Joshua, Introduction

Welcome back, dear readers!  I hope you enjoyed our prior study on the book of John.  As we move into summer, I want to switch gears and take a look at one of the most popular and well-loved Old Testament books – Joshua. 

Joshua is considered a historical book.  It details the conquest of the Promised Land by the children of Israel.  Let’s examine some background information before we dive into this book.

Who wrote the book of Joshua?  The scriptures do not name the official writer of this book.  The Talmud (the book of Jewish civil and canonical law not included in the Pentateuch) maintains that Joshua son of Nun was indeed the author.  The fact that the work bears his name is further proof of authorship.  There are some incidents in this book that take place after the death of Joshua; the Talmud attributes these additions to either Eleazer or Phinehas who were priests back in that day.

If Joshua is indeed the author (which is likely), it gives this book the additional credibility of being written by an eyewitness to the accounts contained in the book.

It could also be true that after Joshua wrote this book under divine direction, it was ‘updated’ or put into its present form by someone else (possibly Ezra the scribe, after the captivity).  Another theory suggests that it was penned by someone else entirely, using Joshua’s journals or memoirs.

In any case, we know this history was divinely inspired, prepared and preserved so that we can benefit from it today.

When did the events of this book take place?  This is a good question, and for the most part two answers are widely accepted. 

Traditionally, the date for the conquest of the Promised Land has been established as around 1400 BC.  This is based on the account of I Kings 6:1, which specifies that the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign was the 480th year after the Exodus. Since the fourth year of Solomon’s reign was about 966 BC, this puts the Exodus from Egypt at 1446 BC and the conquest of the Promised Land 40 years later, roughly 1400 BC.

The second theory has the Exodus at 1260 BC and the conquest of the Promised Land around 1220 BC.  This theory is based on the Rameses of Exodus 1:11 being the historical Rameses II who lived around 1290 BC.  This theory says that the 480 year period mentioned in I Kings does not represent an actual number, but 12 generations of 40 years.  If that is the case, then the actual number could vary, because the definition of a ‘generation’ is sometimes as low as 25 years. 

You can decide for yourself which theory you feel is correct.  In either case, it is the events themselves that we should be concerned about, as opposed to the actual date they occurred.

What happens in this book?  Joshua tells us the history of Israel under his command/government.  He details the events pertaining to the entrance into the Promised Land, the actual conquest of Canaan, the division of the land among the 12 tribes of Israel, and the establishment of religion during that time.  All of these events are successful due to the divine intervention of God.   

Why did Joshua write this book and why was it included in the cannon of Scripture?  The purpose of Joshua’s writing seems to be two-fold:

  • To show that God had been completely faithful in fulfilling his promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants.  In other words, God kept his part of the covenant with Abraham.
  • To show that God would bless his people only if they were obedient to his word; they must keep their side of the covenant in order to receive his blessings.

I believe we can also add a third item to this list.  The examples of physical warfare in the book of Joshua give us insight into the spiritual warfare that the church should be engaged in today.  Although Joshua did not know that as he wrote this book, I believe Holy Spirit knew that we would need this information in our day.  

What are the theological themes found in this book?  The book of Joshua has a lot to reveal about God.  Here are some of the theological themes we will encounter as we study it:

  • God is holy.  He does not tolerate wickedness, sin or rebellion.  The Canaanites are driven from the land because of wickedness; later Israel will be exiled from the land for the same reason.
  • God is not only holy, he is also gracious and merciful.  Anyone who turns from evil and seeks him will be spared.  Examples of this in the book of Joshua are Rahab and the Gibeonites.
  • God is the great Creator of all things; he is sovereign over nature.  Because of that, he can work miracles in nature.  An example of this is when the sun stands still as Israel battles her enemies.
  • God is not only the creator, he is also the owner of the universe.  The land is his to give to whom he will. He alone determines the boundaries of the nations in all ages.
  • Although God is love, he is also the Lord of Hosts; he directs/determines wars and warfare.  In the book of Joshua, we find that God fights for Israel in many ways.  He provides strategy to Israel, he commands the actual battle and he assists his people with supernatural acts.  In short, God gives victory to his people.  (Again, I feel this applies to our generation in the spiritual realm.)

    What about ‘injustice’?  The events in the book of Joshua took place under the Old Testament covenant.  There we find a clear definition of God’s laws, clear penalties for breaking them and clear rewards for keeping them.  There is no question that God has defined right and wrong.  While those who keep his laws will be blessed, those who choose to rebel against him will experience judgment. 

    In today’s culture, people do not like to face the reality of right and wrong.  In general, society is eager to affirm anything that anyone wants to do, regardless of God’s laws.  In fact, the more something opposes God’s laws, the more they endorse it.  They will completely condemn any teaching that seeks to define sin, and they will vehemently oppose anyone who differs with their opinion.  They are not afraid to judge the God of the universe based on their own blind and foolish reasoning!    

    It is true that we now live in the age of grace.  However, that does not give man the right to rebel against God.  Sin is even more clearly defined in the New Testament as are the consequences for rejecting Christ and pursuing evil. 

    Grace defers the judgment of sin in order to allow mankind a chance to repent and find forgiveness, but if man chooses not to do so, he will suffer judgment just as those in the Old Testament did.  (In the Old Testament, people suffered physical death because of sin, but under the age of grace, people are in danger of eternal spiritual death.)

    One reason I bring up this truth, is that people in our culture have been taught to denounce or revile any form of judgment which they consider unjust.  Think about it – ‘injustice’ is the catch phrase of our current culture!  But people do not have the authority to judge; God does.  In the book of Joshua, we will see that God endorsed the deaths of men, women and children.  Entire cities and people groups were to be completely destroyed in judgment.

    Modern day sinners will revile their destruction as hateful and unjust.  However, keep in mind that people do not have possession of all the facts; they never have been and never will be in a position to question God’s judgment

    Furthermore, it is clear that God did not destroy people just to give Israel the land.  The Canaanites were destroyed because of their own wickedness.  And God was not partial to Israel; they too were eventually slaughtered and removed from the land because of sin.  Rather than denouncing the justice of God, people should be grateful for the warning of judgment which we find in the books of the Old Testament.

    God’s severity in the judgment of sin is the counterpart of his infinite grace and love.  As we studied in the book of John, God so loved the world, he sent his only Son Jesus to earth to atone for our sin:

    John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    As a Christian, you may still have lingering questions regarding some of the concepts and actions which occurred in the Old Testament in general or the book of Joshua in particular.  All I can tell you is that God is perfect in all that he does.  We don’t understand everything fully now, but you can ask God for clarification in eternity. 

    In the meantime, let us endeavor to serve Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for our sin, so we could enjoy the many blessings of God as his children.

    I believe our study of Joshua is going to be encouraging, enlightening, thought provoking and beneficial! Thank you for joining me in this study!


    Hello, dear readers! This message is to let you know that we are on a two week hiatus. Our next post will be on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

    Would you like to get a head start on the next subject?

    When we return, we will be taking a look at the Old Testament book of Joshua.

    Meanwhile, let me pronounce this blessing upon you:

    Numbers 6:22-27 – And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, In this way you shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless you, and keep you: The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you:  The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

    John, Chapter 21, Part 2

    John 21:15 – When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

    As we ended out post last week, we were examining the miraculous catch of fish that Jesus gave to his disciples in Galilee.  After they came to shore, they found Jesus had prepared a breakfast of fish and bread for them. 

    After the meal is concluded, Jesus begins to speak to Peter. 

    Notice how specific Jesus is with his inquiry – he doesn’t just ask Peter if he loves him.  He asks if Peter loves him ‘more than these’.  In the original Greek language, ‘these’ is slightly ambiguous.  It means one of two things. 

    In the first scenario, ‘these’ would refer to ‘things’, such as Peter’s boat, his fishing equipment, his business, his house, etc.  If this is the reference, then Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than his possessions.  He is asking Peter if he is ready and willing to leave these things behind in order to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth. 

    However, in the second (and much more likely) scenario, ‘these’ would refer to the other apostles.  If this is the reference, then Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than the other disciples do.  That might seem like an odd question, until we remember the haughty claim made by Peter – that he would never abandon or deny Christ even though his fellow disciples might:

    Matthew 26:33 – Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

    With that statement, Peter implied that he loved Jesus more than his colleagues, and that he was more committed to Christ then they were.  

    So, with this one simple question, Jesus reminds Peter of his pride, his fall and his blasphemous denial of his master.  Notice how merciful and loving Jesus acts towards Peter.  Jesus could have scorned and chastised him in front of all the others; Peter certainly deserved it.  But instead, Jesus brings up this tough topic after they had shared a meal together in peace, speaking to Peter as a friend, not an accuser.

    Why would Jesus bring up this topic in the first place?

    He does it because Peter needs to be restoredMany scholars maintain that Peter’s treacherous denial of Christ rendered him unfit to be an apostle, and that he must be reinstated into his office.  Others feel this viewpoint is a bit extreme because there is no official record that Peter was ever actually excluded from the apostolic leadership.  Because of his denial, Peter himself may have wondered where he stood with Jesus and what his future role would be as a disciple.

    Clearly, Peter’s repudiation of Christ is a situation that cannot be ignored, ‘swept under the rug’ or simply shrugged off.  His conduct has dishonored Christ and stained the gospel message.  How can he now lead the church?  How can he instruct others in the faith?  How can we have faith in his testimony about Christ?   

    The only way for Peter to move forward and be effective in ministry is for Jesus to renew/reaffirm his calling or re-establish his position.  This is what we find happening in the last part of this chapter.

    The three confirmations that Jesus requires of Peter mirror his earlier three-fold denial of Christ.  Through this three-fold confirmation, Jesus is restoring Peter to his position as a full apostle; his betrayal and disgrace are completely blotted out by Christ. 

    Once this situation was addressed, Peter was able to move forward and boldly execute his office, being confident and assured of the calling he had been given by Christ. 

    John 21:16 –He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

    ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ – This is now the second time that Jesus confronts Peter with this question.  We notice that Jesus questions Peter in front of all his fellow apostles.  The reason is two-fold.  One, Peter had publicly denied Jesus, so he should now publicly affirm his love for Christ.  Two, it was important for the other disciples to hear Jesus re-affirm Peter’s call to ministry so they too could feel confident having him as a colleague and leader in the church.

    ‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ – Wow!  Peter sure has changed/matured.  We now see that his attitude is one of humility.  He no longer brags that his love of Christ is superior to that of his brothers.  He is now aware of his own weakness and his need to be spiritually strengthened. 

    This is a good lesson for every believer.  When we first come to know Christ, we are unaware of just how immature we are in the faith.  We are often unable to see our own shortcomings, even though we can seem to see them clearly in everyone else!

    Matthew 7:4-5 –Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.

    It is imperative that as Christians, we remain humble at all times.  While we may excel in some areas of Christian development, we all have areas that still need work.  If you think you are perfect, or close to it, I suggest spending time in the presence of Holy Spirit.  He can reveal to you those areas of your life that need to be more fully submitted to God, even though you can’t see them.  He is here to help you mature in your faith.

    ‘Tend my sheep’ – Throughout the scriptures, God often refers to himself as a shepherd and his followers as his flock/sheep/lambs (John 10:14, I Peter 2:25, Psalms 78:51-52, Ezekiel 34:12, etc).  This concept is key to understanding the command of Jesus in this passage.

    The directive Jesus gives here is not exactly the same as before.  The first time he instructs Peter to ‘Feed my lambs’.  The Greek word for ‘feed’ means ‘the care afforded (to the animal) by furnishing nutrition for the flock’.  Thus, our translation renders the phrase ‘feed my lambs’. 

    In other words, when Jesus instructs Peter to nourish his sheep, he is referring to giving them good/sound teaching and doctrine regarding the gospel.  This would be one of the main avenues of ministry for all the apostles once they were enlightened and empowered by Holy Spirit.   

    Sound doctrine/teaching was (and is) absolutely imperative to the church! Though the disciples didn’t realize it at the time, Satan was not going to sit idly by while they spread the gospel and won the world to Christ.  Just after the birth of the church, Satan unleashed his fury on earth.  He tried to destroy the church using a two-pronged attack:  persecution and false teaching.

    2 Peter 2:1 – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

    It was vitally important that the disciples maintain sound teaching and pure doctrine in the church, so that Satan could not lead believers astray into some kind of fruitless bondage or spiritual death. Even today, Christians must continue to be diligent in guarding against false teaching. 

    The second time Jesus answers Peter, his instructions are to ‘tend my sheep’.  The Greek word for ‘tend’ means to ‘govern, care for, guide, protect’.  This is the kind of care that a dedicated shepherd or pastor uses to guide his flock.

    The job of a pastor is much, much more than just giving a good sermon once a week!  Pastors are responsible for overseeing the spiritual growth of the entire congregation.  He or she must spiritually equip the church to stand up against attacks of the enemy and lead the congregation in Christian disciplines.  He or she must comfort, guide, teach and protect the flock, just as a shepherd does for his sheep.  Being a pastor is an awesome yet difficult job!

    John 21:17 – He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

    Now we come to the third time Jesus asks Peter to reaffirm his love for him.  Peter is grieved that Jesus would continue to ask this question.   Why was Peter grieved?

    It may be that Peter felt Jesus saw something deep within his heart which might lead to another fall from grace, and that Jesus was about to tell him about it.  After all, Jesus had accurately predicted Peter’s earlier denial (Mark 14:30).  

    It may also be that Peter thought Jesus did not consider his repentance to be sincere.  This would best explain why Peter appeals to the divine nature of Christ, stating that because Jesus was divine he knew all things, and because he knew all things, he knew that Peter had sincerely repented of his earlier denial. 

    This questioning was painful for Peter, but God used his grief and anguish for his own good.  Jesus reaffirms him as a true apostle, and Peter’s rashness in speech and action were gone for good – we never again see them appearing in scripture.

    John 21:18-19 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”(This he said to show by what kind of death he as to glorify God.)  And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

    The apostle John tells us that Jesus is speaking of the death of Peter in this verse.  Ancient writers tell us that Peter was crucified on a cross, upside down, about 34 years after Jesus’ resurrection.  If we examine this verse in light of these two facts, it seems plain enough to understand.

    The apostle John tells us that Jesus is speaking of the death of Peter in this verse.  Ancient writers tell us that Peter was crucified on a cross, upside down, about 34 years after Jesus’ resurrection.  If we examine this verse in light of these two facts, it seems plain enough to understand.

    Early on in life, when Peter was young, he had the freedom and ability to dress himself and go wherever he desired.  But if he accepts the mandate of Jesus to ‘feed my sheep’, then things will change when he grows older.  Specifically, a soldier will dress him and force him to go where he does not want to go – the place of crucifixion, where his arms will be stretched out on the cross and nailed (or bound).

    Several things can be noted about these verses. 

    • Jesus is warning or predicting the future suffering and martyrdom of Peter.  While that sounds awful, it was proof that Peter would never again deny Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Once filled with Holy Spirit, Peter would possess the fortitude to successfully endure any and all persecution that Satan could throw at him.  Because of his former fall, these words must have brought comfort to Peter at different points in his life.
    • There was no shame in the fact that Peter did not want to go to the cross.  (No one I know is hoping to die a humiliating, painful early death.  Do you know anyone?)Jesus is not saying that Peter would be unwilling to suffer martyrdom; he is just drawing a contrast between the freedom of Peter’s early life and the fact that he would be compelled to endure prison and death when he was older.  Keep in mind that Jesus also prayed to his Father to remove the cup of the cross from him, if at all possible (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36).   
    • This death would not come upon Peter until he was mature in the faith, and ready to endure the trial.  He seems to have known when the time was near, and he was able to speak about it without fear (2 Peter 1:12-14).  God also left him on earth for a generous amount of time, that the church might benefit from his teaching and testimony.

    Here is the good news – God does the same for us.  He will not put us into a situation unless it is possible for us to be victorious (I Corinthians 10:13).  In addition, we know that God walks with us through every trial:

    Hebrews 13:5 -Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

    Christ was glorified by Peter’s death.  When Peter was older and stronger in his faith, he was willing to die as a testimony to the truth of Christ and his gospel.  Incidentally, the scriptures tell us that the death of every believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, because it means we are reunited to him forever (Psalms 116:15). 

