Archives For Easter

Stott summarizes three truths enforced by the cross:

  1. Our sin must be extremely horrible.
  2. God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension.
  3. Christ’s salvation must be a free gift.

Stott writes:

In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ. First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a license to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness.

Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.

Watch this sermon from the Gospel Coalition 2013 to be blessed and encouraged this weekend!

Jesus Vindicated – Tim Keller (TGC13) from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

This the Power of the Cross

Chris —  April 17, 2014

The bodily resurrection of Christ is the only reasonable explanation for these 11 points summarized by Lewis and Demarest (Vol 2., 482-484):

  1. Jesus of Nazareth died and was buried. It is beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus died and was buried.
  2. After the crucifixion a resurrection was unexpected.
  3. The tomb was open and empty.
  4. The grave clothes were undisturbed.
  5. For 40 days Jesus appeared to people prior to his ascension.
  6. The disciples were transformed from despair to hope, their disbelief to faith, their fear to courage.
  7. A new movement arose in Jerusalem and quickly advanced through the region. It was based on the belief that Jesus was alive . . . There is nothing but the resurrection to distinguish the first Christians from any other Jews of the day.
  8. The Christian church still exists today . . .The frailty and fallibility of church leaders has become notorious in literature and the media. Had it not been for its confidence in the One who conquered sin and death, the church would have long ago disappeared.
  9. Christians generally practice Sunday worship . . . If not for the resurrection, what remarkable first century event can explain that major transformation of a longstanding Sabbath tradition?
  10. The first century produced the written New Testament, which remains to this day. If Jesus did not rise, what first-century event did motivate the written preservation of the apostles’ teaching?
  11. The calendar directs attention to what happened before Christ (B.C.) and after the birth of the Lord (A.D.). If Jesus did not rise, what event in history better accounts for the change in the dating of all events that later occurred?

Our church is making a special effort to be cross-centered this year as we celebrate Holy Week. A very helpful way to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday is to study Luke’s Travel Narrative. I will be preaching on the healing of the 10 lepers on Sunday and there is a D.A. Carson sermon below that you can watch.

Luke 9:51-19:44, sometimes called Luke’s “Travel Narrative” is a section of Luke’s gospel that emphasizes Jesus’s determination to go to the cross.[1]

For a great introduction to Luke’s Travel Narrative, watch D.A. Carson’s sermon from The Gospel Coalition 2014, “Jesus’s Resolve to Go to Jerusalem.”

Jesus’ Resolve to Head Toward Jerusalem – Don Carson (TGC13) from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Throughout the “Travel Narrative” Luke returns reminds his readers that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Notice these verses:

 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. Luke 13:22

 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. Luke 17:11

 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. Luke 18:31

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Luke 19:28

 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:41-42.

 Luke’s agenda is to show Jesus determination to go to Golgotha.[2]The point of the travel emphasis is not to trace a geographical route. The person who focuses on a map misses the point. Rather than a list of places, seventeen parables dominate this section[3] and, interestingly, Luke mentions few miracles in this segment.[4]

Green lists 5 points of emphasis in his Travel Narrative:[5]

  1. With Christ, salvation is coming in its fullness to all people, which Green regards as the overall theme of Luke-Acts.[6] See Luke 19:10!*
  2. The expectation was that Mary’s son would be the cause of division in Israel. Those who read this section closely notice the hostility of the religious leaders builds as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem. By the time he arrives, things move to a murderous crescendo.
  3. Jesus, in order to fulfill God’s purpose, must suffer rejection and be killed. Likewise, Christ’s followers must enter the kingdom through many persecutions (Acts 14:22).
  4. The “journey” to Jerusalem is a time of intensive training for the disciples who are surprisingly obtuse. Much of the content of this section is very didactic or instructional.
  5. Progress is being made in an incredible way for God’s unfolding plan of buying his people back from their bondage to sin..

*As noted in point #1 above, one aspect of the beauty of Luke’s Travel Narrative is that it anticipates the gospel going to all nations. Immediately after Jesus sets his face on Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), the Samaritans reject Christ because of his commitment to Jerusalem. Echoing 2 Kings 1, the James and John offer to call down fire (Luke 9:51-56). This is not altogether surprising since this follows the Transfiguration and recalling that Elijah did call down fire on blasphemous Samaritans (2 Kings 1).

