Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Ascension of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He ascended into heaven



Per the Holy Bible:

Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

Luke 24:1-12 (NLT)

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Acts 1:6-11

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Truth is...the ascension of Jesus holds no great theological importance other than what Jesus told his disciples about it in John 16:7: "It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the [Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you."

Stay tuned. There will be more about the Holy Spirit in five weeks.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Resurrection of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

On the third day, [Jesus] rose again in accordance with the Scriptures



Per the Holy Bible:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”

But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:38-40

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Truth is...there would be no Christianity without the resurrection. Make no mistake, the first Christians did not make up the story of a resurrection in order to validate their "cause". The resurrection of Jesus turned them into Christians. Otherwise, they would have been just one more group of disappointed fans.



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Burial of Jesus


Per the Nicene Creed:

[Jesus] suffered and was buried



Per the Holy Bible:

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.

This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.

Mark 15: 16-46 (NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Believing Jesus died is an important part of Christianity, and not just because "he died for our sins." If he had not actually died, then the resurrection would be a farce and, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world." (1 Corinthians 15:19)

 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Death of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate


Per the Holy Bible
:

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

Matthew 27:24-31 NLT

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Truth is...the "he was crucified" part isn't so much a matter of faith as the "for our sake" part. There is extra-biblical evidence that a man named Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion during Pilate's term as Roman governor. The amazing thing about that crucifixion is the belief that it was an example of the truly innocent willingly paying a penalty in the place of...for the sake of...the truly guilty.

Thank you, Jesus.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Live On, Mom

 

Sunday, April 11, 2021...Georgina Della (Smith) Roth has been in a state the professionals call "actively passing" for three or four days. Around 1:30 AM, she completes the process.

At 7:00 AM, my brother, the oldest of my surviving siblings and the one who had been daily providing care to Mom before the medical incident that put her in a nursing home by way of the emergency room...my brother calls me and says "This is the call."

"This is it," I respond.

"Guess who woke up in heaven this morning?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Mom had spent six years and 9 months as a widow, and I doubt she truly enjoyed a single minute of it. Yes, she was sometimes distracted by happy events and visits from children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but there was always a longing to go Home. Enjoy your sweet victory, beloved saint!

Psalm 73:23-26

Yet I am always with you;

    you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

    but God is the strength of my heart

    and my portion forever.




Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The "What" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He became incarnate from the virgin, Mary, and was made man



Per the Holy Bible:

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord."

Luke 1:35-46

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:14-17

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Just so we don't turn "incarnate" into some mystical, purely-religious term, let's remind ourselves that it has a universally understood definition: "embodied in flesh; given a bodily, especially a human, form."

Truth is...While occupying Planet Earth, Jesus was not a visible spirit, magically hovering six inches off the ground and never quite "one of us." When people refer to Jesus as "God in the flesh," that is exactly what they mean. Jesus had a human body, just like you and me.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The "How" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

By the power of the Holy Spirit


Per the Holy Bible
:

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God."

Luke 1:35 NLT

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This clause of the creed is simply explaining how God the Son took on human form. Well, explaining is probably too strong a word to use. It's more like giving credit without really understanding any behind-the-scenes making of the sausage. For God the Son to take on flesh, it took some kind of special power, and that power was administered through God the Spirit.

Truth is...I don't understand it, but I don't really expect to be able to understand everything about God.