Revelation 11 – Part 2

“And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” Revelation 11:12

We saw last time that through two witnesses God brings directly to faith in Christ, He will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14). These two end-time prophets empowered by God’s Spirit will seem to be untouchable and unstoppable even though their enemies will hate them because of the judgments they bring upon the earth (11:5-6). But like other servants of the Lord, when God says, “Mission accomplished,” He removes His protection from them and permits their enemies to kill them. 1

The apostle John writes, “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7). It is only when the two witnesses “finish their testimony” after 1260 days (three and a half years – 11:3) that God will permit “the beast” to “kill” them. They will not die prematurely. This is the first of 36 references to “the beast” in Revelation (cf. Daniel 7:21). 2 He is the Antichrist, as later passages will show (Revelation 13:1-10; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 17:3-13; 19:20; 20:10). As John testifies in his first epistle, the Antichrist and his servants, will deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, and will mislead many people away from the truth that Jesus alone guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him (I John 2:18-25; 4:3; 5:9-13, 18; 2 John 1:7; cf. John 11:25-27; John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12). This verse in Revelation 11 describes the Antichrist as having his origin in the “bottomless pit,” the abode of Satan and his demons (cf. Luke 8:31). 3

It is interesting to discover that the Greek word translated “testimony” (11:7),is martyrian, which has the same root as our English word “martyrdom.” Swindoll writes, “Originally, to be a martyr meant to give public testimony about the truth, but that public witness could lead to the sealing of that testimony with death. Thus, these two ‘martyrs’ of the future will follow their Savior and countless saints before them in the path of martyrdom for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 4

Only “the beast” or Antichrist will be able to stop these two witnesses. At the middle of the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15), he will become the world’s dictator and “will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (11:7; cf. 13:1-10). His power overrules the power of these two witnesses—but only temporarily. 5

It is important for us to remember that just like these two witnesses, our times are in God’s hand as well (cf. Psalm 31:14-15). We, too, are invincible until the Lord is finished with us, and we have completed our work for Him on earth. What a comforting, strengthening truth this is amid a dark and devastating world. 6

We see the world’s contempt for these two prophets in their response to their deaths. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.” (Revelation 11:8-9). The beast will add insult to injury by allowing the “dead bodies” of the two witnesses to “lie in the street” of Jerusalem where the “Lord” Jesus “was crucified” (11:8). To leave a corpse unburied was the worst indignity that someone could perpetrate on a person in biblical times (cf. Psalm 79:2-3). 7 “Spiritually” Jerusalem was “called Sodom” because of its pride and iniquity (cf. Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49) and “Egypt” because of its oppression of God’s people (cf. Exodus 3:7; 20:2). 8

Some “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” will not allow the two witnesses to be buried, viewing their corpses for “three-and-a-half days” (11:9). Just as individuals from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be saved by the blood of the Lamb (7:9), some from every ethnic group will also harden their hearts against God. The beast will engineer all this activity to show he is superior in power to God’s two witnesses and to the God they serve. 9

This viewing of the witnesses’ dead bodies by every ethnic group implies some worldwide display, now made possible by modern technology. 10 Television and satellite communications make this scene seem even more plausible today.

Mark Hitchcock writes, “It means their bodies will be seen simultaneously by people all over the world. If this is correct, it means that John saw something that has only become possible in the last sixty years, almost two thousand years since he predicted it.

“At the time this prophecy was given, and for centuries after, the scope of such a prediction would have seemed impossible. Yet today it’s commonplace. It happens 24/7 every day on cable news all around the world, even in many poor Third World countries.” 11

“As Tim LaHaye says, ‘Ours is the first generation that can literally see the fulfillment of 11:9 in allowing people of the entire world to see such an awesome spectacle. This is one more indication that we are coming closer to the end of the age, because it would have been humanly impossible just a few years ago for the entire world to see these two witnesses in the streets at a given moment of time.’” 12

The entire world will celebrate the deaths of these two witnesses. “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10). John informs us that “those who dwell on the earth” will celebrate not only the death of the two witnesses, but the triumph of the beast as well. This celebration will involve gifts, like those given at a Christmas or birthday party, because wicked men and women will delight in the death of two prophets who “tormented” them with supernatural judgments and the preaching of God’s truth. 13

Hitchcock quotes Ray Stedman, They keep telling the truth to people who want only to embrace their delusions. They keep blunting the Antichrist’s carefully concocted propaganda. . . . The vile and godless society of the world under the Antichrist takes the death of the two witnesses as a cause for global celebration. One is reminded of a saying that was common among ancient Roman generals, ‘The corpse of an enemy always smells sweet!’” 14

People all over the world will be so ecstatic these witnesses for God are dead that they will hold a Christmas-like celebration and send gifts to one another—Satan’s Anti-Christmas. This is the only mention of any kind of rejoicing or celebrating on earth during the entire Tribulation period. People will be so thrilled to see these men dead that no burial will be allowed. They will want to watch their bodies rot in the street.” 15

This worldwide celebration of the two witnesses’ deaths will not last long. “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.” (Revelation 11:11). John tells us,“After the three-and-a-half days the breath of… God” resurrected the two witnesses causing “great fear to fall on those who saw them.” The two dead bodies that “stood on their feet” will “terrify these onlookers, because these gawking God-haters will be able to do no more to silence their enemies beyond killing them. The use of the prophetic present tense in the verbs in this verse pictures what is future as fact.” 16

Picture the scene—the sun-drenched streets of Jerusalem, the holiday crowd flown in from the ends of the earth for a firsthand look at the corpses of these detested men, the troops in the Beast’s uniform, the temple police. There they are, devilish men from every kingdom under heaven, come to dance and feast at the triumph of the Beast. And then it happens! As the crowds strain at the police cordon to peer curiously at the two dead bodies, there comes a sudden change. Their color changes from cadaverous hue to the blooming, rosy glow of youth. Those stiff, stark limbs—they bend, they move! Oh, what a sight! They rise! The crowds fall back, break, and form again.” 17

As these mockers look on with fear, They heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Revelation 11:12). Before these God-haters are even able to process all that they are observing, they hear “a loud voice from heaven.” The beast’s bragging will be silenced by God’s voice calling, “Come up here.” At that, the witnesses will be taken up in a cloud while “their enemies” watch. 18 Just as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended in a cloud (cf. Acts 1:9), so these two witnesses will ascend to heaven in a cloud and will be seen by “their enemies.” Their glorious ascension is also like that of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and Christians at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 19

This is a quite a scene. People all over the world will see the two witnesses caught up to heaven on their favorite TV newscast as the analysts will sit around discussing its significance. 20

Shortly after the ascension of the two witnesses, God’s judgment fell upon the city of Jerusalem. “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13). A “tenth” of Jerusalem’s buildings are destroyed as “a great earthquake” rips through the city, and kills “seven thousand people.” The people in Jerusalem who survive the earthquake become “afraid” and give “glory to the God of heaven.” As God often does, in this instance He will allow catastrophic events to occur because those events will bring Him greater glory. 21

The biblical text does not say that these survivors believe in Christ for eternal life. Instead, their response is like people who endure frightening events such as tornadoes or typhoons and acknowledge them as acts of God. However, a person who is overwhelmed by God’s power and a person believing in Christ for eternal life are two different things. 22

The great Jerusalem earthquake following the ascension of the two prophets will bring a close to the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” (Revelation 11:14). The “second woe” or sixth trumpet judgment announced in 8:13 had come to pass, leaving only the “third woe” or final trumpet judgment, to come “quickly.” 23

The account of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14 encourages us to remember that no matter how dark things may be, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness. Paul Benware offers this comforting insight about the life and ministry of the two witnesses: 24

“These two miracle-working servants of God are lights for the Lord in the morally and spiritually dark city of Jerusalem. The two witnesses are a reminder that even in the worst of times God does not leave Himself without witnesses.” 25

When I observe people mocking God and His servants today, I often complain about the lack of Christian influence in the world. But God is convicting me to be His witness in the darkness. This is the challenge from Revelation 11:1-14 to all of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. God wants to use each of us regardless of our past or our weaknesses. One day He will send His two witnesses to proclaim His life-giving message to a wicked world. But for now, God has sent those of us who believe in Jesus to announce the truth about the risen and ascended Christ to a world that is reeling in the darkness of deception.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for this amazing account of the two witnesses who were permitted to be killed by the Antichrist only after they had finished their prophetic ministry to the world. What a great reminder that no one can touch us until we have completed the work You have given us here on earth. And just as the death of the two witnesses was not final, nor will ours be. You raised them from the dead so they could ascend to heaven, and You will also triumphantly raise up believers who have died to be caught up together with those believers who remain alive to meet our Lord Jesus in the air when He returns for His church prior to the horrific judgments of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Thank You for promising us triumph after tragedy. Please enable us to proclaim your life-giving gospel message with all boldness and faithfulness so more people can be translated into Your presence the moment You tell us to “Come up here.” In the name of the ascended 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), pg. 217.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 127.

3. Ibid.

4. Swindoll, pg. 217.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2394.

6. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 349.

7. Constable, pg. 127.

8. 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. 1538.

9. Evans, pg. 2394.

10. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5617-5623.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 350.

12. Ibid., cites Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pg. 188.

13. Evans, pg 2394.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 349 cites Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1991), pg. 220.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 349.

16. Constable, pg. 128.  

17. Hitchcock, pp. 350-351 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 150.

18. Evans, pp. 2394-2395.

19. Constable, pg. 128.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 351.

21. Evans, pg. 2395.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1538.

23. Walvoord, location 5628.

24. Hitchcock, pg. 352.

25. Ibid., cites Paul N. Benware, Undersanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 254.

Revelation 8 – Part 3

“And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” Revelation 8:13

In Revelation 7:3, God allowed a pause in His judgments long enough for the 144,000 Israelites to be marked for divine protection. In that vision, the earth, the sea, and the trees could not be affected by judgment until God’s servants were sealed. However, as we arrive at the seven trumpet judgments beginning in chapter 8, that temporary restraint of God’s wrath is removed. The first four trumpets sound in rapid staccato blasts, taking up only six verses. In contrast, the events surrounding the fifth through seventh trumpet judgments will extend from chapter 9 to chapter 11. The first four trumpet blasts will affect the earth’s ecosystem and atmosphere, drastically altering living conditions on the planet. The latter judgments will involve spiritual warfare that affects people directly.” 1

After recording about half an hour of silence in heaven and the giving of seven trumpets to seven angels (8:1-6), the apostle John now records the trumpet judgments proceeding out of the seventh seal. The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7). “The first angel” blowing the first trumpet, resulted in “hail and fire… mingled with blood” of those injured or killed as fiery hail was “thrown to the earth” destroying “a third of the trees” and “all green grass” with fire (8:7). This first trumpet judgment depicts a firestorm that dwarfs even the most gigantic contemporary wildfires. While wildfires in the western United States, for example, burn tens of thousands of acres, this firestorm will affect a third of the planet.” 2

This will no doubt decimate crops and forests, filling the air with smoke and ash. Though this first judgment is not directly aimed at human beings, it will indirectly affect food supplies, the global economy, and health on a massive scale.” 3

There are two explanations of how “all the green grass” is burned up here, but later in Revelation 9:4, “we read that grass exists: First, the grass will have grown again, because some time elapses between these two references. Second, it may only be the ‘green grass’ that perishes now, and what is dormant and brown in 8:7 will be green when the events of 9:4 transpire. These trumpet and bowl judgments appear to be as literal as the plagues on Egypt were. There are many parallels with the Egyptian plagues.” 4

“The OT prophets understood that the miracles of Egypt were to be repeated in the future (e.g., Isaiah 10:22-25; 11:12-16; 30:30; Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:7-8; Ezekiel 38:22; Micah 7:15) . . . At several points the prophet Amos uses God’s miraculous work of deliverance from Egypt as a reference point for the way He will deal with His people in the future (cf. Amos 2:10; 4:10; 8:8-9; 9:5-7).” 5

Following the first trumpet blast, 8 the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:8-9). This second trumpet judgment involves a giant meteorite (or asteroid) being thrown into the sea, causing “a third of the sea” to turn to “blood.” The description of water turning to “blood” is reminiscent of the divine judgment of God on Egypt through Moses that is described in Exodus 7:17-19. 6This judgment results in “a third” of the marine life in the oceans being killed and “a third of the ships were destroyed” by a huge tidal wave from the meteorite’s impact.  The loss of human life will be enormous since a large portion of the world’s population lives on the continental coasts. 7 

Those who depend on ocean life for food would suffer hunger and hardship on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of seafaring vessels would cause disruption in global trade as well as a crisis of security when the navies of world powers are significantly reduced.” 8

As if these first two judgments on land and sea were not enough to humble the world before God, the third trumpet judgment will bring another severe blow. 10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.” (Revelation 8:10-11). This “great star” that “fell from heaven, burning like a torch” is probably a comet. It will poison “a third of the” earth’s fresh water supplies (“rivers… springs of water”) and “many men” would die “from the water.”

The word, “wormwood” (Apsinthos), refers to “a plant of the genus ‘Artemisia,’ proverbially bitter to the taste, yielding a dark green oil.” 9 Wormwood is “similar to the sagebrush… bitter, aromatic herb . . . with clusters of small, greenish yellow flowers that grows in desert regions and often symbolizes the bitterness of life.” 10 Many people will die from this severely contaminated water that has become bitter like wormwood. 11 Either they drink the water because they are unaware of its contamination or out of desperate dehydration, they consume the water and die. 12

As the first three trumpet judgments strike the vegetation, the oceans, and the bodies of fresh water, people might turn their attentions with hope to the skies. 13 Hence, the fourth trumpet judgment: “Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.” (Revelation 8:12). When the fourth trumpet sounded, “a third of the sun …moon and…stars…were darkened” so that there was no light for four hours during “the day” and for four hours during “the night.” God may simply darken “the sun… moon… and… stars” supernaturally as He did in Egypt prior to the Exodus (cf. Exodus 10:21-23), or there may be an atmospheric phenomenon that causes an eclipse, blocking the light for four hours during the day and four hours during the night. Or it may simply refer to the light earth receives from the sun, moon, and stars being dimmed by one-third because of the atmospheric damage and smoke from the previous two trumpet judgments. 14 This means that normal cycles of daylight and darkness will be thrown off, perhaps somewhat like an Alaskan winter, whose lingering darkness has physical, emotional, and psychological effects. 15

Such a reduction in light or sunlight hours, and consequently a catastrophic drop in temperature, would have a devastating effect on the earth.” 16

Places in the area hit hardest by these plagues will have already lost power and deteriorated into desperation and despair. Add natural darkness to this situation and the result would be anarchy and chaos. Rioting, looting, and crime would exacerbate the horrors experienced around the globe.

“The judgments announced by the first four trumpets are so shocking and severe that our natural tendency is to doubt their literal meaning. Of course, Revelation uses numerous symbols to communicate the future, but these symbols always point to real events. When we’re tempted to water down this language, soften its severity, or over-spiritualize the interpretations, we must remember Christ’s ominous words: ‘For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matthew 24:21)… The judgments described in Revelation 8 will be so dreadful that no amount of government aid, relief efforts, or advanced preparation will be able to bring recovery.” 17

Then John writes, “And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” (Revelation 8:13). John looked and “heard an eagle” 18 which is a far-seeing bird of prey, “flying through the” sky warning “the inhabitants of the earth” to beware of the three remaining trumpet blasts. The eagle sees far ahead of what human eyes can see. While the first four trumpet judgments targeted earth’s environment, …the next three judgments will target earth’s inhabitants (cf. 9:10, 18; 11:18).” 19

This warning “has a twofold purpose. First, it suggests the remaining judgments will be harsh. That is because they are intended to purify and reclaim the earth. Second, it underscores the graciousness of God in offering an opportunity for humanity to repent before judgment falls. God the Father, like an earthly parent, takes two approaches with people—one of grace and another of wrath (cf. Rom 11:22). During the church age, he generally exhibits grace and mercy. He also exhibits a form of passive wrath by allowing people and nations to face the destructive consequences of their actions.

“Romans 1 is a prime example of this, depicting idolatrous people whom ‘God delivered . . . over to degrading passions’ (1:26)—that is, to homosexual passions. As recipients of this passive divine wrath, they ‘received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error’ (1:27). As Paul explains, ‘Because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right’ (1:28). When the tribulation begins, though, this passive form of God’s wrath that merely declines to hold back the just dessert of human actions will yield to more active wrath. God’s wrath will rain down as it did on Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen 19:23-29).” 20

In conclusion, it is important for us to understand that God’s severe judgments do have a holy purpose behind them. Even when we face God’s most harsh discipline, He wants us to surrender to Him and release our wills as we embrace His perfect plan. It may be tempting to shake our fists toward heaven and doubt the goodness of God during pain and suffering. But God is looking for us to humble ourselves during harsh times. It would be wise for us to work through a biblical perspective on suffering before the catastrophe strikes instead of panicking to think through this issue amid the chaos and confusion. 21

God uses various trials and suffering to help Christians grow and mature (James 1:2-5). If believers are not living the way God wants them to live, the Lord will use harsh times to discipline them and produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness” in their lives (Hebrews 12:11).

The Lord can also use turbulent times to get the world’s attention. Have you noticed that after disasters like fires, typhoons, or earthquakes, people are much more sensitive to God? Many hearts are more open to spiritual things. I have noticed this during the global pandemic. I am seeing an increase in responsiveness to the gospel during this age of COVID. God often uses tragedy to draw our attention away from ourselves or the world to Him.  

We also learn from these verses that God will not stop His judgments until He has fulfilled His plans. Even though the first four trumpet judgments will bring widespread death, devastation, and destruction, God will bring even more severe and excruciating trumpet judgments after them to bring the world to submission.

Swindoll writes, In our own lives, we can choose to heed the warnings of God’s Word, or we can harden our hearts. Either way, God will eventually work out His plan, which is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Have you been resisting a plan that God has impressed upon you? Stop! Instead, ask the Lord to soften the stubbornness of your heart toward His purposes and to conform you to His will. Only when God’s purpose is accomplished will you receive His peace and experience a reprieve.” 22

Prayer: Holy Father, we are overwhelmed to think of the devastation that will come to the earth during the first four trumpet judgments beginning in the middle of the Tribulation. These are not symbolic representations of tragedies that have already taken place in history. These are literal worldwide judgments that will take place in the future to prepare the inhabitants of the earth for Christ’s Second Coming to earth. Some of us may be very uncomfortable with these judgments, wondering how a God of love could administer such harsh punishments. Yet, we see Your love and mercy expressed to us by the fact that You are warning us ahead of time of such terrible calamities. You have given us the opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ so we can escape via the Rapture this future Tribulation period consisting of worldwide judgments unlike the world has ever seen before. Forgive us, O Lord, for resisting Your plan for our lives. Please soften our hearts so we are willing to embrace Your plan and experience the joy and peace You want Your children to have. In Jesus’ mighty name 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), pg. 178.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2386. 

3. Swindoll, pg. 178.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 107.

5. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 16.

6. Swindoll, pg. 179.

7. 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. 1529.

8. Swindoll, pg. 179.

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. 161.

10. Swindoll, pg. 180 cites J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, eds., The New International Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Plants: Wormwood,” pg. 806.  

11. Evans, pg. 2386.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1529.

13. Swindoll, pg. 180.

14. Ibid., pp. 1529-1530.  

15. Evans, pg. 2387.

16. Constable, pg. 109.

17. Swindoll, pg. 180.

18. The Majority of Greek manuscripts have “eagle” (aetou) instead of “angel” (angelou) in this verse.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1530.

20. Evans, pg. 2387.

21. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 182.

22. Ibid.

How does the risen Lord Jesus use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail? Part 3

“This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” John 21:19

When studying Peter’s life, Dr. Charlie Bing identified several different stages of discipleship. First, there is the finding stage where Peter finds Jesus the Messiah-God and puts his trust in Him for the gift of eternal life (John 1:40-2:11). This is followed by the following stage which involves submitting to Jesus’ purpose of living to reach the lost (Mark 1:16-18). Third, is the forsaking stage when Jesus taught the importance of wholehearted trust and obedience to Him, especially in evangelism (Luke 5:1-11). Fourth, is the failing stage when God uses failure to equip us to strengthen others (John 13:36-38; 18:15-17, 25-27; cf. Luke 22:31-32, 61-62). Then there is the feeding stage when Peter begins to minister to others out of his own brokenness and love for Jesus (John 21:15-19). This is followed by the focusing stage in John 20:20-22. Currently we are looking at the feeding stage.

So far, we have learned in this feeding stage that for the the risen Lord Jesus to use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail, we must…

– Make loving Jesus our first priority (John 21:15).

– Receive His forgiving grace into our hearts for our greatest sins (John 21:16-17).

Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times when standing around “a fire of coals” in a courtyard in front of Annas’ house (John 18:17-18, 25, 27). After His resurrection while standing around “a fire of coals” on the beach (John 21:1-14), Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him (John 21:15-17). Each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, Christ commanded him to feed or tend to His sheep to indicate that Peter was forgiven and restored to his position of leadership. Jesus was going to use Peter’s failure to help others grow in their love for Jesus. And He wants to do the same thing in our lives.

After restoring Peter to leadership, Jesus warns Peter of what his love and service for Jesus will cost him. After Peter told Jesus, “Lord, You know all things” (John 21:17b), Jesus demonstrated that as God, He truly did know all things when He said,  “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” (John 21:18).

Jesus contrasts Peter’s youthful freedom with the restrictions he will experience in old age. As a young man (“when you were younger”), Peter dressed himself and went wherever he wanted (“you girded yourself and walked where you wished”). But a day would come when he is old (“when you are old”) and he would no longer have control over his life and activities. He would live to an old age in which he would have to depend on others to dress him and to provide an arm on which he could lean. 2

When Jesus says, “you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you,” He is using a “euphemistic reference to crucifixion in the Roman world.” 3  “This stretching took place when the Roman soldiers fastened the condemned person’s arms to the crosspiece of his cross. This often happened before they led him to the place of crucifixion and crucified him.” 4  To be carried or led “where you do not wish” is clearly a reference to death. 5

John confirms this when he explains, This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.” (John 21:19a). Peter’s commitment to follow Jesus would ultimately mean martyrdom. Peter had formerly confessed his commitment to lay down his life for Christ (cf. 13:37). Someday he would indeed follow through on that commitment and by so doing he would glorify God.” 6

Tertullian, an early church leader (C. A.D. 212), reports that Peter was crucified in Rome under Nero (Scorpiace 15) around 64-67 A.D. Clement of Rome (ca. A.D. 96) wrote that Peter died by martyrdom (1 Clement 5:4; 6:1).” 8  Another early church leader, Origen, stated that Peter was crucified with his head down because he did not feel worthy to suffer as Jesus had. 9

Jesus refers to Peter’s death as that which “would glorify God.” Peter, who had struggled with pride and prayerlessness, was learning through his failure to depend more and more on the risen Lord Jesus. Later in life, he would be so in tune with God’s will and purposes that even in death he would magnify the character and reputation of God. 10  Instead of trying to control his future as he had tried formerly to do, he would commit his future to the risen Lord’s control.

“The long painful history of the Church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.” 11  

“Peter later wrote that Christians, who follow Jesus Christ faithfully to the point of dying for Him, bring glory to God by their deaths (1 Pet. 4:14- 16). He lived with this prediction hanging over him for three decades (cf. 2 Pet. 1:14).” 12

After Jesus tells Peter how he is going to die, John writes, “And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” (John 21:19b). Here again Jesus is giving Peter an invitation to follow Him. He is inviting Peter to step it up in his commitment to Christ. There is always a sense in which a disciple can grow deeper in his commitment to Christ. For Peter to fulfill his love for the Lord and provide spiritual care for other Christians, he must follow Jesus. The same is true for us. So, the final way for the risen Lord Jesus to use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail, is to RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO FOLLOW JESUS NO MATTER WHAT THE COST (John 21:18-19).

These words to follow Christ take place 2 ½ years after Jesus’ initial invitation to follow Him (Mark 1:16-18). Now these words have a lot more significance. Peter knows now that following Jesus means he is going to have to die. These words are much weightier than Jesus’ other invitations to follow Him. But this is the feeding stage, and it depends on our love for Christ.

The night before His crucifixion, we saw Christ’s loving service to others when He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-16). He then said to them, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). When you see the purpose God has given us – to love other people, to serve them, to feed them – it is hard to go back to doing the old things we used to do. Before Jesus said, “feed My sheep,” the question He asked was, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). He didn’t ask, “Peter will you walk on water for Me?… Peter, will you fight for Me?… Peter, will you build monuments in My name?” No, He asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” 

What’s the most important qualification for ministering to God’s people? Loving the Lord Jesus. If you don’t have a love relationship with Christ, you are not going to have His love for His people. John writes in his first epistle, 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11). When Jesus died on the cross, He was shouting out to you and me: “I love you!” When we receive God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, we can then share His love with others.

The person who has this kind of love is “born of God and knows God.” (I John 4:7b). The phrase “born of God” refers to a Christian. Before you can ever produce this kind of love in your life, you must first be born of God. How? The Bible says you must simply believe or trust in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Notice that you are not born of God by following Christ, keeping God’s commandments, being baptized with water, surrendering to Christ, or living a good, moral life. No, the only condition to be born of God is believing in Jesus Christ alone, not behaving.

The moment we place our trust in Jesus for eternal life, we become God’s child and God comes to live inside us and love us always. As we get to know Him and trust Him, He pours His love into our lives so we can begin to love others (cf. Romans 5:5).

But if we are going to develop loving relationships after we become Christians, we must refill ourselves with God’s love daily. The person who loves God’s way is “born of God and knows God.” Once we have begun a relationship with God by trusting in Jesus as our Savior, the key is to stay close to Jesus. Get to know Him. Staying close to God is not complicated.

This image works for me: I picture my life as a bucket. I must have my bucket filled.  And God’s love is like a fountain. The more I refill that bucket, the more I must share with others. If you have been a Christian for a while, you can probably tell when your bucket is empty. You are easily irritated or angered. It is difficult to let go of past hurts and to trust someone who has hurt you. It is tough to expect the best of him or her. Perhaps you can’t stand being in the same room with the person. All of these are indications that you need to be refilled with God’s love.

You say, “How do you do it?” Spend time with Jesus. Hang out with Him. Read what He has written in the Bible. Talk to Him about what you are reading and feeling. You may even want to write it down in a journal. Treat Jesus like a close friend, and you will become His close friend. And when you get closer to Jesus, you will discover that you are more able to love those who matter to you.

Can you see this? Is this making sense? Can you see why you need God’s love to love others? Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Okay, so God commands us to love one another, but what does God’s love look like?” Look in I John 4:9-10: 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

First, we see that God’s love is selfless. His love gives without expecting anything in return. Often, we give to get. That is not God’s love. If Jesus had been selfish, He would never have left heaven or if He had come to earth, He would have packed His bags and left at the first sign of rejection. But He didn’t. He endured incredible suffering because He came to give, not to get. If God’s love is controlling our lives, we will be givers, not getters.

Second, God’s love is sacrificial. He not only gives, but He gives sacrificially. He “sent His only begotten Son into the world.” If it were possible, would you sacrifice your only child so that a serial killer could live? “No way!” Nor would I. But that’s exactly what God did when He sent His perfect Son to die for undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except someone who loves you that much!

Third, God’s love is unconditional“not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” God’s love was not a response to our love. He loved us even if we never loved Him. God loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes God love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If God waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that we love Him back. Likewise, we are to love others even if they do not love us back. Is this easy? It’s impossible without Christ. Will we trust the Lord to love those who are difficult to love through us? So, when we experience God’s love, we naturally want to share that love with the people we love. Did you follow that? To become a more loving person we need to receive God’s love and refill ourselves with God’s love.

Lastly, we must reflect God’s Love to Others. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:11). In other words, if God loved us with this selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love when we were least deserving, then we ought to love each other in the same way. Maybe our love cannot be as perfect as Jesus’ love, but it can grow in that direction. This is to be our goal.

So, this feeding stage in John 21:15-19, involves God using broken people to feed His sheep. God uses the lessons we have learned from our past failures to strengthen others. We minister out of our brokenness to others. As a pastor once said, “Before God can use a man greatly, He must hurt him deeply.” That’s the lesson of this feeding stage.

It is one thing for Jesus to say, “Follow Me into joy and goodness when everything is going to be great!” But it is another thing for Christ to look at Peter and say, “Follow me and I will lead you to die in the same way that I died.” Jesus is not saying that every Christian is going to die by crucifixion. But He does demand more of us the longer we follow Him as His disciple.

Obedience to Jesus’ command, Follow Me, is the key issue in every Christian’s life. As Jesus followed the Father’s will, so His disciples should follow their Lord whether the path leads to a cross or to some other difficult experience.” 13

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, we want to follow You. It won’t be easy. You never promised that it would be. So, Jesus, right now we refresh our simple commitment to follow You. Not just to listen to You or be around You or even say to You, “I love You.” But to follow You and Your leading in our lives. Lord, we know that where You lead is where we will find lasting joy. Whether you lead us to a cross to be crucified or to some other difficult trial, where You lead us is where we will find significance. Where You lead us is where we will find life. So, Jesus, we just say these simple words to You, “I will follow You.” Please give us the grace to do this, for apart from You we can do nothing. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charlie Bing’s articles, “The Making of A Disciple,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1992; “Are Disciples Born or Made?” GraceLife, November 2007; “Peter as a Model Disciple,” GraceNotes – no. 21 all retrieved on July 13, 2021, at www.gracelife.org.

2. J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 382.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 399 cites Ernst Haenchen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John Vol. 2 (Translated by Robert W. Funk. Edited by Robert W. Funk and Ulrich Busse. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 226-27; C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (2nd ed. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1978), pg. 585.

4. Constable, pg. 399 cites G. R. Beasley-Murray, John Second ed., Word Bible Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1987), pp. 408-409.

5. Laney, pg. 382.

6. 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. 569.

7. Laney, pg. 382; Constable, pg. 399 cites Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to

St. John: The Authorised Version with Introduction and Notes (1880, London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958), pg. 304.

8. Constable, pg. 399 cites Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, 1:11.

9. Constable, pg. 399 cites The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, 2:25; 3:1 and Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, pg. 304; Laney, pg. 382 also cites Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiastica 3:1. 

10. Laney, pg. 382.

11. Constable, pg. 399 cites Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, pg. 60. This book deals with this episode in Peter’s life most helpfully, especially for Christian leaders.

12. Ibid.

13. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 704.

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/.

How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 1

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

The apostle John wrote the gospel of John to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). In chapters 1-12, John records seven miraculous signs of Jesus to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God so they may have eternal life in His name. Then in John 20 he records the eighth and greatest miraculous sign – the resurrection of Jesus! The entire book of John has been leading up to this exciting event! What makes it even more exciting is that John was there to watch it all happen as an eyewitness.

Some people think Jesus was in His resurrected body for a short time on earth and was seen by only a few people. But the truth is He was in His resurrected body on earth for over a month and He was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:3-8). This is an incredible event and for the next few days we are going to see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of different people at different times. Today we are going to see that He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrected Jesus is alive. He makes Himself known in peoples’ lives. The exciting thing about each of these appearances is the difference it made in people’s lives when they saw Him alive after His death and burial.

As we take a look at how the empty tomb challenged the life of Mary Magdalene, we are going to see how He can make a difference in our daily lives. The first way the risen Lord Jesus can make a difference is to DISPEL THE DARKNESS IN OUR LIVES WITH THE LIGHT OF HIS RESURRECTION (John 20:1). The apostle John writes, “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1). Let’s look at some important details in this one verse.

The first detail is that it was “on the first day of the week.” What is the first day of the week? Sunday. Interestingly, “for the Jews, Sunday (the day after the first Sabbath following Passover cf. Leviticus 23:11) would be the Feast of First Fruits. On this day the Jews would present the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the Lord in the Temple. This offering was both an expression of gratitude and an expression of faith that a full harvest was about to follow. It is significant that Jesus rose from the grave on the Feast of First Fruits. And so Paul presents Christ as the ‘first fruits’ of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20-23).“ 1

In the Old Testament, believers worshiped God on the Sabbath which was Saturday. But in the New Testament believers got together on Sunday because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 20:7). This is why believers around the world worship the Lord together on Sunday. It is resurrection day! Some believers insist that you must worship the Lord on Saturday to be a true believer. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:5-6a that it doesn’t matter what day or night of the week you worship because we are no longer under the regulations of the Old Testament Law anymore (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24; 4:5). So you could worship the Lord together on a Wednesday night if you wanted to. What matters is that your observance shows your commitment “to the Lord” (Romans 14:6).

The second detail is the word “early.” The Greek word [prōi, πρωί] refers to “the watch that is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” 2  It is very early in the morning while it is still dark. The reason Mary and other women [note plural “we” in verse 2, cf. Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1,10) got up early to go to the tomb was because it was a tradition of the Jews to go to the tomb for at least three days after the person was buried to take care of the body and make sure all the spices were in the right places. They couldn’t go on the Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Sunday. I also believe Mary was eager to go to the tomb so early because of her love and devotion for Jesus, living and dead, which was based on her gratitude for His delivering her from bondage to Satan (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She had been an observer at the cross and now was the first person at the grave. 3

So as early as she could get up on Sunday while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb. She, being a agile young woman, ran ahead of the other women and came to the tomb first, and discovered that the tomb had already been opened. 4

The third detail to observe is that “it was still dark.” This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing.Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty in light of the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “I wouldn’t be around me this week if I were honest about it.” Some of you may be struggling with your faith. You think, “I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”  

The fourth detail to notice is that John says, “the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” The word for “taken away” [ērmenon, ἠρμένον] means “to lift up and carry away.” It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. Jesus in His resurrected body went through the grave clothes that surrounded Him. Jesus in His resurrected body had the power to go through doors and into rooms without the doors being opened. So I’m suggesting that Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was thrown aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! Hallelujah!

If you are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or your faith, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in you and replace your doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize your faith so that all fear is gone and His joy can overflow in your life.

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt ( Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 358.

2. 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. 892.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 695-696.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 496 cites J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), pp. 611-612; cf. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 358.

5. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition, pg. 28.

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.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 4

2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” John 19:2-3

The Bible tells us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18). The cross of Christ does not make sense to the unbeliever.

“What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?

“What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz? . . .

“The same sort of shocking horror was associated with the cross and crucifixion in the first century.” 1

We are learning from John 18:28-19:3 how various people respond to Christ crucified. Some of us are…

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

Similar to Barabbas, we believe in Jesus’ death for our freedom (John 18:38b-40).

There is a fourth possible response to Christ crucified and it is seen at the beginning of John 19. LIKE THE ROMAN SOLDIERS, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT ETERNAL THINGS (John 19:1-3). Although the Jewish leaders sought the death penalty for Jesus (John 18:31), Pilate recognized Jesus had done nothing deserving of execution (John 18:38). In Chapter 19, John continues the account of Jesus’ trial before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but he did not want to offend the Jewish leaders who were determined to put Jesus to death. The trial of Jesus before Pilate was rapidly reaching a crisis that Pilate wanted to avoid. In an effort to satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged. “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” (John 19:1).

Pilate may have done this thinking that once the Jews saw Jesus in such a beaten state, they would ask for His release. But what is a scourging? Is it merely a beating with a whip? To make such an association is like comparing an electric shock to a lightning bolt.

“Scourging was a standard preliminary to a Roman execution. Only women, Roman senators, or soldiers (except in cases of execution) were exempt. The victim was stripped, bound to a post, and then beaten with a short whip, or flagellum, made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone. Jewish law limited scourging to thirty-nine strokes (M. Makkoth 3:10). Because this was a preliminary to execution, care was taken not to kill the victim. Yet suffering under the scourge was intense. Josephus tells of a man whose bones were laid bare by scourging (Jewish Wars 6.303-4). Eusebius reports of how veins, arteries, entrails, and organs were exposed to sight by the scourge (Historia Ecclesiastica 4:15).” 2

The scourging should have satisfied the bloodthirsty mob, but it only incited them to greater demands. “And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.” (John 19:2). The soldiers decided to enjoy a few laughs at Jesus’ expense. Because He claimed to be King of the Jews (John 18:33-37), they decided to mock Him. They “twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.” These thorns remind us of “the curse of thorns caused by human sin” 3 (Genesis 3:18). Christ would bear this curse as He hung on the cross.

The soldiers also placed a “purple robe,” normally worn by military officers or men of high rank, on Jesus. “Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” (John 19:3). They mocked Jesus as they greeted Him with the words, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they became physically abusive and struck Jesus with their hands. Matthew and Mark also report that they hit Jesus on the head with a stick and knelt before Him and spat on Him (cf. Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19). Though Pilate and the soldiers no doubt thought they were merely exercising the might of Rome over a simple Jew, they were actually fulfilling biblical prophecy about the Messiah in detail” 4 (cf. Isaiah 50:6; 53:5).

While this mistreatment of Jesus is repulsive to us, we have also observed similar experiences in the news where prisoners in America are brutally treated by law enforcement officers or prison guards. But before we condemn them, we need to ask ourselves what we would do if we were in a similar situation. For example, if someone had killed our co-workers, would we want to avenge their deaths? Or if someone sought to kill us, would we be all calm and collected or would we want to retaliate?

These Roman soldiers did not deliberately reject Jesus like the Jewish leaders did. They probably were not familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures that pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. Like a lot of people today, they were not religious. Their job required them to scourge and crucify prisoners often. Perhaps they were simply having fun to decrease the monotony of their profession. Or maybe they were trying to distance themselves from the human suffering they were causing to their prisoners much like a doctor or nurse that works in an emergency room dealing with constant trauma. They must distance themselves emotionally from those for whom they provide medical care.

Perhaps you can identify with Roman soldiers who were not interested in eternal matters, but who were simply living for their jobs and trying to have some fun at the same time. It is important to understand “that the issue is not, ‘Is there a hereafter?’ The real issue is, ‘Is Jesus Christ the One He said He was?’ Why? Because Jesus Christ is the One who spoke more about heaven and hell than any other man in the Bible.

“He spoke about heaven when He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:1-3). He spoke about hell when He said, ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28).” 6

So if you do not believe there is a hereafter, please realize that Jesus Christ believed there was a hereafter and the Bible explains that Jesus is “the way” to that hereafter (John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12). But if Jesus Christ was not who He said He was, what He taught about the hereafter does not matter.

“Once again, we are brought face to face with the resurrection – the one thing on which Christianity stands or falls. The challenge anyone faces, therefore, who denies there is a herafter is the challenge of disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only if the resurrection is disproved can the teachings of Christ about the hereafter be ignored.” 7

But the resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. A former persecutor of Christianity writes 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.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses. This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. Just ask former atheists, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, who 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 check out the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books (McDowell – The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict 1999/The Resurrection Factor 1981; Strobel – The Case for Easter Revised 2013).

You may not care about the hereafter because you do not view heaven as a very exciting place. For example, George Bernard Shaw, once explained, “Heaven as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, and so miserable that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seashore.” (~ Harlan D. Betz, Setting the Stage for Eternity) 8

Don’t go by your perception of heaven. Go by the explanation the Bible gives. 1 Then I saw a new earth (with no oceans!) and a new sky, for the present earth and sky had disappeared. 2 And I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, the home of God is now among men, and He will live with them and they will be His people; yes, God Himself will be among them. 4 He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever. 5 And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new!’ And then He said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true: 6 It is finished! I am the A and the Z—the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life—as a gift!” (Revelation 21:1-6 TLB).

Every molecule, atom, proton, and neutron in existence today will disintegrate only to be replaced by a glorious new creation… The idea that God will make everything new may seem too spectacular to be true, but He says this promise is indeed faithful and true (21:5). His people will experience complete satisfaction in the new creation, symbolized here by the metaphor of thirst being quenched from the spring of the water of life (21:6). The refreshing satisfaction of downing a cold glass of water when you’re parched is nothing compared to the spectacular satisfaction to come.” 9

Would you like to live forever in a perfect, problem-free place called heaven? If so, understand that Jesus Christ is the only way to get there (John 10:9; 14:6). You may ask, “Why?” Because only Jesus Christ has paid the price of admission into His heaven when He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30).

You may ask, “Why did Jesus have to die for me?” Because the Bible tells us that our sin – the wrong things we do, say and think – separate us from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). In fact, if we were to pay the price for our own sin, we would spend eternity in a terrible place called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But Jesus loved us so much that He took our place and punishment on the cross, was buried, and then rose again (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

The Lord Jesus now invites you to trust in Him alone for His gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This requires faith and humility on your part. Faith to believe that God really loves you and will give you eternal life, and humility to admit that He is God and you are not.

As a drowning person must trust a lifeguard to save them through no effort of their own, so you must place your trust in a Person – Jesus Christ – as your only way to heaven. The good things you have done will not get you to heaven. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. The moment you place your trust in Him for eternal life, you can be certain that you will live with Jesus forever in His glorious heaven.

Prayer: God, some of us reading this today may have thought that this life on earth is all there is. Like the Roman soldiers, we may not have cared about Jesus Christ or the hereafter. We were more interested in living for our jobs and having a good time. But now we are beginning to wonder if that is the best way to approach life on earth. What if this person called Jesus of Nazareth really did claim to be God? What if it is true that He loves me and died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead, proving that He really is God? What if He is preparing an incredible place for those who believe in Him to live with Him for all of eternity? Do I really want to risk missing out on all of that? As best I know how, God, I am asking You to show me if Jesus Christ is the real deal? Thank You.

To learn more about Jesus, please explore this website or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: New International Commentary on the New Testament series, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), pg. 68.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 337-338; cf. William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” The Journal of the Amerian Medical Association 255 (March 21, 1986): 1457.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. pg. 688.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1821.

5. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

6. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1108.

7. Ibid.

8. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publication, 2012), pg. 304.

9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2420-2421.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 3

“Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:40

In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. So far we have learned that …

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

The third possible way we might respond to Christ crucified is the best way. SIMILAR TO BARABBAS, WE TRUST IN JESUS’ DEATH IN OUR PLACE FOR OUR SINS (John 18:38b-40). When Pilate declared to the Jews, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38b), it was a reminder that Jesus would die like a Passover lamb, a male in its prime without blemish (cf. Exodus 12:5; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, would die for you and me so we would not have to die forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). But we must come to Jesus on His terms which means believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life to escape the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15).

Pilate said to the Jews, 39 But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews? 40 Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40). Rather than releasing Jesus on the basis of His obvious innocence, Pilate sought to avoid insulting the Sanhedrin by appealing to the Jewish custom of releasing a prisoner during their Passover feast. Pilate’s main concern was to minimize trouble rather than secure justice. If He pronounced Jesus innocent, he would offend the Jewish leaders. But if he pronounced Jesus guilty, he would offend Jesus’ followers. So he tries to satisfy everyone by implying Jesus’ guilt and releasing Him on the basis of the Passover custom. 

Pilate puts forward Jesus, whom he rightly calls “the King of the Jews,” and a notorious “robber” named “Barabbas.” Pilate is thinking that this crowd that had just days before spread palm leaves on Jesus’ path and shouted “Hosanna” as He passed (John 12:12-15; cf. Luke 19:28-38) would select Him to be released. But John tells us, “Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ ” (John 18:40a). Barabbas was more dangerous to people than to property. He committed murder in connection with insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19). Barabbas did what Jesus refused to do – take the lead in an armed revolt against Rome. The Jews ignored the obvious innocence of Jesus and freed a murderer. “Don’t miss that the leaders preferred a criminal who had fought for physical deliverance from Rome because that’s all they cared about. They wanted political deliverance from Gentile rule, when what they needed was spiritual deliverance from sin.” 1

Barabbas’ freedom was at Christ’s expense. That is the gospel message. The guilty is released and the innocent is condemned. The Jews were so hostile toward Jesus that they ignored His innocence. Their minds were so made up that the facts about Jesus’ innocence did not matter. Christ did not deserve this condemnation, yet He willingly subjected Himself to it for our sakes (cf. 2 Corinthians  5:21; I Peter 2:22-24; 3:18).

But let’s not overlook how this must have impacted Barabbas. Imagine Barabbas waiting on death row in a Roman prison for the verdict knowing that he could be executed any day. Prisoners didn’t have any rights in those days. It was over for him. There was no hope. He was a murderer who deserved death, and deep down he knew it. Each passing day was one day closer to certain death. He may have been imagining it—the flogging, mocking, and eventual death. It was coming.

And then the day comes. He can hear the shouts ringing throughout the courtyard: “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Perhaps he was thinking to himself, “They are coming for me.” The guards open the door to his cell and drag him outside. But then something amazing happens. Everyone is celebrating his new freedom. His chains are released, and he is set free. The murderer is set free.

Put yourself in his sandals for a minute. You are walking to your death in chains and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, you are a free man. Then you hear the words begin: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13-14; Luke 23:21). And you see another man walking by. Those chants are not for you. The guards are dragging another man to his death – Jesus of Nazareth. He is beaten and flogged and is forced to carry His cross to His death. It’s the very cross you had imagined yourself carrying only moments earlier. You think to yourself, that’s my death He’s dying. Barabbas is the one person in history who could say that Jesus literally carried his cross. Jesus took his death, and Barabbas was given the freedom Jesus deserved. Jesus bore the guilt and shame and curse and disgrace and death that Barabbas deserved. Barabbas received the release, the freedom, and the life that Jesus deserved. It was an incredible scene. 2

And the truth is, Barabbas represents all of us. 3  He should have been on the cross instead of Jesus because he was guilty and deserved to die. You may protest, “But I’m not a robber!” But we have all robbed God of His rightful glory and control over our lives. You may come back, “But at least I’m not a murderer!” But Jesus said that if we are wrongfully angry with our brother, we are guilty of murder in God’s sight (Matthew 5:21-22). “But,” you still protest, “I’ve never led an armed rebellion against the government.” True, but we are all rebels against the King of the universe. We have all sinned against God and His rightful rule in our lives.

Also, Barabbas did nothing to earn his pardon. He wasn’t pardoned because of his good behavior or promises to change. If anything, he was pardoned because of how notoriously evil he was. He couldn’t brag after he got out about how he deserved to be pardoned. He couldn’t claim that he was pardoned for his exemplary behavior. In the same way, the Bible says that God justifies the ungodly not through their good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4:4-5). None of us can boast in ourselves when Jesus saves us because our salvation is based on His finished work, not our works (John 19:30; Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Jesus died in Barabbas’ place. Barabbas, whose name means “son of the father,” should have been on the cross that day. Instead, the One Who is the eternal Son of the eternal Father hung there in Barabbas’ place. Jesus died in his place – and in your place and mine.

Let me ask you something. Suppose you were a pilot of a plane that became disabled. Your course is headed straight toward a residential area as the plane descends. You have a parachute and could jump to safety, but you must do it at an altitude allowing the plane to crash and kill many. Your other option is to fly the plane and guide it toward a vacant area, but there would be no time to jump to safety. You would die, but others would be spared. Which would you do? Let me tell you what one man did.

Twenty-four-year-old Vinson Kyle Perdue, a United States Air Force pilot, died when his disabled warplane crashed. Instead of parachuting to safety, Perdue apparently stayed with the plane to steer it away from a residential area.

Amy White, who lived near the crash site, was quoted as saying, “I know he went down with that plane so it wouldn’t hit anyone’s house. It would’ve hit my house if he didn’t maneuver that plane.” (Adapted from Dallas Times Herald, August 26, 1981). 4

Jesus Christ could have parachuted and jumped. In other words, He could have escaped His persecutors and refused to die for Barabbas and for us. Instead, He took the punishment for our sins and died so that we could live. He substituted His life in our place.