However, with their suggestion of fire from heaven, James and John demonstrate that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of Christ’s Kingdom. To be sure, God’s judgment was coming. But Jesus was going to take the penalty for sin upon himself on the cross so that the Gospel could go out to Samaria (Acts 1:6-8). Jesus rebukes James and John and goes to the cross to take the fire on him so that the gospel might go out to Samaria and all the world. (See my sermon on 2/16/14, “Fixed on the Cross I: Two Passages to Know on Holy Week”).

[1] Darrel L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, ed. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 957. See also D.A. Carson, “Jesus’ Resolve to Head Toward Jerusalem” (presented at the The Gospel Coalition, Orlando, Florida, April 9, 2013), Green points to this list of travel allusions: 9:51, 53, 56, 57; 10:1, 38; 13:22, 23; 14:25; 17:11; 18:31, 35-36; 19:1, 11, 28, 39, 37, 41, 45. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 398, n. 12.

[2] Green, The Gospel of Luke, 399.

[3] Ibid., 398.

[4] Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, 960.

[5] Green, The Gospel of Luke, 394–399.

[6] Ibid., 394.

Who Gets Helped by Jesus?

Chris —  March 19, 2014

Are you the sort who gets helped by Jesus? How well do you fit with the below group?

You can listen to the sermon I preached on Luke 17:11-19 and the lepers who call out to Jesus from a distance here.

Four times in the Gospel of Luke Jesus encourages people that their faith has saved them. It is instructive to meditate on the kinds of people Jesus helps. Below is a screenshot from my study notes.

"Your Faith Has Saved You!"

Andreas KöstenbergerOn March 2, I posted 7 Reasons to Read the Final Days of Jesus. Today Andreas Köstenberger answers questions regarding this new book he co-wrote with Justin Taylor. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived is a great resource to use in preparation for Holy Week. A free study guide is available. I previously interviewed Justin.

Your book cites very specific dates for Holy Week (March 29-April 5 AD 33). Do you think it’s important to use exact dates? Are you fairly confident those are the correct?

Well, as a biblical scholar, and as a Christian, I want to know what I can know about the Bible and about the life of Jesus as precisely as possible. On the one hand, I want to be honest with the limitations we have with regard to the available evidence, but on the other hand, I want to use the evidence we have to the fullest extent possible to determine a given piece of information, such as the dates for Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Also, my experience has been that many use dates; it’s just that some reconstructions seem to be backed up by evidence better than others.

I think the fact that Luke, in particular, correlated the coming of Jesus Christ with other historical data such as the reign of Tiberius tells us that he himself was concerned to give us precise information about important salvation-historical events such as the beginning of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. So I feel that in seeking to determine the precise dates of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection we are in good company and have biblical precedent. While I would not want to stake my life on those dates, I think these kinds of responsible reconstructions commend the Christian faith to seekers or doubters and underscore the historical nature of Christianity.

You mention two ways to read the Gospels: horizontally and vertically. What’s the difference between these two techniques?

Reading the Gospels horizontally means to see how each Gospel relates to the others, as complementary witnesses to the same set of historical events and statements. Take the various accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, for example. None of the Gospels gives us all of these appearances, but Matthew, Luke, and John each have some. Reading the Gospels horizontally will give you all the information across the board, which is obviously very valuable, because that way you’ll know all that the Bible says about this particular set of events.

Reading the Gospels vertically means reading each Gospel from beginning to end as independent, self-contained narratives of the life of Jesus. This kind of reading capitalizes on the insight that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each told their own story, and we must respect the literary and theological integrity of their work. As we read the Gospels vertically, we will get a better sense of their respective emphases. For example, Mark does not feature any resurrection appearances though he does end his Gospel at the empty tomb. So we should ask, “Why did Mark write his Gospel in this way?”

Jesus spent a long time teaching his disciples on the night before his death. What did he focus on in this teaching? How can our knowledge of this change the way we live today?

Jesus taught on a few important subjects. Let me mention three. First, he taught his followers about love. He showed them that it is because of love that he went to the cross, and so anyone who would follow in his footsteps must likewise be a man or woman of love. Second, he taught his followers how to continue in close relationship with him now that he was going to return to the Father. He told them is that they would receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and that they must remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings and share the good news with others. Third, he taught his followers about the need for believing prayer in his name. As they embarked on their mission, they could ask Jesus for the resources they would need, and he would supply them with everything they needed to complete their mission. Taking to heart what Jesus taught his first followers will encourage us to become people of love, to continue in close relationship with him, and to appropriate his resources as we go about his mission.

What was one thing you learned from Justin during this project?

Just one thing? I learned a lot from Justin, but one thing that particularly comes to mind is that he really has a passion to help people in the churches and serious Bible students grasp aspects of the Christian faith more deeply and more precisely. He consistently challenged me to communicate clearly and to use responsible scholarship to answer real questions and to help us connect the dots in the biblical story.

Justin-Taylor-On March 2, I posted 7 Reasons to Read the Final Days of Jesus. Today Justin Taylor answers questions regarding this new book he co-wrote with Andreas Kostenberger. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived is a great resource to use in preparation for Holy Week. A free study guide is available.

Do you think not meditating enough on Holy Week is a common problem in our churches? Why is it important to study the events of the last week of Jesus’s life?

I certainly don’t think evangelicals are in danger of meditating too much on Holy Week. We tend to think, by default, that this is something reserved for more liturgical churches that celebrate Holy Days. But if the subtitle of our book is true—if this really is “the most important week of the most important person who ever lived”—then it is well worth our efforts not only to read through these accounts, and not only to do so once a year, but to make it a part of our best meditation throughout our Christian lives. As we witness these final days, every action and word of Jesus counts. He is setting things in motion to bring the conflict to a resolution and to accomplish our very salvation. By watching him closely in action, through the reading of his Word, we can grow in true worship of our incomparable Savior!

Has your opinion on the order of events changed much from what you’ve written in previous blog posts during Holy Week?

No, not radically. But one of the things that I’ve seen in working on this project is that there’s always more to see in what we see. If I can compare it to watching television, it’s the difference in going from a show in black-and-white with sketchy reception to full-color high definition. The plot and order and characters remain the same, but there is so much more to see as we look closely at a more crisp and defined picture.

Is this book more academic or devotional? Who will benefit from reading it?

We intentionally designed the book to be a hybrid of sorts. We hope it’s accessible and informed by the best of evangelical scholarship. Readers will not find a plethora of footnotes and technical discussions. At the same time, it’s different than simply offering “thoughts for the day.” It’s a book for serious readers who are interested in seeing the complete biblical text in chronological order, in a harmony format, with charts, glossary, maps, and commentary designed to illumine the theological and exegetical key points with helpful cultural and historical backgrounds provided. We think it’s one of those rare books that could be used as easily by pastors as by families, individuals, and small groups.

 What did Jesus do early in the week that was perceived as a threat to the existing powers and structures?

In short, virtually everything! I think you use the right word here, Chris. He was viewed as a “threat.” From his triumphal entry to his cursing of the fig tree to his parables to his cleansing of the temple to his interactions with the Jewish leaders, everything about his words and actions was a challenge to their perception of their own religious, political, social, and financial stability. Instead of a Messianic figure that would endorse their man-made traditions and overthrow Rome, Jesus was the humble servant who came to seek and save those who knew they were sick and lost, and he would do it by dying for sinners and rising from the dead. They had no categories for this, and so their only choice was to seek his elimination.

 What was one thing you learned from Andreas during this project? Did you get together in person to work on this project or did you mostly partner with one another from a distance?

Through the wonders of technology we were mainly able to work on it via email, with an occasional phone call and face-to-face conversation. I learned many specific things from Andreas throughout the project, but the one thing I’d mention is something more general and overarching: the man is humble, teachable, and submissive to the text. He is a world-class New Testament scholar who has taught around the world, authored a major commentary on the Gospel of John, co-authored a New Testament introduction, and co-authored a major hermeneutics textbook. His learning is prodigious and his productivity is legendary. And yet he does not lord his learning over others, but wants to continue to grow in the knowledge of the truth.

Tomorrow, I will put an interview with the co-author, Andreas Kostenberger.

See also:


Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday. Whether or not you are observing Lent, we should strive to be more cross-centered as we anticipate Holy Week. Earlier today, I gave seven reasons to read Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor’s The Final Week of Jesus. Below is a quote by R.C. Sproul which summarizes much of what I said in my sermon this morning about the beauty of the cross.

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history. God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken on Himself the sins of the world. . . Yet it was done for us.  This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy. It is too astonishing to fathom

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor offers an accessible overview of Holy Week. Reading it will help you meditate on the beauty of Christ and will enrich your worship this Easter season. This book would make a wonderful resource for families and a great gift for someone considering Christ. A free study guide is available.

One of our central goals  at The Red Brick Church is to equip and motivate our people to focus on Christ our King during Holy Week. I pray that our minds will be soaked in meditation on the Cross. As a part of that goal, I am making a number of posts available on line. These include summaries of:

The posts on my blog are not edited and particular articles or definitions are uneven in length and thoroughness. Admittedly, my blog posts are “rough drafts.” Hey, I’m a busy pastor.

The rough draft nature of my Easter posts is why I am thankful Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor have published The Final Days of Jesus. They have made my task of motivating and equipping our congregation to worship Christ far easier. In a world full of death and darkness, this book will help us rinse our minds in the resurrection.

I will pubish brief interviews with the authors later this week. In the mean time, here are 7 reasons why I am encouraging our church family to buy and read The Final Days of Jesus:

1. Help with Harmonizing  – Anyone who has closely studied Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John knows that at times it is difficult to see how the accounts fit together. For instance, compare the difference in wording of what was written above Jesus’s head on the Cross (John 19:19, Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38). Kostenberger and Taylor not only offer a harmonization, but they also give a wonderful explanation of how to read the gospel accounts responsibly and charitably (p. 19-20).

2. Parallel Gospel Accounts Brought Conveniently TogetherThe Final Days of Jesus is organized so that the Scripture for the events of each day is included in the text. Readers who want to read parallel accounts without flipping back and forth in their Bibles will benefit.

3. A Glossary and Reference Guide –  If you are new to the Easter story, then simply the task of keeping track of the various Marys  can send you over the edge of confusion. This is not to mention recalling who Caiaphas is or the Sanhedrin or Joseph of Arimethea. An alphabetized glossary and reference guide at the end makes it easy to look up anyone in the cast.

4. 21 Charts, Diagrams, and Maps – There is so much to “picture” when reading the Gospel accounts of Holy Week. Where did everyone sit at the Last Supper? Why was Peter motioning for John to ask Jesus who would betray him? Charts, diagrams, and maps provide resources that can quickly be reviewed.

The Final Days of Jesus (page 59)

The Final Days of Jesus (page 59)

5. Succinct Summaries – Kostenberger and Taylor blend depth and accessibility. Consider, for instance, their summary of Peter’s denial of Jesus.

Peter’s denial of Jesus stands as one of the most poignant and memorable events that transpired during Jesus’s final day. One of Jesus’s closest friends, a man who hours earlier had sworn to stand by Jesus no matter what the sacrifice or cost, denies even knowing Jesus and abandons him in his darkest hour. Pathos drips from the Gospel accounts— the tragedy is palpable, and Peter leaves the scene a broken man.

6. The Most Important Question Ever Asked is Directed to the Reader at the End – The first 202 pages of The Final Days of Jesus all lead up to the most important question about the most important person who ever lived, “Who do you say that he is?”

7. Holy Week is The Most Important Week of the Most Beautiful Person – Christ is the only true King. He deserves all our worship. There is nothing we could imagine that we would want in a savior that we do not find in Him. Nowhere is the beauty of Christ seen more vividly than in the biblical accounts of Holy Week. Seize this opportunity to look deeply at our Savior. The remaining items in this list are only miscellaneous observations. But this is the heart of the matter. Let’s think deeply of Christ.