If there is one thing you need to know about the Roman Empire, it’s that the dominant ancient power knew how to kill people and to keep them under their thumb.
If people ever stepped out of line, or if there were ever any hints of rebellion, the Roman authorities would take drastic measure. They would take an individual, a rebel leader or criminal, and do a really horrible thing to them. They would take the person and hang them on a cross outside of a major city with a sign next to them stating why they were slowly dying on that piece of wood. During the infamous Spartacus slave/gladiator revolt in the First Century BC, the Roman authorities fought a massive insurrection. They were finally able to put it down through the use of force, capturing a large number of former slaves.
What did they do to the six thousand people they captured? They crucified them ALL to crosses along a major road. 6,000 people, lining the Appian Way in Italy. 6,000!
Thousands of executed people would have sent one message, “Don’t mess with Rome!” (Unless you wanted to end up hanging naked, suffocating to death)
When you hear nonsense that Jesus was not killed on Friday, don’t listen to it. The Romans knew how to kill people. Jesus would not have “swooned” on the cross, he would not have been spared the ultimate punishment through passing out on the cross. While certain scholars and religions (namely Islam) deny the historical death of Jesus, according to ancient non-Christian sources, there was a man named Jesus and he was executed.
But his death is not the end of the story! Just wait for a few more days, and dawn will break. But for now, it’s OK to feel sorrowful. I encourage you to attend a Maundy Thursday and/or Good Friday service at your church (or a nearby RCC, Anglican, or Presbyterian should have one).Isaiah 53:4-9 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 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. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
“Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3
Something that I have learned this past year is that knowing something to be true is one thing. Knowing something deep in your gut is something entirely different.
Do I know the above psalm to be true? Do I know it deep down, in the core of my being?
O my soul, know that the covenant keeping God is your maker. He is my shepherd and guardian. I am his and he is my portion and prize.
I am reminded of the song “How He Loves Us.” Because that is such a key truth to wholeness in faith. I am reminded of that because he loves me and I am his. How incredible is that truth? How incredible is that message?
He is jealous for you and me. His fierce love redeems the broken and his fierce love shall preserve them. Why should I ever fear? Why should I be afraid, for I am his. The one who parted the Red Sea, the one who conquered death. I am with him and he can be with you too.
O my soul know this truth, and place it in the core of your being. You are his.
Loving God is important. I think most Christians will come to this conclusion.
But wouldn’t we say grasping a picture of who he is is pretty darned important as well? While both you and I will never fully grasp his nature this side of eternity, we can know him a little more clearly than when we initially first believed. And just like a couple who have been married for 50 years will know each other in profound ways decades down the road of marriage, so too will the individual who places their hope in God and has a relationship with him. That is why I am advocating for clearer language about the infinite God who so clearly loves us and has revealed himself to us both in Christ and through the Bible.
Let me frame it this way. I love my wife (true story). Yet, if I compose a poem about how beautiful she is, how I adore her personality, marvel at her breathtaking charm, and think her long, brown hair is incredible I would just be flat out wrong. Not because of the three initial points, but because she has short, blonde hair. My description of her is inaccurate and not complete. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love her any less, it just means I am wrong in my descriptions of her and of her essence. I get a bit of her, but not the entire picture. Same thing goes with the Trinitarian God. We need to know who he is, and the true God is Trinity. As Jesus prayed, “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn 17.3).
Trinity matters because that is how God has revealed himself to us. God is not some idea, he is real. The living God is Trinity– he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one what and three who’s, or one who and three what’s. God is not just one dude hanging out in heaven navel-gazing. If he was, then he would have been alone for eternity. He would not have known fellowship. That is why the Jehovah’s Witnesses are flat out wrong (beside the fact that they misread the Greek and are a reincarnation of Arianism that was rejected in 325 AD, but I digress). He is one God in three persons, enjoying communion and knowing what it means to have fellowship. I highly doubt this fictional, non-Trinity would have love at the core of his being, since he would have been alone for eternity and not have learned how to love! But this God, the true God, knows love because he is relational and he is love.
So I invite you to enjoy and seek out the Trinitarian God of the Bible. For he is a Father who lovingly gave life to his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit. He is an other-centered God and he is inviting you into the party. I pray that you will join the Trinitarian dance and revel in it.
For more see,
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Something that I need to remind myself every so often is that I am being talked about. The good news is that I am being talked about in the opposite way of high school gossip circles. We are told that Jesus Himself is interceding for us, on our behalf, in the very presence of God. Jesus is talking about us, even now. Think about that.
God, we are told by Paul, is the one who justifies and declares us righteous. Who could ever condemn us? For it is Jesus who took our place and offered his life on our behalf. God himself took our place!* God himself declares us innocent, like in a court of law. But wait, it gets better! We are told that he also intercedes on our behalf.
Why would we ever want to ask any other person (and rely on them alone) for help when we know Jesus is on our side? The saints might indeed pray for an individual in the presence of God, but I would rather have Jesus on my side. Jesus intercedes for us in the throne room.
Dear reader (and writer, for that matter), do you not know that the Lord cares for you? Do you not know that Jesus not only died on your behalf and was raised, but he also then prayed for you? He appeals and pleads on our behalf, even now. How incredible is that?
This is why we can live without fear, for the Light of the World shines grace upon us. The Light of the World intercedes for his people, the community of the graciously redeemed.
*For a post on Jesus being fully God and fully man, see Jesus, God and Man. Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person.
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
It is very interesting to me that when Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit (which offers an interesting place to ask some Trinitarian questions, but that is for another day) that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness fasting for forty days. Immediately after this profoundly Trinitarian interplay, Jesus was prompted to withdraw into the wilderness. He went into battle, in a sense, full of the Holy Spirit.
This battle was not all glory though. Instead He faced tremendous hurdles and temptations that I would never even dream of facing. Jesus encountered temptation of pride and desire. How can I ever think for a second that Jesus does not know what it means to be human? Jesus (read: God) is our High Priest, as the author of Hebrews reminds us. This High Priest understands hunger, the oppressive powers, loneliness and despair. He knows intimately what is needed to get through and how horrible life can be sometimes. He bore the brunt of it. Indeed, it was more than what was deserving of Him.
The God of this universe and the essence of beauty descended onto this planet in order to reconcile the world back to Him. As we are reminded of the promise made to Christ-followers in Col 1:22, “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him…” The entire passage is so incredible because it goes from this brilliant God of the cosmos to His intricate action to bring about reconciliation with fallen, rebellious humanity. He moved from grandeur to self-emptying humility (see Phil 2).
This is the God of Abraham. The One who makes a covenant and then keeps it despite the failures of those in Abraham’s line. He acted in order to redeem us. He kept the covenant and then allowed us to be reconciled through justification by faith in Christ. That is why we can trust in Christ; we are both heirs of salvation and promise. The faithful one of Israel (Jesus) has brought us into an abundant life and it’s time to live in that reality.
Soli Deo Gloria!
When people talk about Jesus they often do not correlate the fact that He was not just a man. The fact that He referred to Himself as the Son of God also lends itself to the confusion. Jesus must have had a beginning, many people deduce this from the term son. Truly, if Jesus had a beginning and was a son, then He would have been made subordinate to the Father, right? It was and is asserted by many that Jesus is not equal to the Father, who is eternal, but had a beginning point.
This view above is called Arianism and it is not considered orthodox Christianity. Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person. He was two “whats” in one “who.” Now, why would this be so important to the faith? It is important because only God could save us and only humanity needed the saving. He bore our sins and acted as the sacrifice, providing an atonement for our transgressions. Jesus acted as the bridge between God and humanity. He became the perfect High Priest as the Book of Hebrews discussed about at great lengths. I would recommend that you read that book carefully and see what the author argued for in their work. Jesus was described as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). Jesus is the great High Priest who intercedes for us before the throne of God, able to save and redeem His people, those people who are eagerly waiting for Him (Heb 9:28).
As a side note– God is not a Christian. A Christian is a Christ follower, a little Christ. God revealed Himself to us through the Bible and definitively in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Those who follow Christ are to be considered Christians (and certainly God does not do that…). Jesus referred to Himself in the Gospel according to John that He was “I AM.” He directly equated Himself to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have to take Jesus at His own word here, for this is a very bold statement. To echo CS Lewis, he was either a liar, lunatic or the very person He claimed to be– God. Quite frankly I see no other option.
The death of Christ was a monumental event. As an Evangelical Protestant, I have often placed great emphasis upon this moment, almost to the detriment of another event. Easter came three days later, the moment that death was conquered. It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we can say along with St. Paul in I Corinthians,
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
Something that we don’t often dwell upon is the monumental event that occurred at the resurrection. It truly was an event that shook the foundations of the world, the powers of this world were conquered and the Kingdom of God began to be implemented. Now that that has occurred, we live in the tension of the now (kingdom of man) and the not yet (full realization of the Kingdom of God), in a state of waiting. While we live in a state of constant tension, it is important to realize two things. First, that we are empowered through the resurrection. We are given strength to live life today, if only we yield to the Spirit.
The second thing I realized was that our allegiance belongs elsewhere. If Jesus is Lord, as Christians of every denomination historically affirm, then Caesar is not. A recent editorial that I read in the Orange County Register captures this theme surprisingly well. The editor writes,
But if Jesus really rose from the dead after being duly executed, then he stands as a challenge not only to the Roman empire and the religious authorities of that day, but to every empire from the beginning of time down to the present day, to every mere human being who claims the right to rule over another human being, thus usurping the authority of God.
The resurrection brings power and an authority that is rooted only in the actions of Jesus. J. R. Daniel Kirk discusses this at length in his recent Christianity Today article. Our lives ought to be different because of the empty tomb. It is given power through the work of Jesus in an individual. Of course this power is not meant to be lorded over other people as many rulers have done and will do throughout the ages (Mark 10:42-43). Instead it comes through service and cruciformity in the image of Christ. It is in the complete message of the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus, that we can live as a transformed ambassador for the Kingdom. For if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar and ourselves are not.