Tag Archives: Jesus

Giving attention to … the Nation-State of Israel, Presbyterians, & The Voracious News Cycle!

Because truth matters, friends asked, and I lack sense to avoid paths where angels fear to tread (!) ~ I will consider current events pertaining to the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, United States of America) and Israel from the perspective of covenant theology. I will appreciate hearing your wisdom on this subject, and perhaps give our friend Rev. Stephen Atkinson (Christian Witness to Israel) a platform for deeper drilling on this. Pause: C.W.I., for 170 years, has been energetically reaching out to the Jewish people around the world with the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, from a Reformed and covenantal foundation. http://www.cwi.org.uk/http://www.cwina.org/. Our own denomination (RPCNA) on a smaller scale conducted a mission in Philadelphia.

Recent actions of the PCUSA (distancing themselves from the nation-state of Israel, mandating that church funds no longer be invested there, and considering changes to old hymns which refer with affection to Israel and Jerusalem) have nothing to do with covenantal/reformed theology. The PCUSA is a liberal Protestant denomination with all of the infamous regress on matters of twisted sexuality, a full generation ago falling in love with communist versions of social-justice in their missions and politics. Divesting from Israel, for the PCUSA, has everything to do with radical pacifism and getting sucked into the U.N.-driven agenda of shaming the strong, sympathizing with Islamists, and ignoring that there are offenses at every hand. Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Lawrence (https://christcovenantchurchrpc.org/) is not part of the PCUSA; we have no formal or informal connection.

That said, we should separate (if only for the sake of strategy) the modern nation-state of Israel (reborn in 1948), the Israel that stands for 13-million-plus Jewish people in many nations, & the way Scripture refers to all of God’s people (Jewish and Gentile) as His Israel. We can love all three versions, specifically, giving what we owe to each one, under God ~ controlled by Spiritual wisdom. We can love Israel without endorsing every action and decision of the modern nation-state (which is officially secular, by the way). We can love our own nation too, and out of that love, rebuke our own leaders for their folly and sin.

There is an old kind of dispensationalism which I hope passes away soon. From my perch as a reformed-covenantal Christian, that dispensationalism held out to ethnic Jews another way of salvation other than through faith in Jesus alone. The impression was given that a Jew ~ faithful to Yahweh, to the law, and to the ceremonies ~ on the basis of the blood of Abraham coursing through his veins ~ is already in the eternal family of God, with an elder-brother status in that Kingdom compared to the many Gentiles who really do need Jesus’ blood. My evangelical friends, this theology is the one that hates Jews, refusing to point them to their and our only hope ~ Jesus-Messiah. The gospel is for the Jew first.

Erwin Lutzer (on his radio program last week) answered well an accusation about Martin Luther, anti-Semitism, and Hitler. A questioner was ready to throw out all of the accomplishments of Luther (and other reformers) due to admittedly hateful things some of them wrote against the Jews. There is a need for great nuance here, but wisdom calls us to mark ye the perfect man, practice bone-spitting, grasp that 99% of the Medieval Church was complicit in this, and understand that Hitler was not a faithful Lutheran, Catholic, or etc. The Gentile-dominant church of most eras must repent before God with respect to our sinful attitudes about and our mistreatment of the Jews. Lutzer gave a written response to a similar question in the past; of course, Erwin is responsible for his own words as I am for mine: http://www.moodymedia.org/ask-pastor-lutzer/archives/question-149/

This covenantalist avoids the term “Replacement Theology” because it suggests that Gentile bullies are shoving Jews out of the House of God. Paul the Jew has much to say in Romans against such pride. But the solution is not to suggest that there are TWO houses of God, separate forever, each with its own gospel terms and conditions. No, Jesus the Jew ~ for Jews and Gentiles ~ has knocked down in His own Person the dividing wall of controversy, making one new people in one enormous house, comprised of families and individuals from all of the ethnes (people-groups). It is no disrespect to ethnic Jews that I highly treasure my own inclusion in the ancient Jewish covenants … by adoption through the perfect life and atoning death and glorious resurrection and present reign of Jesus the Nazarene. My zeal? That our unnatural engrafting stirs holy and fruitful jealousy in the original covenanters. Amen? So may it be.

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).