Sunday, January 21, 2018


Jesus Praying

After the supper, Jesus took the disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives to a place to pray. Luke does not name the place, but the other gospel writers call it the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been doing this regularly, since Luke says “as was his custom”. (39) Luke 21:37 says he taught in the temple by day and went out of the city at night and lodged on the Mount of Olives (Olivet).

He left the disciples with an instruction to pray. Specifically, he told them to pray they would not fall into temptation. A long and difficult night was coming, as well as several difficult days, and they needed to be strong to withstand the temptation to fall away. (40) This is the same instruction he gave them in the model prayer, to pray that God would not lead them into temptation. (Matthew 6:13) It is a worthy prayer for us also.

Jesus himself went further into the garden and prayed alone. The normal posture of prayer was to stand, but Jesus knelt. This indicates the stress and agony he felt. He asked the God “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”. (42)

We can tell from his prayer that Jesus knew what was coming and that it would be bad. We knew this also because he had told the disciples several times that he would be killed. And he knew the Old Testament prophecies of his death.

Jesus asked, if it was the Father’s will, that the “cup” be removed from him. This is Old Testament imagery. The cup is a metaphor for one’s destiny, but particularly for experiencing God’s wrath.

For example, Psalm 16:5 says “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Isaiah 51:17 says “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you have have drunk from the hand of the LORD, the cup of his wrath.” In Jeremiah 25:15, God told Jeremiah to “take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it”.

On the cross, Jesus would bear the wrath of God for our sins. He bore the Father’s wrath so that we would not be required to do so. Romans 5:9 says “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

That wrath of God will be poured out on all those who are not in Christ at the end of this age. Revelation 20:15 says anyone who’s name is not found in the Book of Life is thrown into the lake of fire. That means hell, the place of eternal suffering.

But, those who are in Christ, will not suffer God’s wrath, because Jesus did so in our place (“for us”). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

So, Jesus knew the cross would be terribly painful to his body. But he also knew bearing the wrath of his Father, with whom he had always been one, would be painful and terrifying. He was in agony. (44) The Greek word anoxia means a bitter striving in a fierce conflict. He was in a violent conflict as his human nature rebelled against the suffering to come.

J. C. Ryle wrote: “How can we account for the deep agony which Our Lord underwent in the garden? What reason can we assign for the intense suffering, both mentally and bodily, which He manifestly endured? There is one one satisfactory answer. It was caused by the burden of a world’s imputed sin”.

Yet, as bad as Jesus knew his suffering and death would be, he submitted to the Father’s will. He struggled, in his human nature, because no human wants to suffer pain and death. He struggled, but he submitted to the will of the Father.

In this we see the truth of Hebrews 4:15:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

We also are called to suffer. Sadly, in a world where many preach that we come to Jesus and get all good things we want, the mark of a disciple is the willingness to suffer for Jesus. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake… (Philippians 1:29) Like Job, we say “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”. That is the example of Jesus. It is also the instruction from Jesus, who said  we should pray “your will be done”. (Matthew 6:10)

The Father’s will was that Jesus die. Therefore, he did not grant the request to remove the cup from Jesus. But he did send an angel to strengthen Jesus. (43) Then Jesus prayed even more earnestly. He was so anguished that he sweated blood. We are not told what he prayed, but it was likely for strength to finish his mission, bear his suffering, and bring glory to the Father.

Think of the love Jesus has for us. He endured this horror for us. That must be why Luke recorded it in such detail. Jesus suffered for us, so that we would not suffer the wrath of God.

Realize that the Father may not remove every trial from you when you ask.
He will be with you and help you. He may even send an angel!
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

When Jesus finished praying, he went back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He must have felt terribly alone. They had already begun to fail him. He told them to wake up and pray that they would not enter into temptation. (46)

Jesus Arrested

It was too late for the disciples to pray. While Jesus was speaking, Judas arrived with a crowd. (47) The crowd included the chief priests, the officers of the temple, and some elders. (52)

Judas attempted to identify Jesus to the crowd by kissing him. This was a standard greeting among friends and family, even among men, in the Middle East. It was also a common way for a disciple to greet his master. But Jesus would not allow it. In fact, he challenged him, saying “would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss”? (48)

It was such a big betrayal. Jesus chose Judas as one of the Twelve. He taught him, traveled with him, performed miracles in his presence, saved him from a storm, washed his feet, and lived with him for three years. Judas knew where to find Jesus because he had been there with him. Jesus and Judas had been master and disciple, but also friends.

The disciples woke up and thought about the previous discussion regarding swords. They asked if they should strike with the sword. Peter, here just called “one of them”, struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. (50) Of course it was Peter, always impetuous, but also wanting to show Jesus he would not deny him, but fight for him.

