Giving Up Trouble

“Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” – John 14:1

This is the day in the “church year” some call “Maundy Thursday.”  Since most Christians think of Good Friday as the day of the crucifixion, this evening is sometimes set aside to remember the origin of the communion service: the “Last Supper” Jesus had with his inner circle before the crucifixion.

In John’s Gospel we find the most detailed account of that evening they shared together.  He gives three full chapters to the teaching Jesus gave them at that time, including some of the most beloved and often quoted things he ever said.  One could write a book about that amazing and wide-ranging discourse.

One of the most astonishing things in it is its opening: “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Think of the circumstances!  In the previous chapter we read that Jesus had just told them three things that shocked them profoundly:

1) He told them he was about to be killed.

2) He told them that one of them, a member of that close inner group of 12, was going to betray him.

3) Finally, he had just told them that brave Peter, a natural leader among the 12, was going to deny him three times before morning.

“But don’t be upset!” he tells them in the next breath.  It is immediately after these three shocks that he gives them this firm order: “Don’t let it throw you; you have confidence in God, have confidence in me.”

That is one way we might translate into modern speech these familiar words: “Let not your heart be troubled.”

You and I have never faced any shocks as troubling as the three Jesus had just delivered to this group.  First, he himself, their leader, their powerful protector, their teacher, their nation’s Messiah, the Son of the Living God, was to be taken from them, and taken from them through the violent process of being crucified.

We have all lost loved ones to death but none of us has lost anyone as close to us and as important in our lives as Jesus was in the lives of these men.  But he tells them not merely that they should not panic, but that they should not even be troubled.

On top of that, they could not be sustained through the impending crisis by the solidarity of their support group.  The one who seemed the strongest of them was going to deny even knowing Jesus, and another was actually going to sell him out to his enemies.

But he said “Let not your heart be troubled.”  Don’t allow that; fight the impulse to fear; put it down.

What are the things that threaten to trouble you?  Don’t let them.  Do you have confidence in God?  You may!  In fact, you must.  The  same Lord Jesus who assured the disciples that night assures you now through the same word: “Have confidence in me.”

Meditate:

John 13:21 – 14:1

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Good Thursday?

Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. – Jonah 1:17

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” – Matthew 12:40

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. – John 20:1

Was Jesus crucified on Friday?  Or was it really on Thursday?

The evidence for Friday is that the Gospels tell us that the next day after the crucifixion was a sabbath.  But a good many Bible students have come to believe that these passages are referring to a special sabbath connected with the celebration of the Passover, and that the verses quoted above prove that Jesus died on Thursday.

The Jewish approach to the calendar was that each day started at sundown.  They derived this from the creation account in Genesis which says “the evening and the morning were the first day.”  Evening and morning made up a day for them, rather than the twenty-four hour midnight-to-midnight day we are accustomed to.

What’s more, any part of a year was a year in the reckoning of Jews, and any part of a day was a day.  This helps to explain the chronology of the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel found in the Old Testament as we relate them to other evidence in the Bible and in the findings of archaeologists.

Finally, the Gospels are clear that Jesus was buried just before sundown.  Put these together and you find that if Jesus was buried before sundown on Thursday, he was “in the heart of the earth” three days: part of Thursday, all of Friday, and all of Saturday.  He was also “in the heart of the earth” three nights: all of Thursday night, all Friday night, and the part of Saturday night before he rose early Sunday morning before dawn.  This would fit perfectly with the texts quoted above, since Mary arrived at the tomb while it was still dark and found the stone rolled away and an angel in the tomb saying that Jesus was risen.

On the other hand, if the crucifixion was on Friday, he was in the heart of the earth only two days and two nights, not three days and three nights.

But please be assured that there is no problem here no matter which theory is correct.  If he did really die Thursday, then you may be sure that Friday during that Passover season was regarded as a sabbath and so reported by the Gospel writers.

If, on the other hand, he really was put to death Friday, then you may be assured that there is no conflict with the verses quoted above; all it means is that God changed his mind and decided after two days and two nights that this was enough: that his Son had been in the heart of the earth long enough and it was time to get him up out of there and restore him to the glory due him.

God had changed his mind before, and the book of Jonah tells about one of the most dramatic of those times: when he spared Nineveh.  Is it strange that he might have spared his own Son that extra time in the grave?

Meditate:

Jonah 3:10, 4:11, Philippians 2:8-11

With Good Friday Coming…

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son. – Galatians 4:4

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. – Daniel 9:26

Good Friday this year is on April 1st.  But when was the first Good Friday?  Many wonder.  “Dating the Crucifixion” is the title of a 1983 article by two Oxford University professors who feel that they have pinned it down to Friday, April 3rd, A.D. 33, the 14th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar.

They start with acceptance of Roman sources which say Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judaea between A.D. 26 and A.D. 36.  Next they assert that all four gospels put the day of the week on Friday, because the crucifixion was happening just before the start of a sabbath.  Finally they read all four gospels as saying that it was the time of Passover, within a day.  They cite some scholars as feeling that the synoptic gospels indicate Friday the 15th of Nisan as the date, while others feel that all four gospels indicate a date of Friday the 14th of Nisan.  And yes, they have read the theories of J. Jeremias.

They use astronomical calculations to reconstruct the official religious calendar of the Jews during this period.  This is not easy, since it involves guessing when the new moon would have been sighted by the eyes of watching priests.

Finally they add in a partial eclipse of the moon on April 3rd, 33, which explains in their view Peter’s reference, in his sermon recorded in Acts, to the moon being turned to blood.  A full Passover moon, rising in a partially eclipsed state, would indeed look quite red.

