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The Last Supper is one of the most significant events that took place during the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. It was also Jesus’ last meal that he shared with his twelve disciples just hours before his arrest and crucifixion. It is commemorated by Christians around the world on Maundy Thursday which is the fifth day of Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) and “the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples” (source here).
The Last Supper is recorded in the Gospels in Matthew 26:17–30, Mark 14:12–26, and Luke 22:7–30, and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples just prior to this “last supper” is found in John 13:1-17. The significance of the Jesus washing his disciples feet cannot be underestimated. GotQuestions.org gives us the significance of this act:
Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1–17) occurred in the upper room, just prior to the Last Supper and has significance in three ways. For Jesus, it was the display of His humility and His servanthood. For the disciples, the washing of their feet was in direct contrast to their heart attitudes at that time. For us, washing feet is symbolic of our role in the body of Christ.
Walking in sandals on the filthy roads of Israel in the first century made it imperative that feet be washed before a communal meal, especially since people reclined at a low table and feet were very much in evidence. When Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples (John 13:4), He was doing the work of the lowliest of servants. The disciples must have been stunned at this act of humility and condescension, that Christ, their Lord and master, should wash the feet of His disciples, when it was their proper work to have washed His. But when Jesus came to earth the first time, He came not as King and Conqueror, but as the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. As He revealed in Matthew 20:28, He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The humility expressed by His act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross.
Jesus’ attitude of servanthood was in direct contrast to that of the disciples, who had recently been arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Since there was no servant present to wash their feet, it would never have occurred to them to wash one another’s feet. When the Lord Himself stooped to this lowly task, they were stunned into silence. To his credit, though, Peter was profoundly uncomfortable with the Lord washing his feet, and, never being at a loss for words, Peter protested, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Then Jesus said something that must have further shocked Peter: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8), prompting Peter, whose love for the Savior was genuine, to request a complete washing. Then Jesus explained the true meaning of being washed by Him. Peter had experienced the cleansing of salvation and did not need to be washed again in the spiritual sense. Salvation is a one-time act of justification by faith, but the lifelong process of sanctification is one of washing from the stain of sin we experience as we walk through the world. Peter and the disciples—all except Judas, who never belonged to Christ—needed only this temporal cleansing.
This truth is just one of several from this incident that Christians can apply to their own lives. First, when we come to Christ for the washing of our sins, we can be sure that is permanent and complete. No act can cleanse us further from our sin, as our sin has been exchanged for the perfect righteousness of Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). But we do need continual cleansing from the effects of living in the flesh in a sin-cursed world. The continual washing of sanctification is done by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, through the “washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26), given to us to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Further, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them (and us), “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). As His followers, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up in humility and love. When we seek the preeminence, we displease the Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart (Mark 9:35; 10:44). When we have that servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed (John 13:17). (Quote source here.)
During the Last Supper while they were eating, Jesus stated to his disciples that one of them would betray him and this news saddened them, making them wonder about themselves and their loyalty to him. The disciple who betrayed him was Judas Iscariot. As to why Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (see previous blog post titled, “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” GotQuestions.org states the following:
While we cannot be absolutely certain why Judas betrayed Jesus, some things are certain. First, although Judas was chosen to be one of the Twelve (John 6:64), all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (as Judas understood it). Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty (John 6:68; 11:16), Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent. This lack of faith in Jesus is the foundation for all other considerations listed below. The same holds true for us. If we fail to recognize Jesus as God incarnate, and therefore the only One who can provide forgiveness for our sins—and the eternal salvation that comes with it—we will be subject to numerous other problems that stem from a wrong view of God.
Second, Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. When the synoptic gospels list the Twelve, they are always listed in the same general order with slight variations (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). The general order is believed to indicate the relative closeness of their personal relationship with Jesus. Despite the variations, Peter and the brothers James and John are always listed first, which is consistent with their relationships with Jesus. Judas is always listed last, which may indicate his relative lack of a personal relationship with Christ. Additionally, the only documented dialogue between Jesus and Judas involves Judas being rebuked by Jesus after his greed-motivated remark to Mary (John 12:1-8), Judas’ denial of his betrayal (Matthew 26:25), and the betrayal itself (Luke 22:48).
