“Right now, around the world. millions of Christ-followers are meeting in secret places, worshiping in hiding, practicing their faith behind closed doors. If exposed, they face prison, torture, even death. Yet their devotion to God and His Word are unwavering, even heroic. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must learn to take our God as seriously as they do.” ~Secret Church (David Platt)
Today, Saturday, April 7, 2012, Ryan and I joined 6 other friends in the living room of Nate and Ann Maries house to spend about 6 and a half hours, worshiping the Lord, ‘drinking from the fire hydrant of scripture’, and interceding in prayer on behalf of the persecuted church. We were just a very small part of a very large body. World wide an estimated 50,000 believers filled living rooms, office spaces, dorm rooms, university lecture halls, and church sanctuaries to participate in “Secret Church”. “Secret Church” is a ministry of The Church at Brook Hills, designed to be a ‘house church’, were believers meet for an intense time of Bible study- lasting 4-6 hours. It is not designed for the uncommitted or faint at heart, but instead guaranteed to help you know God more deeply through His Word and introduce you to his Church around the world.
As Easter morning is just a few hours away here in Guam, I felt it vitally important to share just a brief part of study guide with you. We flew through the entire Bible studying suffering and how it is used by God to fulfill his plan and purpose in each of our lives. The right understanding of the cross leads us to the right understanding of suffering. The wrong understanding of the cross leads us to a confused and misconstrued understanding of suffering. God is no stranger to suffering. He sent his one and only son to become man, walk through life being tempted and challenged, to share the passion, grace, and love of the Father and in the ‘end’ be accused, rejected, tried and crucified so that we, the church, would see the glory of God. The following is literally 7 pages from our study guide. Take some away from the Easter egg hunt, cute bonnets, white shoes, baskets filled with chocolate, and family dinners and reflect on the last 7 days Christ walked the earth as a man. Three days after the crucifixion, Christ actually rose from the grave as Lord over sin, suffering and Satan.
The Suffering of the Son of God
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.
The Timeline ...
The anointing of Jesus
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was,
whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha
served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a
pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and
wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
The arrival of Jesus
And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming
kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered
Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at
everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
The anger of Jesus
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those
who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers
and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry
anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not
written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made
it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way
to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
The authority of Jesus
■■ His authority is challenged.
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief
priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what
authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
■■ His authority is asserted.
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power
and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from
the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The betrayal of Jesus
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in
order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and
promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The last supper
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his
disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just
as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
The humility of Christ: He washes His disciples’ feet.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to
depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world,
he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the
heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father
had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going
back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel,
tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the
disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
The prophecy of Christ: He predicts Peter’s denial.
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter
said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I
tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he
said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
The comfort of Christ: He promises the Holy Spirit.
“Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day
when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” And when they had sung a hymn, they
went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away,
for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ ”
The prayer of Christ: He intercedes for His disciples.
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but
for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word ...”
The Garden of Gethsemane
Three agonizing prayers
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here
while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly
distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.
Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that,
if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things
are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Three tired disciples
And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking
your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into
the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
The Arrest of Jesus
And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with
him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize
him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once
and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him.
The Trials of Jesus
Before the Jewish authorities
Preliminary hearing before Annas
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested
Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law
of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised
the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know
nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should
die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his
own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the
nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God
who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
Hearing before Caiphas
And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes
came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high
priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief
priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but
they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.
Trial before the Council
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation
with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound
Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.
Before the Roman Authorities
First hearing before Pilate
And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him,
“You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate
again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring
against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Hearing before Herod
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.
And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent
him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.
And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying
him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends
with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Last hearing before Pilate
And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the
Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has
he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
The Torture of Jesus
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters),
and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple
cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they
began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head
with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
First three hours ...
And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the
charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two
robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided
him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”
The prayer for his persecutors.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
The promise to the criminal.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since
you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we
are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The provision for his mother.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of
Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved
standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the
disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Last three hours ...
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth
hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders
hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with
sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether
Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.
The cry of dereliction.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Acknowledgment of thirst.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
The cry of triumph.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,”
and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The cry of resignation.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands
I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
John 19: The Resurrection of the Son of God
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the
Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.
So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night,
came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they
took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of
the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a
new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation,
since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Now on the first day of the week Mary
Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been
taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the
one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we
do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they
were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran
Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there,
but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw
the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with
the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached
the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the
Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Possible Explanations ...
•• Jesus didn’t die on the cross.
•• Jesus’ tomb was not empty .
•• The disciples stole the body of Jesus.
•• The disciples were delusional when they claimed to see Jesus.
“The early Christians did not invent the empty tomb and the meetings or
sightings of the risen Jesus. Nobody was expecting this kind of thing. No
kind of conversion experience would have invented it. To suggest otherwise
is to stop doing history and enter into a fantasy world of our own.”
N. T. Wright
•• Jesus died on the cross and actually rose from the grave.
Startling Implications ...
Jesus is Lord over life and death.
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it
down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus is Lord over sin, suffering , and Satan.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The
sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be
to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Jesus is Lord over you and me.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is,
the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is
Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For
with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.