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The readings for Holy Saturday can be found here.

My exegesis, thanks to Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, for one of the two Gospel readings — John 19:38-42 — is here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

1 Peter 4:1-8

4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

4:2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4:4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

All credit to the Lectionary compilers, this is an excellent Epistle for Holy Saturday.

Peter begins this chapter with the Crucifixion. He tells his Jewish converts how they must live knowing that Christ died for their sins, therefore, they must arm themselves to end their sinfulness (verse 1).

John MacArthur describes the unimaginable pain of sin as Christ experienced it on the Cross:

Christ has suffered in the flesh.  You tell me what did it do to Christ, in one word?  Killed him.  Killed him.  Cost him his life.  Can you enjoy it when you know what it did to Christ?  When you realize that he was made sin.  When you realize that he bore in his body our sins on the cross.  When you realize the body says he was made a curse for us, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree, in Galatians.  When you realize that he was the spotless, pure and holy second member of the Trinity who never had come into any contact with sin and who then was made sin and bore the sins of the world on his body and they took his life, they killed him.  They separated him from God so that he cried, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  When you realize that it put him on a cross and nails were hammered through is limbs and thorns crushed into his brown and spit dripped off his body and a spear was rammed into his side, when you realize all of that and all of that was caused by sin, it ought to help you to hate sin, right? 

Matthew Henry says much the same and counsels us to address the state of our minds if we are to arm ourselves against sin:

The antecedent or supposition is that Christ had suffered for us in the flesh, or in his human nature. The consequent or inference is, “Arm and fortify yourselves likewise with the same mind, courage, and resolution.” The word flesh in the former part of the verse signifies Christ’s human nature, but in the latter part it signifies man’s corrupt nature. So the sense is, “As Christ suffered in his human nature, do you, according to your baptismal vow and profession, make your corrupt nature suffer, by putting to death the body of sin by self-denial and mortification; for, if you do not thus suffer, you will be conformable to Christ in his death and resurrection, and will cease from sin. Learn, 1. Some of the strongest and best arguments against all sorts of sin are taken from the sufferings of Christ. All sympathy and tenderness for Christ as a sufferer are lost of you do not put away sin. He dies to destroy it; and, though he could cheerfully submit to the worst sufferings, yet he could never submit to the least sin. 2. The beginning of all true mortification lies in the mind, not in penances and hardships upon the body. The mind of man is carnal, full of enmity; the understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18. Man is not a sincere creature, but partial, blind, and wicked, till he be renewed and sanctifies by the regenerating grace of God.

Peter says that shunning sin means living our lives not by human desires but by the will of God (verse 2).

Henry says there is a negative and a positive message in that verse:

The apostle explains what he means by being dead to sin, and ceasing from sin, both negatively and positively. Negatively, a Christian ought no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the sinful lusts and corrupt desires of carnal wicked men; but, positively, he ought to conform himself to the revealed will of the holy God. Learn, 1. The lusts of men are the springs of all their wickedness, James 1:13; James 1:14. Let occasional temptations be what they will, they could not prevail, were it not for men’s own corruptions. 2. All good Christians make the will of God, not their own lusts or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. 3. True conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life of every one who partakes of it. It brings a man off from all his old, fashionable, and delightful lusts, and from the common ways and vices of the world, to the will of God. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, way, and conversation of every one who has experienced it.

Peter tells his audience that they have already engaged in enough sin: ‘licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’ (verse 3).

Our commentators have differing opinions on who Peter’s audience is.

Henry says they were Jews living amongst Gentiles:

those were Jews to whom the apostle wrote, yet the living among the Gentiles they had learned their way.

MacArthur says they were Gentiles:

He knew these people were converted out of a pagan background. They were influenced still by the presence of that paganism. These people had come to Christ because they had enough of that stuff.

MacArthur says that Peter was reminding these converts of their former state of brokenness in sin:

What’s he saying? He’s saying, look, haven’t you had enough of that stuff? Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that pursued Christ, bringing Him nothing but sorrow till it killed Him? Yes it was in the purpose of God but nonetheless it was sin that effected it. Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that rebels against God who seeks only your best? And haven’t you had enough of that stuff that used to be the typical fare of your daily life? I mean, surely it’s true, isn’t it, that when a person is converted, when they’re saved, if they’re not saying anything else they’re at least saying this, I have had enough of this. Aren’t they saying that? I can’t carry the load of my sin anymore. I want forgiveness, I want deliverance, I want transformation. Surely when you came to Christ weren’t you saying, “I can’t bear this anymore”?

When I was in Catholic primary school, the nuns cautioned us against sin. They said if you start with one habitual sin, another will enter in, then another and they will all pile up.

Henry says much the same:

One sin, allowed, draws on another. Here are six named, and they have a connection and dependence one upon another. (1.) Lasciviousness or wantonness, expressed in looks, gesture, or behaviour, Romans 13:13. (2.) Lusts, acts of lewdness, such as whoredom and adultery. (3.) Excess of wine, though short of drunkenness, an immoderate use of it, to the prejudice of health or business, is here condemned. (4.) Revellings, or luxurious feastings, too frequent, too full, or too expensive. (5.) Banquetings, by which is meant gluttony or excess in eating. (6.) Abominable idolatry; the idol-worship of the Gentiles was attended with lewdness, drunkenness, gluttony, and all sorts of brutality and cruelty; and these Jews living long among them were, some of them at least, debauched and corrupted by such practices.

MacArthur explains Peter’s language, including in the original Greek:

… just to remind us what that life was like he said, “You used to pursue that, having pursued a course of sensuality,” aselgeia. It describes unrestrained vice, unbridled sin.  It’s an old word that’s often used to translate it, debauchery, excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure.  You had that and you had the lusts, the evil desires, the feelings, the kind of mindless passions.  And you had the carousals as well as the drunkenness and the drinking parties.  Those all go together kind of, drunkenness speaks for itself, carousals has the idea of a wild drunken party, a sort of a public…a public…it pictures a kind of a group of people sort of going down the street in a public display of drunkenness.  You’ve been in on the drinking parties.  You’ve engaged in the abominable idolatries“Abominable” means they are at variance with the law of God; they are lawless.  You… You were in the whole package, right?  Sexual wickedness, alcoholic excess, ungodly, worshiping the wrong things, the wrong gods, you had the whole package.  You did it all, isn’t that enough?  What is there you want back?  Haven’t you had your fill?  Remember that, will you, that you filled up on that, you overdosed on it and you wanted deliverance once. Now do you want it back?

Furthermore, they malign you.  They don’t even like you, why do you want to act like people that don’t even like you?  The word “malign” is blasphēmeō, blaspheme youIt means to defame, attack you, slander youHere is the cesspool crowd slandering the Christian.  They’re an ugly bunch.  They are an ugly bunch, sexually perverted, drunk, worshiping all their false gods, rushing madly into the cesspool of sin.  You’ve been saved out of thatYou wanted out of that.  You don’t have a thing to do with that anymore.  They don’t even like you anymore Why in the world do you want to do what they’re doing?

Peter reminds his converts that their former friends were surprised at the turnaround in their lives, their refusal to continue to engage in sin; their surprise turned into blasphemy, or assailing their good character (verse 4).

Henry has an excellent analysis about how conversion affects old relationships:

They no longer run on in the same courses, or with the same companions, as they used to do. Hereupon observe the conduct of their wicked acquaintance towards them. 1. They think it strange, they are surprised and wonder at it, as at something new and unusual, that their old friends should be so much altered, and not run with as much violence as they used to do to the same excess of riot, to the same sottish excesses and luxury which before they had greedily and madly followed. 2. They speak evil of them. Their surprise carries them to blasphemy. They speak evil of their persons, of their way, their religion, and their God. Learn, (1.) Those that are once really converted will not return to their former course of life, though ever so much tempted by the frowns or flatteries of others to do so. Neither persuasion nor reproach will prevail with them to be or to do as they were wont to do. (2.) The temper and behaviour of true Christians seem very strange to ungodly men. That they should despise that which every one else is fond of, that they should believe many things which to others seem incredible, that they should delight in what is irksome and tedious, be zealous where they have no visible interest to serve, and depend so much upon hope, is what the ungodly cannot comprehend. (3.) The best actions of religious people cannot escape the censures and slanders of those who are irreligious. Those actions which cost a good man the most pains, hazard, and self-denial, shall be most censured by the uncharitable and ill-natured world; they will speak evil of good people, though they themselves reap the fruits of their charity, piety, and goodness.

Peter reminds his converts that those former friends assailing them now will have to give an account of themselves to Him who judges the living and the dead (verse 5).

MacArthur says:

… they’re going to give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. They’re going to pay a price for this. I mean this is damnable lifestyle. You don’t want anything to do that. They have to give an account. They are amassing a debt to God they will be required to pay forever in hell. And whether they live or die in this world, whether they’re around till the Judge comes, or whether they die before He gets here, they’re going to show up at the judgment. They’re going to be condemned.

Peter says that the reason that the Gospel was preached even to the dead, who were judged according to the flesh, is so that they might live according to the Spirit, according to God’s will (verse 6).

Henry says that this is a difficult verse to interpret and gives us two explanations:

Some understand this difficult place thus: For this cause was the gospel preached to all the faithful of old, who are now dead in Christ, that thereby they might be taught and encouraged to bear the unrighteous judgments and persecutions which the rage of men put upon them in the flesh, but might live in the Spirit unto God. Others take the expression, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, in a spiritual sense, thus: The gospel was preached to them, to judge them, condemn them, and reprove them, for the corruption of their natures, and the viciousness of their lives, while they lived after the manner of the heathen or the mere natural man; and that, having thus mortified their sins, they might live according to God, a new and spiritual life. Take it thus; and thence learn, 1. The mortifying of our sins and living to God are the expected effects of the gospel preached to us. 2. God will certainly reckon with all those who have had the gospel preached to them, but without these good effects produced by it. God is ready to judge all those who have received the gospel in vain. 3. It is no matter how we are judged according to men in the flesh, if we do but live according to God in the Spirit.

MacArthur says that the dead in that verse refers to converts amongst Peter’s audience who have since died, possibly through martyrdom:

This is a simple and profound verse.  “For the gospel has been preached” means the saving message of Jesus Christ.  “Even to those who are dead” simply means those who are now dead.  He has in mind some believers who heard the gospel and are now dead Some of them perhaps had been martyred Maybe some in the association of those to whom this letter was sent had died for their faith in Christ.  And so the whole overarching idea here is that the believer, under persecution, under unjust treatment, under punishment, and even death, even death, should be willing to suffer knowing there is triumph. Because though he may die in the flesh as a man, he will live in the spirit according to the will of God.

What Peter is saying, is that God has promised you that through death you’ll overcome sin. So he reminds his readers that the gospel was preached to those now dead for this purpose That though they are judged in the flesh as men, literally put to death for their faith in Christ, they will live in the spirit according to God And so he takes us back to where we started.  All death can do is bring you into everlasting life into the presence of God You see, it’s a parallel to all that we have been learning at the end of chapter 3 verse 18.  Christ died, but he didn’t stay dead He was made alive in the spirit His body was dead, His spirit was alive.  Same point hereThey may kill your body, but your spirit will be alive And you will enter into the promise of eternal life. So shunning sin in the face of great threats, in the face of persecution, and even death—it’s possible, noble, righteous; it is commanded.  And one way to assist in that overcoming is to remember and to remember what sin did to Christ, what it does to Christians, what it does to God, what it does to the lost. And then remember what God has promised you in the future. 

No matter what they do to us, we can be victorious I guess Jesus said much the same thing when He said, “Fear not those who destroy the body.  But fear the one who destroys both soul and body in hell.” 

Peter says that the end is near, therefore, the converts are to discipline themselves spiritually for the sake of their prayers (verse 7).

Our commentators interpret this verse differently with regard to the first half of the verse, ‘The end of all things is near’.

Because Henry thought that Peter was addressing Jewish converts, he thinks that the Apostle was referring to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Peter wrote this in AD 66. The temple was destroyed four years later.

Henry says:

The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.

1. To sobriety and watchfulness: “Be you therefore sober, 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 4:7. Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations, 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 4:3. And watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares,” Luke 21:34; Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:41

Henry says that the exhortations in the next two verses — 8 and 9 (not included in our reading) — follow on from the warning in verse 7 about the end being near:

2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,1 Peter 4:8; 1 Peter 4:8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting

3. To hospitality, 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Peter 4:9. The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged Christians to be hospitable one to another

MacArthur understands verse 7 as a reference to Christ’s Second Coming, not the destruction of the temple:

Verse 7.  “The end of all things is at hand.”  Stop right there.  That’s the incentive: the end of all things is at hand I want you to get a grip, if nothing else, on this statement.  The term “end” is the Greek word telos, a very familiar word to any Bible student.  And when it is translated “end,” it could convey the wrong idea It could convey the idea of cessation It could convey the idea of termination It does not mean either of those things It is never used of a temporal end in all of the New Testament It is never used of some kind of chronological end as if it simply means something stops It always has the idea of a consummation

To put it another way, it has the idea of a goal achieved, or a result attained, or a purpose consummated.  It has the idea of fulfillment realized, of ultimate destiny It’s not just the end of something; it is the culmination, the conclusion, the success, the goal, the realization, the fulfillment, the consummation.  So, he says, the consummation of all things is at hand.

Now, beloved, that has to refer to the return of Christ If he had said the consummation of your trouble is at hand, we could say well maybe he was referring to something temporal.  Or if he said the consummation of your persecution is at hand, we could have assumed that maybe a different kind of government might come into play in their lives and treat them more kindly.  But he doesn’t say that.  He doesn’t say the consummation of your difficulty, your trouble, your situation.  He says the consummation of all things.  And the consummation of all things points directly to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ It must refer to that.  It can’t refer to anything less than that, for that and that alone is when all things are consummated And it takes us back to 1 Peter 1:5 again where he says we are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time And then, verse 7 he says that we will be found in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

It could be read this way, “The end of all things is about to arrive,” or to come near.  It is a perfect tense, and has the idea of a process consummated with a resulting nearness.  And I believe it refers to immanency.  That is, the coming of Christ is imminent; the next event can happen at any time It is near.  Peter is reminding them then that they are to live in anticipation of the nearness of the return of Jesus Christ.  We could say that they are to live with, here’s the word, expectancy.  Do you realize that every generation since then has therefore lived in that same expectancy?  All of us live today, or should live, in the expectancy of the coming of Jesus Christ Not to do that is not to be a faithful church … 

To show you how secretive this whole matter is, I remind you of Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son but the Father alone.”  God knows, and Jesus in His self-imposed incarnational limitations did not even know.  Peter is saying to his readers, “You must live in constant expectancy as if Jesus was to come at any moment.” 

With regard to the second half of verse 7 concerning prayer, MacArthur says that Peter wants his converts to have disciplined minds in order to make the most of their relationship with God through prayer:

He says, “Be of sound judgment,” and then adds, “and sober spirit.”  And this is a synonym or very close to a synonym.  It means basically to keep a clear head, to take serious things seriously, to be vigilant, to be alertIn Matthew 24:42, it’s translated “Be on the alert.”  Matthew 26:40 and 41, “Be watching.”  You might combine these two terms by putting it this way: good, clear, godly, biblical thinking leads to spiritual alertness, spiritual watchfulness It leads to the ability to view things in the eternal perspective, in the divine perspective, and to establish right responses

This is indispensable, and it is indispensable to one very, very essential element of Christian living that is noted in verse 7.  Please come to the climax of the thought.  Sound judgment and sober spirit are for the purpose of prayer.  Why?  Because holiness flows out of direct communion with a holy God And when that communion is hindered by a cluttered mind, an imbalanced mind, that which is most significant in Christian experience is lost.  A confused mind, a self-centered mind, a mind knocked out of balance by worldly lusts and pursuits, a mind victimized by emotion or passion out of control, a mind that is ignorant of God’s truth, a mind that is indifferent to God’s purposes is a mind that cannot know the fullness of holy communion in prayer with God After all, you bring your mind to that communion, don’t you?  And so, your relationship to God, in a very real sense which is expressed in this matter of prayer, is determined by the attitudes that you bring, which attitudes are the result of your thinking And if you are to pray effectively, and if you are to commune with God deeply and spiritually, then you must think biblically and spiritually as well

So, says Peter, the Christian life summed up is as simple as this: think God’s thoughts What does that mean?  That means every day in the Word of God, every day meditating, thinking, absorbing, drawing out, learning to think God’s thoughts As I often say, it should come to pass that you are so deeply filled with Scripture, that your involuntary responses are godly because you’re so controlled And then, comes the sweetness of communion, then comes effective prayer, then comes powerThat’s the vertical link in Christian living.

Peter exhorts his converts to maintain a constant love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (verse 8).

MacArthur points out that Peter is citing Proverbs 10:12:

He borrowed it from Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.”  Present tense here, I think, indicates that which is constantly true.  It is axiomatic.  It is a self-evident truth.  Love is always by very nature hiding a multitude of sins.  It forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and the great, great model of that is God Why did God show mercy to us?  Why did God forgive our sins?  Ephesians 2:4 and 5 says, “For His great love where with He loved us.”  It’s true of God, it’s true of us.

Henry says this exhortation refers to the Christian community:

Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have received, freely give.

MacArthur concludes on Christian love with this:

Beloved, this is the heart of the church To be honest with you, if we take care of this, we’ve fulfilled the whole law Is that not true?  The whole law.  You can see again the genius of the Spirit of God, how in an economy of words He says so much.  You want to take care of the whole dimension of living before God?  Get a biblical mind, a spiritual mind, be deep in communion with Christ and you’ll have a powerful life You want to know how to function in the complexity of the church?  Just be so full of overflowing love that you cover sin This does not preclude, by the way, the discipline of an unrepentant member That is dealt with in other texts But even in the church, we are much more eager, I think, to point out sin than we are to cover it Hatred will stir up strife Selfishness will stir up strife.  Self-centeredness will stir up strife.  Love will hide sin.  Love will conceal it Love will pass it by in silence And what a transformation that would bring to the church.  It is that which is at the very base of all our spiritual relationships.  It is a complex world, isn’t it?  But there are not complex solutions, simple ones.  Not simply performed, simply stated, performed only in the power of the Spirit.

What a powerful meditation as we make our preparations for the greatest feast in the Church year, Easter, Christ’s resurrection from the dead which brings us to eternal life.

May everyone reading this have a blessed day ahead.

CranachWeimarAltarCyberbrethren

The painting above is by the Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger, father and son. Lucas Cranach the Younger finished the painting in 1555. It is the centre altar painting in Sts Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany. Read more about it:

Meditations on the Cross

My Good Friday post from 2017 has several entries about the significance of the Crucifixion, Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for mankind which erased our debt of sin in the New Covenant.

Readings for Good Friday can be found here.

The exegesis for the Gospel reading is here.

The Epistle, the first of two choices from the Book of Hebrews, is as follows (emphases mine):

Hebrews 10:16-25

10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,”

10:17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

10:18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

10:19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,

10:20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),

10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

10:22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

10:23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,

10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

To better understand this passage it is helpful to read my exegesis, thanks to Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, on the Epistle for Monday of Holy Week: Hebrews 9:11-15, in which Christ is represented as the ultimate and true tabernacle, replacing that of the Old Testament and Old Covenant with the New Testament and the New Covenant.

Christ rent the veil of the Holy of Holies, permitting all of us to approach God, which, heretofore, even the high priests could not do for more than a second once a year.

The author of Hebrews cites Jeremiah 31 in today’s reading:

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

The audience for the Book of Hebrews were Jews who had become Christians and Jews who were intellectually interested by Jesus. The first group was prone to giving up the faith — apostasy — because Christianity is such a departure from Mosaic law and Jewish tradition. The second were to be encouraged to become Christians.

Hebrews is an apologetic for Christianity for the Jewish mindset. However, I gained a much deeper understanding of the faith by reading and writing about it for my Forbidden Bible Verses series. The first entry for Hebrews 10 is below:

Hebrews 10:1-3 – Christ’s blood sacrifice one and sufficient, Jesus, God, sin, forgiveness

The author cites Jeremiah 33 in verse 26, in which God says that He will make a New Covenant with His people, putting His laws into their hearts and writing them on their minds.

This was a stumbling block for the Jews of Hebrews, so the author reminds them that the New Covenant was always part of God’s plan.

John MacArthur says:

the sacrifice of Christ is effective because it fulfills the promised new covenant. God said, “I’m going to bring a new covenant.” And when Jesus died, He sealed the new covenant. Remember, the covenants in the Old Testament were always sealed in blood, weren’t they? Jesus died and sealed the new covenant

And Jeremiah 31 is a prophecy of the new covenant, you see, and it says to the Jew, “God always intended a new covenant, so what are you so uptight about? Because it’s arrived. What are you accusing us of heresy for? What are you accusing of some new revelation for? This is the same thing Jeremiah told you was coming. Read your own testament.”

God told Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:34) that He would no longer remember His people’s sins and lawless deeds (verse 17).

Matthew Henry says that this:

will alone show the riches of divine grace, and the sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction, that it needs not be repeated …

The author of Hebrews explains that, as these sins are and will be forgiven, no further offering for sin needs to be made (verse 18).

MacArthur elaborates on this verse and the dilemma of these Jews on hearing it:

… Jeremiah said it would happen, but Jeremiah didn’t say it on his own. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now, do you see what the writer is doing to these Jewish readers? He’s putting them on the horns of an unbelievable dilemma. He’s saying this – he’s placing these readers in a position where they will accept their beloved prophet Jeremiah, and they will accept what the Holy Spirit said through him, and if they do that, they’ll have to accept Christ and the new covenant. If they reject Christ and the new covenant, they also reject Jeremiah and the Holy Spirit.

Now, that’s a tough spot to be in because they loved Jeremiah and they believed in the Holy Spirit. And what He’s saying to them is, “You don’t need the old because the new is come, and God even promised that it would come.”

In verse 18, he wraps it up. What a terrific statement. “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” It’s done. It’s forgiven. Don’t go back to the temple and make more sacrifices. It’s over. Complete forgiveness. You just need to lean on the one sacrifice of Jesus. You say, “You mean to tell me that I can be saved tonight, without any works, by just leaning on the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ?” That’s exactly what I’m trying to say. Exactly.

The sacrifice of Christ is effective, then, forever because it fulfills God’s will. It replaces the old system. It sanctifies the believer. It removes sin. It destroys the enemy. It has eternal security built into it. And, lastly, it fulfills the promise for a new covenant. It’s so perfect, you can’t add anything to it. All you need to do is believe. You say, “Does God want me to do that?” Yes, He does.

John Donne preached much the same in his sermon ‘Christ’s Legacy’ based on John 14:20, about which I wrote earlier this week. The Holy Spirit will equip us for what we need to do in matters of faith. We need not know how the holy mysteries work, just that they are worthy of our belief. Christ is in us and we are in Him.

Returning to Hebrews and this promise of the New Covenant, this means, therefore, that we can enter the sanctuary with confidence (verse 19) because the blood of Jesus opened a new and living way for us to go beyond the veil of the Holy of Holies (verse 20).

MacArthur indicates the importance of the word ‘therefore’ in that verse:

… you’ll notice that 19 begins, “Having therefore,” and the therefores are always there for a good reason. They always point backwards. “On the basis of what I’ve said for 10 chapters and 18 verses, you must respond.” If you know the gospel of Jesus Christ, you either then take a positive response and boldly, verse 19, “enter into the holiest,” or you take a negative response, verse 26, you sin willfully after you knew the truth, and you fall away, and judgment comes about. Only two responses.

After the Crucifixion, the veil to the Holy of Holies in the temple was rent in two.

Henry describes this historic and theological event for us:

The veil in the tabernacle and temple signified the body of Christ; when he died, the veil of the temple was rent in sunder, and this was at the time of the evening sacrifice, and gave the people a surprising view into the holy of holies, which they never had before. Our way to heaven is by a crucified Saviour; his death is to us the way of life. To those who believe this he will be precious.

The rest of the verses in this reading give us a practical application of what we are to do in our Christian journey.

Henry says the following about the change in tone. He, like many others of his era, believed that Paul wrote Hebrews, although subsequent scholars do not:

And now we have gone through the doctrinal part of the epistle, in which we have met with many things dark and difficult to be understood, which we must impute to the weakness and dulness of our own minds. The apostle now proceeds to apply this great doctrine, so as to influence their affections, and direct their practice, setting before them the dignities and duties of the gospel state.

MacArthur says of this transition and the preceding verses:

it’s an appeal for men to come to Christ is what it is, on the basis of doctrine. You see, no biblical appeal is ever really made apart from a solid foundation in doctrine. That’s true all the way through Scripture. All solid appeals are based on doctrine. And so ten chapters of basic doctrine about the identity of Christ and finally he says, “Now here’s the opportunity for you to respond.” And the first, then, is a positive response, and would to God that this would be the response that all men would have, that you tonight who don’t know Christ would have even tonight.

The positive response is salvation. Now, salvation is made up of three features, and these are common in our understanding throughout the Scripture: faith, hope, and what’s the third? Love. Faith, hope, love. Now, if you’ll notice the text, first of all is faith. “Let us draw near,” verse [22]Verse 23, “Let us hold fast.” And then there’s love, verse 24, “Let us consider one another.”

Three statements beginning with “Let us,” one having to do with faith, one having to do with hope and one having to do with love. And they really kind of separate into three features the experience of salvation. Salvation is drawing near, holding fast and loving each other. That’s the fullness of salvation. Somebody who draws near and falls away, that’s not salvation. Somebody who draws near, sticks around a while but doesn’t love his brother falls under the qualifications of 1 John, in which it says, “If any man say he love God and love not his brother” – he’s what? – “he’s a liar.”

And so salvation could be kind of dissected into faith, hope, and love. Faith in God, holding fast to our hope, and loving each other, that indicates a true believer. And so he’s talking about a real response. “Come on,” he says, “draw near, hold fast and love each other.” And what he’s really saying, pushed into one statement, is: “Take a positive response to the gospel.”

MacArthur describes the Holy of Holies and the significance it has even today for orthodox Jews:

You remember that in the Old Testament, as we’ve been studying, there was a tabernacle or a temple, and inside of the totality of this outer courtyard there was what was called the holy places, the holy place, and inside, separated by a veil, was the Holy of Holies. And in the Holy of Holies, God dwelt. And no man could enter into that place except the high priest once a year to offer atonement for the sins of the nation Israel. But now he is saying, “You all can enter into God’s presence. The veil has been torn down, and you can all enter in, and you can enter in boldly.”

So we have this new entrance, you see, into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. And, of course, this is a fantastic statement to a Jew because to a Jew, entering into the holiest is absolutely forbidden. And if a Jew ever tried to do that under the old economy, he would’ve been instantly consumed in the flames of the fire of almighty wrath. And no Jew would ever conceive of going into the Holy of Holies.

In fact, it’s interesting. If you go to Jerusalem, you’ll find out that there’s a certain area of the temple ground where it is forbidden to Jews to ever walk there because it may be the area where the Holy of Holies once stood, and no Jew would ever put his foot on the Holy of Holies. Therefore, there are big signs outside the gates of the temple that say Orthodox Jews have been forbidden by the rabbi to enter into this place lest they step on the Holy of Holies.

They have a fear, still today, the Orthodox Jews, of ever going into the presence of God. But because of the new covenant, he says we can have boldness. We don’t even go in sheepishly, saying, “God, I’m coming, don’t step on me,” see. We can enter in boldly. It’s a fantastic concept for the Jewish mind to understand. Now, when he uses the term “brethren,” just a point of information, when he uses the term “brethren” here as on other occasions in the book of Hebrews and also in the book of Romans, he’s talking to Jewish brethren, not Christians.

“Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” I think, has primary reference to the Jews, to the brotherhood of Jews as it is so used elsewhere in Hebrews and, as I said, in Romans. On the basis of all that you’ve learned, therefore, on the basis of everything I’ve said in chapter 7, 8, 9, and 10 about the openness, about the fact that Jesus made the perfect sacrifice, that Jesus provided access, that Jesus provided entrance, on the fact of all of that, you have boldness to go on in and meet God person-to-person. The blood of Jesus has opened the way.

You see, in the Old Testament there was a lot of blood being shed, but none of it ever opened up the veil, did it? All of the blood of all of the animals never did it. It couldn’t open the way. It couldn’t do it.

MacArthur says that the Parable of the Prodigal Son has to do with God’s forgiveness and treating us as if we were made new again, just as the prodigal’s father treated him:

… the prodigal who went away came to himself, realizing he’s having – he’d spent all of his means, and he wound up in a pigpen, slopping pigs. “And he said to himself, ‘I will arise and go to my father.’” You say, “Well, that’s real good. Who wouldn’t in your situation?” But that isn’t how God sees it. God takes a man when he comes, whatever his reason.

“And he arose and he went.” And you find him – when he gets back, and you find him in his father’s house. You don’t find him outside the door. You don’t find him peeking through the portholes or the windows or whatever. He’s in the house. Sovereign grace has given him boldness to enter the house. Why not? He confessed his sin. He received the kiss of reconciliation. The father put on him the best robe, gave him a ring for his finger. He was fitted to enter the father’s house, and that’s where you find him, not outside looking in. Boldness.

And so in the passage of the prodigal, we are told the prodigal had been, in a sense, perfected. He had been made fit to enter the father’s house. And so it is in the experience of one who comes to God. Jesus Christ puts the right robe on, the right ring on his finger, and gives him the right things so that he may enter the Father’s house and not be in the wrong place. He can go in boldly. And, of course, those in Judaism were afraid. This whole concept was so revolutionary to them. There was no way they were going to understand it in the first – the first time it was indicated. That’s why it’s been repeated so many times in the book of Hebrews.

Therefore, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is the new way (verse 20) of coming to the Lord God.

MacArthur explains the word ‘new’ in the original Greek manuscript:

The word “new” is a very rare word in the New Testament. It is not the typical word for “new,” neos, kainos, none of those words. It is this word: prospheton. You know what it means? Freshly slaughtered. That’s the literal meaning. What it says is we have boldness to enter into the holiness by the blood of Jesus by a freshly slaughtered and living way. How vivid. How vivid. Who was it that was freshly slaughtered that opened the way? Jesus Christ, a freshly slain road to God. All the old sacrifices didn’t make it.

The old road was a dead road. It wasn’t a new and living way. It was an old, dead one. There wasn’t any life there. The old way was only an index finger pointing to the new road – in Christ. And I love the fact that it’s been at least 30 years since Jesus died when this was written, but it’s still fresh. It’s still a freshly slaughtered way. Isn’t that terrific? You know, under the old economy, you had to sacrifice an animal all the time, every day, every day, every day, every day, and every year through the Yom Kippur ceremony, all the time, over and over and over and over. Jesus Christ was slain once, and His slaying is fresh, and still just as fresh today, 2,000 years later, as it was the day it happened.

His sacrifice is effectual for all of time and thus it is spoken of as fresh. It’s ever fresh because He’s really the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world. His sacrifice is always fresh. And for the man who comes to Jesus Christ tonight, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is fresh. Because the Bible says through the Apostle Paul that the moment you’re saved, you die with Christ. “You are crucified with Christ, nevertheless you live.” And so in a very real sense, Christ’s crucifixion is just as fresh as the moment that you experience Him. It’s a fresh way. Not only that, it’s a living way.

Oh, that’s exciting. And that talks about resurrection. How can you have a slain and a living sacrifice? It never worked in the Old Testament. You had a dead one, and that was it. None of those animals bounced back to come alive again. None of those pieces joined back together. But here, it’s a living way. Jesus isn’t even a dead sacrifice. He’s alive. He’s risen. And he’s seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us. And so it’s a living way because the sacrifice is alive.

The author of Hebrews says that, in Christ, we have a great high priest presiding over the house of God, the Church (verse 21).

MacArthur explains the significance of our great high priest, who could do what the priests of the Old Covenant could never accomplish:

… when the high priest in Israel went into the Holy of Holies on that one day, he just brushed the veil aside and went in. When Christ died, He didn’t brush the veil aside. He split it from top to bottom, and left it wide open

The term “high priest” here is really translated “great priest.” And it is used, perhaps, in ancient Hebrew to speak of the high priest but it is accurately the great priest. And He, the great priest, is there in God’s presence mediating for us. You see? And the term “the house of God” has to do with all believers. All believers. Peter uses it thusly in 1 Peter 4:17 and Paul in Ephesians 2:21 and 22. All believers are seen, then, in a sense, as the house of God, the habitation of God. And so Jesus Christ opened the way, a new and living way, but He didn’t only open it, He took us in there with Him

Jesus Christ not only pointed out the access to God, but He took me by the arm and ushered me into His presence, and He sits there with me. In Revelation chapter 3, it says that I sit on the throne with Jesus, who sits on the Father’s throne. It’s a beautiful thought. And so He’s the great priest in the presence of God, living to intercede for me. His life is there, and He is there. And Romans 5:10 says if His death could do so much to save me, oh, what His life must be doing in the presence of God to keep me, as He’s there, securing my place in the presence of God.

I’m anchored there by His presence, because I’m inseparably and eternally connected to Him. Do you see? He that is joined to the Lord is what? One spirit. And the Lord is in there, in the throne of God, seated at the right hand of God, in His presence. And if He’s there, I’m there with Him, because we’re one.

The author of Hebrews then goes into what we must do to remain believers.

We must approach our Lord with a true heart, a full assurance of faith, our hearts cleansed — as if by the sacrificial cleansing room of the tabernacle — sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (verse 23).

MacArthur elaborates on the meaning of this verse:

… “Let us draw near honestly” – now watch this – “in full assurance of” – what? – “faith.” In full assurance of faith. He must come to God in faith. Not works, not self-righteousness. Faith. And not doubting, but believing God. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that” – what? – “diligently seek Him.” You must believe to come to God, and that’s really all God asks, is that you believe. Believing is so important …

“Come with full assurance of faith, having our hearts” – and here’s what happens when we come – “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” When you come to God through Jesus Christ, something begins to happen.

Now, you remember that this is, of course, a picture of the Old Testament ritual. The priest would wash himself. The holy things were cleansed. And everything was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice. And all through all of this sprinkling of blood and everything, the priest was constantly bathing and cleansing himself in the laver, which was the basin of clear water. But it was all external, you see. You see, it was the body and everything else sprinkled. And it was the body washed with water. It never got inside. Only Jesus can really cleanse a man’s heart. His is no external purification, but by His Spirit He cleanses the inmost thoughts and desires of a man.

Now, notice the statement “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” This is a beautiful picture of deliverance. The same kind of deliverance in chapter 9, verse 14, where it says, “He purges our conscience.” Conscience condemns. Conscience brings guilt. And the guilt can never be removed until the sin is removed. And when Jesus died, His blood removed our sins, and thus our conscience becomes free from guilt.

When Jesus’ blood is shed and we believe, our sins are forgiven. And when the burden of a guilt-ridden conscience is removed, we’ve been cleansed from an evil conscience. The precious blood of Jesus Christ removes the evil conscience, that condemning, guilty feeling, and we don’t condemn ourselves anymore.

Now, that has to do with God’s side. You see, when you’re saved, sin is forgiven. Sin is forgiven. You’re sprinkled, as it were. Like on the Passover, the blood was sprinkled and the angel of death passed by. You’re sprinkled and cleaned. That’s satisfaction toward God, or expiation, if you want a theological word. It’s the cleansing that applies toward God. In other words, sin is removed.

But, secondly, there is something that has to do with you. Our bodies are washed with pure water. And here we have simply the idea that there is a cleansing that goes on within us by the Spirit of God. First of all, blood is sprinkled to satisfy God. Then you and I are cleansed on the inside by water.

Now, some people say that’s baptism, but it can’t be baptism. That’s not the point there. In John chapter 3, verse 5, it talks about being washed by the water and the Spirit, or being born again by the water and the Spirit, and the water there is really the water of the Word that cleanses us.

In Titus chapter 3, verse 5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration.” And there you have a spiritual metaphor, the washing of regeneration. In Ephesians chapter 5, you have a similar statement in verse 26, or at least one that can apply, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” You see, this is talking about a spiritual cleansing. So you have two things when you’re saved. Number one, God is satisfied, and two, you’re changed. You see?

We must hold fast to the hope we confessed without wavering (verse 23). That means refusing apostasy.

Henry explains:

Here observe, (1.) The duty itself–to hold fast the profession of our faith, to embrace all the truths and ways of the gospel, to get fast hold of them, and to keep that hold against all temptation and opposition. Our spiritual enemies will do what they can to wrest our faith, and hope, and holiness, and comfort, out of our hands, but we must hold fast our religion as our best treasure. (2.) The manner in which we must do this–without wavering, without doubting, without disputing, without dallying with temptation to apostasy. Having once settled these great things between God and our souls, we must be stedfast and immovable. Those who begin to waver in matters of Christian faith and practice are in danger of falling away. (3.) The motive or reason enforcing this duty: He is faithful that hath promised. God has made great and precious promises to believers, and he is a faithful God, true to his word; there is no falseness nor fickleness with him, and there should be none with us. His faithfulness should excite and encourage us to be faithful, and we must depend more upon his promises to us than upon our promises to him, and we must plead with him the promise of grace sufficient.

We are asked to provoke each other to love and good deeds (verse 24), i.e. the fruits of faith.

MacArthur explains the word ‘provoke’ in Greek:

You need each other. You need to love each other. You need to kind of irritate” – the word “provoke” literally is “irritate,” it’s a negative word. “Irritate each other into good works.” Paroxusmos. Stimulate good works and stimulate love. These are the things that go together in the Christian experience, love and good works.

We can compare that to the grit that irritates an oyster into producing a magnificent pearl. Out of something irritating comes a thing of true beauty.

Finally, we are to continue in fellowship, not only occasionally, as some do, but encouraging each other to come together in worship, all the more as the Day approaches (verse 25).

For those Jews, it was the coming of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This passage was written in AD 62. The temple was destroyed eight years later.

For us, this means the day we die as well as the Day of Judgement, whenever it comes. We must be prepared at all times, and worship helps us to do that.

Henry says:

There was a day approaching, a terrible day to the Jewish nation, when their city should be destroyed, and the body of the people rejected of God for rejecting Christ. This would be a day of dispersion and temptation to the chosen remnant. Now the apostle puts them upon observing what signs there were of the approach of such a terrible day, and upon being the more constant in meeting together and exhorting one another, that they might be the better prepared for such a day. There is a trying day coming on us all, the day of our death, and we should observe all the signs of its approaching, and improve them to greater watchfulness and diligence in duty.

The ensuing verses have to do with apostasy but end on an encouraging note of faith, endurance and compassion:

Hebrews 10:26-31 – God, Jesus, apostasy the worst sin, eternal judgement

Hebrews 10:32-39 – faith, endurance, compassion

I hope that this exposition helps give deeper meaning to our Lord’s deep and humiliating sacrifice on Good Friday, sufficient for the sins of the whole world, past and present.

Only through it could we be reconciled to God.

May we be forever grateful.

Meditations and readings for Maundy Thursday can be found here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

11:25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Paul gives us the first description of the Last Supper. The Gospels had not yet been written.

As Paul was not one of the original Apostles, the Lord told him what had happened, possibly during the three days of his Damascene conversion.

Paul states that the Lord was the source of his information on the Last Supper at the last true Passover, which he passed on to the Corinthians when he planted their church; on the night Christ was betrayed, He took a loaf of bread (verse 23).

John MacArthur calls to our attention the juxtaposition of Judas’s evil betrayal and our Lord’s generosity of giving us His body and blood for our spiritual nourishment:

And I think it’s interesting, if you look at verse 23, that he throws that in, “That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread.” Why does he say that? Well, because he wants to set the history; he wants to put it in its historical context, because that has a great deal of meaning.

You say, “But he could have said on the eve of the Passover, or he could have said on Thursday night before the crucifixion. Why does he say “in the same night in which He was betrayed”?

Because the New Testament does something very interesting, periodically, and that is it sets the most glorious, the most beautiful, the most wonderful against the background of the ugliest so that, by contrast, the beauty is visible.

For example, in John 13 that what I think to be the most beautiful passage on love in the Bible next to the story of the cross: Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. All the way woven through the passage where He washes the feet of the disciple is the interlude of Judas who is about to go out and betray Him. And you have Satan entering his heart. Right in the midst of this whole thing.

And so, the contrast between the hate of Judas and the filth of the devil, against the beauty and the love of Jesus, makes it all the more wonderful. At the cross, where you have God the Son dying for the sins of the world, all around it is hatred and mockery and rejection, because that makes it all the more beautiful.

And here in the most beautiful ordinance that the Lord has ever given for the celebration of His Church, set against it is the terrible hatred, cruelty of a betrayal. But that gives it all the more beauty against that dark background.

When Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread, telling the Apostles that it was His body, given for them, that they should do this — partake of it — in remembrance of Him (verse 24).

Matthew Henry points out that, throughout, bread is referred to as such:

As to the visible signs; these are bread and the cup, the former of which is called bread many times over in this passageWhat is eaten is called bread, though it be at the same time said to be the body of the Lord

MacArthur says:

It was not His body; His body was still sitting there when He said that. So, we’re not talking about literal things.

Remember, that’s exactly what the Jews thought in John 6, “How are we going to eat his flesh? There’s not enough of Him to go around,” they thought.

So, He says in verse 23, Paul does, “That the Lord Jesus took bread. And when He had given thanks” – and that’s eucharisteō in the Greek, from which you get the Eucharist. He gave thanks; He broke it, and that’s so that all could share from a common loaf, and said, “Take, eat. This represents My body which is for you.” This represents My body. What do you mean by that, Lord?

Well, the body, to the Jewish mind, represented the whole man. The total man. The whole incarnate life of Christ. “This bread represents all that I am as God incarnate.” The mystery of the incarnation is there from the day He was born till the day He died, and even when He rose again. The whole of the incarnation is summed up in the term “body.” God in human flesh. “Remember that I became Man and suffered, and was rejected, and was despised, and ultimately died for you.” But the whole thing, not just His death. In the bread is not just His death but His whole incarnation. “This is My body – represents My body which is for you.”

In the same way, Jesus took the cup and said it is the New Covenant in His blood, meant to be taken often in remembrance of Him (verse 25).

Henry tells us more about both the bread and the cup in the Sacrament:

Bread and the cup are both made use of, because it is a holy feast. Nor is it here, or any where, made necessary, that any particular liquor should be in the cup. In one evangelist, indeed, it is plain that wine was the liquor used by our Saviour, though it was, perhaps, mingled with water, according to the Jewish custom; vide Lightfoot on Matthew 26:27. But this by no means renders it unlawful to have a sacrament where persons cannot come at wine. In every place of scripture in which we have an account of this part of the institution it is always expressed by a figure. The cup is put for what was in it, without once specifying what the liquor was, in the words of the institution. [2.] The things signified by these outward signs; they are Christ’s body and blood, his body broken, his blood shed, together with all the benefits which flow from his death and sacrifice: it is the New Testament in his blood. His blood is the seal and sanction of all the privileges of the new covenant; and worthy receivers take it as such, at this holy ordinance. They have the New Testament, and their own title to all the blessings of the new covenant, confirmed to them by his blood.

MacArthur says that covenants in the ancient world had to be ratified in blood, hence the sacrifices in the Bible, culminating with the Crucifixion:

In the Old Testament, God said to Israel, “I will lead you to the Promised Land. I will pass over your house and not execute your firstborn if you will sign on the dotted line.” And what did they sign with? The blood of a lamb on the doorpost and the lintel. And that was the fluid that ratified the promise, “God, you do your part; we will do our part.”

And throughout all of the Old Testament, God continued to say, “You’ve got to ratify the promise in blood. And they sacrificed animal after animal after animal after animal so that the blood flowed through the land of Israel through all of its history as the people continued to renew the promise over and over and over and over again.

And in fact, when covenants were made in the East, in the ancient East, they weren’t made by signing your name at the bottom. An animal was killed, and the blood was sprinkled on both parties. You were both doused in blood as a sign you were going to keep your promise. A covenant ratified by blood.

And Jesus says, “There’s a new covenant. God is making a new promise. You know what that promise is? It isn’t anymore the old one of law. It isn’t anymore the old one of you have to do this sacrifice and this sacrifice and this one. It’s a brand new promise. Here it is: I will forgive all your sins for all time.” And that was new. They had to make sacrifices continuously. “I will make one sacrifice forever, and that will be Christ. And His one sacrifice and His one ratification by blood will end the sacrificial system for good. That’s a new promise.”

God says, “I’ll give you total forgiveness forever. I’ll give you eternal life forever by the blood of Christ.” And it was as if on the cross Jesus was taking His blood and signing on the dotted line. That’s the new covenant: the blood of Christ. Not the blood of a lamb on a doorpost, where God says, “I’ll take you out of the land and get you to the Promised Land.” That’s temporal and impermanent. But the blood of the new covenant, where God says, “I’ll take you into heaven, and I’ll forgive your sin forever, unconditionally because of Jesus Christ.” That’s the new covenant.

And so, He says, “The cup represents the new covenant. No longer do you need to go back to the blood of the Passover; come back to the blood of the cross …”

Jesus said that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim His death until He comes to us once more (verse 26).

Both commentators say that we must receive the Sacrament often.

Henry reminds us that, just as we cannot go without nourishment of the body, we must similarly feed our souls:

It is moreover hinted here, concerning this ordinance, [1.] That it should be frequent: As often as you eat this bread, c. Our bodily meals return often we cannot maintain life and health without this. And it is fit that this spiritual diet should be taken often too. The ancient churches celebrated this ordinance every Lord’s day, if not every day when they assembled for worship. [2.] That it must be perpetual. It is to be celebrated till the Lord shall come; till he shall come the second time, without sin, for the salvation of those that believe, and to judge the world. This is our warrant for keeping this feast. It was our Lord’s will that we should thus celebrate the memorials of his death and passion, till he come in his own glory, and the Father’s glory, with his holy angels, and put an end to the present state of things, and his own mediatorial administration, by passing the final sentence. Note, The Lord’s supper is not a temporary, but a standing and perpetual ordinance.

However, in the verses that follow this reading, Paul warns about taking Holy Communion unworthily and says that some of the Corinthians experienced illness and death because of it:

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 – profaning Holy Communion, sickness, death, judgement

This is why most churches have strict rules about receiving the Sacrament. A few let anyone receive Communion, although that should not be the case. At minimum, one should be baptised, as in the Anglican Communion, although personally I would go further. Some denominations stipulate that only their members are allowed at the Lord’s Table, e.g. conservative Lutherans, Reformed churches and the Catholic Church. Some Reformed churches ask that visitors introduce themselves to one of the greeters when entering church for a Communion service for that very purpose.

One should understand the significance of this generous sacrifice the Lord made for our sake and commanded us to remember often in His memory. It is not to be received lightly, but with solemn reverence.

330px-john_donne_by_isaac_oliverLast week, I profiled John Donne, who made an incredible personal journey from a handsome rake to devoted husband and father to the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Most of us remember his poetry from English Literature class.

Although digital collections of his sermons exist, only one — and a partial one at that — is in an easily accessed format categorised by Scripture. Thank you, BibleHub.

John’s Gospel has the most detailed account of Jesus’s final teaching at the Last Supper, which we remember on Maundy Thursday.

John Donne was inspired to write an entire sermon on John 14:20 alone. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, let’s look at John 14 in its entirety. Jesus spoke these words while He and the Apostles were in the upper room at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had already left. The Judas referred to in verse 22 is Jude Thaddeus, who wrote the shortest book in the Bible, Jude:

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

John Donne’s sermon on John 14:20 is called ‘Christ’s Legacy’. Most of it follows below:

I. THE LEGACY ITSELF: Knowledge. “Ye shall know.” God delivered the Jews to some extent from ignorance by the law, which was their schoolmaster. But in the gospel we are graduates, and know as a matter of history and experience what was only previously known in prophecy and type, in the manifestation of Christ, and the presence of the Spirit

II. THE TIME WHEN THIS LEGACY ACCRUES TO US. “At that day.”

1. The word itself affords cheerfulness. When God inflicted the greatest plague on Egypt it was at midnight; and when He would intimate both deaths at once He says, “Thou fool, this night,” etc. Against all supply of knowledge He calls him fool; against all sense of comfort in the day He threatens night.

2. It was a certain day: “That” — and soon. For after Christ had made His will at this supper, and given strength to His will by His death, and proved His will by His resurrection, and left the Church possessed of His estate by His ascension, within ten days after that He poured out this legacy of knowledge.

3. On that day the Holy Ghost came as a wind to note a powerful working; filled them, to note the abundance; and gave them utterance, to infer the communication of their knowledge to others. But He was poured forth for the benefit of all. The prophets, high as their calling was, saw nothing without the Spirit; with the Spirit simple man understands the prophets.

III. OUR PORTION IN THIS LEGACY — the measure of the knowledge of those mysteries which we are to receive. When Felix the Manichaean would prove to that was the Holy Spirit who should teach all truth, because Manes [Mani] taught many things of which men were ignorant concerning the frame and nature of the heavens, Augustine answered, “The Holy Ghost makes us Christians, not mathematicians.” This knowledge is to know the end and the way — heaven and Christ. Now, in all our journeys, a moderate pace brings a man most surely to his journey’s end, and so does a sober knowledge in the mysteries of religion. Therefore, the Holy Ghost did not give the apostles all kind of knowledge, but knowledge enough for their present work, and so with us. The points of knowledge necessary for our salvation are three.

1. The mystery of the Trinity. “I am in My Father.” tells us that the principal use of knowledge is to know the Trinity. For to know that there is one God, natural reason serves our turn. But to know that the Son is in the Father I need the Scriptures, and the light of the Holy Spirit on the Scriptures, for Jews and Arians have the Bible too. But consider that Christ says, “ye shall know,” not “ye shall know how”. It is enough for a happy subject to enjoy the sweetness of a peaceable government, though he knows not the ways by which his prince governs, so it is enough for a Christian to enjoy the working of God’s grace, though he inquire not into God’s unrevealed decrees. When the Church asked how the body of Christ was in the sacrament we see what an inconvenient answer it fell upon. Make much of that knowledge with which the Spirit hath trusted you, and believe the rest. No man knows how his soul came into him, yet no man doubts that he has a soul.

2. The mystery of the Incarnation — “Ye in Me.” For since the devil has taken manhood in one lump in Adam, Christ to deliver us as entirely took all mankind upon Him. So that the same pretence that the devil hath against us, “You are mine, for you sinned in Adam,” we have also for our discharge, we are delivered, for we paid our debt in Christ.

3. The assurance of this grows from the third part of our knowledge the mystery of our redemption, in our sanctification. “I in you.” This last is the best. To know that Christ is in the Father may serve me to convince another who denies the Trinity; to know we are in Christ may show that we are more honoured than angels. But what worth is this if I know not that Christ is in me. How then is this? Here the question is lawful, for it has been revealed. It is by our obedience to His inspiration, and by our reverent use of His sacrament, when the Spirit visits us with effectual grace, and Christ marries Himself to our souls.

What stood out for me were four things:

First, Donne clearly understood Paul’s epistles about the shortcomings of the law in the Old Covenant. It could not — and cannot — save. Note that Donne calls the law the Jews’ ‘schoolmaster’. How true.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is available to all, not just a select few. Furthermore, St Augustine said that the primary purpose of the Spirit is to help us to live a Christian life. Donne makes it easy to grasp by saying that the Spirit enables simple man to understand the prophets. One does not need a university degree to understand the Bible.

Thirdly, if the devil tempts us by telling us we are doomed, we should keep in mind that Christ paid our debt in full. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Finally, Christians are not required to understand how the holy mysteries work, only to believe, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, that they exist, e.g. the Triune God, one in three Persons. Donne wisely noted the ancient controversy in the Church that took place over what happens during the consecration of bread and wine, still a contentious subject today.

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Readings, exegeses and other observations about Wednesday of Holy Week, or Spy Wednesday, as it is traditionally known, follow:

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas: bad hombre)

The readings for Monday of Holy Week can be found here.

The exegesis on the Gospel reading is here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

Hebrews 9:11-15

9:11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

9:12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified,

9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The author of Hebrews explains that Christ is the great High Priest, making the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for our sins.

I wrote about the Book of Hebrews in 2019, which included the first two sets of verses in this chapter:

Hebrews 9:1-5 – the original tabernacle, tent, God, Jesus

The author of Hebrews describes the original tent, or tabernacle, that God instructed Moses to build (Exodus 25). Even then, during the Old Covenant, everything in it pointed to Christ and the eventual New Covenant. The author calls that tabernacle ‘the earthly holy place’, as the true holy place is in heaven, where Jesus reigns as King and Great High Priest.

Hebrews 9:6-10 – rituals of the Jewish priests

The author discusses the rituals of the Jewish priests, which were temporary, albeit divinely ordained, until the Crucifixion, the one and sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

The author wants his Jewish audience to grasp that the tabernacle of the Old Testament prefigures Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur explains the significance of the tabernacle in both the Old and the New Covenants:

Now let’s look at it beginning in verse 2. “There was a tabernacle.” Now we’re talking about the old covenant, the ceremonies and rituals of Israel. There was a tabernacle. Now he’s dealing here with the tabernacle rather than the temple, because he wants to pull out the primary things that God placed initially in that tabernacle, and it was the earthiest of the two between the tabernacle and the temple. It was the most transitory and passing thing because of its mobility and the substance of which it was made, so it illustrates his truth. But he starts out by saying there was a tabernacle made. Now that tent is very important, and I dare say we don’t know nearly as much about it as we ought to. Do you know there are only two chapters in the Bible that talk about creation and there are 50 chapters that talk about the tabernacle? That is important. The tabernacle is important and demands attention from us in our study, because the tabernacle is a giant picture of Jesus Christ. It is a gigantic portrait of Christ in every detail. God laid out all the plans, and you look at it and it’s just Christ everywhere you look.

For example, let’s begin. This was a big tent. It was 150 feet long and it was 75 feet wide. And there was only one gate, and it was on the east. And it was 30 feet wide, seven-and-a-half feet high, and many people could go through it. Now that is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way,” who also said, “I am the door.” To the tabernacle or the place of God there was only one door. How many doors are there to God now? One door, Jesus Christ. So the fact of one door pictures Jesus Christ. Christianity is very exclusive, men only come to God through Jesus Christ.

MacArthur describes the tabernacle in detail so that we understand its parallels with Christ:

Now let’s assume that we started at the east and we were going into the 150-by-75-foot tent. The outside was a curtain that was not covered, and we would move then, and he just doesn’t even get into this but let me fill in. We would move into the courtyard, the outer court of the tabernacle. And we would see some furniture there which he doesn’t mention because of their obvious familiarity with it. But as we walk from the east going in, we would first of all come to the brazen altar.

Now the brazen altar it was just that, it was made of acacia wood. It was seven-and-a-half feet square, so it was a large altar. It stood four-and-a-half feet off the ground. The top was covered by a brass grate, and the coals were underneath the grate and the sacrifice was placed on the grate. On four corners of the alter were the horns of the altar to which the animal was bound when it was being sacrificed. The brazen altar is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, the one who was a sacrifice for sin.

Having moved past that continuing west, we would come to the next piece of furniture that is in the court, and that is the laver, or a wash area. This is made of brass. In it the priest washed their hands and used it also to wash their feet as they went about the bloody services of sacrifice. It again is a picture of Jesus Christ who is the cleanser of his people. And it’s a wonderful picture when you put the two together. Once we have come to the brazen altar and received forgiveness for sins, we are not through. We still need to go to the laver for the daily cleansing that brings about restoration and the pure joy of full fellowship. So both of them picture Jesus. And together they picture the work of Christ on earth, as he provided the forgiveness and the cleansing in the cross.

Then we’re still going west and we come to the tabernacle itself. 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, 15 feet high. The holy place took up two-thirds of it, which meant that the holy of holies was a perfect cube, 15 by 15 by 15, the other 15 by 15 by 30. We would go into the holy place, if we were priests, and in there we would find three pieces of furniture, and here the writer only mentions two. As I say, he’s in a hurry; he doesn’t have time for details, and they know them all as well as the back of their hand anyway. And we would move then into the holy place, and first of all on the left side would appear the golden lampstand. The seven-lit golden lampstand that the pure olive oil that was placed there for the fire. This golden lampstand was beaten out of solid gold. Then we would look to the right and we would see the table of showbread. This was made of acacia wood, again overlaid with gold. It was three feet long, one-and-a-half feet wide and about two-and-a-quarter-feet high off the ground. And on it every Sabbath they laid 12 loaves, one for every tribe in Israel, six in two rows. And at the end of the week the priests ate it, and only the priests were allowed to eat it.

Then continuing to the center, we would see the Altar of Incense. It again was made of acacia wood and it was sheathed in gold. It was one-and-a-half feet square, three feet high. And on this were placed the burning coals from the brazen altar way out in the courtyard where sacrifice was made. Then you say, “Well what are these three things supposed to be all about?” Again, they are pictures of Jesus Christ.

Let me show you what I mean. In the outer courtyard, all the things out there are connected with salvation and the cleansing of sin. Now where did Jesus accomplish salvation and the cleansing of sin? On the earth. And that’s the courtyard, outside God’s presence. The very fact that it was the outer court, accessible to all the people pictures Christ in the world openly manifesting himself before men. But when he goes into the holy place, he is shut off from the men of the world. And so whatever it is that’s going on in the holy place it’ll have to do with that which he does when he gets back to heaven. And what are the three things that Jesus does when he gets back to heaven? Number one, he lights our path. Number two, he feeds us. And number three, he intercedes for us. And so the three pieces of furniture in the holy place are pictures of Jesus Christ. The golden lampstand is Christ, the light of life, not the light of the world. He’s not the light of the world when he’s in there. He said listen to it carefully in the Gospel of John, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” But when he left the world, the world was left in darkness, and he is only for the believer, the light of life. Don’t confuse that. It’s talking about his work in heaven. He is the light of life. He is the light that directs our paths. He is the one who through the Spirit illumines our mind, who understands spiritual truth. He is the one by the indwelling Spirit that guides us through the world of darkness. He is our light.

And then we look to the right and we see the table of showbread and Jesus is our sustenance. He’s the one who feeds us every day, who sustains us, and he sustains us with the Word. In fact, the Word is not only our food, the Word is our light, and the oil is the Spirit of God who lights the Word for us. You might say the light is our food on the other side and the Spirit is our waiter. And then we come to the altar of incense which pictures the sacrificial coals placed there and the incense smoke rising, and this is Jesus interceding for us. The perfect sacrifice became the intercessory. And so all three picture Jesus’ work in heaven for us. But we don’t stop there.

Look at verse 3. We go through a second veil, and we couldn’t do this, could we? Only if we were high priests and only once a year on one day. But in our minds, let’s go. And we go after the second veil into the tabernacle, which is called the holiest of all, the holy of holies. And we get in there and there’s only one piece of furniture, and what was it? It was the Ark of the Covenant, and it contained Aaron’s rod that budded, and it contained manna, and it contained the tables of law. It was simply made of acacia wood. It too was overlaid with gold about 3’9” long, 2’3” wide, and about 2 feet high, just a box. And the lid on top of it was called what? Look at verse. Which had the golden censer, we’ll get to that later, and the Ark of the Covenant overlaid roundabout with gold in which was the golden pot, manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, the tables of the covenant. Verse 5, “And over it the cherubim of glory showing the mercy seat.” On top of this was the mercy seat, as it’s called. And over the mercy seat on two ends were cherubim, that’s angels, whose wings stretched over and almost touched. The mercy seat was made of gold; the angels were solid gold. And it was between the wings of those angels on the mercy seat that God met men.

In Exodus 25:22, God said, “I’ll commune with you from above the mercy seat from between the cherubim.” And if God and man were to have any meeting place, they only met there. But you see isn’t it tragic that under the Old Testament economy there was only one guy who could go in there and he had to hurry in and hurry out, because there wasn’t ever really any access at all. And the people never got any further than the outer court; they never even got into the holy place. But here was the Ark. You say, “What does that represent?” It represents Jesus Christ who is the true mercy seat. When you meet Jesus Christ as Savior, you are ushered into the presence of God.

God no longer communes with men between the wings of the cherubim. He communes with men no longer on the top of a gold mercy seat. He communes with men because they come to him in the name of whom? Jesus Christ. He is the mercy seat. Only on the basis of the blood of a goat would God have fellowship with Israel, and only on the basis of the blood of Christ will God have fellowship with men. Christ is the mercy seat, the meeting place of God and men. So we see the sanctuary. It had divine services, but it was earthly, and it was so temporary and passing and it never provided true access. So the writer speaks of the sanctuary. Let’s look at the services, and this is going to be interesting especially in reference to the Day of Atonement … in Israel’s calendar.

Verse 6, “Now when these things were thus prepared,” – when the furniture was all set up, watch what happened – “the priest went always into the first tabernacle accomplishing the service of God.” The first one was called the Holy Place. They went in there every day; they had to go in every day to trim the oil on the lampstand. They had to go in there every day to put the incense on the altar of incense, and they had to go in every Sabbath day to change the 12 loaves of bread. So they were in and out of there every day. Every day, every day, every day they went into the holy place. This was a never-ceasing work. It’s again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who does not cease lighting, who does not cease feeding, who does not cease interceding on our behalf. It is perpetual. It is continual. It is unceasing. Aren’t you glad you have a Christ like that who never stops his priestly work? Every day, every day, every day going about doing it on our behalf.

But verse 7, “Into the second, or the holy of all, went the high priest alone once every year, and not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.” Now this is interesting, and I want us to take a minute to see this. What happens in Israel historically is important to us, because so much of it pictures Christ. But nothing pictures Christ more than this event. The statement in verse 7 refers to the Day of Atonement, or Yom KippurNow the Day of Atonement is again a perfect picture of Christ. He doesn’t spend any detail on it because they knew it well, but I’m going to take a moment to spend some detail. We know that God had a relationship with Israel, but every time Israel sinned, what happened to the relationship? It was broken. So every day they’d come and they’d make sacrifices and it would be kind of reconnected. But all through the year sins would pile up that you forgot about that you didn’t know you committed; that’s why they’re called errors rather than sins. The things you didn’t know and you forgot about and you didn’t confess and you didn’t make a sacrifice for would pile up. So the Day of Atonement was kind of a catch-all. All of the ones for which you had not made direct sacrifice would be gathered together, and they would all be covered in the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement for the whole nation. So it was a great day of liberty of the conscience. I mean you knew all through the year that you’d be racking up and you know you remembered some of them but you hadn’t remembered all of them, and so you longed for the Day of Atonement when the sacrifice was made and at least for a few minutes you could be free.

Sin severed the relationship. Only forgiveness through sacrifice could put it together, and so there needed to be a catch-all to pick up the things the people had forgotten. And so that was the Day of Atonement. Now let’s look at the ritual. Very early in the morning the priest arose, not from the dead but from the bed. And he cleansed himself by washing; he washed himself thoroughly. Then he put on some robes that were reserved for this day; they’re the robes of glory and beauty, fancy robes. There was the robe of the ephod, and on the robe of the ephod the shoulders were two large onyx stones, and each of those onyx stones had six of the tribes’ names engraved on them. On the tunic, which was on the breastplate, was also 12 precious stones, each one of them having on it engraved one name of a tribe. So he bore, remember we saw this a few weeks ago, the names of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart. And there he is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who takes us not only on his heart, which means he cares for us, but on his shoulders, which means he’s not only willing, he’s what? He’s able. That’s power; that’s strength.

And so the high priest then carried the people to God on his heart and on his shoulders, and I’m sure that he wished he could give them access to the holy place. And I’m sure his heart ached to give them access to God. I’m sure he ached to have it himself. He had it on his heart, but he didn’t really have the strength in his shoulders. That was a picture of Jesus who would come and be willing and also be able. And so the high priest got himself all cleaned up and put on his robes. Then he began to do his daily sacrifices. He had to go through the whole routine of all the sacrifice. One writer says, “Very likely he would’ve already slaughtered 22 different animals by the time he reached the event known as Atonement.” Very busy and a very bloody thing that he did every day.

And so he went all through the sacrifices, and when he was done, he finished all of that. He removed his gorgeous robes. He took of the robes of glory and beauty, went and bathed himself again from top to bottom so that he was completely clean, and then he put on – now mark this one, this is interesting. He then put on pure white linen with no decoration at all, and it was a symbol of holiness and it was a symbol of purity. And it is a perfect symbol of Jesus Christ who in the work of atonement stripped of all of his glory and all of his beauty and became the humblest of humble, dressed in the simplest, if you will say so, linen of human flesh. But notice it’s still white. In all of his humility, he never lost his, what? His holiness.

And so when Jesus came to do the work of sacrifice to make the atonement for sin, he took of the glory but he never took off the purity and he never took off the holiness. And so again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, and it’s interesting to note also that when the high priest was done with the sacrifice of atonement, he put right back on the robes of glory and beauty. Remember Jesus after he’d come to the cross and he was preparing for the cross and his prayer in John 17 he said, “Father, I finished the work you gave me to do, now glorify me with the glory that I had before the world began. Father, give me back my robes. I’ve done the job of atonement.” That’s exactly what the priest pictured, perfect picture.

And so the priest then put on the robes of linen, simple robes. The procedures then were as follows. In the robe of white linen, or the garments of white linen, the priest took coals off the altar. That’s the brazen altar where sacrifice is going to be made. He put them then in a censer with incense, and he carried it clear into the holy of holies. Now you’ll notice that tells that in verse 4, “Which had the golden censer.” That was not a piece of furniture in there, but the high priest on the day of atonement filled it with coals off the altar of sacrifice and took it and put it in the holy of holies, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ again. He realizes that it is only because of Jesus Christ that he can even enter into there. So before he does any sacrifice at all, he takes that which represents Christ and puts it in there in the presence of God, for no man can come into the presence of God except Christ make the way. And so the picture of incense is always the picture of prayer and intercession. So he makes sure that the picture of Christ interceding before God opens the way for him to come in.

So he puts the censer in there and smoke fills the place from the censer. No man can approach God except Christ be there first

Then there were the sacrifices of two goats. One was the scapegoat, probably carried off into the wild but left alive. The other goat was sacrificed in death, as God required a blood sacrifice:

The first goat satisfies God. The second goat satisfies us. The two are not two offerings but one. Listen to Leviticus 16:5, “And he shall take two kids of a goat for a sin offering.” They’re just two parts of the same thing. So in that offering there was satisfaction to God. There was satisfaction for men. Propitiation, if you will, and pardon. In both cases, it was substitution. Now those are perfect copies of Jesus, aren’t they? Jesus who was the substitution, propitiation, he died on the altar and shed his blood. Jesus who bore away our sins.

The point of the first ten verses of Hebrews 9 is to show that the Old Covenant was temporary because of its limitations. Christ made the New Covenant perfect.

MacArthur says:

Could people get into the holy place? No. Could they get into the holy of holies? Absolutely not. The whole thing was meant to prove that without a redeemer, without a Messiah, without a Savior there’s no access to God, see? The Holy Spirit was saying that. He was teaching through the old system its very limitations.

Therefore, the author of Hebrews says that Christ came as a high priest of things that have come — or, as some translations say, ‘to come’ — through a greater and perfect tent, not of any existing creation, i.e. man’s labour, things of nature (verse 11).

He entered into the holy place, not with the blood of ritual sacrifice, but His own blood, thereby obtaining redemption for mankind and ending the sacrificial system (verse 12).

Matthew Henry points out that Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, unlike that of the Old Testament Jews who had to conduct the Day of Atonement ceremonies every year:

3. Christ, our high priest, has entered into heaven, not as their high priest entered into the holiest, with the blood of bulls and of goats, but by his own blood, typified by theirs, and infinitely more precious. And this,

4. Not for one year only, which showed the imperfection of that priesthood, that it did but typically obtain a year’s reprieve or pardon. But our high priest entered into heaven once for all, and has obtained not a yearly respite, but eternal redemption, and so needs not to make an annual entrance. In each of the types there was something that showed it was a type, and resembled the antitype, and something that showed it was but a type, and fell short of the antitype, and therefore ought by no means to be set up in competition with the antitype.

If the blood of the animal sacrifices purified, if only temporarily, those who had been defiled (verse 14), how much greater then is the sacrifice of our unblemished Christ on our behalf, which cleanses our conscience and draws us to worship the living God (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Christ, through His sacrifice on the Cross, makes us new creatures on the inside, something a priest from the Old Testament could never do:

… it says, “Because he did this, he will purge your conscience.” That means clean it out and free it from guilt, total forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And it says in 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Boy, what a blessed thing. No longer bugged by our guilt, but free. And it says this, “Purge your conscience from dead works.” That’s inward defilement. He cleans the inside. You see the old priest could cover up on the outside; Jesus cleans the inside. The old system could cleanse externally; the new one can change a man’s nature. It removes inward defilement. What it does is change his nature. The old one covered up, the outside, this one changes the man on the inside. “If any man because in Christ Jesus,” what? Not just cleaned up old creature but what? New creature. In the old economy, it would’ve have to been this: If any man does the sacrifice, he’s a cleaned-up old creature. In Christ, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Removes inward defilement.

For that reason, Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant; those who are called may receive that promised inheritance for eternity, because His death redeems them from the transgressions of the Old Covenant (verse 15).

Henry offers this analysis:

Here observe, [1.] What it was that gave such efficacy to the blood of Christ. First, It was his offering himself to God, the human nature upon the altar of his divine nature, he being priest, altar, and sacrifice, his divine nature serving for the two former, and his human nature for the last now such a priest, altar, and sacrifice, could not but be propitiatory. Secondly, It was Christ’s offering up himself to God through the eternal Spirit, not only as the divine nature supported the human, but the Holy Ghost, which he had without measure, helping him in all, and in this great act of obedience offering himself. Thirdly, It was Christ’s offering himself to God without spot, without any sinful stain either in his nature or life; this was conformable to the law of sacrifices, which required them to be without blemish. Now further observe, [2.] What the efficacy of Christ’s blood is; it is very great. For, First, It is sufficient to purge the conscience from dead works, it reaches to the very soul and conscience, the defiled soul, defiled with sin, which is a dead work, proceeds from spiritual death, and tends to death eternal. As the touching of a dead body gave a legal uncleanness, so meddling with sin gives a moral and real defilement, fixes it in the very soul; but the blood of Christ has efficacy to purge it out. Secondly, It is sufficient to enable us to serve the living God, not only by purging away that guilt which separates between God and sinners, but by sanctifying and renewing the soul through the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, purchased by Christ for this purpose, that we might be enabled to serve the living God in a lively manner.

Henry explains the use of ‘testament’ and ‘covenant’:

The gospel is here considered as a testament, the new and last will and testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is observable that the solemn transactions that pass between God and man are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament. A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties about things that are in their own power, or may be so, and this either with or without a mediator; this agreement takes effect at such time and in such manner as therein declared. A testament is a voluntary act and deed of a single person, duly executed and witnessed, bestowing legacies on such legatees as are described and characterized by the testator, and which can only take effect upon his death. Now observe, Christ is the Mediator of a New Testament (Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:15); and he is so for several ends and purposes here mentioned. 1. To redeem persons from their transgressions committed against the law or first testament, which makes every transgression a forfeiture of liberty, and makes men debtors, and slaves or prisoners, who need to be redeemed. 2. To qualify all those that are effectually called to receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. These are the great legacies that Christ by his last will and testament has bequeathed to the truly characterized legatees.

I hope that helps to clarify the importance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, which does not seem to be covered adequately in many of our churches today, even on Good Friday.

Moving on to Tuesday of Holy Week, below are links to the readings as well as to explorations of the Epistle, the Gospel and the withered fig tree:

Readings for Tuesday of Holy Week

Contemplating the withered fig tree (2017)

More to follow in the days ahead.

palm-sunday-donkey-landysadventures_com.jpgPalm Sunday is April 10, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel for the Liturgy of the Palms is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 19:28-40

19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,

19:30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

19:31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

19:34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”

19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

19:36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.

19:37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,

19:38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s reading was about the dinner at which Mary, the sister of Martha and the recently resurrected Lazarus, anointed Jesus with fragrant nard, most often used for embalming in that era.

That dinner took place at the last Sabbath under Mosaic law. The following Friday, Jesus, through His death on the Cross, ratified the New Covenant.

Luke has written in a continuum here. He begins verse 28 by saying that after Jesus had ‘said this’, He went up to Jerusalem.

Earlier in Luke 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector had been converted. Then Jesus told the Parable of the Ten Minas, wherein the master of an estate wanted his servants to make money for him.

One of the servants did not invest his mina. The master was angry:

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Now it was time for Jesus to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem. John’s Gospel has repeated instances of our Lord’s evasion of death because it was not the time.

Now that time has come. Matthew Henry explains why Jesus wanted a grand entrance into Jerusalem for the final true Passover:

It was no ways inconsistent either with Christ’s humility or with his present state of humiliation to make a public entry into Jerusalem a little before he died. Thus he made himself to be the more taken notice of, that the ignominy of his death might appear the greater.

At the Mount of Olives, near Bethpage and Bethany, He instructed two of His disciples (verse 29) to go to the next village, get a colt that had not been ridden and bring it to Him (verse 30).

Some might find that an unusual request, but Henry says:

all the beasts of the forest are his, and the tame beasts too.

Jesus said that, if anyone asked why, the disciples were to say, ‘Because the Lord needs it’ (verse 31).

Some might wonder why Jesus was so certain His plan would work. Remember, He is God the Son.

Henry explains:

Christ has all men’s hearts both under his eye and in his hand. He could influence those to whom the ass and the colt belonged to consent to their taking them away, as soon as they were told that the Lord had occasion for them.

The two disciples went on their errand for the Lord and found the unridden colt just as He said they would (verse 32).

The owners asked why the two were untying the colt (verse 33).

The disciples told them that the Lord needed it (verse 34).

They returned to Jesus with the colt, threw their cloaks onto its back and placed Jesus upon it (verse 35).

John MacArthur explains the significance of the timing and of the colt, both of which fulfilled Old Testament prophecy:

Daniel 9 verses 24 to 27 said in the prophecy that there would be sixty-nine times seven years, weeks of years, sixty-nine times seven until Messiah would come and be cut off Sixty-nine times seven is 483 years. They calculated years at 360 days a year; 483 years at 360 days totals 173,880.  So from the beginning until the Messiah comes to be cut off, you have this duration of 483 years of 360 days.  That’s prophesied in Daniel 9:24 to 27.  When does it start?  It started with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem.  When was that?  445 B. C. Declared by Artaxerxes and precisely from then until this week and this day is the 483 years He comes in perfect fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy Everything is in line.  And so He triggers the event Himself by sending the disciples to get the animal which He will ride into the city.

Though His coronation is humble, He comes riding on the colt, the foal of an ass, the foal of a donkey, as the prophet said, and though there are no crowns for Him, and though there are no dignitaries and there is not the usual regalia that occurs at a coronation, and though the people are fickle and though they are shallow and superficial and though they are hypocritical, and though they only cry “Hosanna” to Him this day and soon after are screaming for His blood, in spite of the shallowness and superficiality of this event, He is nonetheless God’s true King He is God’s true King.  And it manifests itself in this coronation in three ways: preparation, adoration, and condemnation.

Last time we looked at preparation in verses 28 to 35. The very fact that He sent them to get that animal and to bring the animal and He rode in on the animal, as I pointed out to you, is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, very specific prophecy Matthew’s account of the triumphal entry refers to that prophecy, Matthew 21. John’s account refers to that prophecy in John 12 He comes vindicating that He is the Messiah by the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy Also, He demonstrates His omniscience He knew about the animal, though He couldn’t see the animal.  He knew where it was He knew it was tied there.  He knew what the conversation with the owners would be like He demonstrates again His deity and His messiahship in those elements of the preparation for His entry.

As Jesus rode along into Jerusalem, the people watching Him spread their cloaks upon the road (verse 36). They already knew about the resurrection of Lazarus, the news of which had spread quickly. Furthermore, they had all heard about Him and some would have seen Him teaching and performing His healing miracles.

As He came down from the Mount of Olives on the colt, His disciples, who had been with Him to witness His ministry, began praising God joyfully for all the deeds of the power of Jesus (verse 37).

They said (verse 38), “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Henry tells us why they chose those proclamations:

Observe, 1. What was the matter or occasion of their joy and praise. They praised God for all the mighty works they had seen, all the miracles Christ had wrought, especially the raising of Lazarus, which is particularly mentioned, John 12:17; John 12:18. That brought others to mind, for fresh miracles and mercies should revive the remembrance of the former. 2. How they expressed their joy and praise (Luke 19:38; Luke 19:38): Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord. Christ is the king; he comes in the name of the Lord, clothed with a divine authority, commissioned from heaven to give law and treat of peace. Blessed be he. Let us praise him, let God prosper him. He is blessed for ever, and we will speak well of him. Peace in heaven. Let the God of heaven send peace and success to his undertaking, and then there will be glory in the highest. It will redound to the glory of the most high God; and the angels, the glorious inhabitants of the upper world, will give him the glory of it. Compare this song of the saints on earth with that of the angels, Luke 2:14; Luke 2:14. They both agree to give glory to God in the highest. There the praises of both centre; the angels say, On earth peace, rejoicing in the benefit which men on earth have by Christ; the saints say, Peace in heaven, rejoicing in the benefit which the angels have by Christ. Such is the communion we have with the holy angels that, as they rejoice in the peace on earth, so we rejoice in the peace in heaven, the peace God makes in his high places (Job 25:2), and both in Christ, who hath reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

MacArthur adds that the disciples thought that the Messiah’s temporal kingdom was at hand:

They were the ones, according to verse 37, who began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice, thinking: Surely this is the moment when He is going to come as the conquering hero, the conquering Messiah, set up the kingdom, defeat our enemies They start the celebration The crowd catches the fever and they all begin to cry out the same things, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah He receives it.  He takes it because He deserves it So we see that He is who He is by way of preparation, omniscience.  Fulfilling prophecy He is who He is demonstrated by adoration He receives worship willingly because He deserves it.

However, the Pharisees were angry, telling Jesus that He should order His disciples to stop praising Him (verse 39).

Henry says:

There were some Pharisees among the multitude who were so far from joining with them that they were enraged at them, and, Christ being a famous example of humility, they thought that he would not admit such acclamations as these, and therefore expected that he should rebuke his disciples, Luke 19:39; Luke 19:39. But it is the honour of Christ that, as he despises the contempt of the proud, so he accepts the praises of the humble.

Jesus replied that if the people had been silent, the stones would have shouted out their praise to Him (verse 40).

That might seem a difficult verse to understand, but Jesus spoke of a prophecy that came to pass on Good Friday.

Henry tells us:

Whether men praise Christ or no he will, and shall, and must be praised (Luke 19:40; Luke 19:40): If these should hold their peace, and not speak the praises of the Messiah’s kingdom, the stones would immediately cry out, rather than that Christ should not be praised. This was, in effect, literally fulfilled, when, upon men’s reviling Christ upon the cross, instead of praising him, and his own disciples’ sinking into a profound silence, the earth did quake and the rocks rent. Pharisees would silence the praises of Christ, but they cannot gain their point; for as God can out of stones raise up children unto Abraham, so he can out of the mouths of those children perfect praise.

MacArthur has more, tracing the judgement on Jerusalem back to Habakkuk in the Old Testament:

The opposition to Jesus was so strong that even after the resurrection from the dead, the praise of Jesus was never raised in the city of Jerusalem, or in the land of Israel, except among the few thousand who were saved When Jerusalem grew silent, Jesus said, “The stones will cry out.”  Cry out, kraz, scream, future tense, when in the future these people become silent, in the future the stones will scream.  Screaming stones?  What is that?  What is that?  It’s more than just the expression of praise from some inanimate object, as if God is to be praised by His creation, far more than that.  In fact, in the little prophecy of Habakkuk, chapter 2, we have a very good parallel In the prophecy of Habakkuk we have a statement of judgment on the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans, the wicked, pagan Chaldeans And the Chaldeans had basically prospered as a society, but they had prospered at the expense of other nations, they had prospered by extortion, they had prospered by usury, charging exorbitant interest rate, they had prospered by murder and bloodshed.  They had literally built their towns and cities by the sacrifice and the slaughter and the abuse of other people So Habakkuk, the prophet, is given a message from God of judgment against them I just want to pick out one verse; that is in verse 11.  “Surely the stone will cry out from the wall and the rafter will answer it from the framework.” Then verse 12, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence.”  The stones in the houses and the buildings that they built were symbols of their wickedness.  The walls of their houses and the timbers of their roofs, plundered from others, gained by bloodshed and usury, scream of their wickedness, scream of their guilt.  And Jesus is saying the same thing here.

There are going to be some stones who will cry out against you as the stones in the past cried out of the guilt of the Chaldeans.  All you had to do was look at their houses and when you saw them, all their prosperity, all their edifices were testimonies to their corruption and bloodshed.  The stones cried out of their guilt and the judgment of God upon them, and some stones are going to do the same in your case That’s explained in the next section, verse 41.  “When He approached He saw the city and wept over it.”

Here are the ensuing verses from Luke 19, in which Jesus pronounced judgement on Jerusalem — the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70 — for having rejected Him and His salvation:

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

However, God will lift judgement on the Jews, when the Gentiles fall:

Since that time, Jerusalem has been trodden underfoot to one degree or another by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles ends. 

Paul wrote about that in Romans 11:25-28:

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:[a] a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

So, the time will come for God’s Chosen to be redeemed at some point in history.

More readings for Holy Week will follow in the days ahead.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent is April 3, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

We are now in the Lenten season of Passiontide, in which we anticipate the death of Jesus.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 12:1-8

12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

12:2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

12:3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

12:5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”

12:6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

12:7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.

12:8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew Henry outlines John 12 for us and contrasts it with the preceding chapter. It is a time of honour for our Lord:

It was a melancholy account which we had in the close of the foregoing chapter of the dishonour done to our Lord Jesus, when the scribes and Pharisees proclaimed him a traitor to their church, and put upon him all the marks of ignominy they could: but the story of this chapter balances that, by giving us an account of the honour done to the Redeemer, notwithstanding all that reproach thrown upon him. Thus the one was set over against the other. Let us see what honours were heaped on the head of the Lord Jesus, even in the depths of his humiliation. I. Mary did him honour, by anointing his feet at the supper in Bethany, John 12:1-11. II. The common people did him honour, with their acclamations of joy, when he rode in triumph into Jerusalem, John 12:12-19. III. The Greeks did him honour, by enquiring after him with a longing desire to see him, John 12:20-26. IV. God the Father did him honour, by a voice from heaven, bearing testimony to him, John 12:27-36. V. He had honour done him by the Old Testament prophets, who foretold the infidelity of those that heard the report of him, John 12:37-41. VI. He had honour done him by some of the chief rulers, whose consciences witnessed for him, though they had not courage to own it, John 12:42; John 12:43. VII. He claimed honour to himself, by asserting his divine mission, and the account he gave of his errand into the world, John 12:44-50.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, news of which, not surprisingly, spread very quickly.

John MacArthur says:

This is really a stunning narrative setting the stage for the events of the final week of our Lord’s life.  Just remembering what has taken place prior to this in chapter 11 you have the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Everybody knows about it.  Lazarus has become the most well-known resident of the small village of Bethany, a couple of miles east of Jerusalem The word is out that Lazarus has been risen from the dead.  This final culminating public miracle of Jesus is a stupendous miracle with vast implications

It was saved for proximity to Jerusalem so the knowledge of this miracle would transcend the village, the town of Bethany, and sweep through the conversations in the great city of Jerusalem

This was highly disturbing to the religious leaders of Israel They never denied it They couldn’t deny it.  It was a factBut they want to do all the damage control they can possibly do, so they plan openly at least in the conversations that Jesus heard, verse 53 of chapter 11, to kill Him.  Now, this has been coming for a long time.  He’s been very aware of it, but the plan has been escalated by the impact of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Jesus then can no longer continue to walk publicly among the Jews He can’t stay in the proximity of Bethany and Jerusalem because the leaders are ready to execute Him So He went away from there, verse 54 says, to a country in the wilderness, a little place called Ephraim and stayed with His disciples Some think it was a few days.  Some think it was weeks.  In fact, there are some – and this may well be the case; I lean this way – that there were a few weeks in there in which He actually went into Samaria and into Galilee What He did in Samaria and Galilee is recorded in Luke 17, 18, and 19.  So if you’re looking for where that segment of His ministry Luke records belongs, it looks like it fits here if indeed He had a few weeks between the raising of Lazarus and His arrival for Passover

The interlude is now over He heads back, as we see, in verse 1 toward Jerusalem.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead (verse 1).

MacArthur points out this was the last Passover meant to be celebrated under Mosaic law, the Old Covenant:

This would be Saturday.  This is Sabbath.  By the way, this is the last legitimate Sabbath.  This is the final Sabbath in the Old Covenant because on Friday, Jesus will die and ratify the New Covenant The Old Covenant will fade away.  The New Covenant being ratified is in place, and there’s no more authorized official Sabbaths So the church immediately gathers itself on Sunday when He was raised from the dead, and continued to do that every Sunday up until this very Sunday today. 

The symbol of the New Covenant is not the Passover in Egypt.  The symbol of the New Covenant is the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week So this is the last official authorized Sabbath. 

Furthermore:

What we see in this text … is the obvious division that was occurring by simply the presence and ministry of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ causes faith in Martha, Mary, Lazarus …  Jesus Christ causes unbelief of the severest kind and the rankest kind of vitriolic, hateful, venomous, apostasy in the man Judas.

There — at Bethany — His friends gave a dinner for Him. Martha served — as was her wont — and Lazarus was at table with them (verse 2).

Where exactly was ‘there’? On this point, our commentators differ.

Henry’s commentary explores two possibilities:

It is queried whether this was the same with that which is recorded, Matthew 24:6, c., in the house of Simon. Most commentators think it was for the substance of the story and many of the circumstances agree; but that comes in after what was said two days before the passover, whereas this was done six days before; nor is it likely that Martha should serve in any house but her own; and therefore I incline with Dr. Lightfoot to think them different: that in Matthew on the third day of the passover week, but this the seventh day of the week before, being the Jewish sabbath, the night before he rode in triumph into Jerusalem; that in the house of Simon; this of Lazarus. These two being the most public and solemn entertainments given him in Bethany, Mary probably graced them both with this token of her respect; and what she left of her ointment this first time, when she spent but a pound of it (John 12:3; John 12:3), she used that second time, when she poured it all out, Mark 14:3.

However, MacArthur seems certain this took place at Simon the ex-leper’s home:

Now, we know this is not at the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus because the other gospels, and this of course is recorded also in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 tell us it happened at the house of a man named Simon called Simon the leper, Simon the leper, Simon the leper who also lived in Bethany So this event takes place not at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but at the house of Simon the leper Just to let you know, he couldn’t have been a leper at the time or there wouldn’t be a party at his house because lepers were excommunicated, and they were put out of the social occasions like this permanently. 

So, if I may be so bold, I just need to inject that we should be calling him Simon, the ex-leper.  Now, how do you become an ex-leper in the ancient world?  There’s no way unless you are healed by the Creator Himself, which then gives us information as to why Simon would host the event Because he also had had a miraculous restoration, not unlike that of Lazarus So there are two very special people sitting at the table or reclining at the table One is an ex-leper and another is an ex-dead man That should make for some fascinating conversation, frankly.  Fascinating conversation.

I can see both perspectives. Perhaps Simon lived alone, so Martha took care of cooking and serving. On the other hand, it could have been two separate occasions, as Henry says.

Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took an expensive perfume of pure nard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair, filling the house with fragrance (verse 3).

Henry’s commentary proposes that Mary was so grateful for having her brother returned to life that she cared less for the perfume and wanted to honour our Lord for the miracle He performed:

She had a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, which probably she had by her for her own use; but the death and resurrection of her brother had quite weaned her from the use of all such things, and with this she anointed the feet of Jesus, and, as a further token of her reverence for him and negligence of herself, she wiped them with her hair, and this was taken notice of by all that were present, for the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. See Proverbs 27:16.

MacArthur adds that Mary’s actions would have been spontaneous, as if her heart were bursting with love and gratitude:

A great illustration to remind us of sacrificial, total completely, unrestrained love I don’t really think this is something calculated, premeditatedThis is the heart of Mary bursting, “And she took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard.”  That’s a lot of pure perfume, pure fragrant oil

He explains that it came from Asia and cost a year’s salary:

The term is “myron” which is a term for oil Nard was a very rare herb grown in the high pasture lands of China, Tibet, and IndiaIt wouldn’t find its way into a home in Bethany unless it had been carried there by camels from India, from China, far, far, far awayBecause it came so far, because it was so pure, it was very valuable, very valuable.  In fact, its value was known by the man who always thought only about the price of things: Judas He named the price in verse 5 as 300 denarii A denarius is a day’s wage.  That’s 300 days of work.  That’s essentially a year’s work if you take some days off out.  Very expensive. 

Mary’s loosening of her hair in front of men not of her family was not quite the done thing, but she is among friends and feels comfortable expressing herself in this honour she does for Jesus:

Her gentle, loving heart is literally beating.  She can’t restrain herself.  According to Mark 14:3, she smashes the alabaster jar and opens it Matthew and Mark tell us it went on His head and here we find in John that it went all the way down to His feet Then she loosened her hair, which was a radical thing for a woman to do in the presence of men, and used her hair to wipe His feet.  Foot washing at a meal was part of the meal because people had sandals, and there was no pavement.  Dirty feet didn’t suit people sitting down for a prolonged dinner in a reclining position

There is a similar story of a woman washing the feet of Jesus, but it should not be confused with this one:

Go back to Luke 7It had happened before earlier in His ministry, not in Bethany, but in GalileeNot in the house of Simon the leper, but in the house of a Pharisee Not by a believing woman whom Jesus knew, but by a prostitute He didn’t know Luke 7:37, “There was a woman in the city who was a sinner and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisees’ house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume standing behind Him at His feet weeping.  She began to wet His feet with her tears, kept wiping them with the hair of her head and kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume.  Now, when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.’

That would be the most frightening things imaginable for a self-righteous Pharisee to imagine himself to be touched by a prostitute He wouldn’t survive that because Pharisees as legalists were highly seducible, even by a touchBut the touch of a most sinful woman, couldn’t diminish the pure, holiness of Christ Instead of it making Him unholy, He could make her holy Apparently, this was a lavish way for people to express overwhelming love and affection

John pulls no punches in describing Judas to us in verses 4 and 6.

In verse 4, John calls him Judas Iscariot and describes him as ‘the one who was about to betray Him’.

Henry tells us what Iscariot means:

Judas was treasurer of Christ’s household, whence some think he was called Iscariot, the bag-bearer.

Judas objected, saying that the perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor (verse 5).

MacArthur describes the atmosphere:

She gave everything of value that she could lay her hands on There must have been stunned silence There must have been stunned silence as that group of people who also loved Christ.  That group would be Simon and whoever was in his family, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the twelve, and JesusMany, many were there.

The silence didn’t last.  As they were contemplating the humble sacrifice of Mary, they were interrupted by the hypocritical self-interest of Judas Verse 4, “But Judas Iscariot – ”, who will be identified as he always is, “ – one of His disciples who was intending to betray Him.”  Enter Judas, always thus described.  That man whom Jesus in John 17:12 calls, the “son of perdition” of whom Acts 1:25 says, “He went to his own place.”  He is the son of perdition and his own place is perdition or eternal hell, a son of hell

He cast his lot in thinking he would be wealthy He cast his lot in thinking he would be elevated to some position of power and authority, and it began to become clear to him pretty early I think that this thing wasn’t going the direction he wanted it to go While everyone else was growing to love Christ more, he was growing to hate Him more He labored in difficulty.  There was resistance.  There was rejection.  He was left with nothing but the basest necessities of life.  From day to day, it was merely survival The idea of a kingdom was becoming ridiculous to him Everything was going wrong, but he has to keep up the hypocrisy so he says in verse 5, “Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii and given to poor people?” 

Henry says that this is the way Satan works, through half-truths and plausibility:

(1.) Here is a foul iniquity gilded over with a specious and plausible pretence, for Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. (2.) Here is worldly wisdom passing a censure upon pious zeal, as guilty of imprudence and mismanagement. Those who value themselves upon their secular policy, and undervalue others for their serious piety, have more in them of the spirit of Judas than they would be thought to have. (3.) Here is charity to the poor made a colour for opposing a piece of piety to Christ, and secretly made a cloak for covetousness. Many excuse themselves from laying out in charity under pretence of laying up for charity: whereas, if the clouds be full of rain, they will empty themselves. Judas asked, Why was it not given to the poor? To which it is easy to answer, Because it was better bestowed upon the Lord Jesus.

Henry has an application for us in today’s world when people think that everything should be done their way. I’m referring to leftists here:

Note, We must not conclude that those do no acceptable piece of service who do not do it in our way, and just as we would have them; as if every thing must be adjudged imprudent and unfit which does not take its measures from us and our sentiments. Proud men think all ill-advised who do not advise with them.

John tells us that Judas was not at all concerned about the poor; instead, he was a thief who used to steal from the purse (verse 6) into which people donated to the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.

MacArthur explains:

When the thing began to go the direction he didn’t think it should go, he began embezzling the money, the little money they had to sustain them He wanted the money and all the money he could get He was ready now to get out, whatever was going to be the end of this thing for Jesus.  Jesus had said He was going to die.  They were going to take His life.  He can see the hostility, the animosity.  He knows the end is coming.  He knows He’s not going to be able to be in the position he is to get the money that’s in the box very much longer He wants as much as he can get.  By the way, this is sad.  Matthew 26:8 says the other disciples chimed in on this.  Yeah, why wasn’t that sold and the money given to the poor?  Stirred up by Judas to join the protest.  It actually says the disciples protested.

He had a lot of influence.  That’s why he had the money box because everybody what?  Trusted him.  I will say this, true honor to Jesus Christ, a place where true honor is offered to Jesus Christ will always bring out the hostility of those who belong to Satan If you honor Jesus Christ, those who belong to Satan will be hostile This is a devil.  It actually says Thursday night of this week coming, the devil himself entered into him He was not just a devil, but the devil himself entered into Judas

Henry has more, saying that it was because either Judas was the least of the disciples or there was a divine judgment upon him and money would be his temptation to commit the ultimate evil deed of betraying Jesus:

It was his office to receive and pay, and we do not find that he gave any account what markets he made. He was appointed to this office, either, 1. Because he was the least and lowest of all the disciples; it was not Peter nor John that was made steward (though it was a place of trust and profit), but Judas, the meanest of them. Note, Secular employments, as they are a digression, so they are a degradation to a minister of the gospel; see 1 Corinthians 6:4. The prime-ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom refused to be concerned in the revenue, Acts 6:2. 2. Because he was desirous of the place. He loved in his heart to be fingering money, and therefore had the moneybag committed to him, either, (1.) As a kindness, to please him, and thereby oblige him to be true to his Master. Subjects are sometimes disaffected to the government because disappointed of their preferment; but Judas had no cause to complain of this; the bag he chose, and the bag he had. Or, (2.) In judgment upon him, to punish him for his secret wickedness; that was put into his hands which would be a snare and trap to him. Note, Strong inclinations to sin within are often justly punished with strong temptations to sin without. We have little reason to be fond of the bag, or proud of it, for at the best we are but stewards of it; and it was Judas, one of an ill character, and born to be hanged (pardon the expression), that was steward of the bag. The prosperity of fools destroys them.

Jesus, ever mindful of His death, told Judas to leave Mary alone; she had bought the perfume for His burial (verse 7).

Nard was the traditional embalming oil; its scent was strong and could mask the decaying odours of a dead body.

Jesus concluded by saying that the poor would always be there but they would not always have Him with them (verse 8) in physical form.

Henry gives a scriptural reference from Deuteronomy which says that the poor will always be with us:

(1.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of Providence that the poor we have always with us, some or other that are proper objects of charity (Deuteronomy 15:11); such there will be as long as there are in this lapsed state of mankind so much folly and so much affliction. (2.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of grace that the church should not always have the bodily presence of Jesus Christ: “Me you have not always, but only nor for a little time.” Note, We need wisdom, when two duties come in competition, to know which to give the preference to, which must be determined by the circumstances. Opportunities are to be improved, and those opportunities first and most vigorously which are likely to be of the shortest continuance, and which we see most speedily hastening away. That good duty which may be done at any time ought to give way to that which cannot be done but just now.

This passage is read again in Holy Week, at which time I will discuss verses 9 through 11.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

Daytime readings for Holy Saturday — along with posts on Easter foods and traditions — can be found here.

This is one of the two Gospel choices (emphases in bold mine):

John 19:38-42

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

I have chosen this as 2021’s Lenten readings and Holy Week’s have come from John’s Gospel.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur tells us of burial customs for people who had been crucified:

Now what would happen normally to a crucified individual? The Romans would simply let them be eaten by birds or thrown like roadkill on the side of a road somewhere, as continuing the example of not violating Rome. They might even end up in the dump. They might even end up dead bodies thrown in Gehenna where the fire never ceased and the garbage of Jerusalem was burned. But the Romans did not bury criminals. The Jews did bury them; that was typically a Jewish thing to do. But I don’t know that they had any particular plans to bury Jesus whom they viewed as a blasphemer.

The emergence of Joseph of Arimathea in wishing to bury the body of Jesus (verses 38, 41) was a fulfilment of prophecy. MacArthur says:

Now there is a prophecy back in Isaiah 53, Isaiah 53:9. Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah writes, “His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, but He was with a rich man in His death.” His grave was assigned to be with wicked men. Sure, He was going to be thrown wherever criminals were thrown. But He was with a rich man in His death …

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea,” – that’s the town – “being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews.” So here is a man who is a secret disciple. He was afraid to entertain any public confession of faith about Christ even though he believed. If you go back into chapter 12 you remember it says, “There were many of the rulers who believed in Him, but they didn’t acknowledge it for fear of the Jews. They were more concerned about what men thought than what God thought.” So here is this secret believer.

MacArthur tells us more about him and what compelled him to reveal his belief:

Now we know a lot about him because he’s mentioned in the other gospels. He is rich. Matthew 27:57, he is very rich. He is a good man. He is a member of the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin that sentenced Jesus to death – no doubt he didn’t vote that. He has been a coward, afraid to acknowledge himself when Jesus was ministering and alive. Somehow, in some dramatic way, by divine work on his heart, the coward becomes almost heroic in bravery; and as soon as Jesus has died – which means he must have been around – he sets aside all that fear and all that dread and all that cowardice, and he goes to Pilate and has to reveal that he is a disciple of Jesus, and he asks that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission after checking to make sure He was dead; and he came and took away His body. So now instead of Jesus, Isaiah 53:9 says, having a grave with the wicked, He’s going to be with a rich man in His death.

It says in Mark 15:43 that Joseph gathered up courage. No doubt power of the Lord came on him. He fulfills prophecy, because Jesus had said in Matthew 12:40 that He would be in the grave three days and rise. He has to be in the grave on Friday. Joseph appears to do that.

Jesus, dead, had moved Joseph in ways that Joseph wouldn’t be moved when Jesus was alive. Jesus, dead physically, brought Joseph to an open confession and moved him into the plan in a critical way; and he was the right guy, because he was a believer; and he was the right guy, because he had a tomb that had never been used, it wasn’t occupied; and he was the right guy, because the tomb that he had was right next to where Jesus was crucified, which meant they could get Him in there Friday.

Nicodemus is similarly moved to help bury Jesus by bringing a very heavy load of myrrh and aloes weighing 100 pounds (verse 39).

Nicodemus first approached the living Jesus at night in John 3. That passage was read a few weeks ago on the Fourth Sunday of Lent — Laetare Sunday (Year B) in March 2021.

Nicodemus was a religious ruler, a Pharisee: very learned in Scripture and Mosaic law. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish hierarchy.

He went to see Jesus at night either because he was too busy to meet him during the day, or, more likely, because he did not want to incur the wrath of the Sanhedrin.

So we have two high-ranking men of the religious establishment, both secret and now open believers, burying the body of Jesus according to Jewish custom (verse 40).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Hereby they showed the value they had for his person and doctrine, and that it was not lessened by the reproach of the cross. Those that had been so industrious to profane his crown, and lay his honour in the dust, might already see that they had imagined a vain thing for, as God had done him honour in his sufferings, so did men too, even great men. They showed not only the charitable respect of committing his body to the earth, but the honourable respect shown to great men. This they might do, and yet believe and look for his resurrection nay, this they might do in the belief and expectation of it. Since God designed honour for this body, they would put honour upon it.

MacArthur is less sure that they — or anyone else — anticipated the Resurrection:

Would you please remember that these are not disciples plotting a resurrection or they wouldn’t have used a hundred-pound weight on Him. They weren’t planning to steal His body. Certainly the other disciples weren’t; they aren’t even there.

Although John does not mention it in his account, the other Gospels tell us that women also helped the two men prepare our Lord’s body for burial.

The new tomb was located near the place where Jesus was crucified (verse 41). MacArthur says we can be sure it belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, because:

Matthew 27:60 says that tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

Henry points out the significance of the gardens in our Lord’s life and death as well as in the Bible:

That in a sepulchre in a garden Christ’s body was laid. In the garden of Eden death and the grave first received their power, and now in a garden they are conquered, disarmed, and triumphed over. In a garden Christ began his passion, and from a garden he would rise, and begin his exaltation. Christ fell to the ground as a corn of wheat (John 12:24), and therefore was sown in a garden among the seeds, for his dew is as the dew of herbs, Isaiah 26:19. He is the fountain of gardens, Song of Song of Solomon 4:15.

Because it was Friday, the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath — and at that particular time for the Passover Sabbath — that tomb was chosen to expedite matters for religious reasons (verse 42).

Henry elaborates:

1. Observe here the deference which the Jews paid to the sabbath, and to the day of preparation. Before the passover-sabbath they had a solemn day of preparation. This day had been ill kept by the chief priests, who called themselves the church, but was well kept by the disciples of Christ, who were branded as dangerous to the church and it is often so. (1.) They would not put off the funeral till the sabbath day, because the sabbath is to be a day of holy rest and joy, with which the business and sorrow of a funeral do not well agree. (2.) They would not drive it too late on the day of preparation for the sabbath. What is to be done the evening before the sabbath should be so contrived that it may neither intrench upon sabbath time, nor indispose us for sabbath work.

2. Observe the convenience they took of an adjoining sepulchre the sepulchre they made use of was nigh at hand. Perhaps, if they had had time, they would have carried him to Bethany, and buried him among his friends there. And I am sure he had more right to have been buried in the chief of the sepulchres of the sons of David than any of the kings of Judah had but it was so ordered that he should be laid in a sepulchre nigh at hand, (1.) Because he was to lie there but awhile, as in an inn, and therefore he took the first that offered itself. (2.) Because this was a new sepulchre. Those that prepared it little thought who should handsel it but the wisdom of God has reaches infinitely beyond ours, and he makes what use he pleases of us and all we have. (3.) We are hereby taught not to be over-curious in the place of our burial. Where the tree falls, why should it not lie? For Christ was buried in the sepulchre that was next at hand …

In closing, some will wonder about the three-day period from death to resurrection. MacArthur clarifies this for us:

Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, Friday, since the tomb was nearby they laid Jesus there. So He was in the grave on Friday, that’s Day One. He was in the grave on Saturday, that’s Day Two. He was in the grave on Sunday until the morning, that’s three days.

Any part of a day to a Jew constituted that day. Prophecy was fulfilled. He had power over His dying. He had power over the treatment of His body after He was dead. He had power over His burial to fulfill prophecy. Truly this is the Son of God.

Passiontide and Lent end on the evening of Holy Saturday. Catholic churches hold a lengthy Easter Vigil service at that time with several Bible readings, including the Gospel (Mark 16:1-8) wherein Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (not Herod’s step-daughter) are shocked to find the stone rolled back and the tomb empty.

Readings for Good Friday, along with links to several of my previous posts about this day, can be found here.

This is the full Gospel reading (emphases in bold mine):

John 18:1-19:42

18:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.

18:2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.

18:3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”

18:5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.

18:7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

18:8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”

18:9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”

18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.

18:11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

18:12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

18:13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

18:14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,

18:16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.

18:17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

18:18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

18:19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.

18:20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.

18:21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

18:22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

18:23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

18:24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”

18:26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”

18:27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

18:28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

18:29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”

18:30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

18:31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”

18:32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

18:38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.

18:39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

18:40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

19:2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe.

19:3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.”

19:5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

19:6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

19:8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.

19:9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”

19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

19:12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

19:13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

19:14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”

19:15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;

19:17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

19:19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

19:20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”

19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.

19:24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

19:25 And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

19:28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”

19:29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

19:30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

19:31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.

19:32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.

19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

19:34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

19:35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)

19:36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”

19:37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

As the Gospel reading is long, I will be focusing only on John 18 this year.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur explains what John wants us to see in this chapter:

John wants us to see the glory of Christ in His arrest – betrayal and arrest. This is as ugly a scene as we could expect. Judas, the ugliest of all apostates, the traitor of all traitors, the archetypal hypocrite is on display. It is in the middle of the night, everything is dark, and the darkest of it all is the hearts of the people surrounding Jesus and the disciples. But in the midst of this darkness, John shows us our Lord’s glory. We see His divine resolve, we see His divine power, we see His divine love, and we see His divine righteousness. Those four things are going to come through in this passage. The wretchedness, the injustice, the hellishness of Satan’s plot to kill Jesus unfolds.

But it isn’t just Satan’s plot to kill Jesus, as we heard Peter say from Acts 2 – it is God’s predetermined plan. So here, God and Satan come together on the same person for two very different reasons, and God triumphs. Instead of debasing Christ, as the devil intended, He is exalted in these scenes to the highest heaven. His unbounded magnificence explodes on us in all these settings.

After Jesus gave His final messages to the Apostles at the Last Supper, He and they crossed the Kidron valley to a garden, the Garden of Gethsemane (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains the biblical significance of the valley, known in his day as the brook Cedron:

That he went over the brook Cedron. He must go over this to go to the mount of Olives, but the notice taken of it intimates that there was something in it significant and it points, (1.) At David’s prophecy concerning the Messiah (Psalm 110:7), that he shall drink of the brook in the way the brook of suffering in the way to his glory and our salvation, signified by the brook Cedron, the black brook, so called either from the darkness of the valley it ran through or the colour of the water, tainted with the dirt of the city such a brook Christ drank of, when it lay in the way of our redemption, and therefore shall he lift up the head, his own and ours. (2.) At David’s pattern, as a type of the Messiah. In his flight from Absalom, particular notice is taken of his passing over the brook Cedron, and going up by the ascent of mount Olivet, weeping, and all that were with him in tears too, 2 Samuel 15:23,30. The Son of David, being driven out by the rebellious Jews, who would not have him to reign over them (and Judas, like Ahithophel, being in the plot against him), passed over the brook in meanness and humiliation, attended by a company of true mourners. The godly kings of Judah had burnt and destroyed the idols they found at the brook Cedron Asa, 2 Chronicles 15:16 Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 30:14 Josiah, 2 Kings 23:4,6. Into that brook the abominable things were cast. Christ, being now made sin for us, that he might abolish it and take it away, began his passion by the same brook. Mount Olivet, where Christ began his sufferings, lay on the east side of Jerusalem mount Calvary, where he finished them, on the west for in them he had an eye to such as should come from the east and the west.

The Apostles — Judas included — were well acquainted with the garden, because Jesus often met with them there (verse 2).

Henry has this to say about Christ’s sufferings in a garden and His burial in another, circumstances which he enjoins us to consider when we enjoy our own open spaces:

This circumstance is taken notice of only by this evangelist, that Christ’s sufferings began in a garden. In the garden of Eden sin began there the curse was pronounced, there the Redeemer was promised, and therefore in a garden that promised seed entered the lists with the old serpent. Christ was buried also in a garden. (1.) Let us, when we walk in our gardens, take occasion thence to meditate on Christ’s sufferings in a garden, to which we owe all the pleasure we have in our gardens, for by them the curse upon the ground for man’s sake was removed. (2.) When we are in the midst of our possessions and enjoyments, we must keep up an expectation of troubles, for our gardens of delight are in a vale of tears.

MacArthur explains the meaning of Gethsemane:

The other writers – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – tell us its name. And “Gethsemane” means “oil press.” It is, after all, the Mount of Olives, and olives are pressed to make olive oil. Jesus and His disciples had been there; they’d been there many times. They’d been to that garden many times.

Many of the people in the city of Jerusalem outside the city on the Mount of Olives – they would have little fences around their gardens, or walls around their gardens, and a gate to keep them private – they were private gardens – and I would assume that this garden, because the Lord went there so many times, was always made available to Him.

Matthew Henry arrived at the same conclusion about a private garden whose owner made it available to Jesus and His disciples.

Then a huge group of armed Romans and Jews arrived on the scene, led by Judas (verse 3).

Both our commentators say there were several hundred in this group of men, perhaps up to one thousand, some accompanied by their servants.

MacArthur describes them:

… it’s appropriate to add that it’s a “Roman cohort.” The word is speira in the Greek. A Roman cohort usually consisted of six hundred men. There could be a detachment from a cohort called a maniple, which would have two hundred men. So it could be as many as six hundred men, and add a few hundred of the temple police and a few others. And maybe as the crowd moved through the darkness, they could have collected other people on the way. You could have as many as a thousand people coming into the darkness of that little place.

they had their full force under full command. This is, of course, a recognition on all their parts of the power of Jesus. They recognized His power. They’d seen it on display in the temple. They knew that He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew He was a miracle worker. They were very aware of His power.

Such is the idiocy of unbelief. They send an army to take an unarmed Galilean carpenter and teacher.

Jesus came forward and asked them whom they were looking for (verse 4). When He affirmed that he was Jesus of Nazareth (verse 5), whom they sought, they fell backwards to the ground (verse 6).

Henry notes that the mob coming to arrest Jesus were terrified. The Apostles, who had been asleep, were now awake:

See how he terrified them, and obliged them to retire (John 18:6): They went backward, and, like men thunder-struck, fell to the ground. It should seem, they did not fall forward, as humbling themselves before him, and yielding to him, but backward, as standing it out to the utmost. Thus Christ was declared to be more than a man, even when he was trampled upon as a worm, and no man. This word, I am he, had revived his disciples, and raised them up (Matthew 14:27) but the same word strikes his enemies down.

The same exchange took place again (verse 7).

Jesus reaffirmed His identity and asked that His disciples be left to go unharmed (verse 8). John mentions that this was to fulfil our Lord’s affirmation to His Father that He would not lose anyone God gave him to cherish and protect (verse 9).

MacArthur says that Jesus had made that statement only a short time before:

Back in chapter 17, verse 12 – in the prayer – He said, “Of those whom You have given Me, I lost not one.” So He protects them out of that love that He has for them, in a moment when if they had been taken prisoner they would have been lost.

I want you to think about that. He does not allow the disciples to be arrested and brought to trial and judgment. He protects them from that so that He will fulfill the Scripture that they will not be lost. Hypothetically then, had He allowed them to get arrested, their faith would have been completely overwhelmed. It was hard enough as it was. They scattered, and Peter was a rabid denier of Christ. But our Lord knew that if they were arrested and put through what He was going to be put through, their faith would fail

Here is a dramatic illustration of the Great High Priest, out of love, protecting His weak sheep. They’re not going to be arrested. He acts in a special, unique way. It’s kind of like 1 Corinthians 10:13. You could take that as a personal promise: “No temptation will ever come to you such as is common to man; and God will make a way of escape that you maybe be able to” – What? – “be able to bear it.”

Not surprisingly, Simon Peter — big and brash at the time — decided to defend Jesus by cutting off the right ear of a slave called Malchus (verse 10).

Henry points out that Peter could have been aiming for Judas and missed:

We must here acknowledge Peter’s good-will he had an honest zeal for his Master, though now misguided. He had lately promised to venture his life for him, and would now make his words good. Probably it exasperated Peter to see Judas at the head of this gang his baseness excited Peter’s boldness, and I wonder that when he did draw his sword he did not aim at the traitor’s head.

Jesus calmly told Peter to put away his weapon, because it was time to ‘drink the cup’ that His Father had given to Him (verse 11).

MacArthur defines the ‘cup’ for us:

The cup of wrath, the cup of fury, the cup of the vengeance of God, “Shall I not drink it?”

Commentary for verses 12-27 can be found here, with more insights from John MacArthur, particularly on the theme of trust.

The Jews led Jesus away from Caiaphas and delivered him to Pilate’s headquarters, which they did not enter because they did not want to defile themselves for Passover (verse 28).

Henry points out their spiritual blindness and hypocrisy:

This they scrupled, but made no scruple of breaking through all the laws of equity to persecute Christ to the death. They strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

Pilate asked what the charges were against Jesus (verse 29).

They assured him that they would not have brought Jesus before him if He were not a criminal (verse 30).

Pilate, knowing that a Jewish crime involved an offence against Judaism, told them to judge Jesus themselves. The Jews countered that their laws did not permit sentencing someone to death (verse 31). They meant ‘under Roman law’.

John says that this scene fulfilled the prophecies of Jesus about His death (verse 32).

Henry elaborates:

Those sayings of Christ in particular were fulfilled which he had spoken concerning his own death. Two sayings of Christ concerning his death were fulfilled, by the Jews declining to judge him according to their law. First, He had said that he should be delivered to the Gentiles, and that they should put him to death Mark x. 33 Luke xviii. 32,33), and hereby that saying was fulfilled. Secondly, He had said that he should be crucified (Matthew 20:19,26:2), lifted up, John 3:14,12:32. Now, if they had judged him by their law, he had been stoned burning, strangling, and beheading, were in some cases used among the Jews, but never crucifying. It was therefore necessary that Christ should be put to death by the Romans, that, being hanged upon a tree, he might be made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), and his hands and feet might be pierced. As the Roman power had brought him to be born at Bethlehem, so now to die upon a cross, and both according to the scriptures.

Pontius Pilate summoned Jesus and asked Him if He was ‘the King of the Jews’ (verse 33).

Jesus asked Pilate if he asked that question from a notion he had or from what he had heard from others (verse 34). Pilate obfuscated, saying that he himself was not a Jew, yet the Jews handed Jesus — one of their own — over to him. Pilate asked Jesus of what He was guilty (verse 35).

Jesus gave an answer which must have flummoxed them all (verse 36): His Kingdom is not of this world; if it were, He said, His followers would have rushed to His defence.

Today’s radical clergy would do well to remember that neither Jesus nor His disciples took up arms or created unrest against either the Jews or the Romans. They were not social justice warriors.

Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. Jesus replied that Pilate used that term, not He Himself. He, knowing that He is the King of Kings, went further and said that He came to testify of the truth and that all who believe in the eternal truth listen to His voice (verse 37).

Pilate asked an excellent question — ‘What is the truth?’ — but left before Jesus could answer. Clearly, he did not understand; nor did he wish to understand. Instead, he went back to the Jews and said he could find no evidence of a crime against our Lord (verse 38).

Then Pilate offered to release Jesus, since, at Passover, a Jewish criminal was released and allowed back into freedom (verse 39).

They shouted their disapproval at Pilate’s idea and said they wanted Barabbas, a thief and a radical, released instead (verse 40).

Matthew Henry concludes:

Thus those do who prefer their sins before Christ. Sin is a robber, every base lust is a robber, and yet foolishly chosen rather than Christ, who would truly enrich us.

John 18 ends there, a sad account of the worst in men, particularly those who claim to be religious, awaiting the Messiah, when He was there before their very eyes. Instead, they chose to have him condemned to death.

Over the past several years, I have written several posts about Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, which might be of interest. The solemn period of the Triduum leading up to Easter begins on this night:

What is the Triduum?

‘One of you will betray Me’ (John 13)

Passover, the Last Supper and the New Covenant

Why some Jews celebrated Passover on Thursday and others on Friday (here and here)

Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper: Jesus’s words of comfort (John 14, alludes to Holy Trinity)

John MacArthur on Passover as celebrated at the Last Supper

John 17 — the High Priestly Prayer: parts 1, 2 and 3

Jesus foretells Peter’s denial (Mark 14:26-31)

Readings for Maundy Thursday — Holy Thursday — can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases in bold mine):

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

13:1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

13:2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper

13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,

13:4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

13:7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

13:10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”

13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

13:12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?

13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am.

13:14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

13:15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

13:16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

13:17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

13:31b When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

13:33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We are now at the time of the Last Supper, where Jesus wanted to express His love for His Apostles one final time (verse 1).

As Matthew Henry says, they were imperfect, yet He loved them dearly:

They were weak and defective in knowledge and grace, dull and forgetful and yet, though he reproved them often, he never ceased to love them and take care of them.

John MacArthur explains that Jews had Passover supper on Thursday or Friday, depending on where they were from:

The southern Jews celebrated it on Friday; the northern ones on Thursday night. It is that Thursday night he is meeting for the Passover, which is a memorial dinner that commemorates God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt when the angel of death passed by the homes that had the blood of the lamb on the door. God is wanting to be remembered in this feast as the Savior and Deliverer of His people.

Satan had put betraying our Lord into the heart of Judas (verse 2).

For whatever reason, unusually, the Apostles did not wash their feet upon entering the room for dinner. Everyone in that era washed his or her feet before reclining for a feast.

Jesus, having seen this and knowing His hour had come, decided to deliver a final, personal act of serving each one of them (verse 3).

He arose from the table, took off His outer robe, tied a towel around Himself (verse 4) and, with a basin of water nearby, began washing the feet of each one of the Apostles (verse 5).

MacArthur says:

The humbler you are, the less interested you are in yourself, the greater your capacity to invest yourself in somebody else. They are related to one another proportionately. The lower you go in self-concern, the higher you go in concern for others.

Simon Peter was horrified that Jesus would deign to wash his feet (verse 6).

Jesus reassured him that one day Peter would understand the purpose of this gesture (verses 7, 8).

Henry says that Jesus had four clear purposes in mind with the foot washing:

We are sure that it was not in a humour or a frolic that this was done no, the transaction was very solemn, and carried on with a great deal of seriousness and four reasons are here intimated why Christ did this:– 1. That he might testify his love to his disciples, John 13:1,2. 2. That he might give an instance of his own voluntary humility and condescension, John 13:3-5. 3. That he might signify to them spiritual washing, which is referred to in his discourse with Peter, John 13:6-11. 4. That he might set them an example, John 13:12-17. And the opening of these four reasons will take in the exposition of the whole story.

Jesus told Peter that if He did not wash his feet, he would have no share with him (verse 8), to which Peter replied that Jesus should wash his hands, hair and head (verse 9).

Presumably, the Apostles must have bathed — perhaps in Bethany, we do not know — before arriving at the room for the Last Supper, because Jesus said that one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for one’s feet (verse 10). Then He told Peter that he was clean, yet, not everyone around the table was, meaning Judas, the betrayer (verse 11).

Henry points out:

With reflection upon Judas: And you are clean, but not all, John 13:10,11. He pronounces his disciples clean, clean through the word he had spoken to them, John 15:3. He washed them himself, and then said, You are clean but he excepts Judas: not all they were all baptized, even Judas, yet not all clean many have the sign that have not the thing signified. Note, [1.] Even among those who are called disciples of Christ, and profess relation to him, there are some who are not clean, Proverbs 30:12. [2.] The Lord knows those that are his, and those that are not, 2 Timothy 2:19. The eye of Christ can separate between the precious and the vile, the clean and the unclean. [3.] When those that have called themselves disciples afterwards prove traitors, their apostasy at last is a certain evidence of their hypocrisy all along. [4.] Christ sees it necessary to let his disciples know that they are not all clean that we may all be jealous over ourselves (Is it I? Lord, is it I that am among the clean, yet not clean?) and that, when hypocrites are discovered, it may be no surprise nor stumbling to us.

After Jesus had washed all the Apostles’ feet, He asked them whether they understood the import of His humble act (verse 12). He acknowledged that they rightly called Him Teacher and Lord (verse 13), then said that if He, of that exalted position, condescends to such an act of humility, then they should also serve each other in humble ways (verse 14).

This can involve literal foot washing in church on this particular Thursday or, perhaps, other humble acts of benefit — temporal or spiritual — to the recipient.

Henry explains:

(1.) Some have understood this literally, and have thought these words amount to the institution of a standing ordinance in the church that Christians should, in a solemn religious manner, wash one another’s feet, in token of their condescending love to one another. St. Ambrose took it so, and practised it in the church of MilanWhat Christ has done Christians should not disdain to do

(2.) But doubtless it is to be understood figuratively it is an instructive sign, but not sacramental, as the eucharist. This was a parable to the eye and three things our Master hereby designed to teach us:– [1.] A humble condescension. We must learn of our Master to be lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29), and walk with all lowliness we must think meanly of ourselves and respectfully of our brethren, and deem nothing below us but sin we must say of that which seems mean, but has a tendency to the glory of God and our brethren’s good, as David (2 Samuel 6:22), If this be to be vile, I will be yet more vile. Christ had often taught his disciples humility, and they had forgotten the lesson but now he teaches them in such a way as surely they could never forget. [2.] A condescension to be serviceable. To wash one another’s feet is to stoop to the meanest offices of love, for the real good and benefit one of another, as blessed Paul, who, though free from all, made himself servant of all and the blessed Jesus, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. We must not grudge to take care and pains, and to spend time, and to diminish ourselves for the good of those to whom we are not under any particular obligations, even of our inferiors, and such as are not in a capacity of making us any requital. Washing the feet after travelling contributes both to the decency of the person and to his ease, so that to wash one another’s feet is to consult both the credit and the comfort one of another, to do what we can both to advance our brethren’s reputation and to make their minds easy. See 1 Corinthians 10:24; Hebrews 6:10. The duty is mutual we must both accept help from our brethren and afford help to our brethren. [3.] A serviceableness to the sanctification one of another: You ought to wash one another’s feet, from the pollutions of sin. Austin takes it in this sense, and many others. We cannot satisfy for one another’s sins, this is peculiar to Christ, but we may help to purify one another from sin. We must in the first place wash ourselves this charity must begin at home (Matthew 7:5), but it must not end there we must sorrow for the failings and follies of our brethren, much more for their gross pollutions (1 Corinthians 5:2), must wash our brethren’s polluted feet in tears. We must faithfully reprove them, and do what we can to bring them to repentance (Galatians 6:1), and we must admonish them, to prevent their falling into the mire this is washing their feet.

Jesus said that, through this foot washing, He had set them an example that they should follow (verse 15).

He said something that they all knew — a servant is not greater than his master nor is a messenger greater than the one who sends him on an errand (verse 16) — and that they would be blessed in acting accordingly (verse 17).

Henry explains why Jesus said that:

Christ reminds them of their place as his servants they were not better men than their Master, and what was consistent with his dignity was much more consistent with theirs. If he was humble and condescending, it ill became them to be proud and assuming. Note, [1.] We must take good heed to ourselves, lest Christ’s gracious condescensions to us, and advancements of us, through the corruption of nature occasion us to entertain high thoughts of ourselves or low thoughts of him. We need to be put in mind of this, that we are not greater than our Lord. [2.] Whatever our Master was pleased to condescend to in favour to us, we should much more condescend to in conformity to him. Christ, by humbling himself, has dignified humility, and put an honour upon it, and obliged his followers to think nothing below them but sin. We commonly say to those who disdain to do such or such a thing, As good as you have done it, and been never the worse thought of and true indeed it is, if our Master has done it. When we see our Master serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to be domineering.

A lot of people in the world do not understand this, which is why they take Christians for chumps, to use modern parlance.

Unfortunately, the Lectionary skips a few important verses from John 13, such as the following about Judas, in which John refers to himself in verses 23 and 25:

One of You Will Betray Me

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,[e] 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus[f] of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

John MacArthur wrote his seminary dissertation on Judas. His sermon, ‘Unmasking the Traitor’, has a summary of his research and pertains to this passage from John.

MacArthur reminds us of Judas’s material disappointment of being in charge of the money bag for three years:

In chapter 13 verse 2, the devil has already put it “into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.” He has already begun the machinations to bring about the betrayal of Christ. He protested earlier in the week because perfume was wasted on Jesus. He said that it could’ve been sold, and the money given to the poor. He didn’t want to give money to the poor, but he was the treasurer and held the money box, and he was always stealing from it. So he wanted the money in the box so he could steal from it and make a getaway with as much as he could salvage out of what he saw as three wasted years. And to add to the amount that he could get, he wanted more than what the meager box might’ve held, and so he concocted a plan to sell Jesus out, to betray His presence, to the Pharisees who wanted Him dead. And he would sell Him for the price of a slave, 30 pieces of silver.

Our Lord is aware of all of this. He knows that the devil is commiserating with Judas. He knows that. Verse 11 of chapter 13 says “He knew the one who was betraying Him.” He knew the betrayal was in motion – present tense. It was ongoing. “For this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” He had just told the disciples they were clean. They were redeemed, they were saved, they were regenerated, they had been fully washed. But not all of them. Not all of them …

The presence of Jesus every day was an intolerable rebuke to him.  The purity of Jesus must’ve been unbearable for his wretched soul.  And surely, he must’ve had the sense, the fear for certain, the dread for certain that Jesus knew everything he was.  After all, in three years, he had seen Jesus read the hearts and minds of men.  He knew that Jesus said, way back at the beginning of the ministry in John 2, that He knew what was in the heart of men, and nobody needed to tell Him anything about that.  He had heard that Jesus declared, John 5:42, that He knew the people who didn’t love Him.  It says that.  The torture of knowing at any moment that it could all be over and Jesus could expose him must’ve made holding onto the hidden secrets of his heart an unbearable, brutal burden

But that didn’t work to convict him to do the right thing.  It just pressed him deeper and deeper into his hypocrisy until he could pull off his ultimate crime and get out with the best that could be made.  Sell the master of all things with money as his reward. 

It is a compelling sermon.

Now on to verse 31, wherein John tells us that once Judas left, Jesus told the remaining eleven Apostles that He — the Son of Man — had been glorified and, in turn, God glorified in Him. In verse 32, He reiterated that this would be a reciprocal action of the Son glorifying the Father (through His death on the cross), therefore, the Father would glorify the Son (through His obedience by reconciling the world to Him).

Henry tells us why Jesus waited until Judas left before saying those words:

Christ did not begin this discourse till Judas was gone out, for he was a false brother. The presence of wicked people is often a hindrance to good discourse. When Judas was gone out, Christ said, now is the Son of man glorified now that Judas is discovered and discarded, who was a spot in their love-feast and a scandal to their family, now is the Son of man glorified. Note, Christ is glorified by the purifying of Christian societies: corruptions in his church are a reproach to him the purging out of those corruptions rolls away the reproach. Or, rather, now Judas was gone to set the wheels a-going, in order to his being put to death, and the thing was likely to be effected shortly: Now is the Son of man glorified, meaning, Now he is crucified.

Jesus called the Apostles ‘little children’ and told them that He would not be among them for much longer, as He had told the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’ (verse 33).

Henry says that this was their final time to ask any important questions of Him:

Whether we understand this as referring to his death or his ascension it comes much to one he had but a little time to spend with them, and therefore, [1.] Let them improve the advantage they now had. If they had any good question to ask, if they would have any advice, instruction, or comfort, let them speak quickly for yet a little while I am with you. We must make the best of the helps we have for our souls while we have them, because we shall not have them long they will be taken from us, or we from them. [2.] Let them not doat upon his bodily presence, as if their happiness and comfort were bound up in that no, they must think of living without it not be always little children, but go alone, without their nurses. Ways and means are appointed but for a little while, and are not to be rested in, but pressed through to our rest, to which they have a reference.

Then, Jesus gave them the true and great Commandment, which sums up all Ten from the Old Testament, to love one another, just as He has loved them (verse 34). Verse 34 is part of the traditional Anglican liturgy for Holy Communion.

Jesus further reinforced this by saying that, by obeying His Commandment, everyone will know they are truly His disciples (verse 35).

This is MacArthur’s closing prayer on these verses:

Let’s pray. We are reminded again of that familiar word from Paul.  Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith.  And it comes down to who we love.  Loving You, Lord, loving You so that we are completely consumed with and committed to Your glory, Your honor, Your majesty, Your will.  This is the mark of a true believer.  This is a true Christian.  And Father, we also know that true believers are marked by an undying, focused, faithful love for each other.  May we be known by that love, that love toward You, so that You would be glorified in everything in our lives, and in this world, and in heaven, and foreverAnd may we be known by the love we have for one another This is enough to demonstrate who we are And as we see the evidence of that love in us, we can be assured of our salvation and what a great gift that is.  Lord, I pray that You’ll work in every life and every heart.  Make it our desire that we love even more, excel even more to a greater and greater love for Your glory and for each other These things we ask in the name of the Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

What greater love could our Lord have for us than to die an excruciating death on the Cross for our sins, the sins of the whole world.

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