He Understands and Cares

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isaiah 53:4

When asked if he thought that ignorance and apathy were problems in modern society, a man joked, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

I suppose many discouraged people feel that way about the world today and the people in it. But when it comes to the perplexities and concerns of our lives, Jesus fully understands, and He deeply cares. Isaiah 53, an Old Testament prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus, gives us a glimpse of what He went through for us. “He was oppressed and afflicted . . . led like a lamb to the slaughter” (v. 7). “For the transgression of my people he was punished” (v. 8). “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand” (v. 10).

Jesus knew what it would cost to save us from our sins and, in love, He willingly paid it.

On the cross Jesus willingly bore our sin and guilt. No one ever suffered more than our Lord did for us. He knew what it would cost to save us from our sins and, in love, He willingly paid it (vv. 4–6).

Because of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, He is alive and present with us today. Whatever situation we face, Jesus understands and cares. And He will carry us through.

Lord, we give thanks for Your knowledge of our circumstances and Your care for us. Today we want to walk with You and honor You in all we do.

 He is not here; He has risen! Luke 24:6

INSIGHT:As Isaiah prophetically describes the crucifixion of Jesus, we see it all from the perspective of people at the foot of the cross. In verse 3, “we” held Him in low esteem. In verse 4, He bore “our” suffering. This perspective is critical because Isaiah anticipates the hostility with which Jesus would be viewed. As Jesus died for the sins of the world, the anger directed at Him by the people for whom He died brings new significance to His loving words, “Father, forgive them . . .” (Luke 23:34).

For more on the ground-level view of the cross of Jesus see the Discovery Series booklet The Power of the Cross at discoveryseries.org/hp131.

 

The Resurrection: Our Assurance

1 Peter 1:18-19

Despite appearances, it had been no ordinary crucifixion. Passersby may have thought three men were simply paying the penalty for their crimes, but events of cosmic import were taking place: Sin was judged and Satan was defeated. Yet that wasn’t all—the cross was also the scene of the greatest purchase in history. It was there that Jesus Christ shed His blood to pay for the salvation of all mankind.

This transaction occurred at great cost to the purchaser and great benefit to the purchased—you and me. But you might ask, How can I know God the Father accepted Christ’s blood as an atoning sacrifice for my sin? In other words, How can I be sure that the Savior’s death fully paid the debt I owed?

The answer lies in the resurrection. Jesus had repeatedly said He would rise from the dead (Matt. 16:21; John 2:19; John 10:18), and fulfilling such a prophecy is no small accomplishment. Imagine the reaction of all those who witnessed His cruel death—and then saw Him alive.

Christ’s return to life was the Father’s way of showing He accepted the offering made on our behalf. It was God’s proclamation to the world that the sin debt had been paid in full—and all who trust in His Son are free forever from the power and penalty of sin. What’s more, the resurrection is our assurance that every promise God has made can be trusted.

Easter is wonderful news: God has broken the power of sin and death, and all who place faith in Christ will enjoy the Lord’s presence throughout eternity. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

The Resurrection and the Believer

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18)

The resurrection of Christ is no less crucial to the gospel than the death of Christ. If He did not rise from the dead, then we who believe in Him “are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Christ’s resurrection assures us, first of all, of our justification. Speaking of Abraham’s faith and the imputation of God’s righteousness to him, Paul writes, “For us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).

God imparts to us the power to serve Him effectively through the resurrection, “that [we] may know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-20). As the passage continues, Paul declares that through the resurrection Christ is now “the head over all things to the church, which is His body” (vv. 22-23 and also in our text).

In His resurrected and glorified state, Christ continues His ministry to us. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens. . . . Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14, 16).

Finally, Christ’s resurrection assures us that we too will one day be resurrected, if we should die before He returns. “He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14). JDM

“We are all an unclean thing.”

Leviticus 13:12-17, 45, 46

The fearful disease of leprosy was so common among the Israelites that laws were made for its regulation, and ordinances by which cleansed persons were restored to the society of Israel, from which their leprosy had excluded them. Among the laws was one singular one which we will read because it is full of teaching.

Leviticus 13:12, 13

This seems very strange, and we cannot stay to account for it; but assuredly when a soul appears to itself to be nothing else but sin it is very near to salvation. Corruption hidden within is far more dangerous than that which the eye sees and laments. When the sinner’s iniquity comes out to view, he will fly for cleansing to the Lord Jesus. As long as we think there is some soundness in us, we boast ourselves proudly and are in a sorry case; but when we see that, from the sole of the foot even to the head, we are only wounds and bruises and putrifying sores, then are we humbled and our cure begins.

Leviticus 13:14, 15

Just what our ignorance values most in our nature the Lord considers to be our deadliest mark.

Leviticus 13:16, 17

When to the eye he seemed worst he was really better. The Lord seeth not as man seeth. When the disease is all upon the surface, all beneath the man’s own view, he is clean. When self-righteousness is gone, when we have no soundness in us, then is the hour of grace. If the priest found the man to be unclean, the law shut him out from the camp.

Leviticus 13:45

He was made to wear the rent garments of woe, his head was laid bare as though he mourned for himself as dead, and his lip was covered as though for ever closed from all intercourse with men. To prevent others from coming near him, and catching the dreadful infection, he had to utter the warning cry, “Unclean, unclean.”

Leviticus 13:46

He sat without, and none dare approach him, neither was he permitted to come near to any man. His disease was foul, painful, wasting, and deadly. Such too is sin, and such is the sinner’s condition before the Lord. He is excluded from the divine presence, and dead in trespasses and sins. The principle of health or holiness is gone from him; his spiritual powers are withered, and every smew shrunk. Streams of impurity burst forth in his soul, and render him utterly loathsome to God. Upon him has fallen the shadow of death. No human hand can heal him, there is no balm in Gilead, there is no physician there. The sinner is sick unto death, and is far past all earthly help. Yet one there is who can heal with a word, and he is present here, saying to each one of us, “Look unto me and be saved, for I am God, and beside me there is none else.” He who refuses this Physician deserves to die; and die he must. Will it be so with any one of us? Rather let each one of us put our trust in Jesus from this hour.

 

Physician of my sin-sick soul,

To thee I bring my case;

My raging malady control,

And heal me by thy grace.

 

It lies not in a single part,

But through my frame is spread;

A burning fever in my heart,

A palsy in my head.

 

Lord, I am sick, regard my cry,

And set my spirit free:

Say, canst thou let a sinner die,

Who longs to live to thee?

 

Being Confident of God’s Plan

Matthew 27:2

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were surrounded and besieged by control freaks who were obsessed with keeping everything that moved under their monitoring control? If you’ve been in a situation like this before, you know how hard it is to function in that kind of environment.

Well, at the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Israel was overwhelmed with scads of leaders who were obsessed with the notion of holding on to the reins of power. This paranoia was so epidemic that it had spread to both the religious and political world. The high priest, along with his scribes and elders, were suspicious and paranoid of anyone who appeared to be growing in popularity. The political leaders installed by Rome to preside over Israel were just as paranoid, looking behind every nook and cranny for opponents and constantly struggling every day of their lives to keep power in their grip.

Israel was under the enemy control of Rome, an occupying force that the Jews despised. They hated the Romans for their pagan tendencies, for pushing Roman language and culture on them, for the taxes they were required to pay to Rome—and that’s just a few of the reasons the Jews hated the Romans.

Because of the political turmoil in Israel, few political leaders from Rome held power for very long, and those who succeeded did so using cruelty and brutality. The land was full of revolts, rebellions, insurgencies, assassinations, and endless political upheavals. The ability to rule long in this environment required a ruthless, self-concerned leader who was willing to do anything necessary to maintain a position of power. This leads us to Pontius Pilate, who was just that type of man.

After Herod Archelaus was removed from power (see April 18 to find out more about the three sons of Herod the Great), Judea was placed in the care of a Roman procurator. This was a natural course of events, for the Roman Empire was already divided into approximately forty provinces, each governed by a procurator—a position that was the equivalent of a governor. It was normal for a procurator to serve in his position for twelve to thirty-six months. However, Pilate governed Judea for ten years, beginning in the year 26 AD and concluding in the year 36 AD. This ten-year span of time is critical, for it means Pilate was governor of Judea throughout the entire length of Jesus’ ministry. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, noted that Pilate was ruthless and unsympathetic and that he failed to comprehend and appreciate how important the Jew’s religious beliefs and convictions were to them.

In addition to the normal responsibilities a procurator possessed, Pilate also ruled as the supreme authority in legal matters. As an expert at Roman law, many decisions were brought to him for final judgment. Because of this high-ranking legal position, he had the final say-so in nearly all legal affairs for the territory of Judea. However, even though Pilate held this awesome legal power in his hands, he dreaded cases having to do with religion and often permitted such cases to be passed into the court of the Sanhedrin, over which Caiaphas the high priest presided.

