“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
In penning one of the greatest proofs found in all of scripture about the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul here dramatically lays the groundwork for the eyewitness testimonies he is about to present.
Paul goes on to say that if Jesus did not rise, his own preaching is empty—that is, that it has no content nor meaning—and that the faith of those to whom he is writing is also empty—that their faith has nothing on which it is based.
So, Paul actually asserts that the resurrection of Jesus is the crux around which all of Christianity stands or falls: if Jesus did not arise as recorded, then all of Christianity falls apart. If, however, Jesus did arise, everything else the scriptures record about Christianity has everlasting meaning for all of us.
We give God praise and glory today—with deep, undying gratitude—for the fact that Jesus did arise. In doing so, He made going to heaven an assured possibility for everyone who has ever lived or ever will live.
There They Crucified Him
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots” (Luke 23:33-34).
Near the end of the Final Week in the life of Jesus, the greatest tragedy—and, at the same time, the greatest blessing—in the history of the world took place: it was the crucifixion of our Lord.
In spite of the injustices that had been levied against Him on every hand, He prays for His enemies, who, indeed, did not know what they were doing. In putting Jesus to death, they were playing into the hands of the Father who had in mind for this event to bring about the world’s greatest blessing.
In the shedding of His blood, and thus sacrificing His life on the cross, Jesus paid the ultimate price so that all mankind could have the possibility of going to Heaven. We should never allow our minds to be far from this profound, yet sobering, idea: He died so that God could forgive our sins and save us from everlasting punishment.
Do Not Entertain Temptation
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with his three closest apostles when he gives them this sobering advice while they are sleeping. Peter has just vowed his undying love for the Lord, but already he has forgotten and fallen asleep.
“Watch” means “stay awake” or “look out”; and “pray,” of course, means they should be vigilant to keep God close in order to stay strong enough to overcome temptation.
“Temptation” itself is not wrong; but “entering in” to temptation means we have, at least, allowed ourselves to stay around it. Such an action puts us in a position to “give in,” at which point we commit the sin suggested. Like us, these three wanted to stay faithful to the Lord; Jesus knew that about them. But, again, like us, they were human; and their flesh might allow them to give in to sin at a weak moment.
So, the point of the teaching is to guard ourselves by being careful about where we go, whom we associate with, and what we allow to enter into our minds, thus potentially leading us away from the Lord.
The Whole Truth
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
As He does in several other places in scripture, Jesus begins His admonition here with an expression that emphasizes the importance of what He has to say: thus, a serious student of the word must take heed.
Hearing Jesus’ word and believing in God qualify one for eternal life, provided the hearer understands the full teaching of these two points. To “hear” His word carries with it the necessity of “hearkening” to what He says.
To “believe” represents conditions that God requires before one can be saved and have the hope of eternal life in heaven. If that were not the case, this passage would conflict with many other New Testament passages—passages that teach that repentance, confession, and baptism are also conditions for salvation.
As we attempt to please God, we must rightly divide the word, always considering the teaching of all passages on a subject before we have the full truth of what God wants us to understand and implement in our lives—and that is the whole truth.
“She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial” (Mark 1:8).
Special does not begin to describe this incident that takes place in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. Instead of receiving praise, however, this woman receives criticism for “wasting” this expensive oil.
Fortunately, Jesus comes to her defense and praises her for doing a good work for Him—she anoints His head with the fragrant oil. But, further, He honors her as being a person who “has done what she could.”
As twentieth century Christians, we do not have the opportunity to anoint Jesus’ head nor to perform any other work for Him in His presence; but He has given each of us not only an opportunity but also a responsibility to “do what we can” for Him and for His Great Cause.
And the wonderful thing about our service for Jesus is that nothing we do is too small nor insignificant if we do it by his authority and in honor of His name. May we all have the determination to do whatever we have the ability to do for Him.
The Poor Widow
“and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. and He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’ ” (Luke 21:2-4).
Jesus is prompted to make this statement about the widow as he observes the rich casting their gifts into the treasury. The rich give from their abundance, but this widow gives from her necessities.
Evaluating the abundance with which the Lord has blessed us as well as remembering the priceless spiritual gifts and privileges the Lord has made available to us should give us pause for re-evaluating what we give to Him.
Without the love and blessing of the Lord, we would be physically and spiritually bankrupt. When we give, we are just returning to the Lord a portion of what He has allowed us to use as we go through life.
We might do well to consider these factors as we determine the amount of our giving.
The Preexistence of Jesus
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
These beautiful words begin one of the most wonderful pieces of writing that we have, not only in holy scripture but also in all of literature. The writer is John, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John does not try to prove the existence of God—he must assume all readers at that time would already be convinced of that fact. He just proves the preexistence of the Word—Jesus—before the creation of the world.
John’s purpose in this gospel account is to present a clear picture of the eternal nature of Jesus, of the essence of who Jesus was, and of the position of equality Jesus occupied and continues to occupy with God.
With his premise laid out, the apostle proceeds to lay the foundation for the acceptance of all of the wonderful truths about Jesus and the eternal scheme of redemption God has given mankind. Since Jesus is the Son of God, He surely must be believed—His subjects, then, must accept and obey His commands.
The Triumphal Entry
“And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!‘ ” (Mark 11:8-9).
“Spectacular” best describes this scene as Jesus and some of His followers make their way toward Jerusalem on this special day. And how different this scene from the one that will shortly take place when the multitudes will cry, “Crucify Him! Crucify him!”
The latter part of this passage is actually a quotation from Psalm 118:26 where the psalmist implores trust in the Lord and offers endearing praise to His holy name. This scene is the fulfillment of such prophecies.
Whereas the actions in this scene are unfamiliar to a modern audience, the significance is unmistakable. While we do not spread clothes nor leafy branches on a roadway for celebrities, we understand honoring them.
Jesus deserves to be honored—He is not only the greatest human being ever to live, He is most importantly the King of kings, the One who made forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation available to all mankind, including us. How grateful we should be!
Victory in Jesus
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
This verse is about Victory—spiritual victory that we can have if we maintain the kind of tight relationship with Jesus Christ the Apostle Paul has been describing in this section of scripture.
Having just listed some of the difficulties we may experience as human beings, Paul interrupts and makes this powerful and dramatic statement about Victory. Those who are faithful are not just conquerors—they are “more than conquerors,” Paul says in describing our ongoing battle with Satan.
The key to this Victory is not allowing anything—any of the kinds of problems he mentions here—to separate us from the love of Christ nor the love of God. That separation could come only as a result of our failing to obey the instructions provided in the inspired word.
The goal of every sincere Christian, then, is to come to the end of life with the assurance of Victory in our hearts as we view judgment day and eternity.
A Story of Failure
“And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?” (Judges 2:2).
When God gave the land of Canaan to the tribes of Israel, it was with the understanding that they would drive out the wicked people found there. They were to break down their idols and their altars.
In that beautiful land of promise, God wanted them to create a pure and holy nation that would literally glow with the glory of God against the backdrop of the wicked idolatry that was present there. The problem was they did not do what God commanded; so, theirs was a story of failure. They became tired, too eager to build their houses and to develop their farms.
Like these people, sometimes we ignore direct teaching in scripture about how God wants us to conduct our physical and spiritual lives: instead, we take care of our own business and follow our own ideas, thinking God will love what we are doing regardless.
If that ever becomes our way of thinking and mode of operating, we must know that the New Testament teaches we will arouse the same kind of displeasure from God as they did.
We in the Christian Age have the same kind of direction as these people of old: we must follow God’s direction, even if we do not understand His reason for requiring it. Jesus put it best: “If you love me, keep My commandments.”
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