Zechariah and Elizabeth

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Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren; Israel was barren. The childlessness of a godly couple in their old age is mirrored by the spiritual dryness of the of the people of God. Israel had not heard a prophetic voice for centuries. No man living could recall hearing a prophet. Zechariah, an Aaronic priest who is chosen by lot, burns incense at the hour of prayer. It  is then he is met by Gabriel, who announces the birth of a son, who is to be named John. All of his and Elizabeth’s hopes and prayers were answered, although Zechariah cannot believe it. He is struck silent. The reproach upon Israel was soon to be lifted, just as the reproach of childlessness was from Elizabeth.

It may seem odd that Luke spends so much time on the birth story of the forerunner of Christ. It does not seem so odd, however, when the greater story is considered: a priest, of the tribe of Levi is burning incense in the temple, according to the Law, following the centuries-old ceremonies that demand repetition daily. During this temple ministry, a son is promised, but not one who will be a priest like his father. John will be a prophet, in the spirit of Elijah; the first prophet in centuries. Something new is coming.

Note also that John, of the tribe of Levi, will prepare the way for the final High Priest (Hebrews, chapters 5-8), the Saviour, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Levi gives way to Judah. Someone New has come.

In that same Holy Place in Herod’s great temple, Zechariah receives the first indications that the temple system is not eternal, but shall be declared irrelevant in the Kingdom of God. John will not carry on the temple traditions, but announce a new atoning sacrifice in Christ. Levi gives way to Judah.

In all of Christ’s ministry there is no miraculous sign or event in the temple, until the last day of the temple’s place in God’s economy: “ . . . And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” Luke 23:45. Jesus taught that the temple is to be destroyed. Because of the cross, its purpose is finally complete. It can now serve no other purpose. Limited access to God, restricted to the priesthood, is over. Access now is for “. . .  as many as were appointed to eternal life . . . (Acts 13:48).

The ceremonial Law is now complete, and the old covenant is ratified.

In a ceremony in the Holy Place, the end of the Holy Place is foretold.

Lord’s Day Fifteen

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Question 37
What do you understand by the words, “He suffered”?

That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

1 Peter 2:2 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

1 Peter 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

Question 38
Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate, as judge”?

That he, being innocent, and yet condemned by a temporal judge, might thereby free us from the severe judgement of God to which we were exposed.

John 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Matthew 27:24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

Acts 4:28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Luke 23:14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.

Luke 23:15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.

John 19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”

Psalm 69:4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Question 39
Is there anything more in his being “crucified”, than if he had died some other death?

Yes there is; for thereby I am assured, that he took on him the curse which lay upon me; for the death of the cross was accursed of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Deuteronomy 21:23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

The Hard Sayings of Jesus

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Jesus offers up some “hard sayings” in the Gospels. Indeed, the Bible is full of things that are either 1) difficult to understand or 2) hard to accept. Jesus taught His disciples that He was “the bread of life” and “whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). Upon hearing this, many of his disciples said,

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).

When Jesus explained that some of them did not believe in Him, and that they were not called,

“many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66

They seemed to think that the “hard saying” was a deal-breaker. If Jesus stayed on this path, they weren’t going to follow. He asked the remaining disciples,

“Do you want to go away as well?”

The disciples’ answer did not indicate that they understood, nor even accepted everything Jesus said. In fact, further Gospel accounts indicate that they neither understood nor accepted all of Jesus’ teachings. But their answer did indicate a trusting faith, a commitment, a willingness to follow in order to gain understanding later (which, they did):

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:68-69)

They would come to understand Jesus and His Gospel. At this time, however, they trusted Jesus, and that was enough for them.

In the next few weeks at Mountain View, we are going to look into some “hard sayings” of Jesus. Some are matters that need clarification, others require a commitment to accept and obey, while others may be teachings that have been hidden behind tradition and custom.

If there are “hard sayings” that trouble you, please feel free to contact me here. I might even include them in my next sermon (don’t worry, though, I won’t mention your name)!

We meet for worship and preaching every Sunday at 11 AM, at 118 Limeridge Road East, Hamilton, Ontario.