Fireside

What’s so good about Good Friday?

How does a day marked by sadness become good? We call the day Jesus crucified as Good Friday. Some believe it was God’s Friday. Over the years it was evolved into Good Friday. It can be God’s Friday because on that day God gave up His only begotten Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of entire humanity. On this day God demonstrated His greatest love towards human race.

Despite its sadness related to mourning and processions, Good Friday is truly good. Its sadness is divine. It is something like the Corinthian believers who became sorrowful after receiving a sharp and admonishing letter from their spiritual teacher, Paul the Apostle.

For Christians, Good Friday is a vital day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most significant weekend in the history of the world. 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 how Jesus willingly took up the cup of sorrow to make us happy and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10).

Easter, the magnificent celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead declare 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).

 

To get the real meaning of good news and Good Friday, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of liberty makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. In the same way, Good Friday is good because without this day our other days would have become bad. God poured out the wrath on Jesus for our sake. He was the perfect sacrificial substitute for our forgiveness and salvation. With that dreadful day of agony, suffering and the blood poured out at the cross, God justify one who trusts in Jesus. We see both God’s righteousness and peace on the cross. Because of Jesus willing sacrifice, we receive divine forgiveness, mercy and peace.

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

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THE PALM SUNDAY

Introduction:

It’s called Palm Sunday because the crowd took branches of Palm trees as they went out to welcome Lord Jesus (John 12:13).

It’s called The Triumphal Entry, and is recorded in all the four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19).

But what makes it a Triumphal Entry?

I. Sitting on a donkey and her colt (Matthew 21:1-3).

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once” (Matthew 21:1-3).

There are three questions that rise out of this passage –

A. Was it his superior knowledge or his pre-arrangements with the owner?

1. Matthew doesn’t record if anyone raised any objection.

2. But in Mark 11:5-6 some of those who were standing there did raise question but later, satisfied with the answer, let them go

B. What was it – a donkey and her colt, a colt or just a young donkey?

1. Matthew says a donkey and her colt ( Matthew 21:2).

2. Mark and Luke have ‘a colt on which no one has ever sat (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30).

3. John has a young donkey which Jesus himself found (John 12:14).

a. Discrepancy?

b. Complimentary?

C. What was the need to the borrow the colt since our Lord had always walked on foot?

1. It was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

2. It was the entrance of a king. Matthew 21:5

3. It was the entrance of a righteous king.

4. It was the entrance of a king, having salvation. Isaiah 62:11

“Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him” (Isaiah 62:11).

5. It was the entrance of a humble/gentle King, mounted on a colt, not on a war horse. Cf. Matthew 11:29

6. It was the entrance of a King with the message, ‘Fear not.’ (John 12:15).

II. Shoutings of people with all their enthusiasm (Matthew 21:9).

“And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

A. ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ Matthew 21:9; Psalm 118:25

1. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word ‘Hosheea na’.

2. It means ‘Save (us) we pray’ and is taken from Psalm 118:25.

3. It came to be a note of praise as well as petition.

4. Matthew 21:15 has it that even children were shouting it.

B. ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.’ Matthew21:9b, Psalm 118:26; Matthew 23:39

C. Probably these were of the chantings of the Song of the Ascent (Psalm 113-118).

D. It was by those who went ahead and those who followed responding to each other (Matthew 21:9; Cf. Exodus 15:20-21).

E. It was by the crowd who had gone for feast and had seen/heard Jesus’ raising of Lazarus (John 12:12,18).

F. It upset some of the Pharisees. They understood the Messianic connotation of ‘Son of David’ and ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of our Lord.’

III. Spreading of clothes and carrying of the palm branches in hands (Matthew 21:8; John 12:13).

“Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:8).

“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13).

A. Spreading of clothes was a mark of respect (Matthew 21:8; Cf. 2Kings 9:13 Commanders of army to Jehu).

“Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” – 2 Kings 9:13″Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” (2 Kings 9:13).

B. Waving of palm branches was mark of joy and victory ( Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9).

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. – Leviticus 23:40

1. You shall rejoice. Leviticus 23:40

2. We have the similar scene in Revelation 7:9.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, – Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Revelation 7:9)

IV. Stirring up of the whole city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:10-11).

A. Before entering the city he wept over it. Luke 19:41-44

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side. and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44).

1. They had failed to know the things that make for peace. V.42

2. They had missed the time of their visitation. V.44

B. As he entered the city, the whole city was stirred. Matthew 21:10-11

“And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:10,11

1. Question – Who is he?

2. Answer- This is the Prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee ( Cf. Deuteronomy 18:15).

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers-it is to him you shall listen…” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

C. The first thing that our Lord does after entering the city is that he cleanses it (Matthew 21:12). Mark has ‘the following day.’

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13).

1. They had made it a den of robbers. Matthew 21:12

2. They had made it a house of trade. John 2:16

“And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (John 2:16)

Conclusion:

1. Do we trust and obey as did the disciples?

2. Has there been a triumphal entry of our Lord in our hearts and homes?

3. Have we welcomed him joyfully in our hearts and homes?

4. Have we known the things that make for peace between God and us ?

5. Have we missed the day of his visitation in our lives?

6. Are our hearts and homes places of prayers and God’s holy dwellings, or have we made them a den of robbers and a house of trade.

7. When people ask, ‘Who is he?’ do we say he is the ‘Lord of all’ and ‘Savior of the world’? Or, do we just keep mum?

by Rev. Richard Masih, New Delhi

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Why do bad things happen to good people?

As hard as it is to acknowledge, we must remember that there are no “good” people, in the absolute sense of the word. All of us are tainted by and infected with sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). As Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19). All of us feel the effects of sin in one way or another. Sometimes it’s our own personal sin; other times, it’s the sins of others. We live in a fallen world, and we experience the effects of the fall. One of those effects is injustice and seemingly senseless suffering.

When wondering why God would allow bad things to happen to good people, it’s also good to consider these four things about the bad things that happen:

1) Bad things may happen to good people in this world, but this world is not the end. Christians have an eternal perspective: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). We will have a reward some day, and it will be glorious.

2) Bad things happen to good people, but God uses those bad things for an ultimate, lasting good. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When Joseph, innocent of wrongdoing, finally came through his horrific sufferings, he was able to see God’s good plan in it all (see Genesis 50:19–21).

3) Bad things happen to good people, but those bad things equip believers for deeper ministry. “Praise be to . . . the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5). Those with battle scars can better help those going through the battles.

4) Bad things happen to good people, and the worst things happened to the best Person. Jesus was the only truly Righteous One, yet He suffered more than we can imagine. We follow in His footsteps: “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:20–23). Jesus is no stranger to our pain.

Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Despite the sinful nature of the people of this world, God still loves us. Jesus loved us enough to die to take the penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23). If we receive Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:16; Romans 10:9), we will be forgiven and promised an eternal home in heaven (Romans 8:1).

God allows things to happen for a reason. Whether or not we understand His reasons, we must remember that God is good, just, loving, and merciful (Psalm 135:3). Often, bad things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. Instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). We walk by faith, not by sight.

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NEARER TO THE WORD

Late Professor H. Enoch, the Head of the Department of Zoology, Madras Christian College, and at one time President of the Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI), had a pet saying, “Nearer to the word of God we are, the safer we are.” Personally I believe this is loaded with sound wisdom. Our spiritual safety and security lies in our being nearer to the word of God, always and in everything.

Sadly, some have drifted, and are drifting away, from this sound advice. There are some-

1. Who are blindly running after signs, wonders and miracles.

They are doing so without realizing that there are false signs and wonders (2Thessalonians 2:9). Even the magicians in the court of Pharaoh performed wonders by their secret arts (Exodus 7:22; 8:7). But their power was limited. They could not produce gnats and confessed that this was the finger of God (Exodus 8:18,19). Even Simon the magician claimed to be somebody great and impressed people by his magical powers (Acts 8:9-11). Our Lord will refuse to acknowledge those who prophesy in his name, cast out demons in his name and do many mighty works in his name, because they are workers of lawlessness (Matthew 7:22,23).

2. Who are running after so-called Apostles and Prophets.

They are doing so without realizing that there are false Apostles and false Prophets as there are false teachers and false christs (2Corinthians 11:13; 2Peter 2:1; 1John 4:1; Matthew 7:15; 24:11,124). Their writings cannot be included in the Scriptures as the Scripture is complete. Christians are built on the foundations of the New Testament apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Now there are no more apostles and prophets. We have the gift of prophecy but no more prophets. We have the missionaries (the sent ones) but no more apostles.

3. They are seeking fresh revelation, dreams and visions.

They are doing so without realizing that our fresh revelation, dreams and visions can be the products of our mind, and a delusion and an illusion of our deceitful heart (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:26; 17:9). And, these are subject to Scripture scrutiny. There are those who claim to have visited heaven and hell, seen Abraham, spoken to the three divine Persons of the Triune God and met patriarchs and apostles, etc. Well, they alone can authenticate/vouchsafe their claims. There are no objective facts to check the reality of their claims. And, do we need their testimony to believe that there are truly heaven and hell, Triune God, Patriarchs and Apostles?

Apostle Paul saw vision fourteen years ago. He never disclosed what he saw and heard for obvious reasons (2Corinthians 12:2-4). On the other hand, if we see a ‘vision’ last night, we proclaim it to the world the next morning. In 1Peter 1:8 the believers had not seen Lord Jesus, yet they loved him, believed in him and rejoiced greatly.

4. Who are seeking after the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

They are doing so without realizing that the believers are already anointed (1John 2:20,27). What they need for the anointing to be effective is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That comes – a. As we saturate ourselves with the word of God; b. As we saturate ourselves with prayer; and, c. As we saturate ourselves with obedience. The more we are filled with the word, the more we are filled with prayer, the more we are filled with obedience, the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And, more the anointing will be powerful in us.

5. Who are ‘tarrying’ before the Lord (Luke 24:49) for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

They are doing so without realising that all believers are already baptised at the time of their conversion (1Corinthians 12:13). There are seven references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The first five are prophetical (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5). They look forward. The sixth one is historical (Acts 11:16). It looks backward. The seventh is theological (1Corinthians 12:13). It gives meaning to the phrase. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is immersing a person in the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

And, as for the speaking in tongues, we must understand that speaking in tongues is only one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which he distributes as per his will (1Corinthians 12:11). All do not speak in tongues (1Corinthians 12:30). We must beware of bringing ourselves in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual frenzy in order to speak in tongues.

Let’s always remember, nearer to the word of God we are, the safer we are. Let’s not go by other people’s experiences, prophecies, dreams and visions. Let’s always ask, “What does Scripture say” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 4:30)?

By Richard Masih

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