THE TRUE PEACEMAKER AND BENEFACTOR OF THE PEOPLE (1950)
BY DR. DAVID GOODING, IPSWICH, ENGLAND
Chapters 22 and 23 of Luke are filled with ideas of peace and provision. The priests pose as peacemakers by accusing Christ of disturbing and exciting the people, and demand His execution. Pilate secures temporary peace by yielding to the insistent clamour of the people, but at the cost of setting loose among them an insurrectionist and murderer. Earlier, Judas had betrayed Christ under cover of a kiss of ‘peace’; and in the courtroom, where Christ was being insulted; Peter had kept the peace with his newfound companions by denying Him.
In chapter 22 the priests make preparation for the nation for the Passover. The preparation is to rob the people of the teaching of Christ, which they are obviously enjoying, see 21. 38, and is accomplished by the help of Satan; and in Christ’s place they choose for the people a murderer and an insurrectionist.
The True Peacemaker
Against this dark background Luke skilfully portrays Christ as the Perfect Peacemaker. His intercession obtains forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified Him, at a moment when they must have been outraging the feelings of God and provoking His wrath. Unlike Pilate, who set at large an untamed murderer Barabbas, Christ, finding another such on the cross beside Him, brings him to repentance and makes him a fit subject for Paradise. Even His trial serves as the occasion for Pilate being reconciled to Herod.
Moreover, according to Luke, the atmosphere of the upper room was charged with elements which would have destroyed the peace had it not been for the skilful ministry of Christ. The strife among the disciples as to who should be the greatest (recorded in this context by Luke alone) is calmed by His teaching and example. The attempt of Satan to disrupt the band of disciples is forestalled by His intercession for Peter; the company is made aware of the insidious designs of the traitor by His solemn denunciation. In the Garden, the ravages of the misused sword are healed by His touch. And on the repentant thief He bestows immediate pardon and peace.
The True Benefactor
But Christ not only brings peace, He makes provision for His own and for the nation. He directs the preparation for the Passover, institutes the supper of remembrance for the present, and for the future appoints His disciples a kingdom and promises them fellowship with Him then. His followers, disciplined by sharing His rejection, are being prepared to govern Israel in the day of Israel’s glory–an incalculable blessing for Israel. Satan’s attack on Peter is turned and made to serve the eventual strengthening of all the disciples; and before He sends them out into the nation, which formerly had entertained them on their preaching tours, Christ wisely counsels them what attitude they must adopt in a world in which He Himself is regarded as an outlaw.
Unlike Barabbas, the only blood Christ shed was His own; unlike the priests, in league with Satan to rob the people, He was sustained in His exercises for them in the Garden by a heavenly ministrant; unlike His disciples, He was content to serve and not to be served; and unlike and excelling all, He was and is the perfect Peacemaker and Benefactor of the people.
ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP (1958)
(Illustrated by The Woman in Simon’s House, Luke 7. 36-50)
BY A. E. LONG, ASHTEAD, ENGLAND
(Quotations are from the Revised Version)
Etymologically, the word ‘worship’ derives from the Anglo- Saxon ‘weorthscipe’, or ‘worthship’. The Bible everywhere teaches that God is the alone true object of worship, as the words of the Lord Jesus to Satan make plain, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’. It is without hurt to this truth that the New Testament insists that God can be worshipped only through the Lord Jesus. Christ Himself said, ‘No one cometh unto the Father, but by me’. Peter writes of ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ and the writer of the Hebrew epistle exhorts, ‘through him let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually’. To worship Christ is to worship God, since in essence both are ‘one’. Worship can be said to concern the ‘worth-ship’ of the Lord Jesus. In any act of worship He must be central, for it to be acceptable to God.
Worship composed of a number of elements
Unlike many words in Bible usage, worship is a somewhat elusive word to define. The incense used in the tabernacle, which is symbolic of worship, was compounded of several elements: ‘stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices with pure frankincense’. In the episode of the sinful woman, we have an exposition of worship compounded of a number of elements. It conforms to the true pattern of worship, in that the Lord Jesus was central in it.
Simon the Pharisee, to whose house the Lord had been invited for a meal, had shamefully neglected the normal courtesies due to a guest. He had supplied neither water nor towel for feet washing, had failed to greet the Lord with the customary kiss and had not supplied any perfume to anoint His head. All these discourteous omissions the woman repaired in her worship of the Lord. Her tears, bedewing the Lord’s feet, did duty for Simon’s absent basin of water, her tresses took the place of Simon’s missing towel, her ardent kisses compensated for the lack of Simon’s greeting and the fragrant perfume remedied the Pharisee’s negligence in that respect.
She was no ordinary sinner. Simon knew her for what she was, as also did the Lord, despite Simon’s erroneous assumption, ‘This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is which toucheth him, that she is a sinner’. She was unchaste, with an unenviable reputation in the city. It is almost incredible that such a person could possibly be a living exposition of the art of worship, but, as was true of another of her class, ‘the Father seeketh such to worship him’.
Her worship began with penitence
‘Standing behind at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears’. There is no worship without penitence. The Passover might not be celebrated without ‘bitter herbs’. Contact with the Lord Jesus brought conviction of sin. He said nothing to her, except His final word in the episode, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace’. His presence was enough to bring conviction. His utter holiness and her utter sinfulness were at painful variance in her thoughts. Time was, when contact with the Lord through the preaching of the word reduced sinners to tears and made even saints to weep, but it is a rare enough event nowadays.
Is it that we fail to actualize the Lord’s presence in our preaching, so that the contact is too tenuous to bring conviction deep enough for tears? The first charge upon worship is penitence. David wrote out of a convicted heart, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise’. There are other acceptable sacrifices, but this is the first a sinner must bring. This sinful woman had probably not wept for years; such was the hardening effect of her sin, yet she wept copiously in the presence of the Lord.
Her worship was penetrated with love
In justifying the woman before Simon the Lord said, ‘she loved much’. Her ardent kissing betokened her love. She ‘kissed much’ (Greek) His blessed feet. In contrasting Simon’s neglect with the woman’s attentions Jesus said, ‘She, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet’. The traitor’s sign of betrayal was ‘much kissing’. Perfidious kisses indeed! The woman’s ‘much kissing’ was expressive of genuine love. Her’s were soiled lips, yet the Lord did not disdain a harlot’s kisses any more than He shrank from touching a leper. Wondrous grace! Simon would have scorned both her tears and her kisses, but the Lord accepted both as elements of her worship. There is no worship without love. This is at once the test of worship and Christianity, ‘if any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema’. Love does not consist in pious protestations, it must express itself in deeds, ‘if ye love me ye will keep my commandments’.
Her worship was expressed through sacrifice
‘She brought an alabaster cruse of ointment … and anointed (His feet) with the ointment’. Like the Philippians’ gift to Paul, hers was a fragrant sacrifice to God, Phil. 4. 18. It was the best she could give, for of her it might also have been said, ‘She hath done what she could’. In gratitude to the Lord, Levi the tax gatherer ‘made (Jesus) a great feast’. This sinful woman could not give on that scale; nonetheless, she gave her best, such as it was. Who shall say that her gift was not as acceptable as Levi’s? It is not the measure of our giving, but the cost of it, which makes it sacrificial. The widow gave only ‘two mites’, but in doing so gave ‘all she had’, which made the tiny gift sacrificial. Those who were rich gave much, but ‘of their superfluity’; it was not sacrificial. There is no worship without sacrifice. David averred, ‘Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God which cost me nothing’.
Her worship was crowned with consecration
‘She wiped (His feet) with the hair of her head’. Her ‘glory’ was laid at His feet. This was literally the giving of herself. Mary of Bethany shares this distinction with her. There is no worship without consecration, the dedication or re-dedication of ourselves to Him. In extolling the virtues of the churches of Macedonia to the Corinthians, in citing the example of their sacrificial giving, Paul wrote they ‘first gave their own selves to the Lord’. It is our ‘reasonable service’ (mar. ‘spiritual worship’) that we ‘present (our) bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God’, the members of our bodies, formerly yielded to sin, now yielded to God. This woman’s consecrated use of her hair expressed this truth.
DARK DISHONOUR – ANSWERING GLORY (1988)
BY CYRIL E. HOCKING, PENARTH, WALES
Our title was suggested by a verse of Centra Thompson’s hymn which gripped our hearts during the Lord’s Supper recently. The words are familiar to many of us.
Every mark of dark dishonour
Heaped upon the thorn crowned brow,
All the depths of Thy heart’s sorrow
Told in answering glory now.
It is to our Saviour’s thorn-crowned brow that the hymn-writer directs us first, though we may extend the range to include other of the more obvious and external elements of His dark dishonour revealed in the scriptures. Then, it is upon the depths of our Lord’s intimate, inner feelings, His thoughts and heart-sorrows that we are encouraged to focus.
Moving and demanding of our adoring response as these marks and depths are, we are urged on from there, drawn upward, to the very throne room of heaven, to see in our beloved, exalted Lord every answering glory which the Father has bestowed upon the Son of His love now. And there are more to come! Our hearts now go out to Him and we worship the worthy One.
Marks of dark dishonour
Think of that night in which our Saviour was betrayed. Was He not roughly seized and bound in Gethsemane, and taken away to Annas? After speaking to Annas one of the officers there struck Him with his hand. He was bound again before being taken to Caiaphas, and following those illegal proceedings He was buffeted with the palms and beaten by the men holding Him. They covered His lovely face with their vile spittle.
The next morning they bound Him again and led Him to Pilate. The Roman governor had Jesus scourged, and had Him brought out before the people. With compelling dignity He stood before them as the words rang out, ‘Behold the man!’ For Pilate this was a designedly pitiable sight, intended to move the masses to sympathy toward the innocent Sufferer. The viciousness of that which He had endured was all too evident in the ghastliness of the spectacle. As it had been prophetically anticipated, so now it had come to be. He could say, ‘I may tell all my bones, they look and stare upon me’. The Roman soldiers added to His pain and indignity by plaiting and placing upon His head a crown of cruel thorns, and by smiting His head with the reed which they had earlier given Him as a mock sceptre. How meekly He accepted all of this, saying, ‘I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting’. At last they nailed Him to the tree. Enemies, like so many wild beasts, surrounded Him. At this, His prayer broke His silent submissiveness for those who so despitefully abused Him, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’. What matchless and majestic mercy!
Surpassing the whole weight of human wrath He endured so patiently is that impenetrable and immeasurable agony He knew as He bore the righteous wrath of God. What dark dishonour was this when, as the One made answerable for sin, He became a curse for us? What storms of overflowing wrath broke upon Him as He sank in the deep mire, wearied with crying, His throat dried, His strength dried up. Of God He said, ‘Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about. All thy billows and thy waves passed over me’. The divine sword of execution was awakened against the Man who was God’s fellow; no pitying eye was found. God brought Him ‘into the dust of death’. Have you paused to consider that ‘it pleased the Lord (i.e., it was within the terms of the Lord’s good pleasure, the working out of His purpose) to bruise him; he hath put him to grief ‘? He was ‘smitten of God, and afflicted’, wounded, bruised, chastised for the transgression of the people, when the Lord ‘laid on him the iniquity of us all’.
Depths of His heart-sorrow
Man’s physical brutality was but a part of that which our Lord endured. Words and actions designed to humiliate, denigrate, implicate, all tools used in psychological warfare, added to the Saviour’s sorrows. These were accentuated as He pondered that ‘they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love’. Many things must have deeply affected our Lord’s holy and righteous soul. He listened to the lies of those false witnesses, heard the charge of blasphemy pronounced, and was subjected to the mockery and reviling of those men that held Him. The sadness and yet the tenderness of that look which broke Peter after his threefold denial spoke volumes regarding the heartsorrow of the Saviour. Even His own forsook Him and fled. What grief it would have brought to Him to hear the false accusations that He had perverted His own nation and that He had forbidden the paying of tribute. Herod joined with his soldiers in setting Him at nought, mocking Him, and arraying Him in gorgeous robes. How deeply affecting it must have been when the cry went out, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas’. The Roman soldiers enjoyed their humiliating of Him and the mock homage paid to Him. They not only stripped Him before crucifying Him, but with callous detachment and self-interest shared out His garments as a part of the spoil of the day. The One who came to save transgressors was numbered among them.
For Him, the railing and mocking did not end once He was crucified. The passers-by, the chief priests and rulers, the soldiers, and even the robbers crucified alongside Him continued their heartless abuse. He could say, ‘I became a reproach unto them. When they looked upon me they shaked their heads’. He was indeed a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, a reproach of men, despised of the people, and laughed to scorn, rejected by men and deserted by His own. The sensitivity of His holy soul only served to magnify the depths of sorrows He experienced through all of this and so much more. Reproach, indeed, had broken His heart. He could say ‘for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face … the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me’.
Yet, beyond what He was called upon to endure from His creatures, there remain those unplumbed depths of sorrows while He was forsaken of His God. He could confess that the waters were ‘come into my soul’; they ‘compassed me about, even to the soul’. The unanswered ‘Why?’ that escaped from His lips on the tree revealed not only His awful loneliness, but also that His God had forsaken Him as your sin-bearer and mine. Was it not His God that ‘put him to grief ‘, that made ‘his soul an offering for sin’? He did go more than just a little further in ‘the travail of his soul’ when He ‘poured out his soul unto death’. While it is true that the people hid their faces from Him, there were deeper sorrows still for Him when God hid His face from Him in the hour of His deep need.
What answers to this in glory now?
Through His work upon the cross our Lord Jesus glorified God upon the earth, having accomplished the work He had been given to do. Because of this, death could not keep its prey, and God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, vindicating His Messiahship and Lordship. On taking Him to heaven He said, ‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool’. Once debased and humiliated by men, our glorious Lord is now at God’s right hand, not only being exalted but highly exalted, a term and honour specially reserved for Him. In His lovely face, once cruelly marred, we read ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God’. The thorn-crowned One of the past is crowned with glory and honour today, and we long to see Him rightly crowned with many diadems when He comes out of heaven in the future. The One stripped at Golgotha is now ‘clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle’. Just one of those nail-pierced hands, glorified, upholds all the churches.
The mock homage of earth dwellers has given way to the glad worship of heaven’s hosts who crowd around Him owning His worthiness, awaiting His orders. His past heart-sorrow, strangely interpenetrated with ‘the joy that was set before him’, is transformed in the presence of God now with ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasures for evermore’. He, who was numbered among the transgressors, is now far above all principality, and power, having the name that is above every name. The mock homage paid Him by the soldiers is all behind Him; God has declared that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’. Men once wagged their tongues at Him, but it is decreed that ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’. His submissiveness as the Lamb of God when before His shearers, finds its antithesis in God putting ‘all things under his feet’. This is the Man whom the Lord has delighted to honour. His newly acquired glories extend beyond those which will channel blessing to Israel, for God has said, ‘It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee’, Isa. 49. 6-7.
We are still moved when we look back to ‘Behold the man’ but how we are drawn out in worship as we look up and confess Him as our Lord and our God. Of the soldiers at the cross it was said that ‘sitting down they watched (lit. kept guard) him there’, but God’s answer to this is in the words of the prophet Isaiah who calls all to ‘Behold your God!’
SCRIPTURES FULFILLED (1984)
JOHN 19. 23-42
BY ALBERT LECKIE, AIRDRIE, SCOTLAND
Before He ascended to heaven, the Lord Jesus reminded His disciples, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me’, Luke 24. 44. In chapter 19 of John’s Gospel the apostle demonstrated that this was certainly true of the circumstances attending the Lord’s death. He drew attention to a series of events which corresponded with those things foretold or foreshadowed in the Psalms, vv. 24, 28, the Law of Moses, v. 36, and the prophets, v. 37.
The Psalms. There are two references to the fulfilment of verses from the Davidic psalms. The two fulfilments were, however, very different. (1) Psalm 22. 18 reads, ‘They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture’. This verse received its fulfilment when the Roman soldiers divided Jesus’ garments among themselves and cast lots for His coat, John 19. 23-24. This fulfilment (Greek pleroo, to make full) was unintentional and unwitting on the part of the soldiers. (2) Psalm 69. 21 reads, ‘in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’. This verse received its fulfilment (Greek teleioo, to bring to completeness) when Jesus called, ‘I thirst’, and was given vinegar from a vessel which stood near the cross, John 19. 28-29. This fulfilment was occasioned deliberately and wittingly by the Lord Jesus, v. 28. It should be noted that the Lord’s words, ‘It is finished’, translate a word which is closely related to that rendered ‘fulfilled’, v. 28. The Lord’s concern was to bring to completion both the scriptures and His work. The soldiers were altogether unaware of the significance of what they did. The Lord Jesus, however, was determined at all times to secure the fulfilment of all that had been written of Him, see Matt. 26. 54.
The Law. The soldiers did not need to break the Lord’s legs to hasten death, for He ‘was dead already’, John 19. 33. He had earlier claimed that no one would take His life from Him, but that He would lay it down of Himself, 10. 18. He had the necessary authority to do this and He did it! With dignity He had ‘bowed’ His head, v. 30; compare the use of the same Greek word, translated ‘to lay’, to describe rest and repose, Matt. 8. 20. In a sovereign and voluntary act He ‘delivered up his spirit’, v. 30, lit. In the fact that the Lord’s legs remained unbroken, John detected another fulfilment of scripture. The law of Moses had said of the paschal lamb, ‘neither shall ye break a bone thereof’, Exod. 12. 46; Num. 9. 12. This was consistent with the general requirement that no mutilated animal was to be offered to God, Lev. 22. 21-22. Accordingly, when ‘Christ our Passover’ was sacrificed for us, 1 Cor. 5. 7, God saw to it that none of His bones was broken. His bones may have been ‘out of joint’ (lit. separated), Ps. 22. 14, they may have been exposed to view, v. 17, but they were not broken! This fact should have registered with the Jews who had called for the breaking of the legs of the three crucified men and who witnessed the sequel. Apart from suggesting a reference to the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world, John 1. 29, the way in which the Lord’s bones remained unbroken bore eloquent witness of His righteousness. David had long before said, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He (the Lord, that is) keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken’, Ps 34. 19-20. God was willing for the soldiers to break the legs of the other two men, but He ‘kept’ the bones of the Righteous Man. In the Gospel of Luke it is the Roman centurion who heralded the fact of the Lord’s righteousness at the cross, Luke 23, 47; in the Gospel of John it is the fact that His legs remained unbroken!
The Prophets. John referred to one final scripture, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’, v. 37. The way in which he introduced his quotation from Zechariah 12. 10 is striking. He did not say this time that it was ‘fulfilled’ (either pleroo or teleioo); merely that another scripture ‘saith’. Why is this? The reason is simple; the relevant prophecy did not receive its complete fulfilment at the cross. The context of Zechariah 12 portrays the Lord as seeking to destroy the nations which ‘come against’ and besiege Jerusalem, vv. 1, 9, a clear reference to the second advent of Christ, Rev. 19. 15. Then shall every eye see Him ‘and they also which pierced him’, 1. 7. For this reason John is careful not to claim the fulfilment of Zechariah 12. 10 when the Lord died.
The apostle John, therefore, lends full support to Paul when the latter insists that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’, 1 Cor. 15. 3. It is interesting to compare the previous occasions where John refers to the accomplishment of the Old Testament scriptures in the life and death of the Lord Jesus, 2. 17; 12. 15, 38, 40; 13. 18; 15. 25; 17. 12.
The closing section of John 19 (verses 38-42) records the incident of the Lord’s burial. This incident also represented, without it actually being said, the fulfilment of both Old Testament prophecy and Old Testament type. Matthew describes Joseph of Arimathea as ‘a rich man’, Matt. 27. 57. This description highlights the fulfilment of the first half of Isaiah 53. 9. The prophet foretold that Messiah’s grave would be made with the wicked (plural in Hebrew), a clear reference the intention of the Jewish leaders to have the Lord’s body cast into a burying place for criminals. And yet, Isaiah claimed, Messiah would be with the rich (singular in Hebrew) in His death. In the events which led up to the Lord’s death, God permitted base men to proceed as far as their evil hearts contrived. But He intervened in the circumstances attending the burial of His Son’s body, using Joseph to thwart the plans of His enemies. A poor woman named Mary had wrapped the body of the babe Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid it a manger. A rich man named Joseph wrapped the Saviour’s dead body in a linen cloth and laid it in a new sepulchre.
Luke describes Joseph as ‘a just (i.e., righteous) man’, Luke 23. 50. This detail accords with the typical teaching of the Old Testament concerning the handling of the ashes of the burnt offering, Lev. 6. 10. The law of the burnt offering provided that the responsible priest should ‘put on his linen garment and his linen breeches’. It may well have seemed strange to some of Israel’s priests that they were required to dress themselves in clean linen when removing the ashes from the altar. The ashes, however, spoke of the glorious Person whose unique sacrifice would have been completed. The ‘fine linen’, Exod. 39. 27-28, was suggestive of personal righteousness, Rev. 19. 8. In type, therefore God was indicating that it would be only righteous men who would be allowed touch the body of the Lord Jesus after His death. In his preaching, Peter maintained that it was ‘wicked hands‘which had crucified and slain Him, Acts 2. 23. But it was into the Father’s hands that our Lord committed His spirit, Luke 23. 46, and it was into the hands of a righteous man that the Father committed His Son’s body when He had died. Leviticus 6 further required that the ashes be then carried to a ‘clean place’, v. 11. John emphasizes that Christ was buried in a new tomb, where no one had ever been laid before, John 19. 41, that is, the tomb had not been contaminated previously by any form of corruption. It was clean – a suitable resting place for Him whose flesh, according to the scriptures, would see no corruption, Acts 2. 25-31, and who, according to the scriptures, rose again the third day, 1 Cor. 15. 4.
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