The final circle of the life of Christ begins at the height of earthly ministry, descends to the depths of Satanic realms and finishes in the highest place that heaven affords. ‘‘Far above all principalities and powers’’ Eph ch 1 v 21. To be noted, not just above, but ‘‘far above’’ all other powers. At the beginning of this study we saw that God’s intentions began in mystery. Indeed as each circle and phase of this planned life unfolds we realise that each phase is shrouded in mystery. The enemy is without doubt kept in the dark concerning the plans of the only Wise God. When he discovers God’s plans Satan seems to think that his great opportunity for victory has arisen, and duly attacks, but we can now see that Satan’s efforts were part and parcel of the means whereby God planned to accomplish His purposes. This final circle of Sacrifice or Suffering, begins with the “Intention” once more hidden. However it is hidden in his Will. The first circle began in the MIND of God, the Second in the HEART, and this third circle in his WILL. He set his face as a flint. Only Jesus knew what he would do. Having read his bible, the Spirit had unfolded bit by bit, the knowledge and timing of His great purpose for coming to this earth. Jesus referred quite often to His ‘‘hour’’: A space of time within a day. This offers the question “which day?” or “whose day”. In order to see the “work of Christ” within the Father’s grand plan we need to consider this following passage taken from the pages on site of the “The Pattern of Threes in Scripture” Three ‘‘days’’ Eternal Plan. 1.The Father’s day. 2. The Holy Spirit’s Day 3. The Son’s Day The eternal plan so far revealed to man can be seen as the work of ‘‘Three days’’. Each day is a dispensational period, built upon and from the work of the day before. The first day is the Father’s, the second is the Holy Spirit’s and the third is the day of the Lord Jesus. The day of the Lord Jesus is yet to come. Jesus was given this “one hour” within the Day of the Father’s work. He was part of the Father’s work. It was God who sent His son. The Son did the works of the Father and spoke the words of the Father.( Read John ch 5, ch 8 and ch 10.) He came to reveal the Father. Father’s do not exist in a vacuum they need a child to exist as a Father. This present age, since Jesus left is the Day of the Holy Spirit’s work. The next age will be the “Day of the Lord.” If you want to look further you will see that each member of the Godhead, has a tripartite work. The Father’s work is ; Creation, Redemption, Sovereign Government. The Spirit’s work is; In the World: - Convincing of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment. In the Church:- Propagating Truth, Producing Fruit, Promoting Gifts The Son’s Work is; Prophet, Priest and King. Note once more the obvious work of Jesus as Prophet Priest and King. Before the Transfiguration, he was predominantly a prophet. (or servant) After the transfiguration, He moved nearer into the realm of Priesthood through his sacrifice for Sin on the cross. His credentials as a priest, were well established. He could be identified totally as a man. So much so that many failed to be able to believe he was anything other than a man. He was not a priest of Aaron’s line, for he was family born of the tribe of Judah, but the writer to the Hebrews points out that Ps 110, prophesied that his priesthood would be "after the order of Melchizedec." (But that is another study- see the site page on Hebrews). The priestly ministry was accomplished on the altar of the cross. He was both the High Priest and the Sacrifice for sin. He entered into God’s presence with His own blood. Thus we see that all Service leads to Suffering, and Suffering leads to sovereignty. (2 Tim. ch 2. v 12.) For His work of priesthood was be followed by his ministry as King. And ‘‘He shall reign till he has put all enemies under his feet.’’ (1 Cor. ch 15. v. 25.) It is worth noting that as the ‘‘hour’’ approached, the narrative of the gospels is written in terms of months, weeks, days, and finally hours. The proportional amount of space given to each denotes their importance and intensity. See again the chart which shows the content of the four gospels. We can also see the progress of the final ‘‘circle’’ in it’s descent, in relation to the city of Jerusalem.
INTENTION: We see Jesus set his face Towards the city ANNUNCIATION: By the children . Into the city CONFLICT: The crucifixion took place Out of the city
INTENTION: Setting His Face: Luke ch 9 v 51. ‘‘Jesus steadfastly set his face to go towards Jerusalem.’’ Isaiah 50 v 3. ‘‘Therefore have I set my face as a flint.’’ We see the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the determination of Jesus to do His Father’s will, and give His life for all mankind. The obstacles were as obvious then as they are to those today who wish to do the Father’s will. Your nearest and dearest sometimes don’t understand what you are doing. They are prompted by the very best intentions and desires for your happiness and safety, but their voices of persuasion are no less the voice of Satan as was the voice of Peter to Jesus. (Mark ch 8 v 33.) Within a few verses previously, we see the same man ‘‘commended’’ as speaking by the Spirit of God, in confessing Jesus as the Son of God. In the flesh he had no conception of the cross or death to self, as a divine path for God’s servants. God’s way is hidden from human minds. True wisdom is the way of God. Man who boasts of his mental capacities, has no concept of true wisdom. Man’s wisdom is foolishness to God. His ways are as distant from man’s ways as the heaven is above the earth. The cross is God’s way. It would never be man’s way. We preach the cross in the gospel, for it makes men wise, unto salvation. Sometimes by human wisdom and well intentioned motives, many a servant of the Lord has so weakened and diluted the message of the cross as to take away the very source of its power. This point is highlighted as we measure the popularity of Jesus. We see clearly that his ministerial popularity began to decline rapidly as He began to speak of the cross. The shadow of the cross so covered his mind that his ministry reflected his mood. After the transfiguration, as he sets his face towards the next phase of his mission we note three references to the cross in short succession, which reveal the predominant thought. Mark them in your bible, if you wish just to see their close proximity. Mark ch 8 v 31. Mark ch 9 v 31, and Mark ch 10 v 33 and 34. Linked with these verses he preaches to those who followed Him the message of the cross personally applied. Mark ch 8 v 34-36. ‘‘If any man will come after me let him take up his cros5s daily... etc. In John ch. 6 v 66. we read ‘‘From that time forth, many disciples turned back and no longer followed Him’’. Note this narrative closely and you will see that the people were very happy to enjoy the meal of loaves and fishes but even the disciples found it hard to swallow the ‘‘spiritualisation’’. It reminds one of children in Sunday school who listen intently to a story, but switch off and fidget when the ‘‘lesson’’ is applied. Many followed only for earthly reasons and could not understand the spiritual teaching of Jesus. They thought in the flesh, with the natural mind. Jesus said that his words were spiritual. (John 6) Only those with the Spirit can understand. Only those with the Spirit would want to understand. As the cross approaches so the spiritual temperature rises. This reveals the spirituality of Jesus, contrasting sharply with the carnality of the disciples.
