Saturday, October 27, 2012

Arrest, Trials, Denials: Triplets of Betrayal

As we continue our study of triplets in Scripture, echoing God’s Triune nature, we find the same pattern repeated in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. All of Christian doctrine, and our blessed hope of eternal life and of His glorious reappearing (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3), hinges on the sacred triplet of His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The road to Calvary where Jesus was crucified was paved with betrayal by His chosen disciples, by the leaders and commoners of the Jewish people He was sent to deliver, and by the Roman rulers that occupied His birth nation of Israel. His betrayals by these three groups resulted in His arrest and trials and in denials of His divinity.

Events of the crucifixion were set in motion when Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3), which was the going rate for a bondservant. How fitting, in light of God the Son taking on human flesh and coming to earth the first time not as King, but as a humble servant. Not only did He come to teach us how to serve, but to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice to redeem us from our sins.

At the Lord’s Supper on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus performed three sacred acts with the bread that symbolized His body:.He blessed it, and brake it, and gave to them (Mark 14: 22). The blessing was an act of worship thanking the Father not only for His provision of physical sustenance, but for giving Him the opportunity to save the souls of all who trust in Him.

Breaking the bread symbolized how His precious body would be battered beyond recognition, as He paid in full the punishment every one of us owes for all our sins, past, present and future. Giving the bread to the disciples signifies how He gives eternal life to all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven.

After supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32), where He prayed a threefold prayer. He asked that God’s will be done as He prepared Himself for the unimaginable spiritual as well as physical ordeal He would face. He prayed for those disciples who were present, and He prayed for every believer who trusts Him as Savior (John 17).

As Jesus removed Himself further into the garden, He took with Him His inner circle, Peter, James, and John (Mark 14:33). Three times He begged them to stay awake with Him and pray, but all three times they fell asleep (Mark 14:41).

As Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss that let His captors know His identity, Jesus was surrounded by a hostile crowd of chief priests, scribes and elders (Mark 14:43) armed with lanterns, torches and weapons (John 18:3). He was then subjected to three mock trials by Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-67), Pilate (Matthew. 27:2; Mark 15:1-15) and Herod: (Luke 23:7-11).

At the trial led by the high priest Caiaphas, the chief priests, elders, and all the council looked for false witness against Jesus so that He would be sentenced to death (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:53). Having accomplished their heinous objective, they spit in His face, beat Him, and struck Him with the palms of their hands (Matthew 26 67).

Then they stripped Him naked, kneeled before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! They adorned Him with three mock symbols of a king: a scarlet robe, a crown of thorns, and a reed in his right hand (Matthew.27:28-29).

Not only was Jesus scorned by His captors, He was denied three times by Peter, who had pridefully boasted that he would follow His Master to the death Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:30

Despite this humiliating and painful ordeal, the Scripture here records three titles of Jesus revealing His true nature as Messiah, fully divine yet fully man: the Christ, the,Son of the Blessed, and the Son of man (Mark 14:61-62).

After Pilate determined that he could find no fault in Jesus, the people cried out three times that Jesus be put to death:

Matthew 27: 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

Throughout history, there has always been a small remnant of those who remain true to God even though the multitudes reject Him.

As Christ took the final steps down Calvary’s road where His suffering and death would culminate in our redemption and eternal life, even His closest friends and followers scattered in the face of what seemed to be sure defeat. Far from being thankful that their Messiah was delivering them, the Jews and their religious leaders failed to recognize who He was and clamored for His death.

Yet to the faithful Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11), such as Abraham and Noah, can be added the faithful remnant of those who did not desert Christ as He died for us. Among His closest circle these were His mother Mary, His beloved disciple John, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25-26). Also in the faithful remnant were the occasional Jew such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea: (John 19:38-39) and even the Roman centurion who glorified God as realized Jesus was righteous (Luke 23:47). ‘

May each of us be numbered with the faithful remnant honoring God and loving Christ even when the world dishonors and rejects Him.

© 2012 Laurie Collett


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Titanic’s True Hero

Rev.John Harper

The name Titanic evokes a myriad of images and ideas -- overstated opulence and seemingly invincible technology; icebergs lurking as hidden dangers; senseless destruction and death; families separated by the ocean’s cruelty; and fragments of dreams floating away on splintered wood or buried in the ocean depths.

Some villains emerge in the stories and history surrounding this horrific tragedy, such as the shipping magnates who put a higher priority on breaking world records for transatlantic crossing than on passenger safety. Clearly, pride went before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), and those in charge failed to be prudent and foresee the danger (Proverbs 22:3)

No doubt there were cowardly men who leapt into the lifeboats intended for women and children, or even dressed in women’s clothing to steal their passage to safety from those they should have been protecting with their own lives (Ephesians 5:25).

Yet some images offer more hope and a more shining example. The musicians remained faithful to their post and to their calling (Colossians 3:23), continuing at first with the usual lighthearted melodies the passengers found entertaining and pleasing until their world literally turned upside down. But with God there are no coincidences, and it is no accident that their last song as they slid off the deck was “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Hollywood has given us its version of the Titanic hero: Jack Dawson. Fortune seemed to smile on this drifter and artist as he won a ticket on the “unsinkable” luxury liner and got to hobnob with the upper class. He even wooed and won the heart of Rose, who was engaged to a cruel and selfish aristocrat. First Jack saves Rose from killing herself; then he shows her that love and joy trump riches and power.

But what may have started out as a romantic attraction deepens as Jack proves his love for Rose with his ultimate sacrifice – protecting, warming and encouraging her as she barely hangs on to life on a piece of floating wreckage, then succumbing to the frigid waters himself moments before she is rescued.

Yet there is even a more profound example of a true hero, not the figment of a screenwriter’s imagination, but one who graced history with his presence and who now is eternally in the presence of Grace Himself.

John Harper was a Baptist pastor from Great Britain who trusted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior at age 14 and began preaching at only 18 years of age. When he boarded the Titanic for a several weeks’ preaching engagement at the Moody Church in Chicago, he was age 39 and already a widower.

After the Titanic struck the fateful iceberg, he safely placed his 6-year old daughter and niece in a lifeboat and then began preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen. Those few who survived to tell the story said he especially quoted Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

The cry of the desperate crew was “Women and children to the lifeboats,” but Harper added “and the unsaved” to their instructions. As the ship began its fatal descent, Harper leaped into the water with no concern for his own safety. He swam from person to person struggling to stay afloat, preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15) and begging them to accept Christ.

Four years after the tragedy, a survivor came forth with his own testimony. He at first shut out Harper’s pleas, angry that God would allow him and all the others to fall into this desperate plight. But as Harper continued to preach, he became convicted that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He repented of his sins and called on Jesus Christ to forgive him and to enter his heart as his personal Savior.

The peace that engulfed this young man must have been unimaginable (Philippians 4:7) – his physical death appeared to be imminent, and yet he was now assured of eternal life (John 3:16) with his Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.

Harper clearly sensed the urgency of the situation and laid down his life that others might live eternally. Yet isn’t our situation just as urgent? We are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), so shouldn’t we spend every waking moment leading souls to Him? Not all of us are called to preach or to teach, but all believers can be missionaries in our unique sphere of influence, by telling others of how Christ has changed our life (John 4:39) and by letting His love and light shine through us (Matthew 5:16) as a testimony to His saving grace.

As the Titanic so clearly proved, earthly riches, status and power are fleeting. We can spend our lives foolishly acquiring these for our own satisfaction, but we can’t take them with us when we die (Luke 12:16-21). Instead, we should store our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20) where we can enjoy their eternal rewards, for where our treasure is, our heart will be also (Luke 12:34)..If we try to save our life, we will lose it, but if we pour out our lives to Him, we will gain everlasting life (Matthew 16:25).

May we all have a heart for the lost and perishing, and make it our utmost priority to share the Gospel with them. As Harper summoned every last breath and bit of strength to witness, he could not have known the hearts of those who listened or the work of the Holy Spirit in that shallow, hardened, or even fertile soil (Matthew 13:3-8).

But I am sure that when Harper met Jesus face to face on April 15, 1912, that Jesus greeted him with: Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matthew 25:21)

I imagine Jesus then added: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

© 2012 Laurie Collett