Messiah’s Joy Amidst Calvary’s Grief #1

Friday, March 30, 2018

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

Do you ever wonder what our Lord Jesus Christ was thinking about while He hung there on Calvary’s cross?

Psalm 22:1-21 provides us with a glimpse of Jesus’ thoughts as He endured that awful crucifixion: He is greatly tormented physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Various verses in Psalm 69 provide additional insight, especially as death begins to close in on His soul. Written about 1000 B.C., these and other “Messianic psalms” graphically describe assorted events in our Lord’s earthly life (in this case, His crucifixion)… centuries before they occurred!

What Jesus Christ thought about while suspended on Calvary’s cross was the Holy Scriptures. He had faith in the Old Testament passages that applied to Him. No matter what happened to Him, He knew it was His Father’s will, and His Father would be glorified. As He stated earlier, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup [of Thy wrath; Revelation 14:10] from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt (Mark 14:36). “…The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (John 8:29bc).

Do you realize what today’s Scripture is saying? Jesus Christ felt immense physiological and spiritual pain, but He thought about the overall view: for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (cf. Psalm 16:8-11). Yes, the Old Testament spoke of His suffering, and those Scriptures must be fulfilled, but it also testified of His glorious kingdom that would follow, and those Scriptures also were to be fulfilled in due time! “…The sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). While it did not diminish the extent of His distress and suffering, Jesus Christ kept in memory the glory His Father would give Him once He had endured the crucifixion (Philippians 2:8-11). It gave Him such joy. He felt grief unspeakable, but He also had joy unfathomable!

Our archived Bible Q&A: “Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?

Excruciating Thursday

Thursday, March 29, 2018

[Reader discretion advised: Christ’s sufferings are graphically described below.]

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9 KJV).

His three years of earthly ministry have expired, but His greatest work is yet to come!

During the all-night interrogation in the “kangaroo court,” His sentence is passed—execution by crucifixion. They have scourged, beaten, and punched Him. Covered in their spit, they laugh at Him, and strike His head with a rod to force on the crown of thorns. His back shredded, His skull possibly fractured, His beard ripped off. His massive blood loss weakens Him further. Having been stripped of His clothing, He struggles to carry His heavy cross to Mount Calvary: Simon must carry His cross for Him. The crowds watch Him, laughing and jeering. His little flock looks on in total shock.

They lay Him on the wooden cross, yanking His limbs to nail them in place. His bones unbroken, but exposed, and His limbs dislocated. They pierce His hands and feet with long spikes, severing the median nerve in the hands, causing permanent hand paralysis. They raise up that cross, and He hangs, slowly suffocating due to His own weight. Every breath becomes increasingly difficult, His lungs fill with fluid, His heart becomes progressively strained. Eventually, He cannot breathe, and thus dies.

Now imagine His spiritual suffering. Three hours into His crucifixion, His heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost have abandoned Him. For the first time ever, He is totally alone. Physical and spiritual darkness now cover the earth. The weight of all the world’s sin and sins of all time crushes His soul. God’s undiluted wrath falls upon Him, as it does on those suffering in hellfire. He cries out in agony. Hanging on that cruel cross, with His spiritual eyes, He observes Satan himself and all his evil creatures snickering and cheering. He looks out to see His disciples staring at His helpless disfigured body. Oh, if only they knew how His physical and spiritual bodies were being tormented, utterly tortured beyond imagination!

After six hours of excruciating pain, He finally lets Himself die….

Please check out our archived Bible Q&A: “Was Jesus Christ really crucified on Friday?

The “Triumphal” Entry

Sunday, March 25, 2018

“All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:4,5 KJV).

Do you ever wonder why Jesus Christ rode on a donkey the Sunday before His crucifixion?

In today’s Scripture (cf. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19), Jesus’s crucifixion on Calvary’s cross is just five days away. Leaving Bethany, He travels to Jerusalem (a mile to the northwest). Israel’s believing remnant in Jerusalem is excited to hear that Messiah is returning to “the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2; Matthew 5:35); in anticipation, the great multitude throws their garments and palm branches on the ground. As Jesus enters the city, they cry out, “Hosanna [“O save!”]: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9,10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13; cf. Psalm 118:26).

While often called the “Triumphal Entry,” there really was no victory being celebrated in today’s Scripture—the victory was to come later! What we need to realize is that Jesus Christ was humble (“meek”) here: as a King riding on a donkey into Israel’s capital city, He demonstrated He desired peace with Israel (a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9). He had not come to destroy her, though He would have been just in doing so; He had come to save her from her sins, her enemies, and her satanic bondage (Matthew 1:21; Mark 2:17; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 1:68-75; Luke 9:55,56; Luke 19:9,10; Acts 3:24-26; et cetera).

Just a few days later, Jesus Christ appeared weak and defeated. He never fought back as the Roman soldiers mercilessly abused Him; He allowed Himself to be crucified on Calvary. It was His meek and lowly coming; now was not the time to pour out His wrath. He resurrected and ascended into heaven as a royal exile. Revelation 19:11 says Jesus Christ will return to Jerusalem on a white horse, a sign of war and wrath (Zechariah 14:1-4)—that will be His true triumphal entry, for He will conquer Satan’s world system forever!

Sufficient!

Friday, March 2, 2018

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 KJV).

Without further delay, we need to recognize God’s grace as sufficient.