The article rejects the report of Tertullian (written around 200 A.D.) that the date was March 25th, A.D. 29.  The Passover full moon that year was in April, they insist, not in March.  But a key sentence in the article is this: “We do not know with what skill the Jews of the first century could detect the first faintly glowing lunar crescent after conjunction with the Sun.”  The authors tend to give the benefit of any doubt to the observers.

On their assumptions, which attribute the highest integrity and  the highest visual acumen to the official observers, A.D. 33 appears indeed to be the indicated date.

But if an experienced observer jumped the gun, out of pride or excessive zeal, reporting to have sighted the hairline crescent moon before he actually could, knowing when it was supposed to come and perhaps not wanting to admit his eyes were going bad, all bets could be off.  They could be off in the opposite direction if the observers were stubborn old men of misted vision who didn’t officially see the new moon until a day after everyone else had seen it.

There is a question in my mind as to whether these kinds of influences, which can hardly be ruled out from this distance in time, could put Passover earlier or later than modern astronomers would.

If you are interested in reading the whole article, with its 28 footnotes, it is in the highly respected British science magazine “Nature,” Vol. 306, 22/29 December 1983.

Meditate:

Galatians 4:4; Daniel 9:26

A Goodly Heritage

“Honor thy father and mother” – Exodus 20:12

One of the greatest blessings God ever gave me was a father and mother who knew him, loved him, and honored him.  Long before I was born they were praying for me, and they never stopped.

Today, March 28th, was my father’s birthday.  If he were still living here on earth, he would be over a hundred years old today.  He is still living, of course; but now he is living in Heaven, with his father and mother, with his sisters, and of course with Jesus.  I don’t think of him as having died in 1960; I think of him as having moved.

“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” Paul wrote.  My Dad left his old body behind and moved into his resurrection body, the body he will have on when Jesus brings him along down to meet us in the air at the Rapture.  Yes, he is very much alive right now, more alive, really, than he ever was while living in the “tent” I knew him in on earth.

Many things bring some memory of him to mind, often, and the only reason I don’t write a book about him is that he urged everyone in the family, in the strongest possible terms, never to do such a thing.  But whenever the 28th of March rolls around, I remember him in a special way, of course.

Today I’m thinking of his life verse.  Do you know what a “life verse” is?  In his youth, my Dad heard someone say that every life is a sermon, and every sermon should have a text whose truth it is trying to demonstrate.

The text he chose for his life was five words from Philippians 3:10: “That I may know him.”  He knew, of course, that the Scripture says we will know him fully and perfectly after we leave this body behind and come into his presence, to “see him as he is.”  But he wanted his life to demonstrate all that a human being can experience here and now from making the knowledge of God our highest priority, studying his WORD and his WAYS, seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness.

He often told how, as a teenager, he liked a certain young preacher and took every opportunity to hear him.  The only name I know him by is “Tom.”  One time Tom was coming through Watsonville on a train on his way to preach nearby (no cars in those days) and Dad got on to meet him and go along.  After they exchanged greetings, Tom pulled out his Bible and his notes, and Dad opened a newspaper he had brought along.  He glanced over at Tom and said, “I sure wish I knew my Bible as well as you do, Tom.”  Tom glanced back at him and replied, “Well, you’ll never get to know it reading the newspaper.”  Dad put down the paper, got out his Bible, and, in his words, in a sense never put it down again.

“That I may know him.”  What a great goal!  To know God!  And you can start where you are, even with a newspaper in your hand.

Meditate:

Philippians 3:10

You Will Say…

I will give thanks to thee, O LORD, for though thou wast angry with me, thy anger turned away, and thou didst comfort me.  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. – Isaiah 12:1,2

The twelfth chapter of Isaiah is the shortest in the book.  Most of it sounds like a psalm.  The interesting thing about the chapter is that this is not a psalm Isaiah is quoting from David, or Moses, or Samuel.  It is also not one he is singing for himself.  It is a psalm, he says, which we will sing.

The chapter begins with the words: “You will say in that day.”  “You will say …” and it goes on in the words quoted above.  This is a song, he says, which will spring from the hearts of believers when they see the way God works out his plans in the future.

Then verse three goes on like this:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation, and you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD!  Call upon his name!  Make known his deeds among the nations!  Proclaim that his name is exalted!  Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously!  Let this be known in all the earth!  Shout and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah obviously thinks something is going to happen that will get us really excited and happy, and since we know he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, we can be sure he was right.

That’s something to cheer up about.  That’s good news.  You can count on that.

Sometimes when children get hurt, we tell them “Oh, you’ll be laughing about this tomorrow.”  Sometimes a teenager may just miss making a team, or the cheerleading squad, or may not be invited to a particular party by a particular person who seems for that moment supremely important, and I have heard parents tell them “Oh, you’ll be laughing about this a year from now.”

Usually the parents are right, though it doesn’t always seem like much comfort to the young at the time.

There are times when adults have their own terrible disappointments, disappointments that seem at the time impossible to survive, and well meaning friends offer the same kind of advice.  It may have happened to you.

“What do you know?” we say in our hearts; “You just don’t understand,” we think.  And we may be right.  It is all too easy to give superficial comfort, and even though it may be given with the best of intentions it may be useless.

But when GOD tells you that you will be singing for joy, then, no matter what your problem may be now, you have good, strong, clear, reliable cause for being of good cheer.  This is the power of the Christian hope: God will act; he will accomplish his purposes; infinite joy is coming; you will say …

Meditate:

Isaiah 12:1-6; Psalm 98:1