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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

4. Ibid., pg. 561.

5. Ibid., pg. 562.

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

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

4. Ibid. pg. 180.

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

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

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

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

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

10. Ibid., pp. 170-173.

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

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

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

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

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

16. Ibid.

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

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

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

20. Ibid., pg. 169.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 4

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him…” John 19:17-18a

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

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 fourth lasting lesson we learn from Jesus’ last day is that THE CROSS IS THE TOTAL EXPRESSION OF GOD’S GRACE TO US IN CHRIST (JOHN 17-18a). Before we look at today’s verses, let’s review what has happened to Jesus so far on His last day before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had already suffered a great deal. In Gethsemane, He was under such emotional distress that tiny capillaries in His sweat glands broke and mixed blood with His sweat (Luke 22:44). After He was arrested and bound, He was unjustly tried before civil and religious authorities (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2; Luke 23:6-12; John 18:12-14, 19-23, 28-40). During these trials Christ was falsely accused, insulted, rejected, and physically abused. Pilate then had Jesus scourged or beaten with a short whip made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone (John 19:1). This scourging left Jesus’ body tattered and torn. Christ was then beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on His head and a purple robe on His severely wounded back (John 19:2-3; cf. Matthew 27:27-30).

This brings us to the next image the apostle John presents to us. “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”  (John 19:17). Before the soldiers had Jesus carry His cross, they removed the purple robe from Christ (Matthew 27:31) which had become adhered to the clots of blood and serum in His wounds. This would have been very painful, much like carelessly removing a surgical bandage.

When John tells us that Jesus was “bearing His cross,” we see the fulfillment of “two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).” 1  So the sin of the world was placed on the innocent Lamb of God (John 1:29).

The reference to Jesus “bearing His cross” refers to the crossbeam that prisoners had to carry to their place of execution. The upright part of the cross would have been out at the place of crucifixion. This crossbeam strapped to Jesus’ back would have weighed 100-150 pounds. This weight would have been similar to a couple of sacks of cement.

It was a very heavy load especially for Jesus who had lost so much blood from the beating and flogging. Since Christ was very weak and faint, He could not carry this load all the way out to the place of execution. John does not tell us this because He is wanting to stress Jesus’ deity, but Luke informs us that “Simon a Cyrenian,” carried Jesus’ crossbeam for Him (Luke 23:26). 

The place where Jesus would be crucified was “called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.” It was most likely called this because the hill’s rock formations looked like a skull. 5

John continues to describe his eyewitness picture of this when he writes, “where they crucified Him…” (John 19:18a). To help us understand the significance of John’s words, it would be beneficial for us to look at the history of crucifixion. 6

The Romans did not invent crucifixion. It was probably invented by the Phoenicians.  The Phoenicians invented the cross for a very particular reason. They had a god that they served who was a god of the earth. They felt that for someone to die on the earth it would defile their god. So they ingeniously came up with a way to execute their prisoners lifted up off the earth so that they would not defile the earth. That is where it is believed crucifixion began. 

Jesus made reference to His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The interesting thing is when you look at the real cross of Christ, the God of the universe was lifted up on a cross (John 1:1-3), not the god of the earth. Jesus did not defile or condemn the earth. He came to save the world (John 3:17). That is what actually took place.

The Romans looked at the cross in a different way. Through the Egyptians and then the Romans, this idea of a cross came. The Romans saw the cross as a tool. They expertly used it as a tool of torture and punishment. They also used it as a tool to tell people if you rebel against Rome, you are going to face the cross and be put out in front for the world to see. Their suffering and their pain would endure for a long time so that when they punished their prisoners, many people would be brought under their control. That is what the Romans saw it as. 

The Jewish people saw the cross as the most disgusting form of death because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” When God put these verses in the Bible, He knew that Jesus would be cursed for our sins on the cross.

So to the Phoenician, the cross was a means of death that satisfied their belief in a god of the earth. To the Romans, the cross became an expertly used instrument of torture and control. To the Jewish people, crucifixion represented the most disgusting form of death. But to the God of the Bible, the cross reveals the glory of Christ. To the Christian, the cross reveals Jesus’ glory, especially His amazing grace and love.

When the Bible talks about Jesus dying, it simply says, “they crucified Him.” (John 18:18a). John doesn’t go into great detail. The reason for that is he did not need to because everyone in his day understood what crucifixion was all about. If I told you that somebody died by lethal injection, you would probably understand what that means. You can visualize the table and the room and the witnesses because you may have seen it on television or in an online video. We have also heard news reports about it. In John’s day, everyone would know the truth of what the cross was all about.

The Romans had refined crucifixion to such an art, we can know what happened. 7 They had executioners whose sole job it was to carry out crucifixion time after time. So as Jesus was brought up to that hill, to the place where that standing post was, the executioner would lay the cross beam behind the victim and would jerk them to the ground across the beam. The executioners wore leather aprons. And in these leather aprons there were pouches with five-inch nails and a hammer off to the side. These were the tools of their trade.

The executioner would kneel first on the right arm of the victim of the one who would be crucified. His knee would rest on the inside of the elbow. His hand would be placed on the arm of the victim so it was flat against the cross. He would feel for the hollow spot in the wrist between the bones so that no bones would be broken or arteries broken so the prisoner would be tortured as long as possible. Then he would take one of those five-inch nails and place it against that hollow place and in one sharp blow drive it into the wood through the flesh.

They would do the left hand in the same way. Then two soldiers on each side would grab the two ends of the cross beam and on the signal, raise it up and place it into the notch of the upright post. When that crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner would reach up and set the sign that described the crime this person had committed. This was very important to the Romans because they wanted to discourage others from rebelling against Rome. 

Then the executioner would kneel before the cross and take the right foot of the criminal and place it over the left foot, bending it slightly upwards and nail the feet to the cross.  Remember, Romans were experts at this. They had devised a means to know the exact angle at which to put the feet so the prisoner could live the longest possible time so they could endure the greatest possible agony as an example to the watching world of why not to commit this crime. 

As Jesus’ feet were nailed on the cross, we become aware of two sources of pain. First, the pain in His shoulders, His arms, and His forearms of being in a “V” position. If you tried to do this for any length of time your arms would begin to cramp. This pain would begin to be greater than the pain of the nails that were in His hands and in His feet. Then the pain of the pectoral muscles – the muscles in His chest – beginning to constrict so He could breathe in but not breathe out.

