Leopard crossing a dirt road in Namibia

Friday, April 18, 2014

THANK GOD - IT'S GOOD FRIDAY !

Mark 15

Last night  prepared  us  for today !( SEE PREVIOUS POST :  Thank God - its Maundy Thursday!)  
In Mark 14   we saw  Jesus  revealed  as the Passover Lamb – “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world “  (John 1 :29,36). 
Jesus  rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday  to   be that lamb!  Previously He had spoken  about this  in  Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34. We see it in the institution of  the  Lord’s supper  (14:22-25)  -  “This is my body … this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many…” 

Well, until now it has all been  theory. Today however, on Good Friday  this is no longer  theory. This   is the day  on which  we remember  that there came a time  when Jesus   actually  gave  His life   as  the Passover  lamb  –  so that the wrath of God would pass over  all those who would embrace Him and His work  on the cross.   I trust  that the Holy Spirit   who has  inspired  the Scriptures [1], will  be pleased to   show us  the  awesomeness  of this event  as we  meditate  on  these familiar words  once again.

The key thought is this : Jesus is handed over  to be killed. Consider the following  sequence of events as they unfold in Mark 15 :
1.     The chief priests , the elders  and scribes and the whole council deliver Jesus to Pilate accusing  Him of many things(15:1-5)
2.     Pilate  delivers Jesus over to the crowd who kept on shouting  “ crucify Him!”  (15: 6-15)
3.    Jesus is handed over to the soldiers who  hurt Him , mocked Him , stripped Him  and eventually crucified Him  (15:16-20)
4.     The soldiers  handed  Jesus over to the cross to die   (15: 21- 32)
5.     On the cross  Jesus  is handed over  to forsakenness   and  to death (15: 33- 41)
6.     From the cross  Jesus is handed over  Joseph of Arimathea  (15: 42-45)
7.      Joseph of Arimathea hands Jesus  over  to the grave   (15: 46 )

All,  except the last  two points  are apparently motivated by sinful, ugly emotions – but all these points  emphasise the forsakenness of Christ. He was handed over to  die. He was handed over to the grave . The Passover Lamb  had been slain !

Now what ? At face value  this  all sounds  very  depressing , doesn’t it ? And who should we blame  for his death?  For every  death  humanity  looks for  a  guilty party . The relatives of  Malaysian  flight MH 370  are blaming the  Malaysian government  for the   disappearance of their loved ones. The  families  of this week’s  South   Korean  ferry disaster  in which up to 300 people (mainly children) are missing,  they are  blaming the captain   and the shipping line.  When a  loved one dies on the operating table  people  blame the doctor and nurses .  In a  fatal car crash  people blame the  other driver.

Who should we blame  for Jesus’ death ?  

We saw  very clearly  that  Jesus  had now been  delivered by the hands of men  - for them to do what they will do with him. The whole chapter  is about  men and what they do  to Jesus. In this chapter  Jesus  the Lord , the sovereign King of the Universe , is quiet.   He does not say a word. He lets men do what they want to do to Him  , although , in Matthew’s account  of the arrest of Jesus  He makes mention  of this fact :  “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He at  once send  me  more than   12 legions  of  angels? But  how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so? [2]
It must be so,   and so  Isaiah prophesies  : Like a lamb He is led to the slaughter [3].

There are no nice and helpful people around Him. The disciples have all abandoned Him by this time. The faithful women  who ministered to Jesus  stood at a distance and looked[4].  The  crowd  shouts  at Him. The soldiers mock Him and spit on Him.  They steal His clothes and divide them. They crucify Him on the cross –naked  and exposed . The by-passers  mock  Him and insult Him : “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests and  the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “ He saved others; he cannot save Himself.” Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now  from the cross that we may see and believe.  Those who were crucified with  Him  also    reviled Him .  (15:29-32)  

The only nice man  here  is Joseph  of Arimathea,  “who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God   that took courage  and went to Pilate  and asked for the body of Jesus … and laid him in a tomb that  had been cut out of the rock.”  (15:43-46). We might  have some sympathy for  Simon of Cyrene who was made  to carry  the cross of Jesus cross.  We  are thankful that one of the thieves crucified with Jesus  believed in  Jesus  in his dying moments. [5] We  have some sympathy for the Roman centurion,  who after Jesus  died  said : “ Truly this man was the Son of God !” (15:39)  Other than this,  everything is  very  harsh . And we ask : who is ultimately guilty  for delivering Jesus  up to His death? There is such a long list  of people  to blame . Can we find the real culprit and so perhaps get him to bear the blame for sending the Son of God to the cross?

