Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

COMMUNION MEDITATION: Because our children are asking …

The New Testament sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are simple, by Christ’s design, so that even children can understand the basic truths which these signs, actions, and rituals are illustrating.  To quote Albert Einstein (in a limited sense), “If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not understand it well enough.”  Thus I have been impressed, over the years, with the ability of some to give excellent children’s talks which are very simple, yet meaty and profound for all who will listen.  Surely Jesus was encapsulating a world of truth as He proclaimed:  “The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like little children” … but one simple application should be:  If only the professional scholars and theologians can grasp a doctrinal point, it may be that the truth claim has more of man than of God in it.  With just a few minutes, then, I ask you to consider two questions which children have asked, both of them deserving clear answers.

Last week, a child asked me:  “Pastor John, if God has always known everything, then why did He create Satan?”  I will interpret and extend his question to ponder:  Why did God create the angel Lucifer, knowing that Lucifer would lead an angel rebellion, become the devil, tempt our first parents, and produce the fall of all mankind and of the universe itself?  I did not claim that simple answers are easy ones!  A word for parents, teachers, and others:  Praise the Lord for such questions.  They could be evidence that the Holy Spirit is stirring.  Do not say:  “Shut up!  Stop asking silly or hard questions.  Just believe and behave.  Don’t think.  And above all, don’t go poking around behind the curtain, or you may discover that there is nothing there after all!”  So much better to respond with something, even an “I don’t know … but let’s dig into that issue together.”

This question (about God’s role in the origin of Satan) is a version of the classical query:  “How could there be a good and strong God in a universe with evil and suffering?”  Okay, this is an enormous subject, but here is a starting point:  Because the universe as it really is (with a Lucifer who would become Satan, with evil and suffering, with pain and sorrow and tears, and with sin under all of it) is the universe which God has allowed and even designed to bring the maximum glory to Himself, to display before Himself, His angels, human beings, and the universe the awesome collection of His own glorious attributes, and in this particular case, to show how He will defeat and destroy His and our archenemy, the devil and all his works.

Here is a second question asked by a child, much earlier than last week, and across many years:  “Father, why is this night different from all others?”  This, of course, is the classic and scripted prompting by children at the Seder (or the Passover), that annual memorial meal to remind Israel of “Exodus Night,” how the Lord delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land.

Please recognize the connection of our first question with this second one, for if God really is good and strong, especially attentive to His chosen nation, then why did He allow them to be enslaved in the first place?  There are, of course, human reasons for why and how Jacob’s family ended up in Egypt, and it is clear that God held many Egyptians to be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.  But God allowed, even designed, Israel’s captivity to glorify and exalt Himself in their eyes, and in the eyes of Egypt, Canaan, and the whole world up until this very day.

Recognize, as well, the connection of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus instituted this Christian sacramental love feast at a Seder.  The Bible strongly connects the minor redemption (of Israel from Egypt) with the major redemption (of all God’s children from their captivating sin).

Recognize, finally, the connection of the Seder, the Supper, the cross, and the first question.  God’s design of a universe where Satan, sin, and sorrow could (would) happen surely had in mind this ultimate and glorious solution, the death of God’s dear Son, as the answer to the very big questions, the solution for all of our needs, and the ultimate display of the glory and grace of God.

Mull over this sentence.  If it is true, enjoy its truth, and turn it into personal worship:  “God in His grace provided what God in His holiness demanded.”  God allowed and designed a fallen universe, filled with fallen people, millions of whom would come to know their Lord as a God of grace, mercy, and faithfulness.  There is a popular book with this subtitle:  “What if marriage is designed by God, not to make you happy, but holy?!”  Well, what if time, space, the universe, and all history are designed to glorify God in His fullness, as He really is?  Would not an eternity of informed worship justify 6,000 or more years of drama, if that is the kind of thing it takes for us to get to know God as He really is?  Yes, and the cross, with the sacrificed body of Jesus Christ, is at the center.

