The Final Days of Jesus: A 40-Day Reading Guide

final daysThis week marks 40 days until Resurrection Sunday. While some celebrate with Lent and others do not, we should all prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To help in that endeavor, let me encourage you to pick up and read The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

A few years ago I put together a 40-day reading plan for that book.  The outline lays out daily Scripture readings from the Gospels, many intra-biblical connections to the Old Testament, and the page numbers to read from The Final Days of JesusIf you are interested in that 40-day reading plan, you can find it here.

Here is the devotional guide’s introduction. Let it be an invitation to a slow, worshipful reading of the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Continue reading

How Do We Know Christ Rose from the Dead?

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Easter Sunday and every Sunday call to mind that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. But how do we know that is true? Paul in his letter to the Corinthians tells us that our faith, our forgiveness, and our salvation is lost if Christ is not raised (15:12–19). So what evidence do we have to be sure Christ is raised from the dead?

To answer that question, let’s consider a few things from the New Testament, especially 1 Corinthians 15. First there are at least four historical evidences from outside of 1 Corinthians 15, and second there are at least three points of data from within 1 Corinthians 15. All of these evidences are based on the eye witness testimony Christ’s disciples—some who followed him in his life and others who were converted by his resurrection.

In what follows, I will abbreviate four points from William Lane Craig’s article, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” in the Apologetic Study Bible,[1] and add three others. Continue reading

Approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday: A Few Video Resources

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
— Galatians 4:4–7 —

Looking for ways to prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

A few years ago Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger teamed up to write a book called The Final Days of JesusIn it they produced a harmony of the Gospels, a “play-by-play” of everything that happened from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the day of his crucifixion (Good Friday) to the day of his vindication (Resurrection Sunday). This is a great resource, but maybe one to schedule for next year.

In the meantime, consider a shorter series of videos based on the book. In what follows Justin Taylor has teamed up with Köstenberger and a number of other biblical scholars (e.g., Douglas Moo, Grant Osbourne, Nicholas Perrin, and Paul Maier) to lay out the historical background and theological significance of Christ’s final week in eight 4-minute videos. And explanation for the dates and the content of these videos can be found in their book.

As you prepare this Holy Weekend, these videos would be a great encouragement. To watch them all would take less than an hour (approx. 40 min.). In that time you would be greatly encouraged and instructed with how and why Jesus did what he did as he approached his cross, the reason for which he came to earth.

Psalm Sunday, March 29, AD 33.

Monday, March 30, AD 33.

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

Maundy Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

Good Friday, April 3, AD 33.

Saturday, April 4, AD 33.

Resurrection Sunday, April 5, AD 33.

For those in the Woodbridge, Virginia area looking for a Good Friday service, please join us at Occoquan Bible Church at 7:00pm. And if you are looking for a church home, we’d love to have you join us on Sunday (at 9:30am or 11:00am).

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Christ’s Resurrection Confers Glory Upon Shameful Sinners (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

gloryThis post wraps up a three-part meditation from our Resurrection Sunday Sunrise Service (part 1 and part 2).

The last thing to see about Christ’s resurrection is how God confers glory upon those who do not deserve it. In fact, this is again the difference between Adam and Christ: The first was created to glorify God, but failed. He led the human race into shame. By contrast, Jesus came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He took the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-8) and died shamefully so that he might arise gloriously and confer glory to all those who rise with him. Continue reading

Christ, the Firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

firstAfter testifying to the reality of Christ’s resurrection (v. 20), the second thing Paul address in 1 Corinthians 15 is the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated by his resurrection. Verse 20 says that the Jesus who was raised from the dead is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The Feast of Firstfruits

The word “firstfruits” is a harvest term. It is the produce that first arises from the ground. In Israel it was to be dedicated to the Lord, as an offering of thanksgiving. For instance, Leviticus 23 commanded Israel to bring an offering of firstfruits in a festival that followed Passover and preceded Pentecost (vv. 9-14).

Historically, the feast which occurred on the “day after the Sabbath” after the Passover (v. 11) corresponded to the day when Israel was brought out of Egypt as God’s firstborn. Notably, this timing indicates part of the significance of this festival and the meaning of “firstfruits.” One old commentator writes,

The offering unto God . . . commemorated Israel’s separation from the nations, as a firstfruits of redemption. [It] symbolically signified the consecration of Israel unto God as the first-born unto Him from the nations, the beginning of the world’s great harvest. (S. H, Kellogg, Studies in Leviticus, 468)

In Israel’s history, this feast was meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and how that event confirmed their status as the firstborn son of Yahweh (Exod 4:22). That Christ would be called the “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20 corresponds to this reality. He is the Son of God; not only in his divinity but in his humanity. His resurrection designates him the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 1:3-4; 8:29-30). Continue reading

Christ’s Resurrection Awakens Indifference (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

risen

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
– 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – 

When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about Christ’s resurrection, the first thing he addressed concerning Christ’s resurrection is the plausibility of resurrection itself.

Universal Indifference

In the Greco-Roman world, the most educated did not believe in life after death. The notion of a physical, embodied existence after death was laughable. And so, Paul had to defend the idea of resurrection in general, so that he could affirm the resurrection of Christ in particular.

The same sort of thinking occurs today. Well-schooled atheists deny Christ’s resurrection because they hold to a materialist view of the world. At the same time, many live for the weekend, the next ball game, or the next item to check off the bucket list. For them, the resurrection is not a matter of metaphysics but utility. They do not see the “cash value” of Christ’s resurrection and thus they remain quagmired in indifference. Continue reading

A Beautiful, Scandalous Night

A number of years ago The Smalltown Poets—who remain one of my favorite CCM bands—covered the song, “A Beautiful, Scandalous Night.”  It is a powerful meditation on the horrific and glorious reality of Christ’s death.  Here is a video to the song, done by the original artist, The Choir.

As you approach Easter, may the truths of this song flood your heart with joy and thanksgiving. The tree which brought Jesus death has brought us life.

Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide
Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified

Follow Christ to the holy mountain
Sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall
Cleanse your heart and your soul
In the fountain that flows
For you and for me and for all

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful scandalous night

On the hillside you will be delivered
At the foot of the cross justified
And your spirit restored
By the river that pours
From our blessed Saviors side

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree

Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide
Kneel down on the shore be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by his blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful scandalous night

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

What is Good About Good Friday?

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune].

What makes Good Friday good?

What is good about illegal arrests, puppet trials, executing the innocent, and setting free the guilty?  Nothing.  And everything.   For centuries, Christians have deemed the Friday of Jesus’ death “Good Friday.”  But why?  How?  When the day centers on death and defeat, what makes it good?

How we answer that question says so much about what we believe about God, the gospel, and our own lives.  In a word, the event that makes Good Friday “good” is what happened on three days later.

When the sun went down on that fateful Friday, the disciples hid themselves from the world.  On the Sabbath (Saturday), they did not move.  But on the first day of the week, they awoke before dawn, walked to the place where Jesus was.  And what happened next changed everything!  The tomb was empty.  The Lord was risen.  His promises were true, and what the disciples would discover is that the worst day in history has now become the best day in history.

This historical reality has and will changed the world, and has the power to change every person who believes in it.  Consider: Paul says that in comparison to the eternal weight of glory, today’s sufferings are light and momentary.  While the pangs of death do not feel light and momentary, the power of the resurrection reinterprets our current pain, loss, and heartache, even as it reinterpreted Christ’s cruciform execution.

Even better, the resurrection is not just a palliative for temporary relief.  It is not a best-selling strategy to make you feel better about yourself.  No, the resurrection goes deeper.  It tells us that life exists on the other side of death. Our best life is not now.  It is later.

This is the gospel message: Jesus died on a rugged cross so that from the grave, he could raise the dead.  Jesus does not help us find a way in the wilderness of life.  Resurrection is not just a spiritual experience; it is a reviving flesh and blood.  The broken bodies of believers buried in the ground will be raised to new life on the last day, and the goodness of Good Friday will be experienced for eternity. This is what makes Good Friday good.

This week as you prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, remember that the resurrection of Christ has the power to overturn the horrors and heartbreaks of life.  Even more, the cross and resurrection of Christ secure the promise of abundant life.  For all who call on the Lord will find the goodness of Good Friday to overwhelm the badness of any other day.  Resurrection life is what Christ offers, and that is what is makes Good Friday good.