Monday, March 29, 2010

The Crucifixion

As I review the gospel accounts, I am impressed that there is little information concerning the details of crucifixion. We are told about the crucifixion of Christ, but we are not given details in Scripture regarding the ordeal of crucifixion. One would expect maybe more physical description from Luke, a physician – who would no doubt be interested in such information – or from eyewitnesses like the Apostle John. Much of what we know about crucifixion we learn from historical accounts in extra-biblical literature.

This is significant because a lot of preaching about the Cross seems to center on the brutality of Roman crucifixion. Certainly, it was a sadistically brutal form of execution. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ has gone a long way to remind modern viewers of the savagery of this kind of death. But while we do not want to detract from the horror of crucifixion, it is wise that we do not go beyond the Biblical report of it.

Why are the details lacking in the gospels? Two reasons come to mind:

First, the New Testament writers saw no need to provide a gory description of crucifixion because it was well known to first century people living under Roman domination. There is literature that speaks of the mass crucifixion of 6000 followers of Spartacus in 71 BC. The crucifixion of Jesus would not have been much different from these.

Second, the most important feature is not the act of crucifixion, but the object of crucifixion. It is not as much about how Jesus died, but about who He was who died. He was the sinless Son of God, the Lamb of God who was sent to take away the sins of the world.

Crucifixion did not kill Jesus. He said that no one could take His life from Him; He would lay it down of His own accord when His hour was come (Jn. 10:18).

When He gave up His spirit, the earth trembled and the Roman guard confessed that “certainly, this was the Son of God.”

Isaiah 53 portrays the offering of the Son as he “poured out His soul unto death.” It is this soul-suffering, this bearing sin and absorbing the wrath of God for sinners that occupies the central place in how we understand the crucifixion.

If Jesus died from the torture of crucifixion, the brutality of Roman executioners, or, as some even suggest, from a “broken heart,” then we surely may feel pity for this one who died in such a manner. But I think that such sentimentality detracts from the core issue of the Cross – His soul was made an offering for sin, that our souls might be saved. He suffered the infinite wrath of a holy God that was justly due to fall upon me. As we sing:

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You've Got to Be Kidding

Just when you thought it was not possible to “slouch towards Gomorrah” any further, read this post from Al Mohler on “gender neutral housing” on college campuses.

It's OK.

Paul Tripp comments on 2 Cor. 1:8-10: “This means that in the most difficult moments of my life, nothing truly permanent or valuable is at stake. What I really live for is safe and secure.” Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands (p.154).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Prepare to Die

From's "Today in Christian History:" On this date in 1951 - American missionary and martyr Jim Elliot reflected in his journal: 'When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Messiah

On today’s date in 1744, Handel’s Messiah was performed for the 1st time in London. It was originally composed there in 1741. Because of its popularity during the Christmas season, few realize that it was written for the Easter celebration. The Messiah is about the birth and passion of the Lord Jesus.

An earlier version premiered in Dublin in 1742, but that version was altered to produce the version that was performed in London. The 1744 version is the one that forms the basis of our modern version. For additional information see gfhandel .org.

It is said that he completed this masterpiece during a marathon work session of about 23 days, subsisiting mostly on coffee. I knew there was another reason to like this guy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Reform

I spent some time watching the health care debate on C-SPAN and here are a few things I have gleaned from the rhetoric:
  • The President has promised to issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal funds from paying for abortion on demand.
  • An Executive Order cannot trump law. If the bill is signed into law, the Executive Order may be meaningless.
  • The Health Care Bill will require the expansion of IRS staffing to another 17,000, while it makes no provision for any additional physicians or health care workers.
  • The Health Care Bill will prohibit health care providers from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions. And according to Rep. Woolsley of California, being a woman is a pre-existing condition.

The health care debate is no debate. It is political posturing prior to the vote. It appears to be directed to the viewing public more than offering any substantive debate.

Wouldn’t you love to see, just once, the President stare down the House of Representatives like the British PM does the members of Parliament? That would be fun

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Problem of Evil According to Agent Smith

I have been searching You Tube for this clip for some time (excuse the Croatian subtitles). Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving) lectures Morpheus regarding the origin of the Matrix. Here is the text:

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

The problem of evil is one of those areas of cognitive dissonance in a Biblical worldview. Christians sometimes face the issue with difficulty. As this clip shows, even those who do not share a Biblical worldview see that there is a necessary purpose in the existence of evil.

While we do not always have answers that satisfy enquiring minds, we do know that, in the context of the problem of evil versus God's goodness, God Himself, in the Person of Christ, was the primary victim of the worst evil ever perpetrated; premeditated deicide (Acts 2:23; 36).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ambassadors for the King

The job of an ambassador is to represent someone or something. Everything he does and says must intentionally represent a leader who is not physically present. His calling is not limited to forty hours a week, to certain state events, or to times of international crisis. He is always the king’s representative. He stands in the place of the king (or the government of his country) wherever he is, whatever he is doing. His relationships are not primarily driven by his own happiness. He decides to go places and do things because they will faithfully help him to represent the king. Thus, the work of an ambassador is incarnational. His actions, character, and words embody the king who is not present…

But this is where we get ourselves into trouble. We don’t really want to live as ambassadors. We would rather live as mini-kings. We know what we like and the people we want to be with. We know the kind of house we’d like to own and the car we want to drive. Without even recognizing it, we fall into a “my desire, my will and my way” lifestyle where things we say and do are driven by the cravings of our own hearts. If we were honest, we would have to confess that the central prayer of our hearts is “my kingdom come.”
– Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, pp. 104-105.