Third, Judas was consumed with greed to the point of betraying the trust of not only Jesus, but also his fellow disciples, as we see in John 12:5-6. Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw the great following and believed he could profit from collections taken for the group. The fact that Judas was in charge of the moneybag for the group would indicate his interest in money (John 13:29). (Quote source here.)
GotQuestions.org also states the significance of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus:
Being in Jesus’ “inner circle,” Judas had a closer relationship to Jesus than most people during His ministry. Judas betrayed the Lord to the Jewish authorities. The pre-arranged signal was that the person Judas kissed was to be arrested and taken away (Mark 14:44). In this way the Son of Man [Jesus] was betrayed with a kiss (Luke 22:48).
In the culture of first-century Israel, a kiss was not always a romantic expression of love; rather, a kiss on the cheek was a common greeting, a sign of deep respect, honor, and brotherly love (see Luke 7:45; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). For a student who had great respect for his teacher, a kiss fell well within the healthy expression of honor.
What really stands out in the mode of Judas’s betrayal is that Judas used such an intimate expression of love and respect to betray Jesus. Judas’s actions were hypocritical in the extreme—his actions said, “I respect and honor you,” at the exact time he was betraying Jesus to be murdered. Judas’s actions illustrate Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Often, foes disguise themselves as friends. Evil often wears a mask to conceal its true purpose. . . .
When Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, He identified with the troubles of David, who wrote, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers” (Psalm 55:12–14). Job’s emotional pain also foreshadowed Jesus’ sorrow: “Those I love have turned against me” (Job 19:19).
Once Judas gave the kiss, the deed was done. Jesus was betrayed into the government’s hands to be crucified. Judas was “seized with remorse” (Matthew 27:3) over what he’d done. He gave the money back to the temple authorities and hanged himself out of guilt (verse 5). (Quote source here.)
The Last Supper brought the Old Testament observance of the Passover feast to its fulfillment. Passover was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it commemorated the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death and brought them out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 11:1—13:16). During the Last Supper with His apostles, Jesus took two symbols associated with Passover and imbued them with fresh meaning as a way to remember His sacrifice, which saves us from spiritual death and delivers us from spiritual bondage: “After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:17–20).
Jesus’ words during the Last Supper about the unleavened bread and the cup echo what He had said after He fed the 5,000: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:35, 51, 54–55). Salvation comes through Christ and the sacrifice of His physical body on the cross. . . .
The Last Supper today is remembered during the Lord’s Supper, or communion (1 Corinthians 11:23–33). The Bible teaches that Jesus’ death was typified in the offering of the Passover sacrifice (John 1:29). John notes that Jesus’ death resembles the Passover sacrifice in that His bones were not broken (John 19:36; cf. Exodus 12:46). And Paul said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, including the feasts of the Lord (Matthew 5:17). . . .
The Last Supper was rooted in the Old Covenant even as it heralded the New. Jeremiah 31:31 promised a New Covenant between God and Israel, in which God said, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). Jesus made a direct reference to this New Covenant during the Last Supper: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). A new dispensation was on the horizon. In God’s grace, the New Covenant applies to more than Israel; everyone who has faith in Christ will be saved (see Ephesians 2:12–14).
The Last Supper was a significant event and proclaimed a turning point in God’s plan for the world. In comparing the crucifixion of Jesus to the feast of Passover, we can readily see the redemptive nature of Christ’s death. As symbolized by the original Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ’s death atones for the sins of His people; His blood rescues us from death and saves us from slavery. Today, the Lord’s Supper is when believers reflect upon Christ’s perfect sacrifice and know that, through our faith in receiving Him, we will be with Him forever (Luke 22:18; Revelation 3:20). (Quote source here.)
From the Last Supper Jesus gave us three important things to remember and live by: (1) faithfulness (in the example of Judas’ betrayal); (2) taking the role of a servant and not expecting to be served (by washing the feet of his disciples); and remembering his death that atones for the sins of his people forever (by celebrating communion in remembrance of what he did for us). And may the Last Supper inspire us to live by faith . . .
In Jesus Christ . . .
And to serve others . . .
And not ourselves . . . .
YouTube Video: “Remembrance” by Matt Maher:
Perhaps one of the saddest and most telling stories to come from the last week of Jesus’ life was his betrayal by one of his own disciples, who was not only the treasurer for the group (and a dishonest treasurer at that), but he also witnessed Jesus’ miracles and healings, and he heard Jesus’ parables and his teachings. In fact, he followed Jesus along with the other eleven disciples during Jesus’ three-year ministry on earth. And in the end, this disciple sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16):
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. ~Matthew 26:14-16 NLT
Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, and a New York Times bestselling author, notes the following about Judas Iscariot in his book, “All In: You Are One Decision Away From A Totally Different Life” (2013):
He [Judas Iscariot] couldn’t keep his hand out of the cookie jar. He didn’t just sell out by betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas never bought in. And it’s evidenced by his lack of integrity from the get-go.
He was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. ~John 14:6
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment mistake. He betrayed Jesus each and every time he pilfered the money pot. And while most of us can’t imagine pickpocket Jesus, we shortchange Him in a thousand different ways. We rob God of the glory He demands and deserves by not living up to our full, God-given potential.
No matter how we slice it, sin leaves us with the short end of the stick. Sin always over-promises and under-deliver, while righteousness pays dividends for eternity. Yet we sell out . . . now instead of holding out for . . . later.
Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Samson sold his secret for a one-night stand.
Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver.
What were they thinking? And the answer is, they weren’t. Nothing is more illogical than sin. It’s the epitome of poor judgment. It’s temporary insanity with eternal consequences. And we have no alibi, save the cross of Jesus Christ.
It’s not worth it, and we know it.
Yet we do it.
We sell out for so little instead of going all in for so much. . . .
Thirty pieces of silver. That was Judas’s price point. Jewish readers would have recognized it as the exact amount to be paid if a slave was accidentally killed under Mosaic law. Judas sold his soul for the replacement value of a slave.
The silver coins were most likely sanctuary shekels, since he was paid off by the chief priests. And while some estimates range higher, each coin may have been worth as little as seventy-two cents! So in today’s currency, Judas betrayed Jesus for $21.60.
We know very little about Judas from Scripture, but theories abound. Some scholars suggest Judas was a weak-willed coward with a manipulative wife pulling the strings. Others believe Judas betrayed Jesus out of pure greed. And some suggest he had revolutionary aspirations. He wanted a political savior, and when Jesus didn’t meet his expectations, he went AWOL.
And we do the same thing, don’t we? When God doesn’t conform to our expectations, we’re tempted to betray what we believe in. Like Judas, we’re in it for what we can get out of it. So when God doesn’t grant our wishes like a divine genie in a bottle, we are tempted to turn our back on Him.
This is what separates the boys from the men. Our maybe I should say the sheep from the goats! How do you react when God doesn’t meet your expectations? If you truly accepted the invitation to follow Jesus, you’ll keep going on through hurricanes, hail, and hazardous conditions. If you have simply invited Him to follow you, you’ll bail out at the first sign of bad weather.
As I’ve said before, it’s difficult to psychoanalyze someone who lived thousands of years ago, but it’s safe to say Judas was spiritually schizophrenic. And so are we. Our lives are mixed with lies. We steal from the One we have supposedly surrendered our lives to. And we betray Him in our own unique ways.
There is a little Judas in all of us. And any of us are capable of betraying God if we allow the fear of people to erode the fear of God, selfish ambition to strong-arm godly ambition, or sinful desires to short-circuit God-ordained passions. (Quote source: “All In,” pp. 149-151).
Batterson makes a valid point when he states that there is a little Judas in all of us. A longer explanation of “the Judas in us” is found in an article titled, “You’re Probably More Like Judas Than You Think,” by Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper, and published in Christianity Today. The two authors state the following:
We all want a Messiah whose plans mirror our own. But a true disciple surrenders to the Master’s will.
When Judas Iscariot, the disciple of Jesus, mouthed the Lord’s Prayer, especially when it came time to say “Your will be done,” perhaps he voiced this prayer with the tacit assumption that God’s will paralleled his own. We have probably all been guilty of that sin before.
But what happens when God’s will differs from my own? What happens when the fulfillment of the prayer, that is, the part when God’s will is accomplished, flies in the face of my will?
Judas may be the most intriguing of Jesus’s disciples. He is certainly the most elusive. Over the centuries, Christians have characterized him, some maliciously so, in any number of ways. He was a heartless miser, a power-hungry schemer, or a green-eyed apprentice overshadowed by a more talented master.
Maybe, but maybe not.
Perhaps we should more modestly characterize Judas as a man who initially latched onto the magnetic personality of Jesus but eventually became disillusioned as Jesus’s vision for the Messiahship began to contrast considerably with Judas’s vision. And when Jesus the Messiah failed to fulfill the obligations Judas had imposed on him, he craftily bailed out when there was still time.
There is good reason to believe that Judas was the most perceptive—”shrewd as a snake,” we might say—of Jesus’s disciples. He may have been the first one to recognize that Jesus’s intentions for the Messiahship embraced nothing pertaining to physical rebellion or military rule.
During their last week together in Jerusalem in celebration of the Jewish festival of Passover, on which occasion Jesus brought his ministry to crescendo, Jesus aggressively unpacked his teachings and did not mince words. As Jesus did so, he openly defied—in fact, condemned—the religious establishment to such an extent that he made his death inevitable. Jesus made enemies when he was in Jerusalem, and Judas, as astute as he was, knew it. It’s possible that some of Jesus’s other disciples also flirted with betraying their Master after their stint in Jerusalem. Within a few hours of Judas’s betrayal, in fact, practically all of Jesus’s disciples—even Peter—scattered like sheep without a shepherd.
When death is on the line, loyalty wavers. Unlike Judas, who knew exactly what was going on, the response of the other disciples evidenced their surprise at the betrayal, and their actions were clearly not premeditated. Peter wanted to fight, Mark ran away without his clothes, and John watched from a distance, while the others may have quietly left the scene.
We essentially have two options when God does not follow our plan for life: going our own way or readjusting our course. On the night when Jesus was arrested, Judas had previously made his decision to go his own way. That is to say, at some point in his apprenticeship to Jesus he rejected his Master and decided to cash out his chips while he still had a hand to play. . . .
As is well known, Judas left the Passover feast early Thursday evening. The other disciples were clueless about Judas’s duplicity. Only Jesus was aware of Judas’s impending betrayal. The public conversation between Jesus and Judas the night before at Simon the leper’s in Bethany went over everyone’s head, and the same thing happened at the Last Supper: “What you are going to do, do it quickly.”
At this point in the story, we should see the other option we have when God does not follow our plans: rethink our plans and adjust accordingly. Faithful disciples of Jesus put their plans at the feet of their Master.
We all have motives for the things we do. And Judas must have had a motive for his betrayal of Jesus. Although money may have been a contributing factor, it was not the primary reason. Judas may have been a pilferer, as the Gospel of John suggests, but the fact that he very shortly returned the “blood” money he initially received from the Jewish leaders indicates that greed was not the whole story.
Whatever motivated him, the Gospel accounts make it clear that Judas did not readjust his course. At best, Judas found Jesus genuinely perplexing and completely misunderstood how Jesus’s plans could be better than his own. At worst, Judas was so blinded by his plans and so desperate to secure a future for himself that he was willing to take part in a complex murder scheme. At the root of Judas’s betrayal was a belief in a particular kind of Messiah who would lead him to a prosperous future. He could not accept a suffering servant who bears the sins of others and lays his life down in order to conquer death. If we’re honest with ourselves, such things are not easily believed today, for that matter. Who wins through self-sacrifice? Who would want to trade in his or her own plans for a prosperous future and submit to a God-King’s new plan? Who says that the first shall be last and the last shall be first?
Judas couldn’t let go of his plans because he could not imagine any other way forward. . . .
Plans come between us and God slowly, almost imperceptibly sometimes. . . . Over the years I wanted to follow Jesus, but I always kept backup plans stashed away. I had goals I wanted to meet, assuming that I could keep them along with my relationship with Jesus. I was quite far from Peter’s statement, “Who do we have but you?” [Note: the article contains a section on Peter not included in this blog post.] If I was honest, I would have said, “Well, I sure would like you to be in my life, Jesus, but I also have some other great stuff that offers meaning and fulfillment. In fact, I’d like your help with some of those things.” Each time I let go of these plans or goals and allowed God to reshape them, I found that my original vision for the future wasn’t all that great after all.
A surrendered disciple can say to Jesus: I will live anywhere. I will travel anywhere. I will do any kind of work. The details don’t matter, as long as you are in my life.
Judas provides a stunning contrast between trusting in our own plans and a childlike faith that can hold loosely to goals and dreams for the future. His murderous plot isn’t something we can imagine doing. However, once we understand his commitment to Israel with specific political, religious, and personal outcomes in mind, we can at least understand why he struggled to follow Jesus. As we begin to notice the ways our prayers wander from “Thy will be done” to “My will be done,” we’ll find that Judas, if anything, provides one of the most important warnings against confusing our plans with God’s and one of the most visible contrasts with the childlike faith that helps disciples draw near to Jesus, even during the most trying moments of our lives. (Quote source here.)
This focus on “us” (as in “my will”) instead of Jesus and what He wants (as in “His will”) brings me to something I just read in a new book titled, “The Gospel According to Paul” (2017) by Dr. John MacArthur, who is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In Chapter 5 titled, “The Great Exchange,” MacArthur writes:
Today’s evangelicals often speak about the gospel as if it were a means of discovering one’s own purpose, a message about how to have a happy and prosperous life, or a method of achieving success in one’s relationships or business. In the minds of many, the best starting point for sharing the gospel is an announcement that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
All those ways of presenting the gospel have become such common clichés among contemporary Christians that most people in the church today do not flinch when they hear the gospel framed in such language. They don’t notice how profoundly all those narratives deviate from the gospel Paul proclaimed and defended. A major problem with all of them is the way they turn the gospel into a message about “you”–your life, your purpose, your prosperity. You become the center and subject of the story.
Those are concepts that would have appalled and outraged Paul. One truth that should stand out boldly. . . is that the central figure in the gospel according to Paul is always “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The apostle takes great care never to let the narrative drift.
Here in our text (2 Cor. 5:18-21), Paul’s intention is to explain how “God . . . has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (v. 18). He mentions both Christ and God in every verse. In the span of those four verses, he mentions God by name at least once in every verse (fives times total). Three additional times he refers to God with pronouns (“Himself” twice and “He” once). He uses the Messianic title “Christ” four times. And in that final verse he refers to Christ twice with the pronoun “Him.” The entire passage is decidedly God-centered, not man-centered. That should be the case anytime we talk about the gospel. It’s first of all a message about God’s purpose in the work of Christ; the sinner’s own purpose in life is secondary. That, of course, is the point we started with in this chapter: the gospel is a declaration about the atoning work of Christ.
Nevertheless, we are by no means left entirely out of the picture. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is the subject of this narrative; His people are the objects. All told, pronouns referring to redeemed people are used nine times in the passage. People from every tongue, tribe, and nation constitute “the world” whom Christ has reconciled to God.* Everything Christ did, He did on our behalf.
Why? Not for our comfort or self-aggrandizement, but for His glory. So “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (v. 21). [*Note in book: Paul isn’t suggesting that every individual who ever lived will be reconciled to God. Both Jesus and Paul emphatically reject universalism (Matt. 7:21-23; Rom. 2:5-9) “The world” in this context refers to humanity as a race, regardless of gender, class, or ethnic distinctions (Gal. 3:28)]. (Quote source: “The Gospel According to Paul,” pp. 89-90.)
Too often today our focus is on us and what we want, and just as Batterson stated when he said there’s a little Judas in all of us, we need to be aware of our tendency to go in that direction. Cyzewski and Cooper made a statement at the end of their article that is worth our consideration during this Passion Week leading up to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They stated, “As we begin to notice the ways our prayers wander from “Thy will be done” to “My will be done,” we’ll find that Judas, if anything, provides one of the most important warnings against confusing our plans with God’s, and one of the most visible contrasts with the childlike faith that helps disciples draw near to Jesus, even during the most trying moments of our lives.” It’s a good reminder . . . .
Not my will . . .
But Thy will . . .
Be done . . . .
YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul” by TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, and Mandisa:
The apostle Paul said that God’s handprint on the world is so strikingly obvious that people have no excuse for missing it:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. ~Roman 1:20 NLT
The above quote is taken from page 68 in the book, “God is Amazing: Everything Changes When You See God for Who He Really Is” (2014), by Bruce Bickel, an attorney, author, and speaker; and Stan Jantz, an author, marketing consultant, and Executive Director of Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). The two authors continue with the following on pp. 120-123:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~John 1:14
For all the amazing aspects of God’s being, character, and personality–His infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy–the most amazing of all just might be the Incarnation. It is staggering to think about a perfect God taking on imperfect human form, the infinite becoming finite, the immortal taking on mortality, the invisible God becoming visible through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God coming to earth in the form of a lowly human being is such a profound mystery, and so unexpected, that even today, two thousand years after it happened, people still struggle to understand how it was possible. Even followers of Christ often fail to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. Once a year they, along with the rest of the world, are reminded of this event when they celebrate Christmas, but the true implications of what the birth of Jesus means are generally lost amidst the pageantry, decorations, and gift giving. . . .
The incredible benefits of the Incarnation can be seen in what God accomplished by becoming human. As A.W. Tozer said so well, “God came to dwell with us in person so He could be united to us, only to ultimately dwell in us, so that even now, two millennia after Jesus left the earth, He is still present in each person who calls Him Lord and Savior.”
While He was on earth, Jesus lived out the mystery of the Incarnation by being both man and God. At no time in His thirty-plus years of earthly existence was Jesus never fully human and fully divine. He had a human body, a human mind, and human emotions.
The people who knew Him as He was growing up–including His own family–didn’t believe in Him. They certainly didn’t think He was God (see John 7:5). To them, He was just a carpenter’s son. Yet when Jesus began His public ministry, He defied the natural world by performing supernatural acts. He turned water into wine, fed thousands of people with a sack lunch, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Once, when Jesus calmed a raging storm just by speaking, His astonished followers were terrified because they realized they were in the presence of God (see Mark 4:41).
People today will often acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher, a good man, and a fine example for us to follow. but to leave Him as just that is to tragically miss the whole point. That baby born in a manger was a frail human who grew in human wisdom and stature, but He was also almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Lamb of God without blemish who came to seek and to save the lost. To leave Him in that manger and disregard the amazing implications of what His coming to earth means for all people for all time is to miss the very reason God became flesh. He did it for us. (Quote source, “God is Amazing,” pp. 120-123).
In a few days we will commemorate the last week (known as Passion Week) of Jesus’ life at the end of his three-year ministry which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In between the two is the Jewish celebration of Passover (which lasts for eight days). The connection between the Old Testament Passover and the New Testament celebration of Easter is Jesus Christ, who became the Passover lamb. The following background on Passover is taken from GotQuestions.org:
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival celebrating the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ freedom from slavery to the Egyptians. The Feast of Passover, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was the first of the festivals to be commanded by God for Israel to observe (see Exodus 12). Commemorations today involve a special meal called the Seder, featuring unleavened bread and other food items symbolic of various aspects of the exodus. . . .
The Book of Exodus tells of the origin of Passover. God promised His people to redeem them from the bondage of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:6). God sent Moses to the Egyptian king with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1). When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.
The night of the first Passover was the night of the tenth plague. On that fateful night, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doorposts and lintels with its blood (Exodus 12:21–22). Then, when the Lord passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood (verse 23). In a very real way, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from death, as it kept the destroyer from entering their homes. The Israelites were saved from the plague, and their firstborn children stayed alive. From then on, every firstborn son of the Israelites belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Exodus 13:1–2, 12; cf. Luke 2:22–24).
