STILLING THE STORM

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Mark 4: 35-41: “That day when evening came He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side.’” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him. “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the waves ‘quiet! Be still!’ then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? They were terrified and asked each other, who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him?’

“That day when evening came” refers to the evening of the day begun in chapter 3. It was a long and busy day. Jesus would have been very tired. He wanted to go to the other side of Lake Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee) (vs. 35). After sending away the crowd the disciples took Jesus in a fishing boat. Mark mentions: “other boats followed them” (vs.36). Jesus could not avoid the crowds; they followed Him everywhere but turned back probably because of the approaching storm. Then we are told “A furious squall came up” as suddenly an unexpectedly a violent wind swept down.

This area was 680 feet below sea level and the hot air pulled the storm system down from the area of Mount Herman making it seem like a violent earthquake that made the waters roll and churn as in a furious hurricane. A fisherman’s worst fears became a reality. They were in the middle of the lake and violent waves tossed the boat. They frantically tried to row and bail water until bailing became impossible. The waves filled the boat faster than they could bail the water out.

But an exhausted Jesus slept through it all! He had curled up with the cushion provided for the steersman, as a pillow. He was so tired and in need of sleep that He slept through the violent storm. They woke Jesus up and He rebuked the wind and there was silence. Psa. 89: 9 referring to Yahweh says, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” As the hostile forces against mankind, they are rebuked by the greater authority of the Son of Man, the Last Adam.

After His rebuke of the great storm there was a great calm. The disorders of mankind of sickness and death and the disharmony of nature are overcome by Christ and one day all disorders and disharmony will be restored by Him who “appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).

He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me? They were terrified and asked each other, ‘who is this?’ even the wind and waves obey Him!” (vss.40-41). They were terrified by the wind and the sea, but they were even more awed by the One who rebuked the wind and the sea-and they obeyed!

RAISING THE DEAD

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The most revealing and informative raising from the dead was the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus and His disciples received word that Lazarus was sick and we are told that Jesus deliberately delayed two days before going and then said to them, “Let us go back to Judea again.” His disciples reminded Him that recently in Judea they sought to stone Him. Jesus knew that Lazarus was really dead and said that He was going there to “awaken” him. They misunderstood and said that since he was sick it would do him good to sleep.

Then Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was already dead and that He was glad for them that He was not there to prevent his death so that their faith in Him would be confirmed. Then Thomas, very pessimistic about returning to Judea, but loving Jesus, said: “Let us also go that we might die with him” (vs.16). When Jesus arrived there Lazarus had already been dead for four days (vs. 17). Martha met Him and Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered that she knew he would rise again at the resurrection at the last day.

Jesus told her that they did not have to wait until then because standing before her was the very One who would raise the dead on the last day. “I am the resurrection and the life.” In the Greek He literally said, “I and I alone, am the resurrection and the life” (John 11: 25). He went on the say, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this”(vss. 25-26).

Here in verse 25, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” refers to the resurrection of the body. In verse 26, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” refers to spiritual life.

“Yes Lord” she told Him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world”(vs. 27). Then Martha went and called for Mary, and then to verse 32: “When Mary reached the place what Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved and troubled. ‘Where have you laid Him? He asked. They said to Him, Lord, come and see”(verses 32-34). Then Jesus wept” (vs.35).

In verse 38 we read: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone’ He said.

Then Martha said: “By this time there is a bad odor, for He has been there four days. “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone.”

The Son of Man, the Last Adam, stands in front of the grave of Lazarus and is face to face with the rotting results of the fall. “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me’.

When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘ Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave cloths and let him go” (vss.39-44). This “loud voice” of the Lord is the same as the “loud command” in I Thess. 4: 16: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” Here Jesus gave a sample of that coming great day!

Forgave Sin

FORGAVE SIN

MARK 2:1-12

“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the Word to them. Some men came bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus, and after digging through it, lowered the mat, the paralyzed man was laying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘son, your sins are forgiven’. Some of the teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’ Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘we have never seen anything like this.”

Jesus fame for healing was well known throughout that area. As He was proclaiming the Kingdom He often showed some of the blessing of that coming time. The news of His return produced large crowds who pressed to see Him to the point that the house was filled and a crowd waited outside blocking the door so that no one could enter. A paralytic man lying on a mat was being carried by four of his friends. When they could not get near Him through the door they brought him to the roof of the house, which was flat, and could be reached by stairs outside the house. The roofs were made of twigs mixed with sand and mud. When they made a large enough hole, they lowered the men down with ropes.

The Scribes were probably there to spy on Jesus and report back to the Sanhedrin. When Jesus saw the faith of the five men He said that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. The teachers of the Law who were sitting there said that only God can forgive sin. Knowing their thoughts Jesus asks which is easier, to say to the man that his sins are forgiven or to tell the man to walk? Jesus was saying that no one could actually see the man’s sins being forgiven, but could see the man take up his bed and walk. Since both would take Divine power, He could show that He could forgive sin by making him walk. An imposter could say his sins were forgiven and no one could prove him wrong, but could not make the man walk.

 

FORGAVE SIN

LUKE 7:36-50

“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping; she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

“When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

‘Tell me, teacher’ he said.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender; one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debt of both. Now which one of them will love him more?”

“Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house, you did not give me any water for my feet. But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.’

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven!’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins. Jesus said to the woman, ‘your faith has saved you, go in peace.’”

Here one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his house for a meal, and Jesus accepted the invitation. He was probably invited out of curiosity and was not extended the common courtesies of the culture. Houses were often built around a courtyard in that climate. Formal meals were served in the open courtyard with guests reclining on couches around a low table, U-shaped. They lay on their left side, heads propped up with their left hand and they used their right hand to eat.

Their feet were bare, with knees bent with feet outward, so that servants could easily wash their feet, which was furthest from the table. Usually there were uninvited guests standing about observing. With a guest of honor it was open to the public and cushions were provided around the border of the courtyard for visitors. From among these visitors came a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on a thin rope around her neck as jewelry.

In verse 38, we see that she could easily approach Jesus, intending to anoint Him with the perfume. But as she saw His dusty, unwashed feet, as the common courtesy had not been given to Him, she could not control her emotions and her tears fell on His feet. Unconcerned about public opinion, she wiped them with her hair. It was a shame for a Jewish woman to let her hair down in public. She literally kept continuously wiping His feet with her hair, “her adornment.”

Then, in her deep devotion, she kept kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume. Normally the perfume would have been poured on the head, but she poured it on His feet as a sign of humility and devotion. To attend to the feet was a lowly task only assigned to the lowest slaves and to use such costly perfume in such a way was considered extremely improper.

At some point this woman trusted in Jesus and turned from her sinful ways and she was expressing her love and gratitude. When the host saw what was happening and who the woman was he said to himself, “if this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” In verse 39 her act of devotion was interrupted and criticized by the host’s thoughts which were known to Jesus.

The Pharisee would not even mention Jesus by name, a sign of contempt. Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. Jesus told the Pharisee that there were two men who owed money to a certain moneychanger. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. A Denarii was about a day’s wages. Neither of them could pay him back so both debts were cancelled. Then Jesus asked who of the two would be the most grateful? Simon answered the one owed the most. Then Jesus applied the teaching. The Pharisee had no concept of his own sin and pride and assumed that Jesus was no prophet because He tolerated this show of emotion from such a woman. Jesus showed that He did know what kind of woman she was but also what kind of person he was. He did not extend the ordinary courtesy of offering water to wash the dust and dirt off a guest’s feet after walking the dusty roads in sandals.

It was customary to kiss a guest on both cheeks. It was also a common courtesy to provide some olive oil to sooth and moisturize the head and face after walking in the hot sun in that dry climate. These were humiliating words for Simon to hear in front of his guests, as these courtesies were strictly held in the Middle Eastern societies. Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “When I entered your home you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet repeatedly. You neglected the courtesy of oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. I tell you, her sins have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. Then He said to the woman, ‘your sins have been forgiven, your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

Lack of faith in Him left the Pharisee in his sins, but the harlot entered the kingdom, as He had said to the Pharisees in Matt. 21: 31: “the Publicans and harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.”

Jesus Raising the Dead

Jesus and His disciples received word that Lazarus was sick and we are told that Jesus deliberately delayed two days before going and then said to them, “Let us go back to Judea again.” His disciples reminded Him that recently in Judea they sought to stone Him. Jesus knew that Lazarus was really dead and said that He was going there to “awaken” him. They misunderstood and said that since he was sick it would do him good to sleep.

Then Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was already dead and that He was glad for them that He was not there to prevent his death so that their faith in Him would be confirmed. Then Thomas, very pessimistic about returning to Judea, but loving Jesus, said: “Let us also go that we might die with him” (vs.16). When Jesus arrived there Lazarus had already been dead for four days (vs. 17). Martha met Him and Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered that she knew he would rise again at the resurrection at the last day.

Jesus told her that they did not have to wait until then because standing before her was the very One who would raise the dead on the last day. “I am the resurrection and the life.” In the Greek He literally said, “I and I alone, am the resurrection and the life” (John 11: 25). He went on the say, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this”(vss. 25-26).

Here in verse 25, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” refers to the resurrection of the body. In verse 26, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” refers to spiritual life.

“Yes Lord” she told Him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world”(vs. 27). Then Martha went and called for Mary, and then to verse 32: “When Mary reached the place what Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved and troubled. ‘Where have you laid Him? He asked. They said to Him, Lord, come and see”(verses 32-34). Then Jesus wept” (vs.35).

In verse 38 we read: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone’ He said.

Then Martha said: “By this time there is a bad odor, for He has been there four days. “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone.”

The Son of Man, the Last Adam, stands in front of the grave of Lazarus and is face to face with the rotting results of the fall. “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me’.

When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘ Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave cloths and let him go” (vss.39-44). This “loud voice” of the Lord is the same as the “loud command” in I Thess. 4: 16: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” Here Jesus gave a sample of that coming great day!

GOD’S TRIUNE NATURE

The Bible emphasizes that there is One God.

“The Lord our God, the Lord is One “(Deut. 6:4).

“The Lord Himself is God; besides Him there is no other” (Deut. 4:3).

“I am the first, and I am the last, apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5).

“However it is also taught that this One God consists of a plurality of Persons. God is a Plurality of One. This sounds strange but it is what the Bible repeatedly teaches.      This is taught in the very Scriptures that emphasize that there is One God. For instance, Deut. 6:4 uses two Hebrew words to emphasize this: “The Lord (Jehovah—singular), our God, (Elohim—plural), is one Lord (Jehovah—singular).

Deut. 4:35 reads: “The Lord (Jehovah—singular), Himself is God (Elohim—plural); there is none other besides Him”.

Isa. 45:5 reads: “I am the Lord (Jehovah—singular), there is no other God (Elohim—plural) besides me”.

If the Bible wanted to teach a single entity within the Godhead the Word “Eloah” would have been used instead of the plural “Elohim”.

Note in Gen. 1:26: “God said; let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness”. In the next verse we read: “So God created man in HIS OWN image. The US and OUR in verse 26 become HIS in verse 27. This singular God consists of a plurality of Persons. This singular God in a plurality of Persons in the Godhead also runs all through the New Testament. Note in John 1:1 we have: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus Christ), and the Word was WITH God (a plurality), and the Word WAS God (singular).

This plurality is consistently revealed as 3 Persons. Gen 1:1 says: “In the beginning God (Elohim—plural) created the heavens and the earth”. Here the plural is used, a plurality of Persons. This is why we are told that the Father created all things: “The Father from whom all things came” (I Cir. 8:6).

The Son created all things: “All things were made trough Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

And the Holy Spirit is the Creator: “The Spirit of God has made me” (Job 33:4).

Likewise Jesus resurrection is attributed to the Father: “This Jesus God has raised up” (Acts 2:32).

To the Son: “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again” (John 10:17).

And to the Holy Spirit: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom.8: 11).

In John 1:18 we read “No one has ever seen God. But God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side has made Him known”. Here we see that no one has ever seen God in His divine essence, but the Second Person of the trinity has made Him known. He is God’s revealer. Jesus Christ in His earthly life unveiled the Father and made Him known to humanity. This is why He could say in John 14:9: “He that has seen Me has seen the Father”.

In I John 5:20 Jesus is called “The true God and eternal life. In Isa. 9:6 Jesus is called “The Mighty God. And in Acts 5:3 Ananias is said to have lied to the Holy Spirit, in the next verse this is explained as “lying to God.

In I Cor. 3:16 believers are called the “temple of God”. Why? because the Holy Spirit dwells in them.

These three Persons are coeternal and coequal. They are distinct individuals. Each One partakes of the full Divine essence. The One God is also three Persons, and they are always together and always cooperating. They are One in the fullness of deity in which each one lives in and through the others in an inner union eternally rooted in infinite love. At the center of reality is a relationship within the nature of God, relating eternally, perfectly and beautifully.

The inner life of the Triune God is characterized by a self-giving love which revolves around the others. Scripture declares that “God is love” (I John 4:8). This means that it is His very nature to Love. The Persons of the Trinity continuously pour out love to each other and receive love in return.

Baptism is the testimony of our faith and worship and total consecration to the One in whose name we are baptized.

The universe was created by a fellowship of persons who have loved each other from eternity. We were created for a mutually self-giving, other-centered love; Self-centeredness came from the fall and destroys our purpose.

The Scriptures do not explain the Trinity Just as it does not explain God. The existence of God is taken for granted as is His Triune nature. It is simply ingrained in Scripture.

Excerpt from a coming book.

 

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is referred to directly more than a hundred times in the New Testament. Paul refers to it in I Cor.15:1-8 as one of the essential and foundational truths of the gospel: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By which gospel you are saved. If you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.

It is very significant that Paul does not merely refer to witnesses who have already died, but to many who were still alive and could be questioned.

When the apostles chose a replacement for Judas his replacement had to be, “A witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1: 21-22).

The accounts of the resurrection show clear evidence for eyewitness accounts. There are too many agreements for them not to be referring to the same event; while at the same time apparent contradictions give clear evidence that these accounts could not be agreed upon fabrications.

I say “apparent” contradictions because upon closer investigation these “contradictions vanish. In a court of law the strongest evidence is from witnesses who agree on the main points while having apparent contradictions that upon further probing disappear. The writers would have been aware of these apparent discrepancies but did not change them.

The first point of the gospel message is that Christ died for our sins. One thing we know for certain is that the Roman military knew how to kill by execution. If there was any doubt about crucifixion doing its job of bringing about the death sentence a lance was thrust under the ribs into the victims heart. Crucifixion was a cruel and horrible form of execution. Square spikes were driven into the wrists and heel bones of the feet. Then it became a sadistic game of survival.

If the nails were only through the wrists the body would sag and cut off breathing and quickly cause death by asphyxiation. In order to prolong the agony, the feet were nailed through the second metatarsal, giving a cruel “support” for the body enabling the victim to breath with great struggle, by pulling the body up by the nailed hands and pushing up by the nailed feet; thereby tearing his lacerated back against the rough wood of the cross. As the hours wore on under the hot sun, the body became dehydrated from perspiring and loss of blood then fatigue would set in. Then, sometimes after days of struggling, the victim would be unable to pull and push himself up to breath and suffocate.

If they wanted death to take place quickly they would simply break their legs just below the knees making it impossible to push up with the feet and they would quickly suffocate. Then the executioner had to certify the death of the victim. If the executioner got it wrong it could cost him his life. But they did not get it wrong. The victim was clearly dead before they took him down from the cross. The fact of his death would have been obvious; the victim was simply not pulling himself up to breath! There was no reviving in the tomb.

The fact that the tomb was empty that first Easter morning is indisputable. That left only two options: The tomb was empty because the body was stolen or because Jesus rose from the dead. Who would have taken it? There were only two options: either His enemies or His friends.

His enemies? Why? They had nothing to gain. As a prank or some other perverse reason? If so, then they would have been in the enviable position to refute the claim that He rose from the dead and make a laughingstock of His disciples? Why didn’t they? Because they couldn’t: it’s that simple.

But— what about His friends? For one thing there was a Roman Guard posted outside the tomb (Matt. 27: 65). The guard consisted of four well-trained soldiers who would be relieved every six hours.

Imagine stepping over these guards and rolling away the huge stone without alerting them, even if there WERE asleep, for which they would have forfeited their lives. The watch was for too short of time to worry about trained soldiers falling asleep. Especially ALL of them! And if anyone were caught trying to steal the body it would mean a torturous death.

Rome was an occupying army and they ruled with an iron fist. The disciples did not want to be anywhere near a Roman soldier. They were not interested in taking Jesus’ body they were interested in their own safety. If Rome had executed their leader, how far away could their arrests be?

If the disciples had stolen His body, would they have gone all over the Mediterranean world preaching His resurrection, facing torture and death? Would they have been willing to die for what they would have known was a lie? People may die for what they THINK is true, but not for what they KNOW is a lie!

The disciples were totally transformed from fear and despair and hiding behind closed doors, to fearlessly facing death by boldly facing their enemies with the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. This is perhaps the most significant fact of all. At the time of Jesus crucifixion the disciples were filled with hopeless despair and fear. Peter, the leader of the apostles denied that he knew Jesus with oaths and curses, but a few days later we see this same man and all the others facing the wrath of Rome with unshakeable courage.

Nothing can account for the change in Paul who was transformed from a persecutor of Christians to an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul first comes upon the scene as a blasphemer of Christ who is suddenly converted by the resurrected Savior Himself. He disappears to Arabia to prepare for his ministry where he was taught by the risen Lord and then reappears to proclaim the message of a risen Savior with the same intensity that he once fought against it.

From the very beginning the resurrection of Jesus was vital to apostolic teaching. It was the motivating force of Paul’s life and ministry.

His conversion was not only the turning point in his own life, but also in the history of the church and thus, the history of mankind. Alongside the achievements of this former persecutor of Christians, blasphemer and murderer, all the achievements of those whom the world holds to be great fade into insignificance. The only explanation for the life of this man is that he had met the risen Savior and was forever changed.

Writing from prison at the end of his life Paul wrote: “So do not be ashamed to testify about the Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel. By the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (II Tim. 1: 8-12).

Paul traded his high position of wealth and respect as a Pharisee for poverty, prison and persecution. Paul had met the resurrected Savior and served Him for 25 years and was used of God to write a third of the New Testament. This is irrefutable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The other apostles who were commissioned by the resurrected Christ to preach the gospel faced severe persecution and torture until they were executed and sealed their testimonies with their blood.

Shortly after Jesus had been executed as a criminal and His disciples were on the run, something happened that changed the Christian movement from one facing extinction to a movement exploding like wildfire. It has spread to every country on earth with the message of God’s love and power to save. What had happened? They had seen the risen Lord.

From Israel’s beginning the Jews had kept the Sabbath to honor God’s finished work as creator. No work was allowed as it was set aside as a memorial day, set apart by God when He ceased creating.

Those first Christians were devout Jews. They were so convinced of the resurrection of Jesus that they changed the day of worship from the Sabbath to the first day of the week honoring God’s work of redemption. They could not ignore Jesus resurrection from the dead. They called it the Lord’s day. It became a celebration of the “rest” we have in Christ from sin and death. God gave the early church a new pattern of worship through Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week and His resurrection appearances and the Holy Spirit’s descent on the first day of the week.

Jesus had fulfilled all the types and shadows of the law. His sacrifice as the “Lamb of God” superseded and therefore fulfilled all the Old Testament types and symbols.

Other theories have been advanced to explain the empty tomb. One theory that liberal scholars came up with is “the wrong tomb theory”. Which theorized that because of the chaos caused by Jesus hurried burial because of the dawning of the Sabbath, and the fact that the women came back very early Sunday, in the din morning light. They became confused where Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was located and entered the wrong tomb and found it empty, whereupon hearing the grave-keeper, whom they mistook for an angel, say, “He is not here”, they became hysterical and ran away announcing an empty tomb and the rest is history! Or is it?

Surely it would not have taken long, once the story got out, for the people to see their error, or for Joseph to point out his tomb for them. Certainly the Roman guard would have been happy to tell them their mistake. Even the Sanhedrin would have been happy to straighten them out. And most certainly Peter and John would not have run to the wrong tomb!

Another theory that is advanced is what is called the “Swoon Theory”. According to this theory Jesus never really died. Somebody slipped Him a very powerful drug putting Him in a coma-state; giving the appearance of death. Then after His burial He revived in the cool, damp tomb and changing into grave clothes left there by the gardener and removing the large stone shaped like a wheel weighing as must as two tons.

Then He crawled out of the tomb and happened to run into Mary Magdalene, who ran and told His disciples, who nursed Him back to health as best they could and then they declared Him to be the risen Lord, but forty days later He succumbed to His wounds. Before He died He called His disciples to meet Him on a mountain and then disappeared into a cloud that they believed was His ascension into heaven! The soldiers had seen hundreds of victims of crucifixion. It was routine for them to know when a man was dead. He simply was not rising up and down to breathe!

Then there is the psychological theory, which says that the disciples missed Jesus so much that they subconsciously invented His resurrection in order to feel His presence psychologically. Then they began to imagine seeing Him, including more than 500 at one time!

Some say that the disciples were referring to a spiritual resurrection. But this was unknown to Jews and Christians. Resurrection can only apply to the body because only the body dies. Only in second century gnostic text do historians find the concept of a spiritual resurrection.

Those who claim a spiritual resurrection base on a misunderstanding of Scripture. I Cor. 15:44 referring to the resurrection body says: “It is sown (buried) a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”. But the contrast here is not between a physical or material body and a spiritual or immaterial body but between a carnal or sinful body subject to death and a body that is sinless and not subject to death—one that is immortal. The same contrast is found in Romans 7:14: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin”. This is a difference between sinful and sinless, not material and immaterial.

Then there is the twin brother theory with the predictable outcome. Jesus’ twin brother pops up after Jesus death and claims to be the risen Lord. Or His twin brother is crucified thinking it was Jesus and then the real Jesus appears. The remaining theories are just as flimsy as these and not worthy of consideration. The resurrection of Jesus is the only explanation for the empty tomb that first Easter morning.

Many today assume that the ancients were quick to believe what we now know to be unscientific claims of people rising from the dead; but this is not true, especially with the Jews. They did believe in a resurrection but this was a general resurrection at the end of history, as Martha said to Jesus after he told her that her dead brother, Lazarus would rise again: “Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).

There were others in the first century who claimed to be the Messiah and were executed. But with none of them was there a mention of a resurrection. They knew better. It was not even considered. Nor was it with Jesus own followers—at first, until they saw Him in His resurrected body. There never could have been a belief in His resurrection among the Jews without His appearing to them.

They walked with Him and talked with Him and saw and touched His wounds. The Christian movement sprang up immediately after His death because they saw Him in His resurrected body.

A very significant change came about in Israel’s social institutions for those first century Jewish Christians. The sacrificial system, the Sabbath, Circumcision, were all abandoned. A mere 5 weeks after His crucifixion, more than ten thousand Jews were following Him as the Son of God.

These were not minor adjustments but monumental changes in social structures of thousands of years. The apostle Paul tells us that everything in the Christian life depended on the resurrection of Christ: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17).

Peter writes: “Praise be to the God and Father Of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Pet. 1:3).

When the Apostle John was imprisoned on the island of Patmos he again saw the glorified Christ. He writes: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!’” (Rev. 1:18).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer

“O you who hear prayer . . . “ (Psalm 65:2). This is one of the names of God. Hearing prayer is one of the characteristics of a God of love.

“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; Give ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).

How often in the Scriptures we are invited to call upon the Lord and are assured that He hears and will answer prayer. Throughout the Bible we see that His people have called upon Him in every conceivable circumstance and have rejoiced in the fact that He hears and answers prayer. He is not distant from His people. He is His people’s “Refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

None of God’s people should be troubled or fretful and weighed down with the cares of this world. We are not left on our own, to our own resources. We are not orphans, but have a Father in heaven who loves us and is concerned about us and who has unlimited resources and who loves to give good things to His people.

He assures us that He is a God who delights to hear and answer our prayers. It is His very nature to answer prayer. All the teaching of Scripture is designed to encourage us to pray. He created us to be dependent on Him and He is glorified when we acknowledge this dependence.

He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for our sins and brought us into His family, and is already predisposed to answer us when we come to him with our needs. He encourages us to “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). He is glorified by answering the prayers of His people.

He tells us to come without fear or hesitation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

In Heb. 4:16 we are told: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

God forbids us to worry because it betrays our lack of trust in Him. Prayer is God’s cure for worry. When we dwell on our problems and our minds become seriously affected. This becomes Satan’s point of attack. When we place everything into the hands of God by prayer and praise He will keep watch over our hearts and minds so that nothing can upset our peace. As we are told in Phil. 4:6-7: The words “Do not be anxious” is literally “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing”. When we worry we open the door for Satan to torment us.

It refers to anxious distressing worry, not simply concern for our problems and needs, which should always lead us to pray, but the anxiety that turns our stomachs into knots and paralyzes us with fear. God recognizes that there are problems of legitimate concern but we are to bring them to Him in trusting childlike faith.

He has promised to care for us and He does this in answer to believing prayer, not whining and complaining but prayer. God not only forbids us to worry but give us the reason not to worry. Here we are given the reason: God loves us and has provided a way—prayer with thanksgiving.

“Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving”. The emphasis here is on “anything” and “everything”. It is not merely the big problems that God wants but the small ones as well. Most of our lives are made up of many small problems that if we allow them to can overwhelm us. If we are going to be all that God wants us to be we must be men and women of prayer.

God has made many promises to us. God wants us to pray and enter into these promises. He gave us these promises because He wants us to be free from anxieties and fears that are unbecoming of the children of God.

Many miss the point of Matt. 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet YOUR heavenly Father feeds them. ARE YOU NOT MUCH MORE VALUABLE THAN THEY?”

God is not the Father of birds, but OUR Father. The point is that if God cares for birds, that are His creatures but not His children, how much more will He care for us His children? The Lord Jesus plainly tells us that we will encounter trials and troubles and Job 5:7 says: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”. We sin when we fret and brood over them for these are devises of the devil to cause us to doubt God’s love.

Anxieties come when we see our problems as too big to overcome and threaten to overcome us. But God wants us to see Him as greater than all our problems. Our problems are like Goliath. When we look at our problems they seem like giants and when we look at ourselves we become overwhelmed like Saul’s men who ran at the sight of Goliath. But when we see God, as David did, the giants in our lives become very small. True faith is simply a matter of perspective.

The solution to worry is trusting prayer. Faith takes God at His word that He will take these burdens. We are not trying to get God to assume an obligation that is not rightfully His but ours, rather we are letting Him handle an obligation that He claims as His own. Doubt says that God will not assume these and that He does not really care about us or His promises to us.

Unbelief makes us feel as though we are imposing upon God. But God commands us to come to Him with all our problems and needs. What decent earthy father or mother would consider their child crying to them in need as imposing upon them! Prayer is not trying to get God to do what He would rather not do. But allowing Him to do what He absolutely insists upon doing.

Some good men say that we should advance beyond mere physical requests, but they seem to overlook the fact that God commands us to bring ALL our cares to Him. The Lord’s Prayer is a series of requests. Jesus lays great stress on trusting God for material needs as well as spiritual needs.

He is the God of the physical universe as well as the spiritual; of our bodies as well as our spirits. Someone has said that there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible giving us one for each day of the year. But this is wrong. If there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible then we have 365 for each day. All God’s promises are ours every day. The result of such prayer is peace.

When God led Israel out of Egypt and the supplies they brought with them were exhausted God provided water from a rock and manna from the sky. For 40 years God faithfully supplied the needs of over two and a half million people. There was no human source of supply. They were shut up to God’s faithfulness. The Bible tells us that these events were recorded for our benefit. Their God is also our God.

We read in Psa. 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. This verse literally reads: “God is for us a refuge and strength; a help in distress He has proved—exceedingly!” We are here told that God can be counted on because He has proven Himself in the past and had it recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit.

“Casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (I Pet.5: 7). The word here for “cast” signifies a definite act of the will in committing to Him our worries, giving them up to Him. This means that we are through worrying about the matter. We will let God assume the responsibility for our welfare. This is exactly what He wants us to do.

We are to commit to Him all our worries, big and little, or the things that would worry us if we assumed the responsibility. Now we are trusting God to do what we cannot do. This trust brings peace to us while we wait for Him to answer us. “Because He cares for you”, literally reads: “It is a care to Him concerning you”. We are to bring to Him our concerns because we are His concern. When God saved us and brought us into His family He assumed the responsibility for our welfare.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psa. 22:22). We were not designed to carry around heavy burdens we were designed to depend on God. The bible never anticipates that we will not have trials and troubles we are clearly told that we cannot avoid them.

Psa. 55:22 is a picture of a man bearing a great weight on his shoulders. His back is bent, his knees are wobbly, the weight is crushing him. He has reached the end of his strength when the Lord tells him to roll his burden on Him and He will handle it. He longs to have us do this, in fact, He commands us to do this!

God insisted that Abraham ask for a son when he was a hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety. When Abraham seemed to waver in his faith, God asked him, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). And Jeremiah prayed to the Lord “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32: 17).

Then we are told, “Then the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:26-27).

There will be joy and power in our lives when we learn to bring all our needs and concerns to God in prayer. We are not promised financial riches but God does promise that we will have enough and joy and peace along with it if we learn to trust. Prayer puts God’s promises to every day use.

We are dependent upon God for everything and blessed is the believer who is conscious of this dependency. Christians who do not pray consistently do not have a healthy spiritual life. They are weak and powerless. They have little joy and little enthusiasm to serve God. There lives are marked by worries and fears and doubts. They have not yet learned the secret of “Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).

Peace, joy and power should characterize every child of God. And the way to have this is to carry everything to God in prayer. We should live in constant communion with God, looking to Him in total dependence on His goodness and concern for us. The self-sufficient Christian will always be a defeated Christian.

But many do not find time to pray as they should. Strangely we do everything else first and then we give God whatever time is left over. We get so busy with this and that, so absorbed with the affairs of life, in a rush to get lesser important things done, that we haven’t time to pray.

We should be in a constant state of prayer. Luther wrote: “It is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray”. It is through prayer that we have victory over sin. Jesus told His disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matt. 26:40).

Many Christians have struggled against certain sins that have been sapping their spiritual strength. They make many resolutions and try to work up enough strength by their own self-determination. But God has provided a way for them to have victory through daily prayer.

It is through prayer that we receive power to serve God: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 28-31).

With many of us it is the same old story of failure to win others to Christ because we lack power. Power belongs to God and He gives His power to those who will acknowledge that they have no power of their own, and who will wait upon Him in prayer. The reason many of us do not win the lost is not because we are not smart enough or because we lack talent, but because we lack power. Every Christian should have this power, and can have it, if they will wait on God and let God search their hearts and deal with them. “How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)

As believers we are to pray for our pastors, missionaries, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, etc, that they may be effective workers in the gospel. When Jesus looked upon the multitudes as ripened fields of grain perishing for lack of laborers, He said to His disciples: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field”.

We are also to bring our unsaved loved ones and others to the Lord in prayer. This is the harvest field the Lord has entrusted to us. We are to pray for the lost around us and seek to win them. Then we are to pray for our fellow Christians that they may be enabled to win those around them, and we are to pray for and support financially the various soul winning ministries that God has laid upon our hearts. We are responsible for reaching the lost by our prayers, witnessing and giving.

Thus, because of our frailties and proneness to sin, our responsibility to reach the lost and our need of power, and because of our daily needs and our proneness to worry, we are to “pray without ceasing”.

Not only do we need special periods set aside during the day for prayer, but we need to be in an attitude of trusting dependence throughout the day for God’s power and provisions. Without this constant, daily, systematic prayer our lives will not be what God intended them to be. Prayer was not ordained by God to be a mere ritual, but as a means of getting the things we need for our Christian life and work.

Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals how Jesus, in His humanity, was much in prayer. All of the great men and women of the Bible were men and women of prayer. These were men and women just like us who knew their weakness and cried to God whose strength was made perfect in their weakness.. Under every conceivable situation God has met the needs of His praying people. From the splitting of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:15-25), to men being fed by ravens (I Kings 17:2-7), God has showed Himself to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).

The history of the church outside of the Bible reveals the same thing: That the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who learn to wait on God. For the most part they were very average people, but through prayer they were changed from ordinary men and women into men and women of great achievement.

Those who have had the greatest impact upon this world are ordinary men and women who prayed while carrying out their mundane duties. These are not recorded in history books written by men but they are in the history book of heaven. For instance we all thrill to read of the great revivals under john and Charles Wesley, but God knows that without a humble woman, their mother, Susanna Wesley, who daily prayed over her children and took time from her many duties to “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we would never have heard of her famous sons.

Prayer brings power into our lives and it is not only pastors, missionaries and evangelists and other full time Christian workers who need this power. All believers need this power to raise their families and win their loved one’s to Christ. We are just as responsible for our sphere of influence as they are in theirs. Because of the power of prayer there is no telling the influence of a humble house wife, or one who is bed-ridden. The simple bible believing, praying, Christian is a mighty instrument in the hand of God just as the jawbone of a donkey was used by Samson to slay a thousand men.

It was not the mighty, seasoned warrior Saul that God used to bring down the giant goliath, but the seemingly insignificant young shepherd boy, David, who learned to meditate on God’s word and pray while tending his flocks. This is how God wants His people to be: Armed and dangerous. Not parleying with the enemy, but in a death struggle, no negotiations and no retreating, until the enemy is defeated!

But so often we are like the Israelites as they entered the land of Canaan. God told them to go in and drive out the enemy and subdue the land. They were to go in His power and drive out all the enemy. But after driving the enemy out in certain areas and settling down in these areas, they became comfortable and lazy. Instead of finishing the enemy they were content to co-exist with the enemy, allowing them to keep their strongholds because the battle would be too difficult. As a result they   were plagued by these enemies throughout their history.

We become content with being saved and settle down and try to keep from making waves that might stir up the enemy and cause us to have to give up our comfort. The picture God gives us in Eph. 6:13 is one of constant warfare. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”.

After driving off the enemy, we are not to sit down and rest, but remain standing, ready for the next attack to come.