Today You Will Be With Me

Despite the current state of the world, and life here in the UK, I actually quite enjoyed the Easter celebrations. Of course, I was disappointed not to have been able to meet with family or friends, or to gather as a church, but we made the best of it.

I have been thinking about the two criminals who were crucified with Christ – well, one of them in particular.

As I mentioned on Good Friday’s post – Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross– we learn that one of the criminals turned in faith to Jesus in his dying moments. Yet Matthew’s Gospel records both of the criminals having hurled insults at Him. This is quite the turnaround for one man, and look at the reward Christ offers him.

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

I know that I said this on Friday, but it is worth repeating. It is never too late to turn to Jesus. No matter what you have done, and no matter how far short you fall, God will never turn you away if you sincerely surrender yourself to His Son.

Yesterday I heard of a family friend who sadly passed away from COVID-19. The man was not old, nor particularly unhealthy (although he did have a condition which made him more vulnerable to this virus). The illness started off rather mildly but has now led to his death. It is very sad, but a reminder that none of us know how long we have on this Earth. Whether COVID or not, we must all die some day and we must make sure we are ready to face God.

Are you?

I’ve digressed slightly, but hopefully that is an important reminder for us all.

So, the criminal turns to Jesus and Jesus says these words: “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

English Bibles are translations of the original language. For the New Testament, that was mostly Greek. To emphasise a point, sometimes we read a repetition such as “Truly, truly…” or “Mary, Mary…” This is to catch our attention such that we really take in what Jesus is about to say.

Likewise, here, Jesus says “Assuredly…” Assuredly. Absolutely. Definitely. I guarantee… Jesus is assuring this man in no uncertain terms that he will join Christ in Paradise. Comforting this criminal in his last moments, Jesus confirms on him salvation and a place in eternal life.

Scholars have debated what Jesus meant by “today” here. Does it imply that at Jesus’ and the criminal’s death, they both entered straight into Paradise? Some suggest that Jesus descended into the abode of the dead – Sheol in Hebrew – and still others say into hell itself. If so, how could He or the criminal be in Paradise “today?”

Let me give you my thoughts, for what they are worth!

Today is a subjective term. If I say to you, “I’ll meet you later today,” then we both have a reasonable idea of what I mean. But what if I am in a different time zone? Then “Today” becomes slightly more blurred.

It boils down to physics, and what Einstein called “relativity.” Time is relative to your perspective. It is a physical property dependent on gravity and so when we leave these physical bodies, time no longer applies to us.

God is infinite. This doesn’t mean He has lots of time on His hands, but rather that He is outside of time. The criminal arrived at Paradise that same day to him, but from our point of view, time has carried on as before. It may even be that when each of us die, we all arrive in eternity at the same “moment” because there are no moments on the other side.

Anyway, I don’t want to get bogged down in this, but just want to point out that “today” is a relative thing.

Moe important are Christ’s words after “today” – “…you will be with Me…”

There is no greater thing than being with Christ. There are so many blessings to being a part of God’s family, and yet all pale in comparison to actually knowing Jesus.

Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:8 (WEB)

These words are truly, truly humbling to me. I love the Bible, and thirst for knowledge of it. I love being part of a church, and certainly love knowing that I will go to heaven when I die. But can I really say, as Paul does above, that I count everything else as refuse (sometimes rendered “dung”) in comparison to knowing Jesus? Not nearly enough.

Let’s spend our isolation doing fruitful things. Let’s make the most of this time. Let’s spend it getting to know Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

What will you do “today?”

Resurrection Sunday (audio)

Here is a little bonus post today, as it’s Easter Sunday! A Resurrection Sunday message I gave several years ago. It is still relevant today, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday! Hallelujah! He is risen!

You can hear a selection of my other talks and sermons on the Audio page

Thanks for supporting the blog – it really means so much to me! God bless you all this Easter!

Folded Grave Clothes

Happy Easter! Christ is risen! Praying you will have an extremely blessed Resurrection Sunday today!

This is the day that we celebrate an empty tomb. On the first day of the week, which was a Sunday, some women went to the tomb of Jesus Christ expecting to anoint His body with spices.

As they walked together, they discussed among themselves who might move the heavy stone which had been placed over the entrance. They had probably expected the Roman guards to help them.

When they arrived, the stone had already been moved…

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky and came and rolled away the stone from the door and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men. 5 The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying.

Matthew 28:1-6 (NIVUK)

Many have asked over the years, “Who moved the stone?” But Matthew makes it clear – the angel did. But why?

Jesus did not need the stone to be moved to escape the tomb. We read the following in John’s Gospel:

When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the middle, and said to them, “Peace be to you.”

John 2:19 (NIVUK)

It seems that Jesus’ resurrected body can do things that our mortal bodies cannot. He seemingly went into them, despite a locked door, and so it would be no feat for Him to escape the tomb with the entrance still sealed.

The answer is simple. The angel moved the stone not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the women. He wanted them to see into the tomb and see that Christ was indeed gone. Dead bodies cannot get up and walk away, and so Jesus must have returned to life. We can easily dispute the claim that the disciples stole the body, not least because of the armed guards, but mainly because those same disciples went on to die for their cause. Fraudsters don’t generally do that.

There is another “mystery” I want to touch on before I finish today. Why fold the grave clothes?

Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didn’t enter in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.

John 2:5-7 (NIVUK)

We were studying this passage at a home group once. I asked about the linen which had been folded up, wondering if this was significant. We discussed a few ideas, including the tidiness of Christ! Years later, I heard another idea which seems plausible to me.

When at a nice meal with several courses, you will more than likely have a linen napkin to use. Between courses, you might keep the napkin nicely folded to the side of your setting so that the waiting staff know you are still using it. When you finish the meal, you might just put it down untidily to signal you no longer need it.

I understand that in the Jewish culture of the time, there was some similar custom in place. Folded linen suggested that Jesus was not quite done yet, and would be returning.

I am not certain how true this is, but it is interesting nonetheless. Jesus may have been signalling to the disciples that they would see Him soon, or perhaps He was pointing out that He would one day return to the Earth.

The point to take away today though is this: the grave clothes were empty – like the tomb. Jesus was no longer dead, but alive! He had risen!

This truth gives us all hope, and that if we put our trust in Jesus, we too will defeat death and rise to new life.

Let this Easter be a celebration of life and hope. He is risen indeed!

Three Days

For us, Easter Saturday sits between the devastating day of the cross on Good Friday, and the joy of the resurrection to come on Easter Day. I prefer the name “Resurrection Sunday” but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time!

For the friends of Jesus two thousand years ago, many of them were not ready or waiting for the resurrection at all. This day would have been a day of loss and grief for them. All of their hopes and dreams had been smashed. They had expected Jesus to evict the Romans and set Himself up as King. Quite the opposite had happened! Their Messiah had been lost. 

Would they have started to doubt themselves? Would they have been asking one another – was this really the Christ after all? They had seen so many miracles and wonder works, yet they had not expected Him to die like a common criminal. 

It may seem somewhat baffling to us that the disciples had not heard the words Jesus had spoken. In advance of these things, He had told them that it would happen. And even beyond His words, the Scriptures foretold it all. But I think we can forgive them for not seeing that in the prophecies of the Old Testament. 

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Matthew 16:21 (NIVUK)


For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (NIVUK)

The verse above from the Gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus taught His disciples that He would die, and three days later rise to new life. Likewise, Paul (in hindsight of course) shares the same thing. Paul says however “according to the Scripture.” So the Old Testament must have predicted this in advance.

But where?

When reading Old Testament prophecies, we must understand that often they do not merely say “The Son of God will come, and His name will be Jesus, and after dying He will come back to life after three days…” That would be convenient for Bible scholars of course, but we must not forget the Old Testament was written by many people over hundreds of years. Despite this, it really is astonishingly coherent, and clearly shows the hand of the divine behind it. 

The first place I want to point to is the lie – or rather death – of Jonah the prophet. Sometimes called “The Reluctant Prophet,” because he ran in the total opposite direction to where God was sending him, Jonah is a fascinating character. 

You probably know his story from Sunday School, if you ever went, and may well be familiar with his being swallowed by a large fish or whale. 

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17 (NIVUK)

We see here that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. Reading on to Jonah 2, I think it is clear that Jonah actually died in the sea or sea creature. He talks about the abode of the dead, or “the pit” so it seems likely he did actually die. If not though, the point remains. 

Bible prophecy is often pattern and not prediction. that means it establishes a pattern of events which will occur again in the future. Jonah’s three days and three nights of “death” are a pointer towards Christ’s own experience of three days in the grave. 

Similarly, Abraham’s sacrificing of Isaac is another picture. I’ve spoken before about this passage from Genesis 22, and personally believe it is a prophecy acted out by Abraham of what God would one day do with His own Son Jesus. 

We read in Genesis 22 that from the time when God gave the command for Isaac to be sacrificed, to the time Abraham arrived at Mount Moriah was precisely three days. 

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

Genesis 22:3-4 (NIVUK)

In the Jewish mind, and so in Abraham’s mind, Isaac was essentially dead from the moment God had given the command. It was a three day journey, as we read above, until the events unfolded and Issac was returned to Abraham. So another son lost to “death” for three days. 

There is more we could explore, but it would and should take an entire lifetime to examine the Old Testament and unveil the prophecies which spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection centuries in advance. 

Many will tell you that you can’t prove God exists, or there is no evidence that the Bible is true, it’s just a personal matter of faith. Not true. A comprehensive study of God’s Word will show you that there is incontrovertible evidence of biblical truth. The more you study it, the more you will realise it is not only true, but the only real truth we can rely upon. 

Jesus died for you. Three days later He rose from the dead. Many witnesses saw it. You don’t have the luxury to ignore it or deny it. So what will you do with this truth today? 

Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross

It is Good Friday and the day we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. I find days like this quite difficult to write on, because so much has already been said. What can I possibly hope to add to the many faithful people who have penned words on this subject over the centuries?

I woke early this morning, and as I lay in bed, I thought about the crucifixion and what I might say about it.My thoughts turned to some of the things that Jesus said while He was nailed to the cross. So we will spend some time today considering His words. 

Jesus spoke seven “Last Words” at the cross, as they are sometimes called, and we will go through each in turn. 

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34 (WEB)

None of us really know who we are until we are put under immense pressure. When all is well, life is good and we go with the flow. But when hard times fall, the weight of worry can reveal who we really are. It can bring out of us the character that lies beneath. That is also true for Jesus, and we see the absolute perfection of His character in this first saying. 

Jesus, in terrible agony and suffering, takes the time to pray for the ones who have done this to Him. He would have had every right to call down legions of angels to destroy those who would even dare to dream of doing such a thing to Him. Yet He prays for them…

I could point out what we could all learn from such an example. I could say that we all should prefer others to ourselves. But today, on this Good Friday, I want to emphasise the unimaginable love of our Saviour. As His very creation turned on Him, He prayed for their forgiveness. Jesus truly deserves our worship!

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

These words of Christ were spoken to one of the criminals crucified with Him. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that both criminals hurled insults at Jesus (see Matthew 27:44). Yet, one of them now turns to Christ in his dying moments. Facing his death, the criminal realises that there is indeed a God to face on the other side. As he looks to the side and sees the Innocent Christ on the cross, he realises he needs a Saviour. 

Again, we see the quality of Christ here. In pain we cannot imagine, He still offers words of comfort and forgiveness to this lowly robber. 

It shows us also that while we still have breath in our bodies, it is not too late to turn to Jesus. 

Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:26-27 (WEB)

Once again we read words of Christ not about Him or His suffering, as you might expect from a man nailed to a cross. Instead, we see further selflessness from the Son of God, this time commending His earthly mother to the disciple whom He loved. Knowing the sorrow in His mother’s heart, He took a moment to ensure she was cared for. Jesus entrusted Mary into John’s care, and even now fulfilling the Ten Commandments and honouring His mother. 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Psalm 22:1

Matthew 27:46 (WEB)

Up until now, the words of Jesus we have studied have been words for the benefit of others. Now we glimpse the degree of pain He must have felt. Jesus here quotes Psalm 22, and I encourage you to read it today. 

Psalm 22 was written a long time before Jesus was born, and even before crucifixion itself was invented. Yet the psalm paints a picture of a horrendous crucifixion. It is a clear prophecy of Christ’s death at the cross. 

There are many reasons to be convinced that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. For me, the many hundreds of prophecies that He fulfilled are more than enough evidence of this truth. 

After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.”

John 19:28 (WEB)

A great thirst is one of the consequences of a crucifixion death. Much has been written on the medical impacts of such a death, and most victims would have died of suffocation. They would hang by their limbs, pushing up to take each breath. Eventually they would weaken and no longer be able to breathe. That is why the Romans would sometimes break the legs, preventing the victim from pushing upwards any longer. 

Jesus, it seems, did not die this way and was already dead when they came to break His legs. This, too was fulfilment of a prophecy which said none of His bones would be broken. 

You might imagine that such a slow and terrible death would leave the victim incredibly thirsty, and so His words are a clear sign of this. 

The words themselves are fulfilment of prophecy too. 

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (WEB)

It is finished. Jesus completed His work. The plan that had been instigated the very moment of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, had reached its goal. Sin’s full payment had been made. Every man and woman who now looked to that cross for salvation would find it. 

Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46 (WEB)

Jesus very last words. Completing His work, He gives up His spirit into His Father’s hands. Those who stood by knew this was no mere man. Even the Centurion confessed that this was indeed the Son of God. 

Jesus, at His death, trusted His spirit to His Father. Every day and in every way, you and I should learn to trust the Father to a greater degree. Every time we worry or fear, we are saying that we do not trust Him. If we do not trust God in the everyday, how can we trust Him with our eternal security? 

One day every one of us will “give up their spirit” and enter eternity. Only those who put their faith and trust in Jesus’ work at the cross will find peace that side. Let this Good Friday be the one where you give yourself wholly to Christ. Don’t live in doubt anymore, put your trust in Him now and forever. 

Jesus died for you. He suffered on your behalf. He paid the full price for your sin. Do not let that go to waste! Accept that gracious gift and be forever free!

Who’s calling the shots?

It is Maundy Thursday, and the day we remember the Last Supper. On this night, Jesus has His last meal with His friends before He is arrested and crucified.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day posing a question about this night, and particularly about the devil’s and Judas’ roles. If the devil entered Judas Iscariot, as it says in Luke 22:3, then why did the devil lead him to betray Christ and send Him to the cross – His ultimate victory?

I suggest that the devil is a murderer, and without fully understanding the plan of God, was simply trying to kill Jesus before He could fulfil His role. Essentially, I think the devil unwittingly played into God’s hands. God’s will and purpose is always fulfilled.

My post today is not really about that issue however, but does pose a related question – who was calling the shots that night? Who was really in charge of the events that took place?

From Matthew’s Gospel, we read:

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

23 Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

Matthew 26:20-25 (NIVUK)

Jesus’ last meal with His disciples would have been quite an interesting experience. Most of them probably would not have realised that this was the last time they would spend time with Him before the cross. But Jesus of course knew.

The events of the Last Supper were significant in a number of ways. Not least was the instigation of the Lord’s Supper, or what we call Holy Communion. It is an important sacrament, and one we should take seriously, but we must not also lose sight of its original simplicity. Jesus broke bread and shared wine with His closest friends. The bread and wine represented His body and blood, and encourages us to remember Him and His sacrifice for us.

The account above tells us how Jesus broke not just bread that night, but bad news indeed! The disciples were shocked to learn that one of them would betray Him. But who?