John was there. He was an eyewitness. He saw what they did to Jesus Christ. But there is something that John (and other eyewitnesses) did not see. Something, however, that Jesus did see. Max Lucado shares this insight as the soldiers were nailing Jesus’ arms to the crossbeam. “Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it….

“Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of the biceps, with a clench of the fist, he could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the Temple? Summoned the dead?

“But the fist doesn’t clench… and the moment isn’t aborted. The mallet rings and skin rips and the blood begins to drip, then rush. Then the questions follow. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist?

“’Because he loved us,’ we reply. That is true, wonderfully true, but – forgive me – only partially true. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw … between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.8

The Bible tells us, 13 God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV).

Lucado continues, “The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV)…

“This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.” 9

Out of love for you and me, Jesus chose the nails that not only attached Him to that wooden crossbeam, but also the list of all our sins. The word “canceled” (eksaleíphō) in Colossians 2:14, was a technical term in the apostle Paul’s day when he penned this. It refers to washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 10  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our past, present, or future sins and charges against us. This is called positional forgiveness which we receive the moment we believe in Jesus for it (Acts 10:43). That is why the cross of Christ is the total expression of God’s grace. It is through the cross that “Jesus destroyed the foundation of Satan’s strategies… 11  Satan’s methodology is one of accusation, always to increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us.” 12

The truth is, no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because Jesus Christ finished paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on that cross (John 19:30; Romans 8:31-34). When we believe in Jesus, God justifies us or declared us totally righteous in His courtroom (Romans 8:33). If God pronounced that we are not guilty, then no one – not the devil, an ex-spouse, or an unforgiving boss – can reverse His verdict. No one can successfully accuse any Christian of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because God does not even accuse us. He justifies us the moment we believe in Jesus alone (Romans 3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1). This is what sets us free from the shame Satan wants to control us with.

As you read this, you may be thinking, “But you don’t know how badly I have sinned or how often I have sinned.” You are correct, but Jesus Christ does. Before Jesus hung on that cross, all of your sins were yet future. At the cross, God took every sin that you would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of your sins so you could be totally forgiven the moment you believed in Christ. Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all your sins so you can now enjoy closeness with God.

What this means is that you can never lose your relationship with your heavenly Father. Just as you are born into your earthly family and can never cease to be your parents’ child no matter what you do, so too, when you are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus alone (John 1:12), you can never cease to be His child no matter how you live. You can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But your sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying your parents breaks your closeness with them. When you sin (and we all do), you must daily confess your sins in order to maintain fellowship or closeness with Christ (I John 1:9).

Knowing that all of your sins are positionally forgiven “in Christ” is essential for experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14). A good soldier cannot do his best with the fear that a mistake or two would take him off the front lines. Satan tries to get believers to focus on their past sins or worry about their future sins to weaken them when facing the world’s temptations. By focusing on Christ’s complete positional forgiveness, a believer is able to focus on knowing Christ more intimately by abiding in His Word and experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, there is no greater expression of Your grace than the cross. When you spread your arms out on that crossbeam, You were showing the world how wide Your love truly is (John 3:16). It is wide enough for the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to be totally forgiven forever. Your love is wide enough for the whole world which includes every one of us. Sadly, others may exclude us but You never will if we come to You on Your terms (John 6:37). Thank You for demonstrating how much You loved us when You stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and permitted the soldiers to nail them in that position so we would know that You died loving us. Thank You for canceling the list of all our sins which was between Your hands and the wooden crossbeam through the shedding of Your blood. Please use us now to proclaim Your forgiving love and grace to a lost and dying world. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 690.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 345; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 351, cited Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; and Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002), pg. 535.

3. Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 351.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 559; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 690.

6. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

7. Ibid.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 33-34.

9. Ibid., pg. 34.

10. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.  

11. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International, 2014), pg. 72.

12. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), pg. 83.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 1

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” John 18:1a

All of us face stressful times, but how do we handle them? Some people spend time serving those less fortunate than them. For example, one psychologist says, “Every Friday for ninety minutes at lunch, I become the Beverage Lady at a local soup kitchen. I serve coffee, tea, and juice to people whose problems are much bigger than mine – poverty, homelessness, paralyzing disabilities. Having direct contact with folks with real problems is a big stress-reliever.”

A physician comments, “Staring into our aquarium with its Angelfish and Fantail Guppies, puts me in touch with another realm. And whenever I get especially upset, I spin the globe in my office. San Jose, CA, where I live, is just a tiny spot. California is a sliver. There’s a huge world out there, and even my worst problems are just a microscopic part of it.”

Retreating to the bathtub is where one psychologist goes to prepare herself to deal with stressful times. “A long hot bath is a luxurious way to relax. In addition to the soothing effect of the steamy water, bathing gives me time to catch up with all the little things I do for myself. Sometimes I read cookbooks or magazines. Other times, I shop through catalogues. I might bring in a TV and watch sitcoms or videos.”

When stressful times approach us, how do we respond? In John 18, Jesus Christ was about to face the most stressful time of His earthly life. We saw in John 14-17, Jesus and His disciples making their way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is in the garden where Jesus prepares Himself to face His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We are going to learn more about who Jesus is and what He can do for us in the first twelve verses of John 18. So how we can endure difficult times?

The first way is to LEARN ABOUT THE LOVE OF CHRIST (John 18:1a). This may not seem obvious to you at first, but please allow me to explain how the Lord showed me this principle. John tells us, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” (John 18:1a). After finishing His High Priestly prayer in John 17:1-26 (“spoken these things”) on the west side of the Kidron Valley, Jesus and His disciples crossed “over the Brook Kidron” to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Kidron Valley lies east of Jerusalem and separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley has a small stream that flows during winter and spring rains, but it is dry most of the summer. 1 None of the other gospel writers mention Jesus crossing the Brook Kidron, but John does. Why?

One major reason for including this detail is because the apostle John is presenting Jesus as the New Passover Lamb in his gospel (cf. I Corinthians 5:7). In John 1:29, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21).

While slaves in Egypt, the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would see the blood and pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-13). To commemorate His deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God instituted the Passover feast to be observed every year (Exodus 12:14-51). But this feast also pointed to the coming Deliverer and Savior of all people – Jesus Christ.  

John wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Just as “the blood of the lambs served as a substitute for the blood that the people should have shed as punishment for their sins (see Leviticus 4:32-34; 5:6),” 2 so Jesus is our Substitute Who died in our place to satisfy God’s demand to punish the sin of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18).

Consider these similarities between the Passover lambs and Jesus: 3

  • Passover lambs had to be a young male “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5). Jesus was also a relatively young adult male without blemish or sin (Luke 3:23; John 19:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:19).
  • Passover lambs had to be examined four days from the selection to the sacrifice (Exodus 12:3, 6a). Christ lived a meticulously examined life.
  • The Passover lamb had to be slain in public (Exodus 12:6b-7). Jesus also died publicly (John 19:16-30).

Beginning with John 19:24 and continuing to verse 37, John the apostle records four events that demonstrate Jesus truly is our substitutionary Passover Lamb which the Old Testament animal sacrifices foreshadowed: 4

  • They cast lots for His garments (John 19:24)…………… Fulfillment of Psalm 22:18
  • His legs were not broken (John 19:33)……… Passover fulfillment of Exodus 12:46
  • He was pierced (John 19:34a-37)………………………… Fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10
  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)…………………………… Fulfillment of what??

Why did John record this last detail involving “blood and water” coming out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced with a spear? John’s reference to Zechariah 12:10 says nothing of the “blood and water” flowing together. This is an important detail because John writes, 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:34-37). John testifies to these events so his readers “may believe.” John recorded this blood and water coming out as a proof of Who Jesus was by what He fulfilled. But there is no Old Testament verse referring to lamb’s blood and water streaming in unison. So what did Jesus’ blood and water coming out of His side fulfill?

“John was also thinking of the Passover in his day, not the Egyptian Passover only. What is the difference? In the first Passover there was no temple. Even its predecessor, the tabernacle, had not been set up; this did not occur until the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they received Torah, the Law. At the first Passover the lambs were slain at home and eaten at home, Exodus 12:1-8. Since there was no tabernacle or temple, there was also no central sacrificial altar for the slaying of such animals. However, in John’s and Jesus’ time centuries later, there was a resplendent white limestone temple atop Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem) where hundreds of lambs were slain.

“As a result, thousands of gallons or liters of lambs’ blood had to be disposed of. But how? By being poured into a drain at the ‘base of the altar’ (Leviticus 1:11, 13; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34), a rule that applied to both tabernacle and temple. For instance, the First Temple ( i.e., Solomon’s ) required ten lavers of water for rinsing blood from sacrificial offerings, II Chronicles 4:6. Therefore in the Second Temple of John’s day, voluminous amounts of water were poured into the altar’s drainage system to flush away the blood of lambs. Since the Temple Mount was a hill with a flat limestone surface, where did the drains empty? They spewed into the Kidron Valley below. The Temple’s drains are referred to in various sources such as the Jewish Talmud and in archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer’s, The Temple and the Rock, p. 57.5

Only John records that Jesus compared His own body to the Temple:  19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:19-22).

According to John, Jesus not only became the New Atoning Passover Lamb, but also the New Temple through whom the Divine Spirit – symbolized by water (cf. John 7:37-3) – could now flow to the masses, as had been symbolized by the gushing drains of King Solomon’s Temple and later by Herod’s Temple. To John, at least, “the blood and water” was proof that the Temple building and its sacrifices paralleled Jesus’ body and His crucifixion (John 2:19-21). Hence, the “missing” fulfillment verse is not an Old Testament one, but rather one spoken earlier by Jesus, which implies that Jesus saw Himself as the Temple personified, and John the gospel writer is the only one who recorded this. 6

  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)……………… Fulfillment of John 2:19-21

At the risk of being redundant, one of the possible reasons why John included the detail of Jesus crossing “over the Brook Kidron” was because the people in Jerusalem would have known that during the time of Passover something significant would have happened if Jesus would have crossed over the bottom of this valley to the top of the other side. William Barclay writes, “All the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple, and the blood of the lambs was poured on the altar as an offering to God. The number of lambs slain for the Passover was immense. On one occasion, thirty years later than the time of Jesus, a census was taken, and the number was 256,000. We may imagine what the Temple courts were like when the blood of all these lambs was dashed on to the altar. From the altar there was a channel down to the brook Kidron, and through that channel the blood of the Passover lambs drained away. When Jesus crossed the brook Kidron, it would still be red with the blood of the lambs which had been sacrificed; and as he did so, the thought of his own sacrifice would surely be vivid in his mind.” 7

So Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who was going to be slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29), had to step over this brook which by this time was soaked with the blood of the Passover lambs (cf. Luke 22:7). As Jesus and His disciples stepped over this brook, no doubt they saw and smelled this water mixed with the Passover lambs’ blood. What a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do for them, and for you and me. What a beautiful picture of His love for us (cf. Romans 5:8). He was willing to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would be arrested even though He knew what was going to unfold that night. That is love! When people are at their worst, God stills gives us His very best. He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place for our sins.

When we face difficult times, we may doubt that God loves us. We may feel like He has abandoned us. We may accuse God of being unfair when He allows us to suffer. But please understand there was a time when God was unfair. It is when He sent His sinless Son to die in the place of guilty sinners. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The perfect Son of God was punished on the cross instead of guilty sinners. Was that fair to Jesus!?! Of course not. But thank God for His love and grace which sent His perfect Son to pay the debt for our sins that we could never pay – “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). We can endure these difficult times when we ponder our Savior’s great love for us. Christ knew what was going to happen that night before His crucifixion, yet He still crossed the Kidron Brook because of His love for you and me. Learn about His infinite love. It will give you the hope you need to endure trials.

The Bible tells us, 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). As Christians suffer, they learn to “glory in tribulations, knowing” that their sufferings develop spiritual growth (“perseverance… and character, hope”). 

As Christians faithfully endure difficulties, it results in a sense of “hope” or confidence that God will see them through to the end of their sufferings. This “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” the moment we believed in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). Our hope does not disappoint us because it is the hope of God’s love. God’s love gives us this hope. Knowing He loves us and has our best interest in mind, increases our hope. Tony Evans writes, “Even in our suffering, God’s Spirit provides a fresh experience of God’s love to us and for us.” 8 Hope is the confidence that we will receive good from God. Without this hope, we would not be able to remain faithful to God when we face difficulties in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word is so powerful and relevant to us today. All of us are facing difficult times. And all of us need to know You still love us when we face these hardships. You understand what it is like to suffer for a greater cause. The night before Your horrible death on a cross, You crossed over the Brook Kidron which was still red with the blood of the Passover lambs which had been sacrificed in the temple above, and as You did this, You were probably thinking of Your own upcoming sacrifice on the cross when both blood and water would flow from Your pierced side after You would die. Jesus, thank You for going up that hill to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested. Even today You still give us Your best when we may be at our worst. Knowing Your amazing love for us empowers us to endure difficulties without fear or shame (I John 4:18). O Lamb of God, thank You for being our Passover Lamb!!! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 316.

2. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1161.

3. The NKJV Study Bible, General Editor Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pg. 108).

4. See Tony Badillo’s article at http://templesecrets.info/jnbldwtr.html.

5. Ibid., also on the Temple drains, see also Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 696, and the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Middoth, Chapter III, Mishnah 2 Soncino 1961 Edition, page 12; and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah, Folio 4.

6. Ibid.

7. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on John, 1956-1959, vs. 18:1-14. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-18.html.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1930.

How can we be Jesus’ friend? Part 2

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14

Last time we learned the first way to be Jesus’ friend was to live in His love (John 15:9-11). Today we discover that the second way to be Jesus’ friend is to LOVE as HE LOVED (John 15:12-17). To help His disciples understand this command to abide in His love, He repeated something He had said before. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). You may ask,What is Jesus’ love like?”

a. IT IS UNCONDITIONAL (John 15:12; cf. 13:1-11; Luke 22:24). Earlier, the disciples had been fighting among themselves about who was the greatest among them (cf. Luke 22:24). Jesus then humbly washed their dirty feet (John 13:1-11). Christ loved them even though they did not deserve it. Christ’s love was not a response to our love. He loves us even if we never loved Him back. Jesus 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 Jesus love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that Jesus loved you and me first. His love does not require that you love Him back.

If we are going to love one another as Jesus loved us, then we must love one other whether we deserve to be loved or not. God’s love is not an emotion. “You can love people whom you may not necessarily like because love is not dependent on your feelings. That’s why Jesus can command  to ‘love your enemies’ ” (Matthew 5:44).” 1 Love is a choice to do what is best for another person. Christ living in us wants to unconditionally love others through us.

b. IT IS SACRIFICIAL (15:13). Next Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). The greatest love of all was to give up your life for your friends. In the context, this must refer to Jesus’ upcoming death on the cross (cf. John 10:11, 15, 17-18; 12:32-33; 13:1ff). This is the greatest expression of friendship.

“There was an orphanage near an American Marine Base in Viet Nam. One day the Viet Cong fired mortar shells into the orphanage, killing dozens of children and wounding many more. A boy named Kai had a seriously wounded friend who needed a blood transfusion. Kai’s friend had a rare blood type and only Kai’s blood matched it. Little Kai had never heard of a blood transfusion but when the American doctors explained it would save his friend’s life, little Kai volunteered.

“As the blood began to flow from Kai to his friend, Kai began to whimper. When the doctors asked if it hurt, he said no. A little later he whimpered again. Again, he told the doctors it did not hurt. The doctors asked, ‘What’s wrong, Kai?’ With tears coursing down his light brown, dusty cheeks, Kai asked, ‘When am I to die, sir, when am I to die?’ You see, little Kai didn’t know that you only give a little blood. He thought you gave it all, and he was willing to do so for his little friend.” 2

Are we willing to sacrifice for one another? Men, it may mean giving up a game of basketball or a TV show to listen to someone share their problems with you. Ladies, it may involve laying aside that intriguing novel to listen to your neighbor process a misunderstanding they had with someone. When a need arises among the people in your life, reach out to help them in love.

c. IT IS OBEDIENT (John 15:14). Jesus would give His life for His friends. Who are His friends? “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Jesus’ friends are those believers who keep His commandments. We may say that Jesus is our best Friend, but would He say we are His friends? The true test of friendship with Christ is obedience to “whatever” He commands you to do. Friendship with Christ is a discipleship issue, not a salvation issue.

Twice Abraham was called a friend of God in the Old Testament: by God (Isaiah 41:8) and by men (2 Chronicles 20:7).  James 2:21-23 explains why Abraham was justified before men by works when he offered up his son, Isaac. Works justify us before men, but not before God (cf. Romans 4:2). Abraham was justified before God by faith alone (Genesis 15:6) over twenty years before he offered up Isaac (Genesis 22). The faith that justified him before God was matured by his act of obedience in offering up Isaac (James 2:22) and filled full of meaning (James 2:23a). Men could declare Abraham to be a “friend of God” because they saw that he had an intimate relationship with God through his obedience. So friendship with God is based upon obedience.

Do people know that we are friends of Christ because of our obedience to Him? Our obedience to Jesus is a compelling testimony to the world that we are vitally connected to Him, especially when we keep His commandment to love one another. Our friendship with Christ is realized by others through our actions. This means we love one another whether we feel like it or not. But instead of ignoring our feelings, we are to deal with them so we can be available to love others. We need to experience God’s love and power before we can love others with His love.

d. IT COMMUNICATES TRUTH (15:15). Then Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15). During their time together, Jesus viewed these men as servants and Himself as their Master. The responsibility of a servant was to submit to the will of his master. A servant is nothing more than an instrument. He simply does what he is told because he has no other choice. He does not have a close relationship with his master, as friends do. The servant does not know the personable issues about his master’s life. He just follows orders.

But now Jesus calls His disciples “friends.” Why? He says, “For all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” These men who had been Jesus’ servants were now His friends because He had kept nothing back from them. He had revealed all that the Father had made known to Him (cf. John 14:21). A master shares his will with his servants. But a friend shares his heart with his friends. “There are no secrets between friends.” Christ shared His heart with His disciples, so they could bear fruit to the glory of His Father.

Many years ago, a Christian writer went through a deep period of doubt and temptation. He questioned his ministry, his qualifications, his marriage, his salvation. Anguished and burdened, he finally went to a friend and confessed his feelings. As they talked and prayed together over the course of several weeks, his perspective returned. Peace came into his heart, and he experienced the joy of the Lord again. 

If we can receive this kind of help from talking with a friend, how much more beneficial would it be to be completely open with the Lord Jesus? He is the Best of friends. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “If we are friends of God, we shall have no secrets from Him. There are very few of those who are dearest to us to whom we could venture to lay bare all the depths of our hearts. There are black things down in the cellars that we do not like to show to any of our friends… But you should take God all through the house. And if there is the trust and the love that l have been speaking about, we shall not be afraid to spread out all our foulness, and our meanness, and our unworthy thoughts of, and acts towards, Him, before His ‘pure eyes and perfect judgment,’ and say, ‘Nobody but my best friend could look at such a dungheap, but I spread it before Thee… Tell God all, if you mean to be a friend of His.” 4

Christ did not withhold any truth from His disciples. There were no secrets between Him and His friends. Close friends communicate openly and honestly. Even though the truth may hurt at times, it is better to share it than to conceal it. Concealing the truth allows the situation to worsen. I appreciate it when my wife is open and honest with me about her true feelings. It shows me that she cares about our relationship. Friendship involves open communication. As we abide in Christ, He can enable us to share openly with one another.

e. IT TAKES THE INITIATIVE (15:16). Jesus continued and said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16a). Christ took the initiative in choosing His disciples to “go and bear fruit.” Normally disciples choose their own teacher, but Jesus chose them. All around the world today, students seek out the teachers of their choice and attach themselves to them. But Christ’s disciples did not take the initiative. After spending all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12-16), Jesus “chose” His disciples and “appointed” them to their mission to “go and bear fruit.” Notice that Jesus did not “choose”them to be saved or to have eternal life. His selection of them was related to their mission and ministry, not their salvation. John’s gospel never refers to people “being chosen from all eternity for eternal life or death.” 7

The divine election of God in the Bible is related to service, not salvation. In the Old Testament, God chose individuals to serve Him such as Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Moses (Exodus 3:12; Numbers 16:5-6, 28), Aaron (Numbers 17:5), King David (2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 8:16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), and the Messianic Servant (Isaiah 49:5-9; 52:13-53:12). He chose a group of people, Israel, to continue the mission He began with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2; 1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 33:12; 106:5; Isaiah 43:10; 45:4; 65:9, 22; cf. Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 9:11; 11:28; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 2:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus chose Twelve men to serve as His apostles (Luke 6:12-16; John 15:16). The fact that Judas was chosen by Christ demonstrates that this election was to service, not salvation since Judas never believed in Jesus (cf. John 6:64; 13:10-11; 17:12). Christ said that Paul was “a chosen vessel of Mine” to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16). Peter was also chosen for service: “God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7-8). 10

Just as Jesus took the initiative in choosing His disciples for their mission and service, so we must do the same in our relationships with one another. The importance of choosing believers to train in discipleship is underscored by the fact that Christ prayed all night to God on a mountaintop before He selected His disciples (cf. Luke 6:12-16). We need God’s wisdom and leading to choose men and women who will be “faithful” followers of Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2).

Are we sharing the gospel with non-Christians and then asking them to meet with us for discipleship? We must be intentional about sharing the gospel with the lost and then teaching those who believe in Christ to obey all of His commandments (Matthew 28:20) because disciples are not born, they are made. 11  Christian growth is not automatic. It requires a commitment to follow Jesus regardless of the costs (cf. Luke 14:25-33).

Finally, f. IT BEARS FRUIT THAT LASTS (15:16b-17). “And that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16b). Christ also “chose”and “appointed” His disciples that they “should… bear fruit… that… should remain.” This fruit is related to the fruit of evangelism because it remains and cannot be lost (cf. John 4:36; 10:28-29). One of the most unloving things we can do is keep God’s love and His gospel to ourselves. This lasting fruit is also connected to answered prayer – “that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” To ask the Father in Jesus’ “name” means to pray for what Jesus would pray. God desires that all people be saved from hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). When we pray to that end, God answers that prayer. Prayer is the backbone to reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. As God’s people pray, the Holy Spirit prepares the lost to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11).

When we pray and preach the gospel, God saves people as they respond in faith, resulting in lasting “fruit.” How exciting to see people come to faith in Christ! As we allow Jesus to live through us, our desire to see people obtain eternal life will increase. This week you may be asked by another believer to go with them to share the gospel with a family member or friend. Or maybe someone will ask you to pray for an individual that they just shared the gospel with. Next Christ says, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17). The way to honor Christ’s Lordship in our lives is to obey Him especially as it relates to loving one another. And as we obey Him, people can see that we are His friends.

After one of the worst battles of the American Civil War, a small remnant of a Confederate regiment stood alone on a grassy knoll. A Southern officer on horseback approached the small band of soldiers. “Where is your captain?” the officer inquired. “There he lies,” they said, pointing to his lifeless form a few feet away. “And what are you men doing here?” the officer asked. “Sir, we are paying our respects, giving him our final salute. He told us to hold this hill, and we have done just what he said.” What loyalty! The proof of their allegiance was complete obedience to his orders.

As Christians, we should also remember our great Captain, Jesus Christ. Although He died, He does not remain on the field of battle. He rose again and lives victoriously at the right hand of God the Father! He freely gave His life that He might save us and bring us to God. This is all the more reason to give Him our total commitment to obey Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, no one deserves our allegiance more than You! Thank You for laying down Your life for me. No greater love has ever been shown to me than this. Right now I give You everyone and everything to use for Your purposes. Please help me to abide in You and You in me so Your love will flow through me to others. This world could use a lot more of Your love. May they know I am Your friend by my love for You and others, especially the lost who need to hear Your life-giving gospel message. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1807.

2. See https://bible.org/illustration/john-1513 on April 17, 2018.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 443.

4. Taken from Alexander Maclaren’s sermon on James 2:14-26 entitled, “Faith Without Works” at http://www.preceptaustin.org/maclaren_on_james_2.

5. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 326.

6. Shawn Lazar, Chosen to Serve: Why Divine Election Is to Service, Not to Eternal Life (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2017), pg. 140.

