Why Was Christ So Brutally Put to Death?

Why was it so necessary for Christ to die such a brutal and violent death? Surely God could have planned an easier death for His Son? The answer, I believe, is this: only a violent death could have exposed sin in the way it so sorely needed revealing. One preacher said, “Could Jesus have exposed sin in all of its foul horror if He had died in His bed, or by accident, or by disease?” It is one of the tragedies of human life that we fail to recognize the sinfulness of sin. God’s plan was for Christ to die as a substitute for all who would put their faith in Christ’s death as their own death, thereby showing the sinfulness of sin and the just punishment placed upon it. Out of God’s love for man, He came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to take man’s place and bestow mercy and grace upon us. Another example of this kind of substitutionary legality is found in history:

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first, the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another.[1]

In the viewpoint of God, when Christ died, He died as a substitute to release you from the legal claims that Satan had against you because of your sin. Christ died for you and as you. God sees Christ as taking your place just as the one man went to war in another’s place.  When Christ died, God sees you as having died too:

Since you died with Christto the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules (Colossians 2:20).

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died,and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-3).

The Lord Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection came to give us His life. We received physical life from our forefather, Adam, but Christ came to give us the life of God, and this life is imparted to us when we wholeheartedly put our faith and trust in Him. When we believe, our sins are washed away, and the Spirit of God baptizes us into the spiritual organism of the Body of Christ. The life of God flows into each of us that are connected to Him by faith. God loves you and wants to invite you to abandon your sin and walk the rest of your life in freedom from the bondage of sin. Will you give Him your life? Pray a simple prayer from your heart asking Him to forgive your sin and come into your life. Receive the gift of God—salvation in Christ. Keith Thomas

[1]1500 illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green, Printed by Baker Book House, Page 360.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4″ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

The picture Jesus gives us is that of a judge who has no relationship with God. He does not fear that he will be judged for his actions. In his confession, he did not care about God or men (v. 4). This judge did not show deference to anyone. He did not have respect for the people he was appointed to judge. This judge may have been a judge that they all knew in the area, one appointed by Herod or by the Romans. This judge’s position gave him liberty to do whatever he wanted to further his own ends.

Jesus then gives us the epitome of a helpless person in a desperate situation. She is poor and defenseless with no family to help her. Widows often experienced hardship as Luke 20:4 points out, the teachers of the Law would often devour their resources after the death of their husbands. We don’t know how she was cheated, but the judge was undoubtedly on the side of her opponent.

The widow had no resource in the pursuance of her claim. The only thing she could use was persistence. Her constant pleading and begging was her only hope of obtaining the justice she deserved. Verse 3 says that she “kept coming.” She would not be beaten down by constant refusal and rejection. I picture her coming morning and evening to the courthouse. Every time the magistrate went out to market, she followed him around, persistently arguing her case. The passion of her heart began to make people talk, i.e., wondering to themselves if his injustice was wronging her. I’m sure she was an embarrassment to him as people learned of her plight. Finally, the unjust judge gave in to her, not due to the strength of her cause, but because she kept bothering him. He was merely being worn out!

In verse 5, the Greek word translated as “wear me out” is hypōpiazē, which means, “to give a black eye.” She was beating him up, not physically, but in a figurative sense, with her insistent passion and pleading words. The same word is used by Paul the Apostle in describing his habits of personal discipline: “but I pommel [hypōpiazē]my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It could mean that the unjust judge thought that she might give him a black eye! More than likely, though, it was the fact that his reputation was being pummeled and taking a black eye. It also could be figurative of his losing sleep over it. He was so worn out, and it was easier to consent to her plea.

This judge is a sharp contrast to the Holy God we serve. The application Jesus makes is that, if this unjust judge yields to persistent asking, then how much more will the Judge of all the earth render justice and quickly!

When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane while on the way to Statesboro, Georgia, from the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport in North Carolina, his wife, Janice, kept the plane aloft for two hours. As the aircraft crossed the South Carolina/North Carolina border, she radioed for help: “Help, help, won’t someone help me? My pilot is unconscious.” Authorities who picked up her distress signal were not able to reach her by radio during the flight because she kept changing channels. Eventually, Mrs. Gravely made a rough landing and had to crawl for forty-five minutes to a farmhouse for help. How often God’s people cry out to him for help but switch channels before His message comes through! They turn to other sources for help, looking for human guidance. When you cry out to God for His intervention, don’t switch channels![1]Await His answer and keep looking to Him. Keith Thomas

[1]Edited by Michael Green,1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Published by Baker Book House, Page 279.

Zacchaeus, Come Down Immediately!

1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” 8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus had a problem in trying to see Jesus–he was small of stature. The crowd along the road would not let him push through. I am sure that when people saw who was struggling to get through the crowd, that there was an elbow or a kick designed to hurt him, but his curiosity could not be satisfied until he had seen Jesus. He ran ahead along the road to the place where there was a significant Sycamore Fig tree and hastily climbed up the short trunk and hid in the full branches. Which one was Jesus? Zacchaeus did not know Jesus, but the Lord knew him. Perhaps Christ had come this very way because he knew where Zacchaeus would be waiting.

Do you think he knew which one was Jesus as he looked down from the tree? I’m sure his heart skipped a beat when the crowd stopped as the Lord looked up into the tree, saying: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

I am amazed at the condescension of Christ. Not only did He look down from heaven but He also came down and entered into our painful world. Furthermore, here He is looking up to Zacchaeus and asking him to come down. God always humbles a soul before he brings him to heaven. We must let go of every branch that we hold on to and come down. There is a need for all of us to come down in our estimation of ourselves. Zacchaeus would have felt very humbled that the Lord knew him by name. He had lived his life climbing to the top of the ladder and realized that the ladder was against the wrong wall. Zacchaeus had chased money all his life but had become hated by the people around him. He had lost all self-respect due to the way he had treated people, yet Jesus valued him so much that Christ would come to his house!

Do you realize that the God of the universe knows you by name and values you profoundly? He wants to come and live inside your house. He values us so profoundly that He calls each one of us individually in the midst of our circumstances. Zacchaeus was singled out by Jesus and directly called by name. He is told by Christ “I must stay at your house today.” There doesn’t seem to be an act of faith that brought Christ to his door, except, perhaps, his curiosity in wanting to see Christ. Jesus deliberately came to the place where Zacchaeus was and initiated the conversation that brought a saving response. The phrase “must stay” (NIV) or “must abide” (KJV) is used. It denotes a compulsion of any kind, such as unavoidable, urgent, compulsory necessity.”[1]It seems that it was all written into God’s plan, the calling of Zacchaeus.

He directly calls each one of us: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The Bible tells us that God has ordained (To prearrange unalterably; predestine: by fate ordained beforehand those who are saved. We may think that we are the ones searching for God, but He is the Shepherd, searching for His lost sheep. God orders our circumstances to cause us to call out to Him. We cannot say that God ordered the depths of sin that we got into, our own choices were involved, but the Bible declares that God uses all things to work together for our good to bring us to Christ(Romans 8:28). What do we mean by the word election? Wayne Grudem in his book, Systematic Theology, defines the election as “an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any unforeseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure.”[3]Zacchaeus and all those of us that have been born again, were called and chosen before the foundation of the world to be His elected ones.

4For he chose us in him before the creation of the worldto be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sonsthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).

What marvelous grace God has lavished on us! It boggles the mind to think that He has planned to call us out before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless, adopted as His sons and daughters. Zacchaeus as well as you and I were called before the beginning of the world ever took place. He had us in His mind and heart. Zacchaeus was one of the last people would think would be saved. This encounter came about in the city of Jericho, a cursed city (Joshua 6:26), yet Christ came there and called Zacchaeus. He called the worst of sinners from the worst of cities with the worst of trades. Maybe He’s doing the same for you today! Keith Thomas

[1]Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Notes on Page 1604.

[2]Dictionary.com

[3]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Published by Zondervan, page 670.

 

“Don’t be Afraid. Just Trust Me”

But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

There are times in one’s life when we must simply trust our Father. This can be difficult when we are going through a trying situation. Sometimes it means ignoring everything but His words in the midst of a storm.

I remember a time when I was working as a commercial fisherman with my father on his fishing boat. We were on a long journey south to our home port of Harwich, Essex, England. It was past midnight and it was his turn to sleep. Before he lay down on the daybed, there in the wheelhouse alongside me, he wanted to give me some instructions for our passing three miles off of the coast of Lowestoft, Suffolk.  He instructed me to avoid the two sandbanks that ran three miles off the shore and parallel with the coast. I was to go close to the shore, away from the sandbanks, and escape the tide that would be turning against us by the time we got there.

Two miles ahead of us, I could see two other fishing boats from our home port. Dad had been asleep about an hour when I came up to the Scroby Sands, the Outer and Inner banks, that ran parallel and opposite the coast of Lowestoft. I reasoned to myself that, instead of following my father’s commands, I could just follow the lights of the other boats. To make matters worse, we were in a force 9 severe gale with the waves breaking over the bow of the boat. I was afraid that if I took the advice of my father, staying close to the shore, I would not see Lowestoft Pier that stuck out a few hundred yards.  As I entered the channel, I saw the red buoy to my left, and the green buoy on my right, so I knew I was at the start of the channel. What I didn’t realize, though, was that after the other boats had gone through the channel in between the sands, they had now turned course and were heading inshore so that they, too, could evade the fast-flowing tide against all of us.

Following the other boats and not listening to my dad was a big mistake! My course had changed from going down the channel to following them inshore. But I hadn’t come to the end of the channel yet. Our boat hit the Inner Scroby Sands going full speed.  My dad woke with a start as the keel stuck fast on the Inner Scroby Sand in a severe gale.  Worst of all, the tide was going down and every minute diminished our chances of survival.  My father told me to put the engine in reverse and give maximum thrust on the engine.  When I did so, the boat leaned severely over on the port (left) side and we nearly capsized. In fear, I took the engine out of gear. Scared of death, I asked dad to take the controls. He quickly took over the helm. “We’ve got to do it, son!” he said. Our very lives were at stake. If we’d have capsized, we would never have been found and both of us could not swim and we had no life raft at the time. In any case, it was three miles to Lowestoft in mid-winter, in the dark.  With the tide going down and the water level dropping the boat would not remain vertical–we would capsize. We faced certain death. Dad put the boat in reverse gear and rammed the throttle on the engine full speed. The boat again nearly capsized and shook violently as the rear end of the keel hit the sand. The propeller thrashed the water while I prayed like mad, crying, “help Lord!” In two minutes of dad taking the helm, our boat came off the sands.

When we were safely on our way again, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, saying, “If you would just listen to your Father’s voice, you would be safe.” God often has a way of speaking on two different levels to us. I knew He was referring to my relationship with Him and that I was to trust His voice even when it seemed like an illogical thing to do. Father knows best! Thank God that when we feel incapable, He is there to take the controls! Can you give Him the controls of your life? Or are you still following the other boats?

Can I challenge you to trust your Father’s voice? When the situation looks bleak, hear His voice, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

Please, Father, help me to know your voice and obey it. Keith Thomas

Are You a Disciple?

24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous British explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for a hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down to the end of the next paragraph will give you the answer).

Pastors of the Western church of Jesus Christ have a tendency to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of the pure gospel and Christ’s call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this.

The churches in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by a deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackleton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship with a small wage, bitter cold, and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement? I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the American Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor, and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values.

 

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love, we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to not only believe but to be a disciple, a disciplined one. Let me ask you this question if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a nominal believer or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a DiscipleSeries and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.” Keith Thomas

[1]Quit You like Men, Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).