His Suffering Brings Salvation

On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus makes three predictions of His coming suffering, death, and resurrection. The first of those is found in Matthew 16:21, while Jesus is in Caesarea Philippi. The second prediction is in Matthew 17:22-23, while Jesus and His disciples are in Galilee on the way to Jerusalem. And the third prediction is a few chapters later in Matthew 20:17-19 as Jesus and His disciples draw close to Jerusalem.

Each of these predictions begins with Jesus promising that suffering will come. He says, “the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men” (Matthew 17:22).

This word “delivered” has the sense of being handed over or entrusted. That can have a good meaning, such as someone delivering us a gift and handing it over to us. But there is a darker sense of this word that sometimes has the sense of being betrayed. There are hints here that someone will be instrumental in handing Jesus over to the authorities. There are perhaps even hints toward the eventual role that Judas will serve as a disciple betraying Jesus. Regardless, the deliverance Jesus references here is not a pleasant word but a painful word. 

Not only that, but Jesus says He will be condemned to die. In Matthew 20, Jesus offers the most information of any of the predictions, describing in great detail the suffering yet to come. He says, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law…will condemn him to death” (Matthew 20:18). While everyone already knew these religious authorities didn’t like Jesus, it may have been surprising to hear how far Jesus says they would go to be rid of Him. 

Even more, Jesus says these religious leaders will hand Jesus “over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19). “The Gentiles” literally means the nations, but here refers to the occupying power of the Romans. This would have been beyond comprehension for the disciples. They had recently rightly identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the Living God. Now He describes a way of being the Messiah that seems totally at odds with their expectations. How could it be that the Messiah would save humanity when He would end up suffering and dying…at the hands of the Gentiles!!

How could this be? What reason could there be within this prediction of Jesus? Why must Jesus suffer in such a confusing way? 

Why was it? It was because Jesus had come to bring salvation to the world. He was sent to bring life in the midst of the death caused by sin and evil. The only way He could bring victory over sin and death was to enter into its darkness and come out the other side of that tunnel. He would be mocked and His physical body would be beaten and crucified. As Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah, “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). 

Jesus brought hope, but that hope could only come after the darkness tried to snuff it out. 

Praise God for what we read about Jesus in John 1:4-5:

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

A Prayer on the Aroma of Christ

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

Oh, the sweetness of the aroma
  of the knowledge of Christ.
It is the honeyed savor of God’s
  love and grace amongst creation.

Like the sweet aroma
  of lilacs in Spring,
so is Christ’s victory
  sending its perfume through the earth.

Like the thick-aired freshness
  after a Spring rain,
so does Christ’s redemption
  breathe sweet, dense life into humanity.

With those who have noses to smell,
  whose olfactory glands are spiritually opened,
God’s great victorious grace
  hangs heavy in the air for all to relish.

Who Is Jesus?: insights from Hebrews 7

image 2 - Jesus Pantocrator

Hebrews 7:26 begins by telling us that Jesus is “a high priest [who] truly meets our need.” What does this tell us about Jesus? Well, the writer continues by telling us that Jesus meets our need in two ways, both of which are directly related to who Jesus is.

That first way that Jesus meets our need is found in the rest of verse 26. Here’s the entire verse:

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)

Who is Jesus? First of all, Jesus is “holy” – that means He is unlike us and He is like God. He is “the holy One of Israel”; the One whom Israel has been looking for throughout all their history. We need someone like this.

Next, Jesus is “blameless, pure, set apart from sinners.” No one could assign any sin or blame to Jesus. He is unstained and undefiled. Nothing has come into Him or gone out from Him that reflects sin or evil. He is, as it says in Hebrews 4:15, “one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet did not sin.” We need someone like that.

Finally, we are told that Jesus is “exalted above the heavens.” He is no ordinary man. He is both the One “through whom [God] also made the universe” while also “the exact representation of [God’s] being.” After His death and resurrection, Jesus is now ascended and given by the Father the name above all other names. Jesus is magnificent and glorious. We need someone like that.

The first answer by the author of this letter to the question, “who is Jesus?”, is that Jesus is unlike us and beyond us. We need someone like that because, as we have seen throughout human history, we cannot bring the answer to all our wrongs merely from our own efforts and abilities. We need the answer to come from beyond us.

Now, the second answer to the question, “who is Jesus?” and how does he meet our need, though familiar to us, comes somewhat unexpectedly. Look at verse 27:

Unlike the other high priests, [Jesus] does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:27)

All that we said before has emphasized how transcendent Jesus is – pure, sinless, holy, exalted – but this verse now emphasizes how earthy and humble Jesus is.

He is a priest offering a sacrifice. But He is not some priest who offers the sacrifice and then washes His hands and goes home. No, Jesus is so earthy, so humble, so in the midst of the muck and mire, that He actually offers Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice. John the Baptist helps us here when he says of Jesus:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

What does this mean? Well, it means Jesus has entered into humanity’s real need to such a great extent that He has actually Himself become the offering. He has become the sacrificial offering so that God’s true blessing might come into the world. As that Passover Lamb, Jesus took judgment that humanity might live. He entered death’s captivity so we might go free.

As the writer sums up in verse 28, Jesus “has been made perfect forever.”

Who is Jesus?

The writer of the epistle known as Hebrews tells us:

  • He is sinless, even set apart from sinners…yet He is the sin-bearer.
  • He is holy and pure…yet He becomes wholly defiled for our life and salvation.
  • He is exalted…yet He is humble.

Here, the writer of Hebrews gives us a most helpful and essential picture of Jesus: He is perfectly what we need.

Jesus’ wholistic mission and the Church (John Oswalt on Isaiah 9)

follow-me-satan-temptation-of-jesus-christ-1903.jpg!HalfHDIn his comments on Isaiah 9:2-4, Dr. John Oswalt makes this astute reflection on the wholistic mission of Christ that the church must keep ahold of in talking about salvation in Christ.

They [God’s people] rejoice because the Lord has freed them. It is not necessary to look for some specific liberation which Isaiah has in mind. It is apparent from the whole context that it is final deliverance which is in view. This is what God holds out to his people and that for which they justly pray and believe. Two extremes are to be avoided here. One extreme is to take the way that the Christian Church has often taken, saying that true bondage is to personal sin from which Christ frees us, and thus turning a blind eye on actual physical oppression. The other extreme is the way of certain forms of liberation theology that seem to suggest that the only sin is the sin of political oppression, and that Christ’s only purpose in coming was to give human beings political freedom.

Neither extreme is adequate in itself. To make God’s promises primarily political is to overlook the profound insight of the NT (and the OT) that the chief reason for the absence of šālôm (harmonious relationships) among human beings is the absence of šālôm between God and human beings through sin. Without šālôm between persons, freedom cannot long exist. But to act as if the forgiveness of sin and the consequent personal relationship are all that matters is to succumb to a Platonic distinction of existence into a “real” spiritual world and an “unreal” physical world, a distinction which is thoroughly unbiblical. The Messiah lifts the yoke of sin in order to lift the yoke of oppression. The Church forgets either yoke at its peril.

From John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 243.

A Crash Course in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Ephesians

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Psalms. Through the Psalms I have learned how to pray. One of my other favorites is the Gospel of John. John’s telling of Jesus’ story has helped me connect my spiritual longings with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so powerfully. Right after the Psalms and John comes Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here, the basic contours of right thinking about God and right living with God come together in such a short space that every sentence strikes with power.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as I continued with our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity,” I had the privilege of addressing one of my favorite Scriptural texts in this favorite book of mine. I turned to Ephesians 2:1-10 for “A Crash Course in the Gospel.”

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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