This week’s sermon is available right here.
This week we were in Mark 14 studying the story of the woman who poured out perfume on the feet of Jesus.
We talked first about the fact that in this passage, we see love poured out. This woman came to Jesus and poured an entire bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus’ head. She gave everything — her possession that was worth a year’s wages — in order to worship Jesus. There’s a lot of symbolism in this passage as well. Often when people had oil poured over their heads, it meant that they were being anointed for a special task or role. Remember how David was anointed by Samuel in the Old Testament? This anointing was because God was choosing him as Israel’s next king. Jesus, here, is Israel’s ultimate king, the Saviour who would fulfill all of God’s promises. This anointing was also something done to prepare bodies for burial. Jesus’ death is coming up in just a few days, and as Pastor Dan mentioned, this woman seems to be the only one who actually believes what Jesus has said is going to happen to Him. She has heard Him speak of His coming death, so she anoints him to prepare His body for burial.
We also talked about how love was questioned. Instead of praise, this woman received rebuke from the disciples. But she believed Jesus. The price of the perfume didn’t matter — her love compelled her and her belief prompted action.
Finally love was betrayed. Judas, one of those closest to Jesus, is the one who hands Him over to be tried. Just because we have close proximity to Jesus doesn’t mean that we’re faithful. I think that’s an important one for us to think through — just because we go to church or know the Bible or do good things does not mean we are truly faithful to Jesus or have truly experienced His salvation. It is only through belief in our need for Jesus and what He did on the cross and then acting in obedience to follow Him that we are shown to be faithful.
So many good questions came out of this sermon. As we continue through this season of Lent, let’s think on these questions this week — use them during your personal devotion time. Ask God to reveal these answers in your life and depend on His Spirit to help you grow.
- Where do you fit in this story from Mark 14? What kind of disciple are you — are you more like the woman or more like Judas?
- Think back on your relationship with Jesus — did He find you wandering in the desert? How did He rescue you?
- Where do you have a hard time believing Jesus?
- What is your most precious possession that you can pour at the feet of Jesus?
This week’s sermon is available to watch here.
This week Pastor Shawn continued taking us through the final week of Jesus. We stayed in Mark 11 and looked at the incident where Jesus drives the money changers out of the temple.
This event–this show of Jesus’ anger–is a side of Him that people seem to either want to ignore completely or want to talk about all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve seen both sides use this, probably not to actually get to the heart behind the matter, but to advance whatever religious or political cause they’re promoting.
But what we see here, as Pastor Shawn pointed out, is really not out of character for Jesus at all. He does this because it represents how the Father feels about sin, injustice, and His people acting outside of His way.
Jesus saw all that was going on in the temple, and then came back the next day, prepared to right what was wrong. This passage reminds me a lot of the prophets — which is where Jesus quotes from when He says that the temple is supposed to be a house of prayer but has been made a den of thieves. The prophets are always coming to speak to the Israelites — God’s people — about how justice is failing and people are suffering. They warn of God’s anger with their sin, with their uncaring hearts. They beg people to turn from their sin, because if they don’t, they will face God’s discipline.
God’s heart is for justice — we see this in what happens on the cross and in the instructions He gives through the Law. And so when God’s chosen people, those who are supposed to represent Him to the outside world, fail to do so in really spectacular ways — this bothers God.
The Jewish leaders in charge of the temple knew that the Court of the Gentiles was the one place in the temple where those who were not Jewish could come and worship the one, true God. And they knew that people from every economic situation would come to the temple to worship and offer sacrifices. And yet they let people sell in the Court of the Gentiles — crowding out those who had nowhere else to worship the Lord. And they allowed ridiculous prices that gouged those who could barely afford to offer a sacrifice to God. This is opposite of the heart of God, and so the anger Jesus shows with this injustice demonstrates God’s anger with this sin.
This is also why Jesus is often upset with some of the Pharisees. The Pharisees set out with a desire to obey God’s law, just as He commanded them. But they added to the law — they added extra burdens and justifications that were not from God. And so Jesus gets upset with this — He criticizes their extra practices and calls them out on hypocrisy. What God had set up to be something that was life-giving and representative of Him, the Pharisees were turning into a burden that didn’t draw anyone closer to the Lord.
The part of the sermon that stood out to me was the questions asked in Jeremiah 7. Am I guilty of being someone who steals, lies, worships false gods and then comes before God declaring my safety? This is what the Israelites were doing — feeling way too comfortable with their status as “God’s chosen,” while not recognizing that they were failing to live as God’s chosen. Our beliefs and actions must line up — this is what shows true faith and repentance.