·     Can we blame PILATE?  Pilate was perhaps one of the most powerful and influential men in Jesus' day in Judea. He was a Roman procurator, the administrator of Judea. He had the political power to stop the killing of Jesus. Moreover, as Scripture makes clear, Pilate was convinced of Jesus' innocence[6]. Three times he declared publicly that he could find no basis of accusation against Jesus. He wanted to avoid sentencing Jesus[7], but before his hands were dry, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. He really wanted to free Jesus, but he also wanted to please the crowd. Pilate's conscience was ultimately drowned out by the loud shouts of the crowd. Should we not accuse him?
·     Should  we  blame the  ROMAN SOLDIERS? They mocked Him[8], and they ultimately crucified Him.  Can we accuse them? Possibly, but we need to realise that this was their job. They did what they were commanded to do.
·      What about the JEWISH PEOPLE  and their  PRIESTS? Here we have quite a strong case.  On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter makes it very clear, that he considered the Jewish people and their rulers guilty of this crime.[9] Should we not blame them?
·      What  about  JUDAS ISCARIOT? After all, he betrayed Jesus directly into the hands of the Jewish people and their priests. Isn't he the guilty one - ultimately?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

The Bible has two responses  to this  dilemma :

1.     Human Responsibility  : The fact that so many people  could be blamed should  cause us  to think very carefully, and if indeed  we would  consider the  verdict of the  whole Bible, then we shall discover very  quickly  that  the Bible teaches the corporate guilt of humanity.[10] When it comes to putting the blame at someone's feet, the Bible actually points to all of us, even though it is true that those who actually committed the deed are guilty of a greater sin. Pilate, the Jewish people and their priests, who shouted, "crucify him" clearly have a lot more to answer for.[11]

Horatio Bonar [12] wrote an excellent hymn that expresses  the corporate guilt of mankind:

Twas I that shed the sacred blood, I nailed Him to the tree
        I crucified the Son of God, I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude, I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude, I recognise my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,  mocking the sufferer’s groan
Yet still my voice it seems to be, as if I mocked alone.

It is deeply entrenched in our sinful human nature to deny our personal guilt  and to  point fingers at someone else, but the Bible says that  the whole world is responsible for  Jesus’ death.  He died because we all  put Him there!

2.     Divine Sovereignty : Jesus  died because it was His Father’s  will. Jesus died to fulfil the Scriptures  (14:49) . Jesus  died  because  the  Father’s love took Him there  : For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall  not perish but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16) – see also  Romans 8:32 . Octavius Winslow  summed it up in a  neat statement: “Who delivered up Jesus to die ?  Not Judas , for money; not Pilate, for fear ; not the Jews for  envy - but the Father – for love! [13]

So,  we need to look at the cross in two ways :
On a  human level  all of us are responsible for  Jesus’ death. Our sin took Him there .
On a divine level  God the Father gave Him up to die for us.
Acts  2 :23   is  a key verse in this respect. Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost :” … this Jesus, delivered up according to  the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men .”  Here you find both , human responsibility and divine   sovereignty

So , why did Jesus die ? 
1.     He did not die . He was killed !
2.     He was not killed. He died, giving Himself  up  for us  to do His Father’s will. 

That is why we speak of the day on which He died as Good Friday! Why good? Because something very good happened there. Christ died to deal with  my and your sin – in two ways : (i) Christ decisively  dealt with  our sin  by    freeing us from  its  power (expiation) - no more condemnation ( Rom 8:1) !  (ii)  Christ  dealt with the righteous anger of God towards us. (propitiation)
Thank God for Good Friday !



[1] 2 Tim 3:16  “ All  Scripture is breathed out by God …” ( Gr. theopneustos)
[2] Matthew 26:53
[3] Isaiah 53:7  “ He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
[4] Matthew 27:55,56
[5] Luke 23: 40-43
[6] Lk 23:4,14,22
[7] Lk 23:4,14,22
[8] Lk 23:11
[9] Acts 3:12 - 15
[10] Rom 3:9 - 23
[11] Mk 14:21
[12] Horatio Bonar, a Scottish  Hymn writer, lived from 1809 - 1889
[13] John Stott: The Cross of Christ , p.  61

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THANK GOD FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY!

 MARK 14 

At Eastside Baptist Church we have been living in the Gospel of Mark, both in reading it in our morning services, and preaching from this Gospel on Sunday evenings.  Our desire is to   get to know or Lord Jesus as He is revealed to us in this gospel. [1] May the Holy Spirit be pleased to add to our knowledge the ability to see Christ for who He is? May our hearts be filled with  renewed gratitude , worship and  resolve to serve Him with a greater  devotion  as a result of this  special  time  on the Christian calendar .

Our Scripture reading  from Mark  chapter 14  on this Communion evening   takes us  to  the events  of the days and the  night  before the cross  of Christ  - the  night on which he  was betrayed by Judas .

The major theme of this  chapter  : Christ is coming to do that for which He was appointed. He comes to be the Passover Lamb.

We find the Old Testament imagery in Exodus 12. The blood of a lamb was to be applied to the door lintels of  the homes of every Hebrew family, presently in slavery in in Egypt. They must leave this land to go to the land of their promise.  Human sin stands in the way  yet again, by way of a stubborn Egyptian pharaoh. God will do whatever it takes to send His people on their  way to that country. With patience God speaks 9 times to Pharaoh by means of plagues.  Pharaoh will not listen, and so the 10th plague is decreed:  the death of every firstborn son in every household in Egypt! 
God however makes exclusion.  He commands the Israelites to institute a new commemorative feast,  which is called the Passover. The ritual is simple. Kill a young lamb, and apply its blood to the door lintels.  This would be the sign for the angel of death who would pass through Egypt that night, to pass over the homes of the Israelites.

It is amazing , is it not , that    God used this  ancient incident to prepare us for a far greater  deliverance-  for the world’s  deliverance  from  our  spiritual  Egypt, -  the world house of sin and slavery . This picture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and all this rich Old Testament history and imagery now comes to a climax   here in Mark 14.
Jesus had prepared His disciples for this event on at least three occasions:   Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34

In Chapter 14:1   we find the   great connection between Christ and   the Passover. Christ is the Passover Lamb. John saw this clearly when he said: “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1: 29, 36).  
The greater Passover Lamb must die!  Death is in the air! We see this already in the very first verse in Mark 14:1   where we are told: “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill Him.”   Their intent is clearly murderous. In that sense they become the image of Old Testament Pharaoh who designed evil and death for the Jews.   God however shall use this evil intent to bring about the most glorious story ever told!  God will deliver up His Son to evil men. He will  allow them to do what they want to do, but  in doing this   God will  count His  Life as  a  blood atonement  that will  redeem  all those in the world  that  believe  in the person and work of Christ , and God will  use this to judge  all those that stand indifferently or defiantly  against Christ !

The next thing that  happens  is  that Jesus gets  anointed at Bethany (14: 3-9) by  Mary , the sister of Lazarus and  Martha (John 12:3)  with a very costly  perfume . While some regard this as a “waste “Jesus sees this as anointing of His body for His funeral. Again, the fragrance of Christ’s death is in the air!  

Next we  find Judas,  who being  tempt by  the priests ,  promise to give him  money  in exchange for  betraying the  One who has been so  very good to him  (14: 10- 11)

The day of the unleavened bread which is closely associated with the Passover now follows.  This is the day and the night of Jesus betrayal!  On this day every Jewish house removes all evidences of any yeast (12:15) and eats unleavened bread only.  Yeast symbolically has the characteristics of sin. Once it is in the dough it spreads and it cannot be removed from the dough. The sin that has pervaded the nation of Israel (and the world) cannot be removed … except through the blood of Christ.

With Mark   14: 12 – 72   we find the   day which has sometimes been called "Maundy Thursday"[2] (see note). The remembrance of the historical Passover shall be central event of this day. In fact the Passover today will become much, much bigger in its significance! 

But where shall Jesus and the disciples find a place to celebrate the Passover?  

What unfolds now gives us a fascinating insight into Jesus   foreknowledge of events. We learn that there is nothing haphazard about this event. It is all    very carefully planned.  In 14: 12-31 Jesus gives the disciples as it were a foretaste of   the ‘divine agenda’:
 ·        A man carrying a jar of water will meet them in the city.
 ·        The man will tell them that he has a large upper room, ready for their Passover celebration.
 ·        Here Jesus will reveal that He shall be betrayed by one of the disciples.  He will predict that the disciples will in fact all fall away (14:27)   because it is written:   “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). He also reveals (again) that He will be raised from the dead. He reveals that He would meet them again in Galilee (14:28). He foretells that Peter (amidst protestations) will fall away.
The rest of the chapter   reveals   at least three fulfilments of Jesus’ words:  
(i)                Verses  43 – 50  - Judas betrayal
(ii)              Verses 51 – 52  -  the young man    that  flees as  Jesus  is arrested ( probably  Mark  who is  illustrative of the disciples )
(iii)             Verses  66-72  - Peter denies Jesus

·       Following the Lord’s supper   Jesus and the disciples go out to the Mount of Olives Verses   in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus come here to pray, as He knows that the hour is now come. Verses   32- 42   show us that He is in deep distress. The depth of His soul agony we will never be able to understand. It  is  probably much worse than the physical  trauma  and pain which He  experiences  on Friday  when He is mocked , tortured and  crucified  (Mark 15) .

This is the day which we now remember …. Maundy Thursday
1.       It  was  all part of God’s plan   to  provide a  Lamb  whose blood  would  be  applied to  the lives of those  who  would believe  in God by  believing in the person and work of His Son . 
2.      In this plan He uses the wicked (like Judas) to do what they would have freely chosen to do.
3.      The sin of His redeemed  people’s  faithlessness  ( illustrated  by  the young disciple that ran away and  by Peter  who denied  Christ ) is  all covered  by  the  shed blood of Christ .  We are taught here that it is not our natural resolve to love God    that causes us to persevere, but the fact that   the Lamb’s   blood has been shed for us.

Praise God then for the active obedience of Christ, by which He secures our justification! Although the cross (Good Friday)  is that event where  His blood is shed and  where our  justification is ultimately secured,  Maundy Thursday is important , because here  the Old Testament  history  is   being    vindicated  , and the whole Bible as we hold it now in our hands  is proven to be the Word of God !

Thank God for Maundy Thursday!




[1] The most detailed  description  of the night  He was betrayed is found in John  Chapters 13-17
[2]  WIKIPEDIA :  Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NAMIBIA AND NORTH KOREA

New Independence Museum built by NK
For a number of years now we have been observing  that North Koreans  have been used to  build  Namibian National symbols  such as the grandiose State House , a new Independence Museum and the   Heroes acre  in our capital city , Windhoek .

Given the fact that Namibia is a free  and democratic country,   it is ironic  that  we should  allow  an  oppressive, sinister   regime such as North Korea,    to  build  our national symbols of freedom.  

We have just heard that  North Korea  has  jailed and  possibly executed  33 Christians.
The Washington Times ( March 6th , 2014)  citing the South Korean  Daily Mail   carried the following  report :

North Korea tyrant Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered that 33 Christians believed to be working alongside South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook be put to death.
Heroes Acre  Windhoek built by NK 
The South Korean missionary — who was arrested last year — and his accomplices have reportedly started 500 or so underground churches, Breitbart reported.
South Korean press cited by The Daily Mail reported that Mr. Kim has charged that the 33 are attempting to overthrow the government — the same accusation that led to the execution of the North Korean leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and all Mr. Jang’s relatives.
The missionary aides will be put to death in a cell of the State Security Department, The Daily Mail reported.
Their announced executions come just a day after reports surfaced that North Korea’s Number Two, Choe Ryong Hae, hasn’t been seen at several recent public events he normally would have attended — fueling talk that perhaps he’s the latest to be purged from Mr. Kim’s government.[1]

Kim Jong-un of North Korea
Surely, this is an outrage!   Namibia has a large professing  Christian majority  and  we  should not be silent on this matter. We know of course  that God will,   in His time, severely judge  North Korean dictator Kim  Jong-un  for  the murder of  Christ’s people,  but  we also  want to remind  our government that alliances  with  such  countries  will not leave us unscathed from the wrath of God.  [ Habakkuk 3:2]

Friday, March 7, 2014

Five Foundational Matters Which The Namibian Church Should Be Praying For At This Time

Yesterday  (06/03/2014)  the  Namibian  nation was called to prayer  by our President in response to a  series of cruel  murders  of young women  by their boyfriends.  We need  to understand that these murders are symptomatic of  what goes on in the heart  of our people. A mere  glimpse at the symptoms will not solve  our problems . The church has  two  powerful weapons by which she mat help the country :  (i) to preach the Word  ( ii) to pray  regularly  for the spiritual health  of the nation .  To be sure, prayer for our country needs to be an ongoing work of the church . 


Here are  5 foundational  considerations for  continued intercessory  prayer : 

1.  Pray  that  God would give  our   churches  the  ability to  see that  the neglect of  the Word of God and Prayer has indeed reaped grim  rewards. We have believed  the  lies of humanism, and its   doctrines  that teach  us to  rely on the wisdom of man  more than  the  wisdom of  the Word of God. For this we need to repent.

2. Pray that our  churches and nation  would see that  the  most basic and foundational  institution  upon earth – covenantal marriage,  the foundation of the family,  is  indeed God’s idea . This sacred institution has  been  spurned  by our generation and thus   has produced  this social chaos in which we now  find ourselves.  For this we need to repent.

3.  Pray  that we would see that  we have neglected our parental duties  towards  our children. Too many children in our country have grown  up without godly  nurture  and  instruction. Too many  children nowadays  grow up in single parent families,  or  are being raised  by  persons who are not their  parents.  We ought to repent  that we  have bought into  modern  humanistic  values that forbid  the parent to discipline their  child in biblical love.

4.  Pray that  the Namibian church  would wake up from its   non - commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and that preachers  would arise to  fearlessly  proclaim the  whole counsel of God,  speaking the truth in love.  Pray  that God would  forgive the church  for her many sins  and restore her ( 2 Chronicles  7:14)

5. Pray that the Namibian government   would   have the wisdom to keep all  immoral   and subversive forces out of the land, and to firmly punish  all evil doers   and murderers appropriately and in such a way so as to  discourage any further acts of violence.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

6th of March 2014 - A Day of National Prayer!


When last have you heard of a President of any country who in response to calamity calls his nation to prayer?

President Hifikepunye Pohamba has dared to do this, against the background of media ridicule and cajoling .

Namibia is currently in the grip of a spate of angry men who kill their girlfriends, and it is continuing. This morning’s newspaper (The Namibian 05/03/2014) reports of yet again another such murder. A man stabbed his girlfriend to death in cold blood while her children were watching. This is incident number 10 since the beginning of the year !

Our president is concerned, and so should we. I have done some analysis of the ‘angry Namibian man syndrome’ in my last blog post.

There are historical precedents for calling a nation to prayer such as was the case in the days of John Wesley , the famous Methodist Preacher who tells us in his journal of a deliverance in 1756. The king of England called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by France.

Wesley wrote: “The fast was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility. He added later in a footnote: “Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.”

Below also  find an example of a proclamation and a call to national prayer and fasting in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, the president of the USA. 

If you are in Windhoek , please feel free to join us  on THURSDAY , 6th March 2014  for  an hour of prayer at Eastside Baptist Church  between 18h00 and 19h00  as  we intercede  with the church at large  for our nation .

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State .