I Saw – Revelation 19

It would be difficult to find a sight comparable in its majesty and its soul-thrilling grandeur than the sight which John received on that day when he saw heaven opened. Listen to his words which must have been spoken with unparalleled joy: “I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True” (Rev 19:11).

What a sight for any mortal to behold! Heaven rent! A Rider issuing forth! A Revelation of a Conquering Christ! The One Whom men said was a fraud, will then be declared to be “True.”  The Man Whom men accused and judged to be a sinner; God will display as the “Faithful” One.

As we look around, so earth-bound as we are, the thought of heaven being opened and Christ descending to judge the assembled armies and the unholy trinity seems like a fairytale of a master spinner of stories. Yet, it is true, every word. The problem is with us, not with the eye-witness account of John.

From chapter 18 and on to the end of the book, John has ten “I saw” eye-witness accounts. This is only one of those ten. Each is thrilling in its own right. Here John sees a sight of the return of Christ to the earth accompanied by the hosts of heaven. That company associated with Him will include you and me. So we have a vested interest in that day. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that in that day He will come to be admired in all of us who believe and to be glorified in us as well (2 Thess 1:10). We are reminded that the manner in which we live now will enhance His glory in that day. Men will marvel at what He accomplished with such poor material as we are.

This day is worth waiting for with great expectations, expectations which will not be disappointed. For over 2,000 years, Christ has been denied all that belongs to Him. He has been blasphemed, labeled an impostor. Some have tried to sanitize humanity’s estimation of Him by calling Him a great teacher, a wonderful example of selfless service, a martyr, or someone who brought a great philosophic way of life to us. None of that is consistent with the claims He made: “I and the Father are One.” And, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He is either Lord of all or the greatest fraud who ever lived!

These concepts of men will bear no resemblance to how He will be revealed when He comes. Look at the titles and pictures which John provides for us in the sight which he saw.

“His name is called, The Word of God.” He came as the Word with a message of grace at His first advent and men denied Him. He will come as God’s Word, His final message to men. They rejected the message, the Word, and refused to hear. Now God’s final message to them will be one of judgment. 

On His thigh will be written another name, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” In that day, this name will strike terror to the hearts of the followers of the beast who has claimed world-wide dominion. It will cause wonder and worship to a beleaguered Jewish remnant when they realize for the first time that the true Messiah for Whom they have waited is the One Who was here and Who died. In the words of Zechariah, they will “look upon Him Whom they pierced,” and a “fountain for sin” will be opened for their cleansing (Zech 12:10; 13:1).

But there is another wonderful truth contained in that name written on His thigh. It is not only the pronouncement of His Kingship, but the place where it is written, His thigh. In Jewish history and tradition, their patriarch, Jacob wrestled with God and had his hip dislocated. As a result, they did not eat of the “sinew which shrank which is upon the hollow of the thigh” (Gen 32:32). The thigh is a constant reminder of a broken man, a man who had to be subdued beneath the hand of God as he wrestled with Him. In contrast, Christ never needed to be “broken.” He was the One Who could ride upon the unbroken colt. He was, as in the picture of the red heifer in Numbers 19, the One Who never needed a yoke to control and subdue Him. He was always submissive to His Father.

But the thigh would also remind the nation of weakness. Jacob’s thigh was weakened by the touch of God during the all-night wrestling match. Upon the thigh of the Lord as He returns in might and power, is the reminder of the One Who will rule and reign over the nations. There is no weakness linked with Him. 

Thirdly, there is a name which “no man knew but He Himself” (v 12). His true worth and value can only be known amongst the Godhead. He will grow greater in our estimation as eternity rolls its course, but we will never know Him as His Father knows Him. But it will be the delight of the Godhead to eternally reveal fresh beauties to us: The Son declaring the Father and His character, the Father revealing the Son and His beauty. We will sit in the classroom of the great University of Heaven and learn unceasingly of the wonders of our God. Paul caught a small glimpse of this when he burst forth in his doxology of Romans 11: “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! … For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Whom be glory unto the ages” (Rom 11:33-36). There will be no commencement exercise from the University of Heaven, but course after course will be pursued throughout eternity.

Unsearchable riches, unsearchable grace, unsearchable wisdom and judgments, all revealed in unspeakable words. We are in school now; we are going to another school where we will not have the distractions which now hinder us, and we will have capacities for learning which will enable us to know and appreciate Him better.

I Saw – John the Baptist

“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Think of all John saw and all that he called upon men to see. John saw a Man standing by the banks of Jordan who did not need to confess failure and flaws. Multitudes had come out to the Jordan to be baptized and confess their sin. In contrast, John heard heaven confess that this was the Son of God in Whom a Father found all His delight. He saw the Spirit of God in dove-like fashion descend and abide upon Him. He saw the clear unmistakable confirmation that this was the Son of God.

As a result, John called upon men on two occasions to behold Him. On the first day, it was to behold the Lamb of God’s providing, the Sin bearer for the world. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, men had brought their lambs to altars. Each man was confessing a defect, a deficiency within himself as he approached with his lamb. But now, in stark contrast, God was bringing His Lamb to men. Here was God’s Lamb that measured up to the demands of the altar: a Lamb without blemish and without spot. The words which pierced the sky that day attested not only to His outward righteousness, but “in Whom is all My delight.” The all-penetrating eye of God could pierce the exterior and look within. No need for this Lamb to be flayed for God to see the inner perfections. All His thoughts, motives, inward affections were all open for His Father to see, and to evaluate. The result was only delight.

As God’s Lamb, He came to deal with sin. That is where we all began. We looked upon God’s Lamb as the solution to our sin pollution. We often sing,

                                                “I saw One hanging on the tree

                                                In agony and blood”

Our experiences all differ; the road to the cross for each of us was unique and individual to our own lives. But ultimately, we all arrived at a Savior Who dealt with the issue of sin, our sins, against the throne of God. 

John, however, was not content that his disciples only have that first look. He called upon them, once again, the very next day, to “Behold the Lamb!” Now, it is not as the sin-bearer, but as the object of our attention. John looked upon Him as He walked (v 36) and called upon those who had been following him to set their gaze upon the Lord Jesus. It would be a profitable study to go through the Gospel of John and notice the places where the Lord Jesus “walked” (see ch 4:4; 6:19, 66; 7:1; 10:23; 11:54). His was a lonely walk while here on earth.

The purpose of this writing, however, is more to occupy you with the Person of Christ and to urge all of us to make it our goal to “Behold the Lamb,” to look upon Him daily in the Gospels and to appreciate Him increasingly in our lives.

As we think of places where the lamb is found in various references of Scripture, it enhances the value of Him to our souls. First and foremost, we must remember that He was the Lamb “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet 1:20). In the heart of God eternally, there was this great plan of salvation for us. To accomplish it, the One Who shared glory before the world was (John 17:5), and Who was loved by the Father before the world was (John 17:24), is now set apart, before the world was, to be my Lamb. 

Next, the lamb was found among the flock. He, in like manner took flesh and blood and dwelt among us. He came to where we were. He took true human nature, but not fallen human nature. As we look at His life, His movements among men, we trace the purity of His motives, the selflessness of His manner, the gentleness of the means He would employ in His service to men. We see a Lamb whose head and energy were pure – His mind and His movements; We see a Lamb whose inward parts and legs are spotless and flawless – His motives and His manner all open for the delight of the eye and heart of God.

But the Lamb in the flock did not meet our need. The next place the lamb was found was in the fire (Ex 12). It had to experience the judgment as typified in the fire. It could not be soddened with water on that Passover occasion. Nothing was to come between the lamb and the fire. He endured the fire of divine judgment for us all.

To our great delight, we read of the Lamb in the future. The book of Revelation is full of the glory of the Lamb in the coming day. We read of the Throne of the Lamb, of the Lamb being the light of that temple above. We see the Lamb as the Leader of Praise but also as the object of our worship and universal admiration. He is worthy of all. In that day, all of the glory of God will be displayed in a Man Who will eternally have a Lamb-like character and be remembered by us as the Lamb once slain.

What of the present? The Lamb should be our food, what we feast upon. The nation of Israel observed the Passover three different times during their journey from Egypt to Canaan: in leaving Egypt behind, in living in a wilderness scene (Num 9), and in preparation for conquering the land (Josh 5:10). In a similar manner, we need to feed upon Christ to live apart from an evil world, to feed upon Him for all the trials of the way, and then to enjoy the fulness of divine blessings which God has given to us.

I Saw

John the Apostle was a masterful writer. He employs a vocabulary suitable for an elementary school child, but a depth of thought to challenge any intellect. He presents truth in the simplest of terms but with the deepest of meanings. He paints pictures by using hours of the day, times of the day, weather conditions, and the location of miracles, and teaching. He places one incident in contrast with another to enhance and enlighten. He places individuals in juxtaposition to reveal subtle differences of importance. He was, as I said, a masterful writer.

Two groups that he places side by side are found in John 19. There is a group of four soldiers standing at the foot of the cross; there is a small band of four faithful women standing at the foot of that same cross. The four soldiers saw the Lord Jesus Christ; the four women saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Each looked with different eyes, through different lenses, and with different hearts. 
The four soldiers saw a condemned and forsaken Jew being crucified for claiming to be a king. As part of their “take,” they were permitted to divide up the remaining articles of clothing. The four garments were divided between the four; the seamless coat was gambled off to one of them. As they looked upon Christ, they saw merely another criminal and another opportunity to enrich themselves even if the booty was meager.

But four women looked on and saw the Lord. They saw something entirely different. A mother watched with a “sword piercing her heart.” The words of aged Simeon no doubt rang in her ears. It is untold, unimaginable grief for any mother to watch a son suffer. But this scene was beyond what was natural. Such was her grief that the Lord instructed John to remove her from the scene, taking her away so as not to view the intensity of His suffering.

His aunt was there, the mother of James and John. She has recently requested that her two sons sit by the side of the Lord in His kingdom. What must her thoughts have been as she saw the One destined for glory hanging in shame upon the cross? She had watched Him grow; no doubt there were visits between the sisters and their families. She knew sorrow but she also knew confusion and wonder. How could the One Who was to reign be here? At Calvary?

We know little or nothing about Mary the wife of Cleophas, but to her eternal credit and honor, she was there looking on as well. Then there is Mary Magdalene. We need not conjecture about her past and how the seven demons controlled her. What we do know is that something stronger, more beautiful, and more wonderful controlled her from the moment of conversion: it was love for her Savior. She is there looking on. Love kept its vigil even during the dark night of the soul’s experience. Nothing seemed to fit; nothing made “sense.” Yet here, as well as in the garden (John 20), love maintained its constancy. Many waters could not quench her love.

Four soldiers could tell their children and their grandchildren years later, about what “they saw” that day. Veterans of crucifixions, the manner in which the Lord dismissed His spirit, the supernatural darkness, the events surrounding his death all must have made some impression on them. 

Four women also would be able to say, “I saw.” But their eyes beheld what the eyes of soldiers never appreciated. They could look beyond what Rome had done, beyond what the nation had insisted upon, beyond the perfidy of Judas; they could look beyond it all and see a Savior Who gave Himself for us all.

They could see that above and beyond the machinations of evil men, the fury of Satan against the Son of God, the blindness of the nation, and the spineless capitulation of Pilate, above all of that: “God so loved the world that He gave His only 

They saw above the injustice done by men, and they also saw beyond what the soldiers saw. The soldiers saw a man whose life was being taken from Him and whose history was ending abruptly. The women ultimately saw beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, and beyond the heavens. They saw one Whom the heavens received and Who will return to reign in triumph and glory.

From that moment on, they would be able to view all of life’s events, its tragedies and perplexities, its dark tunnels, and its hidden valleys, with an understanding of what they saw that day at Calvary. They could say with the apostle, “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things” (Rom 8:32). Calvary answers every question, sheds its spotlight on every perplexity, and unravels every mystery. Its light has never been extinguished or lessened and still shines brightly for us in 2020.

J. M. Davies, a missionary to India of a bygone day, visited a brother who had been confined to bed for many years due to a stroke. He had been visited by some people from a sect which insists on keeping the Sabbath They suggested that he had suffered the stroke because he was not observing the Sabbath. He told them, “I do not read of the love of God in circumstances. God has erected one monument to His love. That was Calvary … That is enough for me.”

Deliverer, Delivered, to Deliver

Jesus the Deliverer – In type and prophecy 

I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey – Exodus 3.8

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. – Exodus 6.6

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from

Jacob” – Romans 11.26  

Jesus Delivered

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men – Matthew 17.22 

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” – Matthew 20.18 

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” – Matthew 26.2

“What will you give me [Judas] if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. – Matthew 26.15

And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. – Matthew 27.2

They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” – John 18.30

For he [Pilate] knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. –Matthew 27.18 

He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. – Luke 23.25

Then he [Pilate] released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. – Matthew 27.26

The Anointed to His God 

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of mysalvation, my stronghold. – Psalms 18.2

In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.  But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”  Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. – Psalms 22.4-10

Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! – Psalms 22.20

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. – Psalms 69.14

The Plan and the Purpose 

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.– Acts 2.23

That is why his faith [Abraham’s] was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. – Romans 4.22-25

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  – Galatians 1.3-5 

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.– Hebrews 2.14-17

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  – Colossians 1.12-14 

How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1.9-10

For His Disciples 

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.  When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. – Matthew 10.16-22 

And [Agabus] coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” –Acts 21.11 

After three days he [Paul] called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. – Acts 28.17 

He [God] delivered us [Paul] from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. – 2 Corinthians 1.10

Costly Worship

John 12:1-8

How much does it cost to worship the Savior? I am not talking about a monetary cost, but a cost in time or energy. Worship, true worship, is the desire of every believer. To lift up the Savior in word and deed – to speak well of Him in our daily conversation – is our ultimate goal. So how much will it cost?

Mary shows us an example of the true cost of worship.  Notice:

  • The Cost of the Ointment
  • The Choice Mary Made
  • The Center of Her Worship

The Cost of the Ointment

The Scriptures remind us: “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus …” (John 12:3). Much has been written and can be said about the monetary cost of the ointment – three hundred pence, close to one year’s worth of wages. Something of so much value was poured out upon the Lord Jesus Christ. It speaks to me of giving Christ our all, no matter the cost. Worship should not be a mindless, effortless operation we perform. It should be an outpouring of a prepared heart, given to honor the One who is worthy. Notice also that “the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” True worship has a sweet fragrance to God and to others.

The Choice Mary Made

Taking a look at the characters mentioned here, we can glean something of the bold choice that Mary made to worship. “Martha served,” as we often read of her doing (see Luke 10). “Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table” in fellowship with Christ. These are two important roles that every believer can have. We must serve Christ in our everyday lives and fellowship with Christ is vital in our Christian walk. Mary had a choice to make. What role would she play? “Mary…anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.” She chose to worship Him in her service (anointing His feet) and in her fellowship (a connection with the Savior).

The Center of Her Worship

There was something about the Lord Jesus Christ that caused a desire within her to lavish her love upon Him. Christ reminds us in Luke 7 of the one who “loved much” because of the many sins that have been forgiven. How could she not worship the One who brings forgiveness? Worship, therefore, brings an intimacy with the Savior. We realize and honor His position in our lives and serve him with our words and deeds. Mary anointed the feet of the Savior. We are reminded of Paul, quoting Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15). Mary appreciated the Savior and wanted to do something that would honor Him!
Worship includes reverence, love, and devotion – all witnessed in Mary’s act. It was a service that did not go unnoticed, as Christ himself could say, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” It was costly worship. It was an example to every one of us, dear believer, to evaluate our own worship. How much does it cost you to worship the Savior?

Pleasing God

Without faith, it is impossible to please Him” Hebrews 11:6

How ye ought to walk and to please God” 1 Thess 4:1

With such sacrifices God is well pleased” Hebrews 13:16

There are numerous places where we are told what pleases God. In his exhortation to the Thessalonians, Paul reminded them that holiness brings pleasure to God. Amidst the immoral and lax society of Macedonia, Paul told them that to walk counter-culture by a life of moral purity was pleasing to God.

The writer to the Hebrew believers, in encouraging them in a life of faith rather than law, encased in Hebrews 11 the maxim for life: faith pleases God. And then in summing up the truth of living by faith, he reminded them in chapter 13 that even though the work of Christ had put an end to sacrifices, there are sacrifices even today which bring pleasure to God. “The sacrifice of praise … to do good and communicate forget not for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15, 16).

Holiness, faith, thanksgiving, and doing good to others pleases God. While these exhortations are very practical and applicable to us, and while we need to grow and develop in each of them, there was a Man here Who embodied them all.

One great contrast is that He did not grow in His holiness, develop in His life of faith, be reminded of the need for thanksgiving, or learn to do good to others. All of this was abiding in Him and abundant in Him.

He gave thanks amidst the most negative of circumstances (Matt 11:25). In the upper room, He gave thanks for the emblems and for the reality of what they represented. He sang with His own as they left the upper room and worshiped the God Whom He served. “Thou art My God I will exalt Thee; O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good” (Ps 118:28, 29). And then upon the cross, there went up the spirit of worship from the heart of Christ: “But Thou art holy” as He justified the hand that was smiting Him.

He did not have to learn to do good and communicate. “He went about doing good” is the record of the Spirit of God. And again, “He hath done all things well.” There was never idle time, no “me-time” in His life. Even when weary, He would use it as an opportunity to reach a thirsty Samaritan woman at a well. Upon the cross, He continued to do good as He cared for His mother and for a thief. What pleasure that brought to God.

No refinement toward holiness was ever needed. He was “that holy thing” born to Mary. Demons owned Him as holy. A centurion, observer of countless crucifixions confessed, “This was a righteous man.” And the Spirit of God adds in Hebrews 7 that He is holy! His holiness brought delight to His Father.

In Hebrews 11, after establishing the principle that faith brings pleasure to God, and after parading before our view the great heroes and heroines of faith, every eye is turned to behold another. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.” It is not “the finisher of our faith” as in our A.V. It is rather that He is the ultimate example of the life of faith. From the moment He left heaven’s portals with the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will,” He lived a life of faith, putting into everyday life that principles of the Word of God in His life. He lived by faith every moment of His sojourn here below. Faith for Him was not, as some would claim a leap in the dark, it was living His life in the light of the Word and will of God.His holiness, faith, thankful spirit, and doing good all meant that here was a life to which the Father could testify: “This is My beloved Son in Whom is all My delight.”

The Lord’s Promise

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:9

The United States was presented with a grim and sobering prediction this week as we appear to approach that apex long predicted by leading scientists. Yet all the accumulated intellect and expertise at leading national health institutes such as the CDC and NIH, are incapable of delivering solid promises to the American people at a time when uncertainty reigns and we are left to predictive models and best-worst-case scenarios. Aspirations for better days to come are stuck in the mire of despair.  How we long for the ability of one who can promise and deliver. We yearn for certainty especially in times of so many unknowns. The Word of God has revealed to us that only God has the capacity and power to see that His promises are kept. He does not trifle with predictions because His Word is spoken and destined to be fulfilled.

Many of us can recall that time in our lives when we acknowledged that our sin, which separates us from God, was fully paid through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary. We came to the Lord Jesus Christ, understanding that only He could fully satisfy the awful judgment of sin, and we placed our trust in His saving power.  The promise of salvation is that sinners such as ourselves will never face an eternity of separation and judgment but will be ensured a place in the presence of our God because the Lord Jesus Christ has provided us this path by paying the full price of our sin.  We have yet to see the fruits of these blessing with our own eyes, but we have the certainty that these things await because this is precisely what God has promised. While His promises are backed by the weight of divine authority, He has delivered on this promise when His only begotten Son was nailed upon the cross of Calvary. We can take comfort in the words of that song, “no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand,” to know the power of our salvation.  Such is the comfort we have as believers. But we ought to be mindful that many believers, who lived in previous generations, were not spared from being marched into the Coliseum to face certain death at the jaws of wild animals or from dark pandemics in their day.  To stand on the promises of Christ my Savior is not a guaranteed fail-safe from the many adversities, tragedies, and pitfalls of life. Believers will suffer tragedy, as we sadly know from our own experiences. But we take great comfort that the Lord is not slacking in His many promises, starting with salvation which has brought us back to Him and for which we give thanks and glory to God.

Yet if we have not yet come to the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ His Son, we should tremble in reverent fear when it comes to God’s other promises.  His Word tells us in no uncertain terms that “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). The appointed hour of death has sadly already visited thousands of our fellow citizens in this pandemic and these turbulent times only reinforce this grim reality. Sadly, many will judge the things of eternity spoken by God through sensory perceptions and ultimately will never heed His promises. Yes, death frightens us. It is what has brought us into this protracted and unprecedented shelter-in-place order that has come at a cost to social interaction and our economy.  But what of the judgment thereafter? Can it be easily dismissed when we are reminded here that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise.” If the promises of God, as they relate to things that scare us, are ordained to come to pass on that appointed day, then so too will the promises be fulfilled that He has made in His infinite grace. Yes, judgment awaits as He has promised. Yet God has given us His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer once for sin so that He might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18). God patiently waits for whosoever to believe in His Son that he or she should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). He is not willing that you or I should perish. Only God can make this promise.  Only His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, could facilitate the fulfillment of this promise. Only you can fully place your trust on this promise for your salvation right now. 

The Fourth Watch

“And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them”

Mark 6:48

The fourth day, the fourth man, and the fourth watch all have related truths in which we can find comfort and confidence.

They had entered the boat at His request. He had constrained them to enter it and to go to the other side to Bethsaida while He sent the people away. Did they wonder about how He would get there? Were they wondering what was delaying Him and what He was doing?

They had obeyed His request. And yet … the wind suddenly arose, perhaps a gale was blowing. There was among them, seasoned fisherman, accustomed to storms. But this was a challenge even for them. Why should things go wrong when they had obeyed Him and where they were supposed to be? Wasn’t everything supposed to go smoothly when you obeyed?

Two things are worthy of note before looking at the Lord’s arrival on the scene: He had prepared them for this trial. Earlier, He was with them in a storm on the sea. He was available to them and they only had to awaken Him and call upon Him for help (Mark 4:35-40). 

Second, He was not really away from them. He was upon the mount praying (v 46) and His eyes were watching them (v 48). They did not know it, but He was as much with them while on the mount as He had been when in the ship.

They must have wondered as well, how everything would work out. He had said He would get them to the other shore, but it looked hopeless. They kept rowing as the hours passed. Finally, the fourth watch of the night, as late as it could be before the sunrise, He came. The waves they were fearing became the very vehicle which brought Him: He came walking on the waves. They did not recognize and understand everything at first, they thought it was a spirit. But when He entered the small boat, the wind ceased, and all was calm.

We can be faced with things which “do not make sense.” Our plans and goals can be upset. We think we are in the mind of the Lord and yet problems seem to arise. We struggle and wait, and things do not get better. It may not be the fourth watch of the night yet. He had to let them exhaust all their own strength before He came. It is not that He finds delight in seeing us struggle; He delights in having us depend on Him. We would want Him to arrive in the first watch of the night; to come immediately when problems begin to arise. He is not ignorant, impotent, or indifferent to our situation as we face COVID-19. Especially with being homebound, we want this thing over now if not yesterday. Maybe it’s not the fourth watch of the night as yet.

The fourth day became the day of His presence in their sorrow; the fourth Man was His presence in the fire; the fourth watch was His presence in the storm. Each provided a revelation of His greatness and sufficiency.

The Fourth Day

They had sent a message to the Lord. They were assured of His love and interest, but He had not come in time. Hopes they entertained for healing slowly ebbed. The inevitable happened, crushing the last faint glimmer the had for his recovery. Reality confronted them – he died.

The funeral cortege followed the grieving sisters to the tomb where they laid the body of their brother Lazarus. One day passed, then two, and then three. He did not come.

But then Martha heard that He was coming. She ran to meet Him and poured out her grief at His feet. He, in turn, gave her a revelation and a promise of seeing His glory.

Mary had remained quietly behind in the house. Her grief was just as real but expressed in a different way. The divine sympathizer knew how to address and comfort each of them. Together, they made their way to the tomb.

At the site of the tomb, the Lord Jesus issued His command to remove the stone. Martha, ever the practical one, remonstrated that it was the fourth day. In her mind, the fourth day meant it was too late to do anything. She thought the Lord was too late! And we all know the rest of the story.

Perhaps as we “shelter in place,” we feel like the sisters did as they awaited the coming of the Lord and His healing touch. We have prayed; we have supplicated for His intervention. In some places there are believers who are afflicted with COVID-19 and assemblies are praying. Yet He does not come.

The virus continues to spread with epicenters in the New Jersey-New York area. We are that red dot in the center of the dart board. The pandemic has come, and we feel as though it is the fourth day – nothing can be done now. We are immersed in it! The Lord is too late.

Are you sure of that? Do you think that somehow things are out of control? We have to assert again that God does not cause pandemics during this age of grace. Sickness and disease are the fruit of sin in our world. But God uses even the evil for His purposes. Sin may fuel the ship of evil, but God is able to steer it in whatever direction He chooses.

So, continue to pray; continue to look for God to use all that is happening for the good of sinners, the blessing of His people, and to further His great purposes. It may be the “fourth day,” but God is not finished.