Jesus stopped the fight, saying “no more of this”. He was going to submit to the authorities, for that was the Father’s will. He also set the tone for his disciples, not fighting, but even healing the servant who was injured. (51) Christianity is not about fighting, it is about suffering for the sake of the Lord and the gospel.

Jesus did rebuke the crowd, though. He mentioned that they came after him with weapons when he was in the temple everyday and could have been arrested. This was his way of pointing out that they were afraid of the crowds who respected Jesus, so they came at night and secretly.

His strongest condemnation, though, was pointing out more than their cowardice. He said their power came from Satan. It was their hour and the power of darkness, the devil. (53)

The New Testament is full of light versus darkness metaphors. Darkness is evil and the forces of Satan in the world. That darkness remains today and is our enemy. Paul wrote that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)

And so Jesus was seized. He was arrested and in custody. They brought him to the high priest’s house for a trial.

Peter Denies Jesus

When Jesus arrived at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, the crowd sat down in the courtyard around a fire. It is likely there were too many people to get into the house, so only the leaders went in to report on the arrest of Jesus. Everyone else stayed in the courtyard.

Peter had trailed along behind the crowd. People noticed him. The first was a servant girl. She identified Peter as being with Jesus. Either she recognized Peter or recognized the he was a Galilean. Peter denied it, saying “woman, I do not know him”. (57) This was his first denial of Jesus.

Someone else also identified Peter as being one of the disciples, but Peter denied it. (58) Finally, a third person realized Peter was a Galilean and identified him. (59) A rooster crowed while Peter was still speaking.

At the moment, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. The New International Version reads “he looked straight at” Peter. Peter remembered the prophecy of Jesus regarding his betrayal. It had come true. Peter, confident he was strong and tough, had denied Jesus, too afraid to stand for him. Realizing what he had done, he went out and wept bitterly. (62)

The depth of Peter’s failure must have hurt him deeply. Peter believed, but he had not stood. All who love Jesus grieve deeply when they sin.  

Luke does not record it, but John shows us that Jesus restored Peter both to fellowship and to leadership. (John 21)

Thank God today for your salvation. If you have not been saved, believe on and follow him today, so that you avoid the wrath of God for eternity. And realize, even the believer who fails miserably will be restored and forgiven when he returns to Christ.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

Jesus knew that Judas would betray him. And he had told the disciples that one of them would. But, in this passage, he gave an even more chilling prophesy. He turned to Simon (Peter), the leader of the disciples, and said Satan had demanded to have the disciples, so that he might sift them like wheat.(31)

Satan was not satisfied with taking over Judas. He wanted all of the disciples to see if they would desert Jesus. We see this because, in this first sentence, in verse 31, the word “you” is plural both times. Satan did not want to test only Simon, but all of the disciples.

This makes sense because, if he could destroy the disciples, he could slow or stop the spread of the gospel. He could discredit Jesus by discrediting his disciples. He wanted to sift them like wheat, alluding to the threshing of wheat, where the farmer tossed the wheat into the wind and the chaff blew away.

Notice, too, that Jesus does not call him “Peter”, but “Simon”, even though he had given him the name “Peter”. Peter means rock. But Jesus will not call him the rock, knowing that he will in fact deny and desert him for a time.

This brings to mind the story of Job, doesn’t it? In that story, Satan came to God and said Job only feared God because God gave him great material wealth and protection. Satan demanded permission to attack him. And God allowed it. (Job 1) So, Satan is at it again, seeking to hurt those who love the Lord to test their faithfulness. Revelation 12:10 calls him the accuser of believers.

By the way, Satan still seeks to destroy believers. Peter himself wrote that Satan is our adversary, prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He knew this from personal experience.

Jesus knew Peter would fall. That is why Jesus told Peter he would deny him. But, he prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail and that he would return to follow Jesus. (31) Here, Jesus used the singular form of “you”. And, he gave Peter an instruction. He said, when you have turned again, strengthen you brothers. (32)

Peter, of course, protested and said he would go to prison and death for Jesus. He was confident in himself rather than in Christ. He was over-confident. But Jesus gave him a sign. He said the rooster would not crow until Peter had denied three times that he knew Jesus. (34)

Peter, in his own strength, would fail. But, in Jesus, who prayed for him, Peter would not be destroyed. He failed but he did not fall into unbelief. He did not “lose his salvation”. Peter, himself, tells us why in 1 Peter 1:3-10. Being truly saved, Peter’s salvation was held by God.

A lesson is here for all of us: don’t get cocky! Do not think you have made it, that you are mature and invincible, for then you are actually at you most vulnerable.

On the other hand, do not give up and concede defeat. Jesus still intercedes for us, as he interceded for Peter. (Romans 8:34) In the flesh, our own strength, we are weak. But, in Christ, we are more than conquerors and nothing can separate us from him. (Romans 8:37-39)

Scripture Must Be Fulfilled

After speaking of denial and testing, Jesus told the disciples to be prepared. When he commissioned them to go out before, he told them not to take anything with them. (Luke 9:1-6) They obeyed and all their needs were supplied. (35)

In contrast, Jesus told them they needed to be prepared this time. They were to have money and luggage. They would no longer be able to count on their fellow Israelites for support. They would face opposition.

Jesus also spoke to them about swords. The question is, did he mean for them literally to take swords, or did he mean metaphorically they should prepare and protect themselves. It would seem to be metaphorical, since Peter later brandishes a sword and Jesus stopped him from using it.

It seems more likely that Jesus means they will need to be prepared when they go out after his death. They will certainly need the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, both to witness to others and to stay strong. They would also need courage to fight for the gospel, which may be what the sword represents. There would be a battle. They would be warriors. Their weapons would be the Word and prayer, not swords and shields.

The disciples did not understand. They spoke of having two swords. When Jesus said “it is enough”, he did not mean they had enough swords. Clearly they did not. Rather, he meant, enough of your speaking of what you do not understand. (38)

Jesus further prepared them by telling them the Scripture must be fulfilled. he said “this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: and he was numbered with the transgressors”. (37) Jesus is once again speaking of his death. He is referring to a passage in Isaiah 53, specifically 53:12.

Isaiah 53 contains a great and detailed prophesy of the Messiah. Verse 12 speaks of the death of Jesus:
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressor;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus would not just go and die, he would die to accomplish their salvation (and ours). He would make atonement for sins. He would die for them and for us. He bore the sin of many.

On the physical level, Jesus was crucified between two transgressors. But that is not the full meaning here. Maybe the Father had him crucified between two transgressors to symbolize what happened. Jesus took all of our sins upon himself. He who was perfect became a transgressor for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We are the transgressors with whom Jesus was numbered.

Christ’s death for us is sometimes called “penal substitution”. It is penal because he bore the penalty of sin when he died. It is substitution because he was a substitute for us when he died. Since the wages of sin is death, we should die for our sins. But Jesus died for our sins as our substitute. Paul referred to Jesus as the Son of God “who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Galatians 2:20)

This is the orthodox view of the evangelical world. But, it is under attack. Some have called it “cosmic child abuse”. The idea is that it would be cruel for the Father to send the Son to die for sins he did not commit and no choice in the matter. But this criticism ignores the doctrine of the Trinity, that Father, Son, and Spirit work in total agreement and harmony in all of their work, including that of salvation.

A second criticism is that it portrays God as angry rather than loving, and that creates alienation in people. But the Bible shows us that God has and will pour out his wrath on sin. But, God is love and, in love, sent his Son to save us. In Paul’s words, he is both just and the justifier.

There are other theories, but as with these two, they are not Biblical. It is important that we know what the Bible teaches so that we are not led astray by non-Biblical ideas.

It is also important that we realize the great love the Father has for us and the great work Christ has done for us so that we can be saved from sin to eternal life and live for Christ.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


A Prophesy of Betrayal

Immediately after the ceremony, Jesus spoke of his betrayal. One of the Twelve, one who was at the table, would betray him. (21) His hand was with Jesus on the table, meaning he was one of the Twelve sharing the meal with Jesus. Since eating with a person, and especially the Passover, would indicate friendship and fellowship, it shows the betrayal to be especially grievous and bitter.

Psalm 41:9 was a prophecy of this. It says “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me”. We know this is true because Jesus said so, as recorded in John 13:38.

Jesus also said “the Son of Man goes as it has been determined”, meaning his death was preordained by God. Peter pointed this out in his first sermon. He said  that Jesus’ death was according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. (Acts 2:23) It was not just an unfortunate turn of events. In eternity, before the world was created and man place on it, God determined that it would happen. Revelation 13:8 speaks of those whose names were written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

It was also determined that Jesus would be betrayed. In his prayer in John 17, Jesus said “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled”. (John 17:12) But, the one who betrayed him into that death was not excused. He would face the consequence of his betrayal. Jesus said “woe to that man”. (22)  And, of course, all are responsible who reject Jesus.

The words of Jesus caused the disciples to question each other as to who the traitor would be. They did not know who it was.

Who is the Greatest?

This discussion seems to have gone off the rails, though, because the disciples then began to discuss who was the greatest. This was not the first time the issue came up. Luke 9:46 shows us the disciples arguing over who was the greatest. Interestingly, that discussion also occurred right after Jesus foretold his death. Matthew 20:20-28 records the mother of James and John asking for Jesus to appoint them to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. Mark 10:35-45 records James and John doing this. My guess is that they looked back at this argument later with shame because they had spent precious last minutes with Jesus on arguing from pride.

We do the same thing today. Christians jockey for prominent positions in their church, preachers tout the number of follower they have on social media and how expensive their buildings are. We consider ourselves to be better Christians than others.

Jesus stopped the discussion at the supper by telling them the difference between leaders in the secular world and those in the kingdom. He said the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over their people. They live luxuriously but consider themselves benefactors of their subjects. It makes me think of the leader of North Korea with all of his wealth and privilege, demanding to be thought of reverently by his subjects, many of whom are starving to death.

But, in the kingdom, Jesus said the greatest is to act as the youngest (or least) and leaders are those who serve others. (25-26) In that society, elders were reverenced. Young people were to listen, learn, and do what they were told. So, Jesus was saying, if you are a leader, do the jobs no one else wants to do, let others go first, and do things for others as opposed to being served. Jesus said even he, the true lord, was among them as one who serves. (27) He demonstrated this by washing the feet of his disciples. (John 13) Since he, the truly great one, served, his disciples should also serve others.

Notice that Jesus assumed his greatness. Philippians 2:6 says he was equal to God the Father. As God, he was and is great, the greatest. He does not deny his greatness. That is why he said “but I” in referring to his service. (27)

Yet, Jesus did tell them they would be rewarded. They would take part in his kingdom. The table or banquet is symbolic of all the blessings of Jesus’ kingdom. They would also sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 tribes here are symbolic of all the people of God. The disciples will be rewarded with a special place of privilege in the kingdom. Revelation 21:14 pictures this as their 12 names written on the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem. They indeed were the foundation of the church. (Ephesians 2:20).

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

Jesus knew that Judas would betray him. And he had told the disciples that one of them would. But, in this passage, he gave an even more chilling prophesy. He turned to Peter, the leader of the disciples, and said Satan had demanded to have the disciples, so that he might sift them like wheat.(31)

Satan was not satisfied with taking over Judas. He wanted all of the disciples to see if they would desert Jesus. He wanted to sift them like wheat, alluding to the threshing of wheat, where the farmer tossed the wheat into the wind and the chaff blew away. In this first sentence, in verse 31, the word “you” is plural. Satan did not want to test only Simon, but all of the disciples.

Notice, too, that Jesus does not call Peter “Simon”, even though he had given him that name. Simon means rock. But Jesus will not call him the rock, knowing that Simon will in fact deny and desert him for a time.

This brings to mind the story of Job, doesn’t it? In that story, Satan came to God and said Job only feared God because God gave him great material wealth and protection. Satan demanded permission to attack him. And God allowed it. (Job 1) So, Satan is at it again, seeking to hurt those who love the Lord to test their faithfulness.

By the way, Satan still seeks to destroy believers. Peter wrote that Satan is our adversary, prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus knew Peter would fall. That is why Jesus told Peter he would deny him. But, he prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail and that he would return to follow Jesus. (31) Here, Jesus used the singular form of “you”. And, he gave Peter an instruction. He said, when you have turned again, strengthen you brothers. (32)

Peter, of course, protested and said he would go to prison and death for Jesus. He was confident in himself rather than in Christ. He was over-confident. But Jesus gave him a sign. He said the rooster would not crow until Peter had denied three times that he knew Jesus. (34)

Peter, in his own strength failed. But, in Jesus, who prayed for him, Peter would not be destroyed. He failed but he did not fall into unbelief.

A lesson is here for all of us: don’t get cocky! Do not think you have made it, that you are mature and invincible, for then you are actually at you most vulnerable.

On the other hand, do not give up and concede defeat. Jesus still intercedes for us, as he interceded for Peter. (Romans 8:34)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"When we look at the cross we see the justice, love, wisdom and power of God. It is not easy to decide which is the most luminously revealed, whether the justice of God in judging sin, or the love of God in bearing the judgment in our place, or the wisdom of God in perfectly combining the two, or the power of God in saving those who believe. For the cross is equally an act, and therefore a demonstration, of God’s justice, love, wisdom and power. The cross assures us that this God is the reality within, behind and beyond the universe."

-John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Lord’s Supper

On the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the meal. They would be the only ones who knew where the meal would take place until Jesus brought the rest of the disciples. Judas, therefore, was kept ignorant of Jesus’ movements until Jesus was ready to be taken.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the meal eaten by the Israelites as they waited for the passing of the angel of death and their deliverance from Egypt.

On that original occasion, each household was to take an unblemished lamb from the flock on the 10th day of the month. That month, from that time on, would be the first month of the year for the Israelites.

Then, on the 14th day of the month, all of the Israelites households were to slaughter their lambs at twilight. They were to put blood from the lamb on the doorposts and lentil to their house. They were to roast the lamb on a fire. They were to eat it that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They ate with their sandals on, staffs in hand, and their belts on their robes. In other words, they were to be ready to go. The bread was unleavened because they would not have time to make it and let it rise before cooking it.

The angel of death would pass over every house that had blood on the doorposts and not kill the firstborn. Hence the name “Passover”. This feast was to be a memorial day. Then for 7 days, they were to observe the Passover by removing leaven from their homes and eating unleavened bread. In addition, they were to have a Sabbath at the beginning and end, doing no work. You can ready about this in Exodus 12.

In Jesus’ day, Jews came from all over to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were often referred to as one celebration called Passover. Jesus sent his most trusted disciples, Peter and John, to prepare the Feast of Unleavened Bread so that Jesus could observe it with the disciples. He sent them into the city, Jerusalem, to meet a man who had a room for them. They did this and they prepared the meal.

Likely, Peter and John went to the market and bought lamb, bread, wine, and bitter herbs, as well as anything else that might be traditionally eaten in the meal. By this time, the Jews had added elements to the meal including 4 cups of wine.

The meal is prepared before dark, as the lambs are killed before twilight. The meal is eaten at night. Since the Jewish day began at nightfall, the slaughter was on the 14th and the meal on the 15th, although they were only hours apart.

When the time arrived for the meal, Jesus and the remaining 10 disciples arrived and reclined at table. They lay on pillows on their left arms and ate with their right hands. Although Da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper” is a masterpiece, it is not historically correct since it has them sitting in chairs at a high table.

Jesus told them he “earnestly desired” to eat this Passover with them before he suffered. (15) He would not eat it again until it was completely fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (16) By that, he meant they would not celebrate Passover again. Instead, the church would celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus earnestly desired this time of fellowship. (15) He had an intense longing for it. It would be the last one before his death. He also desired to change the feast into an ordinance for the disciples to observe in his honor until his return, helping them to understand what he was about to do. That is why he said he desired to do this before he suffered.

The meal began. The meal contained ritual elements as well as ordinary eating and talking. At some point, Jesus took a cup of wine, probably the Cup of Thanksgiving. Jesus gave thanks for it. This was part of the Passover celebration, not the Lord’s Supper. He passed it to the disciples to divide among themselves. Each disciple would have poured some of the wine into his own cup.

Then, Jesus took some of the bread, broke it, and gave it to them to share. He gave thanks for it. That is why some call the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist. That name comes from the Greek word for giving thanks, which is “eucharisteo” .

Jesus gave the bread new meaning. He said “this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (19) He ate his piece and the disciples followed suit. Jesus did not mean the bread changed into his physical body. Rather, he gave the bread a sacramental identification. The bread is a symbol of his body which he gave for us. We eat it to commemorate that.

It shows us the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:5 which says he was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The use of the word “for” also shows that Jesus’ death was substitutionary. He died “for us”.

Jesus then took the cup and said “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (21) He drank and they drank. This cup is part of the Lord’s Supper. The wine represents Jesus’ blood poured out as a sacrifice for us.

The bread which represents Jesus’ body and the wine which represents his blood collectively represent his death as a sacrifice for our sins. 1 Corinthians 5:7 calls Jesus our Passover lamb who has been sacrificed.

Jesus’ blood was also the ratification of the new covenant. The new covenant replaced the old covenant that had been ratified with blood at Sinai. Covenants are established or ratified by the shedding of blood. When Israel confirmed the old covenant with God, Moses sacrificed animals, collected their blood, and threw it against the altar. He called it the blood of the covenant. (Exodus 24)

The old covenant was ratified by the blood of animals. But the new covenant comes in the once for all atonement for sin through the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The new covenant is established with the blood of God.

We continue to do it today and it is important. First, it is important because Jesus instituted it. The early church observed the Lord’s Supper regularly. Some think the reference to the breaking of bread in Acts 2:42 means they observed the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gave instructions to the church about the observance. They were already observing it, but not correctly.

Second, it is important because each time we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns. (1 Corinthians 11:26) We proclaim to ourselves and to each other that Jesus died for us. We remember our salvation. We remember the reason we are together, because we who participate are now his body, those who believe in him.

There is also an element of looking forward. We observe the supper until he comes, as Paul said. Jesus said he would not participate until it was fulfilled in the kingdom. We look forward to the time he comes and all is fulfilled and our fellowship with him is complete.

Sunday, December 03, 2017


The 2nd Coming of Christ

After teaching about the destruction of the temple in terms of God’s vengeance and judgment, Jesus spoke about the final expression of God’s judgment that will come with Jesus’ return.

As with the destruction of the temple, Jesus taught that there would be signs of his return. He said there would be:
signs in the sun, moon and stars;
distress of nations because of the roaring sea;
people fainting with foreboding of what is coming; and
the powers of heaven shaken.

What did Jesus mean by these signs? Are these literal events or symbols of turmoil?

Since this is apocryphal language, we expect hyperbole, or overstatement. For example, Matthew recorded Jesus saying the stars will fall from heaven. (Matthew 24:29) We know that cannot happen because the stars are bigger than the earth.

Similarly, Isaiah wrote about the destruction of Babylon in terms of God’s judgment, saying the stars will not give light, the sun will be dark and the moon will not shine. (Isaiah 13:10) While we know from history that Babylon was conquered by the Persians, and that it was a judgment of God, there is no indication that the cosmic events actually happened. From this, and other Old Testament passages, we may conclude that this language is symbolic of God’s appearance in judgment.

This language appears repeatedly in the Old Testament. For example, Joel 2:30-31 says “I (the Lord) will show wonders in the Heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes”. This was in the context of the Lord saying he will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. (Joel 2:28)

Peter interpreted this event to be fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. (Acts 2:15-21) Again, there was no mention of the cosmic signs occurring.

Yet, Jesus spoke of observable signs before the destruction of the temple and appears to speak of observable signs of his return. In verses 29-30, he said as you see a tree leaf out, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things taking place, you know his return is near. So, some things will evidently happen that would lead us to believe Jesus’ return is imminent.

What are cosmic signs? “Cosmic” means related to the universe, or cosmos. These would not be normally recurring events, no matter how spectacular. The passing of comets, the red moon or the “super moon”, for example, are all natural events that occur at regular, predictable intervals. They cannot, therefore, be signs. Jesus said the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (26) A cosmic sign would, therefore, be something dramatic, unique and not explainable as a normal event.

In addition, the seas will be disturbed and people will not know why. Jesus said they would be perplexed. (21:25)   A sense of fear and foreboding will come upon the people of earth because they fear that something big and bad is coming upon the world.

All of these disturbing events will culminate in Christ’s return. His return will be visible to all. Jesus said “and then they will see”. (27) They will see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Christ’s arrival in a cloud (27) shows his deity, as many Old Testament passages show God coming on or in a cloud. (example: Ezekiel 1) There is also likely an allusion to Daniel 7:13, where Daniel saw one like a son of man come with the clouds of heaven before the Ancient of Days to receive the kingdom. That is a picture of Christ’s ascension to heaven.

At the end of this age, this same Son of Man will descend to earth in a cloud to judge the earth and resurrect the faithful. He will come as he left, visible and with a cloud. (Acts 1)

Notice that there are two reactions to these events. First, there are people fainting with fear. Judgment on those who rejected Christ will be severe and they are rightly afraid. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8)

But Jesus told his followers to react differently. They are to look up with hope because their redemption is drawing near. (28) Those who believe and follow Jesus will not face a fearful judgment. Rather, they will face the redemption of their bodies and eternity with Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 explains further:
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changes. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”

For believers, the return of Christ is the most blessed event. It is one for us to anticipate with hope and joy.

Verse 32 has provoked much discussion over the years. Jesus said this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Since Jesus was answering questions about the destruction of the temple, this verse likely relates to that. The temple would be destroyed in 70 A.D., within 40 years, or a generation, of Jesus’ death. Some of the apostles were still alive at that time. We know that John was. Luke is thought to have written his gospel around 80 A.D., so he would be fully aware that the temple was destroyed as Jesus said it would be.

While the temple could be destroyed and, ultimately, this world, the word of the Lord will never pass away. (33) It will stand forever because God is eternal and unchanging.

Isaiah 40:6-8 makes the same point with reference to God the Father. It says the flesh passes away, grass withers and flowers fade, but “the word of our God will stand forever”. Jesus applied that same truth to himself and his words. This is a claim to deity. Jesus is God and his word will never pass away. It will always remain and always be true. This is true because Jesus is more than a prophet. He is God and he will make it happen as he says he will happen.

This applies to everything Jesus said: his promises, his teachings, his warnings, and his commands.

The life and death of the French writer Voltaire provides an example of this. He once claimed that no one would remember Jesus in 50 years. Fifty years from that prediction, the Geneva Bible Society bought Voltaire’s home in Geneva and began printing Bibles. Each copy included the words” Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

The Warning

One of the problems in waiting for an event that is far off is that of losing the sense of anticipation. Humans seem incapable of keeping that sense alive and acting accordingly.

Jesus warned his disciples and us about this in regard to his return. We are to watch ourselves so that we are not weighed down with the traps of this life so that we are not prepared for his coming.

Jesus said to avoid dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of this life. (34) It is easy to get “bogged down” in the cares of life or in the parties of life. We might come to say, with the scoffers, “where is the promise of his coming? for ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the begin of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)

But we know that Jesus will come when he is not expected. Jesus said “you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”. (12:40)

When we think of Jesus coming unexpectedly and at any time, we more readily focus on being prepared. As Peter wrote, “the end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:8-10)

We want to be living holy lives when Jesus returns. Jesus said “blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”. (12:37) To do this we must “watch ourselves”. (34) That is, we are careful to live according to Christ’s commands, continuing to be faithful.

We must pray that we will have the strength to escape all these things that will happen between now and the end, remaining faithful, not giving up. We want to stand before the Son of Man, receiving reward rather than punishment.

There is much that can happen to make us lose hope if we let it. At times, the world seems out of control. When that happens, Satan tells us to doubt, to give up the faith.  But we must stand firm in faith, resisting temptation and doubt, and look forward to his coming.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

THE END OF THE TEMPLE - LUKE 20:45 - 21:24

Jesus Warns the People About the Scribes

Having won the arguments with the Scribes and stumped them with his questions regarding David and his Lord, Jesus warned the people about them. He said the warning to the disciples, but did it in the hearing of all the people. (45)

The scribes studied and taught the scriptures. They made copies of the Old Testament. They were scholars.

But Jesus warned that they also liked to look important. He said they walked around in long robes. Their dress was distinctive from that of common men. It showed they did not do manual labor and that they were financially successful. The implication was that God blessed them with wealth as a reward for their righteous works. It reminds us of the prosperity preachers of today who wear expensive clothes, live in mansions, own jets and hold that up as a blessing from God that shows how great they are. It is quite a contrast to God who looks, not on outward appearance, but on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

They loved long greetings in the marketplace. Long greetings would entail elaborate statements of their worth and status. People today still love titles.

They also loved the best seats at synagogue and at feasts. This was like sitting at the head table at a banquet. Again it is about recognition of their important status. They loved this.

They were also pretentious in public prayers, making elaborate statements for show rather than actual communication with God. (47)

They were hypocrites.

One problem with this hypocrisy is that you may begin to fool yourself. You pretend to be spiritual so often that you believe your own lie and think you are spiritual. At that point you are doomed, because you have lost the ability to repent, to seek the Lord and to live for him rather than yourself.

Their hypocritical religious life led to a hypocritical ethical life. Jesus said they devoured widow’s houses. They took houses away from poor widows. This is bad enough on the surface, but when you recount all God said in the Old Testament about justice in the treatment of widows, you see this statement as one of serious condemnation. For example, Exodus 22:22 says “you shall not mistreat any widow”. Deuteronomy 10:18 says that God executes justice for widows.

Widows in that society were defenseless. They were vulnerable. Often they were poor, having no income and no one to support them. That is why God takes up their cause and says we must also. But the scribes took advantage of them.

Jesus said they will receive the greater condemnation. (47) And remember these words are spoken by the one who will judge the world.Those who are in ministry are held to a higher standard. All who live hypocritically face judgment, but those who live hypocritically in ministry face greater condemnation.

Jesus warned the disciples about the scribes because they were not who they appeared to be and the disciples could not trust them.

A Widow Gives All

Luke here employs another comparison, telling two stories to make a contrast. In contrast to the wealthy scribes who took advantage of widows, a poor widow is the focus of this story.

The background to this story is the Passover. Thousands of Jews came from all over to Jerusalem and to the temple at this time. They made offerings There were 13 offering boxes with an opening like the bell of a trumpet. Jesus watched rich people put in their offerings. He could tell they were rich by their dress, but also by how long they took to put all the coins in the box. It is likely that many of them made a show of this.

Then came the widow. She put in two copper coins. They had such a small value it hardly counted: about one four-hundred of a shekel each. But Jesus did not compare how much she gave to how much the rich gave; his comparison was how much she gave in relation to what she had. She gave all she had to live on.

Rich people are often lauded for their gifts, and that is not all bad. But, Jesus looks and honors sacrificial giving more than large donations. This widow gave it all.

The widow gave her whole self to God. As Jesus previously said that where your treasure is is where your heart is, her heart was clearly with God. In contrast, the scribes’ hearts treasure and hearts were on earth, with themselves, their riches and their status. Jesus praised the widow and condemned the scribes.

The End of the Temple

The temple was quite impressive. After Herod renovated and expanded it, it was covered with gold plates that dazzled in the sun. It had marble of pure white. It was decorated with precious gems. People pointed this all out to Jesus.

Rather than admire the temple, Jesus said it would be destroyed. He said “the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”. (6) That dramatic statement got the attention of the disciples. They wanted to know when it would happen and what would be the warning signs. (7)

The first thing the Lord said about this was a warning not to be led astray. (8) Many will come and claim to be Christ Returned and will say the end is near. Jesus said not to follow them.

Jesus also said that there would be wars and tumults, but his disciples should not be terrified because the end will not be at once. Jesus’ instruction is to not be afraid.

Jesus also said there would be earthquakes, famines, and cosmic signs. The Jewish writer, Josephus, recorded the appearance of a comet. All of these things happened before the temple was destroyed. There were many wars. The Jews rebelled against Rome beginning in 66 A.D., leading to the invasion by Rome.

But, Jesus said, before these things happen (“all this”), the disciples will suffer persecution. Their opponents will lay hands on them, deliver them up to synagogues (meaning the rulers of the Jews) and some will be put in prison. They will brought before kings and governors for the sake of Jesus’ name.  Sadly, Jesus went on to say that their families and friends would even deliver them up to their adversaries. (16) They would be hated for the sake of Jesus’ name. (17)

Again, all these things happened before the temple was destroyed. The Book of Acts records many such things. Peter and John were taken before the Council and high priest. (Acts 4:5) They were warned not to preach about Jesus and were threatened.

Acts 5 records the arrest and imprisonment of the apostles. They were freed by an angel. Then they were brought before the Council again and told not to teach in Jesus’ name. They were beaten.

Paul was beaten, imprisoned, taken before the governors and the emperor. He was ultimately killed. Stephen was stoned to death. Men and women were imprisoned. James was killed. Peter was killed. Christians were burned by the emperor Nero. Others were crucified. All of this occurred before the temple was destroyed.

Notice, though, that Jesus did not say these things to scare the disciples, but to prepare them and assure them. In fact, he said this persecution was their opportunity to witness and he would give them words to say that no one could contradict. (15)

The experiences of Peter and Paul recorded in Acts show that Jesus did what he said he would do. Repeatedly, the disciples answered the authorities in words that could not be rebutted. All through history, Christians have given bold witness in persecution.  

Verses 16 and 18 seem to contain a contradiction. In verse 16, Jesus says some of them will be put to death. Yet, in verse 18, Jesus said “not a hair of our head will perish”.

Verse 18 is not meant to be literal, but a saying meaning that their eternal life could not be taken away or damaged. If it meant physical life, verse 19 would not make sense in context. Their perseverance in the face of persecution would show that they had “gained their lives” or had eternal life. The word translated “lives” (psyche) here could be translated “souls” as it was in the King James Version. Their souls would be saved if they endured in faith through the persecution. Perseverance shows our faith is genuine.

After these events, or types of events, will come the event that shows the destruction of Jerusalem is actually about to occur. When Jerusalem is surrounded by enemies, the desolation of the city is near. (20) When the city is surrounded, those in Judea should flee to the mountains. Those who are in Jerusalem should depart and no one outside the city should enter it. It will be a time of great distress.

That is because the destruction of the city is sure to happen. It is a matter of God’s vengeance for rejecting and killing his son. (22) It is God’s wrath against the Jewish people of the time. (23) They would be killed and others taken as captives. All of this happened with the Roman invasion in 70 A.D.

In this time of wrath, we also see mercy. God gave Jerusalem about 40 years to repent. Jesus also provided a way of escape, words of grace. He told his followers to flee to the mountains and to avoid the city. He protected his followers by telling them how to escape destruction.

The destruction of the temple was also a sign that the system of temple sacrifice had to be destroyed. Since Jesus had offered the once for all sufficient sacrifice for sin, no other sacrifice should be given. And since Jesus had promised that he and the Father would dwell within his followers, the old temple was no longer the dwelling place of God and should not stand against the true temple, the body of Christ.

Jesus also said Jerusalem will be trampled until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This may indicate a time will come when the Jews repent. In Paul wrote that, if the Jews do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted into God’s people again. (Romans 11:23) He wrote that a partial hardening came upon Israel until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”. (11:25) That indicates that at the end of the time of the Gentiles, Israel may repent and again become part of God’s people.

In conclusion, we see that Jesus warned and prepared his disciples for the persecution to come. We can learn from these warnings as well. We also see that every word spoken about the destruction of the temple and the city was fulfilled. You can read Josephus’ book on the Wars of the Jews for his account.

We also see that the destruction of the temple is a type of the final judgment of the world, the “day of the Lord”. On that day the Lord will judge and act against all who have rejected his Son. We do not know the exact day that will occur, so it is important that each of us make sure we believe and commit our lives to Christ.