The children of Israel in Egypt followed God’s command and kept the first Passover. However, none of the Egyptians did so. All through Egypt, behind the unmarked, bloodless doorways of the Egyptians, the firstborn children died at midnight (Exodus 12:21–29). “There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead” (verse 30). This dire judgment finally changed the Egyptian king’s heart, and he released the Israelite slaves (verses 31–32).
Along with the instruction to apply the Passover lamb’s blood to their doorposts and lintels, God instituted a commemorative meal: fire-roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8). The Lord told the Israelites to “observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (Exodus 12:24, ESV), even when in a foreign land.
To this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to this command. Passover and the story of the exodus have great significance for Christians also, as Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, including the symbolism of the Passover (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:12). He was killed at Passover time, and the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Luke 22:7–8). By (spiritually) applying His blood to our lives by faith, we trust Christ to save us from death. The Israelites who, in faith, applied the blood of the Paschal lamb to their homes become a model for us. It was not the Israelites’ ancestry or good standing or amiable nature that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb that made them exempt from death (see John 1:29 and Revelation 5:9–10). (Quote source here.)
GotQuestions.org continues with the following:
The New Testament establishes a relationship between this prototypical Passover lamb and the consummate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7). The prophet John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and the apostle Peter links the lamb without defect (Exodus 12:5) with Christ, whom he calls a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus is qualified to be called One “without blemish” because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Revelation, John the apostle sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12).
The Bible says believers have symbolically applied the sacrificial blood of Christ to their hearts and thus have escaped eternal death (Hebrews 9:12, 14). Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers (Romans 6:23).
As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2). As the first Passover was to be held in remembrance as an annual feast, so Christians are to memorialize the Lord’s death in communion until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Old Testament Passover lamb, although a reality in that time, was a mere foreshadowing of the better and final Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. Through His sinless life and sacrificial death, Jesus became the only One capable of giving people a way to escape death and a sure hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:20-21). (Quote source here).
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 Monday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good 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.)
The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.
Another reason the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important is that it proves His sinless character and divine nature. The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died (see Acts 13:32–37). It was on the basis of the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached, “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin” (Acts 13:38–39).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, no eternal life. Jesus does more than give life; He is life, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).
Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike other religions, Christianity possesses a Founder who transcends death and promises that His followers will do the same. Every other religion was founded by men or prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we know that God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 10:12). . . .
The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now. Paul ends his discourse on resurrection with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can endure persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (verses 30–32), just as our Lord did. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of Christian martyrs throughout history have willingly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life and the promise of resurrection.
The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? It proves who Jesus is. It demonstrates that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It shows that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that the bodies of those who believe in Christ will not remain dead but will be resurrected unto eternal life. (Quote source here.)
Bickel and Jantz state the following in the last chapter of their book, “God is Amazing” (pp. 218-219):
In the ultimate act of love, God allowed His perfect Son to be crucified for our transgressions. Being sinless Himself, His death was a qualifying sacrifice sufficient to pay the penalty for our transgressions. Christ’s death proved His love for us; His resurrection proved that He was God.
God extends His offer of salvation to all people. It is based completely on the sacrifice of Christ. There is no “performance” required on our part. It is just as amazing as it sounds: those who put their faith and trust in Christ are immediately restored to intimacy with the almighty God of the universe.
Like our salvation, our continuing relationship with Christ is not performance-based. Followers of Christ are not in jeopardy of being kicked out of God’s family when they mess up. Of course, true Christ-followers desire to live according to God’s principles, but this is a matter of voluntary submission and commitment motivated by responsive gratitude. Perfection is not required. it is not even expected. God’s love, grace, and forgiveness extend to His followers with His foreknowledge that we will screw up along the way.
At some time in the future, God will restore order at the completion of His plan. Evil will be conquered permanently, and Christ-followers–from the past and present–will reign with Him for eternity in a perfect creation.
It is an amazing scenario . . . . (Quote source, “God is Amazing,” pp. 218-219).
Whoever believes in Him . . .
Should not perish . . .
But have everlasting life . . . .
YouTube Video: “Because He Live (Amen)” by Matt Maher: