A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 5 – Part 1

“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:5

Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll writes, I never cease to marvel at the advances of the modern world. The field of medicine has given us a life expectancy higher than ever. In many countries, even some people living in poverty live longer and have more comforts than kings of the past. Technology has sped up communication and transportation, essentially shrinking the globe. Within seconds, a person in Canada can chat with a friend in Thailand. Within a day, they can shake hands. At least in the Western world, humans have overcome many social and political problems, learning to face new challenges in the twenty-first century. We human beings have certainly come a long way!

“Or have we?

Over a century ago, liberal theologians thought we were on the verge of ridding ourselves of the barbarism, imperialism, and superstition that had led the world astray for so long. This included what they saw as the ‘mythical’ trappings of Christianity—things like the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Armed with modern science and philosophy, those enlightened intelligentsia were convinced that people could finally mold the world into what it was meant to be—an enduring kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. In short, they believed that humanity, equipped with the latest ideologies and technologies, was worthy to forge a glorious destiny, trusting in human ability rather than trusting in God.

“As you probably know, this overconfidence in humanity evaporated like a morning fog. In 1914 an assassin’s bullet ignited the fire that exploded into World War I. Germany was armed to the hilt with the most advanced weapons produced at the time. And they had the unwavering support of Germany’s leading philosophers and even theologians! That great conflict, dubbed ‘The War to End All Wars,’ was quickly followed by the terror and atrocities of World War II. By then, mass killing had been reduced to a science at Auschwitz, and science had also been used to create the massive destruction of the atomic bomb! Then came the horrors of terrorism, which military authorities say is here to stay. The reality of human depravity has dashed the misplaced hopes of humanistic philosophy and liberal theology. Today the world is left wandering in unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear. People wonder whether anyone or anything is able to truly remove the evil around us.

“Is anyone worthy to vanquish wickedness and usher in a world of true peace and prosperity? As the world continues its desperate and disappointing search for worldly answers to life’s problems, the Bible reveals the solution in clear words and vivid images. In Revelation 5 we experience the inexpressible joy that John felt when the attention of all creation finally centers on the only One who can take the reins of history and tame a world spinning out of control—Jesus, the worthy Lamb.” 1

Before God pours His wrath on rebellious humankind on earth (Revelation 6-18), He describes the Person Who is worthy to open a scroll containing God’s judgments to be unleashed on the earth during the 7-year Tribulation period. Chapter 5 continues the vision the apostle John was given of God and His throne room in Chapter 4. “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1). The “scroll” that John saw “in the right hand of” God the Father is representative of the judgments God will pour out on the earth throughout the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 6:1ff).The opening of just one seal alone, the fourth seal, will result in the death of one fourth of the world’s population (cf. Revelation 6:7-8). 2

This “scroll” was the focus of John’s attention in chapter 5, and it is what Jesus Christ opens (unseals) in chapter 6, resulting in the judgments that will be unleashed upon the earth. This rolled document was so full of words that John could see writing on the outside (“on the back”) as well as on the “inside” of the scroll (cf. Ezekiel 2:9-10). 3 Papyrus documents have been discovered that contain writing on both surfaces of the sheets, though this was unusual. 4

Someone, probably God, had “sealed” the scroll with “seven seals,” suggesting the profound nature of the revelation it contained. 5 Roman law required that people seal their wills “seven” times because they were very important documents. 6 The perfect number (i.e., seven) of seals may also hint at the absolute purity of the scroll. 7

“In John’s day, people used a seal to keep the contents of a document secret, unchangeable, and free from tampering—until some authoritative person broke the seal. In this case, after Jesus broke the first seal, the scroll unrolled until the second seal kept it from opening further. Then He had to break the second seal in order to reveal more of the contents, and so on. Probably the seals were located on the edge of the scroll.” 8

The scroll is like a title deed to the earth. It depicts God’s ownership of all creation and right to hold accountable those who misuse it and thus dishonor Him. Through judgment administered by Jesus, God once again will lay claim to His creation, which was plunged into sin by Adam in Genesis 3.” 9

Because God the Father has decreed that He will not execute His judgments on mankind personally (cf. John 5:22), 10 John hears “a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’” (Revelation 5:2). This is the second of twenty-one times “loud voice” occurs in Revelation (cf. 1:10; 5:2, 12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:2, 7, 9, 15; 16:1, 17; 18:2; 19:1, 17; 21:3). His “loud voice” manifested his authority and the importance of what he said. 11 “The Greek word rendered ‘scroll’ is biblion, from which is derived the word ‘Bible.’” 12

One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to “open the scroll and to loose” or break “its seals,” to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Next John writes, “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:3). After searching every level of the universe, no created being “in heaven or on the earth or under the earth” in Hades possessed the authority or ability to “open” or even “look at” the scroll.

“In fact, no one is worthy even to look at the Lord’s plan for worldwide judgment, much less administer it, prompting John to weep.” 13 “So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:4). John “wept much because no one was found” who was qualified to “open the scroll” and execute God’s wrath and bring His enemies into submission to Him.

“John knew that if no one had been found worthy, the hopeless condition of the present world would continue indefinitely. The suffering, pain, sickness, and death that characterize everyday life would never come to an end! Yet John’s weeping may have had another dimension. For over sixty years he had placed all his hope in Jesus Christ to turn the world right side up. If heaven’s search for a worthy heir failed, so would his confidence in Jesus Christ.”  14

Spiritually minded people long for that future day when the evil cosmos will be subjugated, and God will be obeyed. Because no one is found worthy to execute God’s wrath and bring this subjugation about, John is extremely grieved.” 15

How deeply grieved are we to see the postponement of God’s wrath upon the earth which will bring all His enemies into subjection to Him? Does our heart yearn to see God’s righteousness bring to justice those who have rebelled against Him and caused much suffering and pain to His servants? For centuries, believers have prayed for God’s kingdom to come on earth (Matthew 6:10) only to be disappointed. Perhaps our generation will be the one to see this come to pass.

John’s grief was probably lifted when he writes, “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5). One of the twenty-four “elders” representing the church in God’s throne room in heaven, told John not to weep because Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and its seven seals” to execute God’s wrath on the earth. The “Lion . . . of Judah” (Genesis 49:9) and the “Root” or Offspring “of David” (Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Matthew 22:42-43; Romans 15:12) are both titles of the Messiah-God, Who would fulfill the Old Testament promises of salvation and rule. This is the only place in the New Testament where they occur together, however. As God’s ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority and qualifications necessary for this task. 16

The word “prevailed” is the Greek word enikēsen and is from the same word used in Revelation 2 and 3 to describe the victorious believers who earn the title of “overcomer” and thereby reign eternally with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). The implication is that Christ was completely and perfectly faithful to God in His role as Messiah. He is the ultimate Overcomer, and therefore only He has earned the right “to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” as the Executor of God’s judgments. 17

This scene reflects the fact that sinful people, even when they are redeemed, fall short of the qualifications necessary for one who could judge the earth. But Christ, by virtue of His full divinity, sinless humanity, and atoning death, is qualified. God the Father has granted judging authority to the Son (see John 5:22, 27). Jesus died to redeem humanity at His first coming. He will judge in order to redeem the entire creation at His second.” 18

Through tear-filled eyes now sparkling with renewed hope, John looked for the Lion—but instead he saw something else. 19 “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6). John now saw the “Lamb” of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29), “in the midst of the throne” room of God. The Lamb of God now took center stage among all the angelic creatures and the twenty-four elders gathered around the throne, as the central character and most important Personage in the entire heavenly scene (cf. 3:21; 4:6; 7:17). The Lamb “stood” ready to complete His work, bearing the marks (wounds, scars) of His death (“as if slain”). 20

“In one brilliant stroke John portrays the central theme of NT revelation—victory through sacrifice.” 21

The Lamb possessed “seven horns” representing His fullness of power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:1, 10; 2 Samuel 22:3; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 75:4; 132:17; Daniel 7:20-21; 8:5) 22 and “seven eyes” representing His fullness of wisdom and discernment through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (“seven Spirits of God,” cf. 1:4; 4:5) 23  which made Him aware of all that was taking place on “the earth.” 

Because Jesus is qualified to bring judgment to earth, “Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” (Revelation 5:7). John saw the Lamb of God come and take the “scroll out of the right hand of” the Father “who sat on the throne” to signify the transfer of authority to execute judgment from the Father to the Son. The word “took” (eilēphen) is in the perfect tense to provide a vivid dramatic picture of the actual scene. 24 The transfer of authority was complete. During His earthly ministry Jesus had said, For the Father… has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27).

In conclusion, Jesus Christ is the only One worthy to execute God the Father’s judgments on rebellious humankind during the Tribulation period (5:1-7). This serves as a motivation for believers now to live for Him Who will judge rebellion in the future.

Prayer: Holy Father in heaven, for centuries people have trusted in themselves and their own ingenuity to rid this earth of evil only to find themselves overcome by more unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear.As the world continues its search for solutions to life’s problems, You remind us in Your throne room in heaven of the only One Who is qualified to tame a world that is spinning out of control – Your Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain and the Lion Who alone is worthy to judge the earth. Since Jesus will judge rebellion in the future, we who know Him as our Savior bow before Him and commit ourselves to give Him all our love and devotion. For He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, and power both now and forever!!! In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 137-139.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1519.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 74.

4. Ibid., pg. 75 cites Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East Revised ed. (Translated by Lionel R. M. Strachen. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965), pg. 35.

5. Ibid., cites R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 1 International Critical Commentary seriesa (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 138.

6. Ibid., cites Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 182-183. 7. Ibid., cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol 1 The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 209; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 142.

8. Ibid.

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2379.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

11. Constable, pg. 75.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Evans, pg. 2379.

14. Swindoll, pg. 140. 

15. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

16. Constable, pg. 76.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1519.  

18. Evans, pg. 2379.

19. Swindoll, pg. 140.

20. Constable, pg. 77.

21. Ibid., cites Mounce, pg. 144.

22. Swindoll, pg. 140; Constable, pg. 77; Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.  

24. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 216335-216339.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 8 (Video)

This is the eighth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the eighth and greatest miraculous sign recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead (John 19:1-20:31).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, Brooklyn Museum / FreeBibleimages.org, www.fishnetbiblestories.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 5

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:23

Since coming to faith in Jesus in 1979, the Lord has enabled me to share the gospel of Christ with many people. For the past ten years, God has also given me the opportunity to train believers in evangelism and discipleship. I have found that it is very normal to experience fear when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. The goal is not to not have fear in evangelism, but to overcome that fear with God’s boldness.

The Lord has taught me that one of the reasons Christians experience fear in evangelism is that they do not know what to say to an unsaved person. So the obvious solution is to teach fearful believers what to say to a non-believer. This leads us to our next verse about overcoming our fears.

We are learning how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fears when He encountered them the evening of His resurrection day hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.From this encounter we have learned to overcome our fears when we …

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

– Relate to the Person of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

After breathing the Holy Spirit upon His ten disciples to prepare them physically and visually for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (John 20:22; cf. Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16), Jesus then says to them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23).

What does this verse mean? Is Jesus giving His disciples the ability to forgive and retain sins? Does this verse provide the biblical basis for Roman Catholic priests to forgive the sins of their parishioners?

To properly understand this verse, it is important to know that the Bible teaches that God is the only One who has the power and authority to forgive sins committed against Him. The Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25). Mark 2:7 points out that only God can forgive sins. “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus demonstrated that He was God when He demonstrated the divine authority to both forgive the paralytic’s sins (an invisible healing) and enable him to walk (a visible healing). Jesus said to the scribes who thought He committed blasphemy by claiming to forgive sins, “ ’But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’ ” (Mark 2:10-12).

When we look at the Greek grammar of John 20:23, we learn that the first verbs in the two clauses (“forgive” and “retain”)are an aorist (aphēte) and present tense (kratēte), whereas the second verbs in each clause (“are forgiven” and “are retained”) are perfect tense verbs in the passive voice (apheōntai,  kekratēntai). “The perfect tense portrays past action and affirms an existing result.” This implies that the abiding state of the second verbs in each clause began before the action of the first verbs.

The passive voice indicates that someone has already done the forgiving or retaining. That Person must be God, since He alone has the authority to do that (Matt. 9:2-3; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). This means that God’s action of forgiveness (“they are forgiven them”) took place prior to the announcement of forgiveness by Jesus’ disciples (“If you forgive the sins of any”). It also means that God’s action of withholding forgiveness (“they are retained”) also took place prior to the announcement of the withholding of forgiveness by Christ’s disciples (“If you retain the sins of any”). “The grammar used by Jesus did not provide the disciples with the personal authority to forgive sin.” 3

Robertson states, What he commits to the disciples and to us is the power and privilege of giving assurance of the forgiveness of sins by God by correctly announcing the terms of forgiveness. There is no proof that he actually transferred to the apostles or their successors the power in and of themselves to forgive sins.” 4

God does not forgive peoples’ sins because we decide to do so nor does He withhold forgiveness because we will not grant it. We simply announce the previous forgiveness of God. We don’t create it. God has given Christians the privilege of proclaiming His terms on how a person can receive forgiveness of sins. 

The basis for forgiveness is not that God likes us or even that He loves us. It is that Christ laid down His life to pay the penalty for all our sins. “The Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13b-14). Forgiveness is based upon the cross of Christ, not our performance or good works.

Some people think forgiveness is like a man saying to the child down the block who threw a baseball through his window. “It is okay kid. I like you. Forget it.” No, God is love, but He is also righteous and just. Biblical forgiveness is like a child throwing a baseball through a window and the owner’s son paying for the broken glass. Then the man says, “It is okay. My son paid for it.”

What God wants Christians to proclaim to people is that they can obtain His complete forgiveness freely by believing in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter told a Gentile named Cornelius, “All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43 NIV).

What this means is when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the unsaved, which includes His death and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-6), we can say to them, “If you believe or trust in Christ alone, I can say on the authority of the New Testament, that you are forgiven.” Or we can say, “You are entitled to your opinion, but I must warn you that according to the New Testament, unless you believe or trust in Christ alone, your sin remains unforgiven.” The Holy Spirit enables us to  authoritatively declare that God has indeed forgiven the sins of any who believe in Jesus Christ. 5

Jesus did something similar when He said to the Pharisees who overheard Christ’s conversation with the former blind man, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41). Christ is saying to these self-righteous religious leaders, “If you recognized your spiritual blindness and acknowledged your sin and guilt, you would have believed in Me for forgiveness. And I would have forgiven you so ‘you would have no sin.’ But because you claim to have spiritual sight and deny your own sin, and refuse to come to Me for forgiveness, ‘your sin remains.’ ”

Now Jesus’ disciples (including you and me) would continue His ministry relative to the forgiveness of sins. When we share the gospel, care must be taken to make sure they understand that only God forgives. But the messenger does state it. What a high privilege we have in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus Christ alone.

This leads to our final principle for overcoming our fears. REVIEW CHRIST’S MESSAGE OF FORGIVENESS AS YOU PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THE LOST (John 20:23). If you are afraid to share the gospel with the unsaved because you are not sure what to say, review the message of the gospel with another Christian before going out to share with non-believers. You can role play with that believer. Have the other person assume the role of the non-Christians while you assume the role of the Christian and share the gospel with him or her. And remember, the gospel by which we are saved is that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Then invite the non-Christian to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of all his or her sins (Acts 10:43).

When we share the good news of God’s forgiveness with non-believers, we not only bless those who hear the message, but we are also blessed to be reminded of the unlimited forgiveness we have in Christ. One of the greatest blessings we can receive is the joy of knowing that all our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ! Every time we share the gospel with a lost person, we are blessed to review this incredible truth. Any doubts or fears we may have about being totally forgiven are quickly dispelled as we proclaim God’s free and unlimited forgiveness through Jesus Christ to a lost world.

But it is also true that one of the greatest fears a person can have is knowing your sins are not forgiven before you face a holy God. This is one of the main reasons why people are afraid of dying. They are not prepared to face their Maker without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

As we saw earlier, the Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25; cf. Hebrews 10:16-18). God chooses to remember our sins no more when He forgives us.

If you are a Christian and you know God has forgiven you, but you are struggling to forgive yourself, listen to what Larry Moyer says about such a dilemma. “This is a beautiful way to explain God’s forgiveness: if what we have done is no longer on His mind, it doesn’t have to be on ours either.” 6

The more we focus on Christ’s forgiveness of all our sins, the less fear we will have about our future and the more joy we will have today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for entrusting us with Your gospel message. Even though we are often afraid before sharing this life-giving message with the unsaved, we are also excited to watch what You will do in the listeners’ hearts. What a high privilege You have given us in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in You, and Your death and resurrection. Please provide other Christians we can practice sharing the gospel with to overcome our fears of not knowing what to say to a non-Christian. We are realizing that the more we share the gospel with the unsaved, the more we are reminded of the complete forgiveness we received the moment we believed in Jesus. Please let Your forgiveness ring throughout our communities and world. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 367 cites H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 200-201.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 380.

3. Laney, pg. 367 cites Julius R. Mantey, “Evidence That the Perfect Tense in John 20:23 and Matthew 16:19 Is Mistranslated,” JETS 16 (1973): 129-138.

4. Archibald Thomas, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strongs Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (The Ephesians Four Group: 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 77918-77920.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829.

6. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 288.

How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 2

“Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” John 20:8

Today we will continue to look at how the empty tomb of Jesus challenged the life of Mary Magdalene. From this we will see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives. We discovered last time that Jesus will dispel the darkness in our lives with the light of His resurrection (John 20:1). The next way Christ can make a difference in our daily lives isto PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF HIS RESURRECTION FOR OUR MINDS (John 20:2-9).

As we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection last month, those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior were filled with joy as we sang and worshiped our risen Lord! However, it may be difficult for us to realize what it was like for those who discovered the empty tomb on that first resurrection Sunday. When Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, she wasted no time and “ran” to Peter and John, “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” to tell them that “they [the religious leaders] have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2b).

Why didn’t Mary remember Jesus’ promise that He made before His crucifixion, saying He would rise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 16:21; 20:19)? Why didn’t Mary relay the message of the angel announced to her (and the other women) earlier that morning, that Jesus had risen (cf. Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-10)? Mark’s account tells us that fear had overcome Mary, so she said nothing to anyone (Mark 16:8). Since Mary was a former demon possessed person, she may have feared people would easily suspect her of having hallucinations (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She may have thought that the angels were actually men who took Jesus’ body. What would that be like to conclude that the body of the One you followed and revered was stolen from His grave?

In 1876, a gang of counterfeiters from Chicago attempted to steal the dead body of President Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom.  Even though their attempt to steal Lincoln’s remains failed, it led to Lincoln’s corpse being buried again in Springfield, Illinois, in a steel cage under tons of cement so that it would not happen again. When the rest of the nation found out about this failed attempt to steal the President’s remains, it was in shock that a leader like that would be defiled in that kind of way. 1

That is probably how Mary and the disciples of Jesus must have felt. Their response is not uncommon. Even for us, when we first discover the shocking truth of the resurrection of Christ, we may have more confusion or doubt than we have joy or hope. For example, when we attempt to apply the truth of Christ’s resurrection to our lives, we may have confusion –  “How does Jesus’ resurrection apply to my situation?” Or we may have fear“I’m afraid of what this power might do in my life.” Or we may even have doubt– “I don’t know if this power will work in my life.” For Mary it was confusion (John 20:2). For the disciples in the Upper Room it was fear (John 20:19). For Thomas it was doubt (John 20:24-25).

Notice Mary said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2b). Often when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus and how that resurrection can apply to our lives, the hope is right there in front of us. We just cannot see it yet. How can I start to see the resurrected Jesus there where I am confused? 

When Mary informed Peter and John of the empty tomb, they wasted no time talking. They ran toward the tomb. “Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first” (John 20:3-4). These verses are captivating because of their eyewitness nature. John probably wrote these verses thirty-five years after it happened, before A. D. 70. 2  But as we read this almost two thousand years later, it reads like it happened today. Like he just saw it. If this happened to me, I would not forget it either. It is almost funny to read this eyewitness account because it is so fresh and real to John. Even though it is thirty-five years later, John wants his readers to know he was faster than Simon Peter. That sounds like someone else I know – me!

Even though John arrived at the empty tomb first, he does not go into the tomb. “And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.” (John 20:5). John seems to wait at the entrance to process what he sees as quickly as possible. “Why would the linen wrappings be here without the body? Is there any sign of forced entry? Any indication of foul play? Where is the body? What has happened here?” 3

“Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” (John 20:6-7). Peter pushes his way past John, as if to say, “Out of the way John. I’ve got to go in there to see what has happened.” That’s just the way Peter was. Peter also saw thestrips of “linen cloths lying there” where the body of Jesus had been placed and he also saw “the handkerchief that had been around His head.” Instead of being tossed aside, it was “folded together in a place by itself.” The fact that this head piece was “not lying with the linen cloths” suggests that Jesus first unwrapped the face cloth and folded it, set it down, and then unwrapped the rest of His grave clothes. The fact that the grave clothes were not in disarray and that the headpiece was neatly folded, demonstrates that the body was not stolen. Grave robbers would have been in a hurry and either taken the body with the wrappings or would have ripped and scattered them. Thieves would not have been this careful. Neither would friends who might have removed the body done this; they would have hurried away from the tomb as quickly as possible to avoid being apprehended.” 5

Carson observes, “The description is powerful and vivid, not the sort of thing that would have been dreamed up; and the fact that two men saw it (v. 8) makes their evidence admissible in a Jewish court (Dt. 19:15).” 6

Also this eyewitness description refutes the attempt to explain away Jesus’ resurrection (The Swoon Theory) by saying Jesus did not really die on the cross, He merely fainted and then was later revived in the tomb. This theory proposes that after enduring the intense brutality of being beaten and crucified, Jesus was revived by the cool interior of the tomb. But this doesn’t explain why a half-dead man would remove his head cloth, neatly fold it, and place it separate from his intact linen wrappings! Nor does it explain how he could have had the strength to move the heavy stone blocking the entrance. As with other attempts by unbelievers to deny the resurrection, this one fails to adequately explain the evidence. One thing is clear: When the disciples saw Jesus later (see 20:19-23), he didn’t look like a man who had been merely resuscitated from a near death experience!” 7

John now goes into the tomb. “Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” (John 20:8).What did John “believe?” Mary’s report that the tomb was empty? Doubtful. When John saw that Jesus’ body was missing and the position of His grave clothes, he believed Jesus had risen from the dead. The evidence persuaded him to believe Christ was alive. Earlier in John’s gospel after Jesus had cleansed the temple and said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), John wrote, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22). John had already believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, that believing he may have eternal life in Jesus’ name (John 2:11; 6:69; 13:10; cf. 20:31). But when he saw the empty tomb and the arrangement of Jesus’ grave clothes, he believed Jesus rose from the dead. The evidence of Jesus’ resurrection convinced John even before he encountered the risen Lord Jesus. People since John can believe in Christ because of this evidence, too, even though they have not yet seen the risen Jesus (cf. John 20:29; 1 John 1:1- 4). 8

If you and I are going to see Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, we need evidence for our minds. For example, when you say, “I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead,” how do I know you are not making that up? What makes that statement any different than saying, “I believe that the scrambled eggs I ate this morning have the power to change my life?” What makes it any different? Evidence. Something amazing happened in that tomb.

There are three different Greek words used for “saw” in these verses (John 20:5-6, 8). When we are told that John bent down and “looked in” the tomb, the word for “saw” [blépō, βλέπω] is used which is a common Greek word meaning to “perceive with the eye” (John 20:5). In this context, it conveys the idea of John bending down to glance or look quickly into the tomb. 10 When Peter entered the tomb, the word John uses for “saw” [theōréō, θεωρέω] refers “to observing something with sustained attention” 11  or “careful observation” 12(John 20:6). Peter carefully observed the contents inside the tomb. This is the word that we get the English word “theorize” from. When Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, he was thinking it through, wondering what was happening. He was coming up with a theory. The third word John used for “saw” [horáō, ὁράω] means to be mentally or spiritually perceptive,”(John 20:8). 13  Peter saw more after entering the tomb than John did in his first glance from outside the tomb, but John saw into the meaning of it all better than Peter. 14  Peter had more sight, but John had more insight. The evidence of Christ’s resurrection convinced John even before he met the resurrected Jesus.

These verses describe three different ways of seeing the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. I can take the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and just glance at it as I run by. Or I can gaze at it and try to figure it out. But the third way, the way John saw, is I can get it. John looks at the evidence and sees what has happened, and is persuaded to believe Jesus rose from the dead. We have had this happen with spiritual truth. It is when the truth is perceived in our minds so that it becomes real in our lives.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is defined as “the substance” or confident assurance “of things hoped for.” It is “the evidence” or conviction about “things not seen.” Through faith, the unseen becomes seen. The invisible become visible. John did not have to see the risen Lord Jesus to be convinced He was alive. He saw the evidence and was persuaded that Christ had come back to life.

Some people think that to have faith means you stop thinking. But we cannot believe in something that our mind rejects. Christianity is reasonable because it is based on historical facts. The resurrection of Christ makes sense when you start to look at what really happened. It is not true that there is no evidence for our faith. There are a number of very strong evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First, we have the historical record. The historical reliability of an ancient document is determined by the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and earliest copy. The more manuscripts and the shorter the time gap between the original and earliest copy, the greater the historical reliability of the document. When comparing the New Testament with other famous ancient writings, the New Testament has far more manuscript authority than any other ancient literature. For example, the New Testament has 5,686 surviving Greek manuscripts compared to the most documented secular work from the ancient world, Homer’s Iliad, which has 643 surviving manuscript copies. 15  Most books from the ancient world have surviving manuscript copies about one thousand years after they were originally composed, with the Odyssey having one manuscript copied five hundred years after the original. But the New Testament survives in complete books from a little over 150 years after the original. 16  No other book from the ancient world has a smaller time gap between the original and the earliest copies as the New Testament. 17

Most (if not all) of the New Testament books were written by eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus and His ministry (A.D. 29-33). For example, the gospel writers include, Matthew, who was accustomed to taking accurate records as a tax collector (Matthew 9:9), and was a disciple and observer who provides long and direct quotes from Jesus (cf. Matthew 5-7; 13; 23-25). Mark was a disciple of Peter (I Peter 5:13) who was an eyewitness of Christ (2 Peter 1:16). Luke was an educated contemporary of Christ who said, “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seems good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account” (Luke 1:2-3). John the apostle was a direct eyewitness of Jesus (John 19:35; 21:24; cf. I John 1:1-4). In addition to the gospel writers, Peter was also a direct eyewitness (2 Peter 1:16) and Paul was a contemporary of Christ and a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (I Corinthians 15:8). 18

The early dating of the New Testament manuscripts supports their truthfulness. The most knowledgeable scholars date the New Testament books within the lifetime of the eyewitness writers and contemporary authors. Noted Archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80.” 19  William F. Albright, the distinguished paleographer, said that “every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably between about A.D. 50 and 75).” 20

Luke claims to be a careful contemporary historian of the events he records, saying, “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account… that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” (Luke 1:3-4). “After spending many years researching the area, the noted expert on the first-century Near East, Sir William Ramsay, concluded that Luke was a first-rate historian. For in reference to thirty-twocountries, fifty-four cities and nine islands he did not make a single mistake!” 21

“The New Testament writers were honest men who willingly died for what they believed. And they were careful to distinguish their words from those of Jesus, revealing that they were not inventing them but reporting them (Acts 20:35; I Cor. 7:10, 12, 25; Rev. 1:17-20; 2:1f; 3:1f; 22:16-20). The New Testament is markedly different from Christian folklore, such as is found in the second- and third-century Christian apocryphal books. Noted Oxford expert on literature and myths, C.S. Lewis, insightfully notes about New Testament critics: 22

“’I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading… If he tells me something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read. I  have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this [the Gospels].” 23

Although some skeptics claim the New Testament is dependent on earlier sources, the evidence shows the New Testament is “clearly a firsthand, first-century account by disciples and contemporaries of Jesus. And contrary to widely believed liberal myths, each account is independent. Everyone acknowledges the difference between and independence of John and Luke, which is all that is necessary to manifest their authenticity. And even though it is unnecessary for the overall argument in defense of the authenticity of the basic life and words of Christ, a good case can be made for the independence of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as well.” 24 

The science of archaeology has verified the historical accuracy of the Gospel records as well. Renowned Archaeologist, Nelson Glueck concluded, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.” 25

Sir William Ramsay, whose change from a skeptical view of the New Testament to a converted view was supported by a lifetime of research in the Near Eastern world. He writes, “I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts], for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.” 26

Renowned historian Colin Hemer has demonstrated the historical accuracy and authenticity of the New Testament in an amazing way. His research shows: “1) that the Book of Acts was written no later than A.D. 62; 2) that it is minutely accurate history written by an eyewitness and contemporary of the events of Jesus’ life; 3) that the same highly accurate contemporary historian, Dr. Luke, also wrote a Gospel (cf. Acts 1:1 and Luke 1:1) which tells the same basic story as the other Gospels, namely, that Jesus claimed to be and proved to be the Son of God by numerous incredible miracles, and that He died on the Cross and rose from the grave three days later. This is of course a strong confirmation of the central Christian message…  So Luke’s narrative of the life and miracles of Christ must likewise be accepted as authentic. And since Luke’s narration of Christ’s life and miracles in it accord with that of the other Gospels, we have here an archaeological confirmation of the Gospels that record the miracles and resurrection of Christ. In brief, from a strictly historical point of view, we could not have better evidence for the authenticity of events than we possess for the events in the life of Christ recorded in the New Testament.” 27

Having established the historical reliability of the New Testament, let’s listen to Its testimony regarding Jesus’ resurrection. “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was … declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). Listen to what a former persecutor of Christianity, named Paul, wrote in the Bible. 3 That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6).

The reason these facts are so significant is because of who Christ is and what his death accomplished. Jesus Christ is the God-man. He is the Word of God who became flesh (John 1:14). He is the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, who became a man without giving up his deity (see Phil 2:5-8). He is the one and only person with both a divine nature and a human nature, unmixed forever. Therefore, he could serve as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for sinners because as God he is without sin, and as a man he could die in our place. By bearing our sins on the cross, he suffered the wrath of God that we deserved so that we might be forgiven, receive eternal life, and be saved (see, e.g., 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24).” 28

Notice the phrase “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah predicted in the Old Testament Scripture that the Messiah would die for our sins when he wrote, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. The proof that Jesus died was “that He was buried.” Christ did not merely swoon or faint on the cross. He died on that cross. We do not bury a living person, we bury a dead person.

Next, we see that Jesus “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” The verb “rose” (egēgertai) is in the perfect tense in the original language, and it means Jesus rose from the dead in the past and He remains risen today. You will never hear a news report today that says Jesus’ dead body has been found. Why? Because He is risen and He remains alive today!

“Jesus suffered and died on our behalf; he made payment for our sins. Was this payment accepted? We can be certain that it was because God raised him from the dead. This is the clear and consistent testimony of the early church (see, e.g., Acts 2:24-32; 3:15; 5:30; 10:39-41; 13:29-37; 17:31). Jesus has risen from the grave, and the apostles and many others were eyewitnesses to this. The resurrection, then, is your receipt that God accepted Christ’s payment for your sins and mine.” 29

Notice the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.” Jesus’ resurrection also fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures written hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. In Psalm 16:10, King David wrote, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, a follower of Jesus named, Peter, said that when Jesus rose from the dead, He fulfilled what David wrote hundreds of years before. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:29-32).

Keep in mind that the Old Testament not only predicted the death and resurrection of Christ, but Jesus also predicted His own death and resurrection on several occasions. In the earliest part of His ministry He said,  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). John explains, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22). Later in Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” To those who had witnessed His miracles and stubbornly refused to believe in Him as the Messiah, He said more than once, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). After Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Christ” (Mark 8:29), Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31). This became a primary part of Jesus’ teaching from that point until His death (Mark 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:58; Matthew 27:63). In addition Jesus taught that He would raise Himself from the dead, saying of His life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:18). 30 

“Famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, argued that whenever a ‘risky prediction’ is fulfilled, it counts as confirmation of the theory that comes with it. If so, then the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of His own resurrection is confirmation of His claim to be God. For what could be riskier than predicting your own resurrection? If a person will not accept that as evidence of a truth claim, then he has a bias that will not accept anything as evidence.” 31

Finally, in I Corinthians 15, we see the proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was “seen” by “over five hundred” eyewitnesses “at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present.” Most of these eyewitnesses were still alive when Paul wrote this two decades after Jesus’ resurrection,  so they could verify the reliability of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. 32  This was not a conspiracy invented by a small group of people! Hundreds of people saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion!

While Jesus appeared to this crowd of over five hundred people in His resurrected body on one occasion, the historical record also shows that Jesus appeared in His resurrection body to people on twelve different occasions over a forty-day period (Acts 1:3). Luke writes of Jesus, “He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:2b-3).

The disciples didn’t have a corporate delusion. Nor did they see a ghost. Jesus proved to them that he was the same flesh and blood man who had been crucified and buried—though he’d since gained a glorified body (see Luke 24:36-43).” 33

When the twelve different appearances of Jesus in His resurrection body are examined, we discover that Christ was seen and heard with the natural senses of the observer – Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18), Mary and the women (Matthew 28:1-10), Peter (I Corinthians 15:5), the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25), the ten apostles (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23), the eleven apostles (John 20:24-31), the seven apostles (John 21), all the apostles (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18), the five hundred brethren (I Corinthians 15:6), James (I Corinthians 15:7), all the apostles (Acts 1:4-8), and Paul (Acts 9:1-9; I Corinthians 15:8). On four different occasions He was either touched (John 20:10-18; Matthew 28:1-10) or offered to be touched (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; 24-31). Four times Jesus ate physical food with His disciples (Luke 24:13-35; 36-49; John 20:19-23; 21:1-15). Four times they saw Jesus’ empty tomb (John 20:1-18; Matthew 28:1-10; I Corinthians 15:5) and two times He showed them His crucifixion scars (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; 24-31). 34  Jesus “literally exhausted the ways possible to prove that He rose bodily from the grave. No event in the ancient world has more eyewitness verification than does the resurrection of Jesus.” 35

Those who question the reliability of the New Testament writers and eyewitnesses concerning the resurrection of Christ because they assume they were predisposed to believe the resurrection events to which they gave testimony, need to consider the following:

“First, the apostles themselves did not believe the testimony of others that Christ had risen from the dead. When the women reported it, ‘their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them’ (Luke 24:11). Even when some of the disciples saw Christ themselves they were ‘slow of heart to believe ‘ (Luke 24:25). Indeed, when Jesus appeared to ten apostles and showed them his crucifixion scars, ‘they still did not believe for joy, and marveled’ (Luke 24:41). And even after they were convinced by Jesus’ eating of food, their absent colleague Thomas protested that he would not believe unless he could put his finger in Jesus’ hand (John 20:25).

“Second, Jesus not only appeared to believers; he also appeared to unbelievers. He appeared to his unbelieving half-brother James (John 7:5; I Corinthians 15:7). Indeed, he appeared to the greatest unbeliever of the day – a Jewish Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9). If Jesus had only appeared to those who were either believers or with the propensity to believe, then there might be some legitimacy to the charge that the witnesses were prejudiced. But just the opposite is the case.

“Third, the witnesses to the resurrection had nothing to gain personally for their witness to the resurrection. They were persecuted and threatened with death for their stand (Acts 4, 5, 8). As a matter of fact, most of the apostles were martyred for their belief. Certainly, it would have been much more profitable personally for them to deny the resurrection. Rather, they proclaimed and defended it in the face of death.

“Fourth, to discount their testimonies because they believe in the resurrected Christ is like discounting an eyewitness of a murder because he actually saw it occur! The prejudice in this case is not with the witnesses but with those who reject their testimony.” 36

So far we have talked about the historical record of the New Testament regarding the death and resurrection of Christ. What do non-Christian historians and writers from the first and second centuries say about the death and resurrection of Christ? Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote of Jesus’ death, “Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.” 37  Roman historian, Cornelius Tacitus, wrote, “a wise man who was called Jesus…. Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die.” In addition he said that Jesus’ disciples “reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive.” 38  A Roman writer, Phlegon, referred to Christ’s death and resurrection in his Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” 39  In addition, Phlegon spoke of “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place.” 40

The historical evidence for Jesus’ death is so overwhelming that even a Muslim scholar,Reza Aslan, who wrote the book, Zealot, was persuaded to conclude Jesus “was most definitely crucified.” 41  Despite what the Quran teaches, the historical evidence persuaded Aslan to conclude that Christ truly did die on the cross.He believes so strongly in Jesus’ death by crucifixion that he uses it as the foundation for his entire theory of Jesus’ life.” 42

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of ancient history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.” 43

Frank Morison, a British trial lawyer, vowed to write a book disproving Christianity and committed to base his book on a collection of facts. Using a critical method of evaluation and despite his initial beliefs, he concluded that Christianity is true. The resurrection convinced him, and he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone? which begins with the chapter, “The Book that Refused to Be Written.”

Former atheists Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can read about the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books: McDowell ‘s  The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1999) and The Resurrection Factor (1981); Strobel’s The Case for Christ Revised (2013) and The Case for Easter (2004).

The second evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is the change in the lives of His followers. His disciples were not shrewd men who figured out some weird way to start a new religion. They did not say, “Let’s get our Leader killed off. Then we’ll go hide out in an upper room and then all of a sudden we will have a new hope.” No. After Jesus’ death, these men were discouraged. They were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). And all of a sudden their lives were changed overnight! And they went out preaching the message of Jesus Christ without fear. They were not afraid of being arrested or of being put to death (Acts 3, 4, 5, 8, et al.). What happened to them? The resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The third proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the silence of Jesus’ enemies. If you were one of Jesus’ enemies (the Romans or Jewish religious leaders), and you have the disciples going around saying Jesus is alive and it is bringing people away from your faith to a new faith, what would you do to stop them? Go find the dead body! If you could find the dead body of Jesus Christ, it would bring this entire movement to a stop. But they couldn’t find the body. Why? Because there was no dead body to be found. They tried to make sure that the body would stay there in the tomb. They sealed the tomb and had Roman soldiers guard it to keep somebody from trying to get in to the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). But they forgot that somebody would be getting out. And when Jesus burst out of that tomb in resurrection, there was no body there.

The final proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the changed lives of people today. Look at what the risen Lord Jesus is doing in the lives of people from every nation today! Former atheists and God-haters are coming to faith in Christ. Headlines read, “Life under ISIS led these Muslims to Christianity” (NBC News on February 3, 2019) and “Muslims Converting to Christianity in Unprecedented Numbers” (Open Doors on June 28, 2017). People who once hated the God of the Bible, are now loving Him because of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. People from all walks of life are coming to faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. And I am one of them!

You may say,“I believe in another religion. It has changed my life just like your belief in Jesus Christ. What’s the difference?” The difference is an empty tomb. The difference is Christians have a reality behind their faith. Their faith is based upon historical facts. It is not a man-made philosophy or superstition. We have evidence for our minds.

For the apostle John that evidence was very powerful. What did he see that made him believe? Was it the stone that was cast aside? No. Was it an angel? No. He saw the grave clothes lying there and he believed. There was something about the arrangement of the grave clothes. A lot of people say they were lying there as if Jesus had just evaporated out of them immediately. And because they were folded so neatly, not torn aside. Remember, the strips of linen would have been wrapped around the body. You couldn’t get a body out of that and leave it just lying there undisturbed. So when John saw that he believed. That evidence persuaded him to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

I find verse nine to be very significant. “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:9). The disciples did not yet understand the prophecies of Old Testament Scripture that indicated Jesus would rise from the dead. Their belief in the resurrection preceded their understanding that the resurrection was foretold in Scripture. The first believers did not manufacture a resurrection story to agree with their interpretation of Bible prophecy. 45  Instead, they were first convinced that Christ had risen from the dead based upon the evidence, and then they came to an understanding of the Scriptural teaching of this truth.

I wonder. What if we had stopped at the empty tomb that morning? What if this were all we had of the resurrection account? They went in and the clothes were there, and the linen was there undisturbed. I think if that were true there would be some of us who would say, “Wow, Jesus must be alive for His clothes to be arranged that way!” Others of us may say, “Maybe I can believe.” Others of us would say, “There’s just not enough evidence.”  When it comes to seeing the resurrected Lord, some of us may need more than just evidence for our minds. We will talk more about that next time, Lord willing.

Prayer: My precious risen Lord Jesus, thank You for providing evidence for our minds that You truly died on a cross and rose from the dead. When John looked in that tomb and saw Your body was missing and the position of Your grave clothes, he believed You were alive. One of the things I love the most about You, Lord Jesus, is You meet us where we are at. Many people today are confused about Your resurrection. To them You give evidence for their minds. Please reveal more of Yourself to them so that their confusion is changed into confidence that You are alive and You can give them everlasting life when they believe in You. Thank You, my risen God and Lord. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Thomas J. Craughwell’s June 24, 2007 article at https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2007/06/24/a-plot-to-steal-lincolns-body on May 11, 2021. Craughwell is the author of Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Harvard University Press, 2007).

2.  Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 424; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. pg. 30; Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pp. 177-205, 531.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 359.

4. Ibid., pg. 360; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 368.

5. Constable, pg. 368.

6. Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 637-638.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1826-1827.

8. Constable, pg. 368.

9. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 179.

10. Laney, pg. 359 cites A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman, 1932), Vol. 5, pg. 309.

11. Bauer, pg. 454.

12. Laney, pg. 359.

13. Ibid., pg. 720.

14. Laney, pg. 360 cites Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 5, pg. 310.

15. N. L. Geisler and W. E. Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pg. 408.

16. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 238.

17. Ibid.

18. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 243.

19. Ibid., pg. 242 cites Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1969), pg. 130.

20. Ibid., pg. 242 cites interview with William F. Albright, Christianity Today, January 18, 1953, 359.

21. Ibid., pg. 243-244 cites Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1896), esp. pg. 8.

22. Ibid., pg. 244.

23. Ibid., pg. 244 cites C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), pp. 154-155.

24. Ibid., pg. 244.

25. Ibid., pg. 247 cites Glueck, pg. 31.

26. Ibid., pp. 244-245 cites Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, pg. 8.

27. Ibid., pg. 245 cites Colin Hemer, Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990).

28. Evans, pg. 2016.

29. Ibid.

30. Geisler and Saleeb, pg. 260

31. Ibid., note 59.

32. Ibid., pg. 246.

33. Evans, pg. 1838.

34. Adapted from Geisler and Saleeb, pp. 258-259.

35. Ibid., pg. 259.

36. Ibid., pp. 247-248.

37. Ibid., pg. 236 cites Flavius Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” 18:3; trans. William Whiston, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963), 379.

38. Ibid. cites Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55? – after 117), Annals, 15.44.

39. Ibid., cites Phlegon, “Chronicles,” as cited by Origen, “Against Celsus” from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), vol. 4, 455.

40. Ibid.

41. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 cites interview with Lauren Green.

42. Ibid.

43. Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pp. 14-16.

44. Laney, pg. 361 cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 835.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the seventh miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from  www.GoodSalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, www.LumoProject.com, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 12

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” John 19:38

We are learning lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life found in John 19. So far we have discovered…

– Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 19:17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

– Jesus’ garments were removed so we could wear the garments of salvation (John 19:23-24).

– Though Jesus died for the world, He also cares deeply for me (John 19:25-27).

– Jesus became thirsty to save us from an eternal thirst (John 19:28-29).

– We cannot work our way to heaven because we cannot pay a debt that is already paid (John 19:30).

– Jesus’ legs were not broken and His side was pierced so we may believe Jesus is our Passover Lamb Who died for us (John 19:31-37).

Today the final lesson is AS DISCIPLES OF JESUS, WE ARE TO OPENLY IDENTIFY WITH HIM NO MATTER WHAT THE COST (John 19:38-42). John now gives an account of Jesus’ burial to substantiate further that Jesus actually died. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” (John 19:38). We do not bury a living person. We bury a dead person. The proof that Jesus died was that He was buried.

“Normally the Romans placed the bodies of crucified offenders, whose bodies they did not leave to rot on their crosses, in a cemetery for criminals outside the city.” Family members could not claim the bodies of people who had undergone crucifixion as punishment for sedition.” 2 But two of Jesus’ friends intervene to give Christ a proper burial.

The other gospel writers inform us that “Joseph of Arimathea” was “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) “waiting for the kingdom of God,” who was also “a good and just man” (Luke 23:50). Although he was a “prominent… member” of the Jewish Supreme Court called the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), “he had not consented to their decision” to crucify Christ (Luke 23:51).

Only John tells us he was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews,” particularly the unbelieving Jewish leaders. Despite his fears, Joseph courageously “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.” So Joseph “came and took the body of Jesus” down from the cross to give Him a proper burial.

But Joseph was not alone in doing this. He was accompanied by another member of the Sanhedrin. “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” (John 19:39). Unlike disciples of Jesus who fled for fear of the Jews, both Joseph and Nicodemus now boldly identified themselves with Jesus. But they were not always willing to do this.

John mentions that Nicodemus “first came to Jesus by night.” John emphasizes this each time he mentions Nicodemus in his gospel (cf. John 3:2; 7:50). Earlier John wrote, 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Prior to asking Pilate for Jesus’ dead body, it appears that both Joseph and Nicodemus had been secret disciples who were reluctant to openly confess Jesus because they feared what the Pharisees would do to them if they did. Openly identifying with Christ could result in both these men “losing their seats in the Sanhedrin and, worse yet, being refused the right to worship in the synagogue (cf. 9:22; 12:42).” 4

Although they had probably believed in Jesus for His gift of salvation earlier (John 12:42), they were not willing to walk in the light of fellowship with Jesus by openly confessing Christ among their religious colleagues. Why? Because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). They cared more about what people thought of them instead of what God thought of them. They were people-pleasers, not God-pleasers. They chose to walk in the darkness by refusing to confess Christ before others. They wanted the approval of men more than the approval of God.

Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (cf. I John 4:15).

But now John presents both Nicodemus and Joseph in a favorable light as they openly identify with Jesus in the daylight by asking permission to give Christ a proper burial. It took a lot of courage for them to do this. What had changed in their lives for them to have such courage? Based on John’s discipleship theme in his gospel, I would suggest that these men had grown in their relationship with Jesus to the point of caring more about what Christ thought of them than what people thought of them. “The death of Jesus so moved Nicodemus and Joseph that they cast aside their fears and boldly claim Jesus’ body, prepare Him for burial, and bury Him.” They had come out of the darkness into the light of fellowship with Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:19-36; I John 1:5-9).

The same is true for us. We may begin our Christian lives afraid of what people may think or do to us if we openly identify with Jesus Christ. But as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, our boldness for Him will also grow (cf. John 7:26; Acts 4:13, 29-31; 9:27; Philippians 1:20-21; I Thessalonians 2:1-10; I John 4:17). The courage that the Holy Spirit gives to us will overcome our fears (Acts 4:23-31). Christ’s radical love for us will squelch our fears (cf. I John 4:18). More and more we will seek to please Jesus rather than people (Colossians 3:23-24; I Thessalonians 2:4).

John tells us that Nicodemus brought “about a hundred pounds” of “myrrh and aloes” to prepare Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:39). ‘Myrrh’ was a fragrant resin that the Jews turned into powder, and then mixed with ‘aloes,’ which was powdered sandalwood.” 6  “The purpose of covering a corpse with this aromatic powder was to dry it out and to lessen the foul odor that putrefaction caused.” 7

The amount of aromatic spices is significant for such a large quantity was commonly used only for kings. 8  This amount of burial spices reflects Nicodemus’ great love and respect for Jesus. Isn’t this amazing!?! Even though Christ was dead, Nicodemus’ love for Him was very much alive.

“Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:40). Because it was almost the Sabbath (which began at sundown) the burial had to take place quickly. Jewish burial customs did not involve mummification or embalming, which took out the blood and body organs. Their normal process was to wash a body and cover it with cloth and aromatic oils or spices.” 9

John mentions the “strips of linen” wrapped around Jesus’ body to emphasize that Christ was truly dead. The use of “strips of linen” argues against the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, which is often associated with Jesus’ burial. 10  As long as there were no graveclothes, no tomb, and no coroner, there was hope. But the arrival of the graveclothes signified the departure of any hope. 11

This is amazing to think about from Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ perspective. Earlier in the week, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem with shouts of joy from the great multitude. The people who praised Jesus as their King days earlier then called for His death on Friday. These linens were a physical reminder that their Friend and His future were wrapped in graveclothes and sealed behind a rock. These two brave men did not know on that Friday what we now know. They didn’t know that Friday’s calamity would become Sunday’s celebration! 12  Yet, they remained loyal to Jesus even in His death.

If that had been you or me, what would we have done? After all, the crowds were pleased with Jesus’ crucifixion. What was to keep the religious leaders from calling for more executions? Let’s be honest. If we were in Joseph’s or Nicodemus’ sandals, we would have left town as quickly as possible!

But Joseph and Nicodemus did not flee. Why? Because Jesus was their Friend and they loved Him. You don’t abandon a dear Friend, even when He is dead.This seems to be what these two men are thinking. The manner in which Jesus lived and died deeply impacted their lives.

Next John tells us, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41). Jesus’ body was placed in a new tomb in a private “garden,” not in a public cemetery. 13

“In Palestine, bodies were buried in natural caves or tombs that were carved out of the limestone. Niches or shelves were prepared where the bodies could be laid. The tomb was customarily sealed with a disc-shaped stone that could be rolled across the entrance. The tomb was usually a family tomb, and the niches would be reused as necessary. The bones of the previous occupant would simply be collected and placed in a bone-box, or ‘ossuary,’ that remained in the tomb.” 14

John is the only gospel writer to mention that Jesus was buried in a “garden.” “Why would he mention this? This may well be an illusion to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden and away from the tree of life. But Jesus, the second Adam, dies on a tree to redeem man and re-open paradise (cf. Rev 2:7).” 15

Matthew tells us that this tomb belonged to Joseph. He laid Jesus’ body “in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” (Matthew 27:60). The placement of Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Who would be “with the rich at His death.” (Isaiah 53:9).

John includes a very significant detail when he writes, “a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41b). When Jesus’s body was gone after His resurrection, “no one was able to point to any bones in the tomb to claim them as Jesus’s remains. His was the first corpse to lie there.” 16

John concludes this section when he writes, “So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” (John 19:42). Christ’s burial was somewhat of a hasty measure because the “Jews’ day of preparation” before the Sabbath (i.e., Friday) was about to end with the fast approaching sunset.

Joseph and Nicodemus were not expecting the resurrection, yet they were willing to risk their riches, their reputations, their religious privileges, and possibly their own lives out of love and respect for Jesus. Their sacrifices will be greatly rewarded in eternity.

For the Bible promises that when we invest our riches in what is eternal while we live here on earth, we will store up permanent treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). When we risk our reputations and even rejection for Christ by publicly confessing Him before our enemies, Jesus will give us a good confession before God the Father and His holy angels in heaven (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Revelation 3:5b). When we sacrifice religious privileges and even our own lives here on earth for Christ, He will give us greater authority and privileges in heaven (Mark 10:29-31; Revelation 2:7, 17, 25-27; 3:11-12, 21).

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. There are certain eternal rewards that require us to live faithfully for Jesus to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21). Like an athlete who visualizes himself winning a race, visualizing ourselves remaining faithful to Christ and receiving this reward from Him will actually create new neurological pathways in our brain. And our brains respond the same way to mental rehearsing of a task and actually performing the task.

I believe Isaac Watts captured the impact that God meant for the cross to have on our lives when he wrote the song, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The first stanza reads:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Joseph and Nicodemus who sacrificed so much to ensure that Jesus received a proper burial. Even though their sacrifices were costly, dangerous, and without personal gain, they did this out of love and respect for their dear Friend, Jesus Christ, Who deeply touched their lives. They started out hesitant to associate with Jesus, but the more they grew in their relationship with Him, the more their boldness grew. The same can be true for us. Help us to focus on the cross so that no sacrifice will seem too great for us in light of the wondrous love of Jesus my Savior. In His matchless name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 363 cites Josephus, Antiquities, 5:1:14.

2. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 562. 

4. Ibid., pg. 561.

5. Ibid., pg. 562.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363 cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 121.

9. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 694.

10. Ibid., pg. 695; cf. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pg. 730.

11. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pg. 121.

12. Ibid.

13. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 695.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 354; cf. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pp. 72-74).

15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 562.

16. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1826.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 11

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” John 19:34

Since Jesus died on the cross, there have been many attempts to deny this historical fact. Why? Because it would explain the empty tomb of Jesus. For example, near the end of the first century, the false teachings of Docetism and Gnosticism were on the rise. Both of these groups denied that Jesus was a real man. “Docetists claimed that Jesus only seemed (Gr. dokeo, ‘to seem,’ therefore the name ‘Docetist’) to be fully human.” 2  Since Jesus only seemed to be a man, it only seemed that He died.

The word ‘Gnostic’ refers to secret knowledge, as the Gnostics believed that people needed secret knowledge to be freed from the material world, which is inherently evil.” 3  One second-century Gnostic writer, Basilides, wrote the Gospel according to Basilides. Since gnosticism teaches that the material world is evil, Basilides concluded that “Jesus must not have had a material body, and therefore he could not have been crucified.” 4

An early church leader named “Irenaeus records what Basilides taught about the death of Jesus on the cross: ‘He [Christ] did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them.’ ” 5

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was influenced by such false teachings when he traveled on trade routes with his uncle.  6  His primary knowledge of Christianity came from docetic sources. Muhammad later testified in the Qur’an, That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.” (Sura 4:156-157) 8

A former Muslim convincingly argues that this Quranic teaching that says Jesus did not die by crucifixion originated from the second-century Gnostic teaching. 9  Three of the main views concerning Jesus’ death among Muslims today include that Allah supernaturally preserved Jesus’ life so He did not die on the cross. 10  Jesus simply “swooned” or fainted on the cross and later recovered in the tomb. 11 And Allah miraculously made someone else to look like Jesus and this person (perhaps Judas, Pilate or Simon of Cyrene) was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’ place. 12

How sad that over a billion Muslims have been misled to believe such a destructive lie. For you see, if Jesus did not die, He did not rise from the dead and there is no payment for sin. And if there is no payment for sin, there is no hope of forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (I Corinthians 15:17).

With this in mind, let’s pay close attention to the next picture that the apostle John presents as he makes it very clear that Jesus Christ really did die on the cross. From this picture we will learn that JESUS’ LEGS WERE NOT BROKEN AND HIS SIDE WAS PIERCED SO WE MAY BELIEVE JESUS IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB WHO DIED FOR US (John 19:31-37).

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31). It sometimes took crucifixion victims days to die. Normally, then, the Romans would have left the men on the crosses.” 13  But because this was was “the Preparation Day” on a Friday when the Jews had to prepare for the Sabbath, work was forbidden after sunset when the Sabbath would begin according to the Jewish reckoning of time. Also, this was going to be a special Sabbath (“high day”) because in addition to it being the seventh day, it would also be the day when the Jews celebrated the Passover. 14

“The Jews” did not want the bodies of these criminals to “remain on the cross on the Sabbath” because according to the Mosaic Law if you leave a man hanging on a tree overnight it would defile the land (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).So “the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken” so that they would die and could be buried. Victims hanging on a cross had to put weight on their legs in order to lift themselves to breathe. Without the use of their legs, they would die of asphyxiation.” 15

32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:32-33). The soldiers “broke the legs” of the criminals hanging beside Jesus because they were still alive.But why didn’t the Roman soldiers break Jesus’ legs? Pilate had given the order to break His legs. They would not have disobeyed Pilate’s command if they were not certain Jesus was already dead. Keep in mind these professional executioners were accustomed to this form of execution and were very familiar with the signs of death. It was their professional opinion based upon years of experience that Jesus Christ was dead. He had not fainted or swooned as some mistakenly teach.

These soldiers also recognized this man was “Jesus,” not some other man posing as Jesus. The apostle John, an eyewitness to this event, also concluded that this Man Who died was “Jesus “ (John 19:33-37), not some impostor. So both the Swoon Theory or Substitution Theory are not plausible.

In case you are still not convinced that Jesus died, John then tells us, “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34). This piercing of Jesus’ side confirmed that He was dead. In order for “blood and water” to come out of such a wound, the heart would have had to stop beating. 16  The sac around the heart, the pericardium, had filled with water and burst. Contrary to the heresies which arose in the second century that taught Jesus was solely divine and not human, this eyewitness testimony from John confirms that Jesus really did die and that He is fully human and fully God (cf. John 1:1, 14).

Someone may ask, “How can God die? Isn’t He eternal so He cannot die?” Think about this for a moment. When humans die, do our souls stop existing? No, our souls do not die. So even when we die as humans, it is our body that dies. We do not stop existing altogether. So it was with Jesus: He was killed with respect to His earthly body, but as God He did not stop existing. Sometimes, though, when people ask, “How can God die?” they are really asking “Who was ruling the universe when Jesus died?” For the Christian, the answer is simple. God the Father was ruling the universe when Jesus died. God the Father is not the Son, and the Father did not die on the cross. God the Son died on the cross. 17

Those who deny that Jesus died are telling a complete lie. Think of how much faith it takes to believe that Jesus did not die. Consider Christ, Who received thirty-nine lashes, hung on a cross for six hours, fainted on the cross according to skeptics, had a spear thrust into His side with water and blood coming out, and then later He woke up in a tomb and somehow crawled to that large stone that weighed over a ton and rolled it out of the way while all the Roman soldiers were out there guarding the tomb? Then He snuck by all the Roman guards? So when Jesus appeared to be resurrected, He was really lying? It takes a lot more faith to believe such a tale than to believe that Jesus really did die.

Even if you believe Jesus did not die, John says, And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35). John is saying, “I was there. I saw with my own eyes what happened at the cross. I’m telling you the truth so you may believe Jesus did die as the promised Messiah!”

This is not just historical details. John testified “so that you may believe.” John recorded these details to enable us to believe that Jesus did die for our sins; that He did shed His blood for us; that He did pay our sin debt in full. When John testified of what happened at the cross, the result that is intended to take place in our lives is not pity for Jesus. It is not a deeper interest in history. It is belief or trust. Belief in the One Who demonstrated His infinite love toward us by shedding His own blood so we could be completely forgiven the moment we believe in Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7).

John tells us that all that happened at the cross fulfilled Old Testament Scripture. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’ ” (John 19:36-37). “He quotes from Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10, proving it was no accident that Jesus was pierced rather than having his legs broken. Our sovereign God was fulfilling his Word.” 18

The fact that Jesus’ legs were not broken not only fulfilled Psalm 34:20, it also points to Jesus as our Passover Lamb of God (John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7) since the Israelites were not to break the bones of their Passover lambs (cf. Exodus 12:5, 46; Numbers 9:12). Passover lambs had to be killed to apply their blood to the door posts and lintel of Israelite homes so God’s judgment would pass over each family (Exodus 12:3-13). Likewise, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, had to die so His blood would cause God’s eternal judgment to pass over every person who believes in Jesus.

Think about this for a moment. Who has more credibility? A follower of Jesus named, John, who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and lived in the same vicinity as Jesus’ community or a man named, Muhammad, who lived six hundred years after Jesus and over six hundred miles removed from where Jesus lived and ministered? 19  Would an objective observer consider John or Muhammad to have presented reliable historical evidence? The answer is obvious. John was there. John was an eyewitness. To say that Muhammad’s message is true and John’s is false simply because the Quran is inspired is not plausible to an objective observer.

“The basis of any historical case must be the primary sources, and in this case, the sources are unanimous, diverse, early, and plentiful: Jesus died by crucifixion. Starting almost immediately after Jesus’ death, over a dozen authors and traditions recorded the death of Jesus by crucifixion, including Christian, Jewish, and Roman sources, and their testimony was unanimous. For more than one hundred years, no record even suggests that Jesus survived death on the cross or otherwise circumvented his execution. This coheres well with what we know of crucifixion practices, in that there is no person in recorded history who ever survived a full Roman crucifixion. Positing that Jesus did not die on the cross would have served the agenda of the early Christians and those opposed to their message, but such a suggestion appears inconceivable. For those who study Jesus’ life in academia, the idea that Jesus did not die by crucifixion remains, to this day, outside the realm of possibility” 20

What gets you really excited in life? What are you extremely passionate about? For me, I am extremely passionate about the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that we see the amazing love of Jesus Christ for all of us, regardless of our skin color, social class, or sin (Romans 5:8; I John 4:9-10). The cross is our source of faith (Galatians 2:20). It is our source of complete forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). It is our source of hope (Colossians 1:5). It is our source of life (John 3:14-15; I John 4:10). It is our source of power (I Corinthians 1:18). It is our source of victory over sin, death, and the devil (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15).

When you read about the impact of the cross, you may say to yourself, “But you don’t know what I have done. How can Jesus love me in view of all the terrible things I have thought, said, and done? How can He possibly forgive me?” The power of the cross is not dependent on your behavior. The power of the cross is based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, our Passover Lamb of God, Who was innocent and without sin. God has nailed the entire list of all your sins – past, present, and future – to the cross, and they have all been canceled as if they never happened or will happen (Colossians 2:13-14). That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

For you to experience the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, you must believe. Jesus invites you right now to believe in Him for His forgiveness and eternal life if you have never done so. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). The power of the cross is not based on your behavior, but upon belief. Do you believe in Jesus Who died in your place on that cross to pay your sin debt in full? If you now do, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the cross. Before today, I believed a lie that said You never died on that cross. Thank You for revealing the truth to me today that shows it was really You Who died on that cross. It was You Who paid for all my sins when Your blood poured out of Your side. Your legs were not broken so my brokenness could be healed. As best I know how, I am now believing in You Jesus to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Please teach me more about the power of the cross to change my life for the better. In Your name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 360.

2. Ibid.

3. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 .

4. Ibid. pg. 180.

5. Ibid., pg. 179 cites Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenaeus against heresies,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Vol. 1, (Buffalo: Christians Literature Company, 1885), pg. 349.

6. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 15.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017, pg. 360 cites F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 382, footnote 38.

8. The Qur’an: English translationby Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Goodworks Books, Kindle Edition), pg. 90.

9. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 179–181.

10. Ibid., pp. 170-173.

11. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM, pg. 282.

12. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 67.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1825.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 350-351.

15. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

16. Ibid.

17. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 89-90.

18. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

19. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 176-177.

20. Ibid., pg. 169.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 10

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

From the beginning of human history, people have tried to remedy their sin problem through their own efforts. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they tried to remedy their sense of fear and shame by covering themselves with “fig leaves” (Genesis 3:7). But this covering did not remove the effects of their sin. Since that first attempt to remove the consequences of sin through human effort, people have been trying to remove their own guilt and shame through their own accomplishments. Various religions have been created by people trying to remedy their sin problem. But all man-made religions fall short of God’s solution to our sin problem. 

In Genesis 3:21, God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve. He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal. Blood must be shed. Imagine how Adam must have felt to see one of the animals he had named and cared for being killed on his account! Never had Adam and Eve known death. This was serious business and this was to be God’s way of dealing with sin throughout the ages. By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). God later provided forgiveness through the Old Testament sacrificial system. 

Those animals were shadows of the Babe who was born on that first Christmas morning. He would be called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 18:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die for the sins of others (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9), that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Like Adam and Eve, our human efforts or works cannot remove our sin and shame (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion cannot take away our sins. Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Why? We will discover the answer in the next verse of our study about lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life.

In this picture that John presents we learn that WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY TO HEAVEN BECAUSE WE CANNOT PAY A DEBT THAT IS ALREADY PAID (John 19:30). The apostle John writes, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ ” (John 19:30a). As we saw in our last lesson, Jesus’ throat and lips had become parched from the extreme loss of bodily fluids. He shouted out in agony, “I am thirsty!” (John 19:28) to fulfillthe prophecy in Psalm 69:21 (cf. John 19:28-29) and to save us from an eternal thirst (Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17). John then tells us Jesus “received the sour wine” which would moisten His throat and lips to proclaim the most triumphant declaration ever made: “It is finished!” He did not say, “I am finished!” as some might think. “That would mean He died defeated. No, this was not the end for Him but the beginning of a new chapter in His eternal existence.” 1

When John writes, “And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), he is connecting us back to something Jesus said earlier. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18). The Jews or Romans did not take Jesus’ life from Him. Christ voluntarily laid down His life for the sins of the world. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished”? The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus was saying that our sin debt was paid in full! Past, present, and future sins have all been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Revelation 1:5; 12:11).

The Bible tells us that all people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:9-23). All sin incurs a debt which the sinner owes to God (Romans 6:23a). If you and I were to pay our own sin debt to God, we would have to suffer forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much that He sent His only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross. “Jesus did in six hours what no human being can do in all of eternity.” 3  When Christ died on that cross, He gathered to Himself the accumulated debt of a sinful human race and offered to God the full payment for our sins – past, present, and future. Having made the payment, Jesus could say, “It is finished!” – the debt is paid in full. Jesus “paid the very last cent of the wages of our sin.” 4

Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping His commandments, our water baptism, our daily prayers, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin (I John 2:2). 

Soon after Jesus said, “It is finished!” and died, we read, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). “The way to God was now open. Instead of entry being restricted to the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on only one day in the year, entrance into God’s presence was now available to all who came through Christ. With the barrier of our sin taken away, we can now “draw near … through the blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:22 with Ephesians 2:13).” 5

The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present. There is nothing a Christian can do, say, or think that can change the fact that their sin debt is paid in full today.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven all your sins – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). The sin debt you owed to God has been “canceled.” If you struggle to believe this let me suggest an exercise for you to do. Grab a pen and paper and write down a list of your worst sins on the left side of the paper and then write “Paid in Full” next to each one. Your list may include:

Abandoning Responsibilities: Paid in Full.

Abortion: Paid in Full.

Adultery: Paid in Full.

Angry outbursts: Paid in Full.

Blasphemy: Paid in Full.

Cheating: Paid in Full.

Failure to love God above all else: Paid in Full.

Gossip: Paid in Full.

Greed: Paid in Full.

Money Laundering: Paid in Full.

Murder: Paid in Full.

Pride: Paid in Full.

Selfishness: Paid in Full.

Sex Trafficking: Paid in Full.

Theft: Paid in Full.

Unforgiveness: Paid in Full. 6

Some of you reading this may be tempted to add your own goodness to the finished work of Christ. You think that if the good in your life outweighs the bad, then you will go to heaven in the future. “After all, God only helps those who help themselves,” you say to yourself. But that saying is not found in the Bible.

Jesus anticipated you might think this way when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult [confined] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). The way to heaven is “narrow” because it is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, not Jesus plus your good works (cf. John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus says, “there are few who find it.” The majority of people have a propensity to trust in themselves to gain acceptance before God. That is why Jesus said “there are many who go in by” the wide gate that leads to destruction. The “wide gate” is any teaching that denies faith alone in Christ alone as the only hope of heaven. Those teachings reject the full payment of all sin through Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are Christians, this has major implications in evangelism. When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

We can reflect this truth in evangelism by inviting non-Christians to believe or trust in Christ alone, not Christ plus their good works, to give them a right standing before God (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16) and everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

This is called grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We do not deserve forgiveness or everlasting life. But because of God’s grace, He offers us His forgiveness and everlasting life freely through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice. Will you trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as You are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26). And then you can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Your sin debt is paid in full.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for sending Your only perfect Son to pay my sin debt in full when He died on the cross. Your acceptance of His sacrifice was clearly seen when You tore the temple veil from top to bottom, signifying entrance into Your presence for those who believe in Jesus. What an amazing Savior I have. What an amazing Father I have in heaven. Thank You for the blessed assurance that my sin debt is paid in full by my great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please use me now to proclaim this incredible message to those for whom Jesus died and wants to save. To You be all the glory and praise, Father. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pp. 122-123.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 350 cites J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), pg. 630.

3. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 127.

4. Ibid., pg. 136.

5. Ibid., pg. 134.

6. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 132.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 9

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ ” John 19:28

During one of my missions trips to the northern Philippines in 2015, I had to walk with my translator all day to share the gospel at three remote schools in the mountains of Kalinga province. The day began with swimming across a raging river and then traversing over a mudslide on a steep mountainside. Before we arrived at our first school four hours later, my clothes were already drenched with sweat from the extreme exertion in the high humidity and altitude in this tropical climate.

When we finished preaching the gospel at the first school, we then had to cross several streams and go up and down several slippery and muddy slopes to arrive at our second school where we shared the gospel with forty-nine students and two teachers. We then ate our own snacks and I drank some of my water in a shelter on the school grounds. I was getting low on water at this point because of the strenuous hikes so I tried to conserve what little I had left. I had underestimated the amount of water I would need during the day because I assumed there would be purified water at the schools. But I was wrong.

To get to our last school, we had to walk down the mountainside to a swinging bridge and then follow the river for a while before climbing a steep trail. At this point my legs were starting to cramp severely due to the loss of fluids and electrolytes. I had to stop occasionally to try to stretch my cramping muscles. As we started climbing up the rice terrace walls I became concerned about having muscle cramps and falling off the terrace wall on the steep mountain slopes. A few months earlier on a similar hike in Kalinga, I had fallen off a slippery rice terrace wall in the rain and cracked two ribs and sprained my knee. But during this trip, the biggest challenge was dealing with my ravaging thirst. With each step up the mountain, I kept thinking about how refreshing it would be to drink a cold glass of water.

About forty-five minutes later we arrived at our last school and shared the gospel with forty-five students, all of whom said they were now believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. The teachers were very thankful we would work so hard to come all the way to their school. The male teacher invited us to his home to have coffee and snacks. While resting there, he had his wife pour the remainder of their coffee in a water bottle for me to drink because I drank the last of my water and there was no purified water between our current location and the next village. I was so parched that drinking coffee for my thirst sounded better than going without any liquid at this point, even though caffeine is a diuretic. I learned later that even caffeinated beverages such as coffee have a net hydrating effect.

On our return to civilization, we had to hike up a steep mountainside covered with rice terrace walls to a dirt road with many switch backs going up the mountainside to the main road. As we continued to hike up the mountainside, I longed for several liters of gatorade. My mouth and throat were parched. An hour and a half later, we finally arrived at a village where we thoroughly enjoyed purified water, juice, and a delicious meal. Never before or since had I experienced such a ravaging thirst.

But the thirst I experienced in Kalinga is pale compared to the thirst of crucifixion because “crucifixion is a long slow process of dehydration.” Think about how much bodily fluid Jesus has lost since His last drink of wine at the Lord’s Supper. In Gethsemane Jesus sweat as it were great drops of blood; He sweat as He endured His arrest and His trials before Annas and Caiaphas; He sweat as He spent the night in a dungeon, with a new series of trials in the morning; His flogging and being forced to carry His crossbeam would have drained the fluids from His body. And now for six hours He had hung on the cross without consuming any liquids. 2

We then read, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ ” (John 19:28). We learn several things from this verse. First, we see that the word teleioō is used twice in this verse. “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished [tetelestai], that the Scripture might be fulfilled [teleiōthe], said, ‘I thirst!’ ” This is the same word translated “It is finished” [tetelestai]in John 19:30. We might paraphrase in this way: Since Jesus knew that all things were finished, in order that the OT Scripture might be finished… He said, ‘It is finished!’ Clearly John is emphasizing that Jesus successfully completed all that He had been sent to do.” 3

Secondly, we see that when Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” He was consciously fulfilling the Old Testament Scripture in Psalm 69:21, “And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Jesus had not been given any vinegar yet, so He called out that He was thirsty so He could fulfill this prophecy. John informs us that this verse was fulfilled when, “A vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.” (John 19:29). 

Hyssop was the very plant used to brush lamb’s blood on the doorposts during the Passover (see Exod 12:21-23). As the apostle Paul says, ‘Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7).” 4  Jesus, the innocent Passover Lamb of God, had become thirsty to save us from an eternal thirst.

I find this to be amazing. Here is Jesus just minutes away from death, and He remembers that a Messianic prophecy needs to be fulfilled. Why is Jesus so determined to fulfill prophecy? One reason is because He knows we are prone to doubt. When we see Him suffering to this extent, we may question if He is truly the Messiah-God. We may conclude that God is not in control.

Do we realize that Jesus fulfilled over three hundred distinct prophecies in the Old Testament at His First Coming to earth? The mathematical probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1/840,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (That’s ninety-seven zeroes!) A partial list of those prophecies include:

– The betrayal by a familiar friend (Psalm 41:9; cf. John 13:18, 26).

– The forsaking of the disciples through being offended at Him (Psalm 31:11; cf. Matthew 26:56b).

– The false accusations (Psalm 35:11; cf. Mark 14:56-58).

– The silence before His judges (Isaiah 53:7; cf. Mark 14:51; 15:3, 5 ).

– Being proven innocent (Isaiah 53:9 cf. John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

– Being included with sinners (Isaiah 53:12; cf. Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27-28).

– The piercing of His hands and feet when crucified (Psalm 22:16; John 19:37; 20:25-27).

– The mockery of onlookers (Psalm 109:25; Luke 23:35).

– The taunt of being unable to deliver Himself (Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-44).

– The casting of lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; cf. Matthew 27:35; John 19:23-24).

– The prayer for His enemies (Isaiah 53:12; cf. Luke 23:34).

– The yielding of His spirit into the hands of His Father (Psalm 31:5; cf. Luke 23:46).

– His bones are not broken (Psalm 34:20; cf. John 19:32-36).

– The burial in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; cf. Matthew 27:57-60). 7

Jesus did not say, “I am thirsty,” just so He could quench His physical thirst. He did this because He knew this prophecy had to be fulfilled. And it was.

A third thing we learn when Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” is that Jesus was fully human. As God He could say, ‘I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:58). As man He could say, ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:28). God the Father does not thirst; angels do not thirst. This was the thirst of a dying man.” 8

Christ’s humanity was also seen when He was weary in Samaria (John 4:6), disturbed in Nazareth (Mark 6:6), angry in the temple (John 2:15), sleepy in the boat on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:38), sad at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35), and hungry in the wilderness (Matthew 4:20).

Why did Jesus endure all these experiences? Because He knew we would be thirsty, weary, disturbed, angry, sleepy, sad, and hungry. What this teaches us is that Christ understands how we feel. 9

The Bible tells us, 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). We can be confident that whatever we are experiencing, Jesus has also experienced it and more.

Are you in physical pain? Remember Christ’s burning thirst. Have you been rejected? Jesus was rejected by the world and His own Jewish people (John 1:10-11). Have you been put to shame? Christ was crucified while almost naked. Have you been abandoned? Christ was forsaken by His own disciples and worse – by His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:56b; 27:46). 10  Why? So He could understand us when we face similar things. And because He understands us, we can come to Him with confidence.

The most important lesson we learn from these verses is that JESUS BECAME THIRSTY TO SAVE US FROM AN ETERNAL THIRST (JOHN 19:28-29). This is the most amazing thing of all – that the Water of Life would become thirsty. And we are not talking about physical thirst. We areE talking about spiritual thirst.

All people are born with a spiritual thirst for God. The Bible tells us, “He has put eternity in their hearts.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He has placed a thirst in our hearts for something eternal. And only God can quench this thirst. But people often try to quench this spiritual thirst through some other means such as achievements, alcohol, money, possessions, power, and sex. Others may exist on medication because they cannot bear the pain of their own emptiness. Some people pursue pleasure, trying to medicate the brokenness in their lives.

The Bible refers to these practices in Jeremiah 2:13: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Instead of turning to GodWho is like a “fountain of living waters” that provides for our deepest needs and longings (Jeremiah 2:13a; cf. Psalm 36:9; John 4:10-14; Revelation 21:6), we turn away from Him and dig broken cisterns that can hold no water – much less provide it (Jeremiah 2:13b).

The issue is not whether we thirst – for we all do – the real issue is how long will we thirst? Jesus answers that question in a story He told about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. When both men died, Lazarus was escorted by angels to a place of blessing called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and the rich man went to a place of torment in Hades (Luke 16:23). The rich man “cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’” (Luke 16:24).

What do people in hades (which will eventually be thrown into hell) say? Tormented in the fire they cry out, ‘I am thirsty!’” 11  As Matthew Henry put it, “The torments of hell are represented by a violent thirst, in the complaint of the rich man who begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue. To that everlasting thirst we had all been condemned, if Christ had not suffered on the cross.” 12

Lutzer says, Hell is remembering the Living Water we could have enjoyed on earth that would have taken us to heaven. Hell is a lake of fire, a place of endless, unquenchable thirst.” 13

Thank God that Jesus endured the agonizing thirst of His soul when the sins of the world were placed upon Him as He hung on that cross so we could drink His living water that quenches our thirst for eternal life forever. This Jesus, Who is now thirsty on the cross, said to a Samaritan woman at a well earlier in His ministry, 10 If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… 14 whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14).

Christ became thirsty on the cross so you could quench your eternal thirst. The word “drink” means to “believe.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). “To drink” means “to believe” – because both drinking and believing permanently quench our spiritual thirst. One drink of Jesus’ living water, one act of faith in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life will quench your spiritual thirst forever. Why? Because when we believe in Jesus alone for His free gift of eternal life, He digs a well in our soul that gushes “up into everlasting life” and never runs dry (John 4:14). Have you taken that drink? Have you believed in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life? If so, you will “never thirst” for eternal life again.  

The Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus will be taken to heaven one day where they shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17).

It is no surprise that in the last chapter of the Bible we read, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). 

“Those who come to the One who was once thirsty need never thirst again.” 14  If you have never come to Christ in faith for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so now. Simply take Jesus at His Word when He says, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). If you now believe in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Loving Lord Jesus, thank You for crying out on the cross, “I am thirsty,” so You could fulfill the remaining Bible prophecy concerning Your death and prove You were the promised Messiah-God. I now realize that You became thirsty on the cross so I could be saved forever from an eternal thirst in hell. As best I know how, I now believe in You, Jesus, to give me everlasting life which can never be lost. Thank You that I will never thirst for eternal life again. Thank You for digging a well in the depths of my soul that bubbles up into a fountain of everlasting life which never runs dry. Please show me how to know You more and enjoy Your living waters. In Your precious name, I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pg. 105 cites Philip Graham Ryken, “Human After All,” in The Heart of the Cross, James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1999), pg. 37.

2. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 105-106.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 559.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1825; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 692.

5. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 95.

6. Ibid., pg. 96, 154 cites William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, of New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), pg. 431.

7. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 95-96.

8. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 107.

9. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 92-93.

10. Adapted from Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 112-113.

11. Ibid., pg. 115.

12. Ibid cites Matthew Henry quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, “Human After All,” in The Heart of the Cross, pg. 42.

13. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 115.

14. Ibid., pg. 118.