Baptism and God’s Promise

If a police officer issues a summons, you need to pay attention and show up in court. How much more do you need to respond when the summons comes from God, Acts 2:38–39!

Listen to God’s summons. Repent! God’s call (verse 39) might be translated “summons,” see Acts 4:18. It is a call, not only to Israel, but to the nations to repent as the blessing of the Holy Spirit extends beyond the Old Testament covenant people. The command grows out of a conviction of sin, verse 37. Don’t allow the call to repentance to be minimized as you present the gospel. Though it may not be popular to call people to repentance, ambiguity regarding man’s sinfulness makes it impossible to appreciate the depths of God’s grace in Christ. Repentance involves a change of mind, leading to a new life. It not only marks conversion, but also characterizes the entire Christian life this side of heaven. The kingdom belongs to those who have turned (and continue to turn) from sin to Christ. Peter’s command in his Pentecost sermon echoes through the years to your ears as well.

Continue reading “Baptism and God’s Promise”

Your Will Be Done

As pastor I’ve seen people face death in a variety of ways. But there is something different about how Jesus confronts death in the olive grove known as the Garden of Gethsemane as Matthew 26:36–46 records it for us.

See Christ beginning the sufferings of his death on the cross. Christ began to suffer the pains of hell. Christ’s sorrow is an overwhelming sorrow. His soul is overwhelmed to the point of death, verse 38. He seeks the watchful support and prayers of the disciples, especially of Peter, James, and John. If you ever question the true humanity of Christ, this scene resolves those doubts. This scene in the garden marks a transition in Christ’s work. Christ begins to be sorrowful and troubled, verse 37. You cannot explain the transition simply in terms of what is going on in Christ’s heart and mind. He know beforehand what lies ahead. The actions of Judas (whose footsteps are approaching), and even of Satan, don’t explain the beginning of this suffering. Rather, the beginning of this intense suffering lies with the Father. Jesus has completed his work of teaching his disciples. They have left the upper room. Now the Father begins to forsake his Son. The agony in the garden will culminate in the cry of Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “In death God is near to his own, so that it becomes for them a passage to eternal life. But that is not how Christ experienced it. He, with his holy nature, lived through it as no sinful person can; he took the cup into his hand and—voluntarily—emptied it to the last drop. By the power of love, he laid down life itself and, fully conscious and with a firm will, entered the valley of the shadow of death. There he was, and felt, forsaken by God, so that in precisely that fashion he might be able to taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9)” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pages 389–390)

Continue reading “Your Will Be Done”

Leading the Scattered Sheep

Sheep, by their very nature, tend to scatter. How much more when the Shepherd has been struck down! But this Shepherd, described in Matthew 26:31–35, is able to lead even scattered sheep.

The sheep will be scattered. God will strike the Shepherd. On his way to Gethsemane Jesus predicts the desertion of his disciples. In support of the warning he quotes Zechariah 13:7. God is the one who does the striking. Note the first person singular of the verb in the quote (an imperative in the Hebrew of Zechariah). Earlier, in Zechariah 11:17 it is the foolish shepherd that is struck. But this is the Good Shepherd, the messianic figure, who is struck down by the Father’s will. “But the stricken shepherd here cannot be God, because he is expressly distinguished from him. God refers to him as the man who is close to me (7). He is clearly a ‘good’ shepherd, approved by God, and is someone intimately connected with God — but he cannot simply be equated with God. The book of Zechariah has provided us with only one person who fits this description, namely the ideal king of 9:9, whose coming was anticipated in the promises concerning ‘the Branch’ in 3:8 and 6:12. In other words, the striken shepherd is the Messiah. Here is perhaps the profoundest and most precious aspect of the theology of this book: like the great prophet Isaiah before him, Zechariah understood that the Messiah would have to suffer if sin were to be atoned for and Israel’s relationship with God were to be restored.” (Barry G. Webb, The Message of Zechariah, p. 169) One would expect the flock to be preserved by the well-being of the shepherd. But this flock is going to be redeemed precisely through the striking of the Shepherd. As terrible as the events of the next few hours will be, they are not accidental, but the fulfillment of God’s will, which had been recorded in the prophetic Scriptures (“for it is written,” verse 31), see also verse 24.

Continue reading “Leading the Scattered Sheep”

The New Passover

Imagine the excitement, the anticipation, in the homes of the Israelites in Egypt. After numerous changes of Pharaoh’s mind, tonight was to be the night. The blood of the lamb they were about to eat had been sprinkled on the doorposts for their protection. Tonight the angel of death would pass over their house—and tomorrow they would be on the way to the promised land! No wonder the Passover kept being celebrated! That was the setting at which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, as Matthew 26:17–30 tells you.

God fed his people in the old covenant. The Passover Feast was the setting for the Lord’s Supper. The original Passover was the great deliverance in the Old Testament. God had repeatedly warned Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves. Despite the plagues, Pharaoh had refused. Judgment was coming upon Egypt because of its refusal to obey the Lord. Now the firstborn in every home was to die, except in those homes where blood showed that the lamb had been sacrificed. The Exodus, triggered by the Passover, became the great redemptive event in the old covenant. Appropriately, the lamb whose blood had been sprinkled on the doorposts of the house became the meal that strengthened the Israelites as they began their journey out of slavery. Christ used this setting to institute the Lord’s Supper. He ate the last (Passover) supper with the disciples. By his institution, the first Lord’s Supper. He had no need for instructions from heaven to inaugurate this. He acted consciously as the divine Messiah. The Old Testament sacrifices had all pictured the redemptive work of Christ, the work which was about to come to its culmination on the cross.

Continue reading “The New Passover”