The only reasonable thing to do

easter-2015

Jesus’ death and resurrection cause no end of consternation among those who either question or seek to disprove the Christian faith. Should Christians be all hung up on whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead? Does the evidence really prove itself out?

Here are the facts about the resurrection, as we have them:

  • The tomb was empty.
  • No one could produce a body.
  • For several weeks after his death, Jesus’ disciples kept meeting him—and rarely as individuals only, but almost exclusively in groups, some as large as 500 people!

His disciples’ insistence caused them no end of ridicule and scorn, yet they persisted in proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. They event went so far as to say that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, their faith is in vain and their sins were still on them, and therefore they were utterly without hope (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

To prove them wrong, all one had to do was produce Jesus’ body. And yet, no one ever could. Why? Because there was no body to be found.

So what is the most reasonable thing to do? We can continue to make up alternative explanations all day long. We can attempt to say Jesus never really existed, or that if he did, he didn’t resemble the man who claimed to be God as described in the gospels.

Or, we can admit, as J.I. Packer encourages, that there is only one reasonable thing to do: believe. He writes:

A Christian in public debate accused his skeptical opponent of having more faith than he—“for,” he said, “in face of the evidence, I can’t believe that Jesus did not rise, and you can!” It really is harder to disbelieve the resurrection than to accept it, much harder. Have you yet seen it that way? To believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and living Savior, and to echo the words of ex-doubter Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is certainly more than an exercise of reason, but in the face of the evidence it is the only reasonable thing a person can do.1

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of this week’s pastoral resource deals from Crossway:

On Preaching and Cultural Buzz

Mike Leake:

Everyone in your community is buzzing about a local reproduction of a classic movie. Every conversation seems to be about this big event, it clearly has captured the heart of your people. What should a pastor do? Do you plod along preaching through your series on the Gospel of Mark or do you take a break and do a topical sermon related to this new movie that has everyone buzzing?

The Crown of Thorns

Nick Batzig offers a short, but powerful, devotional.

Pay Much Closer Attention

Kevin DeYoung:

Almost everyone has flown on a plane before. So you’ve all sat through those opening instructions from the flight attendants about what to do in the event of an emergency. They say the same thing on every flight, every day, on every airline. And every day, on every flight, on every airline, almost no one pays attention to the message. I’ve flown several times in the past couple months and I can’t recall seeing anyone looking at the flight attendants or giving one second of thought to what they were talking about. No one pays attention to these instructions.

Why I Will Gladly Bake You A Cake, But Won’t Bake Your Wedding Cake

Stephen Altrogge:

This puts me in a difficult predicament. You see, I really do love you. I don’t mean that in a, “We are the world,” kind of way. I mean I really love you, as a person. Please ignore what people like Pat Robinson, Phil Robertson, and the political pundits on Fox News say. I’m a Christian, and one of the things that is supposed to define me as a Christian is true love for other people. Yes, I know, there are times when I do a terrible job of loving others. I get angry in traffic, cuss people out in my head (not out loud – what would other Christians think?), and have a hard time getting along with certain people. But I’m changing, ever so slowly.

What Happened in Kenya?

This is good and helpful stuff from Joe Carter.

Don’t invite them to church this weekend

church-weekend

For a lot of churches in the West, Easter weekend is treated not unlike SuperBowl Sunday. It’s the big show, a grand production. Kind of like a regular Sunday with a bit of extra “oomph”—which most often comes in the form of horrifically graphic video clips from a movie for which we may or may not have appropriate licensing, though occasionally it also involves laser light shows, motorcycle stunts, and an extravagant giveaway or two.

This is the weekend where we’re encouraged to invite our friends, our families, our neighbors, and bring them to church. It’s the weekend where they’re for sure going to hear the gospel preached and perhaps even the Lord might save them!

But you know something? I’m not sure it’s always a good idea. In fact, in some cases, maybe the best thing to do is to not invite them at all.

  • Don’t invite them to church this weekend if they would be surprised to learn you’re a Christian.
  • Don’t invite them if the gospel wasn’t preached last weekend.
  • Don’t invite them if you wouldn’t invite them next weekend.

That’s not what they need. They don’t need to go to a church where they’re not going to hear about Jesus, and they don’t need to be invited to church on one weekend if you wouldn’t invite them any other time.

Some of us should, definitely, invite our friends to church this weekend, next weekend, and every weekend, as long as Jesus is consistently proclaimed. But for many of us, maybe we need to take a few steps back. Maybe we should invite them into our lives first, and share the gospel with them as we begin to share ourselves. Let them get to know a Christian and win them with the good news, rather than potentially confuse them with a big show.

 

Links I like

Links

Toronto Gospel Alliance

If you’re in the Toronto area today and have the opportunity, be sure to go and join with with fellow believers to celebrate Good Friday from 7-9 PM at the University of Toronto.

I Am Barabbas

This is really great stuff from Michael Kelley.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (Hardcover)
  • The Atonement of Jesus Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (Audio download)
  • The New Birth Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (Audio and video download)
  • By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Shadow Of The Cross by Walter Chantry (Paperback)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

I’d be interested to hear some responses to this piece.

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Donald Macleod:

The sufferings of his soul, as the old divines used to say, were the soul of his suffering, and into that soul we can see but dimly. Public though the cry was, it expressed the intensely private anguish of a tension between the sin-bearing Son and his heavenly Father: the whirlwind of sin at its most dreadful, God forsaken by God.

Peddlers vs. Pastors

Pat Aldridge gives guidance on how to identify a peddler vs a pastor of God’s Word.

A Snapshot of Christ Singing that Makes Me Sing

Erik Raymond:

Can you imagine this scene?  This is a precious time of singing with the Lord Jesus as he proceeds out to walk the lonely path to Golgotha to purchase redemption for sinners like me and you.

As we now stand on the other side of the cross we look forward to the reunion with all of the saints, together in the presence of the Lamb.

Think about this for a moment.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals today:

Faithlife has made Brevard Childs’ commentary on Isaiah April’s free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. And for a limited time, Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries have made the audio edition of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul free.

From a Symbol of Fear to a Symbol of Faith

Keith Mathison:

I sometimes wonder how many Christians stop to think about how incredibly odd it is that crucifixes are used as works of art. Crucifixes adorn church architecture, classic paintings, sculpture, and even jewelry. But consider for a moment what a crucifix was originally. It was a means of execution. In fact, it was and is one of the most ghastly means of execution ever devised by man. So horrible was it that it was reserved for the lowest of the low: slaves, pirates, and rebels. Roman citizens were exempt. Cultured Romans considered it unworthy of discussion in polite company. Yet today we wear this symbol of degrading and humiliating death around our necks. The jarring nature of this is not immediately apparent to us because over time, the symbol of the cross has lost many of its original connotations. To get some idea of the oddity, imagine seeing people wearing necklaces with images of a guillotine or an electric chair.

What happened, then, to account for the change?

Not My Will Be Done

Jon Bloom:

No one understands better than God how difficult it can be for a human to embrace the will of God. And no human has suffered more in embracing the will of God the Father than God the Son. When Jesus calls us to follow him, whatever the cost, he is not calling us to do something he is either unwilling to do or has never done himself.

10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways Are Unwise

Jared Wilson:

I’m not against “Easter egg hunts” and kids having fun and all that, but I think the sort of large-scale, giveaway promotion that takes over this time of year in the church calendar is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorize bad methods. So:

Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is not a good idea.

Respect Your Audience

Barnabas Piper:

Much of how to do this is nebulous, psychological, and relational rather than technique driven. It looks different from person to person and even from audience to audience. You will inevitably communicate differently to school children than to professors than to moms than to incarcerated felons – but not as differently as you might think. The suggestions below apply to all cases and have more to do with mindset than style or steps to take, and it is up to you, the communicator to determine how to apply them in every situation uniquely, but I hope they are helpful for those preach, teach, write, or otherwise publicly communicate.

Jonah and the fail

This is fun.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these savings on three excellent Easter-related titles from Crossway:

Who the unchurched really are

Gene Veith:

Most evangelism programs, church growth tactics, and other attempts to reach the “unchurched” concentrate on Millennials, young urbanites, college types, and the suburban middle class.  But, as Robert Putnam reminds us, the demographic that is the most unchurched is the working class, the lower income non-college-educated folks.  A big segment of these blue-collar workers has just stopped going to church.  They are also, with the personal and family problems that Putnam documents, arguably, most in need of ministry.  This is ironic, since the working class used to be the biggest supporters of conservative Christianity.  And yet, I’m unaware of any concerted effort to reach them, other than individual pastors in these communities doing what they can.I’m as middle class as they come, but I have a lot of affinity with these folks, having grown up in rural Oklahoma and working on jobs that for me were temporary ways of paying for school but for them were their permanent livelihoods.  They are typically good-natured, hard-working, and admirable in many ways.  But I can see in my old friends–more accurately, the adult children of those friends–the break-down that Putnam documents.

Spectre

This has the potential to be a great deal of fun:

Just a good, human teacher

This is really good.

Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture

Heath Lambert:

Blind spots

Russ Ramsey:

am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots—realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about.

Such is the nature of a blind spot—I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine.

We Cannot Love God if We Do Not Love His Word

R.C. Sproul:

Recently I read some letters to the editor of a Christian magazine. One of them disparaged Christian scholars with advanced degrees. The letter writer charged that such men would enjoy digging into word studies of Christ’s teachings in the ancient languages in order to demonstrate that He did not really say what He seems to say in our English Bibles. Obviously there was a negative attitude toward any serious study of the Word of God. Of course, there are scholars who are like this, who study a word in six different languages and still end up missing its meaning, but that does not mean we must not engage in any serious study of the Word of God lest we end up like these ungodly scholars. Another letter writer expressed the view that people who engage in the study of doctrine are not concerned about the pain people experience in this world. In my experience, however, it is virtually impossible to experience pain and not ask questions about truth. We all want to know the truth about suffering, and specifically, where is God in our pain. That is a theological concern. The answer comes to us from the Scriptures, which reveal the mind of God Himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of truth. We cannot love God at all if we do not love His truth.

The last days of Jesus: the Sent One sends

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On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:19-21)


The third day had come. The tomb was empty, just as Jesus had promised. But instead of finding the disciples rejoicing and boldly proclaiming the resurrection, we find them hiding behind a locked door, afraid of the Jewish leaders who had put Jesus to death.

And then Jesus showed up and everything changed.

“Peace be with you,” He said, holding up his hands and showing His side. And their fears were gone. Jesus’ promise was true—He had risen from the dead. This was not a hoax or an imaginary story. This was the living, breathing Son of God standing before them, who was about to tell them something important: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

Now, Jesus said, they were to go and speak. They had seen with their own eyes. Jesus had won victory over sin and death; He had paid for their sins in full. And now, they—and we like them—were to go and tell the world. The Sent One became the Sender, and the world would be turned upside down.


Father, thank you for the resurrection of Jesus, and that because of this day, we have such good news to tell the world. Just as Jesus sent out His disciples to make disciples of all nations, you’ve called us to do the same. Please give us boldness to speak as we ought, to not keep the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death to ourselves but to share it gladly and joyfully as we worship You. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

The last days of Jesus: the resting Lord of the Sabbath

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And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:2)


God created the heavens and the earth—light and darkness, time and space, land and water, plants and animals, man and woman… And then, He “rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” His work of creating all that is was complete.

It was finished.

During the days leading up to His death, Jesus was preparing to complete His greatest work: the redemption of sinners. And so He was arrested, beaten, tortured, nailed to a cross and left to die. And as He hung on the cross, in a loud voice he cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

And then, He died.

The Bible says very little about what happened on the day following Jesus’ death, but we do know one thing: it was the Sabbath. It was the seventh day, the day set aside as a time of rest before the Lord. No work was to be done. And this was what brought Jesus into so much conflict with the Pharisees. He was continually doing “works” on the Sabbath—and for this, they persecuted Him. But Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath, and just as His Father was working, so too was He working (Matthew 12:8; John 5:17).

But now, His work was finished.

And the Lord of the Sabbath “rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done”—just like His Father.


Father, few words should fill us with more joy than those telling us how you rested from your work. Thank you that Jesus imitated you completely by resting from His own work, the redemption of our souls. Help us to follow in this example as well—to enjoy the rest that you have given us, not only from the work of our daily lives, but the futile work of trying to save ourselves. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

The last days of Jesus: the despised but undefeated King

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And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-39)


After hours of mock trials, brutal torture, having been made to carry His own cross to the place of His crucifixion and finally having spikes driven through His hands and feet, Jesus’ work was nearly done. Darkness covered the land and a cry came from Jesus, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

From the cross, as Jesus quoted the first verse of Psalm 22, we’re left to wonder what was happening in that moment. What was happening between the Father and the Son, no one can say. But as Jesus cried out, intentionally quoting this psalm of David, we gain a better picture—for in all its details, this psalm is about Jesus.

Perhaps, it was a final reminder to the people that all that was occurring was happening according to the Scriptures. He was scorned by man; He was despised my His people. He was mocked, just as the psalmist said He would be (Psalm 22:6-8).

“He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35)

And when He breathed His last, and as the temple curtain was torn in two, those witnessing the events were left in awe, just as the psalmist sang:

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27-28)

Jesus was despised, but He was undefeated. The King of the Jews would die, but through His death “all the families of the nations” would worship Him.


Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us. Thank you that He endured the punishment we all deserve so we can truly worship you. Please help us to stand in awe when we consider the events of Good Friday, just as those who witnessed the death of Jesus did. Amen.


Photo via Lightstock

Links I like

When Jesus Said Farewell

Collin Hansen:

We Christians sometimes buy into a lie. We assume that if we’re not like those hateful, judgmental people who call themselves Christians, then the world will see that we’re actually pretty reasonable folks and want to follow Jesus. We believe that if Christians just cleaned up our act, then Jesus could finally captivate the hearts and minds of our neighbors.

The only problem with this view is that it has no basis in the example or teaching of Jesus. Nice Christians don’t always finish first. Even though Jesus loved perfectly to the end, his closest friends and disciples abandoned him when the political and religious authorities pinned him to the cross. Peter rebounded from his shameful denial of Jesus and vowed to love Jesus by loving his people. His reward? Jesus told him to expect that he, too, would stretch out his hands in unwanted death that would nevertheless glorify God (John 21:15-19).

You Can’t Claim a Promise

Barnabas Piper:

To claim something is to take ownership, to say “it’s mine.” When we lay claim to property we gain certain rights and privileges. Litigants are awarded claims or denied them, claims of monetary value. Promises don’t work like that.

Often people “claim” a promise when life is hard or they’re afraid. They might even claim a promise for someone else, a child who has walked away from the Lord perhaps. When people do this, though, they are taking the Word of God and attempting to “own” it like a talisman or mantra. They’re treating an utterance breathed out by God as a silver bullet or a security blanket, a quick solution or a comfort to carry around. Sadly, some preachers even express these ideas from the pulpit.

Easter Kindle deals

Also on sale:

 How Frozen should have ended

Get Defending Your Faith in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Defending Your Faith by RC Sproul for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Light and Heat conference messages (audio & video download)
  • The Cross of Christ teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Dubious Depictions of Faithfulness in ‘God’s Not Dead’

Marybeth Davis Baggett:

Here’s the thing: the cross Christians are called to take up by God’s Not Dead is more akin to a merit badge, a gold star on a class assignment, a “smile put on God’s face,” as Willie Robertson describes Josh’s achievement at the film’s culminating concert. A brand of Christianity is depicted in the film, but largely through emblem—a Newsboys t-shirt here, a cross necklace there. Evangelism reduced to mass communication, texting “God’s Not Dead” to all concertgoers’ contacts.

The last days of Jesus: the submissive Savior

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Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:36-46)


When we think of Jesus, we often think of Him as sure, strong and confident—the paragon of unwavering faith in the Father. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around the idea of Jesus being terrified. And yet, this is what we see on the night before the crucifixion.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, mere hours before He would be betrayed by Judas and led away to His death, Jesus experienced fear in a way He never had before. The full, unrestrained fury of God’s wrath against sin was about to be poured out on Him. He would endure all the punishment due for the sins of His people. So overwhelmed was He that Jesus began to sweat what appeared to be drops of blood! To say Jesus was terrified is a massive understatement. And so He asked the most important question anyone could ask: Is there another way?

How many of us have wondered this? After all, throughout the gospels, Jesus performed amazing signs and wonders—He even forgave sins with just a word. Did Jesus have to endure such torture? Wasn’t this kind of excessive? While this is difficult for us to understand, we need to take comfort in Jesus’ prayer:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus asked the Father if there was another way. How did the Father answer? He said no. The only way to rescue His people from sin was for Jesus to die. And Jesus responded by submitting to the Father’s will. By doing so, Jesus’ resolve was strengthened. His terror subsided. He stood, ready to face His betrayer, the submissive Savior, ready to die for the sins of the world.


Father, thank you for this picture of Jesus’ humanity—that He truly was a man, even as He was truly God. Help us to make His prayer ours, that we would be encouraged and strengthened as we submit our wills to Yours’, knowing that Your plans are far greater than anything we can imagine. Amen.


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The last days of Jesus: the delivered Deliverer

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When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” (Matthew 26:1-5)


Although they’d tried, the priests and scribes could not challenge Jesus’ authority. They couldn’t discredit Him. So there was only one thing to do: kill Him. But Jesus had a massive following—He was a hero among the people of Judea who were convinced He was the prophet Moses spoke of (Deuteronomy 18:15). Any action they took would be met with an uproar. The people would riot if Jesus were arrested during the Passover. If the priests were serious about their plan, they’d have to do it in secret.

But their plan wasn’t only theirs. It was Jesus’, too. In fact, it was He who, from eternity past, determined with the Father that this plan would come to pass. All the events that would occur were according to “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). This is why He could say to His disciples that in two days, He would “be delivered up to be crucified.”

He knew all the circumstances surrounding what would happen because, even as Caiaphas and the elders were making their plans, the plan belonged to Jesus. Jesus would be delivered over to them. He would be crucified. But He was being delivered up in order to be the Deliverer of His people.


Father, it’s hard for us to understand how human plans and Your plans work together, but we know from your Word that they do. Thank You that from before time began, You, the Son and the Holy Spirit planned to deliver Your people from their bondage to sin. You intended the plan of the elders, one meant for evil, to be used for good. Help us to see how You continue to work in this way even today, using the plans of men so You would be glorified and Your people would be saved. Amen.


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The last days of Jesus: the unchallengeable Authority

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And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33)


The conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders is not unlike many in our day. We see it time and again: Jesus could not have been God; he was merely a “good teacher.” But when challenged, most opponents can do little more than shrug in frustration and say, “I don’t know.”

Jesus would not allow the priests and scribes this luxury.

They had seen the signs He’d performed. They’d heard His powerful teaching. They’d witnessed Him tossing the moneychangers out of the Temple… And they wanted to know: on whose authority was He doing these things? Jesus was not a priest nor a recognized authority on the Scriptures according to their standards. He was the son of a carpenter from an unimportant town in an inconsequential province.

And yet, somehow, He was turning the world upside down.

And so they spoke up. “By what authority do you do these things?” they asked, with that barely concealed frustration you see when someone’s desperately trying to keep their cool. But Jesus knew their hearts better than even they did. He knew they weren’t sincere and so he backed them into a corner. If they answered His question, He’d answer theirs.

“Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Immediately, they saw the trap they’d walked in to. If they said John’s ministry was from God, Jesus would rebuke them for not believing his words. If they said it was from man, the crowd would lynch them, for they knew he was a prophet.

So they answered, “I don’t know.”

And so their ignorance and lack of sincerity stood revealed for all to see. But Jesus had no time for such things. He would not entertain their ignorance. They could not challenge what they did not know. They could not take away what was not theirs to give. And, they would learn, they could not even take His life unless He first gave it.


Father, we live in a time when so many challenge the authority of Jesus. They question Him, they reinterpret Him, they deny Him… Even in our own lives, we struggle to acknowledge His authority and submit to Him. Help us not to question Him out of ignorance or out of a lack of sincerity. Help us to honour and obey Him in all things, for our good and your glory. Amen.


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The last days of Jesus: the purifying Lord

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On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city. (Mark 11:12-19)


Jesus’ days leading up to the crucifixion were pregnant with meaning. Consider the cursing of the fig tree. Most of us have read this and been confused—why did Jesus react so strongly to the fruitless fig tree? Did He wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Was he suffering from low blood sugar? But Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree is only understood when read in light of what happens next in Mark’s gospel—His cleansing of the Temple.

What Jesus did figuratively with the fig tree, He did literally to the Temple. This was meant to be a place where the fruit of true worship could be seen. It was to be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7) to draw people from all the nations to see the glory and goodness of the Lord. Instead, it had been perverted into a house of commerce, one where man’s greed could be seen but God’s glory was hidden.

When Jesus came to the Temple this day, it was not as a pilgrim preparing for the Passover—it was as the sovereign King, passing judgment on the fruitless Temple and its works. Fruitless religious behaviour would end. Like the fig tree, it would wither and die (Mark 11:20). The tables were overturned. The moneychangers were run out. The religious leaders were condemned.

The Lord’s house and the Lord’s people would be purified. But rather than be purified themselves—rather than submitting to their king—the religious leaders determined to destroy the Purifier.


Father, the warning in the fig tree is clear: the outward appearance of spiritual health isn’t enough—we are to be people who bear fruit at all times. Cleanse our hearts, purify us, rid us of our sinful thoughts and motives, Lord. Allow us to show your glory to the world and bring honour to the name of Jesus. Amen.


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