Jesus, in front of them all, shines the spotlight on to Judas. “Surely not I, Lord?” he says, knowing full well it is him. “Yes, you!” says Jesus. There is nothing to indicate that Jesus did this privately or in a whispered corner. I think He pronounced this in front of them all.

What could Judas do now? Every eye was likely resting on him, accusing, wondering, and confused. What would you do in his shoes? Run? That’s exactly what he did. Clearly he had not planned this, and had not suspected his betrayal would be exposed in front of them all. He had to run for it, and immediately put his plan into action.

It is not always easy to grasp the timings of events in the Bible, but it seems that Judas would have run straight to the Pharisees and report to them where Jesus would go after dinner. There, in the garden, they would find him.

Jesus instigated this. Jesus forced Judas’ hand. They would not have wanted to arrest Jesus on a festival day – at Passover. They knew that to hold His trials overnight, as they did would be totally illegal. They had not yet had time to prepare the false witnesses who would later contradict one another in the kangaroo court.

The point is this. God is in charge. He was in charge that night, and He is in charge now. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all part of God’s plan right from the very beginning.

God is not evil, but He will use evil to fulfil His plans and purposes. The devil wanted to destroy Jesus, and he used the evil heart of Judas to try it. Perhaps as Jesus was nailed to the cross, the devil may have thought he had won. But death could not hold the Lord!

This night, as you remember Jesus, imagine yourself as a fly n the wall at the Last Supper. What must Jesus have been feeling? If you were one of His disciples, would you have known what was coming?

We have the luxury of hindsight. We sometimes look down on the disciples for not seeing what we do, and yet had we been there, I’m not sure we would have fared much better than they.

However you commemorate this night, remember that Jesus did it for you. You may not be able to share in Communion with your church (if they are closed due to COVID) but you can still take time to reflect and remember.

Worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – because He’s the One who’s really in charge.

Stones that shout for joy

Today is Palm Sunday, and the day where we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. It is called Palm Sunday because of the crowds who lay palm branches and their own coats on the ground for Jesus to ride on as He entered the city. Think of this as a sort of “red carpet!”

In the village where we live, a usual Palm Sunday would see a group from the church walking from the town hall through to the church – led by a locally sourced donkey! It is quite a sight to be seen, and the children love it.

This year, due to the COVID-19 situation, this won’t be going ahead. Instead, many churches around the country and the world will celebrate online via live streaming. I hope, if nothing else, this reminds us how fortunate we are to be able to meet in person.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’

34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

Luke 19:28-40 (NIVUK)

As mentioned above, our church are not able to meet this Palm Sunday. Our family had agreed to lead the prayers that day, so made a little video instead. My daughters danced in the background, waving homemade palm branches while I talked a little about Jesus’ entry into the city.

I pointed out that if we are ever in danger of missing an important point from the Gospels, then often the Pharisees come to our aid. In the video at least, I’m not sure I fully explained why – so will try to do a better job here!

As Jesus enters the city, the crowds begin to praise Him. They cut branches from the trees and lay out their jackets for Him to ride over. Verse 38 records the words they began to shout: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is a direct quote from Psalm 118.

When the crowds do this, the Pharisees immediately stand to attention and tell Jesus to rebuke His disciples. Why? Because they knew, as well as Jesus did, that Psalm 118 and these words in particular are Messianic. They know that the crowds are acknowledging Jesus as the King who was to come.

The Pharisees do not want anyone to recognise this. They don’t believe it themselves, and essentially consider it blasphemy. They are saying, “Jesus! These people are proclaiming you as the Messiah! Stop them!”

How does Jesus respond? By telling them that if the people refused to cry out, then the very stones themselves would begin to praise.

Palm Sunday is the fulfilment of a very specific prophecy from the Old Testament book of Daniel. In that, the angel Gabriel declares the exact day in which the Messiah would be presented to Jerusalem as King, and that day was this Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into the city. You can hear more about this in my message – Prophecy and Palm Branches which I will put at the bottom of this post. You can hear more of my talks in the Audio section.

While I was in Jerusalem a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to walk the road that Jesus went down that first Palm Sunday. As we walked, I picked up a small stone from the ground which I have kept as a keepsake. Of course the stone itself was not there the day Jesus was, although that would have been nice, but it is a little reminder to me. If I do not praise God, then maybe that little stone might cry out.

When you are next out, doing your daily exercise, or the next time you take a turn around the garden, why don’t you also pick up a stone. You can put it somewhere that you’ll see it, and every time you do, take a moment to praise and thank God for His Son. Otherwise that stone might shout for joy instead of you!

Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem knowing full well where it would lead. Less than a week later, He would be nailed to a wooden cross and bearing the punishment for us all. That crowd which praised Him on the way in, would soon change their tune and shout “Crucify him!”

Remember why Jesus did it. It was for you and for me. I see Palm Sunday as the peak at the top of a roller-coaster – that moment where all seems to freeze before it races downwards the other side. Jesus is being rightly praised, but would soon plummet into the shame of a sinner’s death – undeserved. He did it for you.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ this Holy week.


Palm Branches and Prophecy


 

Resurrection Sunday

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)

May I wish you a very happy… Easter? I hesitate over the word because actually “Easter” doesn’t appear in the Bible. While I realise some translations include the term, it actually isn’t a biblical word at all. Easter probably comes from the pre-Christian celebration of the goddess “Eostre” which occurred at the beginning of spring. At some point in history, our celebration of the Resurrection of Christ took over the name of the festival.

I much prefer the term – Resurrection Sunday, rather than Easter Sunday therefore – but I digress…

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time of year when we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was perhaps the most important moment in human history, alongside the Creation, as it marks the time when God dealt with sin once and for all. From that time on, whenever someone puts their trust in Jesus, they become “dead to sin but alive in Christ”. They receive eternal life and are born again into God’s family.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 quoted above, gives us a concise and clear explanation of the Gospel – the good news about Jesus.

The Gospel is:

  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • he was buried, and
  • he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared… to many
Christ died

Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling every aspect of the Law of Moses. He was never tainted by iniquity, and so was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He died the death of a sinner on our behalf. He was tortured and crucified so that you and I might go free.

Christ was buried.

They put His body into a tomb carved from the rock. It was a tomb where no one had been laid before. According to the Scriptures, He would stay there for three whole days.

But which Scriptures? Where does it say that Christ would spend three days in the grave?

In Genesis 22, we read the account of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son – Isaac. If we’ve been paying attention, we’ll realise that Abraham had more than one son, and so something else must be going on here. In fact, the whole account is Abraham acting out a prophecy of what God the Father would one day do with His Only Son.

Nearer to Father’s Day, i’ll upload a sermon about this…

From the moment Abraham was given the command to sacrifice Isaac, until he arrived at the place God chose, was exactly three days. In Abraham’s mind, his son was dead from the moment the command was given and so, to Abraham, Isaac had been dead for three days when the stay of execution was granted.

Likewise, when Jonah was swallowed by the great fish/whale, he was in its belly for three days and nights before he was “vomited” onto the beach! No one said resurrection wouldn’t be messy!.

Christ was resurrected

Often when we share the gospel, we say something like… Jesus lived a perfect life and died for our sins on a cross. Therefore, if you put your trust in Him, your sins are forgiven.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask, and it’s pretty much what you’ve said above?

We somehow forget the Resurrection. The Gospel does not end with the cross.

We must never omit the resurrection from our Gospel preaching. If the cross enables God’s justice and our forgiveness, then the resurrection enables our new life in Christ. Without being born again, we are stuck forever with our sinful, fleshy nature and have no hope of changing our lives. The cross deals with our sin, but the resurrection enables us to be new creatures in Christ.

I conclude with these words from John’s Gospel. It includes perhaps the most famous verse of them all, “for God so loved the world…” It also includes Jesus’ teaching on being born again. We must, each one of us, be born into eternal life – new life in Christ.

I hope you enjoy this season celebrating the Resurrection!

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 3:3-5 (ESV)


16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:16-18 (ESV)