So as we go through this week, ponder these questions with me:
- What is your reaction to Jesus’ anger in the temple? Why?
- Are there some areas in your life where you need to check if your actions line up with your beliefs?
- How are you representing the Lord to those who don’t know Him?
We started a new series this week that’s going to take us through Easter! We’re looking at the events of the final week of Jesus, which I think is a great way to prepare our hearts to contemplate, remember and celebrate what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection.
This week Pastor Dan took us through the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before His death. How interesting that Jesus had the parade of a peasant as He entered the city from the east, while Pontius Pilate entered from the West as a representative of Rome and all of its pomp and circumstance. I love how Pastor Dan pointed out that these were really two rivals in theology. Jesus, proclaiming His kingship and Sonship directly combats the theology of Rome, that Caesar was God’s son.
I found it convicting and sobering to be reminded of all of Jesus’ followers who abandoned Him by the time He went to the cross. He was not the kind of king they were expecting or wanting. And although He had explained His mission and purpose numerous times, they had turned Him into who they wanted Him to be instead of who He really is.
As Pastor Dan mentioned, this is one of the biggest issues in the North American church today. We don’t know what kind of king Jesus is. Sometimes we’re all too willing to buy into poor theology that claims that Jesus wants our best life now, that He will bless us with material wealth, that He will always heal our physical ailments. But when we look at the life, words and work of Jesus — and when we look at the lives of the disciples after Him — we get a different picture.
The way of Jesus is suffering and death — and then glory. Jesus invites us to come and die. It is not glamorous. It is not pretty. It is not always comfortable. But this is what Jesus demonstrated for us. And it is what He said when He told us that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Two of the most important questions I was ever asked when I was at seminary were: “Who is God and what is He like?” These are the questions we pondered as we explored the Bible. It is so important that when we go to the Scripture, we go with hearts that are open to how God actually reveals Himself, not how we want Him to. This comes into play when it comes to our theology, our politics, our handling of current culture, etc. Who is God and what is He like? What kind of upside-down kingdom did Jesus institute when He showed His power by dying for us? How does this reality affect our lives today?
May we live out this week reminded of the truth about the kind of King we follow.
The season of Lent starts tomorrow — Wednesday, March 1. Lent is not a biblical tradition, but it is observed as a way to prepare for and remember Easter — when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead three days later.
Lent is not a tradition that Christians are required to observe, but it is an interesting season that can be a good time for remembering, reflecting and pondering the seriousness of our sin.
Because the date of Easter changes every year, it can tend to creep up on us. We’re going about our daily lives, and suddenly we come upon a busy week filled with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Observing the season of Lent can allow you to stop and prepare for Easter in ways that you maybe haven’t before.
But what exactly is Lent?
Lent is a season that begins on Ash Wednesday and spans the 46 days until Easter Sunday. Lent is usually talked about as 40 days because the Sundays during Lent don’t count as part of the fasting season. Lent lasts for 40 days to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted in the wilderness.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Some churches have Ash Wednesday services where people receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of mourning over sin. (Job repents in dust and ashes in Job 42.) The ash is also a reminder that we are simply flesh and bones — to dust we shall return. There is nothing in us — absolutely nothing — that is able to resist or defeat death. It is only through Jesus — whose victory over sin and death is great cause for celebration — that we are able to have eternal life. He is the only one powerful enough to take away death’s sting!
For churches that observe the Lenten season, their services often change a bit as well. The mood becomes a bit more somber during the 40 days of Lent as people remember that the reason Jesus came into the world was to die for our sins. Often worship songs will be a bit more solemn. In churches that recite prayers together, the word “Alleluia” is omitted during Lent.
Throughout the season of Lent, people often fast or give something up. Some people fast from meat on Fridays and a lot of people give up something else during the entire Lenten season — certain foods, alcohol, television, social media, etc. People also sometimes add something in — extra Bible reading or prayer time, for example.
The point of fasting during Lent is really to take time to remember that Jesus gave up everything in order to become a man and sacrifice Himself for us. It allows us to, in a very small way, feel those cravings and longings and remember the sacrifice of Jesus.
Lent ends on Easter Sunday. For those who have given something up during the Easter season, the fast is finished because He is risen! Our debt has been paid! For churches who observe Lent together, the music on Easter Sunday is joyful and hopeful and filled with rejoicing! Those churches who have abstained from “alleluia” during Lent now shout them out over and over, rejoicing in the King who defeated sin and death — Alleluia!!
Lent is not something Christians are bound to observe. But over and over again, the God of the Bible tells His people to remember. To write His words on our hearts, to celebrate feasts to commemorate what He has done, to fast and repent from our sin. Lent can be a great time to sacrifice, to become aware of the reality of sin, and to anticipate with longing the death and resurrection of Jesus that we get to celebrate together at Easter.
Have you observed Lent before?
Do you plan to observe it this year?
What can be the benefit of observing Lent?
This week’s sermon is available to watch here.
This week we talked about the church. This is a big topic and one that brings up a lot of different thoughts, opinions and feelings.
When I studied the Old Testament and the Hebrew language, I was often hit by the communal aspect of the Bible. And honestly, this is a difficult concept for me sometimes, probably because I have grown up in a very individualistic society. If we look at our western culture, individualism is encouraged. It is thought of as noble and good to make it on my own, to do what makes me happy, and to be my “true self.” These are the values of our society, and they seep into how we act and what we believe — even when it comes to our faith. We think very individually about our relationship with God and others.
But when we look at the Bible — both the Old and New Testaments — what we see encouraged is the community. Almost always in the Bible when we read the word “you” it is plural — addressed to a group, not an individual. God saved the nation of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea — as a community of people. He rescued them and chose them and they committed to Him. In the New Testament, the first Christians met together, ate together, worshiped together, and shared their possessions. They did not go home after work and shut themselves in their homes and get on Facebook, like I tend to do.
The Bible encourages us to live in community, to be the church, to not give up meeting together.
Some people are disillusioned by the church because they have been hurt or had a bad experience. And it’s true — people are in the church, and people are sinful. That means we will likely be hurt or experience something we don’t like in the midst of this community. However, the church is so much more than this. As Pastor Dan put it yesterday:
The church is not a human organization as such, but a divinely created community of sinners who trust a common Saviour, and are one with each other because they are all one with Him in a union realized by the Holy Spirit.
We — the church — are a community of sinners. But we have a common Saviour! A rescuer who makes all things new — even us. Pastor Dan made four points about what the church is:
- The church is a community of the covenant. Covenant is so important in the Bible — these unbreakable promises God makes with His people. He has covenanted with us, His people, not just individually, but as a community.
- The church is a community of the Spirit. As we come to church, we enter into the presence of God as we interact with His Spirit-filled people. We should come with anticipation and thanksgiving. We should come with a healthy fear of God, knowing Whose presence we’re entering into.
- The church is a community of love. We can’t just do our own thing — the work of God needs to extend to the healing of our relationships. We are interacting with those whom Jesus purchased with His own blood.
- The church is a community on mission. I really appreciated Pastor Dan’s take on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are given for mission first. They are given for the advancement of the gospel. We see this in Acts 2 when people are filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter, who was always blundering and messing up and even denying Christ, suddenly gets up and gives a bold and magnificent speech about the saving power of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit changed him and made him a bold messenger of the gospel.
So, as we ponder these things this week, let’s think about what the following commitments look like in our lives:
Committing to the church through attendance, serving, etc.
Committing to the mission of the church — preach the gospel!
Committing to the unity of the church — united in our relationships with one another and other churches.
You can watch this week’s sermon right here.
Today we started discussing some of the basic beliefs of Christianity by looking at who the Bible says God is.
Two of the most important questions I ever heard about God in seminary were repeated by Pastor Dan in his sermon: Who is God and what is He like?
If we ask these questions honestly and go to the Bible looking for the answer, we will come up with a full picture of God’s character, the things that are important to Him, and the things He asks of us. This will help is in creating a Christian worldview — a way we look at the world, answer the important questions of life, and then live out our beliefs in a consistent manner.
God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, it signifies that God is related to the people He chose in the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one we read about in the Old and New Testaments. He chose the Israelites and worked through them to bring about a descendant of Abraham — His Son Jesus Christ. This means that the God we worship is not the God of Buddhism, Islam or any other religion. He is the God who first revealed Himself to the Jewish people and then invited the whole world to be adopted into that family when Jesus died for us on the cross.
Secondly, as Pastor Dan emphasized, the God of the Bible is a personal God. He identifies Himself with people, people who are not perfect. He invites each of us to know Him because He knows us. He knits us together in our mother’s womb, and He knows the hairs on our head. He is not a God who created and then left us to run on our own, as the worldview of deism promotes. God is personal and here and intimate.
