Daily Reflections August 2, 2017
The words of the prophet hang over Mark 15 - the darkest day of human history. On that Good Friday, the sin of men and wrath of God were laid upon the sinless Son of God. For our sake he became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. The Son of God gave his life as a ransom for many. Though Jesus could have called more than 72,000 angels to his defense, he endured the cross, resolved to fully drink the cup of the wrath of God. This was the price of our redemption. Isaiah saw Jesus’ suffering:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 ESV)
Early Friday morning, in the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, Jesus was rejected and condemned by the religious establishment (Mark 14:53-65). Then, Jesus was delivered to Pilate who was visiting Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Pilate asked Jesus directly if he was the King of the Jews, and Jesus answered, “You have said so.” (Mark 15:3 ESV)
The Jews tried to convince Pilate that Jesus was guilty of a capital offense deserving death. Their charge was that he was a revolutionary who claimed to be a King. Pilate knew the Jews wanted vengeance (verse 10) and as such stirred up the angry mob. He was convinced of Jesus’ innocence but was not courageous enough to release him. Wanting to protect his own position as governor, he sought to appease the crowd.
Pilate thought he could pass off the verdict to Herod, the ruler of Galilee. Herod however, simply mocked Jesus and sent him back to Pilate (Luke 23:6-12). In one last attempt to satisfy the crowd and somehow spare Jesus, Pilate had Jesus scourged, hoping the crowd might agree to release him. The plan did not work. Barabbas the murderer was granted amnesty and Jesus the innocent was condemned to be crucified.
So weakened was Jesus by the physical torture that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross on Jesus’ behalf. Outside the city walls of Jerusalem, at Golgotha, the place of the skull, our Lord Jesus was crucified between two robbers. He endured more reviling from the Jews, soldiers and crowds. For three hours from 12 noon to 3 pm, darkness invaded the land. Finally, at 3 pm on Friday, Jesus breathed his last and died. The Temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. The work of salvation was accomplished. Jesus was taken off the cross, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a rich man’s tomb.
…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)
To be clear, these horrific events were not a triumph of evil, but rather the Father’s will for our redemption. We, like Barabbas, are sinners deserving of death, but the Son of God took our place. He did not save himself, so that we could be saved. He endured the cross, despising the shame to redeem his Bride. Amazing love, O how can it be, that Jesus the Son of God would die for you and me! Amazing grace is our forever song.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Associate Pastor Jody Cross
When bad things happen to God’s people, God is still in control. His purposes are still at work even in calamity. Remember these encouraging words,
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9 ESV)
In Jeremiah 29, the remnant of God’s people, exiles in Babylon, were the recipients of the good promises of God. A wonderful word of future restoration was given to those the Lord had carried into exile.
These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (Jeremiah 29:1 ESV)
God instructed Jeremiah to write a letter, from his place in Jerusalem, to the Babylonian exiles in captivity under Nebuchadnezzar. Imagine the atrocities of war that have been endured. As exiles in a foreign land, with captors and tormentors all around (see Psalm 137), God sent his word of deliverance.
It is a precise word. It is a word of God’s concern for his wounded people. It is a word that says in essence, ‘my people, new residents of Babylon, settle in for the long haul.’ Contrary to what other deceiving prophets were saying (see 28:3-4, 29:8-9) God’s people were going to be there for 70 years, not two years. The Lord instructed his people how to live in that foreign land: They needed to look beyond the immediate challenges to the day when the 70 years would be fulfilled. Something similar had happened beforehand to God’s captive people in Egypt,
But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:7 ESV)
Babylon was a gift of mercy. It was a place for God’s people to build houses, to become productive citizens, to plant and reap, to marry, to grow families, and to multiply. They were to pray for, and seek the welfare of the pagan land they found themselves in (see verse 7).
Very often, in the moment, we don’t at all understand what God is doing. Often obedience appears counter-intuitive. It is helpful to revisit Isaiah 55:9 often and remember that God is a promise keeping God. He does not lie. He does not make vain promises.
Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:4-5 ESV)
After the completion of God’s purposes, the Lord declared that he himself would come and visit his exiles (just as he did in Exodus 3:7-8), delivering them and bring them back to the Promised Land. Our times are held secure in God’s providential care. The oft-claimed and well-loved promise of Jeremiah 29:11 assures us of our glorious future:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)
This promise is an affirmation of God’s sovereign purposes even in the darkest of times. Christian, exile in this world, be encouraged! We can confidently lay claim to this verse, for all of the promises of God find their yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We have a future and a hope and it will not be taken away!
Associate Pastor Jody Cross