Monthly Archives: May 2016

Behold the Lamb

web-happy-lambThere is a beautiful and breathtaking symmetry to the life and ministry of Jesus.

Case in point, as you will hear in this PODCAST, here in John 12, the beloved disciple brings us full circle. You may not see that now. But trust me, you will by the time we conclude this discussion.

Let me give you one tantalizing little hint: This beautiful symmetry to which I refer has little to do with palm branches, but everything to do with lambs.

Now watch this: When John introduced us to Jesus for the very first time, this is what he wrote:

“The next day John (the baptizer) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”

That’s in John 1.

Here in John 12, this is what we read:

“The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city.”

Now listen: In both cases, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John 1, and here at the very ending of Jesus’ ministry in John 12, it’s all about a lamb.

I know that as you read any or all of the accounts of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem as recorded in all four of the Gospels, you may not see a lamb. But trust me, it’s there. Front and center, it’s there.

Just as it is in John 1, so it is here in John 12, Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Miss that, and you miss the whole point of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, on this — the Sunday before Passover.

Which raises a most intriguing question: Why did Jesus choose to ride into Jerusalem on that Sunday? Jesus could have ridden into Jerusalem on Saturday (If He did, we would call it Palm Saturday!), or on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday.

Why did Jesus choose to ride in on the Sunday before Passover? Answer that, and you get the whole picture.

Here’s a secondary question: Since Passover did not officially begin until that Thursday night (Remember Jesus sharing with the disciples their final Passover seder in Upper room on Thursday night?), why were so many pilgrims in Jerusalem so early on that Sunday?

Answer that, and you get the whole picture.

Which underscores this point: The Bible is God’s picture book, and Jesus’ Triumphal Entry is yet another three-dimensional, High Definition portrait of breathtaking significance. A panoramic masterpiece that, though we studied one portion of the Triumphal Entry last week (Daniel’s prophecy), this picture is far too important to ignore this week.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“This Your Day”

jerusalem3You talk about a collision of conflicting emotions, welcome to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into His beloved city of Jerusalem.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, all of this emotional turmoil will come to a climax as Jesus paused during His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, gazed longingly at breathtaking panorama, and then suddenly sang this song of lament:

“If you had known, even you, especially in This.Your.Day.”

This your day.

The obvious question: What was it about this day that caused Jesus to refer to it with such a pointed specificity?

This was, of course, the day on which Jesus chose to make His return to the Holy City, and thus to trigger all of tumultuous events of His turbulent last week. It was, as you may know, the final Sunday before Passover that year, what we call Palm Sunday. This because the people gathered in their thousands, and waved palm branches all along the route of Jesus’ ride on the back of a donkey into Jerusalem.

I cannot help but to think that the words of Psalm 137 echoed through Jesus’ mind and heart as He rode into the city:

“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

Jerusalem: Jesus’ beloved city indeed. Let there be no doubt that Jerusalem was, and is, and ever shall be Jesus’ highest joy. Which makes His weeping — His crying convulsively — over the Holy City on this her day all the more poignant, all the more powerfully emotional.

Now, I need you to focus on one important fact that overshadows this entire week: Jesus’ thoughts were focused like a laser beam on one particular book of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament): the prophetic book of Daniel. How do I know this? Because on the Tuesday of this final week, a mere 48 hours after this Palm Sunday, Jesus will give to His disciples His grand and glorious Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24 – 25, and rivaled in its beauty and majesty only by the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7.

That signature sermon was delivered on the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee. This final sermon or discourse was delivered on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.

In that discourse, Jesus laid out for His disciples and for us the sweeping panorama of the End Times, and all that will lead up to His glorious return. The so-called Signs of Times.

We will, of course, break it down in all of its majestic splendor when we get to that Tuesday in the coming weeks.

What I need for you to note now is what Jesus said right in the middle of that discourse, the interpretive key both for that sermon and for this moment in His Triumphal Entry:

Matthew 24:15, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel let the reader understand.”

Jesus’ unmistakable reference to Daniel 9:24-27.

Now listen carefully: The Triumphal Entry sets in motion the beginnings of the fulfillment of this great prophecy in Daniel 9, what many call “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.”

Allow me to read to you the prophecy in full, and then we’ll talk about it.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Worst of the Worst of the Worst

slide_2The Apostle John turned out to be quite the lyricist. One could almost sing some of his melodious verses. In fact, many of us have.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, John wasn’t a scholar, not by any stretch of imagination. Quite unlike the Apostle Paul, for example.

John engaged in virtually no complex doctrinal discussions involving the nuances of theology, the kinds of stuff in which Paul reveled.

John’s Greek is so simplistic that 1 John is invariably the first book every 1st-year Greek student translates.

John was a passionate soul, one who wrote far more emotionally than he did academically.

Consequently, John had the uncanny ability to relate to us all on such a visceral level that you get the sense that he understood exactly what it’s like to be us — fragile, fearful, human.

When their paths first crossed, Jesus met a rather unremarkable, uneducated fisherman from the provincial little town of Bethsaida. Yet, by the time Jesus got done with him, John became a prolific author (with one Gospel, three letters, and his magnum opus, the majestic book of Revelation to his literary credit).

John was the only one of the twelve who stayed with Jesus on that fateful day of the crucifixion. So devoted was he to Jesus, that with one of His last, dying breaths, Jesus committed the care of His dearly beloved mom, Mary, to John.

