Tuesday, December 19, 2023


 Luke tells us in Luke 2:8-14: 

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

Kings at that time did not come to town unannounced. They sent heralds before them to announce their appearance so people would be ready for them. It was the same with Jesus Christ, our king. When the wise men from the East came to see Jesus, they asked “where is he who has been born king of the Jews”. (Mathew 2:2)

But in his case, Jesus’ herald was an angel.  It was a dramatic scene. A majestic angel appeared to the shepherds, seemingly out of nowhere and certainly unexpected. (9) The angel came to announce the good news that Jesus was born in the City of David, which was Bethlehem. 

Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2, which says:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathath, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  

The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds. God’s glory sometimes appears as a great, bright, light. In the New Jerusalem, for example, God’s glory will be the light in place of the sun and moon. (Revelation 21:23) 1 Timothy 6:16 says God dwells in unapproachable light. 

It often made people fall to the ground in fear. And indeed, the shepherds were filled with fear. The angel had to tell them not to fear. 

I do not know why, but God chose to herald the coming of Christ to some shepherds. These guys were camped out with their flock of sheep in the fields when the angels appeared. They were very low on the social scale. They worked and slept outside, so they were likely dirty and sweaty. They also smelled like sheep. They probably did not make it into synagogue regularly. They did not keep the ceremonial law. They were only above lepers in the social order. You can image a Pharisee in his fancy robe avoiding them completely. 

But, maybe God chose them because he wanted to signal that Jesus came for the lowly, not just the rich and powerful. He was born in humble circumstances and his birth was announced to humble people. As Mary sang: “he has brought down the might from their thrones and elated those of humble estate”. (Luke 1:52) 

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says:

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world…so no human being might boast in the presence of God”. 

The angel told them Jesus had been born. (10) He used three titles for Jesus. First, he is Savior. A savior is a deliverer. Jesus delivers those who believe in him from sin. Second, he is Christ. He is the anointed one who rules as king. Finally, he is Lord; he is God. 

There was important news in this announcement. The long awaited Messiah\Christ had appeared. From the beginning, when Adam and Eve heard the curse on the serpent, God’s people awaited the one who would defeat Satan. (Genesis 3:15)

They waited for the seed of Abraham that would bless all nations. (Genesis 13:15; Galatians 3:16)

They looked for the prophet like Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18; John 1:45)

They anticipated the one who would be the perfect sacrifice for sins.  (Hebrews 10:12)

They expected Isaiah’s Suffering Servant that would bear their iniquities and heal their wounds with his stripes. (Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; and 52:13–53:12)

Now, the angels announced, this Messiah\Christ, who fulfilled all of these prophecies had appeared. 

The word Messiah is the English translation for the Hebrew word meaning “Annointed”. The word “one” is implied, so “Annointed One” would be a fair translation. In Greek it is christos (if you use English letters). We transliterate it as Christ. 

Jesus would later say the title “Christ” was his. Mark 14:60-62 records the following conversation: 

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 

The angels’ second piece of news was that this news would be joy for all peoples. God promised Abraham a descendant who would bless all nations. That descendant arrived in Bethlehem announced by angels. Now the church is commissioned to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19) 

Third, as told by the multitude of angels that appeared, those with whom God was pleased, those whom he called into his kingdom, would find peace with God. (14) Sinful men and women are enemies of God. But Christ would, by his death, reconcile believers to the Father (Romans 5:10). And, Christ is the only one who can bring about this reconciliation in the life of believers. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). 

What a wonderful event and what a blessing to hear the news first. Yet, thanks to the Bible and the faithful witness of Christ’s disciples throughout the centuries, we join the angels in praise to God for his gracious salvation. 

The shepherds witnessed this first great praise: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

That multitude of heavenly beings is now joined by a multitude of believers from all of time and from every country that ever existed glorifying God and preaching the gospel of reconciliation to God: peace to those with whom he is pleased. 

Revel in the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe is pleased with you if you follow his Son. He takes pleasure in your praise and your obedience. 

What more could you ask?

Monday, December 18, 2023



MATTHEW 1:18-23

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name emmanuel”

(which means, God with us). 

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew tells us that the birth of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. Matthew does this many times in his gospel, showing that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. 

Why did he do that? 

Certainly, Matthew wanted the Jews to recognize Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. 

But, Matthew also wanted to show them, and us, something about God. That is, God always does what he says he will do. In other words, God is faithful. 

That may not sound like a Christmas theme, but think about this. “Advent” is a transliteration of a Latin word meaning “to come to”. It refers to the Second Coming.

So, the Advent season is historically a time to prepare our hearts and minds to look forward to Christ’s second coming at the end of this age. The church celebrated the first coming as a reminder of his promised second coming. 

Why is this important?

Well, it’s been a long time coming, as the song says. And when the waiting is long, we often despair of its happening. 

My middle daughter struggled with the concept of future days when she was a child. If she had to wait for something to happen and was told it isn’t happening today, she would ask if it would be tomorrow. If we said no, she would ask despairingly, “is it after Tuesday”, which seemed like an eternity to her. 

Christians have been looking for Christ to return ever since he left. When he did not return within a few years, some began to doubt that he would return. Peter wrote that some will say “where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing a they were form the beginning of creation”. (1 Peter 3:4) 

Those doubters lost sight of God’s faithfulness. The message of God to the church was: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:11) 

God revealed himself as “ abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6), so we believe he is faithful. And we keep believing even as time goes by.

Matthew wanted his people to see God’s faithfulness in the first coming of Jesus as the promised Messiah.  God wants us to believe in his faithfulness to fulfill his promise of a second coming or advent.

The beauty of this is that God’s faithfulness gives us hope. We can endure all things in light of the hope of Christ’s return to live among us in the new creation. And hope gives us joy. We can sing “Joy To The World” and mean it. 

That is because we sing it at Christmas time, but it is not about the birth of Christ. It is about his second coming. It speaks of what the world will be like when Christ returns. Sin and sorrow are removed and the curse is taken away. 

That is our hope. And our hope brings us joy. And joy is the theme of Christmas.

Have a joyful Christmas! 

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.