Saturday, March 26, 2016

Resurrection: Triplets of Victory

Wishing all of you and your loved ones a blessed Resurrection Sunday! May you enjoy this edited repost from the archives.

Christ’s birth, earthly ministry, betrayal, and crucifixion can all be described in triplets reflecting His Triune nature. This pattern continues through His resurrection and beyond!

Jesus prophesied to His disciples that after He was crucified and buried, He would spend three days in the tomb and rise again on the third day (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; Mark 9:31;10:34; Luke 9:22;18:33). Even the Romans had heard of this prophecy, as they warned Pilate about it for fear that the disciples would steal His body to deceive others into thinking Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 27:63-64).

Christ’s actual resurrection after three days was foreshadowed by earlier events in Scripture and by His own use of symbolic language. He had said that He could destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days (Matthew 26: 61), which referred metaphorically to His willingly laying down His life and taking it up again three days later.

Jesus spoke of leaving His earthly body and entering His glorified body as being “perfected” on the third day. This was the most significant of the three miracles He told the Pharisees to relay to Herod, whom they said was threatening His life. The other two miracles were casting out devils and curing the sick (Luke 13: 31-32).

Even at the beginning of Genesis, the third day of creation symbolized the resurrection, when God created the earth appearing from beneath the water (Genesis 1 :9-13). Baptism uses this same symbolism of the believer standing in the water to represent Christ on the cross; submerged beneath the water to represent burial of the old man and sin nature; and coming up out of the water to represent living as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus explained His coming burial and resurrection by likening it to the prophet Jonah being entombed for three days and three nights in the whale's belly (Jonah 1:17), saying that He also would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. He admonished the Jews, who were always looking for a sign to identify the Messiah, that this sign of His resurrection after three days would be the only one given to them (Matthew 12: 39-40).

When the women came to Christ’s tomb that first Easter morning and were shocked to find it empty, two angels reassured them that He had risen and reminded them of His three prophecies: “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).

The apostle John describes Mary Magdalene encountering three heavenly beings on that miraculous morning: two angels in the tomb, one where Jesus’ feet had rested and the other at His head; and the risen Christ (John 20:11-18).

Luke names three women who told the unbelieving disciples of these remarkable happenings: Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:10). Still bewildered, two disciples set forth to Emmaus to talk things over on a long walk, which was about threescore furlongs from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13).

Jesus appeared to these two and joined them, making three travelers to Emmaus. In their grief and confusion they did not realize Who accompanied them (Luke 24:15-16), even though they said that it was the third day since His death (Luke 24:21). Jesus patiently yet fervently explained to them how all the Scriptures revealed Himself, yet they did not recognize Him until dinner, when He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them (Luke 24:30).

Here is how Luke described their triplets of miraculous revelation: Luke 24: 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

So Cleopas and his companion raced back to Jerusalem to tell the others of this Christ-sighting. Yet no sooner did they return and share the news than Jesus appeared in their midst, greeted by triplets of fear, not joy, from the disciples. They were “terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit (Luke 24: 37).

But Jesus reassured them that He was not a ghost by three types of physical evidence: He showed them His hands and feet, He allowed them to handle His flesh and bones, and He even ate before them! (Luke 24: 38-43).

Next Jesus gave them three sources of Scriptural evidence about Himself: the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). But He emphasized the most important prophecy: that He would rise from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45).

When the disciples went fishing, perhaps to clear their heads, or even thinking they might return to their former way of life now that Jesus was gone, He appeared to them. John tells us that this was the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was risen from the dead (John 21:14). After instructing the disciples where to catch a boat load of fish, He feeds them a delectable breakfast that He had already prepared.

Three times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, allowing Peter three opportunities to affirm his love and cleanse his conscience of the three times he denied Christ.(Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; John 13:38). Although Christ asked if Peter loved Him with agape, or self-sacrificing love, Peter stated his love using the term phileo, or kindly affection as one would have toward a brother. In response to Peter’s declarations, three times Jesus asked Peter to “Feed my sheep (lambs).” (John 21: 15-17).

Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus gave His disciples the three commands of the Great Commission: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).

His last words therefore revealed His Triune nature, for He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). When we are saved by trusting Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters our heart and teaches us about Christ, Who in turn is the Way to God the Father (John 14:9-26).

Paul reinforced and expanded on Jesus’s earthly teachings about rising on the third day as he explained the Gospel of grace revealed to Him by Christ; namely eternal life for all who place their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Praise God that Christ conquered death, that we serve a risen Saviour, and that we will live with Him forever more!

© 2013 Laurie Collett

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Crux

Patterns of three in Scripture reflect God’s Triune nature, as exemplified in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It surprised me, however, to discover that the root word for crucifixion, namely “crux,” from the Latin word for cross or torture, also has three definitions.

According to Merriam-Webster, these are:
1.     1. A puzzling or difficult problem:  an unsolved question
2.   An essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome 
3.   A main or central feature (as of an argument).
How appropriate these three definitions are when we consider the role of the cross in Christianity!  The paradox of the cross is in fact one of the most puzzling or difficult problems of all time. How could God lower Himself to leave Heaven’s throne, wrap Himself in human flesh (John 1:2), and subject Himself (Luke 9:51) to the cruelest punishment man has ever devised?

Why would He come to earth not to be revered as King of Kings, obeyed as Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14; 19:16), and worshipped as our Holy High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), but to be despised, betrayed, and rejected? (Isaiah 53:3)

Why would Holy God the Son, Who knew no sin, take on all of mankind’s sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), allowing Himself momentarily to be separated from God the Father (Mark 15:33-34) to pay our sin debt in full (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) while we were still His enemies? (Romans 5:10)

Which brings us to the second definition: the cross is the essential point demanding resolution. How each of us responds to the puzzling problem of the cross determines our relationship to God, the resolution of our sin problem, and our eternal destiny.

We can deny the importance of what Christ did for us on the cross, trusting wrongly in our good deeds to outweigh our sin and to earn our way to Heaven (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). We can ignore the cross, but sadly, ignorance is not bliss, and a wrong belief system does not free anyone from the consequences of the truth. Those who deny or ignore the cross are condemned to the same fate – eternal punishment in hell (John 3:18).

Only by trusting in Christ’s completed work on the cross (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:10-14) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) can we receive eternal life (John 3:16, 5:24). Faith in this changes us from God’s enemies to God’s children (Romans 8:16); from guilty to forgiven (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; Acts 13:38; 26:18); and from condemned to eternal death in hell to redeemed to eternal life with Christ in Heaven (Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:13; Revelation 5:9).

Therefore, the cross is the main or central feature of Christian doctrine – the first and essential condition of the triad of His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This is the heart of the Gospel, or Good News. Without believing it in our heart we cannot be saved from the penalty of our sin (Romans 10:9), born again (John 3:3-8) into the family of God, and destined for eternity with Christ and our loved ones in Him.

On Calvary’s hill that fateful day were three crosses: that of Jesus between those of two thieves (Matthew.27:38; Luke 23:33). These three represent the entire relationship of God with man: Jesus Christ the Savior; those who accept Him and His completed work on the cross; and those who reject Him (Luke 23:39-43).

The thief who recognized Christ as Lord was promised that he would be in Paradise with Jesus that very day, but the unrepentant thief who angrily denied His power is still suffering in hell. Sadly, many indifferent passersby in the crowd were jaded by the crucifixions that were commonplace in that time, and ignored the suffering of our Lord on the cross (Matthew 27:40). Unless they came to believe in Him later, like the centurion and others who experienced the earthquake after His death and then realized that He was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54), they too would be condemned.

On the cross, Christ tasted death for us (Hebrews 2:9) so that we would not need to face that consequence of our sin (Romans 6:23). He paid in full the debt He did not owe and that we could not pay, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-21; Hebrews 2:17).

The cross bridged the great gulf between our sin and God’s perfection, purity and holiness. From before the foundation of the world, Triune God knew that Adam would disobey, bringing the curse of sin, separation from God, and eternal death upon all mankind (Genesis 3). But God had an amazing plan of salvation (Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8).

The Son would become flesh (John 1:2), suffer and die on the cross to pay the sin debt, and rise again to prove His divinity and give eternal life to all who trust Him. He laid down His life willingly so that He could take it up again (John 10:15,17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16), giving us victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) over Satan, sin and death!

Because of the cross, Christ’s followers have the blessed hope of eternal life and of His glorious reappearing (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3). One day we will have glorified bodies like His (1 Corinthians 15:49-54) that will never die, sin, or experience the corruption of pain, sickness or aging!

If you haven’t already, I implore you to consider the puzzling problem of Christ’s cross, to resolve once and for all in your mind and heart what He did for you there, and to make it the crux of your daily life, your relationship to God, and your eternal destiny!   May we all take up His cross and follow Him!  

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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