips (Psalm 116:13).
The agony that Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane was a fitting prelude to the darkness He would experience on the Cross. The One who had no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. That is Good News for us, that is the Gospel. Share with someone today the Gospel. Not only will you be a blessing to the Kingdom of God, but you will be blessed personally. Jesus paid it all, all to Him we owe! Let's live like we mean that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Jesus Command: Watch and Pray"

 Matthew 26:40: Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit iindeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
The disciples failed to watch with him in the hour of His soul's distress. Our Lord was as truly Man as He was God, and as Man He craved human sympathy and understanding. He looked for some to take pity on Him. His dearest disciples failed Him, thus adding to His grief.
Let us challenge our own hearts as to how far we have entered into the fellowship of Christ's suffering. Are we able to watch and pray in this time of His rejection by a godless world? No man will be able to stand in the moment of severe temptation who has been slothful instead of watchful, and indolent instead of prayerful. If only we realize that prayerlessness is as truly sin against God as cursing or swearing, because it is positive disobedience to His Word. If we understood that, would we not be more alert to use the opportunities He gives to draw from heaven needed grace for testing times?
Jesus commanded the disciples to watch and pray, because He knew how dark the hour was. That command goes to us today. Let us be found watching in prayer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Let this Cup Pass from Me"

Matthew 26:39: He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
It was there in the garden, where so often He had resorted with His disciples, and where so frequently He had enjoyed uninterrupted communion with His Father, that He now enters His final agony as He contemplates the reality of being made sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). John 12 pictures the agony as Jesus asks to be saved from this hour, but then states that it was for this hour that He came.
Look also at Psalm 102. This has been designated "The Gethsemane Psalm."Looking at that Psalm, we can sense the loneliness of the One that would be forsaken of God and despised by the very men whom He came to save. This was the cup from which His holy, human nature shrank. That He, the perfect One, in whom the Father had ever found His delight, should be treated as an outcast, because taking the sinner's place, was unspeakably horrible and appalling.
He had come for that purpose, but as the hour drew near when He was actually to undergo the baptism of divine judgment against sin, He would not have been the Holy One whom He was if He had not shrunk from so terrible an ordeal. It was at Golgotha, on the cross of shame, that our sins were laid upon Him, and He endured the full penalty that should have been ours, if God had not intervened in grace and sent His Son to be the propititation for our sins.
Despite all the foreboding of the assignment to which He had come to the earth, Jesus willingly resigns to the Father's will. I believe that Christ at that moment was pleading for some other means that salvation might be procured for sinners. If only that possible alternative could be revealed. It was not, and Christ accepted the will of the Father. For sinners such as you and I there was no other way to have our sins forgiven.
Hallelujah, What a Savior! thank Him today for His marvelous Grace towards us.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Jesus and the Disciples Enter Gethsemane"

Matthew 26:36-38: Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, Sit here while I go and pray over there. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.
Christ had apparently met frequently with the disciples at Gethsemane, a garden less than ten-minutes walk from Jerusalem's Golden Gate. Still there today, the Gethsemane which means "oil press" was a place of ancient olive trees. Probably an oline oil press was in that location at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. The trees today have a large iron fence protecting them from tourists. The Church of All Nations, as was mentioned earlier, is on the right side of Gethsemane.
Jesus took with him the inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, John) who had also been at the Transfiguration. He left the others in the Garden, and with them in a nearby location the immensity of the Cross caused Him to be sorrowful and distressed in His soul. He asks the disciples to stay with him as the sorrow seemed like death itself. He wanted them to watch with Him.
I receive daily reports on a dear friend and fellow member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions who is gravely ill. His wife, who has served for years in nursing, is at his side. She is so thankful for those who watch with her during this extremely difficult time. You can read the tears through the daily reports that are often written in medical terminology, yet express the pathos of the moment. It is a comfort to have others watch with you during a time of great sorrow. Jesus wanted that comfort from Peter, James, and John, yet He was to be denied any sort of resource for the task that would be completed by His death on the Cross. Look ahead to verse 40--they fell asleep at this crucial moment!
Jesus truly bore our sins alone. Rise up and shout Hallelujah to our Great Savior!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Jesus Predicts that Peter will Deny Him"

Matthew 26:33-35: Peter answered and said to Him, Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble. Jesus said to him, Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. Peter said to Him, Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You! And so said all the disciples.
Peter, not realizing the weakness of his flesh, protested that although all the others should stumble (same word as in 24:10 and translated there "offended") Peter would not stumble. Jesus declared that before the rooster would crow, Peter would deny Christ. Mark adds that the rooster would crow twice (Mark 13:35; 14:66-72) The point is that here we are almost midnight, and Jesus is saying that Peter's denial is literally a handful of hours away. Roosters in those days would start crowing at 3 AM..
Peter is so cinfident that this will not take place, he even vows that he would die for Jesus. The other disciples then displayed the same self-confidence and agreed (not to be outdone) that they also would stay with Jesus to the end. These are fleshly, not spiritual, promises. The flesh is prone to declare its own goodness (Proverbs 20:6).
We need to take warning here, because the day may come when it will be illegal to declare that you are with Christ. Elder Danny Seng sent me "The Greatest Speech" given as testimony before Congress this past year by the father of the Bible club president who was gunned down at Columbine for her faith--literally the first Christian executed in a U.S. public school for her faith. The shooter, a fellow student, asked her to deny Christ or die. I can still see the white casket that all her friends wrote notes on.
I attended R. D. White Elementary School in Glendale from 1961-1964. God was kicked out from the school while I was attending. Supreme Court rulings banned prayer (1962) and Bible reading (1963). I do remember we were permitted to pray for our country on November 22, 1963. A teacher who would stand for their faith would be removed from teaching, because the court wanted children to be kept safe from God and those who would promote such a subversive concept. This morning, 50 years later, R. D. White was emptied out quickly as there was a bomb threat. Six helicopters hovered over the school for three hours, and I could hear them that entire time. My thought was that the state has guaranteed those children safety from God, but that is about all they can guarantee. Because once God departs, man has free reign to do as he pleases. I wonder if any of the teachers, or heaven forbid any of the children offered a prayer during those tense moments.
Peter on his own thought that he did not really have to worry about denying Jesus. He did not need prayer for that, yet when it looked like continuing life might require denying Christ, Peter was first in line to curse the Savior. Jesus later forgave Peter, and may He one day forgive a repentant United States.

Monday, January 7, 2013

"The Assurance of Resurrection in the Midst of Darkness"

Matthew 26:32: But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.
This verse stands out as a bright shining light in the midst of great darkness. Jesus has just informed the disciples that they will all flee from Him in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7. They have all been in school for three years (the length of a seminary education after 4 years of college), and they are all receiving a "F" for their final grade in the course "Faithfulness."
But Jesus does not leave them feeling worthless, which would have been a justified emotion after that statement. Instead, he points them to a future reunion spot, and in doing so reassures them all that there departure from Him at the Cross would be not be final. They would return to Him.
The means of that return would be the resurrection. Jesus speaks of it in the past perfect tense. It is a completed action, and not only that, it is regarded as a past completed action. In fact, it was the resurrection that would bring the disciples back their faith that would waver in the face of the suffering and death of Christ. The resurrection would breath new life into them, and it would then be that they would see Jesus in Galilee. The disciples would see Jesus in Jerusalem also, but the gatehring point where five hundred saw the risen Christ at one time was Galilee. Matthew 28:7 has the angel who stood before the empty tomb reminding the disciples that Jesus was going before them into Galilee. The Scripture here is fulfilled within three days.
We have a life changing message. It turned the disciples from cowards into conquerors, and it can do the same for us as we fully appropriate its meaning. Go out with boldness this week. We have a great message and a great Savior!

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Prediction of the Abandonment of Christ by His Disciples"

Matthew 26:30-31: And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
Again we have two paragraphs each with one verse. Verse 30 states that they sang a hymn at the end of the first Lord's Supper. That was a part of the Passover, and the Psalms 113-118 were traditionally appropriate for the end of Passover. These six Psalms are known as the Hallel (praise) Psalms, and the content of those psalms celebrates the deliverance from Egypt. Psalm 135 is similar in content, and in fact that psalm is known as "Little Hallel."
The location now switches to the Mount of Olives. Apparently, Jesus and the disciples frequented the Garden of Gethsemane for teaching and prayer at different times during His ministry. That Garden is located near the base of the Mount of Olives, which rises on the east of Jerusalem. This is not an extremely high mountain, and would be regarded in California as a foothill. Today, you can see the Golden Gate (permanently blocked by Arabs to prevent the Messiah's entry) from the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is still there today with olive trees, some of which are dated at 3000 years of age.
Next to the Garden is the Church of All Nations, which had I believe 27 nations pay for its construction (USA was one of them). The claim to fame is that they have in that church what is believed to be the very rock on which Jesus prayed that night. We need to always be careful when we say that a rock or some other object is the exact spot, but as Dr. Gary Cohen (with whom I have co-conducted several trips to Israel) has said at these sites in the Holy Land: "We are always within 200 miles of the exact spot." Of course, that is the basic dimension of Israel, a country today that is about the size of New Jersey
Jesus will enter Jerusalem from that Gate in the End Times. Zechariah 14 says that His feet will touch the Mount of Olives, and the mountain will split in such a way that the Jews will be able to flee Jerusalem. As He and the disciples went out of that Golden Gate to the Mount of Olives, He began to warn them of what was soon to occur, and to impress upon them the untrustworthiness of their own hearts.
It was another of Zechariah's prophecies to which Jesus referrs in the next verse when He tells the disciples that all should be stumbled, or scandalized, because of Him that night. Zechariah 13:7 affirms that God will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep (disciples) will be scattered. The word "stumble" in Greek was used in 24:10 to describe the "offending" of those who will fall away from the Lord in the last days. The "stumbling" here is not final, but rather an emotional moment where the disciples because of lack of proper prayer preparation deserted Christ at His moment of need. The disciples must have felt that none of them would forsake Him whom they loved so dearly. But no man can ever sound the depths of evil in his own heart, which grace alone can overcome. Le tus this week Pray without ceasing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Christ Takes the Cup of Blessing"

Matthew 26:27-29: Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But i say to you, i will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.
There were four cups during the Passover meal, and this was the third cup commonly called "The Cup of Blessing." Christ took this moment to announce that this cup was indeed the mark of the establishment of a new covenant. The word covenant (literally "to cut a covenant" implied the shedding of blood. Moses shed blood to establish the covenant in Exodus 24:8. While Moses shed the blood of an animal, the New Covenat is established in the very blood of the One who established the covenant. Notice that Jesus speaks of this as a completed action, yet the atonement on the cross had not yet taken place. In His mind it was indeed accomplished.
Note that this is called a cup. We are not told what is in that cup, and it could have been a non-fermented drink. I would prefer that as would find it abhorent to think that wine, described in the Bible as a mocker (Proverbs 20) would have been used. If the bread was not to have leaven, why would the cup have fermentation? I have been to the church in Newport, Rhode Island, where a Mr. Welch was sitting over 150 years ago during a Communion Service and was convicted about the use of alcoholic beverage in the Lord's Supper. He invented grape juice , which is now used in many Protestant churches. The Lord blessed him with great wealth, and a company that still thrives today.
Jesus did not participate in that which was to be a memorial of His own death, but He looked forward to the time when, as a result of that sacrifice, He would have all His own gathered about Him in the Father's kingdom, to celebrate together the full glorious fruit of redemption. It was at that time that He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Judas Exposed as the Betrayer as the Last Supper is Instituted"

Matthew 26:25-26: Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, Rabbi, is it I? He said to him, You have said it.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body.
Two paragraphs that are each one short sentence are packed with pathos and fulfillment of Scripture.
First, Judas in verse 25 finally asks Jesus if it is he that Christ has been referring to. Jesus answers in the affirmative, but the other disciples apparently were not aware. It is suggested that they thought that Judas was to complete some work as the treasurer--helping the poor would have been their guess. The enemy is right under your roof would be a modern way of paraphrasing Psalm 41:9. David in that psalm spoke not only of an incident in his own life, but also predicted what would happen to Christ: Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. What an insult it must have been to our Lord who had given so much of Himself to his disciples to have this reaction by Judas.
Matthew gives the impression that Judas left at this poinit, and I have always thought that Judas would not have been present for the institution of the Lord's Table. Yet, in Luke 22, we find these words after the institution of the Lord's Table. Thus, the significance of the exact moment of Judas departure to betray Christ is not chronologically pinpointed. The Apostle John in John 13:21-30 gives the most detailed description of the scene, and it ends with the statement that after Judas received the bread with the bitter herbs he left and it was night. For Judas, it became dark because of his sin. John also mentions that Satan personally posssessed Judas at the moment that he is given the bread.
The last official Passover then in verse 26 becomes the First Lord's Supper. Jesus is the type represented in both services, and thus it is appropriate that He utilizes this moment to make the point. Jesus was the passover lamb that was slain by the Israelites all those years in the Old Testament. When they were eating the lamb, they were in reality spiritually eating Jesus. Now, he makes the statement in point of fact with the bread--the staff of life. Just as they spiritually were eating Christ's body as they partook of the lamb in the Passover Meal, so it is a spiritual eating of Christ's body as they took the bread. The disciples would not have misunderstood that Christ's body was spiritually present in the bread--because jesus was sitting right there with them and they were not physically eating him. It is sad that for about 1200 years this was the implication given by the church that they could literally eat Christ. The Scriptures make it plain that this is a spiritual presence in the supper.
Matthew 26:23-24: He answered and said, He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.
Jesus followed the basic pattern of the passover. The disciples had made it ready with the roasted lamb, the bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, following the directions in Exodus 12 (and following). Judas had been allowed the permission to enjoy the tenderest expressions of the love of Jesus, even sharing with Him in the dish of bitter herbs. Judas would take his bread and dip in that bitter herb with Jesus. The bitter herbs were to remind Israel of their time in bondage in Egypt. Egypt is a picture in the Old Testament of hell just as crossing the Jordan is a picture of entering heaven. How appropriate that Judas, who would betray the One who came to bring Israel out of the bondage of sin, would be reminded of the suffering of the past with the very One who would lead the way to eternal life.
Jesus says it would be better if the betrayer had never been born. What does that signify? Basically, Jesus is pointing out to the disciples that the betrayer has never been a believer, and in fact, there is no hope at all that he will believe. Judas went to eternal torment soon after he betrayed Jesus. Theologically, here is the best proof text against the concept that we all end up in heaven eventually. That is called "Universalism" and is practiced especially by the "science of mind" cults like Unity School of Christianity, Religious Science, and Christian Science (Mary Baker Eddy). Liberals in Protestant denominations also would be in somewhat agreement that in the end everybody gets to heaven. That is a very nice idea, but it is never found in Scripture. Judas, like all who reject Jesus as Savior, would have been better off to have never been born. That also signifies that Judas will be tormented endlessly, a horrific fate. Accordingly, since indeed God permitted the birth of Judas, we have an exact demonstration that God has elected some to everlasting punishment (a doctrine rejected by all cults).