Pilate lived at Herod’s palace, located in Caesarea. Because it was the official residence of the procurator, a military force of about 3,000 Roman soldiers was stationed there to protect the Roman governor. Pilate disliked the city of Jerusalem and recoiled from making visits there. But at the time of the feasts when the city of Jerusalem was filled with guests, travelers, and strangers, there was a greater potential of unrest, turbulence, and disorder, so Pilate and his troops would come into the city of Jerusalem to guard and protect the peace of the population. This was the reason Pilate was in the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

As a highly political man, Pilate knew how to play the political game. The Jews he ruled were also well-versed at playing the political game with him. In fact, so many complaints had been filed in Rome about Pilate’s unkind and ruthless style of ruling that the threat of an additional complaint was often all that was needed for the Jews to manipulate Pilate to do their bidding. This no doubt affected Pilate’s decision to crucify Jesus.

That day the high priest, the Sanhedrin, and the entire mob, insisted that Jesus be crucified. Pilate wanted to know the reason for this demand, so they answered him, “… We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2).

Pilate knew the Jews were jealous of Jesus. But politically the charges they brought against Jesus put him in a very bad position. What if the news reached Rome that Jesus had perverted the nation, teaching the people to withhold their taxes and claiming to be a counter King in place of the Roman emperor? It would be political suicide for Pilate to do nothing about that kind of situation. The Jewish leaders were well aware of this when they fabricated these charges against Jesus. They knew exactly what political strings to pull to get Pilate to do what they wanted—and they were pulling every string they held in their hands.

The Jewish people loathed Pilate for his cruelty and inadequate care of his subjects. The kind of brutality that made him so infamous and hated can be seen in Luke 13:1, where it mentions that Pilate slaughtered a number of Galileans and then mixed their blood together with the sacrifices. Appalling and sick as this act may sound, it is in accordance with many other vicious actions instigated under Pilate’s rule as procurator of Judea.

Another example of Pilate’s callousness can be seen in an incident that occurred when a prophet claimed to possess a supernatural gift that enabled him to locate consecrated vessels, which he alleged had been secretly hidden by Moses. When this prophet announced that he would unearth these vessels, Samaritans turned out in large numbers to observe the event. Pilate, who thought the entire affair was a disguise for some other political or military activity, dispatched Roman forces to assault and massacre the crowd that had gathered. In the end, it became apparent that nothing political had been intended.

The Samaritans felt such great loss for those who died, they formally requested that the governor of Syria intervene in this case. Their complaints of Pilate became so numerous that he was eventually summoned to Rome to give account for his actions before the Emperor Tiberius himself. But before Pilate could reach Rome to counter the charges that were brought against him, the Emperor Tiberius had died.

Outside the Gospels, Pilate is not mentioned again in the New Testament. Historical records show that the procurator of Syria brought some sort of accusations against Pilate in the year 36 AD. These indictments resulted in his removal from office and exile to Gaul (modern-day France). Eusebius, the well-known early Christian historian, later wrote that Pilate fell into misfortune under the wicked Emperor Caligula and lost many privileges. According to Eusebius, this man Pilate—who was ultimately responsible for the trial, judgment, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus and who had ruled Judea ruthlessly and mercilessly for ten years—finally committed suicide.

With this history now behind us, let’s look at Matthew 27:2. It says regarding Jesus, “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” The word “bound” is the Greek word desantes, from the word deo, the same word that would be used to describe the binding, tying up, or securing of an animal. I am confident that this was precisely the connotation Matthew had in mind, for the next phrase uses a word that was common in the world of animal caretakers.

The verse tells us that they “led him away.” These words come from the Greek word apago. The word apago is used for a shepherd who ties a rope about the neck of his sheep and then leads it down the path to where it needs to go (see April 13). Just as the soldiers had led Jesus to Caiaphas, now they slipped a rope about His neck and walked the “Lamb of God” to Pontius Pilate.

The Bible says that once Jesus was in Pilate’s jurisdiction, they then “… delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” The word “delivered” is the word paradidomi, the same word we saw when Jesus committed Himself to the Father who judges righteously (see April 13). However, in this case, the meaning would more likely be to commit, to yield, to transmit, to deliver, or to hand something over to someone else.

This means that when the high priest ordered Jesus to be taken to Pilate, he officially made the issue Pilate’s problem. The high priest took Jesus to Pilate; delivered Him fully into Pilate’s hands; and then left Pilate with the responsibility of finding Him guilty and crucifying Him.

Matthew 27:11 says, “And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.” Pilate asked a direct question, but Jesus refused to directly answer him. Matthew 27:12 goes on to say, “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.” So for a second time, Jesus refused to answer or refute the charges that were brought up against Him.

Matthew 27:13, 14 tells us what happened next: “Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.” Notice the Bible says Pilate “marveled greatly” at Jesus’ silence. In Greek, this phrase is the word thaumadzo, which means to wonder; to be at a loss of words; to be shocked and amazed.

Pilate was dumbfounded by Jesus’ silence because Roman law permitted prisoners three chances to open their mouths to defend themselves. If a prisoner passed up those three chances to speak in his defense, he would be automatically charged as “guilty.” In Matthew 27:11, Jesus passed up His first chance. In Matthew 27:12, He passed up His second chance. Now in Matthew 27:14, Jesus passes up His final chance to defend Himself.

At the very end of this time of interrogation, Pilate asked Jesus, “… Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it” (Luke 23:3). John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus added, “… My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). After hearing these answers, “then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4).

As you will see in tomorrow’s Sparkling Gem, Pilate searched diligently for a loophole so he wouldn’t have to kill Jesus. John 19:12 says, “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him….”

But nothing Pilate could do was able to stop the plan from being implemented. Even Jesus passed up His three chances to defend Himself, because He knew the Cross was a part of the Father’s plan.

When Jesus finally answered Pilate’s question, He still didn’t defend Himself, knowing it was the appointed time for Him to be slain as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. But Pilate didn’t want to crucify Him. In fact, the Roman governor began looking for a loophole—for some way out of putting this Man to death.

But Pilate’s search for a way out was in vain; the plan couldn’t be changed because it was time for the Son of God to offer the permanent sacrifice for sin. As Hebrews 9:12 says, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

Are you certain of God’s plan for your life? Consider whether or not you are able to say with conviction: “I know what God has called me to do, and I’m willing to go where He tells me to go and pay any price I have to pay. My greatest priority and obsession is to do the will of the Father!” If you are not able to say this yet, ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow to the point where doing God’s will, regardless of the cost, becomes the most important thing in your life. Even if the life of obedience takes you through hard places as it did with Jesus, the end result will be resurrection and victory!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I want to be so confident of Your plan for my life that I refuse to let anything move me! Just as Jesus refused to be swayed away from Your plan for Him, I want to be fixed and committed to do exactly what I’ve been born to do. Help me know Your plan for my life—and once I really understand it, please give me the strength, power, and conviction to stand by that plan until I see it come to pass in my life!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I boldly declare that God has a wonderful plan for my life! God’s Spirit is revealing that plan to me right now. I am willing to do what He’s called me to do; I’m willing to go where He tells me to go; and I’m willing to pay any price I have to pay to accomplish the life-assignment God has preordained for me! My greatest priority and obsession is to do the will of the Father!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Are you able to verbalize or write down God’s plan for your life? If so, try right now to speak out loud or write out plainly on paper what God has put in your heart about His plans for you.
  2. Do you believe you possess the fortitude you need to stand firm in the face of any hardship or opposition that might come to challenge you as you follow God’s plan?
  3. What steps do you need to take right now so you can grow strong enough spiritually to overcome any pressures that might try to coax you into giving up God’s plan for your life?

Pilate was dumbfounded by Jesus’ silence because Roman law permitted prisoners three chances to open their mouths to defend themselves. If a prisoner passed up those three chances to speak in his defense, he would be automatically charged as “guilty.” In Matthew 27:11, Jesus passed up His first chance. In Matthew 27:12, He passed up His second chance. Now in Matthew 27:14, Jesus passes up His final chance to defend Himself.

 

Bitterness And The Sovereignty Of God

Isn’t it true that you and I have every reason to be bitter? Are there any among us who have not been exploited, abused, cheated or ignored?

 

So how do we deal with our bitterness?

 

Joseph in the Old Testament serves as an example of someone who had just cause for bitterness and yet was able to draw on God’s grace to surmount it:

  • As a lad, God gave him a dream that his brothers would serve him. In jealous retaliation, they sold him to a caravan headed for Egypt.
  • Ending up as a slave in the house of a military leader, he was falsely accused of rape and imprisoned for an interminable period of time.
  • Through a remarkable series of “circumstances” he became the prime minister of Egypt. Years later, his devious brothers find themselves in his presence. With every reason to visit revenge upon them, Joseph forgave them and acknowledged God’s sovereign plan in spite of their cruel treatment:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

 

And so it is to be with us. We must grasp the fact that it is God’s sovereign intention to use the uneven circumstances of life to conform us into His image:

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:28, 29a)

 

If you are struggling with bitterness, let me make a couple of suggestions: Make a list of their causes. Then go down the list item by item asking God to use each of these painful experiences to make you more Christlike. Then ask Him to help you forgive the persons who were responsible. Often, sharing your struggle with another helps in the healing process.

 

Understand that it is only as we draw upon God’s grace that we can turn our bitterness into praise. The alternative is bondage to a morose, angry and self-centered life that only serves to poison everyone around us and thwart our ability to influence others for Christ:

 

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

 

 

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