The Very Happy Executioner

Luke 23:26-49

Introduction

Is it OK for the AFL to put games on Good Friday, and for you to watch them on TV? Was my mum in tune with God’s feelings about this day when she refused to wash the clothes, or, in line with the title Dale chose for today’s Gospel reading should we speak of, “Very Happy Friday”?

Since God the Father doesn’t have opinions about the death of his Son it is imperative that we pay close attention to the inspired record of Christ’s death in scripture. In going through Luke we have seen how society’s outcasts, a Gentile soldier, a sinful woman, a Samaritan leper, a blind beggar, and a tax collector all found hope and healing in Christ. This is exactly what happens as Jesus is dying on the cross, those with status mock him but outsiders turn to him as the source of salvation.

EXPOSITION

The devout women lamenting over Jesus’ fate must have been shocked by his turning and (vv26-31) exhorting them to lament for themselves and their children.

The extreme language of people calling on mountains and hills to collapse on them to end their misery portrays a coming divine judgement without apparent limit1)See Biblical References Hos 10:8 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV.

Jesus knows his innocent death will fulfil God’s salvation plan, but that within a generation Jerusalem which has rejected him will be flattened, its inhabitants slaughtered or enslaved (Luke 23:34-35 ESV).

The next time Jesus’ speaks he is praying from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.(Luke 23:34 ESV) Under the most extreme circumstances Jesus is practising what he has preached; “ vs.27 Love your enemies… vs.28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….” ”2)See Biblical References Matt 5:44-45 ESV; Luke 6:27-28 ESV. Forgiving your murderers is a rare and remarkable thing; but even more potent is the fact that unconditional forgiveness solely for the sake of those harming us makes Jesus unique in the whole history of religious and moral teaching.

The Bible is painfully realistic about the corrupt state of the human heart when the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers hear Christ’s praying for them their mockery only intensifies.

His Jewish slanderers know a suffering dying man can’t possibly be God’s Chosen favourite, the Messiah, and since his Roman attackers know how a real King behaves, this fellow on the cross must be an impostor.

To them, it is categorically obvious that if Jesus can’t save himself he cannot be the Saviour of the world. Then at a level that makes no sense to ordinary thinking the power of God starts to operate through the suffering powerless Jesus to save.

vs.39 One of the criminals who were hanged hurled insults at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!vs.40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? vs.41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.vs.42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.vs.43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23: 39-43 ESV)

The criminal who hurled insults at Jesus, “Save yourself and us!” has brought Jesus down to his own selfish level. In looking solely to benefit himself in his interaction with Jesus he cannot be saved. He cannot understand that God’s Son will be delivered not out of death through death.  

This is how the saving power of God works. In Romans Paul helps us understand how the cross works by saying we Christians must face “trouble…hardship…persecution…famine…nakedness…danger or sword” then concludes with “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” (Rom 8:35, 37 ESV).

If Christ doesn’t always pull us out of troubles the power of his love enables us to live above them. The video starts Let me share what happened to a clinically depressed alcoholic friend of mine, I’ll never forget finding her unconscious from a suicide attempt dragging her out of her house and getting an ambulance.

Sometime later she fell and broke her back. When I visited her in hospital, they had her laid out motionless on a special bed in the form of a cross. The symbolism was unmistakeable so guess what I spoke to her about?

When she cast herself unreservedly on the mercy of Jesus it was only some time before she was living in forgiveness and freed from anxiety, depression and addiction. She’s in a wheelchair, but through her physical brokenness, she shines as more than a conqueror through Christ’s love.

The other criminal in our story rebukes his blaspheming companion

“Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” ” This man accepts his sin and its wages (Rom 3:23 ESV) and his testimony to Christ’s blamelessness shows the power of God working in his heart.

Anyone who humbly let’s go of self-righteousness and looks to Jesus will enter heaven. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Unlike the mockers he addresses Jesus by his personal name and in so doing calls on the unique name of Saviour of the world3)See Biblical References cf. 17:13; 18:38; his plea “remember me” stirs echoes God’s promises to deliver his covenant people when they call on his name4)See Biblical References Judges 16:28 ESV; 1 Sam 1:11, 19 ESV; Ps 115:12 ESV.

This dying criminal is the first person in the Gospel to recognise that the sufferings of Jesus do not exclude but fulfil his Messianic kingly calling to save the world. He understands Christ’s voluntary suffering love is the triumphant power of God to save us, sinners.

Jesus answers him with words that must have filled him with inexpressible hope and comfort, “ “today you will be with me in paradise.” ”.

Today” means he doesn’t have to wait until the End of the world to be saved, salvation is close at hand5)See Biblical References 4:21 ESV; 19:9 ESV, for as Messiah Jesus possesses the kingly right to open the doors of paradise to all who come to him.

As a Jew this man knew “Paradise” as the home of only one type of person, the dutifully righteous whose blameless lives pleased God.

Now Jesus opens heaven to the very sort of person who the religious teachers of the day taught could never be saved.

Jesus is saving people – even as he hangs on the cross. We must all pay the closest attention to exactly what Jesus is promising the condemned man, “today, you will be with me in Paradise”.

Not with all your loved ones, as in popular Western imagination, not with virgin wives as in the Koran, not with pure impersonal bliss as in Buddhism but “with me”. Eternal fellowship with Jesus is heaven.

Everyone who turns to Christ as Saviour can have a sure knowledge of eternal life. 

The father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther struggled long over whether his life could ever be worthy enough to earn God’s favour.

Then he understood that the good news of the gospel is that righteousness is offered as a free gift to be received by faith in Christ alone. “Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise…whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love….”

In his grace, God now sends two supernatural omens concerning the murder of his Son. The darkness covering the earth for three hours is supernatural because an eclipse at the Passover time of full moon is impossible.

This is the prophetic darkness of “last days” judgement6)See Biblical References Joel 2:30-31 ESV; Amos 8:9 ESV; Zeph 1:15 ESV and a sign of the fate of those who ultimately reject Christ7)See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV.

Such signs are meant to prepare hearts for the gospel. In a few weeks’ time, many of this crucifixion crowd were in fact converted by the preaching of the gospel on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-23, 36 ESV). In our time the Lord can still warn from heaven today and we should pray for him to do so.

This is a true story.

A new professor at UWA (who I did meet once) was invited by the Christian Union there to speak on Creation and Evolution. When he entered the hall he was intimidated by the size of the crowd and especially by the number of hostile senior academics present.

Fearfully approaching the podium he was praying about how to start when suddenly there was a tremendous clap of thunder and all the lights in the place went out, all but one, the one illuminating the podium. So he said, “Now you know what you are up against”.

The second supernatural sign as Jesus died was the tearing of the curtain temple in two from top to bottom by the hand of God who was saying that law-based system of temple and sacrifice that had segregated Jew and Gentile, priest and lay, male and female was ended.

In Jesus, unrestricted access to God’s presence had been opened. In uttering his final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus dies peacefully full of the assurance that God is a Righteous Father who will raise him from the dead8)See Biblical References John 17:25 ESV; Rom 6:4 ESV.

Then, climactically, the Roman centurion unable to contain what was going in his heart “glorified God” for by grace he sensed God was fulfilling his great saving plan9)See Biblical References 2:20 ESV; 5:25-26 ESV; 7:16 ESV; 13:13 ESV; 17:15 ESV; 18:43 ESV, his response was to the glory manifested in the sufferings of Jesus.  In testifying, “ ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ ”10)See Biblical References Pss 22 ESV; 31 ESV cf. Acts 3:13-14 ESV; Isa 52:13-53:12 ESV he acknowledges Jesus’ supreme status before God the Judge as a blameless person.

Finally, the crowd go away “beating their breasts” They know something terribly unjust has happened but with Jesus departed they as yet have nowhere to turn for forgiveness. Meanwhile Jesus’ disciples, weak as always, “stood at a distance” (Ps 38:11 ESV)

CONCLUSION

The Good Friday story of the death of Jesus reveals an all-forgiving Father.

This Father is forgiving in his justice and just in his forgiving because his Justice and Forgiveness are not abstract concepts but real in Christ who prayed for the forgiveness of us all and who was heard because he is the One Righteous (Acts 3:14 ESV) Son of God suffering for us.

The criminal who called on the name of Jesus, and the centurion, were very happy men not because they thought they’d got away with, literally for both of them, murder, and we’re going to a “happy place” but because they had literally face to face come, with the goodness of God as Father and as Saviour in Jesus and were totally overcome.

If God can do that for them, he can do the same for us. Like them we need to turn to the Lord today, Jesus is the door into Paradise (John 10:9 ESV) and his is the name in which we are saved, (Acts 4:12 ESV).

For anyone who trusts in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross Good Friday is a Very Happy day indeed. Let us pray.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 19th April 2019 Location: St Marks, Good Friday

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 19th April, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Hos 10:8 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV
2. See Biblical References Matt 5:44-45 ESV; Luke 6:27-28 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. 17:13; 18:38
4. See Biblical References Judges 16:28 ESV; 1 Sam 1:11, 19 ESV; Ps 115:12 ESV
5. See Biblical References 4:21 ESV; 19:9 ESV
6. See Biblical References Joel 2:30-31 ESV; Amos 8:9 ESV; Zeph 1:15 ESV
7. See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV
8. See Biblical References John 17:25 ESV; Rom 6:4 ESV
9. See Biblical References 2:20 ESV; 5:25-26 ESV; 7:16 ESV; 13:13 ESV; 17:15 ESV; 18:43 ESV
10. See Biblical References Pss 22 ESV; 31 ESV cf. Acts 3:13-14 ESV; Isa 52:13-53:12 ESV

Resurrection Fear

 2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 16; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

(The church has been working through Mark’s Gospel Sunday by Sunday)

Introduction

Mark has the most surprising testimony to the resurrection of Christ of the four Gospels.

It has no resurrection appearances and the Easter note of rejoicing we anticipate in the face of Jesus’ triumph over death is strikingly absent (Matt 28:8; Luke 24:41; 52).

The last words in Mark, “they were afraid”, are not something any of us would choose to celebrate the greatest day in the Christian calendar. By now however we should recognise Mark’s Jesus doesn’t fit our template for a Messiah.

This is the Gospel where Jesus explains that he teaches in parables so that “those outside” God’s kingdom “‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing.

When they hear what I say, they will not understand.

Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’”  (4:11-12).

This is also the Gospel where Jesus repeatedly tells people he has healed and freed from demonic forces not to tell others about his miraculous ministry (1:43-45; 7:36; 8:29-30; 9:9).

By the time we come to the end of a Gospel where people are regularly amazed at what Jesus does we should expect the unexpected (2:12; 5:42; 6:51).

EXPOSITION

[vv.1-2] [vs.1When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. vs.2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”]

In the context of the ancient world everything in this story is a surprise. Crucified men were considered worthless and never anointed for burial, but the love of the women in our story for Jesus overcomes every social expectation.

They still considered Jesus, dead as they believed he was, to be a King. Jewish women didn’t count for much in first century culture and were of too low a status to testify in court, but in the new reality created by resurrection the Lord deliberately decided that the first witnesses to his triumph would be the lowly (1 Cor 1:26-29). Mark’s story is already indicating that to enter the space where we are impacted by the power of the resurrection requires a turn of mind radically different from our normal way of thinking. Let me illustrate.

One of my children told me the following true story about the brilliant atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell (who I used to read a lot of as a young man). Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?”

Typically Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!’” Russell was what folk today call a “smart-arse”.  There is no way that the humble and ordinary women would never describe their first Easter morning experience as “evidence”, they were about to encounter with a reality that surpasses all the parameters of proof in this world’s proofs (Matt 5:3ff.).

[vv.3-4] [vs.3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” vs.4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. vs.5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in ca white robe, and they were alarmed.]

These women deeply loved Jesus but they had no strategy for shifting a stone that weighed as much as an average car. But when they arrived at the tomb they found the stone already rolled away and “entering the tomb” they saw what appeared to be “a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe…”

In different places in scripture heavenly beings take on the form of humans to communicate commands to God’s people (cf. Dan 8:15; 9:21; 10:5, 18).

They have been met by an angel sitting in a posture of authority with his robe shining in the dull tomb with the radiance of the glory of God (cf. Mark 9:3).

Unsurprisingly the women were “alarmed”; imagine visiting the gravesite of a loved one and finding it emptied of the coffin but with and a glowing stranger inside who starts to speak to you. You would shudder in shock just as the women did (cf. 14:33). Something powerful and holy is at work here.

[vv.6] [vs.6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised ; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”]

There’s no need to be alarmed says the angel, the Jesus you know and love, “Jesus of Nazareth” “who was crucified” “has been raised” (cf. Mark 12:10-11; 14:28).

This testimony the women hear from the angel, “God (has) raised Jesus from the dead”, has become the centrepiece of all gospel preaching, (Acts 2:24; 32; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 34, 37 etc. cf. 1 Tim 3:16).

We don’t have to use the word “resurrection” every time we talk about Jesus, but every time we talk about Jesus we need the presence of his resurrection power.

The angel continues to reassure the frightened women, “See the place where they laid him.” The point here is that there’s no body.

This is the place that silliness enters onto the scene in discussions of the reality of the resurrection. Sceptics speculate that some unknown person moved Jesus body, or the women had gone to the wrong tomb, or a young man misdirected them and so on.

If all of this was just a matter of human error why didn’t the Jewish authorities who had Jesus crucified simply go to the right tomb drag out the decomposing body and turn the entire Jesus movement into a laughing stock?

Every intellectual objection to the resurrection starts with the assumption that we can apply our normal models of how the universe works to the fate of Jesus. This is to deny the resurrection from the beginning.

[vv.7] [vs.7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”]

The angel commissions the women to “go and tell” the disciples that Jesus wants to meet with them in Galilee.

By God’s always surprising grace the women who have been wordless throughout Mark’s Gospel become the first bearers of the greatest news ever told; and to the apostles, who throughout Mark had considered themselves to be the spiritual experts on the identity of Jesus (Mark 8:31-33). The emphatic, “tell his disciples and Peter” means even someone who has repeatedly denied Jesus can be restored by the power of the resurrection (Mark 14:72).

Have you ever denied Jesus?  

Have you stood by silently when someone who speaks like they’re an expert on spirituality has said something about Jesus, or even Christianity/Church, which you know is not true?

If like Peter you feel you feel like you have failed God’s purposes in your life to testify to Jesus he can heal you like he healed Peter. How did he restore Peter?…By meeting him in his resurrection power.  As I have said to ailing folk again and again, “It’s not over until it’s over.”  And the resurrection testifies that with Jesus it’s never over! Now our story becomes even more exciting.

he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Earlier in Mark 14(28) Jesus said he’d catch up with the disciples after he was raised from the dead. But they hadn’t put this meeting in their diaries and Mark tells us why, Jesus “was…saying to them, 31The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:31-32).

Until they met Jesus raised from the dead the disciples would remain perplexed and fearful of the notion of the resurrection of a dead person in their own lifetime. But by now the women were completely filled with the revelation that everything Jesus had ever told them about himself must come to pass. Now we come to the most difficult part in Mark’s resurrection story for us to receive.

[vv.8] vs.8And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Fear, trembling and astonishment in the presence of the miraculous works and words of Jesus are quite common in Mark but they never draw Christ’s disapproval because they were authentic and appropriate responses to the manifest presence of God (Mark 2:12; 4:41; 5:15, 33, 42; 6:20, 50-51; 9:6, 32; 10:32; 11:18 cf. Dan 10:7).

That the women “said nothing to anyone” doesn’t mean that they remained silent about their tomb experience, if so we wouldn’t have this story, but they were rendered dumb by the extraordinary character of what they had seen and heard. Mentally and emotionally they were overwhelmed by something too and marvellous to comprehend (cf. Mark 5:42; Luke 24:41).

In order to get closer to the bottom of the final response of the women at the tomb we need to take a step back and remember the framework of their understanding.

They were Jews familiar with the Old Testament witness that at the End of history there would be the Final Resurrection when God would raise everyone either to a resurrection of everlasting life or of everlasting shame (Job 19:25-26; Psalm 16:10 ; Isa 26:19; Dan 12:2-3).

They also had travelled with Jesus and seen him raise the dead who would in turn grow old and die again. Knowing Jesus as Lord and King they knew his resurrection couldn’t be like that of others, they understood Jesus could never die again and they were grasped by the realisation that they were the first humans to experience the signs of the Final Resurrection and the commencement of a whole new creation come in Christ (cf. Acts 1:3).

At the empty tomb their worldview was stretched beyond all their personal goals and desires. They certainly were overawed and afraid; but afraid of what? Knowing Christ had risen they could no longer be afraid of evil powers, sickness, suffering, death or anything mortals could do to them.

Sometimes we are encouraged to “think outside the box”, but the women knew that with Jesus raised from the dead there is no box.  They knew that with Jesus raised from the dead the End of the world had begun (cf. Pannenberg). If the first stage of the End of the world began 2000 years ago even our instinctive feelings about fear need to go through a death and resurrection transformation.

Is fear necessarily a bad thing….?  As a child our oldest daughter Leah was fearless, “Leah don’t run”….stitches in the front of the head….stitches in the back of the head…a broken arm and so on.

If humanity had a God-honouring fear then the world would never have got into the mess it’s in today because, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10). But how does this fear of the LORD relate to the resurrection? Let me use a very contemporary illustration to explain.

I was on my way to pray in Whiteman Park recently when there was a report on the radio about the Royal Commission findings concerning child abuse in the Newcastle diocese of the Anglican Church.

For 30 years a paedophile ring was operating in that diocese. The report targeted the weak response from bishops to what was known about these abusers in prominent positions of leadership.

Listening to all this caused me a lot of distress, so I called out to the Lord asking, “How did Satan ever manage to penetrate the Church so deeply with his evil?” His answer was clear; ““There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Rom 3:18).

If the evildoers in Newcastle, or anywhere else, had in the least bit believed what the woman at the empty tomb believed, that everything that Jesus had ever told them about himself would come to pass, including his Return as the Holy Judge of the world at the Last Judgement, they could never for a moment have perpetrated their foul deeds (Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62 cf. Dan 12:2; John 5:29).

Conclusion

The resurrection brought a quality of fear into the world proportional to the transformation that had taken place in Jesus’ from the wretchedness of the cross to his elevation into God’s glory and immortality (1 Cor 15:53-54; 2 Tim 1:10).

The resurrection created a pure holy fear of the Lord of a sort that had never existed before.

This is why after speaking of how Christ who emptied himself to die on the cross was then exalted by the Father to reign as King over all Paul exhorts the Church in Philippi, 12work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13).

Holy fear is the gateway to the everlasting joy of the Lord. If you are a disciple of Jesus God is preparing you for a post mortem resurrection just like Christ’s. This is awesome, astonishing and a source of great and holy fear. Such a fear is not paralysing but deeply motivating.

The women in our story don’t disappear from the New Testament; they are singled out for mention as the Church waited for the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14 cf. Luke 8:2-3).

They had made it to Galilee to be in the presence of Jesus and became part of a community in the Early Church unshackled from the fears that dominate life ancient and modern. The fears of economic deprivation, physical illness, shame, rejection, guilt and ultimately death had been put to death and transformed into the holy fear of the Lord alone. The fear-filled women who fled from the tomb fled to Jesus, the sole conqueror of the powers that traumatise and make miserable human existence.

A famous book about conversion was titled, “Surprised by Joy”, if we understand Mark’s message we too can have a conversion experience today, one we might call, “Surprised by Fear”.

A supernatural holy fear whose one motivation is to be secure in the presence of the resurrected Jesus, the one who will come in glory to Judge the living and the dead.

Come to Jesus today and let him put to death all your earthly fears and let him empower you by his presence to be a witness to his triumphant resurrection from the dead.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 16th April, 2017 | St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE PODCAST: 16th April. 2017 |   


EASTER Invitation to A Free Lunch

Sorry There’s no such thing as a Free Lunch, But Good News Someones Paid the Price

Calvary is the Price its been paid will you accept the payment on your behalf, hand over the helm of your life to Him to guide you to the Supper Table.

Check out the guide instructions HERE

Formally accept the invitation HERE

Because of Calvary there is a Easter you’ve been given an invitation to:

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9 And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:6-9

Guess who paid the bill for you to come to that table!

The Compassion of the Lord

1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

Isaiah 55:1-3

AList Event of ALL TIME you would have to be crazy to decline the invite.

Jesus Is Coming: 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:12-17

Calvary is the Price its been paid will you accept the payment on your behalf, hand over the helm of your life to Him to guide you to the Supper Table.

Check out the guide instructions HERE

Formally accept the invitation HERE

By Rev. Gary Green Four Corner Ministries

Believing the unbelievable

easter-sundayReading: Luke 24:1-35

Text: Luke 24:11

And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

Today 5th April is Easter Sunday. 

Today we commemorate the greatest event in the history of mankind, the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And this is a joyful occasion, and I am sure that we all mean it when we wish each other a Happy Easter. And for Christians it means the joyful victory over the suffering, and the death and darkness of Good Friday.

However, when I again read through the account of the resurrection in the four Gospels I found that the first reaction of this mighty event was not joy, but perplexity and even fear. And instead of receiving the risen Lord with joy and jubilation, the disciples and followers of Jesus were terrified and dumbfounded, and they did not believe it.

Oh they had heard Jesus telling them what would happen, and they knew that He had told them all about it, but they had not understood the message. And therefore when it really happened, when they could see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears that what Jesus had predicted had come true, they were  dumbfounded, because that was something they had not expected to happen.

They had wept at the cross and on the way to the tomb, they had been disappointed at His death, but at least they had accepted it and had come to terms with the fact that He had died. But no one in their wildest dreams had ever expected that this was the way that Almighty God was working out His plan and purpose for a fallen world.

And yet it was, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was the culmination and the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. It was in accordance with God’s plan of salvation which He made even before the foundation of the earth was laid.

And although even today many people do not believe it, even today it has become an unbelievable fact of history for millions of people, for Christian believers it has become the foundation and the central fact of Christian history on which the Church is built. Without this fact there would not have been a Christian Church today.

The apostle Paul puts it so well in his letter to the Church at Corinth in chapter 15, where he says:

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

If there had been no resurrection my friends, we might as well not be here today to celebrate it, because my preaching would be empty, and your faith would be empty as well. You would believe in something that did not exist, our faith would be in things that have no eternal value. If we are Christians whose only hope is that God may give us a good time while we are on this earth, if that is all there is to it in our religion, then, according to the Bible we are to be pitied. Because in that case our faith will be in vain, and my preaching will also be in vain, it will be empty.

But now Christ is risen from the dead”, the Bible goes on to say, “and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The resurrection is true! And our faith is not in vain!

We do believe in a risen Christ, and we serve a living Saviour. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central fact of Christian history.

It is only believing Christians who put all their hopes and faith in a God who became human, and who literally died for His people, and was raised again in power and glory to rule His Church forever. And because Christ was raised from the dead, we know that the kingdom of heaven has broken into earth’s history.

God’s mighty power is at work in destroying sin, creating new lives, and preparing us for Jesus’ second coming. It is because of the resurrection that we know that death has been conquered and that we will live with Christ forever.

It is also that it is the resurrection which gives authority to the Church’s witness in the world. Our preaching will not be empty; it will not be in vain. We have a risen Lord to proclaim, who is alive and rules His kingdom.

Christ is for real, my friends, He is not legend, and the power that brought Him back to life is available to us too, so that we can witness and live for Him in an evil world.

You know, when people hear about the resurrection for the first time, they may react in different ways. And that is something we learn from the Bible account in the Gospel of Luke and in the passage that is now before us, Luke 24.

First there were the women we read about in the last two verses of the previous chapter, and this is what it says: “And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.”

They had stood at the cross, they had heard His last cry: “It is finished”, they had seen Him bowing down His head and give up the ghost. They knew that He had died, and when Joseph of Armithea received permission to give Jesus a proper burial, they were at the funeral and made sure that they knew where and how the body was laid. And after they had observed the Sabbath rest they returned to pay their last respect.

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

It was women who went first to the tomb to pay their last respect, and it was women who found that the tomb was empty. There was no Jesus, and when they stood there contemplating what to do next, suddenly the whole tomb was lit up, and they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning.

Two heavenly beings and they spoke to them. It was angels who were the first to proclaim the Easter message:

He is not here; He has risen as He told you.

Jesus is alive, why are you looking for the living among the dead? 

You know, I can just imagine how those women must have felt when they saw those two angels instead of the body of Jesus. They were frightened, and they bowed their heads to the ground. But then they heard the message, then they heard the angels telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

And they lifted up their heads, and they remembered. They remembered that Jesus Himself had told them that all this was going to happen; they remembered that He also told them that on the third day He would be raised again. They remembered, and after the feelings of fear and frustration came the feeling of jubilation.

Jesus was alive; they would see Him again and hear Him again. And bubbling with excitement they must have run back to Jerusalem to tell the good news to the apostles.

Jesus is alive; He has risen from the death, exactly as He told us that He would. But then they got a shock, after all the joy and jubilation they were told: “Nonsense”.

As we can read in the words of our text: “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” It sounded to them like nonsense and like idle tales.

And is it not often he same today, my friends, you preach the greatest news in the world, you tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ, preach the Gospel of salvation, and our words seemed to them like idle tales, and they do not believe us.

I am not going to preach a long sermon today, I know that you have heard it all before and that it is The Gospel truth. But I would like to mention the reaction of one man to the story of the women.

And that man was Peter of whom we read in the verse that follows our text: “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marvelling to himself at what had happened”.

Peter did not take the story of the women for granted, but he also did not dismiss it out of hand, but he went and made sure for himself. And when he saw that what the women had told him could be true, he marvelled to himself. This was not faith in the resurrection of Jesus, but he marvelled at the possibility that it could be true.

And there are many people today who are like that, they marvel at the possibility that Christianity could be true, and that the message of salvation could be true, and who are willing to find out for themselves if this is so.

Peter did find out, but not until he met with the risen Christ, and assured Him that he did love Him, more than anything else in the world. And if anyone of us would like to make sure for themselves, they also need to meet with the living Christ, and not seek Him among the dead, but only where He can be found.

And we can find Him in prayer, or meet with Him in His house and among His people. And we can meet Him and hear Him speak to us in His Word, the Bible. That’s what Jesus did with the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus, remember that story? You can find it in this same chapter of Luke we are dealing with at the moment.

Easter had made an impact on their lives, to such an extent that they were willing to talk about it, and to discuss it with one another. They were even willing to share it with a stranger who had joined them on the road.

But they had not understood the meaning of Easter. They had not understood that redemption can only come through sacrifice. And that forgiveness of sin can only be through the shedding of blood, they had not understood the Scriptures.

But then came Jesus to make sense out of things. Then came Jesus to explain everything and to put it all in the right perspective. And bit by little bit, He opened the Word of God to them and explained from the Scriptures why all these things had to happen in this particular way.

Jesus made sense out of the things they could not understand.

And, you know, my friends, He will do the same for us. Whenever there are situations in our life which make no sense to us, and which we can not understand, Jesus is willing to explain it to us. Whenever we are stuck for words in a spiritual conversation, Jesus will slip up beside us, and He will join that conversation, and He will explain the situation from the Word of God.

Because that is what He did with Cleopas and his friend, He joined the conversation. While they were talking and discussing with one another, Jesus came up and walked with them. Unexpected, He just slipped up beside them and joined the conversation. And they did not even recognise Him, not only because they were kept from recognising Him, as the Bible tells us, but also because they did not expect Him to be there.

For them Jesus was dead and buried and they had left the holy City completely defeated. And although the women had told them of the fact that Jesus was no longer in the grave, although they had heard about the resurrection story of the Angels, the whole situation seemed to those two men to have no explanation, their hopes and their dreams had been shattered.

And He needs to do this, my friends, because the story of Easter is the most unbelievable story in the whole world. And the cross of Jesus is still a stumbling block to many people today. And it is still foolishness to those who are perishing.

If Easter has made an impact on us, my friends, if the cross of Jesus Christ is the life giving symbol in our life, then, let’s talk about it, let’s proclaim it. Let us take this life giving message to our brothers and sisters who are living at the fringe of the Church. And, for goodness sake, my friends, let us be positive about it.

We’ve got something which they need, we have a risen Saviour to proclaim. 

For too long we have been deceiving people, by not being positive about what the Church has to offer. For too long we have flattered people with trivialities and with things that don’t matter. We have the living Word of God and the life saving Gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. And what the Church needs most of all, my friends, is dedicated members, in whose life Easter has made an impact.

It needs members who are willing to work in harmony with one another. Members who are willing to sacrifice their time and money and talents and everything else for the well-being of others. It needs members who are so convinced of the truth of the Gospel that they can not keep it for themselves, but will do everything they can to share it with others.

To convince others of the truth of it, and to challenge them for their commitment. We need to stop pussy-footing the Gospel, my friends, we can no longer afford to soften the truth of the Gospel in order to please people, there is far too much at stake. And not just the well being of the Church, but the eternal well-being of our brothers and sisters  is at stake. And we all must be filled with a loving concern and reach out to them with the only thing that can be of lasting value and benefit to them, the Gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us take this life giving message to our brothers and sisters who are living at the fringe of the Church.

You know, Jesus never softened the Gospel, He never deceived people.

When He noticed the negative way that Cleopas and his friend were talking, and when He noticed their unbelief, He rebuked them and said: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”. And it is about time, my friends, that our Churches will do the same.

It’s about time that we also challenge people with the truth of the Gospel, and that we make clear to them that they need the Church, and that they need Jesus, and that they need salvation. And that is a task that is laid upon each and everyone of us. And if Easter has made an impact on us, if we do believe in the risen Lord, if Christ has laid His claim upon us, then this is a task we can never get away from.

Is it so with us, my friends? Is the impact of Easter and the realisation that Jesus is alive so great that we can not contain it and that we must share it?

Then I can promise you that it will be well with us. The Christian message is never fully ours until we have shared it with someone else. And if we do share it with others, then I can promise you that it will be well with our Church, because that is what the Church is all about, sharing our faith.

We will recognise Jesus for what He is, the risen Christ, the One who conquered death and the grave and even hell itself, and only because so that we may have life, life abundant, and life everlasting.

And to Him be all the glory and the praise, now and forever.    Amen!

Pastor-Walter-PosthumaThe Lord bless you and keep you,

The Lord makes His face to shine upon you

And be gracious unto you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you

And give you peace.   Amen.

by  Pastor Walter Posthuma Th.C. (Hon.HM)

Easter ~ Holy Saturday

A Meditation
 
Prelude
 

Compared to Good Friday and Easter Sunday very little attention has been given to Holy Saturday, the day when Christ lay in his tomb.

Much commentary on this day has focussed on the line in the Apostles Creed “he descended into hell” and Christ’s so-called “Harrowing of Hell”. My opinion of these teachings can be found in the links below.1)http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman/102-03_240.pdf and http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman /102-04_303.pdf 
 
easter-week-1Personal Matters
 
I was recently speaking to an earnest younger pastor about a new ministry venture and his need to let go of responsibility for its success. We agreed that it is impossible to add or subtract from the finished work of Christ and that in Jesus everything God ever intended for this universe has already come to completion (Col 2:9-10).

Being on the brink of Easter thoughts of the victory of the resurrection came readily to mind.

But as we prayed together I surprisingly sensed something about Holy Saturday; it was an impression of the Holy Spirit and the Father watching over Jesus in the tomb. This brought to mind a vision once shared by a previous mentor in which he saw the glory of God hovering over Christ as he lay in the grave fulfilling the promise; “you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27; 13:35).

Holy Saturday teaches us about the Great Sabbath of our Lord.
 
Joyous Saturday
 
If we put ourselves in the position of the first disciples on Holy Saturday we will share their emptiness, confusion, fear and despair;”we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21 cf. John 20:19). This sort of grieving for a departed Jesus confuses the sinners’ anticipation of judgement upon death with Christ’s own positive post-mortem experience (Heb 9:27). Jesus’ own promise to the dying thief on the adjacent cross was unflinchingly positive; “he said, v42Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.v43 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23:42-43).

The promise of the presence of God in the beauty of his Garden was pledged to a man who recognised that Jesus was Lord, even over death (cf. Gen 3:8). Whilst Jesus had endured the utmost agony of separation from God on the cross, at the point of his death he was once more in conscious communion with his Father; “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46).

The psalmist who predicted that the Lord’s body would not suffer corruption in the grave went on to prophesy of the post-mortem experience of Jesus; “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (16:11 Acts 2:28). Jesus’ spirit abided in great joy over Holy Saturday as it rested in the Father’s love. Meanwhile his broken entombed body was in no way abandoned.
 
Watched Over
 
As part of their preaching of the gospel both Peter and Paul emphasised that the dead body of Jesus never saw decay; “you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” (Acts 2:27; 13:35). The incorruptibility of Christ’s flesh was clear that Jesus as the perfectly obedient Son was complete victor over the degrading power of death and worthy of immortality. Christ has broken the bounds of our finitude; ““it was not possible for him to be held by the pangs of death.”” (Acts 2:24 cf. 1 Cor 15:50).

The imperishable character of Jesus corpse flowed from the intimate protective presence of God’s Spirit in the grave. The Spirit who hovered over the formless chaos of creation at its beginning and watched over Israel in her wilderness journey preserved the entombed body of the Lord with his creative power (Gen 1:2; Deut 32:10-11). As surely as the Lord promised Jeremiah, ““I am watching over my word to perform it.””, the Father’s glory watched over the body of the slain Word eagerly anticipating his impending resurrection (Jer 1:12).
 
Faith not Sight
 
Those who saw Jesus’ broken body brought down from the cross and laid to rest behind a stone could not conceive he was victorious over death. They did not comprehend that the Lord always triumphs through brokenness. It was as the stranger took bread and broke it that his companions on the road to Emmaus recognised this was Jesus, and it is through broken bread that he offers us his immortality at the Lord’s Supper (Luke 24:30; 1 Cor 11:24).

When Paul teaches; “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:10-12), he testifies that an outwardly broken body is sustained and inwardly renewed by “the imperishable…word of God” (2 Cor 4:16; 1 Pet 1:23).

Holy Saturday teaches us that whatever the outward struggles and apparent defeats of daily life we are called to live with watchful expectation day by day.

The apparent delay between Friday and Sunday, between the death of a vision and its resurrection, does not mean defeat. To accept this is to live in the Great Sabbath of Christ.

Conclusion

In the Father’s world “out of sight” does not mean “out of mind”. Even when hidden from sight in a tomb Jesus was still saving us just as truly as by his public death and visible resurrection. God’s verdict of unlimited approval had secretly been placed upon his entombed Son when all others had judged him to have failed his life mission.

At times others have judged us as not reaching our full potential, and we even think this about ourselves, but meditating on Holy Saturday shifts our frame of reference. Simply recognising that it is the Lord of all who was placed in the tomb for us is a sign that we are a part of his new creation.

Whilst the fullness of the new creation is yet to be fully revealed that Christ’s enjoyment of the Great Sabbath is ours to be entered into by faith now. No amount of seriousness can add to or take away what Jesus has achieved for us.

We need to pause and allow the glorious Holy Spirit who hovers over us to impart an awareness of the sheer stillness that gave the spirit of our Lord such rich pleasure on the first Holy Saturday so long ago (1 Pet 4:14).

This uncanny restedness is a sheer supernatural gift and the sort of inner healing needed by a striving Church today.

Christ has triumphed.

References   [ + ]

@Easter

by Timothy Tay

The crucified, dead, but alive-again Christ, is the hope of all people. He is risen with the power to change lives. He has overcome the weaknesses and brokenness which grip the human race. He reigns as Lord, the one with authority to lead us. He is the infinite reference point to guide our lives, and the near at hand friend to heal us. Salvation Army

@Creation

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned, God made garments of skin to cloth them from their shame. Genesis 3

circa 2000 BC

Abraham obedience even to the point of not withholding his son, his only son, from God had resulted in a covenant that “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” God provided a ram as sacrifice in place of Isaac. Genesis 22

circa 1500 BC

Passover lamb, which was sacrificed and its blood put over the doorposts as a sign of faith, so that the Lord passed over the houses of the Jews during the last plague poured out on the Egyptians – the killing of every firstborn except for those of the house of Israel. Exodus 12

@Easter

Jesus became the Passover Lamb who took away the sin of the world.1)John 1:29 NIV

Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb. Revelation 7:12

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise! Revelation 5:12

Further Suggested Readings:

read Messages from Australian Churches

read Message from Archbishop Hickey

read Have a safe Easter – receive Jesus Christ into your life.

References   [ + ]

1. John 1:29 NIV

Resurrection Power: Sonship and a Unique Mission Move of God

by Dr. John Yates

In my last teaching I related what the Holy Spirit was saying about bringing the resurrection presence of Christ into every sector of society.  This word moves on in both depth and breadth.1)According to the principle, “What goes deepest to the conscience goes widest to the world” [P.T.Forsyth]  Drawn from experiences in prayer for Perth, the essential principles can however be applied to any situation.

Some years ago I predicted a time would come when the presence of God would be so strong in Western Australia that whatever the original nationality of Christian immigrants2)Australia is often said to be the second most multicultural nation in the world [after Israel]. all would come to identify Western Australia as their spiritual home.  Some years later I saw multi –coloured streams of people flowing out from Perth into the world.  This represented multi – racial outreach teams taking the gospel back to the nations. Only in the last few weeks do I believe God has been giving me keys as to how he will accomplish this.

Resurrection and Fatherhood

A saying of Jesus recently grasped my attention, “v35 those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead … v36 cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:35-36). The central point is that resurrected saints and angels are essentially united because both are “sons of God”.3)Angels are called “sons of God” in Gen 6:1-4; Job 1:6; Ps 89:6; Dan 3:25.  Christ’s followers and angels have a common Father, a reality that has been accomplished for us by Jesus own resurrection.

Paul preaches the resurrection as Jesus “adoption” as Son.  “this he (God) has fulfilled …by raising Jesus, as also it is written…”You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” (Acts 13:33). His teaching in Romans refines this. “(Jesus) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4).

Through resurrection Christ became Son of God in power, for it was in being raised into an immortal life that he passed beyond influence of sin, Satan and death.  No longer could he be weakened, tempted or feel separation from his Father.4)Mark 15:34 is the key text, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Having returned to the glory of the Trinity (John 17:5), his humanity shares in the eternity of God.  In such a state the human and divine S/sonship of Jesus reached complete unity.  Jesus connection to Adam as the fallen first father of all humanity is now ended.5)Some argue that Jesus virginal conception severed the Adamic line of original sin. I believe Jesus fully transformed a fallen nature [received from Mary] through his sinless life, death and resurrection.  A new creation has come.  This has vast implications.  For those in Christ, divine Fatherhood supersedes human parentage and creates a supernatural unity of races.

Our first birth ties us to “the man of dust” (1 Cor 15:47-48) whose destiny is to return to the dust (Gen 3:19) i.e. to die. In the Adamic state, differences in race, language and culture were inevitably experienced as alienating.6)Nations are part of the old Adamic order of creation, “he [God] made from one man [Adam] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” [Acts 17:26].  In Christ however, “he who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (Christians) all have one source.” (Heb 2:10-11 ESV).7)The context relates to God’s “bringing many sons to glory”. Glory relates to resurrection, e.g. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. ..43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”[1 Cor 15:42-43] The Greek for “all have one source” is literally “all are of one”.  In context, translations such as, “are of the same family” (NIV), “all have the same Father” (GNB) or “all have one Father” (NRSV) catch the sense well.

Since the Father of the risen Christ is our Father, we have been severed from the destructive and alienating divisions inherited from Adam.  Our second birth is from heaven by resurrection power and points us to a heavenly destiny (1 Pet 1:3; 1 Cor 15:48-49).  Now, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11).

A Unique Mission Move of God

This supernatural unity is the basis for a cross – racial cooperation in mission that can astound our divided world. Never before in the history of humanity have the peoples of the globe been brought together into the same living space in multicultural countries like Australia. This is all part of God’s end time plan so that his coming move will be unique in scale.8)We see the pattern already in the New Testament.  E.g. the reversal of Babel at Pentecost and the multiracial unity in Acts 13:1, “Simeon who was called Niger” is black, whilst the others named are Jews.

God’s purpose is that the giftings and graces of the various people groups flow as one :Australian mateship, African jubilation, Chinese business acumen, Vietnamese discipline, Latino passion, the spiritual sensitivity of indigenous peoples etc. All are to come together in united mission teams.  Multi – coloured teams spearheaded by the natives to the world’s cultures and languages are to be sent into the corners of the globe.

If this is God’s purpose, why hasn’t it happened yet?  Why do we have churches so often separated on the grounds of nationhood and race?  It is because we await an outpouring of resurrection power.  But in God’s order first comes the stripping work of the cross.

The preparation – stripping

I was speaking to a Chinese pastor recently who is deeply committed to mission to the nations.  I had a clear but unusual sense that he was being “skinned” by God.9)Skin colour is the most obvious marker of difference between people groups.  I sensed the Holy Spirit was pruning away even something as deep as his racial consciousness,10)As a source of personal identity in itself. bringing him to a place where he could lead believers from a host of races in the common cause of Christ.

This is an example of the stripping away of all earthly pride we must endure. The cross must kill all our titles, traditions, positions, gifts, and anything else that is mortal, including national and racial pride.  Then the Spirit of Jesus can be poured out imparting that sense of eternal sonship creating functional church unity in vigorous mission.

Living in the Eternal

An outstanding historical prototype of what the Lord is seeking to release in our midst is the Moravians.  In the 1720’s the pious Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf established a community for refugees from religious persecution; Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists and Catholics were all present.  For three years there was struggle and argument, during which time Zinzendorf set up the famous 24/7 prayer watch that was to continue for 100 consecutive years.  In August 1727 the community experienced a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that immersed them in forgiving love.  The result was the first large scale Protestant missionary movement. Hundreds went to remote and difficult realms, including the Caribbean, North and South America, the Arctic, Africa, and the Far East. They were also the first to send unordained “lay” people, the first Protestant denomination to go to slaves, and the first in many countries of the world.

When the Holy Spirit is poured out so a community diverse in race, culture and beliefs is impacted by resurrection power, believers know in an immediate way that God is their Father.  Race, education, finance, gender, position and so on cease to be sources of personal identity and righteousness.  Baptised into the nature of God (John 17:20-26; 2 Pet 1:4) the community knows that the Trinitarian life they share is essentially communicable.11)Angels as “sons of God” also know this and seek to help in the missions enterprise cf. Mark 13:27 etc.  Or, to put the same thing in a less theological way, the human community senses that the divine community is essentially a family that desires to embrace more and more people.  This revelation is at the heart of the passion of the renewed church for mission.  In such an atmosphere the resistance of evil powers begins to fold.

Spiritual Breakthrough

One of the most important texts for out time is Ephesians 3:10, “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”  In context, Paul is relating how the inclusion of the Gentiles (Greek ethnoi = “nations”) in the people of God breaks the hold of evil demonic forces.  How this happens is explained a little later.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named(Eph 3:14-15).  The angel family in heaven and the believing human family on earth have a common Father.  When the human and angelic sons of God unite in the cause of the gospel spanning heaven and earth dramatic spiritual breakthrough always follows. Under these conditions the principalities in heavenly places become painfully aware that they lack the one true source of universal authority, a heavenly Father.  Ashamed and disempowered, inescapably aware that their “father” (Satan) is fallen and judged12)John 8:44; John 12:31; Rev 12:7-12. they plunge into disarray.

The centrality of the revelation of God as universal Father is critically important to the sustainability of any renewing of the church for mission. Separating our experience of resurrection power from the foundation of sonship is disastrous. A primary focus on signs, wonders, miracles, manifestations, growth etc. will see God himself allow Satan to attack a proud church (James 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5) so the collapse of the revival movement is inevitable.

Conclusion

God is preparing his people for a global missions movement that will exceed in scope and diversity anything before it.  Central to this move is the oneness of the people groups of the world under the Lordship of Christ united in the heavenly Father.  Those released in global evangelisation will be characterised by an extraordinary fearlessness.13)“Give me one hundred men who love God with all their hearts and who fear no one but God and who hate nothing but sin, and I will change the world” [John Wesley].  This is because they will know that to be immediately related to the eternal God as Father is to have the sure promise of immortality.

Wisdom dictates that in response to the measure of revelation contained in this article we pray not only for reviving resurrection power, but that it come forth in the way Jesus always intended it to be manifested, as the creation of sons of God.14)A deep connection is outlined by Paul in Romans 8:18-25 between resurrection, sonship and the renewal of the whole cosmos.  My prayer for the church in Perth, and beyond, is that God grant us the maturity to understand that to “make disciples of all nations” is to disciple them to the ONE Father.

References   [ + ]

1. According to the principle, “What goes deepest to the conscience goes widest to the world” [P.T.Forsyth]
2. Australia is often said to be the second most multicultural nation in the world [after Israel].
3. Angels are called “sons of God” in Gen 6:1-4; Job 1:6; Ps 89:6; Dan 3:25.
4. Mark 15:34 is the key text, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
5. Some argue that Jesus virginal conception severed the Adamic line of original sin. I believe Jesus fully transformed a fallen nature [received from Mary] through his sinless life, death and resurrection.
6. Nations are part of the old Adamic order of creation, “he [God] made from one man [Adam] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” [Acts 17:26].
7. The context relates to God’s “bringing many sons to glory”. Glory relates to resurrection, e.g. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. ..43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”[1 Cor 15:42-43]
8. We see the pattern already in the New Testament.  E.g. the reversal of Babel at Pentecost and the multiracial unity in Acts 13:1, “Simeon who was called Niger” is black, whilst the others named are Jews.
9. Skin colour is the most obvious marker of difference between people groups.
10. As a source of personal identity in itself.
11. Angels as “sons of God” also know this and seek to help in the missions enterprise cf. Mark 13:27 etc.
12. John 8:44; John 12:31; Rev 12:7-12.
13. “Give me one hundred men who love God with all their hearts and who fear no one but God and who hate nothing but sin, and I will change the world” [John Wesley].
14. A deep connection is outlined by Paul in Romans 8:18-25 between resurrection, sonship and the renewal of the whole cosmos.

The Happy Father

Personal Matters

joyby Dr. John Yates
Whilst my serious manner has led some people to think that I am not a relational person, Jesus is increasingly making this opinion untrue. Recently he has been communicating an indispensible element of relating.

In a prayer meeting I heard a medley of Bible verses that seemed to come together around a common theme: ““Where you there when I laid the foundation of the earth….and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy”” (Job 38:4, 7); “I will…give them joy in my house of prayer”(Isa 56:7); “when he marked out the foundations of the earth then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Prov 8:29-31). Plainly, when God lays a foundation he experiences great joy.

I am increasing inwardly convinced that we have a Father whose happiness is at the foundation of his relationship with us. The substance of this conviction is the life of Christ itself.

Jesus is the Joy (and the cross)

However pleased God was with the first created order his joy was soon spoiled through sin (Gen 6:5-6). For the Lord’s joy in creation to become eternal required the laying of a radically new foundation. The coming of the Word as a human being meant that this new foundation was the Son of God himself (John 1:1, 14). The joyous atmosphere that surrounded Bethlehem at Christ’s birth was a sign of the unfailing ecstasy in the heart of the Father at the coming of a new humanity through whom his pleasure would never fail. Christ’s acclamation “I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me” (John 5:30) reveals that he abided continually in the pleasure of God.

The wonderful words and works of Jesus were the visible radiance of the indwelling joy of the LORD (Matt 21:15).

 
The sorrowful work of the cross seals this joy in us (John 16:20-22).

Christian martyrs often die with excruciating physical pain but intense inner joy (cf. James 1:2), but Jesus’ anguish as a Son is to suffer on the cross stripped of the joy of the Lord (Mark 15:34). What however is infinite anguish for him is full assurance for us.

The total joylessness of the cross is the sign that our sins in all their potency to strip the Father of his happiness have been fully carried away in Christ (John 1:29).

Resurrection  (and the cross)

In the language of the parable of the prodigal son, the resurrection of Jesus is the return from the “far country” of sin into the welcoming bosom of the Father (Luke 15:32).

Resurrection a restored Sonship means unrestrained celebration in heaven (Rom 1:4; Heb 1:6-9). To bring gladness to the Father was always the motivation of the Son of God, “Jesus… For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2).

Jesus died and rose again to bring glory to his Father, and glory always radiates into joy (1Pet 1:8; Jude 24). The most profound definition of happiness is Christ with his “Dad”.1)Though not the most accurate definition of the Son and the Father The implications for us of these profound realities flows from “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Abiding Joy

Jesus promised “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22), for our joy is the expression of his joy in us (John 15:11). The ultimate indestructible quality of Christian joy is our sharing in the oneness of the joy of the Father with the Son (John 10:30).

Language fails in describing the richness of these realities.

The prophetic words “The LORD your God…will rejoice over you with singing”(Zeph 3:17) are true for us because the Father’s heart sings because of Christ living in me. The Father’s joy is full because Jesus has been laid as the eternal for my sonship (1 Cor 3:11). God my Father constantly delights in my life, despite my external circumstances and erratic obedience, because I am once and for all a new creation in his Son (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).

He knows me already as his partner in a new world where sorrow has forever ceased (2 Pet 1:4; Rev 21:4). There is still another dimension of this circle of joy, joy in one another (2 Cor 7:7; Phil 4:10; 2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:3).

Whilst the victories of our brothers and sisters are ongoing causes for celebration, there is a more stable basis for mutual joy. John the Baptist spoke with great excitement at the coming of Christ, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” (John 3:29).

To recognise that my bother/sister in Christ is a member of his Holy Bride is of itself enough to swell me, a friend of the Groom, with joy (Rev 19:7).

A Diverse Family

I have been wonder-struck in the last week at the incredible diversity of the people the Lord has given me to care for. Not simply in terms of age, gender, class, spirituality or theology, but in mentoring folk from every continent. There is a multicoloured wisdom at work in the rich variety of the children in the Father’s house that is simply incomprehensible (Eph 3:10). Coming away from a predominantly African meeting last Sunday I was overcome with a sense of the Father’s warm loving delight in his multicultural family. I am pleasantly amazed to be a part of it.

Conclusion

Upon visiting Australia a few years ago the Christian sociologist Tony Campolo said, “I know all about your people, ninety five per cent of Australian mothers say their main goal is to make their children happy.” The joy or happiness we know in Christ is not like that brought by Australian mothers. Neither does it conform to the famous ditty, “Happy wife, happy life.” Christian joy comes from sharing in Jesus abiding forever in the Father’s indestructible love. The joy of God’s kingdom is a joy which cannot be shaken (Rom 14:17; Heb 12:28).

May all of us live, grow and radiate such a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet 1:8).

References   [ + ]

1. Though not the most accurate definition of the Son and the Father

Anger & Compassion

Image of a Father (Heavenly) / Father (Earthly)

by Dr. John Yates

Introduction

On the verge of Good Friday, I would like to read two stories about a father handing his child over to a shocking death of loneliness and abandonment, the first is very ancient and familiar; the second is one from our times.

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, v45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land  until the ninth hour. v46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” v47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah. v48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. v49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.v50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” (Matt 27:45-50)

Reading from Independent Australia,1)http://www.independentaustralia.net/2011/crime/darcey-freeman-5-killed-in-the-name-of-her-father/ {hyperlink} 11 April, 2011 5:23 pm Independentaustralia.net a piece titled:

Darcey Freeman, 4, killed in the name of her father

“When her own father, Arthur Phillip Freeman stopped his car on the West Gate Bridge that yawns over the river Yarra, and picked up his blonde-haired four year old daughter mercilessly chucking her over the railings to plunge a 58 lonely meters to her death, he surely condemned the child to endure a most hellish nightmare and ordeal for her last terrifying seconds on earth….

darcey-freeman

In those bewildering last moments before she hit that deep and dark water, she would have known in her suffocating fear that she had been betrayed and discarded by her Daddy.

He who should have been her defender; her champion. The one man who should have taken a hit for her.”  When Freeman was sentenced to 32 years last week, he showed no remorse in court, but launched into an angry attack on his ex-wife’s family.

Arthur Freeman was so shamed by his ex-wife and family that he was blinded by his rage to the meaning of fatherhood and became totally oblivious to the needs and pains of others.  Of course, many in Australia today think of the Christian portrayal of God in this way.2)I have reasons to believe that our Prime Minister Julia Gillard is such a person. This comparison is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Whilst around half of the Australian population still describe themselves as “Christian”,3)http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/11/26/3077011.htm?site=widebay {Hyperlink}abc.net.au ABC RELIGION AND ETHICS 26 NOV 2010 most live as if there is not God.4)Often described as “practical atheism” [cf. Ps 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’”.]

I was in a prayer meeting today where some of the men were praying to God as “Daddy”,5)A common but mistaken interpretation of “Abba” [Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6]. which of course was Darvey Freeman’s way of talking to her dad. If the Father of Jesus is really a good daddy to us, why is there so much neglect amongst the people of God of the ways he has taught us to access his divine life. Why little or irregular reading of the Bible, struggles with prayer, minimal commitment to alleviating poverty, obliviousness to the plight of millions of persecuted believers around the world. All these are merely surface symptoms of a condition of the human heart.6)Understood as the motivating centre of behaviour, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” [Prov 4:23].

The Bible has many disturbing texts (which is why we don’t read it), here is one I find particularly troublesome. “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.” (Ps 50:21). As we can be silent concerning evil acts, we think God is like us and not too bothered either. This is the foundational sin of making God in our own image, the story of which begins in the Garden of Eden.

The Glory of God and the Shame of Man

In their closeness to the earth, the first humans were conscious of being formed from the dust of the ground and of having received the “breath of life”7)Which is shared by the animals [Gen 1:30; 6:17; 7:15]. (Gen 2:7). In the middle of the beauty of Eden was a tree whose purpose was to remind Adam and Eve of their absolute dependence on God (Gen 2:9; 3:3). The possibility of death was held before their eyes by the clear command, ““the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”””(Gen 2:17). Prohibitions like this can be read in two ways, as a threat of punitive action to intimidate us into good behaviour, or as an opportunity to confirm and elevate our status as God’s beloved children.

Satan seduced Eve by deceiving her into believing that the threat of divine punishment was merely the stand over tactics of a bully. “v4You will not surely die. v5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5). Satan suggests to Eve that by her own self action she can create a new kind of image of God in her own likeness and imagining (Gen 3:6) beyond the reach of her original Creator. Whoever chooses to know good and evil for themselves enters into a realm of self-conscious immortality. This temptation was the epitome of self-glorification and it has always proven overwhelming.

This whole scenario could have gone in a totally different direction motivated by a different wisdom and a different desire.8)See, for example, James 3:13-18.  Scripture teaches with great soberness, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov 9:10).9)Cf. Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7; Prov 15:33; Mic 6:9 God did not expect Adam and Eve to fear being thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, something much deeper was at stake in his warning about death. In the fifth commandment we read, ““Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land” (Ex 20:12).

Honouring parents is a principle without exception because they are the ones who gave you life.

Adam and Eve were not called to fear the loss of the pleasures of the Garden, but the loss of the pleasure of drawing their life from God. Those who lack godly always commit the following sin. A pained God speaks to a rebellious Israel, ““A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear?”  (Mal 1:6). From the beginning, human beings have refused to honour God (Rom 1:21. Cf. John 8:44). This is a sin of infinite proportions. Made in the image of God as his sons (Luke 3:38), when Adam and Eve (who symbolise all of us) wanted the inheritance of creation without the fellowship of the Creator they committed the crime of decide (Ex 20:5 Deut 32:43; Rom 1:30), they wanted God dead.10)This is the real sin of the prodigal son, in wanting the share of his father’s inheritance whilst the patriarch is alive, he makes it clear that he wishes he were already dead [Luke 15:12].

In dishonouring God Adam and Eve were startled to find that something terrible had happened to them, they had lost what the Bible calls “the weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17 cf. Rom 3:23).

The sense of immeasurable dignity that belongs to being in the eternal family of God11)Cf. “his eternal power and divine name” [Rom 1:20] had seemingly vanished forever. Knowing good and evil for themselves (Gen 3:22), they recognised they were fully responsible for destroying the honour with which God had created them, stripped of God’s glory they were filled with an undying sense of shame.12)In Genesis 3:22 “the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil”. I take it this means that the human sense of responsibility is as  absolute  as God’s. This was intolerable and in self-consciousness of their newly discovered weakened state13)Nakedness means exposure and weakness. they immediately covered themselves with fig leaves and hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen 3:7-10).

We may be tempted to ask, if the human situation is as tragic as this, why don’t we all, starting with our first Fallen ancestors, flee to the presence of God. The answer to this is as simple as it is dreadful, if in your heart you have killed every aspect of trust in the goodness of your Creator,14)What it means to be dead in sin [Rom 8:10; Eph 2:1]. then you cannot believe in his compassion and forgiveness. Shame is not simply emptiness; it is in its deepest core self-generated Fatherlessness. Shame is one of the deepest and most indelible of all human emotions and controls the great mass of human behaviour, from fashion to Facebook.

Humans are constantly controlled by feelings of inferiority, feeling less than others in the realm of beauty, intelligence, wealth, social standing, sporting ability, personality, spirituality and so on.

(I used to hate it, and rather rudely refuse to play the game when I used to go to pastors conference and everybody would ask the question, “How big is your church?”)

The root problem generating all these destructive comparisons15)Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [2 Cor 10:12] is not something called “low self-esteem” but an abiding and ineffaceable sense that we are less than we are meant to be in the image of God. The common idols and ambitions of life – the successful career, the flawless family, the glamorous partner, the powerful ministry… are all substitutes for the glory of God and an attempt to fill the gap between who we are and who we know we should be.

Human self-consciousness is filled with repeated attempts to achieve self-glorification16)Which includes glorification through the eyes of others [John 5:44]. which are doomed to fail because the honour we seek from men is not only inferior to the honour from the one true God17)How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” [John 5:44] but is highly conditional. We are not simply passively shamed however; the problem goes to another level.

The Angry Man

I was listening to the radio recently and a forensic psychiatrist who works in prisons was saying every violent person has a history of being dishonored /shamed from early life.

In conversation with a range of people, including addict and violent offenders, the stories they share about their early life situations are so terribly tragic that all you can say is, “If that sort of abuse had happened to me I would have taken the same road too.” But why are destructive human responses so predictable – why for example don’t we refuse to strike back?

This is not a psychological question, or even a moral question, but a theological question.

At this level, at the foundational level of our corrupted humanity we are directed back to the origin of human violence.

The famous story of the murder of Abel by Cain begins this way.

v4 And the Lord received Abel and his offering with favour, v5 but Cain and his offering he did not receive. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. v6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? v7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:3ff.)

Cain felt rejected by God and envied God’s pleasure in his brother (Heb 11:4, 6).

Yet his own spirit was not acceptable to the LORD, for he showed no sign of understanding that he was created to enjoy drawing his life from God.

Feeling dishonoured by God and ignoring the caring divine warning about sin’s power (cf. Gen 2:17), Cain lost sight of everything but his own ego need for approval and spiraled out of control in a way that has become characteristic of the history of humanity. The story ends with an echo of the fate of Adam and Eve, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord” (Gen 4: 16 cf. Gen 3:24). This is still the condition of the mass of humanity, and until Jesus deals with our shame we can expect conflict in the world.

Having been in the Middle East recently it is very clear how the Muslim peoples of the world feel shamed by the Israeli possession of Palestine, people feel shamed about the condition of their own lives and degenerate into self-condemnation or turn their frustrations out on others. As I was walking in the street this morning an angry aboriginal youth on a bike went passed – there is a culture whose explosive crime rates mirror deep racial shame. Or, to put it in context with this talk, as another indigenous person said, “You see all these young men walking the streets of Belmont, not one of them has a father.”

The self-critical statements of Christians about their own lack of prayer, bible knowledge or spiritual growth shows a dislike of self which is on the same scale of self-loathing.

Arthur Phillip Freeman felt shamed by his wife and her family and in each case terrible violence broke out.

Where is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of all this? Hear the cry of the faithful concerning this disastrous state of affairs, “v15 Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me.v16 For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.(Isa 63:15-16; Hos 13:14).

Just why does God our Father’s compassion seem to be held back from us?

God’s Compassion for the Weak

I was speaking recently with a man who came to talk about the repeated struggles he had in getting along with church leaders. At one point he spoke appealingly, “I come from a position of weakness, I have no strength.” He was referring to the fact that he has a long history of mental illness, including extensive periods of hospitalisation, lives on a pension and has never had a position of authority in a congregation.

When I said to him, “You are an angry man, whenever you get angry with other people you do not come across from a position of but as though you had a position of strength, that’s how people experience anger”. Suddenly he paused, and wanted to pray.

Our strength, whether of emotion, intellect, resource, gifting or anything else puts us outside the experience of the compassionate healing power of God. Our Lord cannot identify with the powerful but only with the weak.

That God honours those who are weak with his compassionate presence is deeply embedded in scripture.

The Old Testament proclaims the fatherly compassion of God as transparently as the New, v9He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. v10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. v11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; v12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. v13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.v14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.(Ps 103:9-14).18)Cf. “v38 Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. v39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.” [Ps 78:38-39].

God’s compassion is supremely powerful because when strength identifies with our weakness he honours us in a way that removes shame. Jesus honoured the people of the land by living and ministering in their midst. It was in the authority of the Father’s compassion that Christ fed the hungry, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead and preached good news to the poor – all of which were radically weak and needy persons (Matt 9:35-36; Matt 14:13-21; Matt 15:32-39; Mark 9:22-27; Luke 7:13-14).

If we are not actually experiencing Jesus’ compassion like those in the Gospel stories we must have placed ourselves outside the community of their acknowledged weakness. Shockingly, this would place us in the company of the religiously strong of Christ’s day, the scribes and Pharisees Two of Jesus’ most famous parables were told against this group. One is the story of a Samaritan19)In the orthodox theology of the day Samaritans were heretics. who, unlike the priest and Levite in the tale, “had compassion (Luke 10:33) on a “half dead” man.

The highlight of what we call the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” describes how when the repentant rebel “was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20). The older brother, who represents the religious authorities in Israel, remains outside the experience of the father’s heart because he refuses to forgive his brother from the heart (Matt 18:34-35). There is nothing quite so personally dis-empowering that seeking and giving forgiveness.

Jesus taught on this matter with supreme clarity, “whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”” (Mark 11:25).20)Cf. “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” [Matt 6:11]
If God honours us in our shame by forgiving us, we ought to honour God by doing likewise for others. Those who are too strong to acknowledge their need to forgive simply will not experience forgiveness from God. The circle of forgiveness always invites the Lord’s compassionate presence. As recently as yesterday, I had to warn a believer that that the first principle of wisdom in the fear of the Lord is to forgive others.21)Cf. “v3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? v4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” [Ps 130:3-4].

If we don’t we get this it must be because we think that God himself is a reluctant forgiver22)““he who is forgiven little, loves little.”” [Luke 7:47] or even less sensitive to human need than we are. Of course no “Christian” will freely admit this.

The problem that most of us still have is that we seem to rarely be able to get in touch with the compassionate beating heart of Jesus because we are still too strong. To get to the root of matter bluntly, we do not believe that God understands our condition because we do not understand his condition. Martin Luther once said, “The cross is the test of everything.” (Crux probat omnia), only the cross can show us the divine condition.

Anger and Shame in the Cross

As Jesus approaches the cross through the Garden of Gethsemane, he is overcome by an all consuming fear, ““v34 My soul is very sorrowful, even to death….v35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. v36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:34, 36).

To quote Luther again, “No man ever feared like this man.” Have you ever been afraid? Once upon a time I lived every day in a fear so pervasive I could not walk down a public street, and I clearly remember being possessed by a dread that was physically paralysing. Fear can be that powerful and it can make you feel irreducibly weak.

Jesus’ fear however was wholly unlike that of Adam, Adam sinned and feared the punishment of a God who was to him a stranger. Jesus never sinned (Heb 4:15) and feared the loss of intimacy with his Father. It is Jesus knowledge of God as his Father that makes his experience of the cross so paradoxical, he knew exactly what it meant for “the cup” that was set before him to be the cup of the divine anger.23)Ps 11:6; Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15, 17; Ezek 23:31-33

As a sinless man Jesus was a shameless man (John 8:49) who never once felt a gap of inferiority between who he was and who God had created him to be. All of this was about to change.

Darcey Freeman, the child of a shamed and anger filled father fell a lonely 58 metres to her death as a child condemned “to endure a most hellish nightmare”, but when“ “Jesus cried with a loud voice, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””, the Son of a Holy Father fell all the way into the utter eternal aloneness of hell itself .24)This is, for example, Calvin’s interpretation of the Apostle’s Creed, “He descended into hell.”

In such a hell Jesus feels, not simply that he does not know God, but far more severely, that he is not known by God (1 Cor 8:3 Gal 4:9 cf. Gen 22:12). Loneliness is a terrible experience, but it was an essential one for Jesus to share in order to redeem the world in all of its shame and weakness.

Christ’s suffering is however no passive thing. When, ““Jesus cried with a loud voice, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) he was reversing the whole history of humanity’s relationship with the Creator-Father. The psalmist says, “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?(Ps 90:11).25)Cf. ““A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” [Mal 1:6] No sinful flesh has ever laid to heart the intensity of God’s wrath against evil so as to fear him with a reverence that is his due.

No one, until Jesus, has ever taken the loss of God’s Fatherly presence with full seriousness or felt acutely enough the loss of pleasure in drawing life from God. This is how we have dishonoured him and fallen away from his glory, and how in Christ all is recovered. In the midst of his experience of totalised human weakness, struggle and death at an extremity exceeding all others, Jesus offered up something to God that humanity from Adam on had never offered26)E.g. “although they knew God, they did not honour him as God” [Rom 1:21]  and that the Father had always longed for, “reverent submission/godly fear”(Heb 5:7). He honoured God as his Father by perfect submissive obedience.

It could not be that he cross was the end, it marks a new beginning, ““v15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contritev16 For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.”” (Isa 57:15-16)

It could not be that the Holy One could overlook the contrite and lowly spirit of his Son, he has restored his spirit and he has revived his heart. In the transformation of the dust of Christ’s earthly body into the glorified resurrection body at the right hand of God, and in filling the breath of his human life with the Holy Spirit, all judgment has been taken away. In Christ there is no longer any cause for shame, and heaven is open to all who would come to him in weakness to receive his Father’s resurrection power.

The Fruit of Shamelessness

Jesus weeping in Gethsemane and crying out in prayer upon the cross redefines the meaning of strength and weakness27)For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” [1 Cor 1:25]. and restores to us godly shamelessness.

Jesus left us a parable about persistent prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, at the centre of this story is a friend who lacking bread comes to a neighbour at midnight for supplies, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of is shamelessness he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (Luke 11:8).

To share in what looks like shameful weakness to outsiders, such as pleading with God for the supply of his Spirit, is actually a sharing in the weakness of Christ from the cross and the key to manifesting the compassionate healing power of God. With the shameless anything is possible with God.

Paul could say, “v8 We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; v9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; v10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor 6:8-10).

George Whitfield was perhaps the greatest English speaking preacher of all time who drew up to 20,000 people at a time at his open air meetings.

There were many acts of violence against him, and at least once attempt on his life. An outstanding characteristic of his preaching was that every time he spoke he wept. Whitefield had reached a point in his life where he knew that unless Christ shared visible demonstrations of crucified brokenness no “strong” person’s life would be weakened by his compassion.

Once he was approached after his meeting was finished by a chastened looking young man who said, “I came here with rocks in my pocket to break your head, but your tears broke my heart.

Conclusion

In conclusion, what do the stories of Jesus and his Father and Darcey Freeman and her father have in common. Reading the newspaper accounts and blogs of this innocent little girl’s death many people unashamedly and compassionately identified with the tragedy and freely spoke of their tears.

I wonder how many will weep this coming Good Friday when they hear the story of the crucifixion of the Son of God afresh.

Arthur Freeman murdered his daughter because he had lost the pleasure of giving her life and giving into her life so that his heart was filled with anger.

God the Creator-Father has never lost the pleasure of giving us all life28)Cf. Paul’s appeals to pagans in Acts 13; 17 that extol the divine Creator’s generosity. and always wants to give us more, forever.

What then about the anger or wrath of this Father?

It has been wisely said, “For us, anger brings pain, but for God anger is pain.”29)And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” [Gen 6:4]

Good Friday is a time to weep tears, not for Jesus who has been raised from the dead, but for those whose lives show they have still to receive the revelation that the broken and tormented body of Christ is the visible compassion of the Father, and the sign of the removal of all our shame.

The revelation that the God of Jesus is no “Angry Father” is yet to fall upon us.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.independentaustralia.net/2011/crime/darcey-freeman-5-killed-in-the-name-of-her-father/ {hyperlink} 11 April, 2011 5:23 pm Independentaustralia.net
2. I have reasons to believe that our Prime Minister Julia Gillard is such a person.
3. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/11/26/3077011.htm?site=widebay {Hyperlink}abc.net.au ABC RELIGION AND ETHICS 26 NOV 2010
4. Often described as “practical atheism” [cf. Ps 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’”.]
5. A common but mistaken interpretation of “Abba” [Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6].
6. Understood as the motivating centre of behaviour, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” [Prov 4:23].
7. Which is shared by the animals [Gen 1:30; 6:17; 7:15].
8. See, for example, James 3:13-18.
9. Cf. Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7; Prov 15:33; Mic 6:9
10. This is the real sin of the prodigal son, in wanting the share of his father’s inheritance whilst the patriarch is alive, he makes it clear that he wishes he were already dead [Luke 15:12].
11. Cf. “his eternal power and divine name” [Rom 1:20]
12. In Genesis 3:22 “the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil”. I take it this means that the human sense of responsibility is as  absolute  as God’s.
13. Nakedness means exposure and weakness.
14. What it means to be dead in sin [Rom 8:10; Eph 2:1].
15. Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [2 Cor 10:12]
16. Which includes glorification through the eyes of others [John 5:44].
17. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” [John 5:44]
18. Cf. “v38 Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. v39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.” [Ps 78:38-39].
19. In the orthodox theology of the day Samaritans were heretics.
20. Cf. “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” [Matt 6:11]
21. Cf. “v3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? v4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” [Ps 130:3-4].
22. ““he who is forgiven little, loves little.”” [Luke 7:47]
23. Ps 11:6; Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15, 17; Ezek 23:31-33
24. This is, for example, Calvin’s interpretation of the Apostle’s Creed, “He descended into hell.”
25. Cf. ““A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” [Mal 1:6]
26. E.g. “although they knew God, they did not honour him as God” [Rom 1:21]
27. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” [1 Cor 1:25].
28. Cf. Paul’s appeals to pagans in Acts 13; 17 that extol the divine Creator’s generosity.
29. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” [Gen 6:4]

A Good Friday Meditation on the Word

v21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. v22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed. Luke 22:21-22 It was the last supper of Jesus with his 12 disciples.

easter-clipby Pastor Allen Tan (Yew Fook)
The picture of being hailed as king on that particular “Palm” Sunday was still vivid in His mind. But He knew He will soon be left alone scaling up that Mount of Death – Calvary. His disciples will soon forsake Him. At last, only John was found standing by His dear mom’s side.

What broke His heart most was the betrayal by Judas. David had prophesied about this, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9). No, Jesus did not put a curse on Judas. When He said “woe to that man”, it could be any man, and Judas had a choice, he needed not be that “man”.

It was not the cross that brought Him pain but rather a friend’s betrayal that had inflicted Him much. He showed concern about Judas’ salvation. Nevertheless Judas had never made a U-turn.

In real life, some of us have also suffered betrayal by someone. Such thing will be more prominent in the last days. Paul said, “v1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. v2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, v3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, v4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, v5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Tim 3:1-5).

The above characters are related to one another. Why is a person being treacherous?
Because he or she a lover of self, a lover of money, and is proud and arrogant. Don’t ever think that Paul was talking to the unbelievers. No, he was talking to people in the House of God. People of such description are to be seen everywhere, and the Church is of no exception.

We have seen enough saints making vain promises. They broke promises when material gains propped up along the way, thus friendship was sacrificed! In the last days, integrity is becoming less weighty than gold. Saints of God manifested an absolute character flaw. As a result, the Church was made a mockery by the world.

It was painful for the Lord to be betrayed.
A Bible commentator has suggested that Jesus was probably died of heart failure. Jesus, being painful over people’s hardness of hearts, bore all their burdens alone. He was forgiving about the wicked deeds of them all, including that of Judas. That probably speaks why Jesus gave up the ghost sooner than the two robbers. There was no forensic technology at that time, so no one will know the cause of His death. No matter how, sooner or later, Jesus would die being nailed. Even if He died of heart failure, He died on the cross. There is no doubt about that.

Finally, the gist of my story of meditation is that living a life of character flaw is impossible to please God.

If we have gone astray, let us make a U-turn now. If someone has hurt you, forgive him or her.

Jesus was Betrayed

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