Our Endgame

The definition of endgame is “the final stages of an extended process of negotiation” (quote source here). For “Avengers” fans, the latest movie in The Avengers” series, titled Avengers: Endgame,” opens in theaters tomorrow (April 26, 2019). I’ve seen bits and pieces of the previous movies, and here’s a brief description of this latest movie:

Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers–Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner–must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos — the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe. (Quote source here.)

Endgames are about showdowns, whether epic or not, and they are found everywhere–in games like chess, in business, in politics, in religion, in the military, in all types of relationships, and, in fact, life in general. It’s about strategies and the age old conflict between good and evil (the lines, of which, have significantly blurred of late).

I remember several years ago reading an article that mentioned Sun Tzu’s famous work, The Art of War,” was required reading in Russia’s military. Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese general and military strategist in the 6th Century B.C. According to History.com:

Sun Tzu’s approach to warfare, unlike that of Western authors, does not put force at the center: indeed, the Chinese character “li” (force) occurs only nine times in the text’s thirteen chapters. This reflects the conditions of warfare in China at the time (force was then in fact of limited utility) as well as Sun Tzu’s conviction that victory and defeat are fundamentally psychological states. He sees war, therefore, not so much as a matter of destroying the enemy materially and physically (although that may play a role), but of unsettling the enemy psychologically; his goal is to force the enemy’s leadership and society from a condition of harmony, in which they can resist effectively, toward one of chaos (luan), which is tantamount to defeat. (Quote source here.)

This type of warfare is not fought with traditional weapons or even out in the open as on a battlefield (as in typical war scenarios). It is about using strategy and deception to conquer an enemy, and it’s base is psychological.

A chess player wrote the following about it’s value in playing the game of chess:

Although Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” was written more than 2,600 years ago and it’s not a chess book, this is one of the books that I would recommend to chess players. This work stands today as a prominent work on military strategy!

This manual is not only about war strategy, but, also about the lessons and knowledge that can be learned within a strategic framework, as is required in many aspects of life, including but not limited to war.

I recommend this book to chess players, as it is a masterpiece in strategy, which can be especially useful in preparation for a chess tournament. This book is an easy read – light and deep at the same time.

Even in this century, many high school and college faculty members use quotes from this book in their lectures. A paradox , given our dreadful advances in the technology of warfare.

That is the greatness of the “Art of War,” it is a book as old as the game of chess, and both, have stood the test of time. For it happens that the underlying science of combat remains little changed – the craft of deception, interpreting terrain, the movement of material and men, the discipline and motivation of troops. These elements are immutable, and those who must carry the sword have always turned to Sun Tzu for enlightenment and inspiration. (Quote source here.)

It requires no superheros to be effective. In an article titled, Sun Tzu’s 31 Best Pieces of Leadership Advice, by Eric Jackson, a tech and media investor, and contributor on Forbes.com, he states:

There was no greater war leader and strategist than Chinese military general Sun Tzu. His philosophy on how to be a great leader and ensure you win in work, management, and life is summed up in these 31 pieces of advice. They can all be applied by you in your job when you go back to work next week:

  1. A leader leads by example, not by force.
  2. You have to believe in yourself.
  3. Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
  4. If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
  5. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
  6. Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
  7. If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.
  8. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
  9. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.
  10. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
  11. Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
  12. Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.
  13. Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.
  14. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  15. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) he will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; (2) he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; (3) he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; (4) he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared; (5) he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
  16. Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.
  17. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
  18. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
  19. Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  20. When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.
  21. Know yourself and you will win all battles.
  22. Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
  23. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
  24. When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.
  25. All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
  26. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
  27. The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
  28. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
  29. Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.
  30. All warfare is based on deception.
  31. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. (Quote source here.)

If you happen to be Christian, as you should know, deceit and deception are not a part of the Christian’s modus operandi,” although we run into it often even in Christian circles, and we are tempted to do it ourselves at times, too. Other bits of advice in “The Art of War” are just some good common sense in dealing with others; but the main premise behind “The Art of War” is how to subdue your enemy using deception and psychological warfare.

As Christians, it never hurts to understand and be aware of what others might be doing to us that is not on the “up and up” whether at work, in social circles, in relationships, and everywhere else. Reading even some of “The Art of War” (as in the 31 points listed above) will at least clue us in on how others might be operating in our lives.

We (e.g., Christians) are taught to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (those are Jesus’ own words in Matthew 10:16). However, too often, we massively fail at the “shrewd” part in that verse.

Why do we so often “miss the mark” on being shrewd? It is probably, in no small part, in an effort to keep harmony with others; to think good about others and not evil. But there is a significant difference between being naively trusting of others and being shrewd.

In answer to the question, “What does it mean to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)?” GotQuestions.org answers that question as follows:

In sending out the Twelve, Jesus said to them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, KJV). The NIV says, “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Jesus was using similes (figures of speech that compare two unlike things) to instruct His disciples in how to behave in their ministry. Just before He tells them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He warns them that they were being sent out “like sheep among wolves.”

The world, then as now, was hostile to believers—not incidentally hostile, but purposefully hostile. Wolves are intentional about the harm they inflict upon sheep. In such an environment, the question becomes “how can we advance the kingdom of God effectively without becoming predatory ourselves?” Jesus taught His followers that, to be Christlike in a godless world, they must combine the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove.

In using these similes, Jesus invokes the common proverbial view of serpents and doves. The serpent was “subtle” or “crafty” or “shrewd” in Genesis 3:1. The dove, on the other hand, was thought of as innocent and harmless—doves were listed among the “clean animals” and were used for sacrifices (Leviticus 14:22). To this very day, doves are used as symbols of peace, and snakes are thought of as “sneaky.”

Nineteenth-century pastor Charles Simeon provides a wonderful comment on the serpent and dove imagery: “Now the wisdom of the one and the harmlessness of the other are very desirable to be combined in the Christian character; because it is by such an union only that the Christian will be enabled to cope successfully with his more powerful enemies” (Horae Homileticae: Matthew, Vol. 11, London: Holdsworth and Ball, p. 318).

Most people don’t mind having their character compared to a dove’s purity and innocence. But some people recoil at the image of a serpent, no matter what the context. They can never see a snake in a good light, even when used by Jesus as a teaching tool. But we should not make too much of the simile. We cannot attach the evil actions of Satan (as the serpent) with the serpent itself. Animals are not moral entities. The creature itself cannot perform sin, and shrewdness is an asset, not a defect. This is the quality that Jesus told His disciples to model.

The serpent simile stands in Jesus’ dialogue without bringing forward any of the serpent’s pejoratives. It is a basic understanding in language that, when a speaker creates a simile, he is not necessarily invoking the entire potential of the words he has chosen—nor is he invoking the entire history and tenor of the linguistic vehicle. Rather, the speaker is defining a fresh relationship between the two things. A quick look at Matthew 10:16 shows that Jesus was invoking only the positive aspects of the serpent. There is no hint of His unloading Edenic baggage upon His disciples. He simply tells them to be wise (and innocent) as they represented Him.

When Jesus told the Twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He laid down a general principle about the technique of kingdom work. As we take the gospel to a hostile world, we must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly). Jesus was not suggesting that we stoop to deception but that we should model some of the serpent’s famous shrewdness in a positive way. Wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and innocence does not equal gullibility.

Let us consider Jesus as exemplar: the Lord was known as a gentle person. Indeed, Scripture testifies that He would not even quench a smoking flax (Matthew 12:20). But was He always (and only) gentle? No. When the occasion demanded it, He took whip in hand and chased the money changers out of the temple (John 2:15). Jesus’ extraordinarily rare action, seen in light of His usual mien, demonstrates the power of using a combination of tools. This “dove-like” Man of Innocence spoke loudly and clearly with His assertiveness in the temple.

In His more typical moments, Jesus showed that He was as wise as a serpent in the way He taught. He knew enough to discern the differences in His audiences (a critical skill), He used the story-telling technique to both feed and weed (Matthew 13:10–13), and He refused to be caught in the many traps that His enemies laid for Him (Mark 8:1110:212:13).

Jesus showed that He was as harmless as a dove in every circumstance. He lived a pure and holy life (Hebrews 4:15), He acted in compassion (Matthew 9:36), and He challenged anyone to find fault in Him (John 8:4618:23). Three times, Pilate judged Jesus to be an innocent man (John 18:3819:46).

The apostle Paul also modeled the “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” technique. Paul lived in dove-like innocence in good conscience before God (Acts 23:1) and learned to deny his carnal desires so as not to jeopardize his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:27). But Paul also displayed serpent-like shrewdness when he needed it. He knew his legal rights and used the legal system to his advantage (Acts 16:3722:2525:11). He also carefully crafted his speeches to maximize the impact on his audience (Acts 17:22–2323:6–8).

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus taught us how to optimize our gospel-spreading opportunities. Successful Christian living requires that we strike the optimal balance between the dove and the serpent. We should strive to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of. We are aware of the unscrupulous tactics used by the enemy, but we take the high road. Peter admonishes us, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). (Quote source here.)

In Titus 3:2 we are reminded “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone,” and that includes those who accuse us of doing wrong or who are acting deceptively behind our backs. Such is the world in which we live, but we are not to act or react as they do.

I’ll end this post with Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you . . .

So you must . . .

Love . . .

One another . . . .

You Tube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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From Good Friday to Easter Sunday

This is a follow up blog post to my last post on this blog titled, Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.” This post will take us from Good Friday through Easter Sunday.

In an article titled, What’s So Good about Good Friday?” by Justin Holcomb, Episcopal priest, author, and teacher of theology and apologetics at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary, he opens by asking this question and follows with the answer:

What is Good Friday and why do we call Good Friday “good,” when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.

Good Friday Bible Verses

Romans 5:6-10 – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Isaiah 53:3-5 – “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Matthew 27 – The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus Christ

Read more Good Friday Bible verses at BibleStudyTools.com. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Where was Jesus between His death and resurrection?” by S. Michael Houdmann, Founder, President, and CEO of Got Questions Ministries, the parent ministry for GotQuestions.org, he writes:

The “where was Jesus?” question understandably becomes very common around Easter. The death and resurrection of Christ being celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday raise the questions: What happened in between? Where was Jesus and what was He doing for those three days? Why three days? Did Jesus go to hell in between His death and resurrection? etc., etc. Answering the questions is difficult because the Bible does not say much about where Jesus was and what He was doing between His death and resurrection. The Bible gives a few details, but even the interpretation of those details is difficult.

The first thing that should be made clear is that when we ask “Where was Jesus?”, the question is referring to Jesus’ soul/spirit. Jesus’ body was in the tomb from the time it was placed there until the resurrection. Jesus’ soul/spirit, however, was not in the tomb. The question really is: “Where was Jesus, spiritually/immaterially, between His death and resurrection?”

There are three primary Bible passages that give us hints to the “Where was Jesus?” question. First, Acts 2:31(see also Psalm 16:10-11), says that Jesus was not abandoned to Hades. Hades is the realm of the dead. Jesus was in the realm of the dead, but He did not remain there. Why was Jesus sent to the realm of the dead? The second passage, 1 Peter 3:18-19, likely answers the question. Jesus went to Hades in order to preach to the spirits in prison. Who were the spirits in prison? According to 1 Peter 3:20, they were those “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” This is referring back to the Genesis 6 account. But, that does not answer the question either, as there is disagreement over that passage as well. Were the sons of God who married the daughters of men fallen angels or human beings? If the answer is fallen angels, were the spirits in prison those fallen angels that God judged for their sin in Genesis 6, or were they the spirits of the people who had been destroyed by the flood? The most interesting and frustrating part of the “where was Jesus?” discussion is that every disagreement leads to other disagreements.

The third passage is Ephesians 4:8-10, which refers to Jesus leading “captivity captive” (KJV) or leading “a host of captives.” What in the world does this refer to? Most Bible scholars believe it refers to Jesus taking all of the righteous dead, who were held “captive” in the paradise compartment of Sheol/Hades, and taking them to heaven. Prior to the death of Christ, the righteous dead were saved, but since their sins had not been atoned for, they were not allowed in heaven. Once Jesus’ sacrifice had been applied to them, they were allowed entrance into heaven, and Jesus took them there. That is sure a lot to read into “taking captivity captive,” but that is how most Bible scholars interpret the text.

So, where was Jesus for the three days in between His death and resurrection? For a time, He was in Hades, preaching to the spirits in prison (whoever they were). Then, He released all of the righteous dead of Sheol/Hades and took them with Him to heaven. But, again, there is controversy on virtually every point.

Ultimately, it seems that the Bible does not go into great detail on the “Where was Jesus?” question because in comparison to His death and resurrection, it is not nearly as important what went on in between. And, maybe that should be our lesson. Let’s spend less time debating the side issues and instead celebrate the core issues. Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave, demonstrating that His death was sufficient. Because of His perfect and complete sacrifice, demonstrated by His resurrection, we can be saved if we trust in Him (John 3:16Acts 16:31). (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, What is Easter Sunday?” published on GotQuestion.org, here is their response:

There is a lot of confusion regarding what Easter Sunday is all about. For some, Easter Sunday is about the Easter Bunny, colorfully decorated Easter eggs, and Easter egg hunts. Most people understand that Easter Sunday has something to do with the resurrection of Jesus, but are confused as to how the resurrection is related to the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny.

Biblically speaking, there is absolutely no connection between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the common modern traditions related to Easter Sunday. As a background, please read our article on the origins of Easter. Essentially, what occurred is that in order to make Christianity more attractive to non-Christians, the ancient Roman Catholic Church mixed the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection with celebrations that involved spring fertility rituals. These spring fertility rituals are the source of the egg and bunny traditions.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matthew 28:1Mark 16:2,9Luke 24:1John 20:1,19). Jesus’ resurrection is most worthy of being celebrated (see 1 Corinthians 15). While it is appropriate for Jesus’ resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday, the day on which Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated should not be referred to as Easter. Easter has nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday.

As a result, many Christians feel strongly that the day on which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection should not be referred to as “Easter Sunday.” Rather, something like “Resurrection Sunday” would be far more appropriate and biblical. For the Christian, it is unthinkable that we would allow the silliness of Easter eggs and the Easter bunny to be the focus of the day instead of Jesus’ resurrection.

By all means, celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Christ’s resurrection is something that should be celebrated every day, not just once a year. At the same time, if we choose to celebrate Easter Sunday, we should not allow the fun and games to distract our attention from what the day should truly be all about—the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that His resurrection demonstrates that we can indeed be promised an eternal home in Heaven by receiving Jesus as our Savior.

To learn more about how Jesus’ death and resurrection provided for our salvation, please read the following article: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior? (Quote source here.)

Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He has risen just like he said he would (see Luke 24). So I’ll end this post as I did on my previous post with these three words . . .

 

 

 

YouTube Video: “Easter Song” (1974) by The Second Chapter of Acts:

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Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday

On Sunday, Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) will begin which is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This post will specifically relate to what occurred between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. GotQuestions.org gives the following information on Passion Week/Holy Week:

Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Holy MondayHoly TuesdaySpy WednesdayMaundy ThursdayGood Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).

Following the trials, Jesus was scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution (the Cross) through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.

It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. What should our attitude be during Passion Week? We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His Gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, What Happened Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday?” by Christian Today staff writer (no specific name is mentioned), the author writes:

One of the things anyone notices about the Gospels is that they each tell the story of Jesus’ Passion in their own way, and that it’s very difficult to square the chronologies (Ian Paul on his blog has a good discussion of this).

There are various things that do appear to have happened, though, in whatever order they might have been.

    1. The Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council) met and agreed to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5).
    2. Jesus was anointed at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). What seems to be a version of this story appears in Luke’s Gospel in chapter 7, 36-50; in John, it happens before the Triumphal Entry (12:1-11) and Mary is named as the woman.
    3. Jesus curses the fig tree, which withers and dies. It’s a symbolic parable of judgment (Matthew 21:18-22, Mark 11:12-14, 21).
    4. Jesus cleanses the Temple (Matthew 21:12-16, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-47). In John 2:13-16 this happens at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; some commentators think it may have happened twice, others that it’s the same story put in a different context.
    5. Jesus debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees and teaches the crowds. Matthew has the parable of the wedding banquet and the parable of the tenants, for instance, the teaching about paying taxes to Caesar (22-23) and a section on the ‘signs of the end of the age’. Mark and Luke have the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4). John has a long section of teaching directed at the disciples (14-17).
    6. Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16, Luke 22:1-6); the Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes called Spy Wednesday for this reason.
    7. Jesus predicts his death (John 12: 20-36).
    8. He shares a Last Supper with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22, John 13).
    9. He and his disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1-11). In Luke’s and John’s Gospels the garden is not named. It’s there that Jesus is arrested.

All of these things appear in the different Gospels between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We should be aware, though, that they didn’t have the same ideas about chronology as us: they were writing history, but of a particular type. So they would have thought it perfectly reasonable to shift things around a bit to make it fit the meaning of the story. What seems likely, though, is that Jesus was in the public eye and that there were confrontations with authority. On a purely human level, he must have known that the end was coming. For anyone else, that would paralyze them with fear. But Jesus continued his ministry, preaching, teaching and challenging, when he could have left the city and been safe at any time.

During this week we look forward to Good Friday, quite rightly. But the shadow of the cross was already darkening over Jesus – and he did not falter for a moment. (Quote source here.)

Aerial View of the Temple Mount (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)

The last of five discourses given by Jesus during his ministry occurred in the middle of Passion Week and is known as the Olivet Discourse (Discourse of the End Times) as it was given on the Mount of Olives. The following information below describing all five discourses is taken from Wikipedia:

  1. “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) is one of the best known and most quoted parts of the New Testament. It includes the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship, The Beatitudes are a key element of this sermon, and are expressed as a set of “blessings.” The Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction; they echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality and compassion. They also teach on issues such as divorce, lust, and worldliness; issues pertaining to persecution; further instruction on how to pray; and words on false prophets.
  2. The second discourse in Matthew 10 provides instructions to the Twelve Apostles and is sometimes called the “Mission Discourse” or the “Missionary Discourse” or the “Little Commission” in contrast to the Great Commission. This discourse is directed to the twelve apostles who are named in Matthew 10:2-3.
  3. The third discourse in Matthew 13 :1-53 provides several parables for the Kingdom of Heaven and is often called the “Parabolic Discourse.” The first part of this discourse in Matthew 13:1-35 takes place outside when Jesus leaves a house and sits near the Lake to address the disciples as well as the multitudes of people who have gathered to hear him. This part includes the parables of the Sowerthe Taresthe Mustard Seed and the Leaven. In the second part Jesus goes back inside the house and addresses the disciples. This part includes the parables of the Hidden Treasurethe Pearl and Drawing in the Net.
  4. The fourth discourse in Matthew 18 is often called the “Discourse on the Church.” It includes the parables of The Lost Sheep and The Unforgiving Servant which also refer to the Kingdom of Heaven. The general theme of the discourse is the anticipation of a future community of followers, and the role of his apostles in leading it. Addressing his apostles in Matthew 18:18, Jesus states: “what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”, see also Binding and loosing…. The discourse emphasizes the importance of humility and self-sacrifice as the high virtues within the anticipated community. It teaches that in the Kingdom of God, it is childlike humility that matters, not social prominence and clout.
  5. The final discourse is usually taken to include Matthew 23, 24, and 25. Matthew 24 is usually called the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, and is also referred to as the “Discourse on the End Times.” The discourse corresponds to Mark 13 and Luke 21 and is mostly about judgment and the expected conduct of the followers of Jesus, and the need for vigilance by the followers in view of the coming judgment. The discourse is prompted by a question the disciples ask about the “end of the age” (End times or end of this world and beginning of the world to come) and receives the longest response provided by Jesus in the New Testament. The discourse is generally viewed as referring both to the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the End Times and Second Coming of Christ, but the many scholarly opinions about the overlap of these two issues, and exactly which verses refer to which event remain divided and complex. (Quote source here.)

It is this last discourse, the Olivet Discourse,” that takes place right before Jesus is arrested. In an article published on July 14, 2017, titled, Making Sense of the Olivet Discourse,” by Paul Carter, Lead Pastor at the First Baptist Church Orilla (Ontario), he writes:

Matthew 24 begins what is sometimes called “The Olivet Discourse.” In it, Jesus talks about the near and far future for the church. Bible scholars often point out the importance of recalling the precise question the disciples asked that precipitated this entire discourse: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

There are clearly two parts to that question. Jesus had just prophesied the destruction of the temple, and the disciples asked when that would happen AND what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age.

The trick is that Jesus understood those two events were not concurrent. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, yet Jesus still hasn’t returned as of today—but the disciples didn’t and couldn’t have known that. They assumed that the destruction of the temple would be the climactic event of the end times. They didn’t realize that it would only be the beginning. Therefore, as we listen to what Jesus said by way of response, we have to remember that he is talking about a near future and a far future and we have to understand which is which. There are a couple of key indicators in the text. Look for examples at verse 6 and verse 8. After talking about some things that would happen he says: “but the end is not yet” (v. 6) and “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8).

The end is not yet. This is just the beginning. Jesus seems to be saying that a bunch of things are going to happen that are NOT the end times events the disciples were thinking they were. Things like wars, things like the rise and fall of empires, things like massive natural disasters. Those things are not signals of the end–rather they are more like table setters. They are like birth pangs. They open the door, but they are not the baby.

After these things, you want to watch for a couple of indicators. Watch for the Great Commission to be completed in an environment of increasing persecution, tribulation, false religion and apostasy; then the end will come. Look at verse 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV).

Following that, there will be a short season of intense persecution and tribulation after which: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29–31 ESV)

That is the end. After that, according to Matthew 13:43, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, forever. (Quote source here.)

Aerial View of the Mount of Olives (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)

Jesus visited the Mount of Olives three times during his Passion Week, and again after His resurrection. GotQuestions.org describes these visits:

The Bible records Jesus’ visiting the Mount of Olives three times in the last week of His earthly life, and each time something of significance happened. The first visit is what we call the triumphal entry. The donkey Jesus rode that day was found in the area of Bethany and Bethphage, on the east side of the Mount of Olives (Luke 19:29–30). Then, “when he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (verse 37). While still on the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked at the vista in front of Him, wept over the city, and pronounced a judgment against it (verses 41–44).

Jesus’ second visit was to deliver what has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24:1 —25:46. Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1–37 and Luke 21:5–36. The content of the Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ response to His disciples’ question “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24—25 primarily concerns the coming destruction of Jerusalem, the future tribulation period, and the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. The Discourse includes parables about those who wait for the Master’s coming—the wise and faithful servant (Matthew 24:45–51), the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1–13), and the good servant who uses his resources wisely (Matthew 25:14–30).

Jesus’ third visit during the week of His passion was on the night He was betrayed. That evening began with the Last Supper in Jerusalem and ended in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. During that last Passover meal, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and then revealed Judas as the betrayer (John 13:1–30). At the conclusion of the meal, Jesus established the New Covenant and instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26–291 Corinthians 11:23–26). Then He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (literally, “Garden of the Oil-press”) located on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. There Jesus prayed in agony as He contemplated the day to come. So overcome by the horror of what He was to experience in the crucifixion the following day that His sweat was “like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) and God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43).

After Jesus prayed, Judas Iscariot arrived with a multitude of soldiers, high priests, Pharisees, and servants to arrest Jesus. Judas identified Jesus by the prearranged signal of a kiss, which he gave to Jesus. Trying to protect Jesus, Peter drew a sword and attacked a man named Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the man’s ear, displaying the miraculous power of God (Luke 22:51). Nevertheless, the mob arrested Jesus and took Him to face trial, while the disciples scattered in fear for their lives.

After the trials, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus once again stood on the Mount of Olives. During His final post-resurrection appearance, Jesus led His disciples “out to the vicinity of Bethany, [and] he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:50–52). Acts 1:12 specifies that “the vicinity of Bethany” was indeed the Mount of Olives. 

Immediately following Jesus’ ascension, two angels told the disciples on the Mount of Olives that “this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). According to the prophet Zechariah, Jesus will return not only in the same way, but to the same place. In a prophecy related to the end times, Zechariah declares, “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (Zechariah 14:4). The very location where David wept in defeat and where Jesus was betrayed and rejected will be the place where Jesus returns in triumph over all His enemies. (Quote source here.)

Regarding Good Friday of Passion Week, GotQuestions.org provides the following information:

Good Friday, also known as “Holy Friday,” is the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. It is celebrated traditionally as the day on which Jesus was crucified. If you are interested in a study of the issue, please see our article that discusses the various views on which day Jesus was crucified….

Why is Good Friday referred to as “good”? What the Jewish authorities and Romans did to Jesus was definitely not good (see Matthew chapters 26-27). However, the results of Christ’s death are very goodRomans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday with a subdued service, usually in the evening, in which Christ’s death is remembered with solemn hymns, prayers of thanksgiving, a message centered on Christ’s suffering for our sake, and observance of the Lord’s Supper. Whether or not Christians choose to “celebrate” Good Friday, the events of that day should be ever on our minds because the death of Christ on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the paramount event of the Christian faith. (Quote source here.)

While this post ends with Good Friday, Easter Sunday is coming. And Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He has risen just like he said he would (see Luke 24). So I’ll end this post with these three words . . .

 

 

 

YouTube Video: “Easter Song” (1974) by The Second Chapter of Acts:

Photo #1 credit here (full view of graphic and PDF available here)
Photo #2 credit here (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)
Photo #3 credit here (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)
Photo #4 credit here

Still Being Still

Three days ago I published a blog post titled, Be Still and Know,” on my blog, Reflections. The subject of that blog post comes from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The full text of Psalm 46 is stated below the following definition.

“Be still” has a broader meaning then just to “be still”. Here is a definition as stated on GotQuestions.org:

Be still. This is a call for those involved in the war to stop fighting, to be still. The word “still” is a translation of the Hebrew word “rapa,” meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that the warriors can acknowledge their trust in God. Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” While quietness is certainly helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still. For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help (cf. Exodus 14:13); for God’s enemies, being “still” would mean ceasing to fight a battle they cannot win. (Quote source here. A longer quote is available on the blog post mentioned above.)

Psalm 46

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Yesterday I read Psalm 19 and the first five verses of Psalm 20 (I quoted those five verses in Psalm 20 at the end of my last blog post titled, The Right Response), and both are a great companion to go along with Psalm 46. Here are those two psalms:

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold,
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 20:1-5

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

May these psalms be a source of inspiration and encouragement especially if you, like me, are still in the process of “being still.” I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 113:3From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name…

Of the Lord . . .

Is to be . . .

Praised . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still” by Hillsong Worship:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
Photo #4 credit here