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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

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I read Matthew 27 today in my yearly Bible read-through. Matthew records, among other things, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Shortly after I started reading, I knew I needed to slow down and think about what happened. As I meditated on Jesus’ death, several thoughts came to the fore.

The death of Jesus was voluntary. He chose to undergo horrific suffering, physical punishment, and death for the salvation of His people. He laid down His life because He wanted to do so. That’s amazing!

Even though it didn’t look like it, Jesus was in control of every single circumstance surrounding His suffering and death. Events did not “spiral out of control.” and make Him a victim of circumstances.

While the physical pain of death (in this case crucifixion) can be somewhat understood, the spiritual agony He experienced by taking all of the sins of all of His people upon Himself cannot. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (verse 46) is exponentially more painful than anything else that happened that day.

The rejection and hostility toward the sinless Savior – the embodiment of love – is real and strong. It was then, and it is now. Even in the act of ultimate self-sacrifice, He was mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and rejected.

All of this leads to praise: “Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow!”

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saturday

Holy Saturday is the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For us, it’s a day of waiting We know “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say.

But consider the first disciples of Jesus – those whom He called to follow Him and those who saw Him betrayed, arrested, tried, beaten, mocked, scourged, and finally crucified. They didn’t know what would happen on Sunday morning. Yes, Jesus had told them on at least four occasions, but it’s clear that it didn’t register in their hearts and minds.

Jesus – the One they loved; the One they followed; the One to whom they had dedicated their very lives; the One they knew to be precisely who He claimed to be – was dead. Their beloved was buried in a tomb guarded by sixteen Roman soldiers. The enormous stone which had been rolled in front of the tomb’s entrance was decorated with the seal of the Roman Empire.

As far as these first disciples were concerned, it was over. What was over? Everything. Their Saviour, Lord, and friend was dead and gone. Their mission was over, seemingly before it even got started. The Romans and Jewish leadership had won. What would they do now? Their lives had been forever changed, and now it seemed to be over.

No hope.

No forgiveness of sin.

No reconciliation with God.

No peace.

No salvation.

No meaning.

No justice.

No mercy.

No future.

All of that would be true if Jesus had stayed dead in the tomb. Their faith, and our faith, is vain and useless if it would have ended with the death of Jesus. That’s what the disciples faced from Friday afternoon through Saturday night.

They didn’t know the rest of the story, but we do! Holy Saturday proves the importance of Resurrection Sunday.

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Good-Friday_ss_267935090

Good Friday is the day the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died by means of crucifixion on a cross – a vicious, brutal, horrific way to die. So why do we call it “good” Friday?

Listen to the prophet Isaiah:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
and by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:4-6).

The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The apostle Peter wrote: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:21-24). 

Good Friday is good because Jesus died a death I should have died. He died as a substitutionary sacrifice for my sins, and the sins of all of His people. If that wasn’t enough, He lived a life of perfect obedience to His Father in my place. Good Friday is good because of what He accomplished, and we can rejoice in that.

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The Christian History Institute published the story of forty Roman soldiers who were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on March 9th, 320 A.D.

“Consider—you alone of Caesar’s troops defy him! Think of the disgrace you bring upon your legion. How can you do it?” Governor Agricola was speaking to forty soldiers in the 12th Legion of the Roman army who refused to offer sacrifice to the emperor while they were stationed near Sebaste in modern-day Turkey.

“To disgrace the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is more terrible still,” replied one of the soldiers.

The governor became exasperated. “Give up this stubborn folly. You have no lord but Caesar! In his name, I promise promotion to the first of you who steps forward and does his duty.” 

When that lure did not break their ranks he increased the pressure. “You persist in your rebellion? Then prepare for torture, prison, death!”

The soldiers stood firm. “Nothing you can offer us would replace what we would lose in the next world. As for your threats—we’ve learned to deny our bodies where the welfare of our souls is at stake.”

Agricola ordered them flogged. Guards dragged the men out into the cold where they were stripped and tied to posts. Whips with hooks of iron tore the men’s sides. Unbelievably not one of the forty surrendered. “Chain them in my dungeons!” roared Agricola. He referred their case to Lysias, commander of the 12th Legion, whose coming was soon expected. When Lysias arrived he threatened a sharp penalty if the soldiers continued to disobey.

On this day, 9 March 320, the men remained respectfully defiant. A new torture occurred to Agricola. Nearby was a frozen pond. The March air was sharp. “You will stand naked on the ice until you agree to sacrifice to the gods,” he said.

The rebel soldiers tore off their own clothes and ran toward the pond in the freezing air. “We are soldiers of the Lord and fear no hardship,” shouted one. “What is our death but entrance into eternal life?” Striking up a song, they marched onto the frozen pond. Baffled, Agricola posted guards. He had baths of warm water heated as an incentive to the forty to come off the pond.

As dark closed in, the forty prayed, “Lord, there are forty of us engaged in this battle; grant that forty may be crowned and not one be missing from this sacred number.” It appeared their prayer was doomed to disappointment, however. Babbling, one of the forty crawled away from the ice. Guards helped him into a bath but the heat proved too much of a shock to his frozen system. He immediately went into convulsions and died.

However, one of the guards had seen a vision of angels with crowns hovering over the pond. Impressed by the bravery of the remaining thirty-nine, he shucked off his clothes and ran onto the ice. The martyrs numbered forty again!

When the sun rose, Agricola was told that the forty were dead. He ordered the bodies burned and their ashes dumped into a nearby river so the bones could not be collected and venerated. When the guards began stacking the stiff corpses onto a wagon, they discovered that Melito, the youngest of the soldiers, was still alive. 

Melito was a local boy. The soldiers recognized his mom nearby. “Listen, Mother, take your boy home, save his life if you can. We’ll look the other way,” they said.

“What kind of talk is that?” scolded the woman. “Would you cheat him of his crown? I’ll never let that happen!” As the wagon began to roll away, she hoisted her son in with the others.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12).

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cross

I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on John 19:31-42 (the burial of Jesus). The following is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: The burial of Jesus Christ is an historical fact that fulfilled Scripture and points to His Kingship.

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Pauls-Life-for-Christ-Philippians-1.19-26

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Philippians 1:18b-26. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The gospel advances whether we live or die, and when we live, Jesus Christ is the hub around which everything else revolves.

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betrayed_wide_t_nv

I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 18:1-12. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The betrayal and arrest of Jesus Christ gives abundant evidence that He is Lord of all – including His death.

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