CTT | “3 Days & 3 Nights”?

As frustrating as social media can become regarding matters of …well anything, there is no doubt near limitless opportunity to challenge our perceptions and doctrinal positions. If we are willing to do the work of a Berean, even holding our closest kept doctrines up to the light of Scripture for examination, and ask questions of our pastors and teachers, there is room for growth, even from discussions originating in social media.

During Holy Week, we shared a post that examined the timeline of Holy Week and the Passion of Christ. The timeline we shared was a Thursday evening Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, His arrest, His trial through the night and into Friday morning, Crucifixion on Friday afternoon, burial before sundown Friday, Resurrection before daybreak on Sunday morning.

The primary focus of today’s CTT post is on the wording we find in Matthew 12:40. Let’s look at the verse in it’s immediate context and then we’ll explain the thought being conveyed in this passage, its wording, and how it reconciles with the rest of Matthew and the other Gospel Accounts of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 12:38-42 (ESV) | The Sign of Jonah

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher,we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold,something greater than Solomon is here.

So, the common objection we’ll hear from folks insisting on a modern, literalistic interpretation of this passage is something to the effect of, “hey, since Jesus listed days and nights here, He’s explicitly laying out 3×24 hour periods where He lay in the tomb”. We’re going to address this objection by looking at the following questions:

  1. How many times is this phrasing used to describe the burial of Jesus as opposed to the more general phrasing of “3 days” or “on the third day”?
  2. How did Matthew account for the timeline of the Passion of Christ? How about Luke, the physician?
  3. If the extra wording isn’t for specifying timing of the time in the tomb, why the extra wording? Where is the significance in this phrase to be found?

This will probably end up being a long post, but I want to cover these three points to the best of my ability. Please double-check my work (open Bible, not an open mind) and don’t hesitate to talk these issues over with your pastor. Please understand that due to my lack of training in Koine Greek, I’ll be making my arguments based on the ESV translation, trusting the scholarship of others to provide solid translations.

1. How is Jesus’ time in the tomb referenced?

There are a number of ways we could go about researching this question. Let’s begin with how many times Matthew refers to Jesus’ time in the tomb. Matthew references it 7 times. We’ve already seen the first reference in Matt 12:40. Let’s look at the other references Matthew makes:

Matt 16:21;17:23;20:19;26:61;27:40;27:63-64; (ESV)

Matthew 16:21(ESV) 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Matthew 17:23 (ESV) 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

Matthew 20:19 (ESV) 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Matthew 26:61 (ESV) 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’”

Matthew 27:40 (ESV) 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

Matthew 27:63-64 (ESV) 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”

Interesting, isn’t it? Now here we have Matthew talking about Jesus being raised “on the third day”, “in three days”, “after three days”, and we have a reference to being in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. Matthew didn’t only record what Jesus said of Himself, He also recorded what the people remembered, the unbelievers and the enemies of Jesus, this is how they remembered it and we see how they hurled these words back at Jesus as an insult to Him. When we start looking to the other Gospel writers, we’ll see another 10 mentions of Christ’s death and resurrection, with a mixture of these same reference points of “in three days”, “on the third day”, and “after three days”. So what are we seeing here? Is this a discrepancy in the amount of time Jesus spent in the tomb? No. This reflects the fluid nature of how time is referenced in the culture of the day. Clearly Matthew, who was writing to the Jews, had no issue whatsoever using the various references to time without a problem. A point that is clearly made in the Matt 27:63-64, where if we applied our modern-day, down-to-the-minute specificity of time keeping we’d say, “hey, bozos, if you’re trying to prevent an event that happens after 3 days, why would you only place guards until the start of the third day?”

So, we’ve demonstrated how the Gospel accounts treat all presented phrasing as equally descriptive of the time Jesus spent in the tomb. Those who seek to delve into various theories and algorithms to try to reconcile all of these times to fit our modernist accounting of time do so NOT to reconcile the scriptures with each other, but simply to modernize the time keeping, and undermine the Scriptures in the process. So how should we treat the Jewish accounting of days? We should accept that the Scriptures are sound. The death and burial of Jesus was a VERY public event, during the feast of unleavened bread. Jerusalem was packed with people. His death and resurrection was easily falsifiable yet no one proved the Apostles false. Secondly, we do have extra-biblical resources for learning how the Jews accounted for days, hours, months, and years. In our modern culture, we have standardized time such the length of an hour or a day remains fixed, regardless of the sunrise/sunset. In Jewish culture, the standard was sunrise and sunset as observed by certain people. The length of a day and that of an hour varied throughout the year (source). The idea of converting references to “3 days” to exactly 72 hours is a modern concept that we need to resist applying to Scripture. Even when we see “3 days and 3 nights”, but we’ll talk more about that in point 3. Any part of a day was called that day. In fact, the only place in the whole Bible that refers to “half days” is in Revelation 11:1-14, where John is sharing the vision of the Two Witnesses who die and are raised up in 3 and a half days.

2. Matthew’s Timeline of the Passion of Christ, and Luke’s account of how Jesus referenced on the road to Emmaus

Okay, so we already pointed out how Matthew’s account uses various references to the 3 days of Christ’s death and resurrection. What I’d like to do now is work through Matthew’s account of the timing of the death and resurrection of Jesus to really drive home the point that Matthew wasn’t confused or internally inconsistent. Now, another thing worth noting is that the 7 days of the week having names didn’t fully take until about the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The Jews only had one day of the week that was named, and that was the Sabbath. The days were numbered 1 thru 7, with the seventh day being the Sabbath.  If you’d like to read through the Matthew account and build the timeline yourself, simply open your Bible to Matthew 26 through 28. For our purposes here, I want to highlight specific passages working from the resurrection backward.

Resurrection Day

Matthew 28:1-2 (ESV) Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Okay, so the empty tomb was discovered by the Marys toward the dawn of the first day of the week, the day following the Sabbath. Matthew gives us a very precise record of which part of which day this event took place. The Sabbath had ended roughly at sundown on what we’d call ‘Saturday night’, and the empty was discovered early in the morning on what we call Sunday. Incidentally, this is why the Church meets on Sunday rather than keeping Saturdays… because we now are part of the 8th day, the Lord’s Day after His Sabbath rest from all of His previous work, the “it is finished” on the cross. Since the resurrection takes place on the first day of the week, it counts as a full day, the third day. We already see that the Sabbath was the second day, but let’s see what Matthew records for that day.

The Sabbath of our Lord and Savior

Matthew 27:57-66 (ESV) When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Folks like to mess around with this day and try to insert days before and after this day to stretch out timelines. I don’t think there’s any legitimacy to this, particularly within Matthew’s account. We see Jesus buried, the next day the guard is put in place until the third day, and the next day (after the Sabbath) the tomb is empty. Three days accounted for by Jewish reckoning with the Sabbath in the center. Where folks play with dates is by first insisting that Preparation Day has to be a certain date, and then they start to squeeze in narratives between verses to justify their fixed dates.

Now what we have here is Jesus being crucified on the day of preparation, before the Sabbath, before the First day of the week. Jesus had a truly rough day which didn’t start on the day of preparation, but on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the day the Passover Lambs were slaughtered. So let’s go there in Matthew’s account.

Jesus Keeps Passover with the Disciples

Matthew 26:17-19 (ESV) Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

Okay, so Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) didn’t explain the significance of the first day of Unleavened Bread. I get this detail from Mark’s account Mark 14:12 (ESV) And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” That fixes the Passover to that evening after they slaughtered the Passover Lamb, where the LORD then institutes the Lord’s Supper, Judas runs off to betray Jesus… and sometime later returns and Jesus is arrested and is immediately taken to trial throughout the night (where Peter betrays Him 3 times before the rooster crows). Once day breaks, Jesus stands before the Roman courts as the Jews push for Rome to crucify Jesus. This is a very tight timeline, and it is of the Passover leading into 3 days: (Passover Thursday), Friday, Saturday (Sabbath), Sunday.

Regarding the 3 days, I’d like to take a moment to turn to Luke’s Account of the Resurrection and the Emmaus walk found in Luke 24. Please read the full chapter, but we’ll pull some selected texts to focus on the timing of events.

Luke 24:1-3 (ESV) But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:9-12 (ESV) and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:13-27 (ESV) That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:30-31 (ESV) When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24:36-49 (ESV) As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The first day of the week, was the third day, and the Christ had risen on that third day as it was Written.

3. Why the extra wording?

Okay, so why the extra wording in Matthew 12:40? Let’s reread the passage in its context.

Matthew 12:38-42 (ESV) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher,we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold,something greater than Solomon is here.

Notice I chose to highlight different portions of this passage this time around? That’s because this is the purpose of the extra wording “three days and three nights”. Matthew isn’t sharing extra insight on the timing of Christ’s resurrection, he’s quoting Jesus’ words of rebuke against the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew is connecting for us that Jonah foreshadowed Christ. The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, and these scribes and Pharisees murdered Him. This isn’t the only time Matthew records this point. It happens again in chapter 16, but this time Matthew doesn’t draw out the teaching.

Matthew 16:1-4 (ESV) | The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The point of the extra wording was for the hearers in that day and for us who read it now to reflect back on the Old Testament Account of Jonah. No doubt this was part of the teaching Jesus did on the road to Emmaus as He taught them from the Scriptures to see how everything pointed to Christ’s death and resurrection. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to use this expanded connection to Jonah with the phrasing of the three days and three nights. We can replicate the timelines in Mark and Luke. John takes a different approach in his account, and we might take some time to work through his account in another CTT post down the road.

Conclusion

Scripture interprets scripture. We let the clear passages teach us how to understand the unclear passages, and we let the text do the teaching. The Scriptures don’t need our help, we just need to read them and trust that God the Holy Spirit will grow our faith through the hearing (reading) of God’s Word. We need to be careful with how we try to force verses to reconcile with our modern-day paradigms, for in so doing we run the risk of completely disregarding the harmony of the scriptures in favor of our own machinations.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | The Passion of Christ

imagesI hadn’t planned to post anything for Good Friday, but Worldview Everlasting (WEtv) posted 2 videos this week that were so full of awesome teaching that I simply had to share it. These are short videos and I will not be adding much text to this post. My encouragement to you dear brothers and sisters in Christ is to spend time in God’s Word and attend whatever services your local church holds this weekend (vespers, sunrise service, etc.) to be fed the Word of God. This holiday isn’t about the abominable bunny, it is about the beautiful exchange of your sinfulness for Christ’s righteousness by His Finished work on the cross.

Update: After this post was posted, WEtv put out another amazing video that simply had to be added to today’s post.

Timeline Events of Holy Week – Pr Bryan Wolfmueller

 

One Lamb for All – Pr Matt Richard

 

The Full Suffering of Christ

Psalm 22 (ESV) | Why Have You Forsaken Me?
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn.
A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

Conclusion

Today we remember the most terrible and beautiful day recorded in history. This is the very center of the Scriptures, the Written Word of God. In closing, I’d like to remind our readers of the forgiveness of God and of the call to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, baptizing and teaching all that Christ had taught… what we now have in Scripture.

John 21:15-19 (ESV) | Jesus and Peter
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Mark 11

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week we covered Mark 10, where we saw Jesus clearly teach regarding marriage and divorce by reaching back all the way to Genesis 2. We are again reminded that Jesus came to die for our sin and then be raised up for our salvation.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 11 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 11:1-11 (ESV) | The Triumphal Entry

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

In the future I’d like to get these devotional posts better lined up with the church year, but this one landed fairly closely. If you attend a liturgical church that moves through a lectionary, you probably read through this account or one of its parallels last week or the week prior. While this may seem an oddly specific request from Jesus, Matthew and John give us the reference to the following Prophecy:

Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) | The Coming King of Zion
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

It is so cool to see how completely Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and how once you see they are fulfilled in Him it becomes clear that these couldn’t possibly be about anyone else. Praise the LORD!

Mark 11:12-14 (ESV) | Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

When we worked through the parallel texts in Matthew, we spent a great deal of time pointing out how this encounter with the fig tree was prophetic, and it pointed to the religious leaders, the chief priests of Israel. They had a form of godliness (the leaves) but were not bearing fruit (faith in Christ Jesus). They were the fig tree that bore no fruit. This text is often used by unbelievers who seek to deny the Deity of Christ (Muslim and Atheist apologists and heretics who deny the Trinity) by accusing Jesus of being mistaken and not knowing it wasn’t the season for figs. Jesus knew, and this wasn’t about wanting figs nor was it about a prophet having a tantrum. Mark isn’t writing about the false teaching of the Pharisees here, he’s writing about the Authority of Jesus and his inclusion of the encounter with the fig tree is being used to build up to that moment.

Mark 11 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses the Temple

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

Here, the fruitless tree seeks a way to destroy Jesus, for they feared Him.

Mark 11:15-19 (ESV) | The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Notice here that the object of faith isn’t faith itself, it is God. Don’t allow others to mix this teaching with the mustard seed reference where the end result is a focus on whether or not you have “enough faith” as if it were gasoline in a fuel tank. Jesus isn’t telling them they will somehow grow into a power of their own, He tells them to have faith in God. What is the fruit that was lacking in the fig tree? Faith. What are we asking for in prayer? Forgiveness by the Blood of Jesus. Don’t look inwardly for a sense of forgiveness or some emotional experience confirming what the Scriptures say… when you hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaim you forgiven and set free, trust in His Word. And when you speak these words of forgiveness to your neighbor, trust in God’s Forgiveness for your neighbor as you do in your own forgiveness. Jesus is not merely teaching about signs and wonders to impress the kingdoms of this world, He’s preaching the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mark 11:20-33 (ESV) | The Authority of Jesus Challenged

And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

In refusing to confess Him as the Christ, they suppressed the truth in their own unrighteousness (Romans 1). Jesus’ authority came from Heaven, for He is God the Son. He came to set the captives free, not to rule over them in this temporal life, for His Kingdom is not of this world.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) | Christ’s Example of Humility
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus didn’t need to verbally proclaim His Authority at this time, for God had already testified of Him as did the signs and wonders and teaching of Jesus. Those who had an ear to hear did hear, and eyes to see did see. His sheep heard His voice and believed. We are still doing so today, for as long as the LORD tarries.

Conclusion

Consider the cross this week, consider your sin, consider the humble sacrifice Jesus, God the son, made on our behalf, that we might be called Children of the Most High God. Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | God’s Ways Not Our Ways

Today I thought we’d take a quick look at a passage that gets twisted in an odd way. Today’s quote is often used by false teachers as a sort of parachute to bail them out of having their false teaching exposed… which is odd because there is no way this nonsense should ever work. Let’s look at the quote:

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

How does the false teacher use this as an “out”? The false teacher claims a direct divine revelation at the local tent revival that those who “sow a seed” offering of faith (measured by $$) will secure victory in an area of their lives. Said false teacher takes that seed offering to his/her bank and carries on bilking other Christians and spiritual people. Should the victory not come to pass, and should the sower then confront the false teacher, the false teacher will likely employ a mixture of blaming the sower for lacking faith and quoting the above verse saying after-the-fact, “God’s ways are a mystery”.

Another way this verse gets twisted is by those who are anti-doctrine, anti-religion, and anti-creed/confession. Those beginning to follow the paths of the post-Modern movement who confuse “doubt” or “uncertainty” as a virtue and open themselves up for innovative (deviant) interpretations of Scripture. The best response to these folks is, “And yet you are quoting Scripture to support the notion that we cannot understand Scripture”.

Proper Handling of this Text = Law & Gospel

As a statement of the Law of God, it is quite clear in this passage that our thoughts are infinitely lower than God’s thoughts. We don’t think His thoughts. His ways are infinitely above our ways. We fall infinitely short of God’s Ways and Thoughts. We fall short… we sin. This passage cannot be used to support an enthusiast’s innovation. We are doomed, are we not? What we know about God is by His Grace in Revealing Himself to us in His Word. God’s Word is the only way we have of knowing Him from generation to generation. We fall short of the Written Word (Law of God), too. We are fallen, sinful creatures.

But this truth of God’s Thoughts and His Ways isn’t limited to Law… in fact, this passage comes in the middle of a Gospel Prophecy. The Gospel of Grace itself is infinitely above our thoughts and ways… for who can understand it? As Paul writes in the opening chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians (the modern thinkers of his day):

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV) | Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

So, let us read the greater context of today’s passage so that we can see that this prophecy is unmistakably pointing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, our LORD and Savior.

Isaiah 53:1-56:8 (ESV)
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The Eternal Covenant of Peace
54 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
7 For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
it is not from me;
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
16 Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17     no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
    and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55 | The Compassion of the Lord

55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 56 | Salvation for Foreigners
56 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
2 Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
8 The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.”

There is so much wonderful Gospel in here. Isaiah 53 should be easily recognized as pointing to Jesus, particularly as we consider the Passion of Christ as the Church celebrates what is commonly called “Good Friday”. Salvation is the Lord’s work, not ours. His Way of salvation was to humble Himself, fulfill the Law and the Covenant Himself, and then become our sin to die in our place, to drink the cup of God’s Wrath against sin so that His righteousness might then be imputed to us by His Grace and Mercy alone.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) | Christ’s Example of Humility
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen. Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, should ever you be presented with today’s quote, whether it is being twisted or simply misapplied, seize the moment to point others to the Law of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) | Doxology
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Victory Through Our Lord Jesus Christ

Hallelujah, Jesus Christ has Risen!

1 Corinthians 15 (ESV)

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if youhold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 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.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he deliversthe kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 Whenall things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Amen.
Happy Easter Sunday,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge