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April 02, 2009

This is day five of our thirteen days spent reading The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Today’s text is from Matthew 26:62,63: “The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent.”

What stood out to me in Leahy’s description of this event in the life of Jesus was that his silence was not merely part of his passive obedience but was active obedience to the Father. I had never thought of it in this way—as a deed.

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Christ remained silent about the hidden things. He left his judges with the Word of God and there lay their great responsibility. They must busy themselves with the things that had been revealed. Christ will take his riddle with him to the grave. The meaning will become apparent in due course. He will not cast his pearls before swine, rather he will leave it to his judges to execute their high office before God. In this he did justice to them and at the same time condemned them.

To have explained the riddle to the Sanhedrin would not have been to the glory of God or for the good of Christ’s judges. Imagine what would have happened had he said, “Bury me and within three days I will rise again.” He would have been regarded as an ostentatious and supernatural escapologist! He would have relieved the Sanhedrin of its moral responsibility. The dawn of the New Testament Sabbath would have become the occasion for a gathering of gawping spectators hoping to see the latest wonder. What a mockery of predestination that would have been! And what a windfall for Satan! Christ the redeemer reduced to a mere super-fakir, not lying on a bad of nails or walking on hot coals, but rising from the grave!

If Christ had explained his riddle that day, it would have been a most untimely word. That he would never do. He would not prostitute his God-given mission. All his miracles, including his resurrection, were essentially part of his kingdom and of his redeeming work. They were totally different from those related in the Apocryphal Gospels, as when it is written that the boy Jesus making clay birds with other children made his birds fly! But Christ was no magician; he had neither need nor place for stunts.

All too often Christ’s silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ’s silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative; it was his deed. The passivity of his suffering was real, but so was the activity of his obedience. Led as a lamb to the slaughter and like a sheep before the shearers, he was active right up to and on the cross. He went as a king to die.

April 01, 2009

This is the fourth day of our thirteen days spent reading The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Today’s text is from Luke 22:53: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

In this chapter Leahy looks to the sovereignty of God and his foreknowledge of all that would come. “This hour was predestined, and because predestined it was prophesied: prophecy depends on predestination.” And so all that happened to Christ this night was done so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.

For many months now, our church has been studying the gospel of John. One theme that repeats itself in that gospel is Jesus’ statement that his hour had not yet come. Leahy says, “John makes it clear from the very beginning that there was an appointed hour for the Saviour and before that time he could not be harmed.” What jumped out at me in today’s reading is this: Christ’s hour was also Satan’s hour.

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Initially the plans of his enemies would succeed, not just because they came to him under cover of darkness, but essentially because in this hour Satan and his forces were permitted by God to subject Christ to further suffering and humiliation. God reserved this hour for Satan. In all of time this hour was especially his. The darkness of which Christ spoke was the darkness of evil and of the prince of darkness. In this dread hour Satan had free rein. In the case of Job God set a limit to Satan’s activity. In the experience of Christ there were no limits to Satan’s onslaught. He was free to do his worst, and he did.

Gethsemane and Calvary marked high noon in the world’s long day, and God’s permission was absolute as Satan mustered his legions for the decisive encounter. The first Adam had been easy prey. How would he fare with this Adam? As Satan entered the battlefield he did so fully conscious of the Word of God: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Did he recall his cynical contempt for God’s Word earlier when he asked, “Did God actually say…?” (Gen. 3:1). Or did he fear the sentence passed in Eden? Doubtless he did. But the hour was fixed. It was decreed by God. When tempting Christ in the wilderness, Satan had done his utmost to deflect him from this hour, to take some other road than the way of the cross, but all in vain. Now the battle had commenced in earnest. Nothing could stop it. This is your hour, Satan!

March 31, 2009

This is the third day of our thirteen days spent reading The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Today’s text is from Luke 22:43: “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”

In this chapter Leahy writes about the angel who comforted Christ and shows that the angel not only brought comfort, but that he strengthened Christ for the greater pain and torment he was about to endure. “The angel’s presence served to aggravate his suffering.” Here is a passage that stood out to me:

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There was an outstretched hand, his Father’s hand—even in the darkness—and Christ knew it. Initially the presence of the angel must have brought some modicum of comfort to the Sufferer. It came at a moment when unaided human nature could no longer take the strain. It was a critical moment. Christ knew that his sorrow was “unto death” and as Dr Frederick Godet remarks, this was “no figure of rhetoric.” But it was not the Father’s will that the Saviour should die in the garden, and just as after the temptation in the wilderness angels ministered to him (Matt. 4:11), so now he was strengthened by an angel. How strange is the sight! A creature sent to minister to the Creator! But then, as man he “for a little while was made lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9). Here the theologians run out of answers. Mercifully so! There is a place for mystery. There is need for ground on which, in a unique sense, one walks by faith and not by sight. Bishop Ryle says well of Christ’s experience in Gethsemane, “It is a depth which we have no line to fathom.”

For one fleeting moment immense joy must have leaped within Christ’s soul as the Father’s hand touched him. This was a message from home. Heaven was behind him. He was forsaken, but not disowned. His Father was there, somewhere in the darkness. His loud cries and tears had not been unnoticed.

March 30, 2009

This is day two of our thirteen-day trek through Frederick Leahy’s The Cross He Bore. Today Leahy looks to Jesus’ words of submission to the Father. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).

Here is a favorite quote:

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How clearly the true humanity of Christ is seen in Gethsemane, more so than in much of our standard dogmatics! For evangelicals are so concerned to defend the deity of Christ, and rightly so, that often they hardly know how to handle his humanity! Here, in Gethsemane, we see the sinless, finite humanity of Christ in deep and terrible distress. Calvin said that Christ had horror at the prospect of death because “he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; and because our sins, the load of which was laid upon him, pressed him down with their enormous weight. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if the dreadful abyss of destruction tormented him grievously with fear and anguish.” Yes, fear and anguish; but, unlike the experience of all others, it was fear untainted by sin. It was Ambrose who said, “He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and, laying aside the delights of the eternal Godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness.”

