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Peter Meney, Scripture Meditations

”And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”—Luke 2:7-21

Luke tells us Mary ‘brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’. With these simple words the presence of the infant Christ in the world is recorded. The conditions of the Saviour’s birth were basic and humble, yet angels rejoiced to see it and the heavenly host sang, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’.

For our sakes He became poor

The grim conditions of Jesus’ birth suggest neither Joseph nor Mary had relatives in Bethlehem, there was no house to go to, no friends waiting to receive them. Since so little notice is taken of them it probably implies relative poverty and meanness. Had they been wealthy, or prominent, they would have been cared for and room made for them, especially since Mary, little more than a girl herself, was about to give birth to her first child. It was heartless to consign her to a stable in this condition.

In the cause of the poor and needy

We learn Mary personally swaddled her new-born baby. There was no midwife, no…

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”Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”—Isaiah 40:1-5

A few weeks ago we began a short series entitled Anticipating Jesus looking at the promise of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world; the incarnation of Christ. The first indication of His coming was in Genesis 3:15 when God promised Eve a seed, a male child, who would bruise the serpent’s head, but whose heel would be bruised in the act. Hebrews 2:14 confirms this to be Christ, saying, ‘as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’.

Seeing the Invisible

Thereafter, the coming of our Lord Jesus was prophesied with increasing detail over the course of hundreds of years. His name, character, task and triumph were foreseen by God’s prophets and shared with God’s people, who like Job were given faith to believe that their Redeemer would live and stand upon the earth to be seen of men and women in the latter day. Even the identity of Bethlehem, the village in which the Messiah would be born, was expressly recorded.

The messenger of Christ’s coming

As the fulness of the time approached when the Messiah would be manifested other strands of prophecy also began to be fulfilled. Isaiah had spoken of one who would prepare the way for the coming of Christ, ‘The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD’. Malachi told of God’s messenger, referring to John the Baptist, who would ‘prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant’.

The way prepared

As this preparation for the Lord’s coming took effect, Gabriel, the angel of the Lord was busy. He visited Zacharias, a serving priest, and told him of a son to be named John, though his wife had been barren many years. He visited Mary a young woman espoused to a man called Joseph, of the house of David, telling her of the imminent and miraculous birth of her own child, Jesus, though she was yet unmarried. Gabriel then appeared to Joseph in a dream reassuring him of God’s purpose in this wonderful event.

A Roman emperor gets involved

Even secular authorities played a part as God ordained they would. From Rome there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. In order to be registered Joseph and his young, pregnant wife must travel ninety miles from their home in Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus might otherwise have been born, to Bethlehem in Judaea, where God ordained He would be born.

When stars sing and angels shout for joy

Creation was also involved in preparing for Christ’s coming, ‘When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’, a star appeared in the heavens to honour the Messiah-king. Somewhere out in the depths of space a bright, celestial body, formed for this very purpose at the creation of the world, bent in its orbit to travel across the night sky and catch the gaze of astronomers of the Orient.

The Star of the Morning

As the Lord’s star sped towards earth it typified the Light of the world leaving the courts of heaven and coming to earth as a man, and the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings. The Apostle John tells us, ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us’, thereby performing God’s promise, fulfilling all prophecy, and securing redemption’s plan.

The Dayspring from on high

In tomorrow’s service we shall mention the ‘mystery of godliness’ which Paul describes as the manifestation of God in the flesh, and turn to the words of John the Baptist’s father Zacharias who tells us Christ’s coming is ‘salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us’, that we ‘might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life’.

Amen

Peter Meneny

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“The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;”; “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”;“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”—Deuteronomy 18:15; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6,7

No sooner was the promise of the coming deliverer declared in the hearing of Adam and Eve than the full impact of their disobedience began to unfold. Covered in skins they were expelled from the garden of Eden, lost personal communion with God and were prohibited from approaching the tree of life. That tree was a type of the Lord Jesus. Adam’s loss of access pictured the sweet union ruined by disobedience. Our first parents now knew the good they had lost and the evil they were under as they fled from the face of God.

The tabernacle of God is with men

Yet a hope remained in the words the Lord had spoken concerning One who would rise to bruise the serpent’s head. As time went on this hope took form. Adam and Eve told their children and an expectation grew that a Deliverer would someday be revealed. The knowledge of God remained in the earth amongst men such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and the Patriarchs, and yet greater light was given at the time of Moses.

A mediator desired and promised

When God gave the Law to the children of Israel they became afraid at His glory and cried out for a mediator. Moses told the people God would indeed provide an Advocate and an Intercessor, a ‘forth-teller’, from amongst themselves. Moses said…

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The opening chapter of the first book of the Bible tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ created the world in six days. The creation account was believed by all the apostles who testified in the book of Acts, ‘Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is’. On the sixth day God created man and on the seventh day He rested ‘from all his work which God created and made’.

The breath of God

In chapter two of Genesis various things concerning aspects of creation are enlarged upon and explained. Details are included that did not find a place in the initial account of chapter one, such as to how the earth was watered before ever it rained, the method employed to make man from the dust of the earth by the breath of God, and how woman was formed from the rib of the man. There is an account of the land into which Adam and Eve were placed, their role to tend the garden of Eden, and their authority over the animals.

A tree and a test

Also in chapter two we learn of a tree singled out from amongst all the trees in the garden concerning which Adam is told by God, ‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’. This tree we later learn seemed good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise. By it man’s obedience to God was tested, tried and found wanting.

A snake that speaks

In chapter three Eve is enticed and deceived by a serpent possessed it appears by Satan as a means to gain Eve’s attention. This was a real snake yet it could speak, reason, cajole and deceive Eve and did so by…

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“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”—Mark 16:19,20

Mark brings his gospel, by the will of the Holy Spirit, to a speedy conclusion. In a few words he covers the ascension of the Lord Jesus, His reception into heaven and His session at the right hand of God. He also confirms the coming of the Holy Spirit in power and testifies to the obedience of the disciples in preaching and carrying the gospel into all the world, their ministry being confirmed with powerful signs as the Lord had promised.

Success, victory and glory

Mark’s emphasis is upon success, victory and glory. The Lord Jesus had been successful in His redemptive work, purchasing with His blood all the elect committed into His care. He was victorious over His enemies. David and Paul tell us our Saviour in His ascension ‘led captivity captive’. Our Saviour then entered into His glory, being seated as a man in heaven in the place of prominence at the right hand of God.

Received up into heaven

There is surely something remarkable in the phrase ‘he was received up into heaven’. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not merely go back into heaven but was ‘received up into heaven’. There was a reception for Him! With great joy, gladness and celebration the Saviour entered into His glory, surely as much if not more amongst the angelic hosts as at His incarnation. Christ’s reception speaks of praise, welcome, honour and the triumph of a returning king lauded for victories won and spoils recovered.

Seated in heaven

It is notable, too, that the Lord Jesus is seated in heaven. There in His human body sits the Lord our God. It is a revelation almost too wonderful to contemplate that having received all power in heaven and earth the Saviour now sits in strength and authority as might a court in session, doing all His will; managing, delegating and disposing of all things in line with His own sovereign purpose. And while the Lord Jesus is physically seated in heaven He is still our mystical Head, and we His mystical body upon earth, being protected, preserved and provided for in every tiny detail.

Christ gave gifts unto men

David in Psalm 68 tells us when the Saviour ascended into heaven He ‘received gifts for men’. In Ephesians Paul tells us the Saviour in ascending ‘gave gifts unto men’. David looked forward to see what mercies yet lay in store for the people of God when their King should be honoured and received into glory. Paul looked back, surveyed the work of the Apostles and the spread of the gospel and realised those gifts were now amongst men in the form of God the Holy Spirit, God’s manifest love, mercy and grace to all believers, and the gifts of the Spirit, variously to the Apostles and the church.

Confirming the gospel

We should not pass over Mark’s confirmation that while our King is seated at the Father’s right hand the Friend of sinners actively exercises His power in heaven and earth in working with and for His people ‘and confirming the word with signs following’. Certainly this means helping the Apostles with whom the Lord worked in the person of the Holy Spirit; convicting, converting and gathering in the elect in all the earth. But we may properly conclude the Saviour is working still and exercising His power for your good and mine.

Signs following

The ‘signs following’ bore witness to the Apostolic authority delegated by the Saviour. They continue in the spiritual gifts and blessings experienced by the Lord’s people throughout the ages of the church. We are saved to experience the life of Christ, we are endowed with the faith of Christ, we are partakers of the righteousness of Christ and heirs of the glory of Christ. We are blessed to have heard the gospel and blessed to believe the word preached to us. We are comforted with hope in the gospel for every needed grace and every promised glory. We are blessed indeed.

Jesus Christ our great Amen

In our service tomorrow we shall consider first, the Lord received up into heaven, second, the Lord sitting down at the right hand of God, third, the Lord confirming His word and fourth, the Lord working out His good purpose of peace and truth in the lives of His people. We shall draw comfort from our Saviour’s success, victory and glory, and strength from His power working in us. We shall mark Mark’s final Amen, noting it to be a name of Jesus, ‘the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God’.

Amen

Peter Meney

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Preach The Gospel

28 Dec 2022, by

”And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”—Mark 16:15-18

Our passage today contains the verse that launched a thousand ships, and a thousand missionary endeavours. Jesus said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’. These words from the Saviour have challenged generations of men and women to lash themselves to the mast of the good ship evangelism and carry the gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection to the ends of the earth. Isaiah says, ‘Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far’.

The earth shall be filled

Matthew records the Lord’s instruction in a parallel passage and refers to ‘teaching all nations’. Luke, in Acts, recounts the Lord as saying, ‘ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’. Today we call this passage, ‘The Great Commission’. It is what Habakkuk is referring to when he writes, ‘For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea’ (2:14).

The redeemed shall return

It should never cease to amaze us how small were the beginnings of the immense work of the apostles in the spread of the gospel, and how great has been the result. From a few disheartened and confused fishermen and tax-collectors the message of grace has travelled around the world and, we are told in the book of Revelation, gathered a people redeemed to God by the blood of Jesus Christ, ‘out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation’.

He shall send forth His angels

This world-wide task was always at the forefront of the Lord’s purpose for His disciples. His teaching and example was their preparation for their ministry. From the beginning the Lord called the disciples to be ‘fishers of men’ and after three years of intimate, thorough and exemplary instruction these men were now entering upon their great calling. Soon the Holy Spirit would fall on them and they would ‘be endued with power from on high’.

To be believed upon

We note, too, the Lord Jesus appointed these men to preach the gospel. They were chosen to that end. John tells us, they were ordained, that they ‘should go and bring forth fruit, and that … fruit should remain’. The Lord Jesus Christ, having died, risen and accomplished the putting away of sin by His death now would have this message declared to the whole world, to be believed upon, that faith and salvation be granted to, and experienced by, all for whom the Saviour laid down His life.

For the obedience of faith

The apostles’ principle role was preaching the gospel and this continues to be the prime task of the church. By preaching the gospel of free and sovereign grace Christ’s kingdom is established, God’s elect gathered in, and the church built up in the faith. Salvation comes to those who believe and are baptised, that is to say, those who receive and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ with the obedience of faith.

Believe and be baptised

It is not believing that saves a sinner, nor does baptism confirm our salvation, but these two experiences reveal the effect of the new birth and the transforming knowledge of divine grace in a sinner’s life. The elect of God have faith unto salvation, not for salvation, and in believing they are possessed with a desire to honour, serve and follow their Lord Jesus Christ in newness of life. This is represented by believer’s baptism. It is neither our believing, nor our baptism that saves, but both reflect the work of conversion in a heart and soul touched by grace.

Signs shall follow them

The signs following these conversions are typical of the divine power at work in gathering the elect, particularly in the experience of the apostles themselves, and gospel preachers. Casting out devils pictures the entrance of Christ into a soul and the expulsion of Satan at the new birth. ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ which is the preaching of the gospel. This message would be heard and understood in the real languages of the hearers, so on the day of Pentecost the people cried in amazement at the Apostles’ preaching, ‘we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God’.

Lo, I am with you alway

Taking up serpents and drinking deadly potions without harm were never intended as tricks to impress natural men and women but are reassurances that the God who sends forth His ministers also controls and protects their every step and provides their every need. Signs and healing reveal the power of the Holy Spirit in those who are converted and those who bring the message of grace. Within a few weeks of giving these words to His disciples thousands would be saved on the Day of Pentecost, and the great latter-day ingathering of Christ’s Kingdom begun.

Amen

Peter Meney

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”Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”—Mark 16:9-14

The appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ to His friends, followers and disciples on His resurrection day are very important. There were five in all. The Saviour appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, that is Mary, Salome, Joanna and at least one more. Later Peter was visited by the Lord, though none of the gospel writers directly mention this event. The Lord then met two of His followers on the road to Emmaus. Finally, late in the evening the Saviour appeared to the eleven, ‘and them that were with them’, though Thomas was absent.

Five and five

It would be forty days until the Lord ascended to heaven. In the coming weeks five more encounters would be granted which means half of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances occurred on this first day. The other appearances were a visit one week later to the disciples, Thomas being present, and a meeting with seven disciples at the sea of Galilee. There was also an appearance to a large gathering of above 500 brethren recorded by Paul, and a visit with James, the Lord’s half-brother. Finally, the Lord appeared again to His disciples at Jerusalem before leading them out to the Mount of Olives where He ascended into heaven.

A day of wonder

Our attention in our service will be on the resurrection day appearances mentioned here in Mark’s gospel. Each throws light on the day’s great wonder of Christ’s rising from the dead, while reinforcing the truth of the event itself. We shall give attention to three key aspects. First, the astonishment of the all Lord’s followers to the resurrection, second, their collective unbelief, third, how necessary it was for the Lord to suffer and enter into His glory.

A suitable, personal help

We shall see, too, how the Lord’s visit to Mary comforted His grieving friend. We shall note the strength given to the other women when their courage failed, and the individual help granted to Peter when he was so downcast. We shall note and, I trust, admire the insights granted to the two on the road to Emmaus, and then later how the Lord inspired His disciples to rise from their despair and to preach the gospel of forgiveness and grace.

A continuing need

These lessons will provide us with practical encouragement for the challenges of our own lives. Most of us, like Mary Magdalene, know what it is to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. Many of us, like the group of women, have felt the paralysing effect of doubt and fear. Some of us, like Peter, know the bitterness of losing our testimony and compromising our witness by open sin, or the loss of confidence that comes when faith is stretched to breaking point. All of us know, to our shame, how much we need to be motivated and inspired to keep close to the Lord.

A visit from the Lord

In all these situations, and others like them, there is no greater blessing can be experienced by a child of God than to have the Lord Jesus Christ draw near, come visit, and in condescending mercy supply such comfort and grace as only His intimate presence can bring. It was true for these crushed and confused followers of Christ, and it is true for you and me. The absence of the Saviour brought these souls to the end of their tether, and potentially their profession. How were they to get back on their feet? How could they recover their strength and confidence? Only by divine restoration of their faith, and a bountiful supply of grace.

Yes, please!

Let our prayer for each other and for ourselves be that the Lord will visit us tomorrow in the ministry of His Word with the gift of His felt presence. May He meet us, and appear to us by the apprehension of faith, as frequently in the gospel as He knows we have need of His comfort, grace and mercy.

Amen

Peter Meney

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Christ Is Risen

13 Dec 2022, by

”And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.”—Mark 16:1-8

The fact of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead is wonderful news for mortal men and women. It means our Saviour has defeated death and the grave. It means He has delivered from judgment all God’s elect for whom He died, who otherwise, through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. It means death is not our final state, nor the grave our final destination. It means a way of life, through the grave, has been opened for us into the presence of God.

We who believe

The fact of the resurrection is, of course, doubted, denied and dismissed by most as impossible. But for the women present that morning by the empty tomb, and all who believe their testimony, and the testimony of scripture, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the indisputable fact that fuels our faith. By Christ’s resurrection we have the good hope of entering heaven with these very bodies suitably changed, there to experience and enjoy life with Christ forever.

A service for the dead

However, the women – there were at least five – who travelled to the garden early on the first day of the week seem to have had little expectation of the Lord’s resurrection. They with their male counterparts had forgotten what…

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”And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.”—Mark 15:42-47

Having voluntarily given up His spirit the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross. This fact was verified by the centurion tasked with the Saviour’s execution, and reported to Pilate at his request. Pilate had been approached by Joseph of Arimathaea, a member of the Sanhedrin but secretly a follower of Christ, to have the Lord’s body delivered to him that it might be given a suitable burial.

Vain righteousness

John tells us that behind the scenes there was now an urgency on the part of the Jews to have the executions completed and the bodies of Jesus and the two criminals removed. The Passover Sabbath was approaching and there were religious laws concerning dead bodies hanging overnight. The Jews had condemned Christ unjustly with no shame but now they could not tolerate His body to remain on the cross for fear of being ceremonially polluted. They swallowed a camel but strained at a gnat!

Not a bone broken

Accordingly, the legs of the two thieves crucified with the Lord were broken to hasten their end, but when Jesus was seen to be dead already a soldier merely took his spear and pierced the Saviour’s side. Prophecy had declared no bone of the Lord’s body would be broken, symbolising that not one member of Christ’s mystical body, the church, will ever be lost. From the Lord’s pierced side came forth blood and water, symbolising the outpouring of God’s mercy and grace upon His people.

Pilate spites the Jews

Pilate allowed the body of the Lord Jesus to be taken by Joseph for burial. Joseph was joined by Nicodemus, another Pharisee. Between them they bestowed upon the Lord a reverential, if speedy burial. Joseph bought fine linen with which to…

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Forsaken

29 Nov 2022, by

“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.”—Mark 15:33-41

We may be sure there was never a day in the history of the world quite like this day. In the first three hours the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross there had been general activity; a coming and going of soldiers, people and priests. In many respects Christ’s crucifixion was an execution similar to many others, the soldiers gambled for the Lord’s cloak, some people began to drift away.

There was a short communication between the Lord and the men with whom He was being crucified. Jesus had even been able to speak briefly to His mother and His disciple John in a tender moment of filial care and concern. But no one was prepared for what happened next.

Nature reacts

At noon, as the sun reached its peak its brightness suddenly dimmed, then darkened, then disappeared. The mocking cries of the Jews diminished with the light and were replaced with cries of fear and confusion. There was an earthquake, the ground moved, the rocks around about split and the graves of dead saints were opened and their decayed bodies exposed to the air.

The huge woven veil which hung in the temple separating the holy place from the holy of holies was ripped into two pieces from the top to the bottom just at the time when the daily sacrifice was being made. Imagine the…

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”And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.”— Mark 15:25-32

The events recorded here cover three long hours of suffering from the third to the sixth hour of the day, or from 9:00 am until noon, by our scale. Crucifixion was no quick process, even for one already so severely beaten as the Lord Jesus. Exhaustion, de-hydration and slow suffocation would also play a part. The stress and physical trauma on Christ’s body was already extreme even before the coming hours of darkness when His spiritual suffering intensified.

A name above every name

The Romans were accustomed to write an inscription bearing the charge or ground of a criminal’s condemnation and fix it to the cross on which he was crucified. All four evangelists mention the use of an inscription at the crucifixion of Jesus and Mark calls it ‘the superscription of his accusation’. Combining the gospel records suggests, ‘THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS’ is what was written.

A name that endures

Pilate is said to have written it, either personally or by command, in three languages so ensuring maximum awareness. It was written in the languages of the day; Greek, Latin and Hebrew, but also the languages of philosophy, science and religion to be an enduring testimony to the kingship of Christ (Psalm 135:13).

This superscription annoyed the Jews who felt it should be recorded merely that Jesus claimed to be KING OF THE JEWS. Pilate refused to alter or amend what he had written and the testimony of Christ’s kingly rule has stood ever since. No king has excelled or ever will displace ‘Christ The King’.

Prophecies fulfilled

Along with Christ were crucified two convicted criminals, one on either side, so the prophecy of Isaiah was accomplished that stated, ‘he was numbered with the transgressors’. At every turn, the Jews and Romans fulfilled what had been foretold concerning the Messiah and His suffering. Hereby they testified, albeit unintentionally, to the Saviour’s true identity. Even the very words they spoke in mockery were lifted directly from the prophets. ‘He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him’ (Psalm 22:8).

Heartless abuse

But the principal feature of these three hours was the general scorn and abuse hurled at the Lord from all sides. The soldiers who crucified Jesus mocked Him saying, ‘If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself’. The two thieves crucified with Jesus reviled Him. The people who walked along the road by which the Saviour hung ‘railed on him, wagging their heads’. The chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and members of the Sanhedrin who had followed the Lord to observe His execution all shouted abuse as the Saviour hung suffering. ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save.’

Our enmity against God

One might imagine basic humanity would discover some pity for a sufferer such as the Lord Jesus. What need was there to aggravate and exacerbate a dying man’s pain? What need to gloat? Yet, surely, this is the point. Here the depravity of human nature and the bile of Satanic bondage spilled out against the Lord because of who He really was. No one came to hurl abuse at the thieves! Even those they had robbed brought no rebuke. The truth is there is enmity in man’s heart against God; a deep rooted antagonism and an implacable hatred. Even as the Lord hung suffering in agony these men and women justified themselves, and scorned the Son of God.

Honoured in His shame

As these fiends laughed and shouted back and forth, taunting the Lord and flaunting their ignorance, little did they realise even their insults honoured the Saviour. In dying Christ served His church as their Substitute and honoured God’s law by His suffering. How appropriate then, that these shameful words of mockery should rather honour their victim than shame Him.

They cried, ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save’. In doing so they confirmed the truth about the Lord’s healing, delivering, life-giving miracles – truly, ‘He saved others’. Yet they also testified to His role as God’s sacrificial lamb, come to bear, pay for, and take away the sins of His people – ‘himself he cannot save’. Our precious Saviour would not, could not, did not save Himself from the anguish, the humiliation, the pain. Why? Because He loved us too much.

Amen

Peter Meney

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A Crown Of Thorns

15 Nov 2022, by

”And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” —Mark 15:16-24

Having sentenced the Lord Jesus to be crucified Pilate placed our Saviour in the custody of Roman soldiers accustomed to causing pain and death. The Lord was treated as a convicted criminal though no crime had been committed. He was subject to sadistic abuse and cruel mockery. Christ’s kingly reputation proved too tempting for the soldiers’ vile imaginations. They robed Christ in purple and scarlet, platted a crown of thorns for His head and placed a mock sceptre in His hand. Then they knelt in pretend worship.

Surrounded by enemies

The scale of this charade may be greater than first appreciated. Mark and Matthew appear to emphasise how the individuals charged with Jesus’ crucifixion gathered around them ‘the whole band’ of soldiers. It has been suggested this would have numbered hundreds of men and suggests a great jeering spectacle was made of Christ’s torture.

The kudos of killing a king

Dressing and parading Jesus as a king, bowing before Him and uttering shameful statements was an elaborate display no doubt orchestrated specifically to irritate the Jews as well as disrespect and dishonour the Saviour. The Roman soldiers must have known the celebrity and honour that surrounded Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem a few days previously. They relished making sport of Israel’s King while unwittingly fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies.

Evil spills over

Yet it was more than mockery, it was deliberately barbaric. It takes thought, time and effort to make a crown of thorns. The sharp piercing pain as its spikes were pressed down on the Lord’s skull and brow must have been…

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“Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.”—Mark 15:6-15

Pilate was willing, even determined, at every stage to release the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus did not deserve death. His own wife was eager for him to have nothing to do with Jesus’ execution. He knew the Jews had delivered Jesus for envy’s sake but hoped the people would be pleased to have ‘their king’ released when offered the choice of a murderer or their Messiah as a Passover feast act of clemency. Yet despite exonerating Jesus repeatedly and declaring he could find no fault in Christ and no cause for Christ’s death, Pilate was helpless to prevent the Saviour’s crucifixion.

Pilate’s weakness

Pilate’s protests do not absolve him from guilt. Indeed, his failure is a sad indication of his weakness, as was his readiness to have Jesus scourged as a mere expediency. Pilate represented the rule of law in Judaea and it was his duty to uphold the laws of Rome and dispense justice fairly and properly. However, a higher justice was at work and a grander law than Rome’s was being fulfilled by the death of Jesus Christ. Utilising the hypocrisy of the Jews and the cowardice of Pilate, this day God’s law would be honoured and divine justice satisfied.

From Messiah to pariah

It is easy to forget it is only a few days since the Lord Jesus was lauded and worshipped as He entered Jerusalem on what we sometimes call palm Sunday. What made the people who praised Jesus as the Messiah on Sunday call for His destruction on Friday? What accounts for the speed with which their minds were swayed and the clamour for Christ’s death became so intense? Mark tells us, “The chief priests moved the people”. Religion is a powerful motivator and rejection and condemnation by the priests was clearly an influence. However, a deeper evil stirred. At the heart of the rejection of Christ was the deceitful heart of man, and man will not be subject to God or willingly accept the Lord of glory to reign over him.

“Crucify him”

Nevertheless, that the chief priests could secure such a U-turn in the minds of the people is notable and suggests this element in the proceedings was again more organised and premeditated than first appears. Matthew tells us, “the…

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”And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.”—Mark 15:1-5

The speed and urgency of the Lord’s trial by the chief priests, elders, scribes and the whole council of the Sanhedrin is here laid bare. Early in the morning, likely as soon as Pilate was available, they rushed the Lord bound and bruised into the presence of the Roman governor. Every detail of the Lord’s suffering deserves our attention and offers gospel parallels for our spiritual help.

Dawn on the world’s greatest day

As dawn broke on this momentous day, the day of salvation in which the Son of God and Son of Man would die on the cross, God’s own people the Jews handed Israel’s Messiah over to their Gentile rulers. It was the culmination of a great deal of planning and effort. The aim was to persuade Pilate do for them what legally they could not do for themselves; execute the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so they fulfilled two distinct prophecies.

The sceptre had departed

First, they showed they had no power to govern themselves by their own laws. They fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy given by Jacob, ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be’. Shiloh, another name for Christ, had indeed come and when the Jews later cried out ‘We have no king but Caesar’, they confessed they had neither sceptre nor lawgiver among them.

Death by crucifixion

Secondly, the Jews ensured the death of the Lord would be by Roman crucifixion and not stoning by the Jews. Here they gave the fullest meaning to Moses’ words, ‘for he that is…

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”And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: and when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.”—Mark 14:66-72

All of the gospel writers record this incident of Peter denying the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it shows all the hallmarks of having been openly confessed by Peter following the event and perhaps it was recounted personally to the gospel writers by him. It is an example of how the Bible does not hide the faults of believers but frankly admits the worst instances of remaining sin, shameful behaviour and dishonesty amongst God’s people.

Our deceitful hearts

Peter did not merely deny His Lord, he denied Him repeatedly with oaths, cursing and blatant self-interest. We should not be shocked by the depths to which sinners can fall, nor the degree to which believers can backslide. Peter was a sinner as we all are. We may be saved sinners, as Peter was, but until the day we die no good thing ever will dwell or prosper in our flesh. May the Lord preserve us from ever saying to ourselves, “I could never do that”.

Different kinds of wounds

We may consider it admirable and brave that Peter managed to get so close to the Lord as to be in sight and hearing distance of His trial. If the Lord could see and hear Peter, Peter could see and hear Jesus. He knew what was happening to his Friend. Let us grant what motivated Peter to come into the high priest’s palace was not mere curiosity. Nevertheless, of all the cruelty visited upon the Saviour by His enemies that night surely nothing pierced Christ’s heart more sharply than to hear His friend disown and deny Him with oaths and cursing.

A privileged companion

It is not my plan to condemn or decry Peter. We gain nothing from this account of the apostle’s failings if we gloat, mock or imagine we are any different from him. Peter was a believer. He had seen and heard wonderful and amazing things from the Lord, things like; Lazarus walking out of his grave, countless healings and miracles, Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus about His death.

It was only a few weeks since Peter had witnessed the Lord’s glory in His transfiguration. It was only a few hours since Christ knelt in the garden and wrestled spiritually for Peter’s soul. Shortly thereafter He healed the…

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Guilty Of Death

18 Oct 2022, by

”And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.”—Mark 14:53-65

The speed with which this night’s events unfolded suggests a great deal of planning and preparation on the part of the Jewish council. Having gained the help of Judas to betray Jesus they could not let their prey slip away. The pressure they were under to achieve their aim and secure the death of Jesus was significant.

A big undertaking

Not only had the mob to be recruited, armed and dispatched to arrest Jesus and bring Him to the high priest, but the council of the Sanhedrin had to be assembled. Witnesses had to be found, paid and brought before the court to testify. Servants, guards and officers had to be at their posts. All this despite it being the evening of the most holy feast in the Jewish religious calendar when families were supposed to eat together and remain together indoors.

A ‘kangaroo’ court

Jesus’ captors led Him to the palace of the high priest where, we are told, ‘were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes’. In fact, this court before which Jesus was tried was illegal under Jewish law. Capital crimes such as blasphemy had to be…

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”And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”—Mark 14:43-52

As soon as the Lord Jesus arose from His hour of spiritual sorrow and heaviness in Gethsemane, strengthened now by the ministering angel, the next part of His trial began. Out of the darkness appeared a large group of men carrying swords and staves. Among them chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders. They were led by the traitor Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own disciples, and they had come to arrest the Saviour and take him to His death.

Prophecy fulfilled

This meeting of the Lord and His enemies in Gethsemane is full of significance and appears designed to supply us with several important lessons. For example, many Old Testament prophecies foresaw this encounter and find their fulfilment in these tense minutes.[1] Comparing parallel gospel passages we are given proof of Christ’s divine power; we hear His searching and convicting words to Judas and the priests and elders; we see Peter’s intemperate violence, and rightly reason the situation could have become very ugly had not the Lord intervened.

‘A great multitude’

There would undoubtedly have been an element of uncertainty and unease amongst Jesus’ enemies so they came in numbers, ‘a great multitude’ says Matthew and Mark. They came armed with swords and staves and bearing lighted torches. At first, they seemed ignorant of Jesus’ identity and were relying on Judas to point out their quarry in the night gloom. Jesus had never harmed or hurt anyone, but He had evaded capture several times. Judas had seen many miracles, witnessed the awesome power at Jesus’ disposal and knew devils quaked in Jesus’ presence.

Judas’s kiss

The Lord’s power and authority, and, we may add, boldness and bravery, were much on display. John tells us, ‘Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth’. Jesus’ time had come and the Saviour went forth determinedly to face His foes. It is not easy to be sure of the order of the various things that occurred according to the different gospel writers but having identified Jesus with a kiss, it is likely Judas then stepped back into the crowd and the servant of the High Priest stepped forward to lay hands of Jesus.

Preventing a calamity

It was perhaps at this point Peter struck out with his sword, injuring the man Malchus. Certainly, this would have been an opportune time for the Lord to throw the multitude into confusion and cast them backwards onto the ground and hold them there. Now He addressed His own disciples about His determination to fulfil His Father’s will, and also confronted the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders about coming after Him in the dead of night, despite Him teaching daily in the temple. The Lord also insisted that as He alone was the object of their pursuit His disciples should go free. Having obtained this concession from the mob, the Saviour then let them up.

Christ’s power on show

Two more evidences of the Lord’s power were give. He touched and healed the severed ear of Malchus, servant to the High Priest, whom Peter had attacked, and He told His disciples that He did not need their help to fight. ‘Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?’ Now at their Master’s submission and clear intention to go with the crowd, His disciples to a man leave Him and flee.

Christ’s willing sacrifice

Now, the Lord’s meekness and compliance shine forth. Drinking this cup was His Father’s will and Christ’s will also. Now He allows Himself to be detained, bound and marched back to the home of the High Priest in Jerusalem. In so doing He may be likened to the sacrificial lamb, bound and taken to the High Priest before it is sacrificed upon God’s altar.

We also see the Lord’s motivation and obligation to His covenant responsibilities. Our Saviour knew exactly what suffering lay before Him, and the death He would die. He knew about the High Priest, Herod and Pilate. He knew about the beatings, the scourgings, the crown of thorns. He knew what the scriptures had foretold concerning Him.

God’s covenant purpose

But the Saviour also knew His role in the eternal covenant with the divine obligation that rested upon him to fulfil its terms. He knew and approved the purpose of God set up before time to supply a Substitute, provide a Redeemer, and secure the Salvation of His church and people. As His disciples escaped into the darkness of the Mt. of Olives the Lord Jesus slipped His wrists into the hand-ties of the priests and followed them back to Jerusalem.

Amen

Peter Meney

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Gethsemane

4 Oct 2022, by

”And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.”—Mark 14:32-42

We will be wise to come to these verses with a sense of awe, wonder and reverence. The soul-suffering of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane brings us to the limit of human understanding and exceeds all earth-bound explanation. This hour in time is unique in the history of the world and peculiar to the experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, and while it is not the fulness of all the Saviour had to endure for our redemption it is nevertheless described by the gospel writers, and the Lord Himself, in words repeated nowhere else.

Powerful language

Here we find phrases unparalleled in the life of Christ such as Him being ‘sore amazed’, and ‘very heavy’, His soul ‘exceeding sorrowful unto death’, ‘being in an agony’, and He praying ‘more earnestly’, and His sweat on this cold night, ‘as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’. Whatever else the Lord endured in His body on the cross, here in the garden His human spirit was crushed beyond measure. Having been made sin for us an infinite weight of sin entered a perfect soul and the sword of divine justice pierced into Christ’s heart. So exceptional is this hour that we are told there ‘appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him’ a support unheard of anywhere else in the Lord’s ministry.

The olive press

The word ‘Gethsemane’ seems to refer to the process of crushing olives, and suggests this was a place, a garden, containing an olive press used for producing oil from the trees on the mountain side. This imagery has been employed to describe the pressing weight of all the sin of all the elect upon Christ, and the bruising and crushing of the Lord’s soul that followed. The Man who was the ‘man of sorrows’ here enters more deeply into His great work of suffering, in the place and on behalf of His people. It was in a garden that Satan ruined our Adam-nature, and in a garden Jesus delivered us from Satan’s grip.

A witness and a weariness

Various occurrences in this hour at first seem ordinary but on second look have a significance for the Lord, the disciples, and the church of every age. For example, the Lord by dividing his disciples and taking three, the same three who witnessed His transfiguration, shows us that a record of this harrowing event must be left for the church as a testimony of the Lord’s suffering, despite its intensely personal nature. Christ’s words must be heard and His actions attested for His people to publicly affirm, for in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Watch and pray

The slumber that overcomes these men is not a natural weariness, but rather, as Luke suggests ‘for sorrow’. It may be considered as a direct temptation of the disciples by the devil to aggravate Christ’s own sorrow. It reveals our Saviour suffering alone for the sins of His people, thereby fulfilling the prophecy, ‘I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me … and I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me’ (Isaiah 63:3ff).

The cup of Christ’s suffering

But it is to the prayer of the Lord that our thoughts run. These words express Christ’s love for His church. The Son declares, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.’ In these words we hear the complete, utter and absolute commitment of our Saviour to our salvation. The Lord Jesus was not asking for a way to sidestep suffering as if His drinking the cup of trembling might be changed for some other method. Rather, He was expressing His willingness to endure to the fullest extent whatever God’s justice demanded, even to His own eternal separation from His Father should His sacrifice prove insufficient to answer our debt of sin and guilt. Christ’s success would be seen in the passing of the cup, emptied of every last drop of judgment.

The reproach of justice

We have no idea what degrees of sorrow, grief, misery, woe and anguish followed upon the entrance of sin and guilt into the conscious experience of our Lord. He became sin for us. How His pure humanity must have recoiled from that mass of filth and corruption poured into His soul. How His heart must have been broken to feel the rod of God’s anger, and the curse of the law. ‘Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none’ (Psalm 69:20).

Our great salvation

Our Saviour stood alone in the gap and became accursed for us. Gethsemane was the start of His intense soul-suffering. Brutalising would follow at the hands of His enemies, then the cross awaited. It is the price our Surety paid in bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows. May we never undervalue His commitment to our salvation. May we never underestimate the price of our freedom.

Amen

Peter Meney

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It is not certain what hymn Jesus and His disciples sang together though it was usual for the Jews at the passover feast to sing sections from Psalms 113-118 called the Hallel. It would be very appropriate and applicable if some of these passages should now be sung by the Lord as He looked forward to Gethsemane and anticipated the events of the coming night and day.

