Monday, September 6, 2021

Numbers 25:1-9 "GOD AND EPIDEMICS "

 


Plagues and epidemics have always been a part of human history. A comprehensive list can be obtained from Wikipedia.[1]

A terrible plague struck the Greek city of Athens in 429-426 BC.[2], claiming up to 100,000 lives.[3]  The plague spread rapidly and killed fast – its symptoms beginning with fever and spreading through the body.

Towards the end of World War I, in January 1918, a new strain of flu began making its way across the globe. The origin of the virus remains unknown. As the virus spread, the heavily censored press suppressed the news of the outbreak in fear that it would damage morale. In Spain, the uncensored press was free to publish news of a deadly disease, which led to the virus being given its name: Spanish Flu. This deadly flu spread at a time   when the world was becoming increasingly interconnected, Troops coming to and from the front lines easily spread the disease to civilians. The Spanish Flu thrived in urban population centers and soon spread to the countryside, leaving few places in the world untouched. Businesses and schools closed. Quarantines were enforced. People wore face masks.  After three waves over the course of 18 months, an estimated third of the world’s population was affected, with as many as 50 million  people dead.

THE BIBLE AND EPIDEMICS 

Let’s turn to Numbers Chapter 25.  I am going to use this text illustratively as a launching pad for our deliberation on our subject, “God and Epidemics”. This text needs to be seen in context  and ultimately we need the full   weight and support of the whole Bible to make the point that Numbers 25 makes: 

(i) God hands people groups and nations over to plagues and disasters to punish them for disobedience. The fact that Israel had a covenant relationship with God does not exempt her. 

(ii) In this God frequently extends mercy when atonement is made or when people are repentant of their sin (25:8,11).  Illustratively then, here in Numbers 25 we find an account of a plague in which 24 000 people of Israel died (25:9). The plague was stopped by the action of Phineas who acted in righteousness.  The story needs some re-telling.

When Israel left Egypt, they spent 40 years wandering in a desert.  That wilderness wandering itself was a judgement from God. Again,  a reminder of this portion of history is needed.  Upon their arrival at Kadesh Barnea, which bordered the Promised Land of Canaan,  Israel  under Moses sent out twelve spies to survey the land and its people (Num. 13:18-25). When they returned after forty days ten of the spies brought a negative report: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…All the people we saw were of great size…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” (Num. 13:31-33). Only Joshua and Caleb gave positive reports (Num. 14:6-7). 

Sadly Israel believed the majority report and so they “raised their voices and wept aloud,” grumbling against Moses and Aaron, saying, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword” (Num. 14:1-2).  God, in turn said to Moses, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them” (Num.14:11).  Moses interceded for his people and turned away the wrath of God (Num. 14:13-20). Although God did forgive them, He decreed that “not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Num. 14:23).  

And so they would wander in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land (Num.14:34). Furthermore, God would give them what they asked for: “I will do the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more” (Num. 14:28-29). Additionally, the ten men who had given the bad report were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord (Num.14:37). Only Joshua and Caleb survived, the two faithful spies who believed God’s promise to give the land over to them.

With this in mind we find Israel (in their 40 year wanderings) steadily on the move towards the land promised to them on oath. Because God is with Israel, no one can essentially stand before them. Powerful and significant kings are defeated by them. 

The Canaanite king Arad  who lived in the Negeb was defeated (Num.21: 1-3). Then follows the story of the rebellion, when Israel became impatient, grumbling against God and Moses (Num. 21:4-9). God judges them by sending a plague of venomous snakes among them so that many die. Upon confession of their sin, Moses intercedes and God forgives. 

Thereafter,  Sihon, king of the Amorites (Num.21:21-30) and Og, king of Bashan (Num. 21:31-35), on the threshold to the promised land are conquered. 

When Balak, king of Moab sees this, he knows that they are next in line. He hires Balaam a powerful diviner to send curses upon Israel, only to find that he can do nothing against Israel. Then follows Chapter 25 in which we find Israel in the territory of Moab. And we read that,  “Israel began to whore with the daughters of  Moab… bowed down to their gods… so Israel  yoked himself to the Baal of  Peor and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel”  (25:1-3).  It all culminates in the plague in which 24 000 were killed. This is illustrative of many such accounts in the OT, where we read  of  plagues  falling on  nations in response to God’s  judgement.   Every judgement is from God.

The Law

Deuteronomy 32:23-24 (Context –the Song of Moses- a warning) 23 “And I will heap disasters upon them;  I will spend my arrows on them; 24 they shall be wasted with hunger,  and devoured by plague  and poisonous pestilence; I will send the teeth of beasts against them,  with the venom of things that crawl in the dust.”

The  Historical Narratives

1 Chronicles 21:7-12 (David’s census which displeased the Lord) 7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the Lord spoke to Gad, David's seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will: 12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”

The Major Prophets

Isaiah 45:7 “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Jeremiah 14: 11-12 11 The Lord said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

Ezekiel 7:14-15 (concerning the  Day of the Wrath of the Lord)  14 “They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready, but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude. 15 The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour (see also Ezekiel 5:16-17- God’s wrath of Jerusalem).

The Minor Prophets

Amos 4:10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;  I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses,  and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.”

Habakkuk 3:5  Before him went pestilence,  and plague followed at his heels.”


THE NEW TESTAMENT

Jesus, in His sermon on the Mt. of Olives foretells, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences…”(Lk.21:11;Matt.24:7).In Revelation 15 John mentions 7 plagues which in Ch. 16  become 7 bowls of God’s wrath[4].  Plagues are destined for Babylon, which in the book of Revelation symbolically represents all evil (Rev. 18:8).

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that, “the wrath of God is being revealed … against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (Rom.1:18). The wrath of God takes on many forms, including plagues.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses Old Testament patterns of judgment as “types,” “examples to us”- to heed (1 Cor. 10:1–12) When rebuking the Corinthians for abusing the Lord’s Supper, Paul warns, “that is why many of you are weak and ill, and  some have died.” (1 Cor. 11:30).  There he labels sickness and death as a “judgment” (v. 29).

SO WHAT ARE WE HEARING?

Are biblical pandemics sent from God?  Yes!   

What is the reason for these chastisements? To rebuke people (especially God’s people) when they sin and go against created order) and to restrain sin.

What is God’s motive for these chastisements?  God’s motive is redemptive. He wants to bring His people back to righteousness.  He has no pleasure in punishing His people. Ezekiel 33:11 “11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”   The same applies to the church. Hebrews 12:5-6[5], makes the same point, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines those who he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.... for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb. 12:5, 11).   This discipline does not exempt Christians. Events like the coronavirus make it clear that one’s piety does not prevent Christians from disaster.

So then, is the Spanish flu, the  Covid pandemic, AIDS, Ebola,  a  judgment  of  God against our society? Many people have great difficulty with reconciling this with what they believe about God. How can a good God allow evil stuff? And a related question- if this is not of God, then why does He allow it?  Both these questions assume that God is like us (the domestication of God). They both ignore that God is uniquely His own. He is holy. He is good. He is above evil (and infinitely beyond the devil). He is sovereign. He will not be usurped in any way. He will conquer evil.  He has the ability and authority to use the evil that Satan, demons and men design, and to turn that upon themselves. Just think how God turned the cross upon Satan!  He turns that which sin has brought into this world to chastise this world. In Romans 1:18ff Paul describes this as the process of handing people over to their own evil designs and life choices, and to chastise them, so that they can perhaps come to their senses. In the midst of all this He has the ability to deliver His people (who live in this sinful world) even through martyrdom and death by taking them to heaven. God works this evil system to His glory!

WHAT THEN MUST WE DO? 

When confronted with calamities the Bible calls us to look to God for both, comfort and self- examination. 

Our response should not be to point fingers at others, and to figure  out this  evil world system and its conspiracies, but to lament and repent, with prayers like Daniel 9:3–19,  in which  we own and confess “our sins” and plead with  for God to forgive us (2 Chron. 6:36–39, 7:12–14). 

And every outbreak of pestilence, should force the question upon us, “Am I ready for Christ’s return? Will I be put to shame at His appearing?’’ The coronavirus should impress upon us afresh that this world is passing away, that history is not going round in circles. It is heading towards a great and terrible Day of Judgment.

 It should drive us to pray and witness to this  world  with ever greater urgency.

AFFIRMATIONS

1.       We affirm that God is in control in the midst of calamity. (Psalm 46)

2.  Whilst being responsible and mindful of others, we must beware of engaging in unreasoning, paralyzing, despair-provoking fear that robs us of all hope, peace, and confidence in God.

3.    COVID-19 does not release us from our obligations as Jesus’ followers. Our discipleship is not contingent upon circumstances.

4.      The Christian life is one of sacrifice. Christ commands his followers to take up their crosses daily. We must be the ones who set the example for others. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) admired the Puritan ministers who stayed behind to care for the sick and dying during the Great Plague of London in 1665. In 1854, a major cholera outbreak occurred near the church.  How did his church respond? 1. They adjusted meetings, but continued meeting. 2. They cared for the sick. 3. They were open to new evangelistic opportunities. 4. Spurgeon entrusted his life to God.[6]

5.      We are promised eternal life. We are NOT promised an earthly life free of sickness, discomfort, or pain. We are not promised long life on this earth. In fact, sometimes to be obedient to Christ means risking our very lives.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics

[2] https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1535/thucydides-on-the-plague-of-athens-text--commentar/

[3] the historian Thucydides (l. 460/455-399/398 BC), an Athenian who had the disease and survived

[4] Revelation 16: 2  painful sores ; 16:3 the sea  becomes like the blood of a corpse and every living thing died in the sea;  167:4  rivers and springs turn to blood; 16:8 fierce heat of the sun scorches people; 16:10; darkness ; pain , sores 16:12  Euphrates  river dries up

[5] quoting  Proverbs 3:11,12

[6] Geoff Chang, "Five Lessons from Spurgeon’s Ministry in a Cholera Outbreak," The Gospel Coalition

Monday, August 16, 2021

John 20:1-18 "THE KING IS RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD"

 

In the 20th chapter of John’s gospel we find the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.   When Jesus said from the cross, “It is finished”, He did not mean that everything was done then. No, no! On the cross His suffering, His substitutionary atonement for His sheep was finished, but His work was not yet finished. The Christian faith is hinged on two facts: 

(i) that Christ died for our sins, and 

(ii) that He rose again for our justification (Romans 4:25). 

Jesus could not remain in the grave.  Jesus needed to rise from the dead.  The resurrection would finish His work. It would finally vindicate Jesus who said that He was going to rise again after he had been killed.

When the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians[1], that confused church, which had forgotten the basics of the gospel, he reminds them,   3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared….”.  

This is what is happening here, and so in chapter 20, we move from tears to joy.

 Division of  Chapter 20

1.    The fact of the Resurrection [20:1-18]

a.     The tomb is empty- witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Peter, John (20:1-9)

b.     Jesus  appears to Mary Magdalene (20: 10-18)

2.     Further Proof of the Resurrection  [20:19-29]

a.     Jesus appears to 10 disciples (20:19-23)

b.      Jesus  appears to Thomas  (20:24-29)

3.     The Purpose of John’s Gospel  [20:30,31]

Today we shall deal with the first 18 verses. We will do well to dwell on these significant moments, as Jesus appears to many as a proof of His resurrection.

1.            THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION [20:1-18]

a.        The tomb is empty, as witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Peter and John (20:1-9)

"Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb."

All four gospels make mention of the first day of the week – being what we now call Sunday. The resurrection was the beginning of something new, and the Christian church would adopt this day as their day of worship.  Remember, that Christ is always greater than the law. He completes the law, because He is the end of the law[2].  He is the Gospel. He is the New Testament. In Him we are complete. And each Sunday that we meet to worship we remind ourselves of His completed work. We rest our anxious souls in Him. We have our souls restored by our Good Shepherd. We are reminded that this day is the promise of our eternal and heavenly rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).  

And then, please note that John mentions the name of Mary of Magdala alone, whilst the synoptic gospels mention a plurality of women. They had come to apply the burial spices to Jesus’ body. Remember that Jesus was put into this tomb in haste because the Sabbath was beginning.  How do we account for the discrepancies between the synoptic gospels and John’s gospel? Remember that these are eye witness accounts. As such they are selective. It is often actually quite simple to harmonize these accounts. In re-reading the text we note that Mary Magdalene went ahead to the tomb when it was still dark, while the others probably joined her when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2). Whatever the case may be, it is very clear that Mary Magdalene was very attached to the Lord Jesus. She had been forgiven much, therefore she loved much (Lk 7:47)[3].

Mary Magdalene saw that the stone of the tomb had been rolled away  and that the body was gone. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

Peter and John ran to the tomb. John, being the younger, outran Peter, but Peter was the first to see inside the tomb.  It is clear. Jesus’ body is not there. The linen was there. A specific point is made that the face cloth on Jesus head was folded up in a place by itself. They are clearly confused. They still don’t get that what Jesus said over and over again was true. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Remember how often He had told them, that He was going to be betrayed, crucified, buried and that He would be raised on the third day.  But they did not get it! This is one of these tough truths about us.  Selective hearing! We hear what we want to hear. We are inclined to pick and choose what suits us from the Bible.  The disciples, being true Jews, wanted a Messiah, a Deliverer, a king and a kingdom in the conventional sense (see Acts 1:6). Their understanding and desires could not accommodate a dead king.  And so they heard Him speak about the resurrection, but they did not really hear Him. They did not know what to do with the resurrection. And that is true for us. But the more we let the Bible speak to us, the more we understand God’s character and His plan. It is hard to get to terms with God’s truth, because it does not fit in with our perceptions.  It takes time and careful reading and meditation upon the Scriptures to see these things. In John 12:16 (cf. Zechariah 9:9), in the context of the triumphal entry, we have an example of something that the disciples did not understand then.   

And thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26,  Jesus  said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  Thank God for the help that we receive from the Holy Spirit. If He does not open our eyes, we will not see the truth as it is in Jesus.

The empty grave and the grave clothes had an effect upon Peter and John: “He saw and believed.” It wasn’t entirely clear yet, but something began to dawn, and it was going to become clearer later…

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

b.        Jesus  appears to Mary Magdalene (20: 10-18)

Peter and John and the other women and disciples left the grave. This was all very perplexing. Matthew records that the tomb was guarded precisely so that the body would not be removed (Matt. 27:62-66). However, on Sunday God sent an earthquake and an angel, and we read that the guards became like dead men. And Jesus was raised from the dead. But poor Mary had no knowledge of this, for she had arrived after the fact, and she remained there weeping alone. As she wept, she looked once more into the tomb.  Now she saw two angels, in white, in the tomb.  They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping’? She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him’.  Then she looked around and saw Jesus standing there, but clearly she did not recognise that it was Jesus. Clearly, He appeared in a form that she did not recognize.  Like the angels, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking’?” She thought that he was perhaps 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’. She did not recognise Him. The same happens to the 2 disciples on the Emmaus road in Luke 24.  The nature of the resurrection body of Jesus is a mystery to us. He is capable of adapting, just as angels are capable of appearing as men.

But when Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”, she recognises him instantly. She responds and calls Him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’, which means teacher.  And then Jesus said something which has perplexed many interpreters, ‘Stop clinging 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’.

Why does Jesus forbid Mary to cling to Him? It is clear that she is absolutely delighted.  He clearly is not forbidding touch as such. In 20:27 Jesus permits Thomas to touch him.   What is the difference here? He is saying is that He is no longer in that state in which He was before.  He is in His resurrected state and soon He must ascend to the Father. And as such, the nature of their friendship can no longer the same.  She cannot cling to Him. He is now resuming the glory He had before (John 17:5). He is ascending to His Father. He will always be with them, but no longer in the same localized presence.  This is what makes us look forward to heaven, when we shall see our beloved Saviour face to face, when we shall be with Him forever.  Brothers and sisters, one day we shall be changed. We shall receive our resurrection bodies and we shall dwell with the Lord forevermore.  (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

With this Mary is called by Jesus to announce the good news of the resurrection to the disciples. We shall consider this, God willing, next week as further proofs of the reality of the resurrection.

Today we have seen that the tomb is empty as witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Peter, John (20:1-9). 

We have witnessed a dialogue between a very special disciple, Mary Magdalene and the resurrected Jesus (20: 10-18). 

May the resurrection of Jesus fill you with hope and open your heart and longings  to the greater things that God has in store for you. Amen.



[1] 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

[2] Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4

[3] Mark 16:9  and Luke 8:2  record that Jesus had cast 7 demons out of her

Sunday, August 8, 2021

John 19: 28-42 "THE KING’S DEATH AND BURIAL"

 



Last week (01/08/2021) we considered the crucifixion and today we remember the death and burial of our Lord Jesus in the context of this Communion Service. It is appropriate that in God’s providence we should have this text, as we remember the broken body and shed blood of our beloved King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

OUTLINE

(i)                 19: 28-30 The King’s work is now finished in His death

(ii)               19: 31-37 The King’s death fulfills Scripture

(iii)              19: 38-42   The King receives a royal burial


(i)        19: 28-30 The King’s Work is now Finished in His Death

…”After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished (tetelestai) ,…” Again, John sees the King in complete command. Jesus knew what He was doing and where He was going. He had been saying this all along the way.  He knew that the time had come to do that for which He was born.  Death was now before Him. He, the sinless Lamb of God was now going to lay down His life  in substitution for  the life of sinners in this world.

John records two of Jesus’ last words, “I thirst”- and John adds:to fulfil the Scriptures – a reference to  Psalm 69:21. This Psalm has been quoted twice before in John’s Gospel (2:17; 15:25). Like Psalm 22:18 (cf. Jn.19:24), which was quoted earlier, this Psalm has Messianic overtones. Always remember that Jesus is David’s greater son. Remember that David’s great earthly kingdom always points forward to a far greater and eternal kingdom.  John wants us to know that every part of Jesus’ suffering was connected to the OT scriptures and therefore everything that was happening here was not a random occurrence. Everything happened as it was written. Everything happened according to the Father’s will and because of the Son’s obedience to it. 

At this point Jesus is severely dehydrated. He is offered cheap wine vinegar (Gr. oxos). It won’t do much for Him. He is suffering immensely. He is dying painfully. The next word from the cross is, “It is finished.” (Gr. tetelestai).  This is a mighty word, and by it we now know that the   work that His Father gave Him to do (cf. 17:4) is now completed. What exactly is the nature  of the work that He has finished? Jesus has offered Himself as the substitute of His sinful people, both in dealing with  the problem of our sin by removing it  completely, and by dealing with the problem of the holy God who is offended by  all sin. 

Kristyn Getty in her  hymn, “ The Power of the Cross” deals with the expiatory nature  (dealing with  the problem of our sin) of Christ's substitutionary atonement:

“This, the power of the cross, Christ became sin for us, took the blame, bore the wrath, we stand forgiven at the cross.

And Stuart Townend’s hymn,  “In Christ alone”, deals with the propitiatory nature  (dealing with the appeasing of God's wrath) of Christ's substitutionary atonement: 

“Till on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied- for every sin on Him was laid ; Here in the death of Christ I live. “

In His death Christ’s work finished. The price is paid. His people are redeemed and God’s holy wrath is satisfied.  

Therefore He bowed his head  gave up His spirit (19:30).  No one took His life from Him.  He had the authority to lay it down (10:17,18).



(ii)       19: 31-37 The Manner of the King’s Death fulfills Scripture

As far as His death goes, it appears that Jesus has died fairly quickly. Be assured that not just the physical sufferings, but the bearing of our sins on the cross contributed to  His death!

And now follows a fascinating insight. Having been crucified, and having died on Friday, the Jews asked that His (and the other) bodies should not be left on the cross. The normal Roman practise was to leave the crucified on the cross until they died. If there were reasons to hasten their death, they would smash the legs with an iron mallet. This prevented the victim from pushing with his legs to keep his chest cavity open- and thus asphyxia followed.[1]

The crucified actually could take a long time to die. But the law of Moses insisted that a Jew should not hang there overnight (Deut. 21:22). That is why the legs would be broken, to hasten the death. But what is even more significant was that the next day was the Sabbath – and a very important Sabbath at that – it was the Passover weekend! Do you see the plan of God?  And we read that according to the Scriptures, His   bones were not broken. That was the rule concerning the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:46). It had to be eaten whole – no bones broken.

Now remember that Jesus is God’s Passover Lamb![2]  The timing is awe inspiring. And the symbolism is absolutely wonderful. The lamb was killed on the eve of Israel’s departure from Egypt, the land of slavery. The blood of the Lamb was applied to the door lintels of every Hebrew home. That night the angel of death would pass over Egypt and take the life of every firstborn son, except those homes that were indicated by the blood of the lamb. The angel would pass over these homes. Can you see this? The blood of Jesus, our Passover lamb averts the righteous wrath of God the Father towards all those who by faith embrace His person and work for them. Jesus’ bones providentially did not need to be broken, because He was dead. 

And, remember (!) that in the symbolic participation of the Lord’s supper, the Passover Lamb, we must feed on the whole Lord Jesus. We must embrace His whole person and work.

A spear thrust to into Jesus’ side confirm his death: water and blood flows.  

33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  

Much ink has been spilled over the water and the blood. Jesus was truly dead. He did not swoon and revive later, His body having been stolen by the disciples, as some have claimed. John’s greater concern was that the Word of God was fulfilled,  and  that he was a witness to the truth of God’s Word  

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.” (Exodus 12:46) 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (Zechariah 12:10)

(iii)       19: 38-42 The King receives a Royal Burial

Two men ask Pontius Pilate’s permission to bury the body of Jesus:  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (whom we have met in John 3).  John draws our attention to the amount of spices that Nicodemus brings for the burial - 75 pounds! Fit for a King, and He was laid in a new, rock hewn tomb. 

This was far more than was required for any ordinary burial – particularly the burial of a man who was sentenced to die on a Roman cross as the worst of criminals. 

But we know that there’s a King here that needs to be buried. And we know that this elaborate funeral – the spices, the very expensive grave site will be very temporary, because the resurrection is coming. 

The King is greater than death.

Conclusion and  Application

As we remember our King in His work on the cross  in this communion service – the Lord’s supper  (which was instituted  on the  eve of  feast of  the Passover season – cf. Jn. 13:1)-  we remember that  this work has  huge implications for  us who believe.

1.  We may be assured that Jesus is who he says He is.  John has been at pains to point this out, by constantly linking everything to the OT scriptures….” It is written…” and therefore He is trustworthy. The Gospel is trustworthy. And therefore, all that John has said to us by way of a faithful witness  is significant. The fact that He was born  is significant;  The fact that he lays down His life for this world and  that He  dies  for the sin of the world is significant; the fact that He is raised  from death is significant. The fact that he ascends to heaven - where He prepares a place for us – (John 14:1-3) is significant.

2.    But the most fundamental and significant truth revealed in Christ's death for us is the substitutionary atonement. In His death Christ’s righteous life is substituted for my unrighteous one. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, that is what He meant.  He has finished the work the Father has given Him to do (17:4). He has laid down His life for the sheep (10:15). 

3. Sinners are effectively redeemed: No one will pluck them out of His hand (John10: 28-30).“No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand: Till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I stand.” (Stuart Townend: In Christ alone)

 



[1]   D. Carson,  The Gospel according to John, p.622

[2] John the Baptist saw this clearly: John 1:29,36 “Look the Lamb of God!”

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