7. Ibid., pg. 147.

8. Shawn Lazar’s article, “Election for Baptists: Why Biblical election is to service and privilege, not to eternal life,” at https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/election-for-baptists-why-biblical-election-is-to-service-and-privilege-not-to-eternal-life/; cf. Robert Wilkin, “THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE ELECTION RECONSIDERED: ELECTION TO SERVICE, NOT TO EVERLASTING LIFE,” at https://faithalone.org/journal/2012ii/Wilkin.pdf; cf. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 151-212.

9. Lazar, Chosen to Serve…, pp. 41-55, 175-199.

10. Lazar, “Election for Baptists…”

11. see Dr. Charlie Bing, GraceLife Notes, no. 23, “Are Disciples Born, or Made?” at http://www.gracelife.org/ resources/gracenotes/?id=23.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24

We are learning from John 12:20-33 how to overcome self-centeredness in our lives. The first way is to seek Jesus (John 12:20-22) and grow closer to Him. As we grow closer to Jesus, we will be more motivated to apply the second way to overcome self-centeredness which is SELF-DENYING SERVICE TO CHRIST (John 12:23-26). The coming of the Greeks (John 12:20-22) stirred Jesus’ heart to its depths. But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” (John 12;23). Their coming confirmed that it was time (“the hour has come”) for “the Son of Man” to “be glorified” through the cross. The cross must come before the Greeks can “really come” to Jesus in a spiritual sense. We see interest in Christ extending beyond Jewish circles now as news of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead spreads. When Jesus speaks of being glorified He is referring to His death. To Him, His death would be a triumph, not a tragedy. This is not a kingly glory from people; this is the glory of the cross from the Father. The world views death by crucifixion as a humiliating defeat, but Jesus sees it as a means of glorification.

What about us? Do we see suffering for Jesus as a shameful thing to be avoided or as a God-honoring thing which expresses the power of God working in us (cf. I Corinthians 1:18)? God wants us to set our sights on Christ and His calling in our lives which includes suffering for His sake (cf. Philippians 1:29).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24). That Jesus’ death is in view here can be seen in the grain of wheat analogy. A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die to produce many seeds (fruit). So, until a kernel of wheat died, it could not multiply itself. Jesus is the grain of wheat. The word “alone” refers to Christ dealing with Jews alone. It was necessary for Jesus to die to produce life in many others – both Jews and Gentiles in one body. Death was necessary for life and fruitfulness. This idea was foreign to the Greeks.

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, there is an account of a notable experiment at Wolverhampton, England. One grain of wheat was planted and produced several distinct stalks with ears of wheat. Each grain was transplanted. The grains produced by each were again separated and transplanted. In two years, 32,500 grains of wheat were produced from one single “grain of wheat.” Christ’s death would produce a tremendous harvest of Jews and Gentiles!

Why does Jesus use this grain of wheat analogy? I believe one reason is because He wants to address the obstacle that hinders our spiritual growth. Every seed has a shell and a grain inside that shell – an inner and outer nature. A grain of wheat has the potential to produce thousands of other grains on one condition, if the shell “dies” and releases the life that is inside which can produce more plants that will produce other grains. 

When you become a Christian, the Spirit of God comes to live inside you (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14), but the Spirit is encased in the shell of your “outward man” i.e. your physical body (2 Corinthians 4:16) and sin nature or “old man (self)” (cf. Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8-9). The Spirit of God will never leave you, that’s what the last few verses of Romans 8 guarantees (Romans 8:31-39; cf. Psalm 139:7-10).

But that does not mean that He will be in full control of your life. You have the choice to keep the Spirit of Christ in its shell. It is like pushing the Spirit of Christ into the back seat while you take the steering wheel of your life. In I Corinthians 3:1-3, the apostle Paul gives a name to the believer who is not letting the Spirit of God direct his or her life because the Spirit is still in the seed shell. They are called “carnal”or worldly Christians. How can we let the Spirit take full control of our lives? Christian author Watchman Nee explains:

“As long as this shell does not break open, the grain cannot grow. ‘Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies’ What is this death? It is the action of the temperature and moisture of the earth upon the grain which results in the breaking of the shell. When the shell breaks, the grain grows. Therefore, it is not a matter of whether or not the grain has life, but whether the outer shell is broken.” 1

“Whether our works are fruitful or not depends upon whether our outward man has been broken by the Lord so that the inward man can pass through that brokenness and come forth. This is the basic problem. The Lord wants to break our outward man in order that the inward may have a way out. When the inward man is released, both unbelievers and Christians will be blessed.” 2

Do you understand what he’s saying? He’s saying that it is possible to live your life as a Christian and even do ministry as a Christian in your own strength and not by the power of the Holy Spirit. But two things will always be true: your ministry won’t be very effective, and your life won’t be very satisfying. It is possible as a Christian to live in the outer person, the shell, and not the inner person, the Spirit. And if you are multi-gifted, you will probably be considered a great success. The church will grow, the money will pour in, the books will sell, but lives will not be changed. And deep inside you won’t feel like a success because the Holy Spirit of God inside of you will be telling you the truth. He will be saying, “This is not My work. It is your work.” That is why it is effective from the world’s viewpoint, but it is not effective from God’s viewpoint and that is why you don’t have any joy.

The Lord Jesus then applies this wheat analogy of death leading to life to discipleship. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25). The issue here is rewards, not salvation from hell. The believer who “loves his life” by selfishly living for his or herself, “will lose” the fullness of that life both now and in eternity in terms of the loss of rewards. Living a self-centered life results in losing the very thing we are trying to hold on to. If my life is all about me and finding myself, I will not find the “me” I am looking for. To hate my life means not living in a self-centered way but being a servant of others. The one who lives a life of service in the name of the Lord Jesus will be rewarded in this life and in the life to come.3

Christ goes on to say that “he who hates his life in the world” by making his or her love and loyalty to Christ a priority “will keep it for eternal life,” that is, they will enjoy a deeper and fuller experience of eternal life both now and in eternity. 4  So, the issue is not salvation, but the quality of a believer’s life both now and in the world to come.

When Jesus mentions hating one’s life, He is not talking about self-abuse or mutilation. That would be contrary to His other teachings about loving others “as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; cf. Ephesians 5:29). While self-denial is implied in the phrase, “he who hates his life” (cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24), this does not mean we are to deny our humanity which includes our physical and emotional needs.

