April 18: Hoped in Vain?

Read Luke 24:13-24; John 21:2, 3; and 1 Corinthians 15:13-20

Some of those alive at the time of Jesus…yes, even some of His closest followers…some of them drew the wrong conclusions.

After having spent time with Him witnessing His miracles and hearing His teaching, their hopes were raised. “Could this be the One?” “Could He be the One of whom the prophets spoke?” “Could Jesus be the One come to rescue them?”

But though that hope had been slowly kindled over the course of many encounters, it seemed that it had only taken a single event to nearly extinguish it – Christ’s death. Granted, in most cases death will do it, alright! Yeah, sure, Jesus had recently raised Lazarus. But, even in that instance, Jesus had been the “raiser,” not the “raisee.” And when the “raiser” dies, no one is left to raise Him, right?

From their vantage point, it was over. Hope was a thing of the past. The demonic plot had been victorious. Might as well leave town and head to Emmaus. I guess it is time to go back to the way things had been, grinding out a living as fishermen. There was no reason to announce the Messianic message. There was no purpose to the preaching circuit they once traveled. There was no foundation for faith . . . at least not faith in Jesus. There was no release from the bondage of sin. There were no valid words of encouragement to be offered at a funeral. Without the resurrection of Jesus, faith was just a painkiller that dulled the ache of life without treating the source of the pain. It must have all seemed too good to be true anyway. So, they might as well go back to life as they had once known it.

That was life before the full dimensions of the divine plan were clear. That was life before the resurrection and its implications were clear.

But, as we will see tomorrow, the resurrection was a game changer! The divine plan won out.

sbk

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John, Luke

April 17: Your Personal Tenebrae

Not having come from a liturgical church background, I am less familiar with some of the special, annual worship opportunities they offer. Recently, a friend told me about the Tenebrae Service practiced in many churches. This service, celebrated during the week leading up to Easter, includes lit candles that are extinguished as Scripture passages are read. These Scripture passage encourage the readers to reflect on either the events between the Triumphal Entry and burial of Jesus  or on the seven last statements of Jesus on the cross prior to His death. This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus’ death and of hopelessness in the world without God.

Whether you light and extinguish candles or not, let me encourage you, on this Maundy Thursday to pause and reflect on these statements of Jesus.

1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Lk. 23:34)

2. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk. 23:43)

3. He said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (Jn. 19:26, 27)

4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)

5. “I am thirsty.” (Jn. 19:28)

6. “It is finished.” (Jn. 19:30)

7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Lk. 23:46)

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Uncategorized

April 16: Redemption of a Demonic Plot

Read Matthew 27:1-66

It seems like an impossibility . . . even a contradiction. How can the same people through the same actions cooperate in carrying out a demonic plot and yet, at the same time, accomplish a divine plan? I have no great answer other than God can redeem even the vilest acts of mankind. As with Joseph’s experience, He is able to purpose for good what man (and even Satan) designed for evil (Gen. 50:20).

But at first glance, we may only see the evil.

We may only see how Satan influenced Judas. We may only witness this disciple’s kiss of betrayal. We may only hear the words of the kangaroo court that convicted Jesus. We may only smell the charcoal fire where Peter denied Him. We may only see His bruised body that was whipped and nailed to a cross. We may only observe the mockery of a crown of thorns and listen to the taunting voices that made fun of an innocent man. For that matter, we may only hear the very voice of Jesus Himself as He called out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46)

Had Satan won? Was the demonic plot victorious?

We dare not forget that God was . . . through the same people and with the same horrific murder . . . He was simultaneously accomplishing the ultimate good of His divine plan. The crucifixion of Christ was an essential part of His will. He had warmed us to the idea through numerous Old Testament signs including:

  • His own instruction to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, while, in the end, providing a ram in his place (Gen. 22).
  • The necessity of a Passover lamb for the rescue of God’s people in Egypt (Ex. 12).
  • The necessity of sacrifice on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).

Yes, God redeemed even this evil plot. After all, according to His divine plan, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

Thank you, Jesus, for your suffering!

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, Matthew

April 15: It’s Time!

Read John 12:20-43

“It’s time!”

Pharisees and religious leaders of the first centuries were intensifying their plans for destroying Jesus. Meetings were taking place behind closed doors. In fact, they even cut a deal with one of Christ’s closest followers. Prompted by Satan himself, Judas agreed to betray his Master into their hands for thirty pieces of silver. Finally, the demonic plot seemed to be coming together.

But Jesus also recognized that this was a critical time. “The hour” had come. But this was not a fatalistic recognition of His inevitable, unpreventable demise. No, look at how He described the hour and His imminent execution.

  • His execution was part of His glorification (v. 23). That’s right. The cross is part of the reason that Christ is worthy of worship. He alone was found worthy to open the scroll in heaven. He is glorious!
  • His execution was essential for multiplication (v. 24). Just as a kernel of corn must die and be placed into the ground in order to produce hundreds of other kernels, so too Christ’s death would lead to countless millions finding redemption in Him. Being lifted up on the cross would cause others to be drawn to Him (v. 32).
  • His execution was inherent to the Father’s intention for Him (v. 27). Christ had not merely come to do spectacular miracles and pass along stirring teaching. He had come to give His life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).
  • His execution was key to Satan’s elimination (v. 31). Ironically, while Satan saw this as an opportunity to destroy Jesus, Jesus knew it would be another step towards Lucifer’s ultimate defeat.

Jesus understood all of those realities about His impending death. We dare not ignore the fact, however, that He, as fully human and fully divine, was not only committed to the cross but also troubled by it (27). The physical and spiritual anguish He was to endure is, for us, unimaginable.

Knowing Christ’s commitment to God’s plan and to us, we dare not be like those rulers who believed but remained incognito. We dare not be like those who prefer the approval of men rather than the approval of God (vv. 42, 43).

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John

April 14: A Turning Point Miracle

Read John 11:38-12:11

Do you really feel the gravity of Christ’s miracles? Jesus performed many of them . . . more than are even recorded in Scripture (Jn. 20:30). As you read them, you could, I suppose, picture them the way you would sports highlights. There is no doubt that they are spectacular feats, but entirely possible and somehow almost “everyday.”

Don’t forget, however, that Christ’s miracles were occasions when He defied the norm and the natural laws. Just try walking across the water at the pool, getting more bread without baking it or going to the store, or speaking words and causing even the common cold to cease. Miracles are a big deal!

And this one recorded in John 11 is one of the Christ’s biggest. Indeed, it is big because Lazarus had been dead for four days. It is big because he was raised to life. But it was also big because it represented a turning point. Even though there had been previous devious plots to eliminate Jesus, the raising of Lazarus caused the chief priests and Pharisees to convene and to become more unified and strategic in their murderous scheme. To allow Jesus to continue to work miracles would cause even more become His followers (11:48; 12:11). In their minds, His continued work would endanger their relationship with the Roman government (11:48). The results of the raising of Lazarus were just too big to ignore. Action had to be taken.

And the action, interestingly enough, was more than the planned execution of Jesus (11:53). Lazarus was also a threat. No, he had not begun a campaign against the Pharisees. Nevertheless, people were coming to see him.   You see, his mere presence…the sheer fact that he was alive as walking proof of Christ’s abilities…that was more than could be tolerated.   The name “Lazarus” was also found on the priestly “hit list” right below “Jesus.”

And as things heated up, Jesus avoided the crowds and spent time with His disciples. His public ministry with hundreds and thousands now took the form of private, clandestine meetings with a dozen. He was not avoiding the cross, but it had to happen according to divine plan at the right time.

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John

April 13: A Divine Must and Desperate Need

Read Mark 8:27-38

“He then began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mk. 8:31)

To this point in our current series, we have given much attention to Satan’s demonic plot to destroy Jesus. Starting in His infancy and continuing through His ministry, hatred towards Christ was an evil reality. People became so exasperated that they sought to kill Him. But, whether it was an attempt to be rid of Him through mass infanticide or an attempt to push exclusively Him from a cliff, Jesus miraculously managed to live another day.

But, don’t forget, Christ’s execution was more than a demonic plot. Simultaneously, it was also part of God’s divine plan. In fact, the above verse from today’s reading underscores a “divine must.” Jesus said that the Son of Man must:

  • Suffer many things
  • Be rejected
  • Be killed
  • Rise again

This “must” was not one of reluctant surrender to the demonic plot which would overpower or outwit God’s sovereign control. It was not some unfortunate recognition that Jesus could only dodge the bullet so many times. No, the mandatory suffering of which Jesus spoke had been part of the eternal plan of God. Even before the world was called into existence, the Father had planned for the suffering of His Son (1 Pet. 1:17-21). Prophets like Isaiah had predicted His suffering and death with words like these:

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  (Is. 53:4-6)

The “divine must” of the cross was essential because of our desperate need.

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, Mark

April 12: Not Time

Read John 7:1-31

The Feast of Booths was a Jewish celebration of the harvest of grapes and olives (Lev. 23).  Many Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate this important event.  But this particular celebration in John 7 fell at a critical time in Christ’s ministry.

Although Christ’s ministry to this point in John 7 had centered largely in the region of Galilee, He had earned a reputation that reached far beyond.  His teaching and miracles caused some Jews to become hostile to the point of plotting to kill him.  His brothers were at best curious (wanting Him to put his miracles on display) or, at worst, antagonistic (wanting Him to make a fool of himself).  Some gathered in Jerusalem concluded that He was a good man, while others were convinced He was a false teacher.

With all of those opinions and desires swirling in the minds of people, Jerusalem represented a potentially dangerous place for Jesus.  As a result, He went there “secretly.”  Don’t get me wrong, Jesus wasn’t afraid of danger.  He was fully aware of and committed to His future execution.  His imminent death was not an unfortunate surprise.  He knew it was coming.  In fact, He had come for that very purpose.  That was part of the divine plan.

But Christ’s initial reluctance to go and his eventual secrecy in going were more a matter of timing.  He made these clear statements:

“My time is not yet here . . .”  (6a)

“. . . My time has not yet fully come.”  (8b)

Satan’s plot was the destruction of the Son of God.  Ironically, the crucifixion was also part of the plan of God.  But, whereas Satan had been attempting to kill Jesus from the days following His birth, God was protecting His Son until the appointed time.

Do you realize that God also has a plan for you?  They are good plans for your welfare, future, and hope (Jer. 29:11).  That doesn’t mean that you will never experience adversity.  But, in His sovereignty, He will orchestrate the events and timing to His glory.

sbk

Posted in Demonic Plot, Divine Plan, John