Author Archives: Gary Davenport

About Gary Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Encounters With God: Jonah, The Prodigal Prophet – Running Away From God – Jonah 4

Jonah swallowed by a whale | Manchester Ink Link

Encounter with Jeffrey Dahmer changed minister’s life

PORTAGE, Wis. — It was an average-sized room that resembled a doctor’s office. Nothing on the walls. Sterile. Roy Ratcliff sat alone at a table in the center of the room.

He noticed sweat trickling from his forehead, and he could hear his heart pounding in the silence.

Ratcliff, minister for the church in Madison, Wisc., was to meet with a prisoner who wanted to be baptized. He had never met with a prisoner before.The inmate was a murderer, and everyone would surely question his sincerity. Perhaps it was a stunt.

The door opened, breaking the silence. A 6-foot man with blond hair, blue eyes and glasses entered the room. Ratcliff stood up to greet him. The man shook his hand and said, “It’s good to meet you.”

The guard did not enter the room. The door closed behind Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, leaving Ratcliff alone with him.

Although Ratcliff was a little frightened to meet the serial killer from Milwaukee, Dahmer was the more nervous of the two in that room at the Columbia Correctional Institution April 18, 1994. “He was worried that his crimes would be the dominant theme (of the conversation),” Ratcliff said. He didn’t want to hear that from a minister.

Between 1978 and 1991 Dahmer killed 17 young men and boys. Police arrested him in 1991 and found victims’ decaying bodies in Dahmer’s apartment. Accusations soon surfaced that Dahmer practiced necrophilia and cannibalism.

“Do you have any religious background at all?” Ratcliff asked. He was surprised to learn that Dahmer attended a church of Christ until age 5.

Dahmer had started Bible study in prison through courses he received by mail after a “Dateline NBC” interview. A church member in Virginia, Mary Mott, and a prison minister in Crescent, Okla., Curtis Booth, sent him material. He studied on his own, and then inquired about being baptized. A minister in Milwaukee contacted Ratcliff.

Ratcliff realized that Dahmer was serious about his decision. They arranged to use a whirlpool at the prison. Dahmer climbed in and got into the fetal position to fit underneath the water. On May 10, 1994, three weeks after they had met, Ratcliff baptized one of the world’s most notorious serial killers.

After the baptism, Ratcliff insisted that he meet with Dahmer each week for Bible study to continue to bring God into his life.

Ratcliff knew little about the man he baptized, so he started to read books about Dahmer’s crimes. The monster he read about and the person he knew didn’t seem like the same man.

Dahmer mentioned his crimes on occasion, and showed a sense of sorrow for what he had done, Ratcliff said. But at no time in their conversations did Dahmer say why he committed the crimes. That was something Ratcliff — and the rest of the nation — could only guess.

A jury rejected Dahmer’s insanity plea in 1992, and based on his conversations with the inmate, Ratcliff agreed with the decision. “He knew it was wrong and tried to cover it up,” Ratcliff said.

On one occasion, Dahmer said he should be put to death for what he did. Ratcliff said he agreed. But Wisconsin has no death penalty, and Ratcliff told him suicide is a selfish act. He should strive to be a good prisoner and live to serve God.

“Most people struggle with the idea of Jeffrey Dahmer repenting,” Ratcliff said. “All they can remember is the heinousness of the crimes.”

On his answering machine at the church, Ratcliff received one profanity-laced message that said he was foolish to believe Dahmer was a candidate for baptism. However, to his face, Ratcliff received praise. “Can an evil person turn to God? I have to believe that,” Ratcliff said. “What part of the blood of Christ can’t save him, but can save you?”

Over the months, Ratcliff saw a gradual change in Dahmer. He went from a man with a death wish to a man who wanted to help other inmates with Bible study. Dahmer’s father, Lionel, noticed a change in his son as well, Ratcliff said.

But there was a part of Dahmer that remained immature, Ratcliff said, and he believed Dahmer had trouble distinguishing good from bad.

“(At age 34) he was still kind of a little boy yet,” Ratcliff said.

On July 3, 1994, a prisoner from Cuba taped a razor blade to his toothbrush and attacked Dahmer from behind during worship service. Dahmer survived with three cuts. Prison officials assured Ratcliff that great steps would be taken to make sure Dahmer was safe.

But as Dahmer and Jesse Anderson, another convicted murderer from Milwaukee, were doing janitorial duties Nov. 28, 1994, inmate Christopher Scarver used a steel bar from weightlifting gear to bludgeon both men to death, according to the Associated Press. Ratcliff acknowledged that he felt a sense of betrayal.

The Wednesday before his death, Dahmer had given Ratcliff a Thanksgiving Day card thanking him for his friendship. It said he was looking forward to seeing him the next week.

“I didn’t get an inkling he was in danger,” Ratcliff said. “I thought we would be two old men (someday) studying the Bible together. I wasn’t going to give up on him.”

Ratcliff led a memorial service with Dahmer’s family at the Madison church after the murder. A sister of one of Dahmer’s victims attended the service to support Lionel.

Afterward, Ratcliff said, she came up to Lionel and said she thought she could forgive Jeff now.

A decade after Dahmer’s death, Ratcliff still preaches, and now visits seven inmates in four state prisons.

“Because of him I have been involved in more prison work. There’s more of a compassion from me for people in prison settings,” Ratcliff said. “A part of my heart goes out to them.”

Ratcliff doesn’t believe Dahmer realized the impact of his actions and the black mark he left on Wisconsin.

It was Dahmer’s stepmother, Shari, Ratcliff said, who may have captured what Jeff wanted all along. At the memorial service she said, “he wanted to sink into oblivion and to be forgotten forever.”

Craig Spychalla reports for Capital Newspapers. This story is excerpted with permission from the Nov. 28, 1994, issue of the Portage (Wis.) Daily Register.


If in chapter 1, Jonah is like the Prodigal Son, insisting on doing his own thing and going his own way (Luke 15:11-32); then in chapter 4, he’s like the Prodigal’s Elder Brother—critical, selfish, sullen, angry, and unhappy with what was going on. It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart, and that’s where Jonah’s problems were to be found. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 4:1).

The remarkable thing is that God tenderly dealt with His sulking servant and sought to bring him back to the place of joy and fellowship.

Had Jonah been any other prophet in the history of Israel, he would have been overjoyed with the results of his ministry, the repentance of the great city of Nineveh. Throughout Israel’s history, her prophets had failed to turn the nation to God, and were rejected and even killed by the people. As Stephen put the matter, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52a).

In spite of joy at the repentance and salvation of so many, something for which his colleagues would have been overjoyed, Jonah was angry with God: “But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry” (4:1). Why would Jonah have been so angry with God? Jonah is not hesitant to explain, and so he prays this prayer of protest:

“Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life” (Jon. 4:2‑3).

God listened to Jonah (Jonah 4:1-4).

For the second time in this account, Jonah prays, but his second prayer was much different in content and intent. He prayed his best prayer in the worst place, the fish’s belly, and he prayed his worst prayer in the best place, at Nineveh where God was working. His first prayer came from a broken heart, but his second prayer came from an angry heart. In his first prayer, he asked God to save him, but in his second prayer, he asked God to take his life! Once again, Jonah would rather die than not have his own way.

This petulant prayer lets us in on the secret of why Jonah tried to run away in the first place. Being a good theologian, Jonah knew the attributes of God, that He was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (v. 2, niv). Knowing this, Jonah was sure that if he announced judgment to the Ninevites and they repented, God would forgive them and not send His judgment, and then Jonah would be branded as a false prophet! Remember, Jonah’s message merely announced the impending judgment; it didn’t offer conditions for salvation.

Jonah was concerned about his reputation, not only before the Ninevites, but also before the Jews back home. His Jewish friends would want to see all of the Assyrians destroyed, not just the people of Nineveh. When Jonah’s friends found out that he had been the means of saving Nineveh from God’s wrath, they could have considered him a traitor to official Jewish foreign policy. Jonah was a narrow-minded patriot who saw Assyria only as a dangerous enemy to destroy, not as a company of repentant sinners to be brought to the Lord.

When reputation is more important than character, and pleasing ourselves and our friends is more important than pleasing God, then we’re in danger of becoming like Jonah and living to defend our prejudices instead of fulfilling our spiritual responsibilities.2-4 Jonah certainly had good theology, but it stayed in his head and never got to his heart; and he was so distraught that he wanted to die!2-5 God’s tender response was to ask Jonah to examine his heart and see why he really was angry.

Jonah’s anger is incredible. Let us take note of what his anger was all about.

(1) Jonah was angry with God. In the final analysis Jonah was not angry with himself, or with men, but with the holy, righteous, perfect God. Jonah’s anger was so intense that he would rather die than live. Having prayed in chapter two that he might live, Jonah prays now that he might die (4:3).

(2) Jonah was angry with God because He acted consistently with His character, and for doing exactly what Jonah expected Him to do.

(3) Jonah was angry with God, protesting those very attributes of God for which the psalmists praised Him. The psalmists of the book of Psalms praise Him for His lovingkindness, His grace, and His mercy (cf. Ps. 86:5, 15), but for Jonah this is grounds for protest rather than praise.

(4) Jonah was angry with God because He showed grace toward the Ninevites. God’s question to Jonah should have served to instruct this prodigal prophet. It should have called Jonah’s attention to the utter sinfulness of being angry with God in the first place. Who can sustain a holy anger against a holy and perfect God? Furthermore, the gentleness of God’s rebuke should have reminded Jonah that He was not only gracious to the Ninevites, but also to Jonah. Indeed, more so, for while the Ninevites had repented, Jonah had not. Jonah persisted in his rebellion.

The Plant and the Prodigal

Because of Jonah’s persistence in maintaining his anger toward God, God presses on with yet another experience for Jonah which will serve to expose the root problem of the prodigal prophet. This is accomplished by means of the giving and the taking away of a plant, which gave Jonah pleasure.

It would seem that the forty days have passed, yet the judgment of God does not fall upon the city of Nineveh. This is no surprise to the reader, but it was a great disappointment to Jonah. Jonah went outside the city, where he made himself a mini‑grandstand, a shady booth from which he could enjoy the spectacle of the destruction of Nineveh, perhaps in a hail of fire and brimstone like that which overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Here was Jonah, a spectator waiting for disaster to strike, so that he could watch, like the Romans who later would gather at the coliseum to watch the Christians eaten by the lions.

God caused a plant to grow, the shade of which gave Jonah great comfort (4:6). For the first time, Jonah is described as being happy, extremely happy in fact, over the presence of this plant. His happiness was short‑lived, however, for on the following day a divinely appointed worm came to do its work, which resulted in the destruction of the plant. When you stop to think about it, Jonah should have found it easier to identify with the worm than with the plant. He, like the worm, seemed to find greater fulfillment in the destruction of God’s creations than in bringing pleasure, as the plant brought shade and enjoyment to Jonah.

Along with the worm, which brought the demise of the plant, God sent a scorching wind, which caused Jonah great discomfort. While Jonah wanted the Ninevites to be “torched,” he himself was “scorched” by the heat of the wind (4:8). Jonah did not need to be here, and thus did not need to suffer, but he was determined to stay put. He once again begged God to die.

Jonah is angry with God again, now in regard to the plant and the worm. For the second time, God challenged Jonah to consider his anger: “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” (4:9). In no uncertain terms, Jonah reiterated his right to be angry with his God: “I have good reason to be angry, even to death” (4:9).

God comforted Jonah (Jonah 4:9-11).

For the second time in this book, Jonah abandoned his place of ministry, left the city, and sat down in a place east of the city where he could see what would happen. Like the Elder Brother in the parable, he wouldn’t go in and enjoy the feast (Luke 15:28). He could have taught the Ninevites so much about the true God of Israel, but he preferred to have his own way. What a tragedy it is when God’s servants are a means of blessing to others but miss the blessing themselves!

God knew that Jonah was very uncomfortable sitting in that booth, so He graciously caused a vine (gourd) to grow whose large leaves would protect Jonah from the hot sun. This made Jonah happy, but the next morning, when God prepared a worm to kill the vine, Jonah was unhappy. The combination of the hot sun and the smothering desert wind made him want to die even more. As He had done in the depths of the sea, God was reminding Jonah of what it was like to be lost: helpless, hopeless, miserable. Jonah was experiencing a taste of hell as he sat and watched the city.

A simple test of character is to ask, “What makes me happy? What makes me angry? What makes me want to give up?” Jonah was “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8, nkjv). One minute he’s preaching God’s Word, but the next minute he’s disobeying it and fleeing his post of duty. While inside the great fish, he prayed to be delivered; but now he asks the Lord to kill him. He called the city to repentance, but he wouldn’t repent himself! He was more concerned about creature comforts than he was about winning the lost. The Ninevites, the vine, the worm, and the wind have all obeyed God; but Jonah still refuses to obey, and he has the most to gain.

God instructed Jonah (Jonah 4:9-11).

God is still speaking to Jonah and Jonah is still listening and answering, even though he’s not giving the right answers. Unrighteous anger feeds the ego and produces the poison of selfishness in the heart. Jonah still had a problem with the will of God. In chapter 1, his mind understood God’s will, but he refused to obey it and took his body in the opposite direction. In chapter 2, he cried out for help, God rescued him, and he gave his body back to the Lord. In chapter 3, he yielded his will to the Lord and went to Nineveh to preach, but his heart was not yet surrendered to the Lord. Jonah did the will of God, but not from his heart.

Jonah had one more lesson to learn, perhaps the most important one of all. In chapter 1, he learned the lesson of God’s providence and patience, that you can’t run away from God. In chapter 2, he learned the lesson of God’s pardon, that God forgives those who call upon Him. In chapter 3, he learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord. Now he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites; and His servants must also have compassion.2-6 It seems incredible, but Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord and yet he didn’t love the people he was preaching to!

The people who could not “discern between their right hand and their left hand” (4:11) were immature little children (Deut 1:39), and if there were 120,000 of them in Nineveh and its suburbs, the population was not small. God certainly has a special concern for the children (Mark 10:13-16); but whether children or adults, the Assyrians all needed to know the Lord. Jonah had pity on the vine that perished, but he didn’t have compassion for the people who would perish and live eternally apart from God.

Jeremiah and Jesus looked on the city of Jerusalem and wept over it (Jer. 9:1, 10; 23:9; Luke 19:41), and Paul beheld the city of Athens and “was greatly distressed” (Acts 17:16, niv), but Jonah looked on the city of Nineveh and seethed with anger. He needed to learn the lesson of God’s pity and have a heart of compassion for lost souls.

God has the final word in the book of Jonah. His last words press to the heart of the matter:

“You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (4:10‑11).

By means of the provision of the plant there is at last some common ground between Jonah and God. Jonah had compassion on the plant; God had compassion on the people. Jonah’s “compassion,” like his “psalm,” are inferior. God now presses His point, to show the self‑centered nature of Jonah’s “compassion,” especially when contrasted with His compassion of the people of Nineveh. Consider the following points of contrast between the “compassion” of Jonah for the plant and the compassion of God for people.

(1) Jonah had compassion on a plant; God had compassion on people. Jonah was willing for the entire city to perish in great pain, even though there would be many innocent victims, including 120,000 people and many cattle. Cattle and people suffer pain. There is no evidence that plants do. Jonah had compassion on the plant, but not on people or their cattle.

(2) Jonah had compassion on a plant, in which he had no investment; God had compassion in people, whom He had created, and for whom He had prepared and promised blessing. Jonah had no real relationship with the plant. He had not made it, nor had he contributed to its growth. God created man, and He is the Creator of every creature. God cared for that which He had made, so much so that He purposed to bless men through the offspring of Abraham, so much so that He would send His Son to die for men. Jonah cared for something that cost him nothing.

(3) Jonah had compassion with respect to the demise of a plant; God had compassion with respect to the eternal damnation of people. Jonah had compassion for a plant which existed for a day. Granted, the plant might have lived for a year, perhaps longer. But the judgment of men is for eternity. The “passing” of a plant has no real significance; the death of the people of Nineveh was the outpouring of divine wrath. The eternal judgment and damnation of people is vastly more important than the withering of a plant.

(4) God had compassion on the innocent; Jonah did not. He would have enjoyed watching the destruction of the innocent, along with the guilty. (Remember, it would be the descendants of this generation of Ninevites which would take Israel captive.) It was one thing to want the wicked to suffer for their sins, but totally another to want the innocent to suffer along with the wicked.

(5) Jonah had compassion on himself; God had compassion for others. Jonah’s “compassion” is not really centered on the plant, but rather on what that plant did for him . The plant made him very happy. Had the plant not pleased Jonah, he would have had no compassion toward it at all. Jonah’s compassion was really self‑centered. He cared for himself, but not for others. On the other hand, God cared for people, people who had greatly sinned and who had offended Him.

The Plant and the Point

For a long time, I thought that Jonah’s root problem was selfishness, that he wanted God’s grace for himself and for his people Israel, but not for anyone else, especially the Ninevites. It is my strong conviction now, however, that Jonah’s selfishness was only symptomatic. Jonah’s major grievance with God was His grace. The very nature of grace made it repulsive to Jonah. Let us pause to consider the characteristics of the grace of God which made it offensive to the prodigal prophet.

(1) The Nature and the Origin of Grace. The nature or the essence of grace is unmerited favor—a blessing which is not deserved. The origin or source of the grace Jonah disdained is God. Jonah did not like grace because it was not something which one could earn. One could never feel any sense of accomplishment or ownership, because it is given without cause. To put the matter in plain words, Jonah did not like grace because it was charity.

