The Cross

 

Apr

07

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|12:27 am CT

“Why Do You Look for the Living among the Dead?”

Luke 24:1-8–

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ’The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

Verse 1 opens with the women walking to the Lord’s tomb very early in the morning.  These women have names and they have stories.  Verse 10 tells us Mary Magdalene walked with them.  The Lord cast seven demons out of this Mary.  Joanna went with them to the tomb.  Luke 8:3 tells us that Joanna traveled with Jesus.  Her husband was a manger of King Herod’s household, and she helped support Jesus’ travels and preaching from her own financial means.  Then there Mary the mother of James, the mother of an apostle chosen by Jesus, journeyed to the tomb.  These were women with names and with stories.

They traveled “very early in the morning.”  Literally at “deep dawn” or twilight.  When the sky blends with purples from night and orange from morning, making up its mind whether to go on sleeping or shine in glory.

Do you think they walked slowly or quickly?  Did they chat a lot or step in silence?  Did the walk seem long or short?

I imagine their walk was too purposeful to be a slow trudging.  But perhaps they were too exhausted to walk briskly.

Remember the events of the last three days.  Just three days earlier Jesus was betrayed and sentenced to death.  The betrayal broke their hearts in two ways.  First, their long-awaited Messiah was dead.  Second, one of their trusted leaders, one of the Twelve, sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver.  The entire nation seemed to turn against them over night—the religious leaders, the Roman government, the people.  The movement they believed in seemed to be over.  And that wasn’t the worst part.

They were there.  They experienced the mid-day darkness (vv. 44-45a).  They heard that terrible scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).  And they watched him breathe His last breath (v. 49).  It wasn’t just a song for them.  They were there when they crucified our Lord.

They knew Joseph of Aramathea had requested the body and prepared a tomb.  Verse 55: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.”  They were there.  Jesus was buried on the day before the Sabbath, Preparation Day.  On preparation Day, “they went home and prepared spices and perfumes” to bury Jesus properly.  But how can you be prepared to bury the Son of God?

That was three days ago.  The day after that was the Sabbath.  Verse 56 says: “they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”  I’m quite sure they obeyed the Law and stopped their activities.  But have you ever tried to rest after a loved one’s death?  Their minds no doubt replayed the scenes all day long.  Their hearts grieved over and over again.  With nothing to do to distract them, they probably found no rest for their souls.  And there were still things to do to properly bury the Lord.

So, on the third day, the first day of the week, Sunday, they rose very early in the morning and walked to the tomb.  Heaviness was in their hearts.  Sorrow was in their steps.  Mourning was on their minds.  Verse 1: “They took the spices they had prepared and they went to the tomb.”  They expected to complete their mourning rituals even if they didn’t complete their mourning.

THREE SURPRISES

But often in the Bible, dawn or early morning is the time God uses to make new revelations.  That’s when the Lord often surprises His people.  The women that morning were surprised with three startling things.

First, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”  (v. 2).  Matthew 28:60 tells us it was Joseph of Aramathea who “rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb.”  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James sat opposite the tomb watching Joseph as he sealed the grave with the stone.  Mark 16:3 tells us that on the way to the tomb, “They had asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’”  The women expected a very difficult barrier.  But to their surprise, “when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large had been rolled away” (Mark 16:4).

Second, “when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (v. 3).  Nothing is where it’s supposed to be.  They found the stone moved.  They found the body missing.  Imagine the rush of confusion and fear.  You witness the Lord crucified and die.  You watched Joseph bury the Lord deal the tomb.  You’re certain Jesus is dead.  But now the grave is empty.

Imagine the fear and the anger.  Who took the body?  Who would be so godless as to do it on the Sabbath during the holiest religious festival of all?

John 19:1-2 tells us Mary Magdalene took off running as soon as she saw the stone was rolled away.  She ran to Peter and John saying, “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”  She was thinking grave robbers, not the grave robbed.  The rest of the women stood there “wondering.” Mark describes them as “trembling and bewildered” (Mark 16:8).  The body was gone!

Third, “suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them” (v. 4).  They were surprised by a stone that was out of place.  They were surprised by a body that was missing.  Now they’re surprised by two visitors from another world.  Mark says “a young man dressed in a white robe” sat on the right side of the empty tomb.  Matthew says an angel had come from heaven, rolled back the stone, and sat on it.  John doesn’t mention the angels but focuses on the folded grave clothes instead.  Luke tells us in verse 23 that the two men were, in fact, angels.

Angels beaming and glorious frightened the women.  The ladies bowed their faces to the ground.  This was not just to hide their faces from the frightening bright light.  Simply turning away would do that.  They bow in reverence.  They’re in awe of such majestic beings.

THE QUESTION

But what these angels said next was perhaps the greatest surprise.  It was a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (v. 5)

It’s a question that reorients and redirects everything.  The question produces a Copernican revolution in the way we view all of life and all of existence.  It reorients and redirects us in six ways.

1.  Redirects Us from Death to Life 

Clearly the women visited the tomb to see a dead man.  We don’t stop by a graveside to entertain living people.  These women had seen Jesus die and be buried.  Their minds were on death.  But the death of Jesus means the death of death itself.  It’s clear from the angel’s question that they won’t find Jesus among the dead.  The Lord is not to be thought of as dead.  ”He is not here; He is risen!”  He is not dead; He is alive!  Now life’s terminal is no longer death but life–everlasting, resurrection life.

All life lived apart from the resurrection is really a slow death.  So many people simply live to die, and some are dying to live.  But the resurrection means you live to live.  We don’t visit tombs to meet with God.  We visit the Alpha and the Omega, the Resurrection and the Life.  This question—if we listen and receive it—reorients us from death to life.  It calls us to seek the living Savior and the life He gives.

2.  Redirects Us from the Cross to the Resurrection

We Christians rightly love the cross.  The cross is the symbol and proof of God’s love for sinful humanity.  We rightly make our boast in the cross.  But this question—”Why do you look for the living among the dead?”—exposes something that’s too true for some of us.  Sometimes we forget—like these Sunday morning mourners—that there’s something magnificent beyond the cross that gives the cross it’s glory.  If we get stuck on the cross without going on to the resurrection, then our faith feels like death rather than life.  Our faith remains stuck on tragedy without triumph.  The resurrection adds triumph to the tragedy!

This question—”Why do you look for the living among the dead?”—reminds us that Jesus rose from the grave.  God raised Him up.  When we embrace the meaning and import of this question, we find ourselves reoriented… no longer bound by the decades of life we have on earth, but expecting the resurrection life that will never end.  These women must look for Jesus among the resurrected living, and we too look for Jesus in the resurrection that is to come!  We live this life like people who will be raised to life again.

Do you live with death in view or with the resurrection in view?  Do we actively live as though God raised the dead?  What would that look like?

Hebrews 11:17-19 gives part of the picture.  It tells us how Abraham’s belief in the resurrection prepared him to make radical sacrifices for God.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring  will be reckoned.” 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

 We get another part of the picture from the Gospel of John.  Being redirected from the death of the cross to the life of the resurrection looks like a life of sacrificial love.  Jesus teaches us this in John 10:14—”I lay down my life for the sheep.”  In John 10:17-18 the Master tells us how the Resurrection enables Him to do that.  “The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”  John looks at Jesus’ example of radical love and tells us that every Christian should love this way.  1 John 3:16—”This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  Why not?  Our lives will be raised again together with our Risen Lord.

We get a third part of the picture from the Apostle Paul.  If our lives are oriented toward the resurrection, then we will live and strive as though knowing Jesus and being with Jesus is the greatest possible future.  We learn that from the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10—“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead” moves us from the death of the cross to the life of the resurrection.  That redirection enables us to live lives of radical sacrifice, love, and hope.

3.  Redirects us from Feeling to Scripture (vv. 6-7)

Imagine the range of emotions these women and the other disciples experienced over those three day.  Mourning.  Wondering (v. 4).  Fright (v. 5).  With all the swirling emotions they’re tempted to interpret everything through their feelings.  We can feel so deeply that we give our feelings the last word.  We can say to ourselves or others, “I don’t care what they say or what the facts are or even what the Bible says.  I know how I feel!!”

But this question—”Why do you look for the living among the dead?”—confronts their feelings.  The question confronts the authority of their feelings by pointing to a higher authority, a more sure source of knowing.  The question points to God’s word.  Specifically, it points to Jesus’ teaching in Galilee in verses 6-7.  “Remember how He told you while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’.”   Notice that key word “Remember.”  Never underestimate how remembering God’s word will change and steady your emotions when the most tragic and surprising things happen in life.  Their feelings should have been rooted not in their experiences but in Jesus’ teaching.  They should have been oriented to God’s promises found in His word.  The Lord himself had tried to prepare them by turning them from their feelings to His promise.  Do you remember how He did that in John 14:1-4—

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

We most need that redirection from feeling to Scripture when our feelings are strongest and our experiences most surprising.  That’s when we need to be turned to God’s word because that’s when our feeble hearts and minds are most vulnerable.  This question powerfully redirects the mourning disciples from their feelings and fear to the solid promises and reality of the Gospel.  Living in light of the resurrection keeps us living in light of God’s promises.  Do you actively live in that light?

 4.  Redirects Us from Current Events to God’s Providence

These women were shaken by recent events.  All the disciples were shaken by the happenings of the last three days.  The same was true of the men on the Emmaus Road in verses 13-18.  Ironically, so-called current events had them locked in the past and unaware of the future.  They weren’t very current at all.  They see the actions of men but they were in danger of missing the actions of God.

We can be like that, too.  All we see is what has happened lately.  We start to sound like Janet Jackson, saying to God, “What have you done for me lately?”  But then comes God’s question back to us: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”   It’s a question that reorients us from current events to God’s providence.

When the angels explain what they mean by the question, there’s one little word that tips us off to the importance of recognizing God’s sovereign providence.  Do you see that word “must” in verse 7?  “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”  All the verbs are passive.  These are things men are doing to Jesus, not things Jesus does to himself.  But that word “must” tells us someone else is acting in, through, behind and above sinful men.  Providence is at work.  The invisible hand of God is bringing about things that must happen according to His plan.  The resurrection above all other events reminds us to look for God’s providence in history.

To see this most clearly, consider Acts 2:22-24.  There, on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter stands up to preach the first recorded Christian sermon.  And this is what Peter says:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge [that's a fancy theological way of saying 'must']; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.[that's 'handed over and crucified'] 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. [that's raised on the third day]

The angels’ question and explanation are designed to help the disciples see the invisible hand of God moving in and through and beyond mere current events.  The question frees them and frees us from being stuck in the sorrowfully recounting of current events.  The question frees them and frees us to look to God’s greater plan and purpose.

Providence teaches us that history is not a blind, aimless march into nothingness and meaninglessness.  History is the recorded orchestration of God’s work in redeeming man through the cross and resurrection of our Lord.  There really is a man behind the curtain.  Do pay attention to Him!  He is God and He wants us to observe His providence and plan.  Looking to His providence reminds us that current events and history are going somewhere. God is up to something good!  The greatest proof of that is Jesus is alive not dead!

5.  Redirects Us from the Law to the Gospel.

Isn’t it interesting that the each of the Gospel writers tell us about these good Jewish followers of Jesus being obedient to the Law, specifically the Sabbath commands (v. 56)?  Some people will make of that fact.  But they won’t make what they should of this fact.

Notice how the angels’ question redirects them.  The question turns them away from the Law to the Gospel—to the Good News of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.  The death, burial and resurrection frees us from keeping the Law in order to be reconciled with and justified before God.  Christ has fulfilled the Law in our place.  We turn now to God through faith in Christ.

Jesus teaches this about himself in Matthew 5:17—”Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

This is what Paul teaches us in the book of Romans.  Romans 1:17—”For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous shall live by faith’.”  In many ways, the remainder of the book of Romans simply expands and explains the truth of Romans 1:17.  So, for example, turn over to Romans 10:4—”Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”  Or look back at Romans 4:25 where righteousness and the resurrection are connected explicitly.  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.”

The resurrection turns us from Law-keeping to Gospel-believing.  The resurrection turns us from self-righteousness to trust in Jesus’ righteousness.  The resurrection turns us from trying to earn God’s love by our good deeds to freely accepting God’s love as a gift through faith in His Son.  The resurrection turns us from the death that the Law requires to the eternal life that Jesus purchased!

Christian, our every day and every moment can be a turning again, a re-orienting and redirection to the Gospel of our Lord.  It is our privilege to keep preaching the gospel to ourselves and to one another rather than listening to the condemnation of the Law.  We get to look deeper and deeper into the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection every day so that we may live in the riches of God’s grace through Christ.  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” reminds us, Christian, that we live in the completed work of Jesus Christ—sins completely forgiven, atonement completely made, justification completely declared, adoption completely accomplished, and glory completely secured.  It is finished!

The women had come to the tomb thinking about what the Law required and what the Law forbid.  But with that question—”Why do you look for the living among the dead?”—they would soon discover that though they came like good Jews they could leave like forgiven, justified sinners.  They could live in the resurrection realities of the gospel through faith.

My friend, if you’re not yet a Christian, you can live in the reality of the resurrection, too.  This gospel is for you, too.  Right now, God’s law requires your death.  Death is the penalty of sin.  Death is an agonizing judgment, a curse from God, an enemy that separates those who die in sin from God forever.  But the Good News is that Jesus lived the perfectly obedient life to God that you and I could not.  That’s how He became our righteousness.  Then Jesus died and suffered God’s wrath and judgment in our place on the cross.  That’s how He takes away our sin and guilt.  Three days later God raised Jesus from death to life to prove He had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.  Now, God the Father calls everyone to repent of their sins and to trust in Jesus as their God and Savior in order to be rescued from death, forgiven of sin, made alive again through faith, and live eternally with God forever.  That’s the wonderfully good news.  All those who trust in Jesus—even if they die—will live again in the power of the resurrection and in the eternal fellowship of God’s love.

6.  Redirects Us from Grief to Joy

This final point should be obvious.  If Jesus is alive and is not dead, then all who trust in Him have the supreme reason to rejoice.

1 Peter 1:3-4—

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….”

Verse 6:

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Because of the resurrection, we have a new birth and an eternal inheritance that gives us joy and praise greater than our grief.  So much so, Peter writes in verses 8-9:

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now [while suffering various trials] “you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Would you be happy and full of joy in this life and the life to come?  Embrace and remember the resurrection.  Because Jesus was raised from the dead and keeps our inheritance in heaven by His power—He puts our joy safely beyond the reach of all our enemies, including the enemy of death.  If you would know pure joy, trust that Jesus has done it all!

 
 

Apr

05

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|1:05 am CT

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ Means Victory Over Death for Those Who Believe

All the gospel writers tell us that Jesus died on the cross.

Jesus died.  The fact is so commonplace it seems strange to even mention it.  Almost hollow.  Almost as if we’ve said nothing new or meaningful.  But “new” and “meaningful” are two very different things. We’re sometimes too accustomed to thinking that meaning comes from newness.  Old truths are still true, and therefore still very meaningful.  Because a thing is familiar, because we’ve heard it before, does not mean we can pass it by without reflecting on its meaning.

Jesus died.  What can it mean to say the Son of God died?  And how should the Christian respond to that news?

The death of Jesus Christ means the death of death itself.  The death of death in the death of Jesus Christ also means victory over death for those who trust in Christ as their God and Savior.

What Exactly Is ‘Death’?

Six things.

First, death is a curse.

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17)

Second, death is a wage.

“For the wages of sin is death….”  (Rom. 6:23)

Third, the Bible calls death an enemy

“Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.”  (Jer. 9:21) Death is an enemy that stalks us and threatens us.  This is why we hate it so.  We deserve death because of our sin, but we hate it

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26)

Fourth, death is agony.

“In hell, where he saw he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire’.” (Luke 16:23-24)

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)

Fifth, we can speak of both a physical death and a spiritual death.

“As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…. We were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1-2, 5)

Sixth, death occurs twice for unbelievers.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”  (Rev. 21:8)

We understand why people fear death and why that fear holds them in chains.  Who wants God’s cursing judgment?  Who looks forward to God repaying them for their sins?  Who welcomes defeat at the hands of a ruthless enemy?  Who longs to experience unending agony?  Who likes to think of a second, spiritual, unending death?

My friend, this is what awaits all those who die apart from faith in Jesus Christ.  God has prepared a place of wrath and death and conscious torment for those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord.

So we fear death.  We instinctively kick against it and try to push it back.  No one apart from the seriously ill or those without their proper senses welcomes death.  Death is an unwelcome visitor.

Is There Any Good News?

Yes there is!

When Jesus died and rose again, He destroyed death.

8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim. 1:8-10)

“But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24)

“When the perishable has been clothed with imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’.”  (1 Cor. 15:54)

“Death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire.”  (Rev. 20:14)

When Jesus died and rose again, He also destroyed the one who had the power of death.

 “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the Devil….” (Heb. 2:14)

When Jesus died and rose again, He freed those who believe from the fear of death and the mastery of sin.

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb. 2:14-15)

And:

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Rom. 6:5-10)

Since Jesus died and rose again, death cannot separate us from the love of God.

 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life… will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 39)

 

Jesus died.  Death is destroyed.  Satan, the one who holds the power of death, is destroyed.  Death and sin no longer have mastery.  Death cannot separate us from the love of God.  This is why the gospel, when it is properly understood, floods a man with such delight and boldness in the face of death.  This is why Paul almost sings: “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

The death of death in the death of Christ means victory for those who believe in Him.  Jesus has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  Eternal life and immortality come to all those who believe that Jesus died and rose again to save sinners.  This is the most basic promise of the gospel.  We hear this promise over and over again throughout the New Testament.  It’s an old truth with fresh meaning.  Christian, listen to these promises and stand in them.  My friend if you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, listen to these promises and received them by faith today.

Believers never taste death:

  • John 5:24—”I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
  • John 8:51—”I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
  • John 11:25—”Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’.”

Believers are justified and reconciled through Jesus’ death:

  • Romans 4:25—”He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”
  • Romans 5:10—”…we were reconciled to [the Father] through the death of His Son….”
  • Romans 6:3-5—”don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

The curse is removed through Jesus’ death:

  • Galatians 3:13—”Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’.”

Believers are freed from the second death:

  • Revelation 2:11—”He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
  • Revelation 20:6—”Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection.  The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

Christian, the death of Jesus means your victory over death.  Stand firm in this victory.  Let nothing move you or scare you.  When you think of yourself or your loved ones and death comes to mind, sing with Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  Rejoice for your last enemy has been defeated.  Through faith in the resurrected Lord, you will live forever in His love.

My friend, if you are not yet a Christian, believe on Jesus.  Believe his word which promises victory over death and eternal life.  Believe He was crucified.  Believe He died in your place to suffer your agony and curse.  Believe He rose again three days later victorious over death and Satan.  Believe that He is coming again to bring His people into heaven with Him.  Believe He loves you and the Father loves you and nothing shall separate you from their love.  Believe on Jesus and you will be saved from sin and death, Satan and suffering, to live a new life of righteousness and hope through faith in the Son of God.  Repent from sin and believe, and you will be saved.

Death is dead. Believers have won.  Believe on Jesus.

 
 

Apr

04

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|1:41 am CT

What Does It Mean for the Father to Forsake the Son? (Part 3)

Once again we hear the scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Once again we ask ourselves, What can this mean?  

It means the Father allowed the Son to suffer social abandonment.  It means the Father allowed the Son to suffer emotional desertion.  And, yet, it means more.

3.  The Father Allowed the Son to Suffer Spiritual Wrath

This is the deepest, darkest part of Jesus’ suffering.  Social abandonment was horrible but came from outside.  Emotional desertion was painful but only inside Jesus.  This spiritual forsakenness, spiritual wrath from the Father, occurs deep down in the very godhead itself.  We dare not speculate lest we blaspheme.  But something was torn in the very fabric of the relationship between Father and Son.

To get a sense of this, we must remember what the relationship between Father and Son had been from eternity past.  The opening words of the apostle John’s Gospel tell us.  John 1:1-2—”In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”  For all eternity, Jesus lived with the Father.  And not just with the Father.  The Greek word pros, translated “with”, can have the sense of “to” or “toward.”  In other words, the Word, Jesus, was with God, turned toward Him in face-to-face fellowship.  That’s all the Lord Jesus had ever known—the loving, approving, shining face of His Father.

And to be turned face-to-face with God the Father is the Bible’s idea of the highest possible or imaginable blessing and happiness.  This is why God teaches Moses to bless the Israelites in Numbers 6:24-26—

24 “The LORD bless you 
and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

To see the face of God became the highest aspiration and hope among the holy and righteous.  I Chronicles 16:10-11 exhorts the faithful with these words—”Glory in His name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice; Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”  The psalms repeatedly include that last exhortation—”Seek His face always!”  That became the highest and happiest ambition of man.