Two men in human history suffered far beyond the norm. Obviously, the first is the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered the most. Never will we fathom the torment He endured physically and spiritually as He faced the wrath of a righteous God and sinful men. The second is the Apostle Paul, laboring so diligently to preach to wretched sinners in all nations that Christ was crucified for them.

As Paul conducted his ministry, Satan caused him such hardship and grief. Unbelieving Jews constantly plotted to kill him; the Roman government eagerly helped those Jews suppress that “illegal religion;” many of Paul’s Christian friends betrayed and abandoned him; evil spirits mocked him; he was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed; and so on. Friend, whenever you think you have it rough, cancel your “pity party” by reading Paul’s afflictions recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33!

In addition to the aforementioned trials and tribulations, some mysterious “thorn in the flesh” troubled Paul (today’s Scripture). While Satan attempted to hinder Paul, God utilized it to keep Paul from being worshipped. Paul begged the Lord in prayer three times to have that problem depart, but it did not. The Lord Jesus Christ replied to Paul’s prayer, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.Paul took that revealed Word and concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God’s grace is enough for you too!

Second Corinthians 3:5: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;….”

Succoured!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18 KJV).

Without further delay, we should let the succouring Saviour succour us.

The Book of Hebrews is not written to us members of the Church the Body of Christ. It refers to “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5), the ages to come, events after our Dispensation of Grace. Still, because of parallels, we can benefit from Israel’s Scriptures at times.

Hebrews concentrates on the time of immense suffering, the abundant temptation and persecution, that Israel’s Little Flock will experience during the Antichrist’s rule (recall Psalm 10?). The writer of Hebrews reminds them of the Lord Jesus Christ being there to “succour” them, to assist them in their time of great need. As Christ suffered, but relied on Father God, so they can rely on Him to see it through their dark days.

Harmonizing with Hebrews, James and Peter both wrote to Israel suffering under the Antichrist. For example, James 1:2: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;….” And verse 12: “Blessed [happy!] is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Finally, 1 Peter 1:6,7: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing [Second Coming] of Jesus Christ.” This is how believing Israel should view her end-times distress.

If God will comfort believing Israel during the worst (!) period of human history, then surely, brethren, He can aid us in our times of need. When we face difficulties, we know that He has equipped us to fully endure them. First Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Did not God send messengers to Gentiles prior to Paul’s apostleship?

The Word Was Made Flesh

Monday, December 25, 2017

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1,14 KJV).

On this Christmas Day, we reflect on the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The candidate who could solve man’s sin problem had to meet two requirements. He had to be God, and He had to be man—a “God-Man.” It had to be God, because God’s righteousness had to be satisfied, but it also had to be man, for it was man who had sinned. God’s righteousness was offended, since “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But, it was also a man who had sinned, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Consider Philippians 2:5-8: “Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” In short, heaven’s best—Jesus Christ—came to save earth’s worst—us! In summary, Jesus Christ was born to die for us.

Brethren, the salvation that we enjoy today in Christ could not be possible without the shed blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross, and the shed blood of Christ could not be possible without the incarnation of Christ! God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and in order for Him to shed sinless blood, He had to first have blood. Thus, it behooved Jesus Christ to take upon Himself the form of a man. It was at this time of year that God the Son entered the virgin Mary’s womb, possessing a body that was conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Remember, “The Word was made flesh” (today’s Scripture) so we could have an opportunity to be “made the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Merry Christmas!

*Adapted from a larger Bible study with the same name. It can be read here or watched here.

NOTE: By the way, my dear brethren and friends, this is our 2400th devotional! We are utterly delighted to have been able to serve you here by God’s grace these past 2400 days. May we continue to serve you for at least another 2400! 🙂

The Greatest Veteran

Saturday, November 11, 2017

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14,15 KJV).

Today is Veterans’ Day in the United States, so let us especially thank the “Greatest Veteran of All Time.”

We thank veterans, living and departed, the often-forgotten men and women who risked their lives to secure our freedom. Just as we remember flesh-and-blood veterans who fought for our physical liberty, we reserve our worship and utmost respect for the least esteemed Veteran, He who secured our spiritual liberty.

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Through Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary, we have eternal victory over sin, death, hell, and Satan. Everything that God has planned for us is dependent upon Christ’s victory at Calvary.

Jesus Christ nailed the Mosaic Law to His cross (today’s Scripture). His sinless blood covered our failure to obey God’s laws; Jesus’ righteousness annulled our unrighteousness (sin). Christ not only liberated us from sin and its penalty (the everlasting lake of fire), but today’s Scripture affirms He also triumphed over Satan himself!

Christ has “spoiled [destroyed] principalities and powers [Satan’s power], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [His cross].” Jesus Christ destroyed Satan’s plans. Through Christ’s cross, God has “delivered us from the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13), Satan’s evil system of Ephesians 2:1-3.

During a recent cemetery visit, I noticed American flags flying above deceased veterans’ headstones. These individuals can no longer hear or regard our thanks, but Jesus Christ’s body is not decaying in some tomb. If there ever was a Veteran most worthy of our gratitude, it is our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He died in battle, allowing Himself to be executed on a Roman cross of shame and scorn, He resurrected. He is alive and well today, alive forevermore!

Saints, eternity will ring with our thanks to the Veteran worth thanking, the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Adapted from our 2010 Bible study, “The Greatest Hero.” The Bible study video can be viewed here.