"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

DARKEST BEFORE THE SONRISE! A Good Friday Message with Select Texts from MATTHEW 27

~ By James Fire

Introduction: As Christians we know that GOD is love (1 JOHN 4:7), and as children of GOD we understand that “all things work together for the good, to those who love GOD, to those called according to His purpose” (ROM 8:28).

So, we are sometimes bewildered when bad things, especially tragic things happen in our lives. Because GOD is all-knowing and all-powerful, and that He is all-loving, He could stop such tragedies in our lives if He wanted to.
We often ask the question in such tragic situations, “LORD if You love me, and You knew this was going to happen, and had the power to stop it, then why didn’t You?”
This causes some professing believers to turn away, believing that somehow, GOD let them down; they even question GOD’s love.
Some with a heart of bitterness and disillusionment even question GOD’s existence!

See the Facebook video teaching here!

Switching gears now: Imagine it’s 2,000 years ago – you’re a fisherman in Galilee, with no greater prospects in your future than to make an honest, if ho-hum living, support a family, hopefully become prosperous and eventually grow old.
As a child growing up in synagogue you heard all the prophecies of the coming Messiah that were several hundred years old. You wouldn’t be surprised if it were a long time before the King of Israel finally revealed Himself, maybe centuries beyond your lifetime. Yet you’re waiting patiently for the promised Messiah with the rest of the nation, not knowing He is already in the land of Israel. 

But then not only does He appear before the people – He bypasses all the religious leadership chooses you instead as one of His leaders!
The LORD Jesus prayed all night (LUKE 6), chose His inner circle of a dozen disciples, now apostles. They learned quickly that this Man from Galilee was not just a prophet, but the Messiah King of Israel Himself (JOHN 1:49; later in MATT 16:18)!

They learned that in the kingdom to come, they would sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel (MATT 19:28). They learned that whatever they sacrificed for the LORD’s sake as well as the Gospel’s in this lifetime, giving up home, family, or anything other, that they would be blessed a hundred fold in their lifetime as well as with eternal life (MARK 10:30). 

They were given the description for who the greatest of the kingdom would be (MATT 18) – the greatest of course being the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, and then those who allow themselves to be transformed by the power of the Spirit to become the more Christ-like.
They witnessed His miraculous power, raising the dead, His command over demonic spirits; they beheld His rule over the elements of nature; healing of the lame, the maimed, the blind and deaf – even healing incurable lepers! They heard His words of truth and grace as well as His rebukes towards the hypocritical religious leaders. They saw His compassion for the down-trodden, the lost souls, the repentant sinners. 

The future of these apostles was looking bright with the glory of GOD’s Light; full of unimaginable hope, excitement and expectation that far exceeded their wildest dreams!
But then a turning point occurs, and the LORD Jesus begins talking about going to Jerusalem where He will endure the Cross. He brings it up again and again, until finally a couple disciples arm themselves with swords (LUKE 22:38).

The moment of truth comes and of these two disciples only one, Peter, steps forward to defend his LORD in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus stops him. When they realize that He is surrendering Himself to the Jewish authorities, they all panic and run off into the night!
Of them all, only Peter and John follow the procession – at a safe distance.

One unjust trial after another and unlawful beating after beating, leaving their terrible marks on the increasingly battered, bruised and bloody Messiah, deepens the despair of His followers and what once looked bright, hopeful, and promising began to look desperately bleak, horrible, and perilous. 

His twelve at this point, they don’t realize what would happen three days after – they didn’t read about the resurrection in MATT 28 and JOHN 20 yet! For these men, the events at Calvary, the slaying of their LORD and Master was the worst thing that could have happened! They didn’t realize that this was actually the very best thing that could’ve happen – not just for them, but for the entire human race!

GOD’s purpose for Christ His beloved Son: to become flesh and blood, to walk among us and show us the Father, and to pay the penalty for our sins on the Cross against Him and then to top it off, to grant us eternal life and adopt us as His own children!

Let’s keep these things in mind. When we go through the worst and most tragic things of our lives, we can remind ourselves that just like the Cross, the tragedies of our lives serve GOD’s purpose, to bring about our ultimate good and the greatest glory to GOD.

MATTHEW 27 opens with the religious leaders arresting Jesus with the intent of crucifying Him; they deliver Him to Pontius Pilate who finds Him righteous, not guilty of any criminal conduct and he seeks to release this “just man”.
Just prior to this, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, regrets his decision and brings the money back to the chief priests and casts the money down in the temple. 

These religious hypocrites can’t accept it in the offering because it’s blood money (which they themselves bribed Judas with!!), so instead they buy a potter’s field for the burial of non-Jews. All of this in fulfillment of prophecy (ZECH 11:13; fulfilled in MATT 27:9). Judas Iscariot says:

"I have sinned by betraying
[“the”; in KJV] innocent blood."
Of the blood contained in all of humanity that ever lived on this planet (160 billion gallons worth) this man, the GOD-Man, JESUS alone contained THE innocent blood! Perfect moral purity and absolute holiness is exclusive to His Person: 

1 PETER 1:19
19 … with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot

Judas recognized the LORD’s innocence, and so did Pilate (MATT 27:24), and so did Pilate’s wife who dreamt about Jesus and warned her husband to have nothing to do with this just man (MATT 27:19).
Pilate marveled that Jesus did not respond to the false accusers that tried to frame Him with enough charges to get Him crucified; these accusers had a problem though: their testimonies contradicted each other (MARK 14:59).

In a Jewish – or Roman court, if the witnesses against any accused contradicted each other, such witnesses are inadmissible in court and thrown out; so then it’s just the accuser’s word against the accused. In that situation, all the accused has to do is deny the charges, and they are off the hook! They are free to go!

That’s why Pilate marveled (MATT 27:14) – because with a single denial, Jesus could’ve escaped the Cross, but … as a lamb before his shearers is dumb (ISA 53:7), so He opened not His mouth to declare His innocence; because He was about to receive upon Himself all of our own unrighteousness and Himself pay the price for our sins!

For He
[GOD the Father] has made Him who knew no sin [JESUS, GOD the Son], to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Pilate knew why the religious leaders turned Jesus over to the authorities – not because He was a “malefactor” (criminal) as they claimed (JOHN 18:30), but because they were envious of Jesus (MATT 27:18). There were vast crowds of people, beyond count, following the LORD, while the religious leaders noticed a sharp drop in their own followers.

That’s why they hated Jesus: because, as it’s been said before, “They preferred their own kingdom to GOD’s”. And they managed to rally the crowds to deny the release of Jesus and ask for Barabbas, a real criminal (MATT 27:20) – no doubt with sly encouragement from Satan, working behind the scenes!

This world is like the troubled sea (ISA 57:20): restless, ever moving, ever changing, unstable, unreliable. Those who are popular today are nobodies and has-beens tomorrow!

Likewise, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem just a handful of days prior to this point with hails of Hosannas and hallelujahs, a parade of palm branches escorting Him into the city – and now, many of those same people cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!

We can expect this fickle and faithless world to maintain their nature of fickleness and faithlessness. We can expect that because Jesus was hated, betrayed, and persecuted, that we will be also (JOHN 15:18-20).

So the fix is in, Pilate has washed his hands of the matter (literally) and told the Jews, “You take care of this matter, I’m done!”
And how do the Jews respond?

And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."

Quite a different story after Calvary, when Christ had risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, Pentecost happened, and GOD’s power prevailed. Peter and John are boldly declaring the Gospel, confronting the Sanhedrin and pointing their fingers at these religious hypocrites for how they murdered their Messiah. How did they respond:

ACTS 5:28
…Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this Name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us

Jesus was scourged with a cat o’ nine tails, a whip with nine leather thongs with sharp metal embedded at their tips; a device that could tear away enough flesh of the victim to literally disembowel them and cause them to bleed to death.

A crown of thorns, repeated beatings, humiliating mockery time after time; severe dehydration – all of this done to the innocent Lamb of GOD, the King of Heaven. 

I can well imagine that all the angelic armies of heaven looking on at this scene with white-hot and holy fury were ready to swoop down and wreak havoc and mayhem, and slaughter by the droves all who were assaulting their King!

The LORD said that He could call on 12 legions of angels to come to His defense if He wanted them to (MATT 26:53). In ISAIAH 37 it states that one angel in one night killed 185,000 trained Assyrian soldiers. What could 12 legions of angels do? 

If we assume these 12 legions were equally powerful as the one angel that wiped out 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, then how much damage could 12 legions of angels do in one night?

Possibly as many as 15 billion casualties! More than double the world’s population today!
But the Father reaches out His almighty arm and tearfully holds these angelic warriors back. If you think Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the only one to have her heart pierced, witnessing the death of her Son (LUKE 2:35), then consider the Father: His own heart pierced through for the sake of His suffering Son.
Here is where the truth of JOHN 3:16 is realized.

I’ll spare you the grizzly details of what happened to a human body that was crucified; but understand, it’s by far the most painful form of torturous death ever conceived – and as bad as that is, it pales in insignificance to Christ’s spiritual agony:

We can’t conceive of this holy, purely holy soul being used as a vessel to carry all the sins of the entire human race, numbering they say approximately 108 billion people since the time of the beginning.
On top of that, the holiest and most righteous of judgment and wrath poured out upon our beloved Jesus, our Good Shepherd, our Gentle Savior Who freely received our punishment in our place (ISA 53).

ISAIAH 53:10a
Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin

I remember 40 years ago, when I first realized that this is what happened on the Cross of Calvary, and that MY SINS were included in that count. And Jesus suffered because of MY SINS – and I remember saying out loud, “LORD that isn’t fair! You shouldn’t have had to do that! Those are MY SINS, these are MY fault, not Yours! Why did You allow Yourself to suffer this for me? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?!!”

His answer, spoken quietly, gently in my heart:
“Because I love you Jim.” That broke me: there in the privacy of my bedroom, no one else around, I raised my hands to heaven and wept and said, “Take my life, I’m Yours!”

At the cross, the observers of Christ’s Passion said some things that were either blatantly true or blatantly false:

MATTHEW 27:42a
He saved others; Himself He cannot save
that was blatantly true: but the reason why the LORD couldn’t save Himself was not because of the nails that fastened His body to that rough-hewn, blood-stained cross, but because of His love, which compelled Him and kept Him fastened to that cross and determined to complete the purchase of our salvation. 

There were those that heard Jesus daring the Pharisees to destroy the temple and He would raise it up in three days:

MATTHEW 27:40a
You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!.
that assumption about a mere building was blatantly false. Scripture testifies that it was the temple of His body the LORD spoke about, not the temple at Jerusalem (JOHN 2:21).

And they all said,
If You are the Son of God … If You are the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, and we will believe You. “IF” as if there is any doubt that Jesus is the Son of GOD and the King of Israel – to believe Jesus isn’t the Son of GOD, the King of Israel, that is a blatantly falsehood! Over 300 Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

By the time He did come down from the cross six hours later, He was dead indeed, but saints there is coming a Day when the LORD Jesus isn’t coming down from any cross, but will come down from the clouds, and every eye shall see Him and then they will believe – but believe too late!

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
- quoting another Messianic Psalm, PSALM 22.

Everywhere we read about Jesus addressing GOD the Father, it was always “Father” except for here: He calls Him “GOD” but not Father, from the cross.
Why is that?

Because He was in our place, taking our sin upon Himself as our sin-bearer; and no sinner can rightly call GOD ‘Father’. We gain that privilege only by being born again of the Spirit and being received into the family of GOD by the grace of Jesus Christ!

5 having predestined us to adoption as children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved
(see also ROM 8:15).

It was at this time of the LORD Jesus’ cry, His agonizing plea “Why have You forsaken Me?” that the Father turned away from His Son, broke their eternal fellowship for the first and only time ever, and left Jesus more alone than any of us could possibly conceive of!

MATTHEW 27:50-51
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split

The whole purpose of the tabernacle of Moses and later, the temple of Jerusalem was that GOD could dwell among the people, after much sacrificial offerings and shedding of blood. But for all that effort and time in establishing this covenant, GOD only manifested
His Spirit on one day annually, the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. That was all!

At this point on the cross of Christ when He cried out and yielded up His spirit, the veil was torn from top to bottom. This so-called ‘veil’ was a thick, heavily layered tapestry, virtually a wall that separated the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant was kept and the mercy seat that rested on top of the ark and the Holy place. 

Only the high priest, once a year on Yom Kippur could enter the Holy of Holies, going past the veil. But now the veil is torn – and from top to bottom. Truly, an act of GOD!
By this, GOD was demonstrating that He will no longer dwell in any temple made of stone, not made with hands (HEB 9), but in our own hearts that are reborn by the Spirit of Christ. We the church are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 COR 6:19; 1 PET 2:5)! And we are blessed to fellowship with GOD our Abba Father anytime we want, and He is blessed to fellowship with us, His beloved!

It’s such an indictment on the Jews, keepers of the holy oracles of GOD (ROM 3:2; HEB 5:12) – the very Scriptures, all of which point to the Person of the Messiah, the LORD Jesus. but the Jews couldn’t recognize Jesus for Who He is – and yet it was a pagan, Roman centurion who declared:

"Truly this was the Son of God!"

MATT 27:57-60
speaks of Christ’s burial in a rich man’s tomb, among so many details of His death which are all prophetically perfectly fulfilled; check out PSALM 22 and ISAIAH 53 for the details on many of these.
This chapter ends with Christ’s burial, and it would seem the hopes of the apostles were likewise dead. 

Can you hear them ask the question?

““LORD God if You love us, and You knew this was going to happen, and had the power to stop it, then why didn’t You?”

Yet we know what happens 3 days from now! The greatest tragedy in world history is transformed into the greatest triumph in all history!

This is a lesson we can never forget: no matter how terrible or grim our situation may be, we must understand we are under GOD’s supervision, that He has a plan, and as we yield to His will, He will show us such victory, and receive such glory for what He has done.
Just as He has vanquished sin, death, and hell – and delivered our souls from judgment for our sins that would have condemned us, we will know Him as our Deliverer in the lesser matters of this life. 

For those of us who are saved and believe the Gospel, we’ve already been delivered with the greatest of salvation and victory by the cross of Christ!! Take heart saints, that through tragedies in this life, in the darkest of depressing and disillusioned nights Christ will appear as the ‘Son rise’ and triumph through us and finally bring us Home, where such terrible and tragic things will never exist!

For more about this, check out the following articles:

ALSO see the following Facebook video teaching taught by pastor Sonny Islas on RESURRECTION SUNDAY: JESUS LIVES FOREVER! 

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