Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
That seems unfair! We receive double(!) for our sins! Here’s a 2-minute video where I explain what this means culturally—
Only when invoices were paid-in-full did they get doubled-up.
The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned, and that the invoice or penalty for our sin is death. We have the IOUs of sin nailed to the door of our heart where God says “You owe Me your life!” But we cannot pay this debt by ourselves.
But Jesus can. And Jesus did! Check this out—
He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross…. (1 Peter 2:24 NLT)
Having canceled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His Cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP)
That’s what is good about Good Friday. Jesus knew that taking our sins on His body, and then allowing His body to be nailed to the Cross, would double-up and nail-down our sin once and for all!
When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was really saying, “It is paid-in-full!”
The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).
“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”
And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”
Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50.
The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.”
Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—
It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19).
If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).
The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!
Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God!
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)
After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye.
Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers.
But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.
The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.
Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.”
Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.”
Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.
What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God.
No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18)
“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle
Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden Cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB)
Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him.
The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love?
Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross?
Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did!
“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …
“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.”
“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).”
“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.”
“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.”
“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.”
“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.”
“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’”
Max Lucado has an inimitable style of writing that immediately draws us into his subject—in this book the focal point is what Jesus did for us on the Cross—gets us to look at it in a new light, and then helps us walk away with a fuller understanding. The title of this book is really the answer to the sub-title—Q: What did God do to win your heart? A: He Chose The Nails.
In keeping with the theme of God answering the book’s question of how He won your heart, all but two of the chapters use statements from God as their title. Statements like “I will bear your dark side,” and “I forgive you,” and “I understand your pain,” and “I will love you forever.” In each chapter, Max takes us nearer to the Cross and to the Savior who bled and died there to show us how much God loves us.
This is a book that can easily be read together with your family or a group of friends; especially if you then utilize the study guide questions for each chapter at the back of the book. This is a book that could be read rather quickly, but because Max paints such a vivid picture of God’s unexpected love you will want to read slowly and savoringly. This is a book that could be read at any time, but I would recommend you read it during the days and weeks approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
Whether reading alone or with friends, reading quickly or slowly, reading it during the Lenten season or at another time, I can promise you that your heart will beat more strongly with the assurance of God’s overwhelming, mind-blowing love for you.
Jesus is journeying toward the Cross. On Thursday, it’s His last opportunity to impart His most important thoughts to His disciples. He is about to be arrested, and everything is about to go sideways for the disciples—“this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!”—and Jesus needs to prepare them with the truth they will need to sustain them through this.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says (Luke 22:15).
So Peter and John are sent to make arrangements for the Passover meal, but one of the arrangements that they overlooked was the host duties—washing the feet of each guest, anointing them with perfume, and giving them a welcoming kiss.
As they are eating dinner, Jesus makes four important statements:
“One of you will betray Me”
“All of you will abandon Me”
“I will rise again and restore you”
“I have prayed for you”
These statements get the disciples arguing about who’s going to betray Jesus—“It’s not me, is it?!”—and over how faithful they are—“I would never abandon Him!” Ultimately they begin to argue over who is the greatest disciple among them.
Jesus not only explains to them how the servant is greater than the master in God’s sight (Luke 22:24-27), but He then becomes the living example of that when He washes their feet (John 13:1-5, 12-17).
Here’s an important principle—Only secure people can lovingly serve others.
Insecure people don’t like to serve others because they feel they are being misused, or taken advantage of, or that others will look down on them.
Jesus “knew” (John 13:1, 3) how much power His Father had given Him, making Him secure enough to serve. Security really means, “I am loved by God, and I know who I am in Him.”
Jesus served out of love: the profound love that He knew His Father had for Him. He gave His disciples the same mandate: Serve others out of love for Me and show the world that you are My disciples (see John 13:34-35).
When Jesus ate this last supper with His disciples, He instituted a remembrance celebration that we now call Communion. The root word is “commune” which the dictionary defines as a “conversation with profound intensity and intimacy.”
This is the type of intimate relationship Jesus had with His Father, and this is the type of relationship He calls us to with Him. The broken bread of Communion reminds us that Jesus can make whole any broken area that would keep us from communing with Him. The cup of Communion reminds us that Jesus can instantly and fully forgive any sin that would keep us from communing with Him.
Jesus set the example—we are to commune with our Heavenly Father through the way He made by His broken body and His shed blood. It’s out of this communion that we are empowered by His love, and then feel secure enough to serve others in love too.
“First, I would bid you stand and see the place where the Lord lay with emotions of deep sorrow. O come, my beloved brother, thy Jesus once lay there. He was a murdered man, my soul, and thou the murderer.
‘Ah, you, my sins, my cruel sins, His chief tormentors were, Each of my crimes became a nail, And unbelief the spear.’
‘Alas! and did my Saviour bleed? And did my Sov’reign die?’
“I slew Him—this right hand struck the dagger to His heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved: I killed Him who loved me with an everlasting love. Ye eyes, why do ye refuse to weep when ye see Jesus’ body mangled and torn? Oh! give vent to your sorrow, Christians, for ye have good reason to do so…. My soul was drowning. From heaven’s high portals He saw me sinking in the depths of hell. He plunged in.
‘He SANK beneath His heavy woes, To raise me to a crown; There’s ne’er a gift His hand bestows. But cost His heart a groan.’
“Ah! we may indeed regret our sin, since it slew Jesus.
“Now, Christian, change thy note a moment. ‘Come, see the place where the Lord lay,’ with joy and gladness. He does not lie there now. Weep, when ye see the tomb of Christ, but rejoice because it is empty. Thy sin slew Him, but His divinity raised Him up. Thy guilt hath murdered Him, but His righteousness hath restored Him. Oh! He hath burst the bonds of death; He hath ungirt the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath His feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for He is not there—He is risen.” —Charles Spurgeon
On the Wednesday of Christ’s Passion Week, all of the Gospel writers are in perfect agreement. Between all four of them, they write not one word about what happened on that day. That silence actually speaks volumes to us!
Jesus is almost surely in Bethany (since that has become is nightly retreat this week), and He is taking a Sabbath rest. “Wait,” you might be saying, “sabbathing on Wednesday?! I thought that was supposed to be Saturday or Sunday?”
The Sabbath is not a day; it’s an attitude of the heart.
Jesus followed the example His Father set right at the beginning.
The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between Me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)
Notice that God rested and was refreshed. The word rested means to stop working and celebrate. It’s a time to reflect on the work completed and celebrate what has been done. Then the Bible says God was refreshed, which literally means “God refreshed Himself.” He took a deep, satisfying, rejuvenating breath!
Resting and being refreshed—or sabbathing—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity!
Jesus understood this principle of sabbathing. Remember that He had only a limited time to accomplish all that the Father had for Him: “We must work the works of Him Who sent Me and be busy with His business while it is daylight; night is coming on, when no man can work” (John 9:4 AMP). If anyone was a Man on a mission, it was Jesus, and yet rest was vital to Him…
…from the very beginning of His life, Jesus practiced healthy habits
Now—just before the intense, horrific, inhumane experience He is about to go through—Jesus is sabbathing. He is resting and refreshing His body, soul, and spirit.
So what keeps us from sabbathing?
Guilt—“I feel guilty taking time off.” Remember that if Jesus did it, we should too.
Misplaced priority—“If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” But remember Who is in charge. The psalmist reminds us, “The Lord is king!” (Psalm 99:1).
Fear—“If I ‘tune out’ what might I be missing?” Remember: Your Father is watching over you every single moment (see Psalm 121).
If you want to experience more productivity in your life, don’t try to go 24/7—take a sabbath break. Stop working and celebrate what God has done, then take a deep breath of worship in God’s presence. Jesus demonstrated that sabbathing was vital for ministry success.
After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples.
Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.
It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path.
Jesus prepares us for…
Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways:
Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own.
You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.
Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer.
The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
Consider the source of the questioner.
We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things.
Love fulfills the law.
When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.
2. DAILY LIVING
Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons.
The power of faith-filled prayer
Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs
We are only stewards of God’s resources
The ugliness of hypocrisy
3. END TIMES EVENTS
Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21.
Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29).
So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is.