The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 8 Review

"He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."

“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

If the world was not surprised that God himself would come to us in Jesus Christ, then what he came to do would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus Christ was not born in a palace, raised with privilege, given an army, nor did he march upon Jerusalem and then Rome to conquer the world. Our coming king came to save us and to rule but he followed the path that led him to the cross. Our God is king and our king wore a crown not of gold, but of thorns.

This was foolishness. How could the Almighty be weak? How could our Victor suffer such apparent defeat? How could our Savior not save himself? But on the cross Jesus Christ showed his power over sin and death and sacrificed himself so that we may be saved. He was the ultimate sacrifice, sufficient in every way to atone for our sins.

At the crucifixion the curtain in the temple that divided God’s presence from a sinful people was torn in two. Behind that curtain was the Holy of Holies where only the select few could enter. But now we are chosen in Christ, we are the select who can be in God’s presence because Christ opens the way. He has reconciled God and humanity. Our sin divided and pushed us away. Our sin alienated us from God and made us his enemy. But God loved us even when we were enemies. And now in Jesus we can boldly go before the throne of grace.

Love Bears All Things–Even the Cross

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

It wasn’t that hard to choose a memory verse for this week. It’s not an unfamiliar one but it is a powerful one. Paul wants the church to turn from all that has divided them and caused them turmoil and turn to love. In this short chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, he lays out what that means.

In putting together a visual, I wanted to keep it simple and remind us that we wouldn’t really know love if not for the love that we see in Jesus Christ.

Memory Verse for 1 Cor 13.4-7

I Will Not Boast in Anything–No Gifts, No Powers, No Wisdom

I always enjoy posting music that fits our readings so enjoy this wonderful song describing our God’s great love for us. The following lines especially fit with our repeated theme of boasting, and not doing so about ourselves, but only in Jesus Christ.

From How Deep the Father’s Love for Us:

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.

Jesus May Be Mocked, But He is Always Worthy of Praise

When Jesus was crucified, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, it certainly appeared foolish. Here Jesus is seen as a common criminal, a failure, and powerless. In Mark we read these words of how he is mocked at the crucifixion:

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20

That is our savior. Paul won’t waiver from this painful sight–the Messiah dying on the cross. It seems foolish. But it is our savior. It is love in action.

I thought I’d share a hymn that puts these two concepts together. Each stanza begins with what appears foolish: birth in a manger, a wandering existence with no home, his beating, and finally his crucifixion. But coupled with these scenes is the fact that such humble events do not diminish our Lord. Each stanza asks, “Who is this?” And the answer is always, regardless of circumstance, “our God.” We still praise him. Jesus Christ is the Son of God in these times and judging by the world’s standards, or by the world’s wisdom, does not fully comprehend his real power and glory.

Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless?

Who is this, so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path has trod;
He is Lord from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping
Over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior,
Who above the starry sky
Is for us a place preparing,
Where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
Drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
Mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, Who gifts and graces
On His church is pouring down;
Who shall smite in holy vengeance
All His foes beneath His throne.

Who is this that hangs there dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis our God Who lives forever
’Mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city,
Reigning everlastingly.

You can also listen to the song here, in a rendition from Indelible Grace, sung by Sandra McCracken (although the video was not made by them):

N.T. Wright on the Foolishness of the Cross

What was so foolish about the cross?

“The Christian good news is all about God dying on a rubbish-heap at the wrong end of the Empire. It’s all about God babbling nonsense to a room full of philosophers. It’s all about the true God confronting the world of posturing, power and prestige, and overthrowing it in order to set up his own kingdom, a kingdom in which the weak and the foolish find themselves just as welcome as the strong and the wise, if not more so”.

N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians.

Committed to Preaching an Offensive Gospel

Paul writes in chapter one about how the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the cross in particular, may be offensive. To some we see it for what it is, the heart of the good news. Others see it as folly, weakness, or a stumbling block to belief.

At times people may desire to overcome the offensiveness of the crucifixion and make the message more appealing to the world. We may even do so with the best of intentions, so that more people may hear the message. But Paul is committed to the message of the cross of Jesus Christ and he will not sugar coat it. He knows that it is a hindrance to Jews and the idea of worshiping an executed criminal is simply absurd to the Greeks. But he can not gloss over the crucifixion.

In our attempts in today’s world to make the message of Jesus Christ more “relevant” or sensitive to our modern culture, we cannot lose sight of what we preach. God is pleased to save those who believe through a foolish message. We ought not water it down for in so doing we will lose its fullness. The cross of Christ may offend. A gospel of grace–as wonderful and freeing as it is for believers–is not always accepted as good news. But we must trust in God’s wisdom and in his message, not concerning ourselves with whether we appear as fools to this world.

Paul, a very educated and eloquent man, did not seek to sidestep that which he knew would cause problems for his readers and listeners with lofty speech and convincing rhetoric. I’m sure he could’ve concocted a message that would be far more appealing. But Paul had no desire to merely entertain. No he decided to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.

A Prayer for Lent from 2 Thessalonians

Andrea di Bartolo. Way to Calvary. c. 1400

Andrea di Bartolo. Way to Calvary. c. 1400

We are in the season of Lent when our minds should turn to what God did for us in Jesus Christ. We slowly proceed through these weeks and approach the cross where our Lord went to die for sinners like you and me. We ought to reflect on what it means for the Son of God to even to enter our world and take on flesh. What does it mean that our God would sacrifice so much to endure a life like our own? Even more amazing is that he didn’t come to be served, but to serve, doing things you’d never expect like wash disciples’ feet–including one who was to betray him. Jesus then willingly walks the road of suffering to Golgotha in order to be a sacrifice for us, show himself in glory, and reveal his great love for us.

Lent being such a season, I can’t think of a more timely prayer for God’s people than the words of Paul from 2 Thessalonians 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

God’s love is most clearly seen in Jesus Christ, who was steadfast in his obedience. May that be what holds our attention and captivates our heart in this time of preparation.

Being defined by more than our performance, reflections on the Olympics

Like so many, I have found myself watching the Olympics as we all do when it rolls around every four years. It is an odd thing how many sports that hold absolutely no interest for me during the intervening years can captivate me for the span of a few weeks. Will I continue to follow water polo, volleyball, or track and field? No. But have I been watching it? Yes.

As exciting as it is to watch, I can’t help but think that the athletes must be under tremendous pressure and could be so easily tempted to see their value and worth as directly correlated to their medal haul. They train for years for one event that can be over in just a matter of seconds. That sounds like an awful moment. If I stick this landing, I am good. If I can be the fastest, I’ll be remembered and will make someone proud. But what if I fail?

Maroney’s landing, taken from USA Today.

Just seconds determines the way you are seen. Fractions of a second dictate whether your years of dedication and sacrifice are worth it. Do we remember fourth place finishers (or even silver medalists)? Are teams that bow out in early rounds of tournaments received back home the same way as if they had lifted the nation with victory? Is US Gymnast, McKayla Maroney, who was seen as a lock for gold on the vault, but who fell in her landing dropping her to silver, going to be able to shake the disappointment? These are mere moments that are allowed to define entire lifetimes.

In an article on USA Today on women in the olympics an IOC member made this statement, “If you’re successful, they don’t care about your gender, they care about whether you won gold, silver or bronze for your country. No one is talking negatively about gender here, they are talking about success.” In a statement about the progress of women she reveals what still is a difficult truth. What matters is success.

Paul in Romans pushes against this notion. It is not our success that matters. We can’t let our works define us. If we are going to allow one event to determine our worth, if we want one moment to define us, let it be the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. We can’t live under the burden of performance and demands of perfection, like those of the law. On the cross Christ put to death those demands. So now in Christ we can benefit from his perfection. If one moment should define us, let it be the cross.