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Sunday, April 23, 2017 is the Second Sunday of Easter.
The Gospel reading for this day is John 20:19-31, the story of Thomas the Apostle, depicted below in a painting by Caravaggio called The Incredulity of St Thomas.
The Bible never states that Thomas actually touched Christ’s wounds. Nonetheless, it is a dramatic illustration of this encounter and poses an interesting thought: what if?
It is interesting that Caravaggio depicts Christ guiding Thomas’s forefinger into his wound. One can imagine Him saying quietly, ‘Go on, Thomas. Feel the spot where they pierced me. See for yourself.’ It’s a form of rebuke: ‘You stayed away for a week, doubting. Now you’ll find out.’
The links below provide more information about this Gospel reading:
This particular Sunday was known as Quasimodo Sunday for centuries. Today, it is called Low Sunday or, in the case of the Catholic Church, Divine Mercy Sunday.
Quasimodo Sunday was of particular importance to those who had been baptised the week before, on Easter Day.
Find out more below:
It is sad that so many denominational Christians — including clergy — know so little Church history. The more we know, the deeper the meaning. It can be compared to family history. Aren’t our families even more important to us once we have more background on our relatives and ancestors? So it should be with our church family.
Forbidden Bible Verses returns next week.
Happy Easter! He is risen!
I hope that all of us enjoy this feast day, the most important in the Church year.
I have many past posts on Easter:
The significance of Easter to the Church (various questions answered)
The Easter story: reflections on Mark 16:1-8 (Dr Gregory Jackson, Lutheran)
Judge Andrew Napolitano on the meaning of Easter (great, especially from a layman)
Easter, the egg and the hare (one of the fullest accounts about Easter symbolism)
Mary Magdalene and the legend of the egg (Christian — not pagan!)
Many of us have lingering questions about Easter, myself included, and this is probably because we are not that well acquainted with all the Gospel accounts of the time between Jesus’s death and the Resurrection.
Subheads and emphases mine below.
Anyone knowledgeable about the Christian faith is aware of the significance of the cross, where our sins were borne by the Lord Jesus Christ to free us from the penalty and guilt of sin. Just as significant is the resurrection of Jesus Christ–the single greatest miracle the world will ever know. It demonstrates Christ’s finished work of redemption and reminds us that His power over death will bring us to glory.
Why Jesus died within a few hours
Interestingly, there was discussion on some of my Holy Week posts this year about the rapidity of Jesus’s death on the cross.
Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine in the morning, but most victims lingered much longer on the cross, some for many days. No one took His life from Him; He voluntarily gave it up (John 10:17-18). Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who ordered His execution, was astounded when He heard Christ was dead so soon (Mark 15:44).
Also significant is that the day He died was a Friday, meaning that Sabbath started at sunset that day:
It was imperative that Christ be dead early enough in the day so He could be put in the grave some time on Friday. That day had to be included as one of the three days He would be in the earth (the others being Saturday and Sunday).
John 19:31-33 states that the Jewish leaders were concerned about Jesus and the two criminals remaining on the cross before a Passover Sabbath. They would have to die and be removed beforehand. The quickest way of ensuring death was to have their legs broken:
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
They derived this particular rule from Deuteronomy 21:22-23, which says, “If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God), that thy land be not defiled.” Apparently they didn’t always follow that regulation since historians tell us that bodies were often left on crosses for days. But on this Passover they made sure to perform this particular injunction to the limit.
John 19:34:37 says:
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Why did the soldiers pierce the crucified?
the soldiers would give the victim what Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim termed the “coup de grace” (lit., “the stroke of mercy”)–the death stroke (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953], 2:613). A soldier would ram his spear into the victim’s heart … One proposal is that the pain of his shattered legs would traumatize the victim so that the spear thrust would be somewhat of a relief … The general idea behind the spear thrust and the leg breaking was to cause the victim to die immediately.
Onee prophecy fulfilled, mentioned in John 19:36, is in Psalm 34:20:
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Another prophecy fulfilled, regarding the piercing in John 19:37, is in Zechariah 12:10:
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
There were other prophecies fulfilled that day:
Verse 34 tells us that blood and water came out of Christ’s pierced side–a sign of death. That’s a fulfillment of a prophecy from Psalm 69–a psalm that contains prophecies of the crucifixion scene, such as verse 21: “They gave me also gaul for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Verse 20 says, “Reproach hath broken my heart.” Under the intense weight of all the sins of everyone who ever lived or will live, it is not inconceivable that a human heart could rupture. Thus another prophecy was fulfilled.
The importance of Jesus’s burial
a marvelous account of God’s intervention into every detail in the life of Christ. We see God’s testimony unfold through Joseph of Arimathea (vv. 57-60), the two Marys (v. 61), and the chief priests and Pharisees (vv. 62-66). They play important roles in the burial of Jesus, validating the truthfulness of Christ’s claim to be the Son of God.
Joseph of Arimathea — prophecies fulfilled
Joseph of Arimathea’s actions played a significant role in fulfilling two prophecies regarding Jesus:
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.
MacArthur tells us:
The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 is devoted to the death of Christ. It says He was despised and rejected, truly a man of sorrows (v. 3). He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (v. 4). He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (v. 5). He was taken from prison into judgment (v. 8). Verse 9 says, “His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, yet [He was] with a rich man in his death” (NASB). That unusual prophecy would be difficult to understand apart from the scenario of Christ’s burial. He was supposed to have been buried with criminals, but instead was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Then, there were Jesus’s words regarding Jonah (Matthew 12:40):
Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (NASB). Jesus predicted that there would be three days between His death and resurrection–that He would be in the earth for three days.
God used Joseph of Arimathea to fulfill those prophecies, and thus provide testimony to the deity of Christ.
I don’t know what caused Joseph of Arimathea to publicly manifest himself as a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was the earthquake, the darkness, the graves opening, and the veil of the Temple ripping from top to bottom (Matt. 27:45, 51-54). Perhaps it was simply his love for Jesus and the agony he felt watching Him endure pain and suffering on the cross. One thing we can be sure of: God worked on his heart to bring to pass the fulfillment of prophecy.
The three days
How can we be sure there were three days between His burial and Resurrection? This is a recurring question, one which is sometimes hotly debated.
Some people have difficulty reconciling what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 about the length of His stay in the grave: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Does that mean Jesus had to be in the earth three full days and nights? No. Many commentators take that view and back the crucifixion to Thursday, so the three days and nights are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with His rising on Sunday. The obvious problem with that view is that we are left with a fourth- day resurrection. Yet all the passages in Scripture dealing with this issue indicate He was to rise on the third day. That eliminates the need for interpreting Matthew 12:40 as referring to three 24-hour periods. The phrase “three days and three nights” was simply an idiom of the Jewish people referring to a three-day period.
For example, if you were to say, “I’m going to San Diego for three days,” does that mean you’ll be there for three 24-hour periods? Not necessarily. It could mean you’ll be there for a few hours one day, all day the next day, and a few hours the third day. That is how Scripture refers to Christ’s burial.
In Luke 24:21 the disciples traveling the road to Emmaus were bemoaning the death of Christ, saying, “We hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel; and, besides all this, today [Sunday] is the third day since these things were done.” They understood that the Lord’s prophecy of His resurrection wasn’t going to take place after three 24-hour periods, but on the third day, which from Friday would be Sunday. After all, Jesus said He would “be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16:21). Matthew 17:23 repeats, “They shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.” The chronological, historical references to the death of Christ indicate a third-day resurrection, not one following three 24-hour periods. When Jesus referred to three days and three nights, we can conclude He was referring to a part of three 24-hour periods. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (who lived around A.D. 100) said, “A day and night are an Onah [a portion of time] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it“ (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbath ix.3; cf. Babylonian Talmud Pesahim 4a).
The two Marys
Matthew 27:61 says:
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
MacArthur tells us:
Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, a village on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. The other Mary was the mother of James and Joseph (v. 56). John 19:25 calls her the wife of Clopas, or Alphaeus. (Matthew 10:3 refers to James as the son of Alphaeus to differentiate him from James the son of Zebedee.) She was one of the ladies who followed Him from Galilee to attend to His physical needs by providing food and sustenance. Other ladies had been present during the crucifixion and burial, but they apparently left with Joseph and Nicodemus (v. 60). Only these two women remained.
These two ladies also went to Jesus’s tomb on the third day (Matthew 28:1):
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
They went to the tomb because they loved Jesus that much, but also, MacArthur says:
perhaps hoping against hope that what He said might come to pass.
The earthquake — the third day
The two Marys approached the tomb at dawn of the third day, when an earthquake took place and an angel appeared, whose appearance was ‘like lightning’ (Matthew 28:2-7). The words ‘and behold’ are a call to pay close attention:
2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
MacArthur breaks this down for us:
Now this is the second earthquake in three days. There was an earthquake when Christ died, you remember, that split the rocks wide open and opened graves and dead people came alive among the saints. So this is the second earthquake. And God again is moving and God is demonstrating in a physiological way His activity. It’s not new for God. You can look to the past. For example, back in Exodus 19:18 at the giving of the law, 1 Kings chapter 19 verse 11, God came in an earthquake. You can look into the future and you read about it in Joel 2:10 that the time of the coming of the Lord there will be an earthquake. Revelation 6, Revelation 8, Revelation 11 describe that kind of thing. Jesus Himself even referred to it in the great Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:7, about the earthquake that’s going to be coming or earthquakes attendant with His return. So when God begins to move in the world, the world shakes.
And here these women are approaching…they haven’t yet come to the garden. Instantly there is an earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake is at the tomb. And the seismic radiation waves rumble through the ground beyond the grave and no doubt rock the land on which the women walk. They feel the earthquake not knowing what has happened.
Now what caused the earthquake? I suppose most people have just sort of concluded, “Well, the resurrection of Christ,” but that’s not the right answer. The resurrection didn’t cause the earthquake. Matthew tells us what caused the earthquake. “There was a great earthquake for or because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” When this angel hit the garden it created seismic waves. The word for “earthquake” is the root word seismos from which we get seismograph. And when the angel hit the land it sent out an earthquake. And these women not even knowing what was going on felt the movement of the earth, no doubt, as they approached the tomb. But the earthquake was not caused by the resurrection of Christ, it was caused by the arrival of an angel to open the tomb. Nothing, by the way, says that he let Jesus out of the tomb. That is a fallacy.
Have you ever seen a picture of an angel and a stone rolled back and Jesus coming out? That isn’t right. I mean, Jesus did not have the power to raise Himself from the dead and then wait in there until somebody moved the stone so He could get out. No one actually saw the resurrection. The women experienced the seismic ramifications of that event of the angel coming and the phenomena around the resurrection. The resurrection occurred in an invisible way, no one was in there to see it. Christ came out of that grave.
Put it this way very simply. The angel did not move the stone to let the Lord out. The angel moved the stone to let the women in so they could see that He was already gone.
You say, “Well, how could He get out of there?” Well the same way John 20:26 says the disciples were meeting on the eighth day and Jesus was in their midst, the door being shut. The same way He came through the wall into the upper room is the same way He went out of the rock of the grave which we shouldn’t imagine as any problem for one in His glorified form. So no one saw the resurrection. The angel came not to let the Lord out but to let the women in and to let the apostles in and to let us in and to let the whole world in to see that He wasn’t there.
Faith on display
The faith of the Marys was stronger than that of the disciples.
God honored their faith by allowing them to give testimony to what they saw. However feeble their faith may have been, it certainly was stronger than that of the disciples.
Remember, too, that the men were reluctant to believe the women:
The truth is that the disciples were reluctant to believe what the women said (Luke 24:6-12). Thomas was reluctant to believe when he heard from the other disciples who had seen their risen Lord (John 20:24-25). So God gave us first-hand witnesses to spread the word of the resurrection. Through eyewitness testimony and fulfilled prophecy in the burial of Christ, God was at work vindicating Jesus Christ as His Son.
What they saw
The Gospel accounts differ slightly in who went to the tomb and on the number of angels or men there.
Matthew 28 says only the two Marys went and that there was one angel. Only Matthew mentions the earthquake.
Mark 16 says that Salome (not Herod’s stepdaughter, by the way) accompanied the Marys. Mark says there was a ‘young man’ dressed in a white robe sitting inside the tomb.
Luke 24 names the two Marys, says there were two men present in dazzling apparel and records that Peter went to the tomb later.
John 20 records that only Mary Magdalene went and that Peter and an unnamed disciple went to the tomb after she met them. John himself was ‘the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved’. John mentions two angels later (verse 12) who appeared to Mary Magdalene after Peter and John left the tomb.
Regardless, MacArthur looks at Matthew’s and John’s accounts and describes what they saw.
In Matthew 28:
… there were the linen wrappings undisturbed the way they had been wrapped around His body. And the head napkin in a separate place. There was no turmoil, no big hurry to unwrap Him and throw everything on the floor and get out of there. It was just the way it had been when His body was in it only He was gone.
And then the angel came after He left to move the stone so the world could come in and see that He was gone and sat there as the heavenly witness to what had happened. What a scene.
I can’t imagine for a moment what that must have been like.
In John 20:
I believe this is the proper point to harmonize John’s special interest in Mary Magdalene. Mary was to the women what Peter was to the Apostles. She was impetuous. What happens here is fascinating. The women come into the garden and I think this is the best place to insert this, although we can’t be dogmatic, it seems to me to fit so perfectly here. When Mary comes in all she sees with her rather myopic viewpoint is this whole and the stone is gone. And she doesn’t take note of this angel. And seeing that the stone is moved and the grave is empty is enough for her.
John tells us her reaction. Let’s look at John chapter 20. “The first day of the week comes Mary,” and then he notes, “[She] started out when it was yet dark unto the sepulcher and sees the stone taken away from the sepulcher.” Now apparently that’s all she saw. She missed the angel. She saw just that the stone was removed. And then verse 2, “Then…without a delay…she ran.” She took off. “And she went right to the two most prominent apostles, she went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved,” which is John’s term used to describe himself and the fact that it’s to Peter and to the other disciple probably indicates they were in two different homes during this Passover time. We can’t be certain. But anyway, she ran to Peter and John to tell them.
And what did she tell them? “They have taken away the Lord out of the grave and we know not where they’ve laid Him.” They’ve taken Him…they? I don’t know who they are. She didn’t know who they are…somebody. “Peter therefore went forth and so did John and they came to the grave.” Verse 4 says they ran and John outran Peter and arrived first.
MacArthur returns to Matthew 28 to tie these two accounts together:
So as we come to the women then in the confrontation with the angel, Mary Magdalene is apparently gone. She’s bolted to tell Peter and John that the body had been stolen. The other ladies stayed and they have the wonderful experience of an encounter with an angel.
As I mentioned earlier, John 20 records that, after Peter and John returned home from the tomb, Mary Magdalene stayed behind. Not only did she see two angels, but, even better, she also saw Jesus. What an indescribable moment that must have been:
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
MacArthur describes the angel in Matthew 28:
The angel is described for us in verse 3. “His countenance…or his face…was like lightning.” Now that’s a pretty graphic description, isn’t it? Like lightning flashing, brilliant, blazing. This, no doubt, to transmit the effulgence or the essence, the deity, the brilliance of the character of God. This is the glow of God. This is the Shekinah somehow transmitted from God to that angel, as it was on one occasion from God to Moses and shown on his face, do you remember that in the book of Exodus? This angel, this one representative of God, this messenger from God possessed the very character of deity. And it emanated from his glowing face. Also it says his raiment or garment was white as snow and this is emblematic of purity, holiness, of virtue.
So here is a holy angel…the holy angel sent from God bearing the very imprimatur of the character of God, an angel representative of deity, a created being who represents the uncreated cause of all beings, God Himself, this holy angel. This to distinguish him from some man, this to distinguish him from some demon, this to identify him as the agent of God, this beautiful, glorious, glowing, pure, holy being sitting on the stone as living witness to the risen Christ…God’s own assigned witness.
The angel’s presence frightened the guards in the extreme (Matthew 28:4):
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
They went into temporary coma. They were knocked literally unconscious out of terror. Fear will do that. Fear will cause people to be paralyzed to the point where they go unconscious and that’s precisely what happened. They were knocked cold out of fear. They were victims of divine power. They had seen something they had never seen or thought of or ever been able to comprehend and they were not now able to comprehend it.
The women were afraid, too, but because they loved Jesus, they listened to the angel.
‘He has risen’
Matthew 28:6 states that the angel said:
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay.
6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
MacArthur’s version of the Bible has ‘He was raised’. This indicates:
that He was raised by the power of the Father. Over and over again it says that in Scripture…Romans 6:4, Galatians 1:1, 1 Peter 1:3, a couple of those I mentioned to you. He was raised by the power of the Father. It also says, doesn’t it, in John 10:18, “I have power to lay My life down and I have power to…what?…take it up again.” So He was raised not only by the Father but He was raised by His own power. And then in Romans 8:11 it says He was raised by the power of the Spirit. “It is the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead.” So the whole trinity is involved in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the angel gives this incredible announcement, “He’s not here He was raised.” The point is He’s alive.
And then I love this, “He was raised,” it says, “as He said.” Isn’t that great? I mean, He just jolts them with the memory that this is exactly what He said He would do on the third day, just like He said. And by the way, Luke 24:8 says, “And they remembered His words.” So, that’s what He meant…so that’s what He was saying.
What a day of drama and glory!
Truly, Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Being there for the Lord
It amazes students of the Bible that the Apostles, who spent three years day in and day out with Jesus, were not the first to arrive at the tomb on the third day.
It was the women who were there. And they were blessed by the presence of an angel or angels. Mary Magdalene was further blessed by the presence of Jesus.
MacArthur says we can draw a lasting lesson from being faithful to and present for the Lord:
You know what that says to me? I don’t want to extrapolate too much on this but it’s nice if you’re there when the Lord does wonderful things. There’s a great spiritual truth in that somewhere and that is that the closer you stay to the Lord and what He’s doing, the more you’re going to enjoy what He’s doing. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be there and experience it than hear it from somebody else, wouldn’t you? I praise God for people who are there. I mean they’re there when the Lord is working. They’re there when His people gather together. They’re there when His Word is taught. They’re there when it’s time to come to your knees before Him. They’re there when it’s time to call on His power in ministry. And they’re the ones that experience first hand the moving of the power of God. No, they saw it because they were there.
I trust that you will be the kind of person like those women. What you may lack in faith you make up for in devotion, what you may lack in understanding you make up for in loyalty. And God will confirm your weakness and turn it into strength because you’re faithful enough and loyal enough to be where He is and where He’s moving and where He’s working.
Once again, happy Easter, everyone. I hope we have a beautiful day, rain or shine, as we reflect on the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
It is curious that the compilers of the three-year Lectionary would leave one line out of the two-chapter story of Peter’s healing the lame man.
The story begins in Acts 3. Peter and John were going to the temple to pray at 3 p.m. A well known man — lame from birth — was at the Beautiful Gate of the temple every day asking for alms (emphases mine):
4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter then gave the people a sermon in Solomon’s Portico. What he said is similar to his first sermon on the first Pentecost in Acts 2.
To those who witnessed the miracle, he said, in part:
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
For this, the Sadducees arrested Peter and John and held them overnight (Acts 4:1-3). Regardless, the Holy Spirit was at work:
4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
It is quite possible that there were thousands more when women and children were added in.
The elite of the priesthood, including Caiaphas and Annas the high priest, confronted the two apostles the next day. Peter said they worked the miracle in the name of Jesus:
11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”
Note that verse, because it refutes the modern claim that anyone spiritual can be saved, regardless of their religion. Not true!
The priests were taken aback by Peter and John’s boldness then recognised them as His disciples (verse 14). They wondered what further action they should take against the two. They went through the same thought process that they did with Jesus. By whose power do they work these miracles? What can the priests do when everyone is marvelling at the miracle? So, the priests told them not to speak anymore about Jesus Christ:
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
John MacArthur gives us a glimpse as to what Jerusalem must have been like at that moment:
Now there’s 20,000 people running all over Jerusalem proclaiming Him. And it just got worse … And here they hope that they had gotten rid of Him when they killed Him and now they hope they can get rid of Him by shutting up Peter and John.
And roughly two millennia later, the same circumstances still apply, which is rather curious:
And you know, even today as I was in Israel the thing that struck me the most, I think, the most…the clearest thing that I could see in terms of just kind of identifying certain factors, the thing that overwhelmed me every day was that right in the middle of Judaism which rejects Jesus are all of the things that relate to Jesus.
… just imagine having to live in Israel and one bus load after another of pilgrims coming to see the places where Jesus was. There goes another one. They’re all over the place. And everybody’s carrying around little olive wood New Testaments and little Jesus symbols, and everywhere you go in the midst of Israel there are churches with crosses and Jesuses everywhere. They cannot get rid of Jesus. No matter how they try. They can’t.
This brings us to today’s verse, which is important in the context of Peter’s healing the lame man.
Recall that Acts 3:2 tells us he was lame from birth. At age 40, particularly in those days without medical advancement which is still relatively recent (19th century), there was no hope for his condition. Matthew Henry, who died in the early 18th century, appreciated this:
The older he grew the more inveterate the disease was, and the more hardly cured.
Henry adds that the fact that the man is older gives his testimony about his lameness and healing all the more resonance. He could speak with a modicum of wisdom that people would respect.
It is for this reason that I wonder why the Lectionary compilers would omit it. It’s only one sentence!
Henry also related the man’s physical cure to repentance and conversion, which is a practical application of this miracle:
If those that are grown into years, and have been long accustomed to evil, are cured of their spiritual impotency to good, and thereby of their evil customs, the power of divine grace is therein so much the more magnified.
The Holy Spirit was working powerfully through Peter and John. The Book of Acts is a testament to that divine power of the first Pentecost. The two apostles went back to tell their friends all that the high priests said. Everyone prayed aloud (verse 24) and asked for boldness!
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
This is why Acts is such a meaningful book of the New Testament. Acts 4 continues:
33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
God wanted the Church to expand and made conditions perfect in order for this to happen.
The chapter ends with this:
36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Those first months of the Church must have been an incredible time for the disciples and the converts. We are blessed to have a divinely inspired account of it.
Next time: Acts 5:1-6
May everyone reading this enjoy a very happy Christmas!
The painting above dates from 1622. It is called Adoration of the Shepherds. Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter, studied in Italy and took his influences from Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, as you can see from the way the light plays on the Holy Family and the shepherds.
You can find out more in the following post:
Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)
For more on John 1, see:
Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)
Lutherans might appreciate these posts:
These are also helpful:
The_Donald‘s contributors have been discussing our Lord Jesus in some of their posts. This year, a few of them have rediscovered Christianity. In this post (sadly, language alert), someone cited Isaiah 53:1-6:
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
In the midst of our celebrations, may we always remember and be ever grateful for the one sufficient sacrifice our Lord made for us.
Let us pray that more people will come to Christ this year. I was moved by what The_Donald’s posters had to say. Here are five separate comments, the last of which is the Roman Catholic Grace:
Cold Case Christianity. Powerful stuff from a life long atheist and veteran homicide detective. Powerful evidence of Christ. I used to be hardcore atheist and specifically anti-theist. I couldn’t deny the evidence presented. And ultimately – what if someone is wrong about believing in God (for real) – worst case scenario you become a better person. Worst case scenario for atheism is way worse. That was only a small step on an ongoing walk but it spoke to me.
It’s really sad that someone who only desired the best in people would make people angry. He led such a life of self-sacrifice, that I desire my character to be like His.
And if God be for us, who can stand against?
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Bless us, o Lord, and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive. And from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.
(Image credit: God and Science)
Past posts on this important feast in the Church are as follows:
The Gospel reading for Year C of the three-year Lectionary used in public worship is John 16:12-15:
16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jesus spoke these words just after the Last Supper. It was His final teaching session with the Twelve. John documents the entire lesson: John 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those are, in my opinion, the most beautiful chapters of the New Testament.
In this reading, we discover that Jesus had much more to say, however, He knew that the Apostles could not fully understand it (verse 12). Matthew Henry explains:
it would have confounded and stumbled them, rather than have given them any satisfaction.
Hence the sending of the Holy Spirit to them and the disciples on the first Pentecost, so that the Spirit would lead them into ‘all the truth’ as He hears it (verse 13). The Spirit also told them of what was to come, a primary example of which is St John’s Book of Revelation.
The dramatic Book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit guided the disciples to do great things in the name of Christ Jesus. John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):
The very first day the Spirit of God came He began to show things to come. And you could just go right through the Bible and you’ll find out He continued to show things to come.
In Acts chapter 11 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 20 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 21 He showed some more things to come. In the early days of the Spirit’s coming He began to show prophecy that would come to pass, things to come, directed by the Holy Spirit. Listen to Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Things to come, I believe there, refers to everything from the church age on but has great reference to the prophetic truth …
It’s replete with truth. The whole book of Revelation is loaded with things to come. So there’s the pattern of the Spirit. He not only speaks from God but He speaks of things to come through the church age and out through eternity.
Henry points out:
What are the four gospels? Who’s the main person in the four gospels? Jesus Christ. Who’s the main person in the book of Acts preaching the gospel by the apostles to establish the church and becomes the head of the church? Christ. Who’s the main person in all the Epistles that explain the meaning of the gospel? Christ. Who’s the main person in Revelation? Christ.
He is not everywhere in the Old Testament, He is many places: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, many others. But He is everywhere in the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament write to explain either the history of His life, the significance of the gospel as He builds His church, or an explanation of the theology of the gospel and the Epistles, or the glory of the revelation. “These are written about Christ that you might believe – ” as John says, “ – and believing in Him, have life in His name.”
The gospels record His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His ascension. The Acts record the preaching about His death and resurrection, suffering, and glory, and establishment of His church, which He is the head. The Epistles explain the doctrinal significance and application of His life and work. Revelation presents Him as the coming Judge who will set up His kingdom on earth and rule forever in eternity.
The New Testament is about Him. “The Spirit will come take of Mine and show it to you.” So we preach the New Testament; it’s about Christ. And then we go back and we compare it with the Old Testament; and that’s what we should be doing.
In Acts 18, there was a preacher by the name of Apollos, and he gives us a kind of a good model, Apollos. It says in Acts 18:28, “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of being guided ‘into all the truth’:
… it is to be intimately and experimentally acquainted with it to be piously and strongly affected with it not only to have the notion of it in our heads, but the relish and savour and power of it in our hearts[;] it denotes a gradual discovery of truth shining more and more: “He shall lead you by those truths that are plain and easy to those that are more difficult.” But how into all truth?
First, Into the whole truth relating to their embassy whatever was needful or useful for them to know, in order to the due discharge of their office, they should be fully instructed in it what truths they were to teach others the Spirit would teach them, would give them the understanding of, and enable them both to explain and to defend.
Secondly, Into nothing but the truth …
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would reveal the divine truth to the disciples which would glorify Him as Christ our Lord (verse 14). The New Testament is the fullest source of that truth, which is why it is so important to read and understand it. Furthermore, the more we read it, the greater our understanding.
I despair when people say, ‘I read the New Testament in school. I don’t need to look at it anymore’. How wrong they are. We can read it 100 times and still see something new or be reminded of something we forgot. The Holy Spirit works through us as we read Scripture.
Jesus’s words describe how the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — work for our benefit (verse 15). What is the Father’s is the Son’s and is declared to us via the Spirit, who, as Henry observes:
came not to erect a new kingdom, but to advance and establish the same kingdom that Christ had erected, to maintain the same interest and pursue the same design those therefore that pretend to the Spirit, and vilify Christ, give themselves the lie, for he came to glorify Christ. Secondly, That herein the things of God should be communicated to us. Lest any should think that the receiving of this would not make them much the richer, he adds, All things that the Father hath are mine. As God, all that self-existent light and self-sufficient happiness which the Father has, he has as Mediator, all things are delivered to him of the Father (Matthew 11:27) all that grace and truth which God designed to show us he lodged in the hands of the Lord Jesus, Colossians 1:19.
Henry has a closing thought on this passage, which also serves as a perfect summation of Trinity Sunday:
Spiritual blessings in heavenly things are given by the Father to the Son for us, and the Son entrusts the Spirit to convey them to us.
This is what we remember with thanksgiving on this day, which marks the last great feast in the Church calendar until we celebrate Christmas again.
The Gospel readings for the 2016 Season after Pentecost — sometimes ‘after Trinity’ or ‘Ordinary Time’ — are from St Luke and detail Christ’s ministry of teaching and healing. The liturgical colour is green during this season.
Forbidden Bible Verses resumes next week.
Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes referred to as Spy Wednesday as Judas comes into the picture:
(Image credit: whatshotn)
On March 15, 2016, I was appalled to read of two Anglicans — a bishop and an priest — coming forward to defend Judas. Even worse, on Good Friday morning — Good Friday, at 9 a.m., when children are watching! — BBC One will broadcast a programme about him: In the Footsteps of Judas.
The BBC should be broadcasting about Jesus’s suffering and dying so brutally for our sins — and how Judas fulfilled Old Testament prophecy in this regard.
The BBC, the programme makers and these two Anglicans are out of bounds.
The Telegraph has the full story. The Revd Kate Bottley says:
“This is not to say ‘Oh Judas, he’s all right really’, what we are saying is perhaps there is something else to this character than that kiss and that betrayal,” she said.
“I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it – because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up.”
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds:
feels “a bit sorry” for Judas.
He said that the lost apostle, viewed by many Christians as a figure beyond redemption, has, he said had a “lousy press” for the last 2,000 years.
Apparently, clergy do not need to know the Bible anymore. Jesus knew early on that Judas would betray Him. He said that Judas was a devil (John 6:70-71, emphases mine):
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
He said that after He fed the Five Thousand, long before the final week of His ministry.
I suppose the aforementioned clergy would simply say they would discount that as John might have just put that in there and that we have no way of knowing whether Jesus ever said that.
And there are many ‘Christians’ who say that John’s gospel is an allegory.
Hatred for Judas was so deep in the years following the closing of the New Testament that several incredible legends about him evolved. They describe bizarre occurrences, characterizing Judas as ugly, evil, and totally repugnant. One, in the apocryphal Coptic Narrative, said that Judas, having betrayed Christ, was infested with maggots. Consequently, his body became so bloated that on one occasion he was trying to ride on a cart through a gate, and being too large to fit through it, he hit the gate, his body exploded, and maggots spewed all over the wall. Obviously, that story is not true, but it shows the high level of contempt for Judas in the early centuries.
When I was in seminary, I wrote my dissertation on Judas Iscariot. During the year that I spent working on it, and since then, I have found it extremely difficult to write or speak on. Sin is never more grotesque than it is in the life of Judas. When we study Judas and his motivations, we are prying very close to the activity of Satan. But there are valuable reasons for examining Judas and his sin. For one thing, to understand Jesus’ love in its fullness, it helps to look at the life of Judas, because despite the awfulness of Judas’ sin, Jesus reached out to him in love.
My links at the top of this post discuss Judas’s life in more detail. He was a bad man. A tragic, sin-filled human being. Look at the image at the top of the post. Jesus said it would have been good for Judas not to have been born.
How anyone — especially a bishop and a priest — can have sympathy for him is astounding. If I were the Archbishop of Canterbury I’d want to meet with each separately to discuss their future in the Church.
The gospel reading for Spy Wednesday in Year C of the three-year Lectionary is John 13:21-32:
13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.
13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;
13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.
13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.
13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”
13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.
13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.
13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
13:31 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.
What Jesus had just said before becoming troubled in spirit (verse 21) was (John 13:18-20):
18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
When He announced that one of the apostles would betray Him, all (but one) were stunned to the point where Peter asked John to enquire of Jesus who it was (verses 22 – 24). John was the logical apostle to ask, because he was close to Jesus’s heart and was reclining next to Him at the Last Supper. People stretched out on the floor to eat in ancient times.
John duly whispered the question to our Lord, who whispered back that they would know when He gave one apostle a morsel of moistened bread (verses 25, 26). With that, he handed it to Judas.
Matthew Henry’s commentary has this analysis of what could have been going through Judas’s mind at that moment and Jesus’s continuing generosity:
[1.] That Christ sometimes gives sops to traitors worldly riches, honours, and pleasures are sops (if I may so speak), which Providence sometimes gives into the hands of wicked men. Judas perhaps thought himself a favourite because he had the sop, like Benjamin at Joseph’s table, a mess by himself thus the prosperity of fools, like a stupifying sop, helps to destroy them. [2.] That we must not be outrageous against those whom we know to be very malicious against us. Christ carved to Judas as kindly as to any at the table, though he knew he was then plotting his death. If thine enemy hunger, feed him this is to do as Christ does.
Once Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him (verse 27). In light of John 6:70, Henry explains:
now Satan gained a more full possession of him, had a more abundant entrance into him. His purpose to betray his Master was now ripened into a fixed resolution now he returned with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, Luke 11:26. Note, [1.] Though the devil is in every wicked man that does his works (Ephesians 2:2), yet sometimes he enters more manifestly and more powerfully than at other times, when he puts them upon some enormous wickedness, which humanity and natural conscience startle at. [2.] Betrayers of Christ have much of the devil in them. Christ speaks of the sin of Judas as greater than that of any of his persecutors.
Please, never think that Judas was a sympathetic character or that he deserves a hearing. If Jesus considered His betrayal worse than His persecution, Judas’s heart and soul were rotten.
Jesus dismissed Judas from the Last Supper (verse 28), but in a way that the apostles did not understand (verse 29).
Christ hereupon dismissed him, and delivered him up to his own heart’s lusts: Then said Jesus unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. This is not to be understood as either advising him to his wickedness or warranting him in it but either, (1.) As abandoning him to the conduct and power of Satan. Christ knew that Satan had entered into him, and had peaceable possession and now he gives him up as hopeless. The various methods Christ had used for his conviction were ineffectual and therefore, “What thou doest thou wilt do quickly if thou art resolved to ruin thyself, go on, and take what comes.” Note, When the evil spirit is willingly admitted, the good Spirit justly withdraws. Or, (2.) As challenging him to do his worst: “Thou art plotting against me, put thy plot in execution and welcome, the sooner the better, I do not fear thee, I am ready for thee.” Note, our Lord Jesus was very forward to suffer and die for us, and was impatient of delay in the perfecting of his undertaking.
Henry wrote that the apostles were too guileless to see the very worst sin was about to be committed:
Note, It is an excusable dulness in the disciples of Christ not to be quick-sighted in their censures. Most are ready enough to say, when they hear harsh things spoken in general, Now such a one is meant, and now such a one but Christ’s disciples were so well taught to love one another that they could not easily learn to suspect one another charity thinks no evil.
Judas left in the night (verse 30). Henry explains:
[1.] Though it was night, an unseasonable time for business, yet, Satan having entered into him, he made no difficulty of the coldness and darkness of the night. This should shame us out of our slothfulness and cowardice in the service of Christ, that the devil’s servants are so earnest and venturous in his service. [2.] Because it was night, and this gave him advantage of privacy and concealment. He was not willing to be seen treating with the chief priests, and therefore chose the dark night as the fittest time for such works of darkness. Those whose deeds are evil love darkness rather than light. See Job 24:13, &c.
After Judas left, Jesus announced that He was now glorified (verse 31), indicating His crucifixion to come:
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.
MacArthur explains that Jesus purposely chose Judas:
He chose Judas because Judas was necessary to bring about His death, which was necessary to bring about the redemption of the world.
Prophecy was clear that Christ would be betrayed by a close friend. Why did Jesus choose Judas, then? He chose him to fulfill prophecy–not only the prophecy specifically about Judas, but also the prophecies of His own death. Somebody had to bring it to pass, and Judas was more than willing. God used the wrath of Judas to praise Him, and through the deed that Judas did, He brought salvation. Judas meant it for evil, but God used it for good (cf. Genesis 50:20).
You see, Judas fit right into the divine master plan. Judas’ betrayal was predicted in detail in the Old Testament. Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
… The picture of David and Ahithophel in Psalm 41 is fulfilled in a greater sense in Jesus and Judas. The phrase “lifted up his heel” portrays brutal violence, the lifting of a heel and driving the heel into the neck of the victim. That is the picture of Judas. Having wounded his enemy, who is lying on the ground, he takes the giant heel and crushes his neck.
Psalm 55 contains another clear prophecy of Judas and his betrayal. Imagine Jesus speaking these words:
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me. Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has violated his covenant. His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (vv. 12-14; 20-21).
Zechariah contains a prophecy about the betrayal of Christ by Judas in even more detail. It gives the exact price he was paid for his treachery, just as it is recorded in the New Testament. Zechariah 11:12-13 prophetically gives the words of Judas, talking to the Jewish leaders:
I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.
That describes to the letter what Judas did after the death of Jesus Christ. He took the thirty pieces right back to the house of the Lord and threw them down. Matthew 27 says that the thirty pieces were picked up and used to buy a potter’s field, exactly fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 11.
It is important for children and those new to the faith to understand Judas’s story and his betrayal of Christ. Knowing that all was prophesied in the Old Testament will help them to understand why Jesus had to choose him as an apostle.
Now, wouldn’t such an explanation have made a much better television programme? Clearly, to borrow Martin Luther’s words to Zwingli — ‘another spirit’ — moves through Judas’s defenders.
As my post yesterday concerned Jesus’s healing and feeding of the Four Thousand (and more) Gentiles, it seemed apposite to find a post at Steadfast Lutherans about His feeding the Five Thousand (and more).
The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the traditional (pre-Lectionary) Laetare Sunday gospel reading. (Laetare Sunday is today, March 6, 2016.)
Pastor Joseph Abrahamson shared Martin Luther’s reflections on this marvellous creative miracle, excerpts of which follow. Here Luther wrote about John 6:1-15.
May we not be discouraged, as Philip and Andrew were at finding we haven’t enough (emphases mine):
We see that Philip is not deficient in arithmetic. We also can count up very well what we shall need and must have for our household. But as soon as we see that provision is wanting, we become discouraged. This was the case also with Andrew …
The Evangelist [John] did not wish this to be left unnoticed, in order that we may learn by the example of the disciples, that such calculations are entirely useless; if, indeed, we are Christians and have Christ with us.
What of poverty opposing riches?
Nothing in the world hinders faith as much as riches on the one side and poverty on the other. Against these two things which hinder on both sides, Christ speaks here, and teaches the middle state; namely, to be neither too rich nor too poor, but learn to trust God, that he will sustain us, and be content with what God daily gives us.
How is it that we remember this miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes but tend to dismiss the annual growing of grain, fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs? Is one not as miraculous as the other? Luther reproves us for a lack of faith:
Who clothes the trees, which are bare in the winter, but as soon as the summer begins are loaded with leaves and fruits? Who causes the corn to grow so abundantly? Do not I, (as the Lord means to teach by this miracle, ) who herewith have fed 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves? But here reason says: Yes, as regards the trees and the corn and other things, that occurs every year; therefore it is not extraordinary and miraculous; but this feeding of 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves occurred only once; therefore it is extraordinary and miraculous. Answer: What is the reason that this appears to you extraordinary and miraculous, and that the former case, when out of single grains innumerable ones grow, is not miraculous to you? That is not the fault of God or his works, but it is the fault of your unbelief, that you are so blind and hardened, and can not know God’s wonders.
From this, we can apply our Lord’s generosity, mercy and compassion to our own personal situations:
He gave not as much as there was on hand, but “as much as they would.” Here we must not think that he did this only at that time and does not wish to continue to do so, also, among his Christians. For we see examples of this blessing every day; not only as regards food, but also as regards all other kinds of want, for which he wonderfully and unexpectedly devises ways and means.
Finally, with what is left over, Luther tells us that we must be prudent with what we have whilst sharing with others, otherwise God may withdraw His blessings:
We must diligently preserve God’s blessings and not squander them away, but save them for future needs. But when this is not done, and God’s blessings are so sinfully and shame fully abused. God is driven by such vices to withhold, and where there has been one year of abundant harvests, there will follow two or three years of failure.
By commanding his disciples to gather up the fragments that were left over, the Lord does not wish to be understood that we should be covetous, but that you might be able to serve your neighbor in times of need.
Such an exposition transforms the historic miracle of the Feeding the Five Thousand to a meaningful lesson on God’s merciful daily and annual bounty for Christians throughout the ages. How blessed we are in His grace and compassion.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (KJV)
Happy Christmas to all my readers!
Today’s painting is ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 – 1779). He was a Protestant from Bohemia who later became a Catholic. In 1754, he was appointed Director of the Vatican school of painting.
You can read all about it in my 2009 post, Happy Christmas, everyone! That entry also has an excellent Anglican reflection for the day — highly recommended.
John 1 is an annual Gospel reading for Christmas. You can read more about this beautiful passage in the following posts:
Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)
Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)
More Christmas reflections can be found here:
Compliments of the season to all my readers! (features Dr Paul Copan on the manger scene)
Those wishing to find out more about our favourite Christmas carols might enjoy:
Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)
Wherever you are and whatever you do — have a blessed, happy and peaceful day!
The Sunday after Easter is known traditionally as Low Sunday, because the newly baptised had finished their week of wearing white baptismal robes and returned to their normal attire.
Traditionalist Catholics often call this particular day Quasimodo Sunday from the Latin Introit:
‘Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite’. This translates to: ‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile’ and is intended for those baptised the week before.
The protagonist of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame got his name from being left as an infant at the steps of the famous cathedral on Quasimodo Sunday.
Whatever Lectionary year we are in, the Gospel reading is always the story of the Apostle Thomas (John 20:19-31), who, unlike the other remaining ten Apostles, did not come out of hiding until a week after the Resurrection.
Although we do not know from John’s account whether the scene unfolded as Caravaggio depicts it — probably not — the painting is a captivating work of art, to say the least.
In 2011, I excerpted sermons on the Apostle Thomas by The Revd P G Mathew, Reformed (Calvinist) pastor of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California. What he has to say is well worth reading in full.
Highlights follow, emphases mine.
In ‘Beware: You Are on Display, Part Two’, Mr Mathew explains:
That Jesus Christ, in his resurrection body, still has holes in his hands, made in behalf of those he came to die for. As long as those holes are there, we can say we are engraved on the palms of God. These indelible impressions are impossible to erase, and, in fact, in Revelation 5:6 John writes, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” Throughout all eternity the nail holes will be there. That should tell us that God loves us!
Thomas believed when he saw Jesus and touched his hands and feet and side. But Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Our faith is supported by the evidence of the apostolic witness revealed in the Scriptures. Christ is not asking us to believe irrationally.
In ‘Mandate of the Master’, Mr Mathew relates:
Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples on many occasions over a period of forty days, Luke tells us, so they could know that their Master truly had risen from the dead with a physical body. They could look at him and touch him–the risen Christ was not a ghost, in other words. He ate with his disciples many times and appeared to Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, seven of the apostles once in Galilee, ten of the apostles once in Jerusalem, all eleven apostles two times, the women at the tomb, and to five hundred at one time in Galilee. Why do you think Jesus showed himself so regularly to his disciples over this forty day period following Easter Sunday? Because they had the responsibility of bearing witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the fact upon which Christianity rests. They were the ones who must testify to the one who destroyed death by his death and was raised from the dead–Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe.
From the disciples’ personal experience of the risen Christ as written in Scripture, we are to take our belief:
Jesus’ apostles, therefore, were eyewitnesses of both the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ. They understood who Jesus Christ is, and we must understand also. He is the one who died on the cross for our sins, the one who was raised from the dead, and the one who destroyed death for us. He is the one who defeated the world, Satan, devils, and every power that is against us.
Easter recalls the culmination — His fulfilment — of Holy Scripture. May we understand and appreciate it as such. If we do not, we miss the point of our Lord’s time on earth.
Forbidden Bible Verses will return next week
Good Friday is the most sorrowful day in the Church calendar as we recall our Lord’s crucifixion for our sins.
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 St Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany.
This post explains the symbolism and significance of this painting to Good Friday. Please note that the link included no longer works.
Martin Luther tells us how to contemplate Christ’s sufferings:
The following posts also help us to better understand and reflect on what happened on this day:
Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)