But Barabbas’ pardon was not automatic. He could have spit in Pilate’s face and said, “I don’t need your pardon! Crucify me!” And, he would have been crucified, while a different prisoner would have been released. In the same way, the pardon that Christ offers to all is only applied to the person who receives it by faith. Jesus promises, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.(John 3:16). Like Barabbas, the guilty rebel, you have got to appropriate by faith the pardon that Christ’s death offers you.

Some people use the word “believe” in our English sense of the word. They mentally assent to the fact Christ died and arose, but they are still depending on their works to get them to heaven. The word “believe” in the Bible means that if a person mentally assents to the fact that Christ died for his or her sins and arose, they trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. 5

Let me share an illustration. “Picture a luxury liner cruising in the Pacific Ocean. It begins taking on water and lifeboats become a necessity. Three passengers find themselves in different situations. The first has no knowledge that lifeboats save and therefore never steps into one. The second understands that lifeboats save but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of a lifeboat to save, but accepts as being true that the lifeboat has the ability to save. The passenger therefore steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it as the means of salvation.

“Which of the three is saved? The answer is obvious. The last passenger had knowledge and used it. A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Christ has to save and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ. That is saving faith. One is not saved by simply understanding that Christ died and arose or even mentally assenting to that being a fact of history while depending on one’s good life for salvation. One is saved when as a sinner deserving of hell, one has trusted Christ alone for salvation.” 6

If you have never understood this before, and now you are transferring all your trust onto to Christ alone Who died in your place for all yours sins, you may tell God this through prayer. Keep in mind that praying a prayer is not what gets us to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I realize that I am like Barabbas. I was hopelessly condemned. I deserved to die on that cross because I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions. But Your love broke through for me when You bore the curse, the disgrace, the guilt, the shame, and the death that I deserved when You took my place on that cross. You were completely innocent, yet out of love for me, You took the abuse, the beating, the insults, and humiliation that I should have received. Thank You so much for dying in my place and rising from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Thank You that I am now free from eternal condemnation and slavery to sin. Use me as You deem best to fulfill Your purposes for Your glory. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our digital “Pressing On” discipleship training materials (see above) to go through with others who do not know Jesus as their Savior.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1821.

2. Dave Furman credits this descriptive scene in his article on March 28, 2018 entitled “We Are Barabbas”at https://www.crossway.org/articles/we-are-barabbas/ to Timothy J. Keller, Mark 15:1–15, King’s Cross: The Gospel of Mark, Part 2: The Journey to the Cross” (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, March 11, 2007).

3. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

4. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012) pg. 235.

5. R. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pg. 41.

6. Ibid.

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

This video provides practical instruction on how to share the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not have Christ in their lives. If you are eager to introduce people to the Savior of the world, this video will equip you to do just that! This video is also great for those who do not know for sure they will go to heaven when they die. The contents of this video will clearly show them from the Bible what they must know and believe to go to heaven.

How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 5

“Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His eleven believing disciples how Christ can transform our grief into gladness. So far we have discovered He does this when we …

– Ask Christ to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).

– Allow our grief to direct us to the Father in prayer (John 16:23-24).

The final way Jesus transforms our grief into gladness is not based on a specific verse in this passage, but on the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus transforms our grief into gladness when we ACQUAINT OURSELVES WITH THE PATTERN OF TRANSFORMED PAIN. This pattern finds its fullest expression in Jesus. He transformed the bad into the good.

Because of Jesus, we can never say about a person, “He or she must be suffering because of some sin he or she committed.” Jesus, who never sinned, also suffered. God never promised that typhoons or twisters will skip over our houses on the way to our non-Christian neighbors or that COVID-19 will flee from our Christian bodies and invade a non-Christian’s body. We are not exempt from tragedies in the world just as God was not exempt. Christ was willing to suffer in order to accomplish a higher goal. He trusted His Father to use His death for good. And God took the worst thing that could happen – the brutal execution of His only Son and turned it into the final victory over sin, death, and the Devil (I Corinthians 15:1-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). God turned the design of evil into the service of good, an act that holds in it a promise for all of us.

Because God transformed Jesus’ suffering into good, He can do the same for us. Jesus’ resurrection transformed the pain of His disciples into joy. No trial, illness, unemployment, broken relationships, death of a loved one, or grief extends beyond the range of Jesus’ transforming power. He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward Him.

Childbirth is ironical – an event that causes some of the greatest physical pain, but also opens the doorway to one of life’s greatest joys – new life! Someone once said, “The more grief inflicted upon you, the better fitted you are to appreciate joy. More often than not the so-called negatives are assets. There cannot be a front without a back, an up without a down, a cold without a hot, a love without a hate.”

When speaking of the effects of His own death on His disciples, Jesus compared it to a woman in labor. She travails until the moment of delivery, when suddenly anguish is transformed into ecstasy. Death is like birth – it causes great emotional pain, but in reality, it opens a doorway into the great joy of eternity because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Author Philip Yancey writes, “Imagine birth from the perspective of the fetus (unborn baby). Your world is dark, safe, secure. You are bathed in a warm, cushioning liquid. You do nothing for yourself. You are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you is meeting all your needs. Life consists of simple waiting – you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems faraway and scary. You encounter no sharp objects, no pain, no dangers. A fine, serene existence.

“One day you feel a tug. The walls seem to press in. Those soft padded walls are now pulsing, wildly, crushing you downward. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of roiling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure.

“You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening – your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands grasp at you, pull you from the tunnel and hold you upside down. A painful slap. Waaaahhhh!

“Congratulations, you have just been born.

“Death is like that. On this end of the birth canal, it seems a scary, dark tunnel we are being sucked forward by an irresistible force. None of us looks forward to it. We’re afraid. It’s full of pressure, pain, darkness… the unknown.

“But beyond the darkness and the pain lies a whole new world outside. When we awaken after death in that bright new world, our tears and hurts will be mere memories.” 1

Perhaps you have lost a love one recently who believed in Jesus or was too young to believe in Him, and your heart is numb with grief. Christ’s resurrection guarantees you will be reunited one day in His presence (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Knowing this can comfort and sustain you during this dark and painful time. Jesus wants you to take heart because the day is coming when the darkness will be gone forever and your pain will be transformed into endless joy (Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never promised that suffering would not be part of our lives. In fact, You promised just the opposite if we follow You. But it is not a hopeless kind of suffering. Your resurrection guarantees to all of us who believe in You a hope-filled beginning when we die and go to be with You. A perfect, sinless, world awaits us in Your presence when we take our last breath. Knowing this empowers us to endure the darkness and pain before us with the confidence that something much better and greater lies beyond our time here on earth. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that the hurts and tears we have now will be transformed into endless joy and laughter in the world to come where we will be reunited with You and those who have gone before us. Please help us to lean into You when troubled times come. Your presence can calm our hearts when we surrender to You. In Your hope-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 258-259.