For example, in a helpful article, Amie Patrick talks about when we go through stressful seasons of life, we may have a greater need for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional refreshment. Denying self does not mean we overlook these needs. She emphasizes that it is important to accept our God-given limits and receive the Lord’s gifts of rest, food, recreation, and solitude which are also acts of worship and obedience. While Jesus was fully human and fully God—He often set aside time in His ministry to be alone or enjoy meals with friends. 5

The expression “he who hates his life” refers to Jesus being a priority in your life over self and the material things “in this world.” Our devotion to the Lord Jesus makes our interests in the material affairs of this life appear by comparison as hatred. Those who are dedicated to Christ will “keep” or preserve that lifestyle for eternal rewards. Our earthly experience becomes a part of “eternal life”in that it contributes to the quality of our future life in eternity. If we put our material things and selfish ambitions ahead of Christ, we will decrease the quality of our life in the world to come.

The Bible teaches that eternal life as a future acquisition is always a reward that is based upon works (cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19), but when eternal life is presented as a present possession it is always received as a free gift by faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17). 6  If we die to self and make Jesus a priority in our lives, we can also experience His quality of life now. So, the way to truly live is to die to self and live to Christ.

Jesus explains further what it means to “hate” one’s life. “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:26). He is referring to self-denying service to Christ. If you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. He is to be the number one priority in your life. Just as Jesus denied Himself and died for the world (John 12:27-28a), His disciples are to deny themselves and serve Him. When Christ says, “and where I am, there My servant will be also”in glory and honor is the main idea here as confirmed in the next part of the verse. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The verb “will honor” (timēsei) refers to honoring faithful Christians with rewards. If you serve Jesus, you will receive “honor” or reward from His heavenly Father. If you want to be rewarded in the future, you must earn it by serving Christ now. Rewards are not a free gift. We must work for them to receive them in the future.

Jesus chose the way of the cross because of His desire to please His Father (cf. Philippians 2:5-11). Likewise, every follower of Christ must face a similar choice of taking the way of the cross. For example, a woman was told that the baby in her womb would be mentally impaired, but she refused the early abortion recommended by her doctors because she believed this would be wrong. An investment salesman lost his job because he insisted on being honest about the risks. And before the revolution in Romania, a lawyer lost his professional status and had to do menial labor because he openly confessed Christ as his Savior. These three Christians chose to take the way of the cross. They took seriously the words of Jesus, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me.” These two verbs, “serves” (diakonē) and “follow” (akoloutheitō) are in the present tense and convey the idea of “keep on serving Me” and “keep on following Me.” 8  Disciples of Christ who faithfully serve Him are promised His companionship (“where I am, there My servant will be also”)and those who faithfully serve Him are promised the Father’s “honor.”

The world says to put your material things or earthly life and self, first. It says, “There’s no need to take God seriously.” But if you don’t take God seriously, then there’s no need to take your marriage seriously, or the rearing of your children seriously, or such character traits as submission, faithfulness, sexual purity, humility, repentance, and honesty seriously either. If we don’t take God seriously, if we don’t make Jesus Christ our #1 priority now, it will cost us in the future. Oh, we will go to heaven, but the quality of our life there will be less than it could have been if we took Christ seriously. You see, the things we do now will prepare us for what we do in eternity. How I live on earth now will contribute to the quality of my life in heaven. If I live for Christ now by His grace, death will not interrupt that lifestyle. It will continue in eternity without interruption.

First John 2:17 says, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  John reminds us that the world is passing away and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. If I am a laborer on earth, an architect, a musician, a secretary, a farmer, a teacher, a scientist, a physician – however skilled I may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present age. The term “abides” (menō) is a fellowship term. The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He experiences uninterrupted fellowship with God. He will experience “boldness” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28; 4:17) where the eternal worth of his earthly Christian life will be evaluated (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the believer who lives out of fellowship with the Lord does not “abide”forever in that his worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he goes to heaven. His worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. But a dedicated lifestyle to Christ really has no ending. 

Prayer: Father God, thank You for bringing me back to Your eternal perspective in these verses today. As the Lord Jesus approached the time of His sufferings and death on the cross, He began to focus on the outcome of His death. Like a grain of wheat that must fall into the ground and die to produce many seeds, so Jesus had to die to produce life in untold millions of people, including both Jews and Gentiles. In the same way, Father, I need to focus beyond this life to the life to come. Envisioning that future life motivates me to serve You faithfully as a disciple or follower of Christ. As Your disciple, You call me to deny my selfish desires so I may sacrificially serve You by serving others. Instead of living a self-centered life, I am to live a Christ-centered life that will honor both You, Father, and Jesus. And Jesus promises that You will reward such sacrificial service both now and in eternity. As missionary C.T. Studd once said, “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” By Your grace, Lord, I want to invest in what lasts forever – You and the works You have prepared for me to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). In Jesus’ life-giving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Watchman Nee, The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1997), pp. 8-9.

2. Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit (Cloverdale: Sure Foundation Publishers, 1965), pg. 11.

3. Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1795). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

4. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1180; Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary [TGNTC], Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pp. 433-434.

5. Amie Patrick, “Self-care and Self-Denial,” The Gospel Coalition at https://www.thegospel coalition.org/article/ self-care-and-self-denial.

6. See Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards, (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1985), pp. 35-56; see Jody C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 135-145.

7. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 817.

8. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 228.

How can we honor only Jesus? Part 3

“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3

So far in our study of John 12:1-8, we have learned to honor only Jesus by serving Christ out of thanksgiving for what he has done (John 12:1-2a) and by spending time with christ out of joy for his gift of salvation (John 12:2b).

The third way to honor only Jesus is to SACRIFICE FOR CHRIST OUT OF LOVE FOR HIM (John 12:3). What happens next is an amazing expression of love toward Jesus. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:3). I can picture Mary quietly arising from her couch to walk around the other couches with people reclining on them and reaching down to pour “this pound of very costly oil of spikenard” on Jesus’ feet which were propped up on the couch. The value of this ointment was equivalent to a year’s wages (12:5).