Praise and prophecy

For example, may we not with benefit hear upon the lips of our Substitute and Surety such words as, ‘The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow’ (116:3)? Or view Him, whose death for the redemption of His people is of the highest value, being spiritually comforted in His own soul while singing, ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds’ (116:15, 16)? I do not see why not.

Crossing Kidron brook

Then out into the night goes the Lord towards the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. He is followed by His disciples – Judas apart, who makes his way to the chief priest to arrange Jesus’ arrest. John tells us the group cross Cedron Valley and the Kidron brook, a channel between the hills into which the sewage and filth of Jerusalem now flowed, and into which the blood and dirt from the animals slain in the temple was deposited. Even the Lord’s route to Gethsemane this night is full of spiritual application.

The Shepherd slain, the sheep scattered

As the little group makes the two mile journey the Lord has more to say. He tells them He is about to be betrayed and killed and they would all be filled with such fear and dread that every one of them will…

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The eating of the passover lamb brought to an end the passover feast and it was now that the Lord Jesus instituted a new feast of remembrance, the service we call ‘Communion’ or ‘The Lord’s Supper’. This ending of one and beginning of the other is important. Christ is the passover sacrificed for us, and as we have seen, the passover lamb was a type of Christ. Christ being the fulness of that shadow and the fulfilling end of that type, the passover feast had its accomplishment in Him and being finished is brought to its end for all time.

‘Take, eat …’

Now a new feast of remembrance is instituted to be observed by the Lord’s people and designed to draw our thoughts often to the Saviour’s suffering and sacrifice on our behalf and for our redemption. We are told Jesus first took bread, then blessed it, then break it, and finally distributed it to His disciples, telling them, ‘Take, eat: this is my body’. Afterwards he did the same with a cup of wine, called ‘the fruit of the vine’, telling them, ‘This is my blood’.

Christ’s body and blood

The breaking of the bread is for us a representation of the broken body of the Lord Jesus; broken on the cross where He was bruised, wounded and crushed under the weight of our sin. Taking the bread from the Saviour’s hand and eating it symbolises taking and receiving Christ in His death by the…

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Is It I?

13 Sep 2022, by

On Thursday morning of the so-called passion week two of the Lord’s disciples, Peter and John, enquire of the Lord about His plans to observe the passover feast. These two appear to have realised it was not this business Judas Iscariot was absent arranging (John 13:28-30). Jesus instructs them to go into the city of Jerusalem where they will meet a man in whose house the passover should be prepared. Our Lord Jesus attended the passover feast and fully observed the obligations of the Old Testament patterns (Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

Make ready the passover

Making ready the passover involved not only the preparation of the room where the meal would be held but the provision and preparation of the meal of roasted lamb and bitter herbs. The arrangements of finding and securing the upper room in which to host the feast shows the Lord’s prescience and providence. It is likely Peter and John bought a lamb in the city, lambs being no doubt supplied and sold at this solemn festival both to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all who came to celebrate this feast.

A sacrifice and a meal

As the law required, the two disciples would have brought the lamb to the court of the temple for slaughter. The creature’s fat would be burned on the altar and its blood sprinkled upon it. Then the cooking or ‘roasting it whole’ would take place back in the house. This ritual, together with the supply of…

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The identity of this dear lady who anointed the Saviour at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper is unknown. Some think she was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, some suggest Mary Magdalene. However, the Holy Spirit has withheld her name and the reason seems to be that we look not so much upon the woman, but upon the gesture of love and the act of sacrifice offered by her to her Saviour. She understood what few in the room that night grasped. She came aforehand to anoint Christ’s body to the burying.

A testimony for the ages

The Lord’s appreciation and affirmation of her love and sacrifice will not allow us to overlook this beautiful act or its symbolical meaning, for ‘Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her’. So be it. Tomorrow, we shall remember the dear soul who came aforehand to anoint Christ’s body to the burying.

Kindness and criticism

There is a stark contrast highlighted in these verses. There is the kindness, compassion and understanding of the woman who brought her very costly offering to the Saviour. But there is also hard-heartedness; a critical spirit from indignant murmurers who observe this beautiful and precious gesture and completely fail to…

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Silent Wednesday

30 Aug 2022, by

Here is an interesting and remarkable thing. There is no record in the gospels of any activity undertaken by the Lord on the Wednesday before His crucifixion. It is a silent day. Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, had entered Jerusalem on Sunday to the acclaim of the crowds. Monday and Tuesday had been busy with the Lord travelling from Bethany to Jerusalem both days. He had wept over the city, turned over the moneychangers’ tables, cursed the fig tree, contended with a succession of religious opponents, taught His disciples and preached to His followers in the Temple.

A busy few days

Observing a poor widow place two mites in the treasury box of the Temple the Lord commended the gift of ‘all her living’ above the offerings of the wealthy. He spoke at length to His disciples about the nature of true faith and warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the…

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The Lord Jesus has informed His disciples about the soon-to-come destruction of Jerusalem. He has been speaking about this event all along and He now brings His message to its end by giving a parable from a fig tree in springtime and a warning to watchfulness. Just as the witness of nature prepares men and women for the seasons of the year, so the warnings of the Lord inform His followers of danger and open a way of escape from their enemies, sin and death. These experiences would be fulfilled within the lifetime of the present generation and the calamities coming upon the Jewish nation were absolutely certain.

The day and hour unknown

Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, neither the angels nor the Lord Jesus Himself in His human nature knew the day or the hour it would happen. This hiding of the precise moment was designed to raise attentiveness amongst the Lord’s people and keep them vigilant. It was a lesson for that generation but one designed to elevate watchfulness in every generation by keeping the Lord’s people alert to the promise of the Saviour’s return to judge the world at the end of the age. We look for and hasten unto the coming of the day of God.

It also applies to every individual believer concerning the unknown but appointed time of our own physical passing from this world in death. We do not know the day and hour our earthly life will end and this should keep us looking to Christ. Moses asks in Psalm 90:12, ‘teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’.

Watch and pray

The Lord’s message to His disciples is given in verse 33, ‘Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is’. For the next thirty-five years these men would carry in…

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The Lord Jesus had been asked by his disciples what signs will precede the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of the temple and the overthrow of the Jewish nation. His comments here in Mark 13, and in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, tell the disciples what to look for and expect. Christ’s words were given as timely warnings to prompt His people to flee their homes for safety when the judgments coming on the Jewish nation begin.

Daniel’s prophecy

The ‘abomination of desolation’ of which the Lord speaks is a reference to the book of Daniel and means the Roman armies who would surround, enter and destroy the city. The Saviour warns that when the time comes the enemy will act swiftly with a ferocity unequalled in human history. It would take almost forty years but the wrath of God and judgment of Jesus Christ would be severely visited upon the Jews who slew the Son of God and proudly declared, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Mat 27:25).

God’s elect people

Three references in these verses to the Lord’s ‘elect’ are particularly notable. First, the Saviour tells His disciples the coming days of terror and destruction will be shortened, or lessened, for the sake of the elect. The meaning is that the complete annihilation of the Jews would not be permitted but would be prevented. A remnant would be saved for the sake of the Lord’s chosen people, either those living at that time or their descendants in generations to come.

False preachers

Second, we are told there will arise men whose claims to be alternative saviours with other ways of salvation and deliverance are so plausible, and their powers so persuasive, as to deceive many, even, says the Lord, if it were possible the very elect of God, the very Bride of Christ. However, it is not possible! The Lord’s chosen will not…

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The Lord, we are told, went out of the temple. He would never again return. It is a solemn thought that the Lord should leave a place of worship never to return. Sacrifices continued to be made but the Lord was not present. Psalms, hymns and prayers continued to be offered but the Lord did not hear. The glory had departed. There is nothing more useless than Christless religion. It is good for nothing but to be cast down and trampled upon. This is what would happen to the temple. Amazing as it might seem to the disciples who admired the grandeur of the edifice, not one stone would be left upon another. The destruction of all false religion and vain, empty worship will be just as complete, be its structures and cathedrals ever so grand.

Lessons then and now

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the Lord’s words and it is certain the disciples gave attention to the warnings. They would live through and experience personally the matters spoken of here by the Lord. These lessons were important instructions for the Lord’s apostles concerning times ahead and events that would quickly overtake them. However, there are also lessons for us all, enduring lessons for every age concerning the need to be alert to false and deceptive Christs, to take heed to recognise and avoid false doctrine, and the imperative of the Lord’s preserving care for His church.

Signs of the times

The question the disciples asked, and the Lord answered, was what signs would precede the destruction of the temple. Three distinct signs are revealed by the Lord; the…

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All That She Had

2 Aug 2022, by

When the Lord Jesus had finished preaching the crowd of listeners began to disperse. The scribes and Pharisees also withdrew and Jesus, with perhaps His first moment of leisure in the whole day, sat down near the entrance to the temple treasury to rest. There were several chests set out to receive the gifts and offerings of the people and as He sat the Saviour observed the worshippers bringing their gifts.

The what and the why

The people were not miserly and Mark and Luke tell us ‘many that were rich cast in much’. Whether there was a display of showiness about this giving is not explicitly said and there need not have been. The Lord knew the hearts and motives of those He saw and the circumstances of their giving. Let us never forget, nothing is hid from the Lord.

Teaching the disciples

The attention of the Lord was drawn to a ‘certain poor widow’ who came to make an offering. The Lord noted her offering was small in comparison to the amounts contributed by the wealthy men who went before her. She put in two mites, a farthing, or a quarter, a small fraction of the amount given by others. This supplied the

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Greater Damnation

28 Jul 2022, by

The dignity and composure with which the Lord Jesus turns these verbal clashes in the temple to the good of His people is a delight to witness. Every attack on the Lord or His people must bend to the Lord’s glory, contribute to the increase of the church’s happiness, and end in the shame of Christ’s enemies and ours. Mark it down. If you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ you will not be disappointed. That is not to say you will not be tried and tested, you will, but the Lord will always give you more than your enemies can take.

Christ rebuts all attacks

It is still Tuesday of the Passover week. By Friday our Lord will have been arrested, falsely accused, condemned, tortured and crucified. Yet every punch, kick, cut, bruise and piercing inflicted on Him will be but the last gasp rage of a defeated foe. There was yet much to be faced and endured by our Saviour for the redemption of His people, but by Sunday our Lord will have risen from His grave in triumph and power. Let us ‘continue in the faith’, knowing, like our Master, ‘we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’.

‘What think ye of Christ?’

As the Scribe who questioned the Lord about the…

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A Scribe of the sect of the Pharisees, whom Matthew calls a lawyer, now comes to question the Lord about the law. ‘Which’, he wonders, ‘is the first commandment of all’. His question is more complicated than might first appear. He was not asking about the decalogue, or Moses’ ten commandments, but seeking the Lord’s view as to which of all the laws contained in the scriptures and Jewish oral traditions took greatest priority. There were literally hundreds of possibilities to choose from, all of which were minutely argued over by these Scribes and Pharisees.

Another question to tempt the Lord

Perhaps the Scribe thought to embarrass the Lord by exposing a lack of knowledge of the breadth of the law. Jesus was, after all, a carpenter with no training in the Jewish schools. Even if the Lord could provide an opinion and choose one law, then the ‘lawyer’ surely felt able to engage with Him in trading ideas, and arguing the…

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It is a fearsome thought that the Son of God looked into the faces of a group of devoutly religious men and condemned them saying, ‘ye therefore do greatly err’. They erred in their ignorance of the living God; they erred in rejecting the testimony of scripture concerning resurrection from the dead; they erred by refusing to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. In our earthly lives we make little mistakes and we make big mistakes, but in matters of eternal life if we do not trust Christ we have erred greatly and the consequences are eternal.

Wise unto salvation

People right now are erring greatly in matters of their soul’s eternal destiny. We worry about jobs, family, health, finance, and many other things, yet are careless for our souls. The preaching of the scriptures, through the faith which is in Christ, makes us wise unto salvation. May God grant us faith, shake us from our sleep of death, rouse us before it is too late, and awaken our souls to everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

The great error of false religion …

There seems to be a censure here particularly aimed by Christ at false religion. These men were Sadducees, a theological school of teachers and students who rivalled the…

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