The Sound of Silence … and What It Means

Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.  The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.  Like a lamb that is led to slaughter and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. … The high priest stood and said to [Jesus]:  “Do You not answer?  What is it that these men are testifying against You?”  But Jesus kept silent. … While He was being accused by the chief priests and the elders, He did not answer.  Then Pilate said to Him:  “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”  [Jesus] did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was amazed. … Jesus was saying:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” … [Jesus] said to [the thief]:  “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” … When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother:  “Woman, behold, your son!”  He said to the disciple:  “Behold, your mother!” … About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying:  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” … After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill Scripture, said:  “I am thirsty.” … When Jesus had received the sour wine He said:  “It is finished!” … Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said:  “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” … Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, & yielded up His spirit.  Isaiah 53:4-7; Matthew 26:62-63a; 27:12-14; Luke 23:34,43; John 19:26-27; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:28,30; Luke 23:46; Matthew 27:50

[The preacher pauses for twelve full seconds, then speaks]:  We are not very comfortable with silence!  I wish I had a brain-scan for each of you as you observed my silence … assumptions ranging from:  He is so nervous. … Maybe he’s stupid!He’s lost his voice. … Maybe for a nice change he doesn’t have anything to say (wrong)!  A universal thought must have occurred:  “Too bad those twelve seconds were wasted; we will never get them back.  A lost opportunity for instruction, etc.

Many of the youth with us today gave attention to teachings brought by Pastor Kyle Borg on the seven sayings or words of Jesus on the cross.  Our call-to-worship today (above) included all of those.  Perhaps Jesus said other things not recorded in Scripture, but the words we do have could have been stated in thirty seconds.  As a portion of His six hours on the cross, Jesus’ “quiet-time” represented about 99.9% of all His time on the cross.  That’s a lot of silence (no doubt, more awkward than mine this morning).  The disciples and Jesus’ other followers, even His sworn enemies, likely desired more “last words” from Jesus.

Consider, then, why not more?  Why was Jesus so silent?  Please, do not perceive that Jesus was so quiet because He was unconscious.  He specifically swore off chemicals which would have induced such a numbness, because Jesus desired to be all-present for the ordeal.  So then, why?

  1. Have you ever tried to speak, when hanging on a cross?!  I will not get into the science of it, but if every breath was designed to hurt as a criminal was hanging on a cross, then surely each word would have been very painful.  A “chatty Jesus” would lead many skeptics to doubt that Jesus really was on a cross, or to conjecture a mystical non-human Jesus evidently escaped the pain of it.
  2. With the almost six hours that Jesus had when He was not interacting with humans, is there Anyone else Jesus might have been interested in talking to?!  His Father, of course.  I do not perceive it as selfish to consider that, during Jesus’ “quiet-time” on the cross, He might have been serving already as our Great High Priest before Holy God, listing and accounting by incident and name the specific sins and sinners He was representing, then and there.  More thoroughly than any priest before Him, Jesus Christ’s perfect mind could know each sin that required a covering, and in prayer He could offer up Himself to God for that one, then that one.  Not wasted time!
  3. And I suggest this points to the greatest reason for Jesus’ predominant (99.9%) silence:  If I were up there on the cross, convinced I had been wrongfully convicted … wow, the storms of protest:  “Not fair!  Wrong guy!  Call my attorney!  You blew it.  I am innocent!”  But Jesus, amazingly quiet.  NOT just because Jesus was at peace about this plan of the ages … but because they did in fact get “The Right Guy”!  Wait, am I saying that Jesus was guilty?  Hold off on your answer, to at least hear this hint that my question is more complicated than it appears:  Jesus was not personally guilty of sin and rebellion against God, but in that He was bearing my sin, Jesus did have sin upon Him.  He was guilty-via-substitution.  Jesus Christ became sin for me, so that I can be regarded as the very righteousness of God.  Where my loud cries would indicate an attempt to get out of an unfair fix, Jesus refused to put up a protest, as this was the plan of our Triune God, and Jesus was bearing the just penalty for my rebellion.  Yours?!  In the face of this, we should be in awe … sometimes reflected in a still silence, other times shown by loud, exuberant praise (especially since He is risen).