And conversely, having the Lord turn His face away became the deepest fear and dread.  So David brings together that high and holy aspiration with that deep and fearful dread when he writes in Psalm 27:8-9—”My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek.  Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.  Do not reject me or forsake me, O my Savior.”

The words of Psalm 27 could have easily been spoken by our Incarnate Lord at Golgotha.  For in His earthly life and ministry, the Lord Jesus continually sought the Father’s face.  He sought to live in a way that earned the Father’s approval and favor.  And He did–perfectly.

But on that dark mid-day on Golgotha, when the sun refused to shine, the unimaginable and indescribable happened.  That beautiful, shining, loving face of the Father withdrew into the dark, frowning, punishing face of wrath.  He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).  The Son of God himself “bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24).  He became accursed for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).  And when our sins were laid upon Him, then Jesus felt the full horrible truth of Habbakuk 1:13—that God the Father’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil; He cannot tolerate wrong.”

At 3 o’clock that dark Friday afternoon, the Father turned His face away and the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrah’s.  In the terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“[T]his was his chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures….  For not only did he offer his body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us. … Nothing is more dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge. … [H]e maintained a struggle with the sorrows of death, as if an offended God had thrown him into a whirlpool of afflictions.”[1]

In Jerusalem that day hung a picture of Hell as the Son of God was cut off socially from everyone, deserted emotionally on the cross, and separated spiritually from the eternal Father with whom He had always lived face-to-face.  That’s hell.

Sinner, that’s our place!  That’s the horror that awaits everyone who dies in their sin not repenting from sin and trusting in Jesus alone to save them from the wrath of God and for the worship of God.  It’s not pretty.  It’s dark and horrifying and unimaginable.  Even the God-man cried out and died!

Here’s what we must remember and treasure: Jesus willingly suffers this so sinners may escape it.  Jesus’ abandonment means the sinners adoption.  He takes our place on the cross so we can take His place in the kingdom.  Because He was abandoned socially, we may be children in the household of God.  Because He was deserted emotionally, we become whole again—renewed in the image of God.  Because He suffered spiritual separation, we may be spiritually united to Him through faith so that we will never be separated from God’s love.  Because He was forsaken, we are forgiven.  Now He says to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

It is finished!  Sinner, our salvation has been completed.  We need only to turn from sin and trust in Jesus.

And if you need evidence to sustain your trust, remember this: The Father went back for the body.  He raised Jesus from the grave alive and ruling in glory. Three days later the Father  reclaimed a resurrected and living Son!  Jesus was not finally forsaken and neither is anyone who trusts in Him.



[1] John Calvin, Commentary, p. 318-9.

 
 

Apr

03

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|1:24 am CT

What Does It Mean for the Father to Forsake the Son? (Part 2)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Can you feel the sense of emotional torture in the Savior’s cry?  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It’s difficult to read those words, imagine that scene, and not shudder in horror.  In we look long into that anguished cry, we glimpse something of what it means for the Father to forsake His Son.  First, the Father allowed the Son to suffer social abandonment.  But there’s more.

2.  The Father Allowed Jesus to Suffer Emotional Desertion

Of course, the cry itself is a quote of Psalm 22:1.  Psalm 22 is a psalm of David.  It’s one of the Messianic psalms that clearly point beyond anything David ever experienced to the experience of Jesus the Messiah.  The psalm is best read on Jesus’ lips.

Four contrasts in Ps. 22 give us a glimpse of the emotional intensity of Jesus’ cry.  These contrasts are really gaps—gaps between Jesus’ expectation and God’s actions on that day.  For forsakenness is not simply a matter of loneliness.  Forsakenness involves loneliness, but extends to something deeper.  Nor is forsakenness simply a matter of being let down.  Forsakenness is that loneliness and let down that includes a sense of betrayal—at least the betrayal of unfulfilled expectations.  The U.S. Marines pride themselves on “never leaving a man behind on the battle field.”  To leave your troops and fellow soldiers stranded represents the greatest betrayal.  That’s forsakenness.  Or, imagine the groom dressed in his tuxedo awaiting his bride.  While expecting to see her dressed in white, slowly sauntering down the aisle, he learns that she left him at the altar.  That’s forsakenness.  An expectation, a longing, a hope… knifed in the back.  Forsakenness is to be cast off, abandoned, deserted, left, spurned, ditched, marooned, walked out on, jilted, spurned.  Forsakenness carries all the emotional thrust of that image of a knife in the back or a punch in the gut.

Consider the four contrasts in Psalm 22 as an illustration of the emotional forsakenness Jesus felt on the cross.  We may experience these things in our human trials; but Christ Jesus, the perfect man and perfect God, experienced these things in a degree we cannot imagine.

First, feelings of emotional desertion come if prayers go unanswered when we clearly know God rules.  Psalm 22:2-3—”O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.  Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.”  God is the ruler of all things.  He sits enthroned.  He is high and lifted up.  We could translate verse 2 as “enthroned on the praises of Israel.”  Yet, this ruling God does not answer the incessant cries and prayers of the one who trusts in Him.  We have the sense that the righteous prayers of righteous men ought to be answered by a righteous God.  If God does not grant such a man his prayers, then we feel a gap, a sense of forsakenness.  The more righteous the man and the prayer the more forsaken the feeling.  Have you ever had that feeling?  Yet, beloved, there was never a man more righteous than Jesus. Never was there a deeper forsakenness caused by unanswered prayers offered to a ruling God than that forsaken feeling Jesus felt on Calvary’s cross.  “My God, my God, how could you not answer my cry when you rule all things?”