The Effect of the Cross on His disciples: The cross brought out all that was ugly and unsavoury in the disciples, but all that was lovely and sweet in the Lamb of God. Luke ch 9, records the Transfiguration which occurred about six months before the cross. Also in close proximity we notice the following characteristics of the disciples. 1. Lack of faith. (power) ( ch 9 v 41.) The failure of the disciples to heal the sick boy (ch 9 v 37 - 45.) and the rebuke of Jesus calling them “perverse and unbelieving.” ‘‘How long must I put up with you? 2. Spiritual pride. (ch 9 v 46) The quest to be the greatest in the Kingdom caused rivalry in the camp. 3 Spiritual jealousy. (ch 9 v 49.) The affront in seeing others doing what they had been unable to do, made them castigate those who were involved in the ministry of casting out demons. 4. Intolerance: ch 9 v 54. The rejection by the Samaritans, was taken personally. They wanted God to bring retribution on the Samaritans. It was not they themselves who were being rejected but God. God has no such reaction to rejection as the disciples had. They had no concept of the Spirit of God. The Spirit that was leading Jesus to the cross. Discipleship leads to the cross. There the flesh is dealt with through death. All these things are easily recognised as Satanic characteristics, which find expression through the flesh. These disciples were obviously still “in the flesh”. The pathway to the cross brings all such things into the open, so that they can be ultimately slain. The pathway to the cross is a lonely road. Jesus had to set his face steadfastly otherwise perhaps he would have been diverted by 1. Well intentioned loved ones 2. Unpopularity amongst followers 3. Lack of spiritual insight from those closest to Him. They followed but were totally out of step. They were still in the flesh and walking almost exactly opposite to the direction of the cross. In the garden they fell asleep, having no concept of what was going on in terms of spiritual warfare. 4. The loneliness of the road. All eventually forsook him. Peter’s boast of staying with Him to the death was a clear case of fleshly expression. Had the battle been a physical one, Peter would have been a hero and just the kind to have on your side, but Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and the weapons of warfare are not carnal. In spite of the fact that no-one else was going with him He carried on. Let’s remind ourselves again of the words Jesus spoke to Peter in John ch 21. When Peter had been told that his life was to be the way of the cross from then on, Peter enquires as to what will happen to another disciple. Jesus said:’’ ‘‘What does it matter what happens to him, you must follow me’’ Those who have walked the way of the cross will know it to be a lonely road, and it seems as if there is only you and the Lord on it. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the Disciples had called Jesus to follow them. Peter James and John had a fishing business. They were partners. May be you have never thought of the possibility of Jesus following them. Why should that be such an unusual thought, since all too often in our churches we see people who become christians on the basis of Jesus entering into their lifestyle, rather than they changing their own lifestyle to enter into the lifestyle of Jesus. It seems that Jesus is as much an extra in their lives as the central heating or a new conservatory. Few seem to think that the christian life is a call, from ourselves unto Jesus. It would surprise many to realise that Jesus is more interested in our death style than in our life style. John ch 21 records the final meeting that Jesus had with these fishermen and their boats. When he first called them and when he said farewell he wrought a wonderful miraculous catch of fish. In neither case did he exhort them to rejoice in the wealth created by the catch. But rather he called them to leave all in the first instance and in the second he spoke of Peter’s death-style, rather than an improvement in his lifestyle. It may be worth the exercise, for those who think that more money in the church or ministry would solve most problems, to let their imagination run riot, on what would have happened if Jesus had in fact gone into the fishing business with Peter James & John. The amount of success would have been unimaginable. If he could catch fish so easily, it would not be difficult to imagine that before long He would have brought about great changes in their hardworking business. Soon there would be no more weary nights of hard labour or any more tedious days of mending and cleaning nets. On the contrary, it is quite probable, had he so desired, they would only to have set out a row of baskets on the seashore and all the fish would have jumped into them at his command. Indeed every kind of fish would have landed in their own baskets, to save any troublesome sorting. Such success, such wealth would soon accumulate. Bigger boats developing into shipyards, shipyards into engineering, etc. There would be lots of fish shops evolving into supermarkets, until two thousand years later the christian church would have possessed all the money in the world. Under such divine administration the poor would have been eradicated. No church would be wondering if they could afford two thousand pounds for a new kitchen or two thousand for a new photocopier, or even a conference speaker for the weekend!!!!. Do you get the picture? All the things we think we could really do with in order to carry out our ministry we would have had ready available. Peter James and John could have still been alive due to the resurrection power of the Lord. It may all sound very fanciful but that is the scenario envisaged if Jesus had followed the disciples into their lifestyle. But on the contrary, God ordained it that these fishermen, and all His subsequent disciples should leave their business and enter in the death-style of Jesus. “Follow me”, were the first two words and the last two words that Jesus ever spoke to Peter. Peter followed him . Where was he going? To prosperity, success and popularity? No, but to the Cross. Amazing business plan, don’t you think? The tragedy in the christian church is that “blessing” today is measured by how much money is coming in. Some churches have only one priority, which is to balance the books. Can we afford to pay the ministers? Can we afford to keep all these churches open? are the questions of the day. The accountants and not the evangelists pave the way forward for such churches. Seldom is the cry heard, “Let’s get out and preach repentance, and so bring folk into the church, but rather “how can we manage to survive now that less folk are going to church.”
ANNUNCIATION; The children: As Jesus approached the city riding on an ass, the children heralded the King. The cross was not a gamble, but a calculated cost in a battle, in which the victory was sure. The Intention, originally declared, was being announced. The intention of this circle was not the cross. The intention was the Victorious Ascension and glorification of the King. Thus they were announcing, not a King going into battle but a Victor returning from the battle, anticipating His kingdom. The Psalmist said ’’ Lift up your heads O Gates, and the King of Glory will come in. ‘‘Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” The children.,the young colt and the palm leaves symbolise the New Life of the New Kingdom.
CONFLICT: The Cross The final week is so intense it merits detailed study. Each gospel writer reflects the cross in a different light. In Matthew we see the King invading the very headquarters of the enemy camp. In Mark we see the suffering Servant, as an ox which has laboured tirelessly for its master, eventually killed and totally devoured as a sacrifice Luke reveals the divine doctor taking in his body the awful fatal disease of man and procuring by his death an antidote for all. John reveals the cross as an agreement between Father and Son, both ascending the mountain together. An agreement made before time began, was faithfully being fulfilled. Jesus was ready to drink the cup that His father gave him. Here then is a brief record of each writer’s account of the last week before the cross. The records are not as clear chronologically as some think they should have been written. But God’s unusual way of recording things is not ours and the "confusion” has its purpose. Careful study may suggest to some minds that the events recorded took more than one week. Details as to the exact sequence of events during Passover as celebrated by the Jews at that time, are not recorded in the gospel narrative. Perhaps if we did know, there would have been a proliferation of man-made ceremonies and celebrations to commemorate the events, and thus detract from the real meaning of the cross and the work that Jesus did. Much that is missed from the gospels in terms of natural facts and times, leaves the way open for the Epistles to present the spiritual life of the Lord Jesus, ‘‘for we know not Christ after the flesh’’. Tradition sets the crucifixion on Friday and the Resurrection on Sunday. (first day of the week) But if Jesus was in the grave three days and three nights then it is impossible for some to see how He was crucified on Friday. Some argue that late Friday afternoon was a “day”, Saturday was a day and a few hours Sunday morning was also a “day”. But though that would give us the three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it only leaves us with two nights- Friday & Saturday. The narrative of the gospels clearly indicates that there was a Sabbath the day after the crucifixion. The error perhaps comes when we suppose that this must have been a Saturday (the Jewish weekly Sabbath). But that week was a very holy week and there were two Sabbaths that particular week. One took place on the Thursday, so Jesus was almost certainly crucified on Wednesday not Friday. Taking that as a possibility, then we have to work backwards in days and attempt to fit in the events as recorded in all four gospels. This chart is such an attempt.
Further Notes in the text: There appears to be a slight difference in the gospel accounts of “The anointing.” John seems to infer that it took place in the home of Lazarus. The other writers say it was in the home of Simon the leper. (Simon the leper was simon the Pharisee who was the father of Judas. If you read our notes on Luke's gospel you will find a fuller explanation. Jesus probably healed Simon.) Some might clear the confusion by saying that there was perhaps two anointings, but it is hardly likely that the same conversation would ensue, on both occasions. Perhaps a better explanation comes with a careful reading of John’s account. 1. It does not definitely say it was in the home of Lazarus, but that Lazarus and Mary and Martha were present. They could have been neighbours and interhouse access was common. 2. John infers it was six days before the feast, the other gospels say two days before. However, John does not declare the day specifically either, merely that Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before. Later in the chapter he says it was the ‘‘next day’’ that the Entry into the city took place. However again with a closer look, especially more clearly in the A.V. it is the day after the chief priests consulted and planned to kill Jesus, not necessarily the day after the anointing. Another point to notice is that there can be no doubt that there seems to be no ‘‘three’’ days between Luke ch 23 v 54-6 and Luke ch 24 v1 which record the Burial, the Sabbath and the Resurrection: Likewise in Mark ch 15 v 47 and ch 16 v 1. The only ‘‘gap’’ is found in Matthew’s account. Matt. Ch 27 v 62: The next day after the burial Pilate orders a seal upon the tomb. This was a ‘‘special Sabbath’’ according to John , but is only referred to as the “day after preparation day’’ in Matthew. Matt. ch 28 begins the ‘‘day after the Sabbath’’ We take this to be the day after the normal Sabbath which was their Saturday. One would imagine that the families were fully occupied with the feast days and Sabbath day. So with that and the tremendous events of the trial and crucifixion, the women retreated to their homes. Most would be in great shock no doubt. Their household chores would also need doing. Any thought of going to the grave could well have had to be left for a few days. And if there were two Sabbaths in the week, i.e Thursday and Saturday, then they would obviously wait till they were over. It is within the pattern of God’s planning to ponder that while Christ was in the grave, the whole community was quiet & still, observing the two Sabbaths so perfectly timed.
The Final Week of Ministry. The deliberate words of a dying man need to be respected perhaps more than most of his words spoken or written in good health. No less in the case of Jesus, are his final words important. Once again in measuring the amount of space given to these final discourses we reflect on their importance. In Matthew’s Gospel we have chapters 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25. These all deal with his final message to the people as he taught in the temple within the space of a day or two. In John’s gospel we have ch 13, 14, 15, 16, & 17 which deal with his final words to his closest disciples within the space of a few hours. This is a lot of recorded speaking. It should make it clear beyond doubt that Jesus was pouring out from his heart all that was left to be said. He said at one time, that He had many things to say, but his hearers were not ready to listen. Now at the final hour, His concern for the disciples opens like a fountain, for He knew the difficulty they would have in understanding the cross. It is only as we appreciate the knowledge that Jesus had concerning the lateness of the hour that we will appreciate the full weight of importance of these chapters. We may also be able to understand the hidden feelings of Jesus as he spoke these words. First, let us look to Matthew’s account of his teaching to the people in the temple. We can summarise the contents thus. Ten Parables: The fig- tree. ch 21 v 18-22 The two sons. ch 21 v 28- 32 The Tenants who killed the landlord’s son ch 21 v 33-46 The Wedding banquet. & wedding garment ch 22 v 1-14. The fig tree again- ch 24. v 32. The thief in the night. ch 24 v 42- 44. The foolish servant who got drunk ch 24 v 45-50 The ten virgins. ch 25 v 1-13 The Five-Two-One talents ch 25. v 14-30. The sheep and the goats. ch 25. v 31-46. Most of these have a common theme in that they refer to the second coming of Jesus. He is in fact telling the people that he is about to go away but his return is definite. Later we shall see that his discourse with the disciples had the same tone in it. Five Questions: 1. His authority; ch 21 v 23. -The Basic Question 2. Taxes to Caesar; ch 22 v 15. - The political question 3. Marriage in heaven; ch 22 v 24. - The social question 4. The greatest commandment; ch 22 v 34.-The religious question. 5. What do you think of Christ- who’s son is He? ch 22 v 42. - The Vital Question Unbelieving man has always argued with God and questioned Him. We have a very clear picture of this in these chapters. Some think they have the right not to believe simply because they harbour questions, the answers for which they have not been told or don’t accept. Some may have a political question they want an answer to. ‘‘Whose side is God on? Caesar or the Jews? Should one support a corrupt regime?” etc. Then there is the question of eternity. Those who don’t believe in an after-life or judgment, mock the thought of heaven or hell by painting silly pictures based upon what happens here socially on earth. Jokes abound about heaven and hell. Then there is the question of religions. Which is right. What does God expect, and which religion is doing it the best? Most of the questioning in this chapter, was not sincere enquiry but rather an attempt to trip Jesus up in his words of wisdom. So is man’s reasoning against God. As was the case with Jesus and the Jews, so will be the case of such unbelievers at the judgement. God will answer their questions quite easily and reveal the wickedness of the unbelieving hearts. The crunch comes when Jesus (God) returns the question. He asks but one. ‘‘What do you think of Christ?’’ That is the most important question. The answer will determine our eternal destiny. If we don’t make up our mind as to who Jesus really was, (and is), while we are here on earth, it will be too late to be convinced when we stand before Him in judgment. Seven Woes; to the teachers of the law, the religious leaders. Chapter 23. Woe to them because; v 13. They don’t enter the kingdom and stop others from doing so. v 15. They convert a gentile into a Jew and bring him into greater darkness than he was in before. v 16. They make foolish and false vows to God v 23. They tithe of herbs and such but their lives are not filled with the spiritual herbs and spices of mercy and justice. v.25. They make great importance of washing outward things yet inside spiritually, they are dirty. v 27. Outwardly they are like whitewashed sepulchres, yet inside full of dead men’s bones. v. 29. They venerated the tombs of prophets killed by ancestors, yet fail to see they are the same stock and bear their guilt, in rejecting the greatest prophet of them all. This was the Lord’s final word to the so-called spiritual leaders of the Jews. When one realises that such people as Moses and Samuel, once held such positions, one can understand the full weight of the Lord’s words. It is the people who suffer when the leaders are out of line with God. They actually taught the Law, yet Jesus condemned them for not only disobeying it, but even bringing Gentiles into the Jewish faith. Not that such an act is without merit usually, but in their case they were bringing the gentile into a worse and more dangerous spiritual position than they were in their ‘‘paganism’’. What a condemnation! Jesus once said that ‘‘If the light that is in you is darkness, then how great is that darkness!’’ In the world in which we live there is a great tendency to tolerate or even endorse multi religionism. Yet Satan does his greatest work in the guise of religion. He is a liar and a counterfeiter by nature. He seduces more people to Hell through religion than any other means. However, one can be sure that these condemnatory words from Jesus were spoken from a heart of love and regret. The word ‘‘woe’’ seems to indicate a sense of sorrow, for the judgment that these false and blind leaders were to bring upon themselves. As one reads the narrative of the crucifixion, one becomes amazed at the fact that Jesus was eventually crucified. On the face of it, such a thing would prove an impossibility. Certainly the vast majority of the people were in favour of Jesus and his ministry. Pilate himself found no fault and was unwilling to have him crucified. Yet within twelve hours of frenzied uproar, stirred on by these religious bigots, the crucifixion took place. The prophet had foretold ‘‘They hated him without a cause’’. The amount of hate was commensurate with the lack of cause. The sad thing about it all is in the power and effect of false leaders. The people suffered with their leaders when the judgment of God fell upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Thousands of Jews were crucified when the Romans attacked under Titus. We see in these “woes” all the similarities of false religion today. It is the natural man seeing only the outward and the natural, without any understanding of the spiritual and unseen. Typically we see this revealed in Jesus’ reference to herbs In verse 23, of chapter 23, Jesus intrinsically links herbs with spiritual qualities such as Mercy and Justice. If we ponder on the significance of herbs in the Jewish feasts and Jesus saying such things as ‘‘Ye are the salt of the earth’’, ’’ "let your speech be seasoned with salt’’ and ‘‘have salt in yourselves,” we can perhaps see once more, how natural things have a spiritual counterpart. He obviously wasn’t referring to literal salt, but never felt the need to explain. The heavenly eye looks at the natural and sees the spiritual counterpart. To Jesus they were one and the same.
The Final Discourse with the disciples: John ch 13-17. These passages arguably constitute the most precious part of scripture. There is a tenderness in its spirituality not found in any other passage. The situation calls for something rather special. There never was a night in history to compare with this long evening, which continued no doubt into the early hours. By which time all the disciples had fled in terror, and left Him alone. Knowing full well how his arrest and crucifixion would affect the disciples, the loving Saviour ministers to them according to their need at that hour. John begins the account with a phrase that could have well appeared at the end of the gospel account. His use of it at the beginning sets a foundation for the rest of the discourse and pattern of events. ‘‘Having loved His own, who were in the world, He loved them to the last.’’ (Ch 13 v 1.) The same verse tells us that Jesus had come to the fulness of his awareness and knowledge of who He was, where He had come from, and where he was going to. Such knowledge had not been acquired from writing in the sky or by the appearance of angels in the middle of the night, but was the product of living ‘‘in the spirit’’ by the light of His bible. As by faith he grew, so the spiritual man within Him has grown in knowledge and stature. Verse three declares “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,” It reveals his state of mind and sets the tone for his following actions. Later he says to the disciples ‘‘You call me master and Lord, and rightly so, for so I am.’’ But his growth into such knowledge about who He was did not produce the kind of pride which is so often seen in other men, who are invested with high office. The scripture seems to link his full realization of his true nature with the following sequence. Jesus took a towel and washed the disciples feet. He became their servant, not as a charade or mimic, but as an expression of God’s character. What a picture? Peter seemed to be the only one who realised what was happening. and he promptly objected to the Lord, ‘‘belittling’’ himself in this way. He did not understand what was happening, and Jesus knew he didn’t. ‘‘later you will understand ’’ said Jesus. When Peter was told that unless Jesus washed his feet he could ‘‘have no part with Christ,” Peter was so taken aback with such a suggestion, that it was too awful even to contemplate. Thus, he requested his head and hands to be washed. That would have made the washing complete, within the usual pattern with which we are now very familiar, head, hands and feet. But Jesus said there was no need for that kind of washing, it was not a ‘‘soul’’ cleansing, it was not even a body cleansing. Indeed it was not any kind of cleansing, the significance lay in the Person who did the Act. The person washed was only affected because of the sight of the One who did the washing. So you see that Jesus was giving them an example of how they should treat one another. It would be inevitable that later there would be an hierarchy in the church, order and government demand such. But unlike any other organisation in the world the church was to be different, for therein those in authority were to be the servants. Having had his feet washed by His master and Lord, Peter would never think it a humiliating thing to wash someone else’s feet, for as Jesus predicted in verse 17, it would be a blessing to do as His master did. There is something terribly false in the gap between pulpit and pew, in this day and age. The pomp and ceremony of church processions with the clergy dressed in their fine robes and large hats, seems a million miles from John chapter 13. It no doubt is. One is often asked the question concerning the reason for the decline in the power of the church. It is not the complete answer but you will see a large part of the answer in such places as St David’s in Wales. Beside the magnificent cathedral which no doubt the humble laity were persuaded to build in sacrificial labour, you will see the ruins (thank God) of a palace, of equal size and grandeur which the same poor laity built to house the bishop. How the church ever reached such a position from this scene at the last supper, one can never guess, but it is in no way an ascent, but rather a dreadful diabolical descent into the realms of stinking pride which ascends to the nostrils of God. Even today the church is far from having exorcised the same spirit that built such places as the bishop’s palace at St, David’s. It is displayed as a tourist attraction, with not a small note of pride. It should really be clothed in sackcloth and ashes. Theologians stride the corridors of colleges and universities, dissecting by intellectual thought and study both God and His word. They seek to grasp hold of a triune transcendent God, and pass on their knowledge through a multiplicity of books in small print ten times bigger than the bible. If any man had all the power and knowledge that God possesses he would hardly be humble. Yet our God is humble. Mockers affect him not. He knows they will reap what they sow.
The Last Supper: Although the scriptures record the events of the last week with greater detail than any other portion of his life, we are still left with great gaps in the narrative which stimulate our curiosity and speculation. As our studies deal mainly with the written scripture we must leave to others the details concerning the celebration of the Passover, to those who have written elsewhere. However, it is difficult to ascertain from reading those who have written of such extra-biblical details, whether the present Passover celebrated by the Jews today, was the same as actually celebrated by Jesus, and his disciples. Alfred Edersheim deals with these things very adequately and I can do no more than commend his writings to you as essential reading for any bible believing student.
Here is some detail regarding the table arrangement, etched from Edersheim's "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" Vol 2 P494 It was a low eastern table, two parts covered with a cloth, standing or suspended, the single divans or pillows arranged in horseshoe fashion around the table The cheif person occupied the divan in the middle of the table We know from the gospel record that John occupied the place to his right, but the place for the chief guest, would be at his left. In the strife of the disciples, (Luke's account) about which should be accounted the greatest, we believe that this place was occupied by Judas. This explains how Jesus gave the sop to Judas without exciting any great notice among the others. None of the others seemed to know what conversation had passed before Judas left. As regards Peter one can quite understand that following the Lord's rebuke of those seeking the greatest positions, that he would have deliberately taken the lowest place at the end of the table. In this place he could have easily beckoned to John, over against him, to ask who the traitor was.
Edersheim fills in many of the gaps. For example he shows how James and John would have gone to getthe lamb forthe passover meal and illuminatesthe gentile mind to allthe Jewish practices atthe time. He even suggests that Judas would have paid for it beforehand and it was maybe then that he met the religious leaders regarding betraying Jesus. Edersheim believes that this was probably the only time that Jesus headed a passover feast. Previously he would have been a guest at another's table. So as Jesus celebrated with his disciples forthe last time, he was joining the two testaments, by eating the Feast for the last time that it would ever be relevant on this earth and anticipating the new testament when he says he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until he did so in the Kingdom.
John chapter 16: If a parent had occasion to leave their children for some length of time, one would expect their final message to their children would be much the same as that of Jesus to His disciples.They would seek to allay any fears about their departure, assuring them that it was for their good, and very necessary.They would seek to assure their children that they were not being abandoned but rather that ample provision and protection would be afforded tothem. Jesus does this very clearly at the beginning of John ch 14, and throughout the discourse, other features of the ‘‘parent-concern’’ are evident. Departing parents would give them advice and warn of the dangers,- Don’t play with fire, Do not fall out and to see that someone was in charge. Eat well- Spend wisely. Telephone number if things go wrong. Remember the Auntie or friendly neighbour living close by who was always there to act almost as a replacement for the parents. Don’t annoy the neighbours, etc, Similarly Jesus spoke tothem of; The dangers they would face, in the world and from the world. The need to love one another To fellowship and abide in the truth of the scriptures. Keep praying. The promise of the coming Holy spirit.
No illustration is perfect, but this one mainly shows the love of the Lord Jesus and the fact that his departure was for the good of the disciples. "It is better for you that I go."
The Way,the Truth,The Life. This is one of the most familiar phrases inthe whole bible. Check out its entry in our list of threes. You will see that He speaks firstly in Ch 14: the Way to the father’s house, Ch 15 The Life- symbolised by abiding in the True Vine just as he had abode within the Father.The vine is symbolic of Life. For wine is the symbol of divine life, and the importance of being connected or dead is obvious. Ch 16,The Truth: The Holy Spirit on three occasions is referred to as the Spirit of Truth. IN: One of the most interesting and important features of this discourse is the use of the word ‘‘in’’. Jesus speaks of his relationship with His Father as being “IN” the Father”, and the Father “IN” Him, often illustrated by a poker in the fire and fire in the poker. When Jesus speaks of his relationship withthe disciples, He uses the same language. This makes the church unique. No other organisation claims such relationship. How true is the well worn saying, "it is not a religion, but a relationship."The oneness of life, flowing from the Father tothe Son, is exactly as the life flowing fromthe Son to the Spirit who dwells in the believer.The Son glorifies the Father. He speaks the words and doesthe acts of the Father.The Holy Spirit similarly exalts the Lord Jesus. Such selflessness, and ‘‘self-effacement,’’ should be the attitude of christian tochristian, rather than personal aggrandisement. Few, if any seek the exaltation of others above themselves, and it would be very rare indeed for someone, to push another forward to their own detriment. ‘‘All men seek their own’’ as Paul said tothe Philippians. All too familiar is the occasion when within a church fellowship someone will have an idea or desire to do some kind of work or effort in the church.Then usually it is left to them to carrythe burden. Folk will seek elbow room and support for what they are involved in but find it hard to support others in their work.
The Father revealed: Jesus speaks of our relationship to the Father, in Chapter 14. Because Jesus came to ‘‘show us the Father’’ we have in John’s gospel, as much as we might need to know of the Father. A well worn potted sermon from John’s Gospel is based upon the following texts: The Father’s Heart: ch 1 v 18.The gift of His son is an expression of the love in the Father’s heart. He gave the very best He had. The Father’s Hand: ch 10 v 28-29. In chapter ten we are given a picture in which the Son has hold of one hand of a believer and the Father hold of the other. Our security is certain. The Father’s House: ch 14. v.1 Chapter 14 tells us thatThe Son is preparing the Father’s house forthe new guest,- His bride. We are accepted bythe father ‘‘in the beloved’’. So this discourse in chapters 14- 16 merely continues to show why Jesus came.The Son came to reveal the Father. Not every man is a father but every son has one. Notice the apparent surprise of Jesus that Philip had not seen the very thing that Jesus had come to reveal. Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus must have been inwardly quite disappointed that he should have been so blind. ‘‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet you don’t know who I am? If you have seen me. you have seen the father.’’ However, it could very well be true to say that the disciples knew the Father more than they knew the Son. For although they had lived with the Son, and seen Him, Jesus had only revealed the Father to them, whom they had known previously as their God. He had spoken the words of the Father and done the works of the Father.Therefore, it was left tothe Holy Spirit to reveal the Son. That is His work in all believers within the church today.
The Work of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit works inthe Church and inthe world. Let us first concern ourselves with His work inthe World. Jesus said He would come to convincethe world of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment. 1; He would convincethe world of sin becausethe world did not believe in Jesus. 2; He would convincethe world of Righteousness because Jesus had gone into the presence of the father. 3; He would convincethe world of Judgment becausethe Prince of the world himself, (their leader) had now been judged and condemned. From ‘‘cold’’ reading of this scripture, it seems difficult to understand, for the various aspects of His work and the reasons connected to them are not too obvious. Even the following explanation may be limited. 1.The Holy Spirit will convictthe world of sin, because it believes not in me.’’ Man’s sin has always been measured bythe amount of ‘‘light ’’ he has received.The greaterthe light,the greater the condemnation. Man is expected to walk in the light he has been sent. It is the fact that they hold the truth in unrighteousness that condemns them without excuse. Just as the Law was given to reveal sin, so Jesus came as a far greater light. So to disbelieve in Him would reveal far greater sin and greater condemnation. Jesus said that had he not come,then their sin would not have been as obvious. Now that he had come they had no excuse or cloak for their sin.The light had been revealed and they had rejected it.The greatest sin, comes from the rejection of the greatest light. Such was the light sent through Jesus Christ that there can be no greater sin than to Disbelieve on Jesus. It is probably true to say that there is only one sin of any importance which will determine whether we will spend eternity in hell or not. That sin is unbelief, for all other sins are forgiven the moment one believes in Jesus. That faith is counted by God as righteousness. No person comes to believe in Jesus without the work of the Holy spirit within them. 2.The Holy Spirit convinces the world of Righteousness Righteousness has to do with Sin and Justice. (No.1 & No.3) The fact that Jesus now stands in the presence of the Father confirms two things. a, Man's debt to God for Sin has been paid.The scales of Justice have been balanced. Jesus fulfilled the law in keeping it and paying its penalty. b,The Righteousness of God is revealed in that he is just and because a just penalty has been paid he is faithful and just now to count all who are inChrist to be Righteous. This isthe only kind of righteousness that is valid in God's sight. It is the righteousness that comes by faith in what Jesus did on the cross. He entered in to God's presence as our representative- our mediator, our advocate. Hebrews ch 9 v 28, suggests that Jesus himself faced ‘‘judgment” after death. He stood before his Father’s throne, and his offering was accepted. That offering was not only his death but also His holy life. This is what is meant by the work of the Holy Spirit, being to “convince men of righteousness because Jesus has gone to the Father.” Our salvation is gained only on the grounds that we are in Christ. It is true in one sense to say that there is only one man in heaven, and that is Jesus. We are in Him.The Holy Spirit convinces us that the only righteousness that is acceptable to God is really the righteousness of Jesus, for our own in comparison is like filthy rags. Hebrews ch 10 v 28 tells us that we all must appear beforethe judgement seat. Only those hiding in their advocate Jesus will be acquitted, God cannot acquit the guilty. In the Acts of the Apostles ch. 17 v 31. we see this point endorsed by the Apostle Paul in his preaching. “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him fromthe dead.” 3. “He will convincethe world of judgment, becausethe prince of this world now stands condemned.’’ The death of Jesus, reveals the true ‘‘guilty one’’. That is the devil. He isthe prince of this world. He controls the world and the people in it. He is the reason why people don’t seethe light for he blinds their minds lest they do so. He keeps them in darkness and folly. Those who are in His kingdom stand condemned with him when his kingdom falls.The devil and all his angels were cast out. Much the same as any army in defeat.The cross was an act in eternity more than in time.The death of Jesus puts the Love of God for man beyond question. Someone else must be the author of all the bad and evil inthe world.The guilty one is revealed, his defeat is total. He who had the power of death, was defeated by death. When David slew Goliath, it meant also the downfall of the Philistines who championed him. If the world chooses Satan (Barabbas?) rather than Christ as their hero,then their judgement is sealed, and their eternal imprisonment determined. Satan’s downfall is their downfall. “He will convince the world of judgment, becausethe prince of this world now stands condemned.’’
The work of the Holy Spirit in the church True to the pattern of threes in scripture we see His work in three parts . He reveals the Mysteries of the Spirit to illuminate the MIND He produces the Fruit of the Spirit to satisfythe HEART He gives the Gifts of the Spirit to those who are WILL-ing to work in his church.
Three gifts of the mind; Wisdom, Knowledge, Discernment Three gifts of the heart; Tongues, Prophecy, Interpretation Three gifts of the will; Faith, Miracles Healing. Jesus said that what comes from the mouth isthe expression of the heart, as are tongues, prophecy and Interpretation.The gifts, Faith Miracles and Healing are of the will in the sense that they are visible and active. Nothing happens in the world without the Holy Spirit and nothing happens in the church without the Holy Spirit; He is truly the great supremo of this age, until Jesus returns. One last “thought” on this final discourse. Jesus said in John ch 14. that He would not leave the disciples “as orphans". We all know that an orphan is a child without mother or father. Jesus therefore was inferring that a mother or father would be sent to look after them after he had gone. We know that he was referring tothe Holy Spirit. So then in the Holy Spirit it could be said that we have a wonderful expression of the motherhood of God. For it is by the Spirit we are born and fed, washed, kept clean, educated, equipped etc. He takes care, He intercedes (like all mothers) to the Father, He is truly tender and gentle as a dove. We are familiar with the truth that God is our Father and Jesus is our brother for we read in Hebrews. “He is not ashamed to call us brethren” If everything is in threes, and every three is an expression of the Father Holy Spirit & the Son,then may bethe family pattern of father, mother and children must also be an earthly expression of the heavenly.
The Final Hours The cross is the centre of the universe.The wonders of the universe have fascinatedthe human mind since time began, Statistics given by scientists concerning its size and the number of planets and solar systems are too much for many a human mind to take in. But such amazing facts are but a child’s puzzle compared tothe wonder of the cross. Hymn writers have sought to express that wonder; Wesley wrote “The immortal Dies”. another wrote “Well might the Sun in darkness hide, and shut her glories in; When Christ,THE MIGHTY MAKER died, for man -the creature’s sin”. If we have not already mentioned it,there is a worthy note in the timing of it all. Note how Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus once he had conspired with the elders. However, when one of the disciples asked where they would be celebrating the Passover, you can surmise that it was probably Judas asking the question. Jesus did not give a direct reply. He sent two disciples to a village and said they would meet a man, and he would take them to the room to be prepared. Judas would be none the wiser. At the supper he was no doubt on edge, waiting for his opportunity to nip out. He had to wait till the end of the supper of course. When given the sop and told by Jesus to do what he had to do quickly, he went out. It was dark bythen. When he had gone Jesus left with his disciples and walked through the vineyards onto the garden. Judas of course, probably returned to the upper room with the soldiers.There is a verse in Mark’s gospel which is unique to Mark’s gospel, concerning a young man that ran away naked from the skirmish inthe garden. We are given no further details, but can again surmise that the upper room was the home of John Mark, (confirmed inthe book of Acts) He had probably gone to bed after the supper. No doubt awoken bythe soldiers and Judas. When they found Jesus gone, perhaps Mark told them or perhaps Judas had a hunch where he might be.They set off for the garden. No doubt then John Mark would have followed dressed only in his dressing gown.They arrived in the garden, not a moment too soon. During his absence Judas missed the discourse of John ch 14, 15, 16 and the prayer in the garden of ch 17. After Jesus had finished praying, and not until,then Judas arrived on cue.The situation was never out of the Lord’s hands. John Mark probably followed the soldiers with their lanterns and staves having quickly thrown on his ‘‘dressing gown’’ in haste. In an attempt to escape arrest, he probably lost his gown. After arrest, things happened dramatically within a frenzied few hours.The sudden opportunity brought by Judas, made it so.The chief priests and elders had planned to wait till afterthe Passover. Arrested in the late evening Jesus was held prisoner over night. Such prisoners would be bound and available to public scorn and physical abuse. One Jewish commentator has described this night as the “blackest night in history”. Prisoners chained up overnight were subject to all kinds of abuse.The trial of Jesus was all done late at night and very early in the morning so the crowds of people who saw the spectacle of the cross at midday, were not part of the fanatical group who stirred up enough uproar to make Pilate think it wasn’t worth risking a riot for the sake of one man. Although it is obvious that Pilate had strong doubts about the justice being meted out, yet he was probablythe greatest ‘‘Job’s Worth’’ man of all time. At one point he shows his hidden ‘‘faith’’ by his fear, displayed when he heard that Jesus was the Son of God. He was not to be numbered with the blinded Jewish leaders. As an ordinary man he must have been impressed with the character and obvious difference between Jesus and the usual candidate for crucifixion. His wife had already warned him to be careful. Three times he told the crowd that he had found no fault worthy of death, in Jesus. Human justice pronounced him innocent. Pilate madethe point of declaring his own faith and testimony when he inscribed ‘‘Jesus the King of the Jews’’ abovethe cross. He rejected the Jews request to have it changed. In as much, tellingthe Jews that as far as he was concerned,they had crucified their King. It was usual for the crimes of the one being crucified to be nailed totheir cross, hence this wonderful verse in Col 2:14: where Paul speaks of our sins which condemned us, have been paid for; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
It is not clear in the gospel accounts if the trial went on all night, but if not, there was not much break in between his going to the Sanhedrin and Pilate.The trial before Herod was a charade. It was no doubt, Pilate’s vain attempt to pass the buck. Jesus had no time for this ‘‘fox’’ who had put John the Baptist to death. Jesus had nothing to say to him for he had failed to listen to John. Grace is silent to those who reject the law.
Threes around the cross: Three crosses. Three wounds, head hands feet Three denials; Three inscriptions Three languages; Latin Hebrew and Greek. Religion. Politics and Culture represented Three hours light 3-6. Three hours darkness 6-9 Three sayings on cross in John Three times Pilate protestedthe innocence of Jesus Three sayings on cross in Luke. Three super-naturals in Matthew. Veil torn, Earthquake, and Dead rise. Three days in grave. Three Women called Mary Prophet Priest & King. Jesus was hit and mocked as a ‘‘Prophet’’ - “ prophecy who hit you’’ Accused as having blasphemed against the temple and mocked as a Priest; ’’ He saved others- can't save himself.’’ As a King, dressed up, crowned, and crucified as ‘‘king of the Jews’’ His three wounds in Head Hands and Feet are a physical expression of Isaiah's prophecy (Ch 53) "He made his soul an offering for sin."
Sayings on the cross: Just as the six hours were divided by light and darkness, so the sayings on the cross seem to display a light and dark side of the tree. The sayings spoken in the light side of the cross could be said to be: ‘‘Father forgive them’’-The first fruit of this tree is Forgiveness ‘‘Mother behold thy son, Son behold thy mother’’. The second fruit of this tree is Fellowship ‘‘Into thy hands I commend my Spirit’’ - purely by inference we have a reminder that the third fruit we have from the tree is the gift of the Spirit. Notice that no man took his life, He gave it up. Death did not approach him, He approached death. Pilate was surprised to hear from Joseph of Aramathea that Jesus was dead so soon and ready for burial.The soldiers were no doubt surprised that Jesus had died beforethe thieves.They thrust a spear into his side just to make sure and from it burst a fountain of blood and water, says John. He seems to want to make a point that he was a witness to this truth.The blood and the water were very significant. We shall discuss that later.The need to break the legs was to make sure the malefactors died quickly as they wanted them off the cross before the Sabbath next day. If the legs were broken then the whole weight of the torso would be in the hands nailed or tied to the cross. (Jesus was definitely nailed.The Thieves may have been tied.) If the body hangs in such a way,then it becomes impossible for the rib cage to expand and being unable to breath, death comes quickly through asphyxiation. The sayings associated with the dark side of the cross remind us of the fact that he took our place. He took our sins in his body. ‘‘My God why hast thou forsaken me.’’ Sin separates us from God. ‘‘I thirst’’ Jesus took our Hell. Hell is a place of thirst for the soul, which when without a body cries after God as the body cries for water. Jesus said that hell was a place where the worm did not die and the fire was not quenched.The worm that comes from the ground when it rains soon dries up. It dies of thirst if it doesn’t get back under ground as soon as the sun comes out.The only relief forthe worm is to die, or the sun (fire) to be quenched. Jesus said neither happened in Hell. So Hell must be a place of continual thirst. It is the soul thirsting after God, but unable to make contact. It is easy for folk to live in this life without thirsting after God for they live in a body,the appetites of which can be satisfied with carnal things. But if you remove the body then all a man has left is his soul which is drawn towards God like iron filings to a magnet. David wrote inthe scripture “My soul thirsts for you like the deer thirsts for the waterbrooks.” This is all confirmed by the parable which Jesus told of a rich man who asked for a drop of water on his tongue for some relief when he was in Hell. There were seven sayings in all.There are many sevens in scripture. None without significance. Seven is the number of completeness. Often linked with God, as an oath maker. (Cf. Beersheba. means“well of oaths” or “sevens.”The name for God in Hebrew is Elohim; It means oaths and power. Therefore seven and oaths are linked.) The two remaining sayings are: ‘‘It is finished’’ and ‘‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’’ When Jesus cried "It is finished" he was really crying "Paid in Full".The debt for Sin had been paid. His redemptive work was finished. However it was also true that his "hour" was over.The “hour” which he referred to in John 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 13:1, 16:21,16:32 and 17:1.The hour which in the eternal purposes of God had been allotted to the forces of darkness.. Luke 22:53:”When I was with you daily inthe temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, andthe power of darkness.” Secondly, his assurance of salvation to the thief. It is worth the thought that perhaps the thief wasthe first into heaven under the New Covenant. Millions have followed him into paradise and the eternal presence of Jesus. There are two very sad pictures besides the cross, in the narrative. One is the women and the followers of Jesus watching from afar. How far? What terrible thoughts and recriminations of guilt they must have been going through.The other is Luke’s reference to the people who came out that day and saw the three crosses. No doubt surprised to recognise Jesus, the miracle worker on the middle cross. As they went their way home the gospel writer records that they ‘‘beat their breasts”
The Blood andthe Water: The fact that water and blood flowed from Christ’s body is very significant This phenomena shines light upon a verse in Hebrews which is quite difficult to understand. Heb 10 22, speaks of "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Here we see two types of cleansing. One is inward (conscience) and the other is outward (body). One is that which God sees,the other is visible to the world. To understand it we need to know something of the ceremonies in the Jewish religion laid down in the Law by Moses. There are two specific cleansing agents. From the Saviour’s side there flowed Water and Blood. In the hymn ‘‘Rock of ages, cleft for me, we have this line: “ Let the water andthe blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin a double cure. Cleanse me from its guilt and power.” It is one thing to be cleansed inwardly from the guilt of sin..The scripture calls this Justification by Faith. It is another thing to know freedom from the power of sin so that in our behaviour and actions other people can easily see we are clean. This cleansing comes through “pure water”. What is that water? Is it tap water? Holy water? Baptismal water? Just two references from scripture may shed light. Firstly Jesus said to his disciples, ’’ Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you.’’ (John ch 15 v 3.)Then in Eph ch 5. v 20 we read that the church is as a bride waiting for the coming of the bridegroom, which is sanctified and cleansed bythe washing of water, which isthe word. Here we notice the word ‘‘sanctify’’. It means to set apart, or make holy, ready and fit for use bythe Lord. So this gives us a clue as to the other cleansing agent, for we are all aware no doubt that the blood of Jesus cleanses from sin. This is the “inner cleanser” purifying our consciences (see Rom. ch 3.) However,there is also the cleansing power of the Word. Why should it be called “water”? We have already mentioned that by the blood we have our sins washed away to bring us justification, now we are reading of the Word washing us unto sanctification. Justification, Sanctification, Glorification, are all great truths or doctrines of the christian life spoken of in the New Testament. Justification has to do with belief and Sanctification has to do with behaviour. One cleansing is within which God sees, the outward cleansing is that whichthe world sees. Scripture teaches us that we have been ‘‘called’’. That calling is ‘‘unto God.’’ It is also a calling ‘‘from’’the world, “unto” God. We are called to be ‘‘Kings and Priests unto God.” Now we know that in the Old Testament, we read of priests.They were all from the tribe of ‘Levi’, which means ‘‘separated’’ or ‘‘joined’’. - separated from the rest and joined unto God. Before such priests went about their duties in the Tabernacle they undertook two types of cleansing. The first was at the Brazen Altar.There an animal was slain and the Blood was sprinkled overthe people and aroundthe tabernacle. This was a sacrifice to God. It was the price of sin. It was death. This is a picture of the cross and our cleansing unto Justification by Faith. Afterthe priest had offered a sacrifice for his sin at the brazen altar, He moved on tothe Lava, where he ceremonially washed his body with Water. This was a washing by water in a bowl made of brass.The original was made from ladies’ mirrors, a not insignificant factor. For this cleansing by water was the fore-type of the cleansing we read of in Hebrews.The sprinkling of blood and the washing of the body, which was originally acted out by the priests under the law is but a shadow of the real thing which we enjoy and experience through the blood of the slain Lamb, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the washing of water by the word.The lava therefore symbolises the word as surely as the brazen altar reveals the shed blood.The priest could see himself in the brass mirror.The Word acts as both the mirror and the water. In the word we see oursleves. It shows us our spots and mucky patches. When we respond, by changing our behaviour to come in line with God's word, then we can say that the Word has cleansed us. By reading the word each and becoming aware of how we should behave we are washing in the word each time we respond to it and obey. So we see Faith and Obedience illustrated in theChristian Life. It has been said that faith and obedience are like the two wings of an aircraft. Sometimes it seems like a lonely path for the Spirit can reveal something that is detrimental to one's growth which no-one else seems concerned about. Special tools have special features. Special instruments are tuned to particular specifications. We need to be receptive to God's unique tuning, for he tunes us all slightly differently. 2.Tim ch 2 v 4 says If a man purge himself from these he will be a vessel unto honour, fit for the master’s use" Some other verses concerning our calling: Romans ch 1. "Called to be saints" ( Holy men) Corinthians ch 1 "Called to be sanctified " Ephesians: "Chosen before the world began to be holy" 1Thess. ch 4 "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" 2 Tim. ch 1 v 9. "Who called us with a holy calling, not according to works, but according to his own purpose and grace before the world began." So it is not something we can boast about, or something we should use to condemn others, for it is by grace we are saved and our growth is a growth in grace. Hence the significance of the two cleansing agents from the Saviour’s side. A preacher was cleaning out two peanut butter jars. He cleaned out one and was called away, so he left one full of water and put the lid on. When he came back a few weeks later to it, the water in the jar was full of mould and had a bad smell. As He cleaned out the jar properly for the second time,the still small voice of the Spirit of God spoke inside him and said; “ And it’s only to put nails in’’. True, he wanted the jar to keep nails in, but it had to be a clean vessel thoroughly cleansed. How much more should we, whose sins cost the life of our own dear Lord, be clean, having our bodies washed in the pure water of the Word by the Spirit to make us fit vessels to honour and glorify God.
Thank God for this double cleansing fountain.There are some people who think that in this advanced civilised age, to think in terms of “fountains filled with blood”, is barbaric and abhorrent to any civilised person.There may be an element of truth in the abhorrence part. Indeed it is hard even to read the narrative of the cross, it is so violent and barbaric. But such enormous sin requires enormous remedy. If we think our sins can be cleansed by a trickle,then consider why we have showers in our houses. Can we not get cleansed by a trickle fromthe tap? I suppose we could, but we want adequate cleansing do we not? and a shower just about does the job. God has not provided a miserly trickle, but as prophesied He has opened a “fountain for sin and uncleanness.” (Zech 13:1) What kind of a fountain then has God opened. Is it of multi-coloured sparkling water? Of course not. It is a fountain of Blood. If God has opened a fountain, do not be looking for a trickle of blood in which to wash your sins away. Perhaps those who don’t think they need a fountain of blood to cleanse them, do not realise how much sin they have or perhaps have devised their own method of cleansing. When Peter asked for the Lord to wash him he said ‘‘Not just my feet but my head and my hands’’. Total cleansing is head, hands and feet, or the spiritual equivalent of mind, heart and will, which make up your soul.The salvation God has provided through the sacrifice of His Son provides not only the power to wash us clean, but the power if we are willing, to keep us clean as well. 2 Cor 5:21; For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might becomethe righteousness of God in Him. (NKJ) The Riches that we receive through the life and death of Jesus are immeasurable by earthy standards. Ponder a moment on this verse. 1 Cor 1:30 " But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: If in the natural we were to lose every material possession we had, we would still be richer than the richest man on earth who knows not Christ.
BIRTH: The Resurrection of JesusChrist. Two books are recommended reading for any who want to rid themselves of any lingering doubts concerning this event which is the cornerstone of the christain gospel. They are ‘‘Who movedthe stone’’ by Frank Morrison and Josh McDowall’s book on “The Evidence”. Both books were written by agnostics who decided to gather all the evidence there was concerning the Resurrection, thinking no doubt that it was mainly old wives tales. However, both found that in so far as one can judge any historical event there was more evidence for the Resurrection than for the life of Julius Caesar. Only those who start with a closed mind and keep it closed can possibly face the evidence and continue to deny the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. After the unbeliever has suggested that there were two graves, two bodies, stolen bodies, hidden bodies or whatever, the ultimate proof surely is the people who lived at that time and their actions in the face of these suggestions. 1. Not one of the disciples or followers disclosed where the body was, if it was indeed hidden. 2. Not one woman made any attempt to pay homage or place flowers on any secret grave, and Mary his mother surely would have done so, even as a good Jewess, let alone as a grieving and heartbroken mother. 3.The enemies of Jesus, especiallythe Jewish leaders failed to produce the body.They propagated a lie that the body had been stolen.There were a lot more people with a vested interest in finding and producing such a body, than the number of disciples, and one has to ask what in the world did the disciples themselves, have to gain by inventing such ridiculous lies. 4. Forty days after the Passover, when the city was filled with the same crowds who had been there at the Passover when Jesus was crucified, 5000 people, yea Jews, became christians in believing the message, that their Messiah had been crucified and God had raised him from the dead. Those forty days had witnessed many appearances of the Lord Jesus. He had been seen by five hundred people at one time, so the word had spread and witnesses abounded by the time the feast of Pentecost had arrived. 5. Finally, and what surely must be the ultimate proof is Saul of Tarsus. A high ranking fanatical Jew, who believed the lie of the Jewish rulers that the body had been stolen. He firmly believed that the disciples and all who believed were heretics and enemies of God and Judaism. He believed he was doing God a service by imprisoning, torturing and even stoning to death those who believed. Throughout it all he found not one renegade. On the contrary he was being faced with the indisputable evidence all the time but his Jewish faith made him disregard it. The last thing he wanted to believe was the Resurrection, but he was too near the evidence to miss it. Finally, on the road to Damascus, temporally blinded by a light from heaven, he saw the Risen Lord himself. After one has suggested that it was a momentary relapse of his stricken or uneasy conscience which played tricks on his mind, one has to recognise what happened to him from then. He did not confer with any of the other disciples, but rather he went away for three years solitary contemplation and then after nine years of preaching the resurrection, he eventually came to face those disciples who had originally preached the message of new life. Finally, he also laid down his life for the sake of the message he preached.There is no way in this world that Saul, or any disciple would have gone to a happy martyrdom on the belief of a lie. James, the earthly brother of Jesus, became the leader of the early church yet before the death of Jesus, he himself was an unbeliever. 6. The gospel records were written too close to the events not to be acceptable as a genuine historical record. The first writings about Aristotle came 1400 years after he lived. In this age now, the historical record of Queen Victoria is being penned 100 years after her death. Mark wrote his gospel some thirty years after the events and the documentation of the events is not tens, not hundreds, but thousands of times greater than that of the life and times of Aristotle and such. No court in Britain on the face of the evidence for the Resurrection could justly return a verdict of not proven.
1 Corinthians ch. 15 is the classic chapter on the Resurrection. Here Paul lists many of those who saw the Lord Jesus after his death. It is one of the truly great chapters in the whole bible. In the Gospel records we read of his appearances listed as 1. to Mary Magdalene, 2. the ten disciples without Thomas, 3. the eleven disciples- including Thomas, 4. the two on the road to Emmaus, 5. the fishing party in John ch. 21 6. at the ascension.
Here in Corinthians Paul adds; 7. his appearance to Peter, 8. to James his earthly brother, 9. to the five hundred 10. and finally as one born out of due time, but by special appointment, to himself when Saul of Tarsus. The Growth of the Intention which was to destroy the power and works of the enemy, is evidenced in the power revealed in the lives of all those who saw or believed in the risen Saviour.
The Final Chapter: John ch. 21 is a favourite chapter of many believers. Without doubt, the disciple Peter finds a sympathetic place in the hearts of Christians, who have tasted the salt of their own tears after failing the Lord in some way. He must have suffered more than most from the pain of guilt and remorse. Significantly wonderful is the message that Jesus gave to Mary in the garden ‘‘Go tell the disciples, and Peter.’’ This wonderful account of the Lord’s first chat with Peter after the resurrection, is couched within the framework of three questions; The first is a Question of Deficiency: ‘‘What have you got, for all your night’s fishing? The second is a Question of Devotion: ‘‘Do you love me more than these’’ The third is a Question of Discipleship: ‘‘What does it matter what happens to another disciple? you follow me . We are all familiar with the phrase ‘‘led up the garden path’’. It could well be that Peter felt that he had been led up the garden path. For he and the disciples who had left their business in the hope of future glory by following a Jewish teacher, believed that Jesus was dead, and all their hopes were in ruins. Peter’s only future now seemed to lay in the past. So he decided to go back to his old job of fishing. The other disciples went with him. 1. A question of Deficiency. “What have you got”? - They had toiled all night and caught nothing. When our little boat drifts onto the misty shores of Eternity, we will be similarly confronted by the Lord of all life and asked the question, what have you got? For all the effort, for all the money we had, for all the education we gained, for all the culture we prided in, what have we got that will satisfy an eternal God and last for all eternity? Sadly most of us will have to confess that we have caught nothing. That is what one would call gross deficiency. The Lord told them to cast their nets on the other side. At the Lord’s commands, and according to his word rather than the self knowledge and belief they had in themselves, they obeyed, and immediately reaped the benefit. Similarly Luke records another occasion; Luke 5:4-6 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’’ But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net began to break. For any who would prepare for that confrontation on the eternal shore, we have a fine example of faith shown by obedience. They did not lean on their own understanding or knowledge.The natural man would regard the commands of the Lord as impractical and indeed foolish. This is the evidence of true repentance, for repentance means ‘‘to think again.’’ We have to put to death our own thoughts and ideas about what is practical and wise. We have to accept the criteria that Christ laid down. Obedience does not operate on the basis of reason. God does not give us reasons why we should do something, rather he gives promises of what will happen if we obey.The natural mind requires reasons. Every action ought to be reasonable. But God is concerned first with our hearts. For sin operates in the heart. That is where God requires our obedience. The mind wants reasons and the heart feeds on promises. We should obey the Lord because we want to. Our obedience should be prompted from our hearts rather than our minds. Later we are sure to see the reasonableness of it all. 2. A question of Devotion; ‘‘Do you love me’’ - . Two words are used in this narrative for ‘‘love’’. In Greek they are "agape" and "phileo". The first means "devoted to" and the second means brotherly (human) love. The conversation went thus; Jesus: Simon are you devoted to me? (agape is the Greek word for love here) Peter: ‘‘Lord, you know that I love you" (as man would love his brother) (The word Simon Peter uses is Phileo or brotherly love, fondness) Jesus: ‘‘Feed my sheep” Jesus: ‘‘Simon are you devoted to me’’ (agape) Peter: ‘‘Lord you know that I love you’’ (Phileo) Jesus: ‘‘Feed my sheep’’ Jesus: ‘‘Simon do you love me?’’ (Phileo) Peter was grieved because on this third time of asking, Jeus had used his word for Love- Phileo, which denotes human love, rather than "agape" which denotes divine love. Peter: ‘‘Lord you know all things.’’ Whenever Jesus spoke of love normally He always used the word agape except when speaking of ‘‘love not the world’’ or of the Pharisees who "loved" to be seen praying etc. To love God, or the law or one another, it is the love that comes from the heart and not from the mind. It is difficult being ‘devoted to’ without being ‘separated from’. Indeedthe Hebrew word for “devoted” which is ‘‘cherem’’ also means ‘‘accursed,’’ or to ‘‘forfeit’’ or ‘‘utterly slay’’ as if to say that in God’s language one cannot be devoted to Jesus, without an act of cutting off from. ‘‘Do you love me more than these’’ Things of earth and friends and family compete for our “agape”. Jesus stands as a suitor for our love.There is always competition in love. ‘‘Do you love me more than these?’’ There never was a greater question of Devotion. Jesus knew that if Simon Peter loved him, then Service would come from the heart and obedience of the command ‘‘Feed my sheep’’ would be paramount, because He had no other commitments. 3. A question of Discipleship; What is that to you? Jesus outlined the pathway of the cross for Peter. It was a way opposite to what he would choose for himself. Peter in accepting this ponders curiously about what ‘‘plan’’ Jesus had for John.The reply of Jesus is emphatic to say the least. In the vernacular of today He more or less said; ‘‘If John is still sitting there on his backside when I return, what difference does that make, you are called to follow me, not him.’’ All discipleship is called into question when we take our eyes off the Lord. The narrative poignantly states that ‘‘Peter turned and looked at the other disciple’’ He turned from the Lord and looked at someone else. His devotion was soon tested was it not. As in true love, once our eye wanders the passion lessens. The very first words Jesus ever said to Peter were exactly the same as the last. They were ’’ Follow me.’’ It is often the case that two people can come to the Lord at the same time. One He might call to missionary work down the Amazon, sleeping in hammocks and plagued by frogs and mosquitoes. The other may stay at home and become successful in business, living in apparent comfort for the rest of his life. Our response to the call should not be to live like other Christians, as mere imitators, but to follow the Lord no matter where he may lead us. His way is not our way. His way is the way of the cross. He does indeed want to lead us up the garden path. But that garden is the garden of Gethsemane so that we might come to the place where he came, and prayed that prayer to his Father. ‘‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will but thy will be done.’’ Questions demand a response: May be you would like the Lord to know what your answers would be to these three questions; What have you got to give Him when you meet Him? Do you love him more than your job, family or friends? What is it to you how others follow Christ?
Fullness: The Ascension. This final episode in the Life of Christ envelopes an added chapter outside the gospels. Luke alone chronicles this majestic event in his final gospel chapter and in the first chapter of his treatise toTheophilos.- the Acts of the Apostles. What a fitting departure. Jesus did not leave this earth with his tail between his legs in hasty fashion, but ascended slowly, serenely and sovereignly. He who descended from above returns from whence He came having accomplished all He came to do. He came as a Prince from Heaven to defeat the would-be usurper from beneath, and in so doing redeemed mankind from the jaws of eternal death. Those conquered from beneath become slaves, those conquered from above are set free, thus gaining all and more than they lost in Adam. Well might the Psalmist ponder the awesome question, as He foresees the Everlasting doors welcoming the Mighty Victor home. ‘‘Who is the King of Glory ?The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads , Oh ye gates an dthe King of Glory shall come in.’’ (Psalm 24) If there is a song inspired on earth but sung in heaven then surely Handel’s ‘‘Hallelujah Chorus ’’ echoes through those golden arches. One day, promised the angels, this same Jesus, having all power both in heaven and on earth, will return. Another circle will turn in the inexorable progression of the aeon-spanning purposes of the Divine Creator. He will descend from heaven with a shout, says the scriptures, coming with ten thousand of His saints to perform the last and final mopping up of the enemy’s armaments and territories. When we survey the Old Testament prophecies, it is easy to see now in retrospect the future spiritual kingdom and the age of the church on earth. But the same scriptures which were read by the Jews at the time of Christ, to them seemed to indicate that the coming of the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom of the Jewish nation. We now know how much they were mistaken. Perhaps in like fashion this small verse in Acts chapter one which makes that momentous statement concerning the return of the Lord Jesus to earth, hides within its fulfilment a thousand yet unseen delights and wonders in the magnificent plans of the only Wise God. Little wonder that since that angelic promise,The Christian has endlessly speculated and pondered over the form of His coming, the place of His coming, the time of His coming and the result of His coming. Some people would question the wisdom of men who spend billions to explore the very remote possibility of life on some other far flung planet, while millions still go to bed hungry each night on this earth. Similarly, so much time and effort is wasted by Christians in seeking out the details of God's future plans, most of which, at best is pure speculation. Far better would their time and effort be employed in spreading the gospel on the earth or seeking to discover the riches that can be found in Jesus. The Gospel in Romans is a far richer and fertile land than the hopeful prospecting in Revelation. The blessing of Revelation is for those who read, not those who understand. Our clear understanding of Revelation will come inthe next age. No doubt just as the Jews, who pondered their own scriptures to the point of boredom, so the church will confess that all their arguments and disagreements concerning the second coming, were all far fromthe mark, when all is revealed. We need not know how or when, or what or where, only that He is coming and it behoves us all, singularly to be ready. ‘‘Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly!’’