Saturday, 9 February 2013

The people at the cross of Calvary

Have you ever thought about the different groups of people there at the cross of Calvary? There are many ways you could look at this subject but it occurred to me the other day that there were 3 groups of people who were described in relation to their position. There were those that STOOD, those that SAT and those that PASSED BY. I enjoyed this short study and we will share some simple thoughts here.

Those that STOOD

There were many people standing in the vicinity of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that day 2000 years ago, but I wanted to just focus this study upon the women that came from Galilee to be at the cross. Luke says;
"and all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things." Luke 23:49 ESV

I don't know if you have ever thought much about this, I know I hadn't until I looked at this properly! Why should these women follow him from Galilee? Why would it specifically be recorded that women followed him from Galilee?
Remember that this was a day when women were treated unequally, and were seen as second-class citizens. The Lord himself rebuked the Pharisees for their harsh treatment of women and widows in particular.

It was then that my mind turned to the frequent times when the Lord Jesus brought blessing, comfort, and protection, honour and respect to the lives of the women of his day. Here are just a few occasions, there are many more:

  • He had compassion upon the woman of Canaan and her daughter

  • He had time to bless the widow of Nain by restoring her son

  • He protected the woman taken in adultery when the men of her day were ready to stone her

  • He made a specific journey through Samaria to speak with that woman by the well

  • He cast evil spirits out of many women including Mary Magdalene

  • He gave special place to their children - "suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God" I think these women appreciated this and were drawn to the Saviour due to his gentle and kind nature. Well might we sing "gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon a little child" and "there's a friend for little children..."

  • He had a special address for those joyful daughters of Zion as he entered Jerusalem on that triumphant day. Interestingly He also had a specific address for those weeping women that day that he was led out of Jerusalem bearing his cross.

  • Finally remember that touching moment at the cross when the Saviour made provision for his mother that day. Surely only he truly understood those words spoken of her that "a sword shall pierce through your own soul also"...

Those that SAT

"and sitting down they watched him there" Matt 27:36

Again, I don't know if you have ever thought much about this, or whether this verse had struck you at all. Upon reading this passage it struck me afresh the callousness and cruelty of men, that they should torture, abuse, humiliate and then crucify an innocent man, one who had exhibited nothing but goodness, love, compassion, kindness and grace in his life and then watch him, mocking him and deriding him as he dies. Not only this but they were not prepared to suffer an ounce of discomfort as they did so, but rather they would take their comfort and ease as the Saviour died in agony. Is it no wonder that the Word of God reminds us in Psalm 1 (words which ultimately are fulfilled in the Saviour) "blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers..." ESV

Interesting that in a future day the tables will be turned, and the Lord himself shall sit and laugh in derision at the futile rebellion of those armies of men in a future day; "he who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision" Praise God that the Lord Jesus Christ has risen and ascended to his Father's right hand and one day will be glorified and acknowledged as Lord by all, and will be victorious over all his enemies!

Those that PASSED BY

Even more so than the other 2 points, I genuinely had never thought about this one or noticed this before. Only Matthew and Mark record this (interesting as Matthew speaks primarily to the Jew and Mark to the Gentile)
"and they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads..."

Once again the heartless cruelty and casual wickedness of man's nature is shown. These people were passing by, going about their daily business as if nothing had happened! Here they pass through the scene at Calvary, not stopping to take in the significance of the event, or to show sorrow or even a modicum of compassion towards the blessed man who hung upon that cross! Think about it - what on earth could have been more pressing or more important to them at that time? But no, they put if from their minds, merely shouting their derision and scornfully mocking him as they pass by. I am reminded by the poignantly prophetic words of Lamentations 1:12 "is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger..." It was nothing to them!

Praise God the Lord Jesus was not marked by their same spirit! He would not pass the suffering one by! Think of that parable of the Good Samaritan, a picture of the Lord Jesus and the stricken, helpless and needy sinner. He would not pass us by, but saw us in our need, wounded, destitute and ready for death but he stepped in and moved in love and grace toward us, praise God for the lovely character of our Lord Jesus Christ!

May God bless these thoughts as we continue to remember and worship our Lord and Saviour.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Christ the spotless Nazarite (2)

Following on from our previous look at the Lord Jesus as the spotless Nazarite in relation to the touching of dead things, I wanted to look this time at that other feature of the Nazarite life: "he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink" (Numbers 6:3). I am looking at these Nazarite features purely with our blessed Saviour in view, so this is a devotional rather than a practical look at these things.

Throughout the Bible, wine and the fruit of the vine are typically a picture of earthly energy and joy, but we will come onto that in more detail later. Wine is also often linked to the Holy Spirit, I am thinking now in particular of Ephesians 5:18 "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" The idea here is that believers should not be filled with the excess and recklessness of wine which speaks of this earth but that we should be driven and controlled by the Holy Spirit as befits the believer. With this in mind I looked at a few scriptures from the beginning of the Lord's earthly ministry to see what it said about his relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 4:1 says on that occasion that he was LED by the Spirit into the wilderness. The idea is to be led up or guided, and how lovely it is to think that the Saviour was guided by the Holy Spirit, his steps were always in sync with the Spirit and the Father, those 3 persons of the godhead!

Mark 1:12 records the same incident but says that he was DRIVEN by the Spirit into the wilderness. The word really means "cast out" so it carries with it a forceful and decisive act. An alternative rendering indicates to us that He was driven from within, so we have now the idea of the Saviour moving decisively, with passion and purpose driven from within by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 4:1 again records this but here the language is"Jesus being FULL OF the Holy Ghost" The word means "full up" and the verse also carries with it the idea of being "controlled by". Here we learn that Christ was filled by and controlled by the Holy Spirit! It filled and controlled Him and directed His every thought, word and deed.

We recall that in OT times the Spirit of God would come upon men and enable and empower them to accomplish some might deed for God, but these men were always marked by failure or sin in some area of their life. Not so with our Lord of course, as we said last time - He was the perfect, spotless example of the Nazarite, ultimately separated to God for his service and glory!

Let us return to the idea of wine speaking of earthly joy, what does it say about the Lord Jesus and joy? Well, I was interested to see that in the gospels the references to joy are almost always in relation to other people:

  • There was Joy at his Birth - Matt 2:10, Luke 2:10

  • There was Joy in his Life - Luke 13:17

  • There was Joy at his Death - John 16:20 (these are sad and solemn words indeed...)

  • There was Joy at his Resurrection though - Matt 28:8, Luke 24:41

  • There will be Joy at his coming again - John 16:20 and 22 (praise God!)
Of the Saviour himself though, we remember that it was prophesied of him that he would be "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief", this was the portion of our Saviour own here! Lamentations 1:12 also ultimately speaks of Christ "look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow", there was no sorrow like that which the Lord Jesus experienced at the cross of Calvary for you and for me. Isaiah goes on to say "surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows", how this should humble us and affect us in our lives. Let us lift our hearts and offer up thanks and praise to our God for his beloved Son and our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

I trust these simple thoughts will have warmed our hearts towards the Lord Jesus Christ and that they will be of enjoyment and benefit to God's people.

Yours in Christ, Mark

1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

I was listening to a podcast the other day which was speaking about 1 Kings 19 and it reminded me of how very relevant this passage is to ou...