Thy Will Be Done

A meditation on the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26.39)

Why did our Lord Jesus pray thus in Gethsemane?

He knew His Father’s will and was always determined to fulfill it, continually and unwaveringly. To this the Scriptures witness in abundance… 

In John’s record, the cross is forefront in His thinking from beginning to end throughout His manifestation: 

It was in His own words before His first sign: 

         “My hour has not yet come” (John 2.4). 

And when the time drew near: 

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit… Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12.23-28). 

And before Gethsemane: 

         “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17.1)

The lengthiest section of Luke’s record spans from Luke 9.51: 

         “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” 

To Luke 19.41:

         “When He drew near and saw the city” 

There portraying Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem, not necessarily a direct journey in geographical terms, but with unmistakable deliberateness: 

He sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9.52-53).

Likewise in Matthew, when Jesus reaches what is probably the place farthest north and away from Jerusalem, it’s then that: 

[North of Israel, in Caesarea Philippi] “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16.21) 

There the long southward journey to the cross starts; not a visit due to a feast of the Jews, as was His custom, but a deliberate journey to His Scriptural destiny, through which He prepared His afraid disciples accordingly:

[South of Caesarea Philippi] “As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them [the disciples], “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.” (Matthew 17.22-23)

[South of Galilee, already in Judea] “As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.’” (Matthew 20.17-19) 

[And already in Jerusalem] “He said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified… Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, my time is at hand.’’” (Matthew 26.1-2, 18)

Also His certainty on the complete fulfillment of the Scriptures is evident that very fateful night:

And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me… The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!’” (Matthew 26.21-24)

Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”” (Matthew 26.31-32)

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.” (Matthew 26.55-56)

Why then did He pray thus “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.“? (Matthew 26.39) 

We are standing on “holy ground”, in the presence of the “Holy One” and “True God”, and “who is sufficient for these things?” But can we consider a thought about this, even if inaccurate, or too human, yet profitable for us in knowing Him, loving Him and emulating Him better?

At Gethsemane we peer into His soul. It’s a unique disclosure in the record. The written hour has come, and the majestic Christ’s inner being is deeply moved:

         “He began to be sorrowful and troubled.”  (Matthew 26.37)

         “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26.38)

And at the least by way of application to us, in human identification with Him, as Christians, we could think this way: In a difficult hour, when distress has come, but it’s not to settle in the heart: 

God, you are my Father, my loving and all-caring Father. 

You can be trusted completely in all circumstances, and all things are possible for you, even now.

Above all I want that your will be done. This may not[1] be taken away from me. 

I do recoil at the event to come. My Father: Can this be taken away from me?

But I want your will done, not mine!

And there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22.43)

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  (Matthew 26.42)

In your strength I am determined to carry out your will.

For this reason I pray to you intently, because I want your will done.

May you be honored in me, whether by life or by death.

Therefore I pray to you in this hour: “Your will be done”

My Father!

The disciples at Gethsemane ought to have prayed that they may not enter into temptation, but the holy Lord Jesus could not be tempted to sin. Yet He experienced sorrows and distress, like we do, and thus, He experienced the sorrow of this tremendous hour. What should be done then?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  (Philippians 4.6).

Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”  (1 Peter 4.19)

The time at Gethsemane is ended. The majestic Christ is no longer prostrate, but leading the events to come. The cross is still ahead. And He continues His journey to it, and He’s not going to let any of the Scriptures fall to the ground: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4.34)

In that very same place the Lord Jesus says to His disciples:

         “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Matthew 26.46)

And to the betrayer:

         “Friend, do what you came to do.” (Matthew 26.50)

And to the impulsive disciple:

“Put your sword back into its place… Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26.52-54)

And to the “arresting” crowds: 

All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled’. (Then all the disciples left him and fled)” (Matthew 26.56)

And later on, to the earthly judge:

 “He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed” (Matthew 27.14)

And to the great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him:

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves” (Luke 23.28)

Nevertheless we understand that Gethsemane was not the end: the cross He faced completely. In another unique disclosure of the travail of His soul, we hear the cry that still pierces through the soul of each individual cleansed by His precious blood:

         “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46, Mark 15.34)

And we worship Him who in unshakable trust and obedience to the Father, came from above, endured the cross, glorified His Father, saved our souls, and went back where He was before:

Fatherinto your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23.46)

[1] Christ could have said “this cannot be taken away from me”.