In Gethsemane it was never a question whether the Saviour would obey or disobey. In Eden God asked, “Adam, where are you?” In a sense the question was repeated in Gethsemane and this Adam did not try to hide; he had no need to; his whole response was clearly, “Here am I!”

March 29, 2009

Over the next thirteen days, I will be reading one chapter each day of Frederick Leahy’s book The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer. I know that many of you will be reading along as well. My plan is simply to post a favorite quote or two, or perhaps a small reflection on the chapter. I will then open it up for discussion if you have something you’d like to add. This will culminate on Good Friday with the book’s final chapter.

The first chapter takes us to Gethsemane where Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled.” Leahy looks to these words.

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Gethsemane means “the oil press.” David could say, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8). Israel in her long history could say the same. But the suffering Savior could say it best of all, for there in Gethsemane—the oil press—he was crushed and bruised without mercy. But how and why? How is the sudden and dramatic change of atmosphere to be explained, even in a measure? Christ knew all along the death that awaited him. He had grappled with Satan and his legions more than once. He had repeatedly spoken of his death to his disciples, telling them what that death would accomplish. He had prayed with the utmost confidence in his high priestly prayer (John 17). Why, then, is there this sudden plunge into such awful agony, why this shuddering horror? Why is this fruit of the olive tree so severely crushed? Why does the divine record say that in Gethsemane our Lord BEGAN to be sorrowful, sorrowful in a new and terrible way? Was it not because God began forsaking him then? How else is this sorrow unto death to be understood?

“Jesus wept,” but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? “THIS CUP“—not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast (Matt. 26:27,28) was now actual: God was placing it in the Savior’s hands and it carried the stench of hell. But stop!

Schilder is right. “Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary for our faith.” Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes.

March 26, 2009

The Cross He BoreEaster is fast approaching and, as you may remember, I thought it would be both fun and worthwhile to read a book together as we prepare to remember the Lord’s death and to celebrate his resurrection. The book that always come to mind this time of year is Frederick Leahy’s The Cross He Bore. This is a series of thirteen meditations on the sufferings of the Redeemer, beginning with Gethsemane and ending in the outer darkness. In his Foreword to the book, Edward Donnelly says, “in rereading these chapters, I found myself more than once compelled by emotion to stop - and then to worship. I cannot help feeling that this is exactly how they were written and that the author’s chief desire is that each of us who reads should be brought to gaze in fresh understanding and gratitude upon ‘the Son of God,’ who loved me and give himself for me.”

A few weeks ago I announced that I’d like to read the book with you and I know that a lot of you bought the book so you can read along (enough of you bought it, I believe, that it pretty well sold out. This is the second time we’ve bought up all of the copies of this book!). This is your reminder that we will begin to read it, one chapter per day, beginning this Sunday. So check back here Sunday morning for just a brief reflection on the first chapter.

March 22, 2009

We’re on our way home. We have not been away for too long, but already we are more than ready to be back in our home, back in our natural context. We’re ready to be where we most want to be. Our vacation was great, of course. We got to see some of the United States, we got to see family and friends and Aileen and I got to get away for a couple of days to take in a great conference marked by some truly great teaching. And yet we’re ready for home.

This longing for home has been much on my mind lately. I’m sure you know what it is, what it means, to long for home. When you are somewhere other than where you most love to be, how can you do any other than long for home?

We should be there soon, if the Lord wills it. Already we have left Chattanooga and are making the long drive up the I-75. By late this afternoon we should be back in Canada and by this evening we should be back in our house. We’ll be home at last.

This week I enjoyed hearing some godly teachers discuss the holiness of God. This is a concept that is at once terrifying and comforting. It is a concept that may make me feel the need to flee from God. And yet it is also something that makes me want to flee to him. God is so holy, he is so pure, he is so “other” that to even begin to understand his holiness is to understand my sin and my inability to stand in his presence as I am. And yet to understand his mercy and his grace, shown so clearly in the cross, is to desire to be with him and to see that Savior face-to-face. To be in him is to realize that this earth is not my home, or not my true home anyway. It is just a destination along the way

There’s nothing wrong with Chattanooga, there’s nothing wrong with friends and family, and there is nothing wrong with being away. It’s just that it’s so good to be home. I’m longing for it and I’m ready for it.

March 15, 2009

Last week I offered the first of a series of wallpapers to coincide with the Scripture Memorization effort some of us are enjoying. This week we are moving to a new passage of Scripture and hence I wanted to offer you a wallpaper to go along with it. Our new passage is going to be (to no one’s great surprise) Romans 14 (and the first seven verses of Romans 15). This will be our last passage in Romans; it means we will have memorized chapters 12, 13, 14 and the first portion of 15. This includes, then, this entire “application” section of Paul’s Epistle. It will be good to have it filed away so we can continue to meditate upon it, learn from it, and grow because of it.

Romans 14

You can download it in three sizes:

1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200

Not sure how to change your wallpaper? Windows users click here, Mac users click here.

I hope you find them useful. In the coming weeks I’ll post “catch-up” wallpapers for Psalm 8, Psalm 103 and Romans 12.

Also, if you are into graphics design and would like to come up with some alternate designs for the Scripture memory wallpapers, please let me know. I’d love to be able to offer up a series of designs for each passage.

And finally, if you need this wallpaper in a size I haven’t offered, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. I’m not sure who uses what wallpaper sizes these days.

If you are interested in joining in with us as we memorize portions of God’s Word, please add your name and email address below: