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Friday, March 29, 2013

"Our Orders from our Risen Lord: Make Disciples"

Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.
In Greek, therefore is a short three letter conjunction, but it packs great meaning.  "Therefore" could literally be "Because of this" as the word connects the importance of something stated with what then follows.  Here, it is on the basis of the authority of our sovereign lord.  This lordship found in verse 18 is the basis of how Jesus could then commission His followers to go and make disciples of all nations.  Jesus had unlimited authority and thus the commission is unlimited. 
Many people say that there is no reference to the Trinity in the Bible, which is absolutely untrue.  If you just need one verse to prove it, here it is.  We use this as the basis for  the baptismal formula.  For me, what a blessing to name the members of the Trinity in both baptisms as well as in the blessing of the rings at weddings.
We are evangelistic as a church and certainly Christ commands us to evangelize the lost.  It is interesting that Christ in this Great Commission focuses his final words on teaching.  Evangelism to be valid must have a teaching component. That is why we urge you to come to church after you are saved.  One does not have an instant knowledge of all biblical truth when saved, and thus we must come humbly to seek knowledge from those teaching the Scriptures.
The Lord's instructions never yet have been fully obeyed, and we know that not all the nations will accept the message in this age of grace; but we are commanded to go forth in the name of the Triune God, proclaiming the authority of the risen King and bhidding all men yield to him in glad surrender, and so enter into peace and blessing while waiting for His return from heaven.
Matthew closes with the Lord sending forth His messengers.  We do not read of Christ's ascension here.  The emphasis is on the Lord as Commander doing the work of enlisting ambassadors for Christ and His Kingdom.  We represent the authority of the God of heaven and earth, and plead with people to be reconciled to Him who sent His Son in grace that all men might have life and peace through Him.  We are unfaithful representatives indeed if we fail to respond to the command laid upon us, and allow our fellow men to preish in their sins unwarned and knowing not the way of life.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Great Commission"

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
For any that might still be questioning the deity of Christ as we conclude the book of Matthew, the writer gives this great declaration of that deity in verse 18. 
The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians to explain the self-emptying of Christ (see Philippians 2:5), but after that humiliation and servanthood, Christ is exalted by the Father above all (Philippians 2:9-11).
As our Lord ends his time on the earth, having accomplished all that the Father had willed for Him to do, Jesus claims absolute sovereign authority over both heaven and earth.    We have the song that has the refrain "Jesus is Lord of All."  An inheritance that He earned is now rightly claimed by our Lord.  He alone is worthy to receive all authority in the heavens and in our hearts.  Philippians 2 also mentions that Christ became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross.  He did that so that we might have life, and in grateful humility we now submit to His Lordship of our lives.  Have you made Christ the Lord of your life, or do you still maintain control?   Easter is the great time of the year to surrender yourself to Christ.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Jesus Appears to the Multitude in Galilee"

"Jesus Appears to the Multitude in Galilee"

Matthew 28:16-17: Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.  When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

Unlike the other Gospels, Matthew has stressed Galilee in the resurrection account.  We find it in verse 7, verse 10, and now verse 16.  Christ's greatest successes and the majority of His followers were from Galilee.  That is where He fed the 5000, walked on the sea, and saw His greatest triumphs in ministry. 

The eleven disciples are mentioned, and that fulfills the instructions given by the angel to the two women that they were to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in the pre-arranged spot in Galilee (verse 7).  It is a mountain that the disciples meet with Jesus in Galilee.  By the way, this does not discount the many other appearances that we noted on an earlier e-mail.  Those appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem in that Upper Room had already taken place. 

The significant thing about this paragraph is that matthew wanted to know that even at the greatest moment of proof that Christianity is valid there were some in that crowd in Galilee that doubted.  If the bible was a "made up" edocument that was written to shore up the new faith then the last thing that would be included would be that people doubted even while seeing and hearing Jesus in His resurrection body speak.  It strikes me as incomprehensible that this doubting could have occurred, but it did.  In the end, it gives me more confidence in the Word of God that Matthew chose to include that one small phrase.

Truly, the words of Christ to Thomas bear repeating: "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."

"Attempts to Disparage the Resurrection"

"Attempts to Disparage the Resurrection"

Matthew 28:11-15: Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.  When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, Tell them, His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.  And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.  So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

We have in this passage the stark reality that salvation comes only through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  No one is going to be brought kicking or screaming into the Kingdom.  On a Saturday a few weeks back I spent nearly an hour and a half witnessing to a relative of some faithful bus children.  We traveled the Romans Road, went through the various arguments for God, looked at archaeology and history and all the proofs for the resurrection, and then the response: "this is all so new to me, I have to think it over."  The next day someone who desired salvation had the basics shown for less than 10 minutes and they wanted to pray right away.  It is not us, it is not the evidence, it is always the work of God.

The guards should have repented and believed as they had been witnesses to the greatest event of world history in all time--the resurrection of Christ. I happened to be involved or present for some of the major life-changing events of the 1960's.  I know all those historic events (such as the anti-war riots at the Democratic National Convention in 1968) are not just in newsreels or books, they are in my memory and are recalled almost every week of my life. How could those guards display unbelief in the face of the  evidence that they were privileged to watch?  How could the chief priests totally disregard the greatest news of history just to keep the status quo in place? 

Truly they were the epitomy of the  "natural man" that does not recieve the things of the Spirit of God, because they must be spiritually discerned.

In verse 12, the priests and elders offer the soldiers silver (translated "money" in the NKJV), just like they gave to Judas. The soldiers had a real dilemma as the death penalty could be instituted for falling asleep on duty.  The story that Jesus had been stolen by the disciples was far-fetched anyway as the disciples had fled the scene before Jesus had even died, and then  buried in a borrowed tomb.  Also, if the guards were to say that Jesus had been stolen while they slept we have some real problems with logic and logistics.  Two problems immediately: (1) if they were asleep, then how did they know Jesus was stolen, and not risen; and (2) did they have pictures of the disciples that and in the dark absolutely identify men that they had never met as being Christ's disciples,[not to speak of the obvious fact that they were asleep at that time].


Matthew 28:9-10: And as they went to tell His disciples, Behold, Jesus met them, saying, Rejoice! So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.  Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid.  Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and they they will see Me.

These words are directed to those two brave women--Mary Magdalene, and Mary, wife of Cleopas.  They had been faithful, and they are rewarded beyond measure. 

They not only had the word of the angel, and the sight of the empty sepulchre to rely upon, but now they had seen the Lord Himself in the body of His resurrection.  In a very real way, their faith had turned to sight.

Jesus directed them to convey the good news to the disciples and to then tell them to go into Galilee at the spot where He had promised to meet them.

There are four Gospels, and each has a different reckoning of the events after the resurrection of Christ.  This particular appearance to the women on the road is not found in any other Gospel.  There are as many as 10 appearances that are recorded in the Gospels:

1. To Mary magdalene at the tomb (John 20:11-18)

2. To the women on the road as they were going to find the disciples (Matthew 28:9-10)

3. To the two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)

4. To Peter (Luke 24:34)

5. To 10 disciples on Sunday (Thomas absent) Luke 24:36-43)

6. To the 11 disciples the next Sunday (John 20:19-25)

7. To seven of the disciples by the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25)

8. To more than 500 followers on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16)

9. To james (I Cor. 15:7)

10. To the Apostles at the ascension (Acts 1:3-11)

Friday, March 22, 2013

"The Women Spread the Good News"

Matthew 28:8:  So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
The first people to spread the Good News were the women who had waited faithfully at the tomb of Jesus.  The disciples were in hiding, but the brave women had placed a watch at the tomb.
I remember some time ago taking a family to make arrangements for the funeral of the mother of one of our bus children.  The boy was only nine at the time (and is still very active in Bethany more than a decade later).  In the arrangement room the father asked the counselor if it would be OK for the family to stay in the slumber room with the deceased all night.  That was a part of their Philippine cultural heritage, and yet the counselor looked at me with "help me" written on her expression. The rules of Forest Lawn were reviewed, and an exception was not made. However, I  appreciated their diligence and loyalty, and when I came the next day and found about 80 people crammed in the room (I remembered how few had come to my father's viewing the year before)  I announced I was changing nationalities to Philippine before I die. 
Mary Magdalene and Mary, wife of Cleopas were of the same thinking as that family that honored their dead with their full attention and devotion.  The reward for that full measure of devotion was to now have the first opportunity to spread the Good News--Jesus has risen!
Notice that they went out quickly--they did not remain somber and sorrowful--everything had changed.  They went out with fear and great joy.  So should we. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Matthew 28:7b: And indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.  Behold, I have told you.


We have mentioned that the word "angel" is literally a messenger.  The unnamed angel in Matthew 28 has a specific messge that is concluded by the words: "Behold, I have told you."  The angel had completed the mission--and it was the Good Message (euangellion in Greek, and from which we get the word evangelical).  We hear the terms evangelical and orthodox--and find that both seem to be in opposition to each other. 


Churches that have orthodox in their name are often not very evangelical--do not make the Gospel plain, are very cold, or do not aggressively seek the lost--the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Greek Orthodox Church  would be  examples.  I have visited both and had all those criticisms confirmed.  Other churches emphasize the Gospel but do not give the doctrines that promote orthodoxy--some of the preachers on the Trinity Broadcasting Network would fit in that category.   A church that disregards either side is missing out.  Our boat (church) needs an anchor (the doctrines proclaimed in the Bible) to keep us from veering off the truth, and we need a strong net that will draw in those who need to hear the Gospel.  The greatest doctrine is the Resurrection, and we need to shout that Good News wherever we go.


The angel's message in the latter part of verse 7 emphasizes that they would find Chist in Galilee.  This is said on Resurrection Sunday.  Does that mean that Jesus would not make appearances in Jerusalem?  The other Gospels indicate that he did stay in that region for at least a week (Luke 24:15, 34, 236; John 20:19, 26). 


The point is that the major post-resurrection appearances would be in Galilee.  I Corinthians 15:6 states that Christ was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time.  That was the greatest confirmation of the Gospel.  Perhaps a few could see a phantom Christ, or someone who looked like Christ, but the chance of deceiving 500 people at one time would be difficult if not impossible.


"Go Quickly and Spread the Word: He is Risen from the Dead!"

Matthew 28:7a: And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead,
There it is.  That is our message.  How simple and yet how profound.  How unbelievable and yet how necessary because of the human condition.
Singer Michael Jackson confessed an absolute fear of aging and death.  Jackson's Neverland was filled with images of Peter Pan--Jackson believed he truly was that one who would never grow old.  Those videos of the rehearsals the day he died seem to prove that at 50 he was still a youth.
But he died that night in the quest for what most of us take for granted--sleep.  Now his remains are 2 miles from where I am writing this in Forest lawn where I have officiated at probably more than 100 funerals over the past 35 years.  None of those people buried from Iliana Bautista, who died before she was born, to Cathryn Strand, who lived in 100 different years, have ever been resurrected.  It is a human condition that strikes fear in the hearts of many.  Woodie Allen said he did not fear death, he just did not want to be there when it happened. Perhaps that is how some handle it. 
Jesus faced Satan and death squarely in the face and conquered both by dying and rising again.  He did it because of our human condition--without Christ's death and resurrection we would still be in our sins, and still be without hope of escaping spiritual death.
The sting of death is sin, and Christ has defeated that sting.  Character actor Art Carney at 85 was so weak that his wife had to place him in a rest home.  On one visit, he looked up at her and said: "When's Jesus coming for me?  I'm ready."  That is the Christian reaction to death thanks to Jesus' resurrection.  Physical death for the believer is just the temporary transport into the presence of the Savior.  Getting ready for Easter?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For He Is Risen

Matthew 28:6: He is not here; for He is risen, as He said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
In Israel, I will tell you that the most important site to see is the place where the Lord lay.  I remember the first time we had a group there--1991.  I ran my hand across that stone pillow and rejoiced that the tomb is empty.  The tombs of kings and presidents provokes awe and respect.  The empty tomb of Christ provokes assurance that yes indeed, Christ is risen.  Christ has won the victory over sin and death!
Liberals treat the resurrection as a myth that helps one through a cold night; the cults marginalize the resurrection, and other religions see Christ as a martyr (who stayed dead). 
Anne Rice wrote many books on witches and vampires, and was considered the Occult expert in Hollywood.  Some of these books were made into movies with the likes of Brad Pitt  and Tom Cruise providing the lead.  In 1998 she suffered a life threatening illness.  She then sent out the message that she would only speak of Jesus in future books--she had come to faith in a time of crisis.  When asked by Christianity Today magazine regarding her faith, she stated that Christianity achieved what it did because Jesus rose from the dead.
We have the message today: He is not here; for He is risen.  Our faith is built on that promise.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Fear Not"

Matthew 28:5:  But the angel answered and said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
The women must have feared greatly during the days from the crucifixion to the resurrection.  They had camped out there at the tomb all Friday evening, and now had returned to anoint the body with spices.
Quieting the fears of the women, the angel gave them to understand that he knew their quest exactly.  The angel knew that Jesus had been crucified.  When you realize that all your hopes and dreams have ended in a moment of time, you fear.  The Bible is replete with that command:"Fear Not."  In relation to Christ, "Fear Not" was the command to Zecharias, to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds.  It was the sentiment of Jesus as He went about His ministry dispelling the fears that people had in all aspects of life--emotional, health.
Without the Good News of Christ's resurrection, all we have is fear.  Without Matthew 28, we have the story of a Gandhi--a martyr who sought to free his people from oppression.  We have an example, a hero, but not a Savior.  As we conclude these verses in Matthew 28 over these last two weeks of March, may we come to a fresh realization of the life changing message of the resurrection.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Guarding the Tomb to Keep Christ Dead"

Matthew 27:65-66: Pilate said to them, You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Like liberals today, the Pharisees wanted to make sure that Christ stayed dead.  They knew that the resurrection would energize and establish a religion that would eventually destroy Judaism.
Pilate's reaction to the Pharisees was probably not only incensed (they had forced him to execute Jesus), but also amused as he could see their fears and anxiety. 
He gave them a detachment of Roman soldiers and appointed them to guard the tomb.  His grim words bidding them make it as sure as they could seem almost sardonic.  They were soon to learn how helpless they were when God's hour should strike.
They made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.  To break that seal would be a crime of the first magnitude, which they felt none of the disciples would dare to attempt, and the guard of soldiers would ensure that no one would be able to steal the body before the three days had elapsed.
It is evident that Christ's declaration that He was to rise again the third day (20:19) had made a deeper impression upon the minds of His enemies than upon the hearts of His own disciples.  Although He had mentioned it on several occasions, they never seemed to enter into the mening of His words.  They wondered what the rising from the dead could mean (Mark 9:10, 31, Luke 18:33-34).
While they did not expect a resurrection, the leaders of the people feared that the disciples would somehow trick the people.  Despite their efforts in sealing the stone, it was rolled away and the Savior arose from the dead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Enemies

"The Enemies (not the Disciples) Remembered the Resurrection"

Matthew 27:62-64: On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, After three days I will rise. Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure unto the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, He has risen from the dead. So the last deception will be worse than the first.

The next day was Saturday. The day of Preparation was Friday (also Passover). However, as one sadly finds out when checking into a hotel in Israel after 6 PM on Friday, the Sabbath has begun (and you sit in the lobby). So if Jesus had been taken off the Cross shortly after 3 PM, and then placed in the tomb around 4 to 5 PM, we would have the chief priests and Pharisees going about 6 PM to Pilate.

It was strange that as they approached Pilate, their stated reason for bothering him again was that Jesus had said He would rise again on the third day. It is strange because they remembered what Christ's own disciples had forgotten! Christ's prediction of resurrection was well known throughout the region.

The Pharisees were still uneasy about being rid of Jesus even though He had died cruelly on the Cross. They were taking no chances. They realized that if the least ground were given for starting a rumor that Jesus had fulfilled His promise, their efforts to destroy the effect of His teaching would be in vain. The disappearance of His body from joseph's new tomb would be, in their estimation, a tragedy, and would be accepted by many as a proof of His resurrection.

The Pharisees were afraid Christ's disciples might arrange to rob the sepulchre and hide the body away; therefore, the importance of effectualy thwarting any such attempt. Probably, they reasoned what they would do if they were on the other side. They were corrupt and would steal His body. They had nothing to fear from the disciples, who were hiding under their beds at that moment, afraid of everything. The only thing the Pharisees had to fear was, Christ Himself!

"A New Tomb"


Matthew 27:57-61:Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

Matthew again takes pains to show the fulfillment of Scripture--Isaiah 53:9, which says that Christ would be buried with the rich. Joseph of Arimathea (a city about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem) was a rich man who had hewn out of the rock a tomb that was in a garden. Joseph was one of the few of those who had riches who waited for the kingdom (Matthew 19:23-24; Mark 15:43). Joseph had been a secret disciple, but he proved loyal and brave when the test came.

By Pilate's commanding the body to be delivered to Joseph, there was the preservation of the body of Jesus from further indignity. He would be buried with the rich in His death, which once and for all time eliminated the possibility that people went to the wrong tomb.

Gordon's Calvary, discovered by General Charles (Chinese) Gordon, is the site outside the wall of Jerusalem that best fits with the requirements of Scripture for the crucifixion. Years after Gordon saw this small hill that had the shape of a skull (and still does today), excavation was done and a first century tomb of a rich person was discovered about 200 yards from the hill. A giant cistern indicating that a garden had been at that location was later found. Although only found in the late 19th century, this Garden Tomb is the only citing that fits all the requirements found in both the Old and New Testament for the grave of Christ. The rival site which was located by Constantine's mother is now below a Catholic Church. That site would have not needed a large stone, and it was not outside the city wall. The Garden Tomb would have necessitated a large stone over the enclosure, and it was outside the city wall. (Remember, Christ is also the scapegoat, who had to be taken outside the city to bear the sins of the people.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses (Mark 15:47) were the two who would take note of everything that was done related to the tomb. They would wait until after the Sabbath to place spices on the body of the One they had loved and on whom all their hopes were set, but who now was cold in death. nothing was left to chance, the two Mary's provided eyes that would watch every moment.

"The Women: Brave & Loyal Disciples"


Matthew 27:55-56: And many women who followed jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were mary magdalene, mary the mother of james and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

Art history can be a fascinating topic, and if you know Renaissance art a favorite topic was the prominence of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is often pictured swooning or suffering in some form next to the Cross. Based on the verse--a sword shall pierce thy side also--artists have assumed that Mary at the Cross becomes a co-redemptrix. Certainly there was suffering for the human mother of Jesus, but that did not have a redemptive quality. All of the people whom God used throughout history to fulfill His purposes suffered in various ways. From Job who lost everything except his wife to Hosea who lost only his wife we have suffering, yet it was not of a redemptive value for us. Only Christ the God Man could bring us redemption.

Now look at the list of names of women in verse 56. Who is missing? Mary, the mother of Jesus! Where was she? Jesus from the Cross had commanded John to take Mary to his home and treat her as his mother. Mary had left the gruesome scene at Jesus' own request.The point is made that John took her from that hour.

Present at a distance from the Cross were the faithful women who bravely and loyally watched the crucifixion. They could have run like the disciples, but they stayed. Three days later it would be the women who would first witness the validity of the resurrection.

Those present included Mary Magdalene, of whom Luke 8:2 mentions that she possessed seven demons. Mary the wife of Clopas was the mother of the apostle known as James the Less (Mark 15:40). James and John, the Son's of Thunder, had their mother present also (wife of Zebedee's children). They could not bear to leave the dying Savior, and we thank the Lord for their faithfulness. Where would you have been that day?

"The Centurion's Testimony: Truly this was the Son of God"


Matthew 27:54: So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God!

I often think of this passage when I have a funeral with military present. Often one man in charge and two soldiers with him. They fold the flag, one blows taps, they salute, present the flag on behalf of the President and a grateful nation, and they leave. A cold December day and a windswept valley brought the funeral party after one of the longest funerals with 350 people attending and about a dozen people sharing stories after my message, the frozen soldiers begged me to let them go first, which I did with many apologies for their time waiting. It was not exactly the Battle of the Bulge (where the weather competed with the Second World War), but it was cold for California.

This verse is certainly meant by Matthew to strike shame and rebuke to the Jews who had rejected Christ. This small detachment of soldiers under the direction of a centurion had probably been to many a crucifxion. Yet nothing compare to this. Impressed by the cries from the Cross; filled with awe at the darkness, the earthquake,and the speed with which Christ died; the centurion and his detachment experienced both awe and wonder.

Note that word "feared." We have that whenever the divine reaches into the ordinary lives of mankind. We consider our lives too routine and humdrum, and yet when God gets involved we "fear" instead of trust.

Some have suggested that the fear was a reflection of the soldiers on their own sins as they beheld the sinless Son of God. If so, then the word "Truly" would speak of a conviction on the part of the soldiers that they were now expressing faith in Christ. Those soldiers had heard Christ say: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). They now become an answer to that prayer.

And so are we all! While the crowd of Jews who knew the Old Testament Scriptures regarding the Messiah stood there shouting insults at God suspended between earth and heaven, a handful of Roman soldiers--far from their culture and comfort zone--were able to recognize just who Jesus was. A condemnation to a nation, a comfort to the world. May we take that blessed burden of spreading the Good News to a world that is lost in sin.

Then Behold

Matthew 27:51-53: Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus did not die of exhaustion or loss of blood, He laid down His life voluntarily when His work was done.

The veil in the temple, separating the holy from the most holy place was immediately rent in twain from the top to the bottom, the unseen hand of God tearing that curtain apart to signify that the way into the holiest was now made manifest. No longer would God dwell in the thick darkness. He could come out to man, in the light; and man, redeemed by atoning blood, could enter with boldness into the very presence of God.

Certain natural pehnomena also occurred, which Matthew alone mentions--a great earthquake, rending rocks and opening graves. Saints whose bodies had been sleeping in the tombs were raised and came out of the graves after His resurrection and appeared unto many.

For this to have taken place, these Old Testament believers must have been given their glorified bodies, and appeared "to many." Their appearance established the reality of the miracle. althoug nothing further is said about this, they must have then ascended to heaven.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Matthew 27:50:

We do not know why Matthew did not give more of the sayings of Christ on the Cross (one out of seven). And even in this verse it says that Jesus cried out with a loud voice, but does not tell that He said "Father into Thy Hands, I commend my spirit.."

I do not have the answer on that other than to say that Matthew's purpose was to express the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.

The theological significance of this verse is that it stresses the voluntary nature of Christ. He yielded up His spirit, He was not executed. He voluntarily let go of his life. The first day of school in Los Angeles I was summoned to a rehab near Kaiser Hospital. Cathryn Strand had died, and her oldest son (age 78) said that she had told him the night before that she was "letting go." In other words, she was giving up the fight to stay alive after breaking her leg.

While there is something to that, the parallels fall short with Christ on the Cross. Christ was in complete control, even when on the Cross. Matthew is making it clear that Christ has the power to lay down His life, and then to take it up again (John 10:18). No one had the power to take away the life of the sinless Son of God. Only God could dismiss His Spirit from the body that had been His tabernacle on this earth (John 1:14).





Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Looking for Elijah--Too Late"

Matthew 27:49: The rest said, Let Him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.
While there was much unbelief exhibited among those around the Cross, there is this one verse that indicates that at least one person was interested in seeing if Scripture would be fulfilled that day.
In Malachi 4--the last words of the Old Testament--we have a rather detailed prediction that Elijah the prophet would be sent before the coming of the Lord. Elijah was to announce the Messiah's arrival.
John the Baptist was a type of Elijah as it says in Luke 1:17. In that passage, it says that John the Baptist would speak in the spirit and power of Elijah, and would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and to prepare people for the Lord's coming. This John the Baptist did. However, John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah.
We know that the actual Elijah appeared at the Mount of Transfuguration with Moses, and that Elijah might be one of the two witnesses during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 11:1-3). Elijah will have a powerful ministry at that time. The primary reference of Malachi 4 is no doubt the Second Coming of Christ. It speaks of the dreadful day of the Lord, which would have to be the Second Coming. Most commentators believe that this will indeed be the acutal Elijah.
Thus, the comment in Matthew 27:49 reflects the fact that people were well aware of the prophecy of Malachi, yet they were ignorant of the timing of Elijah's appearance. He will prepare the way for the Lord, not be present at the end of Christ's earthly ministry.

"No Lessening of the Pain of Crucifixion"

Matthew 27:47-48: Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, This Man is calling for Elijah! Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
Christ on the Cross not only had to bear the penalty for our sins, the ridicule of the crowd, and the enmity of Satan, He also had to experience misunderstanding of His sacred cries from the Cross. Eli means "MY GOD." He was quoting Psalm 22, and at the same time was expressing the deep horror of having the Father turn away from Him as He became sin for us. The crowd, to add to His misery, thought that He was calling for Elijah.
For some reason this prompted one in the crowd to place to Jesus lips the sour wine that supposedly dulled the senses of the One being executed. This could extend the Crucifixion time frame. But Jesus was not going to bear our sins with His mind clouded by the sour wine. Jesus did not drink. His would be the perfect sacrifice.