    After these words, it appears that Jesus rose from the table and began to walk, beckoning Peter to follow him.  This was a further confirmation that Christ had forgiven and restored Peter. 


    In some ways we could also say it was the reason for Peter’s eventual martyrdom – following Christ will cost you something.  Jesus had explained to all his disciples that the servant is never greater than the master.  Since the world hated and persecuted Jesus, it would hate and persecute his followers too (John 15:18-20).  Some of them, like Peter, would be asked to give their lives as a testimony to the truth.

    It has often been a topic of speculation among Christians whether or not their faith would stand strong if they were given the choice between death and renouncing their faith.  Overall, I think this is idle speculation.  The best way to be prepared for that situation is simply to remain close to Jesus and trust Holy Spirit for the strength to face that battle, if/when it comes upon you.

    Jesus’ command to ‘follow him’ still applies today.  Christians in our generation must continue to abide by the word of God and follow the example of Christ in all of our speech and actions.

    John 21:20-21 – Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”

    As Peter walks and talks with Jesus, he sees the apostle John following behind them.  At this point, Peter asks Jesus about the eventual death of John. 

    What prompted Peter to ask this question?

    We can’t say for sure because it is impossible for us to know his motivation.  Maybe, since John was a favorite of Jesus, Peter wondered if he would have an easier (less violent) death.  But on the other hand, the question may have come from a loving concern for his friend; perhaps Peter was very concerned about John suffering death by crucifixion. 

    What we do know for sure, is that Jesus did not choose to gratify the idle curiosity of Peter. 

    For most of us, God does not reveal to us the date or manner in which we will enter eternity.  There are certainly man good reasons for this. 

    • If we knew the date of our death, we would surely live reckless lives, assuring ourselves that it wasn’t our time to die. 
    • Because of our fallen nature, many would have a tendency to indulge in sin, thinking they could repent later. 
    • We would delay or ‘put off’ laboring for Jesus on a daily basis, if we knew we had more time. 
    • We would try to carefully avoid the place and time of our death, and thus seek to extend our lives.

    God’s plan is obviously far better – when we don’t know the final date or place of our death, we can live and work for Christ as if each day were our last. 

    John 21:22-23 – Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!”So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

    With this statement, Jesus makes it very clear that Peter was to stay within the limits of his own calling.  It wasn’t his business to know what God had prepared for John.  It was his business to follow Christ and complete the race that God had specifically laid out for him (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

    How does this apply to us?

    Our main business in this life is to follow after Christ.  It is fine to become rich/famous or create popular music or make great scientific breakthroughs, but these things are secondary to serving God.  Remember, you can’t take it with you!  The things of this world are temporary; only spiritual things are eternal.

    Matthew 6:19-20 – Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

    Just because you follow Christ does not mean you should abandon a secular calling on your life and pursue full-time ministerial work.  God is looking for people to serve him as they practice law, coach sports, govern people, run successful businesses, collect trash or repair cars.  Excel in the arena God has assigned to you and serve him there. 

    The path God has set before each one of us is unique.  Because each of us has an individual role assigned to us by God, we should never compare ourselves to other Christians.  Use the talents God gave you to the best of your ability, and you will succeed.

    Matthew 25:15 – And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his own ability; and immediately took his journey.

    Humans are curious by nature and we have many questions about life and religion that we would like to have answered.  However, there are some things we will never know.  We should not spend a great deal of time speculating about things that fall into this category.  For instance, we could argue or speculate endlessly on the interpretation of some portions of Revelation.  However, this would not be beneficial.  Instead, we should concentrate on being ready for Christ’s return.

    John 21:24 – This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

    It is commonly believed that the last two verses in John’s gospel were not written by him, but by the person or persons to whom he entrusted his manuscript.  This person verifies that the apostle John was a man of honesty and integrity. 

    The facts contained in his gospel are not mere rumors or third person reports.  John was both an eye-witness and an ear-witness to the events recorded here; these events have not been exaggerated but recorded just as they occurred. 

    John 21:25 – Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

    We can be sure that the miracles and teachings of Jesus were never exhausted by any of the gospel writers; many, many more miracles were wrought by Christ than those recorded in the New Testament.

    Yet, we have the assurance that it was not necessary to record more than the ones Holy Spirit included in the scriptures.  What has been written is a sufficient revelation of the doctrine of Christ. 

    Furthermore, it is implied that it would not have been possible to record all the actions of Jesus, even if someone had wanted to!  The sheer volume would be prohibitive. 

    Instead, let us rest assured that we have what we need to go forth and share the love of Christ with others!

    Let me offer you some encouragement:

    Today’s post spoke about the responsibility of Peter to perform pastoral duties – to govern, care for, guide and protect the local flock of Christ that has been placed under his or her care. 

    Your pastor bears many of these same burdens, often with little help and/or compensation.  So, if you love and appreciate your pastor, here are some things you can do for them:

    • Send them a text of appreciation and encouragement. 
    • Pray for them on a regular basis. 
    • Volunteer to serve or help on a church board or ministry.
    • Call them sometime when you don’t want or need something!

    What other ways can you think of to assist your pastors?  Don’t just wait for ‘pastor appreciation day’.  Let them know how much you love them right now!

    Let me offer you some relief:

    We noticed how merciful and loving Jesus acted towards Peter after his denial of Christ.  While that situation had to be dealt with, Jesus did so with mercy and grace.  He fully blotted out Peter’s sin and disgrace.

    Have you failed Jesus in some way?  If so, don’t hide from him like Adam and Eve did in the garden.  Instead, right straight to him in prayer, and confess your sin!  He will be deal with you in love and mercy too!

    Let me offer you some strength:

    Have you ever wondered about the time or place of your own death?  We have probably all done so at some time.  However, it is clearly not a circumstance that God wants us to dwell upon. 

    The best thing we can do is remember that TODAY is the only time we are guaranteed.  So, if you want to do something for Christ, spend time with him in prayer, ask him to visit you with dreams/visions, fill you with Holy Spirit or anything else, I suggest that you do it NOW!

    John, Chapter 21, Part 1

    John 21:1 – After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.

    In the final chapter of his gospel, John gives us additional infallible proofs that Jesus has risen from the dead.

    At this point, all the disciples of Jesus are well aware that he has risen; they have seen and interacted with him themselves.  Their eyewitness accounts give us faith to believe in the resurrection.

    As this chapter opens, we find the disciples have left Jerusalem, the site of the crucifixion and resurrection.  In some ways we might say that Jerusalem is now a forsaken city; it rejected Christ and now it is slated for destruction.  That destruction would happen in 70 AD at the hands of Rome. 

    Although the Jews will face intense and terrible persecution there, God has not completely rejected his city or his people.  He will preserve the Jewish nation and restore it to its homeland once again (1948 AD).

    As you recall, the Sea of Tiberius is the same as the Sea of Galilee.  This shows that the disciples have gone to Galilee, the place where they were told to meet the Lord (Mark 14:28, Matthew 26:32, Matthew 28:10). Galilee was a natural choice for the meeting; Jesus often ministered here and it is far away from the politics of Jerusalem. As far as we know, this account is the third time that Jesus has revealed himself to his disciples. 

    And of course, we find a lesson for ourselves in this verse.  Jesus told the disciples where to meet him – in Galilee.  He has also told us where to find him – in the place of prayer.  He desires to reveal himself to us there, just as he revealed himself to the disciples in Galilee.  If we want to fellowship with him, get to know him, and allow him to work in our lives, we must seek the place of prayer.

    John 21:2 – Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.

    Here we find seven of the disciples ‘together’ in Galilee.  The meaning is that they were residing together in the same place.  While they were in Galilee, waiting for Jesus and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, they went back to work. 

    This was a logical thing to do.  Remember, as long as they traveled with Jesus their needs were met by people who supported the ministry through donations (Luke 8:2-3).  With Jesus gone, that source of income was gone.  Because they had no idea how long they would need to wait for Holy Spirit to come, they had to find a means of support.  Hence, they returned to fishing.

    Notice that two of the disciples mentioned here are not identified by name.  Many scholars suppose they were Philip and Andrew, but there is really no clear basis for this identification – it is purely a guess.  The two ‘other’ disciples may have simply been followers of Jesus and not two of the apostles. 

    However, we can clear up any mystery about the apostle ‘Nathanael’ – we know him better as Bartholomew.

    John 21:3 – Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “We will go with you.”  They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

    First, let us remind ourselves that these men are experienced fishermen.  Not just recreational fishermen like many of us, but commercial fishermen – they had formerly gained all their living in this manner.  Therefore, we can conclude that they have all the necessary equipment, skills and knowledge to be successful in their venture.  We would expect them to succeed. 

    Yet, they labor all night long, without the least bit of success.  They didn’t catch even a single fish!  How can this be?

    There can be no doubt that God permitted the men to work all night long without the least bit of success, so that it would dramatically draw their attention to the miracle that was about to take place.

    John 21:4-5 – Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”  They answered him, “No.”

    How is it possible that the disciples did not recognize Jesus?  We know it was very early in the morning (twilight) and because of the distance to shore, they could not clearly see him.  Since they were not expecting to see Jesus, they probably thought he was a common person, looking to buy some fish.

    One thing we should note here is the timing of the appearance of Christ.  The disciples were at a point of hopelessness and possibly even despair.  Nothing was going as they thought it would, and they had exhausted all their own earthly strength and knowledge.  When they came to the end of their own strength, then Christ appeared to offer hope and assistance.

    Jesus addresses his disciples with a term of endearment (children), which infers both friendship and affection.  The greeting itself would not necessarily have revealed his identity because the word was commonly used by superiors offering a greeting to those of a lower station. 

    By asking them if they have any fish, he again draws attention to their true situation – they have nothing.  Once again, this will make the upcoming miracle an astonishing event in their minds.

    John 21:6 – He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

    Does this situation seem at all familiar?  It should!  In Luke 5:1-11 we have an almost identical situation.  Simon, along with James and John, had fished all night and caught absolutely nothing.  They headed for shore and were washing out their nets when Jesus came and asked them to put him in their boat and push off from the shore, so he could teach the crowd. 

    When he had finished, he instructed Peter to launch out from the shore and let down his net.  Peter was skeptical, but he did as Jesus instructed.  He caught such a huge catch of fish that his net broke.  He called for James and John to bring their boat and help him gather the fish.  The catch was so enormous that they filled both ships until they began to sink!

    At that point, Jesus told them to follow him, and he would make the fishers of men.

    Matthew 4:19 – And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

    This scenario is now played out a second time.

    Again, the disciples had fished all night with no results.  This time, a man on shore whom they do not know instructs them to specifically cast their nets on the right side of the boat. 

    We really do not know what prompted them to obey him.  Perhaps they remembered the command of Jesus from years before.  Perhaps they were simply at a loss as to what else to do, after an exhausting and unfruitful night of work.  In any case, they obeyed him.  After all, what harm could it do?  Maybe this stranger was acquainted with the lake and knew where the fish gathered, or maybe he could see a school of fish from his vantage point.  What was one final casting of the net, in this long night of frustration?  At least they would have the satisfaction of knowing they did all they could to succeed. 

    Immediately upon their obedience to his command, the miracle occurred. 

    Their net was so completely full of fish, they were not able to haul it into the boat!  In fact, they were barely able to drag it to shore.  Of course, you and I know that the ‘stranger’ was Jesus!

    This miracle shows the divinity of Jesus in two ways: The quantity of fish that were taken as well as the preservation of the net, which would ordinarily have broken under the strain.

    The multitude of fish was intended as an example for the disciples – it represented the immense number of souls that would be ‘caught’ for Christ through their ministry (Matthew 4:19).   The prophets had ‘fished’ for souls for years and years, but caught very little.  However, things had now changed.  As Holy Spirit worked through the disciples, 3000 souls would enter the kingdom of heaven on a single day (Acts 2:41)!

    In addition, the miracle provided an ample supply of provision for the disciples to support themselves and their families as they waited in Jerusalem for the coming of Holy Spirit.  Clearly, Jesus is revealing himself to the disciples as Jehovah Jireh – the provider of all of their needs.

    Consider this: God is the author/fountain of every blessing to mankind; the immense quantity of fish in the net was an act of kindness and provision from God to the disciples. 

    In the same way, the money that we earn today is a result of the blessing of God.  Scripture tells us that it is God who gives us the ‘power’ to get wealth:

    Deuteronomy 8:18 –But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto your fathers, as it is this day.

    This power includes things like intelligence, opportunities, creative ideas, health, strength, capital, connections and anything else that we need to succeed.  Like the disciples, we must take this power and earn/work for the wealth we need. 

    When we reap the rewards of a job well done, we need to remember that our success cannot be solely attributed to our own labor; God has made it possible.  Since that is the case, we should happily and gratefully bring our tithes and offerings into the house of God.  Furthermore, because God has been generous towards us, we ought to freely and generously give to those in need.  

    John 21:7-8 – That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

    As we know, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ was none other than the apostle John, the writer of this gospel.  He realized Jesus was the man on the shore, but not because he could physically see him.  His recognition was based on the miraculous catch of fish – John perceives that the great multitude of fish could only have come to him by the hand of God; therefore, it was God who guided his hands in obtaining it.

    He shares this information with Peter, who reacts with his usual zealousness.

    Peter (and probably the others as well) had been clothed only in his inner garment, which was his normal working attire.  But immediately upon hearing the Lord was on shore, he puts on his outer garment and jumps into the water. 

    While some feel he swam for the shore, leaving his friends behind to bring in the fish, others believe that since the boat was fairly close to land (roughly 100 yards), his intent was to assist in quickly drawing the boat to shore.  The latter explanation makes more sense because it would have been much more difficult to swim to shore wearing an outer garment. 

    In either case, we see that his actions are a reflection of his intense desire to be with Christ.

    It is interesting to note how different each of the disciples were, both then and now.  Some members of the church are contemplative, like John.  They serve the church with their great gifts of knowledge and wisdom.  Others (like Peter) are strong and active, making sure that things get done. 

    It is easy to see why the apostle Paul likens the church to a mortal body with different members such as ears, hands, shoulders, etc. Each and every member is vital to the health of the collective body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-31). 

    John 21:9 – When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.

    Remember, the disciples have been up all night, working a very physical job.  They are tired, hungry, wet and probably cold.  When they get to shore with Jesus, they find that he is ready to minister to their bodily needs.  He has prepared a warm fire and a hot meal. 

    This is an example of a truth that Jesus taught while he was physically on earth – our Father knows all that we have need of in this life Matthew (6:25-34), and he will provide it as we seek him first.

    Matthew 6:32-33 -(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.  But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    Scholars are divided on the origin of the bread, fish and fire.  The scriptures do not specifically indicate they were miraculously produced, although that is certainly possible.  What do you think?

    John 21:10-11 – Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them.  And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

    Jesus asks the disciples to go back to the shore and bring him some of the fish they just caught.  Why would he do that?

    We can be sure it had nothing to do with a shortage.  The scriptures tell us that Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children with just five small loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:21).  Jesus already had bread and fish cooking on the coals.  Feeding seven disciples wasn’t going to be a problem, no matter how much they ate.

    The answer is that Jesus wanted them to taste the gifts of his miraculous bounty, so they could be witnesses of his power and goodness.  The blessings he gives us are not to be hoarded for ourselves; as we have freely received we should freely give to others. 

    It also represents the partnership between Jesus and mankind.  Jesus made us fishers of men, but we are only able to catch people in our gospel nets by the power and influence of Holy Spirit.  Once we bring them to Christ, we still need his assistance to train and disciple them.  Only Christ can complete the good work that he begins within the heart of every believer (Philippians 1:6). 

    Many mysterious and silly explanations have been given regarding the exact number of fish (153).  None of them are supported in scripture.  The number may simply have been recorded because the disciples counted the fish in order to divide them equally amongst themselves. Besides, if you landed the biggest catch of fish ever in your whole life, wouldn’t you count them too, just out of curiosity? 

    Keep in mind, the miracle here is not the exact number of the fish, but the enormity of the catch and the preservation of the net.

    John 21:12 – Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?”  They knew it was the Lord.

    In asking the disciples to breakfast, Jesus is revealing his true nature to his followers.  Specifically, he is both God and man.

    The miracle of the fish proves his divinity.  By eating breakfast with them, he proves his humanity – Jesus is not just an apparition or a spiritual figment of their imaginations.

    This assures us that Jesus is our living high priest, our brother and our kinsmen redeemer, who now makes intercession for us in the throne room of God, while dwelling in our hearts through his Holy Spirit.  He continues to be clothed in the body which once hung upon the cross in a pool of blood and gore, only now it is exalted and glorified, shining brighter than the sun.

    Besides the proof of his nature, Jesus also invites his disciples to eat because he is concerned about their physical welfare.  Our bodies are temples of his Holy Spirit and he provides what we need so that our bodies can be refreshed and in good working order! 

    One can’t help but wonder if this is one of the reasons why the gift of healing was included in the sacrifice of the cross.

    John seems to make a big deal out of the fact that none of the disciples ‘asked’ Jesus who he was.  It was not that they did not recognize him; they were all well aware that it was Jesus sitting with them at breakfast. 

    The Greek word translated ‘ask’ means ‘to prove or inquire’.  John’s point seems to be that a proper awe of the deity of Christ had settled on their hearts and minds and as a result, they approached him in reverent silence. Asking him for any further kind of proof would be to display unbelief and hardness of heart, and they certainly didn’t want that!

    John 21:13-14 – Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

    When John references the ‘third time’ Jesus appeared, he means the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples collectively.  Since John is giving us his own personal account/witness in his gospel, he skips over the instances where he was not personally present.  These would include Jesus’ visitation of Mary as well as well as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and others. 

    John does not specifically say that Jesus ate breakfast with them, but it is certainly implied in the context.  Besides, in the book of Acts, Peter specifically tells the Gentile Cornelius that the disciples both ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection.  This is one of the infallible proofs that Jesus provided to show that he was alive after the crucifixion (Acts 10:41). 

    Let me offer you some encouragement:

    In today’s post we talked about the disciples meeting with Jesus in Galilee.  Let’s stop and consider this for a moment. 

    Under the Old Testament law, NO ONE could come into the presence of God except the high priest, and he could only do so once a year.  Fellowship with God was not possible because of our sin.  Think of the millions and millions of people who lived during that era – they had zero access to the presence of God.

    When Jesus came to earth, his disciples (especially the twelve) were able to fellowship with him on a limited basis, but he was only one person and he still had to eat, sleep and teach.  Plus, access to Jesus continued to be almost nonexistent for everyone else (especially the Gentiles).  

    But now that Jesus has risen and he abides in heaven, you and I have UNLIMITED access to the throne room of God 24/7!  What a privilege to be able to meet/fellowship with the God of the universe at any time, in any place, regarding anything on your heart and mind!

    If you still think of prayer as an obligation, I encourage you to think again – the opportunity to meet with Jesus is a priceless gift!

    Let me offer you some relief:

    Several of the disciples went back to their fishing boats in order to provide for the daily needs of themselves and their families.  They toiled without success until Jesus came into the picture, bringing them relief.  But keep in mind, the relief came in the form of work – they still had to cast the net, catch the fish, drag them to shore and eventually sell them.

    The bible assures us that God knows what our needs are, and he is here to assist us.  However, it is very unlikely that he is going to make money grow on a tree in your backyard.  Rather, he will open doors of opportunity for you to work/earn what you need.  So, if you are praying for relief in your finances, be aware that most likely something will be required on your part – God isn’t going to do your work for you!

    Let me offer you some strength:

    The period of time between Jesus’ the resurrection and his ascension to heaven was an unusual one.   The disciples encountered Jesus at different times and in different ways. 

    Jesus was furnishing them with proof, after proof, after proof of his resurrection, so that they could spread the gospel message with confidence.  Overall, we could say that Jesus was preparing them for their future role as his apostles.

    What is Jesus doing in your life right now?  Have you considered the fact that whatever you are going through right now is training for a future ministry or good work that he has prepared for you to do?

    Remember, if you are still on this planet, then God still has plans and purposes for your life.  So stay strong in your faith, and keep an eye out for new opportunities to serve the Lord!

    John, Chapter 20, Part 2

    John 20:19 – 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.”

    Back in chapter 19, John gives us the testimony of several eyewitnesses who confirmed that Jesus was undeniably dead after his crucifixion.  In chapter 20, he gives us the testimony of several eyewitnesses who saw, touched and spoke to our resurrected Lord.  So far, we have studied the testimonies of Mary Magdalene and the apostle John.

    In today’s post, we find the testimonies of more people who interacted with Jesus after he was raised from the dead. 

    In the early morning of ‘that day’, Mary and her friends went to the tomb before sunrise and found it empty.  By midday, all the disciples had heard that Jesus was risen, although not all of them had seen him.

    But he had been seen by the other women who came to the tomb (Matthew 28:9) and two other believers who were on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13).

    It would appear as though the Jewish religious leaders were also coming to grips with the fact that something had happened.  The Roman guards had reported seeing angels, who rolled the stone away from the tomb.  They accepted a bribe from the Jewish leaders to keep quiet about what they saw (Matthew 28:11-15).  

    In light of that news, some of the priests and Pharisees would certainly have gone to the tomb to see what was going on; it was in their best interest to know what they were facing.   They certainly would have desired to put their own ‘spin’ on this news before it reached the general public.

    All things considered, it seems logical that we find the disciples gathering that same evening to discuss this news, to consider what might happen in the near future, and to worship God.  Because it was only a few days after the crucifixion, they were all still very much afraid of the Jewish leadership.  For all they knew, they were going to be the next targets of their wrath. 

    At some point in that meeting the unexpected happened – Jesus appeared!  Please note: There is nothing in the text to suggest that he miraculously appeared out of thin air.  

    He probably just opened the door and entered the room, the same as everyone else.  But because of his unexpected appearance and because most of them had not yet seen him alive, they were alarmed or fearful when they saw him.  The fact that they had abandoned him just before his death probably didn’t help either.

    As we see multiple times in the scriptures, God does not want his followers to be fearful.  Jesus addresses them by saying ‘shalom’ or ‘peace be with you’ which was a very common greeting at the time.  

    ‘Shalom’ is an interesting Hebrew word.  It denotes all the peace, cheerfulness and prosperity desired to live a happy life.  We could rephrase it like this: ‘May you be well and prosperous’ or ‘May every blessing of heaven and earth which you need be granted to you’.  

    The overall meaning is very clear – much to the disciples relief, Jesus has not come to condemn them; he has come to them as a friend and brother.

    John 20:20 – When he had said this, he showed them his hands, and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

    When Jesus rose from the dead, he retained the same scars he had in life.  He showed the disciples the wounds in his hands, feet and side (Luke 24:38-39).  This was irrefutable proof that he was the same being who had suffered and died by crucifixion, and he had truly risen from the dead just as he promised.

    In that instant, all the grief and sorrow of the disciples simply melted away.  It was replaced with incredible joy as they were reunited with Christ, and their faith was confirmed within them.

    John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

    Once all of the disciples had a chance to verify this was really Jesus, our Savior once again gives them a salutation of peace and blessing.  Thus, he assures them that they have been forgiven and reconciled to him, despite the fact that they abandoned him in his hour of suffering and death.    

    Not only has Jesus forgiven them, he also proceeds to commission them to continue his work, in his authority.  They are his ambassadors, going forth in his name and establishing the kingdom of heaven in the world.  They will be the ones to continue preaching the gospel (while confirming it with signs and wonders), baptizing new converts and making disciples of the nations.  

    Using the authority Christ has given them, the apostles will establish and organize the church. They will declare the fullness of God’s love and show the way to peace/reconciliation with God (II Corinthians 5:18-20).  In essence, Jesus has declared them to be pastors, teachers and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11-12). 

    Because they carry on the work he started, the disciples of Christ can expect the same treatment he received – at times they will be persecuted and at times they will be accepted.  At times they will be revered/honored and at times they will be cursed.  At times people will accept the gospel and at times they will reject it.  

    We too continue to work under the same commission as the disciples.  Jesus has set us apart for the very same purpose (to spread the gospel), clothed with the same authority and empowered by the same Holy Spirit.

    John 20:22 – And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

    This is a most unusual verse.  We know that the followers of Jesus did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, because the gift of Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  That could not occur until Jesus had ascended to heaven and been glorified (John 7:38-39, John 16:7).  Furthermore, we have a very detailed account of the coming of Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.

    So, what was happening here?

    Jesus was giving his followers an outward physical sign of an inward spiritual change that was shortly to take place.  This is a technique often used in scripture.  A similar example would be water baptism.  Believers are to be baptized in water (Matthew 28:19).  The act of being baptized is an outward physical sign of the repentance/cleansing that has taken place in the invisible heart of the believer. 

    In this case, the act of breathing on the apostles was an outward sign/pledge which represented the invisible nature and influence that would come upon the disciples when they received Holy Spirit.  It also clearly identified the source of the Spirit and all his gifts/workings – Jesus himself.  Sadly, many Christians have attributed the works of the Spirit to Satan, because they seem unusual or because they have been given incorrect teaching.   

    The word John uses for ‘breathed’ only occurs once in the New Testament.  It is the same word used in Genesis when God ‘breathed’ the breath of life into man’s nostrils, and he became a living being:

    Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

    Just as the breath of God breathed natural life into our physical bodies, the breath of Jesus breathed Holy Spirit life into our spiritual man.  Once we accept Christ as savior, Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, enabling believers to accomplish the spiritual agenda God prepared for us. 

    We can clearly see the result of Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of the apostles. 

    Just after the crucifixion, we find the apostles uncertain and afraid.  Despite having been the interns of Jesus for three years, they are still ignorant of the true meaning of scripture.  They were not yet qualified to establish and govern the church, or to fully explain and share the gospel message.  They would have immediately crumbled if faced with persecution.

    However, once they had been filled and baptized with the Spirit (Acts 2), we see a complete change in the apostles.  They became confident and courageous.  Because of the illumination of the Spirit, they could accurately interpret the scriptures.  They received wisdom and authority to establish/govern the church.  They were bold and fearless in the face of persecution, preaching the gospel at every opportunity.  Clearly, because of Holy Spirit, they were now enabled to accomplish the work which God had commissioned them to do.

    John 20:23 – “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

    We need to be very careful how we interpret this particular verse.  It is an irrefutable fact that God alone can forgive sins.  It would be blasphemous and absurd to say that any ordinary man (created creature) could absolve the guilt associated with a sin against our Creator, God. 

    Isaiah 43:25 – I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake…

    In other words, God has the authoritative or magisterial capacity of forgiving sin.  This authority belongs to him alone.

    What Jesus is giving the apostles is the ability to sanction forgiveness in a ministerial capacity.  Let me explain.

    To begin with, let’s look at the context of the statement Jesus made.  Two things should specifically be noted. 

    First, the statement is spoken immediately after Jesus has conferred Holy Spirit upon the disciples (verse 22).  This implies that it is not the disciples, but Holy Spirit within them, who can remit sin. 

    Second, it was spoken after Jesus commissioned the disciples to carry on his work of spreading the gospel (verse 23).  This implies that the disciples were not sent into the world to condemn it, but to bring/reveal the light of the gospel so mankind could be saved.

    The meaning of this passage is that Holy Spirit, working through the disciples, would determine/establish/make known the terms and conditions under which people could receive forgiveness during the age of grace.  Establishing those conditions was part of the apostle’s responsibility in instituting the church.  However, the requirements were not of their own choosing; the requirements were given to them by Holy Spirit.

    Because the conditions of forgiveness are clear, every believer can have a personal assurance of forgiveness when they comply with the requirements (Acts 2:38, Acts 16:31, etc).

    Thus, in a ministerial capacity, the disciples could assure/declare to someone that their sins were forgiven.  Again, this is different from the authoritative or magisterial forgiveness of sin, which comes through Christ alone.

    Simply stated, the only power of forgiving sin that man has, is to declare that if a person is truly penitent, their sins are forgiven because of/through the work of our Redeemer.  The purpose of bestowing this ministry on the apostles is so that ordinary men and women who live during the age of grace (the church age) can be fully confident that their sins have been forgiven by God and they are truly reconciled to him. 

    John 20:24 – Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

    We are not specifically told why Thomas was not with the other apostles.  It may have been that his fear of the Jews was so great, he dared not come.  Perhaps he had given up hope.  Or perhaps his attention was diverted by the demands of his family. 

    What we can say for sure is that he really missed out on a blessing by not attending the meeting that day. 

    Likewise, as Christians we are specifically told to regularly meet together (Hebrews 10:25).  The reasons for this are many:

    • You will have an opportunity to anoint and pray for others.
    • You will have an opportunity to encourage/strengthen your spiritual family through your testimony. 
    • You will have an opportunity to engage in corporate worship and praise.
    • You will have an opportunity to teach or instruct new believers.
    • You will have an opportunity for the gifts of Holy Spirit to flow through you.
    • You will have an opportunity to give your tithes and offerings in obedience to the word of God.
    • You will have an opportunity to form new friendships/relationships.

    The list goes on and on…

    Here is something to keep in mind:  By missing the meeting, Thomas not only deprived himself of the chance to minister to others, he missed the chance to be ministered to himself.  Had he shown up that day, his colleagues would have encouraged him in his faith and he would have had a chance to see Christ for himself!

    Are you a regular in-person church attendee?  If not, you are not only missing opportunities to strengthen the local body of Christ, you are depriving yourself of receiving blessings from God.  Please, please, please – get plugged into your local church now!

    John 20:25 – So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

    The ten disciples who had seen Jesus hastened to report these events to Thomas.  We can easily imagine their excitement as they give him a full account of what transpired at that meeting. 

    This information was not hearsay or rumor or even a third-party account.  It was actually a testimony – a firsthand account of what they personally experienced with Jesus!

    All Christians have a testimony.  Each one of us should be able to give others a firsthand account of how Jesus has impacted our lives, forgiven our sin, and given us hope for the future. 

    Your personal testimony is one of the most powerful witnessing tools you have.  You can easily and naturally share it with others during the normal course of everyday conversation.  It gives others a genuine example of the impact Christ can have in the life of any individual.  It will draw them to the Lord.

    What is your testimony?  You should consider rehearsing yours.  I recommend writing it down and organizing it in such a way that you could share your life story in five minutes or less.  By preparing in advance, you will be able to stay on topic and keep the attention of your listener long enough to share.  Don’t be caught off guard – have your testimony ready!

    Sadly, despite hearing the testimony of his reliable colleagues, Thomas is still skeptical that Jesus is alive.   Furthermore, he demands physical proof of the resurrection – he wants to see the scars in Jesus’ hands and side.  Unless he receives this evidence, he refuses to believe.

    Thomas is often criticized for his unbelief (as well he should be):

    • He disregarded the words of Jesus, who repeatedly stated he would rise on the third day.
    • He ignored the testimony of the other apostles, even though he knew them to be men of wisdom and integrity.
    • He offended and discouraged his brothers by openly denying/disregarding the resurrection.
    • He treated Christ and his word with contempt by saying he would only be convinced by a physical sign, instead of by faith.  The unbelieving Jews had also asked for a physical sign, but they did not get one (Matthew 16:4). 

    It’s only fair to point out that the other apostles also initially exhibited unbelief at the news of the resurrection, although their unbelief was quickly replaced by faith:

    Mark 16:14 – Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at table, and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen him after he was risen.

    Let’s beware of falling into the same error in our own lives, because unbelief is a sin which is very displeasing to God.  If Jesus said it, it’s true.  If he promised it, you can count on it!

    John 20:26 – Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

    Instead of honoring the Jewish Sabbath, the disciples began to regularly meet on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10), which they called the Lord’s Day.  The current Christian tradition of meeting on Sunday was derived from this practice.

    This time, Thomas is present in the group. 

    Jesus once again comes into the meeting and this time he condescends to the weakness of Thomas’ faith – he offers to let Thomas touch his wounds.  This does not mean that Jesus was pleased with his lack of faith; the opposite was actually true.  

    However, Jesus uses this event to prove to Thomas (and us) that he was the same Christ who had been crucified. The same wounds that were present on Jesus before he died were present when he rose from the dead.  Because of this example we can place our faith in Christ with full confidence, knowing that he has indeed risen from the dead.

    John 20:27 – Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

    Did you notice that when Jesus speaks to Thomas he uses the exact same words that Thomas had spoken earlier?  By doing so, Jesus demonstrates that not only was he risen, but he possessed divine knowledge – he was conscious of the words and actions of men. 

    All it took was this one statement from Jesus to convict Thomas of his unbelief.

    Thomas was the last apostle to have faith spring up within his heart; until Jesus reached out and convicted him, his faith was in danger of dying.  Through the preaching of the gospel, Holy Spirit still convicts men and women today, leading them to eternal life in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 7:9-10). 

    John 20:28-29 – Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to them, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    The response of Thomas is immediate and forceful.  It is a heartfelt statement of truth reflecting both his own stupidity and the majesty of Jesus. 

    My Lord:  Thomas addresses Jesus as Lord; he acknowledges that Jesus is indeed the very same person that he had spent the last three years with – the very same person who had been crucified and buried, yet was now alive!

    My God:  Thomas also addresses Jesus as God; he acknowledges his divinity and pledges his undying submission to Jesus.  From this moment forward, Thomas will worship him as God. 

    Thomas is the first of the apostles to address Jesus as ‘God’.  Notice that Jesus allows himself to be addressed in this manner.  This is clear evidence of his divinity; for if Thomas was wrong, Jesus would have corrected him.

    Jesus responds to Thomas by approving/confirming his faith.  He now believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, but only because of what he could prove with his own physical senses.  His faith would have been more excellent if he had believed without such evidence, because faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

    Jesus goes on to highly commend the faith of those who will believe in him by the preaching of the gospel without having seen the physical proof of his nail scarred hands.  Jesus declares that this group of people (which includes you and me) are blessed.

    John 20:30-31 – Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    In these verses, John gives us the reason for penning his gospel.  He gives us an eyewitness view of some of the things that occurred while Jesus walked the earth, so that we can feel confident about believing in Jesus as the Son of God and trusting him as our Redeemer.  

    Let me offer you some encouragement:

    Holy Spirit, working through the apostle John, has given us plenty of evidence that Jesus died and rose again.  If he is able to keep that promise, then we can be confident that every other promise he has made in his word can be trusted!

    Scripture gives us other confirmations of God’s faithfulness as well.  For example, look at the testimony of Joshua son of Nun, after Israel finally possessed the Promised Land:

    Joshua 21:45 – There failed not any of any good things which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. 

    I encourage you to find and claim your promise in the scriptures, knowing that God is faithful to his word.

    Let me offer you some relief:

    We have seen that the disciples experienced some unbelief in their lives, despite being with Jesus for an extended period of time.  Perhaps you too are experiencing some unbelief.  While that is not uncommon, it isn’t a good thing. 

    The unbelief of Thomas disappeared when he saw Christ.  So, if you are stuck in unbelief, move into an extended time of praise, worship and prayer.  Shut out all distractions and focus on God.  Once you enter his presence and touch him again, your unbelief will fade.

    Let me offer you some strength:

    Once Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Christ, they were empowered with everything they needed to accomplish the tasks God prepared for them to do.   The good news is that Holy Spirit has not changed (Malachi 3:6).  He is dwelling in your heart right now, ready to assist you with wisdom, boldness, spiritual understanding and every other thing you need to fulfill your own personal mission on earth.

    If you feel lost or stuck right now, don’t waste any time – seek Holy Spirit immediately and receive everything you need!

    John, Chapter 20, Part 1

    John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

    Our last post ended with the death and burial of Christ but, hallelujah, the story does not end there for Jesus has risen!

    In the prior chapter, John recorded five witnesses who each independently testified that Jesus was truly dead.  Now he will give us the eye witness accounts of multiple people who saw Jesus alive and who would testify that he had risen from the dead.

    This is absolutely critical because Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that he was the Messiah.  Those who would not believe any other evidence were referred to the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights (Matthew 12:39-40). 

    Furthermore, Jesus went to the cross to pay the full price for our redemption – the price which was set by Father God.  If Jesus dies for us but never rises again, the only conclusion we can reach is that God did not accept his sacrifice and that we are still in our sin.

    So these eyewitness accounts are vitally important.   

    The first witness to the resurrection is Mary Magdalene. 

    Mary was a faithful believer/follower of Jesus.  Scripture tells us that Jesus cast seven devils out of her (Mark 16:9).  From then on, she (and other women as well) traveled around with Jesus and the apostles, ministering to them in many ways, but particularly by assisting them financially (Luke 8:1-3).  

    John informs us that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the grave while it was still dark.  We cannot help but notice the faithfulness of Mary. 

    • She was with Jesus as he traveled around, preaching the gospel. 
    • She was there for his crucifixion, even though his disciples had fled in fear (Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49). 
    • She was present when Jesus was laid in the tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47). 

    Now she (along with Salome and the ‘other’ Mary/mother of James) faithfully and courageously goes to the tomb fearing neither the guards nor the dark of night.  Her only concern is how to move the enormous stone that blocked the entrance (Mark 16:3).

    Her purpose in going to the tomb was two-fold.  One reason was to bring more spices to anoint the body (Mark 16:1-2), while paying her final respects.  The second was to weep and mourn for the death of the Savior.

    But as she arrives at the tomb, John tells us that she finds the stone ‘taken away’ from the tomb.  Let’s take a moment to review this, since John did not include the sealing of the tomb in his account of the death/burial of Christ.

    In the gospel of Matthew (27:62-66), we find that on the day immediately following the day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees once again approached Pilate asking for a favor.

    They tell the governor about Jesus’ prophesy that he would die and rise again on the third day.  The Jewish leaders are deeply concerned about the possibility of the disciples stealing his body and ‘pretending’ that he had risen.  They were very fearful that if this rumor ever got started, they could never stop it. 

    So with Pilate’s support, they placed a seal upon the stone which served as the door to the tomb.  In addition, they stationed a number of Roman soldiers at the entrance to stand guard.  They were determined to prove that Jesus was dead and he wasn’t coming back. 

    Yet, according to all the gospel writers, when the women arrived at the tomb, they find the guards gone and the stone rolled away!

    John 20:2 – So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

    As usual, we find that John does not feel the need to mention every single detail of the events he records, especially things noted by the other gospel writers.  The purpose of his account of the resurrection is to establish the fact that Jesus had risen, and to depict the gradual dawning comprehension and faith of Christ’s followers as they realize he has risen from the dead.

    So, when Mary comes to the tomb, she is surprised to find the guards gone and the stone rolled away from the entrance.  As she investigates, she finds the body of Jesus gone.  Soon other women arrive and they too confirm that the body is gone. 

    As we know, Jesus plainly told his followers multiple times that he would be crucified and rise on the third day (Matthew 20:19, Mark 9:31, Luke 18:33, etc).  But despite this fact, when the women find the tomb empty, they are bewildered and perplexed.  They assume that the body has simply been moved. 

    Specifically, they believe that either someone has moved it from its temporary grave to a new tomb (perhaps Joseph or Nicodemus), or the body has been stolen by the enemies of Christ. 

    In bewilderment and alarm, they abandon the useless spices and immediately go to report this news to the disciples.   

    John 20:3-5 – So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

    It appears that the disciples were either lodging together just as they had done when Jesus was alive, or they were staying in very close proximity to each other.  Regardless of which scenario is correct, we are relieved to note that Peter’s denial had not cut him off from his fellow apostles.  John had invited Peter into his home and the other disciples were also still associating with him.   

    In a state of fear and sorrow, Mary relates the news of the empty tomb to the disciples.  Having seen the empty tomb, she is seized by despair.  She interpreted the situation as dark and hopeless, but she is completely and utterly wrong!  In reality, that empty tomb was pregnant with victory and promise!

    The same is true for the seemingly dead places in your life.  Whether it’s a broken relationship, a financial need, a prodigal child or a physical ailment, know this: There is nothing our God cannot resurrect!

    So don’t lose hope when faced with a dark situation.  View it as an opportunity for Jesus to do something miraculous.  Sometimes God allows those things into your life in order to stretch your faith, or show you a new facet of his character. 

    After hearing Mary’s report, the two men run to the tomb for a first-hand look at the situation.  John is the younger man and as we would expect, he arrives at the tomb first. 

    Also as we would expect, he hesitates outside the grave because he is more timid and restrained than his colleague. 

    John 20:6-7 – Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

    Peter, however, is as bold and impetuous as ever.  Arriving at the tomb he brushes past John and immediately rushes inside.

    Peter notices the face cloth (your translation may say napkin) neatly folded up and placed by itself.  John did not see this at first, because it was only visible from inside the tomb. 

    However, both men were able to see the pile of grave clothes.  This fact is noted by all four of the gospel writers, and well it should be, because the grave clothes are clear evidence that Christ had risen from the dead!

    It is ridiculous to think that anyone, friend or foe, would have unwrapped the body before moving it. 

    If the body had been stolen by the religious leaders (or someone hired by them), they would certainly not have taken the time to unwrap a body that had been dead/decaying for three days.  They would just have taken the entire thing and left the tomb as quickly and discretely as possible.

    The same can be said of a friend who wished to move the body to a new grave – they would certainly not have dishonored Jesus by carrying his naked, decaying body through the streets of Jerusalem in order to bury it someplace else. 

    And in either case, there would be absolutely no reason to neatly fold the face cloth and separate it from the rest of the linen. 

    It is interesting to note that when Lazarus was raised from the dead, he exited the tomb still wearing his grave clothes, because at some point death would claim him again.

    John 11:44 – And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

    But when Christ rose from the dead he left his grave clothes behind him, because he no longer needed them – he would live and reign forevermore!  Death no longer had power over him.

    Romans 6:9 -… Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him.

    And because of the power of Christ, death’s dominion over us is only temporary.  One day, when Jesus returns to earth, the dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air.  They will be joined by those who are still alive and all of us will accompany Jesus to heaven (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).  What a victorious day that will be!

    John 20:8-9 – Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 

    Once Peter enters the tomb, John follows.  He too sees the empty tomb with the pile of grave clothes and he notices the neatly folded face cloth.  The evidence clearly points to the fact that the body was neither stolen nor moved.  But if that was the case, what had happened?

    All of a sudden, John begins to remember and consider the words of Jesus – he would be crucified and then rise on the third day!  The truth that John understood with his brain suddenly became truth he understood with his heart/spirit.  Could it be that Jesus calmly and deliberately rose from death, freed himself from the grave clothes, neatly folded the face cloth and exited the tomb? 

    At this point, we witness the birth of John’s faith – “he saw and believed”.  Seeing the grave clothes with his physical eyes brought sudden sight to his spiritual eyes. 

    Once this truth was birthed into his spirit, the other words/promises of Jesus also sprang to life.  If Jesus had risen from the dead, just as scripture predicted, then the Messiah had come.  The law had been fulfilled.  Our high priest, the mediator between God and man, had taken up his office.  Believers could now be reunited with God and saved from sin and death.

    Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

    I imagine at that moment, John’s head was spinning!  But while John believed, Peter still seemed in the dark.  The two left the tomb and returned home, no doubt discussing the situation on the way.

    John 20:10-11 – Then the disciples went back to their homes.  But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.

    For her part, Mary is utterly consumed with grief.  She follows Peter and John back to the tomb, but when the disciples went home, she (and possibly the other women) remained at the gravesite, crying and mourning and searching for the body of Christ.

    Who among us has not been in the place of Mary?  This life is full of heartache; all of us are acquainted with grief and sorrow.  And sometimes, like Mary, we find that family and friends cannot ease our burden or answer the questions we have deep in our hearts. 

    During those times, we should continue to seek the Lord, just as Mary did.  He may or may not give us the answers we seek immediately (some questions must wait until eternity to be answered).  But we know for sure that Jesus will meet us where we are, cut through our veil of tears, and bring us peace and comfort.   

    In the midst of her grief, Mary once again stoops to look into the grave (the same grave Peter and John had just left) only now there are two angels present. 

    John 20:12 – And she saw two angles in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

    It is uncertain whether Mary thought these were men, or if she knew they were angels. Their clothing would certainly have been a clue as angels often appear in bright white clothing (Acts 10:30, Matthew 28:3), which denotes purity and holiness.

    But why are they sitting in the tomb, facing each other from opposite ends of the grave?

    For one thing, the angels are no doubt contemplating the mystery of the love of God for mankind.  As they look at the grave and consider the sacrifice of God, it must have revealed to them a depth of divine love that was completely unfathomable.  How could God love man so much that he would die for us?  What is man, that God would be mindful of him?  It is a question that should astonish us too, and drive us to greater depths of praise and worship to our Lord.

    Also, according to noted commentator Matthew Henry, the position of the angels denotes their careful observation and care of the body of Christ – they were literally in a position to watch over the physical body of Christ.  Did they literally watch over the body of Jesus for the entire time it was in the grave?  We can’t say for sure.

    But what we do know for sure is that the church is the ‘body of Christ’, and God has appointed angels to assist Christians here on earth:

    Hebrews 1:14 –Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?

    Therefore, it is correct to say that angels carefully observe and watch over the spiritual body of Christ or individual Christians. 

    Have you ever seen an angel?  Has there ever been a time when you knew without a doubt that God sent an angel to protect or assist you at some point, even though you may not have seen them with your physical eyes?

    Not only do angels assist and protect Christians, they also deliver messages and other words of comfort from God (Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26-38, Judges 13:2-14).  This was the obvious reason they appeared to Mary and the other women at the tomb – to bring them the message that Christ had risen!

    Here is something interesting to consider:  As you may recall, the position of the angels in the tomb is the exact same position of the angels over the mercy seat (on the Ark of the Covenant), the place where God dwelt (Exodus 25:18-21).  Back at that time, the angels prevented people from coming into the presence of God, but in the tomb they were welcoming/pointing people to the presence of Jesus, the way of life!

    Yet another reason why two angels were dispatched to the grave is because scripture declares that legally it takes two witnesses to confirm something as truth:

    Matthew 18:16 – But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

    (See also Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15). 

    John 20:13 -They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

    I do not believe the angel asked Mary this question in order to gain knowledge.  He knew very well she was crying because she was distressed about the removal or theft of Jesus’ body. 

    Rather, the question is a mild rebuke.  Why is she crying, when she should be rejoicing?  If Jesus said he would die and rise on the third day, then it was going to happen.  In fact, it had happened!   

    But Mary does not comprehend the significance of the angel’s comment.  She is still completely focused on finding the physical body of Jesus.

    John 20:14 – Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

    The obvious question is why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? 

    Many explanations have been given.  One says that Mary did not recognize him because she wasn’t expecting him.  She believed he was dead and her mind couldn’t wrap itself around the idea that Jesus was still alive.

    Another explanation is that because of her crying/watery eyes and the twilight of the day, she didn’t see him clearly.  The only person who would logically have been there at that time was the gardener, so she assumed it was him.

    But the most likely answer is that God had placed a veil over her eyes, which prevented her from recognizing Jesus, just as he did to the two believers who walked with Jesus along the road to Emmaus:

    Luke 24:15-1 – And it came to pass, that, while they discussed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.  But their eyes were held that they should not know him.  

    Here is some exciting news: Jesus is about to reveal himself to Mary.  And the spiritual parallel is clear – Jesus is found by all those who seek him (Jeremiah 29:13, Proverbs 8:17, Luke 11:9)!

    John 20:15 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

    Again we note that Mary was looking at the situation through earthly eyes.  Her one and only goal is to find the dead body of Jesus, so she can once again hide it away in the grave. 

    Although she was misguided, her words reveal the depth of love and devotion she had for Christ.  She does not seem to take into account that Jesus himself probably weighed over 100 pounds and he was embalmed with another 75 pounds of spices.  It is doubtful she could have actually moved his body anywhere by herself.  But in her hunger and longing for Jesus, she declares that she will find a way to make it happen.

    Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great if we felt the same way? 

    What if we were so in love with Christ and so desirous for his glory to be manifested on earth, that we would ask God to accomplish the impossible through us?  Do we have the mindset that allows mountain-moving faith to work through us?  If we desire to be that kind of Christian, then we need to take steps to make it happen. 

    • We must renew our minds with the word of God; we must believe that God is fully willing and capable of doing what he promises in his word.
    • We must ‘decrease’ while allowing our devotion and desire for Christ to ‘increase’.  We have to let go of our own plans and desires in this world and allow God’s desires to become our focus.
    • We must stretch and grow our faith through constant use.
    • We must be prepared to tackle and conquer problems and difficulties.
    • We must be faithful, just as Mary was.

    John 20:16 – Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

    With that single word, we witness the birth of Mary’s faith.  Hearing the master’s voice with her physical ears brought sudden revelation to her spiritual ears.  Jesus had risen!

    With great joy she responds by addressing Jesus with a title of honor.  By using the title ‘Rabboni’ Mary is acknowledging Jesus as both her teacher and master.  She is professing her obedience and submission to Christ. 

    Do you remember what Jesus said to his followers in John chapter 10?  He declared that the shepherd personally knows each sheep in his flock.  He calls them by name, and they hear his voice and follow after him (John 10:3-5).  This is exactly what happened to Mary in the physical sense. 

    It is also true in the spiritual realm as well.  When Jesus first called us to himself through the conviction of Holy Spirit, we heard his voice and we responded.  We accepted him as Lord and Master of our lives. 

    Jesus continues to speak to his people all the time.  Have we sharpened our hearing so that we recognize his voice?  Do we submit and obey when he calls us?  If not, what steps can we take to change that?

    John 20:17 – Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

    It is evident that upon recognizing Jesus, Mary immediately embraced him, and subsequently fell at his feet to worship him (Matthew 28:9).  Having discovered him alive, she is so happy she can’t let go of him.  Jesus allows it for a brief moment, but then tells her to stop.  Why would he do that?

    The answer is that a change has taken place.  Formerly, the earthly followers of Jesus (such as Mary) were accustomed to worshiping his physical presence.  So Jesus allows her to briefly do so, in order that her faith might be activated and she might realize that he had risen from the dead.

    But once that fact was established in her heart, she needed to make the change to worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth – not in physical form (John 4:23-24).  In another few weeks, Jesus was going to depart for heaven to sit beside his Father.  After his ascension his followers could worship him as intensely and frequently as they desired. 

    We too must worship God in spirit and in truth.  Instead of being led by Jesus in bodily form, Christians are now and will continue to be led by Holy Spirit until Christ returns to earth at the end of this age (Romans 8:14-15).

    This concept is also included in the message that Jesus told Mary to give the disciples.  She was to tell them that Jesus was shortly going to ascend to the Father, which meant they should not expect the continuance of his bodily presence on earth.  They should also, once and for all, get rid of any dreams they held in regard to Jesus setting up an earthly kingdom to conquer Rome.  He had not risen to remain on earth, but to return to heaven and receive the rewards of his labor – his office as the mediator between God and man. 

    In the meantime, Jesus commands Mary to give a message to the disciples – His Father is now their Father; his God was now there God.  Because of the redemptive work of Christ, our relationship with God (which had been broken through sin) was now renewed and restored. 

    Notice that Jesus specifically addresses them as ‘brothers’.  Formerly he addressed them as friends, but now that his redemptive work is complete, they are family – children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Hebrews 2:11-13), as are we. 

    What a wonderful honor Jesus has bestowed upon Mary – she is an eye witness to the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead.  She can confirm that the prophesy given by Jesus shortly before his death has been fulfilled:

    John 16:16 –A little while, and you shall not see me: and again, a little while, and you shall see me, because I go to the Father.

    Her announcement of his resurrection no doubt brought great joy to the eleven, which was the fulfillment of yet another word spoken by Jesus:

    John 16:20 –Verily, verily, I say unto you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

    In the tumultuous events of the last few days the disciples had forgotten these promises, but now Jesus brings them to their remembrance through Mary.

    Sometimes our lives can be tumultuous as well.  During those times of trial, let us never forget the promises of God which are contained within his word. 

    John 20:18 – Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – and that he had said these things to her.

    When the disciples last saw Mary, she was weeping and seeking the Lord.  They could have stayed and searched with her, but instead they chose to go home. 

    But Mary was rewarded for her diligent searching – she had seen/found the Lord! Can you imagine the kind of relief and hope that must have surged through the disciples as they realized Jesus was risen?  Her good news was a huge comfort and blessing to them in the midst of their darkest hour.

    Here is something to consider:  God hasn’t changed.  He is still using his followers (you and me) to share the good news of the gospel to sinners.  He is still using us to display his love and comfort to the hurting people of this world.  It is our duty and privilege to tell them Jesus is alive!

    If you have lived through a struggle in this life, don’t keep your victory to yourself.  Share your testimony with others, so they too can find strength and comfort.  Your story of victory gives others the strength and faith to overcome in their darkest hour too.

    Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

    Mary Magdalene was a real mess when Jesus found her – she was possessed by seven devils.  But Jesus totally transformed her life.  He cast the devils out of her and allowed her (and several other women) to travel along with him and assist in his ministry. 

    Perhaps you are in a real mess right now.  If so, let me give you some relief – God specializes in the impossible!  Jesus is standing by right now to give you beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3); to transform your life and make you a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). 

    And once he does, he has a special place of ministry for you, just as he did for Mary. 

    So don’t keep that good news to yourself!  I strongly encourage you to share your testimony with others!  Scripture tells us that the ability to impart both life and death are in our tongues (Proverbs 18:21).  Your testimony may be the very words of comfort and blessing that cause someone else to be victorious over Satan. 

    Let me offer you some strength:

    In today’s post we noted that when Christ rose from the dead he left his grave clothes behind him, because he no longer needed them – he would live and reign forevermore.

    Once we accepted Christ as our savior, we passed from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24).  Therefore, physical death does not need to be a fearful or terrifying experience for us; it is nothing more than the portal through which we enter eternity and the presence of God!

    The key to being peaceful and confident in death is to live your life for Christ right now!

    John, Chapter 19, Part 3

    John 19:31 – Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.  

    We ended our last post as Jesus declared his work was finished; he committed his spirit into the hands of the Father.

    Meanwhile, here on earth, the Jews approached Pilate with yet another request.  The next day was considered a ‘high day’ for several reasons.

    • It was the second day of the Feast of Unleavened bread which was occurring on the weekly Sabbath day. 
    • It was the day in which the sheaf of the first-fruits was offered to God (Leviticus 23:10-11). 
    • It was one of the feasts at which ALL Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord at the temple (Exodus 23:17). 

    For these reasons, the Jews considered it a day of immense sacredness and solemnity; a ‘high’ holy day. 

    The law declared that bodies hung on a tree should be buried before nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) or else the land would be polluted in the sight of God.  Back in that day people weren’t crucified, but they were sometimes impaled or ‘suspended’.  In such cases, death occurred very quickly.  We also find that sometimes dead bodies were publicly displayed for a time.   In either case, it wasn’t a real problem to bury the body before dark.

    But when the Romans invented crucifixion, that all changed.  They were so good at torturing people, that the condemned often lived between four and seven days on the cross before expiring.    

    Breaking the legs of the condemned while they were suspended on the cross not only increased their pain and suffering, it further injured the body and deprived it of any support from the feet.  Thus, all the weight of the person was now shifted to the arms/hands.  Apparently, it was often enough of a stress to significantly hasten death, which is why the Jewish leaders were requesting that it be done.

    Again, we can’t help but notice that the religious leaders did everything in their power to keep the smallest commandment of the Law, despite the fact that they had just demanded the murder of an innocent man – the Son of God! 

    Now, what we are about to see in the next few verses are multiple confirmations of the death of Jesus: 

    The Jews:  For their part, the Jews request that the legs of all prisoners be broken, so they would die and be buried before the high holy day.  (After all, they didn’t want their cherished religious celebrations to be tarnished with the death of the Messiah.)  Because of their request, the soldiers took special note that Jesus was already dead and it would not be necessary to break his legs.   

    Pilate:  The only person who could order the legs broken and the only person who could authorize removal of a body from a cross was the governor.  This makes sense; if it took seven days for someone to die from this torture, it would theoretically be possible for them to survive the ordeal if they were removed from the cross early.  However, we can be sure that Pilate did not allow this to happen.

    Scripture reveals that once Joseph comes forward to claim the body of Jesus, Pilate stops to consult with the centurion in charge of the execution.  He requests verification that Jesus is really dead (Mark 15:43-45) before he rules on Joseph’s request.

    John 19:32-33 – So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.  But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

    The Roman soldiers:  Here we find confirmation of the death of Jesus by those who actually carried out the death sentence.  The soldiers performed numerous executions; they had no difficulty verifying that Jesus was dead.  If he hadn’t been, they would certainly have broken Jesus’ legs just as they did the legs of the two robbers, because from their point of view, the sooner the prisoner died, the sooner their work was done. Based on their actions we can be sure that Jesus was dead.

    John 19:34 – But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

    This is further testimony of the death of Jesus by the Roman soldiers.  Jesus had died much quicker than expected, so just for good measure, one of the men thrust a spear or lance into the side of Jesus and up into his heart. 

    This released the water in the sac around his heart, and it drained any remaining blood contained in the heart, thus confirming again that Jesus was really dead.  It also explains the presence of both blood and water flowing from the body.

    The actions that occurred here bore further testimony that Jesus was the Messiah.

    According to the instructions for the very first Passover meal/sacrifice (when the Hebrews were exiting Egypt), God was very specific that no bones of the lamb could be broken (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Psalms 34:20).  This instruction was observed from the very first Passover in Egypt, up to and including the death of the true Passover lamb – Jesus. 

    The prophet Zechariah also notes that the events of the crucifixion provide further proof that Jesus was the Messiah:

    Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced…

    This prophesy has multiple layers of fulfillment. 

    • Some of the Jews saw the body of Jesus on that day (John, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, etc) and noted that it was pierced. 
    • Later on, the apostle Thomas had a chance to put his hand into the wound located in the side of Jesus (John 20:25-27).  It was clear he had been pierced.   
    • At some time in the future, the entire nation of Israel will recognize Jesus as the Messiah, based on the scars of his crucifixion. 

    As conclusive as this evidence was/is, God gave even more proof that Jesus was actually dead:  

    John 19:35-37 – He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – that you also may believe.  For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”  And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

    John:  Finally we come to the eye witness proof of the apostle John.  We know John was present during the crucifixion, since Jesus spoke to him from the cross, giving him instructions to take care of his mother. 

    Since Jesus died quickly (in a matter of hours), John would have still been around when the soldiers were commanded to hasten the death of the condemned by breaking their legs.  He was an eye witness to the soldier piercing the side of Jesus.

    We now have five different proofs or testimonies that Jesus is dead.  There is no way that anyone (then or now) can plant seeds of doubt in the minds of people about this fact.  The resurrection was not a trick or a farce.  It was a real event.

    I want to make one point of clarification regarding this discussion.  I have used the phrase ‘Jesus died quickly’ and made other remarks that state the same thing.  This phraseology is just for the sake of clarity.  In truth, we know that Jesus did not simply die when his body gave out.  He died sooner than normal because he was in control of the situation; not nature.  When the price of sin had been fully paid and the wrath of God fully satisfied, he knowingly and willingly gave up his spirit to the Father.  As a result, his body died.

    In so doing, Jesus became the true fulfillment of the Passover; he is the innocent lamb that was sacrificed for the sin of the world (I Corinthians 5:7).

    John 19:38-39 – After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.  So he came and took away his body.  Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

    Having firmly established that Jesus was indeed dead, John now gives us an account of his burial. 

    As we already mentioned, the bodies of executed prisoners were under the authority of the Roman governor and they could only be claimed with his permission.  Pilate gave that permission to Joseph of Arimathea.

    The gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a rich man (Matthew 27:57), while Luke informs us he was a counselor or senator (Luke 23:50), who was earnestly expecting/looking for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43).  Because of his position, he would have known or been acquainted with Pilate. 

    In contrast to the bullying, arrogant attitude of the Jewish leaders, Joseph approaches Pilate humbly or perhaps professionally and requests the body of Jesus. 

    This must have been quite a testimony to Pilate.  He knew the Jewish leaders as envious, self-important hypocrites and he probably thought all the Jews were the same.  But here comes Joseph – an intelligent, honest, well respected public figure who reveals that he too is a follower of the Jewish religion.  What’s more, Joseph clearly believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  At the very least, it gave Pilate something to think about.     

    It appears that Joseph was aided in the burial by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of Israel who met Jesus by night (John 31:1-2).  He held an honorable position among the Jews and like most other Pharisees, he too was a wealthy man.

    Both of these men were believers in Jesus.  Although they kept their faith away from the world, they were not ashamed or afraid to claim the body of Jesus after his disciples had hidden themselves away in fear and grief. 

    For these two men, it was the death of Jesus which caused their faith to blossom.  Suddenly, they are no longer afraid of their fellow Jews.  Suddenly, they are willing to risk the loss of their wealth and positions in society in order to claim Christ.  Perhaps they were put on earth specifically for that time!  

    John 19:40 – So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

    The Jews typically embalmed their dead with a mixture of myrrh, aloes and other spices which they rubbed on the body.  More wealth or honor in life meant more spices during death. 

    After the body was anointed it was covered with a shroud and a separate napkin was placed around the head and face.  Finally, strips of linen were used to tightly wrap the shroud around the body.  In some cases, if finances permitted it, the entire grave was filled with spices and the body laid on top of them. 

    Isaiah 53:9 – And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

    Judging by the amount of spices used by Nicodemus (75 pounds), it is evident that the body of Jesus was treated with the respect of a rich and honorable man.  Besides being anointed and laid in spice, Jesus was placed into a brand new tomb created and reserved for a rich and honored member of society. His entire burial was one that reflected wealth, prestige and honor, as predicted hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah.  

    John 19:41-42 – Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.  So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

    Obviously, you can’t just bury a body in any tomb that happens to be empty.  You either have to own the space, or have the owner’s permission to use it.  In this particular circumstance, it is likely that the tomb in question was actually owned by Joseph.

    He had no doubt purchased it for himself and his family, but because of the time constraints he was willing to place Jesus there.  Perhaps he planned to do so when he went to ask for the body, because his new tomb was close and convenient. 

    But you and I can see the hand of God at work in this situation.

    The burial place of Jesus was not an accident or simply a convenience.  Although all men (including Jesus) must die (Hebrews 9:27), Jesus was the first born from the dead and the first fruits of them that rise from the dead.

    1 Corinthians 15:20-21 – But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

    (See also Colossians 1:18).  As such, it was appropriate for his grave to be a new sepulcher; one which no other person had ever used. 

    We also note that this grave was in the midst of a garden, which again calls to mind that sin/death came into the world in a garden (Eden), but resurrection life also manifested in a garden.

    Since Jesus was in the tomb alone, no one could claim that it was actually someone else who had risen that day.  It prevents the false rumor that Jesus was raised by coming into contact with the bones of some prophet, like the corpse which came alive after touching the bones of Elisha (II Kings 13:21).

    Scripture also reveals that the tomb was hewn out of solid rock, which means there was no secret ‘back door’ or other entrance through which the disciples could have removed the body. 

    God has set the stage to prove beyond any doubt that Jesus was resurrected from the dead!  We will discuss the details of the resurrection in our next post.   

     Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

    Every part of the death of Christ reveals the hand of God at work.  Because the resurrection of Jesus was going to be so astonishing and vitally important, his death had to be documented beyond any question.  God provided no less than five key individuals/groups that verified/attested to the death of Jesus.  

    God was also clearly at work behind the scenes as Joseph and Nicodemus oversaw the burial of Christ. 

    God is also at work in our lives, even though we may not realize it at the time.  Sometimes we go through difficult or confusing circumstances, and it is hard to see his hand at work, but we can be encouraged, relieved and strengthened knowing that God is always in control. 

    • He loves us so much that he gave Jesus to die for us. 
    • He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. 
    • He sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies. 
    • He works all things together for our good; even the things that Satan has meant for our destruction. 

    And, hallelujah, he has ordained that we too will one day be raised from the dead to live with him forever in heaven!

    The Jews, the Romans and Pilate all felt that they were ‘in charge’ or making decisions about the death of Christ.  But all of them were wrong – although they each had choices to make, God was in charge of the situation.  And he is in charge of your situation too.      

    So no matter what you are facing today, let faith rise up within you – God is guiding you every step of the way, bringing you to victory.

    John, Chapter 19, Part 2

    John 19:13 – So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

    As we concluded our post last week, we left Pilate at the moment of truth – would he crumble under the threats of the Jewish religious leaders, or would he stand for truth/justice and pronounce Jesus innocent of all charges?

    Of course, this really isn’t a cliffhanger because we all know what happened.  Pilate heard the veiled threats of the Jews; they would accuse him of treason if he didn’t crucify Christ.  He was more afraid of losing his life than his soul, so he chose to try and save/protect himself by giving in to the pressure of the Jews (Matthew 16:26).

    Once his decision was made, his only course of action is to pronounce judgment on the prisoner.  In our culture, this would occur in a courtroom, where the judge would sit up on his bench and the prisoner would stand before him to receive sentencing.  But back then, sentencing occurred at a place called the judgment seat.

    The judgment seat was normally located in an outdoor, open court area.  In Roman culture, was customary for the floor of this space to be paved with stones of various colors; marble was frequently used for this purpose.  Because of the unusual floor this location was also referred to as ‘The Stone Pavement’. 

    John tells us that it was also commonly called “Gabbatha” which means ‘elevated’ or ‘lofty’.  This is the only time the word is used in scripture, and it is believed to refer to an elevated bench occupied by the governor as he passed sentence. 

    As we go through the judgment scene, I encourage you to picture yourself in the place of Jesus.  Imagine yourself standing bound and humiliated before the judgment seat of Almighty God where you would justly be condemned for your sin.  Imagine the hopelessness of being sentenced to eternity in hell, without any chance of escape or reprieve.  Then earnestly give thanks to Jesus for taking your punishment upon himself!

    John 19:14 – Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover.  It was about the sixth hour.  He said to the Jews, “Behold your king!”

    The day of Preparation is exactly what it seems – the day before the Passover Sabbath, which the Jews used to make everything ready for the Passover celebration as well as the feast of unleavened bread, which commenced the day after Passover. 

    John gives the time of the sentencing as about the sixth hour.  As you recall from some of our other studies, the Jews considered the day to begin at 6 am and they counted time starting from that point.  Therefore, the sixth hour means six hours after 6 am, or noon.

    So according to John, Jesus was condemned around/approximately at noon and crucified sometime after.

    But Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25), which is 9am. 

    Various explanations have been given for this discrepancy.  They include an error in translating the number in the text (6 instead of 3), differences in the division of hours/time between the Romans and Jews and alternate ways the Jews marked or ‘blocked’ time. 

    In the end, I think one commentator summed up the situation perfectly by noting ‘no solution of the discrepancy is wholly satisfactory’.   Rather than spending our time and energy adding to this unsolvable mystery, we are simply going to acknowledge that the discrepancy exists, and move on to other points that can aid in our spiritual edification.

    What we know for sure is that Pilate once again brought Jesus outside to the Stone Pavement where the agitated and combative Jews were waiting. 

    But this time he must have looked very different.  He had been up all night.  He had been savagely whipped – his back had long, deep wounds; blood soaked through the thread bare purple robe and ran down his legs.  He was also profusely bleeding from his head, where the crown of thorns still rested upon his brow.  His face was bruised, swollen and almost unrecognizable – the result of being hit in the face numerous times and having portions of his beard plucked out.  As a result of blood loss and dehydration, he was probably unsteady on his feet as he stood there, bound in manacles. 

    Now picture Pilate raising a hand towards Jesus and saying, “Behold your king!”

    Perhaps Pilate made this declaration to shock the Jews.  He may have been trying to show them once again that, despite their accusations, Jesus was no threat to Rome and he should be released.  Alternatively, he may have been trying to garner pity from the common Jews, hoping they could sway the priests.  Or maybe Pilate was mocking the Jews – if this was their king, they would always be subject to Rome!

    John 19:15 – They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”  Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”  The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

    This statement proves that the priests have gone completely mad!

    The Messiah was the foundation for the entire Jewish law and all of the promises God made to his people.  To reject him was to throw away every grace and blessing of God.  

    Yet, here we have the priests, who were (or should have been) well acquainted with the law violently rejecting Jesus as their king! 

    It might be argued that the Jews did not believe in Christ as the Messiah.  But even if that is a legitimate excuse (which it isn’t), there is absolutely no way to justify their statement ‘We have no king but Caesar’. 

    Did they really prefer the utter tyranny of Rome to the government of righteousness, peace and justice of God’s kingdom?  Really? Because that is what they were choosing – death and misery over peace and joy. 

    It wouldn’t be long before they regretted their choice.  In 71 AD Rome stormed Jerusalem, destroying the temple and massacring the Jews.  

    John 19:16 – So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. 

    Although John omits it from his account, Matthew tells us that Pilate, in an effort to ease his own guilt, places full responsibility for the unjust execution of Jesus upon the Jews.  He does this by symbolically washing his hands:

    Matthew 27:24 – When Pilate saw that he could gain nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see you to it.

    Pilate now issues orders – Barabbas is to be set free, while Jesus (and two robbers) is sentenced to immediate executed by crucifixion.

    John 19:17-18 – So they took Jesus, and he went out bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

    Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for slaves and the vilest criminals in society.  It was considered such a curse that Roman citizens were exempt from it.

    Crucifixions were performed outside of the city walls, and it was not uncommon for the Romans to make the condemned man carry his own cross.  It was a punishment designed to not only humiliate the prisoner, but to further weaken him and hasten death.

    The other gospel writers tell us that Jesus began to faint along the way and the Romans commanded a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, to bear the burden of the cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21).  This was not an act of mercy.  It was an unimaginably cruel thing to do; they did not want Jesus to die quietly by the side of the road.  They wished him to remain alive so he could be subjected to the unbearable pain, suffering and humiliation of the public death they had planned for him.

    This event sometimes raises a question in our minds: Why couldn’t Jesus carry his own cross?  Why would he need help from someone else?

    Here are some possible reasons:

    • Jesus was in an extremely weak physical state.  He hadn’t had any sleep in over 24 hours, and nothing to eat or drink in since the prior day.  He had been savagely beaten and was bleeding profusely. 
    • The sharp edges of the wood grated on his raw and bleeding shoulders.
    • Perhaps this was a demonstration for our benefit – it was proof of his humanity.  Jesus was fully God, yet fully human.  He was subject to all of the constraints and weaknesses of a fleshly body, just like we are.  And even though he was tempted like we are, he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

    We know that Jesus was crucified in the midst of two convicted robbers who were considered the scum of the world.  The Jews no doubt rejoiced in this because it seemed to confirm their own allegations that Jesus was guilty. 

    But we are not fooled by this because we know that long before the crucifixion, the prophets revealed that Jesus would be ‘numbered with the transgressors’:

    Isaiah 53:12 – Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 

    We are also not surprised by the method of death.  Scripture tells us that anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed by God:

    Deuteronomy 21:23 – His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)…

    The guilt of our sin could only be removed by the Son of God becoming a curse for us, which he did back on the day of his crucifixion.  Because of his sacrifice, we can have full confidence that he has redeemed us from the curse of the law.  We are now new creatures in Christ; we are righteous in the sight of God.

    Galatians 3:13 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:

    2 Corinthians 5:21 – For he has made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

    The more we study the death of Christ the more we find that his death fulfilled/satisfied the wrath of God in even the most minute detail.  The plan of salvation is perfect, complete and foolproof.  There are no loopholes or loose ends. 

    For instance, did you know that under the Old Testament law, when an animal was sacrificed for sin, the body was always carried outside of the camp (Leviticus 16:27)?  This is why Jesus was crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem.

    Here is something interesting to ponder this week – It has been said that the four limbs of the cross reflect the height, depth, length and breadth of the love of Christ, forever extending salvation to all (Ephesians 3:17-19).  Praise his name!  

    John 19:19 – Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’

    It was customary for the Romans to post the crime of executed prisoners over their heads as they were crucified.  It not only served as a deterrent to crime, it justified the actions of Rome in the eyes of the people.  

    In the case of Jesus, we find that Pilate ordered the plaque to say ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.  This is a far cry from the words ‘insurrectionist’ or ‘traitor’ which were the crimes Jesus were sentenced for. 

    It is possible that in choosing the title he did, Pilate was delivering a final parting shot at the Jews for bullying him into having an innocent man executed.  In a way, the title throws blame onto the whole Jewish nation, which cried out for the release of Barabbas and the bloody execution of Christ.  It also ridicules the entire Jewish nation by implying that anyone who attempts to lead/deliver the Jews from Rome would meet the same fate.

    Whatever his petty motivations might have been, we know the providence of God was guiding the pen of Pilate.  His inscription certainly does not brand Jesus with the commission of any crime. 

    In fact, ‘King of the Jews’ is a well known Messianic title, so the inscription was a clear acknowledgement that Jesus was the Messiah.  Thus, his true honor/glory was openly proclaimed by his enemy in the midst of his greatest reproach and suffering. Pilate correctly labels Jesus the Author of Salvation, even though he did not know the meaning of what he wrote.     

    John 19:20-21 – Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin and in Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”

    Not surprisingly, the chief priests and religious leaders were angry about the title.  They recognized the insult of Pilate and they wanted the inscription changed immediately, so that it placed blame for the whole situation on Christ.  

    John 19:22 – Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

    Because Pilate plainly intended to insult the Jews with the inscription (and probably because he was now sick and tired of them), he flatly refuses to change the inscription. 

    But I believe there was more to it – it was God’s sovereign hand that kept the truth posted on that cross in the three main languages of the known world.  It was a message of salvation to the world – the Messiah had come and the way was open for Jew and Gentiles to return to God.  It was also a message of warning to the Jews – no other Messiah was coming.  If they rejected Jesus, nothing was left for them but the deceptions of false antichrists.

    John 19:23-24 – When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.  But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”  This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”  So the soldiers did these things…

    The prophesy that John mentions in this passage regarding the division of Jesus’ clothing is found in Psalms 22:18.  Now, if the soldiers stripped Jesus and divided his clothing, the natural assumption is that Jesus was crucified naked, or with only a small covering.  Knowing the cruelty of the Romans, it is likely they would have further humiliated him by forcing him to die naked.

    It has been noted that once man sinned in the Garden of Eden, he was both naked and ashamed.  Jesus suffered naked on the cross, that we might be permanently clothed with garments of salvation and robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  All our sin and shame has been washed away!

    John 19:25-27 – … but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mothers sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

    It is commonly believed that Mary’s husband Joseph was dead by this time, but thankfully she was not alone in her grief.  We find her supported during this tragedy by some of her friends.   

    It is hard to imagine the turmoil and heartache that Mary, mother of Jesus, suffered on that day.  She knew full well that her son was divine.  Perhaps she entertained notions of a physical kingdom on earth for her son, just as the disciples did.  If so, this was an even more terrible agony to her.  Truly, her heart must have been ‘pierced by a sword’ as prophesied by Simeon on the day Jesus was dedicated in the temple (Luke 2:34-35). 

    But even in the midst of his own suffering, Jesus remembers her.  In one of his final commands, he made the apostle John her adopted son, and she John’s adopted mother.  As such, John would provide Mary with a home and all the necessities of life until her death.

    Although Mary was not present on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, she remained in fellowship with all of the disciples and was likely present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14).      

    John 19:28 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”

    As is his custom, the apostle John will skip over many of the events that occurred at the crucifixion which the other evangelists relate.  He chooses to focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life.

    Thirst is a notorious symptom of those who are crucified.  Jesus suffered a significant amount of blood loss from the scourging, his wounds were highly inflamed, he underwent the physical exertion of carrying the cross and he was crucified in the heat of the day.  No wonder he was thirsty!

    But despite his indescribable suffering, he gave the world one last proof of his identity as the Messiah.  By admitting he was thirsty, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophesy of Psalms 69:21. 

    John 19:29-30 – A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

    The jar of sour or tart wine (your translation may say ‘vinegar’) was the common drink of the Roman soldiers.  The jar may have been provided for them to drink as they worked the multiple crucifixions of the day.  However, since there was a sponge and hyssop branch nearby, it is possible wine was provided for the thirst of those being crucified.

    In either case, after fulfilling the prophesy, Jesus proclaims, “it is finished”! 

    What did he mean?

    The Father’s will and purpose which the trinity decreed from ages past, was now accomplished.  Mankind could once again have fellowship with God (Revelation 21:3).

    The scriptures are now fulfilled!  Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  All of the Old Testament types or pictures of the Messiah have received their final accomplishment in him.

    Our salvation is now complete.  The price of our sin has been fully paid; God’s wrath has been completely satisfied (I Thessalonians 5:9).

    The fury, malice, rage and revenge of the enemies of Christ was now ended.  The suffering and sorrow of the Son of God is over – and it has ended in victory!  

    Satan is now defeated; the power of darkness is broken.  We now have victory through Christ Jesus our Lord, Savior and King! Hallelujah!

    Let me offer you some encouragement:

    God gave us his all.  He gave us his only begotten Son to make atonement for our sin.  Once that was done, he made us joint heirs with Christ.  This means that all that the Father has is available to us because of Jesus!

    In light of that, shouldn’t we give our best to him?  I encourage you to think of an area of your life that is not yet fully surrendered to God, and make an effort to give that to him this week.

    Let me offer you some relief:

    Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a widow when Jesus was crucified. But as we noted in today’s post, she found comfort in her friends and relatives. 

    It is no coincidence that the church is called the ‘family of God’.  The men and women who attend your local church are truly your brothers and sisters.  They can be a great relief to you during times of heartache and tragedy by offering you support, comfort and love.  And you can do the same for them. 

    So be sure to get involved in your local church.  It is a great place to find fellowship and establish friendships that will last until eternity.    

    Let me offer you some strength:  

    Sometimes when we look around the world, it looks like Satan is winning the war.  But nothing could be further from the truth!

    Satan never, ever, ever had the ability to defeat God.  Demonically inspiring the Jews to kill the Savior did not give him victory, it merely sealed his fate for eternity!

    So don’t be discouraged by what you see around you.  Stand firm/strong in your faith and keep praying and declaring the kingdom of heaven on earth.  When the appointed time comes, Jesus will return to earth again for his victorious bride, the church.  What a wonderful day that will be! 

    John, Chapter 19, Part 1

    John 19:1 – Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.

    As we saw in chapter 18, rage and jealousy had driven the Jewish religious leaders to the point where they would stop at nothing to have Jesus crucified by the Romans.  So they dragged Jesus to Pilate’s judgment hall and accused him of rebellion against Caesar. 

    But Pilate won’t just ‘rubber stamp’ this execution. He isn’t stupid or uninformed of what is taking place in the city.  He is well aware that the religious leaders have arrested Jesus because they are jealous of him (Matthew 27:18).  Therefore, he conducts his own investigation and concludes that Jesus is innocent; he posed no threat to the rule of Caesar or the authority of Rome. 

    In addition to being convinced that Jesus was innocent, Pilate had been warned by his wife not to mess with Jesus:

    Matthew 27:19 – When he was sat down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

    At this point, Pilate is becoming uneasy; his conscience is bothering him.  He is slowly losing control of this situation.  He must maintain peace in the city, but he is also desperately seeking a way to release Jesus, because in his heart Pilate knows he is innocent.  Subsequently, Pilate placed both Jesus and the notorious criminal Barabbas before the crowd believing they would chose to have Jesus released to them.

    But he was wrong – at the insistence of the religious leaders, the mob called for Barabbas to be set free while they clamored for the crucifixion of Christ. 

    It is interesting to note that Pilate, a Gentile/pagan, absolves Jesus by the evidence before him and seeks to set him free while the Jews who heard his doctrine, saw his miracles, and were looking for the Messiah, seek to condemn him.

    At this point, Pilate orders that Jesus be scourged/whipped. 

    Public whipping was a common form of punishment back in that day; even the Jews used it.  According to the Law, the Jews could never give a person more than 40 lashes (Deuteronomy 25:3).  In order to ensure that they never broke this law, the Jews limited each whipping to a maximum of 39 stripes (II Corinthians 11:24). 

    But the Romans, who were the ones scourging Jesus, had no such limitation.  It was their custom to savagely flog prisoners before they were crucified and there is no reason to think that they showed any mercy to Christ.

    The torture that Jesus endured during this whipping was all part of the payment for our sin.  He was well aware that he was going to endure this pain and suffering (Matthew 20:19, Luke 18:33, etc).  But he still willingly endured it in order to save us.

    Isaiah 50:6 – I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked out the beard: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

    In addition, God informs us that this punishment fulfilled a specific purpose – it provided healing for us: 

    Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    Many people interpret this to mean healing from physical sickness and disease – and they would be right.  It definitely covers that.  But it is wrong to limit our healing to just physical ailments.  The stripes of Jesus also provide healing for our minds, our emotions, our relationships, and anything else in our lives that is broken.

    What parts of your life need healing?  I urge you to bring them to God and ask him to intervene; the price for your healing has already been paid by our Lord and Savior.

    Now, let’s ask ourselves this question: What was Pilate’s motive in having Jesus punished this way? 

    Scholars speculate that he was hoping to pacify the anger of the Jews so that he could dismiss the charges against Jesus and let him go (Luke 23:16).  But that was not God’s plan. 

    John 19:2-3 – And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purples robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

    At this time in history, the Roman Empire ruled the world.  So when the soldiers hear that Jesus is a king, it ignites feelings of scorn and mockery.  In their opinion, no one had even the slightest chance of destroying the empire or defeating Caesar.  And this certainly included the meek, unassuming man standing bound before them in the judgment hall. 

    Their contempt for Jesus manifested itself in the form of ridicule.  Since Jesus claimed to be king, they would make him one!  

    Taking a mass of needle-sharp thorns, they twisted them into a crown and shoved it down on Jesus’ head.  The thorns pierced his skin and he bled heavily from these wounds. 

    Although John does not mention it, the other gospels tell us that the soldiers also placed a weed in the right hand of Jesus, to represent a scepter:

    Matthew 27:29 –And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

    Their representation of Jesus as king was completed with some kind of a ragged purple robe.  Once he was arrayed like this, they taunted and jeered at him by bowing down and acknowledging him as a king.  They spit on him, mocked him, hit him in the face and plucked out parts of his beard.

    Mark 14:65 – And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the guards did strike him with the palms of their hands.

    Mark 15:19 – And they struck him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshiped him.

    These men ‘made sport’ with Jesus, just as the Philistines did to Sampson (Judges 16:23-25).   As they were cruelly abusing our Lord and Savior, Pilate was still trying to think of a way to escape judging Jesus.  Once he finds out that Jesus is from Galilee (Luke 23:6-7) he came up with the idea of sending him to Herod. But that backfired on him as well; after Herod and his men further vilify Jesus, Herod returns him to Pilate:

    Luke 23:11 – And Herod with his men of war despised him, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

    We now see how cowardly, base and cruel Pilate really is.  He believes Jesus is an innocent man, yet:

    • He has Jesus publicly whipped.
    • He allows the soldiers under his command to dishonor, abuse and mistreat him. 
    • He makes a friend and ally of Herod by allowing him and his men to do the same. 
    • He will shortly surrender Jesus to death, in order to keep the favor of the Jews.

    John 19:4-5 – Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

    Having scourged and abused the prisoner, Pilate now brings him outside and displays him to the religious leaders and common people.

    Now that Pilate has publicly profaned and debased Jesus, it was doubtful that masses of people would continue to revere and follow him.  This should have alleviated the hatred/envy of the Pharisees.  In addition, Pilate again reiterates that he finds Jesus innocent of all charges.  His hope is that the Jews would be satisfied with the extreme punishment Jesus had already endured and drop the charges against him.

    If so, Pilate would also benefit – he would be relieved of the responsibility of judging Jesus.

    Pilate intended the stripes of Jesus to be a never ending reproach/disgrace that would remain with him until he faded into the obscurity of history.  Little did he know that these same stripes would cause Christians to revere, love and adore the Son of God for eternity!  

    John 19:6 – When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”  Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

    But this did not satisfy the fury and indignation of the Jewish officials.  Indeed, it only seemed to aggravate them even more.  Notice how unreasonable the chief priests and officers have become:

    • Even though Pilate finds Jesus innocent of the charges, they refuse to accept his findings.  They also refuse to furnish further proof of their accusations and they have no other charges to bring against him.
    • They will not be satisfied with the extremity of the punishment Jesus has already endured, even though he is innocent. 
    • They do not allow mercy, compassion or justice to influence their actions.
    • They were willing to risk their own safety to see Jesus destroyed – if they stirred up a mob and a rebellion ensued, the Jews would be slaughtered by Rome.

    It was their utter contempt and blind hatred of Jesus which caused them to cry out “Crucify him!”

    At this point, Pilate gives them one last chance to check their fury and change the course of the proceedings.  He pauses and once again insists that Jesus is innocent of all charges; he ironically commands the Jews to crucify Jesus themselves.

    John 19:7 – The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

    And now we see what truly lies in the hearts of the Jews (Luke 6:45).

    The Law was one of the most important aspects of Jewish life.  And well it should be – the Law was the covenant between Israel and God; it was an agreement that no other nation had.  It set the Jews apart as God’s chosen people.

    However, over time the Law became a source of national pride.  The Jews boasted in having it, but they dishonored God by breaking it (Romans 2:23-24).  For instance, we saw that the Jews refused to enter into Pilate’s judgment hall on the eve of Passover because they did not want to do anything that would make them ceremonially unclean, but their reason for being there in the first place was to murder an innocent man.

    Scripture also gives us the example of the Pharisees who were so eager to obey the letter of the law that they tithed on the herbs growing in their gardens, but they ignored issues of justice and mercy:

    Luke 11:42 -But woe unto you, Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over justice and the love of God: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 

    In the current situation, the religious leaders refer to a portion of the Law which dictates that anyone guilty of blasphemy should be put to death (Leviticus 24:16).  Falsely claiming to be the Son of God definitely counts as blasphemy, and this is what they were accusing Jesus of doing. 

    But just as in the prior examples, they once again attempt to keep the letter of the law while ignoring the obvious will of God. 

    The Jews failed to fairly and impartially study the claim of Jesus.  If they had, they would have realized that the scope of his doctrine did not draw people away from God; it drew them closer to him.  He was not abolishing the Law, he was fulfilling it.  Furthermore, if Jesus confirmed his mission and doctrine by miracles (which he certainly did), then by Law, they should have listened to him:

    Deuteronomy 18:18-19 – I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

    So, although the Jewish leaders sound very ‘religious’, they actually perverted the Law and used it as a tool to murder an innocent man.

    John 19:8 – When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

    Meanwhile, Pilate’s day is going from bad to worse.  When he understood that his prisoner was claiming not only royalty, but deity, he became seriously afraid.  The alarm bells of his conscience were now ringing at full volume!

    John does not tell us exactly what was causing this fear, but it may well have been the possibility of vengeance.  The Romans were polytheistic, which means they worshiped multiple gods.  They believed that it was possible for the offspring of gods to visit mortals and thus Pilate was afraid to condemn Jesus and offend one of the supreme deities, who would later take vengeance upon him. 

    So Pilate is contending with his own conscience, plus the possibility of vengeance from a ‘god’, plus the huge crowd of Jews who are all stirred up and ready to cause a riot in the city.  With all this going on, it was no wonder he was experiencing fear!  It must have seemed as if things were quickly spiraling out of control.

    Based on this new charge from the Jewish leaders, Pilate returns to the judgment hall to further question Jesus. 

    John 19:9 – He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.

    Pilate is now in a state of anguish.  What has he gotten himself into?  Should he follow his conscience and acquit Jesus of all charges, risking a full scale riot in Jerusalem?  Or should he bow to the demands of the unpredictable Jews?  Is Jesus a demigod?  If so, what punishment will he suffer for crucifying him?

    In a desperate effort to find an answer, Pilate returns to Jesus and asks ‘where are you from’?  Of course, Pilate couldn’t care less where Jesus was born; he is asking Jesus if he was a mere human born on earth or if he was a divine being.  (Keep in mind, Pilate has no real understanding of the One True God which we serve and his only begotten Son.  Pilate is thinking of demigods in the way of the pagans.)

    Jesus, however, remains steadfastly silent.  Many explanations have been offered to account for this. 

    One explanation says this: Jesus was silent because he was not there to plead the truth of his case and receive mercy.  He was there to be condemned and suffer on our behalf so that we could be forgiven of sin.

    Another says this:  Jesus had already given Pilate the answer to this in verse 37, when he explained that he was a king, but not a king of this world.  Since Pilate could not receive the truth of that concept, neither would he understand the answer to the current question.

    1 Corinthians 2:14 –But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    Yet another says this:  Although Pilate was still debating with himself, Jesus knew that the final outcome was crucifixion.  Having already made a reasonable defense for himself, he sees no point in continuing the conversation.  Instead, he yields to death on the cross. 

    Why do you think Jesus remained silent before Pilate?

    John 19:10 – So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me?  Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

    Pilate seems to have forgotten the fear that just gripped him moments ago.  His pride is offended because Jesus will not answer him and he becomes angry.  He insinuates that since Jesus refuses to speak when spoken to, he is showing disrespect to those in authority.

    What a laughable thought!  Pilate boasts of his own authority as if the world hung upon his every decision.  What he doesn’t know is that God has put all power and all authority into the hands of Jesus – the very man standing before him!  In fact, everything and everyone is subject to him:

    Ephesians 1:22 -And has put all things under his [Jesus’] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 

    (See also I Corinthians 15:25-27, Hebrews 2:8).  If we ever find ourselves in a position of authority, let us take this to heart:  Just like Pilate, we have no power and no authority that is not given to us by God, so we have no reason to boast! 

    John 19:11 – Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore, he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

    The statement of Jesus that Pilate’s power had been given to him ‘from above’ can be understood in two ways.

    First, it could refer to Pilate’s official office/job which was that of a magistrate/judge.  All civil power is both ordained and limited by God (Romans 13:1).  In other words, the only reason the governor of Judea had the authority to judge/decide criminal cases, was because God sanctioned it.  So, the authority of the governor (whoever that might be) to release or crucify prisoners came ‘from above’ by the hand of God.

    In this particular case, God allowed Pilate to wield the authority of this office.

    Secondly, everything that happened to Jesus had been predetermined in the eternal councils of God before the world began (I Peter 1:18-20).  Since God had determined that the Messiah was required to sacrifice his life for our sin, Pilate was given the authority ‘from above’ to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. 

    The opposite is also true.  If Father God had determined that his Son did not need to die, then Pilate would not have been able to crucify him.  God was fully in charge of this situation; he was not at the mercy of Pilate.

    Both cases show us that Pilate did not have as much power as he thought he had; although he had a free will choice, he had to work under the limits God had determined before he was ever born.

    Jesus then goes on to discuss culpability. 

    In Luke chapter 12, Jesus tells a parable about a house owner who goes on a trip and leaves his servants to manage the property while he is gone.  The servants who do a good job have nothing to fear when the owner returns.  They will be rewarded for good service. 

    However, the wicked servants will be punished.  Those who were ignorant of the master’s will receive a few stripes for wrong doing, while those who were fully aware of the master’s will but chose not to do it are beaten with many stripes.  The bottom line is that to whom much is given, much is required:

    Luke 12:47-48 – And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.  But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating.  Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

    This spiritual principle applies to the case of Pilate and the Jews.  Pilate was certainly guilty of wrong doing.  He was fully convinced that Jesus was an innocent man, yet he allowed him to be severely beaten, mocked and abused.  He then shipped him off to Herod for more of the same.  But Pilate is not a Jew.  He does not have an understanding of the law.  He does not realize that there is only one God and Jesus is his Son, the Messiah.  Consequently, his sin is less than that of the religious leaders.

    Meanwhile Judas, who delivered Jesus to the Jewish high priest, and the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to Pilate (especially Caiaphas), have a much greater culpability because they knew the law.  They had access to the Old Testament scriptures.  They professed to be experts at interpreting the law.  They knew the Messiah was coming.  They knew his work would be confirmed with signs and wonders.

    Despite knowing God’s will and plans, they conspired to murder the Messiah – an innocent man. They had Jesus arrested and brought to the Romans under false charges. 

    They intimidated Pilate.  They produced false witnesses.  They incited the crowd to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Therefore, their sin is greater than that of Pilate.  

    John 19:12 – From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

    This case is not turning out to be the slam-dunk the Jewish officials were hoping for.  Pilate is very unwilling to simply condemn Jesus and move on.  The possibility that Jesus may be released only fills the Jews with more hate and determination.  They have come this far and they will accept nothing less than the death of Jesus, no matter what they have to do.  So they ‘up the ante’ on Pilate.

    Having worked themselves into a frenzy, they once again throw charges of sedition into the mix, but now they are not just leveling this charge against Jesus – they are insinuating that Pilate is guilty of rebellion against Rome as well.  In effect, they are bullying Pilate! 

    Given the political climate of that day, this was a very effective tactic.

    Rome was actually ruled by emperors.  However, after the reign of Julius Caesar, all the emperors assumed the title of Caesar, just as all the kings of Egypt assumed the title of Pharaoh. 

    At the time of Christ, the reigning emperor was Tiberius (Luke 3:1).  He was one of the most cruel and wicked men to ever rule Rome.  If he heard so much as a rumor that Pilate was undermining his power, Pilate could look forward to a slow, tortured and painful death.  It would be natural for Pilate to fear retribution from him.

    The threats of the Jews have hit their mark.  The defining moment of Pilate’s life has now come – he must make a decision regarding Jesus. 

    He can either follow his conscience and do the right thing or throw Jesus under the bus in an effort to keep peace and protect himself.  Sadly, he fails to do what is right.

    Let me offer you some encouragement:

    As we noted in today’s study, Jesus endured unspeakable pain and suffering so that we could be reconciled to God.  In light of this, how could we ever question his love for us? 

    I know that all of us go through tough times.  Occasionally we wonder if God has forgotten or abandoned us, but let me set the record straight:  HE HAS NOT! 

    God assures us that he will be with us until the end of this age (Matthew 28:20).  He repeatedly tells us to stand strong and fear not (Genesis 15:1, Psalms 46:1-3).  He says that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). 

    So the next time Satan tries to whisper in your ear that God doesn’t care about you, encourage yourself by remembering the cross!

    Let me offer you some relief:

    Pilate sinned in some really ugly ways and so did the religious leaders of that day.  But before we cast any stones, we should keep in mind that we too are guilty of sin, which separated us from the love of God. 

    But there is good news – Jesus has provided relief from our sin.  Because of the cross we can be forgiven and restored into a relationship with Father God. 

    Let me offer you some strength:

    How is your relationship with God today?  Is it the strong and vibrant relationship you wanted?  Or has God been pushed aside in the busyness of your everyday life?  Is it possible that you are reading this post, yet you have never actually asked Christ to forgive you of your sin?  If so, you can come to cross right now, and find restoration and forgiveness by praying this prayer:

    Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

    If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 



    John, Chapter 18, Part 3

    John 18:25 – Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.  So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?”  He denied it and said, “I am not.”

    Welcome back, readers!

    In our last post, we left Peter in the courtyard of the high priest.  He already denied Christ once, when questioned by the lowly matron at the door/gate.  He now proceeds to huddle by the fire with the other servants.  All of them are waiting to see what will happen to Jesus, who is being questioned by Annas and Caiaphas.

    As they wait, another servant identifies Peter as one of the disciples of Jesus.  Once again, Peter denies his relationship with Christ.  This is the second of his three denials, which were predicted by Jesus (Mark 14:30).  

    John 18:26-27 – One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”  Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

    Malchus was the man who had his ear cut off by Peter in the garden.  Clearly, one of his relatives had also been in the detachment of soldiers that was sent to capture Jesus, and he saw the whole incident unfold.  He probably got a good look at Peter while Jesus was healing Malchus’ ear.  This man is not going to keep silent based on a simple denial; he wants to confront Peter about his role in this whole affair.

    When he once again calls Peter out, Peter responds with his third denial of Christ.  This third denial was very vehement; the other gospel writers tell us that Peter resorted to cursing and swearing (Mark 14:70-71, Matthew 26:74) to make his point.  

    Immediately after the third denial a rooster crowed, fulfilling the prophesy of Jesus. 

    Let’s take a closer look at the denial of Peter.

    First of all, Peter showed some faithfulness to Jesus.  It is true that he fled with the rest of the disciples in the garden when Jesus was arrested.  But afterward he seems to have gathered some of his courage and followed Jesus at a distance.  Perhaps he was motivated by his recent promises to stick by Jesus regardless of the cost. 

    Second, when it was impossible to enter into the judgment hall with Jesus, he stood outside the gate, trying to be as near to Christ as possible and looking for an opportunity to draw closer (which he received by the intervention of an unnamed disciple).

    However, he should never have taken these actions because they put him in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Let me explain.

    It is clearly evident from the preceding chapters (14-17), that the faith of the disciples was very weak at this point.  They were losing their leader, they were uncertain about the future, they were not yet filled with Holy Spirit and they were overwhelmed by the amount of information Jesus had given to them over the last few hours. 

    Jesus was well aware that the disciples were not yet ready to face any kind of real opposition at this point.  This is evident all throughout his final discourse with them, and particularly in the prayer he prayed for them (John 17:11, 15). It was also evident when, just before his arrest, Jesus instructed the band of soldiers to let his disciples go (John 18:8).

    In addition, Jesus had warned Peter that he would not only abandon him, but he would deny him three times. 

    The bottom line is that Jesus was setting his disciples up to succeed – he knew their faith was weak so he kept them out of danger until they could be strengthened and filled with power by Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

    The best thing Peter could have done after the arrest of Jesus was to go home (a place of safety) and pray.  But instead, he places himself in temptation’s way by inserting himself into a situation he was not equipped to handle.  He was essentially outside of God’s will for his life.  His only option in this situation was to depend on his own strength.  Not surprisingly, he failed.  This failure was not God’s fault; it was Peter’s fault.

    This example should cause all of us to pause.  It is true that we should be spreading the gospel.  It is true that sometimes this takes people into dangerous and difficult places.  So if your plan is to enter one of these danger zones, you better make sure you are clearly hearing the voice of Holy Spirit.  Just because an inner city drug cartel needs to hear the gospel, it doesn’t mean you should barge in unannounced and start preaching to them! 

    Here is something else to consider:  You may have a testimony that shows the power of God to deliver from some particular sin, such as alcoholism.  As a person that has been delivered from that addiction, you have a very powerful testimony to share with others. 

    But you need to be careful about how and when you share it.  If you were just delivered a week ago, you probably shouldn’t go into your old ‘hangout’ and try to witness to your drinking buddies.  Even though you are doing the right thing, you could wind up failing if it is done in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

    We have an example of this in the scriptures.  In Acts 9:6-10 we see that Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Asia.  Did they need the gospel?  Certainly!  But Holy Spirit would not let him do it, because it was the wrong place to go at that time.  Paul wanted to visit several other places as well, but each time he was forbidden to go there by Holy Spirit.  Finally, he was instructed to go to Macedonia, where many were saved.

    So, by all means, go into the world and share the gospel – but if you plan to go somewhere unusual, make sure you follow Holy Spirit there!

    John 18:28 – Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters.  It was early morning.  They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

    The governor’s headquarters (your translation may say ‘hall of judgment’), was the seat of Roman authority. It would be like one of our court rooms – a place where the judge (Roman governor) heard and ruled on cases brought before him. 

    At this point, Jesus had been condemned and pronounced guilty of death by the Sanhedrin:

    Matthew 26:65-66 -Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard his blasphemy. What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

    The only problem was that the Jews did not have the authority to execute anyone.  For this reason, they took Jesus to Pilate.

    Since Pilate’s hall was a place of Gentile judgment, any Jew who went inside would be considered unclean and thus unable to participate in the imminent Passover celebrations.  (Any/all Jews were considered ceremonially unclean or polluted if they entered the house of any Gentile.)  For this reason, the religious leaders refused to go inside Pilate’s hall.

    This verse clearly shows us that Jesus was right – the religious leaders were truly ‘whitewashed sepulchers’:

    Matthew 23:27 -Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 

    The Jewish leaders show the utmost attention to the most minute detail regarding outward forms of the law, yet they are filled with moral corruption! They may have ‘righteously’ stood outside Pilate’s judgment hall that day, but their hearts were full of envy/jealousy, fraud, injustice, hatred and murder.  What a mockery they make of God when they refuse to enter Pilate’s hall, but are completely unconcerned about shedding the innocent blood of the Messiah!

    John 18:29-30 – So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”

    Because the Jews would not enter the judgment hall, Pilate condescended to come outside to them.  But chances are he did not do it out of respect for them; he did it for his own sake.  During Passover the population of Jerusalem exploded with Jews and Pilate did not need any trouble, so he did what he had to do to help keep peace.

    The Jewish leaders were clearly hoping that Pilate would simply pass the death sentence on Jesus based on their own evaluation of the case.  It was probably common for the governor to ‘rubber stamp’ or automatically approve most of their decisions.  After all, Pilate really had no interest in Jewish affairs of state.

    However, in this case, Pilate asks for the list of charges the Jews are bringing against Christ.  Why would he do that?  Perhaps it was due to the odd hour of night.  Or again Pilate may have been taking extra caution because of the large number of Jews present in the city.

    But there was probably another good reason as well.  Many scholars believe that Pilate had heard of Jesus and his miracles; it would make perfect sense that the governor of Jerusalem would be informed as to what was going on in the city.  Because of this, he would automatically be interested in the case.  He also seems to have held the opinion that Jesus is innocent and he was fully aware that the Jewish leaders were extremely jealous of Jesus (Matthew 27:17-18).

    Regardless of the reason for Pilate’s request, it presented an obstacle for the Jewish leaders.

    They had convicted Jesus of the charge of blasphemy, which carried the death penalty under Jewish law.  But Roman law was different; under their civil rules, Jesus had done nothing wrong.  If the Jews gave blasphemy as the charge against Jesus, Pilate would have immediately dismissed the case and told them to deal with the issue themselves.

    Knowing this, they try to avoid stating the actual charges against Jesus.  Instead, they indirectly accuse Pilate of questioning their ability and integrity in judgment.  They act indignant and offended that Pilate wants to see clear evidence of an act deserving death.  Maybe they protested so much because they knew there was no case against him!

    John 18:31-32 –Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”  The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

    To his credit, Pilate does not bow to their pressure.  He throws the case back to them, instructing them to have an official trial in the Sanhedrin and then to punish Jesus accordingly.

    But the Jews continue to press Pilate.  They insist that they do not have the right to execute people.  Was that true?  The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

    The Jews could still stone people to death if the judgment was clear and the execution was spontaneous.  For example, in Acts 7:59-60, the Sanhedrin was questioning Stephen about preaching the gospel.  During the trial, Stephen testified that he saw heaven opened and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in glory.  Immediately upon hearing this ‘blasphemy’, the enraged mob stoned Stephen without a trial.

    However, the Jews had no right to execute anyone found guilty after the ordinary course of justice.  In that case, death sentences had to be carried out by the Romans.  This would apply to the case of the Jews versus Jesus. 

    There is no doubt that the religious leaders intended to kill Jesus after they arrested him (Matthew 26:3-5), but whether they intended to do so secretly, or by means of a mob (stoning), or through the Roman governor is uncertain.

    Although they may not have known what they were going to do, Jesus certainly did.  He very clearly told the disciples that he would be delivered to the Gentiles and crucified (Matthew 20:18-19).

    John 18:33-34 – So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

    The gospel of Luke tells us that the Jewish leaders went before Pilate (while he was outside) and accused Jesus of inciting a rebellion against Rome and claiming to be a king:

    Luke 23:1-2 – And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

    Once those charges were brought, then Pilate returned inside and asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews.

    Notice that Jesus is very careful how he answers Pilate.  He neither confirms nor denies that he is King of the Jews. Instead, Jesus asks if this was a personal conviction of Pilate’s own mind or if he was merely repeating information he heard from the religious leaders.

    Here is why that matters:  When Pilate uses the term ‘King of the Jews’, he thinks of it as a political statement or ambition.  To him, this indicated a person who was attempting to establish an earthly, political kingdom that would oppose Rome.  If Jesus were this type of king, he was a threat to Rome and should be immediately executed.

    The facts clearly showed this was not the case; Jesus had never claimed to be king, he never appeared in the worldly attire of a king, he never assumed any secular power, he never raised an army, and he never acted as a judge or civil authority.  Nothing he did ever pointed to political aspirations.  He was not, and never had been, a threat to Roman rule.

    However, if the term ‘King of the Jews’ is being used by the Jewish leaders, then Pilate should consider the source of the accusation.  Although they maintained that Jesus was a threat to Caesar, it was really the religious leaders themselves who intensely desired to overthrow Rome!

    They would have loved for Jesus to use miraculous power to bring the Jews out of Roman bondage the same way Moses brought Israel out of Egyptian rule.  And truly, if Jesus had been willing to do this, the Jewish leaders would gladly have supported the uprising.  So the charges of rebellion against Caesar reflect their own desires, not those of Jesus.

    But as Jesus will shortly explain, his kingdom was spiritual, not physical.  He was not going to use flesh and blood to overthrow Rome.  And if his kingdom was spiritual in nature (not political) then technically Pilate had no authority to order his execution. All charges against him should be immediately dropped. 

    John 18:35 – Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me.  What have you done?”

    There is an old saying ‘Where there is smoke, there is fire’.  The meaning of the proverb is that rumors often have at least some basis in truth.  Or we might say that if there is a persistent indication of wrongdoing, then chances are something illegal or immoral is at the heart of the rumors.

    This is what Pilate is saying to Jesus.  He maintains that since the leaders of his own nation are furious with him, and since they are making serious accusations against him, Jesus must have done something wrong.

    That being the case, Pilate demands that Jesus tell him what he has been involved in.  

    John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world.”

    In response to Pilate’s question, Jesus admits to being a king, but not in the sense that the religious leaders claim.

    • His kingdom is ‘not of this world’ – it is spiritual in nature, not secular/political.
    • Its purpose is not to rule the world, but to rescue men from the kingdom of darkness. 
    • The weapons of his kingdom are spiritual, not physical like spears and shields.   This is a significant point; if the kingdom of heaven was an earthly kingdom, Jesus would have incited the multitudes that followed him to prepare for battle.  He would have organized and army and used his miraculous power to arm them.  He certainly would not have given himself up (unarmed) in the garden of Gethsemane. 

    John 18:37 – Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

    Although Jesus confirms that he is a king, he also declares that he did not come to reign on the earth (at that time).  His purpose in coming to earth was not to assert immediate power or raise armies or subdue nations in battle.

    Jesus came to reveal and bear witness to the truth of God. The truth was that he was/is a king (the Messiah). And through this truth, he will usher salvation into the world and make it available to all mankind.  This was his purpose in coming to earth.

    Jesus is our king; he governs the minds and hearts of his subjects.  Everyone who hears the truth and accepts Christ as savior hears his voice and follows him:

    John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  

    And as we know, one day Jesus WILL rule over this earth with an iron rod (Psalms 2:7-9).  He will rule a kingdom that cannot be over thrown and it will last for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).

    John 18:38 – Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  After he said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.”

    What is truth? – Pilate almost certainly asked this question in contempt/scorn which explains why Jesus did not answer it.  If his question had been sincere and he really sought the truth as Nicodemus did (John 3:1), we know that Jesus would have answered.  He would have explained to Pilate the nature of the kingdom of heaven.

    Since Pilate asks the question in mockery and then immediately leaves the room without waiting for an answer, we know that his investigation was finished.  He was satisfied that Jesus was not a king in the sense that the Jews had asserted; he was no threat to the Roman government.  Therefore, he was innocent of the charges filed against him. 

    Pilate seems to regard Jesus as a poor, ignorant, deluded fanatic, and he goes out to the Jews and declares Jesus to be not guilty.

    Yet, the original question – ‘What is truth?’ – still requires an answer. 

    John 1:17 -For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    (See also John 1:14, Ephesians 4:21, John 14:6, etc). Thankfully, God has given us the tools we need to help us determine truth: the Holy Scriptures, divine revelation and our ability to think/reason.  We can be confident that if we sincerely ask Jesus for an answer, he will certainly give it to us (James 1:5).

    John 18:39 – “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

    Pilate is in a somewhat difficult position here.  It is his duty to keep the peace in Jerusalem.  If he doesn’t, Rome will reprimand him, exile him, or even kill him.  So he can’t afford to enrage the Jews on the eve of their biggest religious celebration of the year, especially when thousands of out-of-town Jews had flooded the city.  But at the same time he believes Jesus is innocent and he wants to judge him justly. 

    So Pilate tries to figure out a way to save Jesus while simultaneously diffusing the anger of the religious leaders. 

    His plan is to offer the release of a prisoner – Jesus or Barabbas.  Scripture indicates that the release of a prisoner during the Passover celebration was a custom back in that day, but we have no information on the origin or reason for this custom.

    What we do know is that Barabbas was a terrible criminal.  He was not only a violent robber, he was also guilty of murder and sedition (Luke 23:19, Mark 15:7).  He seems to have been a criminal who was universally despised by everyone.  He definitely belonged in prison, not out on the streets of Jerusalem!

    Pilate was sure that given a choice between this violent repeat offender and the meek, miracle working Jesus, the Jews would certainly choose Jesus.  But he was wrong.

    John 18:40 – They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  Now Barabbas was a robber.

    As is typical of the apostle John, he does not include many of the details routinely given by the other gospels.  Since he was the last of the four to pen his gospel, he apparently chose to give us details the others left out, while skipping over things they had already well documented. 

    For this reason, he does not mention Jesus being sent to Herod (Luke 23) or the large crowd outside Pilate’s judgment hall, who were being incited by the Pharisees to choose Barabbas over Christ (Mark 15). Neither does he does not mention Pilate washing his hands of the whole affair.  But he does include the bottom line: Jesus was sentenced to death.

    Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

    In this post we noted that Peter denied Jesus three times.  His spiritual failure was due to the fact that he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.  He was trying to gain victory over darkness using his own strength.  He wanted to prove to the rest of the world that he was stronger than the other disciples; he would never abandon Christ!

    But obviously, he failed. 

    This is an important lesson for us.  No matter what your ministry is, be sure that you are following the leading of Holy Spirit.  When you undertake a project or make plans, you will succeed when you follow him, not when you ask him to follow you!

    Let me offer you some strength:

    During the trial of Jesus, the followers of Christ were no doubt disheartened, discouraged and afraid.  They were probably stunned that Jesus was convicted and sentenced to death.  From their perspective, things looked hopeless.

    But they were wrong.  God had things well in hand.  The situation was playing out exactly according to God’s plan. 

    If you have submitted your life to Christ and you are following the leading of Holy Spirit, the same is true for you.  Even though you may experience a set back or even if things look impossible, you can be sure that things are happening exactly according to God’s plan. 

    This is not only true in the life of each individual believer, it’s true for our nation as well.  The Christians of America have humbled themselves.  We are repenting and praying for our nation.  And even though things look bad right now, we should not be disheartened or discouraged.  God is in control; he has a plan to redeem and rescue this nation. 

    For our part, we need to be strong and continue to do all we can to fight evil.  As we do, God will grant us the victory.