Sunday, April 26, 2015

An offering and a sacrifice

In our investigation into the death of Christ, I would like to draw a little from the teachings of the Apostles, who were commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to convey the deep truths  of Himself to the believers by the Holy Spirit. (John 16)

       In this article I will begin with Ephesians 5:1 “ Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”
This gives special light as to the spiritual aspect of Christ dying on the cross.
1st   It was motivated by love
2nd   He voluntarily gave Himself
3rd   It was on behalf of others
4th   Beyond the shame of crucifixion, there was somehow a fragrance
5th   It was an offering, a present to God
6th   It was a sacrifice achieving atonement
7th   It was to God

       This dispels the notion that His death was only an example for us, or that it was a mistake, or a failed mission. It implies that His death is better understood from the types and symbols of the Old Testament linked to the Temple services. This changes the cross to an alter, from something of shame to that of a sweet smelling fragrance . This aspect of the death of Christ provides the basis for God to invite the unworthy, the offender, the transgressor to return and be forgiven. (see Leviticus 1-7)

   Why would God give His Son – because of love (the highest motive)
   Why would the Lord Jesus Christ suffer so – because of love (the highest motive) . And so very much was accomplished for God and mankind by that death.
e.g. The much longed for fragrance of a holy human life presented to God both in the babe presented to God in the temple (Luke 3) and the unspoiled man offering Himself without spot to God on the cross.(Hebrews 9:14).

Then beyond this , the sacrifice as a substitute on behalf of guilty sinners. He, in virtue of His infinite worth, bearing the guilt of those who would draw near to God. In the Old Testament this demanded confession of the sin and the death of an animal as a sacrifice.

“So also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people”  - ( Hebrews 9:28 )

“Christ also suffered when He died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned , but He died for sinners that He might bring us to God” ( 1 Peter 3:16 )

Does the teaching of the Lord Jesus support this deeper meaning ? ‘YES.’
He used the following references (and more) to indicate the spiritual character of His sufferings:

“a ransom for many”  Mark 10:45

“Moses and Elijah.... speaking of how He was about to fulfil God’s plan by dying in Jerusalem “ Luke 9:31

“If I be lifted up, I will draw every one to myself” John 12:32

“I lay down my life for the sheep” John 10:15

“This bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live” John 6:51

“Yes it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again, that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. “ Luke 24:46,47

I trust my readers will be inspired to search out  these deep and meaningful truths.

John McKee

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why did Jesus suffer so?

One might well ask – why did the death of the Lord Jesus Christ involve so many people including both Jews and Gentiles?? Why not a private sacrifice like Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah? My one line answer is – to demonstrate the depravity of humanity without God, and to vindicate the just judgement of God.

      Let me outline a few items.
 The betrayal and Sanhedrin judgements exposed the real condition of the Jewish nation – by stealth they took Him and instead of giving Him a fair trial, they faked a trial and condemned Him to death because He claimed to be the Son of God.
 The trial by Pilate , as the representative of the Gentiles also showed up that these ‘principalities and powers’ were more interested in pleasing men than delivering  justice. 
       As Ephesians 2 explains, the cross abolishes the law of commandments as unworkable in human hands, and also shows the distance of Gentiles having no hope and without God. Now at the foot of the cross, both Jew and Gentile can be reconciled to God by the blood of Christ.

   Why the torture, mocking, insulting?  One answer is that the Old Testament scripture had prophesied that it would happen. But why? One clue is found in the word’s of the Lord in the garden when the guards came to arrest Him (Luke 22) “This is your hour and the power of darkness” .  Somehow this seemed to be the hour when God withdrew His restraining hand and let these proud humans expose their true character.

   To some extent He became an example for us in suffering (1Peter 2) Also as our intercessor now in heaven, He is well acquainted with the suffering of His people, having Himself suffered in the flesh.

     Why a cross? – one reason is explained in Galatians 3:13 “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”. The Lord Jesus by thus dying became “a curse  for us”, thus setting us free from the curse of a broken law. Another quote from the Lord in John 12 “ I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me”. He who humbled Himself to the deepest shame, has been exalted to the highest glory. (Philippians 2 ) and will one day see the travail of His soul  and be satisfied as the believers are gathered home.

    On the black background of human failure, shines the all glorious character of God’s spotless, sensitive, selfless Son. As a lamb led to the slaughter, He quietly blesses His persecutors with “Father forgive them”.

Well might the Centurion say “This man was the Son of God” (Matthew 27)

Let us worship Him who was ‘wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.......’ (Isaiah 53)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The deeper meaning of The death of the Lord Jesus

Investigating the death of the Lord Jesus, I return again to the commentary He gave Himself.

 Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22  all record His comments about the bread and the cup. “This is my body”- I suggest He was saying to the disciples , like the unleavened bread of the Passover feast, ‘ I have been sent by God, I am unleavened (undefiled)  in the world, I am now available for sacrifice to God and for mankind.’ Luke confirms this by adding along with the apostle Paul  - “given for you”.
Then He refers to the cup (apparently a special cup in the Passover ceremony), by saying “this is my blood”. The commentary He gives, explains the symbolism.
Matthew 26:28 “ blood of the covenant, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins”

“ blood of the covenant”-  this would take every Jewish mind back to the communication of Jehovah to Israel through Moses. Their only acceptance in that covenant was on the basis of sacrifice, the basis of shed blood. The NT letter to the Hebrews explains in detail how this is relevant for believers today, with this summary – “ He (Jesus Christ) entered once for all into the holy places (heaven itself) not by means of the blood of goats and bulls, but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12).
So the question of ‘blood shed’ arises. This really deserves an extended study from Genesis to Revelation. In the brevity of this article I will give my summary :-
Genesis – When Abel was killed by Cain, God said “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground”
              To Noah God said “you shall not eat the flesh with it’s life , that is the blood”
 Exodus – to Moses God said “When I see the blood I will pass over you”
                Again for Aaron “ He shall take some of the blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat.......”

Using a concordance to trace the frequent use  of the term ‘blood’ and ‘blood shed’ I conclude that beyond the literal blood, was the meaning of a life taken, or given. Sometimes in war, sometimes by murder and sometimes by sacrifice. In the Old Covenant which was rather physical, God called for much animal blood to be shed, to be sprinkled in the tabernacle  and temple. The Israelites were thus confronted with the costliness of sin, the cost of redemption, the cost of atonement and acceptance, forgiveness and peace. While the Israelites saw much of this, I suggest that the blood was primarily for the eye of God ( “when I see the blood”  Sprinkled “in the holy place”). Yes the blood was a symbol of something, or someone dying in their stead.
So it was that sombre night in Jerusalem,  the Lord said “My blood....  for YOU” (Luke 22) Thus the Lord describes His life being given for others.
In Matthew’s quotation, the Lord includes “ for the forgiveness of sins”  - these Jewish disciples well knew that  forgiveness came at a price – the sin offering, the trespass offering, and so  the Lord in His death pays the debt of sin! The cross of shame becomes an alter of sacrifice!

Some have maintained that His blood was shed in the garden, by the crown of thorns, when he was whipped etc – well physically that may well be true, but following through the theme of sacrifice, I suggest His blood was shed when He ‘gave up His Spirit’. This was not something of man’s doing. This was the good Shepherd , according to the commandment of the Father,  ‘laying down His life for the sheep (John 10). John records the soldier drawing blood and water from the Saviour’s side, which I see as the confirmation that death had already taken place. Paul , Peter and John all develop the truth that Jesus ‘yielded up Himself as an offering and a sacrifice to God on our behalf’.

When we come to the book of Revelation, the people are “ washed in the blood of the Lamb” . To the natural mind this is rightly obnoxious, but to those who understand God’s holy hatred of sin, the divinely instructed means of sacrifice the value of the Lamb of God  -- this symbolic language is vibrant with precious meaning i.e. to be cleansed , accepted  by virtue of the once for all sacrifice of Him who said “My blood shed for you”.

Little wonder that this ‘breaking of bread’ became special to the Christians. By this they could intelligently remember the Lord’s death. Intelligent about the event, but so much more – intelligent as to who died, how He died, why He died !

I would  encourage all who are able, to search deeply into these heavenly truths. It  will cause you to bow and worship.

John McKee

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Death Of Christ explained by Christ

Passover explanation of the death of Christ.

          On the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He was deliberate in partaking of the Passover meal. He sent two disciples to prepare, and when the evening came, He said to them “ with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say unto you, I will not eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
        This most significant statement throws heavenly light on the moment, the hour, the days and the whole of time! Here is a prophetic statement explaining what was about to happen with its connection to history past and history future.

       In brief – ‘His suffering was that of the Passover lamb to effect redemption. The once slain lamb would be pre-eminent in the kingdom of God forever.

       You have noticed that I am going deeper than recounting the story of the unjust trials, the pain of crucifixion etc. Before any of that happened the Lord Jesus pointed His followers to the deeper meaning. Let me pursue the Passover story a little. From the beginning of human history, lambs were offered in sacrifice to God. Abraham made an outstanding statement to Isaac his son – “my son God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” .  Could it be that this is what the Lord Jesus was referring to when He said “Abraham rejoiced to see My day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

       The Passover was put in place by God as a means to protect the Israelites from the righteous judgements of God.   True, the gods of Egypt deserved judgement , but how interesting that the Israelites with all their privilege, were not exempt from the judgement of God ( ‘for all have sinned both Jew and Gentile’ ) Only by the death of the lamb ( Exodus 12) , the blood applied to the doorway, was there safety from the judgement of God. Please note that this Passover did set them free from the slavery in Egypt, but of greater importance was the blood of the lamb for the eye of God. So it is when we discern the meaning of the cross, it matters most who God saw ( Jesus, as a lamb without blemish or spot) and what God saw (the precious blood of Christ 1 Peter 1 ).
So putting together the teaching of the Lord about the Passover and the detail of the original purpose, we see the deeper meaning of the sufferings of Christ. Paul put it quite bluntly “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us”  (1 Corinthians 5:7 )  The apostle Peter brings all this together so well in 1 Peter 1:14-21. I would like to explain Peter’s reference to the Passover by paraphrasing it to give an expanded historical setting and present day relevance.

     1 Peter 1:14
Previously we lived according to our passions and feelings which were misguided because of our ignorance of God’s ways. But now that we have repented and turned to God , we ought to live as those obeying God. We must remember that God remains holy and although He shows us mercy and grace through love, the objective is to make us like Himself – holy. We are privileged to call God our Father, but we do well to remember that God’s judgements still hold us accountable for our actions. The wonderful truth is that although we became debtors to God because of  our failure and offensive to God because of our sin, breaking God’s law incurring a curse, God provided a lamb for redemption, for a ransom. God did not pay our debt with silver or gold, but by the precious blood of a lamb, the Lamb of God ( as identified by John the Baptist ),  who was without blemish in His person and character, and without spot  even though He lived in a very spotty, defiling  world.  This was something God planned before He made the world and was expressed in symbol at the Jewish festival of Passover , but in reality the true Lamb of God has now been made known in Jesus Christ.
It is now our responsibility and opportunity to know God, not through the rituals of law, but through Jesus Christ our Lord. God has verified His acceptance of the Lamb along with the promise of eternal life by raising Jesus from the dead – risen to die no more, risen to sit at the right hand of God in the glory of an all powerful intercessor.
Indeed this should create real faith in God that effects real change in our lives and give real hope for eternity. This good news , this word from God, when received, brings about new birth  and new life.
                            End of paraphrase

Reflect for a moment on the firstborn son in Egypt
– without a lamb  - death
-      By the death of the lamb – alive, indeed alive to God, for God said of the redeemed firstborn  “ it is mine”
So it is that Jesus, once crucified has in resurrection become “the firstborn among many brethren” ( Romans 8:29 )

Is it any wonder that He shall be known eternally as ‘ the Lamb that was slain’.  

We are so blessed to be among those who are redeemed to God by His blood ( Revelation 5 ).

As the Lord Jesus said the Passover would be fulfilled, so it has been fulfilled.

Maybe I need to clarify the meaning of 'redemption', 'blood of the lamb' , 'firstborn' 'sacrifice'
                    yes maybe next time

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Cross of Christ - an investigation

          The death of the Lord Jesus must be understood from the whole of the Bible. In my purposed brief explanations, it is important to see the broad sweep of Divine revelation – from the Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) through to the Lamb upon the eternal throne (Revelation 22:3). This along with many other pointers, show the crucifixion of Jesus was no surprise, no martyrdom, but rather, as Peter preached “ He was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.....” (Acts 2:23).

      To see the final objective of God  - a redeemed people worshipping a once slain redeemer – gives much clarity to understanding the ‘why?’ of so many details. E.g. why He was judged by Jew and Gentile.

     I would like to make another general observation -  in the book of Acts , the death of the Lord is seldom explained as the basis of forgiveness. This is developed in the teaching letters. Forgiveness is in His Name  implies both who He was and the death and resurrection He  accomplished. His death is more often presented as a cause for repentance. When His death is explained in the letters of the apostles, it is often connected to the terms – redemption, ransom, remission, sacrifice, offering, suffering etc. To understand the terms, the Old Testament is vital.
      It is most important to notice that often when the Lord Jesus was foretelling His death, He referred to the Old Testament or implied it’s truth  to give meaning to the cross e.g. “ I will smite the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14.27)

    Another preliminary to my investigation is the care needed to discern the symbolism, metaphors etc frequently used in the Old and New Testaments. The one which I will later look at is “shed blood” – is it literal , a metaphor, a  generality or what? Well the Bible does give an answer, and we do well to let the Bible speak for itself rather than force the Bible to say what we want it to say.

     I find I must restrain myself from building a mountain of interpretation upon a minor detail  e.g. The Lord said “It is finished”  - I love the thought that the work of salvation was declared finished and the debt of sin paid, however I have little support from any other scripture that this is the meaning of “It is finished”. It could have referred to the fulfilment of scripture. Or the finish of the suffering , or the giving up of His life.

So let us proceed with due care and diligence!

John McKee

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why must He die

The death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

       This most important historical event needs to be evaluated in history, in scripture, in the purpose of God, in its ongoing effect today, in its eternal value etc.

       Some people think about the Lord’s death once a year, others remember His death once a quarter or once a month. I grew up among Christians who spent time at least each week remembering the death of the Saviour. After fifty years regularly remembering, studying the Lord’s death, I find  ‘the well is exceedingly deep and very satisfying’  - I mean that I never weary of meditating on the multifaceted details of the death of the Lord Jesus.

       In this blog I will ask some questions and later give answers.
Note  -  I posted several articles on the ‘cross of Christ’  a year or two back. They should be found in the archives to the right.

   Why did Jesus die if he could have prevented such shameful end?
     Why must his death be executed at the hands of Jews and Gentiles  with        such injustice and torture?
       What does the Bible teach about the three hours of darkness?
         When was his blood shed?
          What sufferings were for atonement?
           Who did he die for?
            Where was he while his body lay  in the tomb?

Enough to start with?????????

Pray that the Holy Spirit will give wisdom to answer accurately  and to the glory of God.

PS if you want to follow this series, you can enter your email at the bottom of the page and each blog will be sent to you. I will not be harassing anyone, in fact I don’t think I am able to know who is getting the emails.

John McKee