Second, feelings of emotional desertion come when the righteous are forsaken while sinners are delivered.  When we see God deliver others yet leave us mocked and persecuted, it heightens our sense of emotional abandonment.  In Psalm 22:4-5, Jesus calls to mind God’s deliverance of Israel:

In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

Remember: This is sinful, backsliding, stiff-neck Israel who repeatedly turned from God to idols.  Yet, YHWH repeatedly delivered them and rewarded their trust.  Verses 6-8 contrasts backsliding Israel with righteous Jesus’ treatment.

 6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 ”He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Psalm 22 was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, but it’s like reading Matthew 27 verbatim.  How could God deliver a sinful people like Israel and leave the perfect Son of God to suffer the mockery of men He made?  For that matter, how could God deliver a sinful people like us and leave the perfect Son of God to suffer abandoned?  The gap heightens Jesus’ emotional desertion.  “My God, my God, how could you abandon me to insults when you’ve delivered sinners and backsliders?”

Third, when faithfulness is repaid with abandonment feelings of emotional desertion increase.  We see this in Psalm 22:9-11.

 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; 
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

When we consider the years of our trust in God and obedience to Him only to be left alone with no one to help in our time of need, then the sense of emotional betrayal grows more intense.  Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Virgin Mary.  He lived to do the Father’s will.  The only trouble the Lord ever gave His parents came at age 12 when he stayed in the temple too long teaching the religious leaders.  From birth Jesus served the Father.  But now, in trouble on the cross, the Lord cries with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And there was no one there to help.  The feeling of abandonment after a life of perfect obedience and trust left the Son of God overwhelmed with emotion.  “My God, my God, how could you leave me alone after doing all you asked?”

Fourth, the feelings of desertion rise when our enemies are close but our God seems far off.  We see this in Psalm 22:12-21.  Listen for the hints and prophecies pointing to our Lord.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

Bulls, lions, dogs, and wild oxen surrounded the Lord on that day.  Men turned to beasts by their sin and blindness.  The Savior feels his heart melting, His bones dislodged, his strength dried up, his hands and feet pierced, stripped naked and gawked at while his clothes were divided.  Isn’t it amazing how Calvary shows up so clearly in psalms written centuries before Jesus came and the gospels were penned?  It’s how partly how we know these things are true.

There is the Creator of the world hanging powerless, looking to the Father to be His strength.  But the Father stands far off—farther away than the women who were there (Matt. 27:55-56).  Yahweh, who was His strength, withdrew just when Jesus’ heart melted and failed.  Can you imagine a greater sense of abandonment, of being left by God?  “My God, my God, where are you when I’m scared and weak?”

Psalm 22 helps us understand what is happening emotionally to our Lord in those final moments on the cross, when He lets go with that wailing question, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Not only was the Savior socially abandoned by the men He came to save, He was also emotionally deserted by the Father in whom He trusted.

 
 

Apr

02

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|1:24 am CT

What Does It Mean for the Father to Forsake the Son? (Part 1)

Someone has described the four Gospels as “passion narratives with extended introductions.”  Indeed.  All the action and teaching prior to the passion of Christ serves as harbinger to the suffering to come.  The scenes grow more affecting from Gethsemane.  The intensity swells until the heart nearly bursts.  Consider Matthew 27:

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 ”He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Hours earlier we saw our Savior face down in agony in Gethsemane.  We saw Jesus pleading in prayer, “Is there any no other way than drinking this cup?”  We heard the silent “no” from heaven.  “No, there is no other way.”  Jesus had to drink the cup.

But that was Gethsemane.  Now the scene shifts to the Passover celebration in Jerusalem.  The crowds of Jewish faithful make the pilgrimage to the holy city with songs and rejoicing.  The entire city is festive—except one nearby place.

We leave the singing crowds of Jerusalem for Golgotha (v. 33), the place of the skull.  We find Jesus on a hill called Calvary outside of Jerusalem.  At Golgotha, we find Jesus drinking the cup.

It seems all the people were there when they crucified our Lord.  The soldiers were there.  Thieves were there (v. 38).  The crowds were there (v. 39).  The religious leaders were there (v. 41).  God was there.  God was there when they crucified our Lord.

God judged the entire land in that supernatural darkness (Exod. 10:21-23; Amos 8:9-10).  But, God judged Jesus, too.  We know this through the cry from the cross.  Notice: it was a loud cry.  This was no peaceful sleep in a quiet darkness.  Jesus doesn’t ease into death with a smiling face ensconced in soft glowing light.  He’s screaming.  Can you hear Him?  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Try saying it loudly.  Try saying again–this time with anguish.

It’s not the “why” that attracts our attention today.  The Father answered the “why” in Gethsemane.  What interests us on this dark noonday is that word “forsaken.”  Forsaken by the Father.  What ever can that mean?  One theologian calls this “one of the most impenetrable mysteries of the entire Gospel narratives.”  It’s what angels desire to look into.  And it’s for us to consider today.

What does it mean for Jesus to be forsaken on the cross?  At least three things.

1. The Father allowed Jesus to suffer social abandonment.

The soldiers scoffed and mocked that day (vv. 27-31):

 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.  They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.  “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.

The crowds mocked and reviled him (vv. 39-40).  “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’”

The religious leaders scorned him.  These were the teachers of Israel.  These were the stewards of God’s word.  These were the ones who should have known best of all.  But instead, “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.”  Spurgeon analyzed it well: They mocked Him as Savior: ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!  They mocked Him as King: He’s the King of Israel!  Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  They mocked His faith: He trusts in God.  They mocked Him as Son: Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God”.’ 

There were the mocking thieves, too (v. 44).  “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

All rejected and mocked Jesus.  But we don’t see how complete His social alienation was until we ask: “Where were his disciples and friends?”  They all scattered and abandoned him, too.  Only a few women stood and watched at some distance away (vv. 55-56).  The Lord was socially outcast and cut off from every strata of society. Forsaken by the ones he came to save.

What we have to ask ourselves is this: If you or I were there at Golgotha, would we have responded to the stripped and beaten Galilean the same way?  Our answer reveals why the Son was forsaken.

 
 

Mar

11

2012

Thabiti Anyabwile|1:45 pm CT

Five Reasons the Father Silently Said “No” to the Son in Gethsemane

One of the most moving scenes in all the gospels is the night the Lord of heaven and earth fell face down in blood-sweating, agonizing prayer.  Matthew 26 gives us one account:

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 ”Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Three times the Son of God petitions the Father to take away the cup of God’s wrath.  Three times heaven remained silent.  But in the silence of the cold night air an unmistakable “No” could be heard.  No, it was not possible to take away the cup and achieve the mission.   There was no other way.

But why?  Why was there no other way possible for an omnipotent God?  Why did Jesus have to drink the cup?

Five answers present themselves:

1.  The Father answers “No” because we need a High Priest who can identify with us.

“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he I, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:16-18)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

2.  The Father answers “No” because Jesus is the only possible mediator between God and man.

“The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Rom. 8:7)

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5)

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

3.  The Father answers “No” because there would otherwise be no atonement for our sin.

“For this reason he I, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:17)

“This is love: Not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

4.  The Father answers “No” because there was no other way to vindicate His own righteousness.

“God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate His justice because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–He did this to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).

5.  The Father answers “No” because there was no better way to reveal the mutual glory of the Father and the Son.

“Now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify Him at once” (John 13:31-32).

“Father, the time has come.  Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you.  I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:1, 4-5).

Why I’m Glad the Father Remained Silent

We’re not to think no answer was given on that amazing night in Gethsemane.  Neither are we to think that the Father’s silent “No” indicated purposeless neglect, as though God the Father were a divine deadbeat dad.  We’re to understand that the only Perfect Father found occasion to deny the only Perfect Son because such denial achieved the only perfect ends–a perfectly qualified High Priesthood, reconciliation through the only God-man Mediator, loving atonement for the sins of men, the vindication of the Father’s righteousness, and the ever-redounding glory of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father!  Gethsemane’s silent answer will eternally be heard in the loud joyous praises of the universe!

Because the Father answered “No,” sinners have a High Priest perfectly intimate with all their weaknesses, merciful and faithful.  We have One we can approach for grace.  Because the Father answered “No,” we have one who stands between us in all our ungodliness and God in all His holiness to reconcile us and reunite us as friends rather than rebels.  Because the Father answered “No,” those who have faith in Christ need never fear the Father’s wrath again; His anger has been fully satisfied in the Son’s atonement.  Because the Father said “No,” we stand assured that our acceptance with God happened on completely legitimate grounds–no parlor tricks, no loopholes, no legal fiction, no injustice to threaten or question the exchange of our sin for Jesus’ righteousness.  Because the Father said “No,” we will forever enjoy and share the glory of Father and Son in unending, timeless age to come.

I’m so glad the Father said “No.”

 
 

Apr

07

2010

Thabiti Anyabwile|9:52 am CT

Christ Crucified: Power and Wisdom

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)


Where are wisdom and power found?  Surprisingly for those accustomed to seeking power in shows of strength and wisdom in learned halls, it’s found in the preaching of the cross.  And we’re not talking about any kind of power or wisdom, but the power and wisdom of God.

Can the world produce one wise man, scholar, or philosopher whose intellectual achievements can rival those of God?  After all, the best sages and seers could not scale the heights of heaven and take hold of glory by the productions of their minds.  “The world through its wisdom did not know God.”

God is pleased by something else–by being known, showing his power, revealing his wisdom through the foolishness of preaching.  It pleases God to do it this way.  Why doesn’t what pleases God please men?  Isn’t that the surest evidence that something has gone wrong with humanity?  What pleases God–who is full of beauty, goodness, truth, and holiness–does not naturally please us.  How fare we’ve fallen from that original righteousness, knowledge, and holiness!

what pleased the Jews of Paul’s day?  Miraculous signs, powerful displays, shows of force.  They loved these things.  These signs established the credibility of the speaker.  They refused to believe unless such signs were forthcoming (Matthew 12:38; John 4:48).  Today, we have many sign seekers, searching in every crevice and peering over every fad on the horizon for a sign, a show, a display, power.  They travel to this ministry and that, to this conference and that, follow this “super apostle” and that, looking for a sign.

Yet, every day and every time Christ crucified is preach, power from God is present.  This past Friday and Sunday, for example, the world was full of the display of God’s power as pulpits all over the world proclaimed Christ crucified and resurrected!  Did we see, did we notice, did we feel, did we bow before the power of God?  Do we know the miraculous sign of God’s power when we see and hear it?  It’s in the preaching of Christ crucified, in the edification of the saints by that message, in the conversion of sinners by that same gospel, in the hardening of the reprobate by that same message.  The power of God over every human heart and life reveals itself as it accompanies the “foolishness” of preaching Christ crucified.  Do we stumble at this?  Let all the earth be silent.

The Greeks/Gentiles look for wisdom.  Who can be against wisdom?  No one really.  But the more salient question is, who can find wisdom?  There is wisdom of a sort in books.  There is wisdom of a sort to be gained from grandmothers.  There is wisdom born of living.  But what we need most is wisdom from God.  If we want that wisdom, we must look to Christ crucified.  “That’s foolishness,” says the Greek seeking wisdom.  “That’s ridiculous,” says the skeptics of our age.  “That makes no sense,” says the man who already confesses his need of wisdom.  How can a man, aware he has no wisdom, finally judge that the cross cannot be wisdom?  Humility demands a different poster.  For Christ crucified is the wisdom of God.   Christ crucified is the revelation of God righteousness, holiness, and redemption for those who believe (1 Cor. 1:30).  Can there be a greater display of the intricate and exquisite wisdom of God than the simultaneous punishment of sin and clemency of the sinner through the crucifixion of God’s perfect Son?  Can there be a greater display of God’s wisdom than that singular act wherein the unrelenting holiness of God is satisfied even as the untiring grace of God redeems the guilty?

“The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Indeed.  The cross turns the world upside down.  Those who would know the power and wisdom of God must seek wisdom and power no other place than in the foolishness of God revealed in the foolishness of Christ crucified.  Then we’ll know.

 
 

Mar

09

2010

Thabiti Anyabwile|7:51 am CT

What Does the Cross Mean? (2)

More from Sinclair Ferguson’s Grow in Grace:

The Cross demonstrates the justice of God.

Sometimes when we explain the message of the gospel to others we say something like this: ‘God has laid aside his justice.  He no longer deals with us as sinners; he forgets our sin, and accepts us.’  But when we say this we distort the biblical teaching.  For the New Testament’s message is not ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses.’  Rather, it is: ‘God was in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them‘ (2 Cor. 5:19).  Do you see the difference?

God did count our trespasses.  It is not on Mount Sinai that we discover this.  There we hear God telling us what our trespasses are, and that he will in no way pass by sin.  But it is only on Mount Calvary that we witness God counting men’s sins, demonstrating his perfect justice.  Yes, it is wonderfully true that he does not count our sins against us.  But it is not the ultimate wonder.  The wonder of all wonders is that God counted our trespasses against his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.  He did not pass them by; he punished them to the full in the person who ‘himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Pet. 2:24).  That was why Jesus cried out on the cross: ‘My God, I am forsaken–why? why?’  Heaven’s answer was ‘Because you stand in the place of sinners; you bear their guilt; now you must sustain their punishment.’  And so stroke upon stroke of divine judgment fell upon Jesus:

He was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.  (Is. 53:5-6)

 
 

Mar

08

2010

Thabiti Anyabwile|10:51 am CT

What Does the Cross Mean?

On Wednesday nights, I open our Bible study meeting with about 5-10 minutes reading a book. We’ve read through some great books in the 3.5 years we’ve been doing this. Currently, we’re reading Sinclair Ferguson’s Grow in Grace (Banner, 1989). We’re in chapter 5 where Sinclair has landed upon the cross. Or, from the reading, it seems better to say the cross has landed upon him! He is meditating on three things the cross means.  He asks the all-important questions: “How do we find the grace of God in the cross?  How has it become God’s instrument of salvation to those who have faith?”  Then he gives three Pauline reasons in answer.  I’ll print quotes from each section in the next couple of posts.

The Cross of Christ demonstrates the love of God

When the famous text John 3:16 tells us taht God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that men might not perish, it means that God gave his Son over to the death of the cross.  The cross is the measure of the love of God. That is why James Denney, a Scottish theologian of a former generation, used to say that the only time he ever envied a Roman priest his crucifix was when he wanted to brandish one before his hearers and say: ‘God loves you like that!’  Although he used no such visual aid the apostle Paul saw this as the burden of his own preaching.  We preach Christ-having-been-crucified, he said.

When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to himself.  We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son!  We cannot measure such love by any other standard.  He is saying to us: I love you this much.

 
 

Mar

04

2010

Thabiti Anyabwile|5:33 am CT

The Word of the Cross

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

David E. Garland’s commentary on this verse:

Since the cross represents painful death and profound humiliation, it calls into question the conventional wisdom about power and the divine.  The ancients took for granted the deities possessed power, and the degree of their power determined their ranking in the pyramid of gods.  In the cross, that pyramid is turned upside down.  The most powerful God appears to be the most powerless.  The cross makes hash of all secular and religious attempts based on human wisdom to make sense of God and the world.  Victory is won by giving up life, not taking it.  Selfish domination of others is discredited.  Shame is removed through divine identification with the shamed in a shameful death.  God offers a new paradigm that makes the experience of shame the highest path to glory and honor.  What makes the story of the cross even more offensive to humans is that it is not simply the foundation of human redemption but is also to become the way of life for believers.  They, too, will endure the wounds from slander, mockery, and affliction as they live for others.

The ominpotent God takes our shame in the most shameful death, so that we in identification with His shameful death participate in His all-surpassing glory.  Come Lord Jesus!