This perfume was very expensive for several reasons. First, because of the large quantity that Mary used. A “pound” was the equivalent of a Roman pound or approximately twelve ounces. Mary had enough anointment to not only anoint His feet, but His entire body. In fact, Matthew and Mark indicate that she also anoints Jesus’ head perhaps to focus on honoring Him (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3). John may have reported Mary anointing Jesus’ feet to draw attention to her humility and devotion in contrast to the pride of the Sanhedrin and disciples (cf. John 11:47-53, 57; 13:1-17). 1 It is likely then that Mary anointed both Jesus’ head and feet.

Secondly, this was costly ointment because of its quality. John reports that it is “pure spikenard” in contrast to ointment which had been diluted. 2 A third reason why this perfume was costly is because it was made from the nard plant in East India and imported from there. 3 It is normally shipped in a sealed alabaster jar and would only be broke open for very special occasions. Because this ointment was so expensive, only the wealthy could afford to buy it. It was usually reserved to be given to kings. Mary wanted to give Jesus the best ointment because of her love for Him. Nothing was too good for her Lord.

Do you treasure the Lord Jesus more than your possessions or money? Does your spending of money reflect that Jesus is first in your life? If others looked at how you spend money, would they conclude that you love Jesus more than anyone or anything else?

Mary “anointed the feet of Jesus” with this costly perfume. Normally a Rabbi’s head would be anointed with such perfume. To tend to Jesus’ feet was the task of a lowly house slave or servant. But Mary chooses to anoint His feet as an expression of her humility and devotion to Christ. To use “her hair” to wipe off the excess oil from Jesus’ feet is also significant. “Normally Jewish women never unbound their hair in public, since loose hair was a sign of loose morals.” But Mary did not seem to care what others thought at this moment. Her heart went out to her Lord and she expressed her feelings of gratitude for Him raising Lazarus from the dead.

Do you love Jesus more than your pride? Or are you more concerned about what others think of you than what Jesus thinks of you? People may think you are a religious fanatic, but what matters is what Jesus thinks about your sacrificial love for Him.

John then informs us that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”  Mary’s expression of love and gratitude for the Lord filled the entire house with a fragrant aroma. I’m reminded of a Rabbinic saying: “The scent of good oil is diffused from the bed-chamber to the dining-hall while a good name is diffused from one end of the world to the other.” 5 This may be John’s way of saying that Mary’s action would be spoken of throughout the world (cf. Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9). Her devotion and sacrifice for Christ would become a perpetual memorial of world-wide honor.

John leaves out an important detail that Mark’s account includes. Before Mary could anoint Jesus with the pure spikenard, she had to break “the flask” containing it (Mark 14:3). Christian author Watchman Nee equates the flask to our “outer man” or soul which must be broken to release “the inward man” or spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16). 6 Our outer man must be broken to allow the inward man containing the fragrance of Christ to be released.

Nee states, “God purposely used this term ‘pure’ in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure spikenard will not flow forth. Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes the problem in the Church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself to be more advanced than other people. Others highly regard themselves, because they feel they are better than others, their eloquence surpasses that of others, or their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth.

“However, we are not antique collectors; we are not ‘vase’ admirers; we should be those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Without the breaking of the outward, the inward fragrance will not come forth. Hence, not only do we individually have no flowing out, but also the church has no living way. Why then should we hold our inner man to be so precious, especially if the outward only contains the fragrance, instead of releasing the fragrance?

“The Holy Spirit has not ceased working. He makes sure one event after another and one difficulty after another come to us. These disciplinary workings of the Holy Spirit have but one purpose – to break our outward man so that our inward man may come through. Yet here is our difficulty – we fret over trifles, we murmur at small losses, and we complain about insignificant things. The Lord is ever finding and preparing a way in order to use us. Yet when His hand slightly touches us, we begin to feel unhappy – even to the extent of quarreling with God and having a negative attitude. Since the time when we were saved, we have been touched by the Lord many times in various ways – all with the purpose of breaking our outward man. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the aim of the Lord is to break this stubborn vessel called our outward man.

“Nevertheless, the Treasure is in the earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). But if the earthen vessel cannot be broken, who can see the Treasure within? Have we seen what is the final objective of the Lord’s working in our lives? It is to break open this earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7), to burst open our alabaster box (Mark 14:3), to crack open our shell (John 12:24). The Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him. Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness. But, it is also a path sprinkled with ‘blood from our wounds.’  Yes, there is blood from the many wounds we suffer. When we offer ourselves to the Lord for His service, we cannot afford to be lenient and spare ourselves. We must allow the Lord to crack open our outward man utterly so that He may find a way for His working through us.” 7

Does our devotion and sacrifice for Christ fill the place we occupy with a fragrant aroma? Does our praise please the Lord? Does our lifestyle honor the Lord (Hebrews 13:15-16) and emit the beautiful fragrance of Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)? What kind of odor does our devotion to Christ emit? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Unbearable or refreshing?

We all have reason to live for the Lord. Mary was thankful that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead physically. But Jesus has done even more for us! He has raised each of us who believe in Him from the dead spiritually. He has given us never-ending life and guarantees to resurrect us from the dead in the future (John 11:25-26)! Only Jesus could motivate a person to do what Mary did. What a wonderful Savior we have!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for drawing my attention to what honors You! Mary gave to You what was most precious to her as a way of thanking Your for raising her brother from the dead. But it also seems that she wanted to bless You before Your upcoming crucifixion. She seems to understand, at least in part, what you were about to face at the cross, and she wanted to minister to You while You were still with her. Lord, I must admit that my love for You is so pale compared to Your love for me. Nevertheless, I want to express my love to You by giving You what is most precious to me – my family, my dreams, and my time. You are worthy of my very best. As I look back on my life, I can see You at work breaking my outer man to release my inner man containing Your fragrance. I am beginning to understand how much You want to bless this world through my own brokenness. Help me not to resist this process, but to surrender to You so more people can enjoy Your fragrance and be drawn to You. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Donald A. Carson, “Current Source Criticism of the Fourth Gospel: Some Methodological Questions.” Journal of Biblical Literature 97 (1978):411-29.

2. While the New King James English translation omits the word “pure,” John does include it (pistikēs) in his Greek text.

3. W.E. Shewell-Cooper, “Spikenard,” in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Marrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 5:502.

4. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition,pg. 213.

5. William B. Silverman, The Sages Speak: Rabbinic Wisdom and Jewish Values (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc., 1995), pg. 72.

6. Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit, (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 2000) pp. 12-17.

7. Ibid., pp. 14-16.