God is the God who is revealed most fully and definitively in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through the cross that we experience God’s great love and grace. Because of His great love for us, He sent Jesus to die for our sins. And it is His grace that was willing to accept the sacrifice of Jesus and apply it to anyone who called on Him to be saved. And through the resurrection of Jesus, we see the great power of God, displayed by raising Jesus from the dead. The crucifixion and resurrection show us so much about who God is and what He is like. We learn about His love, His justice, His grace, and His great power.
God is the Triune God. As Pastor Dan talked about, this is a hard concept to grasp. The idea of the Trinity is that from all eternity, God is one, but God is not alone. He exists as three persons, one God, with one purpose. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit all have different roles and expressions, but they are one in unity and purpose. (For more on the mystery of the Trinity, make sure to download the booklet that goes along with this series.) Ultimately, the Trinity shows us that God’s character involves relationship. And this shows us that we, created in His image, were made for relationship as well — with one another and with Him. I loved that picture we were given in the sermon of God inviting us to the table to fellowship with the Trinity.
Ultimately, God invites us to know Him. John 17 tells us that eternal life is knowing God. He knows us and invites us to know Him too. And to do this, we turn each truth we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise of God.
So this week, think on these things with me:
- Who is God and what is He like?
- Which attribute of God stands out to you the most?
- Are there relationships in your life you need to mend as you live out God’s image?
- What ways this week can you spend time growing your relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
You can watch this week’s sermon right here.
This week we explored the story of the Bible — from beginning to end! We took some time to remember and talk through all that God has done — the way He has provided for our salvation, and the faithfulness He has to His promises.
There’s so much we didn’t get to cover in talking through God’s story, so I just want to recommend a few resources that you might find useful in exploring the Bible:
- The Bible. Read it! It’s God’s amazing, true story. I am a big fan of Bibles that have taken out the added chapter/verse markings so that it reads more like the story it is. The Books of the Bible (NIV) is a Bible that reads without additions. The ESV Reader’s Bible is another resource, and Bibliotheca is a beautiful cloth-bound set of books that gives us the entire Bible that reads like a regular book.
- Don’t forget to download our booklet that we created to go along with this series — more info and resources there!
- Commentaries — although I love reading the big story of the Bible, I still do use my study Bibles and commentaries to help me understand more of what’s going on in the Scripture. I have found commentaries by Christopher J.H. Wright and John Goldingay to be really helpful. I also like reading Jewish Torah commentaries — although they do not have a Christian perspective, it is sometimes helpful to know how the Jewish people have understood their own Scripture.
- Resources that help us understand the culture of the Bible — so much of my deeper understanding of the Bible has come from understanding the culture of the Ancient Near East. The books, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, along with the That the World May Know DVD series are all wonderful, non-boring resources that take you on a fascinating journey through the culture of the Bible.
- I recently discovered a beautiful children’s book that talks about the victory of Jesus, the Snake Crusher! The artwork is amazing and, although I bought it for my son, I love reading it myself! Check out The Biggest Story!
- Look for ways to get immersed in what God is doing in His continuing story! Come serve with us here at the church! Explore more about discipleship and fellowship through our groups. Consider attending events that will help you go deeper — I am hoping to host a Passover Seder right before Easter in April this year. We are also going to be doing a churchwide equipping event on May 27 — a chance to come learn about a variety of topics from our staff.
Ultimately, God’s story is a beautiful one, and we are so blessed that He has invited us to be a part of it. He has worked to solve the problem of sin and to bring us back to the garden where everything is as it is meant to be. This week, consider pondering these questions along with me:
- What part of God’s story stands out to you the most?
- What part of the Bible do you want to learn more about?
- How does it change you when you think about being part of God’s ongoing story right now?
This week we asked the question, “Why does the resurrection matter?” Christians believe that not only did Jesus die to save us from our sins, but God raised Him from the dead three days later — sealing His victory over sin and death. I loved the song “Resurrecting” that the worship team did during the offering this week — proclaiming the power of Christ’s resurrection. These lines gave me goosebumps:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave!
The soldiers watched in vain — the tomb was simply borrowed. God robbed the grave and brought Jesus back to life!
The resurrection of Jesus is an important tenant of Christianity and it changed His disciples and everyone around them forever.
Although Jesus had been saying it for a long time, everyone was still shocked to discover that He had risen. And I guess I would have been too. It’s not a thing that happens! I love that Pastor Dan pointed out that it was women who discovered that the tomb was empty. I don’t love this because I’m a woman, but because of the two things Pastor Dan pointed out — that it showed that God does things in such counter-cultural ways, and because it helps prove the point that this story was not made up. If you were creating a fairy tale story in the Ancient Near East, you would not choose to have women as your witnesses.
So, after the resurrection, then what? Where is Jesus now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father — His work to defeat sin perfectly accomplished through His death.
It is also important that when we talk about the ascension of Jesus we recognize that He, as a real person, went into heaven. Pastor Dan mentioned a “creepy” view of heaven that some of us have. I had this creepy view of heaven for a long time. I remember being young and being afraid of Jesus’ return. I didn’t want Him to come back yet — I wanted to live my life before I had to go to heaven, which I pictured as all white, clouds, and singing. I was afraid to rattle around in my giant mansion all by myself. I pictured heaven as boring.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think my view of heaven, and maybe a lot of our views, had actually been influenced by the idea of Gnosticism, a heresy that goes as far back as when the Gospels were first written. Gnosticism was a type of thought that was influenced by the philosopher Plato. He promoted the idea that the physical world was bad and the spiritual world was ultimately good. Your goal was to become connected with your soul and disconnected from the evils of your body. When Paul and John write books of the New Testament, we can see them combating this philosophy in their writings. Some people were saying that if Jesus was God, there was no way He could have had a real physical body because the physical was bad. So John makes sure to emphasize that He saw Jesus literally die and that real blood and water flowed out of Him when His side was pierced. Paul has to remind the Corinthians that being married and enjoying marriage was not bad because it brought about physical pleasure.
Although the New Testament fights against Gnosticism, it is still a belief that worked its way into Christianity. This, I think, has affected our view of heaven. Instead of reading Revelation and seeing the beautiful garden city — the real place — that God creates at the end of time, we have images of harps and clouds and boringness. But this is not how heaven is ever described in the Bible. It is a real place and we have real bodies and do real things. It will be better than we can ever imagine!
So, if Jesus ascended into heaven, what is He doing now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus is reigning. And as Pastor Dan reminded us, this is a comfort in a world so filled with uncertainty, corrupt politicians, and a host of other problems. The truth is that Jesus reigns — in the past, present and future. I so appreciated the reminder of Habakkuk 2, that one day the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the knowledge of the Lord!
The Bible also tells us that Jesus is interceding for us — praying for us. It’s amazing, really. The Son of God spends time praying for you and me.
Jesus also said that He’s preparing a place for us. Remember that big empty mansion I was scared of when I was little? As I studied the Bible and its culture more, I learned something pretty cool about this whole idea. There’s a lot of wedding imagery in the Bible, and it is used for us and our relationship with Jesus. Those of us who are saved are called His bride. In Jewish culture when a man got engaged, he would leave and work to add on living space to his father’s house. This would be where he and his bride would live once they got married. They would become part of his father’s household and live in community with family. This would have been what people would have automatically thought of when Jesus said that He was preparing a place for us. To me this sounds much more fun and less lonely than a mansion by myself. Jesus is preparing a place for us in His father’s house and it will be amazing!
I love C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” which is an allegory of much of the gospel story. In “The Last Battle,” the final book of the series, Narnia is recreated, and it is a picture of heaven.
The Unicorn sees the new Narnia and says, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
Ultimately, as believers of Jesus and people who proclaim His resurrection, we now live with an upward and outward look. We wait eagerly for Christ’s return — what a glorious day it will be! And we go into the world preaching the gospel so that more have an opportunity to repent and join us on that day.
Jesus ascended to heaven and will return for us one day. He will bring us to the land we’ve been looking for all our lives and it will be better and better with each new day.
We continued our series on Christianity on Sunday by talking about the reasons for Jesus’ death. You can watch the sermon right here.
Christianity is the only world religion that claims victory through the death of its leader. This goes against what makes sense to the world. In fact, Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 1 — what seems like foolishness to the world is exactly what God used to bring about salvation. Christ crucified is God’s power and wisdom.
We talked about three reasons Jesus died:
- Jesus died to take away our sins.
We talk about this a lot, but it’s really a magnificent thing when we stop to think about it. Our sin sentences us to death. It is an offense against God and separates us from Him. But because of His great love for us, He didn’t leave us to die. He sent Jesus, His Son, to die in our place. He is the atoning sacrifice for sin, and is able to cover us in His righteousness. Jesus purposely was born to die — for us.
2. Christ died to reveal the character of God.
At just the right time, Romans says, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Christ died for us while we were still rejecting Him. While we were wallowing in our sin and celebrating our evilness. He knew how things were supposed to be — the garden of Genesis before sin. He wanted to bring us back to that spot.
3. Christ died to conquer the powers of evil.
Pastor Dan referenced Colossians 2 when talking about this yesterday. I just reread it and it gave me chills:
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
God nailed our indebtedness to the cross. And He triumphed over sin and evil — making a spectacle of them — through the work of the cross! It’s amazing, and it makes me look forward to the end of days when that triumph will be complete and whole!
I loved what Pastor Dan said about appealing to God’s justice when we call on Him. Because of Jesus, the price for sin has been paid. God won’t require more payment because He is just. The debt is paid in full. So we call on God’s justice, knowing His character as revealed through Jesus.
Jeremy Riddle has a beautiful song that emphasizes this point. The lyrics state: “To the cross I look / To the cross I cling. Of its suffering I do drink /Of its work I do sing. On it my Saviour, both bruised and crushed / Showed that God is love and God is just.”
God is love. And God is just. Both are true. And the beautiful, tragic, magnificence of this was demonstrated to us through Christ crucified.
I also wanted to mention John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which Pastor Dan mentioned in his sermon. I read a simplified version of it when I was much younger, and this made me want to read it again! It’s available in lots of versions on Amazon.
As we head into this week, take a moment to thank Jesus for what He did on the cross! And ponder, with me, the following questions:
- Which of the three reasons for Christ’s death stood out to you the most? Why?
- Why do you think God chose to bring about victory through the death of His Son?
- What are some ways you can work on demonstrating God’s love and justice to others this week?
You can watch Sunday’s sermon right here.
This week Pastor Dan continued our discussion of the basics of Christianity by addressing the uniqueness of Jesus.
We talked a bit about the reliability of the Gospels, and I want to go a bit deeper with that today. How do we know that what we have about the life of Jesus is true?
It is important to remember that the Gospels were written during a very different time period than ours. When we read a newspaper article today, we expect exact numbers and quotes and fact-checking (although even that seems to be disappearing in some of our “news” today!). In the Ancient Near East, the mindset was different, and it’s not our job to force our modern-day practices on the past. In his book, “Jesus and the Gospels” Craig Blomberg makes the following points:
- Memorization was a highly-cultivated tool for Jews during the 1st century. Memorizing was a practice, something people were excellent at during the time of Jesus. It was a skill that allowed people to commit the entire Old Testament to memory! So to acknowledge that many had memorized much of Jesus’ teaching, which was often conveyed through story, makes a lot of sense.
- The presence of eyewitnesses to the words and acts of Jesus would have worked as a fact checker to the oral tradition of Jesus’ stories. (Keep in mind that many of these eyewitnesses were not believers in Jesus, so if people were saying untrue things, they would have put a stop to it.)
- Much was handed down through oral tradition (word-of-mouth memorization), but many people also took private notes.
There are other reasons to trust the Gospels as well. We have just under 6,000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that usually date about 100 years after they were first written. Now let’s compare that to other ancient sources. Plato wrote around 400 B.C. The earliest manuscripts we have of his comes from 900 A.D. and there are 7 copies. Aristotle wrote in the 300s B.C. We have 49 copies of his manuscripts and the earliest one comes from 1100 A.D.
We don’t often question the reliability of these classical authors, although we have barely any manuscripts and there are about 1000 years in between their writing and their earliest copies. We have much more evidence for the New Testament Gospels and can have a great confidence in their reliability.
I also want to quickly remind us of the three claims of Jesus that Pastor Dan mentioned in his sermon.
- Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament. All throughout the Old Testament, we see promises of Someone who is going to save the world from the sin that has plagued us since Adam and Eve. These promises get more and more specific throughout the Bible, and finally, Jesus arrives on the scene and says that He is the One!
- Jesus claimed to be the unique Son of God. Through Jesus, God was made visible and accessible.
- Jesus claimed to be the Saviour and Judge of all people. He was the one who could forgive sins, and He is the one who will be at the judgment seat — our eternal destiny is in His hands.
So, then, to be a Christian is to believe the claims of Jesus and confess Him as Lord. And this confessions changes our lives and our actions.
Some questions for you to consider this week as we ponder the claims of Jesus and how they changes our lives:
- What did you grow up believing about Jesus Christ? Has anything changed?
- Which claim of Jesus from the sermon stands out to you the most? Why?
- What is your story about how you came to know and believe Jesus?
- How has the way you live your life changed because of Jesus?