Recently I’ve been thinking about the power of the gospel. As I do, I’ve been critiquing my own heart, “Do I really believe this?”
Remember, apart from Christ, humanity is not afflicted with a case of the spiritual sniffles, but rather is spiritually dead, utterly unresponsive to the things of God. Ephesians reminds us of this vividly:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
So what are you, the evangelist, the Christian, to do? Talk to people about Jesus. The power is neither in you nor the sinner, but in the gospel!
This morning in my Bible reading I came to a familiar and foriegn passage.
It was familiar because I know it. I can quote it. It is foriegn because it is so alien to this world and its system.
I am talking about these words from Jesus:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus here extends himself to all people. He invites and entreats people to come to him.
But specifically, he invites a certain type of people. He invites hungry and hurting people. That is, those who need labor and need rest.
This hits every person. All people have served and pursued things which cannot satisfy. These created things, when elevated to a level of worship, will only disappoint and discourage us. They cannot meet the need. As a result, like dogs running around a racetrack, whenever we ‘catch the rabbit’ and get what we want, we only want more. This is because we were made for so much more.
The insatiable desire of humanity is intended to find its satisfaction in Christ. It is truly only Christ that can fill and satisfy the hungry and hurting soul.
In this context Jesus is talking to people who have been taking beatings at the hands of religious systems. You may …
In 2 Kings 8 we read of a woman who had been the beneficiary of the powerful kindness of God through his servant Elisha. The Shunammite woman’s son had died and then God used Elisha to raise him from the dead (2 Kings 4.18ff).
Elisha then warned her that a famine was coming and that it was wise to leave her homeland. This advice was taken. In chapter 8 we learn that she has come back to her land to find it in someone else’s hands. She goes to the King and asks for grace. She asked the king for her land back.
A funny thing happened though. As she entered to make her requests known, the King was having his ears filled with the mighty deeds of God through Elisha. More specifically, God’s mighty deeds to this very woman! (2 Kings 8.4-6). This is absolutely amazing. The King, with a somewhat softened heart, gives the woman all of her land back plus the produce from the fields she would have earned had she been there (2 Kings 8.6).
We can’t help but see gospel themes come to the surface as we consider this.
There are few guys, alive or dead, who can get after me like Jonathan Edwards. The 18th Century Pastor is always throwing strikes when I am in the box. I love it.
Here is a quote that is resounding in my mind like a personal soundtrack. It is from his sermon entitled God Glorified in Man’s Dependence.
He gave him to dwell amongst us; he gave him to us incarnate, or in our nature; and in the like though sinless infirmities. He gave him to us in a low and afflicted state; and not only so, but as slain, that he might be a feast for our souls.
The greatness of the gift of Christ is seen in his value as the beloved Son of God. Then this valuable one is given to us. We who are rebels. And further, he bears our nature. He identifies with us and us with him. Consider the greatness of this gift.
But, it goes further, says Edwards. He was slain for us, so that he might be a feast for our souls. He was crucified that he might become the supreme delight of our very beings! His death is meant to unfasten our clinging claws from the driftwood and vapor of this world and instead fasten firm to his righteous garments. We cling to him with humble delight because he is infinitely valuable. He satisfies our weary longing. He is indeed a feast for our hungry souls! What grace! What a gift! What a Savior!
Below is a poem meditation I wrote based upon the truth that God eternally smiles upon his Son (Mk. 1.9-11) and in time he has visited him in judgment and wrath as Christ was forsaken by God for us (Mt. 27.46). What a Savior! He makes rebels sons! He makes us his own.
Eternal favor rests on you
-the Father smiles, yes this is right
The joy of heaven- without ceasing
-rests upon Jesus Christ
Even as a man, still he can
-stand below in heaven’s sights
Hearing again the eternal song,
-‘My beloved Son with whom I delight’
Then the cross, where he died
-a death that truly should’ve been mine
Heaven’s frown now rests upon you
-all my sin, to you, God imputes
By the Spirit, my eyes are opened
-from enemy to son, I’m taught to hope and
Sing a new song, now clothed in white
-My beloved Savior, with whom I delight!
The believer, too, beholds a suitability in Christ, sees Him to be just the Savior adapted to the necessities of his soul; and this renders Him peculiarly precious.
“I see Him,” exclaims the believer, “to be exactly the Christ I need- His fulness meets my emptiness- His blood cleanses my guilt- His grace subdues my sin- His patience bears with my infirmities- His gentleness succours my weakness- His love quickens my obedience- His sympathy soothes my sorrows- His beauty charms my eye.
He is just the Savior, just the Christ I need, and no words can describe His preciousness to my soul!”
–Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22.42
Jesus is here in the Mount of Olives. It is here that the olive, being pressed upon from every side, serves as an illustration of where Jesus comes. Indeed he is being tormented in spirit; his heart is being crushed as his abandonment upon the cross is in full view. He will reach the depths of human brokenness and lift up his voice in prayer. So here he comes to the Mount of Olives to feel and experience the relentless pressure of being forsaken by God.
Matthew tells us that the soul of Jesus is “very sorrowful, even to death”. Why? Why is Jesus here experiencing the uttermost grief and sorrow that a man can take? Why is he on the verge of death as he bears up under this grief? It is because of the infinite price-tag that accompanies the sin of rebels like you and like me. The inflexible and unrelenting cup of divine wrath is fully mixed and the Savior is contemplating the reality of having his head thrust back and drinking it down to the dregs.
There is much application here for us as Christians. See how heinous your sin is that it brings Jesus to the point of physical death when he considers its due penalty? How does your sin affect you? Do you hate it? I mean truly, do you see if for what it is? It …
The scene is hard to imagine. With the Last Supper’s lingering taste still in their mouths the disciples are led with Jesus out toward the Mount of Olives. The time of Christ’s crucifixion is at hand.
But prior to proceeding on the Scripture includes a remarkable detail:
(Mar 14.26) And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives
Can you imagine this scene? This is a precious time of singing with the Lord Jesus as he proceeds out to walk the lonely path to Golgotha to purchase redemption for sinners like me and you.
As we now stand on the other side of the cross we look forward to the reunion with all of the saints, together in the presence of the Lamb.
Think about this for a moment.
All opposition will be crushed, false teaching destroyed, sin and death appropriately displaced, the incessant hindrances of our flesh will be gone, our focus will be solitarily Christological and our praise will be united with heaven’s angelic chorus and the ransomed throng from all ages.
But in order for any of this to happen, the Prince of heaven had to stand with the Passover meal behind him and the cross before him as he accomplished our great redemption.
So as we see this bookmark in the life and ministry of Jesus we marvel. We marvel at the setting, our Lord singing with his disciples. We marvel at the overall context, our Lord moving forward to the shamefully wonderful cross. We marvel at the dawning …
Christ has done greater things than to create the world, in order to obtain his bride and the joy of his espousals with her: for he became man for this end; which was a greater thing than his creating the world.
For the Creator to make the creature was a great thing; but for him to become a creature was a greater thing.
And he did a much greater thing still to obtain this joy; in that for this he laid down his life, and suffered even the death of the cross: for this he poured out his soul unto death; and he that is the Lord of the universe, God over all, blessed for evermore, offered up himself a sacrifice, in both body and soul, in the flames of divine wrath.
Christ obtains his elect spouse by conquest: for she was captive in the hands of dreadful enemies; and her Redeemer came into the world to conquer these enemies, and rescue her out of their hands, that she might be his bride.
And he came and encountered these enemies in the greatest battle that ever was beheld by men or angels: he fought with principalities and powers; he fought alone with the powers of darkness, and all the armies of hell; yea, he conflicted with the infinitely more dreadful wrath of God, and overcame in this great battle; and thus he obtained his spouse.
Let us consider at how great a price Christ purchased this spouse: he did not redeem her with corruptible things, …
(Lev 16.31-32) It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and be consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments.
This is the famous Day of Atonement passage. In Leviticus 16 God communicates to the Nation of Israel how they would have their sin dealt with. This annual event was to deal with their uncleanness due to their sin. Embedded in the pronouncement of cleansing (Lev.16.30) is this reminder of repetition.