The Breastplate of Righteousness

In [the true Shepherd’s] days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  This is the name by which He will be called:  “The Lord our Righteousness.” … Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. … I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [that I may] be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depending on faith. … How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to Your word.  With my whole heart I seek You.  Let me not wander from Your commands.  I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  [Jeremiah 23:6Matthew 6:33Philippians 3:8-9;Psalm 119:9-11]

Please keep praying for this congregation’s Kids Club and the covenant children who are benefiting from your commissioning of our Children’s Ministry Leaders for several years now.  In the first year the children considered simplified catechisms about the basic gospel message.  In this second year we have sampled the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) & now the spiritual armor (from Ephesians 6).  We are learning about all six armor parts and how we put them on (through prayer):  the Helmet of Salvationthe Breastplate of Righteousnessthe Belt of Truthfeet shod with the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace (whew!), the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  Though we are instructed to obediently put these on, we see them in the first place as gifts of grace from our Savior Jesus Christ, who bought them for all of His people at great expense (His own blood).  Jesus defeated Satan, but these armor pieces help us to “Win Against Sin” every day (that’s the goal)!

Recently we learned about the Breastplate of Righteousness; this involved simple principles which we believe even some adults can understand!  “Righteousness” involves being completely right or good before God, as He defines it (that is, perfectly perfect)!  Nobody here (among the mere humans in this room) is that or achieves that.  This sad reality matches what Scripture tells us, then, that we begin our lives as enemies of the holy God.  Far from having God’s help to “Win Against Sin,” we ourselves were actively fighting against the all-powerful God, who always wins against all of His foes.

So we are doomed, unless God in His mercy works a rescue plan:  He does!  This involves His perfect Son (Jesus) becoming a man, living a perfectly righteous life (proving Himself to be God’s Friend, not His enemy), but then still paying the penalty which God’s people deserve for their rebellion, their sin nature, and their many individual sins.  Once finished (and it is … our full release and debt paid for), the Lord our Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidkenu is one of the many names God announces for Himself) supplies all of His people with His own Breastplate of Righteousness (or we might even regard it that Jesus Himself covers us, in the fullness of His resurrected life).

A breastplate provides covering for the chest area, making a hard barrier against weapons that would otherwise pierce the heart and lungs (etc.).  So this covering is a matter of life and death.  In the first place, this breastplate (which is the righteousness of Christ, OR the righteous Christ) covers us from the holy wrath of God the Father.  One fascinating feature of this particular breastplate model (which has a reflective surface) is that what God would see is Himself!  But that old fight is over, done, and finished … behind us for those who are adopted by God, but not a thing for us to forget.  Our happy union with the perfect God depends upon Jesus Christ.  Then the Breastplate of Righteousness becomes that protection against Satan and his dark forces, to help us Win Against Sin in daily battles.

  • But on Day 1 … I forgot to put on any breastplate.  So I was pretty much toast.  Sin won that day.
  • So on Day 2 … I remembered my breastplate … and I do mean MINE!  It was way too thin (like Saran wrap)!  Sin won again.
  • So on Day 3 … pain was a good teacher, so I put on Christ’s righteousness.  But Satan is clever, and he worked all day to remind me of my sins, weaknesses, and failures (past and present).  Dropping my guard (that is, switching out Christ’s armor-plating for my plastic wrap!), sin won again.
  • So on Day 4 … we taught the kids to truly battle against the world, the flesh, the devil … and sin … pointing one and all (especially the self) to the natural, achieved, proven, expensive righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are more than conquerors … eternally and daily … through Him!