(2) The Recipients of Grace. The recipients of grace, those to whom grace is bestowed, are those who are undeserving and unworthy. Jonah did not wish to view himself as unworthy. Essentially, Jonah suffered from a large dose of racial pride. He felt that as an Israelite, God was somehow obliged to bless him and his people. The Ninevites, Jonah would gladly concede, were unworthy, which is exactly why Jonah protested against God’s grace shown to them.

(3) The Distribution of Grace. Grace, because it is unmerited, and is bestowed upon those who are unworthy, has no one who can claim it. That is, no one can legitimately feel that he or she has a claim on God’s grace, that there is something they have done or can do which obligates Him to respond with some gift of grace. Since grace is not given out on the basis of merit, it is sovereignly distributed, “just as He wills.” As God put it, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exod. 33:19).

(4) The Goal of Grace. The goal of grace, the purpose for which it is given, is holiness, not happiness. The plant which God gave to Jonah made him “extremely happy,” we are told (4:6), but it did nothing to make him holy. Thus, God took the plant away. Grace is not given to make us happy, to make us feel good, to give us pleasure, but to bring us into fellowship with Himself.

(5) The Means of Grace. If the goal of grace is to make us holy, then the means of grace include not only those things which are pleasant and comfortable, but also those painful experiences which cause us to turn from our sin and to trust in Him. If we are honest with ourselves and with God, and if we read our Bibles carefully, we must acknowledge that most of us grow spiritually more in painful experiences than in pleasurable ones.

Think about Jonah, for example. God did answer Jonah’s prayer that He would save him from drowning, but not with the most plush and pleasurable means possible. God saved Jonah by means of a great fish, and Jonah got to soak for three days in the stomach juices of that creature. Being vomited onto dry land was not exactly flattering to Jonah’s ego, either, but it was what was best for him. So, too, the shade of the plant was not furthering Jonah’s walk with God, and thus the destruction of the plant and the sweltering sun was given to him instead. God is not committed to our pleasure, but to our piety. Thus, He often uses painful means to bring us to holiness. These painful experiences, just as much as the pleasurable ones, are a gift of God’s grace. Grace is often experienced in the midst of the most unpleasant of experiences.

This explains all that God has done, as well as why Jonah disliked it. God could bestow the grace of salvation on the unworthy Ninevites because grace cannot be merited. Likewise, because grace is sovereignly bestowed, God can provide a plant for Jonah, and then take it away.

Because of these two characteristics of grace, Jonah wanted no part of it, and no part of life. GRACE, TO JONAH, WAS OFFENSIVE AND UNWANTED. It is easy to see why Jonah would resent the fact that God would be gracious to the Ninevites, but how can it be said that Jonah disdained grace, even when shown to him? BECAUSE GRACE IS REQUIRED ONLY BY THE UNDERSERVING, AND JONAH WAS UNWILLING TO ADMIT THAT HE WAS UNDESERVING OF GOD’S BLESSINGS.

How can a prophet protest the gift of forgiveness to the Ninevites? Only by believing that God’s blessing must be merited. How can the prophet protest when God takes away the gracious provision of the plant? Only by supposing that he deserved the plant, by thinking that God owed him the comfort of the plant.

Here, then, is the key to the entire book of Jonah, and to the sin of the nation Israel, which caused God’s people to assume that God owed them blessing and their enemies judgment. Jonah had rejected the principle of grace, exchanging it for a doctrine of works. THE ROOT PROBLEM OF THE PRODIGAL PROPHET WAS SELF‑RIGHTEOUSNESS. The only person who despises grace is the one who thinks that he is righteous. To the self‑righteous, grace is charity, which is demeaning to the recipient.

What Jonah had forgotten was that God’s choice of Israel and His blessing of Israel was due solely to His grace, and not to Israel’s righteousness.

6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face” (Deut 7:6-10, emphasis mine).


Take careful note of the term “lovingkindness” which is found in verse 9 above, for this is the basis for God’s kindness to Israel, just as it was the basis for God’s kindness to the Ninevites (Jon. 4:2).

God warned the Israelites that when they entered the land of Canaan and began to experience His material blessings, the blessings of His grace, that they would be tempted to take credit for their prosperity:

11 “Beware lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. … 17 Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18 But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-18, emphasis mine).

If this were not ample enough warning, God further warns Israel about taking any credit for their success or for their blessings, which He has given as a gift of His grace:

“Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:4‑6, emphasis mine).

Jonah, and his people, the Israelites, had forgotten that God’s blessings were the product of God’s grace, not the result of Israel’s righteousness or superiority over the Gentiles. They had also forgotten that God had promised to bless all nations through Israel: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3b).

Jonah’s prophecy to the nation Israel, as recorded in 2 Kings, was the promise of prosperity, in spite of the nation’s sins. God promised to prosper Israel, not because of its piety, but in spite of its sin.

Look with me once again at this prophecy.

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty‑one years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath‑hepher. For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. And the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash (2 Kings 14:23‑27, emphasis mine).

Israel’s king was evil, as were the people. The prosperity which Jonah promised was not due to Israel’s spirituality, but in spite of her sin. The blessings he promised were thus the blessings of divine grace.

Jonah was also the recipient of the grace of God, and yet it is for being gracious that Jonah protests against Him, even to the point of preferring death to life. Jonah’s deliverance by means of the great fish, and his exodus from the fish were all provisions of divine grace. So, too, was the gift of the plant, which afforded him shade and comfort. Perhaps the greatest evidence of the grace of God to Jonah, however, is the way in which God responds to his rebellion and his protests. How easy it would be for us to have read that God burned Jonah to a crisp with a sudden blast of lightening!

Jonah typified Israel in that he no longer viewed God’s blessings as a manifestation of God’s grace to an undeserving people, but rather as the blessings which He was obligated to give a righteous people. No wonder Jonah despised the grace of God. He knew that only the undeserving received grace, and he and his people were not in need of divine handouts. The pride and the self‑righteousness of Jonah and of his people are now glaringly apparent. The reason for the sacking of Israel by the Assyrians is now obvious.

  1. The marvel of an unanswered question (Jonah 4:11)

Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with questions, and both books have to do with the city of Nineveh. Nahum ends with a question about God’s punishment of Nineveh (Nahum 3:19), while Jonah ends with a question about God’s pity for Nineveh.

This is a strange way to end such a dramatic book as the Book of Jonah. God has the first word (Jonah 1:1-2) and God has the last word (4:11), and that’s as it should be, but we aren’t told how Jonah answered God’s final question. It’s like the ending of Frank Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” When the handsome youth opened the door, what came out: the beautiful princess or the man-eating tiger?

We sincerely hope that Jonah yielded to God’s loving entreaty and followed the example of the Ninevites by repenting and seeking the face of God. The famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte believed that Jonah did experience a change of heart. He wrote, “But Jonah came to himself again during those five-and-twenty days or so, from the east gate of Nineveh back to Gathhepher, his father’s house.”2-7 Spurgeon said, “Let us hope that, during the rest of his life, he so lived as to rejoice in the sparing mercy of God.”2-8 Alter all, hadn’t Jonah himself been spared because of God’s mercy?

God was willing to spare Nineveh but in order to do that, He could not spare His own Son. Somebody had to die for their sins or they would die in their sins. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Jesus used Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh to show the Jews how guilty they were in rejecting His witness. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt 12:41).

How is Jesus greater than Jonah? Certainly Jesus is greater than Jonah in His person, for though both were Jews and both were prophets, Jesus is the very Son of God. He is greater in His message, for Jonah preached a message of judgment, but Jesus preached a message of grace and salvation (John 3:16-17). Jonah almost died for his own sins, but Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2).

Jonah’s ministry was to but one city, but Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Jonah’s obedience was not from the heart, but Jesus always did whatever pleased His Father (John 8:29). Jonah didn’t love the people he came to save, but Jesus had compassion for sinners and proved His love by dying for them on the cross (Rom. 5:6-8). On the cross, outside the city, Jesus asked God to forgive those who killed Him (Luke 23:34), but Jonah waited outside the city to see if God would kill those he would not forgive.

Yes, Jesus is greater than Jonah, and because He is, we must give greater heed to what He says to us. Those who reject Him will face greater judgment because the greater the light, the greater the responsibility.

The book of Jonah does not end nicely and neatly, with a “happily ever after” feeling. Far from it. We are left somewhat suspended by the final words of God to Jonah, words of rebuke. We are never told that Jonah repented. The reason is simple, I believe. It is because there was no final solution to the sin of self‑righteousness and to the waywardness of the nation Israel apart from the new covenant and the coming of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. The conclusion of the book of Jonah is fitting, for it portrays the stalemate between Israel and her God which persisted till the time of Christ and indeed to the present moment. The last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, is a record of Israel’s belligerent argumentation with God, who is accusing the nation of sin:

The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob” (Mal. 1:1‑2, emphasis mine).

In the final analysis, this hardness of heart will persist until the Great Tribulation and the return of Messiah breaks the stubborn pride and will of His chosen people, who will be finally saved, not because of their righteousness, but by His grace.

Jonah’s Self-Righteousness and the Israelites of Jesus’ Day

Not only did Jonah typify the spiritual state of Israel in his own day, he also prototyped the self‑righteousness of many Israelites, especially the religious leaders, at the time of the first coming of Christ. When our Lord was born, it was not to the religious elite that His birth was made known, but to the humble and the meek (cf. Luke 2). This was indicated in the magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46‑55). The coming of the Christ was for the Gentiles (Luke 2:31‑32), as well as for the Jews, and so the magi were informed of His birth and came to worship Him (Matt. 2:1ff.). Our Lord’s introduction of His ministry in Luke chapter 4 (esp. vv. 16‑21) indicated this same emphasis on Christ’s coming to the poor and the oppressed. The Sermon on the Mount gives similar testimony to the recipients of God’s grace.

When Jesus commenced His ministry, much of His time and energy was devoted to “sinners,” which brought an immediate reaction from the religious elite of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees:

And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?” (Mark 2:16).

Why would the scribes and Pharisees be offended by the fact that Jesus spent more time with “sinners” than with them? For the same reason that Jonah was angry with God. The religious leaders felt that they were worthy of Jesus’ time and presence, and that the “sinners” deserved nothing but the wrath of God (cp. John 8:2‑11). They despised the Gentiles and even the masses of Israelites (cf. John 7:49).

Why did the scribes and Pharisees react so vehemently to the teaching of Jesus? Because He exposed them as sinners, and they were not willing to admit this. They were self‑righteous. Thus, they rejected God’s Messiah and instigated His death on that Roman cross.

Even the disciples of our Lord seemed, like Jonah, to be eager to have the “heathen” perish at the hand of God:

52 … And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him. 53 And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:52b-54).

Later, after our Lord’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, it was the Jews who opposed the proclamation of the gospel (cf. Acts 22:19‑23). Even Christian Jews drug their feet in the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10‑11, esp. 11:19). Because some Jewish Christians felt superior to Gentile believers, they either segregated themselves or they sought to force the Gentiles to conform to their Jewish practices (e.g. Acts 15:1; Gal. 2:11ff.). Truly Jonah’s self‑righteousness typified a tendency among Israelites which has continued on throughout the centuries.


The book of Jonah has much to say to 21th century Christians, as well as to Israelites of all ages. Let me conclude by pointing out a number of points of application to our lives today.

(1) God’s dealings with men have always been on the basis of His grace, and not on the basis of man’s works. Dispensationalists (among whom I would include myself) must be very careful to avoid giving the impression that God deals with men today by means of grace, and dealt with people in the Old Testament by some other means. The distinction of this “age” as “the age of grace” tends to imply that God dealt with men according to some other principle in the Old Testament. Jonah was wrong because he forgot or had forsaken the principle of grace. God has always dealt with men according to the principle of grace. The New Testament and the new covenant simply enable God to bestow His grace more freely and fully. Let us never view God’s past dealings with men as anything less than gracious.

(2) Resisting and rejecting the grace of God are just as great and just as common a sin today as they were in Jonah’s time. Christians become angry with God today, and for the same wrong reasons as Jonah. We are just not as open and honest as Jonah to admit it. When do Christians get angry with God?

  • Whenever we think we deserve something from God and we find Him guilty for not giving it to us.
  • Whenever we think someone else to be unworthy, and we are angry with God for giving them blessings they don’t deserve.
  • Whenever God takes away some blessing from us, which we think He has no right to remove.
  • Whenever we are self‑righteous.

I believe that self‑righteousness had deeply penetrated the Christian community in America. Americans are very inclined to take credit for our prosperity. We believe that we have been “blessed” due to our intelligence, our ingenuity, our hard work, and our devotion to God. Conversely, we excuse ourselves from sharing our wealth and prosperity with others by convincing ourselves that other nations suffer poverty because they lack the righteousness which we have. Thus, while the nation India lavishes in poverty and starvation, we assure ourselves that their poverty is the result of their worship of cows. Simple, isn’t it? But in the final analysis, it is self‑righteous.

Some Christians today view divine healing as a result of one’s righteousness than as a gift of God’s grace. I do not wish to argue whether there is a gift of healing today; I am willing to grant that God does heal. What I wish to vehemently reject is the contention that God must heal, if we but have the faith to claim it. Is divine healing a gift of God’s grace? If it is, then it is undeserved, not earned, even by “having faith.” Is healing a gift of grace? Then God is free to give it to whomever He chooses, to a believer or an unbeliever, and He is also free to withhold it from one who asks for it, or claims it in faith. We don’t demand grace, nor do we dare to protest when we don’t receive what makes us happy (remember Jonah’s plant).

Let us remember, too, that God’s grace does not always come in the form which we might choose or prefer. God was gracious to Jonah, saving him by means of the great fish. Had Jonah been able to choose which form the grace of God would have taken, it wouldn’t have been in the form of a fish’s stomach. God is gracious to His children by chastising them, by bringing pain and adversity into their lives, just as He was going to do in the history of Israel. Adversity is just as much a gift of grace as is affluence. Remember the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount!

Job understood that God was both good and gracious, whether He gave prosperity or took it away, whether He gave pleasure or pain. Thus, when he received word of the loss of his family he responded, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Failure, suffering, and adversity are often the result of God’s grace, for when these things come into the life of the Christian they are for the purpose of displaying the grace of God, to us, to others, and even to the heavenly host.

The principle of grace, by which we are saved, is the governing principle of God’s dealing in all of our lives, whether He shows Himself to be gracious in bestowing wealth or health, or whether He shows Himself to be gracious in our hour of trial, by sustaining us and drawing us to a deeper trust and intimacy with Him.

The principle of grace is also to govern our relationship with others. Just as God is gracious to us, so we must be gracious to others, especially to the undeserving: the cruel and those who are our enemies, who would persecute and despitefully use us. Only by showing grace to others do we reflect God’s grace to us.

(3) The book of Jonah has much to teach us about evangelism and revival, which we desperately need in America. I believe that the book of Jonah informs that the following elements are required for revival. These are not the only elements necessary for revival, but they are essential:

Revival requires those who will go and who will warn the lost of the impending wrath of God on sinners. A deep conviction of sin and the motivation to be saved is rooted in the proclamation of the fact that men are sinners, destined to face the wrath of God.

Revival requires genuine repentance. There was revival in the city of Nineveh because men turned from their wicked ways. They not only confessed their sin, they turned from it. Revival requires repentance, and repentance requires change.

Furthermore, the book of Jonah confronts us with what is perhaps the foremost enemy of evangelism and revival—a smug self‑righteousness which detests the grace of God, and which expects and demands God’s blessings for us, but not for others. It was Israel’s self‑righteousness, pride, and selfishness which kept God’s people from sharing the blessings of God with the Gentiles. Likewise, I believe that it is our self‑righteousness, pride, and selfishness which hinders us from telling the lost of the salvation which God offers all who repent and who believe on His Son for salvation.

Imagine, for example, that God called you to devote your life to finding a cure for AIDS, or to give your life in ministry to the victims of AIDS. ‘But they deserve to die,’ you protest. The fact is that many suffer from AIDS apart from any willful act of sin on their part—an immoral spouse, a contaminated blood transfusion, an infant whose parent was infected.…

Many of us are just like Jonah.  We are eager to condemn those suffering from AIDS as a whole, even though there are many innocent victims among them. Jonah was willing, indeed eager, to see the entire city of Nineveh perish, even though there were 120,000 innocent children among them, and animals as well. Jonah was not just seeking divine judgment for guilty sinners; he was condemning the innocent along with the wicked. (To Jonah, their “real sin” was that of being Gentiles. And by this standard, all Ninevites should perish, according to the prodigal prophet.)  The fact is that the wicked repented of their sin when the prophet proclaimed God’s Word to that city.  God was not only eager to save the innocent, but to save the guilty as well.  Not so with Jonah.

All sinners deserve to die (the wages of sin is death), which includes every one of us. Isn’t it amazing that the sin of sexual immorality is (or at least was) readily condemned by Christians, but pride and self-righteousness are often tolerated, and sometimes even praised (a “good self-image”).  We must remember that our Lord came to seek and to save the lost—those whom the self-righteous religious leaders disdained and avoided. Apart from his saving grace, we are all sinners, who deserve God’s wrath and should be cast out of the presence of a holy and righteous God.  Surely those who have become the recipients of God’s grace should be the first to seek to show and to share that grace to others.

(4) God’s grace has come to men in Jesus Christ. The grace of God has been revealed to men in the person of Jesus Christ, who promises all who will believe the gracious gift of eternal life. All you need to do is to acknowledge that you need it, that you are a sinner who can never merit God’s blessings, and to receive God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ. It is by faith in Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and we are declared righteous in God’s sight. It is by faith in Christ that we receive the gracious gift of eternal life.

There is no word that better sums up the goodness of God to men than the word “grace.” Jesus Christ is God’s grace personified, sent to men (cf. John 1:14, 17; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:1; Titus 2:11). Salvation is God’s grace to sinful men, the forgiveness of sins and the provision of eternal life (cf. Acts 14:13; 20:24, 32; Romans 1:5; 3:24; Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 1:6; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 5:12). We grow in and by means of God’s grace (2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 13:9). We are eternally secure in the grace of God (Romans 5:12). When we pray we approach the “throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). When we serve, we serve by grace (Eph. 4:7ff.; 1 Peter 4:10), and we live by the standards of grace (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6).

But the real issue isn’t how Jonah answered God’s question; the real issue is how you and l today are answering God’s question. Do we agree with God that people without Christ are lost? Like God, do we have compassion for those who are lost? How do we show this compassion? Do we have a concern for those in our great cities where there is so much sin and so little witness? Do we pray that the Gospel will go to people in every part of the world, and are we helping to send it there? Do we rejoice when sinners repent and trust the Savior?

All of those questions and more are wrapped up in what God asked Jonah.

We can’t answer for him, but we can answer for ourselves. Let’s give God the right answer.

May the grace of God be precious to you, the basis for your praise of God, not your protest, as it was with Jonah.


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Posted by on June 16, 2022 in Encounters with God


Encounters With God: Jonah, The Prodigal Prophet: Running to/with God – Jonah 2-3

The Book of Jonah — God's Character and Human response. | by Chesvic  Lordgape | Medium

Sometimes the prophets of the Lord tried to challenge His wisdom in calling them for divine service (see Moses in Ex. 4; Jeremiah in Jer. 1). However, Jonah is the only case in the record of Scripture where a true prophet of the Lord (see 2 Kin. 14:25) tried hard to thwart the will of God by fleeing from the task that God had given him (1:3).

There is something humorous in this account. How could a prophet of God hide from the Creator of the universe? The location of Tarshish may have been the southeast coast of Spain. In any case it represents the farthest place known to the people of ancient Israel. It is similar to going “to the ends of the earth.”

From an experience of rebellion and discipline, Jonah turns to an experience of repentance and dedication, and God graciously gives him a new beginning. Jonah no doubt expected to die in the waters of the sea,1-10 but when he woke up inside the fish, he realized that God had graciously spared him. As with the Prodigal Son, whom Jonah in his rebellion greatly resembles (Luke 15:11-24), it was the goodness of God that brought him to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Notice the stages in Jonah’s spiritual experience as described in his prayer.

He prayed for God’s help (Jonah 2:1-2).

 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. {2} He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

It may be asked, “How could Jonah either pray or breathe in the stomach of the fish?” Very easily, if God so willed it. And let the reader keep this constantly in view; the whole is a miracle, from Jonah’s being swallowed by the fish till he was cast ashore by the same animal. It was God that had prepared the great fish. It was the Lord that spake to the fish, and caused it to vomit Jonah upon the dry land. All is miracle.

His prayer was born out of affliction, not affection. He cried out to God because he was in danger, not because he delighted in the Lord. But better that he should pray compelled by any motive than not to pray at all. It’s doubtful whether any believer always prays with pure and holy motives, for our desires and God’s directions sometimes conflict.

God heard Jonah’s cries for help. Prayer is one of the constant miracles of the Christian life. To think that our God is so great He can hear the cries of millions of people at the same time and deal with their needs personally! A parent with two or three children often finds it impossible to meet all their needs all the time, but God is able to provide for all His children, no matter where they are or what their needs may be.

He accepted God’s discipline (Jonah 2:3).

{3} You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

It wasn’t the sailors who cast Jonah into the stormy sea: it was God. “You hurled me into the deep . . . all Your waves and breakers swept over me” (v. 3, niv, italics mine). When Jonah said those words, he was acknowledging that God was disciplining him and that he deserved it.

Jonah’s use of the pronouns You and Your in this verse are not accusations, but acknowledgments of the Lord’s sovereign control of his life (see Ps. 88:6–18).

How we respond to discipline determines how much benefit we receive from it According to Hebrews 12:5-11, we have several options: we can despise God’s discipline and fight (v. 5); we can be discouraged and faint (v. 5); we can resist discipline and invite stronger discipline, possibly even death (v. 9)1-11; or we can submit to the Father and mature in faith and love (v. 7).

Discipline is to the believer what exercise and training are to the athlete (v. 11); it enables us to run the race with endurance and reach the assigned goal (vv. 1-2).

The fact that God chastened His servant is proof that Jonah was truly a child of God, for God disciplines only His own children.

He trusted God’s promise (Jonah 2:4-7).

{4} I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ {5} The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. {6} To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. {7} “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

I will look again toward Your holy temple: The man who had run from God’s presence (1:3) was alone, yet he clung to the hope that God would not abandon him. The temple, the sanctuary in Jerusalem was the symbol of God’s presence.

Jonah was going in one direction only—down. In fact, he had been going in that direction since the hour he rebelled against God’s plan for his life. He went “down to Joppa” and “down into the sides of the ship” (1:3, 5). Now he was going “down to the bottoms of the mountains” (2:6); and at some point, the great fish met him, and he went down into the fish’s belly (1:17). When you turn your back on God, the only direction you can go is down.

What saved Jonah? His faith in God’s promise. Which promise? The promise that involves “looking toward God’s holy temple” (2:4, 7

By faith, he looked toward God’s temple (the only way to look was up!) and asked God to deliver him; and God kept His promise and answered his call. “I remembered [the] Lord” (Jonah 2:7) means, “I acted on the basis of His commitment to me.” Jonah knew God’s covenant promises and he claimed them.

I remembered: Jonah reaffirms his faith in the Lord and renews his commitment to Him (see Ps. 22:27; 63:6; 106:7).

He yielded to God’s will (Jonah 2:8-9).

{8} “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. {9} But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

Now Jonah admits that there were idols in his life that robbed him of the blessing of God. An idol is anything that takes away from God the affection and obedience that rightfully belong only to Him.

Jonah closes his prayer by uttering some solemn vows to the Lord, vows that he really intended to keep. Jonah promised to worship God in the temple with sacrifices and songs of thanksgiving. He doesn’t tell us what other promises he made to the Lord, but one of them surely was,” I will go to Nineveh and declare Your message if You give me another chance.”

  1. Redemption (Jonah 2:10)

(Jonah 2:10)  And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The focus in the story of Jonah is on the Lord’s sovereign control over creation to bring about His purpose.

The sign (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29).

The “sign of Jonah” is seen in his experience of “death,” burial, and resurrection on the third day, and it was the only sign Jesus gave to the nation of Israel. At Pentecost, Peter preached the Resurrection (Acts 2:22-26) and so did Paul when he preached to the Jews in other nations (13:26-37). In fact, the emphasis in the Book of Acts is on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; for the apostles were “witnesses of the Resurrection” (2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39).

Some students are troubled by the phrase “three days and three nights,” especially since both Scripture and tradition indicate that Jesus was crucified on Friday.

To the Jews, a part of a day was treated as a whole day; and we need not interpret “three days and three nights” to mean seventy-two hours to the very second. For that matter, we can’t prove that Jonah was in the fish exactly seventy-two hours. The important things is that centuries after the event, Jonah became a “sign” to the Jewish people and pointed them to Jesus Christ.

Running With God – Jonah 3

  1. The marvel of an undeserved commission (Jonah 3:1-2)

God met Jonah.

We don’t know where the great fish deposited Jonah, but we do know that wherever Jonah was, the Lord was there. Remember, God is more concerned about His workers than He is about their work, for if the workers are what they ought to be, the work will be what it ought to be.

Throughout Jonah’s time of rebellion, God was displeased with His servant, but He never once deserted him. It was God who controlled the storm, prepared the great fish, and rescued Jonah from the deep.

God Spoke to Jonah.

After the way Jonah had stubbornly refused to obey God’s voice, it’s a marvel that the Lord spoke to him at all. Jonah had turned his back on God’s word, so the Lord had been forced to speak to him through thunder and rain and a stormy sea. But now that Jonah had confessed his sins and turned back to the Lord, God could once again speak to him through His word.

God commissioned Jonah.

“The victorious Christian life,” said George H. Morrison, “is a series of new beginnings.” When we fall, the enemy wants us to believe that our ministry is ended and there’s no hope for recovery, but our God is the God of the second chance. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1).

God challenged Jonah.

Four times in this book, Nineveh is called a “great city” (1:2; 3:2-3; 4:11),2-2 and archeologists tell us that the adjective is well-deserved. It was great in history, having been founded in ancient times by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10).2-3 It was also great in size. The circumference of the city and its suburbs was sixty miles, and from the Lord’s statement in Jonah 4:11, we could infer that there were probably over 600,000 people living there. One wall of the city had a circumference of eight miles and boasted 1,500 towers.

The city was great in splendor and influence, being one of the leading cities of the powerful Assyrian Empire.

Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nahum 3:10).

The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you and the power of God can’t use you.

Jonah’s Preaching and Nineveh’s Repentance (3:1‑9)

For the second time, the “word of the Lord” came to Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you” (vs. 2). It is not a new command that Jonah is given, but almost a repetition of the command given to him in chapter 1. This time Jonah obeyed, not joyfully or with a proper attitude, as we shall soon see, but at least Jonah went to Nineveh.

The population of the city of Nineveh, perhaps including its “suburbs,” was exceedingly large (cf. 1:2; 3:2; 4:11). We also know that the city was great in size. The city was described as being a “three days’ walk” (3:3).

Jonah’s message was simple, to the point, and frightening: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (3:4).[1]

  1. The marvel of an unparalleled awakening (Jonah 3:3-10)

From a human perspective, this entire enterprise appears ridiculous. How could one man, claiming to be God’s prophet, confront thousands of people with his strange message, especially a message of judgment? How could a Jew, who worshiped the true God, ever get these idolatrous Gentiles to believe what he had to say? For all he knew, Jonah might end up impaled on a pole or skinned alive! But, in obedience to the Lord, Jonah went to Nineveh.

Jonah’s message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3-4).

“Three days’ journey” means either that it would take three days to get through the city and its suburbs or three days to go around them. The niv translation of verse 3 suggests that it would take three days to visit all of the area. According to Genesis 10:11-12, four cities were involved in the “Nineveh metroplex”: Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen (niv). However you interpret the “three days,” one thing is dear: Nineveh was no insignificant place.

When Jonah was one day into the city, he began to declare his message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over-thrown.”

At this point, we must confess that we wish we knew more about Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh. Was this the only message he proclaimed? Surely he spent time telling the people about the true and living God, for we’re told, “The people of Nineveh believed God” (Jonah 3:5).

They would have to know something about this God of Israel in order to exercise sincere faith. Did Jonah expose the folly of their idolatry? Did he recount his own personal history to show them that his God was powerful and sovereign? We simply don’t know. The important thing is that Jonah obeyed God, went to Nineveh, and declared the message God gave him. God did the rest.

Nineveh’s message to God (Jonah 3:5-9).

In the Hebrew text, there are only five words in Jonah’s message; yet God used those five words to stir the entire population, from the king on the throne to the lowest peasant in the field.

God gave the people forty days of grace, but they didn’t need that long. We get the impression that from the very first time they saw Jonah and heard his warning, they paid attention to his message. Word spread quickly throughout the entire district and the people humbled themselves by fasting and wearing sackcloth.

When the message got to the king, he too put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. He also made the fast official by issuing an edict and ordering the people to humble themselves, cry out to God, and turn from their evil ways. The people were to cry “mightily” (“urgently,” niv) to God, for this was a matter of life and death.

Like the sailors in the storm, the Ninevites didn’t want to perish (Jonah 3:9; 1:6, 14). That’s what witnessing is all about, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, nkjv).

Their fasting and praying, and their humbling of themselves before God, sent a message to heaven, but the people of Nineveh had no assurance that they would be saved. They hoped that God’s great compassion would move Him to change His plan and spare the city. Once again, how did they know that the God of the Hebrews was a merciful and compassionate God? No doubt Jonah told them, for this was a doctrine he himself believed (Jonah 4:2).

He began by personally repenting (3:6). The king then made a proclamation which required all of Nineveh to fast, and to abstain from drinking water (3:7). Both men and animals were to be covered with sackcloth, and all the people were to call upon God and to abstain from their wicked ways and their violence (3:8).

If the Ninevites had but 40 days left, why would they cease sinning? One would think that they might be inclined to act in accordance with the expression, “Eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow (or 40 days) we may die.” Nineveh’s motivation for putting off the wickedness of the city is described in verse 9: “Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?” (3:9).

God’s message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

At some point, God spoke to Jonah and told Him that He had accepted the people’s repentance and would not destroy the city. The phrase “God repented” might better be translated “God relented,” that is, changed His plan.

From the human point of view, it looked like repentance, but from the divine perspective, it was simply God’s response to man’s change of heart God is utterly consistent with Himself; it only appears that He is changing His mind. The Bible uses human analogies to reveal the divine character of God (Jer. 18:1-10).

How deep was the spiritual experience of the people of Nineveh? If repentance and faith are the basic conditions of sal

God took note of Nineveh’s repentance, something which involved more than mere words or token gestures. Verse 10 does not tell us that God heeded the words of the Ninevites, or even that He regarded their sackcloth and ashes, but that He took note that their deeds had changed, that they had “turned from their wicked way.” Here is genuine repentance. No mere words of regret, no trite, “I’m sorry,” but a change of conduct signaling a genuine change of heart. Nineveh had truly repented of her evil ways, and God therefore relented of the calamity which He had threatened.

[1] The word “overthrown” had strong connotations for Jonah. This term was used in connection with the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:21, 25, 29). It was also used in the poetic description of the overthrow of the Egyptians at the exodus (Ex. 15:7). It was also used in Deuteronomy 29:23 in connection with God’s warning of judgment on His people Israel, if they disregard His law. Cf. also 2 Sam. 10:3; 1 Chron. 19:3.

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Posted by on June 13, 2022 in Encounters with God


Encounters With God: Jonah, The Prodigal Prophet, An Introduction — Jonah 1

Jonah in His Time

Those who consider the Book of Jonah an allegory or a parable should note that 2 Kings 14:25 identifies Jonah as a real person, a Jewish prophet from Gath Hepher in Zebulun who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.). They should also note that our Lord considered Jonah a historic person and pointed to him as a type of His own death, burial, and resurrection. (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:32).

The reign of Jeroboam II was a time of great prosperity in Israel; the nation regained lost territory and expanded both its boundaries and influence. But it was a time of moral and spiritual decay as the nation rapidly moved away from God and into idolatry. Jonah’s contemporaries Hosea and Amos both courageously denounced the wickedness of the rulers, priests, and people. It’s worth noting that Hosea and Amos also showed God’s concern for other nations, which is one of the major themes of Jonah.

While Jonah had a ministry to Nineveh, a leading city in Assyria, he also had a ministry to Israel through this little book. He discovered God’s compassion for those outside Israel, even those who were their enemies. God had called His people to be a blessing to the Gentiles (Gen. 12:1-3), but, like Jonah, the Jews refused to obey. And, like Jonah, they had to be disciplined; for Assyria would conquer Israel and Babylon would take Judah into captivity. Jonah’s book magnifies the sovereignty of God as well as the love and mercy of God. Jehovah is the “God of the second chance,” even for rebellious prophets.

Psa. 139:7-11 (NIV) Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

Most people are so familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore, including the fact that it begins with the word “and.” If I opened one of my books with the word “and,” the editor would probably wonder if something had been lost, including my ability to use the English language.

Jonah is one of fourteen Old Testament books that open with the little word “and.” These books remind us of God’scontinued storyof grace and mercy. Though it’s comprised of sixty-six different books, the Bible tells only one story; and God keeps communicating that message to us, even though we don’t always listen too attentively. How long-suffering He is toward us!

What is the Book of Jonah about? Well, it’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only four times…3 verses out of a total of 84!), or a great city (named nine times), or even a disobedient prophet (mentioned eighteen times.) It’s about God! God is mentioned 38 times in these four short chapters, and if you eliminated Him from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense. The Book of Jonah is about the will of God and how we respond to it. It’s also about the love of God and how we share it with others.

The narrative of Jonah seduces the reader into thinking of it as a simple fable, with the account of the great fish as the dramatic, if implausible, high point. Careful readers, however, find it to be an ingenious and artfully crafted work of literature. Its four chapters recount two incidents. In chapters 1 and 2 Jonah is given a command from God but fails to obey it; and in chapters 3 and 4 he is given the command again and this time carries it out. The two accounts are laid out in almost completely parallel patterns.


SCENE 1 Jonah, the pagans, and the sea

SCENE 2 Jonah, the pagans, and the city


1:1 God’s Word comes to Jonah          3:1 God’s Word comes to Jonah

1:2 The message to be conveyed         3:2 The message to be conveyed

1:3 The response of Jonah                   3:3 The response of Jonah


1:4 The word of warning              3:4 The word of warning

1:5 The response of the pagans     3:5 The response of the pagans

1:6 The response of the pagan leader    3:6 The response of the pagan leader

1:7ff How the pagans’ response was ultimately better than Jonah’s

3:7ff How the pagans’ response was ultimately better than Jonah’s



2:1–10 How God taught grace to Jonah through the fish

4:1–10 How God taught grace to Jonah through the plant

Despite the literary sophistication of the text, many modern readers still dismiss the work because the text tells us that Jonah was saved from the storm when swallowed by a “great fish” (Jonah 1:17). How you respond to this will depend on how you read the rest of the Bible. If you accept the existence of God and the resurrection of Christ (a far greater miracle), then there is nothing particularly difficult about reading Jonah literally. Certainly many people today believe all miracles are impossible, but that skepticism is just that—a belief that itself cannot be proven.  Not only that, but the text does not show evidence of the author having made up the miracle account. A fiction writer ordinarily adds supernatural elements in order to create excitement or spectacle and to capture reader attention, but this writer doesn’t capitalize on the event at all in that way. The fish is mentioned only in two brief verses and there are no descriptive details. It is reported more as a simple fact of what happened. So let’s not get distracted by the fish.

The careful structure of the book reveals nuances of the author’s message. Both episodes show how Jonah, a staunch religious believer, regards and relates to people who are racially and religiously different from him. The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be “in mission” in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour.

Yet to understand all of these lessons for our social relationships, we have to see that the book’s main teaching is not sociological but theological. Jonah wants a God of his own making, a God who simply smites the bad people, for instance, the wicked Ninevites and blesses the good people, for instance, Jonah and his countrymen. When the real God —not Jonah’s counterfeit—keeps showing up, Jonah is thrown into fury or despair. Jonah finds the real God to be an enigma because he cannot reconcile the mercy of God with his justice. How, Jonah asks, can God be merciful and forgiving to people who have done such violence and evil? How can God be both merciful and just?

That question is not answered in the book of Jonah. As part of the entire Bible, however, the book of Jonah is like a chapter that drives the Scripture’s overall plotline forward. It teaches us to look ahead to how God saved the world through the one who called himself the ultimate Jonah (Matthew 12:41) so that he could be both just and the justifier of those who believe (Romans 3:26). Only when we readers fully grasp this gospel will we be neither cruel exploiters like the Ninevites nor Pharisaical believers like Jonah, but rather Spirit-changed, Christ-like women and men.

Many students of the book have noticed that in the first half Jonah plays the “prodigal son” of Jesus’s famous parable (Luke 15:11–24), who ran from his father. In the second half of the book, however, Jonah is like the “older brother” (Luke 15:25–32), who obeys his father but berates him for his graciousness to repentant sinners. The parable ends with a question from the father to the Pharisaical son, just as the book of Jonah ends with a question to the Pharisaical prophet.


Why should we study the book of Jonah?

  1. Because it is God’s inspired word. All scripture is worthy of serious study because of its origin – it comes directly from God!

(2 Tim 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This study will enable us to become completely furnished for every good work. It will enlighten us concerning instruction which is in righteousness. It will be profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training.

The Old Testament scriptures are a valuable source of study for modern believers:

(Rom 15:4)  For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

  1. Because it is relevant to our modern needs. Have you ever been angry with God? Have you ever allowed your personal feelings to become a wall between you and another? Have you ever become so disgusted that you just wished you would die? Have you ever sunk to the depths of self-pity? How often have you relied upon your directions instead of God’s directions for your life? Jonah was a man who experienced anger, resentment, prejudice, inflated trust in self-direction, discouragement, self-pity, joy, faith in God and a host of other emotions.
  2. It presents us not only a true picture of ourselves, but also a clear picture of our great and glorious God in heaven. Jonah thought he had a good idea of who God was and what He was like, but as we read the book we see that Jonah conceived of God only what he wanted and not as God really was (again a problem which we all share in common if we are honest):
  • God is the great Creator of the world
  • He’s in control of everything, even using the natural elements to achieve His ultimate will
  • He’s pictured as One who delivers the penitent, no matter who they are
  • He cares for all His creatures…pagan seamen and inhabitants of Nineveh just as much as He does Jonah
  • He is pictured as a God of goodness…refuting modern thinking that “God of Old Testament is bad and God of New Testament good”
  • God’s heart is large enough to care for all; His hand is adept at providing for all needs

(Acts 10:34-35)  Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism {35} but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

(Rom 3:29)  Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,

We all have stereotypes, and many of these should probably be shattered as well. Jonah is a prophet who does not fit into the stereotypical mold of our thinking when it comes to a prophet of God. He is decidedly different from the other prophets which we find in the Scriptures.[1] The Book of Jonah is written to shatter the stereotype which we have of prophets, especially the prophet Jonah.

Jonah is unique in several ways. First, Jonah is a prophet more by what he is and does than by what he says. Given the biblical content of Jonah’s words as recorded in Scripture, we would have difficulty making a paragraph out of his prophetic messages. (His protests would add more words, but they are not direct words of prophecy. They are more pathetic than prophetic.) Jonah was a man of very few words, but his works, his deeds, were highly prophetic.

The Book of Hosea portrayed Gomer as a picture of Israel, and Hosea, her husband, as a reflection of God. Joel used the plague of locusts to prophesy of the coming of the armies of Israel’s enemies, who would swarm into the land in judgment. So, too, Jonah was a graphic representation of the nation Israel. Just as Jonah received a clear command from God and disobeyed, so Israel was characterized by her disobedience to the commandments which God had given through Moses.

Prophecy is much more than verbal proclamation; it is often dramatization. The Book of Jonah dramatizes the sad spiritual state of Israel, a condition which was reflected in her disobedience to God’s commands and to her divine calling, a condition which would require divine discipline.

Second, Jonah was the only prophet who is recorded as having run away from God. Jonah is not known for his piety, but for his prodigality. Jonah, in his rebellion and disobedience, in his hardness of heart, was a man who typified the rebellion of the nation Israel. As the Lord said to Moses, centuries earlier, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people” (Exod. 32:9).

Third, Jonah is a prophet who is unique not only by his waywardness, but also because the book never portrays him as having repented and as having been restored to the “joy of his salvation.” We see the failures of many men in the Old Testament, but usually these men come to the point of repentance and restoration. David sinned greatly, but he repented. Abraham, Jacob, and Elijah, all had their times of failure, but they grew to maturity, to faith and obedience. Such is not the case with Jonah. Other than the likely possibility that Jonah was the author of this prophecy, we would have little basis for assuming that Jonah ever repented.

It is at this point that I must inform you that I do not see any repentance in Jonah in this short book. Our predisposition to the “pious bias,” that tendency to assume that Old Testament saints must have been doing the right thing for the right reasons—a great fallacy—is very evident in the Book of Jonah. Most all of the commentaries want to see Jonah repenting somewhere in the book, some as early as chapter 1. Frankly, I do not see any repentance, which I think is one of the significant lessons of the book. Beware of making excuses for Jonah. The book is intended to cause the reader to feel more empathy for the pagan (the sailors in chapter 1, the Ninevites in chapters 3 and 4 than for this prodigal prophet.

I believe that Jonah, at virtually every point in this brief book, typifies Israel’s hardness of heart and unrepentant spirit. The book is not written to leave us with a warm, fuzzy, good feeling, but rather to leave us very discomforted, for just as the Book of Jonah closes with no solution to Jonah’s sin, so the Old Testament closes with no solution for Israel’s sin. Only the coming of Christ gives us the sense of relief, repentance, and restoration which God wants us to experience.

About the Prophet Jonah

Those who consider the Book of Jonah an allegory or a parable should note that 2 Kings 14:25 identifies Jonah as a real person, a Jewish prophet from Gath Hepher in Zebulun who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 b.c.). They should also note that our Lord considered Jonah a historic person and pointed to him as a type of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).

The reign of Jeroboam II was a time of great prosperity in Israel; the nation regained lost territory and expanded both its boundaries and influence. But it was a time of moral and spiritual decay as the nation rapidly moved away from God and into idolatry. Jonah’s contemporaries Hosea and Amos both courageously denounced the wickedness of the rulers, priests, and people. It’s worth noting that Hosea and Amos also showed God’s concern for other nations, which is one of the major themes of Jonah.

While Jonah had a ministry to Nineveh, a leading city in Assyria, he also had a ministry to Israel through this little book. He discovered God’s compassion for those outside Israel, even those who were their enemies. God had called His people to be a blessing to the Gentiles (Gen. 12:1-3), but, like Jonah, the Jews refused to obey. And, like Jonah, they had to be disciplined; for Assyria would conquer Israel and Babylon would take Judah into captivity. Jonah’s book magnifies the sovereignty of God as well as the love and mercy of God. Jehovah is the “God of the second chance,” even for rebellious prophets!

Very little is said of the prophet Jonah outside of the Book of Jonah itself. In 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah is said to have prophesied that the southern kingdom of Israel would expand its borders during the reign of Jeroboam, a wicked king. It does seem safe to conclude that this “Jonah” is the same person as the “Jonah” who is the subject of the Book of Jonah, especially since both are identified as “the son of Amittai”[2] (cp. 2 Kings 14:25; Jonah 1:1). The prophecy of Jonah to Jeroboam conveys some important background material to enhance our understanding of this book.

We are told, In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned fortyone years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. –He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gathhepher-. For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. And the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash (2 Kings 14:2327, emphasis mine).-

Jonah was therefore a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel, whose predecessors were Elijah and Elisha. Hosea and Amos would likely have been Jonah’s contemporaries. Assyria, whose capital city was Nineveh, had already begun to exercise her dominance in the near East, but for a time her control would wane, allowing Israel, under Jeroboam’s leadership, to expand her borders. In the text cited above, it is stated clearly that Israel’s prosperity during this period was solely due to the grace of God and to His compassion on His people, who were greatly afflicted. It was not godliness on the part of the nation, or its leadership, which could be viewed as the basis for God’s blessings. Thus, just as Jonah’s ministry in Nineveh would result in an outpouring of God’s grace, so his ministry in Israel would result in God’s grace – with one exception, that is; Israel did not repent of her evil deeds, and God blessed the nation anyway, while the Ninevites sincerely repented of their sins. In this sense God’s grace was even greater to the Israelites than it was to the Ninevites, for God had promised to forgive those who repent (cf. Jer. 18:78). –

Israel’s prosperity would not last long. Amos, Jonah’s contemporary, warned of God’s coming day of judgment on Israel. He condemned Israel for her oppression of the poor and her perversion of justice (5:1113). All the while, the people of Israel continued to practice the ceremonial rituals of worship, but God said,-

“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24). –

Because of her sin, God promised judgment:

“Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts (Amos 5:27).

While the warning of Amos is general in nature, speaking only of Israel’s future exile, Hosea specifically indicated that Israel’s captor would be Assyria:

They will not return to the land of Egypt; But Assyria—he will be their king, Because they refused to return to Me. And the sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels (Hosea 11:57).-

Some scholars find it more difficult to “swallow” the miraculous accounts of this little book than the fish found it to swallow the prophet. I am not going to spend much time or effort to prove the miracles, since these are ultimately a matter of faith. The God who is the Creator of the universe would have no difficulty in accomplishing the miracles described in this book. From our study of this book, it will become evident that the most difficult miracle is that of softening the hardened heart of the prophet. All that is necessary to observe is that our Lord understood the account of the Book of Jonah to be literal (Matt. 12:3941), and so we need only follow in His steps and do likewise.-

[1]1 “Generally the prophetic stories in the OT seek to glorify the man of God in the sense that he is revealed as a noble mediator of God’s own power and glory. But Jonah is no hero: he is deliberately portrayed in a very poor light. The concern of a number of OT prophetic narratives is to trace the process whereby a divine oracle was fulfilled. This book, on the contrary, breaks the pattern surprisingly by showing how and why a divine oracle, concerning the destruction of Nineveh, was not fulfilled.” Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 175.

[2] The name “Jonah” means “dove,” although we would probably be inclined to think of this prophet as a “hawk.” “Amittai” means “[My] true one.”

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Posted by on June 9, 2022 in Encounters with God


A closer view of the cross: The saint must walk alone

Some paths we must walk alone. Find more inspirational quotes to help you  navigate your grief at:… | Inspirational  quotes, Grief, Life

Galatians 2:20 (ESV) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

There seems to be a great throng of professing Christians in our churches today whose total and amazing testimony sounds about like this: “I am thankful for God’s plan in sending Christ to the cross to save me from hell.”

I am convinced that it is a cheap, low-grade and misleading kind of Christianity that impels people to rise and state: “Because of sin I was deeply in debt—and God sent His Son, who came and paid all my debts.”

Of course believing Christian men and women are saved from the judgment of hell, and it is a reality that Christ our Redeemer has paid the whole slate of debt and sin that was against us.

But what does God say about His purpose in allowing Jesus to go to the cross and to the grave? What does God say about the meaning of death and resurrection for the Christian believer?

Surely we know the Bible well enough to be able to answer that: God’s highest purpose in the redemption of sinful humanity was based in His hope that we would allow Him to reproduce the likeness of Jesus Christ in our once-sinful lives!

This is the reason why we should be concerned with this text—this testimony of the Apostle Paul in which he shares his own personal theology with the Galatian Christians who had become known for their backsliding.

It is a beautiful miniature, shining forth as an unusual and sparkling gem, an entire commentary on the deeper Christian life and experience. We are not trying to take it out of its context by dealing with it alone. We are simply acknowledging the fact that the context is too broad to be dealt with in any one message.

This is a verse with such depth of meaning and spiritual potential for the Christian believer that we are obligated to seek its full meaning—so it can become practical and workable and livable in all of our lives in this present world.

It is plain in this text that Paul was forthright and frank in the matter of his own personal involvement in seeking and finding God’s highest desires and provision for Christian experience and victory. He was not bashful about the implications of his own personality becoming involved with the claims of Jesus Christ.

Not only does he plainly testify, “I have been crucified,” but within the immediate vicinity of these verses, he used the words I, myself and me a total of fourteen times….

Only Christianity recognizes why the person who is without God and without any spiritual perception gets in such deep trouble with his own ego.

Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.

In the morning of the world (or should we say, in that strange darkness that came soon after the dawn of man’s creation) that pious soul, Enoch, walked with God and was not, for God took him; and while it is not stated in so many words, a fair inference is that Enoch walked a path quite apart from his contemporaries.

Another lonely man was Noah who, of all the antediluvians, found grace in the sight of God; and every shred of evidence points to the aloneness of his life even while surrounded by people.

Again, Abraham had Sarah and Lot, as well as many servants and herdsmen, but who can read his story and the apostolic comment upon it without sensing instantly that he was a man “whose soul was alike a star and dwelt apart”?

As far as we know, not one word did God ever speak to him in the company of men. Facedown he communed with his God, and the innate dignity of the man forbade that he assume this posture in the presence of others.

How sweet and solemn was the scene that night of the sacrifice when he saw the lamps of fire moving between the pieces of offering. There alone with a horror of great darkness upon him he heard the voice of God and knew that he was a man marked for divine favor.

Moses also was a man apart. While yet attached to the court of Pharaoh he took long walks alone, and during one of these walks while far removed from the crowds he saw an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting and came to the rescue of his countryman.

After the resultant break with Egypt he dwelt in almost complete seclusion in the desert. There while he watched his sheep alone the wonder of the burning bush appeared to him, and later on the peak of Sinai he crouched alone to gaze in fascinated awe at the Presence, partly hidden, partly disclosed, within the cloud and fire.

The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness.

They loved their people and gloried in the religion of the fathers, but their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their zeal for the welfare of the nation of Israel drove them away from the crowd and into long periods of heaviness. “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children” (Psalm 69:8), cried one and unwittingly spoke for all the rest.

Most revealing of all is the sight of that One of whom Moses and all the prophets did write, treading His lonely way to the cross, His deep loneliness unrelieved by the presence of the multitudes.

’Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow The star is dimmed that lately shone.

‘Tis midnight; in the garden now The suffering Savior prays alone.

‘Tis midnight, and from all removed, The Savior wrestles lone with fears;

E’en that disciple whom He loved Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.  —William B. Tappan

He died alone in the darkness, hidden from the sight of mortal man, and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw.

There are some things too sacred for any eye but God’s to look upon. The curiosity, the clamor, the well-meant but blundering effort to help can only hinder the waiting soul and make unlikely, if not impossible, the communication of the secret message of God to the worshiping heart.

Sometimes we react by a kind of religious reflex and repeat dutifully the proper words and phrases even though they fail to express our real feelings and lack the authenticity of personal experience.

Right now is such a time. A certain conventional loyalty may lead some who hear this unfamiliar truth expressed for the first time to say brightly, “Oh, I am never lonely. God said, ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee’ (Joshua 1:5), and Christ said, ‘Lo, I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:20).

How can I be lonely when Jesus is with me?” I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real.

It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience. This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society.

The sense of companionship which he mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people.

Always remember: You cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50).

The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right.

The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world.

His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.

The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

The man who has passed on into the divine presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find.

But he should not expect things to be otherwise. After all, he is a stranger and a pilgrim, and the journey he takes is not on his feet but in his heart. He walks with God in the garden of his own soul—and who but God can walk there with him?

He is of another spirit from the multitudes that tread the courts of the Lord’s house. He has seen that of which they have only heard, and he walks among them somewhat as Zacharias walked after his return from the altar when the people whispered, “He has seen a vision” (see Luke 1:22).

The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity.

  • He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another.
  • He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself.
  • He delights not to be honored but to see his Savior glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected.
  • He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens.
  • He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces (see Psalm 45:8), and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (Psalm 27:10).

His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd—that Christ is All in all, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life’s summum bonum.

Two things remain to be said. 1. The lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness.

He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his griefs to God alone.

  1. The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true.

His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the brokenhearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it.

The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest.

The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.

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Posted by on June 6, 2022 in cross


A closer view of the cross: Almost

Pontius Pilate - Wikipedia

23:11-12 Now Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Then they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.NLT With this prisoner refusing to answer, and looking very little like a great miracle worker, Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Angry at Jesus’ refusal to even answer questions for him, Herod resorted to making a mockery of this man who was supposedly such a great prophet, teacher, and miracle worker.

To make fun of Jesus’ claim to be a king (probably Pilate had sent along this information when he sent Jesus to Herod), Herod put a royal robe on him, probably a purple color with fine workmanship. Herod did not even take the charge seriously. So he neither released the prisoner nor made a judgment about his guilt. He simply sent him back to Pilate.

Herod and Pilate had a rather tenuous relationship. Herod was the part-Jewish ruler of Galilee and Perea. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea and Samaria. Those four provinces, together with several others, had been united under Herod the Great. But when Herod the Great died in 4 b.c., the kingdom was divided among his sons, each of whom was called “tetrarch” (meaning “ruler of a fourth part of a region”). Archelaus, the son who had received Judea and Samaria, was removed from office within ten years, and his provinces were then ruled by a succession of Roman governors, of whom Pilate was the fifth.

Herod Antipas had two advantages over Pilate: he had come from a part-Jewish monarchy, and he had held his position much longer. But Pilate had two advantages over Herod: he was a Roman citizen and an envoy of the emperor, and his position was created to replace that of Herod’s ineffective half brother. It is not surprising that the two men were uneasy around each other. Jesus’ trial, however, brought them together. Because Pilate had recognized Herod’s authority over Galilee, Herod had stopped feeling threatened by the Roman politician. And because neither man knew what to do in this predicament, their common problem united them.


According to the Roman custom of releasing a criminal during the Passover season, Pilate presented Jesus to the people. Pilate did not want to bear the responsibility of putting an innocent man to death. But the crowd insisted on Barabbas’s freedom, the release of a known murderer. That Jesus literally died in Barabbas’s place vividly illustrates the ultimate significance of Jesus’ death. He took the place of not only Barabbas but also all who stand condemned before God’s perfect standard and trust in Christ for salvation.

23:13-14 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him.”NRSV Pilate thought he had gotten rid of his problem, only to have Jesus sent back. The decision still rested on his shoulders. So he attempted to let this innocent man go by telling Jesus’ accusers that he had examined him and not found this man guilty of any of their charges—including subversion, refusal to pay taxes, causing riots, or perverting the people. He didn’t even find Jesus guilty of being the king he claimed to be. Pilate may have incorrectly thought that Jesus was just a poor, deluded man; he did know, however, that Jesus was innocent.


When the stakes are high, it is difficult to stand up for what is right, and it is easy to see opponents as problems to be solved rather than as people to be respected. Had Pilate been a man of real courage, he would have released Jesus regardless of the consequences. But the crowd roared, and Pilate buckled.

People are like Pilate when they know what is right but decide not to do it. When you have a difficult decision to make, don’t discount the effects of peer pressure. Realize beforehand that the right decision could have unpleasant consequences: social rejection, career derailment, public ridicule. Then think of Pilate and resolve to stand up for what is right no matter what other people pressure you to do.

23:15 “Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty.”NLT Pilate could back up his decision with Herod’s conclusion about Jesus. Herod had mocked Jesus but apparently had sent back word to Pilate that he could find nothing worthy of the death penalty. Jesus was tried a total of six times, by both Jewish and Roman authorities, but he was never convicted of a crime. Even when condemned to execution, he had been convicted of no felony. Today, no one can find fault in Jesus. Just like Pilate, Herod, and the religious leaders, however, many still refuse to acknowledge him as Lord.

23:16 “Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”NIV The word “punish” here may not indicate the severe flogging that Jesus received after being sentenced, prior to his crucifixion (as noted in Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15), although John 19:1 reports Jesus being flogged and then brought before the crowd. Pilate may have hoped that the flogging would appease the crowd, and they would pity the man and let him go. Pilate was planning to release Jesus, but first he would punish him—to pacify the Jews and teach the prisoner a lesson to stay out of trouble in the future.

Riding The Fence

Pilate knew that Jesus had done nothing deserving punishment, and certainly not the death penalty. Even so, he didn’t have the courage or the decency to release Jesus; he tried to find a middle position that would allow Jesus to live and still appease the chief priests and the Jewish rulers. He failed, and Pilate is known forever as the man who ordered the crucifixion of the Son of God.

Where do you stand? Have you made up your own mind about Jesus, whether to follow him as Lord and Messiah, or to dismiss him as a misguided martyr? There is no middle ground, no way to ride the fence when it comes to Jesus. You must either embrace him as Lord or reject him as a fraud.

23:17 (For it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).NKJV This verse does not exist in most modern English versions because it does not appear in any of the earliest Greek manuscripts. It may have been added later, perhaps picked up from Mark 15:6 to make a smoother transition between what is recorded in verses 16 and 18. This information helps the reader understand why the Jews called for the release of a prisoner in 23:18. But the text without 23:17 reads just as well; Pilate’s statement about releasing Jesus (23:16) is followed (23:18) by an immediate plea from the crowd to release Barabbas instead.

Each year at Passover, Pilate had made it a custom to release any prisoner the people requested. He may have instituted this custom to be on good terms with them as well as to help cover his many wrongful acts toward them. In any case, it became expected. So, according to the people, it was necessary for him to release a prisoner to them at the feast.

23:18-19 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)NIV The suggestion that Pilate was going to release Jesus (23:16) sent the leaders into a frenzy. Pilate had wanted to release Jesus as the Passover gift (Mark 15:8-9). This had been a public announcement, so many people in the crowd cried out with one voice that Jesus must be put to death. The prisoner they wanted set free was a man named Barabbas. Oddly enough, Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection. Barabbas may have been somewhat of a hero among the Jews for his acts of rebellion against Rome, but he was on death row in a Roman prison. He was a true rebel and revolutionary and had even committed murder. The religious leaders had tried to pin this accusation on Jesus in order to have him put to death, but they chose a man who had done such acts and wanted him set free. Clearly their actions followed no logic. They merely wanted Jesus put to death and would go to any lengths to make sure it happened.

Who was Barabbas? Jewish men had names that identified them with their fathers. Simon Peter, for example, was called Simon, son of Jonah (Matthew 16:17). Barabbas is never identified by his given name, and this name, “Bar-abbas,” simply means “son of ‘Abba'” (or “son of daddy”). He could have been anybody’s son—and that makes for interesting commentary in that he represents all sinners. Barabbas, son of an unnamed father, committed a crime. Because Jesus died in his place, this man was set free. All people too, are sinners and criminals who have broken God’s holy law. Like Barabbas, they deserve to die. But Jesus has died in their place, for their sins, and, by faith, they have been set free.


23:20-21 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”NIV Pilate really wanted to release Jesus. Matthew recorded that even Pilate’s wife had experienced a dream about Jesus and had urged Pilate to let Jesus go (Matthew 27:19). Pilate must have been in a tight spot, because for some reason he put himself in the position of bargaining with the crowd. He had the authority to let Jesus go and then get on with his day; instead, he appealed to them again but to no avail. They wanted Jesus to be crucified.

This was, in itself, an amazing request. Crucifixion was the Roman penalty for rebellion and abhorrent to the Jews. They thought that Jesus’ crucifixion would demonstrate that his life and message had been under God’s curse, for Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (niv). This is just what the Jewish religious leaders wanted. If Jesus were to be executed, it would be by crucifixion. He would die the death of a rebel and slave, not the death of the king he claimed to be. The crucifixion, from the Jewish perspective, was meant to brand Jesus as cursed by God; the crucifixion, from the Christian perspective, pictures Jesus as taking God’s curse against sin upon himself and allowing his people to be set free from sin.

Taking a Stand

What are the non-negotiables in your life? What are those core principles and bedrock beliefs that you will not compromise or sell out no matter what? Consider this question before you are in a crisis whereby your principles and beliefs are put to the test. Pilate seems to have had no such convictions. He knew Jesus was innocent and undeserving of punishment, yet he yielded to pressure from his political enemies to sacrifice him. Like Pilate, most people are put in positions where they have to decide where they will stand. Unlike Pilate, Christians must decide to stand firm on the truth revealed to them by God. Where do you stand?

23:22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”NIV Pilate tried for the third time. He could not fathom why the crowd so badly wanted this man’s death. Jesus had not committed any crime; there were no grounds for the death penalty. Pilate repeated what he had said in 23:16. He would have Jesus punished and then release him.

There are two reasons why Luke stressed these three attempts Pilate had made to release Jesus. First, Luke wanted to show through his Gospel the innocence of Jesus before Roman law. Luke was giving evidence to prove the acceptability of Christianity to his Gentile readers. Second, he was establishing the Jewish guilt for Jesus’ death. In Acts, this is the basis of the evangelistic sermons to the Jews—you killed him; he died for you and rose again; now repent and be converted (Acts 2:36-38; 3:13-16; 13:26-41).

23:23-24 But the crowd shouted louder and louder for Jesus’ death, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded.NLT Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd shouted louder and louder for Jesus’ death . . . so Pilate sentenced Jesus to die. No doubt Pilate did not want to risk losing his position, which may already have been shaky, by allowing a riot to occur in his province. As a career politician, he knew the importance of compromise, and he saw Jesus more as a political threat than as a human being with rights and dignity.

23:25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.NIV Pilate did not want to give Jesus the death sentence. He thought the Jewish leaders were simply jealous men who wanted to get rid of a rival. When they threatened to report Pilate to Caesar (John 19:12), however, Pilate became frightened. Historical records indicate that Pilate had already been warned by Roman authorities about tensions in this region. The last thing he needed was a riot in Jerusalem at Passover time when the city was crowded with Jews from all over the Empire. So Pilate released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, and then surrendered Jesus to their will. One must wonder if Pilate ever questioned himself later—why he had allowed a mob to convince him to set a murderer free and execute an innocent man. Clearly Pilate was a man of little conviction and even less courage. But don’t forget the responsibility of these Jewish leaders who demanded that Jesus die—Matthew recorded that they accepted the responsibility, stating that Jesus’ blood could remain on them and on their children (Matthew 27:25).

Matthew’s Gospel explains that Pilate took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd to symbolize his innocence in condemning Jesus (Matthew 27:24), but this act was no more than self-deception. Jesus may have been surrendered to the will of the mob, but this was still a purely Roman execution. Pilate had to command it in order for it to happen. After releasing Barabbas, Pilate did allow Jesus to be flogged (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15) as part of the Roman legal code that demanded flogging before a capital sentence was carried out. The Romans did it to weaken the prisoner so that he would die more quickly on the cross. Jesus had predicted that he would be flogged (18:32).

Almost. It’s a sad word in any man’s dictionary.

“Almost.” It runs herd with “nearly,” “next time,” “if only,” and “just about.”

It’s a word that smacks of missed opportunities, aborted efforts, and fumbled chances. It’s honorable mention, right field, on the bench, runner-up, and burnt cookies.

Almost. The one that got away. The sale that nearly closed. The gamble that almost paid off. Almost.

How many people do you know whose claim to fame is an almost?

“Did I ever tell you about the time I almost was selected as the Employee of the Year?”

“They say he almost made the big leagues.”

“I caught a catfish that was taller than me! Well … almost.”

As long as there have been people, there have been almosts. People who almost won the battle, who almost climbed the mountain, who almost found the treasure.

One of the most famous “almost’s” is found in the Bible. Pilate. Yet, what he missed was far more significant than a catfish or an award.

He almost performed what would have been history’s greatest act of mercy. He almost pardoned the Prince of Peace. He almost released the Son of God. He almost opted to acquit the Christ. Almost.

He had the power. He had the choice. He wore the signet ring. The option to free God’s Son was …. . and he did ….. almost. (Of course, in this case, God’s plan would have been twarted…but Pilate was still judged by whether he did the right thing or not).

Almost. How many times do these six ugly letters find their way into despairing epitaphs?

“He almost got it together.” “She almost chose not to leave him.” “They almost tried one more time.” “We almost worked it out. ‘He almost became a Christian.”

What is it that makes almost such a potent word? Why is there such a wide gap between “he almost” and “he did”?

In the case of Pilate, we don’t have to look far to find an answer. It is Dr. Luke’s acute commentary in chapter 23 that provides the reason. Luke 23:22 (ESV) A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”

You’re right, Luke. Their voices prevailed. And, as a result, Pilate’s pride prevailed. Pilate’s fear prevailed. Pilate’s power-hunger prevailed.

“Their” voices were not the only voices, you know. There were at least three others Pilate could have heard.

He could have heard the voice of Jesus. Pilate stood eye to eye with him. Five times he postponed the decision hoping to gratify the mob with policies or lashings. Yet Jesus was always sent back to him.

Three times he stood eye to eye with this compelling Nazarene who had come to reveal the truth. “what is truth?” Pilate asked rhetorically (or was it honestly?). Jesus’ silence was much louder than the crowd’s demands. But Pilate didn’t listen.

He could have heard the voice of his wife. She pleaded with him to have nothing to do with that righ­teous man for I have suffered much over him today in a dream.”

One has to pause and wonder about the origin of such a dream that would cause a lady of purple to call a small-town Galilean righteous. But Pilate didn’t.

Or he could have heard his own voice. Surely he could see through the facade. “Ananias, Caiaphas, cut the phoney allegiance; I know where your interests are.”

Surely his conscience was speaking to him. “There is nothing wrong with this man. A bit mysterious maybe, but that’s no reason to string him up.”

He could have heard other voices. But he didn’t. He almost did. But he didn’t. Satan’s voices prevailed.

His voice often does prevail. Have you heard his wooings?

“One time won’t hurt.”

“She’ll never know.”

“Other people do much worse things.”

“At least you’re not being hypocritical.”

His rhetoric of rationalization never ends. The father of lies croons and woos like a traveling peddler, promising the moon and delivering disaster.

“Step right up. Taste my brew of pleasure and sing my song of sensuality. After all, who knows about tomorrow?”

God, meanwhile, never enters a shouting match with Satan. Truth need not scream. He stands perma­nently, quietly pleading, ever present. No tricks, no side shows, no temptations, just open proof.

People’s reactions vary. Some flow immediately to the peddler of poison. Others turn quickly to the Prince of Peace. Most of us, however, are caught somewhere in between, lingering on the edge of Satan’s crowd yet hover­ing within earshot of the message of God.

Pilate learned the hard way that this stance of “almost” is suicidal. The other voices will win. Their lure is too strong. Their call too compelling.

And Pilate also learned that there is no darker hell than the one of remorse. Washing your hands a thousand times won’t free you from the guilt of an opportunity ignored. It’s one thing to forgive yourself for something you did. It is something else to try to forgive yourself for something that you might have done, but didn’t.

Jesus knew that all along.

For our own good, he demanded and demands absolute obedience. He never has had room for “almost” in his vocabulary. You are either with him or against him.

With Jesus “nearly” has to become “certainly.” “Sometimes” has to become ‘(always.” “1f only” has to become “regardless.” And “next time” has to become   time.”

No, Jesus never had room for “almost” and he still doesn’t. “Almost” may count in horseshoes and hand grenades, but with the Master, it is just as good as a “never.”



Posted by on June 2, 2022 in cross


A Closer Look at the Cross: Where Is God? At Calvary!

God's Message at Calvary - Chicago Bible Students

“Where is God?” inquired the mind: “To His presence I am blind. . . .I have scanned each star and sun, Traced the certain course they run; I have weighed them in my scale, And can tell when each will fail; From the caverns of the night I have brought new worlds to light; I have measured earth and sky Read each zone with steady eye; But no sight of God appears In the glory of the spheres.” But the heart spoke wistfully, “Have you looked at Calvary?”  – Thomas C. Clark

If we would know the power of truth we must emphasize it. Creedal truth is coal lying inert in the depths of the earth waiting release. Dig it out, shovel it into the combustion chamber of some huge engine, and the mighty energy that lay asleep for centuries will create light and heat and cause the machinery of a great factory to surge into productive action.

The theory of coal never turned a wheel nor warmed a hearth. Power must be released to be made effective.

In the redemptive work of Christ three major epochs may be noted: His birth, His death and His subsequent elevation to the right hand of God.

These are the three main pillars that uphold the temple of Christianity; upon them rest all the hopes of mankind, world without end. All else that He did takes its meaning from these three Godlike deeds.

It is imperative that we believe all these truths, but the big question is where to lay the emphasis. Which truth should, at a given time, receive the sharpest accent? We are exhorted to look unto Jesus, but where shall we look? Unto Jesus in the manger? on the cross? at the throne? These questions are far from academic. It is of great practical importance to us that we get the right answer.

Of course we must include in our total creed the manger, the cross and the throne. All that is symbolized by these three objects must be present to the gaze of faith; all is necessary to a proper understanding of the Christian evangel.

No single tenet of our creed must be abandoned or even relaxed, for each is joined to the other by a living bond. But while all truth is to be at all times to be held inviolate, not every truth is to be at all times emphasized equally with every other. Our Lord indicated as much when He spoke of the faithful and wise steward who gave to his master’s household “their portion of meat in due season” (Luke 12:42).

Mary brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. Wise men came to worship, shepherds wondered and angels chanted of peace and good will towards men.

All taken together this scene is so chastely beautiful, so winsome, so tender, that the like of it is not found anywhere in the literature of the world. It is not hard to see why Christians have tended to place such emphasis upon the manger, the meek-eyed virgin and the Christ child. In certain Christian circles the major emphasis is made to fall upon the child in the manger. Why this is so is understandable, but the emphasis is nevertheless misplaced.

Christ was born that He might become a man and became a man that He might give His life as ransom for many. Neither the birth nor the dying were ends in themselves. As He was born to die, so did He die that He might atone, and rise that He might justify freely all who take refuge in Him. His birth and His death are history. His appearance at the mercy seat is not history past, but a present, continuing fact, to the instructed Christian the most glorious fact his trusting heart can entertain.

Let us remember that weakness lies at the manger, death at the cross and power at the throne. Our Christ is not in a manger. Indeed, New Testament theology nowhere presents the Christ child as an object of saving faith. The gospel that stops at the manger is another gospel and no good news at all. The Church that still gathers around the manger can only be weak and misty-eyed, mistaking sentimentality for the power of the Holy Spirit.

As there is now no babe in the manger at Bethlehem so there is no man on the cross at Jerusalem. To worship the babe in the manger or the man on the cross is to reverse the redemptive processes of God and turn the clock back on His eternal purposes. Let the Church place its major emphasis upon the cross and there can be only pessimism, gloom and fruitless remorse. Let a sick man die hugging a crucifix and what have we there? Two dead men in a bed, neither of which can help the other.

The glory of the Christian faith is that the Christ who died for our sins rose again for our justification. We should joyfully remember His birth and gratefully muse on His dying, but the crown of all our hopes is with Him at the Father’s right hand.

Paul gloried in the cross and refused to preach anything except Christ and Him crucified, but to him the cross stood for the whole redemptive work of Christ. In his epistles Paul writes of the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, yet he stops not at the manger or the cross but constantly sweeps our thoughts on to the Resurrection and upward to the ascension and the throne.

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18), said our risen Lord before He went up on high, and the first Christians believed Him and went forth to share His triumph. “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).

Should the Church shift her emphasis from the weakness of the manger and the death of the cross to the life and power of the enthroned Christ, perhaps she might recapture her lost glory. It is worth a try.

The Cross Jesus Had in Mind

When Jesus said, “If you are going to follow me, you have to take up a cross,” it was the same as saying, “Come and bring your electric chair with you. Take up the gas chamber and follow me.”

He did not have a beautiful gold cross in mind—the cross on a church steeple or on the front of your Bible. Jesus had in mind a place of execution.

The New Cross

“From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique—a new type of meeting and new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as of the old, but its content is not the same, and the emphasis not as before.

“The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into the public view the same thing the world does, only a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

“The new cross does not slay the sinner; it re-directs him. It gears him to a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect…The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

“The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of DEATH. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took the cross and started down the road has already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise; modified nothing; spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with the victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

“The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear, or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.

“That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers.

The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross….

“We, who preach the gospel, must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern entertainment.

“We are not diplomats, but prophets; and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum.”

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Posted by on May 30, 2022 in cross


A Closer Look at the Cross: The Joy Set Before Him Hebrews 12

reason Jesus endured the cross | Beth ArmstrongChapter 12 contains clues regarding the situation of the believers to whom this letter was written. They have been encouraged not to drift away (2:1), but in this chapter we perceive a community weary of persecution, struggling to stay strong in an increasingly hostile environment, but weakening perhaps to the point of giving up and turning away from their faith.

All that has been addressed so far comes to focus as these weary believers are encouraged to look not around them but at Jesus, their ultimate example of faithfulness and endurance in the face of hatred and humiliation. Not only is Jesus Christ superior to all that the Jews had previously known, but he also had suffered just as they were presently suffering—in fact, Jesus had suffered even more deeply. Yet Christ is now enthroned in the heavens, and the believers can trust that this will be their future as well.

Believers were also encouraged to look upon their suffering as though it were the discipline of a loving Father, not for wrong actions but for helping them to mature spiritually. God alone can take unbelievers’ hostility and turn it into an avenue of blessing and growth for his children. It would be important for believers to carry that perspective into the coming days.

12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.NKJV After hearing the roll call of faithful believers throughout the centuries, illustrating true faith (chapter 11), the readers are challenged to also persevere in their faith. These faithful people from the past now stand as so great a cloud of witnesses. Hebrews uses the athletic imagery of a Greek amphitheater that has rows and rows of spectators, a “great cloud” or a large group.

They do not “witness” as if they were merely spectators, looking down from heaven and watching believers’ lives; instead, they witness through the historical record of their faithfulness that constantly encourages those who follow them. We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with problems, persecution, discouragement, even failure. Others have “run the race” and crossed the finish line, and their witness stirs us to run and win also.

What an inspiring heritage we have! These great believers’ lives, examples, and faithfulness in God, without seeing his promises, speak to all believers of the rewards of staying in “the race.” This metaphor of a footrace run “with endurance” describes a marathon, a test of stamina and commitment. This provided an apt description of the lives of these suffering believers.

Three aspects to this “race” are set before all believers:

Preparation. The first step of preparation to run the race requires that each racer lay aside every weight. This had two meanings for the racers of the ancient world: the clothes that hold back (races often were run naked) or the fat or superfluous weight that would keep an athlete from running efficiently. Christians must be “spiritually trim” and able to run the race unencumbered (see 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:3-4). Many “weights” may not be necessarily sinful acts, but could be things that hold us back, such as use of time, some forms of entertainment, or certain relationships.

The second step of preparation requires believers to avoid the sin which so easily ensnares. Classical Greek runners would race nude so that a garment would not impede or slow them down. Spiritually speaking, Christians should put away any sin that might entangle, impede, or trip them up. Sins such as greed, pride, arrogance, lust, gossip, dishonesty, and stealing can cause believers to drift off spiritual course.

Participation. After Christians prepare, they must participate in the race—they must run. Hebrews gives examples of what it means to “run”: having faith, visiting prisoners, entertaining strangers, believing God, trusting God, worshiping God, knowing Christ, having courage, praying, encouraging others, and confessing sin. These can be summarized as loving God and loving others.

Perseverance. The race that we run is not our own. We did not select the course; it is God who marks it out before us. We should be running for Christ, not ourselves, and we must always keep him in sight. The “race that is set before us” refers to the trials Christians will experience as outlined in 12:4-11.

Finally, Christians persevere, running with endurance the race that is set before [them]. The writer has often referred to having endurance, being diligent, and persevering (see 2:1; 4:11; 6:11; 10:34, 36; 11:27; 12:7; 13:14). The Christian life involves opposition and suffering, requiring believers to give up whatever endangers their relationship with God, to run patiently, and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit. To live effectively, believers must keep their eyes on Jesus. We will stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves or at the circumstances surrounding us.

Running a race requires preparation, participation, and perseverance. Christians prepare to run the race through daily training. We pray, read the word of God, and examine our life for habits that would impede us in the race. We participate in worship, and we persevere by maintaining a Christlike and God-honoring attitude even when the trials are strong and we feel weak.

12:2 Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.NRSV Jesus, our example, perfectly finished his race. Because he stands at the finish line, Christians should fix [their] eyes on Jesus, looking away from other distractions or options (see also 3:1). This is the same focused attention Moses had, as recorded in 11:26, “He was looking ahead to his reward” (niv). Jesus is the ultimate “hero of faith” as carried over from the list of heroes in chapter 11.

The name “Jesus” focuses on Jesus’ humanity; in the flesh, he faced suffering and thus is able to help us. Each member of the “great cloud of witnesses” can be inspiring, but Jesus provides the ultimate example. Jesus is described in two ways:

Pioneer. The Greek word is archegon; it means pioneer, pathfinder, or leader. Perhaps “champion” conveys the best meaning. Jesus is our hero, the first who obeyed God perfectly and thus began the new covenant (see also 2:10). He set the course of faith, ran the race first (6:20), and now waits for us to join him at the end, encouraging us all the way.

Perfecter of our faith. “Perfecter” is teleioten in Greek, meaning finisher, the one who brings us to our intended goal. Jesus is our perfecter, both because he was made the perfect High Priest through suffering and obedience (see 2:10, 5:8) and because he perfects us as we draw closer to him.

After explaining some of Jesus’ credentials and reasons for keeping our eyes him, Hebrews tells how Jesus must be the believers’ example in facing trials. He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Crucifixion was a horrible and shameful way to die. Jesus endured this disgraceful and degrading death; even more, he “disregarded” the shame it represented, despising and scorning it. The human shame amounted to nothing compared to the shame that Jesus felt when he took on the sins of the world. So great were the sins that even the Father had to turn his face away from his Son.

Yet Jesus endured all this suffering on account of the joy that was set before him. He kept his eyes focused on the goal of his appointed course, the accomplishment of his priestly work, and his seat at the right hand of God. Knowing that a great reward was coming for God’s people gave Jesus great joy. He did not look at his earthly discomforts, but he kept his eyes on the spiritual, invisible realities.

When the suffering was complete and Jesus had finished the race appointed for him, he took his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Again Hebrews returns to the focus of Psalm 110 (see commentary on 1:13; 8:1). Christ “sat down” because when he offered up his life, he completed his work. He no longer needs to provide sacrifices or pave a way to God. Just as Christ, our forerunner, received great reward for finishing the race before him and now sits enthroned by God, exalted to a place of highest honor, Christians will also share his reward when they finish the race set before them (see Luke 22:28-30). So, like Christ, we should persevere in times of suffering, looking to Christ as our model and concentrating on our heavenly destination.

12:3 Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.NLT Christ endured great suffering to finish his race. As a result, he can be an inspiring example for believers who face suffering and persecution. When these believers were tempted to focus on their trials, even to the point of considering renouncing their faith, Hebrews encouraged them to think about all [Jesus] endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him. Christ was ridiculed, whipped, beaten, spit upon, and crucified. Even so, he did not give in to fatigue, discouragement, or despair.

By focusing on Christ and what he did on our behalf, we won’t become weary and give up. Trials can cause us to become discouraged and even to despair. During these difficult times, we can remember how Christ endured, and that endurance can inspire us.

Throughout the history of the church, meditation on the suffering of Christ has helped countless martyrs, prisoners, and those being persecuted. Christ’s suffering surpassed any suffering we humans might face.

We can also remember the great cloud of witnesses who demonstrated faith (chapter 11), and they can inspire us.

Facing hardship and discouragement, we must not lose sight of the big picture.

We are not alone; Jesus stands with us. Many have endured far more difficult circumstances than we have experienced.

Suffering trains us for Christian maturity, developing our patience and making our final victory sweet.

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Posted by on May 26, 2022 in cross


A Closer Look at the Cross: Female Finalists

The Women at the Cross of Jesus - YouTube

A closer look at the seven women who stood by at the cross

Matthew 27:55-56 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jn 19:25-27 25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, Dear woman, here is your son, 27and to the disciple, Here is your mother. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

“For in Christ you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Until Jesus came on the scene, women were treated as inferior beings.

* In the Mediterranean region and the near East, women were viewed as inferior beings because of the Patriarchal society.

*  In the Greek society women were held as inferior to men and destined only for childbearing.

*  In the Roman society a wife was the property of her husband.

*  In the Jewish societies, women were only sexual beings, servants of their husbands, with limited religious roles.  They were not required to make the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the feasts. They didn’t go to school where the Torah was taught. They were not allowed to read or recite scriptures.

After Jesus began his ministry, his treatment and acceptance of women caused problems with the Jewish leaders, his apostles, and others who had allowed women to become stereotyped as lower class beings.  The women Jesus met were astonished at his attitude and acceptance of them [Examples: the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:7-26); the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)].  Jesus was the original women’s liberator of his day.

It is no wonder then that women became devoted to Jesus and his teachings.  It offered them freedom they never had before.  Several women became disciples of Jesus and supported him in his ministry – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many other unnamed women (Luke 8:2). These women, along with others mentioned in other scriptures – Salome, Mary of Bethany, and Mary the wife of Clopas, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, followed Jesus throughout his ministry to his crucifixion on the cross.

These women not only supported Jesus with their means, but they also stood by Jesus and accompanied him throughout his arrest and trial (Luke 23:39-43) and the crucifixion (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

What caused these women to be so dedicated to Jesus and his ministry? The answer, in part, is that they had benefited so greatly from Jesus (some had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities by Jesus) and his teachings (like that of Galatians 3:26-28) that they couldn’t help but want to show their gratitude and love by using their time, talents, and treasury in the support of Jesus’ ministry.

These women could do very little. They couldn’t speak before the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ defense; they couldn’t appeal to Pilate; they couldn’t stand against the crowds; they couldn’t overpower the Roman guards.

But they did what they could. They stayed at the cross when the disciples had not even come; they followed Jesus’ body to the tomb; they prepared spices for his body. Because these women used the opportunities they had, they were the first to witness the resurrection.

God blessed their devotion, initiative, and diligence. As believers, we should take advantage of the opportunities we have and do what we can for Christ.

The phrase ‘Afar off” indicates that some did stand far off, but some stood at the very foot of the cross (John 19:25). Their love ran deep and their devotion and courage clear. They triumphed over fear. They did not fear the enemies of Christ: they triumphed simply because they loved (1 John 4:18).

Some of these people followed Jesus for the wrong reasons.  Some wanted only physical nourishment and were rebuked by Jesus (John 6:22-26).  Others, when they realized what was necessary to follow Jesus, no longer went about with him (John 6:66).  At times even his own apostles denied knowing him (Matthew 26:69-75), fled from his presence (Matthew 26:56) and followed from afar (Matthew 26:58).

However, there was one group who stuck with Jesus throughout his ministry, from beginning to end.  These were the women, we’ll call them “female finalists,” who had totally committed themselves to Jesus and his ministry.  Through thick and thin, good times and bad, these women were always there, ready to assist and help Jesus in any way that they could.  These women deserve a closer look from us today.

Who were these women who stuck with Jesus through thick and thin?  What were their backgrounds, their names, their reason for such devotion to Jesus’ ministry? What is their backgrounds, their names, their reason for such devotion to Jesus’ ministry?  To answer these questions, we must go to the gospel accounts.

Seven women are mentioned in scripture by name as being followers and/or active supporters of Jesus and his ministry:

  1. Mary Magdalene:

This Mary was distinguished from other Marys by her second name. It signified the place of her birth.  Just as Jesus was sometimes called the Nazarene because of the town Nazareth, Mary was called Magdalene because of the town Magdala.  Magdala means “tower or castle” and in the time of Christ was a thriving1 populous town on the coast of Galilee, about three miles from Capernaum.

Dye works and primitive textile factories contributed to the wealth of the community.  It may be that Mary Magdalene’s source of funds from which she supported Jesus’ ministry was somehow derived from these town industries.

Mary Magdalene was one of the women that Jesus healed of evil spirits and infirmities (Luke 8:2).  She was said to have had seven demons cast out from her by Jesus (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).  She supported the ministry of Jesus from out of her means (Luke 8:2). She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, standing afar off with several other women (Matthew 27:56: Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

She was also present at the tomb of Jesus when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus rolled the stone to the door of Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:61; Mark 16:47; John 19:38-42).  She went to the tomb of Jesus after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, and witnessed the great earthquake and the angel rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1).  Jesus appeared to her as she stood weeping outside the tomb (John 20:11-17).

  1. Joanna

Joanna’s husband was Chuzas, the house-steward of Herod.  As a steward, Chuzas was responsible for the management of Ilerod’s monetary expenditures, a position which would require both intelligence and ability.  This position of importance in all probability afforded both Chuzas and his wife Joanna an excellent income, from which Joanna may have supported the ministry of Jesus.

This Joanna was the wife of Chuzas, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3). She was one of the women that Jesus healed of evil spirits and infirmities (Luke 8:2).  She supported the ministry of Jesus from out of her means (Luke 8:2).  She went to the tomb of Jesus after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, and witnessed the great earthquake and the angel rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).

  1. Salome

Salome was possibly one of Jesus’ earliest female disciples, having ministered to him when he was in Galilee.

This Salome was the wife of Zebedee, the mother of the two apostles James and John, and the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (John 19:25).  She ministered to Jesus when he was in Galilee (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 15:40-41).  She sought seats of honor for her sons from Jesus (Matthew 20:20-24; Mark 10:35-40).  She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, standing afar off with several other women (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

She went to the tomb of Jesus after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, and witnessed the great earthquake and the angel rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).

  1. Mary of Bethany

This Mary was the Mary that annointed the head of Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive ointment (pure nard) and wiped his feet with her hair (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8).  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus when he visited in the house of her sister, Martha (Luke 10:38-42).  Mary also had a brother named Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:5-44).  Mary, Martha and Lazarus were among those whom Jesus loved (John 11:5).

  1. Susanna

This Susanna was one of the women that Jesus healed of evil spirits and infirmities (Luke 8:2). She supported the ministry of Jesus from out of her means (Luke 8:2).

  1. Mary, “the other Mary” Scripture References:

This Mary was the wife of Clopas and the mother of the apostle James the younger and Joses (Joseph).

She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, standing afar off with several other women (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).  She was also present at the tomb of Jesus when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus rolled the stone to the door of Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:61; Mark 16:47; John 19:38-42).  She went to the tomb of Jesus after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, and witnessed the great earthquake and the angel rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).

  1. Mary, the mother of Jesus Scripture References:

Mary was the earthly mother of Jesus (Matthew 1:18,25).  Mary’s husband was Joseph (Matthew 1:18), a carpenter by trade (Mark 6:3).  An angel appears to her and tells her she will conceive (Luke 1:26-38).  Mary visits Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:39-56).  Mary travels with Joseph to Bethlehem; gives birth while there (Luke 2:1-7).  Mary travels with Joseph to Jerusalem with Jesus, who is now 12 years old (Luke 2:41-42).  She asks Jesus to help at a marriage feast when wine runs out (John 2:1-11).

She went with her sons to the temple to see Jesus but crowds prevented them (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21).  She was also the mother of four other sons – James, Joses, Judas and Simon – and at least two daughters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).  She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, standing afar off with several other women (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).  Her future care was entrusted to the apostle John by Jesus as he hung on the cross (John 19:26-27).  She was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:14).

Additional comments

(Matthew 27:55-56) Women: the courage and love of the women. Note the following phrases.

“Many women”: many were there. When the men fled, many women demonstrated courage.

“Afar off”: some did stand far off, but some stood at the very foot of the cross (John 19:25). Their love ran deep and their devotion and courage clear. They triumphed over fear. They did not fear the enemies of Christ: they triumphed simply because they loved (1 John 4:18).

27:55-56 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.NRSV There had been many people at the cross who had come only to mock and taunt Jesus or, like the religious leaders, to revel in their apparent victory. Some of Jesus’ faithful followers were at the cross as well. Among the disciples, only John was there, and he recorded in his Gospel in graphic detail the horror he observed. Many women were also there, looking on from a distance, perhaps out of custom or out of respect for the victims.

Some of these women had come from Galilee with Jesus for the Passover. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala, a town near Capernaum in Galilee. She had been released from demon possession by Jesus (Luke 8:2). Another Mary is distinguished (from Mary Magdalene and Mary, Jesus’ mother) by the names of her sons who may have been well known in the early church. The mother of the sons of Zebedee was the mother of the disciples James and John. Her name was Salome (20:20-21), and she was probably the sister of Jesus’ mother. These women had been faithful to Jesus’ ministry, following him and providing for his material needs (see Luke 8:1-3). John wrote that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was present and that, from the cross, Jesus spoke to John about taking care of Mary (John 19:25-27).

These women could do very little. They couldn’t speak before the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ defense; they couldn’t appeal to Pilate; they couldn’t stand against the crowds; they couldn’t overpower the Roman guards. But they did what they could. They stayed at the cross when the disciples had not even come; they followed Jesus’ body to the tomb; they prepared spices for his body. Because these women used the opportunities they had, they were the first to witness the Resurrection. God blessed their devotion, initiative, and diligence. As believers, we should take advantage of the opportunities we have and do what we can for Christ.

Jn 19:25-27 25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, Dear woman, here is your son, 27and to the disciple, Here is your mother. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

There is a glaring absence of Jesus’ men at the cross. To our knowledge, John was the only one who showed up. He stands in the midst of a group of women. John mentions four of them while Mark and Matthew mention only three. Of course Mark and Matthew list the women who were there when Jesus died and John lists the women present when Jesus was first crucified. It may be that John and Mary leave right after Jesus speaks to them.

In Jesus’ third recorded statement from the cross, he commits his mother into the care of John, his beloved friend. This makes sense when you understand that Jesus’ “family” consists of faithful believers and Jesus’ half-brothers don’t fit that category until after his resurrection. Furthermore, John is likely Jesus’ cousin (see chart below). Therefore, he is the closest believing relative. John takes her home and gently cares for this dear saint who had a “sword wound” in her soul (Lk 2:35).

John 19:25 Mark 15:40 Matthew 27:56
Mary, Jesus’ mother
Mary’s sister Salome Mother of Zebedee’s sons (i.e., James and John)
Mary, wife of Clopas Mary, mother of James the younger & Joses Mary, mother of James and Joses
Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene

Section 168 – Women Watch the Tomb, Soldiers Guard It (Mt 27:61-66; Mk 15:47; Lk 23:55-56)

[MT 27:]61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary {the mother of JosesMK} were sitting there opposite the tomb {[and] saw where he was laid.MK)

[LK 23:]55[These] women, who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

The women want to pay their respects to Jesus but they keep their distance from these two prominent members of the Sanhedrin. How could they know these two are sympathetic to Jesus? They also stand aloof due to the social stigma of men and women interacting. In addition, Carson states that Roman law forbade mourning executed criminals (p. 584). These two Marys want, in the worst way, to show their love for Jesus, but are simply not able to at this time. So they do the next best thing. They find out where Jesus is laid and plan to return at the first available opportunity. That will be at the crack of dawn on Sunday. For now, they must run back to town before sundown to prepare the necessary spices for anointing the dead.

Mt 27:62-66 62The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 Sir, they said, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, After three days I will rise again. 64So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.

65Take a guard, Pilate answered. Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how. 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Pilate thinks that he is through with Jesus at 9 a.m. on Friday. But about 3 p.m. the Jews come and ask that he order Jesus’ legs broken. Shortly after that Joseph arrives and asks for the body of Jesus. Now, Saturday morning a third delegation arrives asking Pilate to provide a guard for the tomb.

It’s not that the chief priests believe Jesus could raise from the dead. They are merely afraid that his disciples will try to propagate a hoax by stealing Jesus’ body and claiming a resurrection in fulfillment of Jesus’ “supposed” prophecy. Now it should not surprise us that the chief priests were more perceptive than the disciples in interpreting Jesus’ words. They were pretty good at hermeneutics, just miserably poor at faith.

They ask Pilate for a Roman guard for three days. Pilate’s response is somewhat ambiguous: “You have a guard” [echete koustōdian]. Does he mean, “You got it. Take what you need” (as the NIV implies)? Or does he mean, “You have your own temple guards, use them!”? While both are possible, it seems that Pilate actually gives the Jews a Roman guard. First, he wants to avoid any potential conflicts which could flair into civil disorder. Second, after the resurrection, these guards are worried about the report getting back to Pilate (Mt 28:14). Temple guards wouldn’t be concerned about that. The Roman guards, on the other hand, might very well report first to the Sanhedrin rather than to Pilate since it was the Sanhedrin’s corpse that they “lost” (Mt 28:11). Third, Pilate puts his seal on the stone in front of the tomb. This is nothing more than a bit of clay or wax impressed with a signet ring, which holds a cord in front of the tomb. By moving the stone you would break the seal of clay/wax. It is not hard to do, but by doing so you violate the authority of the one whose seal is on the clay/wax. In other words, with Pilate’s seal on the stone, they would be trespassing against the authority of Rome — a violation of no small consequence. Thus, this little seal would dissuade would-be thieves. God, however, is not intimidated by it in the least.

Conclusion of Lesson

Love is like that.  When you love Jesus and his church, you don’t hesitate to give yourself totally to see the kingdom grow.  Your time becomes God’s time; your talents become God’s talents; your money and material possessions become God’s money and possessions.  You want to take a stand for his kingdom.  Jesus becomes the center of your life, number one in your heart.  The “female finalists” of this study knew that they had found the pearl of great price.  Their actions, their deeds, everything they said and did, proclaimed that they were followers of Jesus.  They were like the seed grown in the good soil in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23).  They stuck with Jesus through thick and thin.

As you look at your own life today, can you say that others see Jesus reflected in your life?  Does your light shine brightly for Jesus and his church or is it hid under a basket?  Does your checkbook prove that Jesus is first in your life?  If you punched a time clock for the Lord, how long would it show you that you actually put in for the work of the kingdom? Can you really say that Jesus is the lord of your heart?  Why not put him first right now and forever more.  Look what God has done for you – what are you doing for him?

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Posted by on May 23, 2022 in cross


A Closer Look at the Cross: Forgotten Forgiveness (Judas Iscariot)

A closer look at the apostle who was never at the cross

Death of Judas Iscariot, Gospel of Matthew Painting by New Digital Museum

61 Because Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining about this, he said to them, “Does this cause you to be offended? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 So Jesus added, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” 66 After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” 70 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?” 71 (Now he said this about Judas son of Simon Iscariot; for Judas, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.) (John 6:61-71)

1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of perfumed oil made of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfumed oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” 6 (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box he used to take what was put into it.) 7 So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me” (John 12:1-7).

In this life there are a good many things that are very difficult to understand or to explain. In our text, the disciples found it extremely difficult to comprehend what Jesus was saying when He told them that one of them was about to betray Him.

When we read John’s account of this event in John chapter 13, we find it hard to understand why the disciples didn’t quickly grasp what Jesus was telling them. When we marvel at the “dullness” of the disciples, we forget that we read through John’s Gospel somewhat like I watch one of my favorite movies—“What’s Up, Doc?”

I know that movie so well I start laughing a full minute before one of my favorite funny scenes occurs on screen. For example, I love the chase scene down the hills of San Francisco, especially the one in which the plate glass window is finally broken, after a number of near misses. And so, when that part gets close, I start warming up for it, laughing at what seems to be nothing at all.

We are tempted to read the Gospels like I watch my favorite movies. We know the entire story, from beginning to end. And thus, when we read any one text, we know what came before, just as we know how it all will end. We know, for example, that Jesus is going to be arrested, found guilty, and crucified—all within a few hours. We also know that He is going to be raised from the dead, and that He will ascend into heaven and return to the Father. But what is so clear to us in hindsight was not at all clear to the disciples.

They heard Jesus say that He was about to be betrayed by one of them. Peter even inquired of Jesus (through John, it would seem) about just who the betrayer was. And Jesus told John that it would be the one who took from His hand the piece of bread that He dipped into the dish. Yet when Jesus dipped the bread into the dish and gave it to Judas, who took it, no one did anything. No one even seemed to grasp what Jesus had just indicated. You have to understand that what Jesus was saying was so far from what they expected, they simply could not grasp what seemed to be clearly indicated.

All of this was for a reason—a very important reason. This reason we shall see as we study our text in this lesson. There are many important truths for us to consider and to apply here, so let us listen well, and let us ask the Spirit of God to make the meaning and the application of this text clear to us.

Judas—Putting the Pieces Together

In every listing of the names of the twelve apostles in the New Testament, this apostle’s name is always listed last (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16).  In addition, every listing of this apostle’s name carries with it a derogatory comment that always follows. It is either “who betrayed him” (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:14) or “who became a traitor” (Luke 6:16).  The apostle’s name is Judas.


The name “Judas” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Judah1‘.  One of the twelve tribes of Israel had this name.  It was also the name of a famous soldier who led the Jews in a successful revolt against Syria.  To a Jew, the name “Judas” had the same honor as the name George Washington or Abraham Lincoln would have to an American citizen.  Its small wonder then that many Jewish parents named their sons Judas during the period when Jesus was born on the earth.  It was a practice soon to end.

To distinguish the apostle Judas from the other men named Judas, a second name was attached to his name.  It was “Iscariot”.  Iscariot could have meant many things – gain or reward; an inhabitant of Jericho, or a dagger-bearer.  Whatever it meant, Iscariot was also the name Judas’ father wore.  His name was Simon Iscariot (John 6:71; 13:26).  Some biblical scholars think Iscariot meant leather coat, implying that Simon and Judas may have been leatherworkers by trade.  Others think Iscariot meant the name of a place, Kerioth or Cariot, an Old Testament town in the region of Judea (Joshua 15:25).

Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others. It may be helpful for us to begin this lesson by reviewing what we know about Judas in sequential order:[1]

  • Judas is chosen as one of the 12 (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19).
  • Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
  • Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
  • In all of this, Judas never comes to faith in Jesus as his Messiah (John 6:64-65; 13:10-11, 18; 17:12).
  • Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29).
  • Judas begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
  • [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
  • Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
  • Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).
  • Judas is with Jesus and the disciples during the first part of the Last Supper, apparently in the place of honor, next to Jesus (John 13:26).
  • At the meal, Jesus indicates that one of the disciples will betray Him (Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21), and then, by means of His dipping a piece of bread and handing it to Judas, our Lord indicates that it is Judas who will betray Him (Mark 14:20; John 13:21-27).
  • Judas accepts the bread Jesus offers him, after which Satan immediately possesses him (John 13:27).
  • Jesus dismisses Judas to carry out his terrible deed (John 13:27-30).
  • Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus, where he identifies Jesus as the One they are to arrest by kissing Him (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:1-9).
  • Judas regrets his betrayal and tries to reverse his actions by returning the money, but it is too late. Judas then goes out and hangs himself (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:15-19).

Judas—Who Would Have Ever Thought …

John 13:18-20 (NIV) 18“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’19“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”


“This is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'”NIV Jesus’ betrayal was necessary to fulfill Scripture—specifically, Psalm 41:9. The expression pictures a horse lifting his heel ready for a swift (and sometimes deadly) kick. Jesus drew from Psalm 41 because it describes how one of David’s friends turned against him:

 “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9 niv). This may have referred to the story of David’s trusted companion, Ahithophel, who betrayed David and then went and hanged himself (see 2 Samuel 16:20-17:3, 23). Judas, who had been with Jesus and was a trusted companion (Judas was keeper of the money), would betray Jesus and then hang himself. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, God Himself, is truly hidden.

C. S. Lewis


Jesus had known all along that Judas would betray him (see 6:64, 70-71; Matthew 17:22-23; 20:17-19), but he predicted the betrayal in the presence of his disciples so that they would realize, when the betrayal actually occurred, that it had been prophesied in Scripture (see Acts 1:16). This would strengthen their faith.

13:20 “Whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”NRSV This verse follows the thought of verse 16, where Jesus spoke of being a servant to the one who sent him. He would send forth his disciples so that whoever would receive them would receive Jesus and, in turn, receive the one who sent Jesus—God the Father.

The word betrayal denotes horrible breaches of trust, unfaithfulness, treachery, and duplicity. In the history of a nation, it is acts of treason whereby someone gives “aid and comfort to the enemy.” In the history of the church, it is the immoral behavior of pedophile priests, money-grubbing televangelists, and inexcusable silence in the face of racism or sexism. In families, it is adultery or child abuse. In our individual Christian lives, it is following the tugs of flesh over Spirit and offering our pitiful rationalizations for sin over repenting in genuine sorrow.

Today’s sermon is about betrayal. No, actually it is about two acts of betrayal. And I hope there is more to be learned here this morning from the second than the first. I have certainly prayed while preparing it that God will use this sermon not to drive anyone to the despondency of a Judas-response to failure but to the gracious restoration of a Simon Peter-response. For this lesson is ultimately not about Judas or Peter but – as all the Gospel of John was originally crafted to be – Jesus.

The light of Jesus dispels the darkness of Satan. The grace of Jesus conquers the sins we commit and even the addictive power of sin in our hearts. The forgiveness of Jesus is greater than the judgment and condemnation of our arrogant disobedience.

Yes, Jesus knew what Judas was up to that night. But when did he know? It isn’t clear. One thing that does seem clear to me is that Jesus did not pick Judas back at the start of his ministry and manipulate him to that awful deed.

If Judas betrayed the Son of Man because God willed and arranged the event, he was obedient rather than disobedient to the divine will and thus should be honored rather than despised for his deed. Judas wound up fulfilling a divine prediction, but the ability to predict accurately testifies to God’s timelessness (i.e., ability to know past, present, and future simultaneously) rather than to his activity in bringing about all things that happen.

Who would have ever thought that Jesus would be betrayed, and by one of His 12 disciples? Answer: none of the 12, except for Judas. The Gospels do not really mention Judas all that often, but we do read of Judas being sent out by Jesus, along with the other 11 (Matthew 10:1ff.; Mark 3:19; Luke 9:1ff.).

Imagine, Judas was used of our Lord to manifest His power over the demons, and over every kind of illness: “He called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1).

Who would have ever imagined that he would refuse to trust in Jesus as his Messiah?

Think of all the miracles which took place before the eyes of Judas. He witnessed the casting out of demons, the giving of sight to the blind (even a man born blind—John 9), and the raising of the dead (e.g., John 11). He was there when Jesus stilled the storm (see Luke 8:22-25) and when He walked on the sea (John 6:19-21). He took part in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and then of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39). Each of the other disciples grew in their faith at each new manifestation of our Lord’s power, love, mercy, and holiness. Not so with Judas.

And yet Judas seems to be the last one any of the disciples would have suspected of being the betrayer of whom our Lord was speaking. He seems to have been seated in the place of honor at the Last Supper, beside our Lord. He was the one entrusted with the money that was given to our Lord (John 12:6). Even when Jesus indicated that Judas was His betrayer by giving him the bread, the disciples still did not recognize him for who he really was. In this sense, I think, Judas was just like his “real father,” the devil:

13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

A dark shadow now falls across the scene as Jesus deals with Judas, the traitor. Judas was the treasurer of the group (12:6) and was certainly held in high regard by his fellow disciples.

At this hour, Jesus had TWO great concerns: (1) to fulfill the Word of God (13:18-30), and (2) to magnify the glory of God (vs. 31-35).

Jesus tells His disciples that what He is saying does not apply to all of them. His words apply to those whom He has chosen. The inference is clear: there is someone among them whom He has not chosen, who is not a true believer. It is to this person that our Lord’s words do not apply. But what has Jesus been “saying” that doesn’t apply to Judas? In particular, I think it is the words of verse 17: “If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus has been speaking of following His example by serving one another. They, as His disciples, are to do as their Master has shown them. But Judas is not truly one of our Lord’s own; he is not a true disciple of Jesus. He, of course, is not “clean,” as the other disciples are (13:10-11). Jesus has just said that the real blessing is not just in knowing and understanding what He has taught them, but in doing what He commands. If they (His disciples) do what He has commanded, they will be blessed. Good works are of great benefit to the Christian.

They contribute nothing to his salvation, but they do evidence true conversion, and they are the basis for the believer’s rewards. Good works benefit the Christian, but good works don’t benefit the unbeliever. When good works are done apart from faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and sanctification, they are actually an insult to God. Unbelievers who work to please Him while rejecting His Son are saying, in effect, “No thanks. I don’t need your righteousness, I’ll just produce my own. And so I won’t need your Son, either.”

Trusting and obeying God is a blessing; working hard to please God by our own efforts is an offense. Thus, only the Christian can be truly blessed by doing what God commands.

The things of which our Lord is speaking to His disciples are very important, and of great value to His true disciples (excluding Judas). His words are prophetic, spelling out what the future holds for Him and for Judas. The things of which He is speaking actually fulfill prophecy. Judas, who is reclining beside Jesus, and is about to take the bread which He offers, is one whose terrible betrayal has been foretold. John now cites Psalm 41:9, which says, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’

It was a very significant thing to sit at a man’s table and to eat his bread. In the ancient world, sharing a meal together was almost to make a covenant (in fact covenants were often made in association with a meal).[2] You will remember the story of Lot, who invites perfect strangers into his home in Sodom, and then makes a shocking offer to the men of Sodom, in an attempt to protect his guests:

1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” 6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19:1-8, NKJV).

To share a meal with guests was to offer them not only provisions, but protection. Lot was so committed to his obligation to protect these “strangers” that he was willing to sacrifice the sexual purity of his daughters to protect his guests. I don’t pretend to comprehend this, or to defend it. I am simply pointing out that in the ancient Jewish (and perhaps more broadly, the Near Eastern) culture, inviting a man into one’s home and to his table was a most significant act.

If the host made such commitments to his guest(s), one would expect the guest to reciprocate in some way. And yet the one who sat at our Lord’s table and ate His bread actually betrayed Him. What a horrible thing Judas is about to do to His Master, and immediately after eating His bread.

John wants us to see that all this was prophesied ahead of time. He wants His disciples to know that much prophecy will not be understood at the time it is being fulfilled, but in hindsight, it can be seen clearly.[3] Jesus is not telling His disciples these things so that they will understand Him and believe what He has said at that very moment. He tells them these things which will occur in the future so that they will believe when these prophecies are fulfilled. Then His disciples will know that Jesus was in full control, bringing about that which the Father had purposed in eternity past. In His earthly sojourn, Jesus was always in control. He was never, a helpless victim.

In verses 19 and 20, Jesus makes it very clear that all of this is about believing in Him. Jesus tells His disciples what is going to happen ahead of time, so that when these things take place they will remember He told them beforehand and believe in Him as the Messiah.[4]

While Jesus is indirectly exposing Judas as an unbeliever here, His emphasis is on believing, believing in Him. This is the thrust of verse 20. Whoever accepts the one Jesus sends (and He will soon be sending them out, as we see in the “Great Commission”—Matthew 28:18-20) accepts Jesus Himself. Whoever accepts Jesus as God’s “sent One” (see John 1:1-18) accepts the Father, who sent Him.

Although these words seem to be directed to His believing disciples, I cannot help but wonder if this is not also one last appeal to Judas to believe. To betray Jesus is certainly the opposite of believing in Him.

He quotes from Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Jesus was concerned that Judas’ treachery would not weaken His disciples’ faith. This is why He related it to the  Word of God: when the disciples saw all of this fulfilled, it would make their faith stronger (see John 8:28). Judas had been disloyal, but He expected them to be loyal to Him and His cause.

After all, He was God the Son sent by God the Father. They were the Christ’s chosen representatives; to receive them would be the same as receiving the Father and the Son: “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone Isend acceptsme; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

The remarkable thing is that the others at the table with Jesus did not know that Judas was an unbeliever and a traitor. Up to the very hour of his treachery, Judas  was protected by the Savior whom he betrayed.

  1. Judas, the Trusted Apostle

Very little is known about Judas Iscariot until the last week of Jesus life.  Until then, only his name, the accompanying derogatory remarks, and one other reference is ever made about him.  This other reference is found in John 6:70 where Jesus stated to Peter, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”  John states in the following verse that Jesus “spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him”.  These references paint a negative picture of Judas Iscariot, but remember Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote their gospel accounts after the fact, thereby prejudicing their views of Judas because of what he had done.

Until Judas Iscariot committed his betrayal act, the apostles apparently placed great trust in Judas.  They made him their treasurer and entrusted him with the financial affairs of the group (John 13:29).  This, in spite of the fact that Matthew would have been the logical member of the group to perform this important duty because of his background, training and experience as a tax collector.  At the Last Supper, it is thought that

Judas held the seat of honor next to Jesus, sitting to his left.  If so, Jesus would have been reclining on Judas at the table and, as the host, would have been passing the prepared food to Judas first.  This appears to have been the case when Jesus said he would pass the morsel of food to the one that was to betray him (John 13:26).  When Judas left the table to perform his infamous betrayal, none of the other apostles suspected anything, for they assumed he was leaving to perform a noble deed or purchase additional supplies (John 13:29);  it being a tradition among the Jews to give something to the poor on the passover night.  The apostles must have put complete trust in Judas until the very moment of his evil deed.

  1. Judas, the Treacherous Apostle

As the last days of Jesus’ life on earth unfold, additional glimpses of Judas Iscariot are shown.  Two days before the Passover, Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:37-38; John 12:1-8).  A supper had been prepared for Jesus; Martha was serving and her brother Lazarus was seated at the table with Jesus (John 12:2).  Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, brought an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment – a pound of pure nard, and poured it on the head of Jesus as he sat at the table (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3; John 12:3).  She wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:3).  The house filled with the fragrance of the ointment (John 12:3).  When the apostles saw what took place, Judas Iscariot said, “Why was this ointment wasted?  For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denani, and given to the poor” (Mark 14:4-5).

John’s account explains Judas’ motive for his remark, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it” (John 12:6).  Thus Judas was found to possess the root of all evil – the love of money (I Timothy 6:10).  It may have been Judas that the apostle was referring to when he wrote, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (I Timothy 6:10).  If only Judas could have known the words of Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.”

Money was Judas’ main motivation for betraying Jesus.  He bargained with the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).  Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a good slave; the wages of the foolish shepherd in Zechariah 11:12-13.  Judas had seen Jesus escape from hostile crowds in the past (Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59; 10:31,39).  In his own mind Judas probably reasoned that Jesus would do it once again.  He would be thirty pieces of silver richer and Jesus would still remain free.  What could be better? But this time things did not go as Judas had expected they would.  Jesus did not try to escape.  He was arrested and taken away by the crowd. Judas had made a terrible error. in judgement.  He had found out what happens when Satan enters your heart (Luke 22:3; John 13:2).  Even an appeal from Jesus himself had not stopped him.  When Jesus told the apostles that one of them would betray him (Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:18-30), Judas had asked, “Is it I, Master?” and Jesus had said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25).

III. Judas, the Terminated Apostle

When Judas realized that Jesus wasn’t going to escape from his captors, he began to rethink his plan.  He repented and took back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).  But the chief priests and elders would not take back the money saying, “What is it to us?  See to it yourself” (Matthew 27:4).  Judas then threw down the money in the temple and departed.  He then went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5).  His body later fell and burst open (Acts 1:18).

Conclusion of Lesson

Judas had tried to make things right with himself and Jesus.  He had urged the chief priests and elders to take the money back, hoping possibly that they would let Jesus go.  When that attempt failed, he lost all sense of reality.  He forgot what he had seen Jesus do in the past forgive the sins of other people – the paralytic let down through the roof (Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-5; Luke 5:17-26); the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:7-26), the man who had been lame for thirty-eight years (John 5:2-14); the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11).

Time and time again he had seen the bad situations Peter had gotten himself into, seen him turn to Jesus for help, and each time be restored to the good graces of the Lord.  He had heard Jesus teaching, “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15); and “Come unto 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” (Matthew 11:28).  He had heard Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question about how many times a brother should be forgiven, M1 do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21)   He had heard Jesus teach that, “All sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemes they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).  He had seen the compassion Jesus had for men and women who were possessed of demons.

Yes, he had seen and heard all this, but he did not apply what he had seen and heard to his own situation he found himself in.  He thought life wasn’t worth living and that Jesus would never forgive him.  He did not give himself a second chance.  He forgot the compassion and comfort available to him through Jesus.  He took matters into his own hands and committed suicide.

When life’s burdens crumble in around you, suicide is not the answer. When you think you are in bad situations that you can never get out of, suicide is not the answer.  When you have done things that you think you can’t forgive yourself for, suicide is not the answer answer.’  Christ is the answer!  He can made life’s darkest hour light again. He can turn night into day.  He can restore your self-respect and help you work your problems out.  He can be the lighthouse in the storm.  Don’t give up on yourself; give yourself to Jesus.  Suicide is not the answer, but the Savior is!


The Hill of Regret by Max Lucado

While Jesus was climbing up the hill of Calvary, Judas was climbing another hill; the hill of regret. He walked it alone. Its trail was rock-strewn with shame and hurt. Its landscape was as barren as his soul. Thorns of remorse tore at his ankles and calves. The lips that had kissed a king were cracked with grief And on his shoulders he bore a burden that bowed his back-his own failure.

Why Judas betrayed his master is really not im­portant. Whether motivated by anger or greed, the end re­sult was the same-regret. A few years ago I visited the Supreme Court. As I sat in the visitor’s chambers, I observed the splendor of the scene. The chief justice was flanked by his colleagues. Robed in honor, they were the apex of justice. They repre­sented the efforts of countless minds through thousands of decades. Here was man’s best effort to deal with his own failures.

How pointless it would be, I thought to myself, if I approached the bench and requested forgiveness for my mistakes. Forgiveness for talking back to my fifth grade teacher. Forgiveness for being disloyal to my

friends. Forgiveness for pledging “I won’t” on Sunday and saying “I will” on Monday. Forgiveness for the countless hours I have spent wandering in society’s gutters.

It would be pointless because the judge could do nothing. Maybe a few days in jail to appease my guilt, but forgiveness? It wasn’t his to give. Maybe that’s why so many of us spend so many hours on the hill of regret. We haven’t found a way to forgive ourselves.

So up the hill we trudge. Weary, wounded hearts wrestling with unresolved mistakes. Sighs of anxiety. Tears of frustration. Words of rationalization. Moans of doubt. For some the pain is on the surface. For others the hurt is submerged, buried in a rarely touched 3ubsrrata of bad memories. Parents, lovers, professionals. Some trying to forget, others trying to remember, all trying to cope. We walk silently in single file with leg irons of guilt. Paul was the man who posed the question that is on all of our lips, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

At the trail’s end there are two trees.

One is weathered and leafless. It is dead but still sturdy. Its bark is gone, leaving smooth wood bleached white by the years. Twigs and buds no longer sprout, only bare branches fork from the trunk. On the strongest of these branches is tied a hangman’s noose. It was here that Judas dealt with his failure.

If only Judas had looked at the adjacent tree. It is also dead; its wood is also smooth. But there is no noose tied its crossbeam. No more death on this tree. Once was enough. One death for all.

Those of us who have also betrayed Jesus know better than to be too hard on Judas for choosing the tree he did. To think that Jesus would really unburden our shoulders and unshackle our legs after all we’ve done to him is not easy to believe. In fact, it takes just as much faith to believe that Jesus can look past my betrayals as it does to believe that he rose from the dead. Both are just as miraculous.

What a pair, these two trees. Only a few feet from the tree of despair stands the tree of hope. Life so paradox­ically close to death. Goodness within arm’s reach of dark­ness. A hangman’s noose and a life preserver swinging in the same shadow.

But here they stand.

One can’t help but be a bit stunned by the incon­ceivability of it all. Why does Jesus stand on life’s most bar­ren hill and await me with outstretched, nail-pierced hands? A “crazy, holy grace” it has been called. A type of grace that doesn’t holdup to logic. But then I guess grace doesn’t have to be logical. If it did, it wouldn’t be grace.

[1] This sequence may not be flawless, although I think it comes close to reality, but let the reader judge for himself.

[2] See Exodus 24:9-11.

[3] See Isaiah 48:5-7.

[4] Our text reads, “… so that when it happens you may believe that I am he.” The “I am” is, of course, significant, and the “he” must be referring to His identity as Israel’s Messiah.

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Posted by on May 19, 2022 in cross


A closer look at the cross of Christ – If God became man, we kind of man would He be?  

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, we would expect His human life to be sinless, since it isIncarnation (Christianity) - Wikipedia inconceivable that God would sin.

Jesus fulfilled this expectation in that He lived completely above sin.

2 Cor. 5:21: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Because He possessed perfect moral purity, He is never seen to admit the need of penitence, and never confessed himself to be guilty of sin.

“In vain do we look through the entire biography of Jesus for a single stain or the slightest shadow of his moral character. There never lived a more harmless being on earth. He injured nobody, he took advantage of nobody. He never spoke an improper word, he never committed a wrong action.”

Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, we would expect Him to be holy in character.

Not only would there be an absence of sin in His life, but there would be in Him a superb degree of holiness (This is one of the strongest proofs that Jesus was God incarnate).

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, it would be expected that His words be the greatest ever spoken.

Jesus is called the Master Teacher, and is lauded in the greatest of human literatures. His teachings in the gospels are read more, quoted more, translated into more languages, loved more, believed more, represented more in art, and set to more music.. .than the words of any other person.

He never had a course in teaching, yet knew more about it than anybody else. He had perfect knowledge about God and about God’s will, and it showed in His lifestyle. He never had to guess what God wanted Him to do.

He also had perfect knowledge of the people whom He taught. He knew what was in man (John 2:25).

He taught new things in terms of old ones, and used farming, fishing, cooking, and buying land to make his points clear.

He adapted this method to the particular person or group He wished to teach.

He was the  Master Teacher, too, because He practiced what He taught. Even His enemies said: “No one ever spoke the way this man does?” (John 7:46).

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, it would be expected that He exert tremendous influence over human minds.

“Whether Jesus be man or God, whether the gospels be mainly fiction or fancy, certainly a historic person named Jesus gave men such an impact as to be unequaled by far in the entire annals of human history.”

Just think.. some 2,000 after His life, he is still quoted by so many!

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN it would be expected that He would perform supernatural deeds.

The life of Christ is a constant illustration of the supernatural in Him:

* Protection by hosts of angels.

* His supernatural knowledge.

* His supernatural death.

* His supernatural resurrection.

* His supernatural ascension.

Turn to Matthew 11:3-5: relate context and discuss verses.

Matthew 11:3-5: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” {4} Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: {5} The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

* Remember what the Pharisee, Nicodemus said, in John 3:2, when he came to Jesus by night? “For no one could perform the  miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

The main purpose of his miracles were to cause people to believe on Him. Jesus wanted to prove to all honest hearts that He was sent from God to save men. Sickness and disease were used to furnish an occasion for Christ to heal and God to be glorified.

The resurrection of Christ alone is sufficient to convince any one and every one, if they are honest, that Jesus is the Son of God!

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, it would be expected that He manifest incomparable love for humanity.

He did this in a way no other has ever done.. He died even for His enemies. He demonstrated throughout His life that He was a friend of sinners.. the poor.. .the despised.. the broken-hearted.. .the downcast. His constant attituue was gentle, tneder, sympathetic, loving, and kind.

  1. IF GOD BECAME MAN, that He would be the most divine, unique, and incomparable person who ever lived.

This is confirmed by atheists, infidels, and unbelievers.. .who will at least appraise His character.

He was raised in an illiterate province, and had no special training…yet was (and is) accepted by the most scholarly, wealthy, powerful, and influential as being truly the Son of God.

‘Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, and that a dispised one. He worked in a carpenter shop for 30 years, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. he never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a house. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a really big city. He never traveled, except in His infancy, more than 200 miles from the place where He was born. He had no credentials but himself.

“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away; one of them betrayed Him. He was turned over to His enemies…He went through the mockery of a trail. He was nailed upon a Gross between two thieves. His executors gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, His seamless robe.

“When He was dead, He was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave through the courtesy of a friend. Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today Jesus is the centerpiece of the human race, and the leader of all human progress. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that have ever sat, and all the kings that have ever ruled PUT TOGETHER have not affected the life of man upon this earth like this one solitary personality.

“All times dates from his birth, and it is impossible to understand or interpret the progress of human civilization in any nation on earth apart from His influence.

“Slowly through the ages man is coming to realize that the greatest necessity in the world is not water, Iron, gold, food, clothing, or even nitrate in the soil…but rather, Christ enshrined in human hearts, thoughts, and motives.”

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Posted by on May 16, 2022 in cross

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