It was John who went from being known as a “Son of Thunder” for his uncontrollable temper, to the “Apostle whom Jesus loved,” as John so referred to himself because he could not get over that fact that Jesus saw in him someone who could be loved.

Among his other glistening credentials, John was for a time the pastor of little family of faith in Ephesus. John was arrested, charged with being a leader of a Christ-following community, sentenced, and subsequently banished to penal colony on island of Patmos.

Separated he now was — by the Aegean Sea — from the people he so loved, his modest little flock in Ephesus. Which explains why, when John was allowed to see the splendors of Heaven, the very first description he wrote was so curiously cryptic to us, but not to him. Just a fragment of a verse that spoke volumes to John: “There was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Anyway, John was eventually released from Patmos. He then apparently became reunited with several people from his former congregation in Ephesus.

Much to John’s delight, many of his former flock had continued in his absence to follow Christ faithfully, and to raise their children to follow Christ. This brought John such enormous joy, as you can imagine, that he wrote this in 2 John:

“How happy I was to meet some of your children and to find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.”

“To find them living according to the truth.” Nothing brings more joy to a parent’s heart than that.

Likewise, there is nothing that brings to a parent more grief and heartache than to watch his or her child reject the truth they so love, and the God whom they so cherish.

That same anguish of soul floods the heart of every spouse whose husband or wife rejects truth, the family’s faith, the one true God. Just as it does anyone who watches helplessly as a beloved friend, relative, whomever, reject the truth.

The gallons of tears shed. The many sleepless nights spent worrying, agonizing, questioning, praying.

Our unnerving lament, written in a minor key, that invariably results from the knowledge that the thing we hold most dear they ridicule with contemptuous disdain.

The ever-present, nagging thought that perhaps if I had only said more, or said less; tried harder, or didn’t try so hard; or hadn’t

succumbed to my own weaknesses and hypocrisies. Maybe then I could have successfully passed onto my children a godly heritage one generation to the next.

And then, of course, there are those self-righteous parents whose own children are thriving in the faith. And they never seem to let you forget that you failed where they succeeded, causing us yet all the more guilt, shame, heartache, and heartbreak.

Just ask the mother of Zacchaeus.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“I Want to See.”

99222_origMeet Blind Bartimaeus, a man who seems at first blush to be nothing more than a bit player in this most dramatic and poignant moment.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this wasn’t the first time that Jesus healed a blind man. Nor is this the first time we have talked about Jesus healing a blind man. Last November, Podcast 141, comes to mind. So I would totally understand if you were tempted to bring to this story a sense of “been there, done that,” Déjà vu all over again. Like, if you’ve seen one blind-man-healing, you’ve seen them all, right? WRONG!

As I said just a moment ago, this story is both dramatic and poignant.

The implications of this story, both for the Jews of Jesus’ day, and for the entire world in our day, cannot be overstated. This story is indeed dramatic, dramatic in the extreme.

Nor can we overstate the emotional state Jesus must have been in at this most significant moment of His ministry, as the final chapter of His life is about to unfold. Emotions that infuse this story with feeling from start to finish. A story poignant to a palpable degree.

To be perfectly honest, there is so much going on here that I’m really in a quandary as to where to start. So let me start with this: In the Middle East, both in Jesus’ day, and in our own day, Symbolism = Substance.

Symbolism = Substance. IOW, as I’ve said so often, the Bible is God’s picture book. The biblical writers were painters. The visual means something. Symbolism = Substance.

In this story about yes, yet another blind man being healed by Jesus, it really is all about the optics. The symbolism. The connections that the original readers would have made in their minds as they read Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s account of this miracle

The symbolism of What happened (the healing of Blind Bartimaeus), When it happened (c. AD 30, just days before Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem), and Where happened (Jericho).

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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So Near, and Yet So Far

rich-young-ruler-3You could call this story an epic “Opportunity Lost.”

You talk about a guy presented with a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity, an opportunity that he squandered. An opportunity that he squandered Badly.And.Sadly.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, this is an offer rarely made, and shockingly dismissed.

A young man who burst on the scene like a blazing comet streaking overhead, only to flame out and fall out of the sky to come crashing and burning to earth.

What a story!

One thing’s for sure. Jesus never took a class on Personal Evangelism, witnessing, soul winning, or whatever you want to call it. Because, to be honest, Jesus Broke.Every.Rule of personal evangelism in this very personal encounter.

Here you have what we call in our contemporary Christian culture a seeker coming to Jesus to ask Him one question. THE question. The single most important question.

A softball question that any one of us could answer.

His question?

“What should I do to inherit eternal life?”

This young man asked Jesus exactly the right question, to which Jesus gave him exactly the wrong answer!

Or did He?

Don’t fault me for asking that. Jesus’ own disciples thought that Jesus gave him the wrong answer. Check it out: The disciples were “astounded and astonished” when they heard Jesus’ answer.

All this guy needed to do, all that Jesus needed to tell him to do, was to pray a “Jesus, come into my heart” prayer, right? Yet, by the time Jesus got done with him? The young man walked away.

In the words of the noted Lutheran New Testament scholar, R.C.H. Lenski,

“Picture him: an exemplary young man in early manhood, fine and clean morally as the phrase now goes… wealthy… with a strong religious bent… a pillar (in the community)… Where is the church that would not give him a prominent place?… Yet all this is in the eyes of Jesus… worthless.”

Yeah verily, I will add, so worthless that Jesus offended him. Lost him. Drove him away.

Know why?

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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