In Matthew 27, we have recorded the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In vss. 45-54 Jesus dies but in his death four miraculous signs happened. These signs are pointers to what is going on in the death of Jesus. These signs show us the violence in his death.
When I say Jesus’ death was violent I mean more than the horrible act of violence that crucifixion was. Even more than the physical torture was the violence going on in the heavenly realms as Jesus died.
The first sign is darkness. Darkness covers the earth for the three hours prior to Jesus’ death. Darkness represents the enemies of God and the enemies of humanity: sin, Satan and death. These three enemies close in on Jesus as he hangs on the cross, they attack him, they surround him until finally he cries out, “eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” It seems that the violence of darkness has won.
But upon his death three more signs happen. First the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. This curtain represents the separation from God that sinful humanity experiences; the lack of access to His presence. We see the violence of heaven tearing away the barrier between us and God. Sin is being defeated by the death of Christ.
The third sign is an earthquake. The ground is shifting. This is Matthew’s way of telling us that Satan is losing control; there is a shift in kingdoms taking place, and God is doing a new thing. No longer is the prince of darkness the ruler of the kingdoms of the earth. Everything has changed and now “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)
The fourth sign is that tombs are opened and three days later, not only Jesus but other holy people are seen risen from the dead. The final enemy, death, is going down in defeat as well.
Jesus’ death is violent. First the forces of darkness gather around Jesus. Sin, Satan and death close in on him and he cries out and dies. But that is not the end. Now it is God’s turn to release the violence of heaven on the darkness. Barriers are coming down, the spiritual ground is shifting, and death is losing its cold grip. Violence, God’s violence on are behalf. War, God warring for his people. That is why what should have been the darkest day in human history is called Good Friday.
In John, Chapter 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. John 11 is one of the famous ‘I am’ chapters in John’s gospel. It is in this chapter Jesus makes the claim to be the resurrection and the life. It is always good to remember when we are looking at Jesus we are looking at God. Jesus’ attitude and actions toward death are God’s attitudes and actions toward death.
Jesus reveals God’s attitude toward death in John 11 in three ways. First Jesus tells his disciples that their friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. Jesus uses the same term in Mark 5 when the synagogue ruler’s daughter had died. We experience death as something permanent but apparently Jesus does not. Jesus, being the resurrection and the life talks about death in different terms. When he is on the scene he becomes the cosmic alarm clock. If death has put someone asleep, the resurrection and the life will come and wake them up.
Jesus is angry at death. Twice in John 11, verses 33 and 38 it says Jesus was deeply moved. The Holman Christian Bible gets the translation right by saying he was angry. Jesus is angry at death. Life not death is God’s plan. Sin and death are violations against God’s will and Jesus is angry that his friend Lazarus is dead. One of the reasons we hate death is in our created selves we know deep down it is wrong. People were created to live not die.
Jesus has compassion on the loved ones. John 11:35 says Jesus wept at the sight of his friends grief. Jesus is fully God and fully human. We see in this one short passage the heart of God in compassion and how Jesus the man expresses that with tears. Just as anger is an appropriate response to death so is sadness and compassion to those most affected by it. God has become a man in Jesus, so God knows what it feels like to hurt and be hurt. He understands and literally has lived our sorrows.
Finally God’s answer to death is not resignation but resurrection. “Lazarus come out” are some of the most exciting words in the New Testament. What a great dramatic seen as this mummy emerges from the cave. A short time later Jesus himself will come out of a tomb and all history will be changed. As we put our faith in him, the resurrection and the life comes to us. Resurrection life, or as John calls it eternal life starts now, and even death, as ugly and wrong as it is cannot stop it.
See you on Sunday!
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?”
When We Are Helped and God is Glorified
Two scripture passages recently impressed me. One was 2 Kings 19 and the other was John 11. The thing that impressed me was that God was glorified in answering the prayers of his friends but in ways beyond their expectation. Let me try to explain.
In 2 Kings 18 and 19 the Assyrians lay siege to Jerusalem and taunt King Hezekiah and Yahweh. Hezekiah was a good and godly king who was brought to the very brink of destruction. It may have seemed to Hezekiah that all his obedience to Yahweh was for naught. The mighty Assyrian army was camped outside the gates of Jerusalem. Yet the prophet Isaiah assured Hezekiah that God would deliver him. Miraculously the Assyrians heard a rumor of another dispute and left the gates of Jerusalem. On the way home 185,000 of them were killed and the King who threatened Jerusalem was assassinated by his own son. God had won a mighty victory without Israel drawing a sword.
The second instance is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He receives word Lazarus is sick and waits two days before he goes to help. Lazarus dies. Jesus however raises him from the dead and teaches the great lesson that he is the resurrection and the life. The people are in awe and God gets the glory.
In both these cases the situation for God’s friends was hard. In both these cases God came through for them and he received the glory. Why is God so interested in receiving the glory? He obviously does not have to be pumped up; he doesn’t have a self-esteem problem.
No, when God receives the glory people pay attention to him and people need to pay attention to him. We need God and answered prayer which glorifies God has the ability of making people stop and take a look. That is why when we ask God for help, help comes but not always as quickly or in the way we are looking for it. Hezekiah would have liked the Assyrian army to be stopped sooner. Lazarus’ sisters would have liked Jesus to show up sooner. But in both cases God’s friends were saved and people were amazed at how he had done it.
When you need help and ask God for it, be assured help will come. Also be ready for the help to come at a different time and a different way than you expect. God is so big he can help you and point to his greatness all at the same time. These times, then, serve as testimonies in our lives to God’s faithfulness to keep us going and as a witness to the world that is in need of God. Let God show his glory in your life. Keep looking for and telling about the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
See you on Sunday!
Last week I went to Kansas City for the Grace Covenant conference. I am always refreshed by seeing friends, the strong teaching and Kansas City BBQ. But this year I was encouraged by the testimonies. Grace Covenant is expanding internationally in Nigeria, The Dominican Republic and Peru. Dallas Elder told a great story of fulfilled prophecy regarding a ministry connection in Peru. Jeff Dodson shared how three breast cancer tumors have disappeared through the prayers of the people of West Chariton Fellowship in Novinger MO. A young woman at the conference who had a progressive hearing problem leading to deafness in her future had her hearing completely restored.
These are just a few of the stories of what a living Lord is still doing on the earth. I know we all have disappointments and prayers we are still waiting to see answered, but it is good to focus on all the good things God is doing all around us. We choose what we look at and we choose what to believe. Our skepticism and pessimism water down our faith. Take a minute and stop focusing on what isn’t currently happening and look around and see what God is up to. You will be refreshed and encouraged by this.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
See you Sunday morning!
The Firehouse Church got its name from the metaphor of fire for the person of the Holy Spirit. We are a church that welcomes values and honors God’s presence in our lives and corporate times of worship. That presence is brought to us through the Holy Spirit. Both individually and corporately we want to be a house for God’s fire.
Fire represents three things the Spirit brings to us in the Bible. Fire is purity. In mining precious metals fire is used to separate the gold from the rock. The weaker rock will melt before the gold so the two can be separated. We believe the Spirit of God will melt away our character flaws and bring out the gold of Christ’s character in us. The fire of His presence purifies us.
Fire is power. Fire takes objects and releases the power in them. Steam, coal, gas, oil, solar all this power comes from fire. The fire of the Spirit brings the power of God so we can continue the ministry of Jesus. We believe in the miracles and gifts of the Spirit as a concrete way to demonstrate the love of God in people’s lives. As his presence is with us and in us his power is released to bring his goodness and love into the lives of people in need.
Fire is passion. We use phrases like on fire for God to represent a life that is fully in love with and sold out to God. We believe in passionately expressing our love for God in worship and service. Emotional expressions of love for God such as singing and dancing are encouraged as we gather to worship. We want to love God and others with our heart, mind, soul and strength. His presence fills us with a passion for loving God and serving his in this world.
We desire our lives and church to be a house of God’s fire, thus the name The Firehouse Church. If this is something you resonate with or are just intrigued about, come hang out with us some time. We meet for corporate worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday mornings at the Seefilm theatre in downtown Bremerton on 4th and Park.
Blessings on you,