Monday, December 04, 2023

Theological Thoughts About the Death of Christ

First, what happened on the cross? The sins of those who will believe in Christ were placed upon him. Isaiah prophesied this. Isaiah 53 says this in various ways: he was wounded for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities; our chastisement was put upon him to bring us peace; the LORD laid upon him the iniquity of us all; he made an offering for guilt. (Isaiah 53:4-6, 10) 

The New Testament explains it further. Romans 3:25 says God put Christ forward as a propitiation by this blood. Propitiation means God’s wrath for sin was satisfied. 

1 Corinthians 15:3 - Christ died for our sins.

Galatians 1:4 says Christ died for our sins.

Colossians 2:14 says God has forgiven our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross. 

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. 

There are many more.

We call this concept “substitutionary atonement.” Christ died instead of us. He died in our place, as our substitute, paying the penalty of our sins. He atoned for our sins and allow us to enter into a right relationship with a holy God.

Second, why did darkness fall for three hours? Mark does not tell us why. But, darkness in the Bible can portray judgment. God imposed darkness on the Egyptians as the ninth plague. (Exodus 10:21) After that came the 10th plague, the Death of the Firstborn. 

In Amos 8:9, speaking of a day of judgment on Israel, God said:

“And on that day”, declares the Lord God,

“I will make the sun go down at noon

and darken the earth in broad daylight” 

There are those who assert that this was not a supernatural event, but an eclipse that coincidentally happened while Jesus was on the cross. However, Passover is celebrated during the full moon. A solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon. 

Also on the cross, Jesus disarmed the spiritual forces of evil and triumphed over them. (Colossians 2:15) They can no longer accuse us or defeat us. We can resist the devil and have him flee from us. (James 4:7) 

Finally, Jesus abolished the wall between Jew and Gentile. He broke down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility and made one new man in place of two. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

Third, why did Jesus say the Father had forsaken him? Jesus felt the full measure of God’s wrath. He cried out to God that he was forsaken. He used he words of Psalm 22:1. 

He was temporarily forsaken because our sin and God’s wrath was upon him, separating him from fellowship with the Father just as the sin of men and women separate them from God. In Isaiah 59:2, God told Israel that their sins made a separation between them and god and had hidden his face from them. Habakkuk 1:13 describes God as one with pure eyes who cannot look upon evil and wrong. 

Why Was The Curtain Torn In Two?

The curtain was the divider between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place. He could only enter on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus 16) (Hebrews 9:6) The Most Holy Place was where the presence of God dwelled at the Mercy Seat. There the High Priest would offer the sacrifices that atoned for the sin of Israel for the past year.  

The tearing of the curtain from top to bottom meant it was the work of God, not of man. It signified that the way into the presence of God was not limited to the High Priest, but now open to all who are in Christ. He has made the final and perfect sacrifice. And he is now our permanent High Priest, interceding for us continually.  (Hebrews 7:25)

“Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can.I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As the taste of honey makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on, everyday, looking firmly at the cross of Christ.” Looking Firmly at the Cross of Christ by J.C. Ryle

Monday, November 20, 2023


 Jesus Before Pilate


The Sanhedrin in the morning decided to send Jesus to Pilate and seek the death penalty. They “delivered him over to Pilate”. (1) 

Jesus had said “…the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief press and the scribes and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles”. (Mark 10:33)

Mark’s account of the whole process is brief.

Pilate was the prefect of the area, appointed by the emperor Tiberius. He normally lived in a palace in Caesarea Maritina. Herod built a small town into a large Roman town by the sea, complete with a stadium and a temple dedicated to the emperor. By this time, the Roman emperors were claiming to be deities.

Above is a picture of the stadium ruins in Caesarea Maritina.

A stone was found in 1961 that was part of that temple. It has Pilate’s name on it and a dedication to the emperor. It is commonly called the Pilate Stone today. 

We believe the Bible is true on its own. But it is fun to see evidence of its truth, especially in areas that have been denied by non-believers.

Pilate would come to Jerusalem during Passover to quell any rebellions or riots that might occur, because it had happened in the past. He stayed at Herod’s Palace. It was built on the western wall of the city. 

The chief priests made accusations. Jesus did not respond to them. Pilate would not have cared about charges of blasphemy. But, he would care about insurrection. 

So, Pilate asked him if he was the King of the Jews. This is the one thing Jesus’ answer was enigmatic. In the Greek, it is: “you are saying”. It is difficult to know what Jesus meant by that, so many translations try to interpret it. For example, the New International Version reads “yes, it is as you say”. 

The King James Version reads: “Thou sayest it”, with the word “it” in italics to indicate it is not in the original text but is implied. The New American Standard 1995 reads: “It is as you say”. Again the italics show the added, or implied, words. 

The English Standard Version reads: “You have said so”. 

Jesus did not confirm or deny the claim. He seems to have put it back to Pilate to decide for himself who Jesus is. Other than this answer, Jesus remained silent. As Isaiah 53:7 says, “he opened not his mouth”.

Pilate Gives In To The Crowd


Pilate clearly finds Jesus innocent of violating Roman law. He perceived that the chief priests delivered Jesus to him out of envy. (10) He thought he had figured a way out of the situation. It was his custom to release a prisoner during Passover to get some favor with the Jews.  In fact, a crowd had gathered demanding release of a prisoner. So, he offered them Jesus. (9) But he called him “King of the Jews”, which did not help the situation. 

The chief priests were a step ahead of Pilate, though. They had stirred up the crowd. They demanded the release of Barabass, an insurrectionist and murderer, and the crucifixion of Jesus.

So Pilate gave into the crowd. He was likely wanting to prevent a riot, which would get him in trouble with Rome. 

The Scourging


Once the decision was made, cruelty set in. Even though he believed Jesus to be innocent, Pilate turned him over to be scourged. A whole battalion gathered to participate. That was 480 men. 

The soldiers mocked him for claiming to be king. they dressed him in a purple cloak and crown of thorns. They struck him on the head and spit on him. (20) 

Mark does not describe the scourging, focusing instead on the mocking. But a scourging would involve two soldiers using whips to beat the victim almost to death. 

The Crucifixion


Finally, they led him out to the site of crucifixion. The soldiers made Simon of Cyrene carry the cross, probably because Jesus was too weak from the scourging to do it. 

They put Jesus on the cross. The offered him a mild sedative, consisting of wine and myrrh, but Jesus would not take it. As he did not share his suffering with his friends, he did not diminish his suffering with a sedative.

Jesus was stripped of his clothes, a further humiliation. The mocking continued. Some taunted him to come down from the cross and save himself. He was crucified between two robbers, fulfilling Isiah 53:12. Even the robbers crucified with him reviled him. 

Jesus’ Death


Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, from the third hour (9 a.m.) to the ninth hour (3 p.m.). At the sixth hour (noon), darkness came over the land. At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, asking God why he had forsaken him. (34) Those are the words of Psalm 22:1, but in Aramaic, the common language. Some obviously did not understand what he was saying and believed he was calling for Elijah to come and take him down from the cross. (15:35-36)

They offered Jesus a sponge with sour wine to drink. This fulfills Psalm 69:21, which says: “…for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink”. Then he gave a loud cry and died. (37)

In contrast to the mocking of the Jews, Jesus’ people, a centurion confessed: “truly this man was the Son of God”. (40) 


Jesus took all of the punishment alone and with nothing to alleviate it.

He bore the full weight of it.

He was despised & rejected (Isaiah 53:3).

He was fully obedient to the Father.

He did this for us. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023


The Trial


Jesus was taken to the house of the high priest after his arrest. The high priest was Caiphas, who was in that position from 18-36 A.D. It was night. The Sanhedrin was gathered, as indicated by the chief priests, elders, and scribes coming together. (53) 

Peter was trailing along behind the crowd and Jesus. He made it into the courtyard of the house. (54) But, we see Mark’s theme of Jesus alone and abandoned. None of his disciples are in the room with him to defend or even accompany him. 

The Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial. They were seeking testimony against Jesus. They brought forth false witnesses to testify against him.

The Sanhedrin violated many of the rules of trial in this process to condemn Jesus. There are whole books written about it. 

The first violation is the place of meeting. The Sanhedrin was supposed to meet for trials in the Hall of Hewn Stones. That was a building in the temple complex, believed by some to have been attached to the north wall of the temple itself.  

The second violation is the time. The Sanhedrin was supposed to meet during the day. They were not supposed to meet during any of the feasts. That is likely why they did it at night and in a different place: to do in secret what they could not do in public. 

The testimony of the witnesses contradicted each other, which should have worked in Jesus’ favor, but was ignored. Jewish law required two witnesses to convict a person of a capital offense and sentence him to death. (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6) One of the witnesses twisted Jesus’ words about the temple, claiming that Jesus said he would destroy it. 

What Jesus said was in response to the Jews asking what sign he would show them to justify his cleansing of the temple. Jesus said “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”. (John 2:19) He was, of course, referring to his body being killed and then raised on the third day.

Jesus was saying that he replaced the temple as the place where God meets with his people. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7, where God promised David that his descendant would build a temple, be God’s Son, and have a kingdom that lasts forever. 

The high priest then asked Jesus to reply to the adverse testimony. (60) This is a possible third violation because the accused could not be compelled to testify or incriminate himself. Indeed, Jesus remained silent. (61) Isaiah 53:7 says:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, 

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth. 

Since the witnesses failed, the high priest himself jumped in demanding to know if Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God (the “Blessed). (61) The Jews did not like to say God’s name. 

This Jesus answered, using the “I am”. Then he added two Old Testament prophecies and applied them to himself.

First, he said they would see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God (“Power”). This is a reference to Psalm 110:1, which says:

The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies your footstool”. 

This was considered a Messianic prophecy of the exaltation of God’s Anointed One. Jesus said the high priest would see him fulfill this. 

Second, Jesus said they would see him coming with the clouds of heaven. (62) This is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14. These verses spoke of one like a son of man coming to God and being given glory and sovereignty over all human beings forever. This was also a Messianic passage. 

The high priest rightly understood Jesus to claim to be the Christ\Messiah and the Son of God. Since he did not believe Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God, he labeled Jesus’ words as blasphemy and led the Sanhedrin to convict Jesus of it.

Blasphemy was punishable by death under Jewish law (although only the Romans could actually impose the death penalty that time). (Leviticus 24:16) 

Although they could not kill Jesus, they abused him. They spit on him, showing contempt. They covered his face and hit him while demanding that he prophesy. That meant, tell us who hit you. (65) 

In Isaiah 50:10, the Suffering Servant says:

I gave my back to those who strike,

and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard.

I hid not my face

from disgrace and spitting.

Peter’s Denial


While Jesus was on trial, Peter was in the courtyard by the fire. A servant of the high priest, a girl, recognized Peter and accused him of being with Jesus. (67) Peter denied even knowing what she meant. But left and went into another area, where he heard a rooster crow. 

The girl evidently followed Peter and pointed him out to some other bystanders as one of Jesus’ followers. (69) That made the situation more dangerous for Peter, so he denied it. (70) A little while later, some of those bystanders confronted him, saying he must be one of Jesus’ followers because he was a Galilean. 

Peter again denied that he even knew Jesus, calling a curse on himself if he was lying. (71) At this point, the roofer crowed again and Peter remembered that Jesus had said Peter would deny him three times. In sorrow for what he had done, Peter broke down and wept. 

Peter showed some flashes of bravery and keeping his vow to stay with Jesus. The struck with a sword one of the men who came to arrest Jesus. After fleeing from the crowd, he followed them, although at a distance. He made it into the courtyard of the house of the high priest. But, then he failed. 

We also see that Peter was later very candid about his failure. Mark could only have known this part of the story if Peter told it to him. 


Peter’s weeping means he realized his failure and his sin.

Peter’s willingness to tell Mark the story shows that he had been humbled by these events. It was something he needed to be the disciple Jesus called him to be. 

Jesus’ suffering has begun. 

Jesus suffered alone. He bore the full weight of his suffering with no help from his disciples and friends.  

Friday, November 10, 2023

5 Essential Doctrines to Believe In by J.C. Ryle

1. The Absolute Supremacy of Holy Scripture

Show us anything, plainly written, in that Book, we will receive it, believe it, and submit to it. Show us anything contrary to that Book, and however sophisticated, plausible, beautiful and apparently desirable, we will not have it at any price.

2. The Doctrine of Human Sinfulness and Corruption

Man is radically diseased. I believe that ignorance of the extent of the Fall, and of the whole doctrine of original sin, is one grand reason why many can neither understand, appreciate, nor receive Evangelical Religion.

3. The Work and Office of our Lord Jesus Christ

The eternal Son of God is our Representative and Substitute. We maintain that people ought to be continually warned not to make a Christ of the Church. We hold that nothing whatever is needed between the soul of man the sinner, and Christ the Savior, but simple child-like faith.

4. The Inward Work of the Holy Spirit

We maintain that the things which need most to be pressed on men’s attention are those mighty works of the Holy Spirit–inward repentance, faith, hope, hatred of sin, and love to God’s law. We say that to tell men to take comfort in their baptism or church membership when these all-important graces are unknown, is not merely a mistake, but positive cruelty.

5. The Visible Work of the Holy Spirit in a Person

We maintain that to tell a man he is “born of God” or regenerated, while living in carelessness or sin, is a dangerous delusion. It is the position we assign to these five points which is one of the grand characteristics of Evangelical theology. We say boldly that they are first, foremost, chief and principal things in Christianity.

Monday, November 06, 2023


 Jesus Predicted His Abandonment By The Disciples


Mark continues his theme of Jesus being abandoned and left alone to suffer. As they left Jerusalem, after the supper, Jesus led them to the Mount of Olives. 

Jesus told them they would all fall away, or abandon him. He put it in the context of Zechariah 13:7, which says “strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”. He was speaking with divine authority. He is the shepherd God will strike him, or allow him to be struck, to fulfill his will. Isaiah 53:10 says: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” 

Jesus had already told them that he would be betrayed by one of them. And now he tells them they will all abandon him. They are confronted with the lack of faithfulness as a group, even though they are, as the Twelve, those closest to Jesus. 

Peter, of course, spoke up to say he would not fall away even if all of the other disciples did. (29) Jesus told him that he would indeed deny him, not once, but three times. (30) It would not be a momentary lapse. It would be a complete and thorough denial.

Peter did not take it to heart and continued to assert that he would even go to death with Jesus. (31) Notice that he did not defend the other disciples, only himself. 

Had Peter had been more humble, he would have prayed and sought strength to face the coming trials. But he believed he was self reliant and strong. That led to his downfall. 

Peter had to be humbled to be the servant leader Jesus called him to be. This humbling was painful. That is why I always encourage believers to humble themselves. It is much less painful.

The encouraging word from Jesus was that, after his resurrection, he would “go before” them to Galilee. (28) He would gather them to himself again after they scattered. As he did with the crowds in Galilee, he would have compassion on them as sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

The disciples seemed to have completely missed part of what Jesus said. He said “after I am raised up” (ESV) or “after I have risen” (NIV). He was about to die, but he would be resurrected. And then he would gather them again. The actions of the disciples later affirm they did not understand this. 

Praying At Gethsemane


At the base Mount of Olives, Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane. It was across the Kidron brook from Jerusalem. The word means “olive press”. It was an olive grove and probably had an olive press. It was a place they went often, as Luke 22:39 says he went there as was his custom. 

Jesus told the disciples to sit down while he went to pray. (32) Mark does not tell us if they did, but given what the other three did, it is doubtful they prayed. They probably fell asleep.

Jesus took his inner circle with him: Peter, James, and John. These were his inner circle. They claimed to be strong: Peter said he would never fall away; James and John said they could drink the cup Jesus would drink.

He sat them down apart from the others. He was distressed, troubled, and very sorrowful. He said “sorrowful even unto death”. The New International Version says his soul was overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death. 

He had intense spiritual suffering. He knew he was about to bear the sins of many. He would be abandoned by his friends, but worse, alienated from the Father. 

Jesus told them to stay there and watch. 

He then went off a ways and fell to the ground praying. You know it is bad when a man lays on the ground to pray. 

Jesus asked the Father to let him avoid this bearing of humanity’s sin with all of its suffering, both spiritual and physical. Yet, he submitted to God’s will, saying “not what I will, but what you will”. (36) 

Jesus returned to his three friends and found them sleeping. They were not watching. They were not praying. They were not even sympathizing; they were sleeping. 

Jesus again chided Peter. (37) In effect, he said “you who said you were so strong you would not fall away, can you not even stay awake for me?”. He also told him to watch and pray, but specifically this time that Peter would not enter into temptation. And he told him his flesh was weak. (38) 

Again, you would hope Peter would get the message, humble himself, and pray for strength. But he did not. Jesus went back to praying and when he returned they were again sleeping. And it happened a third time. 

It was strange that men who so short a time before had been protesting that they would die for him, could not stay awake for him one single hour. 

In their defense, it was night time, when people slept. They had eaten a big meal and drunk wine. They had experienced emotional turmoil. But they gave into physical needs without recognizing the great spiritual crisis that was soon to be upon them. As Jesus said, the flesh is weak. 

When Jesus went to Gethsemane there were two things he sorely desired: human fellowship and God's fellowship. God acknowledged that need in the creation story, saying: ”It is not good that the man should be alone," God said in the beginning. (Genesis 2:18) In difficult times we want someone with us. 

Sometimes, we do not even want God to do anything. We only want him there; we want to know he is there. Jesus was like that. He called God “Abba”, Aramaic for “my father”.

Betrayed, Arrested, and Abandoned


As Jesus spoke, a crowd arrived, led by Judas. The crowd, and Judas, were sent by the Sanhedrin. That is what Mark means when he wrote that the crowd was from the chief priests, scribes, and elders. (43)The crowd was armed with swords and clubs, ready for a fight. 

Judas had lost all sense of honor. He told the crowd they would know whom to arrest when Judas kissed him. It was customary for a disciple to greet his rabbi with a kiss. It showed respect and affection. 

There are two possibilities here. Maybe Judas somehow thought the kiss would disguise his intent, but the armed crowd behind him would show that not to be true. Or maybe Judas wanted to rub it in, knowing the kiss was not a sign of respect, but of betrayal and disrespect. 

So Jesus was arrested. He pointed out their cowardice, arresting him at night with weapons when he had been with them for many days in the temple. (48) But he went with them anyway, obedient to the Father’s will and fulfilling the Scriptures. 

Then come some of the saddest words in the New Testament: “they all left him and fled”. (50) Just as Jesus said they would do, the fell away. They were not willing to suffer along with Jesus.

Those who fled included a young man who was caught, but shrugged off his clothes and fled naked. Only Mark includes this, so many thing the young man was Mark himself. 


The flesh is weak! Do not think you can fight spiritual battles in your own strength. Pray for God's help.

Jesus is our model of obedience. Despite the horror he faced, he moved forward to do God's will in complete obedience.