Supernatural Interference

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—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

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)

Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

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. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

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? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

Love Securely

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:

  1. “One of you will betray Me”
  2. “All of you will abandon Me”
  3. “I will rise again and restore you”
  4. “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. 

The Essential Jonathan Edwards (book review)

Some have called Jonathan Edwards the greatest American theologian, and I think it would be very hard to dispute that. Not only was he a brilliant thinker, but Edwards was also a prolific speaker and writer. So Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney have taken on a monumental challenge in attempting to give us an accurate glimpse of this important man in their book The Essential Jonathan Edwards. 

The first part of the book is a short biography of Edwards’ life. The biography is told alternating between the biography of Strachan and Sweeney and the words Edwards recounted in his sermons and memoirs. 

The remainder of the book attempts to give the reader a sense of Edwards’ thoughts on topics such as the beauty of God’s creation, the joy of experiencing God’s pleasure, the essential nature of the Christian life, and the after-life. These topics are covered in the same way as the biographical portion—alternating between the actual words of Jonathan Edwards and the summation of Strachan and Sweeney. 

I found this book a bit frustrating. I would have preferred a more traditional biography of this great man or a collection of Edwards’ sermons verbatim. But the alternation between Edwards’ words and Strachan and Sweeney’s thoughts didn’t flow very well for me. 

My recommendation would be to either read George Marsden’s full or shortened biographies of Edwards, or simply read a collection of Edwards’ sermons. 

I am a Moody Press book reviewer.

Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

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… 

1. OPPOSITION

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. 

Sunday In Jerusalem

The Sunday before Christ’s crucifixion is typically called “The Triumphal Entry.” But was it really? One thing’s for sure—Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem the way the people expected! 

To fully get the picture of what’s happening we need to turn back the calendar several hundred years. Ever since Jerusalem fell to invading armies, the Jews hung on to the promise that God would restore their king and their kingdom. They were awaiting a descendant from the line of King David who would drive out their overlords and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place. 

They clung to a promise in Psalm 118 that included these words—“Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar” (vv. 25-27). 

But Jesus was prophesied to come as the Prince of Peace, gentle and unassuming, the Servant of all people (Isaiah 9:6; 42:1-3). Jesus simply didn’t do things the way the crowds expected! He was born in a manger in Bethlehem (not as a king in Jerusalem), and hailing from Nazareth caused people to mock, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?!” 

So on that Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, it wasn’t as a conquering King but as a humble servant. As He came near, He wept a sobbing lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). 

The crowd took palm branches (as Psalm 118 suggested) and shouted, “Hosanna!” That word means “Save us,” but what they really meant was, “Save us NOW!” Jesus came riding a mule—a lowly work animal, not a war horse—to remove any fear people may have, and to show them His servant’s heart. 

Even His disciples didn’t get this. But the Pharisees sure did: They wanted Jesus to rebuke the crowd for their insolence and blasphemy! Many of the worshippers were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus, so Jesus said to the Pharisees, “They have to give praise to God for this!” 

Jesus made His way to the temple but there were no sacrifices, no anointing, no coronation. Mark tells us Jesus simply “looked around at everything and then left.” 

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never rushes? He’s never early. He’s never late. He’s never confused. He’s never trying to catch up. 

This is because Jesus was in complete sync with His Father. Jesus said that everything He did was directed by His Father, and every word He spoke was given to Him by His Father. 

We, too, should be able to move in that same unrushed pace. Because of what Jesus did for us on Calvary, we may have the same “oneness” with our Father as Jesus did (John 14:20). 

Worry creeps into our lives when—like those cheering crowds in Jerusalem—we try to make our agenda happen on our timetable with our own resources. But when we look to Jesus, we see such a perfect peace as He relied on His Father. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us, so that we could know peace with God as we journey through life with Jesus. 

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the Monday of Christ’s Passion Week. 

One Saturday In Bethany

Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story takes place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry. 

As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.

Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.

Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and simply recline at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally. 

Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees 

Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet. 

Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public. 

Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them. 

Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.” 

Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.” 

Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).

At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?” 

Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room. 